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.

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

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.

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.

Whirlwind 3 Days in Italy

The best way to sum up my whirlwind, ever-too-short trip to Italy last week: I got a total of 6 hours of sleep in an 89 hour time period. That is precisely how busy, over-stimulated and excited I was. Also, you should know: Heaven does exist. We found it.

Insane crowds at 04:30 on Easter Sunday morning at Dublin Airport

Insane crowds at 04:30 on Easter Sunday morning at Dublin Airport

I spontaneously decided to meet my sister in Italy for Easter. I spent a lot of time helping her plan her trip and even though I’ve been to Napoli before, I simply could not imagine not being there for all that I planned. Flights were absurdly expensive, but I knew I would not regret going. I was right.

Outside of our apartment in Napoli

Outside of our apartment in Napoli

My flight left at 06:25 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning, meaning I had to be up at 03:00. I did not sleep AT ALL the night before – literally not even for one minute. I met my sister and her two friends in Rome and we went to eat lunch.

It's not hard to figure out which bottle of wine I wanted...

It’s not hard to figure out which bottle of wine I wanted…

Originally, I wanted to use our few hours in Rome to eat gelato and go to the Trevi Fountain with my sister, but that didn’t quite work out. First of all, the weather was awful – it was raining nonstop. Not the type of weather you want to be walking around in and certainly not gelato weather! Please keep in mind, the previous 6 consecutive days in Dublin were full of nonstop rain and without sun. Horrible weather and I was desperate for sun – my bones were cold! I figured I could count on Italy for sun. Instead, our first day in Italy was raining and cold and the cherry on top!: it was sunny in Dublin. I was starving because I had been up for 10 hours at this point and had yet to have a proper meal. We took the metro to the city centre. We were frustrated because many places were closed since it was Easter and we were all very hungry. Then it started raining harder and we stood there staring at each other in frustration. We ended up finding a well-priced, VERY nice restaurant that was packed. We were relieved to be out of the rain and ordering food. We ordered our food and finally started to relax when my sister & I looked at the time – panic set in instantly. We realised we did NOT have time to sit there and eat… we needed to go get our bags and head to the train station NOW. What an awkward situation in such a nice restaurant, where so many families were having their Easter lunch around us. We could not risk missing our train to Naples. I was completely panicked – my face, neck and chest instantly flushed a shocking red and I didn’t know what to do. Should we ask for our food take away? Should we wait and eat really fast and hope we make our train? After debating, I went downstairs and explained our situation and just wanted to make them aware that we were in a rush. They said no problem, it will be ready in 10 minutes. I hated this – food in Italy is an art and I hate rushing my favourite art form!!!

My sister & I on the train to Napoli

My sister & I on the train to Napoli

I went back upstairs and 10 minutes later, the food wasn’t ready, so I had no choice but to go downstairs and pay and ask for it take away. They don’t normally do take away at a place like this, they didn’t even have plastic cutlery. Great, so now we were stuck with delicious pasta that was bound to go cold and nothing to eat it with. Not to mention I was past starving and simply didn’t have time to eat. Looking back, we SHOULD have just gone to a restaurant near the apartment and had a nice relaxing lunch. Instead, I wasted money on a return metro ticket, caused ourselves panic and delayed lunch. When we finally got to the train station (completely soaked), I got an espresso served with multiple “bella!”s and that solved (almost) everything. We were finally able to eat our lunch on the nearly empty train.

Pasta & Bruschetta

Pasta & Bruschetta

I was utterly ecstatic to arrive in Napoli. The last time I was here was 4 years ago this month. I loved it the first time and had no idea I could love it even more. Naples is not a very popular destination among tourists – most people do not like it. Some areas are dirty and dangerous, the mafia is there, “there isn’t much to see” – these are all things I’ve heard from friends who have visited Naples. I was very lucky my first time visiting because I couchsurfed and my host quickly became one of my very good friends who was able to show me why Naples is the best city in Italy. I also couchsurfed with two hosts in Rome who are both from Naples, so they spread their contagious love for Napoli to me. I am forever thankful for these beautiful people and experiences.

Hilarious metro stop in Napoli

Hilarious metro stop in Napoli

Reasons to love Napoli:

1) It’s the food capital of the world.

If you want to eat the best Italian food in the world, GO TO NAPLES. Food throughout the rest of Italy does not compare. I cannot emphasise this enough. This is where the margherita pizza was invented and once you’ve had a pizza in Napoli, you will never want to eat pizza elsewhere. I exaggerate, but any other pizza will not compare! Every ingredient tastes like heaven, right down to the herbs (basil!) and the tomatoes. Please do not get me started on the mozzarella di bufala. And the limoncello.

