Summer Road Trips

Part 2 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” … featuring four different road trips!

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Went on a road trip with my friend I to Wexford to meet his beautiful horse Rueben!

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Basically a horse whisperer

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Went to Wicklow with my friend G to attempt to find Lough Ouler – no such luck! We were convinced the lake dried up in the drought. Beautiful hike anyway

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Road trip with I and Mommy Z to Mayo and Achill Island

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Keem Beach, Achill

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Watermelon ice lollies and singing the Greatest Showman soundtrack as loud as possible

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Clew Bay, Mayo

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View of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain

I hired a car and drove for the first time ever in Ireland (properly – I tried when I first arrived in 2010). I can’t believe it took me five years. I drove from Dublin to Dingle and then around the Dingle Peninsula, which was exhilarating… especially driving Conor Pass!!!

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Solo road trip to Dingle – Conor Pass

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Conor Pass

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Dingle town

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Boat trip to Great Blasket Island – view of Dingle

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Beach on Great Blasket Island

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Incredibly clear water

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Hanging out with about a hundred seals on the beach!

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Inquisitive sheep on the Great Blasket Island

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My hired car

My trip to the Great Blasket Island was truly incredible, but was not without its consequences. As you can see, I had the best weather imaginable, which I am still so grateful for. Unfortunately, after 7 hours on and off a small boat, I got reverse sea sickness and ‘wanted’ to go to a hospital in the middle of the night due to dehydration and how sick I was. I resisted, simply because the nearest hospital was a fair distance away. Regardless, I can’t recommend this magnificent island enough. I would have loved to stay overnight – I can’t think of a better, more remote place to escape the madness of this world! This is the company I booked for the boat trip and they truly were one of the best small companies I have ever dealt with.

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Dingle town

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Dún Chaoin

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The stunning Dún Chaoin

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Dingle town

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Views along the Slea Head drive

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Foxy John’s pub in Dingle – doubles as a hardware shop

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

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

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!

Reflecting on 2016

As I write this, I have been awake for 33 hours straight and my head feels like it is swaying from exhaustion and jetlag, half of my heart is broken into a million pieces, while the other half is whole and my hands are so cold I can’t feel them. But I am still feeling so very blessed. 2016 was a year full of blessings for me, so I would like to take some time to reflect on my year.

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Flying over Florida

I feel like a lot of people feel that 2016 was a rough year, but I am not one of those people. 2016 was overwhelmingly positive and quite literally life-changing for me.

It didn’t start in a great way. I was in and out of agony from gallstones for 13 months and was scheduled to finally have my gallbladder removed on the 11th of January. I stupidly did not have private health insurance in Ireland (I do now – I learned my lesson!) and the public system is awful here. They cancelled my operation. Thankfully, a new team took me on and my surgeon fought for me and I finally had my gallbladder removed on the 24th of January. I never thought I’d be so excited to be taken in for an operation. Life without a gallbladder is glorious and I am so lucky I have not suffered any repercussions.

In April, I was very busy interviewing twelve guidance counsellors around Dublin for my Master’s dissertation. I thoroughly enjoyed this process and feel I learned an incredible amount from them.

In May, I surprised by sister by flying home for her college graduation. It was a very quick trip home, but so worth it. I will forever be grateful that I was there for this special day.

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I started Sean Nós dancing in July and in less than two weeks, I am moving up to the advanced class! After a 6-year hiatus from dancing, my soul needed it again. I missed tapping the most, so I figured I would try something similar (but also very different) and a style that would allow me to dance to beautiful traditional Irish music. Now I never want to stop!

I went to the Fleadh in Ennis. Enough said. (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a traditional Irish music competition)

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I celebrated my 28th birthday in Oxford with my life wife – an unforgettable, perfect weekend!

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I visited my dear friend H in Galway for 24 hours and we went swimming in the sea – my first time swimming in the sea in Ireland!! The water was 14C/57F.

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For Thanksgiving, my favourite day of the year, my life wife and I celebrated with 21 friends in our apartment. This was our 3rd annual Friendsgiving that we’ve hosted together in Dublin and our hearts were warmed more than ever with the turnout and enjoyment that was had that evening. In 2016, Thanksgiving helped me realise that, more than ever, the support system I have here is truly incredible. (I still can’t believe we squashed 23 people in our sitting/dining room!)

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Two hours after I submitted my dissertation, I got a call for my very first “career” interview – at the best school in Ireland. I didn’t get the job, but the interview went well and was great practice for me. I got the second job I interviewed for and it’s the perfect job for me. I am so happy. I am so incredibly proud of myself for beginning my career in another country.

