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? 

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The Best Vacation Ever {Part 1}

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…I was wondering if after all these days you’d like to meet. To go over…EVERYTHING.

I couldn’t get it out of my head, I’m sorry. I’m done with that joke now.

But seriously, HELLO! I am no longer cruising through the deep blue sea, but I’m happy to be back to a routine. My family and our close friends were on the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas last week for a fantastic vacation. That ship is a city on water, guys. A freaking masterpiece.

Without further ado, here’s part one of three (maybe four?) recaps of just the highlights of what I deem to have been the best vacation ever. Grab some popcorn if you so wish.

Friday, July 1st

Pop and I had a 9 pm flight that was delayed for three hours (guess that’s a lowlight, not a highlight).

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We killed a little bit of that time by walking through the parking lot with our luggages. This was actually Pop’s idea! #PopMovesAndGrooves

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Saturday, July 2nd

Madre and Ben picked us up at the Orlando airport at around 2 AM. I was half asleep and groggy, but Pop was basically sprinting out of the gate to find them. In my head: “Pop, 2 AM is NOT a time to have pep in your step.”

Breakfast at around 9:30.

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quick cook steel cut oats with peach, banana, and nuts

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sunny egg

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a piece of “banana bread” (a strange but satisfying texture)

3 rounds of this circuit workout with a 36# bar. That Florida humidity makes me feel like a soggy vegetable.

Lunch before heading to Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park with Ben. He worked there last summer, so he got some free park pass perks, and I got to mooch off the benefits.

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There was a 1.5-hour thunderstorm safety closure, so Ben and I were sitting out in pouring rain in our bathing suits for a while, because we were wet anyway (we also forgot towels because we’re geniuses). But we still managed to ride all the slides once they reopened!

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Showered and dried myself with a single tank top.

Dinner at Crazy Buffet (pronounced cuh-RAZY, according to Ben) with good family friends! I ate one plate of real food, dessert second, and then another salad last. Needed to make sure I had room for dessert, ya know?

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Sunday, July 3rd

Early wake-up to drive to Fort Lauderdale for Mass before boarding the ship.

Once we met up with our family friends, we boarded and booked it straight for the lunch buffet. We were a little excited for the cruise food.

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The first of many. Lunches were usually all the veggies, some sort of curry with rice…

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…and a dessert that I really did NOT need to eat.

Our tiny stateroom was cozy, and our balcony overlooked the “Boardwalk” area of the ship. So cool.

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Of course, we had to explore this monster of a ship. I still don’t think I covered the whole entire thing over the course of a week.

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Pop was walking on the track at this time, I think #PopMovesAndGrooves

Oh man, this is where I start feeling sad because I miss it.

We were served a three course meal for dinner every. single. night. It was decadent and so delicious. You would think that I would feel full and bloated during the trip, but nay! On the contrary (ew, okay I’ll stop talking like that), my stomach felt GREAT the whole vacation. And I don’t care about having a flat belly, but it was actually flatter than ever.

Know what that means?

  • I’m not lactose-intolerant (I had so much ice cream on the cruise).
  • My bloating/GI discomfort comes from stress and eating as quickly as I can during my busy day.

Will work on that. But back to this cruise food. Three courses for EACH PERSON (sometimes even four if we were feeling two appetizers, because it was all included ← dangerous). Night 1:

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eggplant artichoke puff pastry tart

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orange “mojo” sauce pork chop

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carrot cake!

We also shared a lot of our food with one another, just so we could taste all the delicious flavors. Classy gluttons, I say.

I don’t remember what else we did that night, but I’m sure it was a blast.

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p.s. when we walked through this “Royal Promenade” area, there was ~included~ pizza, sandwiches, water, coffee, tea, desserts, and other snacks all day #help

Monday, July 4th

Breakfasts at the “Windjammer Marketplace” consisted of oatmeal with some combo of eggs, bacon, corned beef hash, and/or yogurt with fruit.

