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.

mayogoal1

[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.

2007malone1

[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.

img_3629

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.

img_3630

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).

img_3641 img_3645 img_3646

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!

14322212_10154186837686749_6435349108500387899_n img_3654 img_3671 14445957_10154186837131749_7200844553303559314_n img_3678 14446161_10154186837226749_7708809271077250189_n 14441151_10154186837121749_658303904820141294_n

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.

img_3680 img_3683

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.”

img_3684 img_3690

wild blackberries!

img_3695 img_3704

help, no one here to take photos with me

img_3706 img_3709 img_3710 img_3728 img_3737

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.

img_3742 img_3743 img_3744 img_3745

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.

14468753_10154186912546749_4772573952552647460_o img_3747 img_3751

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.

img_3755 img_3762

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.

img_3764 img_3767

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!

img_3768

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.

img_3772

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.

14479649_10154189562426749_2300472416690958927_n

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.

img_3776

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

img_3777

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.

img_3779 14370022_10154189562776749_4788656080384072792_n

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.

img_3781

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.

img_3782

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.

img_3785

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

img_3786

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.

img_3788 img_3796

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

img_3816 img_3825 img_3820 img_3835

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.

img_3809 img_3813 img_3806 img_3828 img_3815

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.

img_3836

holy moly way too much sugar for one person

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

img_3842 img_3873 img_3916 img_3917

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.

img_3859

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

img_3864

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

img_3871

Compromise.

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

img_3873 img_3877 img_3888 img_3891 img_3892


img_3897

Then Rachel posted this photo to her social media:

14468389_1194413883957112_2329454869147398592_o

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].

img_3905

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

img_3909 img_3910 img_3912

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.

img_3918 img_3919

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.

img_3924

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!!

img_3926

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!

The Best Vacation Ever {Part 2}

Click here for part 1!

Wednesday, July 6th

Next port of call— St. Thomas!

Breakfast at Windjammer first, though.

IMG_1889

On land, we took a van tour around the island, checking out a view of Magen’s Bay, as well as the biggest gift shop on St. Thomas (which is not saying a whole lot, but it is big!). The driving on the island is…uh…thrilling.

IMG_1917 IMG_1929

Some fresh coconut water/meat at the vantage point. It’s actually not as amazing as I thought it would be, but it was still as fresh as you can get. The guy who sold it to us climbs the coconut trees every morning himself!

IMG_1920

IMG_1921

The gift shop has these “world famous” banana daiquiris (I got a virgin one, which was tastier than the rum one IMO).

IMG_1923

I actually tried this same banana daiquiri five years ago when my family went on a cruise after my brother’s high school graduation. #TBT, shall we?

banana daiquiri

2011

IMG_1942

2016

Oh look, they changed the sign to make “world famous” bigger. And Ben feat. the sweaty sling showed up this time!

Iguanas roamed the island. Think they’re the same ones we saw five years ago? This one looks kinda like old.

IMG_1951

Our driver took us downtown, where we ate some Caribbean food for lunch. Ben and I shared this fantastic curry chicken with plantains and steamed veggies on the side. The chicken was so tender!

IMG_1947

Also, on land, we always found a place with wifi. You should have seen us— at the table, all looking down at our phones. It was pretty sad and embarrassing in retrospect, but we had the whole rest of the week to talk with one another, phone-free (excuses, excuses, I know).

Then we walked over two hot and sweaty miles back to the cruise ship.

We did some more activities and relaxing before another three five-course meal. But salad and surprise celebratory cake don’t really count as courses, right? I kid; it was immense.

IMG_1956

The “kids”‘ favorite appetizer of the cruise: crab cakes! Christie: “I could just have ten of these for my meal.”

IMG_1957

salad with pears, walnuts, and blue cheese

IMG_1958

parsley-crusted cod with lobster sauce, veggie jasmine rice, and more veggies

IMG_1963

My uncle and aunt surprised my parents with an anniversary cake, so we all had a slice (it was such good cake!!)

IMG_1964

…and some of us had second dessert. This was a strawberry shortcake parfait of sorts.

No regrets, honestly.

If I’m not mistaken, we watched a sensational water acrobatics show called “OceanAria” that night. Crazy amazing diving, stunts, choreography, and concept.

(p.s. we also watched a marvelous ice skating show the previous night, but I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post!)

Afterwards, there was a big ol’ 70s party around the ship! Lots of hip thrusting by men dressed up as the Village People, singing, and of course, grooving 🙂 I had no 70s attire, but this denim jumpsuit was close enough.

