Double Header Wedding Weekend

This weekend was B and my first double header wedding weekend. That’s right – two weddings, two cities, one weekend. It was just as fun and crazy and tiring as you may imagine.

Wedding #1: Eric and Julia 

B and I know Eric from college. Eric was in our wedding and one of B’s roommates. We’ve stayed in touch since college and even stayed with them when we visited Nashville earlier this year. We started off Friday with the 6ish hour drive to Virginia, where Wedding #1 was located.  We got up bright and early Saturday morning to go for a run and explore the area we were staying in – gorgeous Old Town Alexandria. If you’ve never been there before, I highly recommend a visit – I’d been there with Melgar and Jane once before but never spent too much time or stayed in the area.

View of the water just outside of Old Town Alexandria

View of the water just outside of Old Town Alexandria

After our short run, B and I headed to visit Emily, a friend we met in Cleveland who is now living in the DC area. B went to law school with Emily’s husband and we were bummed to see them move away – but now we have friends to see in DC! Anyway, Emily had a beautiful baby boy less than a year ago and looks amazing – and their baby is 100% ADORABLE. I’m so bummed I didn’t snap a pic – I was too distracted by his cuteness to remember to take a photo.

great lunch at Le Pain Quotidien

great lunch at Le Pain Quotidien – not pictured – the loads of bread and jams and nutella that came with this

Then, after an amazing lunch in Old Town, it was nearly wedding time!  The ceremony was at Eric’s high school in DC and was emotional and beautiful. And then it was time for the reception – it was at an outdoor celebration at an old plantation in Virginia and gorgeous. Julia’s family is from France, so the reception included some amazing wines and cheeses – in addition to some great dancing and a fun after party.

amazing first course salad

amazing first course salad

B and me outside the church

B and me outside the church

Wedding #2: Beth and Mario

Beth is B’s cousin. We’ve seen her and Mario a few times a year, including our annual family softball tournament.

Despite being out pretty late Saturday night, B and I started off Sunday early with the long drive back to Ohio for Wedding #2. Some DC traffic and getting started a little later than planned meant that we ended up running somewhat late and when we were about an hour away, B told me we probably wouldn’t have time to head back to our apartment to get changed. Uh oh. I wasn’t wearing my sweatshirt and shorts … so we ended up wearing the same thing to wedding #2 and getting changed in the car on the way over.

the  "in-laws" (all of us married into the family)

Jenni, Steph and I – the “in-laws” (all of us married into the family)

Thank goodness we made it -the reception was beautiful and we enjoyed some great specialty cocktails and a ginormous dessert table that I will dream about in weeks to come. Not to mention the photobooth. And the dancing – the DJ played a great combo of “wedding music” for people of all ages to old school 90s hip hop to today’s hits. And the celebration went on until nearly midnight (B and I left a little before then) without people tiring out.

photobooth fun with the group of cousins

photobooth fun with the group of cousins

Phew!  I need a weekend to recover form my long, fun, dance-filled weekend.

  • How was your weekend?
  • Do you have a lot of weddings to go to this year? Just one more :) Which would make our total this year to be 5.
  • Do you repeat outfits/dresses to celebrations? How do you give them a different look?  I wore a different necklace and pair of shoes from one wedding to another this time – the outfit I had planned for wedding #2 didn’t work out because we ran out of time.
  • Ever had 2 weddings in one weekend? First time!
  • What’s your favorite song to dance to at weddings?

Friday Five: Five Things You MUST Do in Costa Rica

OK, this was a really hard post to write. Why? Because I’ve only been to Costa Rica twice, and when I was there I was only able to visit a few cities. So I’m by NO MEANS an expert. AND because there are so many things to do while you’re in Costa Rica that choosing five is nearly impossible! So I apologize in advance if I missed something terribly important … but just let me know in the comments!

In no order … if you are visiting Costa Rica, here’s what I recommend you do:

Try out ziplining in Monteverde.

I had been ziplining once before – also in Monteverde when in high school – so I knew what to expect. And I really enjoyed it again. B, who has a somewhat fear of heights, also enjoyed the zipline – and at the place where we went, Selvatura, the last zipline included a “couple’s zipline” – meaning we zipped holding onto one another for 1,000 m. For those of you Americans, that’s a little more than 2/3 of a mile long. It was so long that we couldn’t see the end of the line but still amazing. And we enjoyed some breathtaking views.