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topped with peanut butter later (yes, I did bring my own jar of Jif Natural)

First port — Nassau, Bahamas.

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“what do we do with it?”

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mannequin’s eyebrows impressively on fleek

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view from the ship as we sailed away

We didn’t do too much in Nassau except some walking and a little bit of underwhelming beachin’. It was a beautiful day though, and the waters were so clear!

Back on the boat, we celebrated America with some free pre-lunch flag cake that greeted the masses in front of Windjammer’s doors (not tantalizing at all for hungry tourists waiting on line for a table).

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‘Twas delicious cake, I must say.

Vegetables for lunch, please!

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salad, roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, turkey burger with mushrooms and caramelized onions

The fitness center on the ship was great. I think I was most excited about the kettlebells, which I used in my workout on Monday. There were also TRX’s, but the fitness center lady reprimanded me for using it without a certified TRX instructor.

I forget exactly what I did on Monday, but I know it involved kettlebell swings, pushups, sumo squats, Russian twists, jump lunges, and BOSU ball stuff.

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PSA: Stretch, por favor

Monday night was formal night! AKA the night Alison gets into something other than athletic clothes.

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Fun fact: We went on our first cruise ever with Christie and Monica (pictured above) and their parents 12 years ago. Naturally, we did a then and now photo.

Everyone nailed it, but I’m WAY off.

Dinner that night was delicious, but not quite as good as the first night.

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one of my favorite appetizers: “Roman Vignolo Salad” with arugula, edamame, green beans, tomatoes, prosciutto, artichokes, and parmesan

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sole with a tomato caper sauce

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butter almond ice cream

I believe we saw an acrobatics show that night— Royal Caribbean’s original “Blue Planet”. Very entertaining and impressive! Followed by a super late night comedy show, which made me laugh until my abs hurt.

Tuesday, July 5th

We were at sea all day, so we slept in before a sit-down breakfast to change it up a bit. We decided that we all liked the buffet more though (mostly because there were more options).

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smoked salmon and herb egg white omelette 

Ben, my uncle, and I gave the FlowRider a go later on. If you’ve never seen a Royal Caribbean commercial, the FlowRider is essentially a surfing simulator on the ship. There are two ways you can do it— boogie board on your stomach (easier) or surfboard on your feet (harder).

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I don’t know this girl, but this is what it looks like.

A few comments about the FlowRider:

  • It’s a lot harder than it looks.
  • 10-year-olds show me up.
  • Falling off doesn’t hurt, but being swooshed up to the top like a half-dead fish can be painful…

…and it did do some damage to my brother. Poor Ben dislocated his shoulder on his surfboard run.

I’ll spare the image for privacy reasons, but long story short: The doctor on board popped it back in (I contemplated popping it back in when he first told us about it, but…I’m not that dumb). He was given a sling to wear for a while, he lost a little bit of function (guess who cut his food the rest of the trip? :D), but he’s okay, thank God.

After all the excitement, I went to eat a late lunch by myself at Windjammer.

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A few activities and maybe a nap led us to dinner.

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Ben and I shared the caprese salad + the arancini for appetizer

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pork tenderloin with provolone potatoes (*angels singing*) and vegetables

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favorite dessert of the trip: bread and butter pudding a la mode ➔ it was like a cross between creme brûlée and bread pudding

While Madre and Pop were at the “Love and Marriage Game Show” at night, Ben and I decorated the stateroom for the ‘rents anniversary the next day. Ben was the brain behind the beauty of the setup!

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When Madre and Pop came back late that night, they were so surprised and touched. Woohoo! Happy 25th to the lovely couple 🙂


Part 2 coming tomorrow! Holy toledo, this is quite an epic recap.

So tell me:

Have you ever been on a cruise?

Does your stomach feel better on vacation, even with more food?

What did you Americans do for Fourth of July?

Have you ever dislocated your shoulder?

What was the best thing you ate last week?

More content = more questions for you. Let’s chat, please; it’s been a while!