Göteborg Getaway: My Solo Sweden Trip

Yes, this seven-month-pregnant lady waddled her way solo around Gothenburg, Sweden this past weekend!  First of all, if you’ve never taken a solo trip, DO IT!  Sometimes I just like my “me” time, whether that is in the bathtub with a good book or in another country with my travel journal 🙂  I’ve read a lot about women traveling solo, and while I have done it before, I read that Scandinavia is one of the safest places to do it.  {I travelled to Tanzania when I was 23 for three weeks on my own, so I wasn’t especially concerned about safety, other than the fact that I am indeed seven months pregnant…}  Anyway.  I love the thrill of being somewhere alone with my thoughts and my own agenda, so I was excited for my adventure.  I am definitely the planner {I am typically the one booking flights, finding hotels/accommodations, planning must-sees, etc.}, possibly partially due to my control freak nature and OCD tendencies 🙂  For solo trips, I like that I don’t have to wait around for anyone and can literally change my plans at the drop of a hat.

So, what did I do in Sweden?  Well, I was only there for maybe 36 hours so it was kind of a whirlwind.  After work Friday I drove directly to the airport to catch a 6:55 flight.  I used this meet and greet service to meet me at the terminal at Stansted so I could just drop my car and be on my way.  I had gotten a Groupon for it, so it ended up being about the same price or a little bit cheaper than a normal parking spot anyway.  While it was convenient not to have to worry about actually parking and walking or shuttling to the terminal, I don’t necessarily feel like it would’ve been worth it had I paid full price.  One of the things I didn’t like about it was that you have to call 20 minutes before you get to the airport, then right after you clear customs on your return.  I didn’t like the added stress of making that call while I was driving, and my phone doesn’t get great service in the airport, so coming home I wasn’t even able to call until I was outside anyway.

I digress.  I arrived at Gothenburg Landvetter Airport at around 10pm (two hour flight plus an hour time difference), and hopped on the Airport Coach to the city centre, getting off at Nils Ericsson Terminal next to the central station.  From there, I used my Gothenburg City Card to hop on the tram toward my AirBnB apartment.  Unfortunately, I have a horrible phone, so it died on my way there….which made finding the actual apartment difficult.  Luckily, I had printed out the address and other information regarding how to get into the apartment, and luckily most people speak English in Sweden.  I stopped into a restaurant to see if they could help point me in the right direction–they were kind enough to look up directions and even print them out for me!  Finally, I made it to the apartment around midnight!  The apartment was actually much more spacious than it looked in the pictures, so I was pleasantly surprised by that.  The bed was pretty small though, so it definitely was perfect for a solo traveller like myself!  I pretty much fell into bed and didn’t get up until the next morning!

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To preface the rest of my overview, I will say that Gothenburg was definitely not a city that I just fell in love with like many other cities I’ve visited.  While I really enjoyed the various things I did there, I wasn’t smitten with the city overall.  I think part of the problem is that I have this idea in my head that all European cities should be quaint and cute and picturesque, full of beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets.  Gothenburg did have those things in small doses, but in general, the city was much more modern and grungy than I expected.  I think another contributing factor was that I was in the city for such a short period of time that I really didn’t get to ‘get lost’ in it, which is one of my favorite things to do.  There were definitely areas that I would’ve loved to explore more, but time was a pressing factor for this trip.

Since I only had one full day to explore, I had made a list of things I hoped to see and do while in Gothenburg.  To start the day, I wanted to head to one of the archipelagos before the rest of the sights opened in the city.  Again, I used my city pass to hop on one of the trams to take me the 30 minutes to the Saltholmen Ferry Terminal.  I had looked up the time schedule ahead of time, and knew that there should be a ferry leaving for Aperö around 9:05.  Being ever the early bird, I arrived at the terminal well before then, and enjoyed taking some photos and catching up in my travel journal before the ferry departed.  The ferry was really nice (and the fare was included in the city pass as well, woohoo!), and I enjoyed a muffin and a coffee in its upstairs cafe area.  The ride was only about 10 minutes, so by the time I finished my food I was on my way off the boat and onto the beautiful, serene, car-less island.

