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Back to Ireland: Killarney National Park

April 11, 2016
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I got back from Ireland with grand plans to update you all on our adventures. I was picturing lengthy, photo filled posts about the place we went, the things we saw, and the people we met. And then Maddie got sick and all of that was forgotten.

But our lives are settling down again and it’s time take you traveling!

Today we’re off to Killarney National Park!

Due to my husband’s work schedule (stupid work!) we were based out of Cork for most of our trip. I say that like it’s a bad thing but it’s definitely not. I love Cork. In fact, I love Cork so much that I think I could very easily live there. But by the time the week was over I was ready to see more of the country. We only had a few days to kill and I had a heinously early flight out of Cork airport on our last day in Ireland so we didn’t want to stray too far. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go far to get a taste of the country.

My husband found a beautiful place on AirBnB that was just on the outskirts of Killarney National Park. It was perfect. From our window we could see horses grazing in the field below and sheep hanging out across the little valley. The owner was friendly and provided tons of information on hiking (or “walking” as the Europeans call it) trails in the area. But as tempting as it was to just hang out in our AirBnB all weekend (seriously, it was lovely!) we spent most of our time out enjoying the countryside.

Our first stop upon arriving in Killarney was at Killarney National Park where we paid a visit to the Muckross House and went for a quick hike to the Torc waterfall. The trees were covered in moss and everything was green. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest and was pretty much the opposite of what we see here in super arid Colorado. It was gorgeous.

My favorite part of Killarney may have been the “jaunting cars” which is apparently Irish for “horse and buggy”. They were everywhere zipping people to and from the various sites. We didn’t ride on one but I loved watching them go by! Also? Could anything sound more jolly than “jaunting car”?

The next morning we grabbed breakfast in town and then headed for the Ross Castle where we took a tour, which we really enjoyed. From there it was off on a driving tour of the Ring of Kerry, which we will save for another day … !

Our visit to Killarney was short but sweet. It gave us a taste for what that little corner of the world is like – and left us wanting so much more. The area is beautiful and, as with everywhere we visited in Ireland, the people were incredibly friendly. If there was one downside to Killarney, it was the food. While Ireland is not necessarily known for its culinary scene, we had some really good food in Cork. But the further we got from the city, the harder it was to find great food. That’s not to say that it’s not there – just that it was a lot harder to find. This is where talking with the locals can be a huge help! But yanno what? It doesn’t even matter. I’d eat lackluster food for the rest of my life if it meant spending time in beautiful Killarney.

 

Live, Play, Travel

So yeah, I kind of love Ireland

March 18, 2016
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The last time I wrote for this blog I was sitting in Heathrow airport, weary from a long day in a place I wasn’t loving and the massive effort it took to get to where I needed to be. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and ready to be anywhere but there.

The night’s last flight out of London got me to Cork just before midnight, which is way past my bedtime regardless of timezone. I gathered my luggage and stepped out into the cool, damp air. I hailed a cab and settled into the backseat. The taxi driver was old and Irish and chatty. Classical music played softly in the car and a light rain fell on the windshield. For the first time in two days I felt like I could breathe.

I fall in love with places easily and Ireland sucked me in quick. It wasn’t the culture or the history or the old stone buildings around every corner, although those certainly didn’t hurt. It wasn’t the food (which largely wasn’t amazing) or the whiskey (which definitely was!).

It was the people.

Our hotel was a good mile and a half or so from the center of Cork and because I’m cheap and like to walk, I hoofed it pretty much everywhere I needed to go. I spent my first morning getting the lay of the land – walking past old churches and up narrow sidewalks, checking out the bustling downtown, and strolling along the river. It was on one of these walks that I met John.

[This is John! I took this picture before I knew we were about to become BFFs.]

John was an older Irish gent who was out for a walk with his two little dogs. We first crossed paths as I headed down the trail that runs alongside the river and out of town. We struck up a conversation about the weather (the Irish love talking about the weather) and an hour later we were still walking and talking. He told me all about the city and the schools and the old abandoned asylum that sits up on the hillside. We talked about beer and dogs and politics. Our walk took forever because every time he wanted to make a point he’d stop walking, look at me, and gesture wildly with his hands.

I loved every minute of it.

This was a pattern that would repeat itself for the rest of the trip in every town I visited. The woman in the little craft store in Cobh. The lobstermen who were working on their traps in Kinsale. The owner of our AirBnB in Killarney. The cab drivers – Oh my god, the cab drivers! They were the chattiest of them all.

I learned early on that you don’t start a conversation with an Irish person unless you plan to be in that conversation for a very long time. I started a lot of conversations because as far as I’m concerned, hanging out with the locals is one of the very best reasons to go to Ireland.

The places we visited were a lot like the people – friendly and warm and welcoming. The pubs were a cozy kind of crowded and the drinks and conversation flowed. The landscape was soft and green and painfully pretty. Even the sheep (which were everywhere in the countryside) were extra fuzzy and adorable.

