Summer on/in the Sea

Ireland isn’t known for good summers or hot weather, but summer 2018 was an exception. Ireland experienced the longest stretch of heat (and sun) since 1976. After the extreme winter we had (blizzards in March!) – it was that much more enjoyable. I remember the joy of looking out the window every morning and seeing the sun and knowing that the sun would last and be consistent throughout the day (not needing to bring a jumper or a rain jacket – whaaaaaat?!).

I found out on the 30th of May that I had to leave Ireland on 1st September. This was completely devastating news for me, but I knew I had to make Summer 2018 the best of my life… and that is exactly what I did.

Part 1 of my “Photo diary of the best summer of my life” – sea swims, walks near the water and sea adventures

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Vico Baths – my most favourite swim spot

Prior to summer 2018, I swam in the sea in Ireland just once – in Galway in October 2016. However, I had never been swimming in Dublin and I was determined to not only do it, but to enjoy it. I loved cold water when I was a small child, but from pre-adolescence until the age of 29, I absolutely despised swimming in cold water. The sea in Ireland never gets warmer than about 56F/13C, so it isn’t exactly an easy feat for someone who hates being in cold water. I can officially say Summer 2018 is the summer that I became completely addicted to sea swimming in Ireland. It is invigorating, refreshing and makes you feel so alive.

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Me with my arms up

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Sunrise swim at 6am in Greystones – no sunrise that morning, but still a beautiful experience

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Sandycove

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SUPing in Dún Laoghaire

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Kayaking in the River Liffey

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When the sun shines in Ireland – EVERYONE is outside / Sandycove

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First time jumping off the Forty Foot

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Magical day facing our fears and soaking up the sun

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Howth cliff walk (after taking a cruise from Dún Laoghaire)

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My favourite view in the world – the Poolbeg Chimneys

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Great South Wall walk – Poolbeg Lighthouse

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Sandymount / the beginning of the Great South Wall walk

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Howth

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Sandymount beach sunset walk

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Sandymount Beach

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Kite Fest at North Bull Island

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Grand Canal Dock

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Bray to Greystones cliff walk

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Epic sunsets on the piers of Dún Laoghaire

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Brown grass in St. Stephen’s Green – something I have NEVER seen before! The downside to the heatwave – severe drought and water restrictions

Mangiare in Italia

I received bad, life-changing news on the 30th of May. Late on Thursday night (31st May), I made a spontaneous decision to book a last-minute flight to Italy. On Saturday, 2nd June, I flew to Rome to see a friend, whom I hadn’t seen since April 2015. I decided to book this trip because I knew the food would heal me. I needed to be elsewhere mentally and physically, and Italy is always the answer.

I stayed in Rome for two nights (my 5th time in Rome!) and then I took a train to Verona, where I stayed two nights. I chose Verona because I hadn’t yet visited. In three and a half days, I consumed seven plates of pasta, one massive calzone, two orders of carciofo (artichokes), four cones of gelato and countless espressos. Through the exquisite cuisine, I was able to “reset” myself and return to Dublin with a clearer head.

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Carciofo alla Romana at Trattoria al Tettarello, Roma

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Tonnarello cacio e pepe at Trattoria al Tettarello, Roma

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Giolitti – a must-visit every time I’m in Rome

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Beautiful views from my table at Tonnarello in Trastevere

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Carciofo alla Giudia at Tonnarello

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Tonnarello cacio e pepe at Tonnarello

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Via Sottoriva in Verona

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The beautiful Via Sottoriva during the day

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The beautiful Osteria Casa Vino

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Ricotta stuffed courgette flowers – truly one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life! at Osteria Casa Vino in Verona

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Gnocchi at Osteria Casa Vino

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Bigoli with duck sauce at Trattoria al Pompiere in Verona

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By far my favourite place I went to on this trip – La Bottega della Gina

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Fresh tortellini and gnocchi

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La Bottega della Gina is a tiny place with only a few seats and it truly was my favourite dining experience of this trip (in addition to the ricotta stuffed courgette at Osteria Casa Vino – MELT IN YOUR MOUTH). Everything was so delicious, I dared to order both a mixed plate of tortellini AND gnocchi bolognese. Let me tell you, I can eat, but after this, I could hardly breathe. If you only order one plate, the mixed tortellini is a MUST. Simply exquisite. IMG_6907IMG_6910

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By far the best gelato I had in Verona – from Gelateria Ponte Pietra

Life lesson reconfirmed: booking a spontaneous, last-minute flight is always a good idea… especially when Italy is your destination.