While on the island, I mostly wandered around, taking lots of photos of the beautiful landscape and taking in the quietness of the place.  I didn’t see a lot of people there, but those I did see were incredibly friendly, all saying “hej!” with a welcoming smile.

I decided to climb to the top of Valen Hill to get a great view of the island, other archipelagos, and even Gothenburg!  I took a rather unconventional route up the hill, unaware that there was a path on the opposite side (probably not the best thing for my pregnant body, but hey, I made it!).  The views were worth it though!

I took the path back down the other side of the hill, which was much easier and flatter!  It took me all along an uninhabited portion of the island, and I ended up by what I thought was the other ferry terminal that would take me back to Gothenburg.  It was pretty much deserted though, so I wasn’t sure that the ferries were operating from that terminal.  I headed back toward the neighborhood area of the island {mind you, the tiny island only has around 450 inhabitants, so it didn’t take long!}.  The next ferry back to the Gothenburg wasn’t set to leave for another hour, so I took advantage of the extra time to rest my achey body and again catch up in my journal.

I arrived back at Saltholmen early afternoon after a light lunch and a quick ride on the ferry.  [This time, the ferry went from Asperö to Brännö, another of the archipelagos, then back toward Gothenburg.  I wish I would’ve had time to explore Brännö as well, it looks fantastic!]  Once I returned, I pretty much headed straight into town, as my main two destinations were both near the city center: Gothenburg Art Museum and Universeum Science Centre.  Both were included in the city pass as well.  I first visited the art museum.  While I am an art teacher, I am pretty particular about the type of art I enjoy viewing at museums.  There were a lot of older Nordic artist exhibits which I wasn’t particularly interested in, but I did love the self-portrait gallery, sculpture display, and the impressionism/modernism exhibits.  I spent about an hour there before heading out toward the Universeum.

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As I mentioned before, my phone sucks, so most of the time I was in Sweden I didn’t have access to anything (maps and clocks included!).  Luckily, the paper maps I had were decent and I was able to pretty easily find my way to the science centre.  Other than the archipelagos, the Universeum was my other “must see” in Gothenburg.  It did not disappoint!  Even for a single adult, it was really cool.  This was one thing I wish B and Benjamin was there for–they both would’ve LOVED it!  The centre has several different levels and includes everything from both fresh and salt water aquariums to a space exhibit to a rainforest {most of which was being renovated, bummer}.  There was a ton to do and see there and would highly recommend it, especially for families with kiddos!

After the Universeum, I didn’t have anything really planned, so I started to sort of make my way back toward the apartment.  I stopped down by one of the canals to see the “fish church” (a fish market).  It was closed, but the building was pretty cool, and there were tons of people out and about enjoying the beautiful weather [it was sunny and upper 40s, which was much warmer than I expected for Sweden!].  As I made my way back to the apartment, I stumbled upon the Haga neighborhood.  This was an area that was mentioned in several of the blogs and websites I scoured before my trip, and I am glad I happened upon it!  The area was super cute, filled with street vendors, adorable shops, and yummy cafes.  I picked up a few souvenirs and devoured a delicious kanelbullar {Swedish cinnamon bun} and headed back to the apartment to rest before dinner.

My plan was to head to Spisa for dinner, a restaurant nearby that my AirBnB host had recommended (also the place that was kind enough to give me directions the night before!).  However, they were hosting a party, so I was sadly not able to eat there.  I ended up next door at Bistro Italiano.  Dining alone has its perks- they didn’t have any tables available, but were able to seat me at the bar for my meal.  I had an absolutely delicious pesto pasta meal and an equally delicious tiramisu dessert 🙂  I cannot say enough about the staff that I interacted with there- they were so friendly, attentive, and wonderful!  I am a bit bummed that I didn’t get to really try any traditional “Swedish cuisine”, but my Italian meal was pretty darn good!

