Posts Tagged wanderlust

“No matter how many countries you’ve traveled to or where you’re going, Prague will sweep you off your feet.”

I’ll let the pictures of Prague do the talking…. but we walked over 35 miles in just Prague ALONE. Please do yourself a favor and go here. Immediately. #biketours #getlost

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The most underwhelming clock tower… but it was built in the 1500’s and quite impressive animation for back then!! But thousands of people crowd around it every hour to see it change around. I am more fascinated with people watching… Ha. Praha is absolutely stunnnnnnning, yes?!

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Brunchin’ in Prague with macaroons – which FYI – are NOT my thang. I repeat: GO GET LOST within these city walls. <3
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I always get to hang out with the most lovely travel companions; so much laughter with this crew. SO much. <3
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We randomly decided to stroll down this road b/c it resembled my last name so much… and BOOM! I see my last name on the wall. Fyi – I am NOT czech. My grandfather died when my dad was only 5 years old and was adopted by his stepfather who bore the name “Tomasek” – My real last name should be Foust (which is insanely German), but alas my dad really never rocked it and therefore neither will we. 🙂 2015-09-23_0021 2015-09-23_0022

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Bike group photo courtesy of our wonderful travel mate, Leslie.

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Every trip I take, I make an effort to watch the Sunrise at least once… I thought it would be perfect to do so in Prague. Prague had other ideas, but I was still stoked to be able to cartwheels across an EMPTY Charles Bridge (which past 7 am… would NEVER happen). Major props to Grania and Jessie for walking the trek back down to watch the sun “rise” that day. <3 2015-09-23_0027 2015-09-23_0028

Sedlec Ossuary and Vienna are next on the blog. After 3 wonderful days in Prague, we set a bit further south to explore Sedlec Ossuary and Vienna.

The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. It is one of twelve World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have in many cases been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

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Wiener Prater:
Perhaps the best-known attraction in the Prater is the Giant Ferris Wheel. Now this entrance to the Prater amusement park is a nostalgic theme world reminiscent of the Prater in the year 1900. Our little group felt like kids in here (bumper cars, rollercoasters, etc). Super fun night!

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The weather drastically changed when we arrived in Vienna. From 95 degrees in Berlin just 6 days prior – we were trying stay warm amongst the rainy, 55 degree weather. None of us were prepared for such a temperature drop. Brrrrr.
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After our tour ended, I still had a day to explore on my own. I check into my adorable little hotel – The Ruby Sofitel Hotel – absolutely amazing!  Housed in the historic Sofiensäle, a former concert hall just a 5-minute walk from the Landstraße-Wien Mitte metro hub and the famous Hundertwasserhaus.
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The weather started to change so I set out exploring my new hood and found some little gems throughout.
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“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed…  and that changes everything.”

Oh travel, I adore theeeeeee.  Friday, August 28 marked the start of my latest wanderlust adventure (Berlin, Prague and Vienna). Due to the excessive amount of photos I took in each city, this trip will be broken into 3 separate posts. So with that, let’s chat about BERLIN! Berlin was not a city that was necessarily on my bucket list, but I was super excited to have the opportunity to check off a new country whilst planning this adventure. Particularly one that my lineage hails from… Crazy.
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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial consists of a 4.7-acre site covered with 2,711 slabs in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 7 ft 10 in long vary in height. They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. An attached underground holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.(Source: wikipedia). It is quite humbling to stand amongst these towering slabs and kinda leaves you a bit speechless.

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A few of us set out to explore Berlin on our own before our group (of 50 people) met up later that night! Jetlagged and aiming to stay awake all day, explore we did. <3
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The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic/East Germany in 1961, the wall completely cut off  West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989. The first version went up OVERNIGHT. Let’s just say it was definitely WAY taller than I pictured, but also not what I pictured. I had no idea that there was something called a “death strip” between the walls. I thought it was literally just ONE wall, but nope it was actually TWO – with varying space between it. Anyone that crossed would be shot and killed. The history of this city is shocking, revolting and mesmerizing all at the same time.

