Dublin (Europe Adventure)

January 15, 2017 by kimeree13

While traveling in Ireland, I saw all types of examples of quaint country life that epitomized most of my ideas about rural Ireland. We drove through and stayed in many small towns. We ate Irish food, listened to traditional Irish pub music and walked along countless green fields and bodies of water. It was a perfect Irish adventure! In addition to the towns and roadways off the beaten path, I also wanted to see the all the tourist attractions in the “big city” of Dublin. Dublin, the birthplace of my favorite band, U2. Dublin, the home of Guinness. Dublin, the resting place of the Book of Kells. It was our last stop in Ireland, and it’s also the focus of my last post from my 2015 European Adventure trip series.

To get to Dublin, we drove all the way across the country from Galway to Dublin and parked our rental car at Arnotts department store. Arnotts is the city’s oldest and largest department store, founded in 1843. It was a great central place to start our tour of Dublin and from there, we were able to jump onto one of the many “Hop-On Hop-Off” buses doing guided tours around the city. Considering the limited time we had to see Dublin, this was the best way to see the city quickly. Our first stop was Trinity College. We ate our sack lunch here on the steps of one of its buildings and then wandered over to the library to wait in line to see the Book of Kells. 

img_2864While the inside of the Trinity College Library itself was an amazing sight, the Book of Kells was even more spectacular. I really wish I could share photos of its amazing illustrations, and the way the color jumped off its pages, but unfortunately, photography was strictly prohibited. The Book of Kells is considered Ireland’s finest national treasure and is a very well preserved ancient copy of the four Gospels of the Bible’s New Testament (it’s believed to have been created around the year 800). We were also able to see other fine examples of other ancient texts in the library (see photo below), but nothing compared to this opportunity to see the Book of Kells in person.

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While we sat on the bus, driving in and out of narrow passageways and streets, I photographed all types of signs and storefronts that seemed to capture the essence of Dublin and give a little insight to the historic nature of the city. We didn’t have time to tour Guinness, but several people on our bus did and it was still really neat to see the outside of iconic factory up so close.

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We got off the bus at the medieval Christ Church Cathedral and wandered its grounds a bit before taking a stroll along the Liffey River back toward the center of the city. I thought this statue installed in the courtyard of the church looked so lifelike and was an interesting piece of thought-provoking artwork. I also admired the church’s beautiful attached walkway that crossed over the street, and looked much like an ancient take on our modern day sky walk.

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We walked over the Liffey River on the historic Ha’Penny Bridge and found our way to Boxty House, a modern Irish retaurant, in the Temple Bar Area. These were our last experiences in Ireland and I savored them! We had a nice long dinner complete with some yummy Irish stew and amazing soda bread. Very hearty and very tasty! Temple Bar was very lively and colorful. It was a pedestrian only area and filled with tourists!

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I would love to return to Ireland one day and spend more time exploring Galway and parts of northern Ireland. It’ll most likely be a long time from now, so I am very thankful to have these images to remember what a truly amazing and beautiful place Ireland is! It will always be a special place to me! I hope you have enjoyed my posts and photos of Ireland and our other European adventures. I will be traveling to Italy in the fall and hope to do some more travel blogging afterward! Until then, slán! Goodbye!






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Aran Islands (Europe Adventure)

September 19, 2016 by kimeree13

Off the west coast of Ireland, right across Galway Bay from the Cliffs of Moher, lies a group of three, small Irish islands called the Arans. On one of our last full days in Ireland, we took a 30-minute ferry ride from Doolin to one of these islands, Inis Oírr (Inisheer). Inis Oírr is the smallest of the islands and is only 2 miles across. It is so small that you can visit the entire island on foot or bike in just a couple hours so we rented bikes near the pier to see it all! The island is in a Gaeltacht (Gaelic) region, so all of its residents speak Irish as their first language. Most of the names of the places we visited on the island were listed in Irish first and then English.

Our first stop on our bike tour of the island was a 10th century church and graveyard called Teampall Chaomháin. You can see over to the other side of Galway Bay from the top of this hill.

