Ireland, Part 2: Galway, Republic of Ireland

Galway, Galway, Galway…where do I start? One thing’s for certain: I left a piece of my heart in this little city. From the moment we hopped off of our train from Dublin to Galway, I knew it was something special. The sun was beaming and the streets were lively. Further, the raw talent of its street performers blew me away. Percussive dancing is a thing in Ireland, and it’s freaking awesome. I particularly loved Bianco Sporco and regret not supporting them by purchasing some of their music. Anyway, let’s dive into the nitty gritty, shall we?

Day 4

We kicked off our stay in Galway by roaming its charming, cobblestone streets. After that, a quick bite to eat and a nap were in order. We stayed at a boutique hotel called the Residence Hotel, situated on Quay Street in the heart of Galway. It was modern and amazingly located, allowing us to walk everywhere.

After refreshing ourselves, we met Brian, our guide from Galway City Walking Tours, at the Spanish Arch. He’s a local whose pride for his city is undeniable. He filled us in on Galway’s interesting history as we walked from one site to the next. We ultimately ended our tour at O’Connell’s, a fantastic pub and beer garden on Eyre Square.

Then, per the recommendation of Brian, we headed to Martine’s for dinner. This was hands down one of my favorite meals in Ireland. As Galway is a coastal city, fresh fish is the name of the game. If you’re an oyster lover such as myself, go here! They were divine. Because we couldn’t get enough of the live entertainment that Galway had to offer, we headed to Tig Coili, also recommended by Brian. It’s known for its traditional music, so we enjoyed a night cap while we listened to the sweet sounds of local musicians.

Day 5

The following morning, we hopped onto a bus for a day trip to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher. We booked our tour with Galway Tour Company. Quite simply, I can’t recommend this tour enough! While its winding roads and rough ferry rides are not for the faint of heart (er – stomach?), those unpleasantries are completely worth it…promise!

In order to get to our final destinations, we drove along the infamous Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland’s exquisite Burren region. Our first stop was in the quaint fishing village of Doolin. It was there that we took a ferry to Inisheer, the smallest of the three Aran Islands. When we first arrived to the island, we beelined it to Aran Café as it was quite cool and rainy at the time. We filled our bellies with delicious garden-to-table food and warmed up with some hot tea.

Before we knew it, the sun was out and we took the opportunity to explore. Between ancient churches and castles, lighthouses, beautiful beaches, and shipwrecks, this tiny island (population: 249) has so much to offer. As we only experienced a fraction of its offerings in the short two hours that we were there, we agreed that, in retrospect, we would have loved to stay there for a night. If you visit Inisheer and are lucky enough to have sunny weather from start to finish, be sure to rent a bike as you will experience so much more that way.

After our short stop on Inisheer, we took the ferry back to Doolin. Instead of staying inside the ferry like we did on the way to the island, we opted to sit outside and it was a complete game changer! The sea-sickness that we experienced on the way to the island became virtually nonexistent by simply taking in the fresh air and admiring the vast waves of the Atlantic. The icing on the cake? Our route back to Doolin allowed for incredible views of the Cliffs of Moher from the sea.

Next, we got back onto the bus and headed to the top of the Cliffs. While photos of them are absolutely stunning, no photo that I’ve seen to this day do these beauties justice. They are truly majestic. After taking them in from various vantage points, we headed back to Galway. On the way back, we made a pit stop at the “Baby Cliffs” in Ballyreen, and I jumped on the opportunity (literally) to frolic atop the Burren.

When we returned to Galway, I took a solo walk along Galway Bay, also known as “The Long Walk.” Between countless swans, fishing boats, and colorful rowhomes, it couldn’t be more picturesque. After the introvert in me got the alone time that she needed, I met back up with the fam for dinner. We decided to eat Indian at Kumar’s Taste of Asia. Never did I ever think that I would eat Indian food in Ireland, but let me tell ya: it was some of the best Indian food that I’ve ever had. Soon after, we dozed off in anticipation of an early train ride the next morning.

…Next stop, Belfast!

Ireland, Part 1: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

If you missed the into to this blog series, be sure to check it out here!

