A Day Trip through Croatian Wine Country

A day trip in Croatian wine country

Monday is a great day for photos of the beautiful Croatian wine country, I dare say. So get ready, here come a lot of them! It’s been just long enough now since our trip to Dubrovnik that I have loved working my way through these photos. Our day trip through the Pelješac peninsula just north of Dubrovnik to see where they make their delicious Dinga? red wine was a wonderful day trip from the city.

The driving was just wild enough to provide a little thrill, and at each turn was a more beautiful vista. But I was very glad that by the end of the day the thrilling drive hadn’t sent us free-falling directly into the beautiful vistas! It was touch and go there for a few hairpin turns!

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When we started our day trip, the weather looked more like this. It was cloudy and a little rainy as we made the 45-minute drive north from Dubrovnik along the coast. But we knew the forecast was for the rain to clear by mid-afternoon, so we figured we’d make the most of the cloudy portion by driving and enjoy the views by the time we got to the end of the peninsula. And it worked! Don’t you love when the forecast is right? That doesn’t always happen here in Ireland.

The Pelješac peninsula is known for two things: wine and shellfish, in the form of mussels and oysters. Oysters and mussels don’t really do it for us (texture! eeeh!), but we are pretty big fans of red wine. We had had some delicious Dinga? wine (pronounced ding-gatch, we think) in the Dubrovnik old town the night before we went, so we knew exactly what we were looking for!

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The funny thing about this road trip is that it reminded us (for the umpteenth time that week) that so many things in Croatia are closed in April. We drove through Ston, and it felt like a ghost town. There were a locals working on their shops and cafes, but otherwise there were just cats and empty laneways. To be honest, it was creepy. We wanted to walk up the amazing old stone wall that crosses over the little mountain in the town, but it was closed for renovation (sense a theme?) so we high-tailed it back on down the peninsula.  ghost-town-croatia ghost-town-croatia-3

I did the driving on the way north and into the bulk of the peninsula, so we had fewer photos until we switched and I started demanding we pull over. When I was driving, I was so focused on the winding road that I forgot to pull us over!

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We pulled over at this scenic little spot for a picnic lunch. I was so proud of myself for our random leftover lunch – roasted onions, sweet potatoes and kielbasa with spinach and Greek yogurt in a wrap. It sounds bizarre, but it was delicious. Although pretty much anything would have been delicious with that epic view. There was even a giant thunder and lightening storm happening way off in the distance!

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Blue sky is wonderful, but grey skies bring the drama.

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Two beautiful photographs taken from the speeding car while Michael played Formula One on the Pelješac roads. They’re blurry because I was holding on for dear life with my other hand! On the left you can see the twisted branches of the grapevines. The whole peninsula was covered with them. Old vines, young vines, vines in front gardens, basically vines in any space bigger than two feet wide.

In the high season, as you drive along the peninsula you could stop at a hundred different wineries (there were hand painted signs all along the roads), but we also realized that if you had two grapevines outside your back door, you had a “winery”. Ha! I would have loved to have stopped at one of the little mom and pop wineries, but sadly the only one that we found open was one of the largest ones. It wasn’t so sad, of course, because we got to roam the very expansive, very dark (and very un-photogenic) wine cellars while it downpoured outside. No photos, but it was the Matusko winery and there was a Maserati parked outside. I think they do okay by Croatian wine standards!  winding-roads-croatia

After our winery visit we made a terrifying mistake. There’s a tunnel that goes through the mountain on the edge of the peninsula to where the really good wine grapes are grown on the edge of a cliff. We thought that tunnel would connect us to the main road and we were very wrong. Well, if we had been brave enough to drive along the narrow paved/pebbled road with no guard rails it might have eventually led to the main road. But instead we had to stop the car so we could switch drivers and Michael could turn it around while I stood on the side of the pebbles and closed my eyes and held my breath. Once we got turned around and back through the tunnel, our adventure was a happy experience again.

hate heights and being the passenger was worse because I had to be on the outside of the road, right along the cliffs. So few guardrails, Croatia. Can we work on that? So scary! croatia-coast-hotel

But it was all worth it. We made it to the southern end of the peninsula to a little town called Orebi? and burst through the clouds into the sunshine.  croatia-coast croatia-drinks-coast

We had a glass of wine and sat on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. It was bliss.

