Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ireland: Days 1 & 2 - Dublin, Glendalough, Kilkenny and Killarney

Kiss me I'm Irish in Ireland!

I asked Jake if there was one place he wanted to go before we moved back home where would it be and he said Ireland.  So we decided to look into going after our trip back home in April.  We bought tickets about 2 days before we flew home in April and thought we would plan the rest of the trip once we were back in Stockholm.  We had 6 days between our trip to the states and our Ireland trip.  You could say we did some quick planning but everything worked out and we had a great time in Ireland.

We flew out on Thursday, May 8th at 8:35 am.  We decided to pack in backpacks again but we also brought a duffle bag since we knew we would have a car and it would be easy to just throw that in the trunk.  We flew to Oslo and then to Dublin.  We arrived in Dublin at 12:15 and picked up our rental car from Budget.  Renting a car was a little stressful because we couldn't decide if we wanted to add on extra coverage to the car.  We decided to add it just to be safe and I am glad we did.  The roads in Ireland are narrow and I would have been so much more stressed out had we not had that extra coverage.  The car was a manual, automatics are a lot more expensive, which was great because we both used to drive sticks and I've actually missed driving a stick.  The only problem was that they drive on the left side of the road which also means the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car.  It took a little getting used to but it wasn't too bad.   I'm also really thankful we got one of the smallest rental cars because like I said the roads are narrow!
We drove into Dublin and grabbed a quick lunch before heading to Trinity College in Dublin.  The campus was really pretty and we went on a tour to learn more about it.  Our tour guide was really funny.

At the end of the tour we saw the Book of Kells, which is a 1200 year old illuminated (illustrated) manuscript of the gospels.  The Old Library was beautiful but the books were organized in an interesting way.  They weren't in alphabetical order and they didn't use the Dewey Decimal System either.  They were arranged by size.  The biggest books were on the bottom shelves and the books got smaller as they reached the ceiling.  Our tour guide said it made it nearly impossible to find a book.  You had to know the dimensions in order to know where to start looking.  (I thought of you, Becky Henderson, when I heard about that.)
Then we headed to the Guinness Storehouse for a tour and a glass of Guinness.  I did try it in the tasting room but, shockingly, I didn't enjoy it :).  There were seven floors in the Guinness storehouse.  We walked through most of them.  Jake learned how to pour the perfect Guinness and we went to the tasting experience where I tried my first and last very small sip of Guinness.  The picture on the top right is the signed 9,000 year lease that allows the Guinness Storehouse the rights to that building for a long time.

The top floor of the building was the gravity bar and it had a great view of Dublin.  The windows told us about the different parts of the city.  We were headed to the Wicklow Mountains after dinner so I made sure to look out that side of the room and it was beautiful.

Jake found a neat dinner and folktale night at a place called the Brazen Head.  We went there for dinner at 7:00.  As we were driving around downtown Dublin trying to figure out where to park, and still trying to make sure I was driving in the correct lane, I stopped and pulled over on a street.  Then I pulled back into the street only to stop again.  I noticed a taxi behind me and I just hoped he would drive around me since we still didn't know where to go.  He pulled around me but then stopped by my car and rolled down his window.  I was sure he was going to yell at me but I rolled down my window anyway and he said "Are ya lost? Where ya goin'?"  I couldn't believe it.  We told him we were trying to park and that we were going to the Brazen Head.  He told me to make a couple of left hand turns and park on the street I was on because there was free parking after 7:00.  We were both shocked and thankful for how kind he was.  He even had a customer in the back seat of his car.  So we made a few left turns and parked on that street.

The night was pretty good.  The speaker was a little dry especially compared to our college tour guide but the information was good and he was funny.  We learned about the potato famine, fairies and heard a few stories.  Jake and I both had stew with lamb for dinner.  We sat next to some people who lived in Dublin which was a nice treat since I thought dinner would be for mostly tourists.