Day 2

As the first day of our trip consisted of a red eye flight, the exciting portion of our journey did not begin until day two. Although we were jet-lagged, we wasted no time getting into travel mode. When we first arrived, it was too early to check into our Airbnb, so we went to a nearby café called SLICE. Although it was a teeny tiny establishment, they welcomed us and our giant suitcases with open arms. We had a lovely brunch, and before we knew it, it was time to check into our Airbnb.

We stayed in Dublin’s charming Stoneybatter neighborhood. It was a pleasant, 30-minute walk to the city center. I particularly loved it because I felt like I was transported to 4 Privet Drive. That’s a Harry Potter reference for those of you unfortunate enough to not know what I’m talking about. ;)

Anyway, we settled into our Airbnb and slowly made our way to the city center for a tour. Personally, I love doing city tours on the day that I arrive to a new city. They typically hit all of the highlights of a given city, allowing me to form my own opinion about what I feel compelled to revisit within the following days. Further, they allow me to get my bearings from the very start.

We chose to take the Dublin Historical Walking Tour. Our guide, Tim, was fantastic! He had recently received his PhD in history from Trinity College, so his knowledge was unparalleled. Furthermore, his ability to deliver his knowledge in an entertaining, comical way was impressive, to say the least. Highlights of the tour include the following: Trinity College, Old Parliament, Temple Bar, Four Courts, Christ Church Cathedral, City Hall, Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, and Mansion House.

After our tour, we hopped into a taxi and went to the Guinness Storehouse. Although we were concerned that it might be a tourist trap, we felt compelled to go after hearing so many great things about it prior to our trip. Well, we are so happy that we went! The building is exquisite, and Guinness’s unique brewing process is delivered in an unique way. With every ticket comes a free pint of Guinness, and how you choose to enjoy your pint is up to you. We chose to enjoy ours at the Gravity Bar on the top floor of the building. While it was only seven floors up, Dublin is a built-out rather than built-up city, so we were able to take in stunning, 360° views of Dublin while sipping on a fresh pint. Although I am a Guinness fan whether playing tourist or not, I must admit that Guinness straight from the source is significantly more tasty than the imported version.

Before we settled into our Airbnb for the night, we grabbed a bite to eat at L. Mulligan. Grocer, a pub that we stumbled upon on our walk back. I’ll be straight up with you guys from the get-go: Ireland’s food is nothing to write home about. However, one of the better meals of our trip was eaten here. After refueling, we hit the hay as we were in need of a good night’s sleep.

Day 3

Knowing that we’d most likely want to sleep in, we left our morning open. I had the most blissful night’s sleep, so I headed out relatively early for a run and drug Chris along with me. Phoenix Park was only a five-minute run away from where we were staying, so we headed there and got a solid three miles in. I absolutely love running as a means of exploring a new city as I’m able to take in a lot in a short period of time. Phoenix Park is certainly worth checking out as it is absolutely beautiful!

We headed back to our Airbnb, got ready, and then took a leisurely walk toward the city center. Only three days in, I was seriously craving some greens. We actively sought out a grab-and-go establishment that served salads, and KC Peaches ended up being our best bet.

Afterward, we returned to Trinity College. While we were able to explore the grounds on our city tour the day prior, the tour did not include admission to the college’s infamous Long Room in the Trinity College Library. The room is well-preserved and absolutely magnificent to the point that no photo can do it justice. In my opinion, the admission price is well worth it!

After viewing the Long Room, my mom stuck around the campus grounds to take some more photos. Meanwhile, Chris and I headed to the Irish Whiskey Museum for a whiskey tasting. While I’m the exact opposite of a whiskey gal, when in Rome! I’m so happy that I gave this tasting a go because it really and truly provided me with a new appreciation for whiskey. Spoiler alert: not all whiskeys make your throat feel like it’s on fire! In fact, many are silky smooth and easy on the palate. As it turns out, there are countless nuances that can be altered throughout the whiskey distillation process that greatly affects the characteristics of the final product. Again, our guide (whose name I regretfully forget) was incredible! Similar to the guide on our city tour, he was both knowledgable and funny.

After our tasting, we met back up with momma dukes and headed to dinner at The Church. Leave it to the Irish to turn a historic church into a booming restaurant! While there is no denying that the atmosphere and live entertainment were awesome, the food was mediocre at best given the price point. While it is certainly worth checking out, I recommend grabbing a drink or two at the bar and eating dinner elsewhere.

