Tag Archives: Travel

Baby Watch and Bachelorette!

Helloooooo superfriends! Baby watch 2015 is in full swing over here. My future sis-in-law is due on the 21st but we’re hoping baby comes a little early. I mean, it’s a three day weekend, doesn’t baby know how convenient that would be? Not to mention I’m heading to Miami for Bachelorette part 2: The Cruise on the 22nd and I’d love to be close by when baby comes to see he or she when nice and fresh! I am so excited to be an aunt!

Speaking of Bachelorette part 2: The Cruise, I am SO ridiculously excited!! As Jessie wrote about earlier, my amazing bridesmaids threw me a fantastic bach in Baltimore which was a great chance to celebrate with some of my favorite people who can’t make it to Bachpt2 and some of my favorite people who love me enough to celebrate TWICE! It was such a great night and it was awesome to see how friends from every step of my life got along so well together. Represented were my two different elementary schools (holler Jess and Sarah), middle school (Sash), high school (Linz), college (Jeanette, Jannette, Chel, Anu, Ilana), Kastles (BVP), MBA (Richa) and my new Kroll family (Dorina). I am so lucky to have developed these amazing friendships and am loving the fun times my girls are showing me before I become a boring old married woman (JK THOUGH RIGHT?).

Baltimore Bachelorette

Baltimore Bachelorette

Though we (the superfriends) have traveled together for Sasha’s bachelorette in Austin and to Rehoboth for Lindsay’s bachelorette, I feel like we haven’t really gone on a trip trip together since Vegas back in August of 2010. Here we are a solid 4.5 years later and I am ready for another AMAZING trip with my best friends. There are 11 of us going on the cruise (superfriends + Maryland friends + Kastles friends) which is crazy awesome and I am SO ready to soak up some rays with these girls. I know the warm weather will be incredible, but the quality time together will be even better. I have only been on cruises with my mom (which were great – love you mom!), and I am extra excited to experience them with a group of friends. I imaging us laying by the pool, enjoying frozen drinks, dancing our butts off and maybe even partaking in some karaoke. In honor of this upcoming vacay, I’m posting some oh my favorite photos from our Vegas trip – where we ate, drank, danced, explored and maybe even gambled a little. Can’t wait to do it up with guys again!!

Is this the real Caesar's Palace?

Is this the real Caesar’s Palace?

Get itttt

Get itttt

Vegas...or Paris? No just Vegas.

Vegas…or Paris? No just Vegas.

Being sillyyy

Being sillyyy

Frozen drinks! I hope to see a few of those on the cruise :)

Frozen drinks! I hope to see a few of those on the cruise 🙂

So tan...

So tan…

Will there be sexy men on this cruise? I mean, it is a bachelorette!

Will there be sexy men on this cruise? I mean, it is a bachelorette!

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Travel Tuesday: Madrid, Spain

Hola and happy travel Tuesday! I have finally gotten around to blogging about the second half of the Eurozone trip I took with b-school in May 2013. For a refresher, you can find the first two posts here on my stops in Koblenz and Frankfurt, Germany. After spending the first half of our trip in Germany examining a strong Eurozone economy, we spent the second half in Madrid, Spain, where the economy is currently struggling a bit. Well, we joked that we did our share to help the economy rebound – spending an ample amount on food, drinks and shopping!

Our hotel was conveniently located in a downtown area of the city with many of the best sights within walking distance. I had done a lot of research before the trip and wanted to be sure to hit up the top spots. Our first stop was Il Mercato di San Miguel, literally “the market” filled with aisles upon aisles of vendors selling tasty tapas. We munched on a few dishes and tasted our first sangria in Spain – delicious!

Sangria in Madrid!

Sangria in Madrid!

Madrid is also home to the Palacio Real de Madrid. Built in the 1700’s after the previous palace was destroyed, the gorgeous palace housed many of Spain’s monarchs. No pictures were allowed inside, but we did snap this quick shot out front before I was told to climb down from that light post! We also visited the Almudena Catherdral which is right next to the palace. The cathedral was also gorgeous and featured a beautiful cupola in the high ceiling.

