Thursday, September 6, 2018

Hawaii Big Island Day Two - North

It's time for day two of my Big Island adventure!  This day, we ventured up north for a day full of hiking and some beaches thrown in.  We got to see some of the most famous and beautiful Hawaiian sights.  Like the other days we were on the island, the weather cooperated and we got to do so much!

Here's a look at how we spent the day:

Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District

Dan and I started our second day on the Big Island by traveling up to the resort area of the island in Waikoloa to pick up my race packet (coming to my next post!).  I heard about a short hike that we could go on, where we see one of the largest collections of petroglyphs (rock drawings, or in this case lava flow drawings).

The walk was short and easy, and it was fascinating to see all of the petroglyphs that were still in impeccable condition, despite being hundreds of years old.

Holoholokai Beach Park

After we finished up the walk, we stumbled upon the most beautiful beach area, just off the main parking lot.  There were some people getting in the water to snorkel, and it's easy to see why- the water was one of the clearest that I've seen anywhere, there were lots of beautiful fish, and there was coral galore!  This is definitely a hidden gem and ended up being our favorite beach that we saw (we went back right before we flew to Oahu!)

Hawi Town
Next, we were off for the northern coast and Hawi.  You might have heard of this little town, because it serves as the turn around point for the bike route in the Ironman Championship!  While we didn't do any biking, we enjoyed walking the streets and visiting adorable gift shops.

We also stopped for some food at a restaurant that came highly recommended to me- Bamboo!  The food was delicious (I got a tofu Cuban sandwich) and the drinks were amazing.  They make traditional tropical drinks, but add in lilikoi (passion fruit) to pretty much everything!  It takes everything up a notch, and our drinks were very refreshing.

Pololu Lookout
We continued on through the town until we reached the Pololu Lookout!  Just a heads up- this is a very popular area and hike, so it gets VERY crowded.  We went in the afternoon and had to park about a quarter mile from the trail head and overlook, so I would recommend getting an early start.

The trail is really easy to follow, and zig-zags down a steep hill to get you from the overlook, all the way down to the beach.  It was a fun hike down, with lots of photo opportunities and chances to enjoy the view.

Once we made it down, we explored the area a bit and took it all in.  It was so beautiful down there, with a beach area, a little runoff lake area, and towering mountains surrounding us.  Luckily there were lots of clouds out, so the weather felt perfect.

Such a beautiful site!  Luckily for us, in just a few days we would be able to see all of these areas from the air, which was even more breathtaking.

Fresh off the Grid Fruit Stand
There's nothing better than some refreshing fruit after a hot hike, and luckily there was a fruit stand right outside of the outlook.  Dan and I both got smoothies (which tasted amazing and fresh) and visited the horses roaming the fields before we went for our next hike!  Side note- there are so many fruit stands everywhere in Hawaii, so make sure you get as much fresh fruit as you can!

Waipio Valley Lookout

For the final hike of the day, we drove around to the other side of the valley and the Waipio Valley Overlook.  This side looked pretty similar to Pololu- just as beautiful, and we got treated to a sunset.

The beaches down there were beautiful, and features miles and miles of beautiful black sand.  This is a very popular spot for surfing, and we saw tons of families out there having a blast!  I heard there were waterfalls too, but we hiked and climbed for a while and couldn't find them unfortunately.

While it might have been fine heading down the hill, the hike back was definitely a challenge!  The road has an average grade of 25% and up to 40% in some places.  In fact, this is the steepest road of its length in the United States!  While you can drive on the road, it was highly discouraged if you're not a local because tourists have been known to get stuck and have to be towed to the top (which can be VERY expensive and clog up the narrow road). 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hawaii Big Island Day One - South

Hi everyone!  This post is a long time coming, and one that I've been really excited to write!  Back in December, I took my first trip to Hawaii and had the most amazing trip ever.  When Dan had to go back for work again in June, I jumped at the chance to join him again.  This time, we decided to stop at the Big Island first for a little vacation, then head to Oahu for his work.

