Slán go fóill, Ireland!

November 17- Our Last Day in Ireland

After almost two amazing weeks in Ireland, it was finally our last day…and I’ve got to be honest, there wasn’t anything over the top exciting or special about it. We were completely fine with that after the whirlwind of so many super amazing, magical moments. For breakfast, we walked a short distance from SkyBackpackers to The Bakehouse. It was a lovely little cafe with lots of fresh baked goods, coffee and hot chocolate. I ordered a hot chocolate and the bacon butty which was Irish back bacon served with two fried eggs and Bakehouse tomato relish on Bakehouse bloomer bread. The hot chocolate was super chocolatey and creamy and the bread was sooo fresh and soft. Delish!

Josh had a cappuccino (with the cutest snowflake design) and the salmon potato hash, a chunky wedge of potato hash with Wrights smoked salmon, spinach, poached eggs, and Bakehouse breakfast sauce. The Bakehouse sauce with the salmon and poached eggs was so yummy!

We still had a day left on our hop-on-hop-off bus pass, so we rode the bus over to St. Stephen’s Green. St. Stephen’s Green is a really pretty public park in the city. It was quite a chilly and cloudy day, so we didn’t enjoy the park as much as we would have had it been better weather. The park wasn’t far from Grafton Street, so we wandered over to peruse all the great shopping available. Grafton Street has everything you could ever think of- little shops and department stores full of clothes, shoes, food, home goods, toys, restaurants and cafes, everything! We spent quite a bit of time walking in and out of stores until lunch. We were definitely getting a little cold and ready for a break. I still had it in my mind that I wanted to eat at Stag’s Head since the beginning of our trip, so that’s where we headed.

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We ordered the breaded Brie cheese for an appetizer. The golden brown breaded Irish Brie cheese was served with a house salad, red onion marmalade, and balsamic dressing. The red onion marmalade was so delicious, I could have eaten that alone. The gooey, creamy Brie with it took it to a whole other level of yum.

 

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I was craving a big, hot bowl of soup and was not disappointed at all with the seafood chowder and brown bread. They used fresh, smoked seafood and it was made to order. So good!    

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Josh had the fish and chips- fresh Atlantic cod in a light crispy O’Haras beer batter served with chunky chips and homemade tartar sauce.

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After warming up and filling our bellies, we headed back out for more window shopping on Grafton Street. Eventually we ran out of stores that we were interested in, so we came up with a great idea to go see Justice League at a movie theater on O’Connell Street. The theater we watched the movie in was so huge that there were restrooms inside. And assigned seating. I don’t know why I thought that was all so cool, but it was! We both enjoyed the movie and it helped us fill up some more time before heading to the airport.

For dinner, we decided to go back to Murray’s Bar and Grill. I’m really glad we did. We had to have our last meal in a pub and I just couldn’t leave Ireland without one last meal of fish and chips. The Irish cod was fried in a light beer batter and served with a homemade tartar sauce and crispy fries. Josh had the baby back ribs and chips…so random, I know! We really enjoyed our food and having our last meal in a pub filled with cold drinks and music and laughter and fun.

After dinner, we walked back to SkyBackpackers to pick up our luggage. We loaded up our car and drove to the rental car drop-off. We got to Dublin Airport around 9 or 10 pm, but our flight wasn’t until 6 am the next morning. We were really hoping we would be able to print off our boarding passes and get through security, but no counters were open to check us in, so we had to go upstairs to the food court to spend the night. I mean, who doesn’t want to sleep on the booths at McDonald’s? (We totally debated back and forth about staying at a hotel for our last night, but decided against it to save money and not have to worry about transportation to the airport at 4 am).

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It was not glamorous by any means and we didn’t get much sleep, but it worked. If we had to do it over again, I think we would book a later morning flight so we could stay in a hotel instead of the airport food court. You live and learn, right?

The rest of our journey home was majorly uneventful- a short flight to Amsterdam, a 3.5 hour layover with naps and reading, an 8.5 hour flight to Chicago full of watching movies, a 5 hour train ride to Indianapolis with more sleeping and movies, and an hour car ride home. After all that time traveling, we were soooo happy to be home, words can’t even describe. And the best part was coming home to our cute pup!

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Tip of the day: Don’t book such an early flight that you have to spend the night in the airport food court! But, please please please, take a trip to Ireland as soon as you possibly can!!!

dublin or bust

November 16- Kilmainham Gaol & Dublin Zoo

Thursday morning we woke up to sunny, but quite chilly weather. We walked just down the block to Cinnamon Cafe for breakfast. I had hot chocolate and the breakfast bagel stuffed with bacon, sausage, and scrambled egg. Josh had a cappuccino and scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. One part of the cafe I really liked was that they had a whole selection of fresh jams to try out. The cafe was nothing super fancy, but it was good, simple food and there were tons of options available to choose from.  

