A Perfectly Magical Winter Break

I’ve been back in school for a week now, and I’m already hardcore missing winter break. It may have something to do with leaving the mountains, or returning to school work, or the fact that it is way to warm in Raleigh to feel at all like winter. I also had quite a long winter break (over a month!) since I didn’t have any final exams (perks of design school) so getting back into the daily grind and constant work work work has been a bit tricky.

So while I should be writing code, learning about shape grammars, and researching inclusive design, I’ll take a minute to share my winter break with all of you.

My whole goal of winter break was to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Since the full effect of cold winter weather hadn’t fully settled in yet, I found myself on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost once a day. Since both my siblings were still in school and I didn’t have my usual hiking buddies, I spent a lot of time alone which was actually super refreshing. I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys spending time by myself so having afternoons on the trails with only my camera and my thoughts was nice after a long grueling semester.

I’m realizing it now as I look through the pictures that I took over break and realized that I didn’t actually take too many photos. I found myself leaving behind my camera on several occasions and just going off for a drive and stumbling upon a trail to explore. It was a challenge to try to get nice shots on my phone, but I made do with what I had available.

Somewhere in the midst of all this hiking and outdoors stuff I managed to drive over to Nashville, Tennessee. My best friend is currently part of Nashville Ballet’s second company, and was performing in the Nutcracker. I haven’t missed one of his Nutcracker performances since we became friends, so the five hour drive surely wasn’t going to stop me now. Looking through my phone, I realized that I have absolutely no photos of Nashville, which sort of upsets me. Ah, oh well. I’ll just make him dress up like the grandfather when he’s home again and get a photo with him. Peyton, you down with that?

I also went exploring with the fam-bam and we all shared some of our favorite hikes with each other. While I enjoy the solitude of an hour on the trails, its nice to share the scenery with other people and discover new places in the process.

We all have a major love for snow skiing, so we made a ski trip a priority on our winter break list. We met up with an old family friend (not in this photograph) and had a fun filled weekend of snow tubing, decorating Christmas cookies (which we’ve been doing since I can remember), kids vs. parents games of Heads Up, and a day of skiing. It was a perfect day of skiing with 50 degree temperatures and sunny blue skies.

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Probably the most exciting part of winter break was having the company of my aunt, uncle, and Oma for Christmas. They made a last minute trip to North Carolina to spend the holidays with us. It was such a treat to have them here for a few days. It was Oma’s first time to North Carolina in roughly ten years. It was like a true family Christmas.

During the last few days of my winter break, North Carolina got a mini monster of a snow storm. It started on Friday morning and by the time I woke up on Saturday morning we had a good 6 inches on the ground. On Sunday, the snow still hadn’t melted but I packed my car up and got ready to go back to Raleigh. I had just hit the road to go back to school when I got a text informing me that my first day of classes had been cancelled, so I got one extra day of break. It was a nice little surprise to have one last home cooked meal and a few hours more with the parents.

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Comfort

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m. I find myself in the 12 foot diving well of my university’s pool with my head under the water, doing what they call “drown-proofing”.

I’ve always been decently comfortable in the water. I’ve never felt like I would be at risk of drowning and find swimming incredibly relaxing. As a trained lifeguard I feel as though I know water safety pretty well. So when signing up for classes this semester, I said “what the heck” and enrolled in a class called survival swimming. While I am learning very valuable survival skills, I am learning far more about myself. Every day my teacher gives us a break from the water and has us sit on the pool deck as he gives us life advice. These little life lessons apply not only in our survival swim class, but also in our daily lives. One of my favorite messages that he preaches often is learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This message has really stuck with me throughout the semester. No one likes to live outside of their comfort zone. There is reason that it is called a “comfort zone”. We, as humans, strive to exist in a bubble where we feel safe. Where we cannot be hurt or disappointed. We find routine and stick to that. Its just part of our psychological makeup. And while everyone’s comfort is different, we all look for those places.