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Slán to my twenties

I turn 30 at the end of this month. Thirty. How is that possible? Even just typing this opening line, my heart is hammering in my chest at the thought of no longer being in my twenties. I know “age is just a number” and “you’re only as old as you feel”, but I’ll be dealing with my greatest life challenge just days after my birthday for the next year and, well, the timing is pretty bad.

I won’t get into the specifics of my challenge now, but it is common knowledge that everyone strives to get their act together and be settled in many aspects of life by the age of 30. I was on the right track: I secured my dream permanent job, live in my favourite city in the world, finally found an apartment that I love, am surrounded by an incredible group of friends and I feel settled in pretty much every aspect of my life. I finally feel like an (semi) adult, for the first time in my life. This is all being taken from me, five days after I turn 30. This is why I am having such a hard time entering a new decade, and such an important decade at that. I never dreamed I’d have to start over at the age of 30.

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Let’s turn to the positive: I will be celebrating my 30th with a very dear friend in Copenhagen. Why did I choose Copenhagen? 1) The majority of Europe is too hot for my liking at the end of August. The weather in Copenhagen should be (fingers crossed) perfect. 2) Copenhagen is where the Little Mermaid was born and I am a mermaid, so it is only logical! 3) I have always wanted to go to Copenhagen and didn’t want to celebrate my birthday in a place where there is an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. I think Copenhagen will be the perfect place to relax and just be for a few days.

My twenties have felt as fast as the blink of an eye, honestly. I remember turning 20 and 21 like it was yesterday. The twenties is a tumultuous learning decade for everyone, but I feel I handled my twenties very well. I graduated with my B.A. at the age of 21. I went (and moved) abroad for the first time at the age of 22 and immediately found my place – Ireland. What a year that was. I travelled around the world solo at the age of 25 and I think back on that trip with pure amazement every day of my life. I secured my dream job and graduated with my M.Ed at the age of 28. I’ve had so many beautiful adventures in my twenties and really hope I will continue living this way in my thirties, to an extent.

“We are born not all at once, but by bits.” – Mary Antin

“Uncertainty will always be a part of the taking charge process.” – Harold Geneen

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Søren Kierkegaard

A Day in Sintra, Portugal

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Living my best mermaid life at Pena Palace

On my last full day in Lisbon, I agonised over whether or not to take a day trip to Sintra. I initially intended to go, but my friend went the previous day and said it was insanely crowded. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of crowds. After breakfast, I made the spontaneous decision to go to Sintra and I am so happy I did! I happened to be on the same train (40 minutes to Sintra) as Luis, a guy I met on my walking tour two days before. We decided to spend the day together and I can’t imagine it any other way. We had a blast!

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We decided to hire a private driver for the day because we were both feeling lazy and a bit overwhelmed. We randomly chose Tania (Off Course Tours / reviews here) and had no idea how lucky we were to choose her! She kept us laughing all day – if you are planning to go to Sintra and you have a good sense of humour, please hire Tania! She is fabulous. We got to skip all of the queues and saved an incredible amount of time. Every time we did this, Tania asked us to wave like royalty so the three of us would do so, and this became the theme of the day (see below). Another reason to hire Tania: the palaces and monuments of Sintra are very spread out – if you are only in Sintra for a day, it will be quite stressful to try to see more than one monument on your own.

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Pena Palace

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This guy matches the palace perfectly!!

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View of the Moorish Castle

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Being at Pena Palace felt like being in Disney World for adults! Quite spectacular and so much to explore. I was very pleased with the amount of people in Sintra – not too crowded at all. I cannot imagine being there in summer!