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I took this photo right before I went in for my interview – St. Stephen’s Green

I went to northern Germany for a long weekend with my dear friend H in mid-December. She is from the small town of Schönberg, where we stayed with her loving parents. They welcomed me and treated me like one of their own for the whole weekend and I had a wonderful, relaxing time. We explored 3 different Christmas markets together and this was my very first time in Germany.

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Weihnachtsmarkt Stockseehof

I recently found out that I passed my dissertation with no corrections… meaning I am officially finished with my Master’s degree! I was also invited to present my results at the annual conference for guidance counsellors in March.

I was able to spend Christmas at home with my family. After spending two Christmases away, it’s not something I ever want to do again. I am so grateful that I was able to fly home this year, especially since I just started my new job in mid-November (perks of working at a school!). I had the most beautiful time at home, though it went way too quickly. This was a family focused visit; I unfortunately did not have enough time to see any friends on this trip.

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Christmas in Florida – Shephards at Clearwater Beach

To elaborate on my opening paragraph: I returned to Dublin yesterday from Florida and it was a longer journey than it should have been. As always, I had to take a red-eye flight, which I despise because I cannot sleep on planes, EVER. Half of my heart is broken into a million pieces because I had to leave my family. All expats can relate to this – it never gets easier. Ever. In fact, I think it only gets harder every time. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, but currently do, big time. I miss my family desperately and especially miss the little moments with them. The other half of my heart is whole because I am back in my favourite place in the world. I never thought I’d say this, but I am really missing the Florida sunshine and beautiful weather because my hands are so cold I cannot feel them. How quickly I forgot how perpetually cold my bones are here thanks to the dampness!

2016 was a year full of blessings for me and I am really excited to see what 2017 brings. Definitely on the list: enjoying my last guaranteed year in Ireland, hopefully travelling somewhere with my sister, graduation in April (and my parents are coming!), long weekend in Italy with my parents and enjoying my last months living with my life wife/best friend. The rest is still unwritten.

Emerging Adult

I am no longer a student.

I cannot believe I just typed those words! I submitted my dissertation exactly one month ago today, on the 12th of September. I am only just now starting to feel some relief and am quite surprised it took this long. I was extremely busy immediately after submitting but as soon as I could, I spent four days in a row doing absolutely nothing. I literally spent each of those days lying in bed and staring at the ceiling and out the window… and it was absolutely glorious. It is exactly what I needed to reset myself mentally and physically because, as expected, the last two weeks of writing my dissertation were extremely intense.

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Exactly two and a half hours after submitting my dissertation, I got a phone call and received the news that I had my first guidance counselling job interview. My very first interview for a career-focused job… my very first interview for a job I actually wanted, not simply needed. I could not even believe the timing – I was on the most incredible high that day. The interview went well and I am very proud of myself, even though I did not get the job. I know there is something out there for me and I still have a very positive outlook on my job search. I’ve been spending my days applying for jobs, relaxing, spending time with friends and generally being excited about autumn’s arrival in Dublin. I’ve already enjoyed multiple pumpkin and butternut squash dishes with my lifewife/bestie and we started officially planning for Thanksgiving on the 1st of October.

Since I have finally had some much needed downtime, I have had a lot of time to think. I feel like I officially became an adult over the last month. It’s of course been a gradual process and much of it has been evidenced in my blog, but I feel it really happened sometime between the 12th of September and today, the 12th of October. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an adult, and, while I’ll never really grow up by choice, I’ve thought about these changes in myself and it’s fascinating to think about. On my 21st birthday, I tried various alcoholic drinks and hated everything I tried and remember thinking “I will never drink alcohol” (this obviously changed). The same goes for coffee. I remember, in my early and even mid-twenties, my dad telling me that I would enjoy coffee one day. I smile to myself thinking that one of his greatest joys in life is enjoying a coffee with some sort of pastry or sweet. This is now one of my greatest joys and consider myself to be a coffee connoisseur. I used to laugh at my dad and shake my head when he told me this. I am also officially tired of not knowing where I will (physically) be in one year’s time. I am ready to settle somewhere and have a place I can call my own. I want to be able to buy things without thinking about how I will transport it across the Atlantic Ocean if needs be. I am also very eager to begin my career and look forward to the day that I am hopefully settled in one job that I love. Another very adult thought as of late: I have realised I generally do not believe in soulmates (though there are exceptions). When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t think there is only one person on this earth you are meant to be with. I think it depends on timing and where you are in a particular moment of time. And I have realised that friendship, companionship and compatibility is more important to me in a relationship than romance.