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I returned to the apartment and was oh so thankful to lay down- between the hiking on the island and walking around town, my body was beyond tired!  I woke Sunday with enough time to grab a quick breakfast and coffee before hopping on the bus back to the airport.  On the way to the airport, I got a glimpse of Liseberg, the amusement part in Gothenburg.  I was incredibly surprised to see that it is pretty much situated right in the city, and backs up against the Universeum!  It was closed for the season [not that I could’ve enjoyed much in my pregnant state], but I have heard great things about it!

Goodbye Gothenburg!  I hope to see Sweden again someday….I would really love to do a Scandinavian cruise and see the beautiful fjords and more archipelagos!

Gothenburg Travel Journal

Non-London Fun

While I love London, it’s not the only fun thing to do near where we live in the UK.  In fact, there are tons of amazing sights and sounds all within an hour or two of our house!  Some of my favorites are listed in this post…

Cambridge

We don’t visit Cambridge nearly enough.  We are only about 30 minutes away, and the city is absolutely beautiful!  There is so much to see and do there it’s unbelievable.  One of our most favorite things that we have done though is “punting the Cam“.  The River Cam is a river that meanders through Cambridge and runs along some of the most prestigious, gorgeous colleges in England.  You can hire a chauffeur to guide you along, or try it on your own!  We went with some visitors for my birthday one year and were not disappointed- our guide was knowledgeable and humorous and we had lots of great photo ops!

Great Yarmouth

We haven’t done a lot of exploring in Great Yarmouth yet, but it is definitely a place I want to return to!  The day we visited, it was one of those rare almost-80-degree-sunny-with-no-clouds days in the UK, so it was perfect for walking around and relaxing at the beach.  It has a super boardwalk-carnival type feel, complete with rides, games, kitschy tourist shops, beach restaurants, and of course, beaches.  If you’re looking for a laid-back day during summer, this is your spot!

Duxford Air Show

Last year we went to the Duxford Air Show at the Imperial War Museum just outside of Cambridge.  They have air shows there a few times a year, and have permanent military-related exhibitions in their museum.  It was pretty chilly the day of the show, but the planes were awesome and there were lots of great food vendors and collectible kiosk shops!

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo is probably one of the best zoos I have ever been to!  We went with a few other couples and their kiddos (I think there were 7 adults and 4 kids, all under 4-years-old).  All of the kids {and all of us adults} had a great time!  There were tons of animals to see; Benjamin especially loved the penguins!  We went in the spring and the weather was pretty good so lots of animals were out and about.

For the past year we have had an English Heritage pass, giving us free or discounted access to many historic English buildings, monuments, and other sites.  Some are fairly close to where we live and provide a nice afternoon out:

Audley End House

The Audley End estate is huge and beautiful!  There is a lot to see and do there- you can wander through parts of the decadent mansion, check out the nursery {with toys! Benjamin enjoyed it!}, see how the kitchen used to look and function, stroll through the amazing gardens, and see horses in the stables area.  The grounds are breathtaking on their own, worthy of an afternoon picnic (or an afternoon of sketching or painting for the artists out there!).  We got extra lucky, as there was an old car show going on the day we were there, so B was in heaven checking out all the beauties!

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham is also a great spot for a relaxing afternoon out.  There are castle walls you can climb and walk around, giving fantastic views of the surrounding area.  The interior has a huge grassy area with some outdoor games and there were sword-fighting shows the day we were there.  There is a small museum area as well.  It looks as if the castle hosts various events throughout the year too.  The town surrounding the castle was cute as well, we stopped for lunch and ice cream nearby!

Castle Rising

We actually visited Castle Rising before we got the English Heritage pass, but it is one of their properties.  While the castle is actually fairly small, it is really cool, and the surrounded landscape is gorgeous.  The castle, which is now mostly ruins, was built in the 1100s and many of the walls are still standing!

