Search This Blog

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Miserable Weather, but “Hey, it’s Ireland!” Part 1

When we decided to go to Ireland for our honeymoon in March we knew the elements would be...interesting. This is a warning that it was pretty miserable weather-wise that time of year, HOWEVER, it's Ireland, so you can't complain too much.

We suggest packing layers that cover the following:
  • rain
  • freezing rain
  • wind
  • cold 
  • did we say wind?
Scott and I are outdoorsy people, so we’re use to dealing with the elements, but it was definitely something else to plan a day of outside touristy activities/sites when you’re freezing and did not plan on it. There was no way we were pouting around and missing anything though, and that was one thing I thought Scott and I did really well. Even though it was crazy weather and neither one of us wanted to be out, we were both determined to make the best of it. So, we bundled up and hit our first site of the day - Cahir Castle.

Cahir Castle is one of the largest and best preserved castles in Ireland and dates basically from the 12th century. This was what I had in mind as a castle, and we were definitely the ONLY people there which made the tour that much more awesome. See, crappy weather is good for one thing - nobody else wants to be out in it either, so you get an entire castle all to yourself!

Cahir Castle
(It was so much fun to have this entire thing to explore all on our own!)

We left Cahir and went north west to site #2 - the Rock of Cashel (pronounced like “castle” with an “sh” instead of “st,” not “ca-shell”). We arrived around lunch time and when we got out of the car the wind just hit us. Note to anyone going to the Rock of Cashel, it is on its own hill, meaning it is extremely exposed. We made it half-way up the hill to the entrance and we both turned to each other and said, “scratch this for a while, let’s go get food and beer.” We walked a way into town to get out of the wind and found the coolest little family owned restaurant, Ryan’s Daughters, where we split the best meal I think I had of the trip - chicken and mushroom pie with mashed potatoes and pureed squash. And again, we were the only people there - we were so spoiled!  (Scott: I don’t even like mushrooms and it was REALLY good.) Unfortunately, we cannot figure out if the restaurant is still open which is a bummer. If anyone knows anything please comment below.

It was a little windy! 
 
Yes, that's a piece that fell off and it was taller than Scott.

Bellies warm, we made the walk (Scott: leaning trek) up to the Rock of Cashel again and it was amazing! Despite the cold and wind, I was so glad we decided to make the stop. The entire complex is going through a restoration process, so parts were closed off, but you could still go inside the cathedral and you just looked up: 30ft high vaulted arches with complete view of the naive, facade, and choir sections. There were multiple intact relief sculptures as well (yes, art history nerd right here). And what made it even better was that my husband appreciated the art aspect too and I really think that is what makes trips together so nice - I obviously found one with similar interests, huh?

 The entire complex was massive and, as you can see, quite impressive.

 Close up of some of the sculptures inside. 

 Another close up of some of the sculptures inside.

So, if you find yourself in County Tipperary in March, here's our list one more time:
  1. Cahir Castle
  2. Rock of Cashel
  3. And bring layers of clothes!
If anyone has any information on Ryan's Daughters or recommends another great restaurant to recommend near the Rock of Cashel let us know!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Virginia Appalachian Trail: Backpack Reeds Gap to Rockfish Gap

If you have someone who is willing to drop you off and pick you up, the Appalachian Trail in Virginia between Reeds Gap and Rockfish Gap is a great three day, no-rush hike. Reeds Gap and Rockfish Gap trailheads are right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, so they are easy to find and this section of the AT has great views, but it is no easy stroll - pack lite and get ready for some serious hills!

Note: We usually get a chance to take this trip in the summer, so please pay attention to the weather and pack accordingly. This description is for a July/August hike and the temperatures were in the 80s during the day and 60s at night. During this time of year, rain showers are always a possibility and during our most recent trip it rained off and on every day, so this will also affect your packing list. But remember, embrace the weather and love the rain - you're on the AT, everyone smells. 

Reeds Gap trail head is located where HWY 664 intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway and that area of Virginia is in Nelson County. Nelson County has some fantastic craft breweries and wineries - there is a cider house and a meadery down there too, so before you start hiking, you might want to think about spending some time on Route 151, or Nelson 151. My husband and I always meander our way down to the trail head and get a solid meal and a local beer in preparation for three days of trail food, extra carbs, right?!

This section of the AT is less than 20-miles, so we totally realize that thru-hikers knock it out in a day, but for us, this hike is about getting outside, so we do not rush it and we take every side trail. On day #1 we usually get on the trail late afternoon and put in about 4 miles of hiking. This trek has almost NO flat section, so we're going about 2 miles an hour. The ups are pretty brutal and you take the downs slow. During these first 4 miles you'll get to experience the Three Ridges Overlook and Cedar Cliffs where you get some of the best views of the Virginia hills (and the exposed rock outcroppings in this section are a stark contrast to all the green). Note: if you cannot get someone to pick you up/drop you off, there is a Three Ridges Loop that might interest you because you can leave your car.

Camp day #1 is just off the trail because that's the only option. We prefer hammocks on the AT vs. a tent because:
  1. they are light,
  2. they are quick to put up/pack up, 
  3. they are more comfy, and 
  4. they dry faster. 
Plus, you are not lacking in trees and there are plenty of areas right off the trail to stop for the night. Remember you are in bear country (black bears), so we always pack rope to hang our packs. Here is is a great site for some extra AT safety tips.
Day #2 is when we put in the most hiking and our goal is the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter, about 10 more miles. On this section you get a fantastic side trail to Humpback Rocks that overlooks the whole valley and you can even see the Wintergreen Ski Resort. Bear Spring is a nice spot for a breather and a water refill. Note: this section of the trail does not have much water, so we usually bring 3 liters each in CamelBaks. And don't forget your water filter + purification system (we have a Katadyn Hiker microfilter, but there are many to choose from). The Paul C. Wolfe Shelter is located on a beautiful, rushing (and cold!) stream and has plenty of room to spread out and relax. The Shelter is also at a lower elevation, so you're going relatively downhill and it is a nice spot to meet and talk to other hikers - it just says "stop here and rest a while." Because we sleep in hammocks we do not set up camp in the shelter, but if you have a tent or a sleeping pad there are top and bottom bunking sections.

** Warning about shelters: there are mice! You would be amazed how much a little mouse can destroy your pack or clothes. **

Day #3 is a five mile trek to Rockfish Gap where we finish up our trip. You gain back some elevation on this section and this is where we usually see (or hear) bears. You are in pretty thick forest and past the rock outcrops by this point. On one trip, my husband counted NINE bears between the Shelter and Rockfish Gap, but we have never had any issues.

North or southbound, this section of the AT is definitely worth checking out - have fun!