Down the hill from the church toward the eastern side of the island is An Plassy, a shipwreck that washed up on the beach in the 1960’s and has remained in this same spot ever since.

We stopped for a picnic lunch near the Teach Solais lighthouse that was built in 1857 and is located on the the southern shore of the island. Most of the beach areas were very rocky and barren, but also very beautiful! We enlarged and framed this same photo (directly below this text) for our home and it now sits right up on top of our mantel!

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Next up was Dun Forma (O’Brien’s Castle). The castle remains were interesting, but why I really wanted to visit it was to catch a great view of all the miles and miles of stone walls covering the island. I had seen these stone walls in the movie, “Leap Year,” with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in 2010 and ever since then I wanted to see the walls up close and in person! These hundreds and hundreds of criss-crossing walls define the farmers fields and are definitely a spectacular sight to see!

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We finished our time on the island down on the An Trá beach, which parallels the pier where all the ferries dock and pick up passengers each day. I bought and tasted some Turkish Delight from a local vendor on this beach and we dipped our feet in the cool and clear Atlantic Ocean. The sandy beach was so pretty and the water was all colors of blue. Gorgeous! You can see O’Brien’s castle up on top of the hill in this photo.

Coming up soon will be my last blog about our experiences in Europe last summer and it will feature photos and stories from our full day of sightseeing in Dublin.






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Cliffs of Moher (Europe Adventure)

September 10, 2016 by kimeree13

Before I knew much about Ireland itself, I knew about the Cliffs of Moher. I grew up watching “The Princess Bride” and was fascinated with the “Cliffs of Insanity,” AKA the Cliffs of Moher. I saw that movie a bazillion times as a kid and had an almost “star struck” WOW feeling each time I watched Princess Buttercup being lifted up those spectacularly rugged and steep cliffs. They were so beautiful and amazing. A sheer drop down from above, a stunning, flat rock wall rising 700 feet straight up from the ocean below. I always wondered what it would be like to see them in person. It was a silent wish of mine until I had the chance to plan what I wanted to see on our Ireland trip, and then I was very vocal about adding the Cliffs as a definite “yes” on our itinerary!

We stayed in the very small and whimsical town of Doolin after our drive around the Dingle Penninsula. It had a couple bars and a few touristy shops, and was just a few miles from the Cliffs. We had the most incredible stay at a little B&B there called Kate’s Place. We could see the Cliffs from our room off in the distance and walked to dinner each night from our place. The breakfasts at Kate’s were absolutely scrumptious and very filling! The owner, Kate, and her mother cook each guest’s breakfast to order every morning. She was such a sweet and hospitable host and we had a blast chatting with her each day. After our long days of sightseeing and traveling around the area, she or her husband would drop by our room with a fresh pot of Irish black tea and cookies. It touched my heart and always hit the spot!

I remember checking into our B&B and grabbing my camera so that we could drive over the the Cliffs right away. Once there, we walked up a very steep walkway from the parking lot to O’Brien’s tower (seen below) and I starting taking photos. The Cliffs took my breath away, literally. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was actually there! The light was pretty bright at that time of day and not the best for taking great photos, so we decided to grab dinner and then come back closer to sunset to try again. Boy, am I glad we did. That’s why were there there, after all, to enjoy the scenery! I remember standing up on the top of the Cliffs getting blown all around by the wind, just as the sun was going down and starting to cry, sob out loud, really. It was an all-over, overwhelming feeling. There I was in person, seeing these big, massive, gorgeous cliffs right in front of me, the ones I had dreamed about seeing since I was a child. It was magical. Special! We stayed long after the sun went down, soaking in all the beauty around us, trying to etch it all very firmly in my mind. Now see what I saw!
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The next morning, we took a boat ride from Doolin to the Aran Islands (the feature of my next blog) and on the way back in the late afternoon, we rode past the Cliffs of Moher to see them from ocean level. The boat rocked wildly back and forth as we rode along so I had a hard time staying balance. We were also not the only boat driving past the Cliffs at the time, but with patience and some luck, I was able to get a few good, clear, and unobstructed shots. Look at all those natural colors and the cool, jagged stone face of these huge cliffs! Being here in person was definitely one of the biggest highlights of our trip to Ireland last summer. I am not sure I’ll ever get to go back to see this special place again, but even if I don’t, I will remember it clearly, fondly and in complete detail thanks to these photos!






