They’d each planned to take their dogs to the park that day but they didn’t plan on finding love there. They’re run-ins and conversations became more frequent before life moved Aaron to another part of town. He found himself missing the dog park and that beautiful brunette he’d gotten to know there. He and his pup began making the long drives back to the park in hopes he might catch her. Catch her, he did! I can’t wait to watch the next chapter of this adorable love story unfold next summer as they say “I do”!
I had so much fun exploring Cuyamaca Park with Aaron and Jana. They are such sweet, fun, easy to be around people. Their wedding day is going to be a blast!
This hungry little caterpillar is turning one!! Couldn’t you just eat him right up?!
I was making every effort to soak up as much of Ireland as I could in our last few days there. I don’t know how long it will be until our next trip and I needed a fix that could possibly last me awhile. It’s funny how the best moments are the ones that just happen on their own, with no planning or orchestrating involved.
We made our way to Glendalough in Wicklow County Park (my favorite area in Ireland). I was excited to wander about and just enjoy all of the beauty with no agenda. We arrived at the big lake, my favorite lake, and I walked to a tiny patch of grassy dirt that jetted further out in to the water. My spot. I’ve stood there twice before and was filled with so much thankfulness to be standing there again.
I closed my eyes a moment and listened to the water lapping the lake edge and felt the chilly breeze on my face. My little grassy patch had just enough room for my feet and stuck out so that it felt like I was standing right on the water. I looked out over the lake and gazed at the big mountains sprinkled with sheep on either side. At the end of the lake was where the mountains met and the water flowed in. The cloudy white sky hung over it all like a sheet pulled over a fort. This was our fort. Our place. And I was standing in my spot. I kept staring forward as I floated on top of the water and was completely taken over with awe and gratefulness. This must be a glimpse of heaven.
There was no plan, no goal, no checklist to conquer. I didn’t even intend to stand in that exact spot. We just wandered over and I found myself there, again. In my front row seat, in what felt like a theater for one, for a show that rocked me just like it did the first time I laid eyes on it. I just can’t get over how gorgeous this world is, how unique and diverse and beautiful it is. And to think that this masterpiece was made for us to enjoy and to show us a little more about our God. We’re so loved! It screams of his majesty, his greatness, his wisdom, his creativity. I went back to that spot for a few extra doses two more times before we left.
Another unplanned venture was our trip to Blarney Castle. We went there to kiss the stone on our first trip to Ireland. We had fun climbing the castle and kissing the rock but what we really fell in love with was the castle grounds and gardens. Last time we didn’t feel like we could justify the cost to get in just to see the gardens so we skipped it. This time we happened to stop by on an event day and it only cost €5! We were so excited that we got to walk and explore the beautiful grounds again.
Our last day was spent in Dublin. Dublin is cool but I don’t need longer than a day there. We didn’t really have anything we wanted to see so we waited until the morning of to make our plan. With much hesitation (on my part) we decided to visit the Guinness storehouse for a tour. I felt like it was too much money for a big glitzy tourist trap. I was wrong. It was kind of glitzy and touristy but it was worth the money. We had so much fun learning about the beer making process and history of Arthur Guiness and his brand (not to mention the incredible Guiness beef stew). We learned how to pour the perfect pint and were trained on how to properly drink and taste beer (like professional beer tasters do). THe whole thing was so much better than I expected!
We spent the rest of our last day walking the city and doing a little shopping before we finished our adventure and headed home!! And, of course, we walked through the rain to get one last Murphy’s ice cream… “when in Ireland”, right?
Those little fingers!!!…
Isabella wondering what I’m doing… and then doing it too
I was flat on my back in the middle of the field, my arms stretched out on either side of me, the grass was tickling my ankles, the peeps of sunshine were kissing my cheeks, and as I felt gravity push me in to the soft green land all I could think was… There is no where else on this entire earth I’d rather be in this moment. I could hear Brett and Isabella playing nearby and, as I laid in the middle of so much beauty and in complete peace, my thoughts were on heaven and our creative and loving God. That’s when I realized a little about why my heart is so attached to Ireland. It’s these moments.
There is a something about the majestic land, the warm people, the gentle animals that quiets and awakens my soul. I felt it when I watched the storm roll in over the water, I felt it when I laughed a deep uncontrollable laugh while watching the sheepdogs, I felt it when I was clapping and tapping my foot to the music, I felt it when I stood on the edge of the lake and gazed at the mountains towering over me, and I felt it when I laid in the middle of that grassy field. Ireland has soul you can’t deny and it steals your heart.
