An Irish whirlwind

Back in August, right after I finished my dissertation, two great things happened: two friends visited from the States, and J and I flew over to Dublin to drive all over the Republic of Ireland. Needless to say, we had a blast! Since I had just finished up my huge paper, I didn’t really plan much for this trip (not that I *plan* the other trips that much either. Everything seems to happen fortuitously).

We flew into Dublin with Ryanair for really cheap! Small side note: if you’re going to rent a car in Dublin, try Sixt. They’re not paying me anything for this, btw. We had SUCH a great experience with them, especially because we booked direct. The rate was actually cheaper, and we could pick up our car right outside the terminal instead of having to take the shuttle to a pick up counter with REALLY bad reviews. Sidenote completed!!! We immediately took the car south into the Wicklow Mountains.  This was a completely necessary stop, 1. because it was absolutely gorgeous and 2. it was used in filming PS I Love You. The heather was blooming and the views were great, even though we didn’t have much of a plan in mind! We stopped in Glendalough to eat at the Wicklow Heather restaurant. Inside it’s full of tons of amazing antiques and lit candles, but we ate outside with the bees. Unfortunately, Glendalough was full of tourist buses, so we didn’t stick around long. Our next stop was Kilkenny and the Kells Priory. We did some walking around the ruins as well as the river, where we saw a really neat cottage. We stayed the first night in Cobh, down on the southern coast, at Ardeen B&B. We arrived just in time to take some photos of the harbour and cathedral before it got dark! The area reminded me a bit of Oban, probably due to its layout next to the sea.

On day 2, which started out super rainy with horrible visibility, we left Cobh and drove to Killarney, the National Park area, and the Ring of Kerry! It’s an area full of magical overlooks, heathery mountains, a gorgeous, clear lake, and stony meadows. We saw the Torc Waterfall, which is impressive. Its setting is almost indistinguishable from a North Carolina waterfall (at least to an ordinary person like myself). I’ll say, we did get a little spoiled by travelling mostly in the off season, because the number of tourists in Sneem and Kenmare made us pass those adorable and picturesque towns completely by. A fun note is that we were able to see the Skellig Michael islands in the distance, the location of Luke’s hideout in the more recent Star Wars movies. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to ferry out to the islands, because that would have been an awesome addition! We made it as far as Bunratty for our night, staying at Courtyard Guesthouse. The owners are very kind, and there’s plenty of hot coffee. We ended up in an enormous family room-a hilarious story, that. Ask me another time if you’re interested…this post will be long enough without it! We had a really nice dinner at The Creamery Bar, including some local beer and whiskey!

We headed to the CLIFFS OF INSANITY on day 3. Ok, the Cliffs of Moher, but they were used in The Princess Bride. The wind and rain were pretty intense, but I was shocked how many people weren’t wearing appropriate footwear! In our boots, we were able to scoot past tons of people trying to skirt puddles, rocks, and other detritus. It was a super impressive sight: the sheer cliffs, the color of the ocean, and the geology of the rocks and cliffsides. We stopped in Corofin for lunch, at Nellie’s Kitchen. The food was good, and it was less crowded than Doolin! Next we headed to the Burren, a super interesting rocky landscape near Galway. It was remote and rugged, and we had such fun hopping around on the rocks. We wish we’d had time to do a much longer walk! Next we headed to Galway, where we stayed a little out of town centre on the Salthill Promenade. It was our first time seeing the Atlantic proper in over a year! We touched the water at a boat entry point 🙂 We headed into Galway for some touristy sightseeing and some dinner. We ended up at a busy pub called The Cellar, where I had some delicious Galway Gold ale. We opted to walk back to the B&B in what looked like some bad weather, and we found a full-out gale. We were soaked. The best part? The rugby players and coaches we passed didn’t seem to notice how bad it had gotten!

Our drive back to Dublin was amazing! We stopped in the Slieve Bloom mountains, one of the least touristy areas in Ireland, so that was peaceful. We also happened upon the Kinnity Castle Hotel for lunch. We simply followed signs that said “hotel” since we assumed they would have food. We ended up at a stunning castle home, where we ate lunch in the library. It was opulent and fun, and we were still in our technical hiking clothing! So funny.

