Ireland: Enchanting Emerald

We spent a shortened week exploring Ireland: learning about the Book of Kells, following the footsteps of James Joyce and St Patrick, as well as visiting other important historical sites. However, our most memorable moments were spent relaxing for an idyllic few days at a bed & breakfast on a working farm. The refreshing coolness and sparkling greenery of the countryside were welcomed contrast to the blistering heat we left behind in Italy. We came to appreciate its name of Emerald Isle and enjoyed our fill of daily lamb stew.

07/24/15: Upon landing in Dublin, we immediately started our tour by heading out to the Jame Joyce Museum, housed in the tower where Joyce stayed while writing his masterpiece Ulysses. Then we visited Sweny Chemist Shop, former pharmacy mentioned in Ulysses. The shop has become a collector’s bookshop but still sells the famed lemon soap that the character Leopold Bloom bought. We finished the day at Trinity College Old Library, visiting the lovely Book of Kells exhibit of illuminated medieval manuscript of Gospels.

07/25-26/15: Staying on Lawcus Farm was definitely the highlight of our trip. It was a charming piece of property, completely built by the owners. The kids enjoyed playing with animals, feeding the goats and pigs, watching the German shepherd puppy terrorize the chickens, and swimming in the stream with other visiting kids. We used that location in Kilkenny as a base to visitor neighboring sites. Climb up Blarney Castle to see the famous stone. Stopped at historic Rock of Cashel, coronation site of Irish kings and St. Patrick is known to have visited. Experienced re-enactment of dreadful conditions on replica ship that took emigrants to America during potato famine

Ring of Kerry
07/27-28/15: Quaint town of Killarney used as base for Ring of Kerry tour. Toured Powercourt Estates then lunched at charming Irish pub lunch afterward. Observed demonstration by Waterford crystal master cutter Sean Daly in Dingle. Drove along wild Atlantic Coast, passed ancient ruins and braved strong winds at the Cliffs of Moher.

Italy: Coastal Excursions

Between the exquisite food and rich history, Italy has always held a special place in our hearts. This time, we visited a few new spots, including Sicily, Capri, and the Italian Riviera. But we also returned to some old favorites, such as Amalfi Coast, Naples, and Venice, but this time with the kids in tow. In retrospect, we essentially traveled up one coastline to another on this trip.

07/01-05/15: We started our trip by visiting Sicily, the big island at the south end of Italy’s boot. Sicily is known for fresh seafood and locally grown produce, especially olive oil. From the city of Palermo, we went to see a Greek temple and amphitheater in Segesta and also some medieval towns with cobble stone roads, castle walls and colorful shops. Cefalu was a seaport town and Erice was up on a hill. Agrigento is known as the Valley of the Temples and used to be a large Greek city. It took several hours to drive across Sicily to reach Taormina, a beautiful city overlooking the ocean, next to the volcano, Mt Etna. We stayed at palace hotel where many movies were filmed.

Amalfi Coast
07/06-10/15: After a week in Sicily, we flew to the city of Naples, near another dormant volcano, Mt Vesuvius. We stayed across of the San Lucia castle and harbor, lined with lots of restaurants serving pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and the best thin crusted pizzas. We took a hydrofoil, a superheats ferry, to the island of Capri. There we got to swim and enjoy more delicious food. After 2 days in Capri, Daddy rented a car and we drove along the Amalfi Coast and visited the cute towns of Sorrento, Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi. These towns are known for their lemons. It was super hot but fortunately there was gelato and granite ice everywhere. Back in Naples, we visited the National Archeological Museum and saw many old sculptures from Greek mythology.

Italian Riveria
07/11-19/15: Next, we spent a week along the Italian Riviera. First, we stayed at Porto Venere then took a ferry and trains to visit the 5 towns called Cinque Terre, where we played in the waters and tried different food. The towns are named Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Varnazzo, and Monte Rosso. Corniglia was really hard to reach because it’s built high on a hill and we had to climb 365 steps to reach it. We also stayed a few days in Portofino. The hotel had a nice pool overlooking the sea port below. For the final few days in the area, we stayed in Genoa, home of Christopher Columbus. We took a hop on hop off bus tour of the city and visited the Aquarium in the Old Port. We also walked along Via Garibaldi, an old street lined with many palaces.

07/20-23/15: We finished our trip with a few days in Venice. When we arrived at the airport, we took a water taxi through the Grand Canal then through some smaller canals to the water entrance to our hotel. As we explored narrow alleys and many bridges, we saw many shops with beautiful masks and glass displays. On Murano island, we visited a glass factory where we watched the masters blowing and shaping glass into a chandelier. On our last day in Venice and Italy, we took a relaxing gondola ride throw the narrow canals, under many bridges, and past Marco Polo’s house. We enjoyed a fancy meal with a 7 course tasting menu at a restaurant overlooking San Marco Square with the famous cathedral, bell tower, and Doges Palace.