Most Recent Adventures 

And a few more oldies but goodies....


Ireland seemed like the perfect adventure for the month of March.  I've always wanted to see the place where some of my ancestors came from and the Mr. has always wanted to see the place where the number one tourist attraction is a beer distillery.  Throw in the universally celebrated holiday of Saint Patrick's Day and a place where people speak English, and it sounded like we had all the ingredients for a perfect trip.  So we hoped.

The coast of Ireland.

The Ha' Penny bridge and Dublin city center.
We decided to spend a long weekend in Dublin and visit some of the coastal area surrounding the city.  After a quick Aer Lingus flight from CDG (including a special piece of St. Patrick's Day chocolate) we were in the middle of downtown Dublin watching the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  I thought St. Patrick's Day would be a great introduction to Irish Culture, but in reality I think we saw more American study abroad students and off duty flight attendants than local Irishmen looking for a reason to celebrate.  Nevertheless, we had a great day and joined the celebration.

Catching a glimpse of the parade.
If you know me at all, you will believe me when I say you looked sillier not wearing St. Patrick's Day gear than just joining the crowd.
The next day we hit the road with Tours Unplugged, and a microphoned bus driver who perhaps missed his calling as a zealot preacher, and set off for the Irish countryside.  We had gorgeous weather and the city was a mess from the St. Patrick's Day celebrations from the day before.  It couldn't be a more perfect day for a trip to the country.

Newgrange passage tomb.

Entrance to the tomb.

Our first stop was Newgrange.  A Neolithic passage grave that is 500 years older than the pyramids in Egypt (the Mr. loves anything classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site).  It was quite fascinating to see something that old and it was just enjoyable to be out in the Irish countryside soaking in the sun.  And then the story starts to deteriorate.....

The Mr. couldn't be happier. A pub in the middle of no where, a burning fire and a pint of Harp. 
After Newgrange, the old bus driver decided to stop for lunch at a pub in the middle of no where.  There were approximately 5 items on the menu and approximately 0 other people in the "restaurant."  I chose what I thought was the safest option since I didn't know when we would stop again.  Bad decision.  You know where this is going....

Luckily, the food poisoning didn't kick in until early the next morning, so blissfully unaware I got to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and one more night back in Dublin.  After lunch, we made our way to Howth, a picturesque fishing village on Ireland's coast.  (If we ever make it back to Ireland, we will definitely stay here instead of Dublin.  It has a small town/local feel to it and is only 15 minutes away from the city center by high speed train.  Not to mention it is covered in seafood restaurants and wine bars.  I definitely recommend checking it out if you are ever in Dublin!)

The Brazen Head. The oldest pub in Dublin.

We enjoyed our last night in Dublin with me among the healthy.  We had a great time exploring the old Temple Bar area filled with ancient pubs and new chic restaurants.  I absolutely loved all of the live Irish music.  We had so much fun just listening to this band featuring several different wind instruments and watching the old Irishmen tear up the dance floor.  Unfortunately, the food poisoning cut my trip short and I what I thought was going to be a Saturday and Sunday exploring Dublin and doing some ancestral research ended up being two days in bed.  But as the French say, c'est la vie.  The good news in it all is that now we just have a reason to go back.   


Morocco is a beautiful country with African and Arabic cultures all rolled into one and since it was a French protectorate until the 1950's, a lot of French influence also remains.  After wondering the passages of carnival-esque Marrakech we took a train to the nation's capital, Rabat and ended the trip with a few days in medieval Fez.  We enjoyed fabulous food, treasure hunting (while sharpening our bargaining skills) and learned a lot about their culture. With that said, Morocco is still a third world country wrapped with poverty.  That, along with the civil unrest in North Africa, made us a little weary throughout the trip.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing a new part of the world and learning about a new culture.    

Wondering the streets of the Souks in Marrakech

Riad courtyard in Marrakech

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the places we stayed.  A traditional home in Morocco is called a "Riad" or  "Dar."  All of the places we stayed were Dars or Riads converted into B&B's.  Traditional Riads and Dars have a courtyard with citrus trees and an open roof with rooms surrounding the interior.  This is a picture of Dar Sisila, our Dar in Marrakech.  It is run by a fantastic Frenchmen from Bordeaux who moved to Marrakech 10 years ago. 

Dar Sisila
The taxi dropped us off outside the Medina (old part of the city) and a guide led us through the labyrinth of narrow passageways to the Dar.  A quiet oasis in the middle of chaotic Marrakech.

