Ireland 2018 - The Food

I was almost finished eating my first meal in Ireland when I decided I should take a picture of every meal for the blog (because... of course I should!).

The first thing Marisa and I had to do when we landed was get our luggage and our rental car. The third thing we needed to do was go to 3 and get local SIM cards for our iPhones. Then we went to a random pub and had a perfectly fine first meal. I had the omelet:

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Then we were off to Carlingford and as we checked in our hotel we asked the person where we should eat. She gave us many options, but said, "If it were me I'd head down to P.J.'s (P.J. O'Hare's) and get some fish and chips."

And that's what we did and that's what I had. The first fish and chips of the trip... and probably my least favorite (though it was still good other than the peas which were no bueno):

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Our stay in Ghan House included breakfast, and given I was still watching what I ate I opted for the very low point (and delicious) scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Though it seems most people in Ireland don't put ketchup on their eggs.

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One of the things Marisa wanted to do was to have a proper tea. We did so at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, and it was very good indeed.

First we had some lovely tiny sandwiches:

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And then a tower of sweet things:

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Also there was tea.

I ate all my tiny sweet things, but Marisa was much more discerning:

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We skipped lunch and went right to dinner (which was at a pub near the hotel). For some reason I thought an order of fish cakes would be light. They weren't, but they were tasty (and it included almost a salad!).


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Breakfast was back at the hotel where I had some fruit and more scrambled eggs and salmon (no ketchup, again!):

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Lunch was at the Giant's Causeway visitor center with some very delicious Irish Stew and a shortbread cookie and some healthy oakcake Marisa opted for. Seriously, the food at visitor centers in Ireland is fantastic as compared to what you get in the States (i.e. crappy hamburgers):

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Dinner was more fish and chips! I don't actually recall where we got this from, but I do remember the peas were much better:

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The next day we hit up the Merchant Hotel for our last meal there.. and they gave us so much bread:

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I got an omelet this time because I had had enough with the salmon:

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We had a lot of driving ahead of it, so it was time to partake in the great tradition of the prepackaged sandwich (plus a couple of bananas). I will say, it was a pretty ok sandwich considering I bought it at a gas station:

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We were spending the night in a bubble in the Northern Ireland woods, so we went to the resort restaurant had some fancy pants food.

My appetizer was good:

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My main, some kind of fish, was fine though the column of potatoes it was served upon was very good:

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Breakfast at the resort started with some yogurt:

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And ended with a not so satisfying "breakfast sandwich:"

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But we stopped at another gas station and I bought some shortbread... so really I win:

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And then I had this quiche. I don't remember where. I don't recall if it was good (though it looks tasty). There you have it.

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Now, if there were any day in Ireland to have a disappointing breakfast and a forgettable lunch it was today. Because we had just checked into Ballymaloe House and they asked if we wanted to have dinner there. Sure, we said, not knowing we were in for a five course meal that was one of the best meals I've ever eaten.

First off, the soup. So good.

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And then there was an hors d'oeuvre buffet. That's right, a whole table full of delicious bites (with two ladies tending it.. they told me to feel free to come back for another round if I wanted).

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Then my main with lobster and some fish (and a lot of butter):

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Then the cheese cart arrived, and I had to have a bit of everything:

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Luckily I left room for the dessert cart:

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And we thought that was it, but there was another little nut caramel thing to end the meal:

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In the morning we went back hoping to recapture the magic, but the breakfast wasn't as exciting. Some yogurt:

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And some very expensive scrambled eggs (they were fine but not worth $25):

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Then we were off to a farmers' market were I bought some farm fresh pizza:

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And Marisa bought the fixings for dinner. One of the things Marisa wanted to do on this trip was to cook, and so cook she did:

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Breakfast was another Marisa production:

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Followed by some delicious vegetable soup for lunch:

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And then some fish and chips (the fish was good, the chips not so much):

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For dinner Marisa whipped up some cabbage and a savory pie:

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And for breakfast Marisa made some very good eggs, which I accompanied with a day old cinnamon roll I bought on our ramble about:

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At the Rock of Cashel we popped into a little tea room for some sandwiches, veggie soup, and a cookie:

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Then we had another fancy dinner:

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Followed by scrambled eggs for breakfast:

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And a tuna melt from a tea room. The tuna melt was ok, the rice was cold and had raisins in it (odd) but the coleslaw and potato salad were top notch.