We stayed the night about 30 minutes outside of Dublin because the next day we were driving quite a ways and we wanted a head start.  We've been using the website booking.com to find hotels and it has been great so far.  We stayed at the Glenview Hotel and Leisure Club.  We got there pretty late so we couldn't see the mountains when we arrived but the next morning they were beautiful.
I wished we could have stayed at this hotel another night.  The grounds were so neat with lots of little trails and paths.  As we were eating breakfast the sun was shining and it looked like it was misting but we couldn't see any clouds.  When we went on a walk after breakfast it rained on us, blue skies and all.  We also spotted a beautiful rainbow.

Our first stop of the day was Glendalough which is in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.  Jake was the first to drive which was good because the roads were narrow!  For part of our drive there wasn't even a center line because there wasn't enough room for two cars to pass each other but thankfully there wasn't much traffic on the road.
We walked around a cemetery and an old monastic site and then to the Upper Lake.  It was sunny and not too cold but it sure was windy.

It was a little bit windy but so beautiful!
We got back in the car around 12:20 pm and headed to Kilkenny for lunch.  We grabbed some sandwiches from Blaa Blaa Blaa Sandwiches and then walked up to the Kilkenny Castle to each lunch.  Jake was SO excited to see castles while we were in Ireland.
Kilkenny was such a cute little town.  We wished we could have spent more time there but we had to head to our next stop.  We did learn a valuable traveling lesson which is that if you are driving instead of setting the GPS to the destination make sure it is set to a parking lot instead.  It took us 20 minutes to park because the traffic was so bad. Had we set it to find parking instead of the sandwich shop we would have had about 20 more minutes to explore Kilkenny.

We drove from Kilkenny to the Blarney Castle.  We didn't have as much time at the castle as we would have liked but we made it in enough time to see it before it closed.  The park was beautiful and practically empty.  I'm guessing during summer this place is really busy.
Now these next few pictures are of us kissing the Blarney Stone which is pretty complicated.  You have to lie down on your back and hang upside down to kiss the stone.  Please note my awesome photography skills and my ability to capture Jake actually kissing the stone (and please ignore my unladylike, scared to death pose Jake's awesome photography skills as I kissed the Blarney Stone).
You can't even see that I kissed the stone.  I should note that my short torso made this move extra difficult.  Do you see the ground below?  The arrow below is pointing at where the Blarney Stone is located.  You would think they could have put the stone in a better place.

Remember when we went to London and I couldn't stop taking picture of the Tower Bridge?  Well that was Jake with the Blarney Castle.  He just loved it!

Our last drive of the day was from the Blarney Castle to Killarney.  We were staying in our first bed and breakfast in Killarney.  We set the gps and headed to the bed and breakfast.  It was raining a little but we found the place and drove up the driveway.  The driveway was gated and had 4 cars in the drive.  We decided to go in first before getting our bags out.  The door was cracked open when we got there so we walked in and could hear people talking but couldn't see anyone.  Then I thought maybe we should ring the doorbell.  We walked back towards the door and I reached out to ring the doorbell while Jake stood in the entryway.  Can you figure out where this is going yet?  The man came around the corner with a confused look on his face.  Jake shook his hand and said we were the Janzens and we had a room reserved for the night.  That is when he told us we were standing in his private residence.  Oops.  Thankfully he laughed it off with us and asked us where we were going.  We told him the Woodlawn House which happens to be right next door.  He says it happens all the time that people mistake their house for the bed and breakfast next door but I'm not sure how many people actually walk into his house and then ring the doorbell.  As we were leaving he even said that they could have taken us in for the night had we not had a place to stay.  Irish people are awesome and so helpful!  They are much friendlier than Swedes and they could be some of the friendliest people on earth.

Once we backed out of their driveway we were barely in the street before we saw a sign for the Woodlawn House. (Travel tip #126 - Bed and Breakfasts will probably have a proper sign.)  We made sure to ring the doorbell this time before going in just in case :).  A very nice man greeted us and told us about Killarney and what restaurants he recommends before showing us to our room.  We really enjoyed staying at a bed and breakfast.  It was much more personal than a hotel.  Plus, his neighbors were really kind :).