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The Dingle Peninsula (Europe Adventure)

July 26, 2016 by kimeree13

We left Ireland exactly a year ago, and as I look through all my photos to write more about our trip, I find myself right back there reliving everything and relishing the memories all over again. So, please come back with me to Ireland, back to the “Green Isle” and all its amazing splendors!

After our grand adventure on Skellig Michael (see my Skellig blog), we drove the remainder of the Ring of Kerry to Dingle, a small port town and the only city on the Dingle Peninsula (County Kerry). This town was so precious! We walked all around it the Tuesday morning we were there. Next to our hotel was this little place called Foxy John’s, a little historic joint where you could get your bike fixed all while drinking a beer and shopping for a hammer. We did not go inside, but I did snap a quick picture, because I couldn’t help but capture this perfect piece of Irish-ness. I still smile when I see this sign!

The next stop on our walk in Dingle was St. Joseph’s Convent. We came to these grounds to see the Harry Clark stained glass windows inside the Díseart Center, the former convent of the Presentation Sisters, which is right next to St. Joseph’s. As we strolled around the area, I snapped photos of the iron work set inside the stone fences bordering the grounds (you can see part of the stone Díseart Center behind the fence in the photo below).

Harry Clark was born in Dublin in the early 1900’s and was a popular illustrator; later in life, he was commissioned by several groups to create elaborate stained glass art pieces. In 1920, the Presentation Sisters from Dingle commissioned him to design and create twelve stained glass lancet windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ. These were the pieces of art we saw inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, on the second floor of the Center. There were six two-light stained glass windows, my favorite was the one of Jesus and Mary together and shown in the photograph below. I loved the play on dark and light inside the apse, the area directly behind the main altar of the chapel.

Everyone says the best way to see the Dingle Peninsula is to ride around it on a bike. However, we were in a bit of a time crunch (and maybe a little lazy) with all we wanted to see and do that day, so we opted to drive it and quickly hit all the touristy spots Rick Steve’s said we should see along the way! The Slea Head Drive around the peninsula is about 30 miles long. On our short drive around it, the clouds came in and out. The landscape we saw there was completely rugged and green, it was dotted with small weathered houses. The road itself was extremely windy and narrow. It was everything I had imagined and dreamed it would be.IMG_2391 IMG_2395
Off to the side of the road at one point, I saw a huge, white stone monument depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, named “Jesus on the Cross.” It’s hard to tell from the photo below, but the figurines in this monument are life size. Look at how the white stone stands out in contrast to the backdrop of gray cliffs! The statue is also known as the “Cornerstone of the Peninsula” because some believe it may have been erected to mark the boundary between two parishes of the Dingle Peninsula.IMG_2428
IMG_2417A few miles up the road, we parked the car and hiked up to the top of Clogher Head. Although overcast, we had some great views of the Blasket Islands and the surrounding coastal areas. The sea below us was an exquisite blue.
IMG_2457 IMG_2459 IMG_2466 IMG_2468Next up was the Gallarus Oratory just outside the town of Smerwick. This structure was most likely used as an early Christian church and was built between the 6th and 9th centuries. It looked like an upside down boat and was made entirely of cut stones stacked in such a way to allow rain water to flow down the sides easily. I didn’t spend much time inside it as it was very dark and hard to see, but I did wait on the outside for a very long time to get a clean photo without other tourists in it!
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Our last stop on the peninsula drive led us to the medieval site of another church, Kilmalkedar Church. Access to this 12th century church is through a beautiful romanesque doorway. There are other relics on this site that we found fascinating, like the long, holed ogham stone pictured below. This particular stone has carvings on it from somewhere between the 3rd and 6th century. An ogham stone is read from bottom to top and the alphabet letters are comprised of small strokes (or lines) etched into it. This particular stone was memorable to me because of the hole inside it. There is an old tradition that states if you put your finger into the hole that you will have good luck or in some cases, be healed from your ailments and restored to good health.  What do you think? Did we stick our fingers inside?
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We also found some ancient stone crosses outside the church. One celtic, one traditional. There were no markers or dates on the crosses so we’ll all have to take a guess at how old they are!

