Orvieto & Rome Italy

Ciao!

We started off the day with breakfast at the hotel. This is the first time on the trip we’ve had breakfast included in our stay. We had yogurt, fresh squeezed juice, croissants, and fresh fruit. The kiwi was yummy!

Then we headed up the hill to the village of Orvieto. This area is just South of Tuscany, this provence is called Umbria. Here are some views from the look-outs.

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Inside the village there is a cathedral dating back to 1200. I loved the black and white marble strips inside and out. Here we were able to walk in just as the mass was starting since it was Sunday morning. The pipe organ was playing, amazing! I took some video clips, hopefully the sound turns out. Then an Italian choir sang, which was also wonderful, we stood in awe and praise of our Savior for a few minutes in this beautiful cathedral. It was nice to be able to see the cathedral being used for worship. We didn’t stay for the whole service because we had plans in Rome today & it was in Italian. 🙂

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We walked around the Orvieto Village for a little bit. I finally found a mortar and pestle at a cute shop. I started collecting them from different countries and I haven’t seen one on this trip until now. It was hand carved from olive wood. I hope to find one in a few other countries on our visit. There were all kinds of beautiful pottery, handmade tapestry, scarves, and woven items. Here are a few fun shots in town.

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We arrived in Rome and found our apartment outside of town. This was a bit of an experience, the apartments didn’t have numbers and the neighbors didn’t speak english. We finally were able to get pointed in the right direction. We found our host’s boyfriend and then he showed us to her. The apartment/b&b is very nice. The profile on airbnb said she had a hot tub but we asked about that she was very confused and after trying the words; hot swimming pool, jacuzzi, and spa I completely confused them. Her boyfriend spoke better english and he then tried to direct me to a full service spa, ha! I wish that was included. 🙂

The next challenge was getting into town. We followed her directions to the bus stop and we came to a bus/train station, but it looked deserted with 1 bus there & it wasn’t the number we needed. So after a few tries, we finally were able to locate a metro station in the GPS. The metro here in Rome is cheaper than Paris, it’s not as big either.

We parked and took the metro into Rome and took a much needed food stop! We just had a cheese pizza flatbread to hold us over until dinner. Dustin and I took a tour of the Roman Colosseum for 1/2 the price of the tours we almost booked on-line. We got to skip the line and go right in. It was a very good Roman history refresher and we learned some new things as well. Did you know the word arena comes from the latin word for sand? This is because there was sand in the bottom of the arena to soak up the blood after the fights. Here are a few pictures.

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Josh and Sarah joined us on the tour of the Roman Ruins and Roman Forum. It’s amazing to see pieces of architecture so old, some areas dating back to 8th century BC. The largest palace on the hill was formed by the emperor Domitian, and was built in in 81 AD. Much of this area was destroyed in an earthquake in the 1800’s and then a large amount of marble was repurposed to build churches including parts of the Vatican. At least it didn’t go to waste.

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Here is a picture of the Arch of Septimius Severus. It had been damaged due to erosion and It was refurbished later. The area right underneath the archway is original. This is the arch that the Arc de Triomphe design was based on.

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After the ruins we headed towards the pantheon, which we learned used to be a place where pagans worshiped, but when Constantine was emperor (first Christian Emperor), he converted pagan churches to Christian churches. Unfortunately the pantheon was closed early since it’s Sunday.

We took another restaurant suggestion from the airplane travel magazine and it was awesome! The resturant was called Antonio al Pantheon. We were able to sit outside to eat along the street on the cobblestone street, it was up into the 80’s today which made the evening still warm at 70. We had insalada verde & pasta. The green salad was topped with local olive oil, it tastes so much better here! I had ravioli with meat sauce and Dustin had spaghetti with olive oil, red pepper, and roasted garlic. Here is a picture to make your mouth water.

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After dinner we walked around the Piazza Navona. This is a city square that was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitaion in 1st century AD, it follows the form of the open space of the stadium. Ancient Romans would have come here to watch sporting events. The piazza was lined with artists selling their oil paintings and sketches.

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We walked around for a bit, then ended the night with gelato and headed back to a metro. There are not many metro stations in the city, so we had to walk about 15 min back to the Colosseum, but that was ok because we were able to see it at night.

