4/15-4/18, 2017 - BOSTON, MA
So in my last post I raved about the BAA 5K and my new PR but the real reason we were in Boston was for Jon's Dad. He had qualified back in Nov 2015 to run Boston again... at the age of 62. CRAZY. Of course I was probably more excited than everyone else to be in town for one of the world's greatest road races.
On Friday morning, Jon took me to the airport for my 10am flight. I was connecting in NYC and then on to Boston. My flights were pretty uneventful and I was actually surprised to see a marathon runner aboard. In NYC the nice terminal was awesome and I was able to get the salad bar for lunch. PERFECT. Once I got to Boston I had been instructed to take the Blue Line to the Aquarium stop. It was easy to navigate- bus to train station- buy Charlie Pass- and then hop on the train for literally two stops. Then boom I was at our hotel. Marriot Longwharf. Super nice and a great place to get to everything. Jon's family had been visiting a friend (they arrived that morning) but met up with me at the hotel. Our rooms weren't quite ready so everyone headed over to the bar to relax. I wanted to run well so was holding off on the local beers until AFTER the race. Finally we were able to get into our rooms, I unpacked, relaxed a bit and then made dinner plans with Ethan. He's living in RI these days and drove up to see me while I was 'close.'
Ethan's an old friend from grad school days who is probably on this blog back in race recaps or other DC debauchery. It had been probably 2 years since we'd seen each other but it felt like old times as soon as we were together again. He met me in the hotel lobby and then we wandered through the markets looking for a good dinner spot. The Bostonia Tavern was a couple of blocks away and seemed like a great bet for food. Plus we were able to get seated with no wait. (WINNING) After some tasty food and lots of conversation we decided to walk around for a bit. Lots of exploring by the wharf area. Was awesome to catch up and spend the evening laughing our heads off. Nice to be around a friend again- it gets pretty isolated down here in Blacksburg. Anyway we had a great time and he decided he might come meet up with me for my long run on Sunday. About that time Jon's family was coming back from dinner too and we all retired for the night pretty early. :)
Saturday morning was all BAA5K, still excited about that PR and the whole experience. Jon's mom ran well too! So a good morning for all. Then we headed back to the hotel for showers, and to meet up with Jon as his plane was coming in that morning. Once he was there and unpacked we headed over to Quincy Markets to grab lunch. I stuffed my face with pesto mac and cheese. SO GOOD. Then it was expo time!! I LOVE expos so even though I was done with my running events for the weekend I still had a blast walking around all the booths. I was good and only purchased a spi-belt and one sparkly soul headband. I did try lots of free samples, drink the free beer and enjoy myself a ton.
We headed back to the hotel afterwards- stopped by the bar for a drink- and then rested a bit until it was time for Mexican dinner! We got to walk past an awesome Boston Strong sign, along the water, and then across one of the bridges to the restaurant. Margaritas, guacamole and tacos were on point :D. It was another early night thankfully as I had to get up at 5:30 to get my long run in before Easter brunch.
I was pretty sure I was going to be running alone because 6am was pretty early but Ethan came through for me and joined me for 7.25 miles of fun. We saw an awesome sunrise and explored lots of downtown Boston. Love running WITH people. Something I never get to do anymore but always jump the chance when I can. I said goodbye to Ethan with the hope that it wouldn't be another 2 years before we saw each other again. And then it was time to shower and Easter brunch!
We headed over to Northside Grill (one of the only spots available for reservation) and stuff our faces we did. There was so much food but it was all sooooo good. I had an omelet that came with delicious breakfast potatoes and a sweet corn muffin. I couldn't even finish it there was so much. I was so thankful I had run before this feast! Afterwards we wandered over by the water, sang a few Easter hymns, and then went for a walk to see Jon's cousin Ryan's new place. It was up on Beacon Hill. And since the weather was so nice it was a perfect day to walk. Of course by the time we made it there it ended up being a little much for Jon's dad's knee. Back by train and to the bar! We had a Duck Boat tour scheduled for the afternoon which was pretty fun. We headed near where I had run that morning and then into the river for a bit. The breeze was nice and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon. Then it was time for dinner. The plan was to drop in to one of the many Italian places but after walking around for a bit and having no luck we opted for an american restaurant that served pasta. I had a salad - it was delicious and I needed something light and healthy after all the heavy food we'd been eating. Then we headed back to the hotel, wished Ralph good luck and turned in for the night.
We were up early to eat breakfast and see Ralph off. Then was spent the morning watching some of the marathon coverage before Jon and I headed to the train to go spectate on the course. We had planned to go as far as we could (Mile 17) which was a great spot actually. Just past the half marathon and right before the onslaught of the hills. We got a nice shady spot and then cheered our hearts out. I got to see the elites fly by and then so many Oiselle women crushing it out there. Jon's family joined us about an hour later. We were all tracking Ralph, making sure he was doing ok. In case I didn't mention it earlier in the post- he had been having knee issues with a torn meniscus and we weren't sure how the race was going to go. So everyone was there cheering and waiting. We had a cowbell, some clappers, we snacked on pretzels and water and waited. And then suddenly he was there- crushing it. Making great time despite the heat, wind and his injury. We screamed so loud and I took a bunch of photos. Then we hopped back on the train to get to Mile 25.