After breakfast, we had the whole day free to do absolutely anything. We had a few things left on our list of sight-seeing wants, so we purchased a 48 hour DoDublin hop-On-hop-off bus pass. Our first stop of the day was the Kilmainham Gaol. We found out on the bus ride over that the Gaol usually sells out pretty early, so if we hadn’t purchased tickets already there was a chance there wouldn’t be any tours left available. Thankfully, we arrived fairly early in the day and were able to snag tickets for a tour within the next half hour. If the Gaol is one of the top things on your list, I would recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of time just to be safe. The hour long tour was chock full of information. I was amazed at how many dates and stories about different rebellions (such as the Easter Rising) the tour guide was able to spout off from memory!

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Seeing the small cells and feeling the chill of the air in the West Wing, I was super happy that I would never be a prisoner there.

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My favorite part of the Gaol was the East or Victorian wing. It was the complete opposite of the West Wing- there was a huge skylight that let in the sun and every cell opened up into large airy room.

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Our tour ended at the Stonebreaker’s Yard. This is one of the most famous yards at the Gaol and where several leaders of the Easter Rising were executed.

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We waited for what seemed like forever to catch the next bus on the hop-on-hop-off tour, but finally it arrived and we were on our way to Dublin Zoo . I was super happy walking around the zoo, as it seemed almost every single animal was out and about, walking and moving around. We were super lucky to visit during November because they had just begun their Wild Lights exhibit which featured so many giant, beautiful, colorful lanterns shaped like the animals. We saw lions (we even got video of a male lion roaring!), leopards, orangutans, and penguins as we ventured through the Asian forests, orangutan forest, and the cove.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the African savanna where several giraffes, rhinoceros, oryx, and zebra roamed free together.

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Walking through the gorilla rainforest and the Kaziranga Forest trail, we unfortunately didn’t see any gorillas or elephants. I tried not to be disappointed because up until that point literally every other animal had been out and active.

Seriously, how amazing were these Chinese lanterns?! The elephant lantern stood about 52 feet high and the Chinese dragon was almost 100 feet long!

And there was a giant sloth!

We were getting really hungry after touring the gaol and the zoo, so we hopped back on the bus and made our way closer to the city centre. We couldn’t decide where to eat, so after a little research, Josh suggested Beshoff. It was the cutest little restaurant with cafe seating and black and white checkered floors. Unfortunately, the food was so disgusting. We both had the fresh cod and chips and were very disappointed. I was only a few bites into my fish when i bit into a bundle of bones. No thank you! And it was overly greasy, even for fried fish. The chips weren’t good either, they tasted like they had been fried earlier and reheated to serve. I would not ever recommend going there to eat.

To make up for our gross lunch, we popped over to Gelato Di Natura Dublin to drown our sorrows in something sweet. I had the Fabbri Choccomint which was a very creamy, yummy mint chocolate chip. Josh had the cookies flavor which tasted like Biscoff cookie butter. Yum!

For our last night, we stayed at SkyBackpackers Hostel. Our friend, Alex, recommended it to us from when he had stayed there a few months before while in Dublin. The hostel was really fun and hip with lots of bright colors and fun decorations. They had free luggage storage, a kitchen, laundry room, and lounge areas with couches, books, and a tv with a variety of DVDs to watch. The hostel was also really close walking distance to Temple Bar and all the shopping areas. I would definitely recommend staying there.   

After getting our luggage settled into our room (we stayed in a 6-person mixed dorm to save money), we headed south across the River Liffey for dinner at The Bank on College Green. The Bank was such a gorgeous restaurant housed in a previous bank building. While waiting for our table, we ordered some drinks at the bar and took in our surroundings. There were large marble columns, chandeliers, and mirrored walls. The ceiling was beautiful, made up of stained glass and floral plasterwork. It was the perfect date night atmosphere with live piano music and the glow of candlelight with the lights down low. I can’t recommend this restaurant enough.

We thoroughly enjoyed the goats cheese and red pepper croquettes served with apple and celeriac remoulade and a horseradish crème fraiche for our starter.

For dinner, Josh had the fish of the day which was pan fried halibut with turnip purée, gratin potatoes, asparagus, baby carrots, and a lime and dill Hollandaise. I had the slow roasted pork belly served with an apple and cumin purée, champ mash, crackling, spiced white cabbage with chorizo and red wine jus. The pork belly was melt in your mouth and so good.   

Dessert was just as delicious! I had a warm chocolate brownie with fresh berries and Tickety Moo vanilla ice cream and honeycomb. Josh had the orangecrème brûlée with a raspberry coulis and shortbread cookie.