I know other areas have ziplining (including Arenal) but our experience was awesome. And 1,000 m is far longer than the longest Arenal zipline from what I have seen. I did see signs in Monteverde for the “longest zipline in Costa Rica” that was 1,600 meters (aka 1 mile) so there’s always that option as well if 1,000 m is 600 meters too short for you!

ready to zipline!

ready to zipline!

Rappel and try out other canyoneering activities (cliff jumping into jungle rivers, rope/vine swinging)

Let me start by saying I’m NOT an adventurous person. I don’t like to be scared. I have never skydived and have no idea how to waterski (I guess that’s not adventurous but I just wanted to show you how lame I actually am). Using the high-dive at the public pool during summer camp is probably the bravest I have ever been. But when in Rome … (or Costa Rica)? B had booked us for a half-day canyoneering trip and I was scared. On the bus ride to the canyon, the guide was explaining the trip. “First we do a rappel down next to a big rock. You must stop halfway down on the rope, see the rock, and then continue down into the raging river of the canyon. Then we do a tarzan swing on a rope into the river, but be careful because it’s not that deep. Then a longer rappel but you have to be careful on this one because the cave wall is narrow and you can’t swing out or you’ll cut yourself on the rock. Then a zipline. Then a rappel down a waterfall and you’re not allowed to use your hands…” You get the idea. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to it and nearly had a nervous breakdown on the van ride over.

Yup, scared.

Yup, scared.

 

B and me mid-canyoneering trip

B and me mid-canyoneering trip…you can sorta see our matching shoes!

 

jumping into the water after a rappel. yes, we got wet.

jumping into the water after a rappel. yes, we got wet.

 

BUT somehow I REALLY liked it. Was I an expert rappeller? No. But did I have to be? No that’s what our guides were for. The first one made me nervous. But after that? And a few dunks into the water?? I was good as new.

Enjoy the local cuisine and drinks

I am such a fan of the food in Latin America. I know you won’t all agree with me, but my love for spicy food, fresh seafood, amazingly fresh fruit, along with living in Ecuador probably helps my tastebuds. Anyway, here are a few things to try while you’re here:

Casados: Literally it means married (i think?). It’s great. It’s a protein (fish, chicken, pork, etc.) with rice and beans, sometimes plantains, a salad and cheese. I can’t get enough of their queso fresco – my favorite cheese. You won’t leave hungry.

one of the many fish casados i enjoyed. this was at tico y rico in monteverde.

one of the many fish casados i enjoyed. this was at tico y rico in monteverde.

Sopa: I LOVED the black bean and egg soup. I love black bean soup ordinarily, but the Costa Rican version is sublime. Plus it has a hard boiled or even sometimes softer egg in there which is pretty awesome.

black bean soup at don luis in monteverde

black bean soup with an egg at don luis in monteverde

Fried plantains and plantain chips: Sweet or salty/savory, what’s not to like about these banana-like fruits?

Yuca: I love yuca in all its forms. Fried yuca. Yuca chips. Yuca bread. Mashed yuca. YUM!

Guaro: Guaro is the local vodka-like alcohol. Guaro sour is a popular drink and it’s pretty delicious if you like sweet/sour drinks. Local rum is pretty good as well as the local beer.

Ceviche: I love almost all ceviche but the ceviche in Costa Rica that I had was also amazing. I had it about 6 times, so nearly every other day. And that wasn’t nearly enough!

ceviche by the pool at hotel nayara

ceviche by the pool at hotel nayara

All of the fruit: Seriously. Eat it all. Best pineapple I’ve ever had (even B ate it. And he hates pineapple), amazing coconut from the side of the road, the maracuya and guanabana are also awesome.

fresh fruit breakfast at sugar beach

fresh fruit breakfast at sugar beach

There are so many more foods to try, but since I had given up meat for Lent, I stayed vegetarian/pescatarian the entire time so the above recommendations are based on that.

