West Coast Ireland

Road trip time!  One of our favourite all time trips was our road trip around Northern Scotland with the Ives a few years ago.  We love the open road, fresh air and scenery that trip brought us, so we’re always looking for similar type trips to take.  We decided to do the Western Coast of Ireland.  This was a much quicker trip, as we only did 3 days and 2 nights.  We packed a lot in!

Dan and I landed in Knock where we picked up our rental car and started our journey heading south down the western coast.  Our first stop was the small city of Westport.  We originally had planned to cycle a beautiful greenway path for a few hours, however when we arrived it was pouring down rain.  So we grabbed lunch at a pub and did a bit of shopping instead 🙂

Another hour or so drive later, we arrived at Kylemore Abbey.  It’s a stunning castle that was originally a private home for a wealthy English doctor, however is most well known as a monastery for Benedictine Nuns whom fled Belgium in WW1.  It was a school for a long time, however now it is just a tourist attraction (and there are some nuns that still live there).

We then made our way over to Galway where we would be staying the night.  The town is quite cute, reminded me of a mini Dublin.  The streets are filled with performers and you don’t have to go more than 10 steps to find a cosy pub and a pint of Guinness.

The next morning we drove over to the Cliffs of Moher.  We planned this so we would arrive just after sunrise, to catch the beautiful morning sun.  It was perfect, and one of the most beautiful sights.  The sky was warm with pinks, oranges and yellows against the sweeping cliffs set along the water.  The air was crisp and it felt so good to breathe in the beauty of God’s creation.

img_0080

The best part about our trip was that after the Cliffs of Moher, we were to drive to the Shannon airport where we picked up the Phelps to join us on the rest of our trip!

Immediately we drove over to Ballybunion, where the Bromore Cliffs are.  Again, it was such a spectacular sight, as the cliffs edges sit at such a stark contrast to the smooth farm land on one side and the wild sea at the other.  Although it was quite cold and windy, the sun was shining and the skies were the most beautiful blue.

2066cc9a-297e-4ad9-a719-5d0c40ba0e73

Our resting spot for that night was in an adorable little town called Dingle.  We first checked out the Dingle Distillery, where they distill vodka, gin and whiskey.  We did a tour and a little tasting before checking into our B&B, the Ballintaggart House.  We LOVED this B&B and would highly recommend to anyone visiting the Dingle area. The host was lovely and the “house” and rooms were adorable.  And the breakfast the next morning was to die for!  That evening we explored Dingle, feasted on some local grub and enjoyed the nightlife.  It’s a really cute town and we all agreed we wished we had a bit more time there as it was our favourite spot of the trip.

Early the next morning we checked out of the B&B and drove the Dingle Peninsula loop; stopping along the way to enjoy more dramatic coastline views and funny little tourist sites.

We made our way further south, into Killarney, where we visited the Killarney National Park and took a long walk in the beautiful fresh outdoors.  The weather was perfect that day, crisp air, sunshine and blue skies.  After our long walk, we fueled back up at a pub lunch and continued on our way to Cork.  Our initial plan was to go to the famous Blarney Castle to kiss the stone, however the drive took a bit longer than expected and we ended up arriving just as they closed for the day.  Quite unfortunate!  But, probably for the best, as we had to rush to the Cork Airport to fly back to London.

It was a super quick trip, but we managed to see a lot and squeeze a lot in.  We love travelling with the Phelps and are so happy they were able to join us for a bit of the trip. I definitely would recommend this trip to others wanting to visit Ireland.  You can easily do it in the time we did, but you can also go at a bit slower pace and spend a few more days.

Venice, Italy

Last week I was SUPER lucky to have one of my friends come visit us in London.  Courtney and I went to university together and met each other on the women’s hockey team.  We instantly became friends and she’s been by my side ever since.  She even stood up next to me on our wedding day as one of my bridesmaids.  Just before we moved to London, she started dating her boyfriend, Dan.  As we were leaving, I never had the chance to meet him – so when they arrived in London it was our first chance to meet.  And it was hard to believe by the end of the week we had just met – we loved Dan – I mean it doesn’t hurt that his name is also Dan ;)! The four of us had such a wonderful time together.