All in all traveling to two spots was pretty easy and at Mile 25 (Citgo sign) we were able to wiggle in as people left to get right on the rail by the time Ralph came by. Still cruising! Afterwards getting to the family area took more time than anything else but finally we found him and took lots of pictures. We made the slow walk back to the hotel so he could work his legs out, had some celebratory beers and then headed up to our rooms to rest and change clothes for dinner. We also had a snack in the concierge lounge because why not?! Then seafood dinner. Conveniently across from our hotel. Yummy shrimp and tasty beer to close out the day. Back at the hotel, Jon and I packed up everything and then went to sleep. We had to get up super early to make our 7am flight home.
Boston you were great! I hope to one day come back and run you myself!!
In the spirit of Oiselle's WheelsUP17 AND Destroy/Create campaigns I've spent quite a bit of time (like all of January) ruminating on my goals for the year.
Run a sub 2-hour half
Run a sub 26 min 5K
Go to RRCA training
Pay off Jon's school loans
Read 12 books
Travel: (these are mostly planned!)
Visit friends in TX (AUAM reunion)
Boston Marathon weekend!
Long weekend abroad?
I would love to see most of these come to fruition this year. I want to break through my mental barriers so I can build myself into a stronger, leaner running machine. I want to destroy this notion that I can't enjoy life (take that critics) and create a healthy, happier me.
Here's to 2017!!
August 11-15, 2016 - Vancouver, BC Canada
Alright folks! I spoke of redemption after last year's trip and I got it (sort of) this year PLUS I brought along Wynsor to make it more fun. :)
Thursday dawned early as once again I was flying out of Charlotte so up and out the door to make it on time. I only hit a bit of traffic and got to my gate with about 30 mins to spare. I was supposed to be flying to Toronto and then on to Vancouver... but well other things decided to happen. We boarded with no issue and it looks like it would be a pretty easy flight but as we were speeding up to take off the plane suddenly stopped and we forfeighted our takeoff. :( Apparently there was an issue with the plane. Of course there are only 2 flights a day through Air Canada from Charlotte so I was super concerned with how I was getting to Vancouver now. They kept telling us they were working on the plane and we would be back on in no time. LIES. Then I received a cancellation notice from my second flight (that I wasn't going to make anyway) and directly after that the first flight was cancelled. So I booked it back to the front thinking surely there would be an attendant to help. NO. Again because they only have 2 flights a day they only staff the desk around those times. SO FRUSTRATED. I called their helpline and thankfully got a very nice lady on the phone who was able to get me on a different airline (United) and flew me through Denver with a 20 min layover. Crazy but my gates were next to each other so I made it with no problem. And then finally finally I got to Vancouver. I was about 4 hours later than originally planned but at least I got there that day! Wynsor had been able to check in so I basically dropped my stuff and passed out as Friday morning was the store!
We basically kept an east coast time schedule in order to make it all the events and not be too tired. So Friday morning was early but we got to the store line around 6:15am and of course it was already all around the building. We did a lot of catching up in line as we got in around 9am to the store. Plus it was absolutely beautiful outside so there was that. We were also able to take turns grabbing our packets once that was open. One less line to wait in later on. When we were finally inside I was able to peruse pretty quickly what I was interested in: tanks, hoodie, shorts. I didn't want to spend a ton but still wanted to get something cute. After much decisions I decided on the hoodie and two tanks. Phew. After we were finished in the store we wandered outside to the 'expo'. We had some tasty samples from some of the weekend's sponsors: Nuun and Sage- two of my faves. And we got some fancy yogurt. Yay.
We had just enough time to run back to the hotel to drop off our goodies and grab our yoga stuff for nooner yoga. Last year I wasn't able to participate in the Friday yogas so I really wanted to do them this time around. Of course by this time it was SO SUNNY and crowded that we ended up along the edge of the crowd and by some plants for shade for Wynsor. We got free yoga kits from Sage (LOVE) as well as Kind Bars and popsicles. We opted to get our nails done as it was free and then got the airbrush tattoos. Thanks to all the snacks we opted to forgo real lunch and eat an early dinner (east coast time remember!). But before grubbing we walked up to the Lululemon flagship store. I only purchase their stuff in Canada because of the exchange rate. It helps me justify it on some level. I love their leggings. I wear them basically all week (who has time for real pants?!) So I walked away with a few pairs for winter (not too much damage) and then we walked up the block to Basil Pasta. It was where I ate the year prior and so tasty for the price. Once again it did not disappoint. We each got a pasta dish and split a salad. Perfect pre-game for the next morning's race. Then it was time to head back to the hotel, get our flatrunners ready for the next morning, and get some sleep!
Race morning! Wahoo- you can read all about that here. After the race was the magnificent brunch! This is probably the best race brunch I've ever had. And again this year it did not disappoint. They switched out a couple of items but the breakfast sandwich was amazing. We finally stretched out our legs after stuffing our faces and headed back to the hotel. Some showers and clean clothes later we decided to walk around Gastown. It's a cute neighborhood a few blocks from the hotel with really cute restaurants and a steam clock. We watched it go off at the hour and then stumbled upon a fancy chocolate shop. Some artisan chocolates and hot chocolate later we continued on our walk to Chinatown. Very interesting area complete with a festival. That had Krispy Kreme donuts- so authentic. Ha.