We spent our first day in the Killarney area. We started out our morning with a visit to a farm where we watched shepherding dogs do their thing out in the fields. It was incredible! They are such smart and loyal dogs. We were blown away by them. We also met a few hour old baby lamb, learned about sheep sheering, and ate some fresh sheep cheese! We spent the rest of the day exploring places along the drive and at the national park. We had so much fun at the park walking, meeting horses, rabbits, cows, a ton of dogs, and playing in the grass. Isabella was in heaven. I think she must miss Kona too by the way she’s responding to every dog she sees:)
We had a fun full day and then headed to the Dingle peninsula. This was our second time in that area and we loved it just as much as the first time. It’s such a quaint adorable part of Ireland! I don’t think we could make an Ireland trip and not stop in Dingle for some good music, unbelievable views, and fresh ice cream from Murphy’s! Mmm Murphy’s!! How can I ever decide between your sea salt, Irish whiskey, brown bread, or Irish oat flavors?!
This was our third trip to England but our first time exploring outside of London. We wanted to head to the countryside and after doing a little bit of researching, we fell in love with The Cotswolds.
Before we headed deep in to the countryside, we stopped for a night in Oxford. We didn’t spend much time there but it felt like enough. We got a good feel for the city and the university and even ate some amazing fish and chips at a hidden little back alley pub. Being on the nerdy side, Brett and I were so excited to see the Bodleian library and were blown away by the history and incredible minds that have attended the university. Not to mention the campus itself was unbelievably beautiful!
After a night in Oxford, we headed to The Cotswolds. I love aimless countryside drives and this area of England is the king of them. We took our time moseying through any town that caught our eye and stopping for any sign that we thought interesting, like the sign that said “come visit our new piglets!”. You don’t have to ask us twice, we’re always ok with meeting a local farm family and their piglets!
After a bit of driving, we stopped at an adorable little town for tea time. I love tea and I adore tradition and I knew that I wanted to experience an authentic tea experience. What I got was better than anything I could’ve dreamed of. Again, we followed a little back alley (I’m learning that this is where all the good local stuff happens) and found ourselves in a beautiful quiet garden. This garden was my dream garden. Little birds were chirping, dogs were welcome, the most beautiful and bright flowers filled the whole place with color, and some older English couples were scattered about chatting. We took a seat and I ordered a traditional cream tea. Soon after, a tray carrying a white tea cup, a miniature teapot, cream, sugar, a scone, and jam with clotted cream arrived. I prepared my tea and scone and enjoyed them in the peaceful little garden while the English couples played with Isabella. It was a dream. I think I could move to the English countryside just for tea time!
The rest of our day was filled with adorable little thatch-roofed towns. Our last stop was in a town called Bibury and it was the definition of quaint. I read somewhere that it has been called the most beautiful English town and I don’t doubt that claim considering it was the most beautiful town I’ve seem… Anywhere. It was something out of a storybook. I can’t count how many times I said, “this place just can’t be real”. We walked the paths through the dreamy little houses, we walked through lush gardens, we walked along the little river, ate ice cream, and stopped on wooden bridges to watch the swans.
As we were about to leave, I told Brett that it almost reminded me of Narnia (well, the English less forestry version). I would not have been surprised if the swans started singing and a little squirrel came over to have a friendly little conversation with us. It was just that adorable and dreamy!
Our last day in England we spent in London. We were more excited about going to the park to watch the swans and people while we ate some ice cream than we were about hitting big sites so after a little playing, that’s what we did. We spent a big chunk of our day lounging in the grass people watching and talking as Isabella crawled around chasing birds. There is still so much of London I haven’t seen just because I can’t bring myself to leave the parks and the people! I’m ok with that
I love a good adventure in the city, but only for a little bit and then I need to get back to some open skies and fresh air. As I get older I’m realizing that this is just how I’m built and I’m surprised at how much I’m effected by it. We had the sweetest time in Paris. That city is so rich in culture, beauty, and passion. From the moment we climbed the stairs out of the metro station and I saw blue skies and Parisian rooftops peeking back at me, to our last morning eating pastries at the Boulangerie, I was in love. But I was also ready to say farewell and head to the country.
The next stop on our adventure is an area called Alsace. It’s 1 part Provencial France, 1 part Bavarian Germany, and 1 part Napa Valley. It lies right on the French German border and is absolutely breathtaking!
On our first day we decided to cross the border in to Germany and see some of the Black Forest. We found a cute tiny little town called Gengenbach and decided to explore a little. We happened to show up right as their town festival was starting! There were traditional dancers, music, clothes, and food. They weren’t putting on a show for tourists or trying to act authentic… They WERE being.authentic. Authentically German and authentically having a blast with each other! We were definitely out of place and the only tourists, AND the only people who didn’t speak German! We laid low and watched with grins on our faces. Oh and, of course, we stuffed ourselves silly with all of the homemade brats, pretzels, and beer they were making.
