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Things I Learned on a Trip to New York City

I recently took a trip with some girl friends to New York to visit a friend who moved there (or to New York City adjacent).  It was my 1st trip to The Big Apple (it’s been on my Bucket List for years) and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it with someone who actually knew her way around.  I would have gotten lost so many times in the subway system if it wasn’t for her!

I made a few observations as we wandered around the city:

1.  There are sections of the city you don’t want to take a stroller, especially during the holidays (I was kid free, wohoo!).  We visited Rockafeller Center two weeks before Christmas.  Even on a Sunday night it was nuts balls there.  Like shoulder to shoulder, inching along the road number of people.  There were people attempting to push strollers through that madness.  One lady had a double!!  Not only is it going to be really difficult to go anywhere, its dangerous with that many people surrounding you.  I think a kid could have been taken out of a stroller and the parent wouldn’t know for blocks.  Put your kid in a front pack, on your shoulders, in your arms.  Anything but try to push a giant stroller through 1,000 people.

2.  At Tiffany’s, even the cheapest thing is still expensive.  But so pretty…

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3.  So many people, so many germs.  Germs germs everywhere.  EVERYWHERE!!  Pack a lot of hand sanitizer.

4.  It’s really disturbing to see people taking smiling selfies at the World Trade Center memorial.  Just don’t.

5.  When you get a precious seat on the subway you will automatically be perfectly positioned at crotch height for the guy standing in front of you.  Thank goodness for phones so you can stare at them instead.

6.  Perspective is interesting.  New York City is full of some crazy tall buildings but when your standing next to them, even One World Trade Center, it’s not that impressive.

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7.  Unlike popular belief, the city is not over-run by rats bigger than dogs.  I didn’t see a single one.

8.  Make sure to check the museum collections before visiting.  I missed a bunch of famous paintings at The Met that I didn’t know were even there until after I left.  Boo.

I did get to see this beauty.

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9.  I don’t know if there is a name for having a fear of walking over grates (sewer, ventilation, subway, etc) but I have it.  It gives me the hebegebees to walk over them.  Well, I was forced to confront that fear one zillion times (estimated) over the long weekend.  There are so many (seemingly) bottomless grates all over the city, it was impossible to avoid them.  I’d like to say it got me over the fear.  Wishful thinking…

10.  Eat.  Eat eat eat eat eat.  So many yummy things.

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11.  If you don’t pay to take a boat to the Statue of Liberty, she will be reeeeeally far away.

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So there you have it.  Helpful, and some not so helpful, hints for your next trip to New York.  🙂

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Musings On A Weekend at the Beach

We took Evelyn with us for the first time on the annual family trip to Lawson’s Landing at Dillon Beach this weekend.  Last year she was only 3 months old and I didn’t want to put the family through living in close quarters with a crabby baby.  This year, she was walking and past the “put everything in her mouth” phase.  This meant we could put her on the sand and not worry about her colicing from all the sand ingestion (horse joke).

She still needed a little help “running down the dunes”.

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I’m amazed (although I shouldn’t be), what a difference a trip to the beach is when you have two little ones along.  Instead of chapters of a fluffy book being read while lounging in a beach chair in front of the waves, there was digging in the sand to build sand castles (for Evelyn to stomp on) and watching Rose running up and down and up and down the dunes.

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Instead of leasurly walks along the beach, hand in hand with my husband, it was “see how many kids Daddy can hold at one time”.

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Instead of cuddles in front of the campfire it was puzzles with my daughter (I was only allowed to watch, not participate)

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and reading books with Nana.

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I didn’t come back from the weekend feeling refreshed (I was a little worn out from ‘co-sleeping’ with Evelyn) but wouldn’t have traded it for the world.  The wonderful feeling of putting smiles on the faces of her..

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and her, made it all worth while.IMG_4232

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Ireland Day 10-11 (Dublin – HOME)

On our last full day in Ireland we decided to wing it a little as there wasn’t anything we felt we ‘had’ to do.  Starting at Dublin Castle we took a tour which walked through the the beautiful rooms with its amazing history.  Did you know that Ireland was under crown rule until only 1922? Crazy.