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Walking tour of Berlin: FYI – You always know when you’re in East Berlin, b/c the street lights feature Ampelman – the cute little guy with a hat.

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FYI – The building on the lower left is where Michael Jackson hung his son over the balcony… Our entire group, flipped around and snapped this shot too. Haha. Speaking of my group…. bam! There is all 50 of us. Primarily Aussies and Americans – but a fun group of like-minded travel folk. Thanks for sharing your stories, lovelies. Mad props to our Tour Manager, Katie who wrangled us all up from place to place. 
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Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp // “Saxon’s Houses” was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. Camp punishments could be harsh. Some would be required to assume the “Sachsenhausen salute” where a prisoner would squat with his arms outstretched in front. There was a marching strip around the perimeter of the roll call ground, where prisoners had to march over a variety of surfaces, to test military footwear; between 16 and 25 mi were covered each day. Prisoners assigned to the camp prison would be kept in isolation on poor rations and some would be suspended from posts by their wrists tied behind their backs. In cases such as attempted escape, there would be a public hanging in front of the assembled prisoners. Some 30,000 inmates died there from exhaustion, disease, malnutrition, pneumonia, etc. due to the poor living conditions. Many were executed or died as the result of brutal medical experimentation.Sachsenhausen was intended to set a standard for other concentration camps, both in its design and the treatment of prisoners.

On the front entrance gates to Sachsenhausen is the infamous slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” // Translation: “Work makes (you) free.” (Source: wikipedia)

When we pulled up, a somber mood overtook the bus. However, it was sunny and it felt a bit weird.However, within an hour the skies turned black and the sky opened up…  and we all got drenched (like drowned rat, drenched). We all pretty much chose to walk the grounds on our own // Taking it all in. Getting lost in the stories on the walls. Let me just tell you this place is MASSIVE. I barely covered even half of it before we had to go.  It felt even more somber and raw with the weather change // It was an experience I’ll never forget.

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Night Street Art Walk // After drying off and getting changed, we were taken on an Street art walk through Berlin (Was this East?) by a local guide. Street art can be found everywhere in Berlin. On screens, façades, doorways and on walls, but also in places where one might not expect to find art. Corners of houses, bridge piers and the roadside become canvases for art that often has a political message. Unconventional forms of art such as urban knitting and guerrilla gardening offer new options for aesthetic expression that serve the common good. Public art inspires Berliners and visitors alike. It makes the cityscape more colourful and is clearly appreciated by everyone. (Source: www.visitberlin.de)

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Wandering around Berlin // Our last day in Berlin we were free to do whatever we wanted — so a few of us set off and explored the churches, domes, street art and even went up in the Berlin Flyer (Basically a hot air balloon tied to the ground… but goes up 400 feet in the air) – which FYI… terrified me for some reason. In my defense, a little girl was running around on it and the weight shifted enough that we tilted a bit. AHHH! Hoewver, once we got acclimated – we were able to take the sights in. FYI – Berlin is absolutely GORGEOUS.
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On our final night in Berlin, we went on a Progressive Dinner crawl via bike through the “Middle” of Berlin. We stopped at 2 restaurants and participated in a massive ping pong tournament in a hole in the wall pub (which I apparently forgot to take photos of – dang it).  Note: I did not bring my good camera, so iphone pictures will have suffice. I wasn’t sure if I could pedal and not fall off my bike while battling the cars of Berlin. <3 Super fun way to wrap up our travels in Berlin! WOOT! 

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Confession: I fell in love with Berlin.

Up next? Prague, Czech Republic – which blows pretty much every city I’ve ever visited OUT.OF.THE.WATER. Wellllll maybe not Switzerland, but darn close. Stay tuned.

Having just returned from an amaaaaaaaaaaaazing 6 week sabbatical – I am getting asked quite a bit about the “how’s, where’s and what’s” of my Thailand trip. Sooooo to answer a lot of questions all at once (and some unasked questions), I thought I would help push others to travel on their own by sharing my knowledge/experiences. Note: I am NO expert and I am sure there are a million other ways to do things, but this is what has worked for me over the years.