The truth of the matter is, we need to live outside of zone, or at least venture out there every once in a while. Putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations is where we learn the most about who we are and what makes us tick. Its where we discover the true strength and power of our being. We realize that we are far more capable than we think we are and we can endure far more discomfort than we think we can. You may not think you can climb that mountain, or sail that ship, or succeed in that career, but you would be surprised how far you are actually able to go.

Here’s the thing about comfort. Being comfortable never lead to life changing experiences or priceless memories. If you never put yourself in moments of discomfort, when the moment arises that forces you to become uncomfortable, you won’t know how to respond. You will break down and be defeated with ease. A smooth sea never made for a skilled sailor. So, go on that trip that you’ve been dreaming about for months, chase after your dream job even if it isn’t as stable or well paying, take the leap of faith either in or out of a relationship or friendship. Those short moments of discomfort make the successes even greater.

I’m such a “Look at the moon” person

I’ve lived my whole life tucked away in a small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent my childhood knee deep in rivers and creeks, hands covered in mud, and head full of imaginary creatures such as fairies and unicorns. More often than not you could find me in the small patch of woods at the back corner of our home building fairy houses out of twigs, soft green moss, and delicate flowers. I had a wild imagination that took me on magical adventures everyday. But, somewhere along the way of growing up, I lost that imagination in the jumble of school, friends, and technology.

For a good portion of my middle school and high school years I was sucked into the teenage lifestyle. I was much more interested in messaging my friends and playing Farmville on Facebook than building fairy houses or playing pirates in our tree house. I grew out of my imagination “phase” and let the current of social media consume my life. I was obsessed with likes and my online presence. I felt lost without my phone in my right hand, awaiting the ding of text messages, followers, and snaps. My biggest dream was moving to a far off city surrounded my noise and lights and being consumed by the hurry of people.

Then two summers ago, I went on an overnight camping trip with the senior campers at Camp Spring Creek and my life was changed. When offered a chance to go on the trip I was a bit hesitant, but at the last minute I agreed and packed my backpack. I figured I was comfortable in the wilderness and viewed it as a time to bond with some of the senior campers. Little did I know that in those two and a half days spent dirty and cold in the Black Mountain Range I would regained my desire to explore and my imagination would come back to life.

Now I live in a far off city surrounded by noise and light and a hurry of people (sure, Raleigh is no NYC or LA, but its definitely bigger than my hometown) and all I can think about is going back to the mountains. I yearn for even the shortest of breaks from school to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and find peace on the curvy roads surrounded by trees and rivers and dirt and mud. I spend almost every free minute at home driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, awing at the marvelous Appalachian Mountains. I now feel so connected to the place that I live and the feeling of clean fresh air, winding country roads, and high mountain peaks. I would rather spend my evenings enjoying a beautiful sunset than at a party with some friends or trapped behind my computer screen.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still often find me with my phone in my hand or back pocket, but the urgency to view and reply to messages has since dissipated. My camera roll is now filled with photos from the stunning places I’ve been and my mind is filled with places I wish to go. The gratification I receive from likes and comments on my photos is now a happiness I am able to share the beauty that I find in the world with my friends and family. I want to be able to share those moments when I reach the top of a mountain and can just stare in pure amazement at the wonderful world that we live in.

So yes, I do get overly excited at the sight of stars and I will most definitely pull over on the side of the road to just take a minute to enjoy the color of the changing leaves. If you spend time with me you will definitely hear me say “Look at the moon!” more than once, and you’ll have to be patient with me as I take a few extra minutes to awe at the color of distant mountains or rolling waves. I like the feeling of grass between my toes and cold river water rushing on my hands and you would find me clutching a salamander or toad before you would find me using a clutch. I would gladly wear the smell of a campfire over expensive perfume and I am more comfortable in a t-shirt than I will ever be in designer clothing.

I will never underestimate the power of adventure any longer. Because if one trip could help me re-establish my connection with nature, who knows what the rest of my life will bring.

 

Europe Trip 2016 || Family Visits

Its been a while since I’ve posted and I still have a few more days of my recent trip to Europe to document. The last week or so of our trip was spent in the small town of Boxtel in the Netherlands. The majority of our time was spent with family, playing card games, drinking tea, and chatting. We only see our grandparents once a year so we try to spend as much time as we can with them in the short time that we visit, soaking up their presence.

