Pour one out…

This weekend I booked an impromptu trip up to Dublin because I thought it was about time I meet Niall Horan. Unfortunately we had a bit of miscommunication and he was in Asia this weekend but holy cow Dublin was awesome nonetheless.

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Unlike London or Paris, Dublin doesn’t have a laundry list of tourist attractions, which meant the trip was pretty low-key. I checked out the Temple Bar area, walked around the Trinity University campus, and of course went to the Guinness Storehouse.

Warning: What comes next isn’t light and fluffy like a Belgian waffle.

Prior to coming to Belgium, I wasn’t a beer drinker. Perhaps that’s because I hadn’t been introduced to the right beers since your average college student lives by Natty Light and Keystone, which are affectionately(¿) equated with horse urine.

The biggest beer lover I’ve ever known was my best friend Jake. Just last year he taught me how to shotgun PBR like a pro. He had his own beer-making kit but never really mastered it, in fact the first batch he made was so carbonated that there’s a dent in his ceiling from when he opened it. He’d invite me over for Black Velvets (cider and Guinness) and would roll his eyes when I downed all of the cider.

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Jake really loved beer:

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A few hours after this photo was taken on December 12, 2015, Jake committed suicide.

I’m sure at least half of the people who read this will think that’s an over-share, and that WordPress isn’t the place for that kind of candor. But I’m hardly sensitive to the suicide stigma anymore. This post is definitely an outlier compared to my other happy-go-lucky “Look at this cheese!”-esque ones, but I’m determined to document my entire study abroad experience, not just the pretty things.

Europe has been amazing thus far, but it does feel a lot like I’m carrying an elephant with me everywhere I go.

As I walked through the Guinness Storehouse, that elephant was extra heavy. I so desperately needed to text him to tell him that I was there, to brag that I snagged two tasting samples instead of one, and to say I am officially certified to pour my own Guinness.

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I texted a friend back in Columbia who’s held my hand through all of this and he gently reminded me for the millionth time that I’m so lucky to be in Europe.

I could have easily cancelled this study abroad adventure. I almost did. But I could hear Jake’s voice in my head telling me that I had to go. And every day I hear that same voice telling me: “Wipe your eyes and hit the cobblestones, Stinks.”

Irish people are some of the happiest I’ve ever met. From waiters to cabbies to airport gate agents, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face. And that’s not to say that if you live in Ireland you don’t have your dark passengers, because I’m sure they do. But learning to live and thrive in the company of those passengers is an art that apparently the Irish have mastered.

When I look at my life right now, I’m honestly in awe. I have an incredible network of friends across the globe who would drop anything to hold my hand. I have a family that loves and supports me unconditionally. And I’m sitting in my apartment in Brussels writing about a weekend in Dublin.

Two months ago the world lost an incredible person. And I’ll never be okay with that. But there’s still a whole lot of incredible places to see, people to meet, and beer to drink.

Cheers to you, Jakey;

 

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Eat like a SWIFTie

Sorry for the post pile-up, but last week was so crazy that my London blog was delayed…but the craziness was also filled with plenty of good food that I know my grandparents want to read about!!

Brussels was abuzz with the craziness of SWIFT’s Global Sales Convention, which is basically just a chance for salespeople from across the world (New York, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Belgium, etc.) come together to gab and, more importantly, eat copious amounts of delicious catering.

I stupidly committed the cardinal sin of eating a ton of gorgeous food without actually taking photos of it. I know. I’m a monster. But here’s a quick run down of some of the things on the menu:

  1. Red curry with chicken
  2. White sausage (would not recommend)
  3. Smoked salmon (would also not recommend)
  4. Truffled mashed potatoes (they were mysteriously green and mushy but delicious nonetheless)
  5. “Mini cheeseburgers”- a feeble (but delicious) attempt at American food with strange meat, stinky cheese, and sour barbecue sauce. I ate three of them.
  6. Whatever these are (some kind of mango something and some kind of passion fruit something):

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  1. Stoemp- mashed vegetables with veal sausage. We washed it down with plenty of free wine at a banquet at Palais d’Egmont whilst watching some people on stilts. SWIFT does it big.

 

There were a million other options that I don’t remember. But I think you get the gist: SWIFTies eat well.

 

 

The fight against hanger…

 

A couple weekends ago, I hopped on a quick plane to Old Blighty.

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Upon arrival at the London Gatwick airport, my travel companions and I realized that we didn’t have useable directions to get from the airport to our “home base” for the weekend (shout out to Hanna’s friend Rachel for letting us crash).

The Sheets clan is notorious for getting “hangry,” which is the state of being incredibly unpleasant when one has not gotten sustenance in a while.

Standing in that London airport, I can confirm that I was indeed hangry. The combination of travel stress and only having consumed a few pieces of toast earlier that day made me shut down.

I’m proud to say I managed to pull up and pull off my most impressive navigation fete since I’ve been abroad by figuring out how to get to Rachel’s apartment.

Turns out, my roommate Sam also suffers from hanger, so it was clear that we needed to find food ASAP. We ended up stopping in a pub called “The Hop Poles,” where I chowed down on a plate of Steak and Ale Pie, chips, and peas.

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Traditional British food is weird. My “pie” was essentially chunks of beef soaked in brown gravy wrapped in flaky dough. While it was a great remedy for my hanger, it for sure resembled dog food.

Also, what is the darn deal with their “chips?” I know I’m not the first American to complain about this. These are chips:

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These are not chips:

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Also, sorry London but Brussels is kicking your butt with their fries game. Except I do really enjoy malt vinegar on my fries.

The chips/fries weren’t the only thing that the UK is doing weirdly. Why the beans (British baked, if you wish) do they drive on the wrong side of the street? I just don’t understand. How did that happen? I’ll Google it and get back to you.

The other notable food experience from my quick trip was Saturday afternoon tea near Trafalgar Square. For only 12 pounds we got a large tower of delicious tea sandwiches, pastries, scones, and clotted cream—with a big pot of tea. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of London.

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The best part was for sure these ~phenomenal~ lemon bars:

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On Saturday night, the couple weeks of intense travel really got to me and I came down with a case of malaise that meant I only chowed on my roommate Sam’s leftover chow mein for dessert whilst watching UK Food Network (not nearly as good as the FN in the USA, FYI.)

When I got back to Brussels on Sunday afternoon, I happily ate an entire package of tomatoes (10 golf-ball-sized beauties), a craving that I believe was the result of not getting enough vitamins in the previous weeks, so I’m working on that.

As evidenced by the fact that this post is a week late, there’s a lot going on over here, but I’m sure not complaining.