Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Will Appreciate This...

I am so ashamed and saddened at the fact that I have not blogged for more than two months. Blogging is my source of relief, my way of sharing my emotions and feelings towards something I love. It allows me to express my ideas, opinions, and promises, even if it is only me reading it.

To be given the ability to share my experiences and pictures with others, I can't think of a better way to spend my time. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way, making it difficult to make time for the things we love and enjoy.

Since my last blog post, things have gotten quite hectic at work and within my own personal life. While work has occupied most of my time, I have been suffering from some medical issues that have left me feeling somewhat...unmotivated, which I absolutely hate!

However, as this year comes to an end, I look forward to the newness that 2013 will bring. Hoping it will bring good times, good news, and great company, one thing is for sure, 2013 will bring with it a trip that I have been looking forward to taking for as long as I can remember. Although plane tickets are not booked quite yet, all of the wheels are in motion and come March, I will be traveling through Germany and Poland. Experiencing all the wonders and history that these two countries possess, the history nerd inside of me can hardly wait.

So, as 2012 comes to a close, I will appreciate the memories and opportunities that have been given to me. The opportunity to travel to Ireland with my mom and see a part of the world that beholds so much beauty and peace that it can only be appreciated when fully immersed in its landscapes and countrysides.  I will appreciate the every day redundance that life can sometimes bring, whether it be through work or at home.

Most of all, I will appreciate the opportunity to do all of these things, to see the world, to have a job, to have a family who loves me and friends who do the same, to have pets who bring so much joy into my life, and to have a God who has blessed me with all of these wonderful pieces of life that I am much too unworthy of receiving.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time for Some Advice

Okay everyone, it is that time again that I call upon all of my lovely readers for your expert advice. I am in the beginning stages of planning my next trip and I would love to hear your do's and don'ts, the must see's and the can do without's.

So, here's my plan: Someone around February or March, I plan to travel to Germany and Poland. My route will be something like, landing in Munich and spending a few days (3-5) in the city and taking day trips to Nuremburg and the Bavarian Alps area, then taking the train to Krakow and visiting Auschwitz while I am there. After Krakow, I am looking to take the train to Warsaw and then finish my trip in Berlin.

I have already looked up numerous tours in various places and keep in mind, I'm a HUGE history buff, so any historical museums, sites, etc...that you think are worthy of my time, please offer them up!

Also, any restaurants, shops, hidden treasures, as well as travel tips in these areas, I would appreciate any and all advice!!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wicklow Mountains of Dublin

Natural beauty can be found in so many places. To say that it exists in only a few small areas would be absurd, and in the country of Ireland…it can be found in the masses. Dublin is a prime example, or maybe more so, the city of Wicklow.

Taking a tour through the Wicklow Mountains, we were given a little slice of Heaven. First, our tour guide, Stephen, made the experience well worth our while. Second, although Galway remains my favorite for sightseeing and countryside beauty, Wicklow remains second best.

In fact, I’m going to let you see for yourselves….
The "Guniness" Lake. It sits on the Guniness Family property.
This is the bridge featured in "P.S. I Love You" where Gerard Butler meets Hilary Swank for the first time.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Birds of Prey