We came home to relax and we were able to use our iPads to iChat with our moms and my grandma. Happy Mother’s day again to the women who have invested so much into us & to all the other mother’s reading!

Nice, France to Orvieto, Italy

We left Nice, France around 8:30 am and headed to Èze, France. This is a historic medieval village dating back to 2,000 BC sits high above the Mediterranean sea, up on the cliffs west of Nice. We learned about Èze from the travel channel show Passport to Europe. It was definitely worth the stop since it was right on our way. We parked in the newer portion of town and walked up to the medieval village. It was fun because the stores there hadn”t opened yet and the tourist buses were not there yet so the small narrow streets were empty. Here are a few of our pictures.

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We had breakfast just below the village in a small cafe. Dustin and I split a warm panini with chicken, cheese, and tomato & a tarte with egg and cheese. We all wanted to take apple beignets on the road but they were out. 😦 We walked across the street to the market and bought granola bars, a baguette, and a few apple turnovers for the road.

Our next stop was a drive through Monaco. By going through there we added another country to our trip. Monaco is the second smallest country next to Vatican city, and it is the most densely populated country in the word. We were able to drive most of the way into town, but the main roads were blocked for some reason and the police were directing traffic back up the hill. Here are a few pictures from Monaco…not the best photos since we were doing a drive-by…but it will give you an idea. We did see that we could have taken a train ride through the tourist spots for 8 EUR pp but not sure if we could have even gotten to the start of the tour because of the roads being closed.

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This area is known as Côte d’Azur or the French Rivera. All along the coast there are beautiful cities where the mountains meet the ocean. It’s a bit hard to capture on film as we drive but let me just stay its breathtaking.

We did stop in an area near a portion of Italy called Cinque Terre. A town named La Spezia was there. The coast here is beautiful and has the mountains in the background. 20120512-223017.jpg

Then we drove up the hill to La Gratzia & La Portovenere, here are a few pictures. Absoutely breathtaking!

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The actual Cinque Terre area is not accessible by car, but there is an 8 mile trail that connects the 5 villages that we could see only a few from afar. That might have to be on the bucket list if we are ever back in Italy!

We got back on the road headed to Pisa. There isn”t much in Pisa besides the infamous leaning tower and cathedral. We walked around and then got our pictures taken with the tower…here are a few of our fun shots!

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We arrived in Orvieto around 9pm, we thought our hotel was actually up the hill in Orvieto but it turned out to be right by the highway. We will head up to see Orvieto tomorrow morning before heading to Rome. We had a nice dinner at resturant a few doors down. We had a coupon from the front desk! 🙂 Dustin was so excited to have authentic italian pasta, it was yummy!

I”m not sure our place in Rome has wifi…so it may be a few days til you hear from us again! Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. Ciao!

Santa Susana, Spain to Nice, France

Dustin and I woke up around 8 and walked to the beach. It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Dustin and I sat on the beach and relaxed for a few minutes and I spent some time in prayer. I also put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea! It was very very very cold, so there will be no swimming on this trip. 🙂

The place we stayed was an apartment style hotel which was very clean with two bedrooms and a kitchenette. This came in handy because we had purchased fruit including pineapple from the market in Barcelona. We packed up and left our apartment around 10:30 and headed north back to France. Driving here really isn’t all that different besides the cars look different and are manuals. Cars also can be diesel, which ours is, diesel is actually cheaper than unleaded in Europe right now. And Dustin wanted me to add that the speed limit changes if it is raining. The speed limit on most highways is 130 killometers per hour with dry weather.

The car we are driving is really nice. We didn’t ask for GPS, but it has it’s own GPS and you can google a place to go and then click go and it’s maps you there. It is a Renault Laguna. It also has leather seats. The only slight problem is the trunk is not very big. It took us about 10 minutes to unpack and repack to figure out how to get all 3 big suitcases in the trunk with the small suitcase. Yesterday we put it between Sarah and I, but with the 6 hour drive today we wanted it in the trunk if possible. We figured it out!

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We stopped for gas and food in a little town called Beziers. No one here spoke english. A lady at least over 65 years old came out of the gas station which looked like it was not touched since 1970. She didn’t understand “Full” and was asking me something in french which I didn’t understand, but we got through with hand motions and our tank was full.