We decided we should probably eat a decent sized meal at this point so headed back to the Flying Pig (recommendation!) for lunching. I had a tasty beer (celebrations right?!) and some really yummy food. We finally pried ourselves off the benches to stop back by the hotel to change for the sunset festival. Right- because this weekend is THE BEST. A shuttle bus ride later and we arrived. First we wandered the local markets (we had already spent enough at this point) so no more spending but I did try their race beer before finding a spot for sunset yoga. And we made it to the WeRunSocial meetup. All the instarunners I follow online. It was nice to meet everyone and feel less of a stalker when I like their online photos.
It was time for sunset yoga after the meetup. I did take part in this last year and it was so fun that it spawned me to do as many yoga events this year as possible. Plus stretching out after a half marathon is always clutch. After yoga we were treated to three bands: Youngblood, Dear Rouge, and Chromeo. I had heard of the first one from Alt Nation but the others were a nice surprise. A lot of dance music- and by the end in the dark we were up on our feet dancing along. We didn't stay til the end- we still had another day of exploring to take on!
Last day in town. We got up still pretty early so we could catch the first shuttle to Grouse Mountain. Now- I had heard about the 'Grouse Grind' but had never done it. And hey- bucketlist right?! So since Wynsor was game we headed to the bottom of the mountain to take on the grind. 2800 steps. 2800 feet of elevation gain. And you can't come back down once you start. Needless to say this is where I struggled over the weekend. Half marathon? Piece of cake. Giant stair walk up a mountain? Kill me now. Wynsor beat me by a landslide but I still made it to the top! The view did not disappoint. And once it was over I was so glad we had made the effort to 'grind it out' despite running a half marathon the day before. The gondola ride to the bottom was also a nice perk. :)
After showers to wash the slime and dirt off we headed over to Granville Island. I had been here the year before and walked there (dumb) whereas this year we took the water taxi (genius). First stop was to the markets to find some yummy foods- IE- cheeses, bread, and grapes. YESSSS. All that climbing had worked up my appetite. We got a nice spot overlooking the water and the city. Vancouver- you so pretty. After grubbing hard we wandered the shops and market. I picked up some fancy chocolates- yum! and then we found a brewery. I know- so typical. Graville Island Brewing FTW. I got their sampler set- Wynsor tasted a few and had a cider. :) Then we walked a bit more before water taxing back across to think about dinner. We both had ridiculously early flights in the morning and had to repack with all our new goodies. So we went to one of my faves from last trip- Steamworks. SO good. I had a delightful giant beer while Wynsor had tiny samples until finding one she liked. And of course- POUTINE!!! Not sure if I made Wynsor a convert, but she didn't hate it so I'll take that as a win. Our final stop was to one of the world's best gelaterias. Or so they claimed. The line was ridiculous but hey you only live once she we waited and got a superbly tasty treat. A great way to cap off our race-cation!! Here's to many more!
July 14–18, 2016 - Paris
We had to be up super early to fly to Paris. We luckily had airport transfer so our car picked us up at 4:30am and then we were off to the airport! We were arriving on Bastille Day and so weren't sure what to expect as far as security, etc. when we got there. Luckily we arrived we no issue and were apply to take the subway directly from the airport to our hotel. We were staying near Luxembourg Gardens which is conveniently a blue line stop just as the airport is! Win.
We left our luggage at the hotel in storage as our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived and headed around the corner to grab some lunch. Getting up so early we had some munchies at the airport but found ourselves pretty hungry after the flight and travel to hotel. We found a cute little cafe (ironically the only place where they spoke just French during our entire time in town) but Jon managed to order and pay without issue. That French translation book came in handy! We also visited the Pantheon since it was right across the street. I had not seen this the last time I was in town- it was a magnificent place, really beautiful architecture and art. We also popped down to the Gardens for a quick walk around before checking into our room, freshening up a bit and then deciding where we go for the day!
I had left our Paris itinerary entirely in Jon's hands. I felt like he should get to choose since I dictated our entire Ireland trip! So our first stop was to Musee Rodin. Again another place I had not visited so I was looking forward to what it had to offer. We got to see The Thinker (under a little reconstruction) as well as some of Rodin's other lesser known works. The grounds were beautiful and we got some nice photos as we walked around. We followed this up with a visit to Les Invalides. I should have prefaced saying that on Bastille Day all museums and monuments are free. Which is great but that also means they are super crowded! At Les Invalides we were able to see Napolean's tomb as well as all the intricate gaudy architecture Napolean had wanted. It was quite the sight. We ventured over to the Eiffel Tower as there was supposed to be a free concert and fireworks in the evening to celebrate Bastille Day. Well- after seeing the guard presence and finding out no food or drinks were allowed inside we opted to listen to the dress rehearsal and then headed back toward our hotel for dinner. From the Pantheon you can see the Eiffel Tower so we thought if we could find a good spot there we would be able to see the show without all the hassle of being down there. We had a tasty dinner and then settled in to watch the fireworks. Of course accompanied by nutella crepes and Rose! When in Paris :) And the fireworks were amazing!! So much better than 4th of July in the states. They also went on forever. I'm glad we were able to experience that and on our first day in town!