After the tour we did a little touring of the shopping district where we found a bunch of gifts as well as a bag to hold it all. 🙂  Then on to lunch at a really cool pub called The Church that used to be an actual church.  The guy who started Guinness was married there.  Coincidence?  I think not. 😉

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After dropping off our loot, we walked past Christ Church Cathedral (didn’t go in as we were toured out) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral before stopping for tea at The Shelbourne.  Wow, what a hotel!  The bathrooms were nicer then anything in my house.

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I was done after tea.  And by done I mean just wanted to go back to the hotel and curl up and NOT walk anywhere for a long time.  Laura went on to meet her friend for drinks (and had a fabulous time) while I walked back via St. Patrick’s and spent the rest of the night chatting with Steve and relaxing.

imageThey really take dog poop seriously around here.  Poop shaming….

imageThe next day went smoothly with taking the bus back to the airport and splitting off with Laura for the next 14 hours (we had different flights).  I flew from Dublin to Frankfort and then on to SFO.  The only small thing of note on the second flight was that I was able to use my miles for First Class.  Oh yes, I have never flown in so much comfort.  Seriously, it was an 11 hour flight and I didn’t have a moment of discomfort.  I think United First has spoiled me forever!  I had a 4 course meal, good wine, my own video screen and could fully recline.  Let me tell you, being able to sit with your legs up makes a huge difference in comfort.  The long flight meant I had time to finish a lovey I was making for Evelyn to replace her binky.

 My humble seat.
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A little snack before take-off.

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Evelyn’s lovey.

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And while the trip was fabulous.  Everything was beautiful and green and fascinating, I was incredibly happy to be home to this….

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and this….

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and of course, this.20130831_095334

If anyone is planning on a trip to Ireland and would like to know more about things we saw and places we stayed, drop me a line and I would be happy to help.

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Ireland Day 9 (Dublin)

After taking some advise from a friendly fellow tourist, we started off our day by getting to Trinity College a little more then 1/2 an hour before the Book of Kells opened.  Thank goodness we did too.  By the time 9:30 rolled around there was a line a hundred people deep.  We were able to wander through the exhibit and get right up and see the pages on display.  The end of the tour gave us the ability to walk through the old library.  Wow.  It was like all those libraries in the movies with two stories and ladders to reach the top of the stacks.

After that we walked over to 29 Merrion Square which is an restored home from Georgian times.  It was quite interesting to see how life was back then.  My favorite thing was the bar attached to the wall right inside the door.  It was called a whiskey rail.  My best guess is that it’s for the master of the house to lean on when coming home completely sloshed from drinking at the local pub.  Ha!

One of our better purchases was a hop on hop off bus pass (packaged with our airtram ticket at the airport) as it allowed us to use the bus to get our next stop, the Guinness Storehouse.  Here we walked through the self guided tour until we ended up at the Gravity Lounge.  Here, with a view of all of Dublin, I had the best Guinness I had the whole trip.

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We used the bus again to tour Dublin (they give a running commentary) until reaching the Haypenny bridge.  There were tons of padlocks attached to the bridge which Google said are Love Locks.  Sweet sentimentality but it really just looked like vandalize.  To each their own.

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We ended the night with drinks and dinner with a friend of Laura’s and his husband who had moved to Dublin a year ago.
I have to say that Laura has a great taste in friends and they were nice, funny, and made our first real night in Dublin a pleasure.  After drinks we ended up at The Counter of all places.  This is a burger joint from my part of the world that happened to catch the eye of some ex-rugby players when they were visiting California.  Best. Veggie. Burger. Ever.

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Ireland Day 8 (Waterford to Dublin)

We started out early from Waterford heading north west to The Rock of Cashel, wanting to get there before the usual rush of people and tour buses.  I must say that seeing it sitting there, high on the hilltop, was very impressive.  We chose to take a tour instead of our usual “wandering around looking at more rocks” and it was worth the wait.  Hearing about the history and people who lived there helped to make the place seem more real and less another abandoned pile of rocks.

