From potatoes to the Pope. Part 1 of my spring break!

Welcome back! It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted, and that was due to traveling all across Europe with my family. While we were traveling, my wifi was limited and I made the decision to not bring my laptop with me. I made this decision for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t want to risk breaking it, having it stolen, or travel mishaps with hit. Secondly, I didn’t want to be distracted during my once in a life time travels with my family.

So here we are. I got back from my 10 days of traveling with my family a little less than a week ago. My mom, dad, little sister, and my aunt came to visit and over a 10 span day we went from Ireland, to Wales, to England, and finished in Italy.

It all started a couple weeks back, when I hopped an overnight bus and ferry, to meet my family in Dublin, Ireland. We spent one full day in Dublin and highlighted the day with a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, going to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, and lots of great Irish food!

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Fresh pint of Guinness at the top of the Guinness Storehouse
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Street in Dublin
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River Liffey running through the heart of Dublin
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The historic Temple Bar in Dublin

After the full day in Dublin, we spent that evening driving to the southern coast to the bed and breakfast we were staying at in a port town called Wexford. We stayed at a cozy little b&b run by a sweet Irish lady by the name of Katrina. The two nights we stayed there, she made us tea and a homemade breakfast. As far as I’m concerned, it’s better service than I’ve ever gotten at a hotel.

We spent our second full day in Ireland driving across the country to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The drive took about three hours, and we were treated with lots of beautiful Irish countryside, but none of those views were as near as awe inspiring as the view of the cliffs.

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Cliffs of Moher
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Cliffs of Moher
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Cliffs of Moher
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Looking for America

We spent a couple hours looking and hiking around the cliffs, before we had to pack it up and hit the road back to the bed and breakfast. After our time seeing the country side of Ireland, we were heading to Wales, so my family could see where I’ve been living for the past couple months.

We spent a couple days in Swansea, and really I just got to show my family around the town. We made a stop at the university, ate in the city center, and spent a full day hiking my favorite part of the Gower, Rhossili Bay.

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The Worm’s Head at Rhossili Bay
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Hiking the Worm’s Head

The Worm’s Head is bigger than it looks, and is only available to hike for about 5 hours a day. To get to it, you have to 30 minutes across a rocky causeway that gets covered by the tide for the majority of the day. Hiking was a super fun activity that really helped us embrace the gorgeous landscape of Wales.

After a couple days in Wales, we drove to London to spend a day before we flew out to Rome. We really only had 3/4 of a day to explore London, so we got up really early to go see everything. I had already been to London to see all of the major sights, but it was really fun to re-experience those sights with my family. We went to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the Tower Bridge.

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Big Ben and Parliament
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Buckingham Palace

After a great half day or so in London, we made our way to the airport to fly to Rome. Upon arriving at the airport, I went to grab my passport, and then terror struck. I had left my passport at my flat. What that meant is that my family was going to fly to Rome that night, while I took a 5 hour bus ride back to my flat. I immediately found a flight to Rome after getting back to Swansea, and hopped on a bus back to London not one hour after getting my passport. So after basically a 10 hour overnight bus roundtrip, I was able to find an early flight and meet my family in Rome by mid-afternoon the next day. If you take anything away from my blog this entire semester, let it be this; Always triple check for your passport before traveling internationally.

After a near full day of hectic travel, I finally got to Rome and met my family in the heart of the city. We spent that afternoon taking in some of the sights, including the Pantheon, the War Memorial, the Trevi Fountain, and multiple Basilica’s.

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The Pantheon
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The designed hole in the ceiling of the Panthenon
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The War Memorial
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Michaelangelo’s Moses sculpture within a basilica in Rome
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The Trevi Fountain at night

We finished our first night in Rome eating at a restaurant recommended by our hotel, and let me tell you, Italian food is as great as advertised. We had fresh wood fire pizza, delicious Italian, and wonderful desserts. For me, after staying up for nearly 36 hours traveling, there was no better way to end my day.

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One of the best meals of my life

After getting a full nights rest, we set out for day two of Rome. This day was filled with stories of ancient Rome. We spent most of our day exploring the ancient palace grounds at Palatine hill. We walked around the Roman forum, with ruins of ancient temples and senate houses overshadowing us. We then entered the same gates as the excited ancient citizens of Rome once did when we entered the famous Coliseum. Hearing the stories of the most powerful empire in recorded history while walking through the same halls and seeing the same sights they saw was absolutely incredible. Rome is a city seeping in history, and theres nothing like it on our continent back home that you can experience.

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The Coliseum
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Inside The Coliseum
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Ancient apartments near Palatine Hill
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Tempe of Antoniunus Pius and Faustina
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Temple of Julius Caesar (spot of his cremation)

We finished that evening walking around the streets of the city, stopping at various shops and taking in the culture. We topped off the night with another night of great food and wine. Seriously, Italy knows how to do food. My family’s flight back to London left that next morning, but due to my rescheduled travel plans, I didn’t have to leave Rome to that evening. I decided to spend my day exploring the smallest country in the world, Vatican City.

Vatican City, located in the heart of Rome, is the smallest country in the world and is run by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope. Now no one in my family traveling with me is Catholic, including myself. However there is so much history, both past and present, surrounding Vatican City that I had to check it out. Now the two days my family were in Rome were both holidays recognized by the church, so sadly they didn’t have to opportunity to explore the city.

To enter the City, you have to be wearing modest clothing. That means no knees showing, no shoulders showing, along with airport style security. It was very interesting to see people turned away at the gates, and their reaction to it. Once I got through the gates, I looked around for a few seconds before I went in to St. Peter’s Basilica.

I’m not a catholic and I don’t really have any connection to Vatican City or the Pope. However….Wow. St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest and most magnificent church I have ever been in. You can feel a special and holy feeling in the air, and you immediately recognize this place as a place of both religious and historic significance. The church is immaculate, and includes a marvelous sculpture by Michaelangelo depicting Mary holding a recently crucified Jesus.

I can’t fully explain the beauty of this place. It’s one of those things that if you ever have the opportunity to see it, go. Don’t ask any questions, just go.

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St. Peter’s Basilica from a distance
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The ancient obelisk is St. Peter’s Square
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Inside the walls of Vatican City
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The Altar in the middle of the Basilica
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One dome on the Basilica
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Michaelangelo’s Pieta
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The main dome of St. Peter’s
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A Swiss guard outside of the Basilica

After a day exploring Vatican City, I took a train towards the airport to meet my family back in London. We spent the night in London, before we went our separate ways for the rest of the term. It was so wonderful having them come visit, and I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity! I took one more bus ride home, and ended up at my flat, exhausted and ready for a rest! Unfortunately after getting back, I spent this last weekend a little under the weather and am re-cooperating before heading back out to travel.

I’m not sure where I’ll go next, I’m thinking maybe France or Switzerland. Due to the recent attacks and scares in Europe, I’m doing my best to make safe travel plans as I make my way around.

Thanks to everyone who has been keeping up on my stories, sorry about the two week break, that’s on me.

I hope I’ve got some good stories and photos again for you guys next week! Thank you again to everyone reading and supporting my adventure! It truly means so much! Thank You!! See you next week!

Ben

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3 thoughts on “From potatoes to the Pope. Part 1 of my spring break!

  1. Ben – Cannot stop thinking about how proud of you I am! My students are continually inspired by your stories and photos. It got us into some geography and some of them are thinking about their own future travels! Please stay safe on your journey this week. Love you, brotha!

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