Then we tried to use our GPS to search for a resturant, but it was a small town with narrow streets so we just went to the first place we found. The town appeared to have a large arabic population as many of the women we saw were in full headdress. And the menu at the resturant was in french and arabic. No one in the resturant spoke english either, but we sucessfully ordered deux pizzas, deux croissants de chocolat, et une pain maison, which was some kind of flat bread. Maison means house in french, so I’m not sure if it was an arabic type bread since the man running the show was of arabic descent. It is yummy whatever it is. Here is a picture, it was huge! This was our food for the road.

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We ate our pizza in a parking lot on some concrete blocks and then headed onward towards Nice.

We had some good laughs at one of our toll booth stops. This brand new Mercedes convertible was towing a camper at least 20 years old. At the same stop a car in the next lane rolled back into another car, and one lady didn’t have money and had to go six lanes across to a machine and back, meanwhile a french man behind her was not so happy and got out of this car yelling to see what was going on. Gotta love people watching! Later we ourselves were the cause of a slow lane at the toll booth, we tried all 5 credit/debit cards we had between us and nothing worked. We had to call for assistance. It’s crazy how many toll roads are here.

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We wanted to see the French Mediterranean coast, so we headed down towards Toulon, France and used the GPS to find a beach which was in town. Beautiful! Here is a picture.

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There as we were standing on the dock a french man asked us if we wanted him to take our picture. He spoke very good English and asked where we were from. During the conversation he told us about a more beautiful area away from the city with a great beach called Fort de Brégançon. It was about 40 Km east. We headed that direction and I am very thankful for running into this man, because it was amazing. On the drive to there we weaved through vineyards and olive groves.

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Then we came to a beautiful beach with a fort on one side & an island across the way. I was sad we couldn’t stay and watch the sunset, but we hadn’t had dinner yet despite driving the eastward direction, we were still 1.5 hours away from Nice. Here are a few pictures.

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We arrived in Nice around 9pm, checked into our hotel and headed out to find something to eat. Our hotel was a few blocks over from a very neat plaza of restaurants, we ate at one called Cafe La Place. None of the staff spoke very good english here either, Nice seems to be more of a vacation AKA “holiday” destination for french natives. There was a little confusion when I asked for no goat cheese on my salad (non chevre) the waiter couldn’t believe someone would order a salad without cheese, ha! Dustin had pesto pasta, Sarah had the same salad with goat cheese, and Josh had a fish risotto dish. We are all very tired, we did a lot of driving today, but the countryside is beautiful. Tomorrow we plan to stop in Eze, France, drive through Monaco, lunch around La Spezia Italy, visit the leaning tower in Pisa, and end the day North of Rome in Orvieto.

Au Revoir…none of us know any Italian at all so this so be interesting! Josh and Sarah have both been to italy before, so I think we’ll be ok!

Barcelona

Hola!

The boys took the shuttle to the airport from our hotel to pick up the rental car around 7:30 am. It was rush hour traffic in Toulouse, which is home of Airbus, so it took us a bit longer to get on the road. We stopped at a french bakery to grab breakfast. There was a sweet french lady working who did not speak any english, but we easily pointed & stumbled through some french words. In France they have panini’s for breakfast, Dustin and I split one with cheese, chicken, onion, and olive oil. Then we got a wonderful multi-grain baguette to go. Josh had a dream last night that we found a bakery with macaroons the size of baguettes and then we walked into these.

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These are french meringues (not quite a macaroon, but close!) We ordered a meringue de fraise (strawberry) to split to try a french speciality. It basically is sugar with egg whites. It tasted like hard cotton candy.

It was just a quick stop, then we were back in the car, vamanos Espana! We had set the GPS in Ireland to avoid the toll-roads around Dublin on our way back to the airport, luckily we realized this before we went too far out of the way, but we did have to turn around to head back to the toll road which was still quicker at the point we were. But we did get a great view of the Pyrenees Mountains & we wouldn’t have come across the bakery had we been on the highway/toll road in the first place. The Pyrenees Mountains are pictured below.