When we were planning, we picked a different area to explore each day.  While the island is, like the name suggests, BIG- I decided to focus on different cardinal directions and tackle a new one every day.  While I don't make itineraries for travel, I did have a few items booked (a few of which got changed around which you'll see in a later post) and that helped us decide what to do each day.  Besides that, we played everything by ear and just did what sounded fun!

Today I'll be talking about what we did on our first full day in Hawaii, where we traveled down south to see some incredible beaches, and also ended the day on a very high note.  I hope you enjoy!

Where We Stayed

I love to stay in Airbnb's, and was able to find an adorable house, tucked into the hillside of Holualoa, for an amazing price.  I liked this area because it was located pretty much in the center of all of the areas we wanted to visit, and was also on the sunnier Kona side of the island.

We had a private cottage that was detached from the main house (which I believe the owner also rents out).  There was a kitchen with everything you could possibly need, a bathroom, comfy bed and TV, and a lanai (balcony) that was my favorite spot in the house!  I spent a lot of time sitting in the hammock chair, eating fresh macadamia nuts and fruit from the garden and watching all the chickens and other birds fly around.

Day 1 - South

Coffee Grinds

Before we started a day (and week!) full of adventure, we definitely had to fuel up. Along the way to our beach destinations was a little breakfast spot that had lots of great reviews and vegetarian options, so we decided to stop in.  I ended up getting a veggie burrito that was so delicious and filling, along with some coffee.  In the same parking lot, there's a convenience store, which we used to buy some water and snacks for our day.

South Point

Not surprisingly, the southern-most part of the United States is in Hawaii- specifically on the Big Island!  This is a beautiful spot with perfect, crystal clear water and cliffs all over (which people used to dive into the water).  There's also a coffee shop here (marked as the Southernmost Coffee Shop in the USA- we saw signs like that A LOT!) and a couple of farm stands.

Papakolea Beach (Green Sands Beach)
I've heard a lot about this beach, so I knew we had to give it a try.  The beach is about 3 miles away from a large parking lot, and you are either able to get a driver in a pickup truck to take you, be daring and take the rough roads yourself, or just walk.  We opted for the walking route, and I'm so glad we did.  The hike itself was pretty simple- there were lots of different paths made by the trucks, and you basically just follow them along the ocean until you make it to the beach.  Sometimes it felt like choose-your-own-adventure deciding on a trail, but they always joined back up together eventually.  The views were spectacular, and we definitely took our time to take in the sights.  Plus- we wanted to make sure to drink lots of water since there was no shade on the hike and lots of sun!

We eventually made it to the beach, which was pretty empty (there was one family and two couples there when we arrived, but they left after a while and we had the place to ourselves!).  It was probably one of the most stunning beaches I've ever been to- bright blue water contrasting with the green(ish) sand, and dramatic cliffs dropping you right into the water.  It was unbelievable!

Plus, the water was the absolute perfect temperature and was great to just splash around in after a long, hot hike.  (Side note- if you're wondering why the sand is green- the sand is made up of olivine crystals (whose green color is due to ferrous iron.  There are only 4 green sands beaches in the world!)

Punalu'u Beach (Black Sands Beach)

After we finished the hike back, we decided to drive down the road a bit to visit a Black Sands Beach!  This one had a parking lot right on the water, so no hiking was necessary.  The beach was absolutely packed, which made sense since it was a really large beach, right by a golf course, and was also gorgeous.  There were a few times that I was looking at the white water crashing into the black sand and it just looked like I was watching a black and white film..kind of trippy but unbelievable!  On this beach, we also got to see some sea turtles and go on a little adventurous hike.

And one more turtle pic because they were so cute

Manta Ray Night Snorkeling
For this trip, one activity that I really wanted to do was go snorkeling.  We've done it a few other times, and it's always incredible to see how much activity and life exists beneath the water!  I heard that on the Big Island, there are night trips to see manta rays (which are apparently really rare, interesting creatures.)  It's something that I've never done and might not get many more opportunities to try again, so I had to sign up!  We decided on the company Big Island Divers, and I was really happy with the choice.  While we decided on snorkeling, they also offered Scuba diving as well.  You could rent masks, fins, and wet suits.  We opted to not get wet suits, and while the water was a bit chilly at times, we were fine. 

