Scotland (4/12-4/15)

I realized I never wrote about Scotland, so here’s a short summary!

Friday:
We arrived at 7 a.m. on Friday and had the time of our lives! I went with my roommate Kathleen & good friend Olivia. We had a nice little trek to our hostel, the Lighthouse Hostel, and absolutely LOVED it! We immediately made our way to The Elephant House Cafe. This is where J.K. Rowling wrote the 2nd-4th Harry Potter books! It was surprisingly cheap, and the food was very tasty! The bathroom in this place was amazing! There were notes to JK all over the place, thanking her for changing their lives! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city. This has been by far my favorite city to get lost in! The entire place is beautiful, with a castle on a cliff over looking it all. Perfection. We made it back to the hostel around 4:00 and crashed. I guess waking up at 3 a.m. had finally taken its toll. We woke up at 11:00 to eat and hydrate. The hostel had a kitchen stocked with free pasta and tea. (Now you know what we are all weekend!!) White we were eating we met a few friendly people. The most interesting being Yalchin, from Turkey, who were ending up spending a lot of the weekend with.

Saturday:
This was definitely a relaxing trip. We weren’t in any rush to get up, so we slept in then had free breakfast. It was nice and sunny today so we started to wander around. We passed the school the JK used as inspiration for Hogwarts and decided to explore. It looked identical, especially on the inside. Every but was mesmerizing. We walked up and down the Royal Mile, the architecture here is truly amazing. We saw our fair share of Scotsman playing the bagpipes. Then we joined a free walking tour around the city. It took about 3 hours, and I now feel like I know every detail of Scotland! The type ended at the castle, but we didn’t go in. It cost 15 Euro that I did not have! On the tour we also learned the story of Bobby. He was the dog of a watchman over the cemetery. When the man died Bobby stayed by his grave for 12 years. He stayed there right up until the day he died himself! It was a fascinating story, and is Edinburgh ‘s claim to fame. We went for supper at a place called the Fiddlers Arm in the grassmarket. I had my first taste of haggis! The taste isn’t bad, it’s the texture I can’t get past!

Sunday:
Today we climbed Arthur’s Seat, and we picked the worst day to do it! It was overcast, windy, and rainy.  We all had a blast anyways! Yalchin went with us and practically had to push me to the top, then hold on to me one we got there. I have never felt wind this string. I genuinely thought I may blow away! The view from the top was worth it though! On one side you saw the sea, and the other the city! Definitely worth the hike in the wind!! The highlight of my day was the Harry Potter your we took next. JK got some much inspiration from her surroundings the I practically felt like I was in the books! I even for to see Voldemort’s grave, aka Thomas Riddle! The best part of the tour was carrying around wands as we walked through the streets! For dinner Yalchin cooked us a traditional Turkish meal at the hostel. I could not tell you what it was besides good! We shared with the entire hostel, Yalchin took plates door to door! We wrapped up the night and the trip by watching a movie in the common room together. We thought it was only appropriate to watch a Scotish movie, so we chose Rob Roy.

Monday:
Up at 4:00 a.m. for the flight back to Dublin! Learning the hard way to stop planning early morning flights!!

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Celtic Tour: April 6

Today we got a tour of Old Ireland. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most of our day consisted of grave sites & churches, so now when I think of Ireland that is all I can think of.

We went to Fourknocks first. It was a big mound of grass with a tomb under it. It had passages leading to the North, East & South. After being creeped out by practical jokes I didn’t want to stay much longer. Or next visit was to a cemetery where I saw 500 more Celtic Crosses. One of my new favorite hobbies is trying to depict the meanings on each one.

Next came my favorite part of the day. We went to Hill of Slane & Hill of Tara, which is where St. Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland. It’s an amazing legend that you should look up if you have the time! Both places were beautiful especially since the sun was shining. At Hill of Slane there was a graveyard with castle ruins beside it. What do all the Americans do? Climb the castle. We were there for at least an hour attempting to find new and higher places to climb. I think mostly we were trying to get as high as possible to bask in the sun. At Hill of Tara one in the group was cursed. It was said if you steal a stone from the  tomb at Fourknock or walk through the entry at Tara you would grow horns & a tail. Megan did both, surprisingly she woke up without horns or a tail the next morning.