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We arrived in Barcelona around 2:30 pm, we quickly found parking and headed to the bike shop to pick up our bike rentals. We were able to rent bikes good for all day for 5 EUR each. It was a good way to get around the city because we didn’t have much time. Many of the streets in Barcelona have bike lanes. We headed down the Rambla towards the coast. We placed by the Mirador de Colom and then continued on past the Plaja (beach) de Sant Miquel, there were tons of people out today because it was beautiful! It was at least 80 degrees today.

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We headed back uptown and past the Placa de Toros Monumental where the bull fights occur. Due to time being crunched today we didn’t go in. We found a quick bite to eat…empanadas and pitas. The pita was stuffed with chicken and peppers. It was so good! We kept heading uptown and stopped at the Temple de La Sagrada Familia. This building was designed by Antoni Gaudi. He is famous for the uniqueness of the cathedral and using nature to inspire work. The cathedral is built to feel like a tall forest inside and the ceiling is meant to resemble gold flowers. This building was started in 1882 and still remains under construction with a goal of completion in 2026.

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After our visit at the sagrada we rode the bikes around and very unique buildings.

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We had to turn in our bikes by 7:30 because the bike shop closed then. We then headed to find a resturant that was a recommended tapas place in a travel magazine from the last flight called Elisabets. On our way we stoped at Mercat Boqueria, the largest open aired market in Barcelona. It sort of reminded me of Pike’s Place market in Seattle, but more merchants. It was late in the day and many stands had already closed up shop. We just saw a corner of the market, but came away with apples, bannana, pinapples, and strawberries for breakfast Friday.

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We arrived at Elisabets, it was located on a small steet off the beaten path. No one in the resturant spoke English very well, nor did the restaurant have an english version of the menu. We decided just to be brave and select 5 dishes from the menu and see what came. We thought Dustin might remember some Spanish to help us with the food ingrediants, but after 10 years since his last Spanish class, he wasn’t much help. One of our dishes turned out to be friedmashed potatoes with a red sauce and mayo on top. It was actually tasty.

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One dish was stuffed olives which Sarah and Josh enjoyed. Dustin and I did try them, but we are not olive fans. 🙂 Another dish was a pork (we think?) kebob which was yummy. We did have empanadas with crab and a plate of what seemed like mozzarella sticks that was supposed to be chicken somehow? It was all very good, just not what I imagined from my experience with Mediterrean Tapas resturants in the US. Maybe because in the US it’s a blend of cultures vs. just Spain. Also different areas in Spain have different cuisine. The most popular dishes in the resturant from other tables seemed to be friend potatoes (fries) with red sauce and mayo & calamari.

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We weren’t stuffed since the portions were small, so we walked around a bit and strolled down some of the streets in the gothic quarter. Of course with small portions we needed some dessert. We found a gelati and crepe stand. The boys had crepes and Sarah and I had gelati.

We left downtown Barcelona around 10:30 to head to our hotel in Santa Susana, Spain, located about 50 minutes north of town on the coast. We decided to stay here beacuase it’s cheaper and we will have a head start on our drive tomorrow. Spain will definietly have to be a stop again, I’d love to see the other cities and countryside. And there are a few hot spots we missed in Barcelona. One area we didn’t see was Montjuic, where you take a cable care ride to the top of the mountain. There the attraction highlights the different cultures in Spain and architecture from each culture. For the next trip….whenever that may be. 🙂

Adios!

(Sorry for the delay in posting, no wifi last night!)

Paris Day 2

Salut! Today was the first day we “slept in” we got up around 8:30 and then packed up and left our apartment around 11:30am. I used quotations because I didn’t fall asleep until almost 3am so it wasn’t really extra sleep. 🙂

Today we didn’t have too much on our agenda because we saw most of the highlights yesterday. We had breakfast at a small cafe, Dustin and I split one galette (a egg and cheese crêpe made with buckwheat flour) and 1 crêpe with Nutella inside. It was very yummy! Then we headed to see the Notre Dame de Paris also known as the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was beautiful, here are a few pictures from our visit. We tried one shot using the cathedral as the H in the OH-IO…good effort right? We are a bit small in the picture. 🙂

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On the Pont de l’Archevêché, one of the bridges leading to Notre Dame, lovers write their names on locks, hook them to the bridge, and throw the key in the Seine River. Here is a picture Dustin took.

