Tulum, Mexico

We had a wonderful time in Valladolid, but it was time to move on and get closer to the beach. After figuring out our bus tickets, we were ready to see what Tulum had in store for us. We had both heard a lot about this town as something special, up and coming, and beautiful as it’s right along the beach. So we had delicious breakfast on the hotel patio and then said goodbye to Valladolid.

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After a less than 2 hour bus ride we arrived at the bus station in Tulum and found a taxi driver to take us to our hotel. We were disappointed to realize that Tulum would be significantly more expensive than Valladolid was. The taxi driver took us to the wrong hotel and after arguing for a bit and using some gps, he continued and drove us towards our real hotel. When booking, we didn’t realize that this hotel was practically brand new and in a part of town that was very much being built up and full of construction. We couldn’t find the hotel with the driver, so he gave up and dropped us off. We started exploring and had no idea where to go or where this hotel was. Luckily, we ran into an American couple that asked us if we were lost and then pointed us in the right direction so we were able to find the place.

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Inside the hotel was really beautiful. We were happy to have found it after searching for so long in the heat and we were very happy to see it had an amazing swimming pool.

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After putting our stuff down and getting freshened up, we decided to find the beach. I thought the hotel was a lot closer to the beach than it ended up being and the front desk told us it wasn’t too far, but it was far enough. They had a shuttle that takes people to a beach club, but the shuttle only ran at odd hours that didn’t feel like our best option. The hotel did offer bikes to ride for free, so we figured we would try it.

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The bike ride was a little rough for me, I’m not going to lie. In that afternoon heat without any shade, I was struggling. Once we made it to the coast where the beaches were supposed to be, I realized it wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting. The whole coast where the beaches were, had been built up and were covered in beach clubs, hotels, restaurants, and shops. There was no public beach access that we could find, you had to pay in order to get to the beach. So we kept biking and biking trying to find somewhere to go where you didn’t have to spend money or at least not spend a lot of money. The road also wasn’t ideal for biking – it was tight, there were no sidewalks, the road often was damaged and with big potholes, and there were cars everywhere. We eventually gave up and found beach club where we could go, but we had to spend a certain amount of money in order to spend time there, which seemed to be how all the places nearby operated.

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After biking so long in the heat, it was worth it because the beach was beautiful and the water was perfect for swimming and so warm. We had a delicious lunch and smoothies and spent a few hours relaxing, swimming, and working on our tans. The guacamole was excellent!

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The bike ride to the hotel was a bit easier and we made it back as fast as we could. After biking back in the heat, we were ready to cool off again so we went straight to the hotel’s beautiful swimming pool and jumped right in. This was like paradise!

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We decided to go out for dinner so we found a really nice restaurant closer to the coast. It was dark, romantic (even though we didn’t really need that), and had the greatest food. The service was excellent too.

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After this dinner we were full and exhausted so we were ready to get back to the hotel and get some rest. Overall it was a great day in the sun!

Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and Ik Kil

One of the main reasons we wanted to go to the Yucatan was to see some ancient ruins. We were able to arrange through our hotel to hire a driver for the day for very little cost who took us to Chichen Itza and a beautiful cenote at Ik Kil.

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities hundreds of years ago and is now a large site of ruins. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has millions of visitors each year.

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I was amazed by the size of this site, it felt like we could keep walking and walking and there was always more to see. We could turn a corner and suddenly there would be another huge stretch of ruins. Actually standing there and walking around creates a really special feeling, like you’re somewhere you’ve only read about in textbooks in the past. It brings the whole history to life, something you can’t get from reading.

If you’re going to visit, I highly recommend doing a little research on when to go. One day of the week is free for Mexican citizens, making it way more crowded than other days. I also recommend going as early in the day as you can because by mid afternoon there were ten times as many people as when we first arrived and the temperatures were scorching. And as it was extremely hot, naturally we had to take a break for ice cream.