We had a cute french breakfast at our hotel and then it was off to experience more of Paris! Our first stop was to the Louvre. I had been previously in 2009 but as it had been awhile I was looking forward to showing it to Jon and letting him take it all in. As I expected he was in awe at the sheer size of the place. But we were able to see quite a bit (some on purpose and some when we got lost!) including the Mona Lisa of course. We followed the Louvre with a trip over to Musee d'Orsay. I had not been there previously as we got there after they closed. It had a lot more of the art I enjoy and so I had a really nice time walking around this museum. Plus we got great views of the Seine from the room AND I got to see some of my favorite Degas paintings. Our next stop was over to Notre Dame. Paris is so iconic with all its fantastic sights. Last time at Notre Dame I had an allergic reaction. This time it was a little toasty out but we were able to walk around inside and take in the greatness of the space. Our last stop for the day was over to Saint Chapelle. Again something I didn't see previously. The stained glass in the light does not disappoint and is worth every penny you pay to get inside. It was a really really cool place.
After wandering all day, we stopped back at our hotel (which was decorated for our honeymoon) to enjoy the chocolate and champagne. So nice! And then we headed back across the Seine to eat at Les Marches. In 2009 when Ethan, Elizabeth and I were traveling we stumbled upon this cute cafe and ate one of our best meals in Paris. I was eager to return and conveniently it is right across the river from the Eiffel Tower- so perfect views! We started with wine (of course) and then had a delicious dinner and dessert! Dining al fresco with near perfect weather. I couldn't have asked for a better evening. We finished it off by walking across one of the bridges and enjoying the eiffel lit up like the French flag. The view was absolutely amazing.
We had another delicious breakfast at our hotel before embarking on a day of monuments and museums! First stop was to the Arc de Triomphe - and we got to go up! There are a lot of stairs but the view at the top of the city is quite nice and much less crowded than going up the Eiffel Tower. We got some great photos at the top, took a quick breather and then headed back down the stairs to our next location. We walked the length of Champs-Élysées ending up near Musee de l'Orangerie for a beautiful exhibit on Monet's Water Lilies. Two whole oval shaped rooms are dedicated to his art. It was truly breathtaking and I'm so glad we got to experience it.
We headed to a different neighborhood after this. First stopping at Sainte-Trinité which is Messiaen's church, one of Jon's music idols. You are able to just walk in so we wandered around a little, saw the organ he used to play at, and read some of the history. This was Jon's happy place. Afterwards we headed up to Montmarte to visit Sacre Coeur, and hide from pick pockets. This time we got to walk up to the dome in the top- amazing views of Paris. SO MANY STEPS. And a little claustrophobic but the views were worth it. I took a few shots as we were walking down but then we basically booked it to the bottom as the area is rampant with pick pockets. Then we stopped by Moulin Rouge, had a wine and cheese break, and the ventured to the Montmarte Cemetery. I had briefly walked past this last time in town but this time we got a map and wandered around to look at some of the famous graves. There are A LOT of people of note buried there, especially those of the arts and humanities. It was pretty cool (and creepy).
One of our last stops that day was to the old Opera House, Palais Garnier. They were closed but we were able to visit the gift shop and get some really fun ornaments for everyone! We stopped by the hotel to drop off our goodies and then after a little yelping found a nearby restaurant that had fantastic ratings and was definitely off the beaten path. Le Petit Prince de Paris. There are not any words to describe how amazing this meal was. I almost forgot to take pictures of our food but did grab one of the apple tart we had at the end. It was fantastic. An american lady at the table next to us said she came there all the time, but that people found it by word of mouth and it should be kept that way! We agreed. SO GOOD.
Our final day of the whole trip. It dawned late for us (travel fatigue is real and it was rearing its ugly head at this point). But thankfully we had covered almost everywhere that Jon had wanted to see so we were taking the day easy. We wandered the streets, stopping in Shakespeare and Co (because you have to right?!) and walking by the Pompidou. We picked up some souvenirs for friends and family as we walked through Le Marais. Even some macarons! We had a little adventure getting cash out for a gift for Jon's brother... as someone (not me) forgot to bring the check card with him so we got to run back to the hotel, grab it and make it back to a street vendor just in the nick of time. And one of our last stops was to Rosa Bonheur to have tasty cheese stuffed with figs and a bottle of rose while floating on the Seine. We relaxed for a bit and then found a nearby cafe (Le Petit Cler) for a quick dinner. Still tasty- and we talked with some nice Americans from Charlotte, NC at the table next to us. A quality dining experience. And finally we headed back to our hotel to pack and I had delicious gelato one last time at sunset. Just nothing better. Paris you're lovely.
July 12-13, 2016 - Dublin
Our last two days in town but we got to celebrate our anniversary there!
We awoke in Galway and after an early breakfast we hit the road to travel across the country back to Ireland. Jon was so excited about leaving our rental car behind! Of course we hit a little bump in the road when the location for drop off they gave us was in fact the wrong place. But we did make it to the right place just in the nick of time! Then we grabbed a cab to our hotel. I have to say as much fun as the B&Bs were it was nice to be in a hotel for a few nights. We were right off the water and had a nice view from our balcony.