First of all, I travel solo quite often and it always seems to shock people. But let’s get this out of the way now — I am RARELY ever alone.  It is amazing and it just works. It pushes me outside of my comfort zone, it challenges me in the best ways and it also allows me to choose to be as involved as I’d like… or not at all. There have been countless (amazing) bloggers that have chimed in on the subject. I am not out to recreate the wheel, but I am just here to share how I make something like this a reality.

Growing up, my family took advantage of our summers off and we were lucky enough to see most of America as children.  I’ve been to every US state (except Alaska) and have been to most of the Caribbean and all over Mexico (in my 20’s). My overseas travels began shortly after college and it was a wonderful introduction to life outside of the “American” mindset. However, my “solo” travel adventures began in mid 2008 with a 14 day trip to the Mediterranean (Spain, France and Italy). While it was slightly terrifying, it was even more exciting to be totally on my own. I’d say my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner…

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Traveling Totally Solo
Again, while yes —- technically you’re alone, you’re not really by yourself. You just haven’t met your new friends yet. Granted, I am a very outgoing (and independent), but it isn’t about that. You just have to step outside of your comfort zone for a minute and trust it will all work out. On my Thai trip, I spent 5 days in Bangkok by myself.  I used the hotel concierge and a website I’ve used in the states (Viator.com) to find unique things to do. Not only do you meet people on these fabulous day adventures, you get to explore off beaten paths with them. Sometimes this leads to evening adventures, but mostly it means you have new friends. 🙂

  • Talk to everyone. Ask questions. Be kind and respectful. Learn a few basic words in the native language. Respect their culture. Try local food. Just be OPEN. But naturally, just use common sense. 
  • Take time for yourself. When was the last time you just sat in silence (without checking your phone)? Read a book? When were you last alone with your thoughts? Listen up!! It’s good for you! 
  • Check Viator.com for day adventures in practically any city in the world. They basically work like a travel agent of sorts? I like it because there are hundreds of ideas (most I would never think about) all in one site. Bonus: They have an app! 

Funny story: My sister had text me whilst I was solo in Bangkok and said that she felt bad that I was all alone. (Awwh sweet). Buuuut, I laughed and told her not to worry — I was perfectly happy! I was taking this break knowing what was to come. I knew I’d have alone moments and I would welcome them. It was only a matter of time before I met up with my travel groups and would meet new friends from all over the world.

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Traveling with a Group
Travel groups tend to have a stigma – retired folk, older singles, couples and long bus rides… or at least I thought that is what they were all about. I always wanted to travel, but it got harder to find friends that could take off the same time and/or friends that want to see the same parts of the world. I didn’t know there were others ways to travel. Then everything changed in 2008:  I learned about Contiki.com – a travel group specifically tailored to 18-35 year olds. Naturally my first concern was that I was going to be traveling with a bunch of 18 year olds. Or worse, that no one would be my age?! Ahhhhhhhhh!

  • STOP. No matter the group age… It’s fine. Something funny happens when you’re with like minded people – age melts away. You’re all there for the same reasons: To explore. To live. To learn. 
  • Are you going to be the only solo one? NO. In my experience, over 85% of people on my tours ALSO travel solo. Even if you travel with a friend (or a significant other), you’ll all blend together no matter what. My closest friends on my last trip were a 20 year old Brit, a couple from England and a 25 year old Kiwi. Age means nothing. Everything… just works. 
www.jordanntomasek.com

Money
Yessssssssssss – we all want it and we all need it to do the travel thing… I get it. Personally, I work a lot; Something I am cutting back on this year. I have a second job/business where I earn a “disposable” income. But working a lot definitely has adverse side effects. I put my business ahead of social gatherings, dating (oops), ahead of my mental health and to be honest (while I love it), I end up being tired allllllllll the time. It was just easier to stay at home and do nothing on my “off nights” and edit to stay on top of my workload. But all of those sacrifices = savings.