Ireland is nothing like the place where we live – but it felt like home from the moment I arrived.A week wasn’t nearly a long enough time in this place and we’re already scheming about how we can go back someday. I want to spend more time in Killarney and visit the Cliffs of Moher. I want to drive the Wild Atlantic Way and try like hell to not cross over onto the right side of the road. I want to spend more time drinking beer in pubs with the people that make this place so great. And I want to take my son – because I know he would love it there too.

Stay tuned for more posts and pictures about our trip to Ireland. I have a lot to tell you!

 

 

 

Live, Play, Travel

Leaving London (on a high note)

March 6, 2016
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Greetings from Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2. Apparently this is “The Queen’s Terminal” but I have yet to see any members of the monarchy. I’m still keeping an eye out!

I arrived in London yesterday afternoon and was supposed to stay for a few days before heading on to Ireland where my husband is working. I had planned to walk around, see the sites, and soak up the city. And those plans quickly fell away when I realized that I really didn’t like London.

I know that is a horrible thing to say. I know that it’s one of the world’s great cities and that people travel from all over to visit. I know that it is steeped in history and museums and all things British. I know that I should be grateful that I’m here (and believe me, I am!). I’m just not loving it. .

London feels suffocating and crowded to me. It feels cold and dark and dirty. Perhaps it’s because it’s winter. I’d think it was maybe because I just don’t like big cities but that just isn’t true at all. I’ve spent time in many of Europe’s biggest and busiest boroughs – Paris, Barcelona, Munich, Florence, Zurich – and loved every minute of it. Perhaps it’s because I know that the second half of this trip will be spent in beautiful Ireland with my partner in crime.

Whatever it was, I just wasn’t feeling it.

So today, instead of trying to find ways to see the sites while also avoiding all those people, I cried uncle. I swallowed my pride and booked myself a cheap one-way flight to Cork. I ate the money I lost on a lovely AirBnB. And I felt both relieved and a bit beaten down.

I was sitting at Heathrow this afternoon, scrambling to book my flight on my phone when I noticed the woman sitting behind me. She was having a frantic conversation with someone on her phone, telling them how she had had all of her stuff stolen at the airport and how she didn’t even have money for a cab to get to wherever she needed to go to begin to fix this situation. She was stranded.

I reached into my pocket, grabbed the 40 pounds I was getting ready to exchange for Euros and put them in her hand. She was stunned and relieved and beyond grateful. She was happy – and I was happy too. In that moment the dark cloud of my disappointment lifted and so did my mood. I was happy again and feeling like good things were certain to come. I didn’t give her the money hoping that it would help me but it most certainly did.

It was a good lesson in the power of paying it forward.

I couldn’t sleep last night (damn jet lag!) so I threw on a coat and wandered down to the riverfront to take some pictures. Just as I raised my camera Big Ben struck 2 a.m. The clang of that old clock ringing out across the Thames while the rest of the city was asleep will stick with me forever. Magical moments are always there if we are willing to find them. That is my most vivid memory of London – and the one that I hope sticks with me forever.

And with that, I am off! See you in a few hours, Ireland!

A few more shots from my time in London …

Live, Play, Travel

What to do in Durango, Colorado

February 22, 2016
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Hello out there in Blog-land! It’s been quiet around here lately (have you seen the tumbleweeds go rolling by? Because I certainly have.) but I have so much to share with you! First up … a recap of my recent trip to Durango.

Durango may be in Colorado but it is a LONG way from where I live and for some reason in nine years of living here I had never made it to that corner of the state. And then for Christmas this year my husband signed me up for a winter photography tour on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (tell me he’s not the best husband ever?!) and before I knew it I was off to the Four Corners region.

To be honest, I mostly winged this trip. The photography tour was planned and I had some vague ideas of what I wanted to do with my time but I left most of it up to chance – and let me tell you that it worked out just fine. In fact, I’m not sure that it could have gone better. So with all that in mind, here is the perfect long weekend itinerary for beer-loving outdoorsy folks!

Day 1: Arrive in Durango. Put up your tent/Check into your hotel/Show up at your AirBnB. Get the lay of the land … and then hit your first brew pub.

I typically prefer to camp when I travel in the mountains but seeing as I was by myself and it was the dead of winter in Colorado, I hotel-ed it. Since the main reason I was in Durango was to ride the train, the General Palmer Hotel was the perfect place to stay. If you love old hotels, this place will be right up your alley! The General Palmer is located right next to the train station in the hoppin’ downtown area, which means that you can walk to pretty much everywhere you want to go. The hotel is really nice and loaded with character. The rooms were pristine, the staff was super friendly, and the fresh baked cookies in the afternoons were (obviously!) much appreciated. The hotel had a nice continental breakfast and the coffee was surprisingly good. I am a bit of a coffee snob and rarely drink hotel coffee but I made an exception this time – their coffee was excellent! The General Palmer gets an A+ on all accounts.

Pro Tip: If the bellboy asks if you need help with your luggage, SAY YES. The hotel’s old elevator is super charming but totally impractical. You’ll see what I mean when you arrive!