I’m not a huge bird lover. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I’m more partial to cats and dogs. That is, until we visited a bird of prey sanctuary in Galway. Opting to take a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, we traveled through The Burren area, which lies in Northern County Clare and Southern Galway. One of the stops on our tour was to visit the Birds of Prey Sanctuary and Educational Centre.
Now, I’ve been through other educational/animal attractions (i.e. zoos) and I love them, but I have to admit, I wasn’t too excited about this particular stop off. Getting off the bus, we entered the sanctuary to see various birds awaiting our eager eyes…or at least some eager eyes. It was quite chilly outside so, getting indoors was nice and pleasant.
Rounding the corner of this outdoor sanctuary, I was shocked at the beauty of these gorgeous creatures. Hawks, owls, vultures, and other exotic birds stood behind these cages just watching and waiting. Screeches from various owls could be heard throughout the enclosure and I quickly found myself grabbing for my video camera. Turning it on, I was enamored with each individual bird.
Coming up on a snow white owl, I looked at my mom and remarked, “It’s Hedwig!” Laughing at the hilarity of my comment, I couldn’t help but wish that it was coming home with me. Sitting on the ground, it sat there with its eyes closed and looking content.
Vultures splayed their wings for us and owls played peek-a-boo as we struggled to get them to look at us, only to take the camera away from the readied position before they turn quickly enough as if to say “Ha Ha, I don’t think so, tourist!”
Before entering the sanctuary, we were told that we would be watching an owl demonstration. After seeing all of these gorgeous birds, I quickly made my way out to the demonstration area and took a seat in the first row of wooden bleacher s. Out walked the “bird whisperer” as I like to refer to him. After giving his speech about the owls in their enclosure and how they go about training and raising them, he yelled for Jenny.
Suddenly, this white owl (not Hedwig, unfortunately) came flying out of a cage and onto his arm. Prepped with food, she was eager to eat. Go figure, an animal influenced to do tricks with the usage of food.
Telling us a bit more about Jenny and her specific breed, we learned that she is in fact, blind to objects up close. Using her beak, she sought out the food in his hand. Soon enough, he asked for volunteers to see who would like to hold her. After a few people, I threw up my hand and found myself in front of a crowd and suited up with a large brown glove on my left hand. With one quick call, Jenny flew from the short wooden stump onto my hand. There I stood, an owl sitting perched on my hand…something I can now officially check off my bucket list.
My mom eventually decided to volunteer after me persuading her to do so, saying, “When are you ever going to get to hold an owl?” Taking my advice, she too, invited Jenny to take a seat on her covered hand. However, by the time my mom held her, she was tiring from all the excitement. Opting to fly back to her cage, we applauded Jenny for her time, as well as the trainer.
Leaving the bird of prey sanctuary, I felt I had a new appreciation for birds. Excited that I had actually held an owl, I felt appreciative of the fact that we stopped at this hidden tourist gem. It is stop offs like these that create some of the greatest memories from a trip such as this one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discovering Our Heritage

Looking through my photos from Ireland, I couldn’t help but smile at the moment I spotted our photos from the Cork Heritage Museum. Known for its content that contains artifacts from the Titanic, mom and I opted to visit while in Cork. However, there is a little bit of a backstory, so let me start there first.
On the train from Belfast to Galway, mom and I sat across the aisle from a man. He lived in New Jersey but was full Irish. Seated across from him were two elderly women from England. Naturally, the three struck up a conversation and well, mom and I couldn’t help but do a bit of eavesdropping. Asking if the man had visited the new Titanic Exhibition in Belfast, he said that he had in fact visited the site.
Grinning at each other, mom and I thought the elderly women to be sweet and “chatty;” however, the next thing that came out of the man’s mouth had even my mom and me eager to hear more. Out of his bag, he pulled out black and white photos of his great uncle. Explaining that his great uncle, Jeremiah Burke, had been on the Titanic, he went on to say that his great uncle’s cousin was also aboard with him when the ship went down.  Before leaving, his mother had given him a bottle of Holy Water to take on his journey. When learning that the ship was sinking, he emptied the bottle and inserted a hand-written note. Corking the bottle, it went down with the ship – both he and his cousin perished in sinking. Years later, the bottle washed ashore in Cork and now sits within the Cork Heritage Center.
After hearing this story, mom and I both agreed that if we had time, it would be quite amazing to go and see this infamous bottle. When arriving in Cork, we looked at our schedule and discovered that unfortunately, there would be no time to see this part of Titanic history. However, all of that changed when we woke up one morning, got dressed, and walked to the bus station. Planning to travel to Kinsale to visit one of the large forts there, we quickly learned that 13 euros for a bus ticket, one way mind you, was a bit too much for a fort that we may not even see because of the rain.
“Hey, why don’t we see how much it would cost to go to Cobh,” mom said. Agreeing that it was a good idea, we hopped on the train and traveled to Cobh. Pulling into the station, the Heritage Center was just steps away. Paying the fee to enter, we readied our cameras and prepared to be transported back to 1912. Making our way through the museum, we passed by story after story of passengers and their belongings. Fascinated by all of the articles held within this tiny museum, we came to the notorious bottle.
“Goodbye All” is what the note read – a sorrowful message by a young man, only 19 years old, preparing to meet his fate in the cold waters below.