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After our stop at Notre Dame we walked around and I bought a clearance pair of jeans at the H&M store because for some reason I only packed jean capris and the one pair I wore to the airport. I bought jeans for 9.95 EUR…what a steal in Paris! After our short shopping trip… Sarah and I went to the Le Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral, the stained glass here was amazing. It was 8.50 EUR pp to enter so the boys decided to sit it out and look at our pictures. The entire bible is represented on the stained glass along each of the walls. They have cards that tell you what books of the bible are located on which panels of glass. It’s so amazing that in the 1200’s, they could create such masterpieces.

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We meet up with the boys at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. This bookstore is dedicated to Walt Whitman because this location was opened by him in 1951, it serves as a library and bookstore specializing in english literature.It was a very small store with great character. No pictures were allowed inside, but here is an outside photo.

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The area by Notre Dame was full of french cafes lining the streets, many of which had 3 course meals for 10 EUR each. So we had a traditional French meal. I had Soupe à l’oignon, Boeuf Bourguignon, and la mousse au chocolat, and Dustin had salad, a lamb dish and ice-cream. One of his ice-cream flavors was apple. It was so good, we need to bring that flavor to the states!

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After our wonderful day of french cuisine, we headed back to our apartment to pick up our bags. The man who rented to us had a closet we stored them in throughout the day. Then we began the fun trek to the airport. Metro stations are not made for carrying 40 lb suitcases, there are only stairs in most parts until you get closer to the airport. Once we got on the train, it was of course packed, and we got a few stares when our bags were in the way. 🙂 We successfully made it to the airport and walked a long way to our terminal. Paris has many beautiful sights to see, most areas next to attractions are nice, but the metro and other areas are very dirty. I won’t miss that.

My ankle is much better today, but my right pinky-toe is bothering me. I bought some medical tape at a pharmacy in Paris to tape it for the other walking days. I didn’t know the french word for tape so that was a fun conversation. Others are having the same problem with the pinky toes….good thing we are taking a break from walking tomorrow. 🙂 We have arrived in Toulouse, France to spend the night just by the airport, then we are driving to Barcelona! We are all very excited to visit Barcelona. Unfortunately we won’t get into the city until around 1 pm, so we are renting bikes to see the sights faster. We originally wanted to go straight to Barcelona from Paris, but the one-way drop fee for our rental car to pick up in Barcelona and drop in Munich was 6x the price vs. picking it up in France.

After Barcelona we will stop in Cannes & Nice France. Then we will drive to Italy & see Pisa, Rome, Florence, and Venice. If you have a favorite sight in one of those places or along the way that we must see, leave us a comment!

Au Revoir!

Paris Day 1

Bonjour! Comment ça va?

We are doing well! We arrived in Paris, Monday night around 8:30pm. We lost an hour on the flight over from Dublin. We grabbed our bags and headed for the metro. Thankfully we had very good directions printed out for where we were going. We are renting a 2 bedroom apartment that we found on airbnb.com. It turned out to be a good choice, much cheaper, although off the beaten path a bit, but the metro station was not far. Most people in Paris speak english, except for the first lady we encountered upon arrival. She was working the metro ticket booth, and we wanted to find out a price for day passes since we were here for 2 days. I stumbled through a conversation with her and we were on our way. Other than that most people when asked if they speak English say yes, although we have had some funny looks…one from a guy when I asked for tap water (that’s what they called it in Ireland)..apparently in Paris it’s “still water”.

This morning we left our apartment around 8 and headed to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur one of the beautiful cathedrals in Paris. It is high up on the hill and we got a great view of the city below. Then we headed to the Opéra national de Paris. This is also known as the Paris Opera House. It’s a beautiful building, built over 14 years and a large amount of money. We took a guided tour and it was well worth the money. Unfortunately while we were there I tripped on a step and rolled my right ankle, which didn’t hurt much at the time but after a day of LOTS of walking it now hurts to walk, but it’s not very swollen at all. I’m praying it is just a small sprain that heals quickly, otherwise it could be an interesting rest of the trip. Here are a few pictures from the Opera house.