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After a few hours exploring everything this beautiful place has to offer, we were so ready to head to the cenote and go swimming to cool off and relax. Our driver took us to Ik Kil, which is very close to Chichen Itza. The water is about 130 feet deep (40 meters) and the denote itself goes 85 feet under ground (26 meters). This was the most beautiful cenote we visited on this trip.

 

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Swimming in that cold water was exhilarating and refreshing. Experiences like this are why I travel. The clear, bluish-green color of the water makes it hard to realize how deep the water actually is. This is a moment I’ll never forget because feeling so in touch with nature is one of the best feelings – with birds and bats flying over you, fish swimming beneath you, and butterflies all around.

 

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Overall this was one of the best days of the trip because we saw such a historically significant place and had the perfect afternoon in a stunning cenote. The next day we headed to the town of Tulum.

Leaving for Mexico and Finding Valladolid

So despite having travelled to far away places across the world, like Fiji or Cambodia, I had never actually been south of the border to Mexico before this latest trip. I was excited to go on some new adventures because I hadn’t been out of the country since the previous Summer.

Arriving at the airport was extra exciting because I walked up to my gate and got called to the podium to receive a note. I wondered what it was about, but it was actually sweet.

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I also found out I was upgraded to First Class, which is always an excellent benefit of being a frequent flyer. The meal was pretty great, especially because it was unexpected. I got lobster ravioli and a delicious summer salad. Thanks United!

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The guy I sat next to on the plane lives in Cancun and had a ton of information about traveling around the Yucatan. I went into this trip pretty blind and was thankful my cousin Katharina had done some research for our adventures. Finding a great travel partner is essential to having a great trip, and luckily my cousin and I love to travel together and are always planning new trips. So this guy next to me gave me great advice of cities worth seeing, places less worth seeing, and what was safe/dangerous nearby. I always recommend asking locals for their opinions because then it’s way easier to break out of the tourist bubbles and see something “real” in the country.

So after arriving and finding my cousin, we made our way to our hotel. She had been waiting a few hours, so she had plenty of time to gather information about buses and traveling around, which became so helpful. Unfortunately it was close to midnight when we got going so it was dark and hard to see much on the drive besides the lights of other hotels. We had a beautiful suite that was way bigger than anything the two of us needed, but we were excited to spend the night somewhere so nice.

The best part of arriving in Mexico was the following morning. Because of Katharina’s jet lag , coming all the way from Germany, and my general excitement, we were both wide awake and ready to go out by 6am. We went straight to the beach to enjoy the amazing weather. When we were there, it was April, which means it was still snowing where I’m from. Just being able to put on flip flops and feel the sand on my toes was spectacular.

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Cancun was only our arrival point, we had no real intention of staying there because the plan was to backpack around and head to Belize. So after a delicious breakfast, we decided to get going to our first destination – Valladolid. We took a local bus, where we were the only tourists on board, and headed to a bigger bus station.

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The trip from Cancun to Valladolid was a few hours. We weren’t on a fancy bus, it was a smaller company that seemed to be more for locals. We stopped frequently to pick up people along the road and it wasn’t as direct as other bus companies would have been. But it was worth the ride, because Valladolid is so beautiful and we picked a newer hotel that also has spa amenities. Talk about paradise…

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We went to Valladolid for two main reasons – 1. To be close to Chichen Itza and 2. To see some cenotes, which are like caves with natural water where you can go swimming.

So after settling in, we took a taxi for super cheap to two cenotes called Samula and Xkeken. The great part of Valladolid compared to other cities we ended up visiting is how much less expensive it is. We could take long taxi rides for barely anything once we split it between the two of us.

These two cenotes give very different vibes. One is super dark, creepy almost and has tons of bats. It’s beautiful for sure, but a little less inviting to go swimming.

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The other has a high ceiling inside the cave and has a large pool. We could see fish swimming throughout the water.