Enjoy some hot baths and hot springs in Arenal

The volano Arenal is not only beautiful, but from what I can tell, it supplies tons of heat for the hot baths and springs in the neighboring town. Tabacon has some of the best hot springs (went there in high school) and B and I also enjoyed the baths at Baldi - there were many options, each pool had a swim up bar, and most had a “cool pool” (of like 65 degrees) so you could heat up in the hot bath, then cool down, then heat up, etc.

sitting outside one of the hot pools

sitting outside one of the hot pools

Snorkel, swim, and enjoy the ocean(s)

Due to time constraints, B and I only had time to experience the western and Pacific coast of the country. But if you go, see both coasts. They are different. See different beaches, swim in the oceans, snorkel, experience black sand beaches and more. I even was able to see a blowfish – and touch it! Yup. You’re in a tropical country – do it all, put on some sunscreen and enjoy!

sunsets along the beach = awesome

sunsets along the beach = awesome

BONUS: Take a coffee tour

Okay, okay, I couldn’t pick just 5. While you’re in Costa Rica, you must see a coffee plantation. Coffee is one of the country’s top 5 exports, so why not se how it’s produced?  I must admit that the coffee tour we went on when I was in high school, while enjoyable and educational, was pretty touristy. We got free coffee samples, walked around the grounds (pun intended hehe) and saw stations that showcased the different processes of making coffee. The tour B and I did – Monteverde Coffee Tour –  was MUCH better and seemed much more authentic – I highly recommend you go on this. We had a nearly private tour of some Costa Rican farmer’s land – saw all of this livestock, learned about what they all did on the farm and how they contributed in some way to the coffee process/circle of life, walked among real coffee and other plants (banana trees, lime/orange trees), and really learned about life as a Costa Rican and a farmer. And more than i ever wanted to know about coffee. They didn’t try to sell us anything at the end (we had to ask them if we could buy coffee) and  we enjoyed some amazing locally made (that day!) goat cheese from their goats.

how our coffee was made

how our coffee was made

pretending to do work

pretending to do work

B participating in the cupping portion of our tasting

B participating in the cupping portion of our tasting

PS – Happy birthday to my brother Greg! This has nothing to do with Costa Rica but I thought he deserved a shout out.

 

San Francisco!!! (Part One)

B and I spent 3 days in the Bay Area and had a GREAT time. I’d been there before, to visit my roommate Caitlin (who now lives in Denver – remember when I visited her a few months ago?) but never spent too much time sightseeing, so exploring the area with B was awesome. And as we tend to do on vacations, we spent most of our time walking around, running around and exploring the city by foot as much as possible. Here’s what we ended up doing:

We stayed in Union Square, which was perfect. Our hotel even had a free sherry and tea happy hour each night which we took advantage of.

Lunching in Sausalito

Philz coffee- mint mojito latte!

Philz coffee- mint mojito latte!

beautiful Sausalito

beautiful Sausalito

Driving down Lombard Street

Walking / running around Fisherman’s Wharf

Running in Fisherman's Wharf

Running in Fisherman’s Wharf

Alcatraz!

Alcatraz!

Mid-run shot of B in front of Alcatrz

Mid-run shot of B in front of Alcatrz

Seeing the sea lions

Loving the free chocolate sample at Ghirardelli Square – and then enjoying an awesome salted caramel hot cocoa

This is me SUPER excited for my salted caramel hot cocoa.

This is me SUPER excited for my salted caramel hot cocoa.

this free sample was incredible!

this free sample was incredible!

Hiking around the Haight, including up the famous Full House hill/park

On our walk to the Haight - San Fran city hall1

Seen on our walk to the Haight – San Fran city hall!

I dare you not to get the opening theme for Full House in our head

I dare you not to get the opening theme for Full House in our head

Climbing up Coit Tower and catching the incredible views of the city and the Bay

views from around the tower

views from around the tower

The tower!

The tower!

top of the tower!

top of the tower!

Dining in Chinatown!

Running in Chinatown

Running in Chinatown

Awesome five course meal in Chinatown at Kam Luk

Awesome five course meal in Chinatown at Kam Luk

Tasting beers at the 21st Amendment and then watching a Giants Game – and a win in Extra Innings!

wearing orange and black to support my dad's favorite team!

wearing orange and black to support my dad’s favorite team!

people watch Giants games from the water!

people watch Giants games from the water!