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Orebi? seems adorable, and both of us said we’d love to come back and take the ferry across to the island opposite the peninsula when the temperature was a little higher.

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After spending a little time in the sunshine, collecting bits of pretty seaglass and gazing into the turquoise water, we realized we had better make tracks! We wanted to get off that peninsula and back to Dubrovnik before the sun set. The driving was wayyyyyy too precarious to do it in the dark. If we returned, we’d definitely stay a few nights because we were exhausted by the end of the long day of driving!       sunset-croatia

And thank goodness for Michael’s Formula One driving, because we made it back to Dubrovnik just as the sun was sinking below the islands. I made him pull over just one more time so I could snap another sunset photo without the blur. I swear, Croatian sunsets might just be the best going.

In case you missed it — our time in Dubrovnik was wonderful, too!

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Happy Friday!

mini-friends-hugging

Happy Friday, friends! We had so much sun this week that today’s weak rain shower was almost a relief. Almost. Not quite. But we still managed a little outside time – our weekly Friday trip with my niece, my friend Naomi and her little one Elsie. The girls have learned how to hug and it melts your heart to see the little 18-month-olds giving each other a squeeze.

This weekend, Michael is coaching the Irish College Select Team (such an honor!) for a tournament in Dublin, so I’ll have the house to myself for a little more spring cleaning. I’m also looking forward to catching up with my parents who have been traveling around Arizona for the last week. Their photos looked amazing and I’m adding that part of America to my travel list.

Don’t forget, you can still enter to win a little sheep tea cosy (it’s something that keeps your teapot warm!) until Monday! And get ready for a few more giveaways next week!

This New York Times article about 1.5 million “missing” black men in the United States was sobering, especially its connection to Ferguson, where there are only 60 black men for every 100 black women.

This beautiful travel guide is making me want to visit the west coast Portland.

I made this rhubarb sour cream bundt cake for dinner guests tonight. If it tastes half as good as it smells, it’s going to be whopper!

These made-over alphabet magnets are a great idea for people (ahem, me) who cringe at primary colors.

I hope you have a lovely and relaxing weekend, wherever you are!

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A Perfect Spring Day in St. Stephen’s Green

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For the last two weeks, it has been sunny in Dublin. Like real sunshine, the kind that lasts the whole day without a rain shower and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. Every spring we get this unexpected spate of nice weather days and everyone tip-toes around wondering what we did to deserve this glimpse of summer for so many days in a row, trying not to anger the weather gods and tempt the rain and wintry weather back.

I spent Tuesday afternoon at St. Stephen’s Green with friends, lounging on blankets, people watching and remarking at our good weather. I’m pretty sure I said “I just can’t believe this weather!” every five minutes. Sorry, guys! I’m easily distracted by glorious weather! dublin-green-grass-park park-lounging-dublin   spring-st-stephens-green-dublin

We lounged, along with everyone else in Dublin. Nearly everyone was horizontal, soaking in the Vitamin D that has been so elusive for the last five months.

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Stephen’s Green has some great cherry blossoms in bloom at the moment. Go quick before they get rained away tomorrow!  spring-in-dublin-cherry-blossoms dublin-spring cherry-blossoms-dublin-spring dublin-spring-2 stephens-green-dublin-spring-2

Stephen’s Green is probably the best people-watching park in the city on a sunny day. I love this photo below. Those two older guys chatting against the tree, and can you spot the girl leaning against her man on the bench, head tipped to the sunshine? We also watched a guy spend two hours practicing bartender tricks with a (presumably empty?) liquor bottle and cups. It was mesmerizing and also looked exhausting. He was dedicated!  dublin-park-springtime dublin-park-spring tulips-st-stephens-green

Stephen’s Green also has incredible tall tulips at the moment, mixed in with petite primulas. Perfect spring combination, in my opinion!  tulips-dublin-spring

Today is the last day of this unexpected spring sunshine and the forecast for the next week looks “changeable” at best. I’ve nearly forgotten what that looks like!

