Day 8: The Ring of Kerry

Exploring the Ring of Kerry was unequivocally my favorite part of our trip. We got super lucky and had incredible weather the entire time. Between that and being the only people at most of our stops (thank you again, off-season!) it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

The Ring of Kerry is a driving route along the Kerry pennisula. In covers some of the most stunning scenery we could have imagined. Huge mountains, incredible cliffs plunging into the ocean, sparkling lakes and dense forests. Turn after turn (and there are LOTS!) was another stunning vista. We couldn’t get enough.

 

We took our time driving around the ring, and made frequent stops for pictures and quick hikes. The ring was surprisingly empty, and I can’t even imagine how perilous some of those roads would be with tour busses. The drive isn’t for the faint at heart, but is so worth it!

 

We frequently went off the regular ring, and highly recommend the trip out to Ventura Island. The views of Skellig Michael in the distance are truly mesmerizing, and Teddy and I already were talking about returning for a week of hiking and exploring on this island alone.

 

Additionally, we made an effort to go to the stone circles and ruins along the way and found those equally as fascinating. We could have easily spent several days exploring all of the side trails along the ring, so highly recommend getting off the typical trail – there is so much to see!

 

This day of our trip also happened to be Valentines Day. What a memorable way to spend the day! Though we’re not generally big into that holiday, we both agreed it was one of the best ways we could have celebrated. We ended the day with a lovely meal in Killarney and memories to last a lifetime.

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Day 7: Cashel to Killarney

After a few days exploring cities, it was time to get into the country side. We debated quite a bit about renting a car, but finally decided that it was the best way to experience Ireland. We’re so glad that we did it this way!

 

This was our longest day of traveling, and we were heading from Dublin to Killarney, a town on the western edge of the country. We decided to break up our drive by stopping at the Rock of Cashel. We enjoyed exploring the castle and small town, and it was the perfect place to take a break for lunch. The first view you get of the castle is from quite far away and it was so stunning in the distance! There are so many stunning vistas in Ireland, but rounding the bend and getting a first glimpse of these castle in the distance was one of my favorites.

 

Though the castle was undergoing renovations, it was still eerie and extremely beautiful. We enjoyed exploring almost entirely alone (it was so great traveling in the off-season!) and took a walk into the surrounding fields before jumping back in the car.

 

After arriving in Killarney and getting settled at our B&B we headed into town and wandered around a bit. We had a quick dinner and then settled in for a relaxing evening. Driving was stressful! But more of that to come…

Day 6: Dublin

Our second day in Dublin started with a visit to Christ Church Cathedral. We went early, so were lucky enough to be able to explore this beautiful cathedral almost completely by ourselves. It was very stunning!

 

Our next stop was Trinity College. While we weren’t able to hop on one of the student tours, we did learn quite a bit about the historic tour on our walking tour the previous day, so we were very content to wander the campus and explore.

 

Located on the Trinity campus is the Book of Kells – a stunning illuminated manuscript. The exhibit leading to the book was super interesting and I really loved learning about the methods used o create the books. Such stunning craftmasship when into them, and I was very inspired. Perhaps there will be some book making in my future?! Regardless, the exhibit was awesome and the amount of work that went into each makes me better understand why books were such a special commodity. Finally we were able to see the book itself and it was truly stunning. What a work of art!

 

The exhibit also lead directly into the Long Hall Library at Trinity College. This is a place I’ve seen in the movies (Star Wars, anyone?! It’s a replica, but still counts) and in countless photographs. Being able to experience it was wonderful! The room is truly stunning. Also in the room is the harp of Ireland! It’s the one that inspired the logo of so many Irish things, including Guiness!

 

After regrouping for a bit Teddy and I wondered around several gardens including the Iveagh Gardens, which has a waterfall with stones from each of the counties in Ireland. Very cool! We wandered through St. Stephen’s Green and then grabbed tea at Hatch and Sons, a very trendy lunch spot. We felt very Irish!

 

We spent most of our afternoon at the Chester Beatty Library. This free attraction houses an exceptional collection of artifacts from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. I was particularly enthralled with the beautiful Korans and books from all over the world. They were all so detailed and just very beautiful. Even better, this museum was free! It was a great place to spend an afternoon.

 

We ended our last night in Dublin by hitting up a few bars. We ended in a great one which had live music, and even Irish step dancing! I was on cloud nine. Plus Teddy got some Scotch so he was happy. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Dublin!

