Friday, July 29, 2011

Ireland Week!!! The "Must-Sees" of Ireland: Connemara and Bru Na Boinne

First things first. I get to announce the WINNER of my first blog contest!

It was super easy to enter, all you had to do was leave a comment on last Monday's post. (Extra points for facebook/tweeting and for following this blog).

And the winner of $30 to Amazon is:   Abbey Rymarczyk!!! Congrats girl!

I'll send you an email with your prize in it!

Thanks to everyone who participated. I promise there will be more contests so stay tuned :)

Okay, now that we've done that... on to...

Our last day for Ireland Week. The five previous posts were:

1. Dublin
2. Glendalough, Rock of Cashel, Ring of Kerry
3. Dingle
4. Sea Kayaking in Dingle

5. Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Aran Islands

On our way from Galway to Westport we stopped in the Connemara region. The region is known for its diverse landscape, especially the bogs, which are prevalent in this area. 

One of the most popular sites in the region is Kylemoore Abbey. (Otherwise known as Katie's house. It's so nice of her to let us tour it, isn't it? ;))

And this is Katie's view:

Ok, you're right, its not Katie's house. It actually used to be a school for girls until last year when they decided to close it off. It started out as a castle for Mitchell Henry who built a church for his wife after she died. The church is lovely.

He fell on hard times and it went into disrepair until the Benedictine Nuns who fled from Germany made it there home and later turned it into a school. They let you tour the inside of both the Abbey and the Church. It wasn't expensive and is worth a stop if you're in the area. The Victorian Gardens were okay, but they are currently doing a lot of repairs in the gardens so it might be better in the near future.

We went on to Connemara National Park. The skies were threatening rain while we ate lunch and contemplated on whether or not to do one of the three hikes in the park. We decided to try, as all three started and ended in the same place, they just differed in how high up Diamond Hill you wanted to go

And. Let me tell you my friends. Diamond Hill is a misnomer. This is not a hill. It is a mountain. 

And. Let me also tell you my friends. Beware of your conniving friends when they tell you that they only want to do the easy trail. When you get to, what I now call, "The Rock of Peer Pressure", they will be sneaky, and annoying and convince you that even though it is hailing and you are soaked from the rain, that it is a good idea to keep climbing up a mountain.

Don't tell me I didn't warn you... ;)
This is Katie and I after I gave in and said I would keep climbing the mountain...

And we climbed

And we climbed

And we climbed. This was the point where, "Are you kidding me!?!" escaped my lips every 100ft or so as I couldn't believe we weren't at the top yet. (It was a very deceiving mountain.) Everytime you got over a crest, and thought you were at the top, there was more to climb.

But finally we made it! And the views were some of the best on the trip.

Then we walked down the mountain to our car.

Do you see those little white patches, almost directly over my head? That is Kylemoore Abbey. When we were down there, looking up at the mountains Katie said, "If I lived here, I would climb those mountains." We all laughed. Turns out the joke was on us :)

We left Connemara and headed for Westport. Westport was a nice city, but in our opinion there's really no need to go there. If we did it again, we would have gone back to Galway after Connemara. 

But we did get to see this raindow, which we now dub, "The Rainbow of Abandonment" as we were able to convince Katie to get out of the car to take a picture, which allowed us to drive away without her. Hehehe.

After Westport we drove cross country to Trim. Another nice city and it really is a perfect place to stay the night before your flight leaves. (That way you don't have to deal with a whole lot of Dublin traffic.)

We visited Trim castle, which was where the movie Braveheart was shot. It was okay. They make you take a tour if you want to see the inside. I think it was worth it, even if it was a bit long.

The day before we left we visited one of the most talked about sites in Ireland Bru Na Boinne. They are one of the largest and most historic megalithic sites in Europe. Bascially a combination of Neolithic tombs, standing stones and henges.

It was pretty neat, but this was our last out of ten days and I think we were all a little nutty as you can tell from the numerous crazy pictures we took while waiting for the tour... We might have appreciated it more at the beginning of the trip...

And that was our trip.

I'm sad its over... I so want to go back.

Just a word of advice for comfort sake. Pack really light. Not only are most rooms in Europe really small, but you're going to want a small vehicle so that you can manuever the 'one-lane' roads in Ireland. They are seriously skinny roads, people :)

This was our trusty steed: A Volkswagen Polo. It was a good car. Did the job.

