Friday finds

Tranquility. Last week, I told you that I was going to a bachelorette party in Vermont (Quechee). I never thought I’d find so much peace at a bachelorette party.

In between the craziness, I found myself feeling so calm and content. Living in an urban area, I don’t often find time to appreciate the outdoors like I once did. But this trip to Vermont brought my appreciation for nature back in .2 seconds. We even saw a Bald Eagle fly right over us while we were tubing down the river!

Waking up to this in the morning was so peaceful.

Ireland

If you know me, you know I am very proud of my Irish heritage. I have been to Ireland a handful of times now, and each time I say “okay, this is the last time for awhile, I need to explore other places.” But, I keep going back. Maybe it’s the beautiful countryside, maybe it’s the friendly locals, it could definitely be the peat fires, or the cozy bars playing traditional Irish music, it could even be the brown bread (which I never liked until this most recent trip!). I think though, it’s how I feel when I’m there. I’m not sure if my body knows that it’s where my roots stemmed, but it certainly knows I’m home when I’m there.

Evan and I went back, for our second trip together this past June. I am ashamed that I am just getting to write about it now, but I have been so busy and honestly, overwhelmed, since we returned, which I’ll get to later.

We flew into Dublin, rented a car, and drove around the beautiful country for six days. Flying from Boston, you arrive at 8am their time, and I don’t sleep on planes. That first day is always difficult but you have to push on through or else you won’t get on their time.

DAY ONE

We arrived in Dublin, and went straight to brunch at The Bakehouse in Dublin, which was recommended to me by my best, Rachel. It was delicious. We had a longgg day ahead of us, so from there we got in our rental car (which Evan drove the whole week, God Bless him), and headed three hours across the country to Galway. Looking back, this was unsafe. It was literally difficult to keep my eyes open during this drive, I don’t know how Evan did it.

Once we arrived, we checked into our hotel, The House Hotel, which was lovely and extremely central. We went to dinner that night to arguably the best fish and chips restaurant in the country, McDonagh’s. We both got fish and chips, obviously, and Galway Hookers (it’s a beer, thank you very much). From there, we went to Tig Choili for a pint of Guinness and a traditional music session.

DAY TWO

The next morning, we woke up refreshed. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Evan and I got up, and headed down the street to the cutest cafe, Coffeewerk+Press. I loved their “take-away” cups. (Side note: I always feel like we wake up too early in Europe. We’re always the first ones out on the street, at 9am! That’s not even early and makes me feel extremely American.)

We decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and go somewhere neither of us had been. We took a one-hour ferry over to Aran Island. It is a beautiful, small island right off of Galway. We rented bicycles to get around the island, and stopped at the beach and saw a dozen seals right on the beach! The bike ride was truly breathtaking.

We had heard that there were cliffs on the islands, similar to the Cliffs of Moher, but rockier. We headed toward the cliffs. It was quite a hike up the cliff, but when you got to the top, it was so worth it. Evan and I found a secluded area, and took a picture together with the ocean and the cliffs in the background. When I turned back around, Evan was down on one knee.

This was the moment. It was our moment. And I, of course, said yes. Forever yes.

I can hardly remember the rest of the day on Aran Island. We didn’t stay much longer, actually.

We took the ferry back to Galway in the afternoon, and made a few phones calls to loved ones. We went out for a celebratory dinner that night. Irish food wasn’t in my mind for celebrating our engagement. I needed champagne and I needed it fast. We walked down the streets of Galway, and stumbled across a French restaurant called Rouge, which looked promising. It was delicious, and perfect! Afterwards, we went to Taaffes for a pint, after all, we were still in Ireland.

DAY THREE

The next morning, we drove three hours down to Killarney, one of my favorite areas of Ireland.

We stayed at The International Hotel, which is the same place we had stayed before and I really like it there! It is also very centrally located. I had scheduled us a couples massage at Muckross Spa, and it was amazing. We got there early to use the vitality room, pool, and lounge area they have, then we got a couples massage and facials. We then got to relax with champagne and chocolates. It was lovely, and just what we needed after all of the traveling we had been doing. An afternoon of relaxation that I would absolutely recommend.