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Thanks for continuing on my European journey with me! My next blog will be about the Cliffs of Moher, a very special and extremely dear place to my heart.





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Skellig Michael (Europe Adventure)

May 27, 2016 by kimeree13

Honestly, I have put off writing this post for a while because what I am about to describe was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I wasn’t sure I would be able to find the right words to do it justice. I am going to do my best, and if anything, the photos I took will give you a least a hint of why Skellig Michael is so amazing and special!

After a quick overnight in Kenmare, we continued driving clockwise on the Ring of Kerry until we reached Ballingskelligs, a sleepy little town on the edge of the Iveragh Penninsula, and one of the few places tourists can take boats out to visit the Skellig islands.

The weather on the ocean in these parts can be really unpredictable so we were instructed to call ahead the night before our scheduled departure to make sure it was still possible to go out on the boat the next day. The owner of the tour company, Sean, said it looked very unlikely that we’d be able to go out on the water the next day, but asked us to call the next morning before we left our hotel just in case things changed. Thankfully, the stormy weather we had been experiencing calmed down the day of our boat trip and we were cleared for an 11:00 am departure! We had made the reservation for this particular trip six months ahead of time so we were so fortunate that we could go out on our scheduled day as there are very limited boats allowed to visit the Skelligs each day. If the weather ends up being bad on the date you book, plain and simple, you are out of luck!

The Ballingskelligs pier is very small and only a few boats were docked there at the time of our visit. Note the very calm waters. Sadly, they did not stay like this very long! Once we left the small inlet, we got tossed around on the VERY rocky seas for almost 45 minutes straight. Thankfully, I took motion sickness medicine and did not get sea sick (however, I cannot says that was the case for everyone on our boat)! IMG_1101On our boat ride to Skellig Michael, the bigger of the two Skellig islands, we drove past Little Skellig, home to a population of 100,000 gannet seabirds. We also saw seals perched on some of the rocks. Next stop, Skellig Michael!

IMG_1115If you have seen the final scene of the latest Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” then you have seen parts of Skellig Michael. We visited this magnificent island before the movie came out so it was a fun surprise for us to see it up on the big screen just months after we had been there!  Skellig Micheal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and such a protected place that only a few boats a day are authorized to take visitors there. We were given two hours to explore the island, which was just enough time to climb the 600+ stone steps to the top and check out its ancient monastery before returning back to the boat. Little Skellig is off in the distance in the two photos posted below (sadly, I didn’t get a good pull back photo of Skellig Micheal from the boat, but it looked much like the Little Skellig, just bigger).IMG_1143 IMG_1179It was raining the entire way to the pier at Ballingskelligs, so I honestly thought we’d either be denied access to the island once we got there or best case scenario, we’d be hiking up the steps in wet weather. To our surprise, we had clear and sunny skies the entire time we were on the island! This was only the second day ALL YEAR that the Skelligs had seen sun (normally, they are clouded over and it’s raining, much like the rest of Ireland). Another amazing blessing on this trip. Gorgeous blue skies! We saw the sun some on our week long trip to Ireland, but to have it be completely sunny the entire time we were on the island was simply heavenly (and it also made it a much safer climb). Higher and higher we climbed! The stairs were very, very steep, but that forced us to pause on our way up and take in some absolutely marvelous views of the jagged rocks around us and beautiful ocean below (my husband, Greg, is the one hiking up in front of me in the black hoody and jeans)!IMG_1184 IMG_1200 IMG_1202 IMG_1205 IMG_1209 IMG_1217The little puffins that inhabit this island year-round are so cute! It was fun to watch them hop around and jump in and out of their little rock homes.
IMG_1181 IMG_1185The protected monastic site on the top of the island dates back to the 6th century. It is believed that only 12 monks lived on the island at one time. They slept in beehive cells (homes made completely from dry-built rocks) and their diet consisted of vegetables they grew on the island as well as meat from the fish and seabirds they caught. We saw an ancient graveyard with all sorts of stone crosses and the ruins of a medieval church. All of the structures we saw were in great shape since up until recently, visitors were not permitted to visit the island, so for the longest time it sat untouched. We spent about 15 minutes at the top, soaking in the sun. The wind blew slightly. I remember the sun warming my cheeks and my heart skipped some beats as I looked down at the vast ocean below. This was special. We were so far out in the ocean that we could only see a sliver of Ireland itself. I don’t remember speaking much. I sat and soaked. Soaked it all in. I was part of something so spectacular that day on Skellig Michael and can only hope that what I experienced then will be a little bit of what heaven will be like one day….
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Killarney & The Ring (Europe Adventure)