Back when my family came to the UK in 2013, we flew into Dublin and traveled a bit. However, we were so jetlagged that I hardly remembered it! This time, I vowed to take a few more photos so that I could recall it better. I definitely succeeded 🙂 We stayed on campus in the Trinity College Dublin housing, a great choice for being right in the city. Especially because we wanted to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room, both of which are on campus as well! The illuminated pages of the Book of Kells are so gorgeous, and the Long Room was even more magical than last time. We saw a special exhibition on Samuel Beckett, including letters and manuscript pages. Another fortuitous occurrence was next: catching a musical performance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We weren’t allowed to take many photos in the cathedral, sadly. Lastly, we saw the Oscar Wilde statue before finishing up at a whiskey tasting at the Temple Bar. Somehow, we managed to be the only people in this small shop attached to the Bar, and the bartender was quite nice. He gave us a free extra tasting as a celebration for finishing my dissertation, and it was a super expensive drink as well. So kind!

Our sprint through Ireland couldn’t have been more fun. We had so many great experiences, and it was the perfect bookend to my stressful summer. The only thing we could’ve wished for was more time. (And maybe a shorter blog post…sorry about that!!)

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!


The City My Heart Calls Home



Edinburgh Old Town sunset from Calton Hill

I read somewhere that once you’ve traveled and lived in several places, one place will never be “home” again, since you’ve left a part of you in every single place. Well, then, Mableton, Clarkesville, Clemson, Asheville, Gastonia, Charlotte, and Edinburgh all have a claim on me.

These days, most people can’t call just one place home. How can you choose? Is it the place you’ve spent the most time or made the most memories?  We’ve moved a lot, and J and I spent the first part of our lives in very different places. We’re lucky to have several places that we call home and families that we can come home to, whenever we want.

However, the first city we’ve really felt home together was here, in Edinburgh. Luckily, we’ve gotten to share our experience with home with lots of our family and friends, as they came to visit. But now we have to leave.

These past few weeks and days have been full of memory snippets flitting through my brain. They’ve been tantalizingly real, these little experiences that I get to relive in brief, quiet moments. Our first trip up Arthur’s Seat. Driving through Glencoe. Walking in the Lake District. Christmas markets, here and in Prague. Driving along and seeing sheep, castles, and hairy highland coos. And so many more.

I can’t sum up a year in a few sentences, but all I can do is try to say: it hurts to pull up all the small roots we’ve put out over the past 15 months, but we’re excited to see everyone at home again. We will miss our friends here dreadfully. We’re an oddball mix of happiness and sadness, grateful for the past and optimistic for the future.

So excuse us as we try, once again, to redefine and choose a place as home.

Luckily, this isn’t my last travel post. I’ve got several backlogged since I wanted to savor my last few weeks and not be stuck inside writing blog posts. So while we might be coming back soon, the adventure continues.

That has a nice ring to it, after all: the adventure continues. So, until next time, may you live a life well loved.

A Scotland Visit

This blog post (way overdue, by the way. Sorry about that) features some more guest stars, my parents! The family came to visit back in August, and we had several days to wander around Edinburgh and some nearby sights. While I didn’t take my camera up and down the Royal Mile, I DID take it to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. And it was awesome! I’m fairly certain my ears are still ringing from the bagpipes. But hey. Scotland life side effects. Here’s a few photos of the event. If you’re ever in town during August, you should definitely find a way to attend, even if that’s the rehearsals, which are much cheaper 🙂

We also visited St Andrews, the Kelpies in Falkirk, and Blackness Castle. My family had Historic Environment Scotland explorer passes, and we have memberships ourselves. So it was a no-brainer to visit several of the properties! Blackness Castle can be quite bleak, perched on the edge of the firth. However, on a mostly sunny day, it was quite exciting to run around it, especially out on the pier.

My sister, J and I also managed to snag a sunset on Calton Hill while making our way back to our flat. It was a perfect end to such a busy visit! We hadn’t seen my family in quite some time, so it was really good to get to hug them and take them around this city we’ve called home for over a year now.

So, while this post may have been short, it’s down to the fact we were spending quality time with the family instead of snapping photos left and right. As it should be! We didn’t stay still for long though. Posts on Ireland, Oxford and more to come!

Until then, may you live a life well loved!

Haworth and Yorkshire

This trip was awesome from start to finish, but it was a little different because I was flying solo! I attended a conference in Leeds, and J didn’t come. So I added a day to the trip and did some Bronte activities, and y’all, it was awesome. (Apologies: some photos are from my phone. Yikes).

