Monthly Archives

September 2015

Travel

Guide to County Kerry, Ireland

September 25, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

Finally: County Kerry.

Kerry is on the western coast of Ireland and has an absolutely stunning coastal road. A new venture in tourism, the Wild Atlantic Way extends from Northern Ireland all the way down the western coast to Cork. We traveled the Wild Atlantic Way all the way from Galway to Killarney and to Dingle and back. It was so beautiful that we’ve vowed to go back, only next time with hiking packs, since there are some beautiful mountains in County Kerry, believe it or not.

County Kerry

Killarney

We stayed at a great B&B in Killarney called Abbey Lodge. I would highly recommend it, as it’s located just a few minutes walk from downtown.

Abbey Lodge

There are some fabulous restaurants in Killarney. Bricin is located above a gift shop and featured not only beautiful décor but had incredible food, including boxty, a traditional Irish dish.

We also went to the Danny Mann Pub twice, once for food and another just for drinks. We played pool and took pictures with the cool green telephone booth! Again, great food and great atmosphere.

Killarney

Dingle

A short hour drive from Killarney, Dingle is my newfound favorite Irish town (just don’t tell Galway). There is a “craft walk” that moseys through the down, highlight local craft stores and coffee shops. The entire town in crazy picturesque.

Dingle crafts

While you’re there, make sure you get tickets to see Fungie the Dingle Dolphin! Lest you be misled, like I was, the dolphin’s name is not pronounced like fungi, what we call mushrooms. It’s “fun-gee.” Not the same. My bad. And he is an actual dolphin living in the harbor.

Anyway, tickets to see Fungi sell out quickly, especially when it’s a gorgeous day like it was when we were there. There are a number of companies that take you out, so make sure you do. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled when we first started, but after we spotted Fungi a couple of times, I definitely got into it. And it got so much better when he was literally beside our boat! Serious geek out moment.

Fungi

Since it was such a nice day, we had to get some Murphy’s ice cream. Flavor options include caramelized brown bread, Dingle gin, real rum raisin, Irish coffee and more. Yum!

Lunch was at Paudie’s Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel. I had an open-face crab sandwich that was killer! Irish seafood is spot on, since the ocean is so close no matter where you are.

The Dingle Brewing Company is a new craft brewery in Dingle that brews Crean’s Lager. Their namesake is Tom Crean, an Antarctic explorer. The beer is delicious, and I wish you could find it over here (it is available in Boston, so if you’re ever over there, keep your eyes peeled!).

Dingle Brewing

Blarney Castle

Blarney

And no trip to Ireland would be complete without a trip to the Blarney Castle. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney stone will give you the gift of the gab. And the castle grounds are beautiful, so it’s a definite must.

Kissing Blarney

Near the castle is the Blarney Woolen Mill, full of gorgeous Irish blankets, scarves, jumpers (aka sweaters) and Waterford crystal. It’s a great place to wander and dream.

There you have it! Though not inclusive by any means, I do believe that this trip offered us the best of both worlds: plenty of tourism but lots of special family time spent at local places. If you ever find yourself on your way to the Emerald Isle, let me know and I’ll hook you up with some wonderful people and places.

Slante.

Kerry Door

Travel

Guide to Galway, Ireland

September 22, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

This time: Galway!

Galway row houses

A place near and dear to my heart, to me, Galway is quintessential Ireland. The west coast of Ireland is very traditional, and it shows. Stereotypically beautiful, Galway is definitely tourist-friendly, full of wonderful food, shopping and experiences.

Galway

Hostel

We stayed at Barnacles. I would highly recommend it. It is right in the middle of the Latin Quarter, right in the heart of everything. Very clean place, great customer service, wonderful prices and very secure.

Aran Islands

A day trip (or overnight) in and of themselves, the Aran Islands are a group of three small islands off the west coast. It takes an hour by bus to get from Galway to the ferry, and another 45-60 minutes on the ferry to get to the island (depending which one you go to). Totally worth it! Book your tour early, especially if you’re going during tourist season, to make sure you don’t miss out. We used the Galway Tour Company.