Outside the gorgeous palace in Madrid

Outside the gorgeous palace in Madrid

I said I did a lot of research before the trip, but one thing I apparently did not research was Spanish geography. I had no idea that Madrid was surrounded by several small mountain ranges! We visited a lot of Spanish banks and companies with gorgeous campuses and amazing vistas of the Spanish countryside/mountains. You can see the snow-capped mountains along the horizon in the picture below. The picture was taken from Torre PWC, one of the Cuatro Torres or “Four Towers” business area with four of the biggest skyscrapers in Madrid. Torre PWC also houses a luxury hotel that pop sensation, One Direction happened to be staying at while we were there. After our visit to PWC there was a huge group of Spanish teenagers waiting out front for a chance to glimpse Harry Styles and crew as they headed to their show that evening.

View of Madrid from Torre PWC

View of Madrid from Torre PWC

One of our other business visits took us to the campus of Telefonica, an international telecommunications company and the 6th largest mobile provider in the world. Their campus was uh-maaaazing! State of the art conference rooms, a beautiful fountain and lush green foliage along with the most amazing cafeteria. We had lunch there and enjoyed paella and flan – casual right? Their cafeteria food is the stuff of fancy Spanish restaurants in DC.

Telefonica Campus in Madrid

Telefonica Campus in Madrid

The final two stops on my tour of Madrid were located right next to each other: the Real Jardin Botanico and the Prado Museum. The botanical gardens were fairly large and had beautiful greenery and flora. After our walk through the gardens, I visited the Prado. It is one of the big art museums of Europe and features works by Spanish painters Goya and Velazquez in addition to other renowned artists like El Greco and Rembrandt. I really enjoyed walking through the expansive halls of the museum and bought three prints of my favorite paintings to decorate our apartment…that I still need to get framed almost a year and a half later. Oops!

Botanical Gardens of Madrid

Botanical Gardens of Madrid

Outside the Prado Art Museum

Outside the Prado Art Museum

I had a blast in Madrid and felt like there was more than enough to see and do, eat and drink to keep me entertained for days. I definitely hope to return to Spain some day and in the meantime, to finally get those prints framed!

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Travel Tuesday: Offbeat Florence

Happy Tuesday! I’m not going to write a full post, but I thought I’d share a few photos for Travel Tuesday. These are some of the sillier things I encountered when I spent a year living in Florence, Italy as an undergrad. Laughter was always a great antidote to culture shock.

DavidFirst, one of the more common sights across Florence is David. And I’m not talking about seeing David on magnets or t-shirts or mugs in tourist shops–I’m talking about life-size David statues scattered all over the city. That’s because for some reason, the city has decided to put up multiple copies of the statue all over (maybe just because he’s photogenic?).

To be fair, Fake David #1 (at left) is in this square because it’s where the real statue used to stand. It’s not the silliest thing we found, but it was still really strange to find this statue in so many different places around the city.

Getting stranger, however, were some of the other artwork displays that we found. I’m really not sure how Botticelli would feel about this:

VenusAnother highlight in Europe are the colorful street performers. This guy was one of our favorites in Florence, but that may just be because we loved his dog. It was not Christmas when we saw him dressed like this:

Cane

Finally, the day we went to Perugia for an international chocolate festival was ridiculous in so many ways. I won’t go into the fact that we all miscommunicated on the train we’d be taking and got to the city several hours apart because one group took a train the wrong direction….but at least we found some fun once we made it. Delicious chocolate, incredible truffles, and some epic games along the way:

Giochi

You’ll always find some sights you find strange when traveling, but these are some of the oddities that we all still think and laugh about. Maybe it’s just that finding absurdity really helps ground you when you’re in a strange place. And even on the worst days of homesickness or culture shock, it certainly helps knowing that at least you’re not the guy who thought putting the Birth of Venus on a toilet was a good idea…

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Travel Tuesday: Philadelphia

