Travel

Scotland

My 2013 trip to Europe certainly drained my bank account, and I didn’t think I would be doing another big trip for another couple years.  In 2013, when I visited my friends Jack and Amy in Liverpool, they had just gotten engaged, and they assured me they were planning a 2015 wedding, and that I had time to save before coming back to the UK.  Cut to a few months later, when Amy emails me to say they set a date… September 5, 2014 :)  Jack and I have been friends for 12 years, keeping our friendship up over an ocean of distance, and I absolutely adore Amy, so there was just really no way I was going to miss this wedding.  I also am not the type to spend a ton of money on airfare to go somewhere far away for a quick weekend… so I got serious and started planning a trip to Scotland ahead of the wedding, to make the most of my time away!  I hadn’t been able to visit Scotland in 2013, so I was excited to see a new country and have some new experiences.  It actually worked out so fantastically; I was able to fly into Edinburgh, rent a car for a few days to tour the Highlands and the Isle of Skye, drive to Glasgow and stay free with a friend of a friend, and then hitch a ride from Scotland to Liverpool with the godmother of the bride for the wedding.  The planning really came together nicely and my only regret is being stupid enough to travel without a backup credit card.  SERIOUSLY, never do this!  It is the most idiotic thing you can do while traveling, because really, as much as you may have think you squared away everything with your bank, there is ALWAYS an issue.  Always.

 

Anyways, Scotland was fantastic, and wanting to visit London again as well, I booked a flight to Edinburgh that had a ten hour layover in London.  I have to say, I was so freakin proud of myself.  Last year, when I went to London, Kevin was flying in from Shannon and I would be in London for a few hours on my own before meeting up with him.  I was terrified!!  I had never been to such a big European city on my own before.  When I got there, I remember hiding out in our hotel room for a few hours on my own.  I remember I did eventually meet my friend Adam for a drink, but I was so scared of taking the tube alone!

 

This time, I was on it.  I got to Heathrow, found the closest bag drop to my terminal, paid to store my carry on for the day, and jumped on the train into the city.  I still had the London tube map on my phone, so once I got into the city everything was pretty much easy breezy.  My big adventure was finding Neals Yard, and I was so happy that I did.  I had a great lunch in Covent Garden, and for once it wasn’t raining outside so I really just enjoyed walking around London with the sun on my face.

 

A few snaps from lovely, lovely London…

 

 

 

Had seen this place somewhere (probably Pinterest) and had always wanted to visit!  I didn't catch it on my last trip to London, so this trip was all about searching out colorful Neals Yard...

 

 

 

As I said, it was a quick jaunt in London.  After my ten hour layover, I boarded my flight to Edinburgh.  By the time I took the train from the airport to my B&B, and did about a mile walk with my bags... I was bloody exhausted!  I had been traveling for about 36 hours, and was so relieved to find that my B&B was adorable and cozy, and my hosts were welcoming and gracious.  As I set down my bags, Sharon asked me if I would like a "wee dram" before bed... sure, why not?  A wee dram was a glass of whiskey, and it knocked me right out.  I slept in a little bit the next day, and then made the mistake of ordering the salmon for breakfast at the B&B.  Seriously, when will I remember the differences from Europe and the US?  It was of course the cold, smoky type salmon that no one wants to eat at 9:00 a.m. lol... but I digress...

 

 

So let me just start out by saying Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  It might rival London as the #1 city I have visited.  Doesn't have the underground system that London has, but this is certainly a great and easy city to navigate by foot.  The Royal Mile was a fabulous walk, and I loved Rose Street as well.  Lots of character and pretty shop and bar fronts, with flag bunting overhead.  I didn't like Princes Street very much... it was all shopping and it reminded me a lot of the city centre of Cork, which was so commercial.  But the architecture, the people, the monuments and museums and castle and pubs... I loved this city!!!

 

 

 

The Scott Monument and the Eye...

 

 

The Fringe Festival, which is a huge event for the city, was just wrapping up, and so I caught a couple street performers on the last day of it...

 

 

 

Edinburgh Castle!  So gorgeous and right at the start of the Royal Mile... this place is so huge, you could spend a whole day just exploring its grounds...

 

 

 

 

Views of the city from the castle...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Mile, in the "Old Town" of Edinburgh, starts at Edinburgh Castle and ends at Palace of Hollyroodhouse, with a little more than a mile in between the two, hence the Royal Mile.  Get it?  The architecture was stunning all along the mile, but I liked the bottom towards Hollyroodhouse much better... it was prettier, almost like you were heading into the country, and there were less tourists and less cheesy shops.  I went to a great pub at the bottom of the mile called the Kirklin Bar, which was very traditional and old school, with gas lamps and dripping candles everywhere.  I actually went there on a date.... I managed to nab a date within a day or two of being in Edinburgh!  It didn't quite work out... I mean I ended up finding him so annoying that I was literally running away from him towards the end of the date, but still.  It was nice to have someone to spend a couple hours with in this awesome city.  He took me to another great bar called the Oz Bar, which was sort of an Australian backpacker bar, but really fun all around.

 

 

 

 

 

Other cute pubs around Edinburgh...

 

 

 

The Grassmarket Square area...

 

 

 

 

 

Cemetery where Greyfriars Bobby is buried...

 

 

The Writers Museum was sort of odd.  I wasn't really sure how to tour it; there was no one greeting me and no brochure or audio tape or anything.  It felt like a library/ gift shop, and one woman who I finally saw working was eyeing me like a hawk.  It made me feel weird, so I ended up leaving.  But the building courtyard outside is pretty and peaceful.

 

 

The Scotch Whiskey Experience was one of the coolest tours ever!  You take part of the tour on moving whiskey barrels, like a ride through a haunted house at a carnival, and then you get out and get to do a tasting after you learn about the different regions in Scotland that produce whiskey.  I tried the vanilla-y (excellent description, I know) one from the Highlands... they give you a scratch and sniff card, and that one smelled the most appealing to me!  They also had the most whiskey bottles I had ever seen... like my whiskey room selfie?  :)

 

 

Taking my turn on the eye... I rode it with a 7 year old named Hamlet whose father was afraid of heights... hilarious!  I didn't realize until I was on the wheel that you can climb up into the Scott Monument.  I wish I had stayed ignorant about that haha...

 

 

Jenners Department Store, which is right across from the Eye and the Scott Monument...

 

 

So yeah, my biggest regret from Edinburgh... I paid the 4 pounds and climbed up the Scott Monument... if you have ANY problem with heights at all, DO NOT do this!  Seriously, I DON'T have a problem with heights, and I basically felt like I was going to die.  This was absolute madness.  I thought climbing Blarney Castle was hard... that was NOTHING compared to this.  I had to actively tell myself not to panic and to feel my feet on the ground.  You just go up and up and up in the tiniest staircases ever created, and it's hard not to panic or get vertigo.  The views are great but if I had the choice again, I would have enjoyed this monument from the ground :)

 

 

The architecture in Edinburgh!  So incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calton Hill was one place that I kept hearing I had to watch the sunset from.  Everyone was right... this place was glorious.  This first photo is part of the walk up...

 

 

See?  I mean my pictures do not even do it justice.  I will say there are lots of people that go up to Calton Hill for this purpose, and it was pretty hard getting just the right angle.  But it was beautiful and serene nonetheless... and it was also so frustrating because it made me realize that I am horrible at landscape photography and photographing structures that are completely backlit!

 

 

 

 

 

I loved Calton Hill so much I went back the next morning!  Unfortunately there wasn't much of a sunrise and the light was very dull and flat, but it was still a very peaceful morning with incredible views.

 

 

 

 

The Balmoral Hotel is certainly one of the most recognizable landmarks in Edinburgh...