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Tea Cosy Giveaway!

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I’ve been doing some serious spring cleaning this week and I happened upon a stash of awesome goodies from various events that I’ve been hoarding over the last year or so. As it turns out, I don’t need ten notebooks and an extra four bars of beautiful soap, so I thought I’d do a few giveaways!

First up, this sweet sheep tea cosy by designer Ursula Celano. Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite cosy beverage you love to sip (you won’t be penalized if it’s not tea!). I’ll choose a winner at random on Monday and have it out in the mail to you straight away! Teacup and saucer not included.

Good luck!

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Notes and News from The Hive Conference

The Hive Conference Comes to Dublin

A week or so ago, I flew to Berlin for The Hive Conference for European bloggers. Wayyyyyy back in 2012, I attended the first one, but I wasn’t able to go for the last two years because of family commitments in Maine. But this year I was so excited to return – I write their monthly newsletter and helped research speakers, so I was really interested to see it all play out! I was also really excited to see my friends Anne and Ashley, whom I met at the very first Hive Conference. It’s so funny to think we didn’t know each other back then – and even funnier to think we had no idea how close we would become years later. Thank goodness for the internet!

First things first, there’s exciting news for Dublin bloggers that was announced in Berlin. The Hive is coming to Dublin next spring! We’re not sure the date or venue yet, but we should know in the next few months. As soon as the details have been finalized, I’ll keep you posted!

Next, I wanted to share a few things I learned at this conference. I’ve been blogging for six years, so sometimes blogging conferences can feel too geared toward beginners. But The Hive has a pretty good mix of talks for established and new bloggers, and I picked up a few shareable pieces of inspiration and information in Berlin that I really wanted to pass along to you. If you’re not a blogger, this may not be for you. You can go eat some chocolate and come back tomorrow!

1. The key to a great blogging conference: Be open, friendly, warm and welcoming

I left Berlin feeling refreshed – the people I met in person for the first time after knowing or following them online for ages, were nicer and more friendly in person than I even expected. If I’m being 1000% honest, I think I tend to be more reserved in person than I mean to be. I like to size up a situation before diving in head first. But after spending the weekend with such warm and open people reminded me that it’s absolutely okay to be gushingly friendly from the get go. There’s really nothing to lose.

2. Search Engine Optimization Tricks

It’s always good to be reminded that the nuts and bolts and behind the scenes of a blog are important. SEO usually feels like a different language, but somehow this workshop by SEO consultant Malte Landwehr made (almost) perfect sense! Here are a few practical ah-ha tricks:

  • The ‘Alt tags’ for images should be descriptions of the image and not identical for each image, they’re also what pop up when someone pins your image to Pinterest.
  • If you have old content on your blog that isn’t useful anymore, delete it. Ack, what a scary idea! But I see the point, if it’s just taking up space, there’s no point in it!
  • There’s perfect SEO and then there’s writing for the reader’s experience – and you should be creating a balance between the two. I loved this tidbit because it seems so hard to do SEO perfectly without sacrificing reader enjoyment. I like the idea of balance, although I think I could work harder on making everything more searchable and findable.

3. Sustainable fashion is about doing something, not everything

Jana, who writes the sustainable fashion blog Plique, gave the most thought-provoking and intellectual talk of the weekend. I usually find the idea of sustainable fashion intimidating, a mountain too big to even begin to scale. But Jana’s presentation was great encouragement that becoming more sustainably-focused in what we wear doesn’t have to be a quest for absolute perfection, but rather that doing something is better than doing nothing. Making a change is better than continuing to pretend that fast fashion is the only option.

