Ireland, United Kingdom ·
17 Days ·
49 Moments ·
6 January 2019
Here’s a random assortment of London. We captured everything from park benches and phone booths to major landmarks like the Parliament buildings and Big Ben. Victoria Tower, which houses Big Ben, is undergoing extensive construction and won’t be finished for another four years. It was still worth seeing though!
5 January 2019
For our last night in London we treated ourselves to one more West End show — True West. The play features Kit Harington (take it easy Game of Thrones fans!) and his tumultuous relationship with his brother. The most hilarious part of the play was when Kit stole several toasters from neighbors’ homes, lined all of them up along the front of the stage, and used an entire loaf of bread to fill them all... then he paced up and down the stage like a lunatic checking each one. Better yet was when he stacked up all his toast and maniacally buttered each piece one by one while his brother was having a mental breakdown in the background. He literally buttered four pieces of toast in the dead silence of the theater while his brother stared at him incredulously. The ending left us a little confused and wanting answers, but we couldn’t complain. After all, spending two and a half hours within thirty feet of Kit Harington was crazy amazing!
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”
I don’t regret a single shivering minute we spent waiting to get into the Churchill War Rooms and Museum, which is saying something because there were 80 minutes total and it was freezing outside. Unsurprisingly, it was a cramped and crowded space, but there was so much to see! Everything from his childhood toy soldier collection to the hundreds of handwritten letters he exchanged with his future wife (which included doodles!). That doesn’t even include all the quirky facts interspersed in the heaps of information about his career. For example, Churchill despised loud and distracting noises so much that he equipped the war rooms with noiseless typewriters.
This place was just an incredibly captivating display for a legendary political character and an unforgettable snapshot in history.
Key differences between the US and the UK (hint: it’s more than just a letter)...
- Coke comes in bottles, no fountains or refills
- Lunch and dinner take at least an hour and a half
- Catch the waiter while you can because they never come back or offer you the check
- Get used to the idea that you and the guy behind you WILL fit on the underground
- Reservations are always required, even at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday
- If you don’t want housekeeping popping into your hotel room every fifteen minutes, you’d better hang the Do Not Disturb tag
- Be prepared to guzzle down six bottles of cider during a six day stay at Montague on the Gardens because it’s a very popular welcome gift
- Don’t bother looking for sweet wine on any drink menu or in any liquor store
- Wear comfy shoes to your New Years Eve party because you WILL be trekking the full 2 miles back to your hotel
- Don’t assume that all taxis in Ireland take cards, otherwise you’ll be digging through your coin purse
We finally made it to Pasta Brown’s today! We got the bruschetta bufala verde to start (some assembly required). That was followed by my spaghetti and meatballs, always a classic, and Jordyn’s Penne Pasta brown. Unsurprisingly, she chose better than me... after all, how can you go wrong with the restaurant’s signature dish? Still, everything was delicious and well worth the wait!
4 January 2019
Even though we froze our tails off all day, we couldn’t end our sightseeing expedition without hopping on the London Eye! We bought tickets for 4:30, which meant we had to stand outside for 30 minutes before we were allowed to get in line... then we stood in line for another 30 minutes. Luckily the pod was pretty warm, so we had time to thaw out a little bit before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.
Today we ventured into Piccadilly Circus — think of it as London’s miniature Times Square. There were some amazing street performers, flashy billboards and lots of shops! There was even a Christmas market with street food and crafts. We got mini pancakes covered in Nutella and maple syrup. They were too cute to pass up, and luckily they tasted as good as they looked. Then we watched a magician put a £10 note in the center of a lemon — David Blaine style!
“What do you mean I’m not on the royal family’s visitor list? This is an outrage! I demand to speak to the queen!”