Ways To Save (even without an extra income):

  • Pay yourself first. A chunk of every paycheck (and photoshoot), always goes into my savings.
  • Mint.com – Set up a mint.com account to see where your money goes each month and cut back on the things that don’t benefit you long term.
  • Automatic transfers. If you don’t have automatic transfers bi-weekly — start doing this NOW. Whether its $25 a week or $250. It ADDS UP.
  • Separate Savings account: Create a new savings account in a separate bank. It makes it harder to touch your savings. Personally I use a Capital One 360 savings account for this. It usually takes 2-3 days for money to transfer into my checking account…. which deters me from making impulsive purchases.
www.jordanntomasek.com

Travel Groups
Most of these companies cater to people OUR age – aka lots of fun and social experiences. Sommmme more than others (I am looking at you, TruTravels). The good news… every trip I have taken has been amazing and unforgettable.

Tip #1: Most of these companies have catalogs of their adventures for the year. Go on their websites today. Order their book(s) (Hint: They are FREE) and in a week you’ll have a pile of travel catalogs awaiting you at home. Having something tangible to flip through (and tab)? Helps the planning become a reality.

 Tip #2: Tours typically do NOT include airfare and airport transfers… but typically everything else (transit, food, FRIENDS).

www.jordanntomasek.com

Airfare
This will always be the most expensive part of any trip (unless you’re going to Australia/New Zealand – which is a VERY expensive place to visit). Personally, I LOVE the planning stage – it’s a game and it gets me excited to see what’s possible. Then when I have a base price, I try and beat it. (Insert: I am soooo not competitive at allllllll).

Where to start:

  • Kayak.com – I price out tentative dates (based on my tentative travel plans) and finding the fastest route (1 stop at the most and short layovers) and put together an excel spreadsheet. I check the pricing daily (or every other day) for months. Then when it comes to booking I know the price I am getting IS the best one. Sometimes you win… sometimes you lose a little bit.
  • Travel Credit Cards: See here.
  • Airfare Loyalty: MAKE sure you have travel miles or a credit card that offers rewards. Try to get on codeshare flights so that your miles count towards future flights. Personally, I am an AAdvantage member and love the kickbacks!

Other websites to stalk for flights:   

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Length of Time
Sometimes, all you have is a week. I get that. Hell, a week is still AMAZING. But please note when traveling to the opposite side of the world, jetlag is gonna take you OUT for a few days. So if you’re only there for 8 days… 3-4 of them will possibly pretty hard…. unless you’re a rockstar and jetlag doesn’t hit you. If so, can you share your secrets?!? 

I’ve done 1 week, 2 week, 3 week vacations and more recently 6 weeks (partially unpaid). Hands down, if you can somehow negotiate at least 3 weeks off or more… DO IT. ((Of course… who wouldn’t want to?)) But that first longer trip was the first time I felt myself truly relax, I stopped thinking about work and just BREATHED. Again, I know it’s not always possible… especially if you’re an American. So remember that ANY break is a good break. See your state, the US… the world. Whatever it is for you — but just make that first step and GO.

www.jordanntomasek.com

Let’s talk a little about Thailand
2014 was a year that propelled me towards some massive change and it all stemmed from that damn achilles rupture. Talking is therapeutic for me and sharing the little milestones of my recovery with my “fb world” helped. But contrary to what social media presents, it was a really rough year emotionally and mentally. We all have ups and downs in life, but I had never felt anything like that. I was crying all the time, felt stuck and due to the injury – I had lost a lot of my independence. But the crying… gah!? That I couldn’t stop. I rarely cry!! Of couuuuuuuurse, I didn’t want to feel that way… but I didn’t know how to start to feel better.

So I first started by talking to a therapist… weekly. Something I had never done regularly (even when my dad died). This was, hands down, the best thing I could have done whilst in that situation. It was the first of MANY changes, but it was the most important first step.  Fact: I am not the same person I was a year ago (before my injury) –  Not even in the slightest bit. So in retrospect, I can hate the injury… but I am thankful for it. There are very few things that can slow me down the way that did (literally and figuratively).