I took the train to Keighley, which is a wonderful and scenic route through the Yorkshire Dales. For the last leg of the trip I had a wonderful group of older women sitting at my table. They were locals (and one’s name was Margaret!), so we had a grand ole time. Once in Keighley (side note: this is pronounced Keith-lee. I despise English), I had the choice between the train or bus to Haworth. I chose the bus, since the train schedule was scare, and because the next train wasn’t steam-powered! If it was, there was no way I could’ve passed that up. Anywho, the bus ended up being the best choice because the driver took me right to the Bronte Parsonage Museum (and even went a bit off-route to do so! Cheers, driver!). The locals on the bus were so gracious and all of them wanted to help me get to my final destination. (Side note again…I’m still wondering how it was so easy to peg me as a tourist. I only had a backpack, no luggage, and I kept my mouth shut until they approached me first!)

The Bronte Parsonage Museum was super easy to find. There’s signs everywhere in Haworth pointing you in the correct direction. It was also a really great experience! I lucked out with student pricing, but even without that perk, the tickets are valid for a year. There’s plaques in every room explaining what went on in that room, and there were costumes from the movie, To Walk Invisible, about the Bronte sisters. There were so many letters, manuscripts, and artifacts.

THE BEST PART THOUGH. I happened to go while they were running a bit of an event. An artist thought it would be really neat to recreate the writing Wuthering Heights in the room of its original creation. So, using a special pencil, I got to copy a line of the book into a manuscript, which will bound and exhibited next year! More about the project can be found here. It was a very surreal experience, and something I’m not likely to forget soon.

Another unforgettable experience came next-exploring the hills and finding Top Withins, the buildings that *might* have inspired WH. While that’s not proven, it was a gorgeous walk and I highly suggest it. It was easy to find, even starting from the door of the parsonage. After skirting a few fields and walking up a road, the path continues along some sheep fields until a stream appears. This is also the location of the “Bronte Bridge,” though the original was washed away and the current one is a replacement. After leaving the deep glen, it’s uphill A LOT until Top Withins. It’s a great place for a snack and some exploration off-trail, since it’s mostly cleared and there’s views for days! I decided to turn it into a loop and walk back a different way, where I was mostly alone with the wind and the heather, and it was just so RIGHT.

After my hike, I popped into the shop at the museum and bought some Bron-tea. So punny. And quite delicious! I also decided to explore Haworth before I had to head on to Leeds. I bought some rhubarb gin (and a delicious lunch!) at Haworth Steam Brewing. I can recommend their stout for sure as well. There’s all sorts of fun shops in town, and a visit to the church was in order as well. The gravesite of several Bronte family members is in one corner, marked by a plaque. I killed some time before my bus wandering through the park and watching a steam train come through the station.

I packed quite a day in! I’d blog about Leeds as well, but that might belong to another post. I spent most of my time in a seminar and a conference. Go baby academic me! Slowly but surely catching up on these backlogged posts. Will write another soon!

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!

A Very Drizzly Northeast

Northeast of England, that is, with a few stops in Scotland as well. Y’all, we’ve gotten pretty used to the weather over here, but this weekend (combined with the one before) almost did us in. It was freezing and pouring all weekend! Hello, tactical trekking rain gear, wellies, and even gloves at one point!

It was still gorgeous though, and I’m super glad we didn’t let the weather deter us from having all the fun. First stop: Tantallon Castle, in North Berwick (still in Scotland). We drove out to see the castle ruins, hoping we could still see Bass Rock as well. And we did! It’s always got a cloud of birds flying around it, even in the driving rain and wind. (Fun fact: national geographic was on assignment at Bass Rock while we were looking at it!!) We had some great views from the top of the castle as well. A neat stop!

Next up: Alnwick Castle! This was probably my favorite bit of the trip for its recent history. The castle was featured in the early Harry Potter films (think flying lessons 😉 ) and as Brancaster Castle in the Christmas episode of a Downton Abbey season! While I was not allowed to take any photos inside, I know I can pull out my DA dvds to see the interiors again-they look just the same on film as in real life! The town is rather cute too, and I definitely suggest the walk through the cow fields behind the castle for the sweeping shot of the grounds (designed by Capability Brown, which is cool!). We showed up *just* in time for them to let us through the front gate. We were the last visitors allowed in that day!

We also visited The Holy Island, accessible solely by a causeway at low tide. I messed up the charts the first day, so we had to go on day 2. It’s super neat to cross the tidal road! While the castle was closed for restoration, we were able to visit the Priory and see a live archaeological dig (can you find the skeletons?). It’s the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the priory has lots of artifacts and history about the monks who lived on the island.We also did a mead tasting (and promptly bought 2 different flavors) and walked around the tiny town, along with a TON of other tourists. Lots of coaches in the car park, but still an amazing stop for sure.