 

 

 

Other things I'd recommend in Edinburgh:

 

Hop on/ hop off bus:  I basically recommend the hop on/ hop off bus anywhere you go in Europe that has it.  You really cannot go wrong, and it gives you such freedom to see the city at your own pace.  One day I was in Edinburgh it was just a great weather day, and so after seeing the Writer's Museum, I jumped on the hop on/ hop off bus for a tour around the city.  I rode from near the castle, back to the castle because I had forgotten to go to a big shop there that I wanted to check out (sort of like the Blarney Woolen Mills of Edinburgh), then jumped on a different "vintage bus" for another loop around, where I got off at The Scott Monument and climbed off.  After I climbed the Scott Monument, I was able to grab another hop on/ hop off bus over to Leith,  because my friend Spring had recommended a great restaurant there that I needed to check out.  Even the next day, when I wasn't able to leave Edinburgh right away as planned, I was able to use my hop on/ hop off pass to kill some time, because your hop on/ hop off pass is good for 24 hours (in most places).

 

The Granary, Leith:  As I said, my friend Spring recommended this restaurant to me, and by the time I got there I was exhausted!  I had been sightseeing all day, and I accidentally missed the stop closest to the Granary, so I had to walk a couple miles with my camera bag on.  However, as soon as I arrived here?  Heaven.  I loved this place.  So relaxing, good music playing quietly (so you can actually hear yourself think/ talk), big comfy couches, big windows looking out on the street and the canal.  Not to mention my waiter was ridiculously good looking and ridiculously nice.  I had a three course meal here, and still didn't want to leave.  I think I finished half the book I brought on my trip with me at this place.  Very relaxing and would highly recommend, especially for solo travelers.

 

Ramsay's B&B:  I absolutely adored my B&B in Edinburgh!  It was pretty much in the center of the city, although on the opposite side of the Royal Mile... regardless, it was so easy to walk to and from everything at this B&B.  It was so well maintained and Sharon and Norry were the best hosts.  You could tell they took absolute pride in their establishment, and the breakfasts were superb.  Yes, even the cold smokey salmon that I ordered by mistake :)

 

Things you can miss:

 

City of the Dead underground tour:  I do feel bad saying this, because it was a friend that recommended this to me, and Edinburgh does seem like the perfect city for something like this.  That being said... UGH!  This was terrible.  Maybe I just had a really bad guide or something, but this whole tour seems to rely on cheap thrills and not actual stories.  I think most of the tales we actually heard were of strange things happening during tours in recent years... you go in expecting to hear the creepy history of the city and how many people had to live underground, and scary stories from that time period.  I really hated this tour... especially at the end when another tour guide jumped out in a black cape to give the teenagers on the tour a scream.  Very cheesy and very orchestrated... save your money.

 

On my last morning in Edinburgh, I was so excited to be leaving the city and heading to the Highlands for the next few days.  I ate an early breakfast in the B&B, and then headed over to Enterprise rental car, which was right near my B&B, to pick up my car.  This is when the nightmare started.  Basically, long story short, the night before I had tried to get money out of the ATM to pay for the rental car.  The ATM would not dispense me enough cash.  So I got what I could and went to a different ATM to get more.  It wouldn't dispense me any more cash.  At which point I realized there must be a daily limit, and I must have hit it already.  I figured no harm no foul, there was nothing else I needed to buy that night... so I went back to my B&B and chilled out.  What I didn't realize, because I did not have my phone set up for international calling, is that my bank was trying to call me.  The multiple ATM use triggered security measures, and when they couldn't reach me, they figured my card had been stolen and they turned it off.

 

Cut to me at 8 am, at the rental car place, trying to get my car.  And of course, my card not working.  And me not having enough cash, because the ATM wouldn't give me any more the night before.  And me, panicking, with a full day of plans and sight-seeing ahead of me, and no way to pay for my car.  I had to walk back to the B&B, where I was able to hang out until 10:00 a.m... but I basically couldn't stay longer than that because they had their daily cleaning crew coming in and my room was being used for new guests that night.  Why didn't you just call the bank, you ask?  Well because Scotland is 5 hours ahead of us, and my bank doesn't open until 9:00 a.m.  Which means, friends, that I couldn't even call the bank to get this worked out until 2:00 p.m. Scotland time.  To say I was losing my mind was an understatement.  I AM A PLANNER!!!  Through and through.  I have plans.  I can't just relax.  It's a fault sometimes... but here I was, wanting to get out of the city and to explore more and see more of this amazing country I was in, and I was stuck with absolutely NO MONEY in Edinburgh!  So basically, my morning went:  hang out at B&B until 10:00 a.m., leave bags at B&B and go wander the city penniless, remember I can use my hop on/ hop off tour ticket until noon, do that until the last possible minute, get out at Princes Street gardens, and basically lay on my back looking at the sky for 2 hours, go back to B&B and use their phone to scream at my bank, walk down to car rental place again, find out I have to have my passport with me to pick up my car, walk back to the B&B, get my passport, walk back A THIRD TIME to the rental car place, finally get my car, swing by the B&B and pick up my bags, and get on the road by about 2:30.  I'm not kidding, that was my morning.  Good parts and bad parts.  Mostly bad.

 

Anyways, because of the severe dent in my available daytime touring hours, I wasn't able to be as lackadaisical about getting to the Isle of Skye as I wanted to be.  One cute town I did find myself passing through was Aberdour... I was actually trying to get somewhere much further past it, but while I was there the sky opened up and I figured if it was going to rain this terribly the whole way to the Isle of Skye, I better get moving towards that direction right away...

 

 

 

I made it to the Highlands!  Much later in the day than I expected but the drive through the Highlands was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

And onto the Isle of Skye... these were all taken in the subsequent days... by the time I got onto Skye my first night there, it was almost 11:00 p.m. and pitch dark and I was actually terrified that my B&B wasn't going to let me in!  I'm telling you, the driving situation and the phone situation left me a lot more stressed out than I ever was in Ireland.  If only I had not lost that Ireland/ UK GPS chip when I got home, and if only I had had an unlocked phone to use in Scotland.  Both would have saved me so much trouble.

 

 

 

 

Isle of Skye is pretty, no?  :)

 

 

Obsessed with Kilt Rock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got to be in Scotland at a very interesting time.  They were about to vote on their independence from the UK, and everywhere you went you would see "yes" or "no" signs.  Lots more yeses than nos, but I was not surprised when they did not break free.  It seemed like the nos took a lot of flack for their opinion, so I'm sure a lot of them kept it quiet and opted out of putting up signs!

 

 

 

 

The capital of the Isle of Skye is a lovely little town called Portree...

 

 

 

I loved the colors... and the alleyway with flower pots going up the stairs!  That totally begged me to stop and take a photo.

 

 

One big expenditure that I booked for the Isle of Skye was a mentoring lesson with a landscape photographer there.  His name was Tim Wilcock and he was absolutely fabulous.  I'm not sure how I found him; I think on Skye's webpage of tourist attractions, him and a few other photographers were listed as people you could do photo hikes or mentoring sessions with.  Regardless, he had me meet him at Neist Point Lighthouse in Glendale for our session at sunset.  It actually worked out perfectly, because Neist Point was right near a restaurant a friend of mine had recommended, so I made reservations for after our session.  More on this later...

 

I arrived a few minutes early... the first couple shots were the view from the parking lot!

 

 

 

Trying different angles and learning about landscape photography...