We met up at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park right before sunset, learned a bit about Manta Rays, then set off for a sunset boat ride to our diving spot.  We had a spot near the airport, which our instructors told us was a favorite spot for the animals.  Before we even got in the water, we saw some dolphins and a monk seal!

Once we got in the water, we all held on to a surf board that had lights all around.  This attracts plankton, which the rays come by and eat (if we're lucky!).  We swam around for a while, seeing lots of interesting fish, while it got darker and darker out.  Our guide said that it might not be a lucky day and we might just  have to head back, when two huge rays came out of nowhere to another group nearby that was Scuba Diving!  Looks like it would be our lucky day!  After the rays hung out with that group, they decided to come over and say hi to us, and one of them ended up doing back flips directly under me.  I think at one point he even grazed by Dan!  It was such an unbelievable experience to see these HUGE, 15 foot, 2000 pound creatures swimming directly at you..sometimes even coming straight at you with an open mouth.  Mantas all have distinct markings, so our guide was able to identify them and tell us more about their history (including the back flipping guy, Koie Ray, who had some scarring and a missing cephalic fin from being caught in fishing line.)

Kona Brewing
Even though it was late, we definitely weren't in the mood to go to sleep after such an incredible experience.  Luckily, Kona Brewing was right down the street, so we stopped there.  This is one of my favorite breweries to visit in Hawaii (there are locations in Oahu as well!) because their beer is many great flavors besides the mainland favorite Big Wave, and the food is great as well!  I decided on a flight of beer as usual, and also got some poke.  When in Hawaii!

Have you ever been snorkeling or Scuba diving?
What color beaches have you been on before?

Friday, August 10, 2018

North Park Triathlon Recap

Hi everyone and Happy Friday!  I have an exciting post and update to share today- I completed my first triathlon!  If you've been following for the past few months, I've been training for the North Park Triathlon.  I chose this race because it's close to my house, so I could get in a lot of on-course training, and it was also a sprint, so I could ease my way in to this new sport!

I really enjoyed the entire process of tri training and the actual race!  I'm definitely going to be doing more, and now know exactly what I can improve on next time (spoiler alert- SWIMMING).  Here's a recap of how the race went-


 700 meters

Goal : 15:00

Actual : 19:00

For the swim, we were in a huge pool (the largest in the county) for a 700 meter swim.  The pool length is 50 meters, so luckily I only had to do 7 laps (or 14 lengths).  In each lane, there were four athletes, with two at each end.  

As soon as my heat started, I took off at a comfortable pace on the swim. I'm used to swimming in a normal sized pool (25 meters), and having the length be double didn't really bother me at first.  I was feeling strong and was even able to pass the two athletes that started at the other end of the pool!

Unfortunately, by the time I hit the halfway mark, I started to feel like I was choking on the water. I'm not sure what happened because this has never happened to me in any of my workouts, but every time I went in the water it just felt like I wasn't able to breath.  So, I made sure to keep moving, and ended up doing a sort of doggy paddle/side stroke while I kept trying to cough out the water.  Physically I felt fine and kept trying to swim normal again, but kept getting the same choking feeling.  It might have been nerves or just inexperience, but it was so frustrating!!

I finally finished and was happy to be done (and not kicked out to the "slow swimmers lane" to make room for the next heat), so I jumped out of the pool and ran around the pool and out to the transition area, where I quickly toweled off, threw on my shoes and helmet, and took off!


12 miles

Goal : 1:00:00

Actual : 51:40

The bike was actually a ton of fun!  The course we went on was a loop around the pool area and is a little over 2 miles, so we had to do 5 total laps.  The course is really hilly, so my strategy going in was to really push it on the straight and downhills, and make it up the hills without stopping.

