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.

balancing act

I am super pumped because Saturday marked the start of week 3 on mine and Josh’s RP cut and week 3 of our CF Ripcord Nutrition Challenge! Josh and I had been on maintenance for a little over 3 months (from April to July) and I was more than ready to get back on a “normal” eating schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being a little more lenient over maintenance and eating some really great food on vacation, but there’s just something about eating healthy on a regular basis. I really just feel better, sleep better, work out better, everything’s just better! When we realized it was time to start another cut, we thought why not get the whole gym involved in a nutrition challenge with us? Josh and I have had some great success adjusting our eating habits and I wanna share the wealth! The nutrition challenge at the gym will last 3 months, from the beginning of July to the end of September (this is how long a cut with RP is as well). We wanted it to be a length of time that really got people in the habit of eating healthier long-term and not just a quick fix, 30 day thing that likely wouldn’t last past those 30 days. As part of  the nutrition challenge, we came up with a challenge workout that was done at the start and will be repeated again at the end. We also have weekly mini challenges throughout the twelve weeks to help keep people involved and interested- little things such as drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water each day or completing 100 double unders throughout the week. It’s so great doing this as a gym because it helps us all stay on track and hold each other accountable. If anyone is having a rough day, there’s always someone on the Facebook group willing to offer encouragement or good tips to get through the day. I’m really hoping this challenge will help people make healthier choices. Switch the Mountain Dew for some tea or water. Snack on some cucumbers instead of a Milky Way. These are all seemingly small changes that really add up over time and make a world of difference. They have for me anyways. Through RP, I have really come to appreciate my body and what I put into it, while still being able to enjoy life. It’s been such a learning experience and balancing act. I’ve learned that I’m going to sometimes eat foods that aren’t considered healthy. I’ve learned that it’s ok and I don’t need to punish or starve myself when I do eat something unhealthy- just get right back at it for the next meal. I’ve learned that I feel so much better when I eat healthy and that helps me stay on track. I’ve learned that sometimes I’m not really hungry-sometimes I’m bored or tired or stressed and instead of stuffing my face, I should sip on some tea or get up and move around.    

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Saturday was packed full- we spent our morning at the gym lifting, getting in some mobility, and doing a partner hero workout with LOTS of burpees and barbell movements. It was the most amazing weather (sunny and mid-70s) and I tried to soak it all in. After the gym was the usual Saturday afternoon adulting- mowing, laundry, and all the meal prepping. My sister-in-law, Kena, has been sharing some zucchini from her neighbor with us and I love it! There is nothing better than fresh garden vegetables, store bought just doesn’t even compare! This week she spoiled us and brought over 5 of the biggest zucchini ever- I was able to sauté some, use a bunch in our veggie chili, and still had so much left that I had to use 3 whole baking sheets to roast the remainder in the oven.

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With the cut and the gym nutrition challenge going on, Josh and I have been really good about staying on track with our nutrition and not eating out. We purchased the newest RP cookbook “The Renaissance Feast” and have been loving it. Every week during the cut, we have decided to choose one recipe out of the cookbook and make it together for Saturday night date night. This week’s choice was orange beef- steak and broccoli covered in a delicious orange sauce on white rice. The best part is all the recipes can be altered so that we can hit the protein, fat, and carbs we need at each meal. It was very yummy and I can’t wait to try out another recipe from the cookbook!  

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After dinner, we searched through Netflix to find a movie to watch. Josh found a movie named “Butter” which neither of us had ever heard of, but Netflix was recommending. We decided to give it a try. I’m glad we did. There is a great cast- Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, and several others. The movie is about a butter carving competition at the local county fair in a small town in Iowa. It was not what I expected, but it was so great. I never knew butter carving could be so impressive!

Sunday morning I met up with Kalee and Des for breakfast at Cracker Barrel for some much needed sis time. I have genuinely missed these girls- our schedules are all so different and crazy, we hardly get to see each other as much as we would all like. They both do RP too, so I didn’t feel guilty about meeting up with them while on my cut because I knew they would make healthy choices and help me stay on track as well. It’s seriously the best! We all ordered the Good Morning Breakfast which came with scrambled egg whites, turkey sausage, sliced tomatoes, a small fruit cup, and cheese grits. Not bad for eating out! I loved being able to catch up and laugh so much at their stories.

After breakfast, Josh and I finished the newest Netflix series “Friends from College”. There were only eight episodes, so it took us no time at all to finish the season. And you can’t not watch a show that features Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, and Keegan-Michael Key as main characters. Rocko just wanted to go to Mamaw’s for ham!

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For lunch, we headed to Josh’s Mamaw and Papaw’s house to celebrate Josh/his cousin/his uncle’s birthdays. Rocko absolutely loves riding in the car (I promise, he was very safe and not at any risk of falling out of our car)- seriously how cute is he?!

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Before you ask-no, we did not stay on track with our eating. Before starting the cut, we had already decided this would be one of three “off track” meals. This is where the balancing act comes in- I understand that I can’t eat cake every single day, but during a special occasion there is no reason to deprive myself from enjoying something worth it like Mamaw’s home cooked meal and Kena’s homemade cake. Mamaw served us a delicious meal of meatloaf, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, broccoli salad, a veggie tray, and rolls with apple butter and sorghum. I had never tasted sorghum before…I’m a fan. If you like thick, sugary syrup, sorghum is where it’s at! For dessert, Kena made her best cake yet- a vanilla cake with white chocolate chips filled with raspberry icing and topped with white chocolate frosting. She even brought fresh raspberries and made a raspberry compote to put on top. All homemade. *drool*          

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After cards and presents were opened, it was game time. While half of his family played a card game, Kaylie, Josh, and I played Settlers of Catan. Even though I’m pretty terrible at this game, I really enjoy playing it. Especially now that we finally read the rules and know how to play it correctly (it’s only been 7 months since we started playing hahaha). Kaylie won…probably cheated lol jk…and Josh and I called it a tie for the loss.

We capped off our evening at home watching “Shameless” (we’re on season 4 now!) until Game of Thrones time. Finally! Having to wait 3 extra months for the premiere was no fun. Game of Thrones is probably one of my favorite shows of all time- I know this because it’s the only show I’m willing to stay up an hour past my bedtime to watch live. I can’t lie, part of the reason we stay up to watch it live is because I don’t want it ruined by people on Facebook and other social media. Seriously, people, not everybody gets to watch it as it airs. Keep the spoilers to yourself!

Someone was all tuckered out from a late night watching GoT.

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