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Both cenotes are incredibly beautiful and worth visiting if you’ve never seen one before like the two of us. They were practically empty of visitors which makes them more appealing than some other cenotes. We loved exploring, feeling part of a natural wonder, and getting refreshed in the cool caves and water when the outside temperature was so hot. Not to mention, the areas around the cenotes are super unique as well!

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When we finished this part of the day, we ended up unexpectedly getting a lot of time to see Valladolid. Our taxi driver had no idea where our hotel was (perks of a new hotel!) and gave up looking really quickly, so he dropped us off in the town square and sent us on our way. Instead of trying another taxi, we decided to brave it and walk. But that was perfectly okay because it gave us the perfect opportunity to see some of this city and it is a beautiful place!

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After walking in the heat for a half hour, we were ready to jump in the pool at the hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening relaxing. We had a delicious dinner with some tacos that were some of the best I’ve ever had in my life (as expected). Amazing. Writing this while sitting in Sweden months later, I am craving Mexican food!

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We went to bed early that night after quite a long day of travel, cenotes, and heat. We had big plans for the next day to visit Chichen Itza, so we needed some rest.

 

Heading South From Dublin

When we talked about what to do in Ireland, we decided we definitely wanted to leave Dublin and see some other parts of the beautiful landscapes around the country. We looked at tons of day trip options that leave from Dublin to go all directions throughout the country and we found one that just sounded like such a perfect day.

We picked a fantastic tour through Railtours Ireland First Class. We met our guide Paddy at Connolly Station, which was super easy to get to from our hotel. I loved this tour’s options better than some others because it gave us a chance to take a train along the coast. We had a lot of time on buses throughout the trip, so it was nice to do something different.

From the train we could see the beautiful Dublin Bay and then the spectacular Killiney Bay, which is home to many celebrities such as Bono, Van Morrison, and Enya. We were so lucky with the weather because we were really able to see clearly and enjoy gorgeous skies. Looking out the window during this train ride was so enjoyable because the views were pretty epic.

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The train went through the town of Bray, which was once designed to be a huge spot for tourism as a seaside resort. We could see the Irish Sea, where there were amazing cliffs by the water.

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The train then headed inland into the county of Wicklow. We stopped at tiny Arklow station, about an hour and twenty minutes after stepping onto the train. After arriving, our guide showed us to our coach, which would be our ride for most of the day.

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We then headed to Avoca, which is a small village where the oldest hand weaving mill in Ireland is located. The mill has existed since 1723. We were given a personal tour of the mill and had an opportunity to watch how they make their famous woolen products, a truly fascinating experience. They showed us around different sections of the mill and explained various steps of the weaving process. We were also given plenty of time to shop in their impressive store.

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We walked through the town and had lunch in a little pub called Fitzgerald’s Bar, which has been featured in the BBC television series BallyKissangel. We had a yummy lunch and were able to get to know our guide and the other travelers. We met some really nice people and were lucky to have an awesome group! The group was mainly made up of Americans, which made it kind of fun after traveling abroad for a few weeks.

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We continued our drive and stopped at the Meeting of the Waters for a really nice photo stop. The guide was very patient and let everyone explore and have fun, even though we were on a tight schedule. I really appreciate that in a tour because that’s what we’re there for.

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We drove for a little while longer, passing through small villages and able to see spectacular views of mountains and other impressive landscapes.

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If you’re prone to getting car sick, there’s definitely potential on this part of the ride, especially after eating lunch – but it’s totally worth it. When we got to Glendalough, it was absolutely stunning! I really didn’t know what to expect with this day trip, but this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It is a National Park, famous for its scenery. We visited both the lower and upper lakes.

 

We waked through the park along paths and arrived at an ancient monastery. There has been a settlement here since the 7th century, which is when the monastery was founded by St. Kevin. We were able to walk around the ruins and see the cemetery. It is amazing to be surrounded by ruins from that long ago. The round tower once served as a bell tower and is 100 feet tall.