We went back to our hostel after dinner for their free beer/cider night hosted in the lounge. We ended up playing a game called Quiplash with a few other guys staying there. It was a pretty fun game, but a little hard to play with strangers. It would definitely be a good game to play with friends though. Once we finished our drinks, Josh and I walked a few blocks up to Murray’s Bar and Grill for drinks and live music. We sat at the bar (it was packed) which worked out really well to see the stage. The music was really good and the whole place had a great pub feel.

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Tip of the day: Don’t leave Dublin without eating at The Bank on College Green.

you & me & ireland

November 15- Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Bridge, Dark Hedges, & Dublin

We had a nice little breakfast at the B&B Wednesday morning. The hostess had a table set up with juices, coffee, and cereal (cornflakes, of course!). She also made us scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast with butter and jam. I have to tell you, we got really spoiled staying at all the places that offered home cooked breakfasts in the morning.

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After we ate, we made a quick pit stop at Dunluce Castle. We were too early, so the castle wasn’t open yet. We were able to walk down a path and some steps to get closer to the ocean and the castle. I can’t imagine living in this castle with such an awesome view of the ocean.

Next, we headed to the Giant’s Causeway. What an exceptionally amazing magical place! I had read (in my trusty guidebooks) that it was free to get into the Giant’s Causeway, but we realized upon arriving that we didn’t know how to get to the stones or trails without first going through the visitor’s center. And to get into the visitor’s center you have to pay (this also covers parking). Honestly, I was annoyed at first, but it was so very worth the cost. Thankfully, we got there almost as soon as they opened, so there weren’t a lot of people there yet. By the time we left, it was so crowded and there were several tour groups arriving. So get there early!

We opted to do the audio tour (it didn’t cost any extra) which was way more fun and entertaining than I expected. Legend has it that the Giant’s Causeway was built by an actual giant, Finn McCool. As we walked from the visitor’s center down the blue trail, the audio tour explained to us all about Finn building the Causeway or interlocking basalt columns/steps from Ireland to Scotland. We heard a tale of Finn falling asleep and borrowing a camel, Humphrey, to make it home in time so as not to upset his wife. He liked Humphrey so much he decided to keep him and Humphrey can still be seen sleeping on the shore today.  

We learned about several different rock formations, such as these bulbous rocks that peel layer by layer from weathering, much like an onion.

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When we rounded the corner from Humphrey and the onion rocks, we were greeted with the view of the basalt columns in the distance (the Grand Causeway). The columns were all different shapes and sizes, ranging from just a few inches tall to towering over our heads.

We continued following the blue trail, listening to wonderful stories of Finn and his adventures. We even got to see one of the giant’s boots! It was so large that Josh and I both could have easily sat on it.

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As the story goes, there was a Scottish giant, Benandonner, that Finn didn’t get along with so well. Benandonner came to visit and Finn’s wife disguised him as a baby because they knew Finn couldn’t beat this large giant in a fight. Benandonner was so afraid- if the baby was that large, how big was Finn?- that he turned and ran away, destroying the steps in his hasty retreat.

Not far past the giant’s boot, we veered off the blue path and headed up the Shepherd’s Steps to walk part of the trail along the towering cliff side. It was so gorgeous and so peaceful at the top. We were alone almost the entire time, only passing one small group of people near the beginning of the trail.

We only walked a portion of the cliff top trail before heading back down the Shepherd’s Steps to continue on the red trail to see the Amphitheater. As we walked the red trail, we passed the Organ. The Organ was a huge formation of the basalt columns and looked very much like a pipe organ.

The amphitheater was awesome. We saw lots of red rock which was really pretty. I wish that my camera could convey how huge the amphitheater actually was, but my pictures just don’t do it justice.

The scenery at the Giant’s Causeway was just gorgeous. We had the best weather to enjoy every minute of it. I loved listening to the waves crash on the stones and feeling the ocean breeze blowing by. Listening to the legends of Finn and witnessing the magic of the area, it was so easy to believe the Giant’s Causeway was in fact built by giants. I hope to visit here again someday. It was one of our favorite parts of the entire trip by far!

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After a wonderful morning at the Giant’s Causeway, we went to visit the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. The rope bridge is suspended almost 100 feet above sea level. It was put in place in the 1750s by salmon fisherman in the area. Unfortunately, when we arrived the bridge was closed to visitors because they were replacing it with a new one. We were still able to walk the trail leading to the bridge and get some pictures of it up close. I was bummed we couldn’t walk across it, but I was also very relieved…I imagine it would actually be quite terrifying to walk across an unsteady old rope bridge so high above the sea.

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There was a viewpoint near the bridge where we could see Scotland far off in the distance!

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Our last tourist stop before leaving Northern Ireland was the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney. Being huge fans of Game of Thrones, it was a no-brainer that we would be stopping here for pictures. The Dark Hedges were featured in season 2 as the King’s Road.