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The grounds below the Pena Palace

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Being a princess

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Royal wave… everywhere we went!

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Having a blast!

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Sintra has a microclimate and we experienced almost every season in one day! The weather is rarely the same as it is in Lisbon. It was extremely windy, quite chilly, very hot and humid, raining (luckily this didn’t last long at all!), super sunny, very cloudy. It changed every couple minutes, literally.

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Chalet of the Countess of Edla… looks like the Hansel and Gretel house!

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After lunch with a view (at a lovely local cafe called Garagem – we had gorgeous soup, a codfish croquette, a steak sandwich and a coffee… all for €6.50!!!), we went to Quinta de Regaleira. Every time I spoke to someone who had already been to Sintra, this was the place that they most recommended seeing and I can see why! So, so beautiful. We definitely had a major “wow” moment when Tania drove us up to the entrance and we had our first view of this beauty!

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The Masonic Initiation Well

The pair of wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meaning including the death/rebirth allegory common to many hermetic traditions. One of the wells contains nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”” source

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Walking on water!

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Cork tree in Sintra

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We were unfortunately too tired to hike down to the Monserrate Palace. This is at the top of my list the next time I am in Portugal!

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This truly was the highlight of my day in Sintra. After we left Quinta da Regaleira, Tania drove us to a viewpoint of Monserrate and then, on our way to the town centre of Sintra, she said “would you like to try the best shrimp cake you’ll ever have?” It didn’t sound particularly appetising to me at the time, but I never say no to trying new food! We pulled up to this very unassuming old shop on the side of the road. Cafe Pereira or Cafe Salvador, as it is owned and operated by a sweet man named Salvador (pictured above, with Tania, our guide).

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These photos were taken from Google Maps

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To clarify, this “shrimp cake” is a savoury food, not a sweet cake. I don’t know how to describe it as it was unlike anything I’ve ever had before, but it was absolutely delicious!! Salvador also makes incredible espresso (and I’m a coffee connoisseur!). He was so pleased we decided to visit him, but really, he has no idea how happy he made me. Tania said he doesn’t get as much business as he used to, partially due to the location outside of town. This made me so sad because really, businesses like Salvador’s are who we should be supporting. Please, if you have a car in Sintra or if you hire Tania, visit Salvador’s shop and try his shrimp cake, or at least his coffee!!!

 

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The laneways of the town of Sintra were reminiscent of being in Greece!

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Sintra

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National Palace of Sintra

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Enjoying a travesseiro

Another must do when in Sintra: go to a place called Periquita and try the travesseiro pastry! Travesseiro means pillow, but that doesn’t give much away in regards to its taste. It is made of puff pastry with a filling of almond cream, but the taste really cannot be described! Please note: Piriquita currently has two units, one right of the main entrance of the alley of Sintra and the other on the same street but higher up – just keep going (it’s very close).

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Luis and I went out to dinner together in Lisbon after our day in Sintra at Alfaia and we noticed this piece of artwork hanging in the restaurant. He said he was the bald guy and I was the lady with the crazy hair – perfectly accurate. I could not stop laughing.

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Pure happiness at the end of our day in Sintra – I love meeting new people when travelling

If you’re visiting during off season or shoulder season, I would strongly recommend visiting Sintra. Please make sure you bring layers and be prepared for all types of weather – don’t let the weather in Lisbon fool you! I would also highly recommend more than one day in Sintra to really do it justice as it is quite mountainous and the monuments are spread out. Don’t skip the town of Sintra itself as it really exceeded my expectations. It is beautiful and quaint and really enjoyable to wander around.

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Lovable Lisbon

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I just returned from the most wonderful four days in Lisbon. When I was booking my flights, I was thinking to myself “yes, I’d like to go, but I’d rather go to Italy!” (a constant thought of mine). But, just like my trip to Barcelona, I was absolutely blessed with the weather (I had the luck of the Irish for once, usually the bad weather follows me!) and completely fell in love with the city. It exceeded my expectations.

