Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ireland Getaway 2014- Post 11- Happy Birthday to me, Dublin style

I chose to spend my birthday back in the heart of Dublin. Dublin quickly shot up the list of my favorite cities while on this trip. My previous experience with the city did not leave me impressed, I didn't dislike it but I wasn't in love. I now know it is because we didn't stay in the city but at a B&B on the outskirts. To truly love Dublin you need to stay in the heart of the city. You want to step out the door and find yourself on a busy sidewalk, minutes from Grafton Street or Trinity Colllege.

Dublin is a truly walkable city that is easy to navigate and that is one reason I loved it. I am not good with directions. I will be the first to admit that I competely suck at navigation and maps. I have no sense of direction whatsoever!! GPS is my best friend. Dublin is a place that even I could navigate! I even ventured out on my own while my husband slept off his cold. I would never had attempted that if I didn't feel completely comfortable.

What I was most excited about was spending my birthday in Dublin. With Grafton Street close by and a bit of money set aside for birthday shopping, it was a really special and relaxing day.  I never thought I'd be able to say that I went to a foreign country for my birthday- we're just not jetsetters like that so this birthday will go down in the books as amazing just for the sheer fact that we were in Ireland. 

The morning of my birthday started with our very first time sleeping in during the whole trip! It was the first day that we didn't need to be somewhere by a specific time or be on the road as early as possible to make the most of the short amount of daylight that winter in a Northern European country provides. What a wonderful way to start the day! No alarm, no early morning breakfast calls and NO pb&j to make and pack for our picnic on the road! We lived off of pb&j! I'm not kidding! Our first day out of Dublin at the beginning of the trip we went in search of a Tesco and loaded up on the best sliced loaf of bread I've ever had, quality peanut butter and Bonne Maman jam that was half the cost of what it is in the States! We ate that every.single.day we were in Ireland- except my birthday- my birthday was reserved for the most sinful bagel and egg breakfast sandwich I've ever had, fancy fish & chips and of course: dessert!

The moment we arrived in Dublin all of those days earlier, I was drawn to a place called Queen of Tarts. I knew that my birthday treat would come from this little place with the cheeky name.  I have a serious sweet tooth, so no special ocassion goes by without some sort of sweet treat- it's mandatory! Normally birthdays for me equal cake or a cupcake but as soon as we stepped into Queen of Tarts my eyes fell on the lemon meringue tart and I just knew that this was the treat of all treats to end my Dublin birthday extravaganza with! But I'm getting ahead of myself- the tart will have to wait!

The first thing on the agenda for my Dublin birthday was shopping! We had both resisted buying too many things. The only souvenirs we bought were from the Giant's Causeway (a tin whistle which quickly became the soundtrack to the latter half of the trip) and a few books from Trinity College (traditional Irish baking and Celtic lettering- can I get a nerdy woot?!), otherwise our main purchases had been food and admission to a few places. We were trying to be frugal with money as well as space in our suitcases. I desperately wanted to find a pair of shoes- my first trip to Dublin I found an amazing, avant garde pair of clunkers that I wore until they literally fell apart around my feet, and I was hoping to start a tradition.

In a city the size of Dublin you'd think that would be an easy feat- no pun intended. Unfortuantely for me, I had a specific type of shoe that I wanted. I saw them all over the feet of the stylish ladies of Dublin and yet I couldn't find them in a single store. Trust me, I looked. My poor husband had to go into every single store that sold footwear. Nope, none, zilch. The only thing I could think was that they were from a previous season and I was out of luck. So, since I am stubborn and refused to broaden my horizons I had no success in the shoe departement. I did however manage to find things to buy, in case you were worried. I don't regret not finding shoes but I do regret very much walking away from the Benetton jacket that I was eyeing. At the time I had just had a mini shopping spree at a different store so in my mind I couldn't justify buying the jacket even though it was on sale. A word of advice- if you find yourself loving an article of clothing in a foreign country and said purchase isn't going to make you homeless upon your return then BUY IT! I walked away from it, decided I could just order it online if I regretted it and left it at that. But I thought about that damn jacket every day before we left. And guess what?! You CAN'T order it online because it was only available in European stores and you won't find that out until you are sitting thousands of miles away having NON-buyers remorse. Sheesh- I might still be a teensy weensy bit upset that I walked away from it...

The one and only time we had fish & chips on this trip was my birthday night. We chose the Copper Alley Bistro because it had a small, intimate setting and a view of bustling Dame Street. The food was delicious but the restaurant was dead quiet- we were the only customers due to our habit of eating dinner early so that made it all feel a bit awkward. At least my husband and I enjoy each other's company and never lack for conversation- althought the rare times we do, we can sit in companionable silence and just be together. 