Afterwards, we freshened up and went out to dinner at Cronins. I was in my element at Cronins and had the most delicious brown bread, the best shepherd’s pie (ever), and a Bulmers Irish cider.

DAY FOUR 

Day four, we woke up and drove an hour to Dingle. Dingle is one of my favorite places in the world, it is just that beautiful. The drive to Dingle is amazing with the rolling green hills. In Dingle, we took a boat out and saw Fungi, the Dingle dolphin. It was my first time ever going out to see him, and we saw him a lot! He was everywhere! Afterwards, we went to lunch and walked around the town. We also got ice cream at Murphys Ice Cream, which is handmade in Dingle. I got Dingle sea salt. It started pouring out, so we headed back to Killarney for dinner.

DAY FIVE

This was our last day in Killarney, and we did the Killarney Falconry. It was SO cool. We got to walk around with a hunting falcon, and hang out with three of the coolest owls. I love owls and this was really just an amazing activity that I would do ten times over again.

Afterwards, we drove almost four hours back to our original, and final, destination: Dublin. We checked into our hotel, Clontarf Castle Hotel, which was incredible. It is just about 20 minutes outside of Dublin city centre, but so. worth. it. It’s an actual castle, and they treat you like royalty. Next time I am back in Dublin, I will be staying here again.

That night, we met my family at Arlington Hotel for dinner and a show of traditional Irish music and dance. It was so great to see them and have Evan meet some of my family who still lives over in Ireland.

DAY SIX

This was it, our last day. The next morning we would head to the airport and go back home to start our new lives together.

Our last day in Ireland, we spent exploring Dublin. We walked through Trinity College, Temple Bar, St. Stevens Green, and Grafton Street. We stopped to get cheeseburgers at Bunsen Burger, mmmm. Then, we walked over to the Guinness Factory, which neither of us had ever been to before. It was great, we went through the whole tour, and got to pour our own Guinness’s. It really is worth it.

This past trip to Ireland was a dream, and I brought home the best souvenir, a fiancé. I swear, this will be our last trip to Ireland for a while … maybe …

TBT: Italy

I was reminded, thanks to TimeHop, that I was in Italy four years ago this week. Sigh. What I’d give to be right back there right now.

I remember hearing that it “wasn’t the best time to go to Italy.” Well, I’ve also been there in March, and I’d say December, in fact, is the best time to go to Italy. So there. Italy goes BIG on Christmastime, and being there to see the beautiful lights and Christmas decorations was AMAZING to me.

tree

My mom made the entire itinerary, and what an amazing trip she came up with. We visited Florence and Rome.

We started off in Florence and visited the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and the museum where David is nakie. I remember being excited to try Florence’s hot chocolate, which is much thicker than ours. One of the days, we ventured into Tuscany, about an hour away up a mountain, to a wine tour and tasting in Chianti. The region is beautiful, with rows of grapes for miles and miles. I thought it was so neat to think that those grapes would soon be made into wine and sent all around the world.

chianit1

wine

On the way back to Florence, we stopped by this tiny little town in the Chianti region, called Greve (pronounced ‘Gravy’). The day was just winding down, and the sun was beginning to set. We made it there just as they were starting the town’s Christmas tree lighting in the center of town. We got to see families celebrating with their children, and it was such a nice moment. There were little shops throughout the town and a cafe that we explored before heading back into Florence.

mi

We visited a restaurant in Florence, La cucina del Garga, which was delicious and for some reason, they kept all the liquor bottles we were drinking on OUR table. Someone else would ask for a drink, they’d take it from our table to pour them a drink, then give it back to us. Fine with us. I think we finished the whole bottle of grappa.

candle

Another memorable thing we did was a cooking class, by Florence Cooking Classes. We started off going to a local marketplace, where we got to sample many different foods, and picked out all of the food we would need. We made pasta (of course), ravioli, and tiramisu. The pasta we made was one of the best meals I had in all of Italy. SO good. They even sent us home with the recipe, which I tried to replicate last year.