Things I’m loving Friday

After my awesome vacation, I completely feel off the productivity train for a few days. Between being super behind on work, the horrible snow that is making it extremely difficult to get anywhere, and a general feeling of being behind at life – I was floundering. This week I’ve been feeling much better, and I’m feeling like I’m back on the productivity bandwagon. I decided the best way to celebrate that would be with a “Things I’m loving” post!

1. Unroll.me – have you heard of this wonderful thing? Maybe I’m late to the party by this really has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve been feeling like I process so much darn email, but I never end up responding to the things that actually matter. Now I’m able to bundle all of the newsletters, alerts, coupons and general announcements into one thing. I love that everything still comes to my inbox, thus is searchable, but I’m not spending my time always being excited about new email. Now I chunk all of the time spent going over those “fluff” emails into 10 minutes at the beginning of my day.

2. This lovely blog  – I’m a new reader to 50 by 25, but I’m loving the combination of productivity, healthy living, and career advice that this blog contains. I’m really trying to understand how to build a strong base for my career so I love the advice. However, that’s not the only thing that is important to me! It’s been great digging into the archives a bit more to understand how to better track, maintain and achieve goals.

3. Getting back to the gym – it’s been so great to get my routine back! I hit up the 6am Body Pump class today and it felt really good. I’ve been running more, even though I’m not a big fan of the treadmill. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to comfortably run outside any time soon (thanks, snow) but at least I’m moving more. We walked a ton while we were on vacation so I didn’t feel really sedentary, but it’s still nice to get back to my routine!

4. So Many Vegetables – I’ve never purchased so much produce at Trader Joe’s before! But man has it been great. I’ve been filling a container with just vegetables and munching on them all afternoon at work this week. Maybe people think I’m crazy, but it’s felt so good. One of the challenges when traveling as a vegetarian is that often the best meal on the menu is pasta. Or pizza. Or carbs in some form. Neither place we were was particularly a food mecca, so I really deviated from my usual vegetable/legume-heavy diet. It has been so great to eat more like a rabbit this week!

5. This new sewing pattern – it totally caught my eye at my favorite local craft store, Gather Here. I picked up the supplies this week, and I’m hoping to break out my sewing machine this weekend. It’s been a while. I’m torn between using that time to knit, or crafting a project to hold my knitting – the never-ending debate of a multi-crafter.

 

Anything fun planned for the weekend?

Day 5: Dublin

After catching an early morning flight, we landed at our hostel in time for a quick lunch before heading out to explore Dublin!

 

First up: the Irish Whiskey Museum. The one hour tour here gave us loads of information around the background of whiskey making, and how it’s changed over the years in Ireland. We learned that it’s currently experiencing a resurgence of interest, after the consumption dramatically decreased and there were only 5-6 major producers. Now lots of craft distilleries are popping up and there are lots of changes underway. It was fun to learn about the craft, and compare it to our previous experiences in Scotland! Of course, the tour ended with sampling, and I tried three whiskeys. I’m not a huge whiskey drinker, but I always like doing side-by-side comparisons. I actually enjoyed them more than I expected to!

 

After enjoying our tastes we jumped into another Sandemans New Europe tour. Told you we do them in every city! This tour was equally as great as we had previously experienced, and we loved the perspective our tour guide was able to provide. We learned a lot about the Celtic Tiger, the relationship between Ireland and England, the famine, the hospitality mentality, movies that were filmed in Dublin…the list goes on. It was an awesome way to get to know the city, and our tour guide was also able to provide great recommendations for the rest of our stay in the city.

 

We were staying in the Temple Bar neighborhood so didn’t have any problems finding a great place to eat that had traditional fish and chips and Guinness on tap. We knew we were in Ireland with that meal! We enjoyed relaxing at dinner and soon headed home to make some final logistic adjustments before heading to bed.

Day 4: Day trip from Amsterdam

On our fourth day in Amsterdam, it was time to explore the countryside! We didn’t go super far outside of the city, but it was far enough to get a sense of the rest of the country.

 

We hopped onto a local train early in the morning, and arrived in Haarlem around 9:30am. It was a quick and easy trip – lots of commuters do it every day! This quiet town had a beautiful, historic square that we enjoyed strolling around. Our target destination was the Teylers Museum, the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands. An independently wealthy man collected a massive amount of artifacts – fossils, minerals, prints, drawings and an incredibly daunting collection of scientific instruments. Needless to say, Teddy and I were overwhelmed with amazment. This place was awesome. Teddy said it was the best thing we did the entire trip. It was pretty high on the list for me, too!