Looking at the pictures of Jeremiah Burke, we couldn’t believe we were actually seeing this bit of history. After grabbing a few photos, I turned to see my mother staring at a photo of a man. Just as quickly as I spotted her, she turned to look back at me.
“Who does this man remind you of,” she asked me. Within seconds, my eyes focused on the man in the photo and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The man my mother was fixated on looked just like my grandfather.  Walking towards the photo, we read the caption, saying it was Frank Browne, a famous photographer of the Titanic and its passengers. Browne was in seminary school at the time. While on the Titanic, he snapped photos of its passengers and the lives they led on board the ship. Wishing to continue on the ship’s journey, he was told by his mentor to disembark the ship immediately. Getting off in Queensland, Browne did not suffer the fate that so many did when the ship went down.
Staring at the photo, I was shocked at how similar this man looked to my mom’s father. Her maiden name is Brown and to know that when immigrants came over to the U.S., the “e” on his last name could have easily been dropped. His forehead, eyes, ears, and nose were all the same.  Standing there, mom almost began crying, completely in awe of what she was seeing. To think that we had come to Ireland and found our heritage, it was unbelievable. It was like everything fell into place just like it should – the decision to go to Ireland, the seat and compartment on that train, the story of the message in a bottle – it all led to this discovery.

Since seeing that photo, we have attempted to find out more about Frank Browne and how we may be related. Convinced that there is a relation, mom and I are determined to get to the bottom of this…who knows, it’s like they say…life has a funny way of presenting these types of things to us. I knew there was a reason I chose to go to Ireland!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birthday Wish List

In a week's time, I will celebrate yet, another birthday. The big 27 this time, so although it isn't a milestone, it's another year older.

So, what is on my lovely birthday list you may ask? Well, not much to be honest. I'm not one for new technologies (my co-workers can attest to that); however, I am one for travel (surprise, surprise). One of the first things I always ask for, whether it is for my birthday or for Christmas is air miles. My sister so graciously bought me air miles as part of my Christmas gift this past year - a gift that proved quite beneficial in the purchase of my airplane ticket to Ireland.

So, guess what? Air miles top the list again this year! I'm already formulating where I want to go next and have decided that my next trip (God willing) will be to Germany and Poland. If you've followed this blog, you know that I am a history fanatic, so naturally, these two countries are ideal locations for my next trip.

First of all, my sister traveled to Germany many years ago and spoke nothing but good things about the country. My main points of interest will be Berlin and Munich, but I want to visit the Bavarian Alps as well.  Of course, I couldn't leave this country without seeing and visiting the concentration camp, Dachau. I've known numerous people who have visited this humbling site...needless to say, I want to see it as well.

Secondly, I have planned to visit Poland for many years now. After doing extensive research, I have learned the extent to which the Polish people have gone to make their country appealing to visitors. Naturally, visiting Krakow and Warsaw are my two main points of interest, and well...if I'm there, I must see Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Since it will be some time before I can make this trip a reality, in the mean time, my birthday wishes will be receiving air miles as my gifts. The more, the better obviously, but I'll take as many as I can get.

Of course, I could always use a day at the spa too!

Friday, July 20, 2012

St. Anne’s Glorious Bells

I sincerely apologize for not posting sooner. I have been terribly busy and well…a bit under the weather for a while now. However, I am back and hope to post more frequently! So, hopefully all of you are doing well (or at least those of you who are still reading my blog!)

Since I last left you with my amazing experience at the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, I have been mulling over my photos and video from my trip. Recounting the two weeks I spent there, I find myself wishing to see more. Don’t get me wrong, I am whole-heartedly grateful and blessed to have seen what I did; however, after trips like these, it only fuels the urge within me to travel more. It is experiences like the ones I had with my mom in Ireland that make me want to see more of God’s great creations.

