Category Archives: Ireland

Ireland Part 4: Aran Islands

I had no idea what to expect from the Aran Islands, and it turned out to be my favorite part of our Ireland trip. It felt like a mini-vacation within a vacation. Maybe because it’s remote, or because there isn’t much to do once you get there. Maybe because I was chauffeured around the island in a horse-drawn carriage.

Whatever it is, it was awesome. I highly recommend the trip.

The Aran Islands is comprised of three islands that can only be reached by boat. We took a ferry to the largest and most populated of the three, Inis Mor. The ferry leave from Ros a’ Mhíl, about an hour’s drive west of Galway.

**IMG_7964**IMG_7971**IMG_7987With a total population of 840 (many of whom still speak Gaelic), you can really feel Inis Mor’s unspoiled beauty.  Until not too long ago, cars were banned on the island – something we heard a lot about from our carriage driver.

*IMG_8003The island boasts several interesting, historical sites which you can see by private minibus, rented bicycles, or carriage. The below map is compliments of the Aran Islands website.

Since the weather was cold and windy (and some of us were lazy), we hired a horse-drawn carriage much to the delight of our driver, John, who regaled us with a never-ending stream of stories.


I loved the tour. The island is stunning. Our driver was a comedian, who could not go five minutes without asking us how we were enjoying the tour. (“Is this a live Yelp review?” M asked.) And it was so nice to to sit back, snuggle under a fleece blanket, the Irish air nipping at our faces while we enjoyed the sites.

John took us across the entire length of the island, first along the southern most road, then circling around to the northern edge. As you can see from the above map, there aren’t that many roads, and it’s pretty hard to get lost.

***IMG_8039Self-portrait here, with Mark peaking out of the corner.

@IMG_8439@IMG_8081**IMG_8092**IMG_8154Our first stop was Dun Aoghasa World Heritage Site, perhaps the most famous site on the island. John dropped us off, and we hiked 20 minutes up a gravel path to the remains of an ancient fort, dated to 1100 BC.

*IMG_8180***IMG_8291This is how you take a picture of a 300-foot cliff without falling over the edge.

@IMG_8221This is what the view looks like from said cliff.

**IMG_8237***IMG_8349**IMG_8316John picked us up at the bottom and showed us the remains of a seventh century church.

***IMG_8383*IMG_8377*IMG_8382As we turned around and rode along the northern edge of the island, we were rewarded with beautiful coastal views, seals in the distance (!), and what counts for a traffic jam on Inis Mor.

***IMG_8167I asked John why they built so many stone walls and he told us that the walls served no specific purpose. It was merely a means of clearing the fields of the layers upon layers of rock.

**IMG_8092***IMG_8448Oh oh… traffic jam. We got an earful from John about the proliferation of motor vehicles on the island.


**IMG_8484**IMG_8534That night, we slept in one of the small inns on the island (there aren’t that many to choose from) while M and Mark did more than their share of drinking. The next morning, we packed our new Aran sweaters in our suitcases, and took the ferry back to the mainland.

Have you been to the Aran Islans? What are you waiting for?!?!


A Ride Through Inis Mor from Nam Writes on Vimeo.

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Ireland Part 3: Go West Young Woman

After half a day in Dublin, we headed west. With an overnight in Limerick, the next morning brought us to Galway for a few hours before catching the ferry to the Aran Islands.

It was a casual morning, with no agenda. We wandered the streets of the old city, popped into a museum, checked out some ruins before piling back into the car.

In the Middle Ages, Galway served a port city and prospered off of its bountiful trade. Today, it’s a sleepy albeit charming city that offers a hint of its important history.




In the Middle Ages century, Galway was a walled city. Today, the most famous remnant is the Spanish Arc near the River Corrib. We took some pictures before popping into the nearby Galway City Museum.


If you want a further taste of the medieval city, you can check out an indoor archeological site called The Hall of the Red Earl. The site shows the remains of an old municipal building that was used to collect taxes, host banquets, and issue justice. The hall was abandoned in the 15th century when Galway’s famous 14 Tribes captured the city. Over the centuries, it was built over and disappeared from public sight until 1997.

*IMG_7959Perhaps the strangest ruin of all is the Shoemakers Tower, which can now be seen inside Eyre Square Center. Yes, that is a 17th century tower inside a mall.