 

 

 

 

As you'll see from these next few photos, it was one of those nights where the sky changed a thousand times... and I learned so much playing around with gradient filters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, I had booked a Misty Isle boat tour from a little village called Elgol, and driving there that morning I remember basically wanting to die again.  DRIVING IN SCOTLAND WAS SO HARD!!!  Especially on the Isle of Skye.  There was no signage!  You'd go for miles upon miles, and you'd think "There's absolutely no way I'm still on the right track, I'm definitely lost..."  And you'd have to pull over and wait for another human to pass (which could sometimes be a half hour stretch), and you'd be shocked to find out you WERE on the right track.  I think the other thing is that everyone here drives so fast.  They tell you "Oh it's just a half hour drive from your B&B..."... yeah, that's cause they drive like maniacs!  If you're a normal driver, multiply the time locals give you by 3 :)

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour guides pointed out a seal colony as we approached the Cuillin Hills.  Three times visiting the seal colony on Inishmore in Ireland and never saw any... was so excited to see these guys!

 

 

 

 

Exploring Loch Coruisk...

 

 

 

Later that day, I headed to the Fairy Pools... talk about a great walk!  This was one of my favorite things in Skye, and my only regret is not biting the bullet, stripping down and jumping in the water.  I saw a few people cliff jumping at different points on the way up, but I was too chicken :)  I think I would have been braver if I had someone with me egging me on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other don't misses on Skye:

 

The Blue Shed Cafe:  I really liked this place.  I can't really describe why.  There's nothing super spectacular about it... the food was just toasties, scones... typical cafe food.  But it was in the perfect spot at the perfect moment, on my way back from Elgol, and I really liked the woman running it.  Plus, you can't beat the view.  So I'd say it's a good stop-off for a light lunch, if you're coming to and from the boat tours.

 

Whitewave kayaking:  YES.  A million times yes to this.  I am such a huge fan of kayaking, and in Ireland I did my first ocean kayak.  I decided it wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be, and so when I planned my trip to Skye I looked up kayaking and found Whitewave.  Again, the morning of kayaking, there was a complete panic about getting there on time... I know this is like the 10th time I'm mentioning it, but driving on Skye was ridiculous!  Anyways, I somehow made it on time to Whitewave, where another nice German couple was waiting for me and we all went out with our English kayaking guide Brin for a day on the water.  We had an absolutely beautiful morning with sunny, blue skies, and we kayaked out of Uig Harbor.  This was one of my favorite activities in Scotland, and I am determined to go back someday and do a weeklong kayaking trip out of Plockton.  I'm also determined to kayak everywhere I visit that has kayaking.  It is absolutely one of my favorite things to do.

 

Three Chimneys:  This is the restaurant near Neist Point Lighthouse that my friend Stephen had recommended to me.  I wanted to have one fancy, expensive meal on Skye... and boy did I get my wish!  I cannot even tell you... I knew this place was going to be on the pricier side, but I was absolutely shell shocked when I arrived.  They welcomed me into a beautiful, candlelit restaurant where all the waiters and maitre'ds (sp?) were wearing full tuxes, and they sat me at a nice table looking out onto the room.  My only saving grace at this point was that my reservation was for later in the evening, around 9:00, so it wasn't as crowded as it probably normally is.  This was a saving grace because this is the most romantic restaurant I have ever been to in my life... and I was there with my iPad lol.  But even my iPad was ruining the ambiance, what with the bright screen and all, and so I put it away.  Anyways, the food was great here, but for a set price menu of either 60 pounds or 90 pounds ($90 or $140) per person, it better be!  So the reason I am recommending this restaurant is because if you're part of a couple visiting Skye and want a fancy, romantic meal out, this is definitely the place.  HOWEVER, if you are a solo traveler like myself, I would absolutely stay away from this place.  If you want AMAZING food at a great price with a great atmosphere for single travelers, read on...

 

Edinbane Inn:  I had heard that the Edinbane Inn was the place to go for great live trad sessions on the Isle of Skye on Sunday nights.  My last night in Skye was a Sunday, so after a great day of kayaking and shopping in Portree, I headed to Edinbane to catch some trad music.  This place, BY FAR, served me my best meal in Scotland.  Maybe the best meal of my life.  I am not kidding.  The food here was to die for.  I had salmon with new potatoes and beet salsa, and it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.  I don't think I am exaggerating.  Everything else that went by me looked scrumptious too.  I ended up being invited to join the table of a family visiting from England, and they were great fun as we watched the trad session together.  The session was also one of the best I had ever seen.  They started with four musicians and people kept coming in with instruments... by the end there was a total of 8 or 9 musicians!  It was a lively session and between that and the great food, it was definitely a perfect last night on the island.

 

On my last morning on Skye, I got up pretty early.  I had lost some time with the rental car fiasco a few days earlier and I was behind on a few things I had really wanted to see on my way to Skye.  One was the Eileen Donan Castle, which is beautifully lit up at night, but which I couldn't actually visit because it was closed by the time I arrived on Skye my first night.  I went to the castle first thing in the morning...

 

 

 

 

And then spent the day exploring Loch Ness (pictured below)!  I didn't take many pictures there, and I didn't see Nessie (#disappointed) but it was gorgeous and I stuck my feet in and took the obligatory "Feet in Loch Ness" photo.

 

I also stopped at Loch Lomonde, which was gorgeous, and The Green Welly Stop, which was the perfect place to steal wifi before leaving the Highlands and getting to the big city :)

 

 

Glasgow!

 

 

I'm not sure what I was expecting from Glasgow, but I didn't think I would like it as much as I did.  I guess I was expecting it to be much more modern and industrial... and it was, in some parts, but it still had the beautiful, old Europe architecture that made me fall in love with Edinburgh.  Glasgow was a really beautiful city!  If only that tricky Scottish weather had been a little better :)

 

My friend Stephen is from Glasgow, and so he connected me with a friend of his who didn't mind me crashing in his flat for a few days of my journey.  He was a very gracious host (hi Gregor!) and took a day or so off of work to show me around his city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other don't misses in Glasgow:

Maggie Mays:  On my first night in Glasgow, Gregor took me to Maggie Mays to have dinner with Martin and Becky, two of Stephen and Hilary's friends who I had met on their visit to the states a few months prior. I really liked this place and the food was awesome. 

 

Scotia Bar:  After dinner at Maggie Mays, Gregor took me to Scotia Bar, the oldest pub in Glasgow, where I enjoyed my first Tennents beer.  The Scotia was really cool, and you can see the history there the moment you walk in.  Low ceilings, old wood beams, little nooks and crannies that tables and benches now fill up, where you can fill in and have quiet conversations.  There was a guy with a guitar, though I think he was just a patron and not a paid performer, and he hummed a few tunes, which added to the atmosphere.  I would definitely recommend this spot if you are ever visiting Glasgow. 

 

Hop on hop off bus around Glasgow:  See!  I told you don't miss it in any European city that has it :)  It was absolutely bloody freezing the day Gregor and I took it, but eventually we got to move inside and it was much more enjoyable.  A great way to see the sites. 

 

A traditional Scottish chippy run:  This is a must.  An absolute must.  Find a good chippy in Glasgow, and go to it.  Now.  Because before I visited Glasgow, I didn't know that friend pizza was a thing.  You read that righT.  FRIED PIZZA.  But not only is it a thing... it is one of the BEST THINGS.  Dear lord, I can't even describe it.  On my last full day in Scotland, Gregor and I took a lunch break and went to his local chippy, and ordered all the traditional Scottish fare: fried pizza, fried haggis, chips with vinegar and Irn Bru.  HOLY CHRIST.  I am pretty sure I raised my cholesterol level about 300 points just in this one meal, but it was worth it.  They also call Fried Pizza "Pizza Crunch", so if you ever see that on the menu, just order it.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ORDER IT.  It is heaven. 