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Uncle Denis
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The freshly planted flowers in Oma’s garden

 

Sunday night was spent around the table enjoying the traditional Sunday meal of  biefstuk met aardappel and snijbonen. We finished off with Oma’s special pudding and a quick game of duizenden and a few dropjes for the winner.

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Sunday Dinner

On Monday, Suus, Marguerite, and I went to Den Bosch for a girls day. We did a bit of shopping and just walking around the center of town. We stopped into a small cafe for a quick coffee and snack.

img_7317After a bit more shopping and bit more walking, we met up with Luc and Bart in front of the St. John’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is famous for the hundreds of small gargoyles that face towards the sky at the top of the Cathedral. For the first time in 500 years, they opened the top of the Cathedral to the public so that people could view the small gargoyles. The guides that took us up were so knowledgable and told us so many stories about each of the small gargoyles. Right as we were walking back down from the top of the Cathedral, it started to rain so we decided to grab an early dinner.

We found a small tapas restaurant and as soon as we walked into the door, we saw a huge flash and a heard deafening boom of thunder. Seconds later there was torrential downpour and we were very happy that we were inside. We had a few snacks while waiting for Daan and his girlfriend, Julia to arrive and laughed at Marguerite’s mispronunciation of “lol” the Dutch word for “fun” which she pronounced “lul” which is the Dutch word for penis. After we had finished our meal, we all piled back into the car and headed back to Boxtel.img_7322

On our last day in Holland, we did all of the things we hadn’t managed to do in the last few days. We had a quiet morning having breakfast and playing dominos with Bart. Then we rode our bikes to the grocery store and picked up flowers and some worstebroodjes (our favorite Dutch snack) and rode to Oma’s house. We painted our yearly paintings for her wall, played a game of duizended, and ate lunch. As it was getting later, we said our goodbyes which is always very sad. Luckily it was a beautiful day so we could leave Oma in her favorite spot, enjoying the sun in her back garden. When we went back to Suus and Luc’s house we packed up all of our stuff and then made tacos for dinner. Suus and Luc took us to Amsterdam where we were staying so that we wouldn’t have to wake up as early for our flight the next morning. We stayed with one of our Dad’s old friends, Caroline and Jelmer. They found a copy of our parent’s wedding video (Carolin was the “Best Man” and also translated the ceremony for all of the Ducthies at the wedding). It was funny to see how much our parents have changed, but also how they still have so many of the same facial expressions and tendencies. After watching a good portion of the video, we decided to call it a night and head to bed.

The next morning we woke up early, and Jelmer took us to the airport. We went through security quickly and then found our gate and talked and read until we boarded our flight. Next stop, USA.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 18-19: Boxtel

I’m going to condense some of the days spent in Holland because a majority of our time was spent relaxing with the family.

Day Nineteen:

Our week long trip in Ireland had come to an end. We woke up relatively early to make it to the airport on time. Once all checked in and through security we stopped for breakfast and coffee. Then we boarded the plane and made our way to Eindhoven. Our Uncle Luc met us there and he drove Mom and Amy to the central station so they could go into Amsterdam to see a coffeeshop. Marguerite and I went back to Boxtel with Luc and just relaxed with our cousin Bart and his duck until Suus (Aunt) and Daan (cousin) got home. After dinner Suus, Luc, Bart, Anina, and I went to see Oma (our grandmother). We played cards and had tea. Oma was so happy and excited to see us again. Then we went back to the Molenpad and met Freek (Daan and Bart’s cousin… not on our side of the family) and Daan were playing darts and drinking since Daan finished his final exams that day. We all just sat around playing games and chatting and just enjoying each other’s company. Mom and Amy showed up at around 11:00 and they said they had a fun time in Amsterdam. We stayed out until about midnight until we were all tired then we went to bed.

