April 25, 2010
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April 11, 2010

Over Easter, Rob and I took the very quick flight from London to Dublin and then hopped in a car to drive to the west coast. We were amazingly awake after waking up at 3:40 a.m. to catch our early flight and were out of the car doing a short walk by early afternoon. We checked out the Torc Waterfall loop in Killarney National Park. It was lush and green and did not disappoint. Later we opted for a drive recommended by Bernice at the B&B. I successfully got us completely lost and hours later we rolled into a town on fumes (yep, nearly empty gas tank). Fun! But things improved quickly. As the sun came out in the evening we had the most amazing views of the Magillicuddy Reeks (mountain range). The next day we felt well-rested and ready for a longer walk. We decided to hike to the top of one of the small mountains out on the Ring of Kerry. It was challenging to say the least. Stunning scenery, unpredictable weather and then a trek ‘off-trail’ (because we lost the trail). Later, we were able to laugh about the field covered in long, straw-colored grass that concealed massive holes everywhere you stepped. I went hip-deep into one and Rob couldn’t even see me!

The next night we stayed in Kenmare. This was such a sweet little town and I put together a pre-dinner spread of local cheese, home-baked bread and a nice red wine (not Irish, thankfully). We got to bed early and headed further south along the coast to our final stop—the Sheepshead Peninsula. This was going to be our longest walk. After struggling a bit to find the trailhead we set off at the furthest point and made our way back along the northern coast. What a gorgeous walk and loads of sunshine. The coastline is very rugged and beautiful. The last part of the loop brought us along a mountain ridge to the starting point. We successfully did not get blown over the edge and rewarded ourselves with tea and scones. After a large dinner that night at ‘The Snug’ in Bantry, we slept like babies. Day two on the Sheepshead Peninsula had us, at the advice of the B&B owner Mr. Crowley, take a drive on a teeny road to begin a looped walk that would let us go along the northern coast to see parts that we hadn’t seen the day before. After that shorter loop we drove to the top of one of the other mountains and walked up to check out the view. Sustained gale force winds made me change my mind about that walk, and we retreated down the hill to a pub for Guinness and burgers.

For our very last night, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner at O’Connor’s in Bantry. (Yes, every place has an appropriately authentic Irish name. Don’t confuse O’Connor’s the restaurant with O’Connor’s Chiropractic Clinic). We ordered a nice wine and tucked in to local seafood including mussels, scallops and lobster. During the meal we chatted with a lovely couple next to us who were visiting her parents (the grandparents were babysitting their 3 kids so these two could have a nice evening out). As they were leaving, Rob went up to pay the bill—only to discover that this couple had paid for us before they left! What a way to end a trip!

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As usual, I’ve procrastinated adding to my blog and am now writing about a trip we took two months ago! Waaaay back in February we went on a little European road trip with our friends Matthew and Erin (from D.C.). A quick journey on the EuroStar got us to Paris where we had an entirely different (much better!) experience than our last visit a few years ago. We stayed in a sweet little hotel (Dauphine Saint Germain) that was close to everything and found some great little out of the way restaurants (try out Chez Denise and Vins des Pyrenees). By the end of our few days there, I’d had lots of practice with my French and was feeling confident…just in time to get to Italy and switch languages again! We flew into Bologna (where friends Giancarlo and Emily live) and had an amazing dinner at Trattoria Broccaindosso. Tiny street, nondescript entrance, no menu and AMAZING food! The next day we set off for Florence and showed Mattie and Erin around some of our favourite sites, finishing with dinner at another amazing family-style ristorante. By the next day everyone had a cold but me, but we pushed on to Venice. We decided to spring for the gondola ride and it was well worth it. I’d love to visit this city again and see if we can find the non-touristy parts.

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February 7, 2010
One of the joys of living here has been our amazing neighbours—Ash, Melanie and baby Ruben.  Not only were they the ones who baked Rob his very own stadium cake for his birthday, they also gave him this amazing gift.  This is homemade tomato chutney, made by Ash from his own tomato plants!  Delicious!

One of the joys of living here has been our amazing neighbours—Ash, Melanie and baby Ruben.  Not only were they the ones who baked Rob his very own stadium cake for his birthday, they also gave him this amazing gift.  This is homemade tomato chutney, made by Ash from his own tomato plants!  Delicious!

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January 29, 2010
Somebody is thirty!  Rob’s other birthday surprise was a pub crawl (okay, we only made it to three) with friends from London.  The big hit was a toy tattoo kit from friends Quincy and Lock.  After finding out how difficult they were to wash off, many of us were thankful that we had not gone for the ‘teardrop under the eye’ tattoos, and stuck to the more coverable body parts.  The night ended, appropriately, with a curry and rounds of Cobra beer on Brick Lane.  East side!