Sidenote: I’ve referenced this article by Erin Boyle on growing a minimalist wardrobe about twenty times in the last week. Another great reminder of why higher quality pieces will stay in your wardrobe for much longer than mediocre pieces. It’s really worth a read.

4. On Online Hatred: “It’s better to be on this side.”

Natalie Holbrook, of the blog and book Hey Natalie Jean, gave the introductory keynote and spoke about online hate. While thankfully I’ve never had to deal with meanies harrassing me online, it’s something I’m seeing more and more of, especially on Instagram. It’s so easy to set up a fake or duplicate account just to harrass people.

She said that one of the things she reminds herself when people say hateful things to her on Twitter or Instagram or on her blog, is that it’s better to be on the receiving end than the dishing out end. It’s a far worse situation to be filled with hate than to be hated, which is a reminder that extends beyond the online world.

5. On Blog Longevity: “Make your blog reflective of your core journey and your readers will follow.”

Chelsea Fuss, of the blog Frolic, gave the closing keynote and spoke about why blogs are still relevant. Chelsea has been blogging for almost ten years, parlaying her blogging career into a career as a (famous!) prop stylist. But last year, she decided she needed to make a change, and that creating beautiful scenes for photos wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as living those beautiful (or sometimes not-so-beautiful) scenes. She sold everything she owned and headed off to Europe to live and work her way around the continent. She’s been blogging and freelancing, but more importantly living and exploring.

One line especially stuck with me. “Make your blog reflective of your core journey and your readers will follow.” Yes. And I hope so. Michael and I are planning some rather big changes in the next few months (I’ve alluded a few times, and I can’t wait to share more in the next few weeks) and this was a wonderful reminder that readers come here to share in the journey, whatever that journey may be.

If you’re considering attending next year when The Hive comes to Dublin, let me know. I’d love to chat more about it with you!

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Friday Finds

germany

Happy Friday, everyone! How was your week? Once I returned from Berlin, I barely left the house, partly because our car’s starter motor had a heart attack and spent a few days getting replaced, and partly because I had a lot of catching up and getting a grip to do. What a relief.

Michael and I have a really quiet weekend ahead, which is another relief! We’ll hopefully take advantage of the longer days and forecast sunshine with a few walks on the beach, and a cup of coffee with the newspaper. It’s been way too long.

What do you have planned? Big excitement? A little relaxing? I always love to hear what you’re up to.

Now, a few things to keep you smiling until Monday. Next week, I’m going to be doing a few flash giveaways so make sure you check back here!

The ospreys just returned to Maine from the Carribbean (thanks, Dad!).

The gluten free museum. Ha!

Tips for growing a quality minimalist wardrobe.

Drunken chicken marsala with tomatoes. Yum.

A modern, graphic house in France.

The best podcasts to try (and I’ll add Death, Sex and Money with Anna Sale and the Dinner Party Download).

Happy weekend, friends!

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Travelogue: Visiting Dubrovnik in April

visiting-dubrovnik-in-april

I hope you have a cup of coffee (or wine, depending on when you’re reading this!) ready and you’re cosy on your couch! I’m ready to tell you all about our trip to Dubrovnik a few weeks ago and because this post is long I started it with coffee and ended it with wine. Which is surprisingly allegorical of our trip to Dubrovnik! Find coffee, explore, find wine! Pretty much the definition of a perfect vacation, in my humble opinion.

So, Dubrovnik. I mentioned in this post that Michael had won (!) short haul tickets on Aer Lingus that had to be used by May. We took advantage of Michael’s two week (!) Easter break to go to Dubrovnik for five days in April. We rented an AirBnB apartment (for €29/night!) and a little Ford Focus (for €32 for 5 days!) and spent half our time relaxing and half our time exploring.

This is the end of Michael’s busy season with coaching and work, so I wanted to make sure he got some time to chill out before coming back to Dublin and working a lot of weekends until the end of the year. We were very successful – lots of sleeping late and stopping for coffee and just sitting, chatting, gazing at the sparkling blue water. But we also explored a lot and today I’m going to give you a little city tour. We also visited the region’s wine country, which we’ll have to save for another post because this one just doesn’t have room.