Day Twenty:

Marguerite and Amy slept in, so Mom and I went to Oma’s early that morning. We stopped to get her flowers on the way and I laughed at mom using American biking signals on our bike ride. After a cup of coffee and a lekker warm stroopwafel we headed back to the Molenpad (Aunt and Uncle’s house) to make sure Marguerite and Amy were up and awake. At around 1:00 we went back to Oma and Opa’s house for a big family reunion. Anne-Lies (great-aunt) came early to spend some time with us before the great-aunts from my Oma’s side got there. Then Oma’s sisters came. Tante Ann, Marij, and Guus and his wife, Thea were all there. It was nice in the garden with the whole family and to see all the tantes again. Oma was so happy as well. After that we went back to the Molenpad and Daan had another party with all his friends. Denis came and brought paling (smoked eel) which is my Mom’s favorite so we ate that and had a few drinks sitting next to the Dommel. Marguerite, Bart and I played a game of dominoes as all of Daan’s friends had a bonfire in the back yard. After a few rounds, Marguerite joined Daan and his friends and Bart and I went to sleep.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 17: Kylemore Abbey

It was a sad morning, waking up and knowing that today was our last full day in Ireland. We woke up and had breakfast with some people from South Dakota before heading out to make our way back to Dublin. We drove for a while in Connemara which was beautiful. Along the way we stopped at Kylemore Abbey where we took lots of pictures. We went to the gift shop and got some little gifts and of course, an Irish coffee. Since we had to pay to get onto the grounds, we just walked as far as we could (without having to pay) took some photos, appreciated the beauty of Kylemore Abbey and then headed back around to get in the car. We drove for the rest of the day until we got to Dublin. We made a few stops along the way which was fun, saw a few herds of sheep strutting down the road, and in true road trip fashion, sang at the top of our lungs the whole time.

When we got to the hotel Mom and Amy went to drop off the car while Marguerite and I printed out our boarding passes for our flight the next morning. When Mom and Amy got back we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was good, and for dessert, Marguerite finally got to have her crème brûlée. When we were all full to the brim, we went back to our room and had a relaxing night before leaving for the Netherlands. After nearly two and a half weeks of continuous travel we were finally going to see the family. We knew that countless days of sitting in our Oma’s garden, riding our bikes through town, and morning tea with the family was awaiting us. So with those thoughts in our heads, we went to bed.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 16: Cliffs of Moher and Spiddal, Ireland

*Just a little disclaimer, this was one of my favorite (if not my favorite) day of our trip. The Cliffs of Moher had been on my bucket list for a while, and it was like a dream come true.*

And on the 16th day of our Europe adventure, my wonderful sister turned 21. This morning we woke up in our castle of a B&B and had breakfast with a nice couple who was also staying there. After breakfast, we went back up to the room and Marguerite got some of her 21st birthday presents. After the festivities were over, we packed up all of our stuff and started to load up the car. Mom had not booked a B&B for the next night yet so the lady of the house kindly called a place and booked it for us. Then we got a quick picture in front of the B&B and then headed into the town of Ennis.

We walked around Ennis for a bit, just to see what it had in store. It was cute and very small, but nothing spectacular. We were really trying to wait out the weather, hoping for it to get a bit sunnier. When the clouds had begun to clear, we got on the road and headed to the Cliffs of Moher.

I was extremely excited to go there and could not wait to see the cliffs. Marguerite was a bit nervous because she was worried one of us might fall, but when we got there it was not so bad. We walked along the fenced in part of the cliffs up to O’Brien’s Tower. We climbed to the top of the tower to see the view from the top. On our way back down, Marguerite found two wedding bands attached to a small note, tucked into the wall of the tower. She showed all of us, but did not read the note (although now we regret not reading it because we want to figure out what it was for). We then walked in the other direction where we could climb over a small wall and get closer to the edge of the cliffs to look over. We took lots and lots of pictures. This was probably one of my happiest moments of the trip.

When we had taken all the pictures, we got back in the car and headed towards Spiddal. We took a little break in the town of Burren to have lunch and then got back on the road. We finally made it to Spiddal and got all set up in the B&B. Mary, the lady of the house, was so sweet and welcoming. She was very talkative and so excited that it was Marguerite’s birthday. After a failed attempt at finding crème brûlée for Marguerite’s birthday dessert, she made a reservation for us at a restaurant in town.

