Bucket List, Check! Ireland in November of 2014

I am pretty behind on my travel posts, so I think it is high time that I catch up and post my favorite trip from this year – Ireland. Originally, Jason and I weren’t planning on going to Ireland at all this year until I spoke with my friend Megan. Megan was my RA for a year at Anderson, and since she was studying abroad this year in Spain we decided that we should try and meet up at some point. And what better place to meet up! At first I thought it would be way too expensive, but we started working the numbers and found that we could afford it! Jason and I were so excited.

So we landed in Dublin, and to be honest I won’t really spend much time talking about Dublin. It was okay, but that is not where the real magic of Ireland lies. On Thursday and Friday we went to the Guiness factory, Trinity College, and saw some beautiful churches – but none of it was anything to sniff at in comparison to the beauty that waited for us on Saturday. If I ever go back to Ireland, I will spend my time on the other side of the country.

We had decided to rent a car while we were there in order to take a three hour trip from Dublin to the other side of the island. Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs are absolutely incredible. They are not the tallest in Ireland, and they are a bit “touristy” but this did not diminish their beauty.

I am grateful that we arrived when we did, because we had about half an hour to skip over the fence and stand on an “illegal” part of the grass before we got kicked out! We had a much better view from there and were able to take some good pictures in that time. Yolo.

You will probably just glance over these photos and think, “Well.. There’s another picture of some cliffs.” BUT seriously… you do not understand how amazing it was to be there. We stayed there for 3 hours. Staring. Taking pictures. Staring more. We were freezing cold, and it rained, and still we stayed there.

Again – please remember that you can view these pictures larger if you click on them.

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Jason taking pictures off the “illegal” portion of the cliffs. We were so tiny…

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The spray from the ocean hung suspended in the air because of the vacuum from the wind created in that corner. We got wet not from the rain, but from droplets of water that literally floated upwards towards us. Sometimes you could see the water droplets dancing in mid air for several seconds before they evaporated or hit the rocks.

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On our flight over, we saw a competition in a magazine to take a picture of yourself reading that magazine on your trip! This is the picture Jason took of me for the competition 🙂

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The sun was so bright and the water was so blue that it was hard to get a good picture of the cliffs without them being entirely black. But you can still see how immense they are and how long they stretch. I did enhance these pictures (of course…) but the water really was this blue.

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See that tiny dot on that last bit of land jutting into the water? That’s a lighthouse. Yeah.

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Watching the rain come in over the cliffs was very interesting. We could see it crossing the water and coming towards us, and we were able to get inside just before it started raining hard.

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And of course, Jason took some of the necessary photos of Megan and I in front of the Cliffs. Gotta have some selfies! Megan took some good ones of Jason and I as well, but I haven’t taken those off Jason’s computer yet. I’ll have to save those for another post 🙂

After leaving the cliffs, we headed towards another area of the coast called the Burren. Burren comes from the Irish word “Boíreann” which means a rocky place. Basically it is this vast stretch of land covered with rocks and not much else. Sound boring? Far from it. We found a great spot to take pictures just as the sun was setting, and again we spent at least an hour to an hour and a half there in awe of the beauty. This is why I love to travel.

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Sunset over the Atlantic ocean on top of some crazy cool rocks… yes please.

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The waves crashes so violently into the rocks making it too dangerous to get close up to the water. We watched someone from another group walk right up to the water and get smashed in the face with a wave. Maybe if it would have been warmer and we had a change of clothes… but it was freezing cold, and windy to boot.

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Every where you looked it was this barren expanse that looked so peaceful and ragged at the same time…

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There was also a herd of cows… They walked around us and kept grazing while we took our pictures. We tried not to make any sudden movements and stayed away from the big guys with horns… There have been several people killed by cows in Ireland when coming upon them with no warning!

Eventually we moved to a second location, but it was just too dark for  me to take any good pictures. I snapped this one with my phone and then all the rest of the pictures I took are too grainy.There were a bunch of sheep at the second location, so that was interesting!

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There are not many places in Europe that I can say I would spend money to go back once we come back to the States, but Ireland is one of them. If we don’t get to go back while we are here I know that I will find myself there again. It is too beautiful to stay away.

Switzerland, Thanksgiving 2014

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Ireland! I have so many pictures to go through that it is a much more daunting task, so I decided to start with Switzerland first.

Jason and I visited Switzerland this past Thanksgiving with our friends Aura and Michelle, along with Aura’s son Vincent. It was a really laid back trip and we enjoyed just walking around and seeing what we could see.

My favorite part of the trip was a short walk we took in some mountains near Basel. Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

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First of all, there were llamas. I really wished my friend Lilly Allemond was there because I kept quoting The Emperor’s New Groove and no one thought it was funny! “A Llama??? HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD!”