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After taking in so much beauty, we headed back to our car and drove back to Bray station. Here we were able to hop right on a train that headed straight back to Dublin. Again, the views from the train were incredible.

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If you’re looking to do a day trip out of Dublin, this one is exceptional. It showed us so much of the natural parts of Ireland and gave us a real look into the age of some of these places. The guide, Paddy, was phenomenal and everything on the tour was exactly how it should be. Another bonus to this trip is that this one was only 7 or so hours while many other day trips into Ireland are more like 13-15 hours. Overall this day was perfect and gave us so many worthwhile memories!

Discovering Dublin

Dublin is an incredible city, full of history and great energy. We’re so glad we were able to go spend some time there. Originally when we talked about traveling this summer, we weren’t sure of the best place to go. We talked about various ideas, but we decided based on our schedules and interest that Ireland was the perfect country to visit.

Dublin is located on the Eastern Coast of Ireland. People settled in Dublin as early as the 9th and 10th century, which is absolutely amazing to think about. Coming from America, things from the 18th century seem very old, so imagining people living in this country over a thousand years ago is astounding.

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I came to Dublin straight from Copenhagen, which was a quick easy two hour flight. Flying in, the beautiful views from the plane foreshadowed what was to come on the trip.

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I arrived in the evening, so by the time I made it through a lot of questions at passport control and got out of the airport, the sun was beginning to set. Dublin has great transportation available for tourists and travelers. They have an Aircoach bus that just goes to and from the airport and a few key spots in the city. It only cost me ‎€8 to get from the airport to my stop the city, which would have been more like €30 by taxi. The bus even had free wifi which is always a bonus while traveling.

I stayed at the Grand Canal Hotel, which is located close to many worthwhile sites in the city. The hotel was comfortable, had great food, and had excellent staff that helped me so much during my travels with tons of advice and suggestions.

The next morning, we were eager to get up, have some breakfast, and start seeing Dublin.

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We decided we wanted to start at Trinity College, so we began walking. On our way, we found the National Library of Ireland and thought it could be interesting to see. When we walked in, the older man at the front desk asked why we were there. I guess it’s not as common for tourists to visit this library as other sites in the city. We asked if we could look around and he responded like “uhh ok?” But it was beautiful inside. We weren’t allowed to take photos in the main room, but take my word for it. The library has existed since 1890. It was classic and elegant, the kind of library you want to sit in and do research even if you have nothing to research.

 

Then we headed to Trinity College, which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. It has a beautiful campus. Just take a look at some of these photos:

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If you go to Dublin, I highly suggest stopping at Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells. Just being in that room surrounded by history and these books dating back hundreds of years, is completely worth the visit. The library contains a long, beautiful room with books on two stories with ladders and stairs reaching each shelf. It’s the kind of room that you could just sit and look around for hour upon hour and not notice the time pass.

 

We then headed to St. Stephen’s Green Park, which is centrally located in the city. It was created in 1664 and opened to the public in 1880. We found it refreshing to stop for a break from the urban hustle and enjoy some nature. The green of the park and beauty of the ponds was lovely to see. And if you like hanging out with birds, this is definitely the place for you because there were plenty!

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Right across from the park’s entrance, is the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. I don’t only recommend this place for those who want to buy something, it is a nice stop for anyone. The building has a beautiful interior full of light and windows. It’s one of the nicest shopping centers I’ve ever seen, just take a look:

 

We had a quick lunch there upstairs overlooking the busy streets full of performers and tourists below us.

We stopped at The Rolling Donut, which was definitely a good idea!

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When I travel, I love to see palaces and castles, I guess it’s just cool to see the wealth displayed with furnishings and decorations. I’m all about interior decorating and making my home look special, so seeing these places is always inspiring and exciting to me. I always love all the attention to detail.

So of course I was eager to visit the Dublin Castle. It originally opened in 1204 and since the 1930’s the Irish Presidents have been inaugurated there.