We took a walk near the water before we got to the restaurant and looked at an old church (there is no shortage of these in Ireland). Then we went to dinner which was delicious. When we were finished we went to another bar and all four of us took a baby Guinness shot (not really my favorite). Then there were two guys in the bar (a few beers past drunk) that kept talking to Marguerite. One of them decided to come sit with us and talk (Gaelic was his first language so his English perfect, but pretty good considering). His friend/brother/partner (all three relationships were thrown around, but I’m pretty sure they were just friends) came over and sat with us as well. He kept saying he was going to marry Marguerite. They were a hoot. The old men in the bar were singing old country music and Amy was singing along with them. One of them came over and gave Marguerite a kiss on the cheek. Mom managed to get the manager to give Marguerite one of the Guinness beer glasses so he came over to give her a hug as well. Then we left the crazy Gaelic Irishmen, and went to the other bar down the road. This one was much quieter, only three girls (one of them was our waitress from dinner). We took another baby Guinness shot before deciding to call it a night. When we got back to the B&B we fell straight to sleep.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 15: Bunratty, Limerick, Ennis

We woke up early, had a light(er) breakfast, packed up the car, and said our goodbyes to the O’Sullivans. We all piled into the car and headed to Limerick. We first drove to Glenstal Abbey and visited Marco (an old camper) who gave us a miniature tour of his castle of a school. Glenstal Abbey was absolutely gorgeous. We then took Marco into Bunratty to see the Bunratty castle. We had lunch at Durty Nellies Pub, which is the oldest pub in Ireland (almost 400 years old!). We then walked across the street to the Bunratty Castle and took a tour of the castle, which was interesting. After we had been all throughout the castle we started walking around the grounds. The area around the castle was set up with several different little shacks to display how the people used to live. Sadly, the grounds were being closed down so we did not get to see much of the insides of the houses. We did manage to get into a few of the houses and the blacksmiths house. Then we decided to walk around the grounds a bit more, even though we couldn’t go inside any of the houses. We saw the little animals and the gardens and just talked with Marco.

When we had seen enough of the grounds, we left and went into the city of Limerick and walked around for a bit. After walking around for about an hour, we drove back to Glenstal Abbey where we dropped Marco off. We said our goodbyes and took a quick polaroid picture and then headed off to our next destination. That night we were staying in Ennis where in a B&B that looked almost like a castle. It was quite beautiful. We got there pretty late but walked into town looking for a place to get a bite for dinner. Unfortunately the super market was closed, and all of the restaurants were closed as well so we just walked back and had a few snacks for dinner and some Baileys. Then we all went to bed.

Durty Nelly’s Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 14: Ring of Kerry and Night Kayaking

We woke up to another lovely Irish breakfast made by the O’Sullivan’s (at this point, I think we were all exhausted by the Irish breakfasts). After a quick tour of their greenhouse we all got into the cars and headed for the Ring of Kerry. We had to separate into two different cars so Amy and I went with John, and Marguerite and Mom went with Kate. We stopped lots of times to take pictures (I probably took about 500 pictures this day). The roads were crazy narrow and what I would consider a one-way road was used for two cars (granted, sometimes we had to drive off the side of the road to get past someone). It was absolutely beautiful though. We got to see the coast and the “mountains” and it was such a lovely day as well. We stopped at a nice restaurant for a Bailey’s coffee and we saw a group of sheep being herded down a small road. We kept driving and stopping, driving and stopping, until John got us kind of lost. We managed to find our way onto some crazy back roads that I am pretty sure were meant for cattle but saw some pretty sights in the meantime. We stopped at a little hiker’s lodge on the side of the road for a quick bite and talked to some drunk hikers (and by we talked, I mean that mom talked). After some sandwiches and soup, we kept driving and saw lots of sheep. At one point we met a car coming the other way and since the road was too narrow and there were rocky cliffs on either side the car had to back up so much to let us through. Finally we made it back to the O’Sullivan’s house (it took 9 hours for the whole Ring of Kerry) and had a very quick dinner before suiting up for night kayaking.