For instance, while in Cork, we visited the small, yet stunning Church of St. Anne. Overlooking much of the city, the church was built in the 16th century, complete with its famous bells, which can be heard far and wide. Stepping inside, we were the only people visiting that day. A nice break from the bit of drizzle outside, the church provided a serene environment for reflection and gratitude. That was one thing about this trip…with each church we visited, I found myself taking time to pray and give thanks to God for allowing me to be there in that moment, and to see what this world has to offer. With each prayer, I felt more and more humbled.

Although the sanctuary was small, the history that lay within was tremendous. Books that dated back centuries and centuries lay beneath glass and a small podium allowed visitors to write the name of a loved one in need of prayer. White walls surrounded us as we walked the perimeter. Making our way out of the sanctuary, we asked to go up to the viewing deck, with the hopes that we may be able to ring the infamous bells.

Before we were allowed up, we were given large ear protectors for when the bell is rung. Climbing the stairs, we came to a wooden platform. Looking to the right, we spotted eight long ropes, each connected to eight separate bells. Each rope had a number and before it was a small podium with a book full of songs. Looking to my mom, I was unsure if we were “allowed” to play, so, deciding to bypass the bells, we continued our trek to the top.

As the stairs grew steeper and more confined, I felt my backpack beginning to rub against both sides of the wall. Now, I am not a claustrophobic person; however, the closeness that this staircase presented was making me a bit nervous. Arriving at what looked to be like a large attic, the massive bell sat waiting for its next visitor. My mom, the eager woman that she is, moved forward and rung it loudly, sending a smile across her face. I was up next, which I gladly took my turn….thankfully, the ear protectors were there to save us from the massive “gong” sound that rung out only inches away from our precious eardrums.

Spotting a rickety ladder, complete with a make-shift sign with an arrow pointing up, I followed my mom up to what soon led us to the viewing deck. Stepping out, it wasn’t the wind that nearly took our breath away, but the view. Standing at the top of St. Anne’s, we looked out to see the beautiful city of Cork beneath us. Never could I have imagined that I would be standing in such a place.

Although the sky above us was cloudy, there was no way I was going to let a little rain ruin the feeling I was having in that moment. That is what I find so humorous about people. We look around us every day and feel nothing about the environment we live in and the places we is a luxury that we take for granted each day. I am just as guilty as everyone else; however, when you stand atop a church that has seen the horrors of war and look out onto a land so full of life and wonder…you can’t not be thankful for what God has given and presented to us. To see things that many only read in books and to see the expression on my mother’s face…now that is what makes traveling worthwhile.

Climbing back down the stairs, we arrived back on the wooden platform; the bells once again luring us to play. Opting to not pass up this chance again, we both walked towards the ropes and prepared to play. Thumbing through the booklet, we settled on the beauty that is “Amazing Grace.” With each word assigned a number, we began to play the sweet words.

Amazing Grace
How Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Wretch Like Me
I Once Was Lost
But Now I’m Found
Was Blind But Now I See

My mom was so excited that she made me get out the video camera and film her as she played the song once more. To watch her as she rang each bell, I knew that this was something she would never forget. Her determination to play each word, it was like nothing I’d ever seen.  This opportunity was that “sweet sound” that is talked about in the song. As the song ended, she grinned wider than ever, turning to camera and giving a proper thumbs up.

Exiting the church, I knew that playing those bells would become a memory that she would tuck away forever; one that she will revisit often as she looks back on our time spent in Ireland. The words to that song truly speak volumes when visiting new places….blinded by the normalcy that everyday life can bring, visiting new places causes us to open our eyes and see the beauty that lies around.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Whiskey Connoisseur? Yep, That’s Me