Somebody is thirty!  Rob’s other birthday surprise was a pub crawl (okay, we only made it to three) with friends from London.  The big hit was a toy tattoo kit from friends Quincy and Lock.  After finding out how difficult they were to wash off, many of us were thankful that we had not gone for the ‘teardrop under the eye’ tattoos, and stuck to the more coverable body parts.  The night ended, appropriately, with a curry and rounds of Cobra beer on Brick Lane.  East side!

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After just three days of work following Christmas, Rob and I hopped on another flight to Barcelona to celebrate the New Year with our friends Paul and Jen from Austin.  We raced from the airport to get to our cute rented apartment in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood and were changed and out just in time for midnight.  After meeting what must’ve been Barcelona’s toughest barmaid (she ran into the street with some form of wooden club to chase off thugs) we decided to relocate to a bar down the street.  And there I experienced my introduction to the fine art of pickpocketing that is alive and well in Barcelona.  Fortunately, we managed to come home with all of our valuables, but others were not so lucky!  Barcelona is a very pretty city and offers the chance to see some amazing architecture (and eat some great paella).  This cathedral, Sagrada Familia, considered one of Gaudi’s greatest works, has been under construction since 1882 (according to Wikipedia) and it’s not even close to being finished.  Amazing!

After just three days of work following Christmas, Rob and I hopped on another flight to Barcelona to celebrate the New Year with our friends Paul and Jen from Austin.  We raced from the airport to get to our cute rented apartment in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood and were changed and out just in time for midnight.  After meeting what must’ve been Barcelona’s toughest barmaid (she ran into the street with some form of wooden club to chase off thugs) we decided to relocate to a bar down the street.  And there I experienced my introduction to the fine art of pickpocketing that is alive and well in Barcelona.  Fortunately, we managed to come home with all of our valuables, but others were not so lucky!  Barcelona is a very pretty city and offers the chance to see some amazing architecture (and eat some great paella).  This cathedral, Sagrada Familia, considered one of Gaudi’s greatest works, has been under construction since 1882 (according to Wikipedia) and it’s not even close to being finished.  Amazing!

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Okay, so Christmas was over and Rob and I had a long flight and even longer day at work ahead of us.  At the gate, they pulled us aside and took away our boarding passes…only to be replaced by business class seats!  We were beside ourselves and, I’m afraid, made it all too obvious that we had NEVER been in business class seats.  Conversation:  Flight attendant:  ”Excuse me sir…”  Rob:  ”Oh, we got upgraded!”  Flight attendant:  ”It happens.  Now may I take your coats?”  Before the plane started moving I’d already opened my goodie bag, read the menu through at least three times, debated which glass of wine would go best with my meal, reclined my seat into a bed and back up again, etc.  Now, we just have to make some serious money so we never have to mix with the plebs in economy class again!

Okay, so Christmas was over and Rob and I had a long flight and even longer day at work ahead of us.  At the gate, they pulled us aside and took away our boarding passes…only to be replaced by business class seats!  We were beside ourselves and, I’m afraid, made it all too obvious that we had NEVER been in business class seats.  Conversation:  Flight attendant:  ”Excuse me sir…”  Rob:  ”Oh, we got upgraded!”  Flight attendant:  ”It happens.  Now may I take your coats?”  Before the plane started moving I’d already opened my goodie bag, read the menu through at least three times, debated which glass of wine would go best with my meal, reclined my seat into a bed and back up again, etc.  Now, we just have to make some serious money so we never have to mix with the plebs in economy class again!

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Clearly there is some catching up to be done!  This year our Christmas was spent back in the States—hanging out with Rob’s family, my sister and her husband in PA.  We had lots to pack in:  Olive Garden, Sonic, Pizza Perfect, etc.  I must’ve gone to the grocery store every day we were there, just to look around at all the products like ranch dressing and cornbread mix that I miss.  This photo comes from one of the finer moments….the world famous Johnson Family game of Wine, Lose or Draw.  ’Wine’ is not a typo.

Clearly there is some catching up to be done!  This year our Christmas was spent back in the States—hanging out with Rob’s family, my sister and her husband in PA.  We had lots to pack in:  Olive Garden, Sonic, Pizza Perfect, etc.  I must’ve gone to the grocery store every day we were there, just to look around at all the products like ranch dressing and cornbread mix that I miss.  This photo comes from one of the finer moments….the world famous Johnson Family game of Wine, Lose or Draw.  ’Wine’ is not a typo.

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December 9, 2009
Yes, as most of you know, I took the plunge and chopped off the locks for Locks of Love.  It was a great decision.  If you want to do the same, check out their site:  http://www.locksoflove.org/

Yes, as most of you know, I took the plunge and chopped off the locks for Locks of Love.  It was a great decision.  If you want to do the same, check out their site:  http://www.locksoflove.org/

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