IMG_1966

You guys should have seen Pop dancing to those 70s tunes. #PopMovesAndGrooves ← this will become a thing.

Our wonderful stateroom attendant folded some towel animals that made my heart happy. This anteater-crane-fish was my favorite.

IMG_1967

This is what I look like when I’m in my room by myself

Thursday, July 7th

St. Kitts! This was our favorite port of the three!

IMG_1972 IMG_1978

had to do crow somewhere

We took another scenic taxi tour across the island. At one stop, we got to hold a monkey in a freaking diaper next to a donkey dressed in dreads and sunglasses. Everyday things by everyday people.

IMG_1980 IMG_2019 IMG_2005 IMG_2003 IMG_1987

Perhaps he was pooping at this instant, but I’ll never know

It was $2 for each person to take a picture with the monkey, but I think it was 100% worth it. He (she?) had really soft paws.

Next stop was Cockleshell Beach! Ugh, what a gorgeous place. Beach surrounded by mountains = the dream.

IMG_2045

God’s glory everywhere

If you check Instagram later, you can find some moves and grooves that Madre helped me film on the beach! (I didn’t actually do a full workout because people were staring AND I wanted to just chill.)

IMG_2037

Lunch at Windjammer back on the boat.

IMG_2048

I think a nap, rock climbing, and 16 minute workout eventually happened at the fitness center.

Dinner that night was excellent!

IMG_2051

seafood ceviche

IMG_2052

shared some of Ben’s spinach dip with chips and bread

IMG_2053

ricotta and spinach shell pasta (I almost never order straight up pasta dishes, but I’m so glad I did this night!)

IMG_2054

warm chocolate cake a la mode

GUYS. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but this warm chocolate cake was the most moist and heavenly chocolate cake of my life.

We watched the headliner show of the week, which was an incredibly talented a cappella group called VoicePlay (← check out their Youtube channel!). I loved them! I wanted to take a photo with them, because they’re superstars in their own right, AND they might be mega famous one of these days 😉

IMG_2062 IMG_2065

Dancing, game shows, walking around and/or karaoke spectating probably happened later on.


Last part coming tomorrow!

So tell me:

Have you ever held a monkey or other exotic animal before?

What is the best chocolate cake you’ve ever eaten? What is the best show you’ve seen in the past year?

What did you eat for lunch yesterday?

48 Hours Unplugged

I’ve never experienced the feeling of time slowing down until last week.

I had the privilege of spending a few days in (relatively) upstate New York with two of my best friends, Fiona and Rachel. Fiona was so generous as to let us stay at her 106-year-old (!!) summer house, located in a secluded yet beautiful town.

Monday

On Monday, Fiona and Rachel drove down from Boston to my house. I cooked us a little rather large din din of caprese chicken + spicy pork chops + roasted broccoli (which was epic, not gonna lie) + avocado toast. Lots of leftovers for the ‘rents!

DSC_2356

plus avocado toast!

IMG_1132

beautiful food, even more beautiful people

I also made them one of my favorite recipes of all time— Amanda’s banana bread mug cake. Alongside some of Emily’s delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cookies + glasses o’ milk!

IMG_1133

Tuesday

After spending a night at Fiona’s house, we ate breakfast and then drove up to her summer house on Tuesday afternoon.

IMG_1135

made some banana oatmeal for the ladies

Rachel DJ’d in the car, and it was a classic grooves-mobile fest with backseat dancing and off-pitch sing-alongs.

And in no time, we arrived at the summer house!

IMG_1202

Fiona calls it her “heaven on earth”, and I can 100% see why she does. There may not have been any cell service or wifi, but there were crystal clear waters, breathtaking views, and foliage for dayzzzz.

We were only at her summer house for 2.5 days, but it felt like we were there for a week. Fiona did warn us that time slows down at this place, but I didn’t believe her until I experienced it.

Look at how cute it is!

IMG_1138 IMG_1137 IMG_1140

When we arrived, Fiona gave us a tour of the grounds, and then we went into town to buy groceries for the next few days.

The ONE stressor I had during the trip was when I got a call from my job (which I start today) about a form that I never received via email but that I needed to fill out, sign, and send by the next morning. It was actually a miracle that we were in town getting groceries when I got that call, because if we were back at the summer house, I never would have known because there’s no service there. Thank God for smart phones, because I was able to access my email, fill out the form, sign it digitally, and send it back in time.

Anyway.

Chips, salsa, PB&J’s and salads for lunch!