Pack List

SUMMER List:
  • hiking shoes/boots (my hubby is a minimalist and wears Vibrams and I prefer trail running shoes to boots, but it's your choice)
  • sandals for camp (I just strap my Tevas to my pack)
  • 1 set breathable clothes for the day (we usually hike in athletic shorts and synthetic shirts and wear the same stuff every day, NO cotton)
  • extra pair of clothes for camp/night 
  • pack (I LOVE my Deuter) + rain cover
  • water (we each set up 3 liter CamelBaks in our packs)
  • purification system + filter
  • food (for three days we do not bring anything hot, so no stove = less weight)
  • rain jacket/gear (we usually do not even bother, but this is a personal preference as well)
  • hammock + fly/rope (because it will rain and you want to stay dry while sleeping)
  • extra rope to hang our packs
  • first aid kit
  • pocket knife/tool
  • flint/matches
  • sewing repair kit
  • minimal toiletries + trowel
  • head lamp

Trail Type:
Point-to-Point

Distance:
20 Miles (+ as many side trails as you want to take)

 You really cannot beat the views on this part of the AT!

Follow the white markings...

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Castle Experience and a Lesson About Small Town Ireland in the Off Season

In 2013 my husband and I went to Ireland on our Honeymoon and if you've been following our travels, you know we had a wonderful trip, but we definitely learned some lessons about off season logistics...

By day five of our twelve-day trip we were getting into the part of our vacation that was less planned. Because of that, we had to be more aware of:
  1. how much time we wanted to spend at each place, 
  2. how late in the day it was getting as we came to new places, 
  3. and where we were planning on staying the night. 
We went in March and our original plan was to rely on hostels and bed and breakfasts, but what we did not realize was that during the off season this was not always such a good idea. (Scott: Note to anyone traveling in the off season: its the off season... which means not so good business for hostel/B&B owners and they often take months off. This was interesting to learn the hard way.)
We rented a car, so day #5 took us from Glendalough west to Kilkenny where I got to experience my first castle! Over eight centuries old, Kilkenny Castle started as a stronghold fort on the river, and then became a residence. In the mid-1900s the Office of Public Works took over the building and it has gone through a huge restoration project (part of which is still going on). I won’t lie when I say I was a little disappointed in this being my first “castle” because it was more like a mansion. I am a dork and really wanted to see things like a dungeon and not a gilded ceiling. I think Scott knew the type of castle I wanted to see, so we left Kilkenny and went a little off the route to the town of Cahir (pronounced “care”). (Scott: Note to husbands - if your baby wants a dungeon give her a dungeon. Once she has checked a few things off her list then you can negotiate from a much better position for random things like “the highest pub in Ireland” if that is not her thing. Which I would like to point out is my baby’s thing, so I double lucked out!)

 Kilkenny Castle

Sam's a sucker for a cool, old door.

Cahir was about an hour and a half from Kilkenny which put us in the town around 5:30pm. (Scott: We decided to take the detour so she could get her dungeon. This is another reason to plan a significant amount of wiggle room into your itinerary. DO NOT PLAN EVERY MINUTE. Your love life will thank you.) The castle was closed for the evening, so our first priority was to check into the hostel on the square to give us the rest of the evening to relax. The problem was, however, that we could not find the hostel, so after we walked around for about 30 minutes we ended up at a pub and started talking to people about where to stay. One guy suggested a bed and breakfast right down the street from the pub, so we left to check it out, (Scott: walking, mind you) just to find out that ALL the bed and breakfasts in town were closed for the season.



Cahir Castle Entrance

Back of Cahir Castle (it was a beautiful walk in general too)

By this point we had spent over an hour trying to find someplace to stay and both of us decided that this was not how we wanted to spend our evening. Instead, we sucked it up and stayed at the Cahir House Hotel in the middle of the square - it cost us more than we thought it should in the off season, but we were able to spend the evening relaxing at a pub instead of stressing over where to stay.  

So, just to make sure the lessons sink in here is our list so you do not make the same mistakes:
  1. leave wiggle room in your travel plans
  2. don’t stress the little things and be forgiving because mistakes happen, it's nobody's fault
  3. March is off season in Ireland
  4. check your definition of a castle
  5. hostels and bed and breakfasts in smaller towns close during the off season
  6. check and make sure hostels and bed and breakfasts actually exist first 
  7. if you want to experience Sam's kind of castle (aka the type with a dungeon and built in the 12th century), she preferred Cahir Castle to Kilkenny Castle
More Ireland itineraries and tips coming soon...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dinosaur National Monument: Hiking the Desert Voices and Sound of Silence Trails

Beautiful desert views, lots of geological diversity, 100+ lizard sightings, and the most philosophical trail plaques I've ever seen await you at Dinosaur National Monument...



Overview:
These two trails can be done separately, but the Sound of Silence Trail links up with the Desert Voices Nature Trail in Dinosaur National Monument for a beautiful morning or evening desert hike. For its length you get to really enjoy the topography of the area as the hike takes you through a wash bed and up into the red hills and you even end with some slick rock scrambling. The trails also include informational and education plaques and, personally, I have never seen more reflective and intentional trail narration - kudos to Dinosaur for actually making people think.

Directions:
To get to the Sound of Silence trail head from the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument in Jensen, UT stay on US 149 past the visitor center and you will see parking parallel to the road in about 2 miles on your left. The views are amazing as soon as you get on 149 driving into the park as you follow the Green River and get closer to the beautifully colored desert sandstone cliffs and hills. The vegetation is mostly sagebrush and cotton wood trees, so you really get the stark desert contrasts of green, grey, and red.


The Trails:
We hiked the Sound of Silence Trail clockwise and the first section follows a wash bed through low-lying scrubs. As the trail cuts west, you find yourself at the bottom of a twisty-turning little canyon where the wash has really cut away and you get to look up at all the rock formations including the largest, Split Mountain. This section has some pretty tight sections where two people definitely cannot hike side-by-side. As the trail turns east you come out of the wash and gain some elevation and great views of the geological features. As I mentioned in the overview section up top, the trail is marked with numerous informational and educational plaques so our rock-geek-selves really enjoyed learning about the different layers exposed and how much the landscape has changed (this whole area is sedimentary).


About 2-miles into the hike a 1/4-mile connector links the Sound of Silence Trail to the Desert Voices Trail which adds another 1.5 miles and loops back to the connector so you can finish Sound of Silence. The Desert Voices Trail takes you up the side of the canyon to the east and gives you some more height (you continue looping south and then west back to Sound of Silence). The trail markers on this section are the ones I really want to highlight. They not only include interesting information on the flora, fauna, and natural formations, but they took it to a whole new level and included on-going questioning about local economical and ecological issues, water use, land rights, ranching, and invasive species. My husband and I usually get into philosophical conversations when we hike, but we have never had the trail markers start prompting discussions. It was quite the unexpected treat and we kept talking about things long after the hike was over.