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Marisa fell in love with Marks and Spencer while we were in Ireland, and this dinner pretty much came from there (though Marisa cooked it all up):

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After that day, a simple breakfast was in order:

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And since I was so good at breakfast why not get a chicken melty thing for lunch:

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And then a HUGE portion of fish and chips for dinner (at a place we had fish and chips the first time we were in Ireland):

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Perhaps too many chips the previous day resulted in this breakfast:

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And our final meal of our final full day in Ireland was at the airport hotel... and it was surprisingly tasty:

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TMBG Concert

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Thanks to my pal, and yours, Lex I was able to attend the TMBG concert on Saturday.

I do enjoy seeing concerts at the TLA, but I always purchase the VIP upgrade because I'm too old to stand for an entire concert. I managed to convince Lex that this was a worthy use of some of this hard earned money, and that's how we ended up sitting in the VIP section just to the side of the stage (and near the bar... though we didn't drink anything).

Here's what we looked like:

Two handsome fellows ready to rock out! Woo!

Oddly, a young lady came up to us (the VIP section is separated from the general admission folks by a low wall which serves as a counter top for those sitting) and asked us how people got to sit in the VIP area. In fact she said, "Can anyone sit here? Or is it for speical people?" Lex and I looked at one another, and then Lex tried to explain how the concept of a VIP section works. She ignored him and asked me how people got to sit there and said, "I can, like, barter for a seat."

Now, I don't know for sure what she had in mind for bartering... but I have a pretty good idea.

To which I replied, "Wait? Do you think we have some sort of power over who sits here? We don't! You just have to..."

And as soon as I said "we don't" she pivoted and walked away without a word.

Very odd.

The concert, though, was great!

Thanks again, Lex, for inviting me!


Ireland 2018: Day 12

Ah, it has finally come: our last full day in Ireland. Well, it came two weeks ago, but I’m just getting around to writing about it because I’m a naughty sausage.

We had a decision to make: do we stop somewhere and spend a few hours sightseeing or do we head directly to Dublin and do some sightseeing and some shopping (Marisa was jonesing for some more Orla KIley gear).

We decided to get up early-ish and stop in Kilkenny which is halfway between where we were staying and Dublin.

Kilkenny bills itself as Ireland’s most intact Medieval town and, I gotta tell you, it is pretty darned delightful.

We started off visiting Kilkenny Castle.

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Which is fun to visit, but for some reason they offer guided tours once a day and we missed the tour for the day. We did walk through the castle though.

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And I found my spirit head wearing a sheep:

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And saw a very large room:

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We even had lunch in the lovely tea room in the castle. I will give Ireland (and Northern Ireland) props for the very good food they serve in tourist spots. American could learn a thing or two about this… not a crappy foiled wrapped hamburger in sight!

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The castle property has been turned into a lovely park which many of the folks of Kilkenny were taking advantage of. We took a stroll and came upon this pond with these mysterious structures sinking (floating?) amongst the muck.

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Hands! Reaching out!

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Once we were done with the castle we walked through the town. Marisa spotted a little bakery and suggested we look in the window. I looked at her and said, “Why don’t we go in and buy some treats.” And we did. This was marketed as brownie, but it was really a piece of chocolate cake. A very tasty piece of chocolate cake.

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Once we were done with our cake we stopped at the Medieval Mile Museum. We walked in and the place was empty except for two people working there. We went up to the register and the woman said, “Would you like a ticket or would you like the tour?” We asked when the next tour was, and found out that it was in 5 minutes. Which was odd since we got there around 2:40pm or so. I think they just wanted us to take the tour, and we did!

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And I am very glad we did. The tourguide gave just his full attention and spent almost an hour telling us the history of the museum and Kilkenny in a most entertaining, and enlighting manner.