I am excited to see how I change and progress over the next couple months. I cannot believe how quickly October is flying by! Things to look forward to: lots of time with friends, new Gilmore Girls episodes (!), Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving (our 3rd annual and it means the world to us that our friends are as excited as we are!) and hopefully going home for Christmas.

Returning to a place you didn’t like the first time

I’ve always said I love (or at least like) every place I’ve ever travelled to. With one exception: Belfast.

I spent one week in Belfast in 2011, which is definitely a big part of the reason for my dislike for Belfast. One week is too long to spend there as a tourist. It wasn’t all bad – the history is fascinating and I Couchsurfed and met some lifelong friends. It was just so different from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and to my 22 year old self, not in a good way. At 22, when I travelled, I liked to constantly be on the go and do and see as much as possible. Belfast is not a good place for this because it’s not much of a tourist attraction – there isn’t all that much to see. At 27, I’m a very different traveller and prefer to get to know a city the relaxed way through its cafes, bars and restaurants. Belfast is absolutely wonderful for this and I am so glad I gave it another chance. I’ve felt terrible expressing (or at least thinking of) my dislike for Belfast all these years!

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I have a good friend, D, who is currently living in Belfast and is studying at Queen’s University. He’s been there since September 2014 and I’ve been meaning to visit him ever since. I finally had the opportunity to do so and spent all of Wednesday and Thursday there. He gave me a tour of Queen’s and I am envious of their library! It is so much nicer than Trinity’s and I’m obsessed with the C.S. Lewis room. We had lunch at Maggie Mays and I definitely want to try one of their massive milkshakes next time!!

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Queen’s University Belfast

I had the best time and now have so much love for Belfast. I stayed at a stunning boutique B&B called Maryville House off of Lisburn Road and I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough! It is gorgeous and felt like a home away from home. We explored Lisburn Road which is my new favourite area of Belfast, just a 10 minute bus journey from the city centre. So many lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and boutique shops.

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Maryville House

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We lucked out with the weather and it was very sunny, so we sat outside for coffee at Miel et Moi. I enjoyed a cappuccino and an almond scone – really lovely place with super friendly staff.

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Miel et Moi

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Miel et Moi

We then popped (literally) next door to The Albany – a stunningly elegant bar. I had the New York Sour:  rye whiskey, roasted orange sherbet, fresh lemon juices, Cabernet Sauvignon, served with a camomile foam. Gorgeous cocktail and I’ve never had anything like it before.

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The Albany – New York Sour

We then walked around the city centre for awhile before eating dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon. We shared the nachos and the wild boar & chorizo burger (combining chorizo and its spices of paprika and chilli with lean and flavoursome wild boar meat) which was unreal!!! This was my parents’s favourite bar on the whole island of Ireland so I had to try it. After eating, we went downstairs and were able to grab a snug for me to have a pint to toast to my parents. Such a cool place for a group of friends to go and a really beautiful bar!

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Crown Liquor Saloon

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Afterwards, we went to Kelly’s Cellars and enjoyed some Irish music, followed by Maddens, where we had a long chat with a lovely local. Loved the buzzer on the door to get in – remnant of Belfast’s troubled past.

On Thursday, I had a long, leisurely breakfast at my B&B, followed by an apple and cinnamon scone the size of my head. No exaggeration. I then (finally!) went to the Titanic experience and was happy to avail of the student discount because the prices are fairly shocking (understandable though, since Titanic is now Belfast’s biggest tourist attraction and I know the city spent loads to build it).

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Maryville House Breakfast

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Massive apple and cinnamon scone

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The exhibit is absolutely gorgeous and was a very informative, enjoyable experience. My only disappointment was the fact that there weren’t many artefacts recovered from the Titanic. I was expecting it to be more of a museum, but it really was more of an “experience”. They did a fantastic job though. There were many different ways to learn – a ride, voices from survivors, reading, artefacts of letters, china, menus, set-ups of what different rooms looked like on the Titanic, a simulator which made you feel like you were on the boat, a discovery theatre, interactive computer programmes, etc. and it’s all visually stunning. I spent 2 1/2 hours inside and then had a look at the SS Nomadic (included in the admission price) and the outside where the Titanic was built. I then met D for a light dinner- we ate at Stix and Stones and I was very impressed by this place.

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I’d like to send an apology to the universe for my previous dislike of Belfast. I am happy to say my opinion has completely changed and I have a lot of love for this city now. I had forgotten how friendly the people are! Belfast natives make Dubliners seem rude – and I think Dubliners are very friendly. The lesson here is:  if you travel somewhere and do not like it, give it a second chance a few years later. You might be surprised.