When you connect back to the Sound of Silence Trail the last section takes you to the south and you get a taste of what they mean by "slick rock." We hike with poles (I have Leki trekking poles) so we did not have to scramble much, but there were some steep sections. You leave the sandstone and drop down back into the wash area from the beginning and into the sagebrush to end out your hike.
 

The elevation gains on this hike were not very extreme for us, but this is desert hiking, so bring plenty of water. We did this hike in the summer, so we would recommend an early start or wait until the evening as the majority of the trail is exposed. The trail is open year-round though. While the rocks and colors were enough for us, I did want to note that we did not see much wildlife (unless you count lizards).


Pack List

  • CamelBak w/ water (I have a 2-liter pack and my husband has a 3-liter pack and we were both almost out by the end)
  • hiking shoes or boots (I prefer to hike in my trail running shoes, but this hike involves uneven rocky surfaces and slick sections, so wear what you need to be comfortable and safe)
  • breathable clothing (it was hot in the summer even though we started early)
  • trekking poles (I never hike without mine)
  • hat (it's a very exposed trail)
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
Skill Level:
Moderate+ (due to terrain and exposure)

Season:
Year Round

Trail Type:
Loop

Distance:
4.7 Miles

Elev. Gain:
340 Feet

The different colors really made this hike interesting.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Make Some Damn Good Pies #3: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie Recipe Inside!


It's already been established that I love pie, so here are some fun pie facts before my next recipe:
  1. Pies have (apparently) been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians.
  2. Traditionally, pies were made predominately of meat. 
  3. Queen Elizabeth I (apparently) loved cherry pies.
  4. Pumpkin pie made it's appearance at the second Thanksgiving.
  5. In the 1800s fruit pies were actually a popular BREAKFAST.
You're welcome. So, as a thank you for bearing with my pie trivia, below is the recipe for my Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie - enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
1 C apple butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 half and half

pie crust of your choice

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prepare your pie crust in a pie pan and set aside
  3. In a large bowl whisk eggs, pumpkin, apple butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and then stir in half and half until smooth
  4. Pour mixture into pie shell and place in oven
  5. After 10 minutes reduce temperature to 350 degrees
  6. Bake until the center of the pie is set, about 35 to 40 minutes
  7. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream!

I decided to top this beauty with pecan halves!

PS - If you are in Virginia in May, you should definitely check out the Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival and try my award-winning pies!

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Make Some Damn Good Pies #2: MARBLED CHOCOLATE RUM CREAM PIE Recipe Inside!


So, as the title suggests, this is my second post about the amazing pies I make and have the blue ribbons to write home about. For those of you who did not have a chance to check out the first post here with my award winning Pear, Cranberry, and Ginger Pie this is your chance to replicate some yummy goodness. I am of the opinion that you really do not need an excuse to make a pie (or eat a pie for that matter) and will take a well-made pie over a cake any day.

Below are just a few reasons why I am a #1 pie fan:
  1. Pies are more creative. You can have a traditional flaky crust, graham cracker crust, Girl Scott cookie crust (yes, trust me, it's as amazing as it sounds), or no crust at all. You can put crumble on top, whipped cream, fruit, more whipped cream - and I'm convinced that crisps and cobblers are just pies in disguise, so throw those in as well. Oh, and then there are strudels - yes, this falls into my pie category too.
  2. Pies can fit the seasons better and highlight all the wonderful different foods that are available at different times of the year. If it's autumn time you can sit around with your fluffy sweater and enjoy a pumpkin pie slice or two. If it's summer you can have a bite of a light lemon custard topped with fresh berries from your back yard.
  3. Cheesecake is in fact a pie and you will not convince me otherwise. 
  4. Pies can be savory (and I might be nice and publish an entire post series on the amazing-ness of quiches and pot pies). 
  5. You eat pie on Pi Day.
  6. Pie pairs better with beer - enough said.
One of my favorites types of pies are cream pies (and I put as much whipped cream as I can on top), so, I hope you enjoy the recipe below for my MARBLED CHOCOLATE RUM CREAM PIE:

Ingredients

crust of your choice - we prefer a graham cracker crust for this one
** Note: If you want to use a traditional pie crust you have to bake it first, this is a NO BAKE pie

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3/4 C sugar, divided
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
1 C milk
1/4 dark rum
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla

Directions

Step #1
  1. Using a double boiler mix the gelatin, 1/4 C sugar, and the salt
  2. Then beat in the egg yolks and milk
  3. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture is slightly thickened
  4. Then remove from heat
  5. Add the chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly blended and all the chocolate is melted
  6. Chill chocolate mixture until thickened and then add the rum and set aside
Step #2
  1. In a bowl beat the egg whites until foamy, gradually adding 1/4 C sugar and then beat until stiff
  2. Fold the chocolate mixture from Step #1 and the egg whites
Step #3
  1.  In another bowl whip the cream with the remaining 1/4 C sugar and vanilla until stiff
Step #4
  1. Prepare your crust
  2. Alternate the chocolate mixture and the whipped cream in the pie shell
  3. Swirl with a spoon for a marbled effect and then chill until firm
DELICIOUSNESS WARNING: You will have a TON of left over filling and this can easily make two pies. HOWEVER, what I like to do is pour the mixtures into serving dishes and just have chocolate rum mousse with whipped cream. Chill it just like the pie so it can set.


Feel free to drool...

 This recipe brought home a blue ribbon at 
in May of 2017.

If you have a great cream pie recipe please send it my way!

For more information about my pies or culinary delights in general, check out the Instagram feed on my family's B&B in Virginia, the Uphill House Bed and Breakfast, where not only am I a co-owner but I am the chef-in-residence with my mom, Suzanne.

Happy baking!

Friday, May 26, 2017

I Make Some Damn Good Pies: Pear, Cranberry, and Ginger Pie Recipe Inside!

So, if you did not know already, my family owns the Uphill House B&B in the little town of Gordonsville in Central Virginia, and as the "chef in residence" I make a mean breakfast, but I also just like to cook and bake in general. I would have never imagined that my culinary skills would actually make money, let along bring home blue ribbons. Yes, that's right, I totally compete in local festivals, and for the last three years my pies have won first place at the Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival. The Fried Chicken Festival happens the third weekend in May each year and Gordonsville in general is a really cute town, so you should really come check in out (and we might know a great place for you to stay).

Anyway, while my pie crust recipe will remain sealed and locked I wanted to share one of my recipes that brought home the blue:

Fruit Category: Pear, Cranberry, and Ginger Pie

Ingredients:

1/3 C sugar
2 TBS flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6 ripe, but still firm pears (your choice of pear, but we're partial to the Bartlett), sliced
1 C fresh cranberries (you can use dried cranberries if you can't find fresh, but if you do, use 3/4 C)

pie crust of your choice

Optional:
1 TBS 1/2 & 1/2
sugar and cinnamon mix for sprinkling on top

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, nutmeg, and ginger; then add the pear slices and cranberries and toss to coat.
  3. Prepare your pie crust and fill with the pear mixture.
  4. Optional: We like to coat our pie crust with a little 1/2 & 1/2 and sprinkle a sugar/cinnamon mix on top.
  5. Bake pie for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the pears are soft.
  6. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or over ice cream!
Note: I do not like following recipes, so feel free to add your own twists. 