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Black Llamas, white llamas, brown llamas, every where a llama llama.

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It was really foggy at first, but the higher we climbed the more we could see!

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The fog added to the beauty of the mountains, and I ended up being glad that it was there. It was so mysterious, and it made the weather much more bearable. While we had been wearing coats, gloves, hats, and scarves at the bottom of the mountain by the time we reached the top we were sweating like pigs!

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In this picture you can see the Swiss Alps far away in the distance. Another trip for another day! But it was really neat to get to see them even from so far away.

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Plus, who can deny the beauty of this fellow here?

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As usual, Chloey was more interested in a belly rub than having her portrait taken with the Swiss Alps… Well, here’s her portrait with some Swiss dirt.

We stopped for some really delicious Gluhwein before heading back down the mountain! It was my first experience having Gluhwein and it was very good. Gluhwein, for those of you who don’t know, is hot wine that has a variety of different spices in it. It reminded me of hot apple cider, but was much more hearty.

We were very hungry when we came down the mountain, but we didn’t realize that a lot of restaurants would close early for dinner! Thankfully we found a small coffee shop with a bakery where we were able to get hot drinks and a pastry. Not quite a full lunch, but it was enough to tide us over.

That evening we hit up the Basel Christmas market. It was few too many people to handle with a puppy dog, and poor Chloey got stepped on 😦 We were a little stressed after that, but after a delicious meal of pizza at a local restaurant we were refreshed. I went back to the room that evening with Chloey while Jason went back out on the town to take some more photos. All in all a pleasant short trip to Switzerland!

Belgium

A few weeks ago Jason and I visited the lovely city of Brussels, Belgium for their biennial Flower Carpet Festival. Here are a couple of pictures from the trip!

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The Hotel de Ville, also known as the Town Hall. It has been in Belgium since the early 1400’s, and it’s tall spire can be seen from all around the city.

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The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the king and queen. It is still a young building having been opened in 1934. It is quite large – as you can see I couldn’t even get the entire palace in one photo!

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This is just a lamp post… sorry, no crazy story to tell you here!

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Snapping a selfie in front of the palace!

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This is a statue of Godfried of Bouillon before he headed off on a crusade. Supposedly he shouted, “God wills it!” as he lept into the sunset, which I think is quite ironic considering that I doubt God’s blessing was on any of the crusade ventures.

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In front of the Church of St. Jacques there is appropriately a statue of, well, St. Jacques. I really enjoyed the shadows on the folds of his clothes at this time of day.

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A view at night of the flower carpet! It was lovely. Also very hard to get a picture of because of all the people, so unfortunately this is all I have!

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I told you that you could see the Hotel de Ville from all over the city! Voilla!

And there you are! A quick snapshot of our trip to Brussels. More ventures will follow!

Fest, Fest, and more Fest!

A fest is simply a festival, and the Germans know how to do ’em right! They have festivals for EVERYTHING…all the time. Jason and I have been to three festivals in the past month, and I am pretty sure we missed several. 

The weekend we got back from Belgium we went to the Pig Fest in a town called Wittlich, about 20 minutes from our house. Pig Fest is exactly what it sounds like: pork everything. Not the festival for the animal lover or vegetarian. They have giant pigs roasting on a spit, any and every kind of Brautwurst, and pig themed souvenirs. There were also two live bands, an entire section of the city devoted to a carnival (complete with a Farris wheel and small roller coasters), loads of shopping booths, and of course plenty of drinks to be had for all. Jason and I both had a Brautwurst filled with cheese… and wrapped in bacon. Oh dear sweetness. These things are like an invention from the heavens.

(Don’t forget that you can click on any picture in order to see it larger!)

IMG_2562This is a picture from the Farris Wheel looking out over the carnival portion of the Festival. 

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Just a goofy picture from the Farris Wheel! Who am I kidding… we look like this all the time. 

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This is one of the roller coasters, we didn’t ride it but we enjoyed watching it! It is amazing how they can have such build huge rides like this so quickly and then tear them down within a few days. 

Last weekend Jason and I went to the Medieval Fest in Mandersheid, a town also about 20 minutes away. This town has a castle (or Burg) and so it was perfect for a festival dedicated to all things old-timey. This festival included jugglers (with fire!), dancers, live bands with strange instruments, jousting, and a fireworks show to finish everything off. And as always there was plenty of Medieval themed shops selling everything you can imagine: swords, leather bags, wooden plaques, glass welding, metal works, belts, flower wreaths… the list goes on! 

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View of the main portion of the castle from one of it’s towers. Most of the castle’s here are not in great shape because of course they are all hundreds of years old. There are very few that don’t have crumbling pieces. Also, I apologize for the weird vintage looking coloring on this photo, as well as the one bellow. I tried to fix them but whenever I import them they keep reverting back to this washed out look… who knows why. 