We had worked up quite an appetite from the morning, so on our drive back to Dublin we stopped at The Millside, Cloughmills for lunch. It was an amazing find. The hostess was lovely, so kind and welcoming. The lunch menu featured a really good deal for appetizer + an entree or an entree + dessert and it was inexpensive. I would highly recommend this restaurant.

We shared the baked Brie served with a raspberry compote and salad for an appetizer. You know we can’t pass up baked Brie!

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Josh had the lunch of the day which was peppered pork chops with mashed potatoes, gravy, and veggies. I had the battered cod with peas, chips, and tartar sauce. Both meals were very good. The portions were so huge and very filling.    

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For dessert, we shared the fresh fruit pavlova. The pavlova was huge, covered in fresh whipped cream, mixed berries, and a raspberry compote drizzle. It had a nice crunch on the outside, but immediately melted in your mouth. Delicious!

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Besides a ton of traffic travelling through Belfast, the rest of our drive back to Dublin was uneventful. We hadn’t planned on heading back to Dublin when we originally planned our trip out, but we didn’t feel the need to stay in Northern Ireland any longer. We thought about staying at Abigail’s Hostel again, but had been recommended by the worker at Hertz to stay at the Generator Hostel in Dublin, so we decided to stay there instead. I’m really glad we did! It was located right in the city centre next to the Jameson Distillery and within walking distance of Temple Bar and lots of pubs and restaurants. There was so much room and everything was clean. It seemed to be well taken care of and they even had different theme nights/activities throughout the week- trivia nights, comedy nights, etc.

 

After we got settled in our room (hooray for another private room!), it was time to find somewhere for dinner. We felt like we had eaten everywhere we wanted in Temple Bar, so we searched for places closer to our hostel. We found the best BBQ place with the best name ever- My Meat Wagon! I mean, how can you not try out a place named My Meat Wagon?!

I know you’re thinking it’s a little weird we wanted BBQ while in Dublin, but it was really good. Josh had the (pulled) pork in a box and I had (pulled) pork on bread. Josh’s meal came with cole slaw and fries. My sandwich came with pickled veggies, a side of cole slaw, and the cutest little shopping cart full of fries. I would come back just to get the little shopping cart! Oh, if you want the shopping cart make sure to order the sandwich, as the box didn’t come with the shopping cart.

You know we can’t go out for dinner and not get something sweet too. So for dessert, we had a slice of their peanut butter pie and tiramisu cheesecake. They were both so good!

Instead of heading back to the hostel after dinner, we decided to make the most of our time and walk to Brazen Head for a drink. I think that was one of our best decisions and the best night of the whole trip! After we ordered our drinks, we sat at one of the bars just enjoying the night. The room had a cozy fireplace and was all decorated with garland and lights for Christmas. It was perfect!  

While sitting at the bar, we met an awesome couple who had just flown in from New York. We chatted for a bit before heading to another part of the pub for live music. The couple we had met made their way right up front next to the musicians and waved us over…how can you say no to front row seats to live Irish music?! The live music was put on by three older gentleman who sang and played guitars and banjos. And. It. Was. Amazing! That night at Brazen Head was absolutely everything I ever dreamed about a trip to Ireland being- new friends, a cozy fire, and cold drinks in a pub full of music and laughter. Pure magic.

Tip of the day: Make a trip to Northern Ireland even if just to go to the Giant’s Causeway. And spend an evening at Brazen Head enjoying the live music and atmosphere. You won’t regret it.

born to wander, born to roam

November 14- Slieve League & Old Bushmills Distillery

We started off Thursday morning with a great breakfast at Blas, the restaurant connected to The Gateway Lodge. It was a lovely little place with hardwood floors, chandeliers, and exposed brick walls- things that speak straight to my heart!

I had the Blas breakfast (full Irish breakfast with two fried eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, roasted tomatoes, mushroom, beans, and tomato relish) with orange juice and Josh got the eggs benedict with coffee. We also had toast with butter and jam. Great start to the day!

Seriously, how cute was The Gateway Lodge?

We packed up our luggage after breakfast and headed on an hour long drive to Slieve League. When we arrived, the area was gated off and there was no one in the parking area. I realized that we were about a half hour earlier than when they were supposed to open according to my Frommer’s guidebook. We checked out the signs and the gate. We didn’t see any hours posted, so we eventually just opened up the gate and walked through. Slieve League is a mountain on the northwest coast of Ireland. It isn’t as well known as the Cliffs of Moher, but the cliffs at Slieve League are almost three times higher!

We had the entire place to ourselves. There was a nice paved road that we were able to hike up to the top on. We saw tons of sheep everywhere, just sitting on the side of the road or grazing the mountainside. We veered off the paved road at one point to follow a trail through the grass. There were some great views and it made my day when a ram and sheep walked right in front of us across the trail (they were very nervous and trying to get as far away from us as possible, but it was still so cool).