We ended the day with ice cream, cream soda & a bumpy bus ride home!

Giant’s Causeway: April 1

This was just a rough start.
Our tour began at 6AM! I was not okay with this….
Then we took a bus into the city center to catch another bus to Belfast.
When we got to the bus we were told they had over booked and were flipping a coin to see who got to get on the bus. Our bus driver should have been scared for his life if I did not get on that bus. I don’t get up that early for no reason! We made it on to the bus and I immediately fell asleep. 1. I was tired from London 2. I didn’t want to listen to our driver rant for hours!

Our first stop was Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. It is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks below. It was extremely windy and my choice of sweatpants was staring to become a regret. (Not only because i got made fun of the entire day, but I was scared they may turn into parachute pants & I would blow away!) After freezing up in the center & being coaxed off, I thought about staying on the tiny island just to not have to walk across it again! Even though it was over cast and windy the place was beautiful! The water was clear blue, I could see to the bottom for miles. You could also see Scotland from the island. It was all breathtaking!

We got back on the bus and made out way to Giant’s Causeway. On the way we heard the great story of Finn MacCool, a giant in Ireland, trying to reach a giant in Scotland. So, they made a path to connect the two countries. The story ended with the pathway being torn up by the Scottish giant when he was running in fear form Finn.
I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the Causeway, but it was magnificent. Pictures definitely do not do it justice! We spent our time hiking all the way around it to get a good look, but it wasn’t until we were right at it that I saw how great it was. The rocks were circular and fit perfectly together.

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After the Cause we spent an hour or so in Belfast eating hot fudge sundays & brownies before the longgg bus ride home to Dublin. Our bus driver was growing on me at this point. He kept the entire bus entertained buy singing Irish tunes & Shakira. Any man who is willing to sing Shakira is fine by me!

London Round 2: March 29-31

I was lucky enough to get a second trip to London, FOR FREEEE!

We got put up in an extremely nice hotel, where I took full advantage of the bathtub. We got there around 11:00 pm on Friday night and found our way to the hotel using the tube (I only got turned around once)! It was already late so we ordered a pizza & stayed in for the night. I think I took an hour long bubble bath, refusing to get out!

Saturday we had a walking tour lined up. We got to see Parliament & hear Big Ben strike before we began our tour of Westminster Abbey. It was beautiful, it holds centuries worth of history that would have taken me days to see it all. Mostly I couldn’t believe I was standing in the same place the Queen was inaugurated and Princess Kate said “I do”. An interesting fact is that I always thought my last name was German, but while walking through the church I found the Barnes family crest. Just chalk that up to another reason why I love London!
We continued our tour by seeing Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, & 10 Downing Street. Then we hopped on a boat and road down the river to Tower Hill. There was so much to see at the Tower of London that we didn’t get to see it all! However, we did get to see the best part…the crown jewels! They were extravagant. I think it was around 5:00 and all of us were worn out! We hailed a taxi back to our hotel and I took a lonnng nap. I woke up to go out to dinner just in time to hear the fire alarm going off and the building being evacuated. I felt like I was back in UCF & needed to meet the police with the master key(RA humor). When we got back from supper hankfully our hotel was still there!

 

EASTER SUNDAY-This was a day like no other. It was hard to be away from family on this day, nothing was traditional! I’m used to waking up at 6:00 & rushing to my Easter basket then going to sunrise service with my family in my small town church. Instead, I slept til noon, there was no basket, I went to a 12:15 mass with 2,000 other people where I knew no one. It was also my first time going to a Catholic mass. Needless to say the poor boy sitting beside me got tired of all the questions pretty quickly! After church I usually spend time a nana’s taking a nap until I eat a home cooked meal. Instead, I walked for an hour to eat Chipotle. Don’t worry, it gets even sadder. After lunch we usually have a big Easter egg hunt & spend the rest of the day together. Instead, I got lost in London & spent my night in an airport full of strangers. The highlight of my day was Skyping my family for 20 minutes. It definitely wasn’t the ideal Easter, Mama made it very clear that it would be the last holiday I spent so far away!

Even after the dreadful day London is still one of my favorite cities. I would never get tired of it!