After evacuating The Holy Island ahead of the tide, we stopped at Bamburgh Castle. They were having a car show, which was fairly exciting. There was also an archaeological dig at the castle, but it was covered up as the rain had gotten too unmanageable. The fog also rolled in while we were inside the castle…notice the difference in the photos? The castle was full of lots of historical artifacts and neat rooms, but it lacked the overall grandeur of Alnwick (though they are completely different, so I should probably not even try to compare them). It had a really neat military history museum though!

Last stop: the Borders abbeys! Again, we ended up being short on time, so while we got to see the exterior of Melrose Abbey, we actually went into Jedburgh and Dryburgh Abbeys. We’re definitely getting the better end of the deal on these Historic Environment Scotland memberships! We saw Sir Walter Scott’s view in the borders, as well as his grave in Dryburgh Abbey.

We stayed in a lovely B&B for the one night we were away: 4t4 Bed and Breakfast in Alnwick. I booked through, but you can also book direct! The parking is along the street, but as it’s a self-contained neighborhood, it is perfectly safe. I’d stay there again, if we return! It was a nice walk into town, and besides, we’d like to see the Alnwick Gardens as well, since we didn’t have time.

Well, time to escape the rain and think about today again, which was a gorgeous, sunny one here in Edinburgh. I still have more backlogged posts, so I’ll get to them when I can.

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!


I have been horribly lax about posting recently, but the good news is that now my dissertation is turned in. I can finish the posts I started over the summer in rapid succession and catch up! (Note: this may be wishful thinking.)

Anyhow. Here’s a tiny one to whet your collective appetite.

Earlier in the year, J and I decided to take a small day trip out to Linlithgow, since the weather was cooperating and we have Historic Environment Scotland memberships. It was fortuitous, because it happened to be gala day! There was a parade through town, which included lots of pipe bands, school children in both fancy and formal dress, important local people and a big ceremony at the end.

We visited Linlithgow Palace, making sure to climb Queen Margaret’s Bower (naturally). The view from the top is great, but as it’s Scotland, quite windy. The museum is definitely worth a visit too, with artifacts from the surrounding area. (We have since learned that during the summer, the school children volunteer as guides. I would definitely suggest getting the free guided tour and tipping these knowledgeable and adorable volunteers!).

After exploring the Palace for an unexpectedly long time, we peeped into St Michael’s church next door (it has the memorable silver sculpture on top that I always see from the train). The church volunteers were quite happy to tell us all about the place, from the knife marks and bullet holes courtesy of Cromwell’s soldiers to the amazing stained glass in the alter area. It was a great stop!

After a quick bite in town, we decided to take a walk around the loch. Even with the gala day, many people were in boats, fishing, and the trail itself was fun. We happened along a nice picture with thistle in front of the Palace, a rather Scottish shot on the whole. We also enjoyed the many swans and cygnets gracefully parading around the loch in search of food, and since everyone seemed to be out that day, food was plenty.

It was a great day trip! We’ve since returned and enjoyed it just as much the second time. And now for shameless plug for the publisher I’m interning at: one of the best parts was bringing the book one of our authors, Alex Nye, has written. For My Sins is about Mary, Queen of Scots, and since Mary was born in Linlithgow, I thought it only proper to bring the book along!

Ok. That’s all for now, but I hope to post several times in the next few weeks. So until then, may you live a life well loved!




Here’s the second part of our Switzerland and Italy trip: Cinque Terre to Napoli!