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The flight from Dublin to Dubrovnik was two and a half hours (three and a half on the way back which is a stinger!), and when you arrive in Dubrovnik, the airport is tiny and therefore awesome. We stopped briefly at passport control and then strolled across the deserted parking lot to the rental car huts. In Ireland I think we would call them pre-fabs. Little semi-permanent structures all lined up, waiting for their few customers. Within ten minutes (it’s shocking how simple renting a car is in Dubrovnik compared to a lot of major cities we’ve visited), we had our rental car and were headed off for much-needed lunch.

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Per our apartment owner’s suggestion, we stopped in the little town of Cavtat for lunch. We could instantly see how Cavtat would be bustling in the summertime. But even though it was probably 60 degrees out, April is still the low season and nearly everything was closed for renovations and fixing up before the high season. Apparently the greater Dubrovnik area survives on tourism and tourism alone, and that tourism only comes to them from about June through August. There was a handful of other tourists around, but it was pleasantly deserted. It must be jam-packed in the summertime, which I’m not sure I would prefer.

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croatia-coast I was surprised at how many evergreen trees there were, all dripping with pinecones. I was expecting more of a tropical terrain, but it was more mountainous than southern Italy or Spain.

After lunch and a very quiet stroll, we headed back to find our apartment. Another thing to note about Dubrovnik and the surrounding area is that the roads are wind along the mountain with very little keeping you from meeting your demise at the bottom of a cliff. You’re lucky if there’s a guard rail. I am a huge wimp, so I was terrified and hanging on with white knuckles nearly every time we got in the car. We stopped for groceries and eventually found our apartment (my only complaint about our apartment was the completely wrong directions we received repeatedly to get there and Google Maps was no help at all!), and promptly took a nap. We figured we had a few days to explore, so we’d nap while the sky was grey.

first-night-dubrovnik

When we woke up, we could tell the skies were clearing, so Michael suggested we go for a drink at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, which happens to be a five star hotel overlooking the sea right in the direction of the sunset. Michael won major points for this suggestion, it couldn’t have been a more perfect first evening.  dubrovnik-sunset

It’s hard to beat a sunset like that, but as it turns out, all the sunsets were like that! Dubrovnik is sunset heaven.  dubrovnik-main-street-old-city

The next day we decided to explore the old city of Dubrovnik and walk the city walls. The first thing you should know is that I’m lobbying Dubrovnik to change the name to the “Dubrovnik City Stairs”. So. Many. Stairs. It didn’t help that I had done this workout that morning, not realizing quite what we were in for. You don’t have to be super-fit to walk the city walls, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it because it was one of the highlights of our trip, but it does involve a lot of steps. You will definitely be earning a few glasses of wine!

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Every so often, we’d stop and Michael would remark that a spot looked just like a scene from Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the show, but there are lots of tours geared toward Game of Thrones fans that will show you where the King’s Landing scenes are filmed.

We got such a kick out of these basketball courts high up along the city walls. Can you imagine if you played basketball there?!  basketball-courts-dubrovnik-croatia old-dubrovnik-walls

Caught in the act – but worth it for the shot below! dubrovnik-boats emily-dubrovnik-city-walls

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Dubrovnik’s city walls run along the perimeter of the whole old city and culminate at this tippity top tower where you can look out over the whole city. It was an incredible view, but I’m pretty afraid of heights and I was ready to get down to the bottom and stay there!  emily-dubrovnik

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And so we did. Phew! We sat with a glass of wine and a coffee and people watched. One of the wonderful things about the old city is how well they’ve preserved the character – it’s not emblazoned with tacky signage or advertising. It seems everyone is allowed to have sandwich board chalkboards and awnings, but otherwise they can only show their restaurant or shop name on standardized maroon banners at the end of each street and on their individual lanterns hanging outside the entrance. It’s really quite pleasant and makes a rather touristy area feel less touristy. preparing-for-summer-dubrovnik dubrovnik-old-city-stone