We headed to the main street in Killarney to grab some food.  We ate dinner at Macs and it was great!  I had Irish Cottage Pie and oh my goodness, it was awesome!  After I ordered I realized I wasn't that hungry but once I took a bite I was so thankful I ordered it.  It was comfort in a bowl!  Macs also had homemade ice cream which was supposed to be really good.  I tried cookies galore and mint chocolate chip.  The cookies galore was amazing!

After dinner we went to an Irish pub to listen to some music.

We had a great first two days in Ireland.  Click here to read about our last two days in Ireland and here to read the questions and answers on our trip to Ireland.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Time Back Home (Plus a Few More Pictures)

Remember when I told you I went bowling with my friend Lisa in this peek into our week?  Well, what I didn't tell you was that Lisa was 36 weeks pregnant when we went bowling and about 2 hours after we finished bowling her water broke.  You could say it was my fault since I suggested we go bowling.  But I will say that I originally thought we should go play badminton but then thought that was a bad idea so see bowling was much better :).  Her sister who is 12 was in town and I was trying to be a helpful friend and come up with something fun for all of us to do.  It was fun and I got to meet her little boy, Gray, before I went back home.  Since we were back in Kansas over Christmas we've had 4 close friends have babies.  It is hard missing friends having babies.  It is a life changing thing and we aren't there for it.  That has been hard.  I like seeing babies when they are "brand new" which is hard when you are gone.  And then I realized I might be back in the Kansas when my one friend in Stockholm has a baby.  Not cool!  But thanks to bowling great timing I was able to meet Gray when he was brand new!

Lisa's sister was in town to visit over her spring break I got to hang out with her a few times since Lisa was in the hospital.  My love language is quality time and I know that some people's love language is acts of service but I've realized mine also might be being able to give acts of service to others.  I like being needed and having someone to help.  (I get that from my mom.  She will go out of her way and sometimes way out of her way for close friends or even acquaintances.  She rocks at that!)  Thankfully, I am close enough to Lisa that I can be there for her to help her with things.  When she had a Valentine's Day party at her house I got to go over early to help set up.  I was giddy that I knew someone well enough not only to be invited to a party but to be there to set up for the party.  So when she had Gray I was more than willing to help.  I really enjoyed that I had someone that I knew well enough to help.

On Wednesday before we flew out we went to see Sweeney Todd at the Kulturhuset.  We have seen Sweeney Todd a few times before and we were excited when we saw that it was playing in Stockholm.  We thought we had missed our chance to see it but I was able to get us a few tickets.  After I bought the tickets I was asking about the show and then I realized I hadn't asked if it was in English or Swedish.  It was in Swedish and I had already bought the tickets so it looked like we were going to get some Swedish lessons along with the musical entertainment :).  The night before the show we listened to the music to refresh our memories and I'm glad we did.  The show was really good.

Jake flew out on Friday morning.  He flew to Chicago and spent the night there before flying to Atlanta and then onto St. Thomas for his sailing class.  He took the class with four other friends from his office in Olathe so they could learn how to sail.  The goal of the class is to learn enough about sailing and get certified so Jake could rent a sailboat for a week in the Caribbean or in the Mediterranean without having to hire a captain.  I told him he should write a blog post about his sailing trip . . . we shall see if he does :).