February 27, 2016 by kimeree13

All the guide books say visit the “Ring of Kerry” and I am not usually one to take the same path as all the tourists, but in this case I made a bit of an exception and we decided to hit a few of its many highlights! From our overnight location of Kinsale, we traveled northwest toward Killarney in County Kerry, a very touristy town and the hub for all the tours leaving to explore the Ring. It is also the best location to visit some key parts of Killarney National Park.

We parked our car about 15 km outside the city at a historic, family-run restaurant and shop area called Kate Kearney’s Cottage, the main entrance to the Gap of Dunloe. It was late morning and the sun was out in full force with a few fluffy clouds floating around in the sky. It was an idyllic Sunday morning for a small hike with my hubby and I loved every minute of it! The Gap is about 11 km long and within it are five lakes connected by the River Loe. These photos showcase the northern end of the Gap and was the location of our morning snack.

IMG_0920 IMG_0926The road into the park is unpaved and so narrow that most people visit this area exclusively by horse, bike or foot. We walked almost two hours into the Gap before we were ready to turn around and then opted to hire a pony and trap (cart) to take us back to our car. I enjoyed walking and taking in the sights on the way into the Gap, but I also loved talking with the native Irish gent and owner of our pony and trap. He was generally interested in learning about us and it was just one of many times on our trip that we got to experience true Irish hospitality. He didn’t plan to charge us for the ride (we did tip him generously), but was excited about us helping him “shorten” his trip back with some craic (enjoyable conversation). He had take some tourists to the end of the Gap early in the morning and was planning to ride back to the Cottage alone until we flagged him down, so it was a win-win for all of us!  Not to mention that I got an authentic taste of Irish culture that I wasn’t expecting! This is a photo of the Gap at midday facing toward its southern side (you can also see some of the park’s narrow, windy road on the left-hand side of this photo).

IMG_0924The tourist traffic leaves from Killarney on the N71 (Ring) every morning and travels counter-clockwise, so we traveled clockwise on the ring to avoid any heavy bus traffic. Thanks for this very useful tip, Rick Steves! From Killarney, we headed South and stopped at Ross Castle, a 15th century castle, which sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake, Lough Leane. Although the castle was amazing to look at from the outside, we didn’t take the time to venture inside. My primary purpose in being there was to hire a boat and visit the enchanting Innisfallen Island, the site of an early 6th century Christian monastery.

We took a short, 15-minute motor boat ride across the lake to Innisfallen and were given about 30 minutes to roam around the island before we needed to head back to the castle with the rest of the boat’s passengers. The island is so small that we were able to walk all around it very quickly. It is home to a large herd of red deer and we were lucky enough to walk past several of them grazing together in a little clearing along our way. The island is so overgrown with flora and fauna that we had to take the same trail the deer use just to get around!

