During the month of June my husband and I were able to spend three weeks traveling throughout Europe. We visited 6 different countries including Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Monaco, and Morocco. Since so many of my recipes are inspirited by international travel, I want to share some highlights from our trip throughout the next few weeks!
Ireland. So green and lush. This country really has become one of my favorite places in the world. For the longest time--over 10 years actually--my sister and I dreamed of backpacking throughout Ireland together. Last year that turned into reality and it was one of the best vacations of my life. Then, just one year later, my parents announced that they were moving to Ireland themselves and for Christmas they gifted all four of us kids and our spouses trips to Ireland to spend time with them. Yes please and THANK YOU!! Their gift spurred Brett and I on to turn our Ireland trip into a Europe trip and thus our three week tour of southern Europe and Morocco was birthed.
The first third of our Europe trip was spent with my parents driving all over Ireland, spending time in their new apartment, and meeting all of their friends. I was so excited to spend some quality time with my parents in their new home country and to also not have to take busses everywhere and lug a backpack around like my sister and I did on our Ireland trip the year before.
As soon as Brett and I landed in Ireland, we really hit the ground running. We flew into Dublin and once my parents picked us up from the airport we started the drive up north. Our first stop was Belfast where the Titanic was built and where major conflict between the protestants and catholics still exist. There are murals everywhere depicting different people who were greatly involved in the catholic and protestant conflict, as well as different slogans and protests. We took a black cab tour to get more inside information as to what goes on in Belfast and were able to see the walls that still separate the catholic and protestant areas of the city. Very interesting...and unfortunate!
From Belfast we continued our drive until we reached the Giant's Causeway, a place that is well known for the numerous, interlocking basalt columns all along the coast. We took a tour where we learned about the folklore surrounding the columns. Supposedly the columns were built by a giant name Fionn mac Cumhaill as a causeway to connect him to another giant who had challenged Fionn to a fight. We honestly lost interest in the story as we continued to get closer to the columns!
After seeing the Giant's Causeway Brett and I got to enjoy a fun treat of staying in a really nice B&B called The Bushmills Inn. Brett's Uncle had recently stayed at this B&B and couldn't stop raving about the food. He said the breakfast he ate there was the best meal he's ever eaten in Europe. Since we were going to be in the same city on our trip, Brett's Uncle generously gifted us a night's stay at The Bushmills Inn. We enjoyed an amazing night's rest after all of our travels and a delicious breakfast the next day! I stuck with porridge and the buffet while Brett ordered haddock and eggs and was thoroughly pleased. Thanks Uncle Kevin!
The next day was jam packed with more sights. We started the day by walking through The Dark Hedges, the location where a few scenes from The Game of Thrones were filmed. Even though this attraction mainly consisted of just a road and trees, it was stunning! The curvature of the trees creates a tunnel affect and the colors are breathtaking. It took a while to get a shot without people and cars in it, but it was worth it!
From The Dark Hedges we drove to a place called Carrick-a-Rede, which is known for its rope bridge. As always, the view was amazing and we couldn't have asked for a better day! Blue skies, green grass, colorful flowers, adventure, and wildlife made this stop one of my favorites on the entire trip! To get to the rope bridge you have to walk along a pathway that runs parallel to the water. Once you cross the narrow rope bridge you can walk up closer to the edge and even look back at some different cliffs. There were also a bunch of birds flying around that provided lots of entertainment, especially when Brett got to close to one of the mom's eggs!
We managed to fit in two more sights before the day was over. Our third stop for the day was the Bushmill's Distillery, which is the distillery considered by most to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Even though my parents and I don't drink much alcohol, this stop was mainly for Brett's enjoyment and our chance to learn how whiskey is made. The smells were so potent throughout the tour, but it was neat to see where the whiskey making process begins and all the steps that are involved in making each unique whiskey. At the end of the tour they even allow you to sample some of their more famous whiskeys, which Brett loved.
Our last stop of the day was Dunluce Castle, a beautiful castle located right on the coastline. We each got headphones with audio that explained the uses of each of the different areas in the castle. But honestly, I didn't pay much attention to the audio tour because the sights were much more entertaining! We stayed until they closed the doors and had fun taking goofy pictures where we acted like princes and princesses.
The next day was fully devoted to the Cliffs of Moher! I had already seen the Cliffs of Moher the year before with my sister, but I was excited to have Brett experience their grandeur for the first time. The weather was a little overcast, but it could have been worse and we were still able to get a great view of the cliffs.
Since I had already seen the cliffs before, I loved photographing the smaller details such as the flowers, cows, fences, etc. Of course, we still got lots of pictures of the cliffs themselves. Brett, being his adventurous self, loved getting as close to the edge as possible. This freaked me out and I had a hard time watching him push the limits, but thankfully we made it back to the visitors center all in one piece.
Because of poor weather, our plans the next day ended up changing. Brett and I were going to go see Skellig Michael Island, which is an island that is only accessible by boat and has tons of steep stairs that you have to climb to get to the top. But since a storm was brewing, it wasn't safe enough to take the boat to the island so the tour was cancelled. While at first we were a little disappointed, our backup plans ended up exceeding our expectations. The weather was looking decent on the Dingle Peninsula, so we made our way out there, and I'm so glad we did!
All of the sights along the way to the far side of the peninsula were breathtaking and we found ourselves stopping often to get out of the car and take pictures. The best part, however, were the cliffs we saw after walking up a huge hill to the far side of the peninsula. There were 60 mph winds so it was quite an adventure walking along the edge of the peninsula. At times I felt like I might blow over and my hair was blowing all over the place making it hard to see at times. Brett and I loved getting to experience the adventure together!
As a side note, I ate one of the best salads ever at a restaurant called Cul Gairdin Wholefood Cafe in Dingle on our drive home. It was a large plate full of multiple different cold salads and sauces and fruit. It was amazing and satisfied my growing veggie craving perfectly!
On a less scenic note, throughout the trip we were able to explore some cute, little towns, one of which was called Kinsale. Kinsale is a port and fishing town and it was about a half hour away from my parents house in Cork so my parents dropped off us one afternoon to explore. I loved this town so much. It was so quaint and colorful and had lots of delicious food options. We wandered around until we found a restaurant called The Pantry Kinsale where we stopped and had lunch outside. After lunch we walked around and explored some more until we ended up inside of a cute coffee/book exchange shop called The Poet's Corner where we read and enjoyed some coffee.
After all that driving and sightseeing, we spent a couple of days at my parent's house in Cork. It was great to be out of the car for a couple day and see where my parents have been living and to meet their friends. Sadly, the time flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to make the drive to Dublin to catch our flight to Spain. On the way to Dublin we stopped in Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel and to get some lunch. Cashel was the first stop my sister and I made on our Ireland adventure, so it was fun to go back to a familiar place. On the trip with my sister, we discovered an amazing lunch spot in Cashel called The Bake House that had lots of veggie options, delicious wholemeal bread, and the cutest, coziest decor. For lunch I picked up some cold marinated salads, spinach, chickpeas, and brown bread plus a coffee. It was delicious!
And just like that, our week in Ireland was over! The longer I spend in that beautiful, lush country the more I grow to love it. I'm already looking forward to when I'll get to go back!