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After the opera house we headed to the Louvre and on the way we found some yummy crepes. Here is a picture from outside the Louvre, we didn’t go in, one because they are closed on Tuesdays and two because Dustin and I aren’t really art museum kind of people. 🙂

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After the Louvre we headed to Arc de Triomphe walking along the Champs-Élysées the famous street for shopping! No shopping today, but it was a fun stroll. We did stop for gelato in a park before reaching our destination. Here is the Arc de Triomphe.

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After the Arc we headed to our last stop for the afternoon La Tour Eiffel. Here are a few pictures of this famous spot!

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After La Tour Eiffel we headed back to our apartment to rest. Our feet were burning + my right foot was getting worse. I’ll try to post tomorrow or in an update the map of walking. Sarah and Josh went to the grocery store down the street and got me a bag of frozen “carottes” for my foot and my nurse Sarah wrapped up my foot. I rested it and the boys got pizza’s from the italian pizzeria down the street. They were yummy but Sarah said they will be better in Italy…very excited for that!

Sarah and Josh headed out to a Swing Club for some Swing Dancing. We wish we could have joined then but wasn’t sure if my foot was up for dancing. I rested my foot for another couple hours then Dustin and I took the metro to the stop closest to La Tour Eiffel, we wanted to see it at night, and tomorrow we leave before it gets dark. We thought the metro ran until 1:30 am but we were wrong. We arrived at the station around 1:10 am and the last train departed at 12:48. We were VERY far from our apartment and since all the trains and buses were done for the evening, we had to take a cab. The cab driver was a sweet older gentleman, but he didn’t speak a lick of English. After a few moments and him writing in a notebook responses to me, we were on our way home. Our trip to La Tour Eiffel at night was a little bit more expensive than we had hoped with the cab ride thrown in but it was worth it. Here is a picture Dustin took on his phone.

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It was another fun filled day…time to get some shut eye. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Cliffs of Moher

We were up bright and early today, after a good night’s sleep in Limerick. We had breakfast at 7:30 am. Luckily the man at the hotel desk asked us if we were looking for breakfast. We said yes and he reminded us that today is an Ireland National Bank Holiday and not many places would be open. So we decided just to have breakfast at the hotel. Dustin, Josh, and Sarah had the mini-Irish breakfast which included sausage, bacon, beans, egg sunny side up, & fried tomato. I opted for the scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon. Anyone who knows us, knows I ate Dustin’s beans and he ate my bacon. 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of the Irish bread situation, there are normally just two options, white bread or brown bread. And brown bread is not wheat bread, it’s soda bread which is made of cornmeal and not sure what else, something that makes it brown. 🙂 It’s ok warm but not cold. One morning the cafe had multigrain bread which made me happy!

We headed out to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast. It was beautiful but despite being 50 degrees the wind chill was much colder. Our ears were throbbing. Here a few pictures below.

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Then we drove through the Burren National Park. It is definitely a barren landscape, I’m not sure what to compare it to in the states, it sort of reminds me of part of the west but with stone vs. the red rock. Here are a few pictures.

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Dustin’s Dad raises sheep and the Ireland countryside is full of sheep so here is a picture for Ron.

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Then we headed back to civilization. It was a 3 hour drive back to Dublin from the Burren National Park.

We are about to board our flight to Paris…Here are a few things we learned while we were in Ireland:

Schemes is just their word for plans….there is no negative connotation. Signs for road schemes and water line schemes were along the way.
Cheers = good day, thank you, etc.
Food for “take away” = take out
Black and White Pudding = blood sausage and other sausage (none of us were brave enough to try, our waitress this morning when asked what it was said, ” you really want to know?”
Courgette = Zucchini
yeh ends almost all of their sentences, you want potatoes yeh?
Roads are extremely narrow.
Speed limits are ridiculously fast for type of roads. The Ring of Kerry crazy roads which in the US would have a speed limit of 10-25 mph were labeled 100 kph. Don’t worry we didn’t get past 50 kph. “Traffic calming” =slow down.

Ireland was a beautiful country…not sure if this will be a vacation destination again but it was definitely worth seeing! Flight is boarding to Paris!

Ring of Kerry

Today we headed west to visit one of Ireland’s most frequently visited tourist attractions, the Ring of Kerry. This is a 170 km drive around the Iveragh Peninsula. It was beautiful drive, although it made for a long day since we started in Kinsale and ended in Limerick. See the map below for the day’s drive.