Not only is it delicious, but it's a pretty pie!

Let us know if you try this one and also if you make any modifications. There are more to come, so keep watching our posts.

My wall of blue ribbons - gotta love small town festivals!

Happy Baking!!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Road Trip from Dublin to Glendalough: It Begins on the Wrong Side of the Road (God Help Us)

For our Honeymoon to Ireland we decided to bravely rent a car vs. taking the train. Even though this was our first experience as a couple driving on the "wrong" (left) side of the road, this was the best decision we made and we had so much flexibility.

Below is a run down of the first leg of our Ireland road trip from Dublin to Glendalough, about 70 km south or a little over an hour drive, and some things we learned along the way:  
  • After a porridge breakfast (I decided to switch it up and have a non-meat based start to my day), we got on the road and headed south from Dublin toward our first “planned” destination - Glendalough (pronounced glen-da-lock). To give you an idea of our thought process, we basically Googled out a general route for our trip and for the first few days went ahead and got hotels until we were a bit more comfortable. (Scott: This seems pretty simple, but it was anything but and actually gives an interesting insight into marriage. My inclination was to plan nothing and hers to plan everything. After some “discussion” we figured out that she was not as comfortable given this was her first trip to Europe. Thus, we developed a compromise where we planned out the beginning “until we were comfortable” and then had some “wing it” worked into the end. I strongly suggest this process for others with similar dynamics.) 
  • The drive to Glendalough was only an hour, but we took our time. (Scott: And by this she means drove VERY slowly through Dublin and freaked out with our first highway/120km/h experience!) We drove through the village of Roundwood and learned that the Monday after St. Patty’s Day is a holiday, so almost everything was closed. We were able, though, to discover the “highest pub in Ireland;” The Vartry House’s pub, Kavanaghs, at a staggering (sic) 800 ft. above sea level!  This is also where I discovered liquid crack and my drink of the trip - a Smithwick’s Shandy (or a “Smiddick’s” Shandy). This ambrosia consists of Smithwick’s beer and red lemonade - which is some red carbonated yummy-goodness - wow!  (Scott: She downplays the awesomeness that was this pub. Ok, maybe not awesome, but the bartender was tons of fun to talk to and they had a fire. That qualifies it for awesome right? She does not, however, downplay how much she enjoyed this new drink.) 
  • The drive into Glendalough (County Wicklow) (Scott: Irish Counties = American States) was absolutely beautiful and I became quite obsessed with the number of sheep that are in Ireland. Glendalough is a glacial valley and right in the heart of the Wicklow “mountains” (Scott does not think anything smaller than the Rockies should be considered mountains). (Scott: Amen.) In addition to being an area of hiking trails and scenic routes, Glendalough is home to a 6th century monastic site founded by Saint Kevin. The hotel we stayed at, appropriately named the Glendalough Hotel, was right at the edge of the site. Side note on the hotel; it was a little expensive for the off-season (over 120 Euros a night), but the rooms were clean, breakfast was included, and it was within walking distance of the monastic site and hiking trails.
  • The site itself was impressive, and no matter how many castles or ruins we visited, I continued to be amazed the whole trip at the history. I do not think Americans truly appreciate how much older the rest of the world is and how we have NOTHING like this. Being a bit of an art history nerd, I was in awe the whole trip. (Scott: She has gazillions of pictures to prove it.) Right off the hotel’s deck was the original arch and wall into the “monastic city,” which consisted of a completed and roofed stone cathedral, 30m (90ft) tall round tower, numerous other building ruins, and an extensive graveyard which is still in use by the local community. The ruins are right in the middle of the valley and you can see the lower and upper lake from the hotel. There was an easy trail from the site around both lakes which allowed you to just take in the solitude and beauty of the valley. The one thing we enjoyed the most was seeing all the different stone walls throughout the valley - they were everywhere! (Scott: and by “everywhere” she means that the Irish are basically obsessed with stacking rocks on top of each other, everywhere, through everything... seriously, we will cover this later but there were rock walls on barren rock hills... I guess to keep the rock from running away.) 
  • After our hike, we went into the town of Laragh (la-rock) for dinner (about a 10 minute walk down the road from the hotel). We were not in town during the “busy season,” so the shops and Bed and Breakfasts were not open, but we really did not mind (Scott: Seriously, of all the places we went this ranks in the top two, especially if you like outdoorsy stuff.)
If Glendalough is in your plans please let us know if you need any help planning your trip or if you have any other suggestions for readers please comment below!


 The “highest pub in Ireland” where I was introduced to red lemonade, so good!
 The beautiful Glendalough Hotel situated right in the valley next to the monastic site. It was the perfect location for hiking as well.

The most well known landmark of the Glendalough Monastic City is the 33 meter tall Round Tower.
Me and my hubby taking one of many hikes around the site and through the valley.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Day #2: St. Paddy's Day in Dublin - to do or not to do?

When we found ourselves in Dublin during St. Patrick's Day there was no way we were leaving the city center, but after dealing with the tourists and crowds we think we'd prefer something a little more low-key next time. What's your opinion? 

