Middleburg, VA - July 28-31, 2017
Last year I went to Southern Bird Camp in NC and made some great friends, had a wonderful time, and became a much better runner. This year I'm going in coming off injury, up to the DC area, and looking forward to spending time with old and new friends.
Let's just say there were highs and lows about this year's camp. I was super excited to reunite with a lot of the ladies I've met at the NC camp as well as through Instagram and up in the DC area. However the housing arrangements were spread so far apart and most of the activities took place up at the main area so it made for some difficultly AND not feeling particularly welcome. (which made me sad considering everything Oiselle stands for and everything I've gotten out of it so far).
Anyway, recapping from the beginning. I arrived on Friday in misty rain looking forward to catching up with friends and meeting new ones. I had convinced Wynsor to join the team this past spring and she got a last minute spot into camp! She arrived almost the same time I did. We ended up being in the same cabin and decided to share a bunk bed set. There was an optional first run on the first day that I opted out of. I figured coming off my injury and knowing I'd be running every other day at camp it might be best not to try the first day in the misty rain on slippery rocks. Brooklyn, MaryEllen and Amy arrived and they were staying down in the cabins as well. We all headed up for happy hour at the main lodge, followed by tasty dinner. The evening closed out with a welcome and talk from Haute Volee Becki Spellman. She talked about her story, how she came to run with Oiselle, and offered advice to us novice runners. We were supposed to close out with a bonfire but the weather was nasty so we headed back to our cabin to hang out and head to sleep.
Day 2 started with a quick breakfast at the main house, and then we climbed into cars to head to the W&OD trail in neighboring Leesburg. I ran 5 miles with Casey (a DMV bird from the Eastern Shore of Maryland) who was happy to go my slow pace. We all ran our own mileage and so had grouped up the night before based on our plan. Afterwards we headed to a breakfast place to fill up because we were all starving!! Then it was back for a late lunch at the lodge, showers and we decided to visit one of the local wineries as pool time was cancelled due to rain/cool temps. :( We were back in time for a core session with Becki and then it was time for Twilight Polo. I had never experienced this before but it was a literal polo match. We had yummy bbq and delicious wine while watching the horses. It was fun!
Day 3 it was finally sunny!! We opted for a short run on the grounds as we didn't want to drive again over to the big traill. Talk about gravelly! Then we got to experience how to do a real warmup with Erika Pierce. I had met Erika at Southern Bird Camp the year prior. She's a kick ass masters runner and SUPER nice. Then it was time for lunch! Of course we decided to visit another brewery/winery for the afternoon and then got a little pool time in. That evening was full of a trunk show (new Fall/Winter Oiselle) and a gear swap. We grabbed some snacks and headed back to our cabin to hang out before heading to bed.
Day 4 started with a prediction run... that yours truly won!! I predicted my time within 15 seconds. Boom. Mic Drop. Then a last breakfast with everyone, lots of hugs and photos and it was time to get back on the road. Love my Oiselle friends. Can't wait for the 2018 camp!
Charlottesville, VA - June 9-11, 2017
A weekend getaway with the college besties and their hubbies.
Caitlin's parents live in Charlottesville these days and opened up their home to us for the weekend. We were the first to arrive as C-ville isn't too far for us! They we nice enough to let us bring Loki along as well. All the other girls arrived shortly after and we ate a quick lunch before jumping in the pool for the afternoon. SO NICE. We even got Loki on the floats but in general he hated the pool and ran back and forth barking at everyone in terror.
That evening we drove up the mountain for a beautiful sunset with snacks and wine. The view was great and it was nice to catch up over a few glasses. Plus we got to ride in the back of a truck back and forth! We closed out the night with a late dinner and some cornhole. Great first evening!!
Jon and I got up early to get in a short run (which was quite hilly!). Of course Loki came along and he wanted to run ahead with Jon- I had to wrangle him to keep him back with me. ;p Then a light breakfast and showers before the gang piled into cars to visit Blue Mountain Brewery for lunch. The had a 10 sampler that I just had to try of all their tasty beverages and I had a delicious wrap for lunch. It was pretty hot out there but thankfully we got a nice spot under the canopy to enjoy our lunches.
Our next stop was over to King Family Vineyards where we hung out under the awning and sampled some of their whites and Crose. We finally got a table after stalking a group and really enjoyed our afternoon together. Then we headed back to the Lyttle's for an evening of croquet! I LOVE that they have a croquet court set up in their front yard. It's SO FUN to play! :) We then got to watch a beautiful sunset to close out the day. LOVE!!
Our final day kicked off with another run/walk before we packed up our cars to head to Monticello. We were walking from the grounds over to this cute restaurant spot for lunch. It was SO HOT out there and poor Loki managed to hike almost the whole way before Jon had to carry him at the end. Lunch was super yummy and ended in ice cream. Then we all said our goodbyes and it was back on the road to B-burg.
Great weekend catching up with some of my favorite ladies (and their hubbies!)
Asheville, NC - May 19-21, 2017
What was supposed to be a fun race weekend with the Oiselle ladies actually turned into a fun getaway weekend with no running to be had. HA.
As previously mentioned I was having hip issues and had started PT but wasn't going to be up to running the Biltmore Classic. I had originally registered for the 15K and then downgraded to the 5K planning to walk the three miles on race day.