 

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We really enjoyed visiting the Castle and looking around all the rooms. Afterward, we headed to the Christ Church Cathedral, which was founded in 1030. The exterior was breathtaking and beautiful to look at.

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We continued walking and found this super cool art shop called Jam Art Factory. If you’re looking for something unique to take home as a souvenir from Ireland or a special gift that’s not all “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” then this store is perfect. It has all kinds of artwork that was fun, thought-provoking, and exciting to look at.

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After taking a break looking at the unique art, we continued our journey walking around. We stopped to look at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which opened in 1878. It has a lovely park area outside it, which was relaxing to visit.

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We decided to walk throughout this entire day so we could really see everything and take in the city in ways you can’t from a bus or tour. We walked about 40,000 steps and spent the entire day morning until dinner walking every place we could. The city is full of life and excitement, history, and beauty. Here’s just a few more photos I took while walking around taking everything in.

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Ireland – 10 Reasons It’s Perfect for New Travelers

If you’re new to traveling or looking for a first adventure to embark on abroad, I highly recommend visiting Ireland – this especially goes for my American friends! I like to think I’m pretty well travelled (even though there’s so much more to see!) and yet I have so many friends back home who have never been on an airplane, never left the country (or have only made a quick 30 minute hop over the border to Niagara Falls). I completely understand that traveling is not part of everyone’s upbringing and that financially it is not in everyone’s budget. But if you are someone who is dying to go abroad and start adventuring into new countries, then Ireland is a perfect place to begin! I was amazed and overwhelmed at how easy it was to travel around, I’ve gotten used to some more complicated places so it was wonderful to kick back and relax and just take everything in.

So here are my reasons for why Ireland is perfect for someone new to traveling:

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1. Everyone speaks English

When people ask me about my travels, one of their biggest concerns is communicating with locals. I get asked all the time things like: How do you order food? How do you find where the bathroom is? How do you ask where you’re going? Sure, this can be tricky in small villages in non-English speaking countries.  (But even then, you can always point and use hand gestures to figure things out!) But in Ireland this is hardly a problem and every major tourist area is full of English speakers as well as people from all over the world. Signs, traffic symbols, maps, etc. are all readable and recognizable, making it incredibly easy.

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2. Tourists are so Welcome

I have definitely been to some parts of the world where I’ve felt less than welcomed by locals, although most people in the world are proud of their culture and country and are happy people want to visit their home. Ireland is full of such friendly people and there are tons of tourists everywhere, making them used to travelers of all kinds and prepared to handle them. For example, in Dublin, there are reminders on every major corner of which direction to look when crossing the street so pedestrians don’t forget that drivers are coming from opposite directions than most people are used to. People are very willing to help, answer questions, and tell you about the country. They have maps everywhere. Cities and large towns have signs pointing in directions of tourist attractions and sites so even if you get lost it’s easy to get back on track.

3. Awesome Transportation Options

Ireland has all kinds of transportation options for any kind of tourist. I’m not sure I would recommend driving yourself around Ireland if you are not used to manual cars, small European roads, or driving on the left. But if you’re up for a challenge then you can rent a car and drive all over the country (you may be left with white knuckles though). I know I am not equipped to drive there, but it was no problem because we still went to many parts of the country during our short trip. If you like to walk, Dublin and many of the smaller towns are completely walkable and it’s definitely excellent exercise. If you’re more of a car person but don’t want to drive, then there are taxis all over the cities. The buses in Dublin are incredible because they are everywhere, totally accessible for tourists, and are quick and easy. They have options to hop on and off certain buses throughout a day if you want to get quickly around many parts of the city, buses going straight to and from the airport for much less cost than a taxi, buses to sightsee if walking isn’t your thing. And they have trains that are super comfortable, pretty timely, and easy to figure out how to get tickets and where to go (unlike some other European cities).