Reunited with Neapolitan pizza / Mozzarella di bufala / Limoncello

Reunited with Neapolitan pizza / Mozzarella di bufala / Limoncello

2) It isn’t touristy.

Tourists tend to avoid staying in the city of Naples (or if they do, they don’t stay long). They tend to pass through to get to the many nearby attractions. A lot of Neapolitans do not speak English (in comparison to, say, Rome), but this is part of the fun. Neapolitans are lovely, friendly people. You will feel like you’re in “real” Italy.

Fun with my cereal - I love Napoli!

Fun with my cereal – I love Napoli!

3) There is SO much to see and do!!!

Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum, need I go on? The city centre of Naples itself is beautiful to see.

Bay of Naples - with a view of Mount Vesuvius and Capri in the distance

Bay of Naples – with a view of Mount Vesuvius and Capri in the distance

4) It is beautiful.

Yes, there are dirty areas of Naples, just like any other city. There are also many extremely beautiful parts of Naples. You just need to know where to go.

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I think you now know how much I love Napoli. There is a feeling I get when I’m there – just so alive and full of happiness.

We took the metro to our apartment (my sister chose an Airbnb apartment for us) and walking up the street our apartment was on, I got extremely emotional. There were so many “wow”s and “oh my gosh”s and “this is unbelievably beautiful”s from the four of us on this walk up the hill. Located in an absolutely stunning area near the designer shopping area of Napoli, our apartment was more than we could have asked for. When we walked in, I began to cry. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe this place and perfect would be an understatement. You know how hotels and guesthouses always have stunning photos on their websites and when you arrive, you’re always disappointed because the place never looks like the photos? This was not the case at all. Our place looked EXACTLY like the photos. Our host welcomed us and showed us everything we needed to know. I decided right then and there that I WOULD return to this place for a proper holiday and heck, I even want to honeymoon here, even if it’s with myself. I never wanted to leave. We found Heaven.

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We quickly got ready for the highlight of my time in Italy (in addition to being reunited with my sister): meeting my two very good friends – the guys I mentioned earlier who hosted me in Rome four years ago and are originally from Napoli. They were home for Easter and I will forever be grateful that they took time from their holiday to meet us that evening. It was a truly fantastic reunion – they are two of my favourite people that I’ve ever met on my travels. We went out for dinner and enjoyed mozzarella di bufala, massive margherita pizzas, Pastiera Napoletana (a traditional Italian Easter cake) and limoncello. FOOD HEAVEN. Afterwards, we showed them our gorgeous apartment and the guys gave the girls lessons in Neapolitan language. We shared stories and laughs and many amazing hugs that night. It was a truly beautiful night that was easily the highlight of my time in Italy. I slept 3 hours that night.

Best night in Italy - with my dear friends

Best night in Italy – with my dear friends

The next day, we hired a private driver to take us to Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast. Gerry from Sorrento First Choice Car Service was our driver and I honestly can’t recommend him enough. He was fantastic. We were chauffeured around in a Mercedes all day from 8:30-5:30 and it was nice to sit back and relax and enjoy the views while learning all kinds of interesting historical facts. When we got to the car park on Vesuvius, we got out of the car and were in complete and utter shock – IT WAS SNOWING. IN APRIL. This never happens. Our driver laughed at us and jumped back in the car. He said he’s been doing this job a long time and has rarely seen it snow up there during non-winter months. GREAT. I almost forgot to bring a jacket that morning (it’s only thanks to D for the reminder that I ran back to grab it!) but it honestly wasn’t enough. There were hurricane-force winds up there. Combine that with the snow and it constantly felt like my eyeballs were being sliced. It was really, really painful. I roared like a dinosaur the whole time fighting the winds. It was hard to appreciate the crater because we couldn’t look that direction (against the wind) for more than a split second. If it weren’t for the weather, it would have been a very enjoyable climb. Having said that, it was an amazing experience to be standing on the top of an active volcano that is (over)due to erupt at any time. Seeing the smoke come out of the crater and the volcanic ash from the last eruption in 1944 was incredible. We were completely frozen by the time we got to the bottom so we asked Gerry to blast the heat (that’s how you know I’m cold, because I HATE heat in cars!!!). We really weren’t expecting this in Italy!