The lone guard standing in front of the open gate might’ve laughed at that, but the other two guards with hefty guns might not have... so we decided not to risk it. In case you’re a little slow on the uptake, this is Buckingham Palace. Jordyn knows all about the royal family! She’s studied their written (and unwritten) rules, gobbles up the media rags about Meghan and Harry, and knows the proper etiquette for enjoying afternoon tea with the queen. Don’t laugh, I’m being dead serious about that last one. For example, if you happen to be dining with the queen, remember that she is always the first one served and that every course finishes as soon as she’s finished, so you better keep up! Be sure to contact Jordyn for other tips and tricks!
3 January 2019
After being turned away at Pasta Brown’s for the second time this week, we moseyed down the street to Fire and Stone Gourmet Global Pizza. Luckily we were seated right away, but it was in the cold drafty basement (beggars can’t be choosers). Jordyn fulfilled her lifelong dream of ordering a pizza with an egg on it - the London style pizza. I ordered the margarita pizza and was pleasantly surprised when they actually got it right. Even though Fire and Stone was our second choice it didn’t disappoint. Until next time Pasta Brown!
Stonehenge — possibly the most iconic site in England. We took a 2 hour bus ride to this 4500 year old ruin and learned about how this awesome landmark was built. First, it needs to be said that these people were crazy... crazy dedicated, crazy smart, and crazy organized. The stones used on the outer ring of Stonehenge were dragged, rolled, and pulled from almost 20 miles away. Some of the stones weigh up to 90,000lbs and took dozens of people months, even years, to bring back just one stone. That doesn’t even include the time spent shaping the stones, which was a lengthy process because they used such a hard stone. There are plenty theories about why Stonehenge was built and what it represents. The most prevalent theory is that it was built for the ancestors to honor the dead since more than 200 human remains were found around the site. That’s just speculation though. There’s a good chance we’ll never really know it’s purpose, which makes it that much more intriguing!
2 January 2019
We discovered our new favorite place today and found where all the other tourists have been hiding — Covent Garden! Shops, restaurants, bakeries, and craft stands line every street, each one completely unique, and yet they all meld together perfectly to form the heart of this incredible city. Such a neat place to experience every facet of London. In case you can’t tell by the pictures, this post is being dedicated specifically to the Covent Garden “edibles.” Paul’s bakery was our favorite stop by far, which is why we stopped there three times. Other highlights were the flower gelato cones from Amorino’s (coming in a close second place to Paul’s with two visits) and Jordyn’s traditional English sausage topped with cheese, onions, and chunky applesauce.
Lunchtime today found us at Rules in Covent Garden; apparently it’s the oldest restaurant in London. If the restaurant’s website hadn’t given it away, we probably would’ve figured it out from the interior decorating. It was quite old-fashioned and more than a little quirky, but the food was superb! The best part about the whole meal was the host’s insistence that we had to be out in two hour’s time so they could get the table ready for the next couple’s reservation. Jordyn and I exchanged amused looks at that as he led us to our table, more than happy to oblige. Everyone, including us, was excited that we were in and out in an hour flat!
1 January 2019
I think I’ll try defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, I’m defying gravity!
I think I’ll try defying gravity
And you can’t bring me down!
We celebrated Abbey’s last night of the trip at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, where we got to experience the West End production of Wicked. It didn’t just meet our expectations, it blew them out of the water! Absolutely amazing!
Fun facts cont’d...
- Hagrid’s size is an illusion based on the depth of the set, which they accomplish by cutting props in half and spacing them out
- All the books in Dumbledore’s office are actually leather-bound phone books
- Harry Potter fans submitted artwork to be posted in the Gryffindor common room... it was never shown in the film, it was only to make the set more homey for the actors
- J.K. Rowling visited Evanna Lynch when she was hospitalized for an eating disorder, then told her she could try out for a part if she recovered — she was later cast as Luna Lovegood!
- The Potions classroom had 500 bottles and vials containing an assortment of butcher scraps, plants, and plastic toys from the zoo
- Rupert Grint kept the number 4 plaque off the Dursley’s house as a memento
- Bellatrix’s lipstick shade varied based on her mood and her nails were so long that the actress needed help using the restroom
- The cupboard under the stairs was the smallest set in the whole series
You have no idea how hard it was to narrow this post down to ten pictures... which is why there’s a follow-up post with the rest of our pictures from the Warner Bros. Studio! Sorry to all the “Dursley’s” out there who are going to roll their eyes at these Harry Potter posts (feel free to scroll on if you’re in that category). To our faithful Potterheads, I’ve prepared some fun facts, mostly corresponding to the attached pictures.