Oldest Koranic school in Morocco
We had a guide take us through the Souks of Marrakech.  He led us through the bustling souks and gave us some history of the city, including our first stop at the oldest Koranic school in Morocco.  The architecture is truly incredible.

Roman style columns with traditional Moroccan woodwork detail above.
Before I knew it, this guy had wrapped my head up in a scarf.

Traditional Moroccan salad.  Various plates of cooked vegetables, olives, and dates.

Traditional digestif - mint tea

And lots of citrus.
Badia Palace. Beautiful view of the Atlas Mountains.

Train ride from Marrakech to Rabat.  Rif Mountains.
We finally arrived at the beautiful Dar Roumana in Fez. 
The architectural detail is truly stunning. 
 Open rooftop. 

The door to our room, twenty feet tall at least!
And then there was the roof with views of the entire city and surrounding mountains. Truly breathtaking.

Great place to relax with a glass of wine after a long chaotic day in the souks.

Medina in Fez

We enjoyed a fantastic Mediterranean dinner at Dar Roumana on our last night in Fez. It was a nice change of pace from traditional Moroccan cuisine.  
 Last night by the fire before an early morning flight. 

Trip Across Europe
The Mr. and I took a trip across Europe in August 2010.  We started in Provence and ended in Germany. On our second night in Provence, the Mr. popped the question!  Newly engaged, we began our journey through the South of France, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany.  Here a few of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Courtyard of Horel D'Arlaton in Arles, Provence

Adore this fountain!

The window where the proposal took place.

After the proposal it was off to the Coast.  St. Jean Cap-Ferrat.  A short cab ride away from Nice.  Heaven!  

Getting adventuresome on our hike.
View from Paloma Beach

Stop in Monte Carlo on the way the Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre - Vernaza. A small village on the Northern Italian coast. The Mr.'s favorite stop on the trip. Best pesto ever!!

Someone REALLY loves gelato.

What a bad influence will do to a girl!!

On to Florence. View from the rooftop bar at our hostel. Not bad!

Siena. A quick stop on our way to Tuscay. I fell in love and am dying to go back!! Favorite place in Italy after Rome.

View from the castle window.

Castello di Meleto, Tuscany

Soaking in the Tuscan sun

Rome. My favorite city in Itayl. Fantastico!

Loving the Colosseum

Touring the Vatican

HEAVEN. Truffe pasta.  I've come a long way from my Kraft mac and cheese days. Mom and Dad, I know you are proud! Fabulous restaurant on a little side street in Rome. 

Amalfi Coast, Positano.  Not a great stop if your bank account is limited in any way.  Imagine climbing from the bottom of this picture to the top... with a suitcase.  In the summer time. In flip flops. I could go on....

View from the water.

Great dinner in Positano.

The obligatory waterway shot in Venice.

Festival in Budapest. Great day.

Sausage fried in oil. How can you go wrong?

Finally gave in to Starbucks.... Prague is not known for their coffee anyway... 

Wine bar on the way down from the Old Castle in Prague. Great spot. They grow the grapes right there on the side of the mountain!

Old bridge in Prague.

Final stop - Munich.  Augustine Keller. Great beer hall. We stopped in here after eating dinner at Vapiano across the street (our old haunt in Arlington, VA). 

Short break from Mike's Bike Tours. Great company that does bike tours in Munich, complete with a stop at the Chinese beer garden.  What's not to love? 

And so comes the end to a fabulous trip across Europe.  After lots of trains (at least 15) and stairs (at least a million) and expensive museums and sketchy overnight trains (wtf Eastern Europe, join the 21st century) and not-free water and a weak dollar and aching feet and no hair dryer and tourist traps (menus in three languages should be a dead give away) and crazy Italian bed and breakfast owners (Guiliano, good luck buddy) and stomach aches for three weeks straight (Prilosec is overrated) and mind blowing architecture and magnificent landscapes and divine cathedrals and amazing upgrades in hotels (it's awesome- if you haven't booked through jetsetter, do it for your next trip) and out of this world pasta and old world wine and strangers that chase you down to give you your camera after you leave it behind and seafood straight off the boat and 70 degree weather in Italy... in August... and laying on a float in the Mediterranean and countless flavors of gelato and ancient winding cobblestone streets and red clay roofs and a "craftsmen festival" in the 21st century and fireworks over the old bridge in Budapest and unforgettable memories to kick off a new life together.....

We asked ourselves, was it worth it?? What do you think.