IMG_1141

Followed by a lovely little hike to the waterfall.

IMG_1156 IMG_1155 IMG_1169 IMG_1174

self-timing it on a waterfall

IMG_1180

IMG_1148

IMG_1185

UGH so cool.

The rest of the night involved reading, playing Clue, eating chili (that Fiona’s mom made and sent up with us!) and s’mores!

IMG_1195

Chili and fires in the summer? Ya. ‘Twas pretty chilly up there actually (plus no heat). Rachel saved our cold butts with her fire-making skills. So Midwestern.

IMG_1192

*ding*

IMG_1198 IMG_1199

I made “fluffernutter” s’mores with peanut butter instead of chocolate — 10/10 recommend

We snuggled into our beds by 10:30 pm (!!!). After some girl chat, we fell asleep to the sound of a legit babbling brook that flows by her house. People pay good money for that sound!

Rachel and I could not stop saying, “This is a dream. This is out of a novel.”

Wednesday

In an effort to gain feeling in my frozen feet in the morning, I went outside for some moves by the babbling brook. I did Jess’ lean legs workout (with some modifications).

IMG_1200

I still couldn’t feel my feet after I finished the workout. They were ice cubes.

Nothing a good breakfast can’t fix though! Pancakes for breakfast!

IMG_1204

We made buttermilk pancakes from a mix (added chocolate chips and/or banana) and ate them with a slew of toppings (peanut butter with the richest full fat vanilla Greek yogurt for me) and glasses o’ milk in cute mason jars. Eaten out on the porch. DREAMZ I TELL YOU.

IMG_1208 IMG_1212

After breakfast, we spotted beavers, played Sequence, did each others’ hair, tanned on the deck, and plunged ourselves into the freezing cold river as per Fiona’s tradition.

IMG_1219 IMG_1226 IMG_1222 IMG_1216

so cold, so exhilarating

We had a late lunch of tacos with all the works.

IMG_1232 IMG_1235

Followed by more reading, relaxing, and probably some napping. We decided on movie night with s’mores for dinner.

IMG_1238

“You look like a frog.” – Rachel

We did a double feature of The Notebook and Hairspray. It was my first time watching both! (I know, I know. I’m only an eon behind on watching The Notebook.)

Thursday

Our last day at the summer house started with leftover pancakes…

IMG_1240

…cleaning, packing, reading (I finished The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis— also 10/10 recommend!), hiking…

IMG_1251 IMG_1241 IMG_1255

IMG_1253

photos cannot do this view justice

…and a farewell to the summer house (for now!).

Back at Fiona’s house (and back to 432872 notifications on our phones), we ate a light dinner. Then Fiona took us to Bellvale Farms Creamery, aka the most incredible ice cream place of all time.

First of all, the drive to this place was beautiful. Secondly, we passed by the actual Bellvale Farm (like, we basically said hi to the cows that made the milk in our ice cream).

IMG_1260

Thirdly, their ice cream flavors were excellent. I had “Calf Trax” (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirl and mini peanut butter cups) + cookies ‘n’ cream in a waffle cone. No words. Fourthly, this is the view right outside their doors:

IMG_1259

I won’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the summer.

IMG_1264

Rachel and I are gonna make sure Fiona gets engaged at this spot.

Our night ended with watching The Intern (such a sweet movie!) and deep chats.

Friday

I think I’m allergic to Fiona’s cat (whose meows sound like a whining human) because I scratched my eye so hard in my sleep that I woke up with my eye half shut and swollen. Whoops.

I made us some more oatmeal and then we headed out for some tennis! Fiona is actually good at tennis, Rachel can hold a good volley, and I spent most of my time fetching the tennis balls that I hit out of the court.

IMG_1266

For our last meal together, we went to Fiona’s favorite local Mexican restaurant. We shared guac to start, and I ordered a chicken and a vegetable taco.

IMG_1268

fabulous

I am beyond grateful to have spent such a rejuvenating and beautiful week with two of my best friends. Thank you so much again, Fiona. ♥︎ I miss you both already!

Something valuable I learned from those 48 hours unplugged is that, truly, you have so much time when you’re not always on your phone/playing music/checking emails. I was able to focus on one task at a time, reflect, and do a lot without the distraction of technology. I’ll keep all this in mind as I start work today (I’ll talk more about that later!) and continue on with my life.

So tell me:

Have you ever spent an extended amount of time in a place with no service?

What was the best thing you did last week?

Do you have a special place where you like can retreat?