A huge part of my journey forward was planning this trip. To get totally uncomfortable and shake things up (yet again). Soooooo with that goal in mind, I officially decided I’d explore Thailand with just the items on my back (i.e. Backpack). Having always been the “overpacker”… my family and friends thought I was crazy. But.I.was.so.excited.

Thailand trip itinerary.
If you’d like to see more photos, I’m still working on the blog posts… but they are coming soooooooon. Six weeks worth of memories is a lot to encompass in two posts!

  • Arizona – (7 days) Note: My entire family lives in Arizona now… soooo I spent the holidays with them and had my first taste of winter sunshine. Great start to my 6 weeks off!
  • Travel (2 days)
  • Bangkok – Solo (5 days)
  • Pattaya

G Adventures Tour (Northern Thailand Discovery)
This was my first G Adventures tour (really my first tour besides a Contiki trip). It was a good, slower change for pace of me. Contiki’s can be filled with those “party, party, party” kinds of people – but I wasn’t looking for that on this journey. I wanted culture, experiences and down time… and that’s what we got. I think 2 weeks in the North was plenty. I saw more than my share of temples and had a really chilled, good time. Highlight: Releasing my first Thai lantern into the sky? #bucketlist

  • Bangkok
  • Sukohthai
  • Lampang
  • Chang Rai
  • Golden Triangle
  • Laos
  • Chang Mai

TruTravels (Thai Island Hopper – 18 day)
This tour company is unlike any other tour I’ve taken… in a good way. The dynamic is verrrrry laid back and there is a schedule, but it’s not insanely strict. We experienced TRUE backpacking in Thailand, without the hostels. We took every form of transportation possible (buses, ferrys, overnight trains, tuk tuks, klong boats… you name it? We were on it). Additionally, we experienced some of the coolest little known Thai spots (Koh Sok, anyone?!). It truly was a wonderful 18 days… minus getting the dreaded Railay Bay bug — that had made its round through 15 other people before it hit me in Koh Phi Phi. Worst stomach flu everrrr.

  • Bangkok 
  • Surat Thani
  • Koh Sok National Park (2 days)
  • Koh Phangan – Bottle Beach (1.5 days)
  • Koh Phangan – Haad Rin Beach (1.5 days)
  • Koh Tao (4 days)
  • Krabi – Railay Bay (4 days)
  • Krabi – Phuket – Patong Beach (1.5 days)
  • Krabi Phuket – Panwa Cape/Bay (Solo)

Note: Thailand, as whole, is a very poor country. Everything is VERY cheap (food, clothes, you name it). Ex: Clothes are $2, Bottled water is $.10, Two HOUR massages are $15; Meals cost $2-$3. Soooo once you’re there your expenses are very minimal. It’s the number one backpacking country in the world… for good reason.

Travel Details

  • Flights: Etihad and Korean Air
  • Airtime: 25 hours to Thailand and 18 hours back to Chicago
  • Days: 32 days in Thailand (2 days of travel) and 8 days in Arizona
  • Visa: 32 day Visa required (My first travel visa)

There are far more adventurous people than me and there are certainly better ways to do everything. Ideally, I’d love to take a year off of work/life and travel – but THAT kinda terrifies me. I have a great job and a great boss… I am not ready to walk away from all that. Maybe one day, but for now I love my trips and all the fabulous people I meet along the way. After all it never is about the location you visit… it is about the people. 

I’ve been back for just about 3 weeks and I am still in that euphoric state that I cannot really describe. I am happier, lighter, confident and I keep making little changes that get me closer to my goals.  Things that keep me movin’ forrrrward. <3

Best of luck in your travel planning and feel free to leave some travel tips below – I am always eager to know what works for others!!

“Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience life in the way they have been told to.” ~Alan Knightly

Fact. There is sooooooo much world out there to see and experiences to be had… I want to see as much of it as I can!! This quote resonates with me in ways I cannot even begin to explain. This year has been incredibly weird, tough and joyful all at the same time. As you all know by now, I ruptured my achilles tendon back in February. It knocked my world upside down and around again. While I am fully healed up (thaaaank goodness), it was a long road with a lot of forwards and backwards steps. I was challenged mentally, emotionally and physically… professionally and personally.

Now that I am able to walk/jog… I am back to feeling like myself. But I desperately needed a little break, a little clarity…  Soo what do I do when I need a little clarity? Travel, of course!! I booked this trip on a TOTAL whim… Decided at 10 am I wanted to go overseas again (hey, it’s been a YEAR). Asked my boss for the days off and by 11 am, I had booked my flights and trip. I was set to go to IRELAND. Picked solely on the fact that it was far enough away (7 hour flight), yet close enough to justify only a week vacation. I am always interested in maximizing my time off, however, this was juuuuust enough of a getaway to get a fresh perspective on all things and see a new piece of the world — which always makes my heart feel full.

Soooo sit back, put on some Irish tunes (Personal favorite: Galway Girl, by Steve Earle) and take in all things that are Irish and magical. Side note: We were some of the luckiest bunch of misfits… we had nearly perfect weather all 7 days. Irish luck was on our siiiiide!

Dublin–> Belfast–> Londonderry/Derry–> Galway–> Limerick–> Aran Islands/Inishmore Island–> Cork–> Cobh–> Kilkenny–> Dublin

Belfast

Though we started the tour in Dublin, I neglected to take any photos on my real camera… I am gonna go head and blame the jetlag. Oops. After a night in Dublin, we headed North to Belfast, Northern Ireland. A city that is completely and utterly segregated based on religion (catholic vs protestant) . As we toured the streets, we also saw that the town was divided by a giant wall and a GATE; that is closed EVERY night to separate the two sides. Insane. The street art is also quite the statement piece, we even had a chance to stop and write our own message to the world… I just snapped pictures. Ha!

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While in Belfast, we learned that the Titanic was constructed in Belfast (a fact I did not recall… apparently) and as such, they have a huge museum dedicated to it. A few of those on my tour jumped off and experienced the exhibit (and said it was amazing), but since we only had a short amount of time available, my friends and I took off for lunch while we could. Even as we drove around the Titanic exhibit, I was in awe of the design of the building and the little touches they put into it. Stunning to say the least:

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“Made in Belfast” Cafe: The most ADORABLE place I’ve ever set foot in. And being the foodie that I am… I was overjoyed to learn they were “farm to table!” LOVE. If you ever swing through Belfast, Northern Ireland (b/c ummm I am sure you will, right?! ) – definitely add #madeinbelfast to your list of must places to check out! Obsessed. I ordered the most delicious ham and cheese croque – I mean… LOOK at that melted cheese?? Yummmmtown.


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Giants Causeway

I’ll admit it, I didn’t do much research into Ireland before I arrived. However a few of my co-workers mentioned a few must do things and luckily enough, as we went along… I discovered they were on our agenda!  And as such, we made our first stop at Giants Causeway. According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.

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Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland

Londonderry was an interesting stop filled with mixed opinions. We arrived after dark so we didn’t get to see anything or do much. Our only experience was dining and visiting a few local pubs. While they were fun, we all felt it was a bit of a let down. A place that felt a little on the “trashy side” wellll…. until the sun rose. The next morning, we experienced a wonderful walking tour by a local man named, Ronan. A man who filled us in on the history, tragic past and the horrors that still reside within (and outside ) of these city walls. Yet again, another city that was separated by religion and beliefs. I was floored… the children of this city do NOT interact with one another. They will never play together, go to school together, be allowed to even TALK to one another…. all because they have a separate beliefs. But as the sun rose, we saw the beauty of this city and all the wonderful history (albeit, sad) this place offered. I only wish that one day this city will be at peace.