- The various paintings scattered throughout Hogwarts were made specifically for Harry Potter and most of them are real portraits of staff working behind the scenes (same thing for names on wand boxes in Ollivander’s)
- Each animal throughout the series was portrayed by several different furry / feathered “actors,” each trained to do different things (ex: the snowy owls each took months to train and in the end, only one would perch in the cage)
- Every outdoor view of the castle was shot using the 1:24 scale model crafted by a group of 86 artists
Hagrid forgot to tell me I was a wizard, but I still got to experience the world of Harry Potter for myself! I bowed to a hippogriff, pushed my trolley through the wall at platform 9 3/4, crossed the Hogwarts bridge, ate butterbeer ice cream, bought Luna’s wand to practice the “swish and flick,” strolled through Diagon Alley, and got a picture in front of my absolute favorite quote in the whole series. It was like magic!
Happy New Year! We watched a gorgeous fireworks show in London from the warm confines of our river cruise ship, coupled with a few glasses of champagne and some huge grins. If this year is anything like the fireworks, it’s sure to be shocking, beautiful, sparkly, and gone in the blink of an eye. Hello 2019! We’re so happy to meet you!
31 December 2018
We checked in to the Montague on the Garden around 1pm today and after spending a whole five minutes in the room, the concierge delivered these to our room: 3 bottles of Irish cider courtesy of our travel agency. I’m loving London already!
30 December 2018
We had Dublin-style Little Caesar’s take-out tonight because we couldn’t hold out for an 8 o’clock reservation. Somehow they forgot all the toppings on my margherita pizza except the cheese, but whatever. It was quick and easy, which left us plenty of time to pile into our bed and watch The Duff on my laptop.
What better way to spend our last day in Ireland than visiting the country’s most popular tourist attraction? That’s right, we toured the Guinness Storehouse! Five floors of Guinness history, brewing secrets, advertising evolution, and tastings. The story and building were unbelievable. For instance, how many of our followers know the length of time that was on the original lease that Arthur Guinness signed back in 1759 (without looking at the picture)? Or how many kids he and his wife had? Post answers in the comments if you’re feeling lucky. I’ll follow up with the answers later on in the trip!
We spent our last day in Dublin doing some general sightseeing in the city, taking in Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals, Dublin Castle, and the Spire of Dublin. The cathedrals were closed for visitation since they were in the middle of services, but all the grounds were open so we strolled around in the courtyards and took in the incredible architecture and grandeur.
29 December 2018
The Little Museum of Dublin shed light on everything from aviation to U2 to Massey-Ferguson. Tons of reading and a lot of political history that we weren’t familiar with, but the guided tour was great! Definitely worth seeing if you’re ever in this fair city!
The horse racing bets at Leopardstown came down to the last race... Gallant John Joe vs The Holy One. And the winner (overall second place) was Gallant John Joe! Which means Jordyn ended up buying ice cream. Two scoops of chocolate mint from Gino’s Gelato to be exact. And the peach picture actually has nothing to do with the bets. They were giving away free peaches so I ate one during the last race and smuggled three more out of the stadium. The taste of victory is sweet my friends!
Me and Jordyn are off to the races! We’ve got seats on the third level of the grandstands to watch seven horse races today. We’re not making official bets but we’ve got our own game: we each pick one horse per race and they just go head-to-head. Whoever gets the most wins out of the seven races will be declared victorious! (and the loser buys ice cream tonight)
28 December 2018
I picked out my Claddagh ring today at the Woollen Mills near Blarney Castle. It’s a traditional Irish ring that was designed in Galway and it has a very pretty story behind it. Mine is aquamarine, my birthstone. This is my favorite purchase so far, and not just because it’s sparkly!
