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Live, Play, Travel

Back to Ireland: Killarney National Park

April 11, 2016
killarneytree

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.

 

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So yeah, I kind of love Ireland

March 18, 2016
ringofkerry-0176

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 …

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Let’s Be Honest: Sometimes it Sucks

August 7, 2015
momOEfish

If we’re friends on Facebook or you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen a lot of pictures lately that make it look like the kid and I are having a really good time.

Pictures like this …

And this ….

And this …

And while a lot of our life lately has been fun and games (because summer!), it hasn’t all been awesomeness.

I have a tendency to share the good parts of life, the fun parts of life. No one, myself included, wants to hear about the tougher times. We like to post pretty pictures of ourselves and families and friends out doing rad stuff. I mostly leave out a lot of the the hard parts. It’s not because I want to lie to you or mislead you. It’s because I want to remember the good stuff (and most of it is good stuff!).

But it’s not all good stuff.

My kid has always been a great traveler. We’ve had our share of challenging nights in the tent but he is generally a pretty easy-going guy. Normal toddler problems aside, he is a happy, laid-back kid who is almost always up for anything. This has made him a great little adventure buddy. With my work being easy to take on the road and him not having much in the way of his own activities yet, we travel a lot. We visit family, go to the mountains, camp, and glamp. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Except when it’s not.

My parents are up in the mountains for the summer and the kidlet and I have been up there a bunch. Being around family and having a beautiful home base for all sorts of high altitude adventures is a pretty glorious thing. We went up at the beginning of last week, thinking we would stay for a week or so. Long story short, a week and a half later we were still there. And with my husband racing the Breck Epic all next week, we figured we’d just stick around through next weekend.

If you’re doing the math, that’s three weeks in the mountains. Three weeks away from home. Three weeks that should have been so much fun.

The first two nights I couldn’t sleep, which kind of sucked. What sucked even more is that for the next week, the kid didn’t sleep either.

To say that his sleep schedule went to hell would be an understatement. While some nights were worse than others, for the last week or so he has pretty much woken up every couple hours during the night and screamed his little head off for the next thirty minutes. Then he’d fall asleep and an hour or two later, the whole thing would begin again. And a kid that doesn’t sleep for several nights in a row? He’s tired and grumpy during the day. And so are his mom and dad.

And none of it makes for a very pretty picture.

Last night was the worst night we’d had while we were up there and when my mom gently suggested that maybe we should go home for a few days to see if we can get him back on his schedule, I wholeheartedly agreed. An hour later I had packed up the car, loaded up the kid and dogs, and headed down the hill. I felt a little bit defeated but also very relieved to be headed home.

I know that parenting is hard work and that good nights of sleep can be few and far between. I know that we have been very lucky to have a kid that generally sleeps and travels well. I know that these things are phases and that everything is constantly changing. I’m not telling you this story to complain. I’m telling you to point out that sometimes the pretty pictures don’t tell the whole story. I’m telling you that sometimes things are way harder than they actually look. And I’m telling you that sometimes it’s ok to give in, cry uncle, and go home.

The truth is that traveling with, adventuring with, and, hell, living with kids can sometimes be challenging. It may look like we hike and paddle and ride around and the kid is always thrilled to be tagging along. And most of the time, that is how it goes. But it’s not always like that. For every few times that we go and rip around Valmont, there is a time that a meltdown a half mile from the parking lot means carrying a screaming kid (and his bike) back to the car. For every couple blissful cruises around the reservoir on the paddleboard there is a trip that went to hell or one where we never even made it out the door. There are the amazing pictures from our last trip to Fruita, which couldn’t have gone any better … except for the time that the kid got bit by a fire ant at the bottom of the 18 Road campground and I had to carry him all the way back to our campsite near the top. Those of you who have been to Fruita know that that’s a long damn way to carry a kid that is screaming at the top of his lungs.

These things aren’t failures, although it’s easy to feel like they are. They are the reality of traveling and adventuring with kids. A lot of it is sunshine and wildflowers and all the good feelings. But a lot of it is really hard. And sometimes, like this week when I headed for home way earlier than expected, you throw in the towel.

That’s not failure either, as long as you get back at it.

I realize that I’m probably speaking rather dramatically about a week without sleep and that, in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. In my own defense, I’m still totally sleep-deprived and feeling the frustration at the end of a long week. This week’s challenges, though, were a good reminder to never take the good days, the easy days, for granted.

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Killing Time at Queen’s Bath

August 1, 2015
girlQB

One of the things that came up in conversation most often when we were out at Kalalau was what else do you recommend doing on the island? People tend to spend all of their time planning their Kalalau hike (there’s a lot of logistics!) but don’t put much thought into what they will do when they’re done. And with so many options (snorkeling! sailing! making like a monk seal and sleeping on the beach!), it can be hard to choose.

Whenever someone asked me what I thought they should do when their hike was over I always had the same answer: Queen’s Bath.

I discovered Queen’s Bath while watching YouTube videos before our first trip to Kauai. I remember coming across a video that showed jagged cliffs, an angry sea, and a stunning swimming spot. I knew I had to go. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy day on the island and still feel like you’re getting a heaping dose of Hawaii.

Queen’s Bath may be located right outside the ritzy town of Princeville but it is far removed from the city’s big resorts and bigger money. A quick hike along a waterfall takes you down to a rocky moonscape that stands in sharp contrast against the bright blue ocean. The first thing you notice when you arrive is the way that the waves come crashing into the little coves, swirling against the rocks. The second thing you notice? The turtles.

I desperately wanted to see sea turtles when we visited Hawaii. Despite growing up near the ocean and spending a lot of time along various coastlines, I had never seen one in the wild. We were well into our trip to Kauai when we visited Queen’s Bath and I was starting to fear that I wouldn’t see one at all. And then, suddenly, they were everywhere!

I could watch the turtles all day. I loved seeing them bob around in the water, totally at ease in the crashing waves. There are some animals that are perfectly suited for their environment and this, hands down, is one of them. They were definitely a highlight of our trip.

After we had our fill of the turtles we made our way to the Queen’s Bath itself. Queen’s Bath is a small, natural pool in the rocks that is constantly refreshed with water from the ocean. With a cliff to jump off of and schools of fish swimming around in the water, it’s a great spot to swim and snorkel. It’s also a perfect place to lay back and let the saltwater hold you as you stare at the blue sky and think about just how freaking lucky you are to be hanging out in Hawaii.

Queen’s Bath itself.

The one caveat about Queen’s Bath is that it is can be pretty dangerous. A lot of people will tell you that it’s one of the most treacherous spots on the island. The same waves that keep the water in the pool nice and fresh can build quickly, crash over the rocks, and sweep unsuspecting visitors out to sea. If you want to swim when you go to Queen’s Bath it’s best to go at low tide. You can absolutely be safe here but you have to keep your wits about you.

There’s a good chance that you’ll see local kids diving off the big cliffs right into the swirling, angry water. As fun as it looks, think long and hard before doing this!

We’ve seen a lot of Kauai now and Queen’s Bath might be one of my favorite spots on the island. I was only just starting to take my photography seriously back when we visited and now I’m itching to go back with upgraded equipment, way more knowledge, and a better understanding of just how magical this place is. It’s a pretty special spot.

If you go: The hike down to Queen’s Bath is short and fairly easy. You will see people wearing flip-flops or even going barefoot but it is probably best to wear Chacos or hiking shoes for better traction. Bring a swimsuit, a lunch, and plenty of water. Don’t forget to wear (and reapply – which I, painfully, forgot!) sunscreen. Be safe and never, ever turn your back on the sea!

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