They arrived Saturday morning and without skipping a beat, we took off for a quick tour of some of the London sights.  We started with a walk through Hyde Park to see Kensington Palace.  After a quick pub lunch nearby, we made our way up to Notting Hill to stroll through Portobello Market.  It’s so easy to forget about these incredible streets and markets when we’re busy living our fast paced London life, so it’s extra special to go back and visit these places with friends and see the excitement on their faces when seeing it for the first time.

That evening we met up with the Ives and Phelps for a night of darts.  Flight Club is easily one of our favourite group hang out spots.  The atmosphere is so much fun!  After a few hours of hitting the bullseye, we made our way over to a speakeasy for some cocktails and live music.  Again, I just love having our US friends in town to visit.  Dan and I love London so much, and it’s so amazing to show our friends the city we’ve made our home.

 

Sunday was a full day of sightseeing.  We started with brunch at Dishoom before making our way across the city.

 

On Monday,  Dan  and I had to go to work for the week while Courtney and Dan made their way over to Paris then Munich.  Courtney’s brother and family live in the Munich area so they were able to spend some quality family time!

Friday night we all met back up in Venice! We had the cutest Airbnb! It had a fab terrace where we enjoyed many, many pizza’s and vino!  We were so lucky to have stumbled upon an uhh-mazing pizza shop just near our apartment on the first night.  We ended up visiting them every day (I think maybe even twice in one day?).

All day Saturday was spent sight seeing.  We quickly checked off all of the main tourist sites in the area.  These areas were SO busy with people, so we wanted to make sure we saw them and then were able to spend the rest of our time enjoying the quieter spots of Venice.

Snapseed(7)

 

Saturday evening was probably the best part of our trip.  Our apartment’s concierge service connected us with a local boat owner/guide (Marco) for a sunset cruise around the islands and canals.   Marco was incredible!  The five of us quickly became friends as we cruised around enjoying local prosecco and snacks.  The gondola’s on the main canals in Venice are SO expensive and touristy.  Again, it was nice being able to enjoy the quieter side of Venice and he even took us out to Burano which is one of the most colourful islands in the area!  The three hours with Marco flew by, and we all struggled to say goodbye and not book him again for the next evening!  I would HIGHLY recommend going with Boat Skipper Marco if you’re planning a visit to Venice in the future!

Sunday was spent meandering around and enjoying all of the hidden gems Venice has to offer.  All of the bridges, canals, boats, cute buildings make it so easy to just walk for hours.  And not to mention all of the homemade pasta shops and gelaterias! I also can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning Bellini’s!  Venice is the home to the Bellini!  Prosecco and fresh peach juice – how can  you go wrong?  We made many pit stops along the way to enjoy fresh Bellini’s and spritz’ throughout the weekend!

 

 

 

We flew back to London early Monday morning for one last day of exploring and spending time together.  After a bike ride through the city, we ended up at Louis Vuitton where Courtney and I decided to celebrate our friendship with matching handbags 🙂  We had so much fun picking them out then flaunting them around the streets.

 

On our last evening together, we went to one of our favourite food markets, Mercato Metropolitano, for dinner before capping our trip off with drinks at the top of the Shard.  We had such a great time with Courtney and Dan!  The hardest thing about living abroad is not being close to friends and family.  And it’s even harder to say goodbye after such a special week together.  But…we’re already trying to plan our next trip together!

 

Skiing in Chamonix, France [Chalet Bibendum]

Woo hoo! It’s ski season!  And we live in Europe – so we get to ski the Alps!  The first taste we had of skiing the Alps over two years ago in Innsbruck got us hooked! I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months now.  We rallied together a group of 8 of our friends, rented the most INCREDIBLE chalet and headed off to Chamonix for a long weekend of shredding!

