Two of the Best Things in Ireland in One Day

Those two things would be:

  • breathtaking views
  • brown bread

Megan and I are obsessed with both here in Ireland, and lucky for us, we got to experience a good bit of both two weeks ago (I’m SO BEHIND) when we went to Connemara in County Galway!

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find the sheep!

Our day started at 7am, which is mighty early for this night owl. I ate some overnight oats (my go-to early morning breakfast— it’s already made for you!) before we walked 50 minutes to city centre to catch our bus to Galway in the dark hours of the morning. We got to watch the sun rise on the bus ride!

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I also slept and read some Harry Potter on the bus ride to Galway, where we transferred to our tour bus with Lally Tours. Our tour guide was an older man who said “ye” a lot, and I couldn’t help but think that he sounded like a narrator for some 1950s Irish documentary. Not that I’ve ever watched a 1950s Irish documentary, but I can imagine.

The tour was very low key with lots of photo stops, some stories, and a lot of good ol’ Irish music. The scenery really is the main attraction of Connemara, because there isn’t much else going on in the quaint and rural area. But these views are worth it.

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We stopped in a little town centre for a lunch break with a view. I had packed some sundried tomato pasta leftovers from the dorm for the trip.

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You could argue that it all starts looking the same, which is kind of true, but that doesn’t mean it all isn’t beautiful and wonderfully serene. This is wordless chicken noodle soup for the soul.

The longest pit stop of the day was at Kylemore Abbey, an abbey run by Benedictine nuns. It used to be a school for girls as well, but now it’s just open to visitors and obviously, the nuns do their thing there.

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I’d be a nun here

They had this beautiful Victorian walled garden that was growing, like, 10 different kinds of kale.

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PLUS there was so much space to run around in nature…

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…and climb trees!!

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living her best life

There’s also a sense of danger and mystery too, which is necessary to keep things interesting for the inhabitants, ya know?

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Or perhaps the bull is a lie and they just don’t want you adulterating this beauty.

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There was a tea house at the garden, and Megan and I were set on getting dessert there (obviously). After asking the boy working at the counter what he recommended, I decided on the [WARM] homemade apple pie with custard on top.

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The crust was perfect, and you know that’s what really matters.

(side note: love that you can pray, eat, move, and groove on this estate. just sayin’.)

After our afternoon sweets, we walked back over to Kylemore Abbey itself to tour around a bit.

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The abbey itself is nice, but it’s not AMAZING. I feel so overprivileged saying that, but the God-made views surrounding the abbey were honestly a lot more stunning than the building. I still enjoyed visiting the building though! Unfortunately, we were not able to make it to the Gothic cathedral down the path because we had to return to our bus.

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you can see the top of the Gothic cathedral at the very righthand side of the photo if you look closely

On the bus ride back to Galway, I completely knocked out. I guess I should mention the fact that I took motion sickness meds for the bus earlier that day, so that could have been the culprit. I forced myself to wake up and get off the bus for more views though.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, and our tour guide was grandfatherly and adorable. When we got back to Galway and got off the bus, I told him, “I had a Euro to tip you but I dropped it somewhere on this bus…so I hope you find it! Thank you!”

He seemed to appreciate the sentiment. I promise I tried my best to look for the Euro coin.

Megan and I decided that we should have dinner in Galway before we bussed back to Dublin, since it would be past 9 by the time we got back. An Pucan looked like a good restaurant, so we popped into there.

Guys, dinner was DELICIOUS. I’ve discussed our love of brown bread here before (we discovered our love for it in Galway actually!), and we hadn’t had some good brown bread in a while. The appetizer brown bread on An Pucan’s menu looked too good to pass up, so we went for it.

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This was probably the best brown bread I’ve had so far, mostly because it was so hearty and wholesome, and it was served with roasted red pepper hummus and basil pesto. I wouldn’t think to put those things on brown bread, but it was so good!!

The waitress even brought out three more slices for us for free when we asked how much extra bread would cost. Too kind.

But that’s a lot of bread, so my entree salad felt extra filling. I got the powerhouse salad, which had the works— avocado, olives, tomato, artichokes, sprouts, quinoa, roasted red peppers, carrots, chickpeas, and feta. It was so refreshing and tasty!

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Megan’s burger looked fantastic too.

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She doesn’t like potatoes (I know, is she even Irish??), so I had about half of her fries, which were bomb.

