Study Abroad in London Part 7: The Gift of Eloquence

by Robert Creenan

Assistant Lifestyle Editor

Why hello there. I see you have stumbled across my article about my European travels and have taken the time to read it. I am grateful for that, as it gives me a reason to continue to go out and find more adventures to tell you about.

Whoa, sorry there. I needed to get some Blarney out of my system. It bestows the gift of eloquence to those who lie upside down and kiss it. I’ll get to that later, because I have to tell you about how I almost missed my flight to Ireland. Call it dumb luck or the pains of having a flight on Friday the 13th, but when my train was one step away from the airport, the news came that a car crashed through a security barrier, and no trains would be going there. All the passengers on that train, and subsequent others, were loaded out and panicked trying to find taxis and buses to the airport. I took a packed bus, ran through the duty-free shops in the terminal to my gate and arrived out of breath.

I stayed at a hostel in Cork by the train station with five other Americans who live in my Nido building, most of whom go to Loyola Chicago. On Saturday we took the early train to Dublin for pre-St. Patrick’s day. The first thing we did was tour the Guinness brewery. You can now trust me to pour a perfect glass of Guinness when the occasion arises. Not only was it pre-St. Patrick’s day, of which we and many other most likely Americans knew of, but the Irish rugby team played Wales, a game that was on every bar TV. Temple Bar is where they have a very high bar concentration and a guy creepy leprechaun outfit.

We kept hearing that there would be a boat race going on at some point, so we kept walking along the Liffey River to find any boats at all. Just walking through the city felt quainter than a city should be. Being in Europe has really turned my thoughts on what a city should be upside down, since most of it is made up of regular brick buildings and few skyscrapers. To give an example, looking out from the top of the Guinness Storehouse, one particular part of the skyline was dominated by Aviva Stadium, where the Irish rugby and soccer team plays.

Riding the train on a two and a half hour ride gave plenty of time for looking at the countryside. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing, since so many of the rolling hills were green, even though there was a frost. It was as cold as the time I was in Scotland.

On Sunday, we took a bus up to Blarney Castle, the home of the so-called “Gift of Eloquence.” The line to kiss the stone runs through the whole castle, which includes going up the world’s steepest and narrowest spiral staircase. The castle itself looked like one weirdly formed stone monument, as the bricks and mortar fused together after hundreds of years. As we reached the top, the stone itself featured a guy holding the tourists down to a mat and another operating a camera. I’m sure there’s some phrase describing taking advantage of some holy site, I just can’t think of what it is.

The following weekend, I spent in the French-speaking part of Switzerland around Lake Geneva. The fact that it was an hour ahead of the UK threw me off a little bit as I had to get a train from Geneva airport to Lausanne that left around 11:50 p.m.. The hostel I stayed at there was down the road from the headquarters of the Olympics (not in an impressive building by the way).

On Saturday, I took the train back down to Geneva and it was, by far, one of the most charming cities I’ve ever been to. Even the rain and general cloudiness of the place couldn’t stop me from actually feeling genuine joy in me. The first place I went to when I arrived was the United Nations building, which was closed for the weekend. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum was right next to it, and it was one of the more artsy museums I’ve been to in my time. I walked around the old village, which housed St. Pierre Cathedral, a prominent site during the Christian Reformation, found a wall sized monument in a neighboring park to religious tolerance, and walked around the Patek Phillippe museum, home to some of the most elegantly designed watches I’ve seen.

The friend from high school I was seeing does study abroad in Lausanne and had spent the day at the CERN hadron collider. Her place reminded me of the village back at Canisius and she lived with another American, a Korean, and Australian, and a French guy. Some of us went out for hot chocolate that night. As they knew plenty more French than I did, their ordering was less awkward than me.

On Sunday, some of us went to a chocolate hospital in Versiox, which was a farmer’s market for Swiss chocolate. I was the only one who bought any chocolate to send home, as the others went around collecting free samples. The time spent between then and taking a train back to the Geneva airport was spent walking around Lausanne, seeing the cathedral and walking along the shore of Lake Geneva. The skies were clearer and we could see some mountains on the French side of the lake. The sum of all these parts made me need to fight back tears, I thought the views were that beautiful.

Long story short, just go to Switzerland at some point in your life. It’s true that the prices there are high than other places, but it’s worth it for all the central European scenery and world-class everything. I have no idea if any of the other places I’m going to can top it.

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