If you go for one day, make sure you get an early bus. My friend and I left got the 9am bus and, by taking the last ferry back, we were able to maximize our day without feeling like we missed out. There are a few places to stay on Inismor (the large island) but I’ve never felt it was necessary to do an overnight.

Aran Islands coast

Once on the island, we rented bikes from one of the rental companies that are near the ferry entrance. For 10 euro, you get the bike for the entire day and it’s a perfect way to see the island.

Aran Islands bike

There is one main road going through the middle of the island and one smaller road that travels along the east side. There are many small roads, gravel or just dirt and grass, that are easy enough to bike or walk down. Not many cars travel along any of the roads, which makes it easy to get around.

Rock walls abound on the Aran Islands (and all over the west coast in general). Centuries old, the rocks aren’t held together by any cement or concrete or anything; they’re an art form in and of themselves.

Aran Islands house

There are a number of places you can visit on each island. We checked out The Wormhole, which was this bizarre rectangular hole in the rock near the Atlantic Ocean.

Wormhole

To get to it, we had to leave our bikes behind and walk almost a mile on strange rock formations until we got to the “shore” of the ocean, which was just different rock formations.

Aran Island rocks

We found it, however, and got to eat our lunch of bread and cheese (typical for us when we are on adventures) overlooking The Wormhole and the Atlantic Ocean.

Aran Islands coast

There is a pub/restaurant near the ferry, so we had a pint while we waited (of course).

Pubs and grub

There are so many pubs in Galway! Here are a few of my favorites:

The Kings Head. Located right on High Street, The Kings Head is a tourist favorite. Live music, good drinks, great atmosphere.

Taaffes. Also right on High Street, Taffees has wonderful “trad,” or traditional, music.

Monroes. Every Tuesday they have trad night, with traditional Irish music (fiddle, accordion and bodhran) and people from the community come and dance! It reminds me a lot of square dancing, in that there are certain steps and a pattern that everyone knows and follows, though there is no caller.

Kashmir. Not a pub but a delicious Indian restaurant next to Monroes. Beautifully decorated interior and the serving dishes were stunning.

Brasserie on the Corner. We had a really great late lunch here one day, consisting of soup and brown bread and a bottle of wine. Perfection!

Cliffs of Moher

Another popular tour trip, the Cliffs of Moher are a must-see. They’ve been featured in many movies (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and the Princess Bride, for starters) and are an incredible sight to see. The trip along the way also features some breathtaking scenery.

I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Cliffs of Moher

Travel

Travel guide to Dublin

September 18, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

Up next: Dublin!

Like any big city, there is an insane amount of things you can do and discover. For example, there is the James Joyce Museum and the Museum of Irish Writing. There is the Contemporary Art Museum and St. Stephen’s Green. You could walk up and down Grafton Street, go shopping or take in a play.

You could check out Kilmainham Gaol, Phoenix Park or Trinity College. There’s loads of things to see!

Fan favorites are, of course, the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. Even if you don’t like Guinness (which I didn’t my first time but did the second time), I highly recommend the Storehouse. Insider tip: buy your ticket online. Not only will you save money, you get to skip the ticket line at the Storehouse! Since we were there in the midst of tourist season, this saved us probably two hours.

Guinness birds

Your tour ticket comes with one free pint of Guinness which you can redeem at a few different places in the Storehouse, but by far your best choice is to head up to the Gravity Bar: 360 degree windows offers you the best view of Dublin you’ll find, along with etchings in the glass explaining different landmarks.

Guinness

Pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. Photo courtesy of T. Skoglund.

One non-touristy thing we did was check out a hurling match. Hurling is an Irish sport; it’s a combination of lacrosse, soccer and rugby. A very fast-paced game, the crowds are rowdy and the entire city (and usually the entire country) watches. We managed to catch the semi-finals in the All-Ireland Hurling Championships. None of the players are paid. In fact, Croke Park, where they play, is the largest amateur stadium in the world. AND it’s completely waste-free!

G’won Kilkenny!

Hurling

There were over 37,000 people at this match!

Trinity College is a very prestigious school in Ireland, and in the world. My brother-in-law recently earned his Masters from Trinity! The school is home to a library that is often on lists of the “Top 10 Libraries You Must See Before You Die” and others of the sort. This is because it’s home to the Book of Kells, a handwritten copy of the gospels complete with ornate ornamentation. It’s stunning.