Cinque Terre was simply stunning. I think it was my other favorite spot, and I had no idea how hard I’d fall for it! We took the train to Milan (from Lauterbrunnen…3 changes along the way) and picked up a rental car, then hightailed it to the coast! We learned very quickly that Italian drivers mean business and that tolls add up very quickly! (If/when we return, we probably won’t rent a car. My nerves might not stand a second go). But oh my gosh, our first views of the Mediterranean made it all worth it. We stayed at an amazing bed and breakfast, Il Parco, which has free parking…that’s key for this area! They’ve also got an amazing view and breakfast…more about that in a sec. After a pick-me-up Aperol Spritz, we hiked down the hill to the beach area. We wandered and took in the sights, and then we had a pasta dinner (including pesto, of course) and an affogato at Nuovo Eden on via Fegina. We then spontaneously decided to take the train over to Vernazza, as there was sadly not time to hike there before dark. The ride took 4 minutes, and we decided to catch the next train before they became less frequent. So we only had about 40 minutes to take it all in! We got a wonderful sunset that perfectly highlighted the colourful and salt- and weather-worn buildings. Then it was back to Il Parco and hiking up the hill to look out over the lights of Monterosso al Mare beneath us. After a restful nights’ sleep, we had some coffee on our patio before heading to the best surprise yet: breakfast! Italian breakfasts in general are not my favorite (too many sweet things), but Marta and the team really outdid themselves. You get a choice of drinks (mine included coffee and mimosas, because hey, vacation!) and the buffet was FULL of choices: meats, cheeses, fruits, caprese salad, pastries, sweets, toast, and eggs prepared however you’d like. For an early riser like me, who really loves breakfast, this was literally paradise. The view might have helped as well 🙂 We slowly and thoroughly enjoyed breakfast before heading back into town and putting our feet in the Mediterranean one last time. Then back to the car and off to Orvieto!

We dragged ourselves away from the coast and were rewarded with Tuscany, but Orvieto was the perfect day stop. It was neat to pass the hill towns and all the HUGE mountainside quarries that provide stone to the world. We took the funicular up to the town, and our first stop was a small cafe for focaccia and Orvieto classico wine. Delicious! Since we only had a few hours, we followed Rick Steves’ guided walk (loosely) and took a side road whenever we felt like it. We were rewarded with some really neat views when a local pointed us through an open apartment door to a sheltered alcove. Every step required another picture; it was as if we were walking through a painting. We did a bit of shopping-the area is known for its hand-painted pottery-and of course, we bought some of the classico wine. We hopped back in the car and headed to Tivoli, our resting place for the night. The closer we got, the scarier the roads became, especially when cyclists were added to the mix. However, we were treated to an awesome view of the waterfalls streaming out from under the town! I think we should have stayed outside Tivoli in a more rural area, because parking and driving in town was a nightmare. Apparently, if you’re not a resident of the street and you drive down it, you get REALLY dirty looks and potentially a ticket. However, our host was really kind and drove our car back around to a parking area. We walked through town as the sun set, watching the setting rays turn the white buildings pink and red and orange. We returned to our apartment, where we learned that the doorways are original to the building-hundreds of years old! It explained the lack of height, actually…sadly, none of us managed to remember to take a picture! We had a traditional sweet breakfast and espresso for breakfast before girding our loins for the drive out.

Our next stops were Ercolano and Vico Equense: history and beauty all in one. The drive through Napoli to Ercolano took us down a market street-the vendors’ goods strayed past the road lines, children were biking in the road, and drivers were apparently honking at us since we weren’t running them over…We made it to Ercolano in one piece, and accordingly went down into the ruins as it began to rain. Pro tip: if you’re in need of pizza, head to La Terra d’Ercole, near the parking deck! The pizza was made right in front of us, and we ate in the garden across the street. It was so delectable. We couldn’t enjoy for too long, though, because we had to head to the next stop: Vico Equense! We only had an hour or two here, but it was definitely worth a walk around. My sis stayed at the Hotel Aequa, which I can only vouch for from the lobby and outdoor/pool area: it was super nice! Everything was so modern but perfectly matched to the area. My favorite part was venturing down to the harbor area. We were able to put our feet in again and generally soak in the sunshine and warmth one last time 🙂 It was quite the hike down the cliffside road and back up though–and still worth it! While we left M in Vico Equense, we headed back to the Rome area. We stayed with the most wonderful family outside the city near the Ciampino airport. We had no language in common with our hosts, so we used Google translate! We headed to the Castel Gandolfo area for dinner, which was super romantic. Even though it was too late (and therefore too dark) to see the lake, we ate outside in a delightfully-lit pedestrian area. All the shops and restaurants put a lot of effort into their shopfronts and outdoor seating, so it was especially picturesque. My phone photos didn’t do it justice, so I won’t add them here. The best part of staying at “Profumo di nonna” was the grape vines next door. Apparently they belong to the host’s family, and she gave us some of the homemade wine from the vines! (We traded them some of our Orvieto clasico 😉 ). So our last night in Italy was us sitting on a porch outside Rome at 10:00 at night, taking in the warm evening, and drinking wine from less than 10 feet away. WHOSE LIFE DID WE STEAL? I can’t even believe that trip actually happened, still!

So there’s that. There’s been a few trips since, but my dissertation beckons. See y’all on the other side, and until then, may you live a life well loved!