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After that lovely experience we visited the Rothe House.

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It is three townhouses that a fancypants merchant lived in 400 years ago. Seen in that light it is an impressive building but the museum is rather underwhelming. In fact, we sort of felt like we had wasted our money until we came upon the gardens in the back:

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After that we had spent most of the day in Kilkenny and it was time to head to our hotel in Dublin. Off we went, and when we got there and all checked in we realized something interesting: the airport terminal was a 5 minute walk from the hotel. We had planned on returning the rental car in the morning, but after having walked to the terminal (to make sure it was a 5 minute walk) and finding out we could return the car that night… we did! So all we had to do in the morning was wake up, pack up, eat breakfast, and walk to the airport.

How civilized.

On our walk we saw a billboard that made our next travel plans make sense:

Thanks to that billboard the very next morning we boarded a flight to Philadelphia and I am typing this very sentence in one of the buildings pictured.

Check out the rest of my pictures of Day 12.


Ireland 2018: Day 11

After the Ring of Kerry we needed another relaxing day (though all of our days were pretty darn laidback if I’m being honest), so it was decided that we would sleep in on Day 11 and get a late start. Of course, this would be one of the few very sunny days of our trip, though we did get to spend a good bit of it outside.

Thanks to the clear weather I noticed that there are wind turbines in the distance:

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We decided that we didn’t want to go to far, so we went to visit Cobh, which was the last port of departure for the Titanic. On the way we saw this very creepy statue:

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By the time we got to Cobh all the museums (there are two) were closing, so we just took advantage of the beautiful day and walked along the waterfront (and saw many puppies). I also took one of my favorite pictures of the trip:

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Clearly this is still a water based town:

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Here we are after having eaten some ice cream:

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More boats:

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This small town seemed to be a rather large port of call, and as such many shipping companies had offices here:

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Here’s a neat detail from one of the buildings:

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I was intrigued by this building. What could it be, I wondered? We quickly found it that it is, oddly, a Chinese restaurant.

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After that we walked around for a bit and then headed to the Marks and Spencer in Cork to pick up some dinner (Marisa may have fallen in love with the food offerings at M&S), and were greeted on our return by this rather curious little lamb:

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I’ve included most of the pictures I took on this day, but check out the rest if you like.


Ireland 2018: Day 10

When last we found ourselves in Ireland we opted to tour the Ring of Dingle (a drive along the Dingle peninsula). The more famous, and more often used, drive is the Ring of Kerry.

This trip we decided to check the Ring of Kerry off the list. The weather wasn’t ideal, but it was very Irish: overcast and slightly drizzly. But that didn’t stop us!

We stopped at a little town and saw a very pretty river:

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Look at us! We are so cute:

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While the weather wasn’t clear, it was evocative. We visited 4 ring forts in one day (because of course we did), and it was very cool to see them like this:

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That’s Staigue Fort.

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A ring fort (or stone fort) is generally shaped like a ring with steps in the walls so you can climb up. I found myself at the top of a wall before really thinking about what I was doing. I had a moment, while standing above the ground, where I realized this is something I totally wouldn’t have done when I was heavier. That was a cool moment, and then I took this photo:

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We then visited the home of Daniel O’Connell who I had never heard of before, but here’s a big deal in Ireland. He fought for, and got, equality for Roman Catholics in Ireland:

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We had just missed joining the tour, so we walked around the house ourselves. It wasn’t all that illuminating I must say, as the signage in the rooms wasn’t great (though they had a good movie about the man and his times, which was helpful).

The grounds of the house were lovely, and featured our second ring fort of the day:

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Despite the weather, the views were very nice:

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We even found a little beach:

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After I took that picture a tour bus (one of the only tour buses we encountered) disgorged 50 people who stood in front of me, took a few pictures, and then got back on the bus.

I thought this picture came out well:

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Is that another ring fort in the distance? Yes!

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The ring fort above is located is a 5 minute walk from the road, and next to another ring fort that is next next to the road. Most folks just go to the closer one, so we headed off to check out the more distant one. Some lambs checked us out along the way.