Hope you enjoyed the Ireland recap. Be thinking about 'Weekend Wisdom' for the post on Monday. Last week's were wonderful!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ireland Week!!! The "Must-Sees" of Ireland: Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Aran Islands

I know you've all been dying for this series to continue. ;) As I explained in an earlier post, I have all our pictures on my sister's laptop which I didn't have access to so I couldn't finish this series last week. But... now I can :)

Quick recap: Myself and two wonderful ladies (Katie and Jen) spent 10 days on the Emerald Isle. I thought it might be helpful if there are some who are thinking about going, and if you're not, hopefully it will be entertaining and/or amusing :)

Post Recap (and links to them if you wish to check them out):
1. Dublin
2. Glendalough, Rock of Cashel, Ring of Kerry
3. Dingle
4. Sea Kayaking in Dingle

The first stop on today's post is The Cliffs of Moher (pronounced 'More'). Katie came up with a 'great' story as to why they are called that. If you see her, you should ask her sometime... :)

The Cliffs of Moher are on the way from Dingle to Galway, and are one of the places to see, so we decided to make a stop. At first, we weren't all that impressed. After you park and walk across the street you can take a look at the visitor's center, which we didn't think was a much.

Then you can walk up to a lookout tower (which no one recommends that you pay to go up in). We didn't pay, but as we looked out at the view pictured above we were like, 'Eh, its nice but....'

Before we left we walked a ways up another path and ran into this sign

Naturally, seeing something that says 'Please don't go beyond this point' made us do just that.

And then the party started!

The views from this side of the cliffs were much better. See that little thing sticking out the top of the cliff? That's the tower we were at.

Once we were on this side, we just kept going, to places only those that owned these little beauties ever went:

The views were amazing, and the rebel feeling we got helped too. So if you go to The Cliffs of Moher, walk on by the sign that says 'don't walk by this sign'. Its much better there :)

After the Cliffs of Moher we went on to Galway, which is tied for our most favorite place on the trip. (Dingle shares the #1 spot with it).

There are parts in Galway that are pedestrian only and have the most amazing shops, food and live music we saw on our whole trip.

And just in case you don't believe me, take a look at this.

We just walked right into a bar (no cover), batted our eyes at a few gents so we could grab there extra seats, and sat in the front row with our Guinness. We went in four different pubs that were like this, all with slightly different kinds of music, but all amazing.

The next day we spent in the Aran Islands. It was a great day trip. We drove from Galway to Rooseveel (about 40min) and hoped on a ferry. We spent the whole day on Inishmore (one of the three islands). We recommend renting bikes if you want to see a lot, but DON'T take the 'high road'. It's probably the toughest bike ride we've ever been on, and there is nothing to see that you can't see on the 'low road'. If you ever go, you'll know what we mean. :)

This is an example of why you shouldn't take a picture of yourself while riding a bike:

Ha. Jen. (She's gonna hate me for posting that...)

Anywho... as you ride around on your bikes singing the 'witch's theme song' from the Wizard of Oz, you can get off at various marked spots to see old Iron Age forts. Lots of climbing, but the views are quite nice.

The biggest attraction, and of course the one that is farthest away from where the ferry's drop you off, is Dun Aengus. It is known as the 'most magnificent barbaric momument in Europe.'

We were impressed with the actual structure, but the view blew it out of the water. The fort literally ends at the cliff.

We had lugged our lunch with us, which consisted of two chocolate cakes, trail mix and soda. Where we ate was by far the most beautiful place I have ever eaten.

All three of these places are ones I would do again.

The last post for 'Ireland Week' is tomorrow! Join us as we climb up a mountain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ereader or Tablet? I can't decide.

Happy Wednesday!

The contest for $30 to Amazon ends this Friday. If you'd still like to enter, follow the link to this post.

Because of my recent Italian Idol win I find myself with an extra $250. I was fairly certain that I wanted to use it to get myself an Ereader (like a Nook, or a Kindle). But then I stopped in at Best Buy and was looking at the Tablets which got me to thinking that maybe I should spend the extra money to get one of those....

So the question is, Tablet or Ereader? Or maybe neither? Do you have one, or know someone who does? What do you think?

I read a lot. And I travel a lot. So it will be great not to have to guess how many books to bring with me, to not have my shoulder aching due to the extra weight. (Okay, its probably the laptop that makes my shoulder hurt, but you get the idea :))

Do I need the extra bells and whistles that come with a tablet? Or will that just cause me to be distracted from my reading?

And if you recommend a tablet or an ereader, which one?

I'd appreciate any help I can get!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tickle Me Tuesdays

First things first. If you haven't entered the contest yet to win $30 for Amazon, you should. 
Its super easy. Just go to this post and leave a comment. (You can also do the other two things mentioned in the post if you would like more entries).

Also, if you are looking for my winning Italian Idol performance follow this link.

And now, I'd like to introduce you to another series that I will be starting. Drum roll please... :)

Have you ever kicked someone in the face because they tickled you? Well... I have. I was thinking about that and came up with the idea for a new series: Tickle Me Tuesdays. Essentially, I hope to make you laugh or at least chuckle a little. Because... I love to laugh, and I think most people do. Just be warned... if you see me in person, I would advise against tickling me. 

