Wednesday, January 17, 2018

County Clare, Ireland (Part 1)

County Clare is a county in the Northwest of Ireland and boasts of the beautiful Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, Dysert O'dea Castle, The Burren and beautiful beaches.

I have been lucky enough to visit Ireland 3 times now, and I can assure you, it's not enough. There isn't enough time to "vacation" in Ireland. Like seriously, the ruins, the people, the atmosphere... the peaceful beautiful green. It's not by chance that it's called the Emerald Isle. The last 3 times I visited Ireland, my home was in Texas (also known as the surface of the sun) where green often turned to brown. So the very rich green colors of Ireland, literally caused instant peace for me... I think green is naturally a soothing and kind color to look at. Don't you? Walking in the luscious grass is soothing and cool to the feet... you probably think that's a crazy thing to say, but not when you're from Texas and you can't EVER walk barefoot in the grass, the fear of fire ants is far too great!
I have a lovely friend that lives in Ireland, her and her family honestly treat us as if we are royalty when we visit. It's so funny that her little 5 year old boy calls us "The Americans". I especially love when he becomes political and tells me that Trump is a butt! I'm sure that the little guy will one day become Prime Minister of Ireland :)
I write like I think, and often a million things will pop in my head, so I apologize, as we aren't meant to be talking about Trump... I will now focus!!

Dysert O'Dea Castle
One of my favorite places to visit was Dysert O'Dea Castle, in Corofin. It wasn't the largest or most magnificent castle, but it was quaint, full of expected history and winding small stairs. There is a lovely small (very small) place to buy refreshments, tea and locally made items. It costs around 4 Euro to enter
The castle was built the year I was born... haha! Seriously though, it's amazing but so hard for me to wrap my head around a date that was such a long time ago... 1 4 8 0!! 
People were much shorter in the 1480's! Andy was just under 6 foot tall when this was taken... But I'm 5'8" and I had to duck as well.
Mind those stairs! Literally you step out of the room and you're on a stair! Hallways were surely designed shortly after :) 
But the best part of O'Dea, was the walk we took on the lands of the castle, the walk is through beautiful lush fields of grass, and the way to the castle on the grounds.
You will make friends along the way...
The ruins of this Church were apparently founded in the 8th century
We also came upon the ruins of a home... We all agreed that it must be a loop! (You will only understand what a loop is, if you have read the books from Ransom Riggs, a 3 part series, the first book being "Miss Peregrine's home for Peculiar Children)

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
Bunratty Castle is a large castle, 4 times the size of O'Dea and it's on the grounds of many homes, animals and a small village. It's a depiction of life gone by. It's educational and fun and there are plenty of places to have a sandwich or/and a cup of tea. It will take you a few hours if you want to see the whole park, about 4 or 5 hours and it costs roughly 12 Euro per adult and 9 for a child, or you can buy a family pass for around 34 Euro. 
I'm always amazed by the windows in castles, they are always narrow, hardly allowing for light. But I suppose it was cold and one only needed to see if there were others approaching.
More winding stairs, barely room to fit a foot!
And don't get thrown in the Dungeon!
More...Even smaller stairs! 
We went to the very top, and even though my first visit was in the winter, the views were still spectacular.
The grounds are beautiful, and worth the time it takes to roam them
I have not even shown a fraction of what is on grounds of Bunratty, it's full of history and artifacts. You can go inside every home and see the dishes and furniture of the time as well.
Anyone that knows me, knows I love trees, and Ireland NEVER disappoints!
Even in the winter... Ireland is rich with green
And if you have the time, I suggest staying for the Medieval Banquet after hours, you will be served as if you were dining with an Earl. Keep in mind you will be eating with your fingers and a knife only... But you will drink mead, hear beautiful singing and playing of the harp. Just as if you were eating with royalty. The experience will cost you around 55 Euro.
The meal was delicious, it came out on huge platters for everyone to take what they like
No spoons, but you could use your bread for your soup or drink it from the goblet
You could also use the only utensil given to us, apparently knives were very much at the ready for meals back in time
However, Neither Hazel nor myself impaled ourselves or walked away bleeding, so it was a great night!
 I should have just given up and used my fingers!! But you know... Manners!
So make yourself an Irish friend, or... Bring one with you to Ireland and get a move on to visit these castles... and when you do, don't forget to stop by a pub, any pub-- and have yourself some traditional bacon and cabbage... It's hearty and good for the soul!
I hope you are having a great day,
Until next time,

Monday, January 1, 2018

Souvenirs from Paris

I like buying things that come from other countries, but I don't want a dust collector that will sit on a shelf, and collect, well. Dust. I like a more simplistically decorated home anyway. When I travel, I want something that will let me experience that country's culture. So very often, I buy Food! Wouldn't you agree, that food defines a culture? Even in the United States, each state has a famous food that defines them... Think Texas and BBQ or Philly Steak Sandwiches from Philadelphia. Though I can't bring back a hot meal I ate, I can go into the local grocery store and pick up things the locals purchase.

I also find that Magazines/Newspapers are great souvenirs. I love seeing how each culture decorates, dresses, cooks and seeing a different language in print, is just magical to me.

Speaking of magical, when it comes to Paris-- Whoa. There are some Verrrrry cool things to bring back. My biggest Paris regret? My daughter and I both brought carry-ons! Paris requires a full size suitcase if you're going to buy souvenirs. But alas, we bought, we stuffed, we crammed and we prevailed!! We found some great things for us, for family and for friends. I wanted to share these things with you, because if you have a trip planned to Paris, you can't go wrong with ANY of these items! 