 

London (Spring Break part 2: March 21 & 24)

LONDON! YAY!

After having a little trouble with customs in Paris I made it to London. They seemed to think it was odd I was going to London for 3 days with only 10 euro and no destination. Oh well…

The Euro Star was an experience in itself, and once I was at the train station it wasn’t hard to spot Lauren! A blonde in London!

Then the fun really began. Lauren wasted no time making sure I saw the ENTIRE city! Let me just lost them off:

Sky Bar
Westminster Abbey
Big Ben & Parliament
London Eye
10 Downing Street- Home of the Prime Minister
Buckingham Palace
Trafalger Square
Piccadilly
Leicester Square
Harrods
Hyde Park
Kensington Park
Kensington Palace: Will & Kate’s house
Victoria Apollo Theatre to see Wicked!
Then back to…
Big Ben
London Eye
Piccadilly
Leicester Square
Piccadilly

Needless to say I was completely exhausted by the end of that day! I can’t even name a favorite part, I loved it all!! The experience of a lifetime was definitely getting to see Wicked. I bought the tickets about a month ago to take Lauren for her birthday. It was my first experience of Broadway, and it was everything I dreamed. I thought I would be too exhausted to stay awake and watch it since I had been up since 4 a.m., but I was mesmerized.

Saturday:

Soitalfields Market
Borough market
Ride the London Eye
Camden Town Market
NottingHill and Portobello Road Market
Platform 9 3/4
Tower Bridge
Tower of London

Today was special because 1. I ate the best grilled cheese EVER! 2. I rode the London Eye. I was discoursed when I woke up sick, but I didn’t let it slow me down. I just popped in some Advil & Vitamin C! I loved browsing through all the markets & sampling food. I got to ride the London Eye, at first I was bummed because it was overcast and snowing (it snowed all weekend), but it was BEAUTIFUL seeing London from that view with snow falling on it.

Sunday:

Brick Lane
24 hour bagel place

As you can see it was a fun field weekend & I loved every minute of it with my best friend. It was the perfect home sick remedy! I can officially say I have mastered riding the tube, since I rode it over 100 times in the period of 3 days! Lauren definitely planned the best weekend for me. When we weren’t touring or out adventuring, we were laying in bed watching movies or talking about One Direction. It felt like home!

Paris (Spring Break part 2: March 20 & 21)

 

Paris was definitely a much better experience than it’s sister in the south, Nice. I loved every minute of it! We arrived by plane late Wednesday afternoon, due to plane delays. We had a hostel in mind that we wanted to stay at so we took a bus and then a train to the top of the city. We walked around for a while until we found the hostel we were looking for. As soon as we walked in we were immediately told the place was full. Then the nice man behind the counter proceeded to tell us that if he was full then most likely every where else in Paris would be. (This is the moment where I realized we should have booked online in advance, oh well). Thankfully the man was extremely nice and called about 7 hotels to check for vacancies to keep us from walking all over the city. He finally found one, but it was at the bottom of the city where we had just came from. He showed us the best way to get there by metro, and we were off! We were going to have to take two different trains to get there and at the time I didn’t know that once you paid for one metro ticket you didn’t have to pay again, I thought you paid each train. So, when we got off the first train I convinced Kathleen to walk the rest of the way because I didn’t want to pay another 1.20 for the train. I was told that the French in Paris aren’t necessarily fond of Americans, so I was a little nervous. We had no idea where we were, we only knew the address of where we were going…and it was almost dark. Thankfully my impression of the French was wrong, because on the way to the hostel we were asked twice if we needed help. Both times they were more than eager to help when we opened our mouth and they found out we were American. After their help and a few stops in random hotels, we made it to our hostel. We threw our backpacks of and went out for some food and to explore the city. Our hostel was right across from Notre Dame, so that was our first destination. It was great to see lit up at night. Most definitely better than I could have imagined. The greatest part of the night was when we saw the Eiffel Tower lit up in the distance. We both agreed out was a doable walk and set of in the direction of the Tower. We were wrong. Two and a half hours later….we finally arrive at the beauty! We quickly decided the walk was worth it. I could look at the Eiffel Tower forever. Pictures definitely can’t do it justice. THEN on the hour, she sparked. It may have been the greatest thing I have ever seen!! Thousands of lights had to be blinking on this Tower. Believe it or not, it left me motionless. I was in awe. I didn’t want to leave, but when we realized it was midnight we decided it was best to. I was happy to see the bus was still running and happily shelled out the euro to not have to walk the hours home!