Another thing that made Dubrovnik not feel so touristy was all the work going on and laundry being dried. It still amazes me that Croatians live in the old city – like it’s so picturesque and ancient how could real people really live there?! Amazing. dubrovnik-old-city-ruins dubrovnik-in-april

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In the middle of our trip, we went north into wine country, but I’ll tell you more about that next week. The day after that road trip, we came back into the city to wander and explore a little more. On Nathalie’s suggestion, we found this secret bar on the far side of the city walls. You walk through this little doorway onto a patio overlooking the sea. I ordered iced coffee and Michael had a beer, and we sat in the sunshine. It was bliss. secret-beach-dubrovnik-2

Just a few meters down the city walls is a little area where you can just sit or swim or smoke weed or use your selfie sticks. We saw it all, but we opted to stick with just the first one. We came back later when it was a little calmer and Michael commenced lounging on the rocks.  michael-lounging-croatia em-dubrovnik-sea em-and-mike-dubrovnik-water dubrovnik-sea dubrovnik-sea-walking

 

When we were vertical again, we decided to check out a beach just beyond Michael in the image above. We packed a lunch and a bottle of wine at our apartment and wound our way down the small streets to the most gorgeous beach.  dubrovnik-secret-beach secret-beach-croatia-stairs

Because it wasn’t quite warm enough yet, we didn’t have too much company on the beach. Only a few tourists we’d seen in town earlier and a few college American college kids. We climbed the many steep stone stairs all the way down to the pebbly beach and sat in the sunshine overlooking the old city – you can see it in the photo below just beyond my right shoulder.  secret-beach-dubrovnik swimming-dubrovnik-april

Of course, one of us wasn’t content with just sitting! Michael stripped and dipped! He said he would be kicking himself later if he didn’t just go for it. He said the water was a little like a plunge pool – icy! But he went in twice, so it must not have been so bad! In the high season, there would be lots of boats and kayaks and ferries cluttering up the water. But we felt like we had it all to ourselves.  child-fishing-dubrovnik croatia-turquoise-sea

The water was so clear and so turquoise. We’d love to come back when it’s a little warmer and snorkel and kayak around.

 

Later that evening (after another little nap, let’s be honest) we strolled the streets of the old city again. I can’t get over how the light reflects off the stone street. It practically looks wet it’s so shiny.  dubrovnik-at-night dubrovnik-sunset-2 And we may have headed to our sunset spot for one last glimpse of the sun setting on the Dalmatian Coast.

I’ll be sharing the rest of our trip next week, I hope you’ll join me!

 

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Dublin Bookstore / Books Upstairs

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I sat down this morning to write about our time in Croatia a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t do it. I’m ready to be back in Dublin for a minute and writing about Dublin feels much less stressful. So this is the perfect time to introduce you to one of the most beautiful restored Georgian buildings in the city. Books Upstairs relocated a few months ago from their longtime spot in College Green to D’Olier Street and you can’t miss it when you’re walking by.

D’Olier Street isn’t particularly beautiful or colorful, so the blue facade of Books Upstairs with its intricate gold detailing and stained glass windows practically jumps off the brick at you. There’s a space just across the road that’s getting a makeover, too, so I’m hoping D’Olier street is getting a bit of a facelift!

books_upstairs_exterior

Books Upstairs’ new space has a bookstore on the ground floor, focusing on the best of Irish literature as well as the best of international literature. I chatted with owner Maurice Earls, who told me the store is book oriented, rather than best-seller oriented, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that. They have the whole building, so there’s a cafe on the second floor, the Dublin Review of Books, and even an event space.  books_upstairs_cafe

The cafe is probably the most stunning – in the sunshine the light gleams through the original stained glass windows. I wish more than anything that they had ripped out that red carpet, but the wainscoting and funky artwork go a long way to make up for it.  books_upstairs_cafe_dublin