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After wandering around The Rock for a while we headed east to Kilkenny to check out the castle.    Once we arrived in the town Laura expressed the desire to stop and take a look in an interesting looking church, Saint Mary’s.  That turned out to be one of our better random decisions.  While the church itself was nice, we were feeling like some lunch so followed the signs for a tea room located in one of the church buildings.  I expected some cute little old lady sitting in front of folding table with a hot water pot and a cash box.  Instead we found a lovely hidden gem of a cafe.  The food was all delicious and homemade, the coffee was real (not instant) and the prices were reasonable.  Score one for following our bellys!

Then…..  Then we went into Kellkeny proper in search of the castle.  Then we ended up winding our way around the crazy busy town with its crazy busy roads with no road signs.  Heaven forbid they have any signage in the town pointing the way to the biggest tour attraction.  Finally, after finding it then passing it twice in search of parking (they aren’t big on parking lots in Ireland) we made our way back and did a lovely self guided walking tour of the castle.

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 There were some cute shops near the castle and we were able to spend a little time (and money) wandering around before needing to head out for the drive to Dublin.  I found an adorable black sheep to match the white sheep I had already picked up for the girls.  Rose chose the black one.  Is this a message?….

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On our last minor road to Dublin we finally were stuck at an animal crossing like they seem to always have in the movies of Ireland.  It was even complete with an old Irishman in his wellies with a walking stick and herding dog.  lol!

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Once we got on the motorway we tried in vane to find a petrol station to fill up before returning the car.  This is where we really missed the states.  Unlike in the US where there is a gas station at every exit, we drove quite a large number of killometeres never finding one.  So we got off at the airport and started looking for one there.  Nope.  So we drove past the airport and looked.  And looked.  And looked.  Finally we found one, filled up and after getting a little lost looking for the out of the way Sixts car rental return we gratefully turned in the keys.  This is where I was confirmed in my feeling that you should never trust a car rental company when they say “oh ya, don’t worry about the little dings in the car. We don’t need to come and look.” when you pick it up.  I walked around the car, taking pictures of everything before we drove it out of the lot.  I even made sure you could see that we were in the lot when I took the pics.  What do ya know, when Laura was doing the check out the guy didn’t believe her that we didn’t put the dent in the bumper.  Luckily, she told him about the pictures and he dropped it.  Shesh!

Taking the Airlink bus into Dublin, we checked into our hotel and wandered down to the Temple Bar area to find some dinner.  Ending up at the Turks Head bar we discovered the fabulousness of Cashel blue cheese when it was placed on what would have been a just ok salad.  Now if only we could find it in the states!  After watching a football game on the tv for a bit it was back to the hotel for bed.

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Ireland Day 7 (Kenmare to Waterford)

This day should just be labeled “The Day We Stayed in a Castle”.

After another delicious breakfast, we packed up and headed down the road to Waterford.  Luckily, the road out of Kenmare in the Waterford direction is much better then from Killarny so we weren’t even phased with the occasional ‘road narrows’.  The arrival in Midleton was uneventful and we were soon signed up for the Jameson Distillery tour. There, we learned the interesting process of distilling whiskey and got to do a taste test between Irish, Scottish, and American whiskey. I had tried them all individually but hadn’t realized what a difference there was until the tasting.  I could taste the smoke from the fires used to roast the barley in the scotch and the sweet corn in the American.  Interestingly enough, there are actually about 20 whiskeys distilled at that facility but they are made with different ratios and grades of product. Then the alcohol is sold to a different company which packages it under their name.

After that, it was on to Waterford where we stopped by the Waterford Chrystal gift shop for a quick walk through.  By quick I mean wandering around looking at everything we couldn’t afford.

I thought about picking this up for Rose but the $35,000 price tag was a little out of my price range.

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A much more interesting stop was at Reginald’s Tower which was the remains of 13th century tower that had withstood a multitude of attacks and even has canon ball still lodged in it.