Jon and I drove down from Blacksburg that morning- with him planning to drop me off in Asheville to meet up with Brooklyn, MaryEllen, and Amy for the weekend. He was heading on to his parents and would pick me up on Sunday after the race. We met up downtown, wandered a few shops and then ate some yummy lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe. We decided to venture down to Wicked Weed for a quick beer before heading up to MaryEllen's cabin outside of Weaverville. And fun story when we got there- her keys didn't work to open the door!! It looked like a very nice cabin from the outside- haha. Luckily for us the official race hotel had a few slots left so we were able to get a room for two nights that her mom paid for since she didn't have the right key to get into the house. Doubletree even felt bad for us and gave us a complimentary cheese and fruit plate since we were homeless until they took us in! What a day! We crossed the street from the hotel to grab dinner at Texas roadhouse before calling it a night.
Day 2 dawned much better as we opted for a hike along the mountain to sea trail, before grabbing our race packets back at the hotel. Then we took quick showers and decided to do a little uber and brewery hoping that evening. Our first planned stop was to New Belgium but then it turned out that Tour de Fat was there and we didn't want to pay the cover to get inside. I got some local suggestions from Jon's Dad- starting with the Wedge across the street. We walked over the river and down to the brewery (boy was it hot out!!) before settling under some fans, in the shade, with a couple of pitchers of beer. RELAXATION YES.
Then we ubered over to Salvage Station as our second stop, another round of beers and some exciting scenery/music. This place was huge!! After that we decided to grab food just down the road at White Duck Taco. SO FREAKING GOOD. I ate two amazing tacos, took a quick break with some water before it was time to head to our next location: Burial Brewing. Our final stop of the night as we were supposed to be at the race the next day (oops). We had another round before throwing up the white flags and uber-ing back to our hotel. More snacking (thanks to our grocery run prior to realizing we were locked out of the cabin) and I took some flat runner photos before we passed out asleep.
The next morning we woke up for the race and it was monsooning outside. Like thunder, lightning, downpour the whole nine yards. We though for sure the race would be cancelled but they claimed it was going to pass and still be on so we finally got dressed and headed out the door. We got to the start line- where it was still pouring and decided to hard pass on this one. I wasn't really looking forward to walking the 5K alone and they weren't interested in running the 15K in rain and mud. We headed back to the hotel, took quick showers, opted for breakfast at Biscuithead (also amazingly delicious) and then Jon picked me up and I said goodbye.
So while not the weekend we expected by any means, we had a blast anyway!! These Oiselle ladies are some of my favorites- glad the NC team brought us together :)
Wimberly, TX - May 4-8, 2017
Reuniting with the grad school ladies for a weekend of relaxation and fun!
On Thursday morning I flew out early from ROA to head to Dallas. Most of us were arriving in Dallas and Campbell was nicely driving all of us around. :) I was the first pickup out at DFW before we grabbed Cara at the Love Field airport. Wynsor was coming in a little later so we ran by Campbell's house (got to see Q and meet Pippa!) before grabbing her at the airport too. Then it was time for the first of many Mexican meals!! Lunch time marg? Yes please.
We were headed to Waco for the evening to cut the drive in half from Dallas. Which meant we were stopping off at Magnolia Market (home of the Fixer Upper folks). Being as I don't have cable I don't watch a lot of HDTV but apparently this place is a mecca to home design. They have a fun store where you can buy home decor as well as an outdoor area where they show movies at night. It was cute but apparently not as exciting as everyone thought it was going to be. I was helpful in finding us a local brewery (Bare Arms) to stop at after this :). We did a sampler and hung out there for a bit before wandering just across the parking area to get BBQ (when in TX yes?!) And then called it a night back at our hotel.
Wynsor, Cara and I got up early the next morning to get a little working out in before we got on the road again. Just yoga for me since the hip was still not the best. And then for breakfast we got breakfast tacos!!!! from Torchy's. DELICIOUS. I would eat breakfast tacos every day I think if I lived in TX. SO GOOD. Then it was on the road to Wimberly. Campbell had found us a cute house to stay in for the weekend that had river access so we could float :) Once we arrived we had about an hour until Eliz got there- just enough time to decorate and get ready for the impromptu shower we were throwing her after finding out about Baby Frels a few days earlier. She reacted just how we thought she would once she arrived- excitement followed by tears. :) Presents, games and cake ensued. Then we decided to check out our river access and headed across the street for the views. Dinner and games took over our evening with a final spot at the firepit outside- a great first day in Wimberly!
The next day we did a quick core routine with one of the videos I brought (can't stop working out just because I'm on vacay!) before homemade breakfast tacos (YUM) and then it was on the markets. We got to experience some of the most interesting flea market items while wandering the rows in the hot summer sun. We headed back for a quick lunch and some relaxing before our evening jaunt to Gruene. We found another tasty Mexican restaurant for dinner and then wandered around town. I found some hula hoops (yes please) and we visited the infamous dance hall. The show was much later that evening but that didn't stop us from having a little fun on the dance floor. Always a blast with these ladies.
The next day dawned with another quick core workout, breakfast tacos, and time for river tubing! So nice and relaxing and a great way to start our day. Then we opted to go for a drive to some local wineries- and found a brewery (Twisted X) on the way! First stop there, followed by Duchman Family Winery afterwards. A nice leisurely afternoon. Back at our little house an awesome sunset took place that evening so we wandered back down to the river to get some fun shots. Followed by dinner, games and fire pit s'mores.
Our final day in town I woke up to do some light stretching and clamshells and we opted to float one more time down the river before packing up, cleaning, and heading back to Dallas.
A wonderful weekend indeed. Can't wait to plan next year's vacay!
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.