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This is a view of some of the shops closer to the castle. It was set up like to be as if you were walking through a Medieval open air market. 

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This was the main section of the festival, looking down at it from Burg Mandersheid. 

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One small piece of the fireworks show! Be sure to keep an eye on Jason’s facebook page in case he posts more. He took some really gorgeous shots! 

Yesterday Jason and I visited Wine Fest in Bernkastel, about 30 minutes from our house. I am sure you can guess what the theme of this festival was! Being near to the Mosel river, we are surrounded by vineyards everywhere we go. The wine here is delicious, and there is something for everyone. I am a total wimp and I love my süß Weißwein (sweet white wine)… my favorite flavors basically taste like fruit juice! Jason is a little bit more “cultured” than me, and he likes to branch out to heartier flavors. Wine Fest is set up so that you pay a 2 euro deposit for a wine glass, and then you can walk around the festival and sample as many wines as you like for usually about 2 euro a glass. Which is cheaper than in a restaurant where you will pay about 3.50 euro for a glass. At the end of the festival you can turn in your glass and get your 2 euro back (or if you have had a bit too much like we discovered many people had, you may find your glass floating in the Mosel or lying broken on the pavement… we were fortunate not to be in this category!). There was a beautiful fireworks show at the end of the festival which Jason and I watched from a bridge that crosses over the river. 

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This is a panoramic shot of the Mosel River with the castle off to the upper left side of the picture. Lovely view, and an absolutely gorgeous day! 

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Looking up at the castle from the bridge. 

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Everyone waiting for the fireworks to start! This is nothing, by the time the show finished, the place was so crowded it took us 30 minutes just to walk back to the car through the crowd. Crazy! 

I also have a video of the fireworks that I can’t post on WordPress. Check out my facebook page for the video 🙂

That is all the Fest action I have for now! Enjoy! 

 

Saarburg

A few weeks ago Jason and I visited a small town called Saarburg, a little hideaway town with a river running through the city center. We found some ice cream, some beautiful views, and some peace.

As you can see from the pictures, the town made use of the river by creating a water mill system. In Saarburg there is a “mill museum” you can visit to learn more about it, but Jason and I skipped that for this trip.

If you are interested in visiting, there are plenty of little shops and restaurants. I splurged and bought a teeeeeeeeny tiny hedgehog souvenir for 3 euro. Gasp. I know. Broke the bank.

Enjoy!

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Traveling Along the Romantic Road

I was so tempted to call this post “The Road Less Traveled.” However, due to the popularity of the city we visited, this would be entirely untrue. You are quite lucky that I spared you such a cheesy title and opted for something more classy. *cough, cough.* 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Red Fortress above the Tauber) is a city along the Romantic Road that is a popular tourist destination because of its beauty and history. It is one of the only cities left in Germany with walls still around the city, having escaped most of the damage from WWII.

Jason and I had the privilege to visit this city this past weekend and we were not disappointed!

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 Here is an etching of the city that gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like. Being the artist that I am, I am totally in love with how much detail is in this! This was etched into a copper plate, mind you. So much time had to have gone into this piece. 

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 As it started to get dark, we headed out to the wall to look out at the city where it curves back around. It was so beautiful, something that this photo doesn’t quite do justice! 

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 This clock tower is from the 1300’s!! It totally blows my mind to be in a city that is literally older than my country… We are talking Canterbury Tales, the Divine Comedy, the bubonic plague, the first translation of a Bible into English – all in the 1300’s. And this tower is still here. BAM. And we think Washington D.C. is old… 

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This is St. Jacobs church, also from the 1300’s. It took 170 years to build and is built in the Gothic style. 

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This tower is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in (drumroll…) 1172! What was going on in the 1100’s you ask? Well. I shall tell you. The crusades, Oxford was founded, AND Richard the Lionhearted becomes King… which means ROBIN stinkin’ HOOD. It does cross my mind that maybe Robin Hood once crossed under this arch. I know he lived in England, but maybe he traveled. You never know! 

Okay, surely you’ve had enough history for tonight. But lets end on a yummy note with these famous Rothenburg treats, Schneeballs. Yes, they should be in a Dr. Seuss book. 

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Schneeball means snowball in English, and they are basically shortbread covered in powdered sugar, chocolate, nuts, caramel, or any other random sugary delight. 

For family members and friends who want to see better quality pictures of the city, be sure to keep an eye on Jason’s Facebook. I know he fared much better than I did with my phone! My philosophy of late has been taking pictures mostly for composition in order to sketch or paint later. 

Monschau

A couple of weekends ago, Jason and I drove down to a small town called Monschau for the day. Monschau is a great place to walk around, take pictures, and relax with a little light shopping and an ice cream cone. Here are a couple of pictures from the town.

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