I have done a decent amount of traveling in my lifetime, but have never strayed too far from home for too long. When I took an internship at the Campbell Soup Company and moved up to Philadelphia for the summer that was the longest amount of time I have spent at the farthest distance from the DC/Northern Virginia area where I grew up (beating out the three weeks I spent at Oxford in 2007). I can’t say that I fell in love with the City of Brotherly Love during the 10 weeks I lived there this summer, but I did enjoy getting out of my comfort zone and exploring a new city! Luckily, I have awesome friends and family who came to visit and explore with me. The Center City/Rittenhouse Square/Art Museums/Historic areas were all very walkable and easily navigated – I don’t think I took a cab the whole summer. From the apartment I was renting at 15th and Chestnut, it was a 15-20 minute walk to all the major sites of Philly. Of course, that wasn’t always pleasant in the 90 degree heat, but we managed!

Culinary highlights (aka FOODZ):

Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

Cheesesteaks! Okay this is a no-brainer, but clearly the Philadelphia Cheesesteaks are a must-eat when in the city. Pat’s and Geno’s are the most well-known cheesesteaks spots in the city, but the locals will tell you that Jim’s on South Street is better than both of them. I visited the place three times this summer, with three different sets of visitors. I ordered mine the authentic way, “whiz wit” with cheese whiz and onions. The gooey cheese and crispy bread make this a perfect sandwich!

Courtney, BVP, Ballen after walking to Jim's in the sweltering heat

Courtney, BVP, Ballen after walking to Jim’s in the sweltering heat

Brunch at Sabrina’s Café – Oh me oh my was this brunch delicious or what? When Court, BVP and Ballen first started planning their visit to Philly we began scoping out brunch locales and a few different people recommended Sabrina’s. Like many places in Philly, Sabrina’s is BYOB and on our walk to the restaurant we picked up a couple bottles of champagne for mimosas. Alongside our boozy drinks, we had some amazing food. Case in point: banana vanilla stuffed French toast.

Crazy good Stuffed French Toast

Crazy good Stuffed French Toast

Giorgio on Pine was the restaurant of choice for a tasty and classy Italian dinner with the girls. Since it was another BYOB place we brought a couple bottles of wine and started with a prosciutto platter and an Italian “BLT” salad with a lemoncello vinaigrette. The starters with both really good, but the highlight was definitely the house made pasta. All four of us raved about our dishes – even the gluten-free pasta was a winner! I had one of the evening specials: pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce. I am a pasta lover and this was literally one of the best dishes I have ever had. Rich and delicious, even the leftovers heated up well.

House made pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce

House made pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce

Philly Pizza from the folks at Pizza Brain who say they proudly serve “Pizzadelphia, Za”.  Okay, I lied about being able to walk everywhere, we actually drove to Pizza Brain which is on Frankford Avenue and is a bit North of Center City. We got the “Kira Tierston” which had red sauce, onions, a hint of brown sugar, smoked bacon and roasted Brussels sprouts. By now you all know I am a huge lover of roasted Brussels sprouts so this pizza was spot on! Pizza Brain is also BYOB, but we forgot to bring drinks. Since there were no wine and spirits or beer stores within walking distance, Adam and I walked into a bar up the street to see if we could maybe persuade them to let us walk out with a couple bottles of beer. Welp, apparently with Philly’s weird beer laws it is perfectly normal to buy a six pack directly from a bar so we were able to get some beer to wash down our pizza.

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza

Other restaurant standouts were Parc and Honeygrow. Parc is right on Rittenhouse Square with plenty of outside seating for great people watching. It is a French café and we started our brunch with mimosas and the Breakfast Pastries basket which was filled with the most amazingly delicious sweet treats. I followed that up with an egg white omelet with ratatouille and goat cheese which was equally amazing. Parc is a Stephen Starr restaurant – he has a ton of places in Philly and recently opened Le Diplomate in DC which got rave reviews and is crazy hard to get into. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it soon! Honeygrow is a quickserve, locally sourced restaurant that I fell head over heels in love with. They do create-your-own stir fry and salads where you can pick your base, three veggies, sauce and two garnishes. My go-to order was rice noodles with eggplant, broccoli and spinach with sesame garlic sauce and pickled cucumbers. SO GOOD. So far it looks like they only have two locations but I am dying for them to open one in Baltimore.