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4. Fantastic Tour Options

If you’re like us and you want to see outside of Dublin, but have no idea where to start, check out a tour! We realized we weren’t up for driving, but we wanted to see more of the country and get a better sense for other parts of this beautiful country. We did a lot of research of tours that leave right from Dublin and take you all over the country. Many of these tours take up the entire day, but are completely worth it! Every tourist I talked to who had tried a day tour absolutely loved it. They are also very affordable for how much you can do and see.

5. Beautiful Nature

Ireland is famous for being full of green landscapes, but actually going there and seeing the beauty of this country is just breathtaking. The Cliffs of Moher, the Wicklow Mountains, Burren National Park, all of the vast coasts, and the green rolling hills and farmland around the country are spectacular. There are fewer and fewer places left in the world where you can see nothing but nature for miles, but in Ireland there is more than enough of that. It’s hard to describe in words how phenomenal the views are. It is perfect for hikers! If you love to get awesome photos, this is definitely the country to visit.

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6. The History

For those of you who are history buffs, Ireland is full of historical places to visit. Just driving around, you will see old stone buildings all over. Ireland was discovered thousands of years ago and you can see that for yourself just from driving around looking at different places. Walking around Dublin, there are monuments, statues, castles, and old buildings to visit on every corner. I highly recommend stopping and looking at signs to read about what happened on that corner a hundred years ago, or how old that church you’re passing by is. The stories this land holds of people who had suffered and fought for liberties for generations and of people who made their own success out of small resources around them, and how the environment has changed or remained protected over hundreds of years. There are endless amounts of things to learn and even if you know nothing about Irish history, you’ll discover so much just from being there.

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7. The Weather

Someone may laugh when I say the weather makes it worth the visit since Ireland isn’t known for the best weather. If you’re all about the beach and catching rays, then maybe this isn’t the place to go. But I found it very refreshing to get away from the heat and direct sun and just relax in regular clothes. I’ve travelled other parts of Europe in the Summer and the heat can be exhausting and even painful at times. In Ireland there’s no concern for sunburn or heat exhaustion. Its cool, breezy, and yeah sometimes there’s some rain. If you pack a raincoat, it’s no problem. And like some locals told us, the weather changes every five minutes, so even if it starts pouring, it may be sunny within minutes. If you are someone who likes a cooler temperature, then Ireland should be high on your list!

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8. Delicious Food and Excellent Shopping

Ireland has some great restaurants and shops! If you love fish and chips, you’ll be happy to find some in pretty much every restaurant or pub around. They have excellent dinner options with tons of meat dishes. The seafood around the coast is amazing and fresh. In Dublin, you can find any kind of cuisine you feel like. Walking by restaurants, everywhere smelled so good it was hard to decide where to choose to go. And they have yummy desserts, bakeries, and ice cream places all over the place. And there are so many stores around that there’s plenty to buy everywhere!

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9. The Beer and Whiskey

For anyone who loves to try new beers, explore a brewery or distillery, or just hang out in a pub for the night, then I think there are few places better than Ireland. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pubs and bars in one city like I did in Dublin. You can check out the Guinness Storehouse, it’s definitely a popular attraction for tourists and the Jameson Distillery is definitely a common choice. There are even museums dedicated to these gems. Many tourists love to go to a pub, listen to live music, and have a good time. It’s a great way to end the evening.

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10. Endless Attractions

Whatever kind of traveller you are, I guarantee there is something in Ireland for you. There are all kinds of museums, zoos, parks, excellent hiking locations, historical sites, castles, libraries, big cities and small towns, and plenty to do or see. There are tons of stores so shopping is awesome. After heading back to the airport, I left only wishing for more time. There is enough to do or see to make a trip for two weeks filled, but you can also easily see plenty and enjoy just a few days. You can travel in style or find cheap options to get around. So any kind of traveler will find something in this wonderful country!