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It had rained overnight, so the path to the ring fort was just mud. I decided to try to climb up anyway… and fell down. My pants got muddy, but I made it to the fort. Then we walked to the other one:

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And you know I climbed the wall and took some pics:

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We waved goodbye to the ring forts and started the 2 hour drive home via Killarney so we could do some shopping and eat some delicious fish and chips. If you want to see all the pictures I took, you know what to do.


Ireland 2018: Day 9

Our ninth day in Ireland called for another lazy day, but little did we know how lazy it would end up being!

We slept in and decided that we would grab some lunch, head to Mallow to see their castle, and then take a long walk in a nearby park.

The sun was streaming into our little apartment, what could go wrong?

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Our rental car had other ideas, it would seem. We climbed in to find that the right rear tire had a slow leak in it. A couple of days ago it warned us of low tire pressure, so we filled it up. Today it was very low indeed, so it was clear we needed to do something about it.

We headed to the park, and then called the rental company to ask what they’d like us to do. We were hoping they’d tell us to go to the nearest office and swap out our car for another. They didn’t. They did, however, offer to send out roadside assistance to fix the issue for us. They told us it would take 2 hours to get there, which is enough time for a good walk. We gave them our number and headed to the tea room for lunch.

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The Doneraile Wildlife Park is a very nice park to wander about:

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We even got a little cutesy:

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And then Marisa became one with a tree:

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After 2.5 hours we hadn’t heard from the rental company and no one showed up to fix our time. Marisa gave them a call and they said, “We’ve been trying to call you for 2 hours! We keep getting a busy signal.” Turn outs they wrote our number down incorrectly, which was a bummer. They promised they’d send someone out right away and a few minutes later I got a call from a man with a heavy Irish accent who told me he would be at the park in either 15 minutes or an hour and 15 minutes.

Luckily, he showed up in 15 minutes and fixed the tire in 10 minutes. He also said to us that most people would have just ignored the issue and kept putting air in the tire.

By this point we were done with our day out, so we went back to our apartment to eat dinner, read, and watch more Great British Bake-off.

All in all, not a bad day.

I didn’t take a huge amount of pictures this day, but I did take several more than appear in this post.


Ireland 2018: Day 8

Continuing our theme of visiting important Christian sites day 8 found us headed to the Rock of Cashel which includes a cathedral and church (though the church was closed for restoration).

We went on another tour, and boy was the wind really blowing. It was difficult at some times to even hear what the guide was saying. However, while it wasn’t exactly sunny the weather made for some good pictures.

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The size of the ruin was impressive:

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Of course there was a model:

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Of course the Irish seem to like to turn ruin sites into graveyards:

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This tomb was very large, and featured a huge Celtic cross which fell off 40 years ago:

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And they just let the pieces lay since the site is technically government land but the grave stones are private property:

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The main action is up on the Rock, but there is also a ruin which is part of the complex a short walk away:

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Assuming that most people wouldn’t want to take a short walk we headed over to find the ruin mostly empty:

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And the views back to the Rock were very nice:

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And after all that walking we needed some food so we headed to this tiny tea room near the car park (as they say). It wasn’t fancy, but it was very good:

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And you know I took lots more pictures. Check them all out.


Ireland 2018: Day 7

I do enjoy visiting a fort, and Kinsale offered up not only Charles Fort but some good fish and chips (or so the Internet told me).

Off to Dino’s Fish and chips for lunch, and let me tell you it was tasty. Plus I got to eat lunch with this cute lady:

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After we ate lunch we wondered around the town and popped into a few of the bookstores. This bookstore had a door into another universe:

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And then took a look at a model of the town as it was many years ago:

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And admired this noble dog who was waiting for his human (and ignoring us):

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We decided to walk to the fort via the Scilly Walk, which I recommend if you’re ever in Kinsale. It is an easy walk, except for the final bit that gets pretty hilly… though it is still paved so not very difficult just harder than the start. Anyway, you get lovely views of the fort:

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Oh, look! Another model. This time of Charles Fort:

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We joined a tour group composed mainly of other Americans which made me want to apologize to the tour guide for all these Americans not paying attention. I did get pretty good pictures of this fort (which failed during the only time it was in battle):

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Once we were done I wanted to walk all the way back through town and then to James Fort, which is a ruin, but Marisa was up for just going home and chilling. Since she was doing all the driving I thought it only fair that I not drag her to another fort, so we spent the evening watching the Great British Bake Off on an iPad and reading.