Long Room

But for me, a complete bibliophile, the Long Room is where it’s at. Home to incredibly rare and old manuscripts, only students with special access are allowed to use the books in this part of the library. It is absolutely stunning. No other way to describe it. You need to see it to believe it. Just be careful where you walk—I drooled quite a bit there, ha!

Trinity Library

There is much more to do in Dublin than I’ve listed here. We only spent two-ish days here on this trip, but Dublin could be a trip in an of itself.

Projects

How to: whitewash

September 17, 2015

I have a craft show coming up at the end of September, which isn’t really enough time to do much pottery. Fortunately, I have a few other crafty things I can whip together to fill up the booth space.

One fun and quick make is a cute wooden sign. But instead of leaving the wood bare, I whitewashed it! Here’s my super-quick tutorial for how to whitewash your own wood.

Supplies

Wood

Paint (I used two base colors plus white)

Paintbrush

Cloth rag

Directions

1. Begin by painting your wood whatever base color you want. I had seen a cute tutorial that used leftover blue and green paint samples for the base, which had a nice look when finished. I used one of my teal paint samples I’d used previously in my ombre chairs.

2. Paint your second color over your base color. I used Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter, a matte black that I used on my current dining room table. Because it is water-based, I found one layer to be too thin, so I painted a second coat when the first was dry.

You’ll notice in the photos that the milk paint had some bubbles in it. This is because I didn’t let the paint settle after I mixed it up, since I knew I was going to be painting over and distressing it anyway. If the milk paint was my top coat, I would have let the mixture settle before painting to avoid the bubbles.

3. Once your base coat is dry, you can distress it if you like. I didn’t, only because I knew the whitewash would pull some of the black away since it’s water-based.

4. Mix your white paint with water, about a 1:1 ratio. Since I was doing a small project, I added a few tablespoons of paint to a container and mixed with water.

5. Paint your white over top your base coat and let sit for a minute or two. The key is to let the paint set without completely drying.

6. Now, before your paint dries, take a dry cloth and wipe off your white paint. Here is where you can really make some design decisions. Do you want to take off a lot of white paint to let the base colors shine through, or would you rather leave the white a bit thick and only see a hint of the base color? It’s completely up to you!

7. Now that you have your wood painted, you can add whatever design element you like. I chose to paint a variety of arrows because I think they’re adorable, but you could paint words or names or phrases or any other doodle you like.

Travel

Travel guide to Northern Ireland

September 15, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one, including one about getting around.

First up: The North!

A stunningly beautiful landscape, Northern Ireland is a place full of history and tradition. Part of the United Kingdom, the motorway (freeway) that takes you from the Republic of Ireland to the North does so without fanfare. In fact, the only way we knew we had crossed the border was because the signs had changed from kilometers to miles!

There are many tours that leave from Dublin and go north. Whether you take a day trip or a few days trip, Northern Ireland is definitely worth a visit. (Especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan and want to check out some of the locations they use for filming!)

Belfast

Belfast is a city all its own. While we didn’t spend time there this trip, I have been there on trips previous and it is extremely interesting. If you are at all into history (which you should be if you’re in Ireland!), I would highly recommend a black taxi tour of Belfast. The drivers explain some of the troubled history of the city and the country, including conflicts between Ireland and England and Catholics and Protestants. Super interesting.

Giant’s Causeway

A natural wonder, the Giant’s Causeway takes you to the very tip of Northern Ireland. The entire place is shrouded in folklore and legend. Stacks of hexagonal rock formations from an ancient volcanic eruption line the shoreline.

Giant's Causeway

You can take a bus from the visitor’s center down to the causeway, but we chose to walk. It is a bit of a trek, a little over a half a mile I’d say, but that wasn’t a big deal. The visitor’s center has free handset things to take with if you want a “tour” (these are popping up everywhere, replacing human tour guides). We each took one but only listened to a few of the commentaries—it was more enjoyable just to look around, but they came in handy when we wanted to know why the rocks are hexagonal.

Giant's Causeway panorama

I love the folklore surrounding the causeway. Finn McCool the Irish giant was feuding with a Scottish giant, and the story unfolds from there. There’s even a camel named Humphry!