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Our final moments on the island were spent walking around the ruins of the monastery near the shore, where monks lived for over 800 years. The largest ruins were of the abbey church and the smaller ruins were of an oratory, a place used primarily for prayer and communion, that had a spectacular brick doorway I really liked. This was such a charming place, I could see myself spending a longer afternoon here again someday with a picnic in hand and my one-and-only by my side!

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The photo below is a view from the island looking out and in the distance, you can see Ross Castle on the far left.

The next stop on the Ring tour for us was the Muckross House. A few months before we went on our trip, the Bachelorette was filmed here, so not only was I happy to be seeing a piece of Irish history, I was also pretty excited to be strolling the same grounds Kaitlyn had been on her group date just a few weeks before! It started to rain a little when we arrived, so we didn’t stay long, but long enough to see the 19th century Victorian mansion from the outside and some of the surrounding gardens.

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Our final stop on the Ring that particular day was the beautiful Ladies View. The name comes from the admiration Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting gave it on their visit in 1861. Now they have a gift shop and a small cafe behind it that sits and waits to tempt all the people parking and stopping by for a peek of this stunning view. Ok, I’m a sucker, too, and bought a beautiful monogrammed handkerchief there! But, check out this view!

IMG_1067Just a few miles from this quick stop was our overnight location, Kenmare, a much smaller and less touristy city on the Ring than Killarney. My next post will feature the amazingly breathtaking Skellig Michael islands, a sacred site, nature reserve and UNESCO world heritage center. This is one post you will definitely not want to miss!

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Kinsale (Europe Adventure)

January 22, 2016 by kimeree13

When I was preparing for our trip to Ireland, I did lots of reading on the “most romantic” spots to visit. Most of them said to go to Kinsale, a little historic military and fishing port in County Cork. So, that is exactly what we did!

We ended up spending our first night in Ireland in cute little Kinsale, but it almost didn’t work out that way. As a general rule, I like to make travel plans way in advance, so I meticulously researched and booked the best room I could find almost eight months before we arrived. I was very excited to stay at this little bed and breakfast, The White Lady Hotel, and looked forward to a traditional pub breakfast there the next morning. However, when we arrived to our hotel, they told us that they didn’t have any more rooms available and due to a technical glitch with the booking system, we no longer had a reservation with them. Normally, this would not be a big problem in larger cities with hotel rooms abound, but we were in quaint little Kinsale, a town of only 2,000 people that only had a few hotels. This was high tourist season, so it didn’t look like we would be able to stay there after all and I was pretty bummed. Thankfully, the innkeeper was really thoughtful and called over to a neighboring bed and breakfast that he knew had had a recent cancellation and was able to find us most literally the last room available in the area. We were so grateful. Not only did we get to spend the night in Kinsale as planned, but the innkeeper also graciously paid for our room because of the mistake with the booking system!  Wow, that’s some amazing Irish hospitality!  I always heard that the people in Ireland were friendly and kind, but this pretty much solidified this truth for me. The Blindgate House that we stayed at actually ended up being nicer and in a quieter area than the White Lady, so we were very satisfied with the unexpected change of plans!

Once we were checked in, we took a walk down a steep hill to the city center below. We strolled through the St. Multose church grounds and explored its graveyard filled with aged headstones, all types of moss and bright green grass.

The windy streets down to our dinner restaurant were fun to navigate and I loved seeing all the old brick and brightly painted homes that lined the streets. This was the Ireland of my dreams! Such a cool contrast of old and new, dull and bright. We were in Ireland in July, and albeit the best time to visit during the year, it was still pretty cold, overcast and rainy. The bright colors helped us enjoy our experiences in Kinsale more and avoid those depressing type feelings you can sometimes get in these often gray and damp conditions.  Color is happiness!