 

London: Some of our favourites

One of the best things about being stationed in the UK is being so close to one of the most amazing cities in the world, London.  We are approximately 90 miles away (if we were to drive directly into the city).  To give you an idea of how exciting this is compared to where we used to live, it was approximately 90 miles from Clovis, New Mexico (where we were last stationed) to the closest “big cities” (Lubbock and Amarillo, Texas)–neither of which were exactly tourist traps!  So to have one of the biggest, most captivating cities in the WORLD at our fingertips has been amazing!  Though we could drive into the city of London, we don’t do this for a variety of reasons: parking, congestion charges, traffic, and just general ease of travel.  We typically park at Epping Tube Station, which is about an hour away, which puts us on the Central Line right into London.  We purchase all-day travel cards for myself and B (Benjamin rides for free :)) so that we can hop on and off any of the trains all day.  London is huge, so this is super helpful.  When Benjamin was smaller, wearing him in the Ergo was the easiest way to travel, but now we use our lightweight stroller, and he loves being able to watch everything!  Some of the tube stations have lifts (elevators), but others don’t- in which case B and I haul the stroller up and down the stairs.  We are pretty much pros at it by now, and it doesn’t bother us a bit.  There was one time {and only once with reason} that we took our large jogging stroller and we immediately regretted it, as it is so large and bulky.  Taking the stroller on the actual train is a piece of cake.

Anyway, there is definitely no shortage of things to do in London .  I think anyone and everyone could find something to do there!  Living so close allows us to visit often enough that we don’t feel like we have to rush and see tons of stuff each time we go.  For the most part, we have seen most of the touristy things, even if we haven’t gone inside or done the tours and such (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, etc.)  Eventually, we want to do at least some of these tours, but so far we’ve been pretty content wandering and seeing what we can find.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of B and I’s favorite things to do in London…

**I apologize in advance if you are a Harry Potter fan, I am not {gasp!}, and therefore have no information on anything HP-related in London, though I know there is a lot!  

The British Museum

The British Museum definitely ranks in both of our top five places to visit in London.  First of all, IT’S FREE!  {We always make a donation, but it is not required.}  Second of all, IT’S HUGE!  Seriously, I don’t even think it’s possible to see everything in one day.  B is a huge history nerd, and I just love museums, so we could spend hours here.  I think our favorite exhibits have been the Egyptian displays, including the Rosetta Stone!  A helpful hint: don’t go on Boxing Day {it’s closed, as we found out after walking 2 miles…whoops!}.  Anyway, it’s a must-see if you are any sort of history lover!

Borough Market

B and I try to make it to Borough Market almost every time we travel to London, usually for lunch.  It is located near London Bridge, not to be confused with Tower Bridge.  It is chock-full of produce stalls, vendors, and delicious eateries.  We often stop for a yummy pie from the Pieminister stall and eat it while wandering around or find a seat near Southwark Cathedral to people watch.  The market is a bustling, colorful, exciting place to be, especially on beautiful weekends!

Camden Market

Another market I love (B was not as impressed) is Camden Market.  This area is a relatively large “hipster-y” part of London with tons of shops, restaurants, bars, vendors, etc.  I think I mostly loved the vintage feel of everything in the area, as well as the great photo ops.  You could definitely get lost in this part of town, and spend the whole day there!  After wandering and shopping, we had an amazing lunch at Porky’s, a BBQ joint nearby.  You can pick up some great vintage goods at Camden market and just enjoy the atmosphere and people-watching.

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the centre of it all.  It is a tourist hot-spot with statues, fountains, and many restaurants and museums nearby.  B and I just love the authentic big-city London feel here, and the people-watching is fantastic.  There are often street performers in this area, and sometimes demonstrations or protests.  The National Gallery is located here, which is a huge, free art museum.