After checking in and dropping of our bags we headed out for a walk by the water. Our first stop in the city was over to Trinity College. We were interested in the famed Book of Kells. We had to wait in a short line but then were finally able to enter. Photos weren't allowed inside but it was really neat to read about the history and then see some of the pages. The artwork is very intricate in detail and the lighting is very low in the room for viewing to help preserve the color quality. I believe they turn the pages from time to time to allow other pages to rest. All in all very cool. We also got to view their library- which was massive, stretched to the ceiling and I was allowed to take photos inside! They don't do it justice because of its sheer size but maybe they help show how cool it was?!
After Book of Kells, we walked through the Temple Bar district, passed the Dublin castle (not as impressive as others we'd seen so we didn't venture inside) and then ended up at the Guinness Storehouse. It's quite the experience. They take you through all the stages of brewing, into a tasting room, through their advertising and marketing and finally you get to the sky top bar for a free Guinness and 360 degree views of Dublin. It was pretty awesome.
It was time for dinner and after a little yelping I found Gallagher's Boxty House (also in the Temple Bar area). I had so much potato and gnocchi goodness and completed the meal with an Irish hot chocolate. It was delightful! We spent the rest of the evening popping in and out of pubs listening to the traditional music. So much fun! And a great way to spend our second anniversary!
Our last day in Ireland. It began with a trip over to Kilmainham Gaol- which was impressive and also depressing. Then we took a long walk through town taking in the sights as we headed over to Jameson. We had tried to stop in the day prior but the lines were too long so we caught it on the last day. We got a nice tour and learned about the history, did a taste test between Jameson and other whiskies and then finally got a complementary drink afterwards. It was fun! We did more wandering around town, looking at churches and visiting craft beer pubs. We settled on dinner at Skinflint- another recommendation from Cara and Eric. Their pizza was quite tasty! And then we meandered back toward our hotel stopping in the pub around the corner for one last Guinness. I may never drink it again (unless we go back) but boy was it fantastic while we were there.
Thank you Ireland for a fantastic 10 days!
July 11, 2016 - The Aran Islands and Galway
Today was our last day in more rural Ireland before heading back to Dublin. Norma, our host, prepared another delicious Irish breakfast and then we were off to the port to catch a ferry over to the Aran Islands. We had about a 45 minute drive to Rossaveal to pick up our tickets and ferry to one of the best places Irelands has to offer. I had heard these were a must but many people short on time over look them as it takes almost a full day with the ferry rides and drive to port. I had decided we had to do it, even if it meant less time in Galway. I was not disappointed!
Now the weather was supposed to be nice, but as in Ireland, rain just appears and disappears at the drop of a hat and it is especially volatile on the islands. So we had planned to rent bikes and ride over to the big fort on the cliff top. Best laid plans. This was the day I had a mini melt-down. We got off the ferry and ventured over to one of the bike rentals, filled out our paperwork and made a bathroom stop. Then it was to actual start riding- I discovered that my bike was terrible. First the gears messed up, then the chain came off, then I couldn't shift gears, then it started to rain. I lost it- I couldn't bike up the hill, I was getting soaked [AGAIN] and I just started to cry. This was supposed to be fun! Not miserable. Jon, being the ever patient one, let me have my meltdown, fixed my bike and then switched so he was riding the gimpy bike. After various hills and on and off rain we finally started making progress on our ride. I stopped at various spots for pictures and when we got to the beach area, the chain actually snapped in two on the gimpy bike. We were close to the fort as this point, thankfully, but were also worried how we would get back!?! Luckily, this happens enough that they keep extra bikes at the top and let us take one of those back instead. Phew!
As we had made it to the fort, we parked both bikes and proceeded up the long path and rocky stairs to get to the top. Now, Dun Aonghasa is very old and unlike Cliffs of Moher it has no guide rails. You can walk right off the cliffs if you so choose. It was a little scary but we took some amazing photos and took in some amazing views. It was only misting at this point but the wind was fierce. Still we kept our distance from the edge and walked around the fort, enjoying experiencing this part of history. Coming back down the rocky stairs we were treated to really nice views of the island and could almost make out Galway across the bay.
Back on our bikes we discovered there were two roads to get out there and we had taken the harder High Road on the way- so I was all for taking the Low Road on the way back. We were treated to more amazing views, goats, beaches and bays. The Aran Islands are very rocky- similar to The Burren with limestone. And very undisturbed. It was very remote and very peaceful out there. I enjoyed our bike ride back 1000 times more than the ride up.
After gladly giving back our bikes, we perused some of the little shops and picked up quite a few goods at the Aran Sweater market. Lots of warm wool pieces for family and ourselves AND they would ship back to US so you didn't have to carry it home. Lifesaver. We also popped into a little cafe and grabbed another craft beer- Kenmare- before it was time to ferry back across the bay. We had a really lovely time and I do highly recommend the Aran Islands- amazing to see!
When we got back to Galway, we were treated to some sunshine! We were able to see across the bay to part of the country that had been hidden in cloudy fog the day prior. We wandered around downtown before stopping for dinner and then gelato! I was also really looking forward to listening to more trad music that evening. Galway is a really fun, artsy city and there musicians were wonderful at Taafes Bar. Irish music just makes my heart happy. And then lastly as a nice farewell- we stepped outside and right into a performance art parade! Barcelona artists and their giant bug creatures were making their way down the street. It was strange and fascinating all at once. A sweet ending to our time in Galway and the west coast of Ireland.