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Our final stop for the night was the most exciting of the day. We checked into our castle for the night! Yep, Laura and I decided to treat ourselves one night and stay at the Waterford Castle. It was pretty darn cool. The castle itself is originally built in the 1100s although heavily expanded in the 1800s.  It even has a round tower room that I sent a pic of to Rose.  I told her that it was Rapunzel tower and that I got to meet her and the dragon that lived in the square tower next door.  I even picked up a cute pink brush that I told her was given to me for her by Rapunzel since she has beautiful long hair too.  🙂

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The absolute best thing about the castle room was the bathtub.  After a week of long drives and long walks, it was fabulous to soak head deep in bubbles.

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Dinner that night we discovered the famous Waterford Blaa bread.  These light and fluffy rolls were a great ending to a long day of driving.  I am defiantly Googling that recipe to make at home.

I will have to say however, maybe because we didn’t pay for a more expensive room, maybe because we didn’t look rich, maybe it’s just most of their lower priced rooms aren’t kept up as well, but while the bathtub was fabulous, the room was a little warn on the edges.  The chairs were a little threadbare and Laura’s side of the bed had a rather deep depression in it.  Lets just say if I shifted over to her side we would quickly end up spooning. 🙂

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Ireland Day 6 (Ring of Kerry)

Luckily for us, the day after the “roads of death” was fairly tame. Lots of hemming and hawing later, we decided to drive part of the Ring of Kerry. By leaving early we were able to drive clockwise along the route and make it to the Skellig Loop only having to pass 1 bus.

There was some pretty scenery along the route with some nice views of the valley but we agreed that the Dingle Loop was nicer. There was one stop however that gave the drive a bump up in our review. The Skellig Chocolate Factory.

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Maybe it was the stomach clenching small roads, maybe it was the fresh ocean air, maybe it was the adorably nice Irish chocolate server but that chocolate tasted delicious. We may or may not have spent a chunk of money there (sorry Steve). I also may or may not have ordered a caramel hot chocolate with marshmallows that was so sweet my teeth hurt.

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Once we returned, again not having to pass any busses yay, we wandered around Kenmare for a bit. Spending money as we went (sorry Steve). There was one historic site we stopped at (although the town itself is older then any on the US), a stone circle.  This circle “may have” been built to track the seasons and the summer/winter solstice. The “may have” in the literature seems kind of silly as I don’t know why the archeologists don’t just go out there on the summer/winter solstice and see how then rocks line up.  I doubt the sun position has changed much in the past 1000 or so years.

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Dinner that night was Italian (we were a little tired of pub food) where the bruschetta was delicious and the pizza was pretty good but Laura rightly determined, needed klamata olives.  Then off to the B&B for more fabulous water pressure and soft sheets.

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Ireland Trip Day 5 (Dingle to Kenmare)

I could also name this day “The day we both almost had a heart attack multiple times”. More on that later.*

After a fortifying breakfast, we headed out on the Dingle Peninsula to drive the Dingle Loop and see what we could see. What we could see was a lot of pastures, sheep, stone walls, ocean, and tiny roads. It was beautiful. Green, lush, rolling hills and roads no bigger then our car*. All the pictures I took are on my camera so they will have to wait until I get home.

After the ring we headed towards Dingle, stopping at Muckross House on the way. This house was just beautiful. Built in the mid 1800s, it is situated on about 15,000 acres (now a national park). The tour was quite detailed and we got to wind our way through much of the house which had 75% original furnishings.  One thing is for sure though, they loved their hunting back then. Most of the outer rooms were filled with deer heads.

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After the tour, with a brief detour to the gift shop, we headed back down the road.
At 4:30.
When we would have to pass all the tour buses coming from the Ring of Kerry.
Along N71, which is a barely 2 lane road.
On the side of a cliff.
With rocks jutting into the road on the other side.
With blind turns.
For 20 miles.*

Lets just say that it was a very good thing that there were no kids in the car or they would have had to cover their ears from the rather colorful language justifiably coming out of Laura’s mouth. I would have taken a picture if I could have peeled my figures from the arm rest.