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We dressed up fancy for our first night out in Kinsale and had a grand time together! Kinsale, as well as Cork, are considered part of the best foodie areas of Ireland. Many of the best gourmet restaurants are found in County Cork. We went to Finns’ Table, where we enjoyed a very long, leisurely four-course dinner. Everything we ate was simply amazing. It was probably one of the best dining experiences of my life and I would go back there in a heartbeat!  The best part was that they had a fixed early dining menu that was cheaper than dining ala carte later in the evening. If you travel to Ireland, take advantage of these money saving opportunities!

After dinner, we took our car out to one of the military fortresses right outside the city, Charles Fort. It was closed to visitors for the day, but we still walked around the grounds and climbed up on the walls to get some nice views of the port and downtown areas. It was really windy up there! I remember just sitting with Greg on one of the ancient fortress walls and thinking how lucky I felt to be there with him and able to make these special memories together. Priceless!

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My next blog on Ireland will feature one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done in my life as well as some other views on our drive on the way to the Dingle Peninsula.

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Cork (Europe Adventure)

October 15, 2015 by kimeree13

Paris was a beautiful place to stop and rest for a couple days, but it wasn’t why we were in Europe.  It was Ireland! Ireland was the focus of our trip, the country of my forefathers, the country I had been dreaming about for years upon years!  My mom always told me on St. Patrick’s Day since the time I was a little girl that I was a “wee bit” Irish.  My great-grandmother on her side was a McLaughlin. Maybe that’s where it all started. I felt part of something ancient. I lived next to an Irish girl in student housing when I was in Germany and I loved her accent. I started listening to Irish music in college. Then I watched the movie, “Leap Year,” a few years ago and I got fixated on the idea of seeing stone walls, pastoral life, rolling hills, and untouched countryside for miles and miles.  I wanted to see green, all shades of green!  I wanted to experience driving on the other side of the road with my love sitting next to me. And let me just tell you that Ireland did not disappoint at all!  It was bigger and better than any dream I could have had about it!

Our first stop in Ireland was Cork.  We took a morning flight from Charles de Gaulle (Paris) to the seaside city of Cork. We rented a car at the Cork airport and  drove right away into the city center to eat lunch. Oh my, my heart was racing the entire time we drove in the city and my eyes were very much glued to our atlas, with me doing my best to guide Greg on every turn. I am so glad Greg did all the driving! I kept saying, “look left, stay left,” ha! He was actually a natural with the left-handed stick shift and driving on the left side of the road!  I was in very safe hands!

Cork is on the southwest side of the island and sits on the River Lee.  It is about the size of my hometown of Salem, Oregon, and has a population of about 119,000 people. St. Patrick Street is the main street of the city and very pedestrian friendly. We were there are on a sunny Saturday afternoon, so there were all types of street performers and families out enjoying the nice weather during our visit.

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Randomly, we had seen a Food Network show hosted by Andrew Zimmerman a few months before our trip, that highlighted some of the restaurants in the County Cork area. One of those places was a farm-to-table restaurant, Farmgate Cafe, that sits on top of the famous English Market and serves dishes prepared directly from these local market vendors. We decided before we left the states that this restaurant would be our first dining experience once we were in Ireland and, boy, what an experience! The food there was so healthy, delicious, and filling! We then got the added bonus of being able to walk around the market afterward and buy a few things to take home to Colorado.

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We strolled around the city center some more after lunch and stopped at St. Anne’s Church, where we rang the Shandon bells together.  I wanted to take more photos of the city, so I climbed up some very steep stone stairs and then shimmed past a very large bell to get to the top of the tower and see some larger views of the city.

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Our trip to Cork was short, but so memorable!  The next blog will feature Kinsale, a very quaint village, where a bad housing situation for us turned into a lovely one and we quite possibly ate the best meal of our entire trip!

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Eiffel & Cler (Europe Adventure)

October 1, 2015 by kimeree13

The Eiffel Tower. It is truly magnificent and there is no way around it, it will always remind me of Paris. It is iconic and simply amazing in every way.  It’s hard to take your eyes off of it.  Wherever we were in the city, I always found myself searching for it, wanting to photograph it!