Mount Vesuvius crater

Mount Vesuvius crater

Freezing on top of Mount Vesuvius

Freezing on top of Mount Vesuvius

View from top of Mount Vesuvius

View from top of Mount Vesuvius


Afterwards, we went to Ravello (which was very cold!), Amalfi and Positano. Traffic was horrendous because it was one of the biggest Italian holidays of the year – Easter Monday. We were very sad that the sun wasn’t out – we never dreamed we’d be wearing winter clothes along the coast – but we were very grateful it wasn’t raining! When we were approaching Positano, the sun came out and glistened and made Positano look like sparkling gold. The Amalfi Coast is a place I will never tire of returning to. It blew me away the first time I saw it and can’t imagine it ever not impressing me. It’s easy to see why it’s known as one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

Positano

Positano

Positano

Positano

Positano

Positano

Adorable model village (and Nativity) along the Amalfi Coast

Adorable model village (and Nativity) along the Amalfi Coast

Loving the Mediterranean Sea - Positano

Loving the Mediterranean Sea – Positano

I bought lemons and one cedro to bring home with me. I also had my first crema di limoncello (delicious!!) and bought a cannoli for later. Gerry dropped us off at the Sorrento train station and we took the Circumvesuviana train back to Naples. I had read horrible things about this train line – that it’s one of the worst places for pick-pocketing and good luck getting a seat: it’s more like a metro at rush-hour. I was slightly dreading it but ready for the adventure. It turned out to be one of the best train rides of our lives! We each got a seat easily, it wasn’t packed at all and everyone on the train seemed sound. We laughed for the duration of the train (one hour), partly because we were delirious from exhaustion, partly because 40 minutes into the train ride, S decided to go sit across from a cute Italian boy (who had been on the train the entire time we had). The girl has guts and it was wonderful entertainment for us.

Cedro - looks like a lemon on steroids but actually isn't!

Cedro – looks like a lemon on steroids but actually isn’t!

Inside of a cedro

Inside of a cedro

We were determined to get to a restaurant called Sorbillo, the best pizza in Naples (I’ve never been)! I checked their website earlier and it said they were open. It took us ages to navigate and get there but once we did, they were closed. I don’t really want to relive this earth-shattering moment, but it was really disappointing. Dearest Napoli, next time I am in you, I’M COMING FOR YA SORBILLO! Be prepared. At this point, we were beyond exhausted. We had 2 metros to get in order to get home. We took the first one successfully and missed the second one by a few seconds at 9:32 p.m. I wasn’t worried at all about that being the last one, because there were at least 100 locals waiting with us on the platform for the next one. We waited there for over one hour. ONE HOUR. The metro never came. We decided to leave because people had been smoking the majority of the time and since there is no air down there, we could no longer breath. I asked a guard if there were any more metros and he said no, they were finished. Nice. I wanted to avoid getting a taxi because I didn’t want to get ripped off, which I always assumed would happen in Naples. We got a taxi and it was grand – I recognised the way home from earlier that morning with Gerry. We had a lovely taxi driver and were not ripped off. I slept 3 hours that night.

Beautiful area near our apartment in Napoli

Beautiful area near our apartment in Napoli

The next day, I got up at 7:30 and went for the most incredible walk (alone). It was a beautiful, sunny day (why couldn’t it have been sunny the day before!?) I walked along the sea, ate breakfast (croissant filled with cream and an espresso) outside in the sun along the sea, made new friends (in the coffee shop) and made them happy telling them how much I love their city, walked along the designer-shop-filled streets and just soaked up the beauty of Napoli. I tried to change my train back to Rome to a later time but all trains were sold out. We all got the train together but I was separated from my sister and the girls. I was in first class because that is all that was available when I bought my ticket. It was a funny experience – everyone was dressed in designer suits and dresses and I was wearing trainers.

Breakfast in the sun

Breakfast in the sun

Walking up to our apartment

Walking up to our apartment

View from our apartment

View from our apartment

Cannoli!

Cannoli!

I bid the girls adieu and enjoyed a few hours in Rome. I got gelato at Giolitti, wandered the beautiful random streets and lanes, went to see the horrible construction work at the Trevi Fountain (it was worse than I imagined) and ate bruschetta and soup in the sun. I wasn’t home until 1 a.m. the next morning.

Gelato (pistachio & pomegranate)

Gelato (pistachio & pomegranate)

Awful construction at the Trevi Fountain

Awful construction at the Trevi Fountain

It was a truly beautiful (but all too short) three days in Italy. It meant a lot to me to be able to share the beauty of Napoli (the food, people and scenery) with my sister and her two lovely friends. I learned this four years ago: once you visit Italy, it ruins you in so many wonderful ways. I already cannot wait to return.