Eat and Drink: On my first night in town I had dinner and beer at Steamworks which is right downtown. It was a Friday night and the place was packed but I managed to find a seat at the bar. I had the fish tacos and a Third Eye P.A. Both were very good.

Day 2: Mesa Verde and more beer!

On my first full day in town I made the short drive from Durango up to Mesa Verde National Park. I’m not sure what I was expecting but Mesa Verde kind of blew me away. Seeing the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people was incredibly cool and gave me a new appreciation for this area’s history and the people who have called it home. If you go during the summer you can take a walking tour through the cliff dwellings but, because it was winter, I had to view them from afar. It was still totally worth it. Take the main road through the park, stop at the museum, and be sure to hit all of the sites along the roadside. Like many other parks in the southwest, this is a place where you will do more driving than hiking (think Arches vs. Glacier) but there is still some hiking to be had. It was hot and sunny when I was there but I really wished I had snowshoes or skis because attempted to hike and mostly ended up postholing on the soft snow!

Eat and Drink: On my second night in town I hit up Ska Brewing which was the one place I knew I HAD to eat while I was in Durango. Ska’s Modus Hoperandi is one of my all time favorite beers and I had to go to visit the Motherland where it is made. Ska has a super laid back vibe – it was the kind of place that we would go to all the time if we lived in Durango (and by the way, I could totally live in Durango). I had a grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto and a flight. I wish I could remember what was in my flight (I blame the beer!) but it was all hoppy and delicious. If you’ve never tried Modus before you are totally missing out!

Pro Tip: Ska has limited hours and is outside of the downtown area so plan your trip accordingly! Trust me, it’s worth it.

Day 3: Ridin’ that train! And more beer.

On my second full day in Durango I got to board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and spend my whole day riding around taking pictures. It was awesome and I highly recommend a train trip for anyone visiting Durango. Buy a ticket, grab a seat, and watch the scenery go by. Everyone that works on and for the train is exceptionally friendly and you can just tell that they LOVE sharing the old railroad with visitors. They only run the photography trains a few times a year (more about that in another post!) but regular train trips run year round. It’s well worth it.

Eat and Drink: For my final brewery stop of the trip I hit up Carver. I twas tired, cold, and hungry after being out in the snow all day and I desperately needed something to eat. I ponied up to the bar at Carver an hour or so before they closed for the night and ended up hanging out with a bunch of the staff for the better part of the evening. We had a blast (although by the end of the night I was feeling very, very old …). On the recommendation from my new friends I had the stuffed poblano, an IPA, and a Red Ale. So good!

Day 4: Pack up. Say goodbye. Start planning your return.

Durango is a pretty special place and I was sad to leave. I was there just long enough to hit some of the major sites (and a bunch of breweries!) … and to realize that I need to get back sooner than later!

Ok, travelers, who has been to Durango? What’d you think? What did I miss?!

 

 

Live, Play, Shoot, Travel

2016 and the Fine Art of Forgetting

January 12, 2016
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Happy New Year, folks! I realize that I am a few weeks late to the whole annual wrap up / let’s look forward party but better late than never, right?

I’ve never been one to make resolutions. I don’t believe there is any grand significance in the flipping of a calendar year and we all know that those promises to save money/lose weight/write that novel beginning on New Years Day rarely ever stick. I feel like if you want to change your life, you should probably start it now (right now!) regardless of whether it’s January 1st or June 1st or October 19th.

But while I’m not a fan of resolutions, I do like to look at a new year as a chance to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. And sometimes I like to come up with a theme – something I’m going to work on or keep in mind in the coming months. It’s never a hard and fast goal (I make those all year long … and have a long list that I’m hammering away at as we speak) but rather an idea that I want to hang onto and use to guide my decisions and reactions to life. A theme is widespread and can creep into all aspects of life. And that’s why I like it.

My theme for this year is to forget everything I know about myself.

Wait! Hold up. HUH??

Let me explain.

I think I know myself pretty well. I’ve been living with this body and this brain for thirty-six years now and in that time I’ve learned a lot about my personality. I “know” what I like. I “know” how I enjoy spending my time. I “know” that I’m shamelessly introverted and need massive amounts of alone time. I “know” the kind of projects I like to work on – the kind of writing and photography that I think are my thing.

But I want to step back from all of that – because maybe I don’t know myself as well as I think I do.

Whether we realized it or not we spend years and years cultivating our personalities and curating our personas. As time goes by we get valuable insights into what makes us tick and what makes our hearts sing. And while this is a good thing, it can also be extremely limiting because if something falls outside of that self-imposed definition of who we are and what we do, we may be less likely to jump on the opportunity.

Which is why I’m trying to forget.

So this year, rather than turning down adventures and work activities because I think they’re not “what I do”, I’m going to embrace them. I’m going to try new things – things that fall way outside my traditional definition of what makes this old girl tick. I’m going to try to forget who I am so that maybe I can learn a little. I’m going to get myself and my ego out of my own damn way. I’m going to say yes to things when my reaction would normally be “oh hell no!”. I’m going to be open.

And I encourage you to do the same. Because maybe we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Do you have resolutions or goals for the New Year? I’d love to hear them!