Non-food sights to see!

Rocky Statue

Rocky Statue

Rocky Statue – Located at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, below the famous steps that Rocky trained on in the movies is a statue in tribute to the iconic, fictional boxer. Of course we had to snap a pic with our best boxing poses.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Girls inside Independence Hall

Girls inside Independence Hall

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – Get your history fix by visiting these symbols of American independence. Visiting the bell is completely free, you just have to wait in (an often very long) line. Independence Hall tours are also technically free, but you can reserve your ticket in advance for just $4 which I would definitely recommend doing that as the allotted tickets for each day get doled out pretty quickly. Independence Hall is pretty freaking cool as it is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and ultimately signed into action. For anyone who had to watch the movie 1776 in elementary school – this place has special meaning. 😀 The tour is brief but definitely worthwhile. Jim’s Steaks is walkable from the historic area so you can get your history and your deliciousness in one fell swoop.

My cousin Sarah and me posing in front of the Liberty Bell

My cousin Sarah and me posing in front of the Liberty Bell

Love Park – The famous Love Park was only about a block from my apartment which made it a must see destination for all of my visitors. Like the Rocky Statue and the Liberty Bell, the Love statue is another Philly staple.

Mom and me at Love Park

Mom and me at Love Park

Another awesome place to visit in Philly is Reading Terminal Market. This is a huge indoor market with tons of vendors selling everything from produce to nifty gifties to soft pretzels and plenty of lunch and dinner options. I visited Reading Terminal a few times during the summer, once for lunch when Jeanette, Adam and I got what Adam Richman of the Travel Channel deemed the “best sandwich in America” at DiNic’s: roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. When my mom and Sarah came to visit we got amazing piping hot donuts from an Amish bakery stand. Some of the best donuts of all time.

Okay so those are the highlights now go take a trip to Philly! And bring me back some Honeygrow stir fry!

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Travel Tuesday: Welcome to New Orleans!

Hello!

Having finally made it through planning and executing a major work event last week, it seemed only appropriate to make my blog debut by encouraging you all to travel to my fair city. Not only is it one of the top travel destinations in the country, but it’s also a great place to visit while the Northeast shivers through winter after Thanksgiving.

Balcony

I’ll share some fun travel adventures on future Tuesdays, but I thought I’d start with an introduction to some of the quirks of New Orleans, my uniquely Southern/European/Caribbean/Cajun adopted hometown.

This city has a long, strange history, which I won’t go into because you can read about some of the more interesting tidbits here. Did you know that most of central New Orleans, called the French Quarter, was actually built by the Spanish? Katrina and the BP spill are the most recent episodes most people think about, and the state still hasn’t completely recovered from either, but this is also the fastest growing city in the U.S. and a growing hotspot for technology entrepreneurship in the country.

There are a few things you should know if (when) you decide to visit. First, Bourbon Street really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, for most out-of-towners it’s a big deal that bars are open all night and there don’t seem to be any rules limiting your behavior. But take the time to venture a bit farther afield to Frenchmen Street or St. Claude Avenue and hear some of the city’s best local music, eat delicious Cajun, Russian, Thai (etc., etc.) food, see bars with real New Orleanians, and avoid the trashier elements from Bourbon. Get out of downtown and get some of the amazing Vietnamese food all over the Westbank across the river, or go hang out along the Mississippi south of the zoo where everyone goes on beautiful days to grill out and relax. Get a dose of history that most people don’t associate with New Orleans–the fabulous National World War II Museum makes for a fantastic day trip just a few blocks away from the center of downtown. Rent a bike (or kayak) and head to Mid-City and the pretty, tree-lined Bayou St. John (essentially a small stream through the city). Catch a classic film at the only single-screen theater in the state at The Prytania Theater, which opened 98 years ago and is definitely my favorite place to see a movie in this city. Get all the best recommendations by checking out the locally-voted annual Best of New Orleans list.