Here are some of the main points (and lessons learned) from our experience:
  • Book your hotel early! We had to stay about 20 minutes outside of Dublin at the Marine Hotel in Sutton. It was a great hotel though and was right across the road from the train station, so we did not mind. 
  • Due to the crowds, the main station, Tara Station, was closed, and we had to get off at Pierce (and we did not figure this out until we were already on the train - oops). So, naturally, this meant we were turned around a little when we got off the train, but all we had to do was follow the crowd (Scott: like good little Irish sheep - we will cover that later) and we found ourselves right on the parade route south east of Temple Bar. 
  • I think there were more tourists/foreigners in the city than locals, and the people-watching was FANTASTIC! (Scott: and by "FANTASTIC" we mean ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND HILARIOUS!)
  • Scott and I definitely felt a little "under-dressed" in just our green hat and scarf, but we were at least warm. The costumes were impressive, so if you're the type of person who likes to dress up like a green leprechaun - have at it! 
  • We set up on the parade route around 10am and the parade started around noon. The festivities started with just a lot of different groups walking past, then a few bands, and then finally some floats. Honestly, we were more entertained by the crowd than by the parade and at about 1:30pm we decided to make our way to Temple Bar for food and drinks. Did you note that we stood around waiting for the parade for more time than we actually watched the parade?
  • Sooooo, getting off the parade route was easier said than done, and we got really close (Scott: think WABAM, mi-bubble-es-su-bubble close) to a lot of people pushing and prodding our way through the masses. It took us a good hour to go about 1/4 mile (Scott: and 15 minutes of which was about 20 ft, thank you stupid/majestic City Hall) and when we got to Temple Bar the lines were out the doors just to get into places. 
  • We were surprised that there was not more to do out on the street. I guess part of me was expecting something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans where there are vendors everywhere and food/drink stations/trucks, so Scott and I just decided to go to the first restaurant or pub we found without a line - which happened to be the Hard Rock Cafe. There ended up being a 2+ hour wait for food, but we were able to get drinks at the bar, so it was not a complete waste! After drinks, we thought going off the main street would give us a better chance of finding food and not such a long wait and we ended up walking almost to the train station before we found something. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the pub, but we found two openings at the bar and had our second bowl of Irish Stew - yummy!
  • By this time, we needed to get away from the crowd and caught the 4:30pm train back to Sutton and the hotel. That night we went into the town of Howth (right down the road from the hotel) (Scott: pronounced like hoe-t, don't ask me where the w or h went) to enjoy a smaller, quieter atmosphere. 
    • Howth was the perfect contrast to the morning/afternoon we had downtown and it was exactly what we were in the mood for. We went to The House for dinner and highly recommend it to anyone in that part of town. Howth is a fishing village, so we had to try their local fish, hake. Our dish was over fettuccine and water cress with a light, cream sauce, and it was delicious. The restaurant had maybe 15 tables with 3 staff members and 2 cooks total, so we stayed there for hours just talking and relaxing. (Scott: It took us a bit to realize but we definitely were used to American in-and-out style eating. I strongly suggest soaking in a bit of the European "chill" mentality. It takes a bit to get used to but it is really good for the marriage (assuming you like your significant other!).)

So, all in all, while the experience of St. Paddy's Day downtown in Dublin was fun, Scott and I decided that if we were to do it again, we would like to go to one of the parades in the smaller towns. I think it depends on what kind of atmosphere you enjoy, and we definitely prefer the smaller village feel.

Have you visited Dublin during St. Paddy's Day? What did you think?

Bravin' the St. Paddy's Day crowds on the parade route.
 
A parade is not complete without bagpipes!
 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Looking for a Simple Hike Near Charlottesville, VA? Check out Preddy Creek!

Do you live in the Charlottesville, Virginia area and want to enjoy a hike but just can't make it to the AT? Preddy Creek Trail Park is only a short drive from Charlottesville up HWY 29 and is a great way to escape into the hills for a few hours. 

Note: This description is for hikers or trail runners, but there are also mountain biking and horse trails here.

My husband is a runner and I am not. I hate to run and the entire time I am running I am exhausting myself thinking how much I hate running. However, I love hiking. I can hike all day and I can kick my runner husband's butt with a pack on going up a mountain trail. The problem with this though is that I need to exercise, often, and I live in Gordonsville, about 20-minutes outside Charlottesville, Virginia. If you know the area, there are beautiful hills and forested areas, but you have to drive to get to the good mountain hiking, so my daily workout routines needed to involve something a little closer to home. This dilemma, ladies and gentlemen, is how my über-supportive hubby got me into trail running. He helped get me out of a gym and off the hard asphalt and into the woods and this is how we found Preddy Creek Trail Park.

Preddy Creek Trail Park is an area of over 570 acres and has 10 miles of loop trails. The park is well maintained with plenty of parking and there is even a bathroom (bonus!). The trails themselves are well marked and in my opinion are perfect for trail running because you can go the full 10 miles or just complete short loops. There are many loop options so you can switch up your route if your workout is getting too repetitive. The elevation gain is not significant, but you are in the hills, so your lungs and legs still get something out of the run. My husband and I like the Preddy Creek Loop which connects to the Creekside Trail (this is where you actually get to see Preddy Creek and yes, it has water). This loop is 4.4 miles with a nice flat section next to the creek part way through for a little breather.

Many people enjoy Preddy Creek Trail Park for easy to moderate hiking and there are also trails for mountain biking and horseback riding if that interests you. Because the park is used by hikers, runners, bikers, and horses you have to be a little more aware of who is on the trail with you (or behind you), but we have never had any issues. There are some trails that are specifically for mountain biking and they are well marked. The park opens at 7am and closes at dusk, so you have a lot of flexibility.

Enjoy this local spot and you can even find a place for a picnic! Another bonus is that is right down the road from some great wineries. I'm always up for a wine tasting after a work out - gotta reward yourself!

Click here for a complete trail map.

 

Pack List

  • Trail Running
    • trail running shoes (there is the potential for mud, so I have trail running shoes and gym shoes)
    • running clothes (dress for the weather)
    • CamelBak or hydration belt 
  • Hiking
    • hiking shoes or boots (personally, I do not think boots are necessary unless there is snow on the ground as the trails are marked easy - moderate)
    • hiking poles if you like/need them
    • hiking clothes
    • CamelBak or water bottle
    • picnic! 

    Options:
    Hiking, Mountain Biking, Running, Horseback Riding

    Skill Level:
    Beginner (for hiking)

    Season:
    Year Round

    Trail Type:
    Loop

    Distance:
    10 Miles (full loop)

    Elev. Gain:
    550 Feet
You have a lot of route options!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Jambalaya Recipe to Help Celebrate Mardi Gras!

In celebration of Mardi Gras, I thought I would share one of my favorite dishes - Jambalaya! And because my husband's from New Mexico and we like a little more heat, this recipe includes a Hatch green chile twist.

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!" means "let the good times roll" and is a popular French saying during Mardi Gras (and we will add to make sure to eat a lot of good food)! We hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.

Sam's Spicy Jambalaya (with a New Mexican twist)

Ingredients:
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breasts (boneless/skinless); cut into bite size chunks
1 package andouille sausage (the spicier the better in our opinion); cut into bite size chunks
1 onion; diced
1 green bell pepper; diced
1 rib of celery; diced
1 1/2 tsps of your favorite Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's is a good option)
1 can diced tomatoes; drained
1 cup long-gram white rice
1 can (15.5 oz) of low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (4.5 oz) of chopped green chiles ** If you can get fresh New Mexican Hatch Green Chiles, use these! 4.5 oz is a little more than 1/2 cup. If not, a can is a substitute. **

Let's get cookin':
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken and sausage and saute until the chicken is no longer pink.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove the chicken and sausage and place in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Then stir in the Cajun seasoning, diced tomatoes, and rice.
  6. Then add the chicken broth and stir.
  7. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover the pan, and reduce heat to low. 
  8. Continue letting it simmer for 20 minutes (most of the liquid should be absorbed).
  9. Stir the chicken and sausage back into the mixture and include all the wonderful juices from the bowl. 
  10. Stir in the green chiles.
  11. Cook, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes until the rice is tender.
  12. ENJOY!
If you have a favorite Mardi Gras recipe for us to try and feature, please comment or shoot us an email. We love to eat!