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We walked back on the paved road and continued on to the end of the “trail”. I think it ended up being about a mile total. What a sight! I wish so much that my pictures conveyed how enormous and wild and amazing Slieve League was. As much as I enjoyed the Cliffs of Moher, I loved the scenery and having Slieve League all to ourselves even more.

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From Slieve League, we had a nice, long three hour drive to Northern Ireland. We stopped at a gas station/grocery store/coffee shop for candy bars and sandwiches to eat on the way. I opted for the safe option- ham and cheese (although the cheese was shredded which was different). Josh was a risk-taker and picked an egg and onion sandwich. It was surprisingly delicious, especially if you like the bite you get from red onion.

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I was really interested to see if crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland would be noticeable. I thought that there was definitely a difference. There wasn’t a giant wall or border patrol or anywhere you had to stop (it was just like crossing from Indiana over to Ohio), but instantly the architecture and design of the buildings and the road signs changed. Everything became much more European which makes sense since Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Our first stop in Northern Ireland was the Old Bushmills Distillery. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures on the tour, but it was a good one. We got to see the entire process of whiskey making, including the bottling portion. I thought this was especially neat as we hadn’t gotten to see that in any other distillery tour. Kind of random, but it also smelled amazing outside of the buildings…all those yummy alcohol vapors floating around!

At the end of the tour, we stopped at the Old Bushmills bar for a free drink. Josh tried the Bushmills 12 year. He said it was just ok, simple and smooth, but lacking any kind of spice. I tried a hot toddy (with the Bushmills Original) for the first time. I have to say, I didn’t really enjoy it. There was just too much whiskey flavor. So, Josh got my drink too!

After the distillery tour, we headed to Causeway Bed and Breakfast to check in. We were the only people staying that night, so it was nice and quiet. There was a living room with a tv, a sofa, and a loveseat and a dining area with tables and chairs. Our room was very clean and nicely decorated with an en suite bathroom.

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For dinner, we made our way into Portrush to check out the restaurants there. We ended up eating at Neptune and Prawn. I loved how the restaurant was decorated. It was very nautical and fun. We did not enjoy the food though. While the restaurant seemed to be a seafood place, the menu was actually quite Asian inspired. Which is fine, I totally love Asian food. It was more that the menu didn’t match the decor at all. It just threw us off. For an appetizer, we had the chilli chicken wings and duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce. The wings looked really good, but were nothing special. Just hot wings. The duck spring rolls were actually really good and we enjoyed those a lot.

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For the main course, I had the chilli chicken special fried rice with prawns and coconut sauce. Originally Josh wanted to order the salt & chilli fish and chips, but was told by the waiter that it was in fact shrimp and not fish at all, so he had the chicken chilli big bowl with udon noodles in a coconut broth instead. Both things sounded great on the menu and looked amazing when they came out. We were both so disappointed though because both of our dishes just tasted like hot sauce. There were no yummy flavors, just heat.

After dinner, we walked around the corner to Harbour Bar. It’s supposed to be one of the best pubs on the North Coast. It was really tiny, only about 10-15 people could sit inside. We were there pretty early, so we didn’t get to hear any live music. I imagine we would have enjoyed the bar a lot more if we had music to listen to. There really didn’t seem to be anything overly special about the bar. Josh tried the Bushmill’s Black Bush whiskey. I started on a Magner’s cider before realizing I actually had to drive back to the bed & breakfast (almost everywhere we had been staying was within walking distance to pubs and restaurants), so Josh had the rest of my drink as well.

We were both in the mood for dessert after Harbour Bar, but nothing at the restaurants nearby caught our attention, so we drove back to the Causeway B&B. There was a gas station right next door, so we popped in for “dessert” there- a Drifter chocolate bar, a Galaxy caramel ice cream bar, a Cadbury Crunchie Blast ice cream bar, and a Cadbury Dairy milk ice cream bar. We took our treats back to the house, sat out in the common area, and watched Big Bang Theory and Say Yes to the Dress while eating them. They were all super yummy. I think my favorite was the Crunchie Blast bar because it was honeycomb flavored ice cream (yes honeycomb!) with chocolate covering and popping candies.

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We got ready for bed pretty early (we were both pretty tired from all the driving) and ended up just laying in bed watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives for a couple hours. It actually turned out awesome because the episodes featured restaurants from Louisville, so I was able to add some fun new places to try to our list!