This is a course that I practiced a lot during training, and tried to get in at least a few loops every weekend.  I got to practice shifting up and down, which really helped me on race day!  I definitely felt tired and sluggish on my first lap, thanks to just finishing up the swim.  By the time I hit my second lap, I was feeling much better, and seemed to keep feeling better the further on I went.  

Before I knew it, I was finishing up my final lap, and pulled back in to the parking lot where the transition area was.  I dropped off the bike, grabbed my sunglasses and hand waterbottle, took a salt tab, and struggled to start running (jello legs!)


3.1 miles

Goal : 30:00

Actual : 30:34 

The run was on trails that went around the park, which meant that we did not have to run by the bikers (good), we had a nice, soft surface and shade to run in (double good since it was a really warm and sunny day) but also meant HILLS!  My strategy quickly became walking up any steep hills while I got some water, and taking off when the trail flattened out.  This worked out great for me, and I started to pass people left and right. 

The first mile of the run was definitely the most difficult and hilly, but by the time we passed the water station at the one mile mark, the trail had more rolling hills instead of sharp climbs.  At this point, I took in a Margarita Shot Block to get in a bit more sodium.  I was really sweating at this point, and just ready to be done!

The race finished on the side of the bike course, close to the transition area.  I could see my cheering section and gave it everything that I had left in the tank!


Goal : 2:00:00

Actual : 1:44:43 

Have you ever done a triathlon?
Which would be your favorite leg?
What's the most recent item you've checked off your bucket list?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Triathlon Training : It's Go Time and a Look Back

Happy Monday everyone!  It's that time again- race week.  While it feels familiar to have a race coming up, it also feels completely foreign to me since it's my first triathlon.  I still don't really know what to expect or what race day will look like, but I'm very excited (and super nervous!)

I've missed a few weekly check-ins during my training, so I decided to give an overall look at how my training went.


I would probably have to say that swimming is still the area that I'm most uncomfortable with.  I was going an average of 3 times a week and had a good schedule going, and then my gym closed back in May and I really struggled to get back on track.  I also feel like I hit a plateau and haven't made much progress in the past few months- once I was able to swim 1000 yards non-stop, my paces pretty much stayed stagnant around 2:05/100 yards.  I'm not intimidated by the distance any more (and my race is only 700 yards) but I know I'll be one of the slower people in the field.

No pictures of me swimming, so you have to deal with my blurry fierce face in my swimming kit!

This year, I swam around 30,575 yards, which is over 17 miles!!


As an absolute shock to me, I've started to fall in love with biking.  If you remember back to when I started training, I was really scared of biking and would be proud of myself for getting through a ride without falling off.  Now, I look forward to biking days and am hoping to do some longer rides and focus more on biking once triathlon training is over!  It might be because I get to ride with Dan, but there's just something about it that is so much fun, and also a great workout.

This year, I biked around 130 miles!


Running has always been my first love, but I definitely didn't follow any kind of strict training plan for this triathlon.  It's only a 5k run, which I know that I can always get done.  My training was mostly 2-3 days of running a week, with one of them being a longer run with friends, and one on trails (since my race will be a 5k trail run).  I also tried to incorporate as many "brick" workouts as possible- biking followed immediately by running- to help me get used to the feeling of that transition.

During my triathlon training, I ended up running three races!  I did a Park Run 5k during my trip to Scotland, a quarter marathon on the Big Island in Hawaii, and the Chicago Half Marathon last weekend with friends.  I didn't "race" any of them (in fact, I haven't trained or pushed myself in any race this entire year which has been a great break), but it was still helpful to keep me on track while I was away traveling!

Other Stuff

Besides the normal swim/bike/run, I've also been doing great with cross training!  I've been getting in at least one workout a week, usually with Class Pass, but also doing some hiking and stand up paddleboarding.  I love mixing it up, which is probably why triathlon training has been so fun, and I feel so strong!  I've really been enjoying my classes at Beat Fitness, which uses a lot of body weight and dumbbell exercises for a tough but fun workout!  The other day, a stranger even complimented my arms, which has literally never happened before in my life.  Thanks, Brian!