Rough Start to 2015

I had a rough start to 2015. Let me count the ways…

1) My mum sent me a package one month before Christmas with Christmas gifts inside and very expensive vitamins I take. They can only be purchased in Florida (they help prevent migraines). This package was worth a lot of money. As of today, it is still lost. We think someone stole it. Thanks to this, I’ve been suffering from lots of migraines and headaches lately.

2) I rang in the New Year with a couple good friends. It was such a lovely evening – relaxing, entertaining, good food, great company. Then… I went to get my coat from the cloakroom – and it wasn’t there. Someone stole my coat. Luckily, the manager was very kind and sent me a check so I can replace the coat. I’m not overly upset since luckily it was my least favourite of the ones I own; however, my favourite gloves were in the coat and they are irreplaceable.

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve

3) I bought new Nike runners. There was a defect in one of the shoes and it caused an injury to my left foot (in the arch). I was limping and hobbling for 6 weeks. I even went to see a physio therapist. Luckily the pain is starting to subside. I now have 2 injured feet since my right foot still causes me pain from the fracture I endured last May.

Cork

Cork

4) I went to Cork for a visit in January. Cork was my first Irish home and I love it so very very much. I haven’t been since October 2012 so I was overdue for a nice visit. I needed a relaxing escape from Dublin for a few days. I stayed in a B&B for 3 nights and really enjoyed my stay – except for one night. I was woken in the middle of the night with SEVERE upper abdominal pains. This went on for over three hours. I knew I needed antacids (something I’ve never taken before) but there are no 24 hour pharmacies in Ireland. I considered going to the emergency room, but didn’t want to be in a waiting room for hours in such severe pain. I did an internet search and found that there was a 24 hour Tesco (supermarket) a 10 minute drive from my B&B. Funny enough, I had been to that Tesco many times with friends after nights out. I got a taxi there and I told the driver what was going on with me. Since he knew I was in a lot of pain, he pulled into a handicapped spot up front and said “I hope I don’t get into trouble for parking here”. I said “Sure you’re grand, you won’t be here long” and went into Tesco. For whatever reason, I took my time in Tesco. I walked outside and was surprised to see my taxi driver still in the same spot. I opened the door and said “I didn’t think you’d still be here!” and he said “Jayzus!! What took you so long?!” That’s when I noticed the meter was still running. Oh no. He said he thought since I said he wasn’t going to be there long that I wanted him to wait for me. Uhhhh NO! Massive misunderstanding that I can laugh about now. Anyway, I just received the results of my abdominal ultrasound and found out that I have gallstones. Fun times.

Tesco at 4 a.m.

Tesco at 4 a.m.

5) I did my first ever international money transfer – from my Irish bank account to my American bank account. Long story short, it got bounced back (not my fault) and I lost $200 ($60 in fees and the rest due to conversion rates). I am absolutely gutted. Trust me when I say I put up a good fight to get the fees reversed to no avail. I’ve lost over $400 since I arrived in Ireland (lost vitamins in the post and now this bank issue).

6) Warning if you get grossed out easily!: My right big toenail endured major trauma at the end of June on the last night of my round the world trip last year. My best friend and I were a bit intoxicated and we moved her bed (it is on wheels) and ran over my toe. Yes, it was as painful as it sounds. Nearly 8 months later, the toenail was nearly off but wouldn’t come off completely. I just had it removed today, which was quite an experience. I am waiting for the numbness from the injection to wear off and am expecting some pretty severe pain. I no longer have pretty feet 😦

Top of St. Patrick's Hill, Cork

Top of St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork

Having said all of this, it hasn’t all been bad. I am still very much loving every second of living in Ireland and am optimistic things are going to get better. I’m hoping for a positive fresh start in March. Among the good things so far this year:

1) FOOD! Dublin has turned me into a bit of a food snob and I love it. I’ve been really impressed with the restaurants I’ve been discovering. K & I found another delish brunch spot. I’m going to write a “food” post soon with photos.

2) My sister is now in the south of England, which is only a 1 hour flight from here. I am going to visit her in one week for 5 days and am insanely excited!!

3) I got to visit a very dear friend in London. She had an overnight stopover in London Heathrow whilst on her way back home after traveling. We stayed in the unbelievable Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow Terminal 5 and boy was it an experience!! We ordered room service and giggled our way through the evening (as we always do) and then proceeded to have the most incredible breakfast at their restaurant, Vivre, the following morning.

Sofitel Hotel Heathrow

Sofitel Hotel Heathrow

4) St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin – round 2!

5) Holidays this summer – my family is coming to visit in June and I am going on a trip in July. Very, very excited! I need to get planning.