Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IRELAND! Donegal.

After leaving Derry we began to make our way to Bundoran, but not before stopping for the morning in Donegal.  Of course we stopped there to visit a castle!  For a very long time Donegal Castle laid in ruins, but was almost fully restored in the 1990s.
The castle dates back to the 15th century when it was occupied by the O'Donnell clan, who were a very powerful and influential family during the time.
You can't imagine my glee when we discovered we were actually permitted to go inside and explore!  I have always wanted to visit old castles and this was my first proper castle to visit.  Belfast castle was nice, but it's not a proper castle in my book.  You need to feel the adventure by just looking at it.  This one had stone walls and ivy and secret windows and winding staircases on the inside.  Proper fairytale material.
A lot of the photos that we took indoors are just too blurry to post, but I wanted to share this one of Roibeard going up the chimney!  We took this photo and then saw a sign that said something like: Children, please don't play in chimney.  Whoops!  Haha.
This photo I like because I feel like I look so in wise beyond my years.  Sometimes when I look at myself it's hard to see anything other than what I saw when I was a child.  If you look at photos of me from when I was 3 you'll see that I still have the same face.  I look this photo and see all of the things that I have experienced over the years.  Make sense?  Oh, hair was a royal mess the whole time I was in Ireland.  I decided to not fight it and just embrace it.  (Also...I didn't realize my hair straightener and curler wouldn't work over there...)

While waiting for the bus to take us to Bundoran we headed to the coast where we discovered this ancient abbey.  It was quite beautiful right on the ocean.  Some of the graves were more recent, but most of them were so old you couldn't even read the stones anymore.  All in all Donegal was a really nice day trip to make.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pumpkin everything. It's time.

Chicago weather has been a little crazy the past few weeks...big surprise.  It got really cold for a week and then went back to full on summer...but now autumn is finally here.  Two weeks ago I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to summer, but now that September has come to a close I am ready to fully embrace my favorite season.
I even had the most delicious vegan pumpkin empanada the other day.  Yep, it's time.  Pumpkin everything.  Bring it on.

One thing I really miss about living in Michigan are the cider mills.  My goal for this year is to find a cider mill in Illinois that I can get to using public transportation.  Stay tuned.  It's going to happen.

In other news...Roibeard and I are finally moved out of our old place!  These will be the last photos of me in our Logan Square courtyard.  It has been a very odd transitional phase.  While I love my new apartment, Roibeard and I both agree it doesn't feel like our own yet.  We've both been having a lot of nightmares and sleepless nights.  I plan on spending some time organizing tonight, so hopefully it will feel like home soon!
Oh and I can't stress enough how much I adore my vintage fall coat.  It's floral and velvet and wonderful.  My favorite purchase from last year. <3

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Derry Part 2: Murals

Roibeard and I took a bus tour and also a walk along the Bogside murals in Derry.  The Bogside artists are a trio of muralists who began working on these walls in 1993. We were told that all of the most hateful ones (both from the Bogside and the Unionist side) have been painted over.  
The Free Derry wall above was painted on the side of a house in 1969 by local activist John Casey.  The surrounding buildings were all demolished, but the wall remained as a symbol of nationalist autonomy.
I'll end my text here and let the murals speak for themselves:


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A trip to Derry

After spending a few days with Roibeard's family in Belfast we packed up our things and starting traveling along the coast.  Even though catching the buses and locating our b&bs could be stressful at times I absolutely loved this part of our trip. 
I grew up with a family that always "did things" on vacation.  We never traveled just to sit by a pool and soak in the sun.  What's the point of leaving your home town if that's all you are going to do?  So even though we slept very little over this part of the trip we managed to get from Belfast up along the coast to Derry and down to Donegal, Bundoran, Galway, Cong, and Doolin.
The first place on our little adventure was Derry.  For those of you who may not know, along with Belfast, Derry was one of the hardest hit cities during the Troubles.  The sculpture in the photo above represents peace between the Catholics and Protestants, but walking around the streets of Derry you can just feel the pain oozing from this walled city.
The wall was built by the British to keep the Catholics out of the city.  Walking it is very eerie and when passing the cannons on top it was just so difficult to think about the amount of hatred that once took hold over the people of the town.
All over the city you'll see the unionist colors and markings that tell any outsiders very clearly what type of neighborhood they are entering.  
As you can see from above the Irish also mark their territories.  I'll try not to get too into the politics on here, but when visiting a town like Derry it's something you can't just completely ignore.  These images are powerful and these streets are hard to walk.
Roibeard grew up during the tail end of the troubles and experienced a lot of the violence first hand, so much of this hit very close to home.  I am saddened when any group of people are denied their freedom, their basic rights, and their own land. 