 

On my last day in Scotland, I took the train from Glasgow to Auchinleck, to meet the godmother of the bride.  Amy had been kind enough to link me up with her aunt Jan, and she and her husband Pat welcomed me to their home for my last night in Scotland.  More than that, they took me to a fabulous dinner with the below photo as our view.  They were the sweetest!  And it was so great to have people to travel to Liverpool with.  It was actually a huge relief, because the next day, I once again had debit card issues.  I really couldn't believe it.  And had I not been with them, it might have been a bigger problem.  But we made it to Liverpool and all was right with the world!

 

 

I didn't really take many photos in Liverpool this time, and so I am not including any in this post.  I had taken a whole bunch in 2013 (see previous London/ Liverpool post) and while I was visiting this time, I really wanted to just enjoy seeing Jack and Amy and their families (obsessed with Sue and Kate, not going to lie) and have fun at the wedding.  It was great because there was another girl Jack had been friends with at Bridgewater State over from the US for the wedding, and so I had a sightseeing buddy.  My last few nights were spent with Tim and Kate, Amy's parents, and on my last day Kate used her pull as a National Trust member to get us on a Beatles Tour inside the homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney!  It was super cool, and we finished the day with an archery lesson for myself.  So fun.

 

The following day Kate and Tim drove Amy, Jack and I to the Manchester Airport.  They were heading to Asia on their honeymoon, and after two weeks of traveling I was happy to be heading home to Vermont.  We got airport beers and caught up a bit, which was great because I felt like the wedding and days after were just a whirlwind and I did not get to see them as much as I had hoped.  After a dramatic and tearful goodbye (just kidding), we parted ways and I was back to the states.

 

So there it is, friends!  My trip to Scotland, in a nutshell.  Beautiful place that I would love to visit again.  Only took me 6 months to blog about it... I think I'm improving as I was averaging about a year on Ireland posts ;-)  I hope you all enjoyed the photos... leave me some love in the comments below if you've ever been to Scotland and have a favorite area!

 

You can also purchase images from my Scotland trip at the following link.  Feel free to check it out if you want some Scotland up on your wall at home!

 

http://photos.alannascully.com/event/1259663

 

 

 

THANK YOU

As you all know (or can read more about in previous blog posts, if you’re really bored), in November I published a coffee table book of Irish images taken on my 2013 trip, as well as galleries of images from Ireland and England to sell for the purpose of raising money and awareness for the Massachusetts Resiliency Center.  The Resiliency Center was set up by a government grant, for the purpose of aiding survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks with counseling, therapy, and financial support.  What I love about the Resiliency Center is that it’s for everyone; people that were injured, yes, but also those who were emotionally changed that day… first responders, survivors, their families, spectators, people of Boston who were affected and need help dealing with it now.  They are doing great work in helping to heal the city of Boston, and everyone from outside the city who was there that day.

 

A week or so after I self-published the book, my dad and stepmom came to Vermont for a weekend visit, and my stepmom asked me if I had thought about doing a press release.  Truth be told, I hadn’t… I was promoting a lot through social media, but I knew she was right; a press release would reach a broader audience, if it was well written and well executed.  Enter Jim Farrell, a contact of my stepmom’s; Jordan Von Trapp, my saucy travel writing friend and proofreader; and Tom McCarthy, husband of my friend Karen and a reporter in Cork city, Ireland.  Thanks to these three people, within a week I had a great press release written and released to news outlets all over western MA, Boston, and Ireland.  I can’t even tell you how much I lucked out.  Jim was great about perfecting the press release and getting it out quickly, Jordan helped me with some final edits, and Tom grabbed it and helped get it all over Ireland within a matter of hours.  It was unbelievable.  My A-team!  I can’t thank them enough.

 

I got a lot of support from my hometown area, a little support in Boston, and a ton of support in Ireland!  It felt great every time someone picked up this story, because it felt like what I was doing actually mattered.  I was so sad for so long when I returned from Ireland, and it was so great to feel like I had turned that into a positive.  Going through 22,000 photos had been a daunting task, and one that I wasn’t sure I would ever make it through, but I was proud to have followed through on my word and put together this donation.

 

Lastly, the support I got from all of you was beyond my wildest dreams.  My initial fundraising goal was $500… and you helped me surpass that within the first week of these things being public.  I thought maybe I would sell a couple copies of the book… and I sold 40.  Your amazing generosity helped me raise $1,200.00 for the MA Resiliency Center, and I could not be more grateful.  For those who had been following my growing amount on Facebook, you'll know this isn't the full number, which turned out to be just over $1,600!!!  Unfortunately, I found out from a whole handful of accountants (because I didn't believe the first 2 I asked, including my own) that I would be taxed on the amount raised, even though I was giving it to a charity.  I would like to state, on the record, that I think this is total BULLSHIT.  Unfortunately, it put me in a position to have to take the tax money out to cover myself, and they recommended taking 25% out for taxes, which is what I did, leaving the donation at $1,200.  I know this amount probably seems like a drop in the bucket when you consider how much care and treatment the people affected are going to need for the rest of their lives, but every little bit helps, and standing behind the city of Boston and everyone affected is so important.  By making a purchase and supporting them, you proved again that love can really drive out hate.  That love can win, over and over again.

 

I wanted to share some of the coverage the book received, as well as a selfie (clearly) of me with the check, which is now on its way to the MA Resiliency Center!  This check was drawn today, 2 years to the day that I left for my Ireland trip.  Very symbolic, no?  :)

 

 

 

IrishCentral is a media outlet I follow through Facebook, and before I even finished the press release, I had messaged them about my book and promoting it.  Kayla Hertz wrote to me immediately with some questions, and wrote a great piece about my trip.

 

 

 

The first outlet to pick up the story from the press release was the Boston City Biz List, which took the press release and put it on their website within an hour or two…

 

 

 

My hometown newspaper, The West Springfield Record, had done a story on me years ago when I first started my small business, and they supported me again by publishing this story about  my book…

 

 

The Irish Examiner picked it up the same day, with this great article from Denise O’Donoghue…

 

 

The editor of the Sligo Weekender tweeted at me about the story, and he also published it on December 4th….

 

 

It meant a lot to me to have this story published in the Cork News, where I spent a good chunk of time and where I still have good friends…

 

 

The website Evoke did a nice photo layout and story about my trip and the book….

 

 

The other big paper in my hometown area picked up the story and did a piece, and this was their MassLive version of that story...

 

 

The story was also covered by the Evening Echo, the Donegal Democrat and the Irish Daily Mail.  I wish I could share the PDF’s of those articles with you, as there’s no place to see them online, but unfortunately I would be violating copyright laws in Ireland if I shared them.

 

The other crazy thing that came out of this project and the press release… I did my first ever (and probably last ever lol) television and radio interviews!  I was interviewed by Emily Volz of WGGB 40 in my hometown of Springfield, MA, about the project and how it came about.  I was nervous and scared, but this was such a cool experience and I am thrilled I got a chance to do it.  You can see the full interview here…

 

http://wggb.com/wp-content/themes/wggb/vidplay.php?va_id=5545042

 

A few minutes after I left the television studio, I received an email through my website asking if I would like to be on a radio program out of Amherst, MA called Celtic Crossings. Louise was great to talk to about this endeavor and you can listen to the podcast here…

 

So there it is!  All the great coverage and support I received putting this book out there and helping raise the donation to the MA Resiliency Center.  I would not have raised anywhere close to this had it not been for doing the press release, so I sincerely thank everyone involved and everyone who picked up the press release and published it.  Most of all, above all else, I want to sincerely thank everyone who made a print or book purchase.  Your support and your contribution is what made this donation possible, and it means the world to me that you invested in this great cause by buying my photos.  I can't say it enough, but really... THANK YOU.