And that was just one full day (well 1.5ish days). Yup, we do it big and walked A TON (in addition to our training runs) to see as much as we could around the city. Stay tuned for San Fran, part two!

Next Stop – Napa!

After our early night in Eureka, B and I decided to get up early and run our scheduled 10 miles along the Pacific coast in McKinleyville (where we were staying) before hitting the road to get to Napa. We weren’t scheduled to run until the following day in Napa – but I decided that it’d be much more pleasant running in the chilly McKinleyville weather (it was 50 degrees – and actually a “heat wave” for them!) before our drive, as opposed to running early in Napa before our 10:30 a.m. wine tasting.

We did it! Running along the beach in Arcata/Eureka.

We did it! Running along the beach 

10 miles in McKinleyville was great! We opted for a comfortable pace, just under 10 min/miles and I loved the scenery – some parts along the water, some parts on the road, other parts beach trail – etc. I love variety in my runs :)

gorgeous views along the drive - wine country

gorgeous views along the drive – wine country

After our run it was time for the drive to Napa. I won’t go into detail by detail, but Napa was amazing. Incredible. I wish I were there right now! It was a beautiful town, beautiful views, beautiful weather – and, oh yeah, the wine. Some highlights of our trip include:

Dinner and froyo in downtown Napa

2nd froyo of the trip already

2nd froyo of the trip already

An easy run around downtown

B “likes” to take pictures of me mid-run.

An exclusive vintage reserve tour and tasting at the most amazing vineyard, Opus One

Opus One!

Opus One!

Coming up the driveway to the beautiful Opus One

Coming up the driveway to the beautiful Opus One

On the steps of Opus One. Image this as your view every day?!

On the steps of Opus One. Imagine this as your view every day?!

B and the barrels

B and the barrels

Barrels of wine just waiting to be opened!

Barrels of wine just waiting to be opened!

After our tour, we were greeted with this table for our tasting. Beautiful!

After our tour, we were greeted with this table for our tasting. Beautiful!

B and I after our tasting.

B and I after our tasting.

More tastings at Robert Mondavi, Chandon and Silver Oak.

Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi

20130907_162005

Silver Oak

Silver Oak

I loved Napa. I was sad to leave, but excited when I realized our vacation was only halfway over – and we still had a few days in San Francisco, a day of visiting my bff who lives in the Bay Area (Mountain View/Palo Alto area), and then a few days in LA!

Another couple's picture!

Another couple’s picture!

Some questions for you (because it’s been a while and I want to hear from you!):

What’s your favorite type of wine? I’m usually a fan of Malbecs. I really don’t like white wine. Red wine all the way. But I LOVE me some bubbly!

Have you ever been to Napa? What’s your favorite winery? Opus One is my new favorite. It is incredible, the tasting was amazing and the tour was breathtaking. One day I hope to make enough money to just buy myself some bottles of their stuff and not blink an eye at the price tag!

Wordless Wednesday: A Few Vacation Photos

Full additional recaps are coming for the rest of my trip, but here are a few photos from our West Coast Adventure for you to enjoy in the meantime. Happy Wednesday!

Look who we found in the Redwoods!

Look who we found in the Redwoods!

Chocolate tasting in Seattle!

Chocolate tasting in Seattle!

The beautiful ocean!

The beautiful ocean!

redwood forest

feeling short

Superfans at BC game in LA!

Superfans at BC game in LA!

Artwork at Homegirl Cafe

Artwork at Homegirl Cafe

Bridges up in Seattle

Bridges up in Seattle

No big deal, just some elk crossing the road

No big deal, just some elk crossing the road

Tomorrow – Napa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Stop … Portland! (subtitle: 5 things to do in Portland)

After spending a few days with FDF (as I started calling Katie … Future Dr F) in sunny Seattle, B and I were off on our own adventure! We picked up our rental car and headed down to our first stop – 24 hours in Portland! Well, more like 16 hours. Which is not nearly enough to give you a full review of the place, but here are a few things we did enjoy on our brief visit.

Voodoo Doughnuts- super touristy, but a must if you’re looking for a sugar high. We got too many doughnuts, but my favorite was  the peanut butter, banana and chocolate fritter!