I flew to Chicago and then to Kansas City on Saturday.  As soon as I touched down I was on the go seeing friends and family until we took off 11 days later.  I wasn't that scared to fly by myself until that plane went missing.  Then I was a little bit nervous.  The flight was good but I think next time I'll sit on the aisle if I'm flying by myself.  The guy next to me slept about 80% of the flight which made it awkward if I wanted to get up and stretch my legs.
Mexican food and a Dr. Pepper for lunch during my layover in Chicago :).
My friend Amy picked me up from the airport and drove me home.  As soon as I got home I hopped in my car and drove to Lawrence to have dinner with Kelli, one of my college roommates.  After dinner I stopped by to see Jan's new house.
Just picking up a few essentials at Walmart since I can :). And I ran into a former student who used to say "this makes me boorrring" which brought a smile to my face. #itisgreattobeback #ilovemacandcheese
Sunday was Easter and it was strange not being with family for Easter but I didn't want to drive back and forth to Wichita more than once while I was home.  I went shopping, met Brad and Victoria's beautiful baby girl Zion.  She was the first of the four babies I missed seeing brand new since we were in Stockholm when she was born.  On my way home I stopped by my brother's house to see my nieces and hung out with Jan again.
So thankful I got to hold this beautiful baby girl today and hang out with her parents. So fun to see Brad as a dad! #sheisevenmorebeautifulinperson #zionrose
Pure joy! #ihavemissedthisface #janzensathome
On Monday I had lunch at La Carreta with a few school friends and had my first espinaca cheese dip of the trip!  I mowed the lawn which I was really looking forward to.  I am not a huge fan of yard work but I really enjoy mowing the lawn now that we have a riding lawn mower.  I got to meet Nikki's little boy JR, baby #2 out of 4, while I had some friends over for dinner.  It was great catching up with friends that I used to see every day and now I see whenever I'm back.  Plus we had Pizza Hut pizza and Little Caesars bread sticks.
Such a great day already! Lunch with friends and espinaca :). I mowed in perfect weather (yes I like mowing) and a quick stop by my old school. Is it weird that I miss the parking lot? It just reminds me of so many great memories! #iknowiamadork#itisthelittlethings #janzensathome
Hung out with a few friends and met baby #2 out of 4 that arrived between Christmas and now. And he is wearing a onesie with a squirrel on it :). #ilovesquirrels#missingfriendshavingbabiesishard #janzensathome
Tuesday I did some more shopping for running shoes and backpacks.  I had Noodles and Company for lunch at Faltermeier's house while we hung out and I got to see her boys.  For dinner I met up with Jan and her family and my brother's family for dinner at Mi Ranchito and more espinaca!  If you haven't figured it out yet most of my get togethers involved food :).
My dinner dates sure were cute tonight (Jocelyn, Avery and Avery). #itisgreattobeback#anothermealwithespinaca #janzensathome

I headed to Wichita on Wednesday.  I was supposed to meet my mom for lunch at Hog Wild Pit BBQ and when I showed up LaDonna was waiting for me.  Then my mom showed up and then I saw my dad walk in.  It was fun having surprise guests at lunch :).  Then I headed to get my hair cut and highlighted.  I have been going to Kristy to get my hair cut since high school.  Even after I moved to Olathe I would still drive back to Wichita for haircuts.  Just because I moved to Sweden doesn't mean I'm going to start going to someone else but I haven't figured out what I'm going to do over the next 8 months since we aren't going back for a while.

I went shopping with my mom for curtains after lunch.  She is making blackout curtains for our bedroom since the sun is going to be up for over 18 hours a day this summer with the longest day where it rises at 3:30 am and sets at 10:08 pm.  I had dinner that night was with my roommates Jami and Emily.  I got to meet Will, Emily's second little boy, and hang out with Wes her other son and Jami's little boy Jackson.  It was great seeing those girls but it is so hard getting so excited to see someone and then only a few hours later saying goodbye again :(.
It was so good hanging out with my roommates. It is hard though getting excited to see people only to realize it is also the last time you'll see them for a while. #ilovemyroommates#missingfriendshavingbabiesishard #janzensathome

On Thursday I met my friend Chris for lunch at Taco Shop.  He drove about 45 minutes to eat lunch with me at a Mexican fast food joint that I love and he doesn't even like Mexican food.  We had a great time catching up.  After lunch I did some more shopping with my mom before meeting Amber and Haleigh for dinner at Old Chicago.  Whenever I come back to Wichita I always try to meet Amber, Haleigh and Chris at Old Chicago but this time Chris couldn't make it so that's why we met for lunch.  I always order the pizza rolls and we always go to Old Chicago to celebrate each others' birthdays.  This time Amber told them we were celebrating my birthday since I'll be in Stockholm in July and we won't be able to celebrate together.  They sang to me which means my face turned bright red but then I got to share a chocolate chip cookie and ice cream so it was worth it :).