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Ireland Part 2: Half a Day in Dublin

We only had half a day in Dublin before Mark took us on a whirlwind tour of Western Ireland. M decided to cram as many museums and religious sites into his morning as possible and Mark was happy to tag along (sucker!)

As for me, I relished the opportunity to wander mindlessly around Dublin, taking pictures, popping into shops, and seeing Dublin at my own pace.

My impression from one slightly rainy half day: Dublin is full of old European charm with a patina of grit. There are cobblestone roads, cute cafes, shops, bridges, curvy streets that lead to castles, churches, and other important historical sites.

****IMG_7794At the right time of day, the reflections on the Liffey River are a photographer’s dream.

***IMG_7801***IMG_7818***IMG_7830Dublin Castle is an imposing building in heart of town. Until 1922, it was the seat of U.K. government in Dublin.

***IMG_7640*IMG_7680***IMG_7723***IMG_7778I popped into the Chester Beatty Library to escape the rain and catch up on some work.

***IMG_7741**IMG_7767More pictures from around town.


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Ireland Part 1: Welcome to Ireland!

When we got to Ireland, we were in the trusted hands of Mark, my boss/friend/professional partner-in-crime. Mark loves Ireland, so we let him plan the entire trip. Plus, he offered to drive on the left-side of the road, and that’s an offer I can’t refuse.

First up, Mark took us to New Grange, a neolithic burial mound. We drove to the visitor center, where you have to sign up for a specific time slot to see New Grange (and other sites if you’re so inclined). You can’t actually got to New Grange on your own. At your allotted time, you climb into a shuttle bus which drops you off at the New Grange site.


Once at New Grange, there isn’t a lot to see. The scenery is beautiful, but otherwise, you’ll come face to face with a massive stone-enclosed mound. The guide split the group into two due to space constraints and took us into the site a group at a time. NO PHOTOS ARE ALLOWED INSIDE… which made the whole thing a lot less fun for me (unless you’re my husband and you don’t believe in rules).


Next up, Mark drove us south of Dublin to one of his favorite sites, Glendalough, a sixth century monastery site with lovely ruins, walking paths, and a small museum (which was closed when we got there).

The scenery is gorgeous and feels authentically Irish. It’s the kind of place you can spend a leisurely afternoon, walking through history and soaking up the lush backdrop.


This is one of my favorite pictures of Mark from the trip.


Of course, this being Ireland, it was way past time for some drinking. There is a hotel and bar on site, and Mark and M got right to it. As for me, I like to think of drinking as a spectator sport (unless it’s a diet coke).

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How We Ended Up Honeymooning in Iceland and Ireland… with My Boss

Our honeymoon began unconventionally.

My boss, Mark, said: “I have to give a speech in Dublin. Do you guys want to come to Ireland with me?”

I said: “Will you drive on the other side of the road for us?”

Mark: Sure!


Roundabouts are hard enough on the right side of the road.

After a little research and I lot of frustration trying to figure out the new avios site, I found return tickets from Dublin to D.C. on Aer Lingus f for 26,000 avios and $251 for two people.

When I couldn’t find direct flights from D.C. to Dublin, I proposed expanding our trip into a real honeymoon – without Mark (sorry Mark). We settled on Iceland because of the short flight and because – it’s Iceland, duh, home to glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, and all sorts of other cool stuff.

M’s Chase Sapphire Reserve came in handy as we sought to minimize the costs of the notoriously expensive country. We booked two seats on Iceland Air through Chase’s travel portal, with each point worth 1.5 cents. The two flights costs us 45,212 Chase points, worth $678.20.

While there are limited points hotels in Reykjavik, I managed to stretch my meager reserve of Hilton points (after I spent the bulk of them in Barcelona) by booking four nights at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica for 16,000 points and $40 a night. While the hotel is a 20 – 30 minute walk to the center of town, the affordable price and my Hilton diamond status made it an easy choice. The more centrally located and newer Hilton Canopy was going for 70,000 points a night. Eesh.

Finally, we had to find a way to get from Reykjavik to Dublin to meet up with Mark. Believe it or not, the only nonstop flight is on Wow Airlines… at 6 a.m. in the morning. Since the airport is a good hour from the Reykjavik, I booked our last night at the Park Inn near the airport for 10,000 Club Carlson points and $110 dollars. Since we are renting a car for our last two days, we’ll return the car at the airport on our last night.

And that’s how we ended up honeymooning with my boss… sort of. Stay tuned for a full report!

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