On our first full day in Paris, we had lunch at Tour 58 Eiffel inside the Tower.  We packed into a small lift with a bunch of other tourists, but because we had lunch reservations, we managed to skip the long longs of people that queue at the base of the tower for rides to the top. The lunch itself was very touristy venture and maybe not the best Parisian food you can find, but it ended up being a remarkably fun experience and we’re glad we did it!  Our three-course picnic style meal was lovely and we had amazing views of the gardens and fountains of Trocadéro from our table by the window. After lunch, we walked around the first floor of the Tower some and then opted to take the stairs down to avoid being crammed into the elevator like sausages again! Next stop, Rue Cler, the most famous market street in Paris.  We strolled over there from the Tower under the trees as much as possible to avoid the extreme heat.

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Rue Cler is a pedestrian street lined with shops selling all types of market goods: fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. We also found a little sweet shop, A La Mére de Famille, and bought our first souvenirs of Paris, some hard candies in decorative tins for my mother-in-law and our boys.

FR15-50 FR15-51 FR15-52 FR15-53After a nice dinner of savory soufflés and fish, we walked along the River Seine, stopping at one of the most ornate bridges I’ve ever seen, the Pont Alexandre III. The sun was just setting and the light was spectacular!

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I had always wanted to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night, so our last big experience in Paris gave me that very opportunity.  We took our small box of macarones from  Pierre Hermé and boarded the last Bateaux Mouches boat of the night with a bunch of other tourists. We found a cozy spot just for two along the side of the boat and ate our little macarones together as we waited for the boat to leave.  I know I keep mentioning these macarons, but friends, they were really amazing. So delicious! I can still remember how each one tasted. Yum! When we finally left, the sun had just set so we got to see some of the sites of Paris during the “blue hour” on the way down the river and then also in the pitch black of night on our way back. The city lights were glorious and so beautiful. It was worth staying up to see! I love these images of the Tower so much and now just need to pick which one to put on canvas in our new home!

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This was my last blog on Paris.  Next up will be our first experiences in Ireland, the main focus of our trip abroad and why we wanted to go to Europe.

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French Details (Europe Adventure)

August 27, 2015 by kimeree13

They say it’s all about the details!  That’s what I really love about photography.  You can capture the smallest details of something and it tells a story about the larger picture.  The viewer is free to imagine and dream what the rest would look like.

Paris is big. Really big. It’s not my cup of tea, folks, as I prefer smaller, quaint places. I tried to see Paris this time through my lens and see it differently than I had seen it as a 20-something college student.  It is beautiful.  There is beauty in the details. The majority of this post will focus on those details I saw.

Since we were in Paris in July, it was overrun with tourists. The amount of people in the city made it hard to visit things quickly, so we spent most of the night walking the streets trying to see anything we could see that didn’t involve big crowds.

The evening light was especially golden our first night in Paris. One of my favorite spots in Paris is Montmartre, the tallest hill in the city, and the large church that sits up on it, Sacre Coeur. We ate at one of the best restaurants we’ve ever been at up there on that hill called Sacrée Fluer, a small, 6-table establishment that serves up the most mouth watering cuts of steak. Greg was in heaven. We later jumped out of the subway for one quick shot of the Moulin Rouge. Also the title of the very first movie we ever watched together. Ahhhh…..

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On our last stop on this Thursday evening, we walked around the Arc de Triomphe. We would have gone up to the top, but, alas, the line was incredibly long to get up there.  So, we enjoyed the views of this magnificent giant from below!

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The next morning, we went to Musée d’Orsay based on an excellent recommendation from one of our old neighbors.  Friends, this place did not disappoint.  My visit here was filled with some of the most awe inspiring moments I had on our trip.  This is where the details really thrilled me and beaconed me to capture them! I loved the art I saw. Van Gough, Manet, Monet. But, I was inspired by the architecture of the building more than anything.

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We also got a great view of the city and Montmartre from the top of the museum!

My next post will feature the iconic Eiffel Tower, the grand lady herself! Thanks for reading!

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