Oh my gosh, for a packaged food... These are DELICIOUS! There are many different flavors, of course.
My favorite was the chocolate covered madeleine, but the chocolate chip were good as well. My suggestion for these, is bring a small empty shoe box to Paris, you can keep your snacks from getting smashed, mine only barely made it home unscathed.

                                       Gaufres LiĆ©geoises aka Chocolate covered waffles 
These are divine. Like seriously, right now I can just taste them. They are individually wrapped as well, in case you want to buy a pack to share among many. I'm not embarrassed to say, that these didn't last long enough to make it back to the United States. 
The Evian with lemon and elderflower was definitely worth a journey back home as well, but liquids are heavy and well... I just had this one for breakfast.
                                                                   Vegetable Sponges
Before we left for France, I had already decided I needed these in my life :), I love any product that is good for our planet, and these are made from vegetables! Which mean they go right back into our earth... Now, be forewarned, my sister in law was not amused by this gift, she even said to me "Oh thanks, I got sponges?!?! And I'm thinking, this is like the best thing since sliced bread! We can compost our sponges! It seems few people hold my enthusiasm for our planet. 
                                                 Lutti Koila aka Marshmallow Bears
These were delicious. I don't know, maybe it's just that magical french touch? I'm sure the french are secretly enchanted. I know I can get chocolate covered marshmallows at home, but this was a great gift to bring home for a friends son, he loved them! 

Potato Chips
I am always amused by the Potato Chips/Crisps selection that every country loves, this flavor wasn't bad, and of course there were many to chose from. I'm being serious when I say, I have to always look at the chips! (Being American, I have to admit, we have to be the craziest for our flavors... Waffles and Chicken anyone? The British, I find are a close second... Take for instance, when Walkers did their Chili and Chocolate crisps!!)

They need no explanation. I mean, magazines, are just cool. No... I can't read french, but I try, and I have google :) But I like seeing what other cultures want to read about. I found the French culture, to be much like ours, except the women, dress a heck of a lot better!! (I felt like the only one wearing Jeans and sneakers)
I didn't buy this one
But with the sinking Statue of Liberty and the name "Trump" in the same sentence, I could only guess the reporters are about as fond of Trump as I am. (Not very!)

Hollywood Gum
Just some fun, that will fit in the suitcase!

I found a lot of the candy that was also available in England and Ireland. Cadbury is a classic delicious chocolate sold in France. However, there are many french brands as well, I bought these. Hard caramel on a stick. They were good, and were oddly in the shape of a tear drop. Very interesting and fun to bring back. I shared them at work.

Last but not least of my Paris souvenirs. I love scarves, I love to wear them and they never go out of style, so I often buy them as souvenirs. I also like to buy a Sterling Silver charm for my travel bracelet, but the thing is, I couldn't speak french so I didn't know where to go to get a good quality charm. I did get this pretty scarf though and I couldn't pass up this pretty purse, though it's very cliche. 

My daughter is my official travel buddy and has been since 2015, I started a wanderlust in her that continues to grow. She loves to people watch and she loves fashion. She also loves Hoodies, before traveling she kept saying she wanted a Paris Hoodie... So we got her the hoodie and a couple of bits of French fashion.

Her brothers were not amused by her choice of T-shirt. Though we are all about equal rights for women, we do love men... geeze... calm down boys!!
I told her that she has the duck lips perfected... 

She also HAD to have these shoes, they didn't have her size, so we got one size bigger, she said she would grow into them. How could I say no? We were, after all, buzzing on Paris! Both the shirt and the shoes were bought at Pimkie .. Since Hannah's favorite store is Holister, this was right up her alley. The Staff are friendly and it's easy to use your American Debit/Visa/Mastercard.  
Her Hoodie... It's her go to souvenir, and easy for me to buy her something if I go somewhere without her. 

There were so many other things that I would have liked to bring home. We will go back to Paris, and when we do, I'm bringing an empty suitcase. Seriously. Same when I go to London.. I hoard Tea, Prawn  Cocktail crisps, Cadbury and Galaxy Chocolate!

Things to put on your list for your next trip to Paris

Anaseed Drops
I wanted to buy Aniseed Drops, but I couldn't find any in the couple of shops we went into. I've read that they are a very popular and the tins are just adorable.

Chestnut Paste
I'm disappointed to say this is another thing that escaped me. Mind you we were only in Paris for 36 hours, but next time, I will go to a proper Supermarket.

I didn't actually have Macroons on my list. I know, it's a shame. But they are everywhere now, I actually purchased some at HEB in Texas. They are not just France favorites any longer. However, next time I am in France, I shall buy French Macroons.

French Soap
I saw nothing as wonderful as these, but my research suggests, that French soap is some of the best in the world.. 

And finally...
My biggest regret for not bringing a bigger suitcase.
I know I can get seasonings at home, but to authentically buy them in a foreign country, and just look at these bottles, everything is inviting and beautiful. I stared at them a long time, knowing I could not fit another thing in. I was even secretly wondering how many I could fit in my purse and my daughter's backpack... but I slowly walked away, knowing I would return again.
 There really had to be no explanation for these beauties!

On an amusing note...
The french children apparently love their sugar for breakfast, as much as American children!

When we were walking around one of the small corner stores, Hannah and I came upon this...
We stood there for quite some time, contemplating what this could possibly be.
Hannah said they were selling samples of blood, turns out,
It's Iodine! :) Haha... The beauty of traveling to different countries. Guessing some of the products on the shelves!

I hope you and your family have a prosperous and blessed 2018,