cooking

cookngclass

cooking2

cooking1

The next stop was Rome. I have heard people say that Rome isn’t their favorite, and that it’s a dirty city. I object. I love Rome for all that it is – and it’s a lot. Between the old, narrow cobblestone streets – the FOOD and shopping – the history – the people, I love it all. While in Rome, we did all of the usual – the Spanish Steps (where I got my first pair of Jimmy Choos), the Colosseum, made a wish in the Trevi Fountain, and even got a private tour of the Vatican!

trevi

Sometimes when I’m having a REALLY GOOD moment, I’ll mentally store it in a special place. I’ll tell myself that whenever I’m unhappy, go back to that moment. I’ve only done it for a few special times, but I’m good to my word in going back to my happy moments when I’m feeling distressed. I had one of these moments in Rome, and I believe it is my favorite moment of all my happy moments. Here it is:

Surrounded by the people I love most, my Mom, Dad, and my brother, Matt, we were in Rome, sitting in a room filled with people having their own conversations. We had wine and dark chocolate, which we learned pairs well. A man was playing the piano. And in that moment, life was absolutely perfect.

moment

Cheers!

Will travel for coffee

I feel that I could spend most of my lifetime in a coffee shop and be completely OK with that. Cozy. Modern. Bright. Dark. Filled with books. Filled with music. I don’t care. All cafes radiate an E N E R G Y that comes from more than just the espresso.

Confession: My first Starbucks was in London. This is SO sad. IF I COULD go back to my 17-year-old self, I’d trip myself crossing the street to get that stupid caramel macchiato. GET CULTURED, you’re in London. Regrets.

Just about ten years later, I lust over the opportunity to find unique and independent cafes when I’m in a new area. I think I would travel to a new city solely to visit a cute cafe.

Like this one, Granja Petitbo in Barcelona. Take me awaayyyyyy…….

cafe1

cafe2

barcelona

Cheers!

Rhode Island in the summer

I know, I know — I left Rhode Island over three years ago, and have always looked back. I don’t even think it’s just my love for the State anymore though. Seriously — Rhode Island has a LOT to offer, especially in the beautiful weather.

Things to do in Rhode Island this summer:

Providence:

WaterFire

wf_hero

Roger Williams University

If you have never been, this is a must-do. From sunset to midnight most Saturday nights throughout the summer, the river that goes through the middle of Providence is lit up. It is very romantic, with music playing as the gondolas float down the river lighting the fire. My favorite part of WaterFire is the smell of blazing cedar and pine. There are also many street performers and food trucks around. A perfect plan: get into Providence and grab dinner somewhere downtown, once the sun sets, head on over and enjoy the scenery. WaterFire is free to attend.

Rooftop at G

This is somewhat new, and very cool. Begin your night lounging by a fire pit up on the rooftop, watch the sun set, and enjoy a pizza and cocktail. It sounds perfect. They have a “chowdah” pizza, that I have been dying to try: topped with smoked bacon, native clams, potatoes and oyster crackers ($19). MMMMM. And, they have a DJ every night. Well, aren’t you trying to be perfect, G.

Drinks at The Dorrance

Want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time? Stop by The Dorrance, right in the heart of Providence for a drink. The interior is stunning, and the bar specializes in cleverly named cocktails.

Sit outside in Federal Hill

hotel-dolce-villa

TripAdvisor

Some of my favorite memories in Providence were just sitting outside in DePasquale Square. Right at the top of Federal Hill, is an outdoor area that looks like it came right out of a picture of Italy. On summer nights, they have live performers playing music in the square, and some couples will get up and dance, right there in the middle of the City. Grab some Italian food at a restaurant on Federal Hill (some favorites: Costantino’s Venda Bar & Ristorante, Old Canteen, Siena). But, save some room for dessert and stop by Pastiche on your way out. You will not be sorry.

Southern RI:

Block Island

rocks

Ever been to a tropical island? Well, you don’t need to. Just take a 1 hour ferry and welcome to PARADISE. Block Island is mind-blowing for how fun it is, and stunningly gorgeous at the same time. Seriously, save your $$$$ flying somewhere, and make a weekend stop here. Must do: rent a moped to get you around the island, get a drink on the beach at Ballard’s, build a rock stack at Mohegan Bluffs. Dying to go ASAP.