 The finished product - so good! 
Note: our recipe is for chicken and andouille sausage, but you can also add shrimp if you can get good seafood.


This is what you are looking for if you cannot get your hands on fresh, New Mexican Hatch green chile. They have mild, medium, and hot so you can choose your heat. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Beauty of a Road Trip (and Some Couple Travel Tips)

Scott and I have always loved road trips and we have always enjoyed road trips as a couple. I do not know if it is because both of our parents vacationed with their families via road trip so we just grew up with them or because it allows us the flexibility we both enjoy when traveling. Ever since we started dating though multiple-state road trips have been a yearly opportunity for us. For the first few years of dating road trips were a cheaper way for us to visit family (Scott’s in New Mexico and mine in Georgia) and now they have turned into some of our longer planned, non-family vacations.
 
We also enjoy hiking and camping and one of our first large purchases as a couple was a fantastic, retro, 1984 10-foot Coleman pop-up camper. Let me tell you, that thing has been well used over the years and despite the horrible brown 1980s interior it has been a wonderful addition to our road trip options (we have a 2007 Nissan Xterra with a hitch that tows it with no effort).

While I will be keeping you posted on road trips coming up, some we are looking forward to highlighting are (1) our Virginia to Maine trip in 2014, (2) Virginia to Amelia Island, Florida in 2015, and (3) Virginia to Yellowstone trip in 2016. So stay tuned...

Note: I should probably warn you that our road trips double as craft brewery trips, so a lot of our recommendations and opportunities to “go down this random road” are based on where local breweries are and how we can visit as many as we can. 

In general here are some of our low stress road trip tips before we get into trip details:
  1. Stay awake and talk to each other, sing with each other, read to each other – interact! Half of the fun of taking a road trip is spending time with my husband and being goofy by singing songs super loud or getting into a four hour long debate just because we can.   
  2. Whoever is in the navigator seat needs to actually help navigate. This is not just navigation help when the GPS is being funky, but this includes searching for places via YELP! and making decisions for lunch stops.
  3. If the driver is tired, switch drivers and give each other a break. If the navigator is tired, make sure the driver is okay with the navigator napping. And if the driver starts falling asleep when the navigator is napping, the driver should not get bitched at when he/she wakes up the navigator. Can you tell we are still working on #3? I think the moral of the story here is to remember that people get irritated when they get sleepy and driving sometimes makes you sleepy, so be nice or maybe find a rest stop so both driver and navigator can get some Zzzzz.
  4. If you decide to eat in the car, the navigator helps make sure the driver gets fed and makes sure the food does not end up all over the interior of the vehicle. This might mean putting extra ketchup on a burger, holding a sandwich when traffic gets a little crazy, or digging into a cooler in the back seat when a snack craving hits. We’ve learned that having an extra stash of napkins in the glove compartment is a pretty good idea too (and wet-ones and travel hand sanitizer).
  5. Decide as a team how much flexibility to have with time. For example, does anyone care if a 60 mile stretch might take 3 hours because the other person really wants to check out a brewery that is 20-miles off the route? Or is the objective for the day to get from point A to point B because point B and stopping somewhere random would cause you to check into your night’s lodging after midnight?
  6. If someone REALLY wants to go somewhere, talk about it and make a decision together on how to add it into the trip. I cannot think of a single road trip where I felt like I missed out on something because Scott argued and did not want to go (or vice versa). Be a supportive travel buddy and don’t roll your eyes when your wife wants to check out the statue outside a random gas station because it’s a T-Rex and the town is named Dinosaur. Figure out how it fits into the plans together and enjoy the statue because it’s awesome!

 Our 1984 10-foot Coleman pop-up camper lovingly named "Roadrunner" because of the awesome, retro roadrunner rug that was left inside when we bought it. 

 Our typical road trip set-up with our 2007 Nissan Xterra. It pulls that pop-up with no effort.

 My amazing hubby has gotten pretty good at squeezing into tight parking spaces...the man has skills when it comes to backing up something pulled on a hitch. Me? I tend to back into things...

 Over the years we've decked out the pop-up with stickers, stickers, and more stickers. Our favorite is probably the one we picked up in TX on our way to Balmorhea State Park that says, "Conserve water...shower with a friend." 

If you have an amazing sticker that you think we'd enjoy let us know and we will gladly add it to our camper collection. Just message us!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Irish Honeymoon: Sláinte or "Cheers" to a Fabulous Day 1 in Dublin

By the time we got off the train it was about 8am and we headed to The Temple Bar section of town. (Scott: If you like the art scene, drinking scene, or the Ireland-is-awesome-simply-because-it-is-Ireland scene you will LOVE Temple Bar! Think Bourbon Street/Beale Street/Pier 39/6th Street/River Walk/etc.) What we realized as we were walking was that we were some of the only people out and about. (Scott: A note to any morning people: this is a theme in Ireland... a recurring theme...) Couple Travel Tip #1: When you arrive at 8am NONE of the shops are open, none of the restaurants seemed to be open, so we had some time to just mellowly enjoy what is known as one of the busiest areas in Dublin. Although we were enjoying the solitude, food was still our main focus and out of all the wonderful options that we would have had if we would have started our day a little later, our first Irish restaurant was... an Italian place. It was not a complete disappointment though, because they definitely served a "Traditional Irish Breakfast" and we both ordered a full plate (Scott: vs. a "half plate" which is a good option for most Americans and anyone else who tends to eat light in the morning). Irish Breakfast consists of:
  • 1 egg (cooked to your liking), 
  • a stewed tomato (Scott: ick)
  • 1 piece of white pudding, 
  • 1 piece of black pudding (think blood sausage), 
  • 2 pieces of bacon (which was more like ham) (Scott: and ABSOLUTELY delicious! American restaurants please take note.)
  •  and more toast than you can eat. 
Scott loved it! It was a little too much protein for me, but at the moment it was delicious and a great start to our morning... (Scott: We will talk more about the Irish definition of "pudding" at a later date. Basically, somebody is very confused on the definition.)

After a very fulfilling breakfast, it was, naturally, time for a beer (Scott: this is why I married my wife), so our next stop was the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse. We made a good move and got a map of the city from the car rental place, and found it was pretty easy to get around downtown. (Scott: and by this she means "Scott navigated as always and Sam got a bit pissy whenever we got lost." She denies this but such is love...or marriage as the case may be.) Couple Travel Tip #2: By 10am the crowd was also starting to appear, so it was extremely easy to find the brewery (signs + lots of tour buses). This was one of the more "touristy" experiences in which we were willing to put up with a mob and fork out 17 Euros apiece. You can also get tickets on-line, but even on a busy weekend like St. Patty's, the ticket counters moved quickly.