Tip of the day: Fish and chips on the menu doesn’t always mean actual fish…

finding joy in the journey

What a day. Ugh. This was definitely the “worst” day of our trip. Wednesday morning started out wonderful with an amazing breakfast served in the common area at Merrion Townhouse. There was a fresh cheese plate (bleu, Swiss, white and red cheddar), a meat tray (ham and salami), fresh fruit, toast, hard boiled eggs, tea and coffee, and basket full of fresh warm-from-the-oven scones and croissants with butter and jam. It was so delightful and very yummy! After breakfast, we set off on the hour drive to Connemara National Park. We had looked at their website online and picked out a trail to hike for the day. We saw some beautiful scenery along the way- wild, open spaces and much more uninhabited than other parts of Ireland.

I was hoping to stop at Kylemore Abbey for a quick picture (the abbey sits right on the edge of a lake and is gorgeous!), but when we arrived the whole facade of the building was covered in scaffolding. I was quite disappointed to say the least. We headed on to Connemara National Park…only to find that the park was closed due to a helicopter landing on Diamond Head to perform maintenance! Whhhhyyyy?!?! At this point, I was so frustrated because hiking around the park was half of our day’s plan, we had just driven an hour to get there, and the website hadn’t even mentioned anything about it being closed. And the weather was turning cloudy and rainy. I know that when traveling stuff doesn’t always go as planned, but we had been so lucky so far I was hoping to continue our streak!

With our morning plans foiled, we decided to drive to Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland. A friend of ours had recently lived abroad in Ireland and hiked to the top (she shared some amazing pics of the view on her Facebook), so we thought we should give it a go. Well, we only made it up about halfway up before calling it quits. The terrain was so rocky and quite hard to walk on- it went from shifty gravel to small boulders. It didn’t help that my boots were a tad big and my socks kept slipping and giving me blisters and Josh was having major foot pain and could walk only at the slowest pace. The weather at this time was also quite terrible with cold winds blowing right on us and rain pelting us. The view towards the beginning was beautiful, but as we kept on it got foggier and foggier until we couldn’t see anything but the path right in front of us. With all of this, I was miserable and we agreed to head back down.   

 

The best part of the whole mountain hike was on the way down when I turned around and saw a ram walking by. He walked slowly behind me, turned, and posed perfectly! I couldn’t have timed it better! He was so majestic!

Despite how yucky it was for us, I would like to go back again someday and hike to the top…as long as the weather is nicer!

We were tired, soaked, and almost numb from the cold, so we found the nearest restaurant we could, The Tavern. I had the special soup of the day (carrot and cumin soup) with a home baked ham and cheese sandwich. Josh had the traditional aged Irish beef steak and Guinness casserole (slow cooked beef with Guinness, root vegetables, and creamed potatoes). The food was very warm and tasty. It hit the spot just right after our cold, rainy mountain hike.  

From The Tavern, we had a two and a half hour drive to Donegal where we were staying for the night. It was a rather uneventful drive and one of our longest of the whole trip. We stayed at The Gateway Lodge in Donegal. When we pulled up, it reminded me of motels back home. The Gateway Lodge was way nicer though! We had a huge room, at least a king size bed, a little sitting area, and an en suite bathroom…with a towel warmer! If you’ve never used a towel warmer, you’re missing out for sure. I really wish we had one in our house!

The woman at the reception desk had given us coupons for Market House Restaurant, so after we got our luggage into the room, we walked the short distance to there. Market House Restaurant is located inside Abbey Hotel Donegal. I loved the lights down low atmosphere and the decor- it was traditional but with a modern twist. For an appetizer, we shared the warm goat’s cheese crostini (sourdough with roasted red pepper and a rich red onion compote). I ordered the house specialty, a Killybegs crab and prawn linguine with chilli and flat leaf parsley tossed in a white wine cream sauce. Decadent and delicious. I ate every bite. Josh had Steak on a Stone, a 100% Irish prime fillet steak (8 ounces) served on a hot stone with a trio of sauces (gravy, tomato relish, and compound butter), homemade chips, onion rings, and roasted vegetables. The steak came out on a piping hot stone which allowed him to choose how well done the steak was cooked. It was so fun and unlike anything we’ve ordered before.        

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With such an amazing dinner, we definitely couldn’t pass up dessert. Josh had the sticky toffee pudding (so good) and I had the house specialty (layers of homemade honeycomb, toffee sauce, banana, meringue, and vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream). Honeycomb is one of my new favorite things- it’s crunchy, but melts in your mouth instantly and has a great honey flavor. I just love it!  

After our lovely dinner, we very much needed to do laundry. We found an address for a launderette and drove around to find it. We couldn’t find it anywhere and ended up in the parking lot at the local high school football field. We had almost given up on our drive back to the lodge when Josh spotted a stand alone laundry station next to the gas station! It had two washers and one dryer. We threw our laundry in the washer and sat in our car to wait for it to finish. Unfortunately, someone had laundry in the dryer so we had to sit around for almost an hour for theirs to finish and be picked up. After a few trips back and forth between the launderette and the lodge, we finally got our laundry dry (well, as dry as it was going to get). Thankfully, we had that awesome towel warmer in the bathroom to hang our socks up on to fully dry.  