My happy place is in the water!

There you have it- I've put in a lot of work to get out of my comfort zone, and I almost feel ready to do the darn thing!  I still think I could have put in a bit more effort (especially lately with the swim), but overall I'm proud of myself!  I don't really have goals other than finishing and not crashing on the bike portion, but other than that I would like to get under my estimated finish time of 2 hours.  We'll see what happens!

Anyone who's done a triathlon- what advice can you give me?
What challenges did you set for yourself this year?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Triathlon Training : Almost There!

Let me be completely honest- this was not the best week of training!  There were a couple life events thrown in the way that I had to work around, so I was just happy to get in at least one swim, run, and bike this week.  There's only 3 weeks to go until race day, so let's just hope I'm doing enough to finish at this point!  

Here's a look at how training went-


1 hour SUP
Such a perfect day out, so after work I immediately headed to the lake for some paddling.  It was really crowded but I still got to relax and enjoy the weather!


3.1 mile run
For some reason, I thought it would be a smart idea to go for my run after work, during the highest temperatures of the day, without water.  Luckily I was going on a trail run (since my tri run portion is on trails) which helped A LOT!  I love running on trails and need to get on them more, but this was such an enjoyable run.


Rest Day!
For work, we went to the Pirates game!  It was a lot of fun and the Pirates managed a great win (with a home run).  Since I was out all day and got home late, I decided to take the day off.


Beat Fitness
After work, I headed up for my favorite class!  Today's circuits included a lot of fun equipment, like a bosu ball, Ski-erg, and bats.  The workout wasn't as hard which hopefully means I'm getting in better shape.


1000 yard swimming
This was a really long day!  Dan came home from Hawaii, so I picked him up at the airport at 6AM.  Then, I had to race home for a meeting, and then head to North Park for a work picnic.  It was a ton of fun, and I got to learn how to play Cricket!  Afterwards, I headed to the pool to get in a swim.  I felt great the entire time!


8 mile run
I met up with friends early in the morning to get this run done!  It was super hot, so we mostly spent the entire time trying to survive the heat.  I was also pretty tired because Dan and I went to a birthday party the night before and didn't get home until midnight, so I did pretty well for only getting 5 hours of sleep.


15 mile bike
After spending most of the day out in the sun enjoying the Deutchtown Music Festival, then dealing with trying to find where a mysterious beep was coming from in our house, Dan and I both really needed to sleep in!  So, we hung out around the house and watched the Wimbledon finals until getting out around noon for a bike ride.  By then, it was in the 90s and about to storm, but luckily we got in a great bike ride.  We headed out to the Butler Freeport Trail, which is great for both biking and running/walking and is also shaded the entire way!  This was my longest bike ride to date, and it was really good.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Triathlon Training : One Month Away!

Believe it or not (I sure can't)- it's the final countdown until my first triathlon!  In less than four weeks, I'll be toeing the pool line and getting ready to dive in to this new adventure (jk about diving, I don't know how to do that yet).  

I haven't posted a training update in a while because I was in Hawaii for the past two weeks, and didn't really do any specific workouts while I was there.  I did run in a race and do lots of active things, but I'll share those in a separate post.  For today, I'm going to look back at last week and how training went!


Rest Day!
This day can also be known as struggle city.  I traveled home from Hawaii on Sunday, and because of the time difference got back around 6AM in Pittsburgh and immediately worked.  I ended up being up for about 35 hours straight, so working out was definitely not in my cards.


2 mile run
I was still not feeling fully recovered, but I wanted to at least get in a little workout.  I went to the park after work for a quick run.  It was HOT (we got a heat wave like most places) but it actually felt amazing!


 6.5 mile bike
I woke up early and thanks to the holiday got to go for a bike ride before it was too warm out.  I met up with my mom for this ride, and we went on a nice and easy ride on the river trail.   


BEAT Fitness
I made it back for my favorite strength training class!  For these circuits, we got to do a TON of squats.  There were goblet squats, step out squats, sumo bar squats, Bosu ball squats, and more!  It was a fun workout that went by really quickly, but I felt it for a few days after.