This weekend, I was lucky enough to have a night out with my friends. One in particular, I haven’t seen in a few years. While out a local club, he ordered me a shot of Jameson, claiming that I would not shut up about how it was my whiskey-of-choice. Feeling as if I had inhaled a ball of fire, the great taste quickly took over and I was taken back to my time spent at the Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
Our last day in Dublin, mom and I had booked a tour of the Jameson Distillery at 4 o’clock. Finally arriving after walking what must have been seven or eight miles, we took a seat and waited for the tour to begin. Our feet were killing us seeing as we were not expecting to walk those seven or eight miles. However, after misjudging the map and being 10 euros short for a bus ride, we were left to walk.
Once the tour began, we were led into a large room where we watched a How-to on how the Jameson Distillery began. After the video, our tour guide asked 10 people to volunteer for a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. Women were asked to volunteer first, so I threw up my hand thinking…you only live once. When else will I have the opportunity to do a whiskey tasting in Ireland? Receiving a small, short green cylinder, we were led on our tour, beginning with the first steps toward true, authentic Jameson Whiskey.
Triple distilled, John Jameson’s delicious whiskey has a rigorous creation process: malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distillation, and maturation. Each step holds vital importance and ultimately, creating the smooth taste that is Jameson.
Probably one of the most unique portions of the tour was in the final stage: maturation. Seeing the casks, which hold various amounts of whiskey for years, it is believed that while some of the alcohol evaporates, it ascends towards the sky and is received by the angels in Heaven as an offering. By the end of the tour, we were shown the true process from “barley to bottle” as the folks at the distillery like to say.  
Entering the final room, we were told to hand over the drink ticket we were given at the beginning of the tour. There before us were numerous glasses of Jameson whiskey, each mixed with a different beverage: sprite, cranberry juice, ginger ale, and of course, just plain ol’ Jameson.  Since I like cranberry juice, I grabbed my glass, yes, an actual glass (not shot glass), and moved over to a large table, complete with what looked like a placemat and various shots of whiskey.
Shown which whiskeys were which, we moved them to their appropriate place on the placemat. Before me was not only my Jameson and Cranberry juice, but a shot of regular Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Black. A glass of water sat off to the side so that we could cleanse our palates in between tastings. Taking a sip of Jack Daniels, we quickly took a sip of the Jameson. This allowed us to taste the significant difference between the two drinks.  We then moved on to the Johnny Walker Black before taking another sip of Jameson. Each time, the Jameson won, providing me with a smooth and delectable taste. When asked to push forward our favorite, everyone at the table selected Jameson…only the best. Asked to down our remaining shots, we did so with gusto. Looking around, everyone seemed to be polishing off their other two shots and remaining drinks.  I too, took care of my whiskey and cranberry, enjoying its taste thoroughly.
Before leaving the table, our tour guide came back to give each participant a certificate with our names donning the front, claiming us to be qualified whiskey tasters. Can I say, check?! There’s something I can now mark off my bucket list!
Leaving the distillery, I looked up to see probably the coolest chandelier ever. It was composed of nothing but Jameson Whiskey bottles. All I could think of was how many guys would kill to have something like that in their apartments. Okay, well I wouldn’t mind having it in mine either.
While many would recommend that visitors go to the Guinness Distillery, I would highly recommend that people go to the Jameson Distillery. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming a “qualified whiskey taster,” the tour itself and the atmosphere of the distillery is enough to justify a visit. Great Irish Whiskey…there’s no better place to find it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sign Says “Do Not Climb”

It is apparent that when people see signs that strongly suggest that visitors stay away from the ledge, not climb over walls, or better yet, the ground beneath you is eroding…they simply throw caution to the wind, say, “Nothing bad will happen to me,” and ultimately, go near the ledge, climb over the wall, and forget that the ground beneath them is eroding.