Shakespeare’s Globe

We just recently actually went inside Shakespeare’s Globe and did the tour, which we loved!  One of our friends from the states was in London, so we met up with her and took the tour of the theatre.  There is a museum outlining the history of Shakespeare, and there were actors practicing sword-fighting inside!  Our tour guide was fantastic and hilarious, and gave us some awesome information about the theatre and history.  The open-air theatre was pretty amazing, B and I agreed that it would be cool to see a performance there sometime!  There is so much history in London it just blows my mind.

Winter Wonderland

If you are in London around Christmastime, I highly recommend visiting Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland.  From November through January, Hyde Park is magically transformed into a wonderland full of carnival rides, restaurants, bars, and food vendors, craft stalls, even an ice rink and circus!  We have been twice in the three years we have been here and will probably go back again.  Entrance to the actual park is free, but the various rides and events cost money.  The first year we went, it was just B and I and we ice skated.  It was fun, but I don’t know that it was worth the money we paid for it.  It is cool though, that we can say we have ice skated in Hyde Park in London!  This past year we took Benjamin and went with our friends Lindsay, JD, and their three-year-old.  They ice skated (well, until their little one decided it wasn’t for him) and rode some carnival rides, and we ate lots of yummy food and bought some cool stuff from the craft markets.  We also went to the Zippos Circus.  It ended up being way cooler than I expected, and Benjamin loved it!  Winter Wonderland is definitely not an all-day event, unless you plan on riding lots of rides and doing all of the different activities, but it is a fun-filled few hours!

Street Feast

Ahh, Street Feast.  I almost don’t want to give out this delicious secret.  It is one of B and I’s most favorite {and yummy} things to do in London.  Set in various locations, Street Feast is basically a gathering of street food/drink vendors in warehouse-like areas.  The atmosphere is amazing, the people-watching is fabulous, and the food and drinks are to die for.  We have been a few times and hope to go back many more times!  We love trying different types of foods, as there are always vendors from all kinds of cuisines, from BBQ to South American grub to Asian dishes and everything in between {including delicious desserts!!}.  It is free to get in between 5pm and 7pm, and costs something like £3 after that.  Though it is kid-friendly, if we have Benjamin with us, we usually try to get there relatively early and get out before it gets too rowdy.  I think the first few times we went, we were child-free and though I was pregnant, B thoroughly enjoyed the whiskey roulette bar, where him and some buddies spun a wheel to determine what kinds of shots they had to take.  At one point they came back with empty whiskey bottles, which scared me a little, but it was all in good fun 🙂  I am pretty sure that most of the times we have been I have been pregnant, so I have yet to fully enjoy everything Street Feast has to offer, but you can bet we will be back so I can enjoy some wine and yummy beer!  Check it out if you are in London on a weekend!

Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in London, just a few of our favorites.  I’m sure I will continue to add to this list as we experience more and more there!

Hiking in Snowdonia

Snowdonia National Park is, by far, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  We had a three day weekend for Labor Day the first weekend in September last year, so we decided to visit the Snowdonia area and hike Mount Snowdon.  Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England, and though we didn’t hike to the very peak, we were pretty darn close!  B, Benjamin, and I went with a single guy B works with as well as another couple and their three-year-old.

So five adults, a three-year-old, and a ten-month-old made the drive in two cars Friday, September 4, 2015 in the afternoon.  It was quite the adventurous drive across England and into Wales.  We were staying in the adorable town of Betws-y-coed, about 20 minutes from Mount Snowdon.  By the time we got into Wales, the windy, narrow roads were made even more difficult to navigate by the dark and rain.  The seven of us stayed in an awesome house called Bryn Awel {only downfall was its driveway, which was quite treacherous!}.  The house was situated in a perfect location; we could walk into town for meals and exploring, and it allowed easy access to Mount Snowdon, Swallow Falls, and Conwy Castle.

So, the Welsh language is pretty insane.  Luckily, most things were in English as well, but seriously, can I buy a vowel?