We ended the night watching some TV and writing down notes about our travels. And it was so quiet, we had the best night of sleep!

Almost forgot to post some more yummy candy bars we tried!

Tip of the day: Find joy in the journey, no matter how small- like majestic rams on the mountainside, towel warmers, and the yummiest food. Also, don’t trust the Connemara National Park website to give you park closure information.

ireland is a dream

November 12- Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, & Galway

Originally, we had planned to go to the Cliffs of Moher on Saturday, but with the crappy weather we decided to hold off. And OMG I’m so glad we did! We woke up to beautiful, blue, sunny sky dotted with just a few fluffy white clouds.

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We ate a quick breakfast at The Central Hostel of cornflakes and toast (exciting, I know lol) and hit the road for the thirty minute drive to the Cliffs. We ended up getting there around 10 am, just about an hour after it opened. It was great, there were hardly any people around. I would definitely recommend getting there earlier- by the time we left around 11:30, it was jam packed with way too many people (and it was off season!). Side note: despite reading everywhere that it is free to go to the Cliffs, it is not free to park, so just be prepared to pay for that. It’s totally worth it. The Cliffs of Moher are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They’re huge, majestic, and breathtaking. You could hear the ocean hitting the cliffs (the best sound ever!) and the sheer size of the cliffs was indescribable. There’s a small section you could walk around that was included in the official park portion, but then you could climb over a fence (leaving the official park area) and wander around at your own leisure. Of course, we had to climb over the fence. Seriously, you could go right to the very edge if you wanted! We totally did not because it was terrifying, but there were a few crazy, adventurous (stupid) people who went and sat on the very edges. I loved walking around and seeing the cliffs from all different viewpoints.

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We stopped at O’Brien’s Tower and as recommended by the Frommer’s Guidebook, we paid the extra euros to go to the top. Don’t do it. Totally not worth it. The view wasn’t any better in my opinion. In fact, it might have been worse due to all the merlons at the top (I had to Google what those were called, you’ll totally know what I’m talking about when you look it up).

If we didn’t have so much more of Ireland to see, I would have happily spent many more hours wandering around and enjoying the Cliffs of Moher!

Best “wet floor” sign ever!

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Next, we headed to Burren National Park visitor center. Which, if I had properly read our guidebooks, I would have known was closed in the winter months. No worries, we just followed some very obscurely written instructions from our Dummies Guide to Ireland book to lead us to a hiking trail in Burren National Park. The park is very large and has seven marked trails offering some beautiful views of the landscape- from woodlands and lakes to mountains and limestone rock. We started out on the blue route (Mullaghmore Loop) which is a three hour hike through very uneven ground and lots of limestone rock. There is so much limestone rock, it’s literally everywhere. It was such a drastic change from all the lush green and ocean views everywhere else we had been.

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We didn’t actually walk the entire blue route because it ended up being more rocky and uneven than we wanted to walk around on. It’s very much worth a drive through- the Burren was so wild and otherworldly, like we were on a different planet almost.

After our short hike at Burren National Park, we drove about an hour to Galway where we stayed for the night. We stayed at the cutest place, Merrion Townhouse. It was very clean and adorable, especially the dining room area with the exposed brick wall, hardwood floors, and bright blue fireplace. There were fresh scones and croissants waiting in the kitchen, so we helped ourselves to a little snack after bringing our luggage in. Our room was quite tiny, but they provided towels and water bottles for us and there was a TV with Netflix. It’s the little things!

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We got to Galway early enough we even had time to explore! It was one of my favorite places of the trip…if we ever moved to Ireland, Galway would be where we lived for sure. When I booked the townhouse, I didn’t realize we were in the middle of walking distance to “the Prom” and the city centre. The Prom (aka promenade) is in Salthill, a little seaside area in Galway with lots of hotels, bars, and restaurants along it. We stopped at Lana Restaurant for lunch, a yummy little Thai place that does eat in, takeaway, or delivery. I had the pad Thai (flat rice noodles with chicken, prawns, bean sprouts, lime wedge, and crushed peanuts) and Josh had Lana’s special noodles (udon noodles with fresh chili, coriander, crispy shallot, chicken, prawns, and vegetables). Our meals came out in little Asian take out boxes (I say little, but there was about a pound of food in each one) which we poured into bowls at the table to eat with chopsticks. So yummy.

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When we finished eating, we made our way down along the Promenade along the ocean. It was wonderful and relaxing. We saw so many people out walking with friends or their puppies or kids, just enjoying the ocean view and fresh air. There was a beach where we saw someone flying a kite and a couple playing fetch with their puppies. There was also a huge area with soccer fields and other activities.

My favorite part of the walk was when I just happened to catch a glimpse of a rainbow and snap a picture. Not ten seconds later and it was gone!