We briefly walked through the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre during our city tour and loved it so much that we decided to return. It is an exquisite, historic, Georgian-style townhouse that has been transformed into a centre full of beautiful shops and eateries. After dinner, we enjoyed incredible craft cocktails at Farrier & Draper, a stunning bar located in the townhouse’s former horse and carriage entrance.

At that point, we agreed that we wanted to hear some live music. Although there is plenty of live music in the Temple Bar neighborhood, it isn’t very traditional. We’re talking Billy Joel covers, people! As The Cobblestone came highly recommend by our Airbnb host and was en route to Stoneybatter anyway, we made it a point to stop there on our walk home. Thank goodness we did! It was full of locals and was a truly authentic experience. We were even lucky enough to snag seats right next to the musicians who were jamming in the front of the pub! We stayed until closing and then headed back to our Airbnb as we had an early train to catch the next morning.

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I think it goes without saying that Dublin is an incredible capital city with so much to offer. Unfortunately, we did not get to squeeze in everything that we wanted to see during our short stay. When I return to Dublin one day, St. Stephen’s Green and boutique shopping in the South Inner City neighborhood will be at the top of the list!

…Next stop, Galway!

Ireland: The Intro

 

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Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

In true fashion, I’m recapping a trip about a month after my return. Life has been crazy busy (in the best way possible) since I’ve gotten back to Philly, so I’m just getting around to sorting through the thousands of photos that I took while we were there. Anyway, as I touched on in my previous post, this trip was inspired by my cousin’s wedding that took place in Crawfordsburn, Northern Ireland. Of course, since my mom, my brother, and I have always wanted to travel to Ireland, we decided to turn it into an 11-day adventure!

We flew into Dublin and out of Belfast as it made the most sense logistically. While we were there, we visited the cities of Dublin, Galway, and Belfast. Additionally, we took insanely awesome day trips out of both Galway and Belfast. I must say, for such a tiny country, Ireland has so much to offer! When I return one day, I would like to travel along the south coast as that was something that we were not able to do given our timeframe. Long story short: Ireland is absolutely stunning and its people are nothing short of amazing. One thing that I did not expect was the distinct differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I’ll discuss that further in my Belfast post!

Here’s our itinerary in a nutshell:

PHL to DUB
(Day 1)

Dublin, Ireland
(Days 2 & 3)
Duration: 2 days, 2 nights
Shelter: Airbnb

2.5 hour train ride

Galway, Ireland
(Days 4 & 5)
Duration: 2 days, 2 nights
Shelter: hotel

6 hour train ride

Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Days 6 & 7)
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Shelter: Airbnb

30 minute taxi ride

Crawfordsburn, Northern Ireland
(Days 8 & 9)
Duration: 2 days, 2 nights
Shelter: Airbnb

30 minute taxi ride

Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Day 10)
Duration: 1 day, 1 night
Shelter: Airbnb

BHD to PHL
(Day 11)

Stay tuned for a detailed post about each stop of our journey! I can’t wait to share it with you.

Traveling with Essential Oils

Later tonight, I’m hopping on a red eye and am embarking on a 11-day trip to Ireland with my mom and brother. My cousin and his fiancé are getting married in Belfast and, when presented with the opportunity to attend, there was no way that we were going to pass it up. We decided to make several stops while we are there, including Dublin, Galway, and the Aran Islands.

While I am so incredibly excited, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little panicked about not having all of my oils and oil-infused products at my fingertips. You see, while I love to travel, I haven’t taken an extended vacation since oils have become such an integral part of my everyday life. As such, I’ve put a ton of thought into what I will bring on my journey – so much so that I decided to compile a detailed list and share it with you.

For starters, Young Living makes an adorable, portable, itty bitty diffuser that is perfect for traveling. The diffuser that I am referring to is called the Orb. It’ll save me from having to lug around one of my full-size diffusers, and it is both spill-proof and USB-powered.