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View of my B&B – MiCasaEnLisboa

I stayed in the most gorgeous B&B imaginable – MiCasaEnLisboa which is located in the neighbourhood of Graça. It is a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by many beautiful miradouros (viewpoints) and the lovely, green park Jardim da Cerca da Graça. It is also well located to explore all of Lisbon. If you are looking for a peaceful, beautiful place to stay, I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough. The staff is so kind and the breakfast is really something special.

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View from MiCasaEnLisboa

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Near to MiCasaEnLisboa

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View from my room in MiCasaEnLisboa

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Part of my breakfast on day one (it is always slightly different each day). Bowl of fresh fruit, juice, coffee, homemade cake, homemade breads and jams, etc.

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These photos were taken from MiCasaEnLisboa’s TripAdvisor, as my photos do not do it justice! It is absolutely stunning. This is the common room and where breakfast is served. It really is this bright and beautiful.

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Breakfast table

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My room (the single room)

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The walk from MiCasaEnLisboa to São Jorge Castle

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Portas do Sol – beautiful miradouro

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Portas do Sol

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Lunch at Le Petit Cafe: Queijo de Azeitão (the most delicious cheese!) served with bread and a beautiful tomato soup with feta

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Miradouro de Santa Luzia – my second favourite miradouro in Lisbon

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Miradouro de Santa Luzia

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Dinner at A Cevicheria

I would highly recommend A Cevicheria for fabulous ceviche; however, expect to wait a long time. It is a small place and they do not take reservations. I waited a solid 1h15m+. It was worth it, though!

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Ceviche Puro – seasonal white fish, mashed sweet potato (a special kind only found in Portugal, it isn’t orange!! I was amazed), onions, seaweed and tiger milk

The Ceviche Puro was the surprise of the night. I thought I was going to love the Tuna Ceviche the most but the Puro was recommended by one of the waiters and it blew me away!!

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Tuna Ceviche – tuna, foie gras, lychees, hazelnuts and tiger milk with beetroot

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Rua Nova do Carvalho – the pink street

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I am missing pastel de nata from Manteigaria! Portuguese custard tarts, mmm. I got two on Sunday, one on Monday and two on Tuesday!

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Praça do Comércio – beautiful square near the Tagus River

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I spent a couple hours perched here in a lounge chair on both Sunday and again on Tuesday.

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Rosé sangria – it was 24 degrees C on this day!!

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I was really impressed with the Time Out Market! So many amazing looking stalls. 

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I chose the Miguel Castro e Silva stall based on a recommendation and I ordered the Arroz de Polvo Provençal – rice with octopus! Absolutely fabulous.

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Ice cream from Santini – I chose their flavours of the day: mango, green apple and coconut

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Miradouro da Senhora do Monte – personally my favourite miradouro! Bonus: it’s right around the corner from MiCasaEnLisboa

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View from São Jorge Castle

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São Jorge Castle

Personally, I do not think it is worth visiting the castle. It’s a new castle (not much to look at) and I think you can get equally beautiful views from the various free miradouros vs. paying 8.50 for entrance to the castle!

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Carmo Convent – the roof was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1755

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Elevador de Santa Justa

“The Elevador de Santa Justa stands 147 Ft (45m) tall and the structure is built in the same style as the renowned French architect, Eiffel. The similarity between his designs and this Elevator is not accidental, as it was built by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, who was an admirer of Gustave Eiffel and applied the same techniques used in some of the funiculars in France of the time.” source

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The beautiful tiles of Lisbon

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Ginja is a liqueur infused with sour cherries. It had to be tried, but honestly I thought it tasted like cherry cough medicine! xP

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Açorda de camarão @ Alfaia – Açorda is a typical Portuguese dish composed of thinly sliced bread with garlic, finely chopped coriander, olive oil, vinegar, water, salt and poached eggs. Served with shrimp. Absolutely delicious! I recommend having green wine with this dish – it’s a lovely antidote to the slight saltiness of the dish. 

 

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and is one of the only areas that was not destroyed by the earthquake/tsunami of 1755. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful area of Lisbon and one of my favourite activities was wandering the lanes.

