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!

Siena and Florence

We ventured to Siena in our rental car on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend (the crowds! the traffic!) and it took us a solid hour and a half to find parking. We were still based in our middle-of-nowhere home in the Chianti region not too far from Siena.

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The incredible Duomo di Siena – the striped marble is a sight to behold!

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I was so disappointed to not have the opportunity to climb the Torre del Mangia tower in Piazza del Campo, because it was sold out when we got there, even though we were there in very early afternoon. This was #1 on my to-do list in Siena, but we still enjoyed wandering around the sun-drenched piazza.

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Very relaxing lunch in Siena

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Even though Siena got increasingly (and absurdly) crowded as the day went on, we really enjoyed leisurely wandering the beautiful lanes of this unique city and enjoying some down time and gorgeous food. We ended the day by buying a box of Bar Pasticceria Nannini’s gorgeous ricciarelli… unbeatable!!

The following morning, we returned our rental car (which took forever, plus they charged us out the wazoo for not having a completely full tank (even though it was nearly full) – we used up what cash we had to purchase petrol, we couldn’t find a station that was open to accept a credit card!) and took a taxi to the bus stop and waited for the return bus to Florence. We stupidly purchased our tickets in advance. I say stupidly because, as it was a bank holiday Monday (1st May), the bus was only running a couple times that day (this information was nowhere to be found online, I did check in advance!) and we had just missed a bus by two minutes. The next one was not for another four or five hours. So, we had to buy a local bus ticket to take us to the train station and had to buy train tickets. Such a waste of money and time, but we finally arrived in Florence… of course it was lashing rain! We dropped off our luggage at our Airbnb apartment and went for some lunch.

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Il Duomo di Firenze

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The lane our apartment was on

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Part of my lunch: Pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato and bread soup)

For dinner, we went to my life wife/bestie’s favourite restaurant in Florence, Il Brincello. It was exquisite and we had the most enjoyable dining experience.

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Bruschetta never gets old!

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My love for pici knows no bounds

On our last morning in Florence, I went for a nice long walk while my parents relaxed and packed up their bags.

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Early morning – no crowds!

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View from Piazzale Michelangelo

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Pear and pecorino ravioli with balsamic vinegar

We enjoyed one last Tuscan lunch together before we made our way to the train station. I took the train to Bologna to fly back to Dublin and my parents made their way to Venice. It is never enough time, but I am so thankful for this beautiful long weekend with my parents in Tuscany.

What have I been up to lately? I went to London with my life wife to see Adele in June (blog post coming soon!). We spent our summer ditching work to do numerous cliff walks while simultaneously belting out Queen and treating ourselves to lunch, treats and drinks in the sun afterwards. I celebrated my birthday at the end of August – my last year in my twenties! I went through a major life change in early September when my life wife moved 5,200 miles away to Los Angeles (though she is visiting for a few days in two weeks!). I moved in to my dream apartment, a bright, cosy studio in a beautiful, quiet but central area of Dublin. I’ve thrown myself into my career and am really enjoying my work. I returned to Napoli, Italy over my October mid-term break, so more on that later! I am counting down the days until I head home to Florida for Christmas.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

In April of this year, my parents and my sister flew to Dublin for my Master’s graduation.  From previous blog posts, you already know my sister and I travelled to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled before I graduated. My parents arrived the morning after we returned to Dublin, I graduated the following day, and then my parents went off to Italy, on a trip that I planned for them. I was lucky enough to be able to join them for 4.5 days (3 nights in Quercegrossa [in the Chianti region], Tuscany and 1 night in Florence). We spent most of our time relaxing in the countryside surrounding our beautiful Tuscan home and then one day in Siena and one day in Florence.

I had to wake up at 3:15am on the Friday in order to make my flight to Rome at 6:20am. I then jumped on a train at Fiumicino airport to Florence, where I met my parents at the train station. We took the bus to Siena and then took a taxi to the car rental place (I’m exhausted just typing this), where we hired our Audi for the long weekend. I then attempted to drive us to our Tuscan home (an Airbnb), but Google Maps did not recognise the address, since it is in the middle of nowhere, not close to any major towns.

At this stage, I hadn’t eaten in hours and was purely exhausted from being awake since 3:15. I developed a bad migraine and we were stressed about finding our place before dark, which was fast approaching. We stopped and asked numerous people for directions, but they either had no idea how to help us or did not want to help us. We finally knocked on a random person’s door and they were so kind and knew exactly where to direct us. We arrived hours after we were supposed to, and were so relieved to finally be home.

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View from our Tuscan home

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The only restaurant nearby, where we had three meals (Il Mulino di Quercegrossa)

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The local grocery shop

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Quercegrossa town

After checking in, we immediately drove to the only restaurant in town, Il Mulino di Quercegrossa, and finally sat down to eat at 10pm. I hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, and I am the type of person who needs to eat every couple of hours, so you can imagine how I was feeling. My parents were just as bad. We couldn’t even talk, we were desperate for food and water. Luckily, the meal was divine.

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Our first (and in my opinion, best) meal – pici with black pepper and pecorino cheese

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We ate our breakfast and drank our coffee on our lovely terrace under the Tuscan sun and it was our favourite activity of the trip.

