Spring Break (Minus the Break)

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Spring Break came and went so fast I almost can’t believe it happened. My mom asked me how it went, and the only thing I could think to tell her was that it may have been the best 10 days of my life. I got to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Ireland and Scotland, and saw my good friends in Prague and London. I’ll start at the beginning and try not to leave anything out – the Ireland trip includes a little bit of family soul-searching too.

Our IES Abroad midterms ended on the 16th and after a week of studying (yes, I remember how to do that), I was very ready to start my travels. I left for Prague on Friday the 17th and met up with the same crew I traveled to Barcelona with in February. It was great to see them again and Haley was a spectacular tour guide. Prague is a unique place filled with artistic people and a thriving music scene – we went to a bar nicknamed “Dog Bar” because the owner allows his snow-white, horse-sized, extremely calm dog have his run of the place. The whole thing was underground (fire hazard?), and it’s the kind of thing I haven’t found in any other city I’ve been to. She showed us the historical sights and we ate a few of my favorite meals from study abroad so far. Seeing friends is one great way to re-center and relax after a stressful time like the one I was coming out of. 

Next up was London, where I met up with an old friend and we toured the city together for three days. Jasper and I met in seventh grade and have been good friends since then. He was visiting our third friend from home, Tyler, while on his Spring Break from Bard. On Monday, we did enough touristy stuff to put even Rick Steves to shame. I can’t think of even one more think we could have squeezed in. Monday night I was able to meet up with a friend from GW for dinner, and then Tyler took us out with his friends to see the city by night. Every day in London was jam-packed with activities. Tuesday, Jasper and I went to Stonehenge! I’ve wanted to go for years and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Tuesday night I went to Frith Street, a pretty hopping area, and visited the now-very-posh Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where my mom was once a waitress in the 80’s. Another highlight of the trip: The Tate Museum. Definitely recommend to anyone visiting. We were so lucky with our weather in London, and it made it hard to say goodbye when my close friend Abigail from IES Abroad (she had joined me in London) and I headed out to Ireland.

I knew that my biggest goal for Ireland was meeting my Irish family members and getting in touch with that part of my history. Before this trip, it was the heritage I felt the least connected to growing up in a heavily Jewish-Italian environment. I landed in Dublin and had my first day to tour around and get accustomed to the city. A tip on Hostels for you future travelers reading this: I would 100% recommend Abigail’s Hostel in Dublin for it’s cleanliness, friendly staff, *free* breakfast, and awesome location. Abigail and I loved that hostel, especially because the Phoenix Hostel in London hadn’t been our favorite. Dublin was easily walkable and I did a Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour to see as much of it as quickly as I could. It was a bit rainy there but I expected that going into the trip.

On Thursday, I got up early and caught a bus to my family’s hometown of Portlaoise (pronounced Port Leash), Ireland. My third-cousin Ivan’s wife Ciara came and picked me up at the bus stop and we started our day by visiting my family homestead and graveyard where the Seymour family are buried. It was so meaningful to me to see the home where my great-grandmother Kathleen lived and left with her family in the early 1900s before emigrating through Ellis Island to Brooklyn. The graves I saw were most likely of Kathleen’s grandparents and cousins. Ivan and I are related because our great-grandmothers are sisters. Telling my mom about it all on the phone was lovely, but I can’t wait to share the photos with her in person and tell her about what her grandmother’s house was like. The current owners were kind enough to invite me inside and let me take photos of the backyard, as it is largely unchanged from the last century. Ciara drove me to a lookout that I had to hike up alone (great exercise!) and from the top I was able to see four counties around me. The scenes of green and brown patterned fields were exactly the dazzling Irish countryside I had always imagined and all of my expectations were exceeded. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing alone at that cliff looking out and feeling so free.

My cousins Ivan and Ciara showed me a lovely day and were unbelievably welcoming and accommodating to invite me to take over a day of their lives. Ciara is two weeks from her due date – they’re expecting a baby boy! She still found the time to take me all around town so that I could see what life was like for my family members. At the end of the day, we ate dinner at a gorgeous castle and I had my very first fish and chips ever. It was about as outstanding a day as I could have imagined and helped me to discover my Irish heritage in a lasting and meaningful way.

The last stop of break was Edinburgh – my favorite city! Abby and I were so glad that we tacked it on to the end of our break because we almost decided not to go to Scotland. The last minute decision turned out to be the best one we made. I have to say to anyone reading this that Edinburgh is the city I recommend the most of the four I have listed here. It was dynamic, historical, had great nightlife, and was filled with extremely friendly people (with sometimes-difficult-to-understand accents). I’m working on convincing my family to go there for a vacation one day. The museums, castles, and restaurants were all the most unique of any I had been to on Spring Break. The best part of the trip was making the perilous climb up Arthur’s Seat. We overlooked a postcard view of the waters surrounding Edinburgh and I found myself unable to leave. If you go, remember not to wear converse for the hike up. Haggis is the typical dish in Edinburgh - lungs, liver, and heart of a lamb - and I wasn't able to bring myself to eat it. I still ate really well there, though! Castle Rock Hostel gave us delicious food suggestions and I met some great people at that hostel. 

We flew out of Glasgow and came back to Rome on Sunday, 10 days after I first left Italy. The end of Spring Break felt like being forced to wake up from the most memorable dream I’ve ever had, but I was happy to go home to Rome. I missed the pasta, pizza, and lyrical language. I am glad to be back with my friends now, but I’ll never forget the memories made, the people I met, and the cities I traversed on the best break of my life. That’s it for now!

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Audrey Hertzberg

I’m a Jersey girl raised on lasagna and The Godfather. I’ve always liked learning about Old Italy and I’m excited to experience it this spring. I study Political Science and History at George Washington University, and I’m still on the hunt for the best cannoli in D.C. Talk to me about reading, running, and The West Wing!

Destination:
Term:
2017 Spring
Home university:
George Washington University, The
Major:
Political Science
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