Today we said goodbye to our favorite driver/guide/sightseeing expert Pat. He’s driven us all over the country throughout the past week and made sure that we got to see and experience everything that Ireland has to offer. He even put up with our shopping time! Thanks for everything Pat! You will be missed.
27 December 2018
We finally made it to a pub! We snagged a little booth at Pat Collins Bar and savored our unconventional meals amidst the locals. The evening grub included Cajun chips, roasted vegetable bruschetta, and tiger prawns; followed by strawberry and rhubarb crumble, apple pie, and profiteroles (which is a fancy term for scrumptious, delectable, melt-in-your-mouth cream puffs drizzled in chocolate). But the meal wouldn’t have been complete without the additional one and a half pints of Orchard Thieves. Appetizers, desserts, and hard cider. I can’t think of a better way to fill our bellies after such a long day!
I’d never make a public appearance in this clashing ensemble, but I was way too excited about my new scarf to delay this post. I got it at a sweater market this morning on our walk through Galway and I’ve yet to decide which part I like best: the pattern, the colors, or the tag near the fringe that says “made in the west of Ireland.”
Our 4pm “lunch” at Vaughans Anchor Inn really hit the spot after our long trek at the Cliffs of Moher. Nothing like a little fish and chips, shepherds pie, and bottled Coke to fill us up before the drive to Adare. The run-of-the-mill Irish menu was kind of at odds with the restaurant’s overall character though. The twinkly lights strewn behind the bar and the liquor on tap are just two examples of the seriously fascinating theme of the place. A special thanks to Pat for dropping us here!
Here’s a follow-up on the Cliffs of Moher. We had so many good pictures that we couldn’t fit them in one post, so I collected most of the pictures of us and pasted them here. I think these shots truly reveal the magnitude of the cliffs and the serious adrenaline rush of the slick and muddy trail (which had a warning sign at the beginning and a fence made for jumping). This is the kind of recklessness any good parent would absolutely forbid, so it’s a good thing we were unsupervised! But don’t worry mom and dad, me and Jordyn are very sure-footed. It’s not like one misstep would’ve been a total death sentence.......
And have no fear Tony, Abbey was way too smart to jump the fence with us!
Say hello to the mighty Cliffs of Moher! These ginormous cliffs are the second most popular tourist attraction in Ireland, bowing only to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin (watch for that blip on December 30th!). I don’t think this place needs much by way of introduction or explanation. The pictures should speak for themselves.
I don’t have the faintest idea how to pronounce the name of this place, but it’s called Murroughtoohy. All the rock you see in these pictures is limestone. Let me repeat that for all the Bedford-dwellers. This is ALL limestone. Pat said there’s an entire national park dedicated to this sort of landscape. It’s the Irish equivalent of the sandy deserts we have in the US. Pretty cool, huh? It’s also quite easy to break your ankle when you’re walking across it, but lucky for us (and Pat) we made it to the cliff’s edge and back unscathed.
Welcome to the Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory and Shop, where a small crew of Irishmen take cacao beans from all over the world and turn it into — you guessed it! — chocolate. We got a walk-through of the factory and chocolate-making process from the most attractive Irishman I’ve seen since we arrived. He had nothing on the chocolate itself though. It’s like eating a little wedge of heaven. Some of you lucky followers might even get a taste of the delicious goodness when we get home because me, Jordyn, and Abbey walked out with full bags and lighter wallets. You’re welcome!
Last night we stayed at the Hotel Meyrick in Galway and it turned out to be a cozy, stay-in kind of night. The pubs were packed with locals out celebrating St. Stephen’s Day so we walked through town and stopped by a little convenience store for some take-home drinks. Abbey and I shoved the single beds together and watched Love Actually while Jordyn watched the first season of Jack Ryan from start to finish. Pat showed us around town the following morning and pointed out the JFK memorial, the infamous window from Lynch’s estate, and the jewelry store that originally designed the signature Irish Claddagh ring. The nightlife might’ve sucked but the morning tour more than made up for it!