We left full to the brim and very satisfied. Galway, we love you! We’ve been there three times at this point. (I, II, and now III)

When Megan and I got on the bus to Dublin, we scored our own seats (it wasn’t busy on the buses all day, so we got our own seats on every bus!), so we started messaging each other from across the aisle like fools.

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We both finished the first Harry Potter book on the way back home. 🙂

Connemara might be one of my favorite places I’ve visited in Ireland so far. I think a few of us are doing the Ring of Kerry this weekend, so I’m excited for that as well. I could look at Ireland’s rural views for DAYS.

So tell me:

Where is your favorite “boring” yet beautiful place?

Have you ever tried Irish brown bread before? 

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Living Life on the Edge of a Cliff

Ireland keeps one-upping itself.

Just when I think, “THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE EVER,” I go to another place, and I have to say the phrase again.

This weekend, I went to two of {seriously} my two new favorite places ever— Howth Cliffs and Cliffs of Moher. You could say that I was living life on the edge.

Thursday— Irish Sports

Before I get into the cliffs, I need to tell you about how we played Gaelic sports on Thursday morning. Instead of 2.5 hours of sitting in class, our contemporary Irish society class headed to the “pitches” for some traditional Irish sports (praaaaaise).

Sport #1: Gaelic football. I would describe this as a cross between soccer, American football, and rugby, played with a volleyball. I was pretty bad, but it was fun to try.

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[source]

Sport #2: Handball. The drills for this were a pain in the ass, but playing the actual game was fun! I liked this one the most. It’s basically squash without a racquet and with a softer, smaller ball.

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[source]

Sport #3: Hurling. Sounds horrendous already, doesn’t it? Well I played horrendously too. It’s like lacrosse + field hockey + baseball + do whatever the feck (← apparently an acceptable curse substitution here, even on daytime TV) you want. Just kidding, there are rules, but there are too many rules to remember for a rookie.

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I learned afterwards that our young instructor for the day was one of the best Irish sport athletes in the country, so… good. He saw me miss the ball about 10 times.

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that chin sweat.

Despite my skill deficiency, I had such a blast learning about the history of the sports and how to play them! Irish moves and grooves, I dig it 🙂

Friday— Howth

Howth is pronounced with a long ‘o’ sound. So like “oath” with an ‘h’ in front. Just FYI, because I wouldn’t have known.

My mom got back from her two-week tour around Ireland, and her sister was also in town! I met up with them on Friday morning for breakfast at Restaurant 104. I opted for a big, late breakfast including a goat cheese, spinach, and red pepper omelette. Then mom and I split a scone with butter, jam, and CREAM (← game changer).

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We had no plans for the day, but my aunt asked us, “Have you ever been to Howth?” I had not been, but Rachel told me I had to go, so Friday was the day! We took a fairly short rail ride out to the beautiful fishing village, and just did our tourist thing. Lots of looking around and photographing!

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The highlight of Howth is the cliff walk, so I took off on one of the paths while my mom and aunt stayed back at the beach. I wish they came along to see the beauty of the cliffs, but it was a blessing in disguise to do a solo hike.

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As I walked up the initial road, I saw some gorgeous properties along the coast. I told myself about 100 times during the whole cliff walk, “I want to live here.”

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wild blackberries!

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help, no one here to take photos with me

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I cannot explain how at peace and in awe I felt throughout the 1.5-hour walk around the cliffs. The wind was strong, the ocean was mystifying, and the solitude was rejuvenating. God exists, man.

On the walk down, I passed by some more cute houses and an abbey.

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I would have done the longer hike path, but I didn’t want to keep Madre and my aunt waiting too long. Plus, I was so parched. I ran out of water early on in my walk, so I needed hydration ASAP.

I met up with the ladies at Starbucks for some water and snacks, and then we popped into a lovely tea house for afternoon tea and cake. My aunt and I shared a pot of wonderful spearmint tea, and then we all shared a scrumptious slice of carrot cake.

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some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever tasted!! SO moist, and I’m not sorry for using that word.

Our eating schedule was weird with our late breakfast and dessert-lunch, so we ate dinner about an hour later at a restaurant called Deep. All the seafood restaurants looked fantastic, since we were in a fishing village after all.