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Pictures of locals are featured on the walls of Alfama – this was one of my favourite things to look at. 

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Fado (traditional Portuguese music said to be born in Alfama) at Mesa de Frades

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Sunset from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

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Lisbon is full of friendly people, beautiful food and gorgeous sights. It is a walkable city, but is extremely hilly. I walked the entire time, but my legs were definitely sore at the end of my trip. I spent 4 full days and 4 nights in Lisbon and I would recommend not spending any less time than that. Not pictured: definitely try bacalhau (dried, salted cod) when you’re in Lisbon!

Next up: a post on my day trip to Sintra, Portugal!

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Paris Food Diary (in photos) Part 2

I joined my life wife in Paris for 4 nights to once again, do nothing but eat. If you have yet to see part one of my “Paris Food Diary” from 2015… Here is the link to Part 1

This post is going to focus on the food we ate, sights from our wanders to come in another post.

You could say we ate a few macarons. All Pierre Hermé (#pierreherméeveryday), with the exception of the heart-shaped raspberry macarons, from Bostani. We wanted to get these for Valentine’s Day. My two favourite macarons this time around: Jardin De Lima (lucuma and candied ginger) and Montebello (pistachio and raspberry).

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We loved all of the Valentine’s displays around the city!

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As always, we drank all the noisettes.

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Stohrer — a must do when in Paris, every. single. time. Salted Caramel and Coffee eclairs.

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God bless Eric Kayser for making the most gorgeous almond croissants!

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When we were in Bostani, we only bought two heart-shaped macarons. The shop keeper loved us and gave us these DELICIOUS white chocolate, passion fruit filled chocolates and two chocolate truffles on the house and said “I like to see people get fat” and thanked us for our smiles.

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Spotted under the stairs of a wine bar in Le Marais… words to live by. “You don’t get fat if you eat good.”

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Falafel from L’as du Fallafel round one! Easily one of my favourite meals IN THE WORLD. I am convinced I could eat it endlessly.

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Bonus:  our Airbnb was less than a 5 minute walk from Rue des Rosiers, meaning we could bring the falafel back to eat in peace (aka privately make a mess of our faces) every day!!

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Falafel round 2 (extra ‘sexy sauce’ on this one): with pickles from Sacha Finkelsztajn (all 5 pickles for me, God bless)

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Falafel round 3!

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CANDELARIA – our favourite place! When we went in 2015, we thought it was so ridiculous that the two of us managed to spend €65 on tacos and margaritas. Well, we upped that this time… we spent €73.20!!! We had the best night. Three margaritas each, a bowl of their fabulous bean dip, two orders of chips and salsa, two tacos each, and a shot of THE most gorgeous, ‘soft’, smooth, high quality tequila we’ve ever had (Altos), on the house! We drank with the kind woman next to us (Carol, if you’re reading this… hi!!) and our waitress. She said it was a pleasure to have us… probably because we exuded joy with every bite and sip we took!

Please note the difference between the above and the below photos: the two of us finished the entire bottle of the homemade “super hot” habanero sauce!!

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We also revisited Christian Constant’s Les Cocottes because we loved it so much the first time. We ordered the special starter of the day: poached egg with asparagus cooked in the most magical butter sauce we’ve ever tasted!

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Sirloin

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We had to get the caramelised potatoes stuffed with pig’s feet again!

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The Fabulous Christian Constant Chocolate Tart… OMG. Notice how we ordered two this time. We still stand by the fact that this is one of our top two desserts we have EVER had around the world (#2 being Taco Taco/San Lorenzo’s nutella cheesecake in Dublin). This chocolate tart is EVERYTHING. It’s so shiny, we were singing “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake to it. We are that much in love with it.

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February is a wonderful time to enjoy French onion soup in Paris, served with red wine at lunch, of course! This time, we went to Les Philosophes and had a fabulous experience.

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The fact that we had crêpes and galettes on Pancake Tuesday was a complete coincidence. We didn’t realise it was Pancake Tuesday when we made our reservation at Breizh Cafe in advance! Artichoke galette and apple crêpe with ice cream.

