Food, Friends & New Adventures

Part 4 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” series (Summer 2018) … featuring food, friends and new adventures in Dublin. This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a photo diary and memory record for me. This is the final post of this Summer 2018 series.

As you know, I went on a spontaneous trip to Italy (Roma and Verona) in June. I decided on this trip for three reasons: 1) to see a very good friend I hadn’t seen in years, 2) to explore a region of Italy I’ve never been to (Verona) and 3) to eat.

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Eight years of friendship! I first met A on my very first trip to Italy in April 2011.

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Amorino opened in Dublin in early summer

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I enjoyed numerous dinner picnics in Stephen’s Green (and yes, I often bring my own hot sauce!)

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The picture of summer in Dublin! Can’t beat the Dublin light. St. Stephen’s Green

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Greystones in April

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I had the pleasure of seeing my best friend / life wife graduate with her PhD! An incredibly perfect day for us, and a memory I will always treasure.

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Teddy’s 99!

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I ate a record amount of ice cream in summer 2018.

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Pure happiness at the Happy Pear

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We went all out for breakfast at the Happy Pear

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One of my favourite brunches in Dublin… peanut butter avocado toast at Two Pups Coffee! Trust me, it’s delicious.

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An incredible newcomer as of last summer… my beloved Nutbutter!! I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend I met on the train to Aguas Calientes, Peru at Nutbutter.

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I’m a Bunsen fanatic and it will always be my #1, but BuJo is a close second!!!

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Vietnom @ The Glimmer Man Pub – fabulous!

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Yet another Happy Pear breakfast

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One of the best flat whites I’ve had in my life @ Noshington. 

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My second to last night in Dublin – celebrating the best way I know how: with “I” at Cirillo’s, my greatest pizza addiction! (the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve had outside of Napoli)

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Countless walks (at least once every day) through Stephen’s Green

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Making new friends

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I started boxing in May… went a little bit crazy on this day and had to casually ice my knuckles while walking through Grand Canal (this was the smallest bin bag the bar could find, ha)

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I got to appreciate so many sunsets in summer 2018.

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I treated myself to Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre for the second time – this time alone!

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I happened to be walking by the Taoiseach’s house when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were getting ready to leave

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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An average sight in Dublin

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Beautiful Victorian Dublin

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Appreciation for Dublin’s architecture

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Can’t beat a Dublin summer sky! This was taken from my flat window

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… so was this!

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Dublin street art

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Fascinating tour of the Freemasons’ Hall

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The sight of these stairs instantly relaxed me every single time!

The single greatest decision I made in summer 2018 was to sign up for one month of unlimited yoga classes at Yoga Hub on Camden Street. I took my first yoga class in college and hated it, because I had the unfortunate experience of having an odd, over-the-top instructor. I unfortunately carried this hate with me for 10+ years. In July, I decided I wanted to force myself to like yoga, which is why I signed up for an unlimited month of classes. Luckily, Yoga Hub was only a 5 minute walk from where I lived and it became my haven, my escape, my happy place. I completely fell in love with yoga during this month and my discovery of my love for yoga was the greatest blessing, especially at that particular time in my life. This just shows you sometimes need to give things (and people) a second chance in life. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for yoga.

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Combining my two greatest music loves: orchestra and traditional Irish music at the National Concert Hall

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“I” showered me with mermaid gifts for my 30th… to my absolute delight!

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30th Birthday Celebrations in Copenhagen

Part 3 of “the best summer of my life” blog posts … featuring my 30th birthday trip to Copenhagen!

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I chose to celebrate my 30th with one of my closest friends, H. We’ve travelled together before: we visited her hometown together in Germany to visit the Christmas markets in December 2016 and we knew we were/are the perfect travel companions. We have exactly the same travel style and the same tastes and similar personalities. Befriending her and getting to know her is, to date, one of my greatest accomplishments in Dublin, so I knew I wanted to celebrate with her. She’s also an extraordinarily loyal friend, so she didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked. I chose Copenhagen for a few reasons: 1) I’ve wanted to visit for many years 2) I’m the world’s greatest fan of “The Little Mermaid” and Hans Christian Andersen, so… enough said. I had to visit the little mermaid statue and my 30th seemed like the perfect occasion to do so. 3) My birthday is at the end of August, meaning it is quite hot across most of Europe… and, well, I hate the heat. Copenhagen’s weather turned out to be absolutely perfect when we were there (apart from the fact that it lashed rain pretty much non-stop on my actual birthday, but I am grateful that we had the most perfect weather imaginable the day before and we really made the most of it!).

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We stayed in this amazing Airbnb in central Copenhagen. It was perfect for us: it was spacious, modern, decorated beautifully, comfortable, in the perfect location (we were able to walk everywhere easily) and we were able to enjoy coffee and drinks on the adorable balcony in the mornings and evenings.