Giant's Causeway 2

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Fishing was a major industry in Northern Ireland, and salmon runs were (and are) common. Fishermen would string rope bridges from the mainland to island outcrops to get a better location for fishing. That’s what the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge originally was but has since been turned into a tourist attraction. I’m not a fan of heights, so I scurried across this bridge in a hurry, but my brave friend walked slowly and looked down and absolutely loved it.

Rope bridge 2

The entire walk to the rope bridge is incredibly scenic, as is the drive from the causeway to the bridge (only a few miles).

Rope bridge

Bushmills Distillery Tour

The little village of Bushmills was conveniently on our drive, so we just had to stop to do a tour. I’ve been on brewery tours before, but never a distillery tour. One thing I enjoyed about Bushmills is that you walk through the actual distillery, meaning they are making whiskey as you walk through. Sweet!

Bushmills Distillery

And as an added bonus, everyone on the tour gets a Bushmills whiskey of their choice at the end of the tour.
While I don’t have the name of the pub we ate at, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have good food at any pub, affectionately known as “pub grub.” We ate pub grub almost every day on this trip and were never disappointed.

One thing you must try is brown bread and soup. Any kind of soup, though it’s usually some kind of vegetable soup or chowder. Spread some Irish butter on the brown bread, dunk and be prepared to fall in love.

That’s it for this round of travel. Check back, as I have more photos and tips from our trip planned!

Travel

Travel guide to Greensboro, NC

September 10, 2015

Over Labor Day weekend, my mom and I decided to take a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, because why not? We try to do a mini-vacation every summer (usually a 24-hour trip somewhere nearby) but we hadn’t had one yet this year. Since Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, we thought we’d better get going!

Here is my travel guide to Greensboro, North Carolina.

Lodging

Hayens B&B

We stayed at Haynes Bed & Breakfast in downtown Greensboro. It was adorable! The couple was lovely, very knowledgeable about the area, since they live in the home. Similar to most b&bs, the house was complete with beautiful antique pieces. I think my favorites are a tie between the couches and the silver coffee pitcher. Simply stunning! You got to choose what you wanted for breakfast as well each morning, along with what time you’d like it served. Simply wonderful service and a beautiful, comfortable place to stay.

Eat

There were many local restaurants around the downtown area. Though many were closed on Mondays regardless of the holiday, we managed to find a few great places to eat.

Most notably was Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co. We stopped here when we got into town the first night and were not disappointed! They serve their own beer, a wide variety of wines from the state and delicious food. Their veggie burger was house-made, always a good sign, and was way delicious. Paired with their Wildflower Witbier (Belgian-style with citrus flavors), this place was a win for sure. Mom had the Cardinal salad: mixed greens, strawberries, chicken and bacon with a lemon vinaigrette. She gave it two thumbs up, as her mouth was too full to say anything.

Mellow Mushroom pizza

A Southern chain, Mellow Mushroom delivered one of the best pizza-eating experiences I’ve ever had. Their Holy Shiitake Pie was da bomb! And paired with another local beer, Cherchez La Gemme (a milk stout) by Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co, the meal was perfecto.

Do

Bog Garden

The Bog Garden. A really neat garden in the middle of the city, there are plenty of walking paths to keep you busy and wandering for an afternoon.

Iron Gate Winery

Wineries! North Carolina has an abundance of wineries to visit. We checked out Iron Gate Vineyards. Mom had a reisling and I had a chambourcin, which was a perfect dry red. So perfect, in fact, I had to bring a bottle home with me.

Stroll downtown. A very walkable downtown area is complete with an abundance of antique shops! Thankfully for our bank account, many of the shops were closed for Labor Day. But that didn’t stop us from window-shopping and redecorating room after room in our minds!

Woolworth

Visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Again, this was unfortunately closed during our trip, but the entire town is steeped with signs and plaques commemorating different people, buildings, moments from the civil rights movement. There is a ton of history in this little town that a history tour would be well worth the visit.

Overall, I would say check out Greensboro if you’re already in the area. There are plenty of other towns nearby to do a really great road trip.

Where have you been recently that you’ve enjoyed?