Rest Day!
Legs were too sore to do anything, so I just relaxed and took Selma out for a walk.


5 mile run
I met up with Steffany and Maddie for this run, and we enjoyed the cooler temperatures.  I was still really sore, so this was a struggle for me!

700 yard swim
After the run, I immediately went to the pool to get in a swim.  I was surprised that I didn't feel like I lost any fitness with my swimming (I'm not that fast to begin with, so I guess there's not much to lose!).  This was a good test, since the swim portion of my race is 700 yards, and this felt relatively easy.

5 mile hike
Since it was such a nice day and I felt bad for leaving Selma all morning, I decided to take her on a hike at Hartwood Acres.  This is a nearby park that I've only visited a few times, and I need to go more. There are so many trails and roads to explore!


10 mile bike
I met up early again with my mom for this bike ride.  We did the triathlon course (minus a small section that goes on a semi-busy road that I wanted to avoid).  The course is pretty tough with lots of short steep-ish hills, so I know I need to practice more and work on changing gears.  I also got to test out a triathlon suit that I found on Amazon, and it worked pretty well!
2 mile run
After the bike, I wanted to work on transitioning to running.  I surprised myself by keeping an 8:30 average pace and it felt really good!  Next time I want to do the actual running course so I can get used to the trail we'll be running on, but this was still a good test for me.

Did you get the heat wave last week??  How did you deal?
Have you done a triathlon before?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ireland Highlights

It took me a while, but I finally finished up my post all about my trip to Ireland!  This was the second part of our trip to Scotland back in May (which we bought on Groupon), and unfortunately this leg of the trip was way too short.  I've heard so many great things about Ireland, so I definitely feel like I need to come back for a longer time to really experience the country!  It was extremely beautiful and amazing, but we were constantly rushing through things because we only had two full days.

Here is my very abbreviated trip summary!  I hope you enjoy, and make sure to give me recommendations on what I need to visit when I (eventually..hopefully...) make it back!

Green Acres Bed and Breakfast

One of the best aspects of our Groupon was being able to choose any Bed and Breakfast that we wanted.  Since we only had a few days in Ireland, we decided the best idea would be to pick a place that was near Dublin, so that we could easily get in to the city and surrounding areas, but not have to deal with all of that traffic.  We ended up settling on Green Acres, which is in County Dublin, but outside of the city limits in Rathcoole.

The place was beautiful, and had a pub right down the street (An Poitín Still- highly recommend...see pic above!).  Breakfast was hot every morning, and the owner, Mary, always made sure we had a full day of adventure ahead of us.  We would share our itinerary, and she would make recommendations or give us directions. 


We spent one full day in Dublin, and definitely didn't even scratch the surface on this wonderful, bustling town!  Unfortunately we had to skip a lot of the popular tours (Book of Kells, Guinness Storefront) and set out on foot to see as much as possible.  A few of my favorite stops included-

St. Stephen's Green
I always like a good city park, and this one is beautiful.  One minute, you're on the loud and chaotic streets of Dublin, and the next you're in a serene park, surrounded by lush trees and walking around a crystal clear pond.  I think this would be a great place to relax and maybe even have a picnic.

Trinity College
While we didn't get to see the Book of Kells, we did get to walk around the campus.  The college is really beautiful, with old gray stone buildings and grassy lawns.  The campus is walled off from the rest of the town, with only a few entrances, so it felt like we were in another world!

Grafton Street
If you're looking for a good shopping area- check out this pedestrian street.   There were so many shops and restaurants and musicians all over the place!  Loved the atmosphere of this fun street.

The Hairy Lemon Pub
I read about this place in my Rick Steves guide, and really enjoyed it.  It was pretty touristy, but still a fun restaurant with character.  I had a great vegetable pie (yummy vegetarian alternative to their regular Irish pies that are cooked with lamb) and a pint of Heineken.   I was happy to see a Terrible Towel hanging up (and equally upset to see something from Philadelphia).