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Our first stop was Kilarney, the town where the scenic drive begins. We had breakfast at “The Street Cafe” which was right across the street from this pharmacy. Our good friend Marc is a pharmacist and his last name is Sweeney….his family name used to be McSweeney further down the family line. So Marc here is a picture of your family pharmacy!

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While at the cafe we found reviews on-line stating the best way to drive around the Ring of Kerry was to start in Killorglin and drive counter-clock wise. This was the direction most people drive including the tour buses. This means you don’t meet a tour bus head on, on the side of a clif. Our first stop was Rossbeigh beach, here is a picture below.

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Then we traveled on to a small town called Caherciveen, home of this barrack. This particular barrack was supposed to be built in India during a time when the British occupied India, but the plans got mixed up and it was built here instead.

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Here are some other views along the way. Including Derrynane beach, one of the finest beaches in Ireland. It is way too cold for any kind of sun bathing. It got up into the low 50’s today. But since I love the beach I put my hand in, while Dustin, Sarah and Josh waiting in the car. They were cold! The ocean and beach refresh my soul, as I mentioned in my Seattle post, the ocean always reminds me of how BIG our God is and how BIG His love for us is. 🙂

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As we rounded out the last part of the drive, which seemed like it might never end we saw the Lakes of Killarney at the National Park and the Torc Waterfall.

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We were exhausted from this day of driving, we stopped back in Killarney for dinner at a bistro. The food was ok, Ireland food tends to be very plain. We waited a long time for our food but quickly consumed it and headed on the road to Limmerick where we stayed for the night. Sarah and I fell asleep in the car before we even got on the road 30 minutes. Not sure how many roundabouts we went through today but it was a large number. Dustin has them mastered at this point!

Tomorrow’s plan..Cliffs of Mohr and Burren National Park, and then head back to Dublin. Our flight to Paris leaves at 6:15 pm on Monday. I am super excited although I do wish I would have had more time to brush up on french before we left. Oh well I can say a few phrases & ask if they speak english!

Kilkenny, Waterford, Kinsale, Ireland

First stop of the day was Kilkenny. There we visited Kilkenny Caste which was completed in the early 1200’s.

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Here is a picture of the streets in Kilkenny.

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In Kilkenny we had breakfast at a small place called Kafe Katz. Dustin ordered the Salmon and Eggs…much to his surprise the salmon was raw shredded on top of the eggs. He was a good sport and still ate it. We don’t normally like many things raw. After breakfast we hit the road again.

Our next stop was Waterford, Ireland, home of Waterford Crystal. Located here in Waterford is their headquarters and prestige factory. We took the factory tour and learned how they make the crystal, it’s a pretty long process which is done completely by hand. No wonder it’s so expensive! We saw the “just in case” versions of the Superbowl trophy and many other trophies and beautiful vases. This first picture is an example of a mold the hot ball of crystal is placed into.

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The next few pictures show the process of blowing and then the design is carved into the crystal.

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This mirror is lined with beautiful crystal…this was one of my favorite pieces but not something I could ever afford nor would want to pay that much for!20120505-220605.jpg

We grabbed lunch in Dungarvan at a cafe. Ireland has so many town home buildings all with different color doors. It’s fun to see all the bright colors against the stone buildings.

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If you don’t already know….Dustin is a HUGE fan of Apple Inc, and their European headquarters is located in Cork, ireland, which happened to be on our way (sort-of). It did cause us to have to drive up hill & a very very very narrow street, where cars were coming the other direction and bikers in our way. But we made it and here is Dustin next to his favorite logo.

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Near Cork is the famous Blarney Stone and Castle. We thought we could get a glimpse of the castle without paying, but it turns out they charged 12 EUR to get in the gate and you couldnt see it from the outside. Since we have lot of days left on this trip and didn’t really want to kiss a stone that 1 million other people have kissed, we decided not to go in. As we were driving away we were able to get a few glimpses from the backside of the property.

We then headed to our stop for the night in Kinsale, Ireland. The countryside today was very beautiful and the Kinsale area was no exception. Our hotel is just up the hill from town and this is the beautiful view from the backside.