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On Valentine’s Day, we decided to stay in and enjoy a wine and cheese night. We were absolutely stuffed with cheese!

Paris never disappoints. I am pretty sure I can never eat sugar again.

Reflecting on 2017

Overall, 2017 was a very good year. It consisted of some turbulent times for me, but overall very positive. A few life changes, too! This year definitely flew by faster than any other year for me. I visited 3 new countries (Spain, Czech Republic and Slovenia) and visited an area of Italy I’ve never been to before (Tuscany). I also returned to my favourite destination outside of Ireland (Napoli).

January – I rang in the New Year with my family in Florida, something I hadn’t done in a couple years. — I finally saw Tommy Tiernan live in Dublin.

February – I submitted the hard-bound copy of my dissertation. — I visited Barcelona over my mid-term break.

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March – I presented my research at the IGC’s annual conference. — Celebrated my life wife’s birthday in style (and in the sun!). — Our St. Paddy’s Day celebrations exceeded expectations! We celebrated at the Guinness Storehouse and expected to be annoyed by touristy events, but it was a blast!!

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April – My sister visited me – we had a few days in Dublin, then we went to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled. When we returned to Dublin, my parents joined us for my Master’s graduation.

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May – (and end of April) I joined my parents in Tuscany, Italy for a long weekend.

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June – I treated myself to a night in a luxury hotel since I couldn’t take a holiday this summer. I had 5 days off between the last day of school and the start of my summer job. — I had a 16 week blow dry done for the first time and my life was changed forever! — My Christmas gift from my life wife was a trip to London to see Adele, which turned out to be extra special since it was unexpectedly her last planned live show!

July – Saw Passenger in Iveagh Gardens thanks to A, who got me a ticket for my birthday. — Began living my best life on Mondays with my life wife – where we ditched work to do cliff walks while singing Queen followed by afternoon cocktails in the sun!

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August – August was a month full of change and mixed emotions. Celebrated my anniversary of moving in with my life wife on our actual move-in date. I moved into my very own studio apartment, which is a bit of a dream come true. I have no commute to work and live in one of the most beautiful areas of Dublin. However, moving out of my two bedroom apartment in my favourite area of Dublin (Smithfield) and no longer living with my life wife was the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make in my life thus far (I sobbed on moving day). — I found out I was able to return to the school I worked in last year – the most wonderful surprise! — Celebrated my 29th birthday with a beautiful brunch – a place we had never been before, but quickly became one of our top two favourite brunches in Dublin!

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September – Said “see you soon” to my life wife and saw her off to Los Angeles. I threw myself into work once she left to distract myself.

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October – Normally my favourite month of the year, but unfortunately was a very bad month for me for reasons I won’t go into right now. It was all good at the end of the month though – I went to Napoli on my mid-term break and all was right with the world again. I ate 4 pizzas in 3 days… more details to come!

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November – Finally visited the National Botanic Gardens for the first time. Saw the Grafton Street Christmas lights lit up on the first night with my friend N, while eating Terry’s Chocolate Orange McFlurries.

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December – Welcomed my life wife back to Dublin for a few days for her viva… what a beautiful reunion it was! We had the absolute best 5.5 days and did ate everything we set out to do eat. — I am getting ready to fly home to Florida for Christmas and feel very blessed that I get to do so. It hasn’t hit me yet though… I’ve been so busy and it’s also currently very mild in Dublin (today was 13C/55F), so it no longer feels very Christmassy (it did until this week!). I am so excited to be home and watch Christmas movies with my family. I haven’t been home since last Christmas.

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I am NOT ready for January and February in Ireland, but am pretty excited for 2018! For one, it’s an even number, which makes me feel a bit more calm for some reason. What’s on the horizon? So far the only plan I have is to join my life wife in France over my February mid-term break and to continue Sean Nós dancing. Who knows what’s next for me? I’ll begin a new decade next year, so I’ll try to plan something big! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas… see you in the New Year!