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literally right from the boat to the market to the restaurant

We share calamari to start, and then I ate a decadent “open fish pie” for my entree.

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It looks like it’s just mashed potatoes in a dish, but there was so much fish underneath! Cod, salmon, and some others that I could not identify. Comfort food at best. Mom also shared a big piece of her fish + chips with me. The crust was perfect!

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My meal also came with a dessert (“my preciousss”), so I ordered the apple crumble. It was hot and the perfect sweet ending to a pretty sweet day.

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Thank you so much, Madre and Auntie Xay for an incredible day in Howth! And happy birthday to Auntie Xay as well 🙂

Saturday— Dublin

I had some work to do, so I laid low with Madre in my dorm room. She basically filmed a documentary of my life to show Pop, which I thought was hilarious. I did some homework, laundry, and a nice dorm workout in the morning/early afternoon. For my workout, I did a slowish 12 minute workout, followed by the first day workout in the free CodyApp KaisaFit challenge! I ♥︎ Kaisa.

After a shower and finishing up laundry (mom spoiled me and folded it all for me while I worked!), we walked to a late lunch at the Lovely Food Co.

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I ordered the superfood salad for some veggie power in my life. It was everything I could have wanted and more. I think it had roasted veggies, broccoli, seeds, homemade croutons, and halloumi cheese, among other things.

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Mom had the smoked salmon and crab sandwich per my recommendation. She shared a quarter of it with me + some of her tomato soup.

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And since Lovely Food Co. has some of the best desserts, we had to order one to share. She chose the spiced pear cake, which was another score. Moist, perfectly spiced, and just sweet enough.

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We went grocery shopping for my week ahead, and then an hour or two later, we walked to Mass with my friends Megan and Cristen. Then it was already dinner time at Dall’Italiano! My aunt also met up with us after her day of touring Dublin city centre.

We all craved pasta, and we left satisfied.

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I got the fettuccine with beef fillet, onions, and mushrooms in a red wine sauce. Molto bene! I have 1/3 of it in my fridge for leftovers 🙂

Then it was time to say farewell to my mother for three months (and my aunt for even longer probably!). So sad, but it was great to spend so much time with her in my first month in Ireland! She had a lot of fun on her tour too.

That night I FaceTimed with two of my favorite people too— Rachel and Joe! I’m not that homesick, but I do miss my friends dearly.

Sunday— Cliffs of Moher

FaceTiming Rachel until late at night made the 5:50 wakeup call a little rough. But a nice 45 minute walk to the bus stop was enough to wake me up! Plus overnight oats.

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ugliest breakfast ever, but one of the most delicious

Megan, Cristen and I took a Paddywagon Tour, which was informative, entertaining, and eventful. One person needed to pee really badly (not me this time! although I very much empathized with her), one person got bus sick on the side of the road, a couple people almost got left behind, and the tour guide was great but also passive aggressive.

I’d recommend the tour though!

We brought our lunches, which we ate at 10:30am on the bus due to our early breakfast.

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red pesto, cheddar, hummus, basil, and rocket sandwich (threw whatever I had in the fridge into this thing and it was so tasty!!)

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Our first stop was a revisit of Dunguaire Castle, where Megan and I experienced a medieval banquet last weekend. It was just a quick photo stop this time, but it was extra pretty with this cool cloud effect going on.

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Our second major pit stop was the Burrens and the Mini Cliffs. The views were stellar even there.

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The wind was straight-up concerning though. Cristen is a very petite lady, and we all agreed that she should not come close to the edges of the mini cliffs, because there was a legitimate possibility of her blowing off.

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can you see what I mean?

Our bus driver then rushed us over to lunch in Doolin, where we all had dessert, since we had already eaten our lunches. I bought this huge slice of sweet and rich berry bakewell gateaux.

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holy moly way too much sugar for one person

Then it was time for the CLIFFS. OF. MOHER.

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They really are as phenomenal as people say they are. It was too magnificent to be true, especially since we lucked out with the weather!

So Rachel came to the Cliffs over the summer and took a jumping photo with them, so I obviously had to take one as well. Take one: too narrow of a pathway and way too windy for comfort.

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Megan: “Alison I don’t think you should jump.”

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Me: “Yeah you’re right. Safety first.”

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Compromise.

But then later, we found a less windy and broader spot for the photo.