A lot of the posters are Maurice’s personal collection – his daughters have given him artwork over the years and it has made its way to these walls. He said some of the prints are from This Greedy Pig, a Dublin creative agency. When I tracked them down, it turns out their shop is closed because someone broke in and stole all of their inventory last week, which is horrible. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the reopening of their shop because that print in the top photo is a hoot – they illustrate passages from great literary works and each of them cracked me up.  detail_dublin_bookstore

Can you even get over the pattern and texture on the walls? I know you want to touch it right now.  books_upstairs_irish_books books_upstairs_dublin Books Upstairs has a wonderful collection of Irish literature, if you’re visiting and books are your fave souvenir, this would be a great stop for you! And obviously, locals can park it in the cafe with a great book from one of our favorite Irish authors and relax in that gorgeous sunlight.

Books Upstairs / 21 D’Olier Street / Dublin 2

p.s. Here’s another, more literary review of the bookshop and cafe!

 

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Insta-Wander the World: Ireland

Wander the world with Instagram - Ireland

Hello, friends. How are you? Are you watching the Dublin sun set? Are you in the middle of your work day in America? Sometimes I like to picture where you are and what you’re doing when you decide to hop on over here for a visit. Anyway, I digress.

Late last night I had an idea for a new monthly series I thought we’d try out – an Insta-wander around the world via some of my favorite Instagram accounts. Let me back up and explain why I’m so excited about this.

I spent the weekend in Berlin with some of my favorite people at the Hive Conference. One of the speakers at the conference was Heiko Hebig who manages Platforms in Northern Europe for Facebook and Instagram, and his talk sparked a lot of conversations about Instagram in general and how it’s being used by bloggers and now by Instagram celebrities. It’s all fascinating, to be honest, and a little terrifying – what a weird online world Instagram has become in the last six months. When we were chatting after Hebig’s talk, a few people expressed their concern that Instagram has become hyper-curated and filled with same-ness, causing so many of us to only post perfectly posed photos with perfectly worded captions, dotted with perfectly placed emojis. It’s true and weird and kind of a shame.

I love Instagram for the moments I get to capture from daily life, and overall I hope what I’m adding to the online world is useful and vaguely interesting, but overall, a reminder to me when I look back of things I would have otherwise forgotten. Whenever I scroll through my old photos on Instagram, I always think how lucky am I to live this life? It’s a great pick me up on the grey days.

I also realized last night how much I love traveling to faraway places via my Instagram friends and their travels. So! The new series! An Insta-wander, so to speak, where I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Instagram feeds around the world, and sometimes I’ll even have guests who live in different parts of the world share their favorite feeds to follow to get to know their homes. After so much actual travel in the last few weeks, I’m very excited to sit on my couch and do a little travel daydreaming. How does that sound?

I figured we’d start with some of my favorite Irish Instagram accounts – the friends I love to follow because they remind me just how amazing Ireland is from coast to coast. Don’t forget, you can see Instagram photos without an account, so everyone wins!

1. Imen McDonnell / Modern Farmette

Irish Instagram accounts to follow - Imen McDonnell, Modern Farmette

Imen is an American blogger, writer, food maker/baker/stylist and generally sweet soul who married an Irish farmer and fell in love with this island. She lives on the other side of Ireland, outside of Limerick, and she shares a combination of delicious recipes using farm fresh ingredients, and glimpses of the farm where those ingredients originated!

2. Dublin Ghost Signs

Best Irish Instagram Accounts to Follow - Dublin Ghost Signs

Dublin Ghost Signs features the fading signs and peeling paint facades of the city, giving new life online to signs that will likely be painted over or torn down in the months or years to come. It’s also a really sweet reminder to look up when you’re walking around the city!

3. Donal Skehan

Best Irish Instagram Accounts to Follow - Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan is a food blogger turned television presenter and cookbook author. He’s always zipping around the globe – to New York for St. Patrick’s Day with the Today Show, or London to record with Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube team. He also happens to have grown up in Howth, just around the corner from us. When he’s back in Dublin you can follow his walks around Howth with his playful dog Max. I’m not even really a dog person and Max cracks me up!