(I'll cover the murals in my next post!)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cave Hill Adventures

One of my absolute favorite things that I did while I was in Ireland was hiking the Cave Hill.  Since the first day I met Roibeard he has been telling me all sorts of stories about the Cave Hill.  It was so wonderful to finally be there in person.  I have to say I wasn't expecting it to be quite as steep as it was!  We made it nearly to the top, but the to get to the tip of the "nose" you literally have to climb and drag yourself up in the mud and we were with Roibeard's 8 year old niece, so it just wasn't going to happen.
Cave Hill is historically known in Irish as Beann Mhadagain. It is a basaltic hill that forms part of the southeastern border of the Antrim Plateau. The nose that I mentioned above is known as "Napoleon's Nose" as the hill top itself looks like the profile of a man's face (or Napoleon's face).  It is rumored to have been the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
The views of the city below were incredible.  It is said that on a clear day you can see the Isle of Man and Scotland, but I personally didn't find that to be true.  Maybe if you have really good eyes.  Which I do not.

This was definitely one of my fondest memories of our trip!  It was worth it just to see Roibeard so happy that day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wedding Ideas!

I'll try to not focus too much on wedding details here, but I have to say that Roibeard and I are starting to get really excited for our upcoming wedding.  Nothing is set for sure yet, but we are thinking May 2015.  It doesn't give us much time to plan, but since it will be a smaller celebration I think that we can manage. 

In terms of venues my number one choice right now is Dunseverick Castle.  It's really only a few ruins, but is a medieval castle dating back to the 5th century.  St. Patrick is rumored to have visited Dunseverick Castle on several occasions.  It's located right on the Antrim coast and looks a bit more isolated, which I think will be best for reciting our vows.  One of my fears of having our ceremony in a public place is obnoxious tourists ruining it for us!  (I'm more worried about that than I am about the 90% chance of rain).

The next choice on my list is Dunluce Castle.  It's also a medieval castle and also located on the Antrim coast.  This one we were actually able to walk the grounds of while we were in Ireland.  The only problem with this one is it's a huge tourist attraction. 
For both Dunseverick and Dunluce castles we need to get permission from the National Trust in order to have our ceremony on their sites.  I'm in the process of contacting them right now.  If that falls through then Belfast Castle is my back up.  It's not quite as old and over grown as I would like.  It doesn't over look the sea.  However, it is still very pretty and the gardens are beautiful.
If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!  We are trying to stay close enough to Belfast so that Roibeard's family can attend the ceremony.
Since the two medieval castles are not licensed venues if we choose them as our ceremony sight we will have to wed at city hall first (to make it official) then have a "symbolic ceremony" on the ocean.  Belfast Castle is licensed so if we marry there we don't have to worry about city hall.
In terms of a reception we're planning on a favo(u)rite pub of Roibeard's family's that's located in Belfast itself.
Okay, let the planning begin!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Belfast Castle

During our time in Belfast we took a small hike up to Belfast Castle with Roibeard's family.  I have to admit that a good part of my wanting to visit Belfast Castle was as a possible wedding venue.  We haven't ruled it out completely yet, but it is a bit more of a stately home than a castle.  I have since fallen in love with Dunseverick Castle for our wedding...more on that later.

As you can see by our short sleeves it was an unusually warm and dry day in Belfast.  It was probably the warmest day of the whole trip.  I was really happy to see the sun. 
The original Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in the late 12th century and was the home of Sir Arthur Chichester, baron of Belfast.  Unfortunately the original was burnt down in 1708.  The current Belfast Castle sits right at the foot of the Cave Hill and was built between 1811-1870.
The Castle grounds are incredibly beautiful and offer an amazing view of the city.  One of things you're supposed to do on the grounds is find all of the cats!  Myself being the cat lady that I am just absolutely loved this!!  Roibeard and I only managed to find 8 of the 9.  (Two are together in the photo below). 


Roibeard claims that the 9th cat ran away.