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I also loved seeing all the buildings along the River Corrib with boats lined along the docks.

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We finally made it down to Galway’s city centre. It was bustling with people. There were so many restaurants, pubs, and shops.

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We stopped in for a drink (Orchard Thieves and Guinness) at The Quays, as had been suggested by the sweet trio we met at Bunratty Castle the evening before. I never became less amazed at how huge every pub was once inside. From the outside, they always seem so small, but when you go in they go on and on and up and down.

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After our drinks, we walked back to the townhouse to relax in our room and plan out our next few days of adventures. We headed back up to the Prom for pre-dinner drinks at O’Connor’s Famous Pub. Yes, that’s the pub where Ed Sheeran filmed his music video for “Galway Girl”! Total fangirl moment for me lol. For dinner, we went across the street to Oslo Bar which is a microbrewery/gastropub. I had the Gannet fish and chips (fresh fish from Gannet Fishmongers in a Full Sail beer batter, chunky chips, crushed peas, and tartare sauce). Josh had the steak burger (100% Irish beef burger with onion, tomato, lettuce, and burger sauce on a Brioche bun and chunky chips). I enjoyed my fish and chips, but Josh thought the burger was too thin and overcooked. He did, however, enjoy his two pints of Full Sail IPA and the chips.  

We just had to go back to O’Connor’s after dinner for another drink. I’m super glad we did because we got a seat (two of the last available) just in time for some live music. I really loved O’Connor’s. It was such a great pub, really cozy, full of people with very eclectic decorations and stuff hanging everywhere on the ceilings and walls.     

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Tip of the day: Go to the Cliffs of Moher as soon as they open. And go to Burren National Park. And walk the Promenade in Galway. Basically, just recreate our day.

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bring on 2018!

Am I the only one in shock that 2017 is over and it’s a few days into 2018 already?! I absolutely love the holiday season leading from Thanksgiving through Christmas to New Years. There’s just something about starting off fresh, full of wonder, and looking forward to all that can happen in a new year. With this new year, we’ve got a few possibilities and changes coming our way. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m going to be married to a college student! Lol, that’s right! After a lot of thought and time, Josh has decided to go back to school. Right now, we’re both chemists at a local pharmaceutical company here in town. It’s not a dream job for either of us, but it definitely pays the bills. Awhile ago, Josh received his certification in sports nutrition through ISSA. He was a coach part time at CF Ripcord for almost a year and even put together a nutrition class and challenge for the members there. All of that has lead him to pursue his passion in nutrition by getting his Masters in Dietetics. And so begin allllll the questions that go along with a career change. Probably mostly from me. I promise I’m not crazy. Thoughts such as “where will you go to school?”, “when will you start?”, “how much is it going to cost?”, “are there any prerequisites needed?”, “where am I going to work?!”. Yikes, the list goes on and on!

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Josh has done A LOT of research into going back to school. He has spent hours looking at all the programs (Masters, undergraduate, etc) offered for dietetics. He took Medical Terminology during the summer 2017 session at IUPUC. In the fall, he took Fundamentals of Nutrition and this spring he’ll finish up his prereqs with Medical Dietetics online. Once he’s finished with the prereqs, the hope is to begin a program this fall. There is currently only one school in Indiana that offers the coordinated Masters program he is interested in…Indiana State. Definitely not our number one pick, but if that’s where he gets accepted, then that is where we shall go. Ohio State University is currently our number one (very hopeful) pick. Should a Masters program not work out, there are a few backup options which would still lead Josh to a career in nutrition. No matter what, though, going back to school means a big move for us, physically, financially, and mentally. To say I am nervous is an understatement. I’ve never lived outside of Seymour except for the two years I was at IU-Bloomington for college. And that was only for 9 months each time and only a short 50 minute drive home. At the same time, this opportunity has me really excited. Although I’ve never lived outside of Seymour, most weekends we spend our time driving to Indy or Louisville for food and random fun activities. Living in Columbus, Ohio (or any of the other places) would offer so many more opportunities for amazing places to eat, sightsee, and activities to fill our weekends. Plus, the places we are looking at so far are within an easy driving distance to both our families.  

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Am I allowed to admit that I’m slightly jealous that my hubby has found something that he is so passionate about that he’s willing to quit his job, pack up and move to a different state, and start fresh? I feel slightly embarrassed even thinking it. It’s not that I’m not happy for him. I so am! It is so inspiring to me that he is so driven and passionate about pursuing his passion. It’s just that now I want to find something that I love so much that I’m willing to do all those things too! How do you even begin to find that? Can you find it or do you just happen upon it randomly? Maybe, hopefully, one day I’ll learn the answer to these questions. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to being the most supportive wife I can be and helping him achieve everything he’s dreamed of!