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Galway

Oooooooooooh Galway, you have my heart. Ps. Feel free to turn up “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle here… b/c ummmmm we did every time we drove around this town. Yet again, a charming little coastal town full of rich Irish history. Pub-lined streets streaming live Irish music at every turn, I LOVED it. Oysterfest happened to be going on whilst we were there. I am not sure if the streets were always this busy, but it didn’t bother me one bit. I felt like I was apart of something special and beautiful… and I think we genuinely were. Unforutunately, we only had one day here so we didn’t get to explore the city at night… but my goodness, I’ll be back.

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Hands down my favorite day in Ireland. Afraid it was going to be a crappy, rainy day, we reluctantly piled on extra layers, rain jackets and warm clothes. We then moseyed on over to our meeting point to grab the 40 minute ferry over to Inishmore Island. As we were docking, the Irish gods yet again smiled upon us. The skies thinned out and we had the most wonderful greeting — full sunshine and blue skies. We hopped on our  bikes (complete with BASKETS!!!!) and began pedaling all over the island. Granted, every 10 feet we all would stop and snap a picture of the view. A DONKEY?! YES. COWS?!! Cute little houses?!!! A stunning BEACH!! Crazy insane cliffs!! It was all beautiful, we didn’t know what to do. After we hiked, biked and strutted our stuff all over the island we were all due for a lunch and a drink (or two). We found a cute little bar in the middle of the island, plopped down for a drink/fish and chips and sat back and enjoyed the live irish music that filled our ears.

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Yetttt another day that began with drizzle and heavy clouds, but as we arrived the clouds parted and out came the sunshine and blue skies… AGAIN. No complaints here, but I, once again, dressed wrong. Mostly we just all snapped pictures of the view and talked about how ridiculously amazing it all looked. Because honestly… it kinda just takes your breath away, right? Incredibly thankful for the wonderful weather — Everything is better with a bit of sunshine, ay? The Aussie boys, once again, provided endless hours of entertainment.

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Confession time… I had no idea about this until my co-worker, Stacey, mentioned the “Blarney stone” the day I was due to depart. Lucky for me, this was an included stop on our little journey. Everyone has all these tall tales about these things. For instance – that people pee on it and that we shouldn’t kiss it. THANKS, Stacey. Whaaatever. Ha! For those that don’t know about the Blarney Stone: At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many legends as to the origin of the stone, but some say that it was the Lia Fáil—a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.” Soooo – you bet… I kissed that sucker. 

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Again, this tour moved sooooo quickly we only had a few hours in each spot and it was no different for Cobh and Cork. Cobh was the last port of call the Titanic stopped… 3 days later it sank. There were a few wonderful exhibits full of historic photos and tales of stories of those immigrating from Ireland to the states (or elsewhere). Fascinating stories of those that were lost, how immigration, in general, evolved and other historic ships that have notoriously sunk. I love looking at old photographs and this was no exception. After Cobh, we were on our way to Kilkenny… a beaaautiful little town that I did not capture on camera. I reluctantly forgot to bring camera out and about with me… I know, WORST photographer ever… but if you follow me on instagram, you can sneak a peek at this adorableness.

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Our last and final stop is where my portion of the tour began, Dubssss. First up, the Guinness Storehouse tour. If you know me at all, you know I don’t drink beer… unless required to do so for a competition. HA! However, I decided to partake in this tour after hearing nothing but amazing things about it. FYI: I highly recommend it. The view up top alone, is worth it. After that we had the day to roam the city and off we went… in search of the best bloody mary in Dublin. This ended up being an epic fail, but we discovered a delish Irish restaurant (again, with wonderful music) and we got FREE hats. Ha!

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At times, I didn’t have my camera with me because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the view. I wanted to savor the REAL moments and take it all in through my own eyes (vs. the viewfinder)… which is definitely hard for me. However, I still think I captured a little bit of the soul of Ireland… at least I hope! All in all, this trip went by incredibly fast, but I made some wonderful friends along the way. For the next four weeks, I will be incredibly slammed with photoshoots (happily) and then I’ll be moving and sorting the rest of my life out. Haha – so stay tuned on that. Bottom line… if you have a chance to go to Ireland, I highly recommend it!!!!

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