Two weeks ago, my brother and friend flew close to 6,000 miles across the world to visit me in Maastricht and I’ve been excited for them to come since the beginning of my time here. However, during my first few months in Maastricht I felt as though I would never be able to remember how to get around and wouldn’t be able to be a show my family around because of how bad I am with directions.
At the beginning, I found myself walking around like a lost puppy dog getting to the most basic places – the train station, supermarket, and even my house. Nevertheless, five months later, and I feel more in my comfort zone than ever before and I can’t remember the last time I’ve found myself wandering in circles aimlessly in order to get just about anywhere. I am no longer the constant state of lost puppy dog, surprisingly enough! I don’t want to give myself too much credit though because it probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve mastered the art of Google.
As soon as I met up with my family in Amsterdam, tears of joy, tightly squeezed hugs and disbelief of the fact that they were physically in Europe consumed me. I knew right away that I had missed them more than I even imagined and their week here was going to fly by in the blink of an eye.
We stayed the weekend in Amsterdam and did the most typical tourist attractions – Heineken experience, a canal cruise and eating as much food as humanly possible to celebrate our reunion. On Sunday, we went back to my home in Maastricht and I was able to show them my home away from home for the week before we headed to Ireland, which was the grand finale to our trip before they had to head back to the states.
For their week visit in Maastricht, there was one evening when everyone on the floor of my dormitory had to have our final farewell because school had just finished and people were going back to their designated homes. We decided to make breakfast from our hometowns – think Portugal, Italy, France, Texas and Chile – for dinner and enjoy our final ‘family’ dinner together. There was also a slideshow film with pictures we amassed over the semester and one of the guys on the floor prepared a song that made us all get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ inside. Inevitably, tears followed. My brother and friend were welcomed with open arms and, after this and for the remainder of the trip, they consistently commented on how lucky I had been to share these past five months with such unique people.
On Friday morning, we went to the land of the endless green fields, pubs and banjos and I was as happy as could be because Ireland has been one of my dream destinations for as long as I can remember. On our first day, we went to the Guinness factory, which was the most authentic brewery tour I’ve yet to go on. We saw how the beer was made and the tour led us to a Gravity bar on the very top of the factory. On the top, we were handed free beer and the most impeccable view of Dublin. We cheers-ed our overflowing drinks and felt as though we could watch this view for an eternity, but had another tour to get too – The Jameson tour.
Though I’m excited to say I went to the Jameson tour in Ireland, and it was also interesting to see how this alcohol is so finely produced, I don’t think anyone truly enjoys tasting whiskey. The tour guide made us take shots of the whiskey and we were forced to leave it on our tongues for a minute before actually swallowing it. She claimed that it would actually make the drink go down smoothly, however, I will be the first to deny this logic.
The next day was the most unforgettable part of the weekend – seeing the Cliffs of Mohr. We got extremely lucky with the sunny weather, which happens about less than a third of the year. We took a bus tour that drove us to them and, once we arrived, we immediately got on a boat that took us inches away from them. The whole time we were on the boat we inched closer and closer to these massive cliffs and Christiana, Harrison and I were awe-struck by the scenery in front of us. Not much else could compare to the crashing waves and gigantic cliffs after not seeing the ocean for over five months. There were also dolphins jumping for joy that greeted us in front of the cliffs and suddenly this was became the definition of seeing a post card in real life.
We also got to hike at the top of the cliffs and see thousands of miles of green scenery and the ocean from a different perspective. When I say thousands of miles, I mean it too. Green coated every last inch of the scenery and these views made me fall more and more in love with this country. There was also a castle at the top and for a second there, I literally felt as if I was in an enchanted fairytale and the only thing missing was the leprechauns. Irished I could stay forever in this magical place, with Christiana and Harrison.
When we got back from the bus tour, we went to the Temple Bar pub, one of the most famous pubs in Dublin. We were amazed by the live music that filled our ears and the dream continued. After a couple hours, it was unfortunately time to sleep in the airport and enjoy our final hours with each other before parting ways.
Though everyone on my dormitory floor makes fun of me for it, I consistently come back from my weekend trips and say, “That was the best weekend of my life and ________ is my new favorite country!” I truly think that no country will compare to Ireland, but not just because of the scenery or traditional Irish food. It was my brother’s first time in Europe and I’ll never forget his eyes widening at everything around him. Before I arrived in the Netherlands, I went to Budapest for four days to backpack as my first trip away from home. It was the second country I had been to and there was a different currency, language and I had never been to a hostel before. I truly felt like a fish out of water, flapping my fins washed up on a shore.
Though Harrison wasn’t lost and definitely isn’t as directionally challenged as I was at the beginning of my time here, it was still so amazing to see him immersed in a culture so different from anything else either of us had ever seen. I’m so lucky to have had this experience with my brother and friend and am fully convinced the luck of the Irish isn’t just any myth!
Goodbye Ireland, you will be dearly missed! But, I can’t wait for my next three weeks of exploring in Greece and Italy with some of my best friends from home, friends from Maastricht, and my first trip on my own. Stay tuned!
Hanna Van Der Linde is earning a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Maastricht, the Netherlands, during spring semester 2016.