We ate all of these.

We ate all of these.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters- if you’re like B and enjoy a good cup of coffee, you’ll enjoy this place. He enjoyed some fancy smancy Ethiopian pour over coffee, but I stuck with a chai and latte. Yes, we went there twice in 16 hours … B really likes coffee.

Such a pretty latte!

Such a pretty latte!

Deschutes Brewery- pretty good beer! B and I stopped there for a drink and stayed a little longer. We tried a flight of beer and then decided to get some more – I loved the Black Butte XXV .. a lot!

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testing out beers at Deschutes!

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Luc Lac- our awesome dinner. Seriously, I looooved this place! You order when you walk in and they bring it to your table -so you must know what you want when you walk in. I had the Vermicelli Combo and while I didn’t plan on eating the pork (it also had shrimp and chicken), I loved it! We became members of the clean plate club that night.

my awesome combo plate at luc lac

my awesome combo plate at luc lac

spring rolls at luc lac

spring rolls at luc lac

Powell’s Bookstore- I promise we did more than just eat and drink in Portland. This bookstore was great! I love looking at, smelling (yes, it’s a little weird but I love smells of books), thumbing through and even reading old and new books so I adored this place. The  book B was looking for wasn’t actually in, but he bought some other reading material instead. Definitely a place to stop, even if it’s just to see all the books they have!

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After Portland it was time to drive down the coast for the rest of our trip. I leave you with the beautiful scenery we encountered along our drive. Enjoy! More to come on the rest of our vacation.

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Half Marathon Weekend Recap – The Holy Half

B and I ran a half marathon this weekend in South Bend, Indiana. You may recall that one of my goals for this year was to run at least 2 half marathons (to partially make up for my injury while training for a full marathon last year). I was thinking of training for Cleveland, but since we’ll be at B’s sister’s graduation from Notre Dame that weekend, we started looking for other races. So when B’s sister mentioned she’d be running the Holy Half at Notre Dame, it only seemed appropriate that we run that!

holy half marathon

How did it go? The race itself went well except B wasn’t feeling good most of the time. He was feeling a little sick the first half, and then was in much more pain the second half of the race – stomach, legs, etc. I kept with him the whole time and we finished, but definitely weren’t running for time. Maybe that’s why I felt so good after the race and could have run at least a mile or few more.

B's Aunt Marie took this action shot!

B’s Aunt Marie took this action shot!

What did we like about the race?

  • The running crowd – I really enjoyed the group of people that were running. It was mostly Notre Dame students so it was a lot of young people – but quite a few non-ND students were mixed in as well (including a BC grad like myself). It didn’t hurt that B, his two sisters and one of his brothers were all running the half or the 10k!
  • The cheering – The students were all over campus cheering the runners on. It was fun to see the students with signs and cheering everyone on – even those who clearly weren’t part of their campus.
  • The water/Gu stops – There seemed to be plenty of water stops to keep us hydrated and even 3-4 stops that also included Gu Chomps.
  • The run through campus – The running route was about two laps of a 10k course. Parts of it were through campus, which was fun to see! I’m slightly biased with my idea of what a beautiful campus looks like (Sorry, but BC was GORGEOUS!) but it was nice to see another pretty college.
  • The start time – Starting at 9 a.m.? LOVED not having to get up at the break of dawn to get to the race!
  • The post-race food – Free Jimmy John’s subs (veggie for me), Dunkin Donuts bagels, Peeps, fruit and more. The supply was endless!

What didn’t we like about the race?

  • The weather – I guess you can’t really blame this on the race but it was COLD! I couldn’t feel my fingers at the end, at all, which wasn’t fun. I was wearing normal winter running gear, but for some reason couldn’t get my hands warm. This could have to do with the fact that I’m incapable of drinking water during runs and spilled the ice cold water cups a few times. Whoops!
  • The overall course –  While I did love running through campus and liked the loop, I didn’t like miles 2-4 of the loop, which were almost like a trail run. They were around a lake or pond on campus and the path was very narrow – some parts you were barely able to pass anyone, which is not good for the start of a race – and the ground was rock solid and uneven. It had clearly been muddy at some point, and then re-frozen and it hurt my knees more than the normal concrete. B also didn’t like the last few miles of the loop because it was mostly running around parking lots, etc.
  • No medal – We didn’t get a medal. Not that I do anything with the medals I get (do you?) but we didn’t get anything for finishing. Our race bags had t-shirts and some odd assortment of goodies (jewelry cleaner?) but there was no medal or anything at the finish line.
Post-race relaxing at Notre Dame .. and a photo-bomb by Pete!