If you want to see all my pictures of the day check out this album.


Enjoying Ireland with less of me

I'm wearing an XL t-shirt! 😱

When last we were in Ireland I was a different person. Well, not really, but I was a heavier dude. Like, over 100 pounds heavier.

Above you’ll see the thinner me wearing an XL T-shirt I bought at the Giant’s Causeway. If Marisa hadn’t been with me I would have bought an XXL because in my mind I’m still that big… but the shirt fits so nicely! As do the 4 XL sweaters I’ve bought for myself while here (just in time for the Philadelphia summer, though with the way the weather has been behaving perhaps they will come in handy during a July snowstorm).

A few other things have changed on this trip as compared to last:

  • I bought a scale while here so I can continue weighing myself on Fridays (the scale has stones as the primary measure with kg much smaller. I can’t recommend the scale, but it was cheap).
  • I packed my running shoes and have actually gone on a few runs. I even went to the gym after going for a 5 mile hike.
  • I decided to walk 20,000 steps a day whilst here, to counteract my less stringent adherence to my daily Weight Watchers points allotment. And it seems to be working.
  • Flying for 6 hours in coach wasn’t that uncomfortable. Something that was never true when I was 100 pounds heavier.

Ireland 2018: Day 6

After our full day on Day 5 of driving and sightseeing, a laidback day 6 was on order. This was helped greatly by the previous night’s discovery that while in Ireland several seasons of The Great British Bake Off are available on Netflix (in fact, as I type this we’re watching the season 2 semi-final).

We decided to sleep in, go to a farmers’ market in Midleton and do a little shopping and walking around in Cork. I didn’t take a huge amount of pictures, because we really didn’t do all that much… and it was wonderful.

We started the day off petting Flicker, one of the Ballymaloe House resident dogs:

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We saw this memorial in Midleton:

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And this one in Cork:

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And I really liked this awesome Church. That’s a Jesus I can get behind:

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Oh, and I bought a book at the very cute Midleton Books:

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See all my Day 6 pics here (though there aren’t that many more to see!).


Ireland 2018: Day 5

The day began with the gentle rousing rays of the sun, filtered through an omnipresent pearlescent cloud cover, waking me in our little bubble in the woods:

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What a wonderful way to kick off our last few hours in Northern Ireland. Before too long we would hop into our little rental car and drive 5 hours south to our next accomodations, with a quick stop to see a 1500 year old monastery (as you do).

Day 5 Route

Shout out to Marisa for doing all the driving on this trip (and in our life!). She opted for a manual rental car, and I had my worries that it would stress her out.. but she’s been doing a fantastic job.

5 hours is a long time to say in the car, so we split the trip up with a stop at Clonmacnoise, one of the most important sites of learning in the early Christian world. Ireland has an interesting history with Christianity in that it is one of the very few areas of The World that gave up their “pagan” beliefs and accepted the Church without any wide scale bloodshed. This was mostly due to the fact that the Irish were a pragmatic people and just took their existing beliefs and added some Chrisitan flair.

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Monasteries were basically large towns in Ireland with Clonmacnoise covering something like 10 acres of land with churchs, houses, and the like. Most of the orginal buildings were timber, so they aren’t around any more but an impressive number of 1000 year old stone structures remain (thanks to the Vikings for encouraging the people to build round towers so as not to be slaughtered!).

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The Visitor Center at Clonmacnoise also comes from another time: the 70’s. However, it was seemingly set up so you could take some very nice pictures of the important stone carvings that they took out of the weather and sheltered here. Like this rather impressive Celtic cross:

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No one really knows why the ancient folks decided to put a circle hear the top of their crosses. Some time it might be an reference to a halo, or perhaps the circle of life. I think they thought it looked cool.