And most importantly, don’t come to Mardi Gras and start flashing people because you will be arrested in a heartbeat. No matter what the city’s reputation is, Mardi Gras is a huge holiday for families and it’s a great time for kids. (Stay tuned, I will have more on this in the future because I’m preparing to ride in my first Mardi Gras parade this season!)

Since 2005, I’ve lived in 6 cities on three continents and this is the one that I keep coming back to. Keep it in mind for your next travel adventure!

–Sarah

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Travel Tuesday (ish): Charleston, SC

I typed this yesterday, but then never had internet so posting now on Travel Wednesday 🙂

Hi all! Typing this from the road as my mom, Adam, Turkey and I drive down to Columbia, SC for Thanksgiving. In honor of my current road trip down south, I figured I’d pop in with a post on my Labor Day weekend trek to Charleston and Isle of Palms! My mom grew up in Aiken, South Carolina with 3 brothers and 4 sisters and even though she moved up north to DC, she still has plenty of family down south. A few months ago my mom, Adam and I visited my Uncle Jeff’s family at their condo in Isle of Palms. Charleston is surrounded by several little islands that each have gorgeous beaches and not much else. We spent most of the weekend on the island enjoying long walks on the beach, playing kadima, swimming in the ocean and riding on my Uncle’s boat.

We made it to North Carolina! Adam loves pictures!

We made it to North Carolina! Adam loves pictures!

We had fun on the long ride down enjoying car snacks like Twizzlers and Cherry Coke. I bought the Twizzlers from a vending machine thinking that I got a great treat for us all to share. Welp, apparently Mom and Adam don’t like Twizzlers. OH WELL MORE TWIZZIES FOR ME!

We soaked in the last rays of summer on the beach and saw dolphins on our boat ride! After doing crew in high school, I have an affinity for all boats (Yes, all boats – said in a british accent circa Two Weeks Notice) and love to be on the water.

Boats docked in Isle of Palms

Boats docked in Isle of Palms

Cruising on the boat

Cruising on the boat

Adam and I also spent an afternoon walking around downtown Charleston. Aside from a week in Myrtle Beach with some of our friends in college and a trip to Aiken with my family one spring, Adam hadn’t spent much time in the south and hadn’t seen a real southern city. He enjoyed the southern charm that Charleston offered and we spent hours walking around in the brutal heat. In need of a cold drink and a snack, we popped into Bakehouse, a little coffee shop looking place that we stumbled on just when we felt like we couldn’t walk another step. We stumbled into a hidden gem! According to some magazine clippings on the wall, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds served sweets from Bakehouse at their Charleston wedding. Anthony Bourdain had also visited Bakehouse and recommended a salted caramel chocolate cake which of course we had to try. It had the texture of a brownie and was perfectly rich and delicious. After stopping at Bakehouse we continued to walk along the water to the Battery.

Colorful homes in Charleston

Colorful homes in Charleston

Adam showing off

Adam showing off

We spent some time watching the boats in the harbor and then headed back up town along King Street and popped into some stores for a little shopping. We continued walking up through the area where College of Charleston is located and headed to our dinner destination, The Grocery. Since Adam is a total foodie and Charleston is becoming a great food city, he was excited to pick our dinner destination and was happy to succeed in getting a reservation at the Grocery – a place with great reviews online. The restaurant did not disappoint. The menu included a lot of American dishes with a unique southern twist. We wanted to try a bunch of different flavors so we ordered a few starters to share and then split an entrée. We started the meal on a high note with fried oysters with deviled egg sauce. We followed that up with a bone marrow brulee (sounds weird but tasted good) and a corn sformato with chorizo. That sformato was probably one of the best things I have EVER tasted. I had never heard of sformato before but it is an eggy soft corn soufflé and it was just completely delicious. We then split the scallop entrée with hominy and okra and a side of eggplant with feta and honey. I loved the scallops, but not the accompaniments and Adam and I both agreed that the eggplant was disappointing. However, that sformato was the stuff of dreams. After dinner we walked back downtown, popped into a bar to watch some football and then headed back to Isle of Palms. It was a great day in Charleston!