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Then Rachel posted this photo to her social media:

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mirror image, I say 😉

It was a nice steep climb to the highest point of the cliffs, but man was it worth going up there [twice].

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Megan: “Gets to the peak. Drops on knees in prayer.”

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As always, photos can never do these kinds of places justice. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Ireland, go experience the Cliffs of Moher for yourself.

We stopped by Bunratty Castle before our 2.5-hour trip back to Dublin.

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Manmade things are just “meh” now and forevermore.

I wanted all the movement and all the veggies and protein for dinner at around 9pm. Before I ate, I did a quick 10 minute HIIT in my room to get the blood flowing and to spend some extra pent-up energy.

I finished up my big bag of rocket (arugula) with a can of salmon + hummus, tomatoes, and some unpictured carrots.

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I ended the night with blogging and FaceTiming two more friends from Boston— PJ and Louis. YAY!

Monday— WorkWorkWorkWorkWorkWork

So many things to do now, so little time!!

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But this weekend was more than worth it.

Hope you all have a marvelous week!! Go outside and feel the wind in your hair if ya can.

So tell me:

Have you ever played a foreign sport before?

Have you ever taken a solo hike?

Have you ever been to the Cliffs of Moher?

What is the most beautiful natural phenomenon you’ve ever witnessed?

Two things you did this weekend!

Goodness Gracious, Galway

Is there a place on this island that won’t steal my heart!?

My goodness, Ireland might be one of the most underrated beautiful nations in the world. Then again, I haven’t been around too much of the world yet, but I can appreciate this little country for what it is!

Friday

I did some chores and work in the morning before a few of us headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin city centre.

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This place is truly a masterpiece. Arches, carvings, stained-glass window, stairways, tombs— like a fantasy novel setting! It’s also Anglican, not Catholic, which I did not know!

Then I did homework on Friday night. Lame award of the year. But it was for good reason because I was also packing for a weekend trip to Galway. Even though it was a two day trip, I was more nervous for this weekend jaunt than leaving the US for Ireland. I think it was because this is the first trip I planned completely without my parents’ intervention at all. Just Megan, me, and the good ol’ Internet (← in other words, we had infinite resources at our fingertips).

Saturday

I woke up at around 5:50 to get in a super quick workout before we hit the road. I did a warmup + 12 minute workout before gathering my things, eating some pb+j banana oats, and walking to bus #1.

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We successfully made it to the airport, where bus #2 departed. But we used the airport restroom and found this dispenser, which was…handy?

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Megan: “Why can you get toffee from the same machine as your tampons?”

So we ran away to Galway. It was about a 2.5 hour bus ride, and we emerged in the new city (SUCCESS) without a plan until dinner time. First stop: lunch at The Dough Bros.

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They had free crunchy chocolate chip cookies at the order counter, so that was our appetizer 😀

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And then we shared the “Hey Pesto” pizza, which had homemade basil pesto, goat cheese, smoked semi-sundried tomatoes, balsamic red onions, and fresh rocket (arugula).

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BOMB.

With happy bellies, we walked around the streets of Galway city, which were just charming. Our secret mission was to find dessert (I had scones on my mind for whatever reason), so we circled around before finding a little strip of street vendors.

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I sampled four different kinds of bread from The Happy Loaf, and then I finally bought a white chocolate blueberry spelt muffin (that he baked right there in some outdoor oven contraption!).

Megan bought a caramel slice from a different vendor, and we brought our desserts to the River Corrib, where we blissfully enjoyed our treats with a view.

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the muffin could have used more blueberries, but it was still delicious!

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“the garbage swan” ➔ Megan’s unofficial name for this thing

We walked up to the ocean area called Salthill, which offered a delightful sea breeze and a peaceful atmosphere.

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We couldn’t stay too long, because we had to catch a bus to Kinvara for dinner. However, in our haste, Megan twisted her (semi-recently sprained) ankle 😦 Darn cobblestone.

Luckily there was an ambulance literally right there where she twisted her ankle, so I asked the EMTs for an ice pack. One guy, Tom, kindly ran around the corner (to who knows where) to get one, while another guy, Eoin (pronounced “own”) came to chat with us and check on Megan.

Not only were these two gentlemen very helpful in Megan’s plight, but Megan and I agreed that Eoin was a darn good-looking and friendly man, who made the situation slightly less stressful. He even recommended a good fish & chips place.