I rode with Kate and Mom on the way to Lough Hyne (a marine lake which is incredibly biodiverse and has many people studying it). John lead the way and got us a bit lost again, but he found it eventually. We got to Lough Hyne just in time to go on the tour. We geared up our waterproof jackets and pants. While we were waiting to start kayaking tons of little gnats (called midgets by the O’Sullivans) kept flying in our faces so we were all running around like crazy trying to avoid them. When everyone was suited up the guide gave us a little lesson on proper kayaking techniques before we hit the water. Mom and I shared a kayak, Amy and Marguerite were in another, and Kate and John shared one as well. It was a really fun night. The tour guide told us old stories and jokes which was great. There was a full moon which made kayaking easier, but it also made seeing the bioluminescence a bit harder. We dipped our hands it the water and shook around trying to see them, but I only saw a few. We finally finished the tour at midnight and got into the cars. When we got back, Marguerite and I went straight to bed while Amy, Mom, Kate, and John stayed up talking until the late night hours.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 13: Blarney Castle and Bantry, Ireland

On day 13 of our trip we woke up bright and early at the B&B and had a tasty breakfast made by our lovely hosts. We packed up all of our stuff and drove to the other side of the bay where we got out and looked at an old church in Abbeyside and took pictures of the boats out in the bay. Then we hopped back into the car and drove to Blarney where we went to the Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, Ireland’s famous soggy weather joined us at the Blarney Castle and it was the first day of our trip that the sunshine decided not to follow us. But we hadn’t come all this was to miss out on kissing the Blarney Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. We walked to the castle, climbed up a set of insanely small and steep spiral stairs and made it to the top rim of the castle. From the top you could see all of the grounds and even on a cloudy day, it was quite beautiful.

After waiting for our turn, we each one by one layer down on the floor of the castle wall, leaded our head back way farther than I thought we would have to, and kissed the bottom of a stone that has been kissed by millions of people (including Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jared Haibon of the Bachelorette). It was definitely an experience but Marguerite was pretty grossed out by how unsanitary it was. Once we had all kissed the stone, we made our way back down another set of insanely small and steep stairs and walked around in the gardens. We also saw the poison garden which was filled with poisonous plants from all around the world. The gardens were beautiful and filled with azaleas of every color, that were a beautiful contrast against the gray and foggy sky.

When all of the pictures had been taken, we got back in the car and started heading towards the O’Sullivan’s in Bantry (a former counselor, Donagh’s parents). Boy was that a journey. Before we started too much of our journey, we made a quick stop for coffee and some carrot cake as well as getting a few gifts for the O’Sullivans. When we got back onto the road we managed to find our way into quite a traffic jam. Not in the sense of like rush hour in a large city, but more in the sense of a truck getting stuck and blocking the narrow Irish roads. We were first stuck in traffic for about 30 minutes and then an older lady told us to follow her where she took us on a back road. After driving on that road for a few minutes, we figured out that the back road was also blocked because a HUGE truck was stuck there. So we turned back around, asked the older lady for another way to try and followed that to try to get out of all the traffic. After driving on a few way-too-narrow back roads, we finally managed to find our way into Bantry.

John O’Sullivan met us in downtown Bantry and lead us to their house where we met Dierdre (Donagh’s sister) and Kate (the mother) who had made us a lovely Irish dinner. Then we had rhubarb cobbler and tiramisu for dessert which were both delicious. After being full to the brim, we went into their living room and chatted for a while after deciding that it was too wet outside to go for a walk. When we all started practically falling asleep on the couches, we went upstairs to our rooms. Deirdre very kindly let us sleep in her room, while Amy slept in the guest room. Despite the long car adventure and the gray skies it was a pretty exciting day for us all.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 12: Waterford, Ireland

After waking up we went downstairs and had our first traditional Irish breakfast. It was interesting and consisted of a fried egg, sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, bacon (not traditional American bacon though, more like cooked ham), sausage, and black and white pudding (which was strange to say the least). The black and white pudding are truly Irish and like small patties of mush. The black pudding was made with pig’s blood and is supposedly super good for you. I tried it, but wasn’t really a fan. After breakfast we packed up and headed towards Waterford. The road trip had begun.