 

Boston Strong.

Ireland and England: My Donation to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center

TO PURCHASE CEAD MILE FAILTE, MY IRELAND COFFEE TABLE BOOK, CLICK HERE:  http://www.blurb.com/b/5712360-cead-mile-failte  

TO PURCHASE ANY IRELAND PRINTS OR CANVASES, CLICK HERE:  http://photos.alannascully.com/

 

As most of you know by now, in March 2013 I took a three month trip to Ireland that changed my life.  You can scroll down more in the blog to read all about it, but today I want to focus on what happened on April 15, 2013, while I was in Killarney.  I had a college friend over visiting me for a couple of days.  We were just leaving a restaurant after having dinner, and she was scrolling through Facebook on her phone.  She said to me "I think something happened at the Boston Marathon."  The events of that horrific day were just starting to unfold, and for the next few hours we watched in shock from our B&B in Killarney.  We felt sad, and scared, and helpless... and I have never been so glad to not be alone.

 

It wasn't too long after that happened that I decided to do something with the images that came out of this trip.  I brought my professional camera and lenses with me to Ireland, and when all was said and done I had taken 22,000 photos with it.  22,000!!!  I knew when I got home it would take me quite awhile to get through them all.  I never dreamed it would take me over a year.  It has been 502 days since I returned from this amazing adventure, but I finally have my Ireland and England galleries up for you to view.  There is a full gallery of chosen and edited images, which contains about 450 pictures and is separated by county, and there is the final gallery, that I managed to get down to the 35 images that you see below.  I had unbiased and objective friends view all 450 and choose their favorites, the ones they would put on their wall that they felt represented Ireland, and these 35 are what they came up with.  Above each picture is a description of where it was taken.  All proceeds from these sales, and the sale of my coffee table book which is linked at the bottom of this post, will go to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center. This center was established by a grant from the justice department and provides counseling and financial support for victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings.  You can read more about the center here.

 

I hope you enjoy them!  To purchase any of these images, please click on the following link:

http://photos.alannascully.com/finalirelandengland

 

 

The colorful bar front of Temple Bar in Dublin.

 

 

Brightly colored doors in Dublin.   This will be sold as a panel, or you can buy each door print individually.

 

 

Kegs on the side of Kytelers Inn, in Kilkenny.

 

 

Sheeps showing me their better side at Kells Priory, Kilkenny, Ireland.

 

 

Baby lambs block the road to Tintern Abbey in co. Wexford.

 

 

A boat in Bantry harbor.

 

 

Colorful window and window box in Kinsale, co. Cork.

 

 

A bright and unique display welcomed me to a flower shop in Cork City.

 

 

Just after sunset on a drive in West Cork.

 

 

The bright and fun "Smartie" houses of Eyeries, Ireland.

 

 

Cows and dramatic hills in Eyeries, Ireland.

 

 

Boats along the water at Ross Castle in Killarney.

 

 

Chickens move around the old fashioned thatched roof cottages of Muckross Traditional Farms in Killarney.

 

 

Donkeys trying to catch my attention at Muckross Traditional Farms.

 

 

A traditional thatched roof cottage at Bunratty Castle Folk Park.

 

 

The stunning and unmistakable Cliffs of Moher.

 

 

The seaside town of Lahinch, Ireland.

 

 

A goat is curious about me on Inishmore, one of the three Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway.

 

 

Dramatic skies above Clifden, Ireland.

 

 

A walk in the woods will lead you to Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland.

 

 

Getting up close and personal with a horse outside of Galway.

 

 

The wonderful town of Westport, Ireland.

 

 

A sheep stands guard in Sligo.

 

 

A scenic drive with some other furry tourists outside of Sligo.

 

 

The Slieve League Cliffs in co. Donegal.

 

 

Sunset on the Slieve League Cliffs.

 

 

A sheep grazes after sunset in co. Donegal.

 

 

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland will be one of the most amazing natural landscapes you have ever seen.

 

 

Sunset from Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland.

 

 

Big Ben was one of the things I wanted to see most in London, and the beauty of it did not disappoint.

 

 

Stormy skies from the pier in Brighton, UK.

 

 

Again, to purchase any of the images on this blog post, please click on the following link:

 

http://photos.alannascully.com/finalirelandengland

 

Was there a picture you remember seeing in earlier posts that you don't see now?  Was there an area I visited that is meaningful to you or your family that you don't see represented?  If you would like to see the full gallery of the images I have for sale from Ireland and England, please click here:

 

http://photos.alannascully.com/irelandandengland

 

Lastly, if you love Ireland as much as I do and one picture is not going to be enough, please feel free to browse my coffee table book and see if it's something you would like to add to your collection at home.  Again, all proceeds from the book will go to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, which is mentioned inside the book jacket.  I encourage you to consider giving this as a gift for someone this holiday or purchasing one for your own home.  Your money will be going to a good cause and you will be able to enjoy 115 pages of photos of beautiful Ireland for years to come.

 

To see the book, please click here.

 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support.

 

Ireland in Summary: What I Really Think About The Emerald Isle, How To Talk Irish, and The Most Ridiculous (Amount Of) Selfies Ever

Everyone said I would fall in love when I went to Ireland.  Everyone was positive that it would happen, and I know everyone wanted that for me, even though I was doubting it all the way through.  I haven't had the best luck in love in my life, and it didn't seem like that would change just because I had a change in geography.  I really never thought it was going to happen.  And then it did.  I have said it before and I'll say it again:  I fell in love with one of the best people I've ever met and I loved every day I got to spend with him.  I still feel that way.  But that was just my first love story in Ireland.  The second was falling in love with Ireland itself.  And here's the truth, and here's why I am opening up this blog post telling you about my Irish love life:  because without one love story, I don't know if I would have had the other.  

It's funny how words escape us when we want them the most.  Have you ever noticed that?  Whether it's a comeback you came up with too late, or words you're too afraid to say out loud, or that moment when you see the person you like and instead of sounding cool and suave you start stuttering and talking in gibberish?  One year later, I sit here staring at my keyboard.  I'm trying to find the words to best summarize three whole months of my life.  Normally, this would be so easy to do.  I can summarize the last three months in Vermont in one sentence:  it's gotten warmer since March and I have been trying new things and getting out on the lake more to enjoy the nice weather with friends.  There.  Three months summarized.  But how do you summarize a life-changing trip?  How do you summarize falling in love?  How do you summarize sunrises and sunsets and all the perfect little moments in between them?  How do you summarize finding yourself and then losing yourself completely to another person?  You try, I guess.  You put pen to paper... or fingers to keyboard, I should say, and you try to get it out so that you never forget.  So here's my effort at that.  Here's the truth, as honestly as I can say it, as clearly as I can remember it.  Here's the whole shebang; the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

For years, I built Ireland up in my mind.  I had wanted to go there since forever. I had seen a million beautiful photos, watched every Irish movie I could get my hands on, poured over the tour books and obsessed and planned and dreamed about Ireland being exactly how it was in the those movies, those books, those pictures.  And when you build something up in your head like that, to unattainably high standards, you are bound to be disappointed.  It's unavoidable.  And so when I arrived in Ireland, and it was COLD, snowy and rainy, and didn't look like the pictures, and I didn't meet an actual Irish person for what seemed like days, I was disappointed.  That's right, I just said I was disappointed in Ireland.  Now, granted, I had chosen to arrive in Ireland right before St. Patrick's Day, and hadn't realized what a complete sh*t show that would be... and while it did turn out great once friends joined me for a few days, it wasn't the REAL Ireland to me.  The one I felt I had come to see.   It was masses of vomiting tourists wearing seas of orange and green, and it was drunken mayhem and screaming outside the hotel windows and a feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty for me, a question of whether I had made the right choice.  But this was just Dublin, I told myself.  This was Dublin on St. Patrick's Day.  What else could I expect?  As soon as I left Dublin, it would be how it was in the movies and the postcards.  I thought my disappointment would fade away as quickly as the Dublin skyline in my rearview mirror.  And here's the first unfortunate truth:  it didn't.  I continued, for a few weeks, to be disappointed by Ireland.  Because here was the reality I found:

 

-the weather is terrible

-the people were friendly but not overly friendly

-it's more modern than you expect it to be

 

Those are the three truths I was having a hard time accepting those first few weeks in Ireland.  Let me go one by one...