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Anyway, we arrived late Friday night and pretty much just passed out immediately, as we were planning on hiking Mount Snowdon the following day.  We started our Saturday morning with a walk into Betws-y-coed town centre and had breakfast at Alpine Coffee Shop (we enjoyed it so much that we returned Sunday and Monday morning too!).  After filling our bellies we gathered some info about the mountain from a local information centre, then headed to the trailhead.

We got there around 11:30, and ended up having to park a little ways away from the actual start of the trail.  There are 6 main routes up/down Mount Snowdon with varying degrees of difficulty.  Because we had two kiddos in hiking backpacks, we decided to do a kind of middle-of-the-road difficulty trek: the Pyg Track up and the Miner’s Track down.  Including our journey from the car to the trailhead, we ended up hiking about 11 miles total.

**Sidenote:  B and I purchased a hiking backpack [similar to this one] secondhand from another military member, and it was perfect for this trip–it provided much more stability and support than our normal everyday carriers, was mostly comfortable on the hips and shoulders, and had some storage room for a few diapers, wipes, and snacks.  I carried Benjamin on the hike up, and B took over for the descent.  I didn’t like the idea of falling forward with something like 30 extra pounds on my back on the way down, so I opted for the ascent!  As you can see, Benjamin seemed to like the carrier too!    

The weather was absolutely perfect for us.  No rain and barely a cloud in the sky {practically unheard of in the UK!}, with the sun shining and temps in the 50s.  We truly couldn’t have asked for a better day!!  The scenery was seriously breathtaking.  I have never seen such green grass and turquoise, sparkling water.  I will just let some photos do the talking….

Gorgeous, right?

All of us were dog-tired after our adventure, so we got some dinner in town, then headed back to the house for some wine and beer nightcaps before bed.

Sunday, after breakfast, we headed to the town of Conwy, about 3o minutes away.  The town is pretty cool because the original town walls are still in tact in many areas, so you can climb up and walk around them.  They gave great views of the surrounding areas and the castle.

We made our way to the castle itself after a stop in a yummy bakery we stumbled upon.

The castle was pretty cool {our friends’ three-year-old especially thought so!!}.  Much of it consisted of ruins, but there were intact interior spaces and towers that we could climb, giving amazing views!

That afternoon, once we got back into Betws-y-coed, B and I (and Benjamin) headed into town to check out the stream/waterfall and bridge running through town, which was pretty.  As you can tell in the pictures, since we drove to Wales and had room in the car, we brought our Ergo and stroller in addition to the hiking backpack carrier.  We had a yummy dinner in town and spent the evening relaxing with everyone in the house.

We wanted to get on the road relatively early Monday morning, and were hoping to check out Swallow Falls, a well-known dramatic waterfall in Betws-y-coed.  We almost drove right past it, as it is fairly well hidden despite its fame.  There is a £2 fee to enter the park area, but it is well worth it!  Once you walk in, you are led to the first part of the waterfall, which is impressive in itself.  However, after many more stairs and some serious legwork, you can see the entire falls in its glory.  It was beautiful!  Definitely worth the stop and the entrance fee!  I think my favorite part was when our friend decided we should take a selfie with all of us, so we used a wallet to prop up his cell phone on the {wet from the mist of the falls} handrail and used a timer.  After a bit of finagling, we got it to work without anything falling into the water, miraculously!  I am so glad we found it and spent the little bit of time to see it!

I think we all agreed that this was a great little road trip from where we live – not too far and absolutely beautiful!  I would love to revisit Wales sometime!

 

 

Dublin, Round 2 (and Northern Ireland)

Since B was out of town for work when I visited Dublin with my sister and her hubby, we planned another visit in August (2015).  Dublin is super easy and cheap to fly to from London; I think we paid around £20 round-trip for each of us!