My mom and I were off on Friday to finish up some shopping and errands for a baby shower we were throwing with my sister-in-law Missy on Saturday for my other sister-in-law Lindsay.  We had lunch at Braums before we finished our errands.  We had family night on Friday at my parent's house with Robbie, Missy, Jace and Maci.  It was fun hanging out with them before the shower the next day.

The baby shower for my brother Aaron and sister-in-law Lindsay was a friends and family BaByQ.  We had a great time celebrating their little boy that is due this summer.  I drove back to Olathe after the shower to see Jake for the first time in over a week.  When you are together almost every single day for 8 months and he is really one of the only people you know in the whole country it is strange being away from each other for a week.  Jake's parents drove up from Wichita to hang out with us for the weekend and help us do a few projects around the house.  Over the weekend Jake and his dad installed a doorbell, fixed two gates and did a few other random projects around the house.  We went to Mi Ranchito for dinner and more espinaca!
It was really windy but we had a great time at the shower!
Espinaca at Mi Ranchito!
On Sunday we finished up a few projects and did some shopping.  (It seems like all I did when I was home was shop and eat . . . which I guess is true but I did have a list and it was in the budget so that makes it okay right?)  We had dinner at Uncle Bob's house on Sunday night.  It was great just like it always is.
The flowers were arranged by Bob of course :).
Jake did some yard work on Monday morning before he headed to work.  I made my Walmart run for all of my essentials for the next 8 months.  Jake wasn't able to make it to the baby shower which meant he also hadn't been able to see our nieces so Lindsay stopped by Jake's work, which is also where Aaron works, so Jake could see the girls and I could give Lindsay some things.  Then I took my car in to get an oil change and ended up getting a loaner because they were doing a few recalls and needed another part to finish it up.  For dinner we went to the Double Nickel for a happy hour with Jake's work friends.  We got to meet Collin, baby #3 out of 4, who is Liz's second little boy.  After the happy hour we went to Brad and Victoria's house so Jake could meet Zion, who is beautiful by the way!
Said goodbye to my nieces today and met baby #4 of 4 born since we were home at Christmas. Too bad one of my best friends is due in a couple of weeks and we won't be here to meet him/her :(.
#missingfriendshavingbabiesishard #thankgoodnessforskype  #ilovemynieces #janzensathome

Tuesday was our last full day in Olathe.  I picked up my car and Jake so we could meet Liz and Jon at Iron Horse for lunch.  It was nice being able to catch up with them over some great food.  I ran some last minute errands before we met Erin for dinner at Gates BBQ.  It was fun catching up with her and I love hearing her fun stories :).  We also went over to Jan's house to clean Dino's cage and to hang out with him for a little while.

We flew out on Wednesday but I stopped by Jan's house to hang out again one more time before we got picked up by The Super Shuttle.  I tried several times to convince Jan to go bowling while we are back since she is only a couple weeks away from having her second baby but she was too busy moving into their new house.  It is going to be so hard missing her having a baby and knowing he/she will be about 8 months old by the time I meet him/her is so weird!