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San Quirico d’Orcia

We drove around the Val d’Orcia region on our first full day in Tuscany. We unfortunately got lost trying to find a certain restaurant, and ended up arriving just after they closed between lunch and dinner. Needless to say, we spent a silly amount of time being hungry on our trip, which is something I never thought could or would happen in Italy!

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San Quirico d’Orcia

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Val d’Orcia

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My favourite trees

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Views from our Tuscan home

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Views from our Tuscan home

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The beautiful Il Mulino di Quercegrossa restaurant

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I love the gorgeous light in these photos – the Tuscan sun beginning to set

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On one of our evenings in Quercegrossa, we heard a distant sound of bells. I ran outside to see what was happening and saw that a heard of sheep was coming up towards our home. I screamed for my Mum to come out and see what was occurring. We realised the sheep had bells around their necks and it was the most magical thing to witness. The sound was absolutely beautiful, not to mention the scenery of the sunset in the background of the rolling Tuscan hills.

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I am so grateful for the beautiful time spent with my parents in Italy. Tuscany is magical, and I cannot wait to go back and explore more. In my next post, I’ll talk about our time in Siena and Florence.

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The Magic of Lake Bled

Bled is an overwhelmingly beautiful place. So much so that it took me five months to write this blog post. Every time I sat down to try to choose photos to feature, I got so overwhelmed because I have thousands of beautiful options. I decided to just sit down on this beautiful Sunday, in my new apartment – sitting in the sun by the window next to a bunch of yellow roses that my friend brought me this morning, and randomly choose some photos to showcase how gorgeous Bled is.

My sister and I took the bus from Ljubljana to Bled, which was approximately a 1 hour and 15 minute journey. Since it was Easter weekend and shops would be closed for a couple days, we quickly checked into our Airbnb (15 minute walk from the lake) and rushed to the nearest supermarket, Mercado, to stock up on food. Afterwards, we ran down for our first sighting of the lake.

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It was foggy, eerie and honestly so breathtakingly beautiful. The weather forecast for the four nights we were staying in Bled was not looking good and we were worried because we wanted to see the lake in the sun, but we quickly learned there is no such thing as a proper weather forecast in Bled. We were awoken the next morning at 6am by the sun and we were SO excited, we didn’t even have breakfast, which was stupid because we rushed to the lake and ended up hiking to the Ojstrica viewpoint (views fueled and sponsored by a single banana).

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Our first sighting of Lake Bled in the sun – honestly just as magical in the fog!

The early morning hike up to Ojstrica was the best way to spend Easter Sunday morning and was easily one of the main highlights of our time in Bled.

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Spectacular views from Ojstrica

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We could have stayed up there all day but unfortunately didn’t have any food and not enough water with us, so we headed back down for some breakfast. Be prepared, you will want to stay up there for hours!

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Other random highlights:

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Kremna rezina / Kremsnita (Bled cream cake) was definitely a highlight and we shared a piece every day we were there. Such a nice treat with coffee!

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Vintgar Gorge was beautiful as well and we have a lot of memories attached to that trip. It’s quite a long walk there, so we decided to hire a van to take us there and then we were going to walk back. There were a few other passengers and I was the last person to get out of the van when we arrived. Just as my sister was getting out (I was next), the van started to roll forward and my feet hit the ground just as half of the van went down into a ditch. We have no idea how it happened, but thank goodness no one was injured. On our walk back, we had continuous views like this (we felt like we were in the Sound of Music):

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View from Bled Castle

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Summer tobagganing on the Straža ski slope – quite an experience!

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We took a Pletna boat out to the island which is something I do highly recommend. If you visit Bled, please make it more than a day trip! There is so much to see and do.

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Lots of orange in our adorable Airbnb apartment – bonus: we loved getting freshly squeezed OJ every morning!

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The temperatures plummeted, as evidenced by the increase of snow in the mountains!

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Above all, it was the perfect place to both relax and adventure with my sister. Bled is quite magical and I would love to see it in all seasons. It is quite touristy, so it was nice to visit during shoulder season.

15th – 19th April 2017

 

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Lovely Ljubljana

Everything I’ve ever read about Ljubljana, Slovenia is true – it is an amazing little city and is highly underrated. I truly think it’ll become extremely popular in the next five-ish years.  It reminded me of the European version of St. Petersburg, Florida – in the best possible way. It is so modern, relaxed, fresh, beautiful and trendy.

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Cacao – superb gelato!

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Fantastic gelato-eating views

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View from Ljubljanski grad (Ljubljana Castle)

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Funicular down from the castle

We unfortunately only had a half day in Ljubljana (and the previous night), but easily could have spent a few days meandering and eating our way around the city. It is a very clean, small, walkable city with tons of beautiful, trendy restaurants and cafes.

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The impressive Triple Bridge

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My favourite thing about Ljubljana is how welcomed you feel when you walk around. Unlike most major cities in Europe and around the world, there is no separation between locals and tourists. There isn’t a “touristy area” of the city where tourists tend to eat and drink. You will find locals and tourists together all around the city.

I fell in love with it instantly and immediately got the sense that I’d be happy living there. Definitely worth visiting!! My only complaint is it is so difficult to get to. I wish there were direct flights from Dublin!

Next up: Bled!

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