Waterfront Park in Charleston

Waterfront Park in Charleston

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Travel Tuesday: Frankfurt, Germany

After Lindsay‘s awesome post on Mt. Croagh Patrick this morning, I figured I would throw some more Travel Tuesday your way this afternoon. Frankfurt, Germany was the second stop on my summer school trip about the Eurozone economy (you may have read about Koblenz, our first stop, a few weeks ago). Koblenz seems like a quaint country town compared to the industrial city of Frankfurt. This city was a no-brainer for our trip as Frankfurt is the financial city of Europe. It is the home of the European Central Bank and of Deutsche Bank and we paid visits to both of them during our time there.

Euro Statue at the European Central Bank

Euro Statue at the European Central Bank

Deutsche Bank Logo - which I dubbed "slashy"

Deutsche Bank Logo – which I dubbed “slashy”

We listened to interesting presentations at both banks on the difficulties facing the European Union specifically in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain. We had studied a lot of cases before traveling to Europe so it was great to compare what we had learned through our readings to what was actually said right from the source. As a marketing student, I was most interested in Deutsche Bank’s brand lab where they showcased their logo in different forms.

logo art in the brand lab

logo art in the brand lab

Playing games in the brand lab

Playing games in the brand lab

After visiting the banks, we had time for some sightseeing in the city. We walked from our hotel to the city center along the Main River. Frankfurt is technically called Frankfurt am Main and the river flows through the city. The walk was gorgeous and we crossed a bridge and saw it was covered in love locks. I had heard about these locks with the names of two sweethearts on them on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (don’t judge!) and it was cool to see some in person.

lovers locks

We continued our walk to Römerberg, a square that is home to city hall. We also went to a modern shopping mall which made an interesting juxtaposition to the old historic landmarks. The mall had a viewing platform on the roof where we could look out at the city and housed an awesome indoor 9 hole miniature golf course! Playing mini-golf in Frankfurt was definitely one of the coolest parts of the trip. Each hole was different (from a dining table to a toilet) and made for a really fun experience. After a day of walking around the city we were hungry for some German food and wine! We stumbled on an underground wine bar that made us feel like we were dining in a wine cellar.

Römerberg

Römerberg

View of construction from the top of the mall

View of construction from the top of the mall

Mini golf

Mini golf

Mini golf!

Mini golf

Wine Bar

Wine Bar

Yummy German food and wine

Yummy German food and wine

Posing after a great day in Frankfurt!

Posing after a great day in Frankfurt!

After a busy day in Frankfurt, we had a bit of a shocker on our walk back to the hotel….we got lost and stumbled into Frankfurt’s red light district!! It was flashing lights and ladies in questionable outfits as far as the eye could see! We moved through pretty quickly, but not before getting yelled at for attempting to snap a pic. I got a shot of the “Sex Inn” before we hightailed it out of there!

Frankfurt's Red Light District

Frankfurt’s Red Light District

I had a great time in Frankfurt and enjoyed both the historical sights and the more modern elements of the city. While it may not be the typical stop in a trip to Europe – I would definitely recommend it!

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Travel Tuesday: Mt. Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Abby, I love your idea for a Travel Tuesday feature! What a great way to remember past trips!

In May of 2012, Stephen and I crossed a big item off our bucket list and traveled to Ireland together. My mother’s side of the family is Irish, so I have long been curious about the country. We rented a car in Dublin and completed a big counterclockwise loop, exploring castles, eating lamb stew and taking hundreds of photos along the way. It was every bit as beautiful as we expected it to be.

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Our vacationing style is pretty intense; we’re the sort of people that wake up early and go to bed late, cramming as many sights as we can into each day. Over the course of eight days in Ireland, we saw a TON, but today I want to recap just one particular memory: our hike up Mt. Croagh Patrick.

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Next to rock-climbing, hiking is our favorite activity to do together as a couple, so we made a point to research popular treks and scheduled them into our trip. Mt. Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, nicknamed the Reek, is well known in Ireland as the site where Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days and banished snakes from the country. Every year on “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July, over 15,000 people climb the hill in a group pilgrimage.