Benjamin joined us on this trip- he was around 9 months old.  He again did amazing on the plane, and is such a happy, content traveler!  This trip, we brought the Ergo, our lightweight stroller, and the carseat.  The only reason we brought the carseat on this trip is because we had booked a day trip up to Northern Ireland, and the company required us to have a carseat for him for the bus.  We checked the car seat (for free), and gate checked the stroller, which was nice as we could use it in the airport until we boarded.  We bought our stroller secondhand and it has been perfect for us.  There is just enough storage underneath for a few things here and there (a blanket, water bottle, etc.), it has a visor/hood, and is incredibly lightweight and small when folded up.  It has been all over the place!

Anyway, we arrived in Dublin on August 12 around 8:30am.  Luckily, our AirBnB owner was okay with us checking in early, so we took a cab directly to the apartment.  The apartment was amazing!  We actually took a little bit of a chance on this listing, as there were no reviews yet when we brooked it.  Usually I am a bit of a review nut, I search and read reviews incredibly carefully because I have heard horror stories of apartment and house rentals.  The owner, Brian, did have other listings in other cities with great reviews, so we decided to go ahead and chance it.  I am so glad we did!  The apartment was across the street from the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral and was cozy, but just perfect for our little family of 3.  Brian was kind enough to arrange a cot (pack and play) for us for little man.  He even stocked some milk, a water jug, and some snacks for us in the kitchen!

*Sidenote: we have yet to encounter a situation during our travels that a cot/pack and play has not been provided for us upon request.  We most often stay at AirBnBs, and every place has been able to secure one, and often places even provide a high chair.  We own, but do not travel with our own pack and play.  Most hotels provide cots as well.

After getting our items settled, we decided to head out toward Trinity College, meandering through St. Stephen’s Green along the way.  Dublin is a fairly stroller-friendly city, so we carted Benjamin around in that for the day.  We were hoping to go see The Book of Kells, but the line was outrageous, so we just wandered a bit, checking out the architecture and other sights.  For most of the morning, we did one of our most favorite things when traveling: letting ourselves get lost in the city.  I think we ended up walking something like 13 miles that day total!

We ended up back in the city centre for lunch, and had some delicious sandwiches {and a Guinness!} at Temple Bar.  [If you haven’t checked out my other post about Dublin, I raved about their food, especially considering my reservations regarding touristy hot spots.]  B suggested we try Trinity College again after lunch to see if the line for the Book of Kells was any shorter.  It was actually pretty short, so we decided to go for it.

Photography was not allowed in the area housing the Book of Kells, but it was pretty amazing to see!  It is an illuminated manuscript, so of course I was really fascinated by the intricate illustrations and lettering.  The history of its creation was also pretty interesting.  We then were able to go to The Old Library which is…well…an old library!  I think I found it even more fascinating than the Book of Kells.  It was gorgeous and reminded me of Beauty and the Beast!  It houses the oldest books in the Trinity College Library, as well as busts of authors and philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Newton.

On our way back to the apartment, we found some street performers–Benjamin loved watching them!

The next day we got a bit of a later start, as Benjamin didn’t sleep super well.  We had decided to get the Dublin Pass for the day, so we headed to pick it up.  We were hoping to see quite a bit that day: Kilmainham Gaol, The Dublin Zoo, Guinness Storehouse, Old Jameson Distillery, and possibly St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Well, between getting a late start and just overall travel logistics, we highly overestimated what we could do.  While I think the Dublin Pass ended up saving us a few Euro, it wasn’t as cost-effective as we had hoped.

We started out the day at theThe Dublin Zoo, which was a winner for all of us!  We took the city bus there, as it was a bit outside of the city center.  There were lots of animals to see and the zoo was clean and nice!  We spent quite a while there and didn’t even get to see the whole thing!  I definitely would recommend it and go back if we were in Dublin again!

Our plan after the zoo was to check out a tour at the Old Jameson Distillery [which I spoke about in my other Dublin post].  Unfortunately, the next tour wasn’t for another hour, which would impede upon our later plans to check out the Guinness Storehouse.  Since I had already visited Jameson, B was okay with us skipping it and going to Guinness.  I kind of wish we would’ve gotten the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus pass–while most of the sights in Dublin are centrally located, there are a few that are a bit of a walk, especially if you are on a time crunch.