The day ended with the aforementioned visit to Queen of Tarts. We ended up going twice before we left Ireland and our first venture was at their Cows Lane location in the Temple Bar area of Dublin, very near to our hotel. Something I've learned about Dublin (and London for that matter) is that places tend to close early (unless it's a pub of course). We walked in just before 7pm and were informed that they were closing- but the hostess immediately offered to put in a to-go order for us. We had intended to get our treats to go anyway so we didn't feel inconvenienced, just surprised that a cafe serves dinner and desserts was closing so early in the city center. Do yourself a favor and get something to go even if you plan to acutally eat there- the to-go box is the cutest thing ever- it reminds me of the Mendl's box from The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It was such a wonderful birthday in a place that is very dear to my heart. I wish I could make it a tradition and go every year, but alas it's too far away and not realistic financially. Everyone should be able to celebrate their birthday with people they love in a place that renews their spirits and fills their heart. I know how very lucky I was to be able to do just that. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Welcome To The Hive...

I rarely talk about my day job, and I've never mentioned anything about my workplace. This has been on purpose- I like to keep that part of my life separate, but recently I've made some big changes in that department and I've decided to break my own rule. I want to introduce you to my new home away from home, some of the people in it and what we get up to on our days off (photoshoot!) 

Marcia, the Creative Director and Owner of Hive Natural Beauty Collective likes to keep things lively and fresh, the aesthetic is constantly changing. Already, only a matter of 10 days after these photos were taken we have a new arrangement of displays. 

I was lucky enough to have been offered an opportunity to work here at a time of great changes. What once was a salon of only 4 chairs is now a salon of 6 chairs. What once was a breakroom is now my work home. With the structural changes also comes digital and design changes. Hive Natural Beauty Collective will soon boast a new website. A streamlined, fancy website. When this website goes live you will be able to feast your eyes on gorgeous images shot by Michelle Roller Photography, designed and styled by the ladies of Hive. 

We got in on the action too. There just might be a bio or two and well... some headshots. I give you fair warning that we all had to get up really early for these headshots and can not be held responsible for the outcome if we look it! Actually in all seriousness I work with some stunning ladies, who also happen to be real gems, with kind hearts and wicked senses of humor, who make me happy to go to work each and every day. 

My favorite picture of the day- featuring Marcia

Noelle, getting direction

Ali, ready for her close up

Lindsey greeting Michelle, our photographer for the day

Ruth in a moment of contemplation before her headshot

Nichole walks to the orange wall

Kelsey strikes a pose.

Monica all dolled up and photo ready

Terez holding her own in front of the camera

talking strategy and preparing the station

Monica and Lindsay sharing a laugh. My other favorite photo from the day.

Making magic happen.

Marcia taking control of that topknot and showing it who's boss!

When the website is up and running I'll do a part two of this post. I'm really proud of everything we did that day, and happy to have been even just a small part of it. There is so much more than what was captured here but I can't let the cat completely out of the bag now can I?!

*Thank you to my co-workers for allowing me to stick a camera in their faces. I love nothing better than documenting the "behind the scenes" action. 

Thank you: Marcia, Kelsey, Lindsey, Monica, Noelle, Terez, Ruth, Ali and Nichole. 

Follow Hive on Instagram at: Hive_beauty

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ireland Getaway 2014- Post 10- Driving to Dublin from Derry

The day we left Derry was unfortunately also the day my husband's cold was at its worst. If we had been at home he would have been in bed all day- it was so awful! I felt bad but we had to get moving, and unfortunately for both of us I have never learned to drive a stick shift. (annnnnd yes, I've heard a million times how I should learn, and what would I do in an emergency? etc...) So that meant that my poor, sick husband had to drive all the way from Derry to Dublin, with a few stops on the way. What. a. trooper.

We didn't have time for many detours, so most of what we saw was from the car. Lucky for me, we got stopped in road construction at a beautiful, picturesque spot that I would not have gotten good photos of if we hadn't been forced to stop.

I was most excited because we were going to be going through County Monaghan, the county that my mother's Irish ancestors came from. I knew that we weren't going to have enough time to detour to the village of Creevagh that my ancestors are from so I tried to take in as much of the area as possible from the car. It was a lovely drive.

this picture with the house in ruins is oddly grayed out. I didn't change anything from the original.

I didn't take as many pictures as I woud have liked, I was distracted by navigating. I definitely missed some opportunities for good photos of villages and the River Boyne.  