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This stone features ogham script:

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See what I was saying about the lighting:

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I was really impressed by the carving on this one. Good job, long dead carver!

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And then we made our way outside to view the ruins.

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Clonmacnoise is a ruin, an active cemetery, and a site where they still hold services from time to time. They built a glass enclosure for holding mass, and decorated it with… what else?

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That round tower would serve as a refuge from the people living here when the Vikings came along to try and take their stuff, their lives, and their bodies:

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Arches:

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Lots of detailed carvings to be seen:

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I was looking around to turn my head to see Marisa waiting for me to notice her fitting into this doorway exactly. A picture was called for, and a picture was taken.

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Something that I’ve been thinking about is the concept of “legacy.” More specifically how much we try and make sure that people remember us when after we die. This reminded me that, for most people, that is a futile effort no matter how much stone you work:

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On the other hand, I may not know who carved this but I am thinking about it, and writing about it, hundreds of years later:

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Jesus Christ! I thought this was the neatest stone in the yard:

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As we left Clonmacnoise we popped into the gift shop, as you do, and noticed this rather dramatic ruin across the car park:

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We still had a 2 hour drive ahead of us to get to our little cabin (below) at Ballymaloe House. When I made the reservation for the cabin the person told me, repeatedly, that the cabins are “rather rustic.” I was expecting something, well, rather rustic. But we got a lovely little cabin:

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More important than the cabin was the setting on which they are sat:

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I mean, come on!

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Everywhere I turned it looked like I was viewing a painted landscape:

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Unexpectedly, there was a table open for dinner at Ballymaloe House, so we availed ourselves. Little did I know I was about to have one of the best meals of my life. A 5 course meal that included a magical “hors d’oeuvre buffet,” which I would like to be included in each of my meals from now on.

This rich meal meant that I really needed to get 20,000 steps.

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I was tempted to stop there, but I took one more step and then fell into a deep slumber.

If you’d like to see all the pictures I took (so many crosses!) check them out here.


Ireland 2018: Day 4

Before leaving Belfast we had to have breakfast. I am not known as a tea drinker, but this trip may hav changed that. Can you believe I’ve never put milk in my tea? Here’s proof that I’ve changed my ways:

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I love a good municipal building, and when I found out that one can tour Belfast’s City Hall I was in:

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The building is as impressive as one would expect from a building built at the behest of Queen Victoria:

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Marisa decided to try her hand at Belfast politics:

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The Titanic had a large impact on this city, and so we visited the memorial garden on the grounds of City Hall:

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We had a two hour drive to our next evening’s stay, so we decided to break up the drive with a visit to Crom Estate.

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It features a ruined castle:

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And lots of grounds to walk around and enjoy:

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And some moss:

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After our constitutional on Crom Estate we headed to Finn Lough so we could check into our bubble in the woods:

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Staying in a bubble was an interesting experience, and better than I thought it would be. The bubble was very warm, the bed very comfortable, and the bathroom more than acceptable for a bubble.

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Finn Lough did a good job of positioning the bubbles so it feels like you’re all alone in the woods. Sadly, our neighboring bubble was occupied by some rather loud people so that ruined the illusion of solitude. They did quiet down around 9pm, so it wasn’t a big deal but it kept us grounded in the reality of the shared bubble space.

Still, I enjoyed being a boy in a bubble.

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Check out all my Day 4 pictures here.


Ireland 2018: Day 3

When I started writing this post I was sitting at the coffee table in our hotel room as Marisa attempted to go to sleep (she’d been having trouble sleeping on the trip but that has cleared up). I went to bed in hopes of helping Marisa sleep, and then a handful of days passed. We didn’t have internet access in our bubble (more on that in a little bit), so this post has been delayed.

While we were in Belfast we stayed at the Merchant Hotel. We saw so many beautiful things in Northern Ireland it would be easy to forget how nice our stay was. The Merchant Hotel is just wonderful, and all the staff were lovely and helpful (they let us keep our car parked a little while after checkout so we could do some sightseeing without charging us. So nice!).