The Coast Guard House

Whether you’re looking to have lunch outside, or just a drink on the deck overlooking the ocean, The Coast Guard House is always a go-to.

Check out Jim’s Dock

Stop by Jim’s Dock for dinner and enjoy the sunset right on the water. The restaurant is BYOB, so be sure to bring your favorite wine or beer to accompany a great seafood dish. It is also dog friendly if you want to bring your favorite little buddy.

Newport:

You cannot go wrong being in Newport in the summer. The upside: there is SO much to do. The downside: this is the most well-known area in RI, so there will be lots of tourists/congestion. But, again, there is so much to do for couples, friends, and/or families.

Some popular festivals in Newport:

Newport Folk Festival July 22-24

Newport Jazz Festival July 29-31

Bowen’s Wharf 26th Annual Seafood Festival October 15-16

Get lunch at The Chanler’s restaurant, The Spiced Pear

I already told you about this one. Have you really not done it yet?

Sunset at Ocean Drive

newport sunset

Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine, and some cheese and crackers and head to Ocean Drive just before sunset. It will be one of the most beautiful sights you have ever seen.

Cheers!

Proud to be an American

How appropriate that I am writing this post just before Memorial Day, a day for remembrance of those who died in active military service.

The drive from Reims to Normandy was a long one – about 5 and a half hours. We only had ONE day in Normandy, so we needed to make it worthwhile. We got up at 5am and got on the road.

Evan is a fantastic European driver. He drove us around in Ireland, where they drive on the other side of the road, so I totally trusted him in France (they drive on our side). We had no GPS, so we were kind of just wingin’ it. We finally made it to Normandy, after a wild search for coffee and only getting on a few wrong highways.

sign

Side note: Let me stop here and talk a bit about my knowledge of DDay, and when I got so into this. Two years ago, I knew the term DDay, I even knew the date (solely because it’s exactly one month before my birthday). I didn’t know nearly what I should have to be able to appreciate the men who gave their lives for our country that day. When we were planning a trip to France, Evan, the WWII buff, HAD to go to Normandy, which I was totally open to. However, I knew it wouldn’t be as meaningful for me to go there having such little knowledge, so I changed that. I bought the book “The Longest Day,” by Cornelius Ryan. I thought it was going to be a difficult book for me to get through, since my typical genre is love/romance/comedy. This book was amazing and I got completely absorbed in it. I learned so much, gained an interest, cried a lot, and could not put it down. This totally got me interesting in all things DDay, and WWII.

We went directly to Omaha Beach. My initial thought was how gorgeous it is. It’s a beach that people still utilize today – and it is beautiful. This made it very hard to imagine what happened here. There are memorials along the wall, explaining that day. On June 6, 1944, very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses (Germans) were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing U.S. troops. Something I’ve never been able to get out of my head: the men who landed on this beach were so young. They were individuals, with lives and personalities, love and families. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that they had on that boat ride from England to France. They gave their entire life to fight for what was right, to fight for America, and to give us, and our allies our freedom. As President Harry Truman put it:

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” 

omaha

omaha2

omaha3

Next, we went directly to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. This took my breath away to see how many gravestones are here – over 9,000 Americans. They keep the grounds in immaculate condition. I was surprised that every stone has the name, and the troops are actually buried there. Previously, I thought it was just a memorial, but it is actually a cemetery and the gravestones have their name, which state they were from, the date that they passed, and which unit they were part of. There were a few we saw that the troop was unidentifiable, and the stone read “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” It was incredibly moving to be here.

soldier

“If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked was enough soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”  

General Mark W.Clark

cemetery

 

Our final stop was Pointe du Hoc, where U.S. troops did what was considered the impossible and entered the enemy territory by scaling the cliffs. The U.S. bombed this area five times before DDay, and the massive holes from the explosions are still there today — they are everywhere.

du hoc

It made me incredibly proud to be an American to see all of these sites. Many restaurants and homes in the Normandy area still today fly the American flag. It is amazing to think back to those dark days for the people in France, and how the flag gave them hope, and in the end gave them their freedoms back.

“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” — General John J. Pershing

Please take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to give thanks and remember the brave men and women who have given their lives for our country and our freedom.