Paris day 2 was even better than the first! I woke up and had [free] breakfast which consisted of a HUGE cup of coffee to dip a piece of bread in. I miss bacon. Anyways, after we went to Notre Dame. The cathedral is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the out. There was so much history & so much to see! Sadly, we didn’t make it to the top of the towers. There was quite a line and a 8 euro entry fee. Next we hopped a on the Batobus, a boat that carries tourist up and down the river. It was convent transportation for the day! We had a few different stops along the way, but eventually we made it to the Louvre. It was massive! Honestly, I could be there for months and still not see everything!!! We were there going on 3 hours when I started to get a little cranky! We saw at least a small portion of each floor. NO ONE WARNED ME IT WAS THIS BIG. Of course, I saw Mona Lisa. She was great, but a little overrated in my opinion. I’ve always heard you couldn’t take pictures but that wasn’t the case. Everyone had cameras out snapping pictures. Needless to say, The Louvre is definitely something I won’t forget! Next we made our way back to the Eiffel Tower! I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal since I saw her lit up last night, but it was still amazing. We went to the other side of the bridge and spent some time at the carousel, then ended up buying a crêpe. We enjoyed our chocolate & banana crêpe while sitting on a bench just looking at the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t cheese & wine, but I still felt pretty French! Our next stop for the day was Pont des Arts, supposedly the “most romantic spot in Paris”. It’s a famous spot that I’m sure you’ve heard of. It’s a bridge full of locks. This particular bridge is known as the comminment bridge. SO, you and the one you are committed to write your names on a lock and lock it on the bridge. You then proceed to throw the key in the river. It is said that the only way your love can ever be broken is if the lock is removed, and since the key is at the bottom of the river…you are “locked’ in love forever! I know I know, it’s lovey dovey, but it’s still a sight to see!

By this time the sun had set & it was getting a little chilly. We did some quick souvenir shopping and then headed back to the hostel. 2 of our friends from school were on their way & we were going to wait on them to eat supper. While we were sitting in out room waiting on them we struck up conversation with the 2 other girls in our hostel. We found out they are studying in Dublin too. One of them spoke French, so when our friends finally arrived we all went out together to supper . The one who spoke French would walk from restaurant to restaurant reading us the menus in the window until we found something that wasn’t snails. (I know I was in Paris…but I’m not that brave!!) We had a great dinner together, then we all split up. Megan, Olivia, Kathleen and I all enjoyed Paris at night. We walked around and took in the sights.

Paris was perfect! I could not have asked for a better time! I did learn my lesson to book a hostel in advance though! On Friday morning I woke up around 5:00 and navigated the metro to the train station, and I was off to London to reunite with my best friend!

Nice (Spring Break, part 1: March 19 & 20)

Last week while most of my friends were going to Destin or Costa Rica, I was a lucky girl who got to spend her Spring Break in the South of France, Paris & London !!

The road to Nice was long. My roommate and I got up at 5:30 to catch a bus from campus to the airport to catch our 8:20 flight on time. We planed a early flight so we would have the full day in Nice. That didn’t work out. The plane boarded late & one we were all seating the informed us the plane was having technical difficulties & we would have to wait on another plane to come in and switch. I am TERRIFIED of flying so after I heard the words “technical difficulties” I freaked. THREE HOURS laters we were on a different plane and on our way to Nice. I was not Ryanair’s biggest fan that day! Once we got to Nice we realized we had no plans. We hadn’t thought about what we wanted to do once we got there, we hadn’t even thought of where we would sleep! (Sorry Mama, don’t stress out…it all worked out!)