Next, let’s talk about travel bags for essential oils. I searched the internet for hours looking for the perfect travel bag. Believe when I say that Baggage and Co. (via Etsy) makes the cutest, most practical travel bags around. They use Rifle Paper Co. fabric, for crying out loud! I ultimately purchased one of their 10 bottle bags that fits roller bottles, 5 ml bottles, and 10 ml bottles. Versatility is the name of the game! I won’t deny that narrowing my collection down to just 10 oils was a painstaking process, but now that I’ve decided on which are worthy of coming along for the journey, I feel so freaking good about what I selected.

ESSENTIAL OILS

  • Valor: A blend of Black Spruce, Camphor, Blue Tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium, this is one of my absolute favorite oils. It goes onto my wrists every. single. day. Personally, I call it “liquid courage” as it helps me get through everyday woes. I have no doubt that it will come in handy for those pre-flight jitters.
  • Deep Relief Roll-On: Between flights, train rides, and walking on cobblestone streets, I have a sneaking suspicion that this trip won’t be without achey muscles and joints. And, let’s be honest: I’ll likely experience a little bit of head tension after over-indulging in too much whiskey and Guinness. Comprised of Peppermint, Lemon, Balsam Canada, Clove, Balsam Copaiba, Wintergreen, Vetiver, and Dorado Azul, this magical roll-on provides relief from all types of discomfort.
  • Peace&CalmingLavenderCedarwood: Every oil user has their tried and true sleep trio, and this happens to be mine. Although I generally sleep well on vacation, changing time zones can be tricky and result in a compromised sleep schedule. Ain’t nobody got time for that when there are sites to be seen! Fun fact: Cedarwood is known to naturally stimulate melatonin production.
  • Tummy Roller: This is one of my favorite DIY roller bottles because it is a total miracle worker! In a 10 ml roller bottle, combine 15 drops Digize, 15 drops Peppermint, and unfractionated coconut oil. Irish cuisine, while delicious, can be both heavy and indulgent. Since I generally don’t eat that way, especially for prolonged periods of time, both Digize and Peppermint will provide me with mind-blowing digestive support. Digize is a blend of Tarragon, Ginger, Peppermint, Juniper, Fennel, Lemongrass, Anise, and Patchouli. I prefer to add extra Peppermint to Digize as it tends to mask Digize’s not-so-lovely smell.
  • Oola Family: The Oola line of essential oil blends is my latest obsession. All of the blends are incredible in terms of both functionality and aroma. Because this is a family trip, bringing Oola Family along for the ride seems more than appropriate. This blend is too complex to list all of the single oils that it contains, but trust me when I say that it’s absolutely amazing!
  • Present Time: A blend of Bitter Orange, Black Spruce, and Ylang Ylang, this essential oil is incredible for emotional support. I have found that my best travel experiences take place when I completely let go of the mundane things that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s difficult to live in the moment when you are worried about sharing the perfect Instagram photo or racking up a less-than-ideal credit card balance. Present Time is all about living in the moment and embracing the YOLO mentality that we know and love!
  • Orange Vitality: I love love love Orange and include it in countless diffuser blends. Unfortunately, I won’t have my entire oil arsenal with me, so Orange is coming along for a more practical purpose. I add a drop of Orange Vitality to my Thieves AromaBrite toothpaste for a naturally brighter smile.
  • Frankincense: Similar to what I said about Orange, I love Frank (yes, we are on a first name basis) as it is a staple in many of my diffuser blends. Again, as I won’t have all of my oils with me, Frank is tagging along for a more practical purpose. I add a drop of it to my ART Light Moisturizer as it provides phenomenal skin support.

Next, let’s talk supplements because Lord knows that I can’t be without them for 10 whole days. Interestingly, extensive research has made it quite clear that the vast majority of supplements on the market do not get absorbed by the body. What does that mean? You’re literally pissing money away if you’re not investing in high quality supplements.

Well, Young Living’s supplements are not only high-quality, but also infused with essential oils. While this may seem silly, hear me out. Taking supplements that are infused with essential oils makes them 70-80% bioavailable to the body. This is HUGE. Because of this, I notice an insane difference in my wellbeing when I am without them. This, my friends, is why they are coming along for the ride.

Young Living’s Core Vitality Case is the bomb.com for storing supplements. Damn straight I have a pill box − I’m 28 going on 84 and proud. Because I’m terrible at remembering to take my precious supplements, I use this case both at home and while traveling. It houses three Vitality oils, which means that I get to bring three additional oils with me. SCORE! It also houses veggie capsules and provides enough room for a dropper bottle of carrier oil so that I can make my own supplements on the fly.