Once we arrived in Dingle (and kissed the gravel driveway we parked on), we ended up meeting another American couple who were rehashing their similar harrowing drive from Muckross House with the bed and breakfast hostess.  Quickly bffs due to the bond of near death, we headed to dinner where we talked of kids (me) and favorite inexpensive back yummy beer/wine (Laura).  A great ending to a harrowing day.

Helloooo yummy!

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Finally we headed back to our B&B, The Whispering Pines, which has been our favorite one by far.  Tall shower heads, soft beds, delicious food, fast wi-fi, and super friends hostesses.

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Ireland Day 4 (Galway to Dingle)

Wanting to avoid any and all traffic that we could, we heading out of Galway at first light.  This turned out to be both a good and a bad idea.  While there was no traffic to be seen, when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher there was a lovely blanket of rainy morning fog.  And by blanket I mean we could see about 15 feet in front of us while being buffeted by 20 m/h winds.  Basically we spent €6 to see a wall of fog.

“The Cliffs of Moher” is in the background. I swear.

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We did enjoy a nice cup of tea in the cafe and caught up with contacts from home using the wi-fi. As a bonus, our tea cups gave us a nice view of what we were missing.

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After we made our wet way back to the car, we started the drive to Dingle.  The roads weren’t too bad, although occationally skinny and I only feared for my life once while passing a tractor on one of the “2 but not really 2” lane roads.

A chance stop in Ennis landed us in the Old Ground Inn for a wonderful lunch and even better cup of coffee in an adorable pub. We had brie stuffed mushrooms with a garlic aioli and a bacon and leek quiche. Fabulous! If you are ever traveling through Ennis I would recommend it for the coffee alone.

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We arrived safely in Dingle where we found the Alpine Inn to be clean with nice hosts. However the walls were paper thin and the shower was so short even I had to lean down.  The town itself was very adorable.  Right on the ocean, it had rows of typical colorful Irish town buildings all filled with gift shops and pubs. We ended up eating the best fish and chips we have had so far at a little take away on the suggestion of a local. We did have to pick a few bones out but figured it just showed how fresh it was.

Look! An Irish rainbow!

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After a rest, it was on to the pub for a drink and some really good live music.  We stayed out a bit late that night which was good as it made us nice and tired so that we could sleep through the people upstairs walking around and talking all night. Seriously, I woke at 2am and I could hear them up there.

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Ireland Day 3 (Connemara)

As it was only our 3rd day in Ireland,  instead of spending another knuckle whitening drive around the country, we decided to take a bus tour of the Connemara Valley.  What a fabulous idea that turned out to be. We rode in comfort while the driver drove the crazy roads, stopping along the way for photo ops and keeping us amused with his Irish humor.

Photo opp at a pretty lake in Inagh Valley.

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We drove by the bridge used in the John Wayne movie, “The Quiet Man” and had a few minutes in the town they filmed a bunch of the movie in. He didn’t head to the house from the movie however, as apparently there’s not much left of it.  Also to uuu and aww over was the Killary Fjord with it’s mussel farms and Fairy Tree, and Ross Errily Friary. That one was particularly cool as we got to trek around inside and spy all the little rooms and cubby holes.

The nicest stop was at the Kylemore Abbey which was built by a rich English guy back in the 1800’s after his wife fell in love with the Conamara area during their honeymoon.  It was purchased by some nuns in the early 1900’s and is still a working Abby that has a couple of nuns living in it. There was one of them having tea at the tea room and I thought about taking a picture of an “authentic nun” but decided it would be rude. The walled garden was just stunning and the home itself was pretty spectacular.

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After that, we wound our way on lots of tiny little roads with lots of green grass, long rows of rock walls, and fluffy sheep. Beautiful.

When we got back, we roamed around the town until food was eaten and beer was drank and people were people watched (lots of cocks and hens parties ie bachelor and bachelorette parties)

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