Dublin Castle
Once again, we didn't make it into the castle, but just walking around the grounds gave us a great view of the building.  There is also a park right outside which we enjoyed!

Christ Church Cathedral
One place that we did make it inside was the Christ Church Cathedral.  This is a beautiful church with a huge crypt (largest in the UK and Ireland), complete with a "cat and rat" on display.  Won't even explain that one...

Temple Bar
We of course had to stop in the lively Temple Bar area!  Fun fact- this river-front area in Dublin is called Temple Bar, but there is also an actual pub called Temple Bar, seen above.  Kind of confusing!  Even though it was daytime, there were already people ready to party.  We stopped in one for a pint of Guinness and explored all of the beautiful streets (and unfortunately couldn't get a picture without accidentally including a close-up of other people..sorry lady!)


On our second (and sadly, last) full day in Ireland, we took a short trip down to the tiny town of Cashel.  There is pretty much just one attraction to visit there- the Rock of Cashel.

Rock of Cashel
There are a few different names for this historic site, including Cashel of the Kings and St Patrick's Rock.  While taking a tour, we were able to learn a lot of interesting history of this ruin, starting with its founding in the 12th Century.  There are lots of building to explore, including a round tower, High Cross, and chapel.

Heritage Trail
After our tour of the Rock was done, we ventured down a trail to find more ruins.  Turns out that this is part of the Tipperary Heritage Trail that extends down over 50 kilometers!  We definitely didn't make it that far, but enjoyed stopping at a few sights along the way. This picture is taken from Hore Abbey, which was a Cistercian monastery.  The views from here were spectacular, and you can see the Rock from one of the old "windows".


When we were done exploring the town of Cashel, we made our way over to the town of Kilkenny.  Fun fact- George Clooney traces his lineage back to Kilkenny!  Sadly, he didn't seem to be visiting the homeland, but this was definitely my favorite town that we visited.

Smithick's Experience
While we decided not to do the Guinness Factory tour in Dublin, we did make it to the old Smithick's Factory!  Interestingly enough, the Guinness family now owns this brewery as well.  The tour itself was really interesting- we learned about the origins of beer, about the Smithicks family and religious oppression in Ireland, and finally got to sample the beer.  It was a great tour that I would recommend (plus the beer is delicious).

Medieval Mile
If you're looking for a way to see all the tourist stops in Kilkenny, look no further than following the Medieval Mile through town.  At one point, Kilkenny was the medieval capital of Ireland, and it really feels like you step back in time when you walk around.  There are so many places to stop along the route and you could definitely spend all day exploring.

Kyteler's Inn
After going to the brewery and walking around the town a bit, we decided to stop for some food and decided on an old pub- this place opened back in 1263!  There's a bit of interesting history about this place that's detailed on the menu...the original owner was a lady named Alice de Kyteler, who was married four times.  Rumors circulated around town because of her multiple marriages, and she was eventually accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned.  She ended up escaping the country, and the pub is now said to be haunted by her.  The food was great and it was a really cool place to be!

Kilkenny Castle
This is such a beautiful castle.  We were able to walk around the gardens and the huge park, but (again) didn't go inside.  The outside was stunning though, and we were able to read about the history on the signs all around the park.  


On our drive back to our Airbnb, we decided to take a scenic route back and stop in the town of Glendalough.  From the visitor's center, there's a great trail that you can take through streams and woods, and visit the Monastic City with some cool ruins and a cemetery, and a few lakes.  While the town is tiny, it was worth the stop, even if you just need a break during the gorgeous drive.

Sally Gap

If you've ever seen the movie PS I Love You, you might have seen this area!  This is a famous road that goes through the Wicklow Mountains, and has incredible views of the Irish countryside.  While the road is pretty challenging to drive up- with windy, skinny country lanes- it is well worth it!  We were lucky enough to hit the summit while it was drizzling slightly and saw the most incredible double rainbow.  

Have you ever been to Ireland?
What place would you like to re-visit?
Do you like trying out breweries?