We realized that we were a good 3 miles from the inner city so we started walking. The city of Nice was beautiful, especially once I got to see the beach! The water was so blue & there were rocks reaching out into the water. It looked like it was taken straight from The Little Mermaid! We took in plenty of the beach & sun. Feeling warmth on my face isn’t exactly something I’m used too! After a long trek we came to a hostel and paid for a 4 bed room. They informed us one of the beds was already taken, but I was not prepared for what I walked into! A tiny French man opened the door…in his underwear! It caught Kath & I completely off guard, and I think it did him too. I’m sure sharing a room with 2 girls was not ideal for him, especially when we noticed he had taken up all 4 beds with his clothes. We didn’t try to strike conversation, we just freshened up and went back out for the night. This is were the night got fun! I got to see a black & white movie in Spanish with French subtitles. I had no clue what was being said the whole 2 hours, but I loved it!!

Day 2: We thought it would be a once in a lifetime chance to see the sunrise over the Mediterranean, so we woke up at 5:30 to do just that. Our plan was foiled when we walked outside and it was raining…We still made the walk to the beach though. Sitting alone one the beach while the city was still dark and listening to the waves wash over the rocks was exactly what I needed to cheer up. The long day I had yesterday & the creepy Frenchman sleeping across the room had made me a little homesick. That morning sitting in solitude gave me time to sit and trust in God’s plan. I know I’m in His hands, even in a foreign country He still won’t let me go. So, after that sentimental moment we went back to the room and slept since we still had it for 2 hours. When we woke up we got tea (the hot kind, not the cold sweet kind that I actually like) and croissants. Cheap & French! Then we walked to a free Art Museum across town. The museum was great! I think I liked the building the art was in more so than the art.

After the museum our time in Nice was done and we caught a bus to the airport to head to PARIS!

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St. Paddy’s Day

Well, I can officially say I have been in Ireland on St. Paddy’s Day!

Sunday (March 17) was a day I will never forget! It all began around 9:00 a.m. I woke up and put on my wig, the greatest wig I ever ever seen I might add! I also had a tutu. True to Irish weather it was raining outside, but that was no slowing any of the festivities down!

We watched the parade from Christ Church. This year marks the 100th year since the Great Potato Famine, so Ireland is asking anyone with Irish roots to come back and visit. It’s being called The Gathering. The first hour of the parade was just people. People from all over the world! I saw flags from Spain, Colorado, Brazil, China, Texas. Everyone was here!! I found out halfway through the parade that I could have walked in the parade, needless to say I was disappointed!

The second part of the parade was floats. Kathleen ad I tried to move to get closer and that failed. We ended up standing on wooden posts that are meant to lock your bike up. That portion of the parade was about a hour, and it was raining. Anyone who knows me, knows that being still isn’t an option for me. Standing on that post on the rain for an hour was the hardest thing I have ever done, but so worth it. I got the perfect view of the floats & costumes! The floats were SO extravagant! I had no clue what any of them were supposed to be but I loved it. I felt like a child, pointing and giggling!

After the parade quickly realized the day had only just begun. I ate some traditional Irish stew for lunch &  washed it down with a Guinness. St. Patrick would’ve been proud. I spent a while after that people watching. I have never in my life seen so many complete strangers so happy together. The city had been painted green and was roaring with music and laughter! I have a feeling that before the night was over everybody knew everybody!

I’ll make the rest of my day a long story short; We hopped from pub to pub. I never tried green beer, I was advised that if I wanted to keep my lunch in my stomach to stay away! I meet 100 leprechauns. We turned a pizza place into a club with dancing alligators, and yes I mean exactly what it sounds like! Then turned in for the night early around 10:00.

St. Patrick definitely got the best of me, but being in Dublin on St. Paddy’s Day is a experience I get to check off my bucket  list!

*And just so all you Americans know for next year, it’s spelt St. Paddy’s not Patty’s. Patty is a girls name, and St. Patrick was a man.

Sláinte, 

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Surfing in Lahinch (March 8-10)

Friday as soon as class ended at 1:00 I rushed to pack my bag to get ready for the weekend. As usual I waited to pack until the last minute because the bus was leaving at 1:30. The 4 hour bus ride there was surely eventful. 20 college kids on a bus will always find to entertain themselves!

When we finally arrived at Lahinch it was after dark so we checked into a hostel and went to find food. Lahinch is one of the smallest towns I have ever seen (and this is coming from a small town girl). There were maybe 4 pub/restaurants, a handful of hotels & one hostel. So our options for supper were limited!