The one detour we did make was to go to Newgrange. It was one of the places on my list that I really didn't want to miss. What a beautiful drive to the visitors center. We wound down a very narrow country lane with vegetation covered walls. We pulled into the nearly empty parking lot and it started to drizzle. To get to the visitors center you walk through a beautiful pergola. I saw remnants of some sort of vine, I can only imagine how beautiful that walk would be in the spring. As with any place that has an abundance of water you find a mini waterfall along the walk. What's most impressive is this is just to get to the visitors center!


Newgrange seen in the background of this photo. This is on the walk to the visitors center.

My husband really was at his worst with his cold and decided he just wanted to stay in the car. I made the decision that I wasn't going to do Newgrange alone. The visitors center was empty when we went in and the only way to get to the monument of Newgrange is by shuttle from the visitors center and I really didn't fancy being alone on a shuttle on a wet day with my sweet husband by himself, sick in a car. I don't regret my decision to forgo Newgrange, I know that I'll have the opportunity to go back again. I'm not done with Ireland. 

After Newgrange we got back on the N2 to the M2 with our final destination of Dublin in our sights. Both of us were looking forward to getting to Dublin to spend our last few days without the car. There wasn't a single day that we didn't have our alarm set in the morning, which is not the way you want to spend vacation! We knew that once we were back in Dublin we could rest at ease for a few days with no alarm, no car and no destination we absolutely had to be at. Pure joy.

We parked the car in the car park attached to the Jury's Inn, which cost us an arm and a leg, but we didn't know where else to leave the car. At that point I didn't care how much it was going to cost, I just wanted to be free of that car. We were both ready to walk the streets of Dublin again. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ireland Getaway 2012- Post 9- The Giant's Causeway and Battling the Elements

After being wowed at Titanitic Belfast we jumped in the car and headed to the Antrim coast via Ballymena and Coleraine. It was so fun to see the countryside of Northern Ireland, but I always get excited the closer I get to a coast line. Seeing signs for the Giant's Causeway parking and buses all of the way in Bushmills, I became incredibly greatful that we were there in off season because we were able to park right at the actual site.

on the road from Belfast to Giant's Causeway 
On the road

on the road to Giant's Causeway. Check out that wind pushing the hedges.

Pulling up to the visitors center for the Giant's Causeway you see a Bed and Breakfast called The Smugglers Inn. Now, that is a place I would have loved to stay- not because it's called The Smugglers Inn but because of it's location. You can't get any closer to the causeway and a windswept cliff- it makes me think of a gothic novel. 

calling for help from The Smugglers Inn

As with so many other days on this trip, it was windy and freezing. Just when I think I've already experienced a cold day and I think it can't get any colder, Northern Ireland goes ahead and trumps it! When we arrived it was bright and sunny, but bone chillingly cold. We bought our tickets (please note this is not a free site like many outdated websites state. There is a fee to see the causeway!) and started down the hill. The walk down the hill towards the actual basalt stone pillars that make up the causeway is about a 20 minute walk, where you will encouter the Windy Gap- which is literally the windiest spot on all of Ireland. You could lean into the wind, which was fun when it was bright and sunny- not so fun later...

who knew this bright sunny day would turn to hail and wind like I've never known

almost there

My guidebook warned not to be underwhelmed when rounding the corner and seeing the causeway stones for the first time. I'm not sure what people expect but it was exactly how I imagined it. They're not that tall and they don't tower over you but they are impressive. I don't know what elemental ingredients had to come together to form the columns beyond lava and water, but I found it unique and dramatic.  The thing that surprised me the most about this particular site is the fact that there are no barriers or rails. I appreciated and actually preferred this because it doesn't mar the gorgeous landscape but it's just not something I'm used to experiencing. The US is so about warning signs and keeping people in line, I'm assuming because everyone is afraid of being sued. It was refreshing to just simply have access to something. You can walk and explore the stones. The smaller of the 3 causeways is called The Little Causeway and you can traverse it fully. That is probably the safest of the 3 to explore. It's easily accessible, although I must mention that everywhere along the walkway and the causeway stones is exposed to the elements. Any moment a wave could crash over those stones, so you do need to be mindful of the wilds of your surroundings. 

On The Little Causeway 
no more sun! signs of the storm...

Those surrondings are stunning. You're flanked by the impetuous ocean on one side and breathtaking cliffs on the other. Just as we were admiring those cliffs something hit me just at the edge of my eye. It took me a moment to get over my shock and realize it had started to hail. At this point we had seen everything we had planned to see so we decided to hop the bus back up to the visitor center so we didn't have to walk in the hail and wind. This is where our day turned into an adventure...