Being beer nerds and history nerds, we enjoyed the tour - complete with the pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar! Side note for those interested in both beer and history, Scott found a really interesting book on the Guinness family; The Guinnesses by Joe Joyce and would recommend reading it before the tour so you can fully appreciate the legacy that is Guinness.

After the Guinness experience, it was Scott's mission to hit an Irish micro-brewery (which is an exciting search because Ireland's micro-brewery scene is really just starting to appear). (Scott: Note to any history people - and yes, Irish micro-brewery history is a very important part of Irish history writ large - the Irish are in their second contemporary wave of microbreweries.) So, we headed back to Temple Bar via a new route and got a chance to see the original Dublin City Wall and gates from circa 1240 AD. Couple Travel Tip #3: The best thing we did was not really have a plan for the rest of the day and we enjoyed just walking around. Anyway, for those of you who support American micro-breweries, we encourage you all to do the same overseas. Our first stop of the trip was The Porterhouse Brewing Co. and their Oyster Stout is highly recommended (gasp, I know, a stout that's NOT Guinness is a sin). (Scott: Also, even though I am pretty adventurous when it comes to beers an "oyster" anything seemed a bit outlandish. That said, it was very good. Basically a smoky, full flavored stout that paired well with seafood. Definitely worth giving it a try.)

At this point we were also starving (if you can tell our bodies were going through some jet lag/lack of sleep (Scott: lack of beer) adjustments) and, Couple Travel Tip #4, we learned a lesson about Irish pubs with food - you kind of just find a seat and then you kind of try to catch a waiter. (Scott: or don't... depends on how hungry/aggressive you are, which we found out the hard way.) Then you order, and your food comes, but if you want anything you have to hunt down the waiter again, they do not check in on you. (Scott: Ever!) Personally, I loved this set-up, and it really helped us slow down and we did not feel rushed at all. We had our second authentic Irish meal for the day - Irish Stew with lamb - yummy! I love a pub that also has decent food. Another side note that we did not know about until AFTER we got back to the states and Couple Travel Tip #5 - apparently you do NOT need to tip in Ireland because of their minimum wage. So, we made quite a few Irish waiters/waitresses quite happy, but it would have been nice spending that chunk of change on something else. (Scott: Let us know if anyone else has heard differently but that is at least what we were told.)

By now it was about 3pm and beer + warm food = crash time for Sam, so we made our way back to the train station and headed back to the hotel. Minor issue was that the train wait/ride was about an hour and we were definitely doing the head bob, sleep thing on the train which must have been really awesome to witness. With the hotel came a warm bath and soft bed - perfect end to our first day!

 Sláinte! We enjoyed a pint of Guinness at 10am and it was awesome.

 Walking around the city centre all by ourselves in the morning...

 The original Dublin City Wall and gates from circa 1240 AD.

 Beer this way...the signs for the Guinness Storehouse and tours were pretty obvious.

 Beautiful view of the River Liffey (Irish for "a life").

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ireland Honeymoon: A Very Long Day 1 Continues

Because we took the red eye to Dublin, the first day of our Honeymoon was actually over 24 hours long. Couple Travel Tip: When the plane landed, the best thing we did was just reset our clocks to Ireland time and not even think about what time it was at home. That meant it was 6 am and we had the whole day to play in Dublin...but first, we had to get our rental car...

Let me preface this next part with how excited we were about the rental car situation when we were originally planning. As soon as we booked the airplane tickets, it took us right to a rental car site and would only cost us 35 Euros a day, so we booked it right away [Scott: Let's start by saying that what looks too good to be true, is just that. I was worried about the company's legitimacy, but we did research and it definitely checked-out, or so we thought...] . From previous family experience, [Scott: My dad, in short, took on a Swiss street train with a rental mini-van and he is proud to say that "at least we broke the train as well." No one was hurt, but the van looked like an opened sardine can. So, the lesson was ALWAYS get insurance in a foreign country.] we knew we needed to purchase insurance and assumed it would be equivalent to US car insurance on a rental (this is where we FAILED). When we finished all the paperwork with the rental car place it ended up costing us 2x what we were anticipating, so Couple Travel Tip #2: if you are planning on renting a car in Ireland...our advice is to call the rental car place and get the quotes directly from them; NOT from the online booking [Scott: If we had not over budgeted in general for this trip, this unforeseen cost would have brought on a very stressful start and probably would have come up again throughout the trip in the form of those fun little fights that ruin a day quickly.]

We took a shuttle to the car pick-up and, thanks to my wonderful husband (who knows how to drive a manual), I got to enjoy the navigator's seat the entire trip! [Scott: "Knows how to not kill himself in a manual" is not the same as "knows how to drive a manual."] The first experience, however, from the navigator's seat was not that fun though. I have never ridden in a car on the left side as a passenger; nor have I ever ridden in a car driving on the left hand side...on tiny roads. Even though the drive from the rental car company to our hotel was only about 15 minutes, Scott and I learned a lot about husband/wife tone; driving tone, navigating tone, "shit, you're on the wrong side on the road" tone, and "I think we're in the right place, but the hotel did not really have an address" tone. [Scott: She forgot my favorite - "You're stressing me out more than a stick shift, on the left hand side of the road, in a foreign country, with no meaningful lines on the road" tone.] Side note on Irish addresses and Couple Travel Tip #3 of this post: it does not seem to be required to assign street numbers, which makes plugging something into a GPS kind of hit or miss so be nice to your navigator.

Since we came into Dublin on St. Patty's Day weekend, we could not find a hotel anywhere near the city center for less than an arm and a leg, so we had to find something close to a train station (thanks again to Scott's experience living in Germany). We found good reviews for and ended up staying at the Marine Hotel at Sutton Cross. If you want some place nice and relaxing, right on the harbor, with simple and clean rooms, and an easy train ride into town, this was a great option! Our priorities at this point were to get to the train station to get downtown and find breakfast. Though it was too early to check-in at the hotel, we were able to leave our car in the parking lot. From the hotel it was an easy walk to the Sutton Station (once we walked the correct way), and even though it cost 10 Euros for a round-trip pass, there was no way we were driving into Dublin that first day. [Scott: I had already lost enough years of my life just getting to the hotel.]

Now comes the FUN PART...Temple Bar!

 Sutton Station was an easy walk from where we staying at the Marine Hotel in Sutton Cross. We were some of the only people on the train heading into Dublin that morning.

Practicing our Gaelic on day 1. It was a good thing that everything else was in English. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Irish Honeymoon Commences: Day #1 - The Flight

Since there is a 5 hour difference (6 before the time change) between West VA (our current location at the time) and Ireland, and since we did not want to waste a "day" traveling, we took the red eye from DC to Dublin via Boston. The unforeseen, slightly stressful, issue with this was that the Ireland Airline (Aer Lingus) connects in Boston, and since it was an international flight, we had to go through the check-in and security process in BOTH DC and Boston (this was something we should have followed-up on a little more carefully).