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There are a lot of people here this weekend, apparently it’s their biggest weekend of the year. There is a big rugby tournament going on. Rugby players and spectators are everyone. We headed downtown to find fish for dinner…they are known for their seafood here. Dustin and I split the Crab Rissota and Yellow Fin Tuna. Both were excellent! We were hoping to find an Irish band to watch but they didn’t play until much later in the evening.

All of these towns were very quaint each with restaurants, and shops. There were not many big stores, they were smaller specializing in one type of product. It made us feel like we had stepped back in time, it was fun!

That’s all for today…getting rested up for tomorrow’s big day of driving. We are headed to the Ring of Kerry which is supposed to be beautiful. The sun is supposed to be out tomorrow too which is a plus!

Dublin, Ireland

Hello Friends and Family!

We made it to Ireland this morning, arriving at 8:45 am local time, 3:45 am EST. We did get a few hours of sleep on the plane and for the most part it was smooth sailing on our journey from the states.

Today we explored Dublin before heading out to the countryside tomorrow. It was a tiring day, as I type this Dustin, Josh, and Sarah are already fast asleep despite the fact the sun hasn’t gone down yet. For some reason I’m not quite as tired. One reason they might be more tired than me is they put a little more effort into helping out our sticky situation.

Flat Tire (hours in Ireland = 1.5)

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We were graciously given a free upgrade to a slightly larger car…which is nice for all 4 adults plus luggage. Dustin is doing a great job with the left side of the road driving and using the manual in all the city traffic. Unfortunately the garage we were parked in briefly for breakfast was being remodeled and they were having the traffic come in and out the same direction. They had workers directing traffic, and the turn to go back up the entrance was quite narrow. Our left front tire hit the curb (passenger side here) and went flat.

Sarah, Dustin, and Josh did a great job changing it! I never knew Sarah had changed a tire before.

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I was the photographer…because well we all were laughing and thought, well at least it’s a funny story to tell so we must have pictures! It was a blessing we had a space in the garage to change the flat, and were not on a busy street. Josh snapped a picture of me with my mocha latte cheering them on.

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We went about our day in downtown Dublin, first visiting the Guinness Brewery. Here is a picture of Josh and Sarah outside the gate.

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There were lots of pharmacies downtown, so of course I had to get a picture!

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Then we walked around downtown and taking pictures of the beautiful churches. Here are a few. We visited St. Augustine and St. John Catholic Church, which was free to go inside, then we walked to the Dublin Castle and went into the cathedral there, as well as walked by St. Patrick’s Cathedral the largest cathedral in Ireland. Here are a few pictures from the afternoon!

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The churches were all beautiful inside and out…but it made me a little bit sad too. So much money and time was put into these buildings that now function mostly as tourist attractions (some do have mass still). But I think it was a good reminder for us that the church is not a building or fancy walls… we are the church, the body of Christ. We need to spend our resources building the church through discipleship and ministry, through the people.

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“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

After walking for what seemed like a long time, we got a snack on the way back to the car. 2 for 2.50 EUR Apple Pastries…YUMM! 1 for the Hartzlers, 1 for the Rodewalds.

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We decided it would be a good idea to head back to the rental car company by the airport and see if they wanted to give us a new car just a new spare tire before we headed out of Dublin tomorrow. Well despite having very expensive FULL coverage insurance, the only 2 exclusions were tires & if you break a GPS unit. So we could have Budget fix it for 160 EUR at least or we could try to have it fixed ourselves. We then headed to the hotel and on the way, we saw a “tyre” shop. Praise Jesus for providing this man. He normally was already closed but he got us a brand new tire and took the spare off and put the new tire on for 70 EUR. We saved more than half. His shop was really already closed, but he was very kind to stay opened. We were very thankful God put him on our path today.

At this point we had been in rush hour traffic back from the airport to our hotel for at least an hour before stopping to fix the tire. We all were very hungry and Dustin’s brain was hurting from all the driving. We found a great pub near our hotel and had dinner. I had chicken with veg and potato & leek soup. The veg was cabbage and turnips. I don’t think i’ve had a turnip before, but they were good.

I think that is about it…we are planning to check out the cities of Kilkenny, Cork, and Waterford on our way to Kinsale tomorrow. Hoping for no more flat tires for this trip. 🙂

Excited to get 8 hours of sleep tonight!

~Melody