We made it to The Guinness Storehouse with plenty of time to explore.  The tour is self-guided through seven floors, covering everything from history to production to  advertising to tasting.  Although I had been told that the Jameson tour was better, I actually much preferred this one, especially with a nine-month-old.  Being able to move at our own pace and read as much or as little as we wanted was ideal.  Much of the tour was interactive and filled with colors, lights, and sounds, which also kept Benjamin entertained.  B and I even did the “Guinness Academy” [on the fourth floor], where we learned how to pour a proper Guinness.  The top floor had an observation deck bar with great views of the city.

Since we spent quite a bit of time at the storehouse, we didn’t end up making it back over the Jameson, which was okay with us because we enjoyed Guinness so much.  Instead, we had just enough time to stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I had been during my last Dublin visit, so I hung out with little man to let B wander around and read all of the history and such.

We ended our day with some delicious Irish food (approved by all three of us!), Irish beer, Irish music, and traditional Irish dancing at Fitzsimons  in the temple bar area.

The following day was our looooong day trip to Northern Ireland, so we got some rest.  The day trip was exhausting but absolutely amazing!  We booked the Giant’s Causeway day trip through Viator.  The tour included the Carrick-A-Rede bridge, Giant’s Causeway, lunch, and a quick stop in Belfast.  After getting on a coach bus at 6:30am, we made our way through the Irish countryside and along the coastal highway to the Carrick-A-Rede bridge, a rope bridge that was once used by fishermen to get to an island that was good for fishing.  We had a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the bridge, and the landscape was beautiful.  This was what I had always thought of when I thought of Ireland!

The bridge itself didn’t look especially scary or dangerous, but was much more frightening when actually crossing it!  There were super steep steps leading to it, then it was basically just some wood planks surrounded by rope netting and handles.  The wind made the bridge sway and rock, which was then made more intense by the fact that I was wearing Benjamin on my back in the Ergo.  B and I both made it across safely to the island, where we didn’t get much time to explore, as it promptly started to mist/rain.  We pretty much headed right back across the bridge and toward the parking lot.  Luckily, we thought ahead and brought our rain jackets!

The tour stopped for a quick lunch, then headed to Giant’s Causeway, an area along the coast where volcanic lava created interlocking basalt columns {most with five sides}.  It was pretty cool to see, but I don’t know that it was as magical as I had expected.  I did enjoy seeing the waves, the varying sizes of the “stepping stones”, and areas where old coins had been lodged in between the rocks.  Luckily, it wasn’t raining in this area, and B carried Benjamin in the Ergo, so I was free to roam and take a boatload of pictures (surprise, surprise, right?).

Our final stop of the day was Belfast.  We were only there for about an hour, so we just wandered about and ate a snack.  It was a nice little break from the bus.  Our bus made it back to Dublin city centre around 8:30pm.  Overall, it was a fantastic day–the sights were amazing, our bus driver was great–he told stories and made the ride much more enjoyable, and Benjamin was such a trooper- most of the people on the tour were shocked when we carried him off the bus, as they had no idea that there was a baby traveling!

After a long day of traveling, it was nice to get some food in our bellies and head to bed!

Our last day was August 15, and we didn’t have much planned for the day since we had such a busy day the day before.  We started our morning at the yummy Queen of Tarts {also mentioned in my last Dublin post}, then found some local art to add to our growing travel art collection.  We spent some time relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green–Benjamin loved all the birds and ducks there.

Finally, we peeked inside Marsh’s Library, another old, fascinating library before heading back to pack up and head to the airport.

This trip renewed my faith in Ireland, as I was a little disappointed last go around.  I liked not being as rushed to see things for sure.  I also really, really enjoyed our day trip up to Northern Ireland–I feel like I was able to see some different types of landscapes and scenes.

Dublin, Round 2 Travel Journal