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Returning to Sweden

I’ve written about visiting Sweden a few times before. It’s somewhere I try to go at least once a year with my family and sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can make it out here twice a year. I’ve travelled here close to thirty times in my life. We stay in a little beach town on a peninsula sticking out at the southwestern point of the country. My visit here is something I look forward to all year.

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This time, getting here started out with a bit of stress. I’m used to the trip out here and I fly enough to know not to expect things to go perfectly…but it can still be frustrating when flight one of three suddenly becomes 3 hours delayed because of too much air traffic. In those moments it’s important to act fast, talk to an attendant, and make a plan to get to the final destination in case future flights are missed. The airline told me I would be fine and didn’t need to change anything. But because the flight out of Buffalo was grounded and there was no real schedule for when it would be taking off and the estimated takeoff time would leave me about ten minutes to catch my next flight, I told them they needed to give me a backup plan. Luckily we took off a little earlier than the estimated time and I made it to Newark with a half hour to eat a very rushed dinner before boarding my flight to Brussels.

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I had a great long flight and could even stretch out because the seats in my row were empty! The flight went by quickly and was very relaxing. And Brussels has a nice airport to sit in, even when you’re on the brink of falling asleep at any moment. I should’ve stopped to buy chocolates, but I was so sleepy.

I was relieved to sit down on my last plane after a long day and that flight to Copenhagen was quick and easy. I even got a mini nap in.

I always love landing in Copenhagen airport, seeing the bridge to Sweden, the beaches, and the red roofed houses.  Walking out of customs is always special, especially when my dad is there waiting to meet me. I’ve been coming here just about every summer since I was this age…

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The porch looks a little different now

 

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So coming to this small Swedish town every summer is important to me because it’s definitely somewhere that has a special place in my heart; it is one of my homes. My first few days here always feel magical because it’s just a time to walk around, take everything in, and enjoy the silence. For me, this is a place with few distractions, little technology, no unwanted work, and a place to constantly explore and learn. It is a place where I truly can connect with the natural world around me and focus on the little things that make each day so special. And of course it’s the perfect place to do a little photography

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Long Beach

I recently had such a great day visiting Long Beach in California, I just had to share! This is definitely not my first time visiting the area, but it was such a special day.

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After getting lucky with little traffic out of Los Angeles, we started off the morning right with some ice cream after breakfast.

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And then we got in line for a whale watching boat tour. I did one of these trips a few years ago and it was amazing to see marine life and enjoy the boat ride.

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So I was definitely thrilled to do it again!

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The boat ride lasts a couple hours and it’s such an exciting joy. The trip out of the harbor area is full of waves, making it feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. The wind blows sprays of water on you, but it just makes the whole experience feel that much better.

We quickly were surrounded by dolphins and their little ones. I love seeing animals in the wild. Unfortunately, you never know when a dolphin will jump out of the water or where so it’s very hard to capture a good photo. But I did my best.

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And then we got very lucky and were able to find a fin whale! 

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After finishing the amazing tour, we realized we hadn’t had our fill of marine life, so we decided to take a trip to the aquarium right around the corner. I’ve been to a few aquariums, but this one was really special. The size was perfect, the variety in animal life was spectacular, and the exhibits were wonderful to look at.

It was so much fun hanging out with guys like this during our visit

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We were even able to touch some animals in their opens tanks

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It was a great experience overall and I definitely recommend this aquarium to anyone in the area!

Exploring Barcelona

I was so excited to wake up in Barcelona and have a full day to see the city. We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. I couldn’t believe how many options they had – they know how to accommodate to people from all around the world.

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It was spectacular to see all of the beautiful buildings, fountains, and sights along the streets. The weather was perfect, which made the day even better. People were out and about all around us, but because of the winter, it wasn’t too crowded anywhere. This made it perfect! It was so nice to see people biking and walking for transportation.

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We started walking down La Rambla, a central street in the city full of shops, restaurants, and history. It stretches all the way to the Balearic Sea. We walked along this main street, but also made sure to check out side streets around the area.