26 December 2018
When all the pubs in Galway are busy...
This was the second place in Ireland where we saw giant letters spelling EIRE on the ground, which translates to Ireland in Gaelic. These spots were used during WWII as locating points for the Allies’ planes that flew overhead. Ireland stayed neutral during the war because of their tense relationship with England.
Our final stop today was Downpatrick Head. The sun went down at 4:30 so we had a little trouble getting pictures, but the cliffs were beautiful. There were absolutely no fences, security, guides, tourist traps, etc. Just us and the ocean and the cliffs. This was Pat’s favorite place and it’s easy to see why.
25 December 2018
This bird looks like he has some serious lungs, so hopefully you can hear him all the way back home. We miss you guys and hope you have a wonderful day! Love you!
We’re living like princesses this Christmas! We spent yesterday afternoon at the spa getting pretty and pampered, then we checked into our hotel... Lough Eske Castle. This place is the real deal, as close to a fairy tale as we’re going to get!
Welcome to the Slieve League Cliffs! The road up was a bit scary and there was nothing to keep us from falling to our untimely deaths, but that’s what made it exciting! Plus, the sheepies were happy to see us. We named the one in the second picture Patrick in honor of our amazing driver / guide.
23 December 2018
After all our sightseeing this morning, we made our way to Londonderry, or as the locals refer to it, “Derry.” We got settled in at the hotel, snagged a quick nap, and walked to Browns in Town for supper. We spent two hours (which seems pretty typical for all countries besides the US) drinking and enjoying our three course meals. The highlights were duck, venison shoulder, bruschetta, and apple crumble.
We didn’t know what to expect when Pat told us our next stop would be Giant’s Causeway, but it certainly wasn’t this! Its 40,000 hexagonal steps are the remnants of a volcanic eruption, though the name comes from local legends about how the causeway was built by giants. I’m siding with the locals, but that’s just me.
We were immensely rewarded for hiking through pouring rain and crossing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge! The cliffs were gorgeous, a double rainbow blazed to life before us, and crossing the bridge itself was pretty thrilling.
Any Game of Thrones fans recognize this place? These are the Dark Hedges, featured in several scenes throughout the series. Impressive and creepy at the same time!
We didn’t understand the significance of the H&W cranes when we walked around Belfast last night, but the Titanic exhibit on the edge of town enlightened us. They are the twin gantry cranes owned by Harland and Wolff and their names are Samson and Goliath. These cranes were used to build the Titanic and several other ships in its class. The cranes and shipyard have been shut down now but Samson and Goliath still stand proudly on the city skyline.
22 December 2018
We’re starting the trip off with a bang as far as meals go! Taylor and Clay was a bit eccentric, but the food was tasty and that’s all that matters. Jordyn was especially excited about sharing the massive plate of Wagyu beef with me. She wanted everyone to know that this particular beef is super tasty because it’s locally-sourced and incorporates special feeding and breeding techniques. It was also cooked to perfection on the restaurant’s Asador grill. Delicious and nutritious!
We arrived in Belfast a couple hours before sunset to spend some quality time at the Christmas shops. The city was bright and festive with plenty of decorations to put us in the Christmas spirit! It’s not the same as home but it’s still really neat.
Lucky for us, we’re taking it easy on our first day in Ireland because we essentially got no sleep thanks to the flights and the time difference. That doesn’t mean we’re not off to a good start though! We stopped to take in the sights at Newgrange on our way to Belfast. It’s one of many stone tombs built roughly 5000 years ago that’s still standing. The outer wall collapsed and was redone, but the interior was all the original stones and carvings! It was surrounded by a gorgeous view of the green Irish countryside too, just like a fantasy. We’re off to the Christmas markets in Belfast now, followed by dinner and a very early bedtime!
20 December 2018
Just over 24 hours until we board our flight so the countdown for our trip has commenced. Unfortunately my packing has not, but I’ll get to it eventually.