Post-race relaxing at  Legends on Notre Dame .. and a photo-bomb by Pete!

After the race, we met up with B’s aunt, uncle and cousin, who had been cheering everyone on and grabbed a few drinks on campus before heading back to take a nap. Post-nap we were starving! We enjoyed some pretty good pizza (surprisingly good for what I was expecting out of a small pizza joint in Indiana) and then headed to a local bar for some dancing, fuzzy navel shots and some seriously amazing games of beer pong (B was undefeated!). Definitely not a bad way to spend a half-marathon weekend! 

Some thoughts to ponder:

  • Have you ever signed up for a half marathon less than two weeks before the race? How did it go?
  • Do you like to run with a friend/significant other when racing? Do you leave them behind or stick with them through the end?
  • Have you ever run a race through a college campus?
  • What’s your favorite post-race indulgence?
  • What’s your favorite college campus?

Ireland Adventure Recap: Part Four – Doolin!

Part Four: Doolin

(continued from here)

Doolin: After doing some shopping in Galway, B got in our car to drive to Doolin, where we’d also be staying in a bed and breakfast. Our plan was to get to Doolin by 1, catch a ferry to the Aran Isles, check in at our bed and breakfast, and then enjoy dinner and some of what is known as Ireland’s best live music. Of course, the trip didn’t go as planned. Irish driving always seems to take longer than it should, and we pulled into Doolin at 1:15 p.m. – just too late for the ferry to the Aran Isles! So, instead we decided to see if we could check in early.

Our Doolin B&B

Luckily, our bed and breakfast was gorgeous – and the people who owned it were by far the friendliest Irish people we’d met (and we’d met a lot of friendly Irish people!). We were greeted not only by freshly cooked scones and freshly made coffee, with Bailey’s, but the host, Sarah, also gave us a ton of flyers, a recommended itinerary and plenty of suggestions on how to spend our day without seeing the Aran Isles.

B on the Burren in front of the Cliffs of Moher

On the Burren in front of the Cliffs of Moher

B and I got back on the road and decided to check out the Burren museum and drive through the beautiful Burren region. The hills of Burren are made of limestone rocks and bright green grass. Because of the way the area was formed, and the way the limestone just juts out of the grass, the area is home to some incredible flora and fauna, and is often studied by scientists and naturalists. After checking out the museum and beautiful scenery, B and I headed back to our B&B and decided to walk to the ferry station and catch a boat tour of the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Insanity!

The boat ride was beautiful! It was chilly, but not raining, and the cliffs were magnificent, jetting into the water and far above our heads. The water was rocky and I may have felt a little seasick at some points, but I definitely recommend taking a boat cruise to the Cliffs if you’re ever in Doolin. We could see the Cliffs from our B&B, but to be up close to them was truly incredible.

After our boat ride, B and I walked back to our B&B and got ready for dinner and some of the famous live Doolin music! We ordered dinner at a local pub and enjoyed some really cool, traditional Irish music. What a great evening!

Guess which breakfast was mine? (scones and breads not pictured)

The next morning, B and I had another amazing B&B breakfast – this time with homemade jam, freshly baked scones, brown bread and banana bread on the side. Then, we hit the road for our last adventure – one more day/night in Dublin!

Return to Dublin:

After our drive back to Dublin, B and I decided to hit one of the places we had missed our first time around – the Jameson Distillery! We enjoyed the guided tour, plus some Irish coffee (made with Jameson of course), Irish coffee chocolate, and a Jameson tasting at the end.

irish coffee at Jameson Distillery

the last pub

After the Distillery trip, we walked a little more around Dublin, visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and got dinner at an Indian place. We got there before 7, meaning we were able to try their tasting menu and enjoyed an appetizer, main course, naan and a drink.  After dinner, we had plans to meet up with Katie one last time and enjoyed some more beverages, including my last Irish cider (<3 Bulmers!) and last live music session. It was the perfect way to spend the last night of our trip!