Just imagine, you are more than 600 feet above the ocean below, you have a breathtaking view of the sea and the skyline, the birds are flying frantically around the sea bottom in search of food, and you’re in Ireland. This was the scene in Galway when my mom and I visited the Cliffs of Moher. To see them from a distance, if you are lucky and it is a good day, they look almost like stairs…for a giant. However, like Ireland weather tends to be, if it is a bad day, the fog and rain can cause the Cliffs to disappear as if they never existed…a giant fairytale.
Luckily for us, we went on a good day. To see these iconic cliffs, it is an experience that words can never fully describe, nor can a camera fully capture. The walkway split two ways, right and left. To the left, one can walk what looks to be five miles out onto the cliffs. We opted to go right. Upon seeing the stairs before us, I knew I could handle it. Having a personal trainer tends to help; however, my poor mother…well, we had to stop once or twice so she could catch her breath. In her defense, anyone who isn’t used to climbing numerous stairs often would have a difficult time. These short stops however, allowed for great photo opportunities.
Me at the Cliffs of Moher and the safety wall behind me
Along the side of us, a chest high concrete wall lined the cliffs. Obviously, this is where my title comes into play. Signs were posted everyone, reminding visitors of the dangers of climbing over. The weather in Ireland can sometimes be unpredictable and our tour guide warned us that one strong gust of wind could knock you off balance, sending you over the cliff and into the blue abyss below. However, he did mention that if that were to happen, to look to the right and we would have a fabulous view of Galway Bay.
Crazy visitors posing on the Cliffs ledge
Opting to stay on solid ground, we both agreed that the view we were currently seeing was just as beautiful behind the wall. The weather that day was sunny, but the wind was whipping around us, making us glad that we had our heavy coats. Reaching the top, we looked back to our left and there before us were the Cliffs. Extending out into the sea, I had hoped to be able to compare the sight to others I have seen in the past, but I couldn’t…this sight was one of its own.
Chiseled and jagged rock built more than 600 feet into the air, grass that was alive and well standing high at its top, the edges so terrifying, yet, so inviting. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had come to this place to spend their last moments of life…so peaceful and calm. That thought was fleeting and terrifying all in one. The grass around us showed so green in the sun. The Ireland rain kept it smelling so fresh and crisp.

Taking more photos than what is “normal,” we simply stood at the top and stared out onto the ocean and the Cliffs standing high above it. I couldn’t help but wonder what my mom was thinking, seeing as she had never seen any sight like this before. I felt blessed to have her standing there with me, experiencing that moment.
Spending two hours at the Cliffs, we ventured back down to return to our tour bus. The time we spent at the Cliffs was one I will never forget. Seeing sights like this is what quenches my thirst for traveling. These are sights that only in person can it truly be cherished and appreciated. As a believer, it is amazing what God has created. I feel completely humbled to have seen these great Cliffs – a place that holds much importance to the Irish people, but much joy and beauty to any and all who visit.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our First Day in Belfast

Our first stop was Belfast in Northern Ireland. Arriving by train, from Dublin, we immediately called a cab to take us to our hotel.  I think at this point, everything still seemed so surreal.  From the moment we got into the cab, our driver was nothing but nice. Offering advice as to where the best dining and shopping areas were, my mom and I couldn’t wait to get out and begin exploring the city.

Reaching our hotel room, we were puzzled as to how the lights worked (crazy, I know). Realizing that you must insert your room card in order for the lights and the air to work, I slid the card into the slot and flipped on the lights before taking  the card back out. Suddenly, I hear a scream coming from the bathroom with my mom shouting, “The lights went out!” Needless to say, we finally figured it out that the card must STAY in the slot if you want your lights and air to work.

At this point, the jet lag was starting to catch up with us. Landing at 8 a.m. and then catching a train from Dublin to Belfast, which is a little more than two and half hours, we were pretty wiped at this point. However, we weren’t going to let that stop us from getting out and seeing the city.
Our first stop was St. Anne’s Cathedral. I assumed it was called Belfast Cathedral but the front desk hotel clerk quickly corrected me. Grateful that (almost) everything was within walking distance, we walked towards City Hall (which was gorgeous in its own right…but I’ll talk about that another time) and made our way towards St. Anne’s. Beautifully erected, her doors invited and welcomed us in. Within her walls, rows upon rows of chairs sat facing the pulpit, each with their own individual kneeling pads. Each pad was embroidered with its own uniquely decorated design; vibrant shades of red providing the backdrop for each design. Archways lined the sides and front of the church and stained-glass windows provided visitors with various Biblical scenes and sayings – a fixture that is found in many European churches.