 

The museum is housed in a beautiful old space and each room has a different focus. The setup reminded me a lot of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We spent more than a hour in the first two rooms full of fossils before even discovering the room of scientific instruments. We could have spent the entire day in this room alone! The number of specimens was staggering – batteries, synthesizers, clocks, steam engines and every possible permutation of lab cutting edge equipment that was available in the late 1800s was on display. It was truly staggering, and we had a blast nerding out.

 

Finally, we managed to pull ourselves away to jump back on the train and head to Delft! This city is about a 1 hour train ride from Amsterdam, and is known around the world for it’s famous blue and white pottery. We had fun exploring small shops, and purchasing a few small souvenirs. We also climbed a huge church tower, and I managed to not completely lose it with my extreme fear of heights! Major success. We also discovered a lovely cheese shop and managed to sample every possible variety of cheese they had. Don’t worry, we bought some for later, too!

 

We jumped back on the train in the evening and headed back to our Amsterdam apartment to prepare for our next leg of the trip. It was time to head to Ireland!

Day 3: Amsterdam

On our third day in Amserdam we were up bright and early to head over to the Van Gogh Museum! I was really excited to explore this one, as I had heard so many awesome things about it. We strolled over, enjoyed the morning quiet, and even got to stop at the I Amsterdam sign! It was fun to have the museum square all to ourselves.

 

We were among the first people in line at the museum (I can’t imagine how busy it gets in the summer) and we quickly made it inside and picked up our audio guides. I’m so glad we did this – we gained a much better appreciation for what we were seeing! We spent several hours exploring the exhibits. I loved learning about his travels, artistic influences, and changing styles. The museum did an excellent job contextualizing his work and the new emerging style he was so integral in creating. I really enjoyed all of the exhibits.

 

After taking a quick break at the café, we headed over to the Diamond Museum. It was free with the City Card, and right next door, so why not?! No. Never go here. This was a poor life choice. This wasn’t a museum, it was a huge show room! It was crazy and a complete waste of time. Oh well.

 

Next was an attempt to appreciate modern art at the Stedelijk Museum. This turned into a bit of a challenge. Neither Teddy nor I has the strongest appreciation for this style, particularly after we really loved everything we saw at the Van Gogh museum. Though we spent an hour or so here, it wasn’t really in the same mind set. We enjoyed the furniture and housewares, but didn’t appreciate the art quite as much. A short visit was perfect!

 

Since we were both a bit museumed-out, we decided that a canal boat tour would be the perfect thing for an afternoon break. We enjoyed a 90 minute cruise around the city’s vast canal system. We even saw the cleaners pull an old rusty bike out of the water! We learned lots about the history of the canals, houseboats, and traditions of the city. It was really neat to be on the same level as the water – everything looked so different! I’d highly recommend taking advantage of one of the many tours of this type in Amsterdam. It was a great way to see lots, and a very traditional experience.

 

Ready to jump back into the museum circuit, our next stop included a visit to a historic canal house. This was really interesting, and it was great to see how a typical (wealthy) family during the 1800s would have lived. The tour provided lots of information about the family, the types of household staff, and the daily live of these people. Plus is was great to see the canals from a second story window!

 

In a similar vein, we then went to a “palace” on the canals – another beautiful historic home! Teddy knows my love for all things related to old houses, so he was patient with me on this one Smile Again, I really loved exploring the home and beautiful gardens. The library in particular was very beautiful. I’d recommend either of these places if you’re looking for a glimse into the past.

 

Since the Photography Museum, FOAM, wasn’t too far from the house we were visiting, we decided to stop in. Again, we appreciated the flexibility afforded by the City Pass! The exihibits were hilighting the work of Araki, and interesting Japanese artist. Some of the collections weren’t exactly my style, but I really liked the photos of the sky that were combined with watercolor prints!

 

Finally, we squeezed a final museum in – the Amsterdam Tulip Museum! This cute place was close by and just had a few exhibits, but I’m so glad we went. Tulips are so associated with the country, and I’m glad we were able to learn a bit more about that history. Even though we weren’t able to visit the Netherlands during the Spring, we got a good impression of how stunning it is. Plus, the place smelled great!

 

We enjoyed a special meal at a local Indian restaurant and relaxed while reflecting on the sheer number of museums in the city. There is no way to see them all!

 

Our last stop of the evening was at the Amsterdam Symphony Hall, Concertgebouw. The Dvorak symphony on the program caught our attention, and we were able to snag day-of tickets at a really great price. We loved the concert – the hall was beautiful and the performances were fantastic! Nothing like a good night at the symphony. It reminded me of Vienna!

 

After a long day of sightseeing, we headed home. It was another great day!