When we arrived in Waterford our first stop was the Waterford Crystal factory. We went on a tour and got to see how it was all made. It was very similar to glass blowing, but the crystal is much stronger than glass so they were able to cut into it without it breaking quite as easily. Our tour guide was a cute little older gentleman and knew so much about the crystal. At the end of the tour they had a bunch of pieces that were the testers for more important pieces such as a 9/11 tribute, a bowl for Barack Obama, and a bunch of trophies and awards including the People’s Choice Award, which we all got to hold.

When we finished our tour around the Waterford Crystal factory, we went walking around the city. We found the old wall that used to surround the city and the four towers all of different shapes. Then we went out to lunch at a place called Bodegas which was delicious. It was all local food with an eclectic twist. After we were all full to the brim we went on a wild goose chase to find a power adapter since Marguerite’s had broke in Switzerland. After checking about five stores and asking several people if they could point us in the right direction, we finally gave up. I managed to find a Irish plug in for a USB so I got that so I could at least charge my phone. Then we headed to our B&B which was about an hour away in Dungarvan.

When we got to our the Bayside B&B, the owner was so sweet and had so many stories to tell us. We decided to go for a walk around the bay which was lovely. We walked on this small little pier and in an effort to get a awesome picture, I almost fell into the bay. I saw these small steps that led down to the water so I went down, not expecting the last few to be extremely slippery. Luckily I didn’t slip all the way into the water, but it was a pretty close call. We ended up walking to a little beach where we all picked some smooth stones to bring back with us. Then we raced back to the bay to watch the sunset. It didn’t end up being as spectacular as we had hoped because the clouds got right in the way of the sun but it was still nice. When we got back to the B&B we were all still too full from lunch to eat dinner so we all sat in Amy and Mom’s room and ate chocolates and drank Baileys and talked. Marguerite and I ended up going back to our room at around 11 and then fell asleep. It was another good day in Ireland.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 11: Dublin, Ireland

Marguerite and I woke up and took showers before heading downstairs to meet Conor for breakfast. We had a quick bowl of cereal before heading back to Dublin to meet Amy and Mom. Conor and I weren’t very talkative, and Marguerite complained about it again, but it was still nice to just all be together. When we got into Dublin headed to St. Judes B&B to drop our bags off. The owner was kind of grumpy, but we got them in our rooms anyway and then headed into the city.

We parked and then walked to Stephens Green Park to wait for Mom and Amy. They had already been out and about exploring for a bit before we got there. We heard them as soon as they were close because Mom yelled out to us. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was so good to see her face coming across the street. We then toured around the city a bit, looking to Conor to tell us what everything was. He went to college there so knew the city pretty well. He took us to the Temple Bar for a drink and a bite to eat before he left to go help out with the new baby calf. Before he left we bought flowers for him to take back to his mom for being such a good hostess. Then we said our goodbyes, but it wasn’t all that sad because we would be seeing him in just a few weeks for camp.

After Conor left, we walked around for a bit and tried to decide what to do. We made our way (eventually) to the National Museum of Ireland trying to find a collection of Leonardo de Vinci drawings that were on display. After walking around for a few minutes, we discovered that we were in the wrong place. We asked around and got directions to the National Gallery of Ireland where the Leonardo de Vinci drawings actually were. It was so interesting to see these drawings and knew that the genius Leonardo de Vinci himself made all of the marks of the paper. Once we had a good look at all the drawings and a few paintings that were also on display, we went back to Stephens Green and walked around a little bit more before catching the tram back to the B&B. Everyone took a nap when we got back to our room because Amy and Mom were jet lagged and Marguerite and I were exhausted from traveling. When we were all a bit rested, we walked into the small town of Cowper for dinner. We ate at a local Irish pub, Mother O’Reilly’s which was mainly filled with locals watching soccer. After dinner we walked back to the B&B and went straight to bed.

*Photos courtesy of Amy. I didn’t take too many pictures this day.