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We stopped in the famous Liceu Opera House just to take a quick look.

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And looked at the pavement mosaic designed by the famous artist Joan Miró who is known for Modern Art, Surrealism, and Dadaism. His style can easily be seen in this colorful mosaic.

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We also found our way to the huge indoor market nearby. I always love to look at all the different foods and items markets around the world have to offer. I was amazed with this market and didn’t want to stop looking at all the interesting foods. Just check out some of these photos

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We continued our walk towards the harbor. My dad even made a friend!

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So we finally made it to the harbor after plenty of walking and beautiful sights, and we weren’t disappointed!

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After taking in the fantastic views from the harbor, we took the metro to get closer to the hotel. We had hoped to find lunch pretty quickly, but as what happens when traveling, it took longer than expected. We walked down one street and didn’t find a restaurant, so we tried another street with less luck, and then kept going on this way for a while. But these things happen and eventually we found the perfect place. And on the way we stumbled upon this

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After lunch, we took a little break at the hotel. From my window I could see a school and all the kids were having recess on the roof. I work with kids at home and I thought these children were adorable

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After a quick but delicious dinner, we headed to see a guitar performance. My mom is a professional guitarist so she was very excited. We walked to a local church. When we arrived, they told us that the church was taking in homeless people for the night to keep them warm because the temperature dropped so much that evening. There were many homeless people in the streets in Barcelona, so it was nice to see people helping them and taking care of them. They could hear the guitar performance because they were clapping from downstairs, so it was great knowing they could enjoy it too. The performance was very intimate and small, but extremely impressive. Even if you knew nothing about music, you could appreciate the skill and talent of this duet. It was a really amazing experience.

 

It was a wonderful day full of incredible experiences, it’s almost hard to believe we saw and did so much in just one day. That’s how traveling should be though – unbelievably great and special!

Barcelona Bound

After a quick visit to Sweden, it was time to head to Spain! It’s always exciting to travel somewhere new and I couldn’t wait to experience everything Barcelona has to offer.

In the airport in Copenhagen, we arrived to our gate and a famous Swedish soccer team quickly took over the area. They were on their way to Barcelona to compete. People were taking photos with them and getting autographs. The pilot made a special welcome announcement to this team.

 

We had a smooth and relatively quick flight with Norwegian Airlines. I was exhausted after a lengthy trip getting to Sweden that was full of delays and a lost suitcase with everything I needed. I had to resort to buying clothes and necessities at the grocery store once I arrived. But it all worked out in the end because I got my suitcase a few days later when we arrived to Copenhagen airport before Barcelona. I passed out on the plane because I was so tired and woke up as we started getting closer to our arrival. The views as we landed were incredibly beautiful and I was so excited!

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We luckily got all our bags (something you really appreciate after an airline loses yours) and we found a taxi to take us into the city. The drive was about twenty minutes and our driver was speeding through the streets around other cars. The buildings around us looked beautiful and I couldn’t wait to get out and explore this amazing city.

 

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When we pulled up to our hotel, I think my mouth actually dropped because it was one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever seen. And once we got inside, I was not at all disappointed. I felt overwhelmed with how impressive the hotel was. I felt like I was on the Titanic or something. The beauty and class of an old European place like this is in the tiniest of details.

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The view from my hotel room’s tiny balcony was also pretty fantastic!

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Since we were all very hungry and pretty tired, we decided to grab some lunch in the hotel restaurant. Lunch was so delicious, I’m still craving it now more than a week later.

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We decided to rest a little so that the next day we could really go out and see a lot. People in Spain tend to eat and go out a lot later in the evening than many other places in the world. So by the time we were ready to go out, it was normal dinner time around the city. And we had another spectacular meal.

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My first impression of Barcelona so far was that it’s a great city full of beauty and extremely nice people and it definitely has the best food!