4. The Art of Exploring

Best Irish Instagram Accounts to Follow - The Art of Exploring

And last but not least, The Art of Exploring. My friend Nora has such a great eye for capturing the sweet side of Dublin, and her accompanying words are always so thoughtful. She’s a Belgian blogger who has lived in Dublin for years and lives over on the South side. I love seeing the city from her perspective.

I hope you all have a good wander around Ireland with these lovely creative souls. And please feel free to make suggestions for where we should visit next!

Posted in Travels, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Styled in Ireland / What to Wear to a Castle

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Good morning, friends! I’m excited to share another Styled in Ireland post with you today, this time focusing on exploring castles! We’re lucky enough to have castles in our back yard, and almost every week I meet a friend for coffee and cake at our favorite local castle – Malahide Castle malahide_castle_dublin

Malahide Castle is really popular with locals because it has a large public park where you can run and walk, and it’s a great place to bring children. There’s a giant playground with a zipline (that part is fun for adults, too!), and lots of green grass to run around. There are paved paths throughout, so it’s a good spot to bring small ones in strollers. I usually bring my niece and meet my friend Naomi and her little girl, on this day a few weeks ago, Naomi was nice enough to take some photos while the girls chatted away to each other in their strollers.  blossoms_spring_dublin_castle

Malahide Castle is like a lot of castles around Ireland – parts of it date to the 12th century, but other parts are more modern. In fact, a family lived in Malahide Castle until the 1970’s when the remaining members gave the property to the town in exchange for relief for some tax debts. Now we all get to run around the grounds and pretend we live in a castle, too! You can take tours of Malahide Castle, but I admit it has been years since I took the tour. At the time I took it, it was a little weak, but I have heard it has improved. Even if you don’t go for the tour, there are the grounds to explore, a walled Victorian garden, an Avoca shop with a restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch and cake all day long, and even peacocks that roam freely! And all only thirty minutes by train from the city centre!  what_to_wear_to_a_castle_ireland

My absolute favorite castle tour is just 40 minutes west of Dublin in the town of Trim. Trim Castle has an hour-long tour that walks you up through the ruined levels of the castle. It’s where scenes from Braveheart were filmed, so it feels extra-authentic. The only trick about Trim Castle is that there are some steep spiral stairs back down at the very end, which make me nervous every time. I’m not a big fan of heights or steep stairs, so I like to remind people to wear flat shoes to explore castles. It means you’ll be able to explore the grounds and get yourself down from high heights if necessary!

castle_style_malahide_dublin styled_in_ireland_vest You’ll also want to wear layers, because castles are damp and cold, no matter the time of year (thank goodness we didn’t live in ye olden days!). I love this vest that my grandmother made me a few years ago and it’s perfect for adding another layer of warmth without extra bulk. The buttons are from a coat my mom wore when she was very small and my grandmother saved them, just in case. Makes me smile, knowing they’re both with me, every when I’m so far away!

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At this time of year, keep an eye out for the millions of daffodils in Malahide Castle, as well as purple helebores and flowering quince blossoms. They’re some of my favorite early spring blooms.  daffodils_malahide_castle

outtake_styled_in_ireland_castle

And how about an outtake for the road?! Because mostly these shoots look like me being a lunatic and Naomi or Julie making me look somewhat sane. I think at this point I was also singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider over and over so two little girls in strollers would be patient while we took a few more shots! Naomi had to tell me more than once to stop moving my mouth! Aren’t you glad I’m not doing all the itsy bitsy hand movements? 😉

Boots: Coach / Jeans: Zara / Collared tunic: Cos / Vest: My grandma! / Watch: Kate Spade / Necklace: A Lovely Little Shop on Etsy (a gift from my brother, thanks Charlie!) / Photography: Naomi Phillips

Posted in Styled in Ireland, Uncategorized | 2 Comments