My husband and I climbed aboard the bus and presented our tickets. Well, my friends much to our massive chagrin the bus driver informed us that our tickets didn't include the bus!! The bus tickets were an additional pound each. Well.... I spent all of our cash on buying the entrance tickets. We were up a creek my friends- up. a. creek. At this point it is hailing and that hail is quickly turning to buckets of rain pouring down at an angle from the Windy Gap. The bus driver did not take pity on us and we had to get off the bus back into the crazy weather. I felt like crying. I couldn't believe that he wouldn't just let us stay on the bus. He could have just waved us on. No one would have known that we hadn't paid- it wasn't like it was a bright sunny day and we were just being lazy- it was stormy outside. So with our nasty colds still very much in residence we walked back into the rain and hail with very heavy spirits. 

That was one miserable walk. I had my hat pulled down to my eyes and my scarf pulled up to my eyes- with one eye squinted because of my previous experience with the hail saying it's hello. I know I was a sight, because at this point there was also black mascara running down my face! As we walked closer to the Windy Gap we met real resistance from the wind. I mean real resistance! We were bent at the waist and crouched doing our best to battle against it. The wind actually caused me to lose my footing a bit and I stumbled into the road. I'm not exactly a light, delicate flower so this was some force to push me! There is no photographic evidence of these moments- we were so busy feeling miserable and sorry for ourselves to break out the camera, plus I'm pretty sure my husband was being smart and didn't want to get water all over our fancy camera and ruin it. I do wish there was evidence though because it just sounds unbelievable and exaggerated. I know my husband agrees with me when I say that we felt like stupid tourists-  here we both were with horrible respiratory infections, that I for one was very nervous about turning into pneumonia, completely exposed to the harshest of elements all the while walking up a steep hill against a heavy wind. Just brillant. If there was ever a moment in my life that I thought I was going to look back on and think, "Gee, and you wonder why you ended up in a hospital?", this was the moment. You know when people do stupid things and end up seriously hurt or in trouble and you just think, "well, duh!" Yep, I don't even need to say it.

Slowly we made it up the hill- passing people willing to brave the weather and some who turned back before they even began. One girl was in high heels and all I could think was, "this is not a time to try to be sexy for your boyfriend, this is a time for sensible clothes darn it!". I know we looked like drowned rats. I've never been so uncomfortable in my life. My clothes were soaking wet, and I hate the feeling of wet jeans on my legs! My hair was plastered to my cheeks and totally unattractive. I unceremoniously dumped my audio guide in the bin and turned to be greeted by none other than the bus driver. Your ticket is required to get back into the visitors center so my husband and I were both patting pockets to locate ours when the bus driver caught sight of us and waved us through the door- he said he didn't need to see our tickets and to just get inside. I think he finally took pity on us when he saw the state we were in. I really wish I had thought to take a picture when I finally saw myself in the bathroom mirror. This my friends was a moment for a bathroom selfie if I ever saw one. Honestly I was too crabby to take one. All I could think about was peeling my pants off and throwing my soaking wet hat in the closest trash can. 

We hastily bought our souvenirs and high tailed it back to the car. I have never taken a coat and gloves off so quickly. Ick is the only word I can think of to describe that feeling. We sat in that parking lot, steaming up the windows for ages, wasting fuel to power the heater full blast.  What a day.

Finally we got back on the road to head back to Derry for the night. It's amazing how an effective heater can change your perspective on things. We got less and less grumpy as the miles flew by and we dried off a bit. I was even enthusiastic enough to jump out with no jacket to the edge of the road to get pictures of Dunluce Castle. I would have loved to have toured the medieval ruin but it had an entrance fee so I was content to just get photos from the side of the road.

In Portrush we stopped for giant bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate and cold medication. We were won over by the colorful row houses in Portrush and briefly wished to live there until we remembered how cold it was outside of the car.

The drive back to Derry was lovely and apart from a brief flurry of snow it was pretty uneventful. The Antrim coast and the A2 back to Derry was beautiful. I really wish I could see it in late spring or early summer when I'm sure it's at it's best. 


Looking back on this experience even as early as an hour after it happened we realized how amazing it was. It was miserable at the time but we survived it and it certainly was unexpected. I can now say I've battled wind and rain and made it to tell the tale. I didn't even have to endure any, "Well, duh." moments afterwards because neither of us ended up in a hospital. (although we did both endure a horrible nights sleep endlessly coughing, which I'm sure wasn't helped by our exposure.) It was a surreal experience and I fully expect never to have one like it again. I suppose everyone must collect a story like this in their life at some point- it proves a life well lived, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little like a hobbit on a grand adventure who really should just be home having second breakfast, because well, adventures are nasty things, right Bilbo?