When we landed in Boston, we were definitely NOT in the international terminal and had less than an hour until our gate closed (not starting to board - closed). Kudos to my quick-thinking hubby though, because we Googled the gate for international flights while waiting to get off the plane and at least knew we had to get from B to E. So, we exited the plane and proceeded to exit the B gate completely...which took us outside...where we had to catch a shuttle to E [Scott: Note to anyone who happens to be reading this and also works at the Boston Airport; you need to seriously reconsider your signage from B to E...or lack there of.]. When the shuttle arrived at E, we then proceeded to the Aer Lingus counter to check back in. The one "bright light at the end of the tunnel" was that our checked bags were automatically transferred, so that was at least one thing we did not have to worry about. After checking in we had to wait in line at security - again.

By this time it was getting pretty late and we were starving. Due to another unforeseen, minor lack of  planning, we did not realize that the red eye flight was actually going to serve a meal, so while Scott was standing in line for security I grabbed some sandwiches. Please note here that I picked the slowest sandwich making place in the world to order from and I definitely almost left them. The security guards moved our flight to the front of the line for the check-point and Scott definitely had to yell across the airport to get my attention - which was pretty awesome [Scott: Note to anyone who happens to be reading this and works for Boston Airport Security; though people complain about security, you guys are awesome. Thank you for being so considerate. Needless to say the stress on my marriage would have been significantly greater had we missed this flight.] 

Long story short...we made it to the gate, and although a little sweaty and rushed (unnecessary sandwiches in hand), we had plenty of time to find our seats and get settled. The flight was a lot shorter than we also anticipated (only 5 1/2 hours), so unfortunately we did not get much sleep. That was kind of my own fault though because Game of Thrones was on the personal TV guide and yeah...I'm a little obsessed with that series right now [Scott: It is also a little weird when the semi-porn scenes from that series pop up and you start to worry about the age of the surrounding audience].

So, our what did we learn/Couple Travel Tip of the post is:
- Boston Airport security guys are amazing and they really don't want you to miss your flight either
- you in fact do NOT need food on a flight from DC/Boston to Dublin because they feed you
- the flight from DC/Boston to Dublin is fairly short, so don't expect to sleep much

Anyway...Day #1 will be continued...

 Such a pretty plane!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Have you heard of Bloglovin'?! If not, you're missing out!

Where has this site been all of my life!? No, seriously, I've been blogging or following blogs for years and apparently I have been living in a cave. Not only is this site fantastic for people who WRITE blogs, but it's so convenient for people who READ blogs.

I've heard people compare Bloglovin' to Instagram and I think that's a really nice way to try and explain it:
- you can follow your favorite blog posts all in one place
- you can get suggestions for new blogs or follow certain topics (like travel, for example)
- you have a blog feed and will see "featured posts"
- Bloglovin' takes your interests in mind and helps you customize
- you do not have to worry about setting up emails to follow a blog
- you can follow a blog from any platform
- there's an app (who doesn't love another app!)

I know, right?! It's pretty awesome. So, how do you get this set up, well, here you go:
  1. https://www.bloglovin.com/signup
  2. You can sign up through Facebook (because everything is linked nowadays) or create your own user name and password.
  3.  Start following!
These are your sign up options...pretty simple.

 This is what my feed looks like. You can see my profile in the upper, upper right, then you see in the middle suggestions for blogs I might want to follow, and then my own blog is also on there.


And this is my new platform on Bloglovin' for this blog, Low Stress Traveling - Darling Style. And a big thank you to those of you who have already started following.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

First Time to Ireland? Suggested 2 Week Route

For our trips, Scott and I tend to post something for every day or for specific "legs" of the trip. Because of this we will start out with an overview of our trip schedule for our readers, this way, if you only want the basics of our itinerary and get a good starting point you have that option. After this, we will go into the details of the sites, restaurants, accommodations, and of course, any breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, and meaderies along the way. Trust us, the detail parts are quite informative, and we've been told, quite entertaining, but for now, here is our two week Ireland Honeymoon route:

Day #1: Red eye flight to Dublin (and then a full day in the city center)
  • We prefer red eyes because we do not loose a day traveling, but we take the mindset of whatever time it is, that's what time it is - meaning, none of this "well, it's 8am in Ireland which makes it 3am at home." Yes, it makes for a long day, but we don't go on vacation to sleep.
Day #2: Dublin
  • We were lucky enough to be in Dublin for St. Patrick's Day!
Day #3: Glendalough
  • An hour south of Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains
  • Monastic ruins and cemetery
Day #4: Glendalough
  • Amazing hiking!
Day #5: Kilkenny and Cahir
  • Kilkenny is an hour and a half west from Glendalough
  • Cahir is another hour west of Kilkenny
  • CASTLES!
Day #6: Cahir, Cashel (to see the Rock of Cashel), and Bunratty
  • Cashel is only 18 minutes north of Cahir
  • Bunratty is another hour west of Cashel
  • Ruin and more castles! 
Day #7: Bunratty, Cliffs of Moher, and entering The Burren (and the little town of Lisdoonvarna)
  • Bunratty to the Cliffs of Moher is an hour west all the way to the coast
  • From the Cliffs, Lisdoonvarna is only 15 minutes north up the coast
Day #8: Poulnabrone Dolmen, Caherconnell, and Galway
  • Ancient tombs and ring forts
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen and Caherconnell are 24 minutes from Lisdoonvarna and are right down the road from each other
  • Galway was another hour north up the coast
  • In our opinion, Galway was 10x better than Dublin and we wish we would have started our trip there and even celebrated St. Patrick's Day there (read the upcoming posts for more details).
Day #9: Galway

Day #10: Connemara Scenic Drive, Connemara National Park (and spent the night in the town of Westport)
  • From Galway to Connemara National Park is 1 hour 20 minutes north west
  • Westport is another hour from the park (we did not plan on staying in Westport, but we spent a long time at the park)

Day #11: Driving across the country into Northern Ireland to the Giant's Causeway and Belfast
  • From Westport to the Giant's Causeway was 5 hours (we took a few side roads) and was 100% worth the drive
Day #12: Belfast

Day #13: Back to Dublin
  • Belfast to Dublin is only a two hour drive south
Day #14: Last Day in Dublin and Back on the Plane



To give you an idea, this is the route for day #1 - #10 compliments of Google Maps.




For the end of day #10 - #14 the next leg looped us up and around back to Dublin.

Hopefully the maps give you a better sense of the driving possibilities and let us know if you have any questions about our route!

Also, we are now on Bloglovin' so please follow us! Follow my blog with Bloglovin