July 10, 2016 - Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Galway
Up and at 'em early this morning as we had to eat our irish breakfasts, repack and get to our first stop by 9am. We knew it would be crowded and we wanted to get there before the tour buses because you gotta have space to take in the view that is the Cliffs of Moher. I had waited a long time to see this and it lived up to the hype x1000. It's hard to explain how amazing they are until you see them in person. It's also hard to capture it in photos but I sure as heck did try.
We were some of the first people there thankfully. It was a dreary day with a misty rain. We were able to walk all over the two cliffsides, up to the tower as well as to part of the cliff walk that isn't monitored by the national site and therefore a walk/climb at your own risk. We opted to stay behind the barriers not to far from the cliff edge but also not too close that we could fall off! Back in the day there were no barriers at all as the irish believed in natural selection. If you were dumb enough to get that close to the edge then... you sealed your own fate. There's also an island/cliff block that's covered in puffins. Unfortunately the fog and misty rain prevented us from seeing that really well but we did find a puffin statue inside. We enjoyed walking around up there and had we had more time probably would have done more of the cliff walk. We made it back down to the museum just as the rain was starting to pour [precursor to how the weather would be all day]. We shopped a little in the gift store and then it was time to make the dash for the car and head on to our next spot- The Burren.
The road to the Burren was filled with castle mansions and other goodies as we trekked a little bit farther in land. We also got stuck behind a herd of cows who were lost and couldn't find their way back to their field. We were behind them for awhile until a car was coming the other way down the road and that forced them to turn around and head back. They kept trying to go into the fields but they were all blocked by gates. We felt bad for them but weren't sure what to do so we kept slowly driving forward until we were finally able to pass them.
Next we passed by Leamanah Castle- said to be an old mansion abandoned long ago but still in decent shape. We paused the car and got out and walked around (even climbed inside for a bit). We weren't the only ones stopped for photos as per usual when it came to ancient relics just popping up on the side of the road. Then we passed by another fort before finally getting into the Burren.
The Burren is this really neat landscape full of rocks (tectonic limestone plates) but still really green at the same time. I had never seen anything like it before so it was fascinating to watch it start to appear and then get to walk around in sections where it was super rocky. We got to see and walk by the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb. It is from the Neolithic period (probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC) which is crazy to think that it has been there so long and so well preserved. Of course by the time we got there the rain was really coming down at that point but hey we were in Ireland, where it rains, and we had stuff to see! I ended up getting very soaked but it was worth it in the end.
We continued on through The Burren, only stopping a few more times for photos because of the wind and rain. But the landscape was just mesmerizing. Of all of our days so far this one had the most magical of views. Very otherworldly.
We headed to Aillwee Cave next. It is within the mountain in the Burren. And said to be one of the last bear dens in the country. A huge cave system was discovered with underground waterfalls, and full of giant stalagmites and stalactites. We were able to tour a fraction of the cave and it was really neat (and nice to be out of the rain for a bit). We also got to stop by their cheese shop for free samples (why a cheese shop? no idea) AND I got some yummy fudge.
And then it was on to Galway. We passed by the spooky looking Dunguaire Castle and I hopped out for a few photos but then we were on our way. We got into Galway right in the middle of a Gaelic football match with their rivals- Rosscommon. The stadium was right down the street from our B&B! We got to see the last few moments of the game (ended in a tie- BOO) before heading out in the crowds to walk to Downtown.
Our B&B, St. Kiernan's was located in Salt Hill, a little beach suburb of Galway and about a 15 minute walk to downtown. Of course as soon as we started our walk it started to rain more. Womp womp. But we did eventually get downtown and were able into the Claddagh museum just before they closed. One of the things I really wanted to purchased was a Claddagh ring. I love Irish culture and both Jon and I have Irish roots so it seemed like a no brainer to me to have one of these rings. The museum is the authentic seller of the rings so I wanted to make sure to get a real one if I was going to have one.
We spent a little more time wandering around for dinner before deciding on a little pie shop, The Pie Maker. It was ranked high on yelp but they had very little seating so it was first come first serve. We were lucky enough to get there just as a couple was leaving! Success. We each ordered a savory meat pie that came with mashed potatoes and cabbage. SO GOOD. Thanks yelp. They also had a new craft beer that we hadn't tried yet so we each had one of those and then finished off our meal with a slice of Banofee Pie. All of it was magnificent. We ended our evening at Dail Bar, drinking up the Guinness and watching more soccer.
Another good day in Ireland!
July 9, 2016 - Limerick, Ennis, Doolin
Onward! Again we saw so much of Ireland but there is still so much more to take in. Each post I write up I'm thrown back into our memories of the the trip and all the wonderous places we saw. Now- we woke up in Killarney on Day 6 and the plan was to take a nice long run in the National Park. The weather on the other hand felt differently and our run was squashed as torrential rain was pouring when we awoke. Womp womp. We needed the extra sleep anyway- travel fatigue is a real thing y'all- and when you're going going going all the time sometimes you just need to rest. We ate a later breakfast (I had the pancakes again of course) and then loaded up the car for our journey north.