Her organ sat high, her pipes stretching towards the ceiling as if the music that would sound from her could reach the Heavens. And plaques were mounted on the walls, dedicated in memory of those who served in the Irish Guard who had lost their lives during war.
Upon leaving St. Anne’s, a group of school children rushed to her front steps, eager and anxious to enter, but were quickly gathered by their chaperone and told to quiet their voices. Our next stop was to have some lunch. After traveling all day, our stomachs were begging for food. Finding a local restaurant called McHughes, we decided to have a taste of authentic Irish cuisine. Opening the doors, we were met with the sounds of flutes, accordions and guitars as Irish music filtered throughout the restaurant. Feeling as if I was in the middle of a pub, we ordered fish and chips, both of us completely unaware of just how much food we were about to eat.

Bringing our order to us, my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw the size of the fish that was lying on my plate. Not only did I have fries (a.k.a. chips), but there was also a small lump of mushy peas. Looking at my mom, we both tried them but we both gave the same reaction… “Thanks, but no thanks.” Deciding to delve into my massively large piece of fish, I was in Irish Heaven the most my fork touched my tongue. Not only was the fish crispy on the outside but it melted in my mouth the moment it hit. Not a fan of the provided tartar sauce, I was asked if I would like some “red sauce.” Thinking that I might get thrown out if I were to ask for “ketchup,” I said that I would take the mystery red sauce. I quickly realized that “red sauce” is another word for “ketchup” so my behind stayed firmly planted in the wooden seat beneath me.

After the both of us ate only half of our fish (because it was way too much food), we left the comfortable setting of McHughes and visited a nearby souvenir shop, Carroll’s. Inside we found everything you could imagine, including t-shirts, key chains, boxer shorts, shot glasses, cds, ornaments, cookies and picture frames. My mom even tried on a leprechaun hat and beard. (I would show the picture here but she would hate me forever). After buying a few small things, we headed back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation. Full from our late lunch, we grabbed a small dinner and went in search of an Irish coffee.

Stumbling upon Fibber McGee’s, we walked in to find that the coffee had been turned on and the alcohol turned on. Patrons sat at wooden tables, prepping themselves for the night’s entertainment, complete with their Guinness in hand. As much as we wanted to stay and experience Belfast’s nightlife, we really wanted an Irish coffee. Leaving Fibber McGee’s, we walked to one other pub before finally settling back at the hotel bar where we received a true Irish coffee. Of course, it was so strong; we drank it, but struggled once we reached the bottom of the glass.

City Hall lit up at night
Calling it a night, we showered and slipped into bed. It had been a long day, but was a great start to our trip.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Colors of Ireland

First and foremost, please forgive me for not having written in quite a while. As some of you know, I spent two weeks traveling throughout the vibrant, wondrous country of Ireland and have been trying to recuperate from the on-the-go physicality that the trip demanded.
To answer your question though, yes, I had a wonderful time. Ireland is a country full of friendly people, never-ending countryside, and…sheep. Yes, there are sheep everywhere! I’ll get to that later though. When flying to Dublin, one of the first things I noticed while sitting in the ever-so-comfortable airplane seat was the colors that this country shown.
Out of my portal-sized window, I saw numerous shades of green, looking like fabrics stretched out as far as the eye could see. I recall turning to my mom and remarking at how incredible it was to see green everywhere, yet, in so many different shades. Astounded herself, she simply couldn’t get over just how green everything was!
Properties were divided by three things: trees, bushes, or rock walls – most definitely impressive. As if the greens were impressive enough, while we were on the train to Belfast, we spotted fields of pure yellow. A bit confused as to what it could be, the train quickly sped by one of these yellow coated fields and we saw the thousands upon thousands of flowers nestled perfectly within their walls. I’ll never forget the look or reaction my mom had – fumbling to retrieve her camera and the smile that never left her face. She was in complete awe of the sight before her.
Of course, as I mentioned before, Ireland has a lot of sheep. So naturally, specks of white popped up all across the greenery. The sheep looked like oversized cotton balls, many with black faces. I’m sure every time I spotted a baby sheep, a voice in my head made the “awe” sound. The entire trip, my mom continued to say, “I want to hold a baby sheep.” Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

With all of the rain that this country receives, it is no wonder that the colors of the fields and flowers bloom and shine so brightly. In the states, everything around us dies during winter and takes a while for our trees and flowers to bloom again during the spring, so it was refreshing to see a part of the world that never “dies.”
Seeing all of those colors, I knew that my mom and I were in for a trip of a lifetime. Seeing a part of the world that provides so much beauty and life, we knew Ireland would have a lot to offer. However, what we experienced and saw later…we could have never imagined or expected.