My last cup of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream on our way to the airport. We had a great time home seeing friends and family. We've been gone for 8 months which seems like it has flown by but thinking about not coming back until Christmas and realizing that is 8 months away seems like such a long time!#janzensathome

Our flight from Kansas City to Ft. Lauderdale was good.  It was about 3 hours but it was a good flight.  We landed in Ft. Lauderdale, picked up our luggage and headed to the international terminal to catch our next flight.  We had a 3 hour layover which is about an hour too long in my opinion but I was looking forward to flying out at night so we would be tired enough to sleep on the plane.  I should also mention that we both had backpacks, one rolling suitcase and then a huge duffle bag.  I put one of the huge duffle bags that we moved to Stockholm with in my suitcase so we could fill it up with stuff and bring it back.  Jake took a small duffle bag on his sailing trip so we didn't have two rolling bags which meant Jake had to carry the 45 lb duffle bag through the airport.

As soon as we got to the check in counter we should have figured out something was up.  The line for our flight was out the door and wrapped around the front of the outside of the terminal.  It was over 80 degrees and humid.  I was wearing long black jeggings, boots, a long sleeve shirt and a scarf.  I was ready for Stockholm weather not Florida humidity.  Jake doesn't handle heat as well as I do so I sent him inside with our non rolling bag because Jake hot and sweaty = a cranky Jake.  I didn't want to sit next to that for the 9 hour flight.  It is funny because had the weather been below 40 degrees he would have been outside by himself and I would have been inside.  It is a good thing opposites attract :).

When we checked in we found out our flight was delayed a couple of hours due to a construction worker cutting a wire to the terminal which meant the terminal lost connection and couldn't check people in through customs.  So the plane we were taking had to land in Miami instead of Ft. Lauderdale.  Miami is about 45 minutes away.  Our flight crew didn't get the memo and they showed up at the airport and then eventually drove to Miami and flew the plane to us since the flight crew that just arrived in Miami didn't have enough hours left to legally fly the plane into Ft. Lauderdale.  Our 9:30 pm flight was delayed until midnight and then it was delayed until 2:00 am.  Around 1:45 am they cancelled our flight and rescheduled it for the next day at noon.  They gave us hotel vouchers which took a while to fill out.  After we got our voucher we had to wait way longer than we should have to pick up our bags.  I overheard one of the airline workers telling the bag guys to wait to put the bags on the belt until he was done with the vouchers which also meant everyone who didn't need hotel vouchers had to wait until everyone had vouchers before they could go home.

We got to the hotel around 2:15 am and they wanted us back at the airport at 9 am for our noon flight.  As soon as we walked into our hotel room I smelled cigarette smoke :( and then I noticed an air conditioner sitting in the middle of the two beds.  I called the front desk but they were out of rooms and they said that the airline knew the only rooms left were smoking rooms.  So Jake pushed the air conditioner into the hallway and we went to sleep.  We tried checking our flight status the next morning but we couldn't find it.  Flight Aware said we already left.  We got to the airport around 9:30 only to hear that it had been delayed again until 3 pm.  I was not happy!  We could have at least stopped by the beach if we were going to be in Florida for almost 24 hours!
Our 9:30 pm flight last night was delayed until midnight and then 2 am only to be cancelled and rescheduled for noon today. The first picture is me calling the front desk after finally getting to our hotel last night at 2:30 am and then finding an air conditioner on the floor between our beds. After we got to the airport this morning we found out it is delayed until 3 pm. #ifonlywewereatthebeach#ilovefruitloops #janzenstryingtogethome

We hung out at the airport and made some more friends on the flight as we were waiting.  The flight itself was good once we finally boarded.  The rough part was landing at 6:45 am on Friday morning after 4 hours of sleep and we still had to struggle through the day if we wanted to adjust to the time change.  We ended up taking a nap once we got home and then Jake went into work.  But once he got there and realized no one else was there he came home.  This is now the second time that has happened and we even have a calendar this time!  I guess Friday was a "squeeze day" which means there was a holiday on Thursday so most people take off Friday to make it a long weekend.
The plane we flew on was a Dreamliner.  It had really big screens in the seats in front of us where we could watch movies.  Most long flights have them but these were really nice.  The plane also had bigger windows that had a fancy button to dim the window.
We had a great time back but it was nice to finally be "home."
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