SUPPLEMENTS

  • Thieves, Lemon, and Peppermint Vitality: I love my Vitality oils. The pretty white label means that they are safe for consumption.
    • 2 drops Thieves + 2 drops Lemon + carrier oil will provide much-needed immune support. Between germy trains planes, trains, and automobiles; overindulging; and being on-the-go, traveling wreaks havoc on the immune system.
    • 2 drops Lemon + 2 drops Peppermint + carrier oil will allow for detox from the overindulgence mentioned above. I have a “when in Rome” mentality while traveling, but it tends to get me in trouble once those early morning tours and train rides roll around. In those instances, this combo will provide me with some pepp in my step − literally.
  • Multigreens: This powerhouse capsule is packed with chlorophyll, which is present in every green plant. Key ingredients include spirulina, alfalfa sprouts, barley grass, bee pollen, eleuthero, and Pacific kelp. As I anticipate eating much more meat and potatoes than I typically do, I’ll take all the green nutrition that I can get.
  • Life 9: Combining 17 billion live cultures from 9 beneficial bacteria strains, this is the probiotic of all probiotics. Gut health is hugely important, but even more so while traveling. My digestion gets all sorts of whacky after flying and veering away from my largely plant-based diet, so there is no way that I’m leaving home without some digestive support.
  • Super B: Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12 are engery-boosting and so very important. Each one plays a unique role in the body’s overall function. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my energy level since I started taking Super B, hence why it’s coming along with me.
  • Ningxia Red: This delicious beverage is loaded with antioxidants and has become a staple in my everyday life. I seriously crave it. Because of that, I love that Young Living offers it in convenient, single use packets that are super convenient for traveling.

Lastly, I am so grateful that Young Living’s Bon Voyage Travel Pack exists. Now that I know just how terrible most personal care products are for our health and wellbeing, I can’t imagine having to resort to bringing them along with me for the sake of being TSA compliant. I also love that I don’t have to triple check a toiletry list to make sure that I’ve packed everything that I need. Instead, everything comes in a neat little bundle, ready to go. All of the incredible goodies that are included in the travel pack are listed below.

PERSONAL CARE

  • Thieves AromaBright Toothpaste
  • Thieves Fresh Essence Plus Mouthwash
  • Thieves Dental Floss
  • Cinnamint Lip Balm
  • Young Living Toothbrush
  • Lavender Shampoo
  • Lavender Conditioner
  • Morning Start Bath + Shower Gel
  • Genesis Hand + Body Lotion
  • ART Light Moisturizer

And, that’s a wrap! As you can see, traveling with essential oils is well within the realm of possibility. If you’ve traveled with oils before, I’d love to know which made the cut.

Also, feel free to follow my journey on Instagram, and stay tuned for Ireland travel tips! :)

DIY Garden Spray

As a city dweller, I take pride in my urban garden. Between veggies, herbs, and flowers, I’ve got containers upon containers of homegrown goodies come summertime. While most gardeners in the ‘burbs and countryside have to worry about a whole slew of insects, rodents, and even large animals such as deer, the most common pest that I’ve come across in the city is squirrels. Ugh!

I love animals of all kinds. I also love using all-natural products whenever possible. As such, store-bought and toxin-filled products just weren’t cutting it for me. I’m not in the business of hurting harmless critters or myself; I simply want them to stay away from my labors of love. After a bit of research, I’ve come up with a recipe to keep the squirrels away without harming them or poisoning my food. 

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1/4 cup red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. unscented Castile soap
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 16 oz. glass spray bottle

What you’ll do:

  • Add the filtered water and red pepper flakes to a small pot; bring to a rapid boil for approximately 5 minutes; allow to cool to room temperature
  • Pour the mixture over a fine mesh strainer; add the liquid to the spray bottle; discard the red pepper flakes
  • Add the unscented Castile soap and peppermint essential oil to the spray bottle; top with filtered water until the bottle is full; apply the lid and give it a good shake
  • Give your plants and the soil below them a good spritz every several days, especially after rainfall