Wanting to beat the crowds, we left our hostel in Westport early in the morning and arrived at the base of the hill around 8:30. I think we were maybe the second car in the lot that morning.

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Our guide book made the climb sound like no big thing, so we left snacks and water in the car, assuming we’d be back within an hour. I even remember thinking I would just pay for one hour of time in the car lot before (thankfully) dropping in a few extra Euros at the last minute.

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The owner of the hostel in Westport had advised us not to climb if the morning brought thick fog. Well, of course it was foggy, and of course we ignored her caution. We’re not in Ireland often!

It was so foggy in fact, that you could only see about a third of the mountain from the car lot. We didn’t realize that at the time and wrongly assumed the summit was just above the fog line.

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This photo makes me laugh, because we had no idea what was to come. Before we crossed the fog line, we snapped some great pictures looking back out to the water.

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Into the fog we went…

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Shortly after the fog line, the terrain started to level out, so we thought we must be getting close to the top. Nope.

Turns out, the trail leads you up a smaller hill and across a ridge before you even begin to tackle the climb to the summit. We had only reached the ridge, and with such thick fog, we had absolutely no clue how much farther we had to go. You couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you.

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Good thing we were in high spirits that morning!

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We found some neat things along the ridge, namely this awesome toilet. Obviously we paused for a pit stop.

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We also had fun trying to decipher the stone messages people had arranged on past climbs. I was certain this one read “wanderer” at the time, but it doesn’t really look like that now.

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Not too long after the toilet station, we reached the first of three pilgrimage stations on the way to the summit.

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The first station, Leacht Benáin, instructs pilgrims to walk seven times around the mound of stones while saying seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and one Creed. We recited one Our Father and called it good.

From this point on the trail was nothing but a steep slope of loose scree, all the way to the summit. It was definitely challenging. Plus, the fog was still thick as soup, so there was no rewarding view of the summit in the distance to motivate us forward. I was leading at this point, and I felt bad every time Stephen yelled up to me, “Do you see anything??”, because I never had a helpful answer to offer.

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This is the only picture I snapped between the first pilgrimage station and the summit. I remember Stephen saying, “I guess Saint Patrick never heard of a switchback”.

Finally, we reached the top. And just in time too, it started to rain almost immediately.

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There is a small chapel at the summit, where mass is celebrated on Reek Sunday and August 15th (Feast of the Assumption). Here’s what it looks like on a clear day.

croaghpatrickchapelview

Incredible difference, right?!

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We didn’t stay at the top for long. Both of us were soaked and freezing cold at this point (I admit to being a wuss in the cold, especially now that I’m accustomed to Texas heat), so we quickly took a few pictures of Saint Patrick’s bed and the second pilgrimage station.

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On our way back down, we finally started to see more tourists. Everyone seemed as discouraged by the fog as we had been while climbing, so it was nice to assure them that the summit was just X meters away.

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And then, just before we reached the ridge, the wind picked up and cleared out some of the fog!

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These aren’t the best pictures, but at least you can see more than the inside of a cloud!

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Before we knew it, we were back at the car lot. We practically jogged the lower portion of the trail we were so ready for lunch and water. I think from start to finish, the climb took us 3 to 4 hours. Our parking meter was well overdue. Luckily we avoided a ticket!

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From head to toe, this was the one dry inch on me.

We didn’t have to look far for lunch; we found a cute pub just down the street. Fried fish and a warm fire cures all.

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Ireland5.16.5.20 252 (Custom)

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Though it sort of sounds like a miserable hike, we really had so much fun on Croagh Patrick. It was one of our favorite adventures of the trip, and the fog and our lack of preparedness just makes for a better story.

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Colombia Chapter One: Medellin

Abby’s post about arepas got me inspired to write about one of my past trips… Colombia. A few years ago, Dan and I had amassed enough frequent flier miles to go pretty much anywhere in the world. We wanted to go to Asia, but most of those tickets had been snatched up. Since we didn’t have many funds at the time, and I couldn’t take too much time off work, we set out to find places that:

a) wouldn’t be too expensive once we got there (food, lodging, etc)

b) wouldn’t take too long to get to

c) we could get to for free with miles

d) neither of us had been before

So, we found the perfect place that fit our criteria: Colombia! Dan and I spent a week in Colombia, and visited Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota. Our first stop was Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, and perhaps best known for its history of drugs and the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.  I will kindly ask you to forget about all of that.