I don’t think you can truly visit Northern Ireland and not go to the Antrim Coast. As you can probably guess, that’s how spent our day today. Also walking. So much walking.

If you want to see all the pictures I took check out this album. Read on for the highlights!

When I told my friend Sarah that we were headed to Belfast she recommended several things to do. One of them, the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede was on our list… but not very high up. Sarah’s enthusiatic recomendation bumped it up and I am very glad to have listened to her.

The entrance to the bridge:

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Here we are after having walked across the bridge:

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Somehow Marisa managed to lose her ticket on the 1 kilometer walk from the ticket booth to the bridge, but they let us cross anyway.

Fisherman orginally built this bridge, using only three ropes, so they could get to the island and fish using boats like this:

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I know I wouldn’t want to have to cross that bridge carrying anything. In fact, I didn’t particularly want to cross the modern bridge without anything in my hands…. especially when I saw some kid hopping across the bridge. I did it and you should too (if you get the opportunity).

Next, the very reason we came to Nothern Ireland in the first place: The Giant’s Causeway. I wanted to go to the Giant’s Causeway when last we visited Ireland, but it is all the way at the north of the island, and so it wasn’t meant to be. This time around I made sure we included it on the agenda, and it didn’t disappoint.

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Instead of just going to the Giant’s Causeway we decided to hire a guide and do a 5 mile hike ending up at the Giant’s Causeway. When we arrived at the visitor center (pictured above) and met our guide and found out we were the only people who had signed up for the hike. We also learned that our guide seemed rather dubious about whether we’d be able to do the hike. She kept saying things like, “You know there’s mud” and “This is a 5 mile hike!” And we were all like, “Let’s go!”

And off we went. Here we are at the start of the hike (thanks to our guide for taking the picture!):

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The views, as you might expect, were stunning:

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And despite her initial thinking that we were not the stuff of 5 mile hikes, our guide was very good. And the hike itself wasn’t all that tough. The path was well laid out, and the grade was pretty level, plus there were stairs for the steep bits.

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I remembered about 1.5 miles into the walk that I could track the hike as a workout! So I did, and here’s the hike we took:

The Giant’s Causeway itself is a rock formation made up of these columns of volcanic basalt which were thrust up through fissions millions of years ago. They extend for miles underground, but you don’t usually see them becuase they’re covered with lots of dirt. Here you can see the cliff we’re walking along is made of the same stuff we’re walking to see:

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The Giant’s Cause itself is mostly covered with people these days. It is an amazing site, and I’m glad so many people visit… but once we got there we were doubly glad to have hiked. We encountered about 3 other people on our 5 mile hike. We found all the people at the end of the hike:

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This did make getting pictures without people in it difficult, but our guide managed to take a picture with these two jokers:

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I did get a bunch of pictures without other people in them:

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The pictures don’t do the place justice. Well worth a trip to Northern Ireland. Plus the visitor center makes a mean bowl of Irish stew (one of my favorite things).

Now, since I don’t want to gain 40 pounds on this trip I’ve decided to walk at least 20,000 steps a day. So far, so good but Day 3 was a banner day:

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Ireland 2018: Day 2

Day 2 started with me thinking I had lost my camera and freaking out a little bit. It could only get better from there, and it did (and, as previously noted, I hadn’t lost my camera at all).

Our Day 2 stop: Belfast!

You can check out all the pictures here, so see the highlights below.

We decided to take the scenic route which involved a ferry:

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It wasn’t super clear, but the view was still nice:

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The scenic route continued with a drive along the Mourne Coastal Route (very pretty). Along the way we had to stop to use the bathroom and ended up stumbling across the Bloody Bridge trail (which I recommend to you):

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Behind the public toilets is a nice trail featuring views like this:

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And this:

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And some lovely rocks:

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This was an unexpected delight of the day.

It was a bit after stopping here that we realized we were in Northern Ireland (duh), which means the speed limits are posted in Miles Per Hour (the Republic of Ireland posts them in Kilometers per Hour). This explained why so many cars were passing us.