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Days 1 & 2

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Day 1 didn’t consist of much apart from a late lunch/early dinner at RizRaz (their salad bar is AMAZING!!!! and will forever be remembered as one of the happiest experiences H & I shared together); the weather wasn’t great and we were fairly tired from travelling. We took the time to get our bearings and plan the rest of our time in Copenhagen. On Day 2, we decided to stop for breakfast on our way to Nyhavn – Cafe Norden caught our eye and it really did not disappoint! Breakfast was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing. Their homemade rye bread was some of the tastiest bread I’ve ever had!

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Nyhavn did not disappoint – yes, it is touristy, but for a reason. It is incredibly charming and is a wonderful place to wander around.

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I’ve read a ton of reviews by people saying that they were disappointed in the little mermaid statue. I was NOT one of these people. Yes, it was overly crowded around the statue, but I still managed to feel like I had my “moment” with her… and it was worth it!

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Next, we walked through Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is a former military base that sat abandoned for many years before becoming the neighborhood we know today. In 1971, a group of hippies broke down the barricades and began squatting there. Nowadays, approximately 900 people live in the area, comprising a community that has its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. Source

I simply cannot describe the feeling of walking through bohemian Christiania other than… it is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. We saw some very interesting sights, people and houses. If you visit Copenhagen, I would absolutely recommend visiting Christiania. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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We then visited Tivoli Gardens, but we only paid for entrance, not the rides. It was absolutely worth it – it’s an incredibly beautiful park with so much to see and do. We watched a ballet, played a couple arcade games, had lunch and watched a dog show. Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World and, being from Florida, this was a pretty cool experience for me. If I lived in Copenhagen, I think it would be worth it to get an annual pass as they host so many different events year round. We noticed lots of locals hanging out, spending their Sunday with friends and family at Tivoli.

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Ice cream in Copenhagen is an absolute MUST!!! Iceland is also known for their ice cream, which I thought was good, but this is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Again, I don’t know how to describe it – it was unique in every way!

Day 3

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We began my birthday by eating one of the most incredible breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life – in one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve ever been to. Paludan Bogcafe… a stunning bookstore and cafe, all in one. The staff was very friendly, the space was so cozy and inspiring and their menu offered high quality food and drink for great value. I’m pretty sure breakfast took us over three hours to consume – it was the perfect way to begin my 30th year… a leisurely breakfast in a beautiful space with a dear friend. What more could I ask for?

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This is the “vegetarian brunch”: scrambled eggs with chives, hummus, yogurt with fresh berries and muesli, pancake with maple syrup, cheese and fresh fruit, served with either fresh orange juice or a small smoothie… all for only 109 kr (approximately $16 USD)!! INCREDIBLE value for money. Copenhagen is notoriously expensive, but I would consider this cafe to be so well priced. This meal literally kept me FULL until we had dinner at 8:30pm (and I am usually the type of person who requires more than three meals per day).

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Unfortunately, it rained all day on my actual birthday. However, the rain did not deter us. H surprised me by treating us to a “couple’s” (friends!) full body massage followed by champagne and relaxation in the spa, which was so appreciated. We didn’t book a couple’s massage, so that was a bit of a surprise; however, it ended up being that much more fun and enjoyable, because it was an experience we were able to share together. We also visited the Rosenborg Castle between rain showers.

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I chose Llama for my birthday dinner: a Latin American restaurant inspired by Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Mexico – AKA my dream come true. It was pricey, but worth it for a special experience. Not an obvious choice of food while in Denmark, but I have no regrets. We shared a variety of unique (seemingly my favourite word to describe our trip to Copenhagen!) dishes and enjoyed a smokey margarita to toast to our friendship.

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Llama’s bathroom floor

Day 4

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I had to visit Brødflov, mostly because of the name (bread love), but also because their cafes are beautiful and I read about their delicious pastries. We had so much to fit in on our last (half) day, so this was breakfast #1 for us.

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Breakfast #2 was enjoyed at Cafe Dyrehaven – a super cool spot with extra friendly staff. We went for the open-faced sandwiches, but unfortunately, due to our flight time, we were too early and chose a breakfast item instead. Avocado toast with beetroot cured salmon – absolutely amazing!

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HOT DOGS, glorious hot dogs – OMG. Shortly after breakfast #2, we had to fit in one last hot dog. Just like ice cream, Iceland is also known for their hot dogs… and they were truly amazing; however, I’ll go out on a limb and say the two hot dogs I had in Copenhagen were even better. For our last meal before heading to the airport, we opted for a spicy hot dog from a street vendor and it was, quite possibly, my favourite thing I ate all summer. Yep, I said it.

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Our trip to Copenhagen was perfect in every way and was everything I could have asked for my birthday. I wanted to be able to look back on my 30th birthday with a fond memory, despite going through a difficult time, and thanks to H, I will forever be able to do just that. Thank you to Copenhagen for being everything I needed at that time. H and I both agreed we could happily live there – it’s everything we love in a city: so friendly, clean and beautiful.

Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizerhere. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench Café) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

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

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!