It was about a 2.5 hour drive north to Doolin so I had planned on us checking in there later so we could visit a few towns along the way. Any time outside of the car was good with Jon because it meant he could breathe easy and not focus on keeping the car on the correct side of the road. But first I had us drive over to Ross Castle in the National Park- I had planned on running by this but well we see how that went. We did a quick drive by- just long enough for me to hop out, take a few photos and then we got on the road. It was a cute castle and had really nice views of the park (despite the crashing waves on the beach and rain pouring from the sky).
Our first stop was in Limerick. It is one of the larger cities in Ireland and of course full of its own rich history. We parked downtown in a garage (something else that was not high on Jon's list) and then walked along the waterfront. It was an overcast day but thankfully no rain yet so we didn't have to don our normal rain coats and umbrellas. We spent some time in King John's castle. King John was apparently the brother of Richard... of Robinhood fame. And ironically even though the castle is named for him, John never actually lived within its walls.
We did get a fun taste of history there within the museum and then got the opportunity to walk the grounds and scale some of the fortress walls for really nice views of Limerick. The corner turrets were fun to explore and seeing a city from above is always nice. And of course always windy. We had a nice time but then figured we better continue on our journey north. I'm sure there's more to Limerick than what we were able to squeeze in but we did enjoy what were saw! Thanks Limerick for an entertaining couple of hours!
I had thought about stopping in Shannon but it turns out there's not much there besides the airport and Bunratty Castle. We did think about the castle but apparently it's just a big tourist trap and since we'd seen so many authentic castles at that point we decided to continue on. I did snap a quick picture though as we passed it on the highway!
Our next stop was Ennis. Our guidebook had a few places to stop here so after searching for parking forever downtown we were finally able to get out and explore. We stopped by the Ennis Cathedral, wandered the grounds, enjoyed some sunshine and took in how old some of the building work was. We also visited the Clare Museum for more irish history and to get away from some of the crowds. There was a local arts festival going on and while entertaining it meant there were lots of people downtown. We did visit some cute shops, I had a yummy cupcake and we popped in Cruises, the oldest bar in the area. The building was incredibly old but it was a landmark of the city and a must-stop-by for us. Not surprisingly there were other american tourists there. So after a little rest from all our walking we decided we had better head on to Doolin.
Our B&B for the night, Doonagore Farmhouse, was situated on the cliff edge up from Doolin and a little hard to find on the map. It did have a really nice view of the Aran Islands that we were able to just make out as the sun was setting. The fog was heavy on the west coast and very present the next morning. We dropped off our luggage and then headed down the hill to grab dinner at one of the local pubs.
First of course I made Jon drive out to the end of the coast to take some photos of the Doonagore castle as well as the cliff edges. Our next day was to Cliffs of Moher and if these in Doolin we were seeing now were any indication- Moher was going to be beyond words. It was very very windy on the coast and after some hilarious photos we drove back to the restaurants and headed in for some food.
Gus O'Conner's was our pub of choice and we were able to get seated fairly quickly and just before the rush set in. We were hoping to hang out for a bit and listen to more traditional music. After a filling dinner and a few smithwick's the music finally started up but they were in a far away corner of the restaurant so we couldn't hear them very well which was too bad. We hung out for a bit and then decided to call it a night as we had a long list of sights for the next morning and we were headed to Galway. Doolin was a cute town though- a great stop on our journey!
July 8, 2016 - Dingle!
Day #5 dawned and we headed out for a run in the park. It was beautiful but so. many. bugs. I swear I was swallowing them the whole time we ran- but at least we got in 6 miles and I got to run in one of the prettiest places ever. So bugs aside, it was still awesome. Then we had delicious breakfast! They offered pancakes at Mystical Rose so I took the option while Jon stuck with the old standard Irish breakfast. Those pancakes were amazing. They came with fresh fruit and nutella. AND BACON. So good. I was in heaven.
Then it was time to hit the road to Dingle! It is a cute seaside town with adorable shops and amazing views. Now because we had been experiencing really nice weather so far I knew at some point it was going to turn and we would experience real Irish weather. Day 5 was that day. We only had a little over an hour drive and when we started it was overcast but good visibility... Of course as the day went on we ended up in the clouds. So while pretty I ended up with lots of photos of fog!
We had our trusty Rick Steves guidebook that gave us a little tour of the Dingle loop with lots of landmarks to view along the way. We drove on Slea Head Way and it was a really pretty drive that I wish had not been so cloudy! We stopped at forts, beaches, cliff views and finally an oratory. Of course along the loop as a craft brewery- West Kerry Brewery- that we had to taste along the route. :D We were supposed to be able to see the blasket islands but the clouds took over and we didn't get too much of a view. We finished up the drive and headed back into downtown Dingle.
We had a walking tour as well (thanks Rick) that took us all over downtown and then we windowshopped and picked up xmas presents for family. There were so many cute stores along the way. We found a candle/soap maker, a shop with stained glass and lots of wool goods. There are a lot of sheep in Ireland so of course there's woolen items everywhere! (We took advantage later in our trip).