Part one of this post, our Dublin trip recap, can be found here.

Part two of this post, the London trip recap, can be found here.

Part three of this post, the Galway trip recap, can be found here.

Ireland Adventure Recap: Part Three – Galway!

Part Three: Galway

(continued from here)

Galway Day One: After flying back into Dublin, B and I rented a car and began our adventure. We were going to drive to Newgrange, visit the old tomb/monument, then continue onto Galway for our first night in our bed and breakfast.

B was incredible with driving on the windy roads that make up Ireland and driving on the other side of the road. With me as his co-pilot, what could go wrong?

Driving in Ireland*

*please ignore my commentary

We amazingly found our way to Newgrange without any issue (despite not having directions. Or a gps. Just a little ole map that wasn’t very detailed and simply listed Newgrange as somewhere in the vicinity of some other roads). When we walked into the visitor center, we learned that the only way to view the tomb is by guided tour, and the next tour that had openings would be two hours later. So we faced a decision – do we wait for two hours, take the guided tour, but not get into Galway until 8 p.m.? Or do we skip the tour and head to Galway immediately, getting in by dinnertime? We ultimate decided to forget Newgrange, and find our way to Galway. Slightly disappointed, we got back on the long, windy country roads and were a few kilometers away when I couldn’t help but see a large mound in the distance. Could it be? No .. it was! I couldn’t believe our luck – the tomb was far away but we could see it! We pulled over and took a few pictures, feeling satisfied that our trip wasn’t a complete detour.

Newgrange in Ireland

We caught a glimpse of Newgrange from the car!

We made it into Galway, checked into our bed and breakfast (and found homemade scones and jam waiting in our room!) and then walked into the town to check out some of the shops and restaurants. Most shops were closed, but we were able to enjoy dinner and drinks at a local pub and then some of the best live music of the trip at a nearby pub, An Pucan.

I had the Mini Breakfast

Galway Day Two: We woke up early, headed down to breakfast, and both B and I enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast – cheese, scones, brown bread and of course eggs, different types of sausage, and ham. Then we got into the car with the goal in mind to hit two nearby landmarks – the Kylemore Abbey and Croagh Patrick.

B and me with Kylemore Abbey in the background

The view of Kylemore Abbey

After driving an hour or so through more windy roads, and nearly running over a few sheep, we were at Kylemore Abbey. I couldn’t help but catch my breath as we drove closer – it seemed like out of nowhere, this castle in the hillside, upon a lake appeared! Kylemore Abbey is an old castle, now an Abbey, with a really interesting and romantic history that I won’t share with you here (you can read about it instead on their website). In short, though, the guided tour of the castle and the gardens (they’re walled and beautiful – like the Secret Garden!) was great – and we even got to stop by the chapel that was built by the former owner in dedication to his wife after her death. I told you – it’s romantic!

looking happy early on our croagh patrick hike

After visiting the grounds and catching the beginning of a free concert by an American choir in the chapel, it was time to head to our next location – Croagh Patrick. I was a little nervous – Croagh Patrick is a large hill that people climb, some barefoot, to get a beautiful view of the Irish countryside. It was the same mountain that St. Patrick supposedly climbed before he chased all the snakes out of Ireland and therefore is the site for many religious pilgrimages. The climb isn’t easy, however, and the weather had turned cold and rainy – not my idea of ideal mountain climbing weather. When we got to the base of the mountain, it was still rainy and so foggy that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain. I kept my fingers crossed, bundled up (pants, sneakers, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, windbreaker and gloves for July!), ignored the sign that warned us not to climb in “wet and foggy days,” bought a walking stick and began the ascent.