 

The weather:  Yes, everyone knows that it rains a lot in Ireland.  EVERYONE knows this.  My dad was only too happy to point it out about 500 times before I left.  And my answer was always:  "It's what makes it so green!"  So yes, maybe I was a little naive about the amount of rain I would experience while in Ireland.  But you expect the rain.  You don't think about what comes with it, which is WIND.  My god, the wind.  I cannot even describe it.  Some days I literally felt like I could get to England if I just grabbed an umbrella and pointed it in the right direction.  You could literally be leaning into the wind and be standing upright... it was like doing trust falls with Mother Nature.  The wind was terrible!  As for the rain... it's one major thing that makes the rain sort of unbearable: it falls without fail every day.  It's not like being in the states when you can go to the beach and plan to be there all day when the weather is nice.  Irish weather doesn't hold out for the whole day, so at some point in your day, it is going to mess up your plans.  AND your hair.  Be warned.  I bought a rainjacket with a hood and I still ended up looking like Tina Turner most days.

 

The people:  Everyone told me Irish people would be the friendliest people I would ever meet, that they would hear my accent and immediately want to know all about me and where I was from.  Now, while I did meet my fair share of incredible Irish people, and I did find so many of them welcoming and friendly, I'm going to be completely candid here:  it wasn't at all to the level that I expected.  I'M SORRY!!!  I feel like saying that gets me kicked out of the club or something.  I feel bad saying it, I really do.  But first off, these are people who are used to tourists swarming their big cities and small villages ALL THE TIME, so hearing an accent is a daily occurrence.  I really didn't find one person who was impressed with mine... in fact, if anything, I'd say having an American accent was a point in the negative column for me!  No one heard it and wanted to know where I was from in America.  Really, I can't think of one instance of that happening.  I, of course, reached out and told my story and did meet several great people along the way, but most of the time I felt that I was sort of forcing my story ON THEM, trying to engage and hear about them and make friends when they didn't seem all that interested.  I really didn't feel that anyone was going out of their way to be overly friendly to me, in pubs and things like that.  Secondly, do you want to know who WAS doing that and who, time and time again, I felt I was really connecting with?  AMERICANS.  I am not kidding.  Several times in my trip, I met amazing people who wanted to take the time to chat with me, who wanted to drink with me and hang out and hear about my trip and tell me about theirs and just to have a good time together, since that's what traveling is all about.  It really reaffirmed my faith in people opening up their hearts to you... I really felt like Irish people were much tougher around the edges and harder to break through than I expected.

 

The modern-ness of it all:  This one was foolish on my part, but quite honestly, I pictured Ireland to look EXACTLY how it does in movies like Circle of Friends or Leap Year.  And it does, for the most part.  The scenery is spectacular:  the rolling green hills, the dramatic cliffs, the castle ruins, the miles and miles of stone walls and the miles and miles of coastal cliffs.  But unless you're on the Aran Islands (one of my favorite stops, clearly), the houses are completely modern and don't have any of that "old Ireland" feel to them.  You have to go out of your way, or to an attraction like the Bunratty Castle Folk Park or Muckross House Traditional Farms, to find a thatched roof house.  I thought they would be a dime a dozen.  Also, not every guy at the bar is a farmer looking for a wife and a dowry.  Not every bar plays traditional music, and you don't just meet gorgeous guys walking down the road like they do in P.S. I Love You.  Okay, I guess none of that has anything to do with the modern style of the buildings, but still, you get what I mean.  I guess a more appropriate title for this bullet point would be "It's not like it is in the movies."  Because it's not.

 

There were some other things that bothered me too.  One major issue I had was seeing kids in bars all the time.  Not restaurant style bars... I'm talking BAR bars, with no windows and virtually no stimulation for children.  So many times, I would look over and see little feet swinging from a very high stool, a little girl or boy sipping Coke from a straw, eyes glued on the corner TV while their mom or dad or aunt or uncle drank pints with friends.  At first I thought it was just me that it bothered because I am an American and such a thing wouldn't be allowed here, but one night driving back to Cork an Irish radio deejay brought it up and was saying that it shocked and disappointed him and had several callers who agreed that there is no reason for kids to be in bars so late at night.  I was glad that I wasn't just overreacting.  I'm not sure what the exact law in Ireland is regarding kids in bars, but it either needs to be updated or more strongly enforced.

 

So there it is.  The bad.  Or the ugly.  Whatever you choose to call it.  There were other things of course... everyone has bad days and I'm sure I had more than a few, missing my family and friends and feeling lonely in a foreign place.  But I was determined to stick it out, determined to prove to myself how much I could accomplish on my own, and determined to fall in love with Ireland the way I had always planned to.  It was about to happen... I just couldn't see it yet.

 

I have been single for about ten years.  That is not to say I haven't been out on dates or had crushes or come close to falling in love.  I have not been sitting in my bedroom for the past ten years, pining away while staring longingly at my Prince William poster (AND ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE IS A DAMN LIAR!!! ;).  I have dated.  But I have never felt that click, that spark, that moment that you just know.  I'm not talking about an initial meeting, or love at first sight.  People like me don't really believe in that sort of thing.  What I am talking about is that moment of pure trust, of looking at someone and knowing that they love you completely, that you can put your heart in their hands because you're already holding theirs, that from that moment on you can rest easier because you are completely safe and protected.  I never reached that level with anyone else, ever.  And saying hello to Kevin that first night, I never predicted that I would soon know exactly what that felt like.  It was just a hello at a bar, while I tried to kill time between my dinner and the music starting.  But what's that saying?  "A simple hello could lead to a million things"?  It's so true.  So freakin true.

 

From the moment we met, Kevin and I were inseparable.  We made each other laugh, we told each other our sad stories and our happy ones, we adventured together and explored together and saw new things together.  I put up with his terrible dancing skills and he put up with my equally terrible singing voice.  We both slept with our heads under separate pillows to drown out the other person snoring, but it was a small price to pay to be able to fall asleep next to each other every night.  And my favorite spot in Ireland?  It quickly became the spot on his shoulder that I would nestle in to while we drove to our next adventure.  It was one of my favorite routines with him, actually... he wouldn't start the engine to the car until I had slid across the seat and rested my head there.

 

I wasn't expecting to fall in love with Kevin so quickly, and I hate admitting how fast it happened because it almost somehow cheapens it.  It was like a relationship on speed, because we knew we only had a certain amount of time.  We would joke that in dog years we had already been together forever, so it was okay to be in love already.  And because it was okay with him, I gave in to it and let it sweep me up and let it become another stop on this journey.  Like seeing the Cliffs of Moher or kissing the Blarney Stone, loving him became a picture on Instagram, a check off of my bucket list.  It became as real and as tangible as the claddagh ring on my finger, that for once was pointed in the right direction.  I finally knew what everyone had been talking about for so long.  This feeling, this person... this was EVERYTHING.