Medellin was incredible.  There is almost no tourism from outside the region- so Dan and I stuck out like sore thumbs, and were stared at everywhere we went.  People struck up conversations with us left and right and were thrilled to have us in their city. People in Medellin are known to be the friendliest in all of Colombia and that was definitely our experience. We stayed at the amazing El Arupo Hostel for only $25 a night.

Foothills of the Andes Mountains

Foothills of the Andes Mountains

Medellin is nestled in a valley in the foothills of the Andes and is visually stunning.  There are gorgeous little chunks of jungle all over city. The town is also obsessed with Medellin native, sculptor Fernando Botero and his sculptures are all around town.

The highlight of our time in Medellin was going to a street festival called the Alumbrados.  Every year around Christmas, the city gets turned into a huge light display.  There are vendors selling arepas, ice cream, beer, cotton candy and tons of other goodies. Even small little squares are decorated like so…

Christmas decorations at the Alumbrados street festival

Christmas decorations at the Alumbrados street festival

 

We also visited the botanical garden which was really cool because there were tons of plants that I had never seen before. There was a lake in the gardens and there were awesome green and orange iguanas EVERYWHERE. Dan and I were really into them because that isn’t something you see everyday.

Iguana in Botanical Garden

So we take a few pictures (like the one above) and we’re like damn that is cool and then we see a huge crowd congregating. And, no joke, there were 30 or so people all crowded around a tree to see a SQUIRREL! They were so excited about it that they were taking photos! There was also a large group discussion about what squirrels eat. There were a lot of vendors in the gardens so there were a lot of foods and the people were all in a group discussing what they could feed a squirrel. They were like “I think popcorn would be OK” and “let’s not give it chocolate, because that is bad for dogs” and “we should give it ice cream!  everyone likes ice cream!” There were like 30 adults trying to feed a squirrel with literally 10 people recording the entire episode. It was literally one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Rare squirrel sighting in Medellin

Rare squirrel sighting in Medellin

 

 

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Travel Tuesday: Koblenz, Germany

So I’ve decided to start an International Superfriends blog feature called Travel Tuesday, mostly because I know we are all avid travelers (when we can afford to be) and I want to hear more about your latest adventures! I’ll get the ball rolling with some deets on my trip to Europe this past May.

I traveled to Germany and Spain with a class from my school on the Eurozone economy. The first few days of our trip were spent in Koblenz, a fairly small German city that sits at the meeting point of the Rhine and the Moselle (I had to look that one up!). It was a very walkable city and we enjoyed traditional German food, beer and Riesling while we were there. One night we ended up at an Irish Pub in Koblenz and we may as well have been in Fado or Ri Ra or any of the Irish Pub chains we have in the states. Good to know an Irish Pub in Germany and an Irish Pub in the states are pretty much the same.

During the day we went to a few lectures at the business school in Vallendar a small town (population 8,400) across the Rhine from Koblenz and in the afternoon we explored Koblenz on foot and of course I got some pics of the big landmarks! One of the coolest things in Koblenz is the cable car which we rode across the river to the Fortress Ehrenbreitstein.

Koblenz Germany Hotel Room

Love the tiny European hotel rooms!

Abby Fountain Germany2

Posing with an awesome fountain in Josef-Gorres-Platz (a platz is like a town square). For a pic of the full fountain click here.

Cathedral Koblenz2

Basilica of St. Castor

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Erin, my roomie for the trip with a random thumb statue

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View of the Fortress (and cable car) from Koblenz

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The whole group at the Fortress

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View of Koblenz (and the cable car) from the Fortress

While most of our time in Germany was a little rainy, we were lucky enough to have a few dry afternoons! Exploring was so much better when we could leave the umbrella in the hotel room.

Can’t wait to hear about all of your travels!

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