Let’s first talk about our Chalet.  This was by far the best AirBNB I’ve EVER had.  It was unbelievable!  It was beyond perfect for the 10 of us, as it had 5 beds all with their own ensuite.  The centre of the chalet featured a stunning fireplace, the peaked trusses made the perfect frames for large windows highlighting the French Alps, and I can’t forget the massive chef’s kitchen, which was a total vision board in reality.  The host had a total eye for style as everything flowed together perfectly…from the funky, Moroccan lamps and rugs to the modern copper bath tubs. Not to mention, it was right in the middle of the Chamonix Valley, so all of the skiing areas were a quick 5-10 minute car ride away.  Oh and while I’m mentioning a car ride…I feel I should share a photo of this beautiful beast that transported all TEN of us for the weekend!  Dan was an incredible bus driver for all of us…this thing was hilarious, but totally perfect for the occasion!  🙂

*Links to Chalet so you can book your own dreamy holiday: Chalet Bibendum & Chalet Bibendum AirBNB

For our first day of skiing, we visited Le Tour.  Everyone was at very different skiing level’s, so we tried to all stick together, but inevitably, we ended up splitting into a few smaller groups.  Conditions weren’t the best as the clouds were very low and there was a lot of snow so it was difficult to see about 5 feet in front of you sometimes.  But we were skiing…in the Alps!  So can’t complain!  One of my friends recommended taking one of the very long red runs down the back of the mountain that ends down at an adorable little ski village, Valorcine.  Although this run wasn’t very fast or difficult, it ended up being one of my favourites because of how beautiful it was!

That evening we were all exhausted from a full day on the slopes.  I cooked a big family style spaghetti Bolognese.  Erin decorated the table beautifully, and we all sat around the massive table stuffing our faces and enjoying the family-like atmosphere.

For our second full day of skiing, we went to Brevant/Flegere.  The conditions were a bit better that day, but this area was definitely much easier than Le Tour.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0541.JPG

Snapseed

 

That evening, we went into Chamonix for drinks and dinner.  We found this really cool self-serve beer bar and then a pizza restaurant, where again, we stuffed our faces.  It’s amazing how hungry skiing makes you! The actual village was adorable too.  I wish we had a bit more time to explore the area (particularly the shops!)

On Monday, we had a half day before we had to go back to the airport.  Dan and Kent went off skiing on their own, while the rest of us stayed back and relaxed/packed up.  The two of them took Grand Montes by a storm and shredded hard for those 3 precious hours.  They said it ended up being some of the absolute best powder skiing conditions either of them have ever had!

It was an incredible weekend with a fantastic group of friends!  Can’t wait to get back on the slopes again!

Australia [Cairns & Sydney]

After the most incredible week in New Zealand, the 2nd (and 3rd!) part of our Christmas trip begun. We began in the northern Australian city of Cairns. We chose this area as it was easily accessible to the Great Barrier Reef, it was known for its great beaches and it has a rainforest!

Kicking this part off with a bang, our first stop was the Great Barrier Reef! We did a full day tour with Passions. We chose them because they were one of the smaller tour companies, and their boat is a brand new catamaran! The trip out to the reef was about two hours, which to be honest, surprised both me and Dan! But let me tell you…it was WELL WORTH the long trip out there! As we were on a smaller boat and we lucked out with the weather/wind conditions we were able to visit some of the best reef spots in this area!

We were both blown away with the amount and variety of fish we saw. The schools’ of fish were massive! From teeny tiny fish swimming in schools of thousands, to massive parrot fish swimming together in groups of ten or twenty. I will let our GoPro videos speak for themselves – there really are no good words that I can use to describe the Great Barrier Reef. It’s something that you just have to experience for yourselves!
Oh! And we saw some sharks too! They’re just reef sharks, so they aren’t too threatening. The white tip ones are completely non-aggressive, but the black tip sharks can become aggressive if threatened. They were fun to swim around and watch.
We were able to spend about 3 total hours in the water snorkeling, which was perfect. I mean, mermaid Kirsten could have spent ALL day in there, but they forced me out J It was a magical day, we are so happy we were able to see the GBR. I will say, the colour of the corals were not at all what we expected, as they were a bit more muted than coral we have seen at other snorkeling spots (ie Zanzibar), but the fish and the vastness of the reef here were definitely one of a kind!

DSC07565 (2) 

It was really hard to believe that the next day was CHRISTMAS DAY! It was a totally bizarre feeling as it was our first time not having a white Christmas! I mean, technically we had a white sandy beach, so I guess that counts! We spent the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and floating in our hotel pool. We found out that a lot of people from other parts of Australia come up to Cairns for holiday. We made some friends from the Outback that were there for Christmas weekend. We learned from them that the traditional meal for Christmas is barbequing meats and having an outdoor family-style picnic. They were so fun and let us enjoy some of the local fruits and snacks with them! That evening, we wanted to partake in this tradition, so we used the hotels’ awesome barbeque area and put some steak and shrimp on the Barbie!