The first part of the climb wasn’t too bad. The grade wasn’t too steep, the rain had slowed down to a drizzle, and we passed many families and children also making the climb. Then, after climbing for an hour or s, the conditions worsened. It started raining, heavily (I swear it was wet snow), and the climb got much steeper. The walking sticks came in handy, as not only was I soaked, but so were the pathways so it was like climbing uphill through a rocky stream. Only a few people passed us, and the people on their way down didn’t even look happy. I remember reading online before the trip that the climb can get difficult, but it’s worth it when you see the people on their way down, hear their words of encouragement and ask them about the view. So of course, I asked a few people. While one couple did offer some nice advice, “Keep going! You’re almost there!” The answers I got were, “Ugh it’s not worth it,” and “Turn back now!” and “We got to the top and saw nothing. Just rain and fog.” Definitely not encouraging. B and hiked for at least another hour, soaked, until the incline became nearly vertical. The walking sticks did little to help as we climbed the wet rocks – two steps up, one step sliding down. Finally, realizing there was definitely no view to be seen in the rain/fog, and soaking wet, we decided to turn around and make the 2 hour descent. Do I wish we had made it to the top? Absolutely. But I wish it had been sunny, and there was nothing we could do about that. Exhausted, that night we enjoyed our last meal in Galway and returned to our bed and breakfast early, so we’d be ready to go for our next drive to Doolin.

The foggy mountain we climbed. Didn’t actually obey the sign – woops!

The next morning, B and I woke up early, enjoyed another great Irish breakfast with Irish cheese and pastries on the side, did some walking around Galway, and hit the road for Doolin! (to be continued …)

Galway!

Part one of this post, our Dublin trip recap, can be found here.

Part two of this post, the London trip recap, can be found here.

Ireland Adventure Recap: Part Two – London!

Part Two: London (Part One: Dublin, here)

London Day One: B and I enjoyed a short flight from Dublin to Heathrow, and arrived in London around dinnertime. We looked at a map and decided to just take the tube to our hotel in Chelsea. After getting off the tube, we were walking and walking until we came upon a huge soccer stadium and got excited – that has to be the Chelsea Football Club! But it wasn’t. In fact it was the soccer stadium that was we had passed two two tube stops previously. Woops! We had gotten lost on the way to our hotel and walked 40 minutes in the wrong direction! We finally made our way back to our original stop, and of course found our hotel just a few blocks in the other direction.

After checking in, we decided to walk around the area to find a spot for dinner. We ended up selecting a nearby Indian restaurant, which had great food! Despite the less-than-nice server (how dare he question B’s ability to eat lamb vindaloo, or me to eat spicy chicken without rice?!) the food was great.

A group at the London Pride Parade

Day Two: Our Walking Route (about 8 mi)

London Day Two: On our second day in London, it was time to explore! We took the tube downtown and got off at St. James’s Park and walked to visit Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square (where we ran into and got to enjoy the city’s Pride Parade!), the horse guard, Westminster Abbey, and more. Then we crossed the river and toured the other side – taking in the sights like the London Eye, The Globe Theater, the Jubilee Gardens, the London Bridge – before crossing the Tower Bridge to get a better look at the Tower of London and then find our way to dinner and drinks at the pub, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.  B had been to London twice before, and each time had wanted to go to this old pub (it’s been around since the 1500s! Or as one Brit pointed out when we were there, “Longer than your country has been around.” I did mention that America was around..just not our government) and we finally made it there! My food was kinda bland, but the old pub atmosphere, shared tables and drinks made for a fun night.

in front of the Tower Bridge – ready for the Olympics

B and me at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Less than stellar food at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (my “pie” is on the left)

In case you didn’t realize it, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is really old

London Day Three:B and I took the train again to St. James’s Park and decided to spend the day seeing some of the sights we hadn’t gotten to the day before. We first started at the Churchill War Rooms museum which was really cool. While B is a history buff, I hadn’t expected to enjoy the exhibits so much – I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something different, and indoors, to do in London. After spending a few hours in the museum, it was time to go shopping! We hit all the ones on my list (including Top Shop and Harrod’s) minus Boden, which apparently only has two stores and not downtown. Oh well. After a long day of touring and shopping, it was time to try a typical Sunday meal – a roast. We headed back to Chelsea for yet another meat and potato (chips this time) meal and of course a few pints. Being Sunday, not much was open too late, which wasn’t that bad, because we had to be up early for our return flight to Dublin. In Dublin we were going to rent a car and head west, beginning the second adventure of our trip. More to come on that …

(Part one of this post, our Dublin trip recap, can be found here)