We finished our time there by taking a little walk around the village, playing in a nearby park, and spending some time in the Black Forest. We got such a wonderful peek at local authentic culture and I’m so thankful for it. One of my most memorable moments was when we passed this beautiful Bavarian home. It wasn’t fancy but it was beautiful. I thought of my mom and how much she’d love it as I gazed at all of the gorgeous flowers, and the lush garden, growing beautiful food. As I was soaking it all in, movement caught my eye and I noticed the sweet older lady tending to her beans. I sat and watched as she handled her beans with such tenderness and love. She moved slow and looked so content to simply be alive and working in her garden. Something deep inside told me to remember the moment, the lesson. All of Gengenbach was such a wonderful travel experience that I’m so thankful for! What a beautiful, beautiful place.
Our second day we drove the Route De Vins (wine). The route takes you all through the wine countryside and the tiny little adorable towns.
Our favorite little town was Riquewihr. It was the cutest and the most delicious too! The shop owners were incredibly sweet and offered us tastes of their specialties. We were able to try so many local treats! We even got to taste a coconut macaroon straight from the oven. One of my favorite samples was given by the man who invited us down in to his cave where he ages his cheeses and meats. He let us sample cheese at different ages to taste the difference. What a cool experience!
We finished the Route De Vins in a little town where we had one of the best meals! Really, I can only think of a few meals that can beat it. I grew up eating German food and one of my favorite German dishes is Spaetzle (german dumpling like noodles). We found this German/French restaurant that serves spaetzle au gratin style! Spaetzle, in a cream and Munster cheese sauce, baked with Munster cheese on top! (Munster, the town where Munster was created, is down the road!). Basically it was the delicious dumplings of Germany meets the stinky wonderful cheese of France. Baked. Heaven.
We made our way back to the car after dinner and as we were walking we heard thunder in the distance. The whole sky was turning dark and lightening was striking. We saw thunderstorms in the forecast for the day but, as native San Diegans, we just ignored the forecast and assumed it would never happen. I was so excited to see a real storm! We drove straight in to it as we headed home and got an amazing show. Isabella was clapping and squealing in the back seat (mostly mimicking what she saw me doing) and pointed out her window at all of the rain and light. It was such an awesome way to end such a good day and our time in France… Now I shall head to bed and dream about bubbly, baked Munster cheese. Au Revoir!
Playing in the Black Forest!
Isabella did amazing on the car rides!
Our first trip to Paris was 3 years ago I don’t want to say I hated it but… I can’t say I loved it. It felt dirty, a little stressful, and not romantic at all. I am so happy to say that this time Paris was completely different! We gave ourselves enough time to settle in, stayed in a better area, and took things a lot slower. Last time we hit all the major sites (louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc) and were running at high speed, our agenda this time: eat and wander. We have very successfully pulled our goal off 😉 It was still a little stressful at times and dirty in some places but it was also really beautiful! We’ve been relaxing under the Eiffel Tower, walking the Latin District, watching the artists in Montmartre, sampling cheese, gazing at the river, making (multiple) visits to the boulangerie for pastries and baguettes, and eating crepes like our lives depended in it!
It’s sort of funny how in to the food we are. We’ve already bought all the little souvenir knick knacks in our previous trips so this round we are skipping the souvenirs and spending that money on snacks and food:) Today we were joking about how when I plan a trip I research “what to eat” not “what to see”. I’m so glad Brett is equally adventurous and nerdy about food!
Being Disney nuts, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris. We had so much fun finding all of the differences and similarities! One really off but but obvious difference I noticed was the cleanliness. I once heard a stat about Disneyland and how they have rules for how long trash can sit on the ground before being picked up. Disneyland Paris had a lot of old worn paint, trash, cobwebs in hidden corners. Nothing that a normal person would notice but definitely not the same as Disneyland. It was also fun to ride their versions of the rides! I loved It’s A Small World and seeing the America section through another country’s eyes! I’m so glad we went! It was also nice to get away for a little while and spend the day doing something familiar.
Our last night in Paris was my first hint of homesickness on the trip. It was a really busy day, with lots of metro time, and I saw a lot of dogs (they make me miss my Kona Bear). The metro is my least favorite part about these cities. Last time I liked them and the people watching but, I don’t know if it’s having Isabella now or something, but now they’re just dirty and pick pockety and smell like pee. By the end of it Brett and I had created a game that made it go quicker.. We’d each guess the pronunciation of the next stop and whoever was closest won. French is a. Crazy language. I love it!
When we got back to our flat we spent some time relaxing after Isabella went to bed. We opened our bottle of Tuscan wine, ate a whole wheel of cheese, and 1 1/2 baguettes while we chatted and texted friends and family. It was just what the doctor ordered for homesickness!!