Armed with this information we headed into Belfast where we were able to check into our hotel a few hours early, which meant we could rest up before having mid-day tea.

The tea was lovely, but all the sweets were too sweet for Marisa (I ate all of mine):

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Fortified with tea sandwiches and a pot of Earl Gray (did you know tea tastes much better with milk? It does!) we headed out into a moderately heavy rain shower to one of Belfast’s biggest tourist attractions, the Titanic Belfast:

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It would seem the very modern building gets mixed reviews, but I think it is great:

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And it is well marked:

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from the museum, but it covered way more than just the Titanic. It used the Titanic as a lens to cover the growth and development of Belfast as a city. Though I thought it glossed over the very real impact class distinctions had on whether you ended up a victim of the Titanic or a survivor.

Though they do have the gates of the shipyard in which the Titantic was built, so that’s cool:

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Also cool is this model showing the position of the shipworks when the Titanic was being built, along with a movel of the museum itself (and the gantry where the Titantic was built stood right outside of that window):

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You can also visit the Nomadic, though we ran out of time:

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I was more intrigued by this other object that was in the same berth as the Nomadic:

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I don’t know what it is, but it did allow me to take my favorite picture of the day:

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Ireland 2018: Day 1

When Marisa and I were discussing where to go on a vacation I couldn’t help but suggest we head to Ireland… again.

We had such a wonderful time the first time that Marisa was up for a return visit (in fact I’m typing these very words in Belfast, Northern Ireland right now!).

Our first day (see all my pictures in this album) in Ireland found us flying into Dublin and hopping into a rental car and getting out of Dublin as quickly as we could. Last visit we saw the highlights of Dublin, so we didn’t feel the need to stick around.

We pointed our car towards Carlingford, where we were spending the night, by way of Monasterboice: Untitled

Now a graveyard, it was a monastery several hundred years ago and sports some of the largest Celtic crosses on the island (Marisa here for scale):

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The graveyard had some very sturdy walls:

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Off we went to Carlingford to check into our hotel for the evening and look cute in front of it:

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Then we ventured into the village and took a bunch of pictures. Of things like this arch:

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We visited another grave yard, as you do:

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And went down to the lake to take some lovely pictures of the vista:

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Saw a ladder into the water (hey, nice shoes!):

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Later that evening I needed a few more steps (gotta please that Fitbit) and took some pictures of the castle at night:

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And the last moments of the sun:

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Carlingford is a charming little town, and we had a lovely time. I only wish that my time in the town hadn’t ended with me thinking I had lost my camera on my night time stroll. I spent the morning attempting to find my camera by retracing my steps, only to get a text message from Marisa - she found my camera in my laptop bag. Hurrah for not losing the camera, but boo for me being dumb.

Next up, Day 2 takes us to Belfast!


100.9

100down

A few weeks ago I posted about my weight, and the fact that I didn't think I'd meet my personal goal of losing 100 pounds by my birthday.

And I totally didn't do it!

However, I hopped on the scale on Friday and it told me that I had lost 100.9 pounds. Woo! I wasn't too far off my birthday deadline, so I'll take that as a win (plus I had several slices of birthday cake, which I don't regret at all!).

That means I'm 127 pounds below my highest weight, which is crazy! Of course, since I am a big fan of round numbers I have decided I should try and get rid of 23 more pounds for a total of 150 pounds down... we'll see how that goes.


37 minutes and 24 seconds

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Today was unseasonably warm in Philadelphia, so I thought to myself, “I should go run outside instead of on that dumb old treadmill I’ve been running on for weeks and weeks!”

The last time I ran outside it was Christmas Eve, I was in Texas, and I wasn’t feeling the run at all. I ran 3,3 miles in 40 minutes and 48 seconds.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for my run today - actually, I expected it to slow and horrible. It wasn’t! Well, it was as horrible as running always is, but I ran my best 4 mile time (outside) ever and I mananged to run 4 sub-10 minute miles in a row.

Hurrah for me!