Dingle also has a craft brewery in downtown proper so we walked over there to taste their signature (and only) beer. We hung out here for a bit as it was pouring outside by this point. Thanks Ireland.
Our last stop was to eat dinner at the Chart House. We had to be there right when the opened in order to get in as reservations are filled many months prior. But we got lucky and were able to eat more delicious seafood. For a place that's touted as having only meat and potatoes- Ireland has some really tasty food. We loved everything we ate.
And then it was time to drive back to our B&B in Killarney. We were calling it an early evening- we had to repack our bags and there was a run on the schedule for the next morning. Plus it was pouring so we were ok with taking it easy. Thanks for blast southwest Ireland! We headed North the next day.
July 7, 2016 - Ring of Kerry, Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
We had to say goodbye to the east coast for a bit and head west to Killarney. We had a nice breakfast and chat with Victor before loading up the car and were on our way. We had about a 2 hour drive but of course I wanted to divert a little to take in some of the sights! You know- we were in Ireland for 10 days which feels like a lot in theory but when you're actually out there you realize you could spend so much more time exploring.
We got on the road and headed to the Ring of Kerry. Driving through small irish towns, spotting castles galore and other ruins in between villages. And everything was so green. It was foggy for awhile but by the time we got back to the coast it was clearing up just in time for a beautiful day.
We quickly popped through Kenmare (which if we'd had more time we'd have stopped to eat lunch in but alas). And then headed south around the ring. We were going against the traditional way of driving the ring in the hopes that we wouldn't have too much traffic or tour buses to deal with. There were amazing views of both the countryside as well as the ocean. When ocean meets mountains it's pretty anywhere.... but when you add in irish green lushness... AHHHH.
We were headed out to the Staigue Fort - a fort that dates back to the Iron Age that it built with just stones... no mortar or anything else holding it together. It was really neat. I don't think I've ever been able to touch (let alone climb up on) anything so ancient. Jon's not a fan of heights so walking around the top wasn't his cup of tea but he placated me and took some photos before getting down. We were also treated to some really nice views of the water at this spot too.
We had to turn back at that point on the ring but I discovered a cut through (that we would hate but love at the same time) taking us through Moll's Gap and over to Gap of Dunloe on our way to Killarney. After we took the turn off and said goodbye to the ocean for a bit we got 'sheeped!' A family of sheep were wandering the road and made us sit for a few moments before wandering out of the road. They were cute and I got some fun photos of them.
We made a turn on the road that opened up to a really nice lake/pond with the mountains and I made Jon stop the car so I could capture it. But then we turned another curve in the road and reached Moll's Gap. This next moment was maybe my favorite of our whole trip. We parked and walked along some rocks until we were standing over the top of this beautiful valley of lush green. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing and I remember thinking 'wow! we are on top of the world! Nothing will beat this moment in my memory of Ireland.' It was amazing. Even thinking about it now brings a small to my face- it was like being in another world. One that I tried to capture by photo that I'm sure won't do it justice but man was it great up there.
Getting back into the car, we headed down a super windy road through the valley in our plan to drive through the Gap of Dunloe. Now what we learned on this journey is that July/August are the worst times to drive through the gap as that's when the locals make their money doing horse rides, horse carriages, bike rides you name it. We got trapped behind a horse caravan for what felt like forever. They just would not let us pass them. Super frustrating! But then once we finally got around them we had to be super careful driving as there were bikers and walkers constantly in the road. Jon was so stressed driving through here that he couldn't appreciate when we arrived at Gap of Dunloe. It was truly spectacular. Of course this was helped by the absolutely beautiful weather. I took WAY too many photos but I couldn't help myself. Ireland is amazing all the time... but when the sun shines?! YES.
We FINALLY got through the gap and drove quickly through Killarney to get to our B&B, the Mystical Rose. This one had come highly recommended by our tour company so we were looking forward to this stop. We even got upgraded to a nicer room. Score! After checking in and getting maps and more information from Roisin we decided to visit Killarney National Park. I was hoping to scope out spots for running the next couple of mornings as well as enjoy the park on the beautiful day.
Parking was a challenge but Jon managed to get our car in a spot (we seriously had to wiggle to get out of the car). And then we walked around the grounds. We opted not to pay the fees to go inside Muckross (under construction) and wandered the gardens instead. We took more photos (i know i know) and followed the path around to an amazing waterfall. The park was awesome and I was looking forward to our runs. We weren't sure when they opened but then discovered that by foot you could enter anytime. Bonus!
We headed back to the B&B to drop off the car and walk into the downtown area. And low and behold what did we find- but another craft brewery! This was on my map and I was hoping we would cross paths with it- Killarney brewing company. We had missed the final tour of the day but the bartender let us purchase a glass and have tastings for free. Not too shabby a selection and I love my mug that I got! Afterwards we continued on our walk and found a tasty spot for dinner, Porterhouse restaurant. It was quite good and we followed that with some evening soccer at the local pubs. Then it was back to the B&B to handwash some clothes- hey we couldn't carry on for 2 weeks! We did this twice on our trip and it was terrible. But we survived and next time- we'll only pack quick drying clothes and enough underwear for the entire trip. We got everything washed and hung up and then laid out running clothes for the next morning! I was looking forward to that!
More to come with our trip next week!