We spent the next day exploring the Daintree Rainforest. We took a really cool glass bottom gondola ride over the canopy of the rainforest. The gondola offered a few stop off points along the way before ending at a little village in the middle of the rainforest. There, we visited a koala park where I was able to snuggle the cutest little koala bear! He (Charlie) was so sleepy, cuddly and soft! I had the hardest time giving him back to the handler!
After a full day in the rainforest, the last part of the day was the scenic railway back to our starting point. The train is a 2 hour journey through the rainforest over and through impressive bridges and tunnels. It was a stunning ride, and was nice that all of the carriages were open air.

 IMG_1080

On our last full day in the north, we spent the whole day relaxing. Both Dan and I aren’t ones to go on long beach vacations, and even if we go somewhere tropical, we tend to fill our time with activities rather than lay around and relax. But we decided we could use a little relaxation, so we enjoyed the incredibly hot tropical weather with our floaties in the ocean and the pool! We topped off our trip with a great meal at a beach bar.

We LOVED Cairns, particularly the Palm Cove area. We felt like we were in the coolest, hip local village. Everyone was so friendly! It was really hard to leave, but we left feeling relaxed, tanned and ready for a NYE celebration! We took a super early 6am flight down to Sydney to start the last leg of our trip!


This part of the trip was super special because we joined up with our friends from London the Phelps! They spent a week in Fiji before joining us in Sydney! We rented a really cool AirBNB flat in the Surrey Hills area. We didn’t know it when we booked, but that area is super trendy and filled with some of the best restaurants in Sydney!

Dan and I spent the first day relaxing at our AirBNB and jogging down to one of the marinas while we waitied for the Phelps to arrive that evening.

IMG_1876

The next day we did the famous Congee to Bondi walk!  It’s a stunning path that follows the stunning coastline for about 6.5 km.  There are beautiful beaches and swimming spots along the way to stop and enjoy.  We started first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, and are so glad we did because by the time we got to Bondi – it was PACKED! We stopped twice along the way to swim (we even saw some sting rays!) and ended in Bondi for lunch at a beachside restaurant where we enjoyed fish & chips!

In the evening we went to another lovely pizza dinner.  We did so good with restaurants in Sydney! Not a single meal disappointed!  As our AirBNB had an awesome outdoor deck on the 2nd floor, every night after dinner we found ourselves hanging out playing games enjoying the weather!

Our next full day was spent doing our own version of a city walking tour. We hit up the typical spots:  Sydney Harbor bridge, botanical gardens, the Opera House and walked many of the streets in and around the area.

IMG_1241

The next day was our last full day in Sydney – an it was New Years Eve!  We had our big NYE celebration in the evening, so for the day we decided to relax and take the ferry over to Manly Beach to hang out for the day.  The ferry ride was so pretty – I can see why people use it to commute daily!  What a way to get to work!

While Gina, Charles and I spent the day relaxing on the beach…Dan hit the waves for some surfing!  It was quite busy, and the waves were pretty small – but he spent the better part of a few hours *trying* to ride the waves 🙂

So that night was the big one! Although not the main reason we came to Sydney…but one of the big ones! NEW YEARS EVE!!! We ended up going to an island party at Shark Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. There was a ferry that took everyone out to the island, then we had the whole island to make a picnic spot and enjoy the evening. Dan was incredible and sprinted off the boat and went to what we think was the ABSOLUTE BEST spot on the island to secure out spot for the night. We had the most perfect view of the bridge where the fireworks are set off from! We set up our little picnic spot with all of the goodies that we brought with us and enjoyed a few hours of eating and games before the first round of fireworks went off. They do two sets, one at 9:00 for kids then the big show at midnight. I had pretty high expectations for the fireworks…and they still completely rocked my socks off! They did such a fantastic job. It was so uhh-mazing! If we were ever to go again, I can say we did NYE perfectly. From our spot on the island, the ability to bring our own picnic, the perfect weather, the friends we were with, to the unbelievable fireworks show – all perfection!