Let's just start off with something amusing.

I can't even color between the lines. This guy is awesome...

Hopefully you don't work for anyone like this...

Last, but not least... I feel really bad for this girl... Ladies, I wouldn't recommend this method.

Feel free to leave links, jokes, stories to keep the laughs comin'! Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend Wisdom + My first Blog Contest!!!

If you are looking for my winning Italian Idol vocal performance, you can head here.

Weekend Wisdom is a series that will run every Monday. We've had three days to make mistakes, come to realizations and learn new things. This series will allow us to share those insights with others. Please leave your amusing, inspirational, useful and just plain hilarious 'weekend wisdom' in the comments section below.

And... this week I will be running a contest! The winner will receive $30 to Amazon!

So the question is... how do I enter? That's a very good question actually and there are three ways you can enter.

First: Leave a comment below with your 'weekend wisdom'. I have a few examples at the end of this post, but pretty much anything will work. Doing this will earn you 1 entry.

Second: 'Follow' my blog. You can either do that via Google Friend Contact or by email. (Both are on the right side of this blog) Doing this will earn you 1 entry as well.

Third: Either promote this contest on your blog, facebook page or twitter it. Doing one or all of these things will earn you 2 entries.

In the comments section below just let me know how many entries you get. (I trust you.) It'll look something like this:

Did you know that the strongest bone in your body is your thigh bone? 
Follow: +1
Left a link on facebook status to this blog/contest : +2
Total entries: 4

That's it! That's all you gotta do. I will draw and post the winner here on Friday, July 29th. Good luck!

So now, for a little bit of my weekend wisdom.

Don't give your dog a treat she's never had before, just before you leave for the day. You might find that it doesn't agree with her stomach and she'll spend the whole day getting rid of it on your carpet...

But how could you get mad at this face, especially when it was my fault...

Don't rock out to 'Livin' La Vida Loca', thinking about eighth grade dances, while at Spin Class. You may just shimmy right off your bike and onto the floor... not that I did that this morning or anything.

What is your weekend wisdom? 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let me introduce you to the new Italian Idol!!

Yup, yup. If you didn't a chance to read about yesterday's fun, go here.

Tonight I went back to Festa Italiana with my parents... thanks mom and dad! Feesty was cheering me on from Chitown (Chicago area). Just know it all started with you babe.

I, as well as eight other contestants were invited back to compete for the title of Italian Idol. The competition was pretty tough. It's hard because you're competing against different generations with a variety of song choices. I wouldn't have wanted to be the judges...

I sang 'Before He Cheats' by Carrie Underwood. I must say, I thought tonight's performace was better than yesterday's. They also had us each sing a 'snipet' of an Italian song. I chose 'That's Amore' by Dean Martin. I don't think I botched it up too bad... haha.

Well, in the end... I won! I was shocked because there were a number that were quite good. I was awarded $250 in prize money. It was so much fun and I really appreciate all the work that was put into running, and judging the whole competition.

This link, if you are so curious, was my performance from Saturday night (not tonight). Thanks Feesty for being such a great photographer!

Festa Italiana and I'm a Finalist for Idol... What?

Pretty catchy title heh? I actually am a finalist for Idol... Italian Idol, which is held during Festa Italiana. The finals are tomorrow if you wanna come. :) But I'll get into that more later.

Today my dear friend Feesty (Amanda Feest) and I went to Festa Italiana which is held at the Festival grounds in Milwaukee, WI. We had both never been before and thought we'd check it out.

It was a good time... but there wasn't a whole lot of 'Italian' going on. Sure they had more Italian food then Summerfest has, but other than that it was just a smaller version of "The Largest Music Festival in the World."

Except you are greeted by this guy when you first get in the gates.

Hello David...

We ate, and then we went to see the fashion show. It caught our attention because the men's soccer team were the models!!!

And these lovely ladies gave us a traditional Italian dance before hand.

Then as we walked out of the fashion show, we walked right into the sign-up table for "Italian Idol" and I thought... why not?

This guy was so cute!

Out of the 15 or so people who performed, 3 were picked to come back for the finals tomorrow night... and I was one of them! Yay!

Turns out, 1st place gets $250. Second gets $150. Third gets $100. Fourth gets $50. And there are only nine competing tomorrow... so I have a decent chance. In any case, its fun. :)

If you want to come and cheer me on, they gave me free entry tickets. First come first serve ;)

The night ended with a fun show by an Abba tribute band, and Fireworks!

In summary: If you have an afternoon or an evening to kill, you should go. You have to like oldies music though, because its either that, or the little bit of Opera and Italian music that you can find. The food is great of course.

Like what you see? Then type in your email and follow me!