 

Falling in love opens up your heart in ways that defy description.  And in those first few days and weeks with Kevin, I started to see things differently.  Not just when he was with me, pointing things out and showing me Ireland through his eyes.  It was when I was alone, too... I felt more confident in myself, I felt myself open up more, I started showing a side of myself that I'm not sure I knew was there.  I felt like I started showing Kevin and everyone I met along the way who I really was... this dream that had finally come into realization because someone else had seen it and held up my mirror.  When we couldn't be together, we talked on the phone a few times a day and I would always tell him about the amazing thing I had seen or the great meal I had just had.  I started noticing how happy I was all the time... it sounds cheesy, but one day it was pouring in Sligo and I got caught in it without my wellies on.  And by the time I got to the B&B I was completely soaked, but the first thing I told Kevin on the phone was about the rainbow I had just seen.  The rain, and getting caught in it, wasn't the story that day.  I really slowed down, stopped overthinking, and let Ireland reveal itself to me.  I looked around, opened my eyes a little wider, and there it was.  The Ireland I had dreamed about.  Would I have noticed it without Kevin?  Maybe.  But then again, maybe that's who he was meant to be in my story.  This person who was put on my path to hold up a magnifying glass and show me what I was overlooking, not just in myself but all around me.  How can you not be grateful for that, even if you know you can't keep it?  That's like a blind person being able to see the ocean, just for a minute.  Would they complain about not having longer to stare at it's beauty?  Or would they spend the rest of their days finding new words to describe its wonder?

 

I met Kevin exactly halfway through my time in Ireland.  Really... I was in Ireland for 12 weeks, and I met him 6 weeks in, almost to the day.  He would always say he wished we had met sooner.  Right now, missing him... I would agree and give anything to have those extra few weeks together.  But I have believed from the beginning that it happened exactly how it was supposed to.  I was supposed to spend those first few weeks the way I did, the bad days and the good.  I needed that time to show myself how much I was capable of and what I could handle on my own.  And I needed him to come along exactly when he did, to show me how much happiness can be multiplied when you're sharing it with someone.  I never knew that before.  I know it now.

 

So that's the best way I can tell you about this person I fell in love with, and what happened with him, which was everything and then nothing.  We tried to keep it together when I got home, and spent several weeks WhatsApping and arranging calls with a 5 hour time difference between us and planning trips to visit each other that would never come to fruition.  The truth is not every long distance romance is meant to last.  I'm sure for every successful one you hear about, there's about ten that fail.    And that's the best way to explain the heartbreak, the tears, the months of frustration and devastation and the months I spent specifically NOT looking at Ireland photos.  I know so many people probably just thought I was being downright lazy by not blogging my trip photos right away, but the truth is it's taken me this long to be okay with LOOKING at them.  The sadness came in waves, and I let it.  Sometimes the mood would hit me and I would be okay enough to cull through photos and pick out the ones I wanted to share.  More often, I wouldn't even want to hear the word Ireland because it would make my heart ache.  Daily reminders were everywhere, too, and each time I felt a thousand little knives stabbing me all over.  Ask me how excited I was when I discovered there is a huge concrete company called S.D. Ireland based very close to me in Burlington, and their trucks are EVERYWHERE, with a giant clover as their logo.  There's a street I pass a lot called Irish Rover Lane.  Do you know what it's like to be in the grocery store clutching a package of Kerrygold butter and crying?  Because I do.  And the song... THE song... the song that I can't seem to get away from, the one Kevin and I listened to over and over while we drove all over the country with my head on his shoulder... that song still sends me into a tailspin and I have to shut it off, or get away from it, every time it comes on, or I will end up on the side of the road fighting for air.  It's happened more times than I care to recount.

 

Those are the painful moments,  the side effects of great memories that are now packed in a Rubbermaid container and shoved in a closet in my dad's house.  I packed everything away... my claddagh ring, the shell I found on our first day together and kept, the wool pom pom hat I got at the Aran Island sweater market that he laughed at as I snapped a selfie in the front seat of his car.  It's all in a place where I won't see it.  I'm not there yet.  Maybe some people won't understand that, but I waited 30 years to fall in love, to find someone that loved me too.  Then I did and it didn't work out, and that's a hard thing to have to be reminded of with knick knacks and keychains and coffee table books.  But just like the photos, I know I'll get there someday.  It's inevitable.  And when that day comes, and I go through that Rubbermaid container, I'm sure I'll cry a little, but also smile a lot.  I'll hear his voice in my head, the one that had just one phrase for when I would make a ridiculous purchase of something expensive I didn't need:  "They seen you coming, dearie!"

 

I think about Ireland every day.  I think that's inevitable too.  Do you know when you come back from a week or two vacation and it's really hard to go back to work and get into a routine?  It's like a vacation hangover, almost, and you get all sad and nostalgic and wish you were back where you had just been?  That feeling gets multiplied by 12 when you're gone for 12 weeks :)  I try to dissuade myself from it and remind myself of those lonely first days in Dublin, when I hated everything and thought for sure I had made the wrong choice.  But those thoughts are quickly replaced with some awesome memory or another, and I find myself sitting at work googling tour guide jobs or how to study for your master's abroad.  For months, I was missing my first love.  Now, I miss my second.  I think about those green fields, the colorful windowboxes, the live trad sessions.  I think about Sean and Julia and Mairead and Jamie and Melissa and Lilly and Cathal and Krista and Karen and her phantom husband Tom (haha) and I think I could be happy there too.  I could make a life there.  I know I could make it on my own.  Crazy that it took someone else believing that about me to make me believe it too.

 

I'll love you forever for that, Kev.  Thanks for being my first love... and thank you for giving me my second.

 

 

Just for fun, this is a little Irish vocab list I put together while I was over there... I would hear something that was different than what it would be in America and I would quickly put it in the notes section of my phone.  This is the list I came up with... anyone got any that I missed?  :)

Crisps- Chips Chips- Fries Chipper- Take away place (usually open late) that sells fries Take away- Fast food Jumper- Sweater Lorry- Truck Peckish- Hungry Pram- Stroller Shifting- Kissing Dear, Dearer- Expensive, More expensive Pinting- Drinking Laying in- Sleeping late Lift- Ride Ride- Sex  (don't find this one out the hard way like I did!) That's gas- How funny Boot- Trunk Queue- Line Lads, mates- guy friends SatNav- GPS Petrol- Gas Your man- Any man Giving out- Telling someone off Fair play to you- Good for you, well done  (this one is my absolute favorite... I'm going to try to bring it to the states... it'll be like Gretchen Wieners tried to make fetch happen) OAP (Old Age Pensioner)- Senior Citizen The Dole- Welfare, public assistance

 

I thought about all the photos I could use to wrap this up.... my favorites from my professional camera, or photos of Kevin and I... but honestly, I wanted to end on a light note, a fun note... and so I'm ending with the most ridiculous amount of selfies you've probably ever seen in one place :)  When the horrible, atrocious, not-even-a-song song #Selfie came out, my friend Stephen told me that the song reminded him of me.  We are no longer friends.  Okay just kidding.  But as much as I hate it I have to admit I could see why.  When you're in a foreign place traveling on your own and seeing amazing things all the time, it's just a force of habit!  Rather than ask someone else to take your picture alone, you stick the camera out in front of your face and "selfie".  And so that's what I did for three months, and so my Facebook friends have all had a sneek peak at these crazy selfies I took all over Ireland.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

My first beach walk on an Irish beach.  Brittas Bay Beach, in Wicklow... not sure why I am looking off into the distance like that?  Maybe I'm looking off towards the next 3 months on the trip?  Yeah, let's go with that :)

 

 

On my way from Wicklow to Kilkenny, I was trying desperately to find the Wicklow Gap.  No seriously... I legit couldn't find it.  It's not like I could plug it into the GPS or anything, and when I stopped for directions a guy at the gas station told me that the highway department was discouraging people to drive it due to the icy conditions.  So he referred me to drive the Sally Gap instead...