(I wanted to add so many more photos but Blogger is being incredibly slow when trying to upload photos...I promise I'll get them up here somehow!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

While I'm Away

Unfortunately, while I am in Ireland, I will be unable to post :(  I hate this because I was hoping to blog while I was away; however, the computer I planned to take does not work properly.

So, you lovely people will instead, view my photos and hear about my 2 week getaway once I return! In some way, I actually love writing AFTER the trip has happened. It allows me to almost relive my trip through my words and photos!

Please forgive me for not keeping all of you up-to-date throughout my trip, but I promise when I return, you will know all about my amazing Ireland trip!!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

9 Days and Counting!

Yes folks, I will be leaving in a total of nine days for the beautiful country of Ireland! To say I am excited is a bit of an understatement. I fully plan on seeing all I can see and doing all I can do while I am there and taking PLENTY of pictures. 

I know I have asked in the past, but I am most definitely interested in hearing about specific little restaurants, stores, visit.  So, if you've been to the Irish land and would like to offer a wondering traveler some advice, I would gladly appreciate it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Eating in NOLA

As much as I wish I could have tried more local cuisine, I was pleased with my first taste bud go-around in New Orleans.
Those of you who have read my posts know that Hard Rock t-shirts are collectable items for me. Everywhere I go, I have to buy one. Naturally, I visited HRC and found my debit card drifting out of my hands and into the hands of the cashier, purchasing a beautifully designed t-shirt. Complete with a photo of the French Quarter, it donned painted Mardi Gras masks and the words “New Orleans” scrawled along the picture’s edge.
Satisfied with my new item, I went back to the table to savor the deliciously good, and may I remind you, calorie-loaded pulled pork sandwich. As crazy as it sounds to some, I hate coleslaw; so naturally, it was not finding itself piled on top of the dripping pulled pork. Now, I know that some of you will probably say…”What?! You went and ate at the Hard Rock in New Orleans? Don’t you know that there are some amazing local restaurants down there??!”  Yes, I am fully aware of that, but unfortunately, the person I was with was not too keen on trying the true, authentic delicacies.
However, we did visit The Pearl Oyster House for lunch and had a delightful sandwich and later graced the ever-so-popular Pat O’Brien’s.  And before you ask, yes…I did get myself a Hurricane! That savory, red concoction was just what I needed. All 26 ounces were consumed and by the time I was finished, I understood why most people only drink one. Aside from my lovely liquid cocktail, I opted for the Shrimp Creole and let me tell you, I was in Heaven. Full of shrimp, white rice, and a creamy creole tomato sauce…it was like nothing I’d ever had before. Oh, and to top it off, the shrimp was mixed with garlic and herbs!
I’m truly convinced that to experience a place, one must experience its food. Now, as I said earlier, I realize HRC and Pat O’Brien’s are not “authentic” New Orleans dining; however, one place, that although it may be a tourist trap, it is a must for anyone traveling to New Orleans, is CafĂ© Du Monde.
Oh my word…when my mom went, she brought me back some beignets; unfortunately, they were just “okay” by the time I heated them up in the microwave. Sitting down at a table that had seen years and years of powdered sugar wear and tear, I readied myself for New Orleans finest. Before I knew it, a bowl full of white powder sat before me. I thought maybe I might have to search for my beignets due to the enormous amount of sugar; however, a small corner peeked out and I was instantly satisfied.
The fluffy fried dough was more than I could take. Although they tell you to “shake off the excess” I did not. That powdery goodness stay piled atop and after my bite, it looked as if I had just…well white nose, you get the picture. Laughing at my new look, I quickly brushed it off and continued to partake in the now 2 lovely beignets sitting in front of me.
All in all, the few selected restaurants we hit were pleasing to the palate. One thing I know for sure though is that the next time I visit New Orleans; my meals will consist of true, local eateries. As I said before, to experience a place is to experience its food. Most places do not have the joy of having specific foods for which they known, but New Orleans does.