DSC07687

Australia was so much fun.  We already know we want to go back someday and explore the incredible continent further.  There is so much more there that we didn’t see, but what we did was amazing.  It was so fun to be able to experience Sydney with the Phelps too!  They were so fun to travel with and we can’t wait to do more together!  Not sure if we’ll ever be able to top this Christmas and NYE!

Detroit does Dubrovnik

Last week Dan and I were so lucky to have FOUR of our Detroit friends come visit us in London.  Sara and Kelli had come last year on the girls trip, but Bill and Jon (Konicki) hadn’t been over yet.  We haven’t seen each other since June of last year when we went back to Michigan!  So this visit was well overdue! And…the best news from the whole trip was finding out Bill and Kelli are having a BABY!!! 

We kicked the trip off with an amazing evening out in London Friday night.  We went to one of my favourite Indian restaurants, Dishoom, for dinner, followed by darts at The Flight Club then drinks at our favourite speakeasy, Nightjar!  It was the perfect intro to London!

The next day (Saturday) we had planned a London pub crawl.  I decided it would be fun to do a golf theme, so I designed a 9 hole “golf course” around Soho.  Each pub/bar was a hole with a different challenge!  It was a load of fun – and Konicki kicked all of our butts.

20170429_163849

Sunday was a chill day.  We went to the Harwood Arms for Sunday roast.  Harwood Arms has been voted the best Sunday roast in London many times.  We’ve been really excited to try it.  Presentation was fantastic, however the actual meal was a bit of a let down.  The meat was great, but the rest of the meal wasn’t anything spectacular.  Also, the pricing was super misleading, so when our bill came, we were a bit upset.  We spent the rest of the day checking out the Tower of London and St. Paul’s before getting some shopping done.

IMG-20170513-WA0014

St. Pauls

On Monday we got up SUPER early (meaning we left our flat at 4am) for our flight to DUBROVNIK!  We got so lucky with the weather for the week we were there.  We went in the shoulder season, so it was a toss up as to if it would be warm enough.  But it ended up being perfection!  75 and sunny the whole time!

We spent the week exploring the old town, walking the walls (incredible!), jumping cliffs, swimming in the sea, boating, eating incredible food and drinking fantastic cocktails and wine.


On our first day, we laid low and hung out at our villa.  Our villa was amazing!  It had incredible views of the sea and mountains, beautiful finishings, two outdoor seating areas, an outdoor bbq and our own private pool!  After our 6am flight, poolside naps were in order.  Then we went to dinner at a seaside restaurant in Old Town.  The restaurant had INCREDIBLE views and the service was great.  But it ended up being super expensive, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else visiting.

Dinner Views!

The next day was our exploring day.  We kicked it off with some cliff jumping into the sea!  Then we walked the walls of the city for a few hours.  Dubrovnik is really beautiful!  The old town is fully enclosed with walls.  Behind the Great Wall of China, it is the 2nd longest wall in the world.  The views from the wall are breathtaking!  After walking the walls, we went to the famous Buza bar for some more cliff jumping!

DSC05414

DSC05460

The following day we went spent the day at the beach relaxing.  It was a bit of a surprise when we arrived at the beach and it ended up being a rock beach.  So that was a bit of a let down, but it was still super beautiful and relaxing.  We enjoyed some great frozen beach cocktails! That evening we dressed up and went cocktail/appetizer hopping around town!

On our last full day in Dubrovnik, we hired a boat with a skipper for the day.  I can’t thank and recommend Dubrovnik Boat Rent enough for our perfect day.  Our skipper, Antonio, was amazing!  We had the boat for the whole day and were able to just tell him where we wanted to go and for how long we wanted to stay! We cruised all around the islands off the coast with stops for swimming, cave exploring, lunch, and ice cream.  The boat was so beautiful and perfect for the 6 of us.  And we had our favourite meal of the trip at one of the islands.  The grilled fish and octopus were out of this world delicious!!!!

DSC05584

Our boat trip was the perfect end to an already amazing holiday.  I couldn’t stop smiling the whole day because everything was so fun and beautiful.


When we arrived back in London, it was their last night visiting.  We all dressed up and went out to dinner at Sushi Samba and a walk to Big Ben for one last hurrah together.

It was so hard saying goodbye to the four of them.  Dan and I have made great friends over here in London, but there’s something so special about having friends from “home” come spend time with us.  The week was absolute perfection.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to travel with.  Unforgettable week!