 

 

And why don't we do a little ice/ snow comparison between the Sally Gap and the Wicklow Gap?  Which of course, I stumbled on a few hours later :)  This is my, "look, there it is!" selfie...

 

 

This could have been the very road that Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank met on in P.S. I Love You.  Because obviously I pretend movie characters are real people.  No but really...

P.S. This was my first Ireland National Park visit... Wicklow Mountains National Park!  I am dying to come back to this in the summer sometime; the colors are supposed to be incredible...

 

 

Selfie with cows in Kilkenny...

 

 

Visiting the Rock of Cashel... as you can see from the scaffolding, they were fixing it up and doing some improvements for my visit...

 

 

So, let me reiterate something I may have mentioned in another post... the day I visited the Rock of Cashel was probably one of my top 3 windiest days in Ireland, if not #1.  It was RIDICULOUS.  There was a storm going through Kilkenny at the time, and I can't even tell you... when I got to the top of this thing, to the actual cathedral ruins... this was pretty much my reaction to how bad the weather was... (and also, this has to be my favorite selfie of the ENTIRE trip)...

 

 

No really, it was bad...

 

 

My Irish movie tour continues with a trip through Inistioge... this town common was where much of the movie Circle of Friends was filmed.  Sigh.

 

 

I have a weird thing for lighthouses... it's like an architectural fetish, if you will... so yup, passing through Wexford, there was NO WAY I was going to miss Hook Head Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world!  One of the coldest days I can remember in Ireland (notice my Rudolph nose) but so worth it...

 

 

Waterford Crystal... a magical place where you can spend $500 in about 5 minutes... not that I would know or anything...

 

 

The day I rode the hop on/ hope off bus all around Cork... with only random teddy bears as my companions...

 

 

The selfie I took with a mannequin at the Cork City Jail... I think he's into me...

 

 

Waiting for my turn to make out with the Blarney Stone...

 

 

In Midleton visiting the Jameson distillery...

 

 

And that time they had me watch a video about Jameson by myself in a full theater, since everyone else on my tour was German and needed the German version... oh heeeeeeyyyyyyyy, drinking-Jameson-alone-in-the-dark selfie!  What's up?

 

 

Hanging out with some old friends at the International Museum of Wine in Kinsale (there is no shortage of alcohol themed attractions in Ireland)...

 

 

Mizen Head, the most southwestern point in Ireland!  Another windy day...

 

 

Sunny skies at the Beara Peninsula...

 

 

Selfie with the tallest ogham stone in the world.  Look how tall it is, just look!!!  Amazing :)

 

 

Meeting of the Waters at Killarney National Park (my 2nd national park visit)...

 

 

Selfie in the most expensive jaunting car ride that ever existed in the history of ever... at least they gave me a blanket!  And by gave, I mean they let me use it during the tour...

 

 

Waiting out a hurricane/ tornado/ monsoon at Ross Castle in Killarney...

 

 

5 minutes later...

 

 

Pretty day and pretty colors at Muckross House in Killarney...

 

 

Rocking the Ring of Kerry...

 

 

On the Ring... Portmagee!

 

 

En route to Dingle, via the Conor Pass... p.s. I should wear bright colors more often, I kinda like this!

 

 

One of my favorite places in all of Ireland... the Dingle Peninsula!

 

 

Pinnacle of my trip:  I GOT TO HOLD A BABY LAMB!!!  It was all downhill from here...

 

(kidding)

 

 

Deep sea fishing in Dingle... but I didn't catch anything.  Wah wah.

 

 

Rocking my wet suit in Dingle Harbor, about to hit the water for kayaking...

 

 

Doolin drunky eyes selfie...

 

 

The coveted Cliffs of Moher selfie...

 

 

Visiting the Burren with Mel and Marc... my 3rd national park visit!

 

 

On my way to Galway, I stopped at the Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara... a place my dad and stepmom visited on their honeymoon.

 

 

Walking the Salthill Prom and becoming a Galway girl :)

 

 

Man.... the Galway Cathedral is gorgeous... so is this angle on me... what's up double chins!

 

 

My first visit to Inishmore... this was on Dun Aengus... also where they filmed scenes from Leap Year, including the proposal scene, but I digress...

 

 

Back on Inishmore a few weeks later for Memorial Day weekend!

 

 

Hiking in Connemara National Park in Clifden... my 4th national park visit...

 

 

Selfie in front of Cong Abbey...

 

 

And down the road at Ashford Castle... this is actually a hotel you can stay at.  I mean, rich people can stay here.  Poor people like me stay at B&B's down the road :)

 

 

On the top of Croagh Patrick, the hardest hike of my life...

 

 

And back down on the bottom again... this is my "I rocked that mountain!" selfie, although I'm sure Kevin would disagree with that statement :)

 

 

Ballycroy National Park... my 5th national park visit...

 

 

Sligo Abbey on another beautiful Irish day! :)

 

 

Another one of my favorites... walking the beach in Strandhill... as you can see, it was totally calm and still...

 

 

Does this helmet make my head look big?  Horseback riding in Grange, outside of Sligo...

 

 

Donegal Castle...

 

 

 

Donegal Abbey.

 

a) This is what my sister refers to as "the cheese face".

b) I have lipstick on my teeth.

 

Back to regularly scheduled programming...

 

 

I loved Donegal!!!  It's beautiful...

 

 

I didn't visit every single beach in Ireland, but this was by far the most perfect beach (on the most perfect day) that I found in all of Ireland.  Silver Strand Beach in Donegal... sheep grazing along the walkway to the beach, the most perfect set of old beach stairs down the cliff to the sand, the peaceful cove it sits in with a few waterfalls on the cliffs around it... this place is heaven and I still dream about it.

 

 

Romantic sunset selfie with my favorite cliffs in Ireland, the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal...

 

 

Glenveagh National Park... my 6th and final national park visit!  Saw 'em all, woot woot!

 

 

Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland!

 

 

Walking the city walls in Derry...

 

 

Me in front of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which I didn't get to climb cause it was closed.  Damned if I walked all that way and wasn't at least going to get a picture with it...

 

 

A half hour later, over at Giants Causeway... another beautiful sunset night!

 

 

Okay so clearly I didn't start hitting the tanning beds or douse myself in self-tanner... this is just a funny camera trick... that being said, I look like Tan Mom in this selfie at the Bushmills Distillery...

 

 

Rocking a captains hat at the Titanic Museum in Belfast...

 

 

And an even cooler viking hat on my last weekend in Dublin :)

 

 

So there it is, folks.  One year ago today, I came back from the trip of a lifetime.  I can't believe it's already been a year when so much of it seems so recent, but thank you for baring with me and reading these posts and looking at my pictures throughout this year of lackadaisical blogging.  I have one more blog post coming about Ireland, and it is probably the most important one of all, because it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.  I was in Ireland when the tragedy at the Boston Marathon unfolded, and I felt utterly helpless being so far away when it occurred.  So, as I have been saying for the past year... I will be finishing the gallery of images that I will be putting up for sale, and I will be sharing those images here, on Facebook, on Pinterest, EVERYWHERE!  I want to reach as many people as possible because all the proceeds from any sales of these prints or products will go directly to The Massachusetts Resiliency Center, to support marathon survivors.  I really hope you see something that you love, that you might consider putting on your wall or giving as a gift to someone who loves Ireland... it would mean all the world to me to be able to make a strong contribution.  I will be shouting it from the rooftops when this gallery is done, so stay tuned!  XOXO.