At 10:00 Saturday morning the moment had arrived. Time to surf! Luckily the weather was in our favor, as much as it could be for Ireland. The sun was shining & there was no wind. It was still 45 degrees outside though. My wetsuit became my best friend quickly! Getting in to the wetsuit was an experience in itself. Trying to slide into a tight rubber suit is not easy, and the fact that we just had to strip down outside added to the humor. We also got to put on boots & gloves. We were told to grab a board an walk to the ocaen. I was in a group with 7 other people who had never surfed before. Our instructor went over how to paddle and stand up. Within 5 minutes we were in the water. It wasn’t as cold as I expected. The suit definitely helped! Sadly, my left glove had a hole in it so after 10 minutes I could no longer feel my hand. I didn’t even want to ask how cold the water actually was. I found out soon enough when I tried to catch my first wave and completely wiped out head first. When the water hit my face it was paniful. Very painful. After another hour and a half I only stood up on the board 3 times, actually I’m pretty proud of that! The rest of my attempts were admirable… It was definitely time to call it quits for the day when I fell off a wave & lost control of my board. The wind picked it up & it smacked my instructor right on the back of the head. Whoops. The  race to get out of our wetsuits was just as funny as trying to get them on. The suit was suctioned to me, and was my only means of warmth. As soon as I started to peel it off I regretted it. The little hair that I do have was actually frozen into clumps, just to give you an idea of how cold the water was. I didn’t want to get any of my clothes wet so I wrapped my towel around me and ran back to the hostel. There were only 4 showers and at least 30 of us. So the first one back got the hot water! Guess who was the first back? 🙂

Day 2 of surfing was worse. Much worse. There was NO sun, a LOT of wind, & it was 36 degrees. It took everything I had not to cry as I put my wetsuit on. Yesterday changing outside wasn’t that bad, but today SUCKED. The wind was strong & made the cold even colder. After a few seconds I could no longer feel my hands to put my wetsuit on, so I had to get help. When it came time for me to put my boots on my feet were already a shade of purple. I was beginning to hate myself for the decision to surf in Ireland. I refused to quit or give up though (mainly because I had already paid & refused to waste money). Today I asked for a hood. I just couldn’t bear the thought of the icy water on my head again. Especially today. The surfing wasn’t as eventful today. There were minimal waves & the winds were really strong. So when there was a wave, if you didn’t ride it you got sprayed in the face, and if I tried to ride it I would face falling off and going completely under. It was a lose-lose. After an hour I noticed there were only a few people left in the ocean. I looked at my instructor and he pointed to a big wave coming and told me if I wanted out I had to catch that back to shore. I did my best, and of course wiped out major (surfing is HARD). This may have been my biggest wipe out because it rolled me under the wave. When I came back up gasping for air I looked around for my board and didn’t see it. About 2 seconds later I found it when it smashed into my face. The next thing I know my instructor had me sitting on my board pushing me to shore. He asked why my board hated me so much that it would try to beat me & him? Safe to say I was completely embarrassed and done surfing for the day. Trying to get my wetsuit off today actually made me cry. It was 36 degrees outside & I was dripping wet with only a swimsuit on. The wind made it 100 times worse. I was happy to get my boots off and see that my feet were still there though! The walk back to the hostel was only 4 or 5 blocks but it was the longest & most painful walk of my life. My feet were swollen now and bright red & it felt like I was walking on fire. (Ugh….I get sick thinking about it.) As soon as I got to the hostel I ran into a shower. Bad idea….when the warm water hit me it hurt SO BAD! I didn’t even try to stay in and wash off. I ran to my bed and cuddled up by the heater until i could no longer see my breath.

I am happy to report that I am home & warm now, with working feet that are a normal color. Surfing was a great experience & definitely a lot of fun on Saturday. Safe to say the only other time you’ll ever hear of me wanting to surf is if it’s in the Bahamas.

**One great thing that did happen this weekend was Saturday night. I stayed up to watch the Duke UNC game online. Happy to say the UNC might as well not have shown up. Now I have something to run in Blaine’s face for about 2 weeks 🙂