God provides.

Tom came with the ice (and even an ACE wrap), so Megan was able to elevate and ice her ankle on the 40 minute bus ride to Kinvara (couldn’t have been a better situation, given the circumstances!).

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She had to buy a brace once we arrived, but she’s a trooper. We walked a few minutes over to Dunguaire Castle, where we were scheduled for a medieval banquet!

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First, we toured. This thing is over 500 years old!

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location of the banquet we would enjoy in the evening

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super narrow at the top

Then I got antsy and did some weird things on the lawn, which definitely got in the way of some people’s photos from afar.

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Megan: “I took a picture of you doing your weird squats over there.” 

I was stretching my hips!

At 5:30, our banquet commenced. They served us mead at the beginning, which is honeyed wine. It was meh. I didn’t have much of it, but it was fun to sip it while listening to harp music.

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We made a toast and headed upstairs to the banquet! Sorry for the bad quality pics to come; medieval times aren’t generous with the lighting, ya know?

Each dinner course was announced, and our meal/social time was interlaced with lovely singing pieces. The singers were so talented!

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smoked salmon + capers and veggies

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soda bread with butter (Megan’s favorite food of the whole banquet. It was really good bread.)

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potato leek soup from a pitcher (my favorite food of the night, especially with the bread dipped in)

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no spoons!

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chicken in mushroom sauce + veggies and fried potatoes

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apple slice with fresh cream

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I had a single sip of red wine. I just don’t like alcohol apparently.

There was a longer performance after our meal was complete. Overall, Megan and I had a fun experience and were glad we did it. We were definitely the youngest ones there, but the couple sitting next to us was super friendly, and we loved talking with them!

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So stuffed and so happy.

Our first Airbnb experience was GREAT! Our host, Valerie, was phenomenal. She even picked us up from the castle after I told her that Megan was injured. Her room for us was so clean and cozy, and the bathroom was AMAZING (because any step up from a dorm bathroom is amazing). Also, her dog is the happiest dog on earth.

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she left us tea, water, and “buns”!!!

We slept well that night.

Sunday

Valerie prepared a nice breakfast for us, consisting of brown bread (can’t get enough) with butter and jam + tea + cereal.

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‘Twas hearty and filling for the journey back to Galway city. Valerie is the best; if you ever stay in Kinvara, go to her!!

Megan and I meandered around Galway city again once we got back there. We wanted to go to Mass at the Galway Cathedral at 12:30, but we had some time to kill. We visited the Spanish Arch, which was kinda underwhelming, but it’s old and historical!

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What we really got excited for was this playground.

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“living her best life”

Then we paid 50 cents to use the cathedral washroom before doing our church thing. Prayer, confession, photos, and Mass. The Galway Cathedral is just stunning!

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After Mass, we walked to Brasserie on the Corner for lunch. There was a two-course meal deal for €18.95, which was fantastic. Especially because of…

THE SODA BREAD.

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we’re slightly obsessed and vow to not eat anymore unless we are served it

I ordered the salmon with pea and bacon cream for my entree. The entrees came with potatoes two ways + steamed vegetables. Everything was so tasty!

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I had to eat very slowly, because this stuff was rich. But the dessert compartment stayed open for this peanut butter parfait (not the kind of parfait we’re used to back home…parfait is more of a frozen mousse here, kinda like a semifreddo) with vanilla ice cream and honeycomb.

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This meal kept us full until almost 10 pm!

And so we just strolled some more until our bus ride back home. We saw a few churches and revisited Salthill to walk down the whole bar and feel the wind in our hair. A very Titanic moment.

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what a precarious moment lol

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We barely talked, except for the few times we starting singing “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. We just wanted to soak in the views and the breeze.

Megan and I also had a weird obsession with the award plaques on restaurant fronts. We just wanted to touch all of them.

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We’re adults. We travel on our own.

And now I’m back at the dorm, gearing up for our second week of classes. It’s funny, because finals are in less than a month. YAY.

But seriously, I am so grateful for this weekend in Galway with Megan and for the experiences I’ve had here in Ireland so far. God is good.

(All the time!)

So tell me:

Have you ever been to Galway?

Do you like Irish soda bread?

Have you ever used Airbnb?

Have you ever had an unfortunate experience, but somehow all the circumstances to deal with it were in place?

What did you do this weekend?