Honeymoon Recap: Palma de Mallorca

I’m back with another city recap from my amazing honeymoon adventure. After a relaxing day at sea (I’ll get to a recap from the boat later!), Ian and I arrived in Palma de Mallorca. Palma de Mallorca is located on the southern shores of Mallorca overlooking the Mediterranean. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain and it is a beautiful city.

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We started off our tour visiting a really cool castle. It was a bit of an anachronism because it was a circular Gothic castle and the two styles rarely intertwine. It had a lot of Gothic arches and Roman-style artwork. Notably, the heads were interchangeable on the statues signifying that maybe they’ve had one or two different rulers in their time!

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Next up we headed to a pearl factory where they did the mounting of the pearls. I think it was mostly a tourist trap to get people to buy pearls, but I got lucky and Ian got me a beautiful pearl necklace, bracelet and earring set! I’ve never owned pearls (I wore my Mom’s for the wedding), so I was very excited!

After the pearl factory, we walked across the street to a bull fighting ring. It was built in 1929, but was built to look much older. It actually looked like a little Colosseum. Turns out they only fight bulls now about five times a year during major celebrations. I’m not sure I could stomach watching a bull fight, so I was OK that nothing was going on while we were there. On the downside, there was no toilet paper or soap in  any of the bathrooms – a theme that would continue throughout Spain. I’m worried their financial situation may be even worse than they’re letting on!

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From there we got back on the bus and headed to the center of town to tour the Cathedral. It was one of the coolest Cathedrals I’ve seen. Outside, it had fountains and gardens, which are traditional symbols of Arabic wealth from the time when it was turned into a mosque. There was a giant water spout out front and a manmade lake built recently when a highway was added between the water and the Cathedral because the residents still wanted to see the reflection of the Cathedral in the water.

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The exterior walls are built entirely of sandstone – an unusual building material for a cathedral. It also has the largest rose window in the world – 12 meters across. Twice a year its reflection lines up directly underneath a smaller rose window on the far side of the Cathedral above the entrance at 8:30 a.m. if it’s sunny on February 2 and November 11 – we just missed it!

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It was a ‘living’ Cathedral so they weren’t attempting to keep it in a preserved state. They had new art exhibitions in the Chapels that were very interesting and a bit controversial with some of the older members of our tour group! What was funny about that was the main altar remains unfinished because when the bishop who commissioned it died, the new bishop was uninterested in having it finished because he didn’t like the artist and thought what is now considered a traditional altar was too flashy and an unnecessary use of money. They still hold masses there as well.

Rocking our earbuds for the audio tour so we could hear the tour guide, but still wander on our own!

Rocking our earbuds for the audio tour so we could hear the tour guide, but still wander on our own!

We headed back to the boat for lunch and attempted to go back out to the beautiful beaches since I was determined to put my feet in the Mediterranean, but were thwarted by cruise staff who said they sold out of shuttle tickets even though we were never told that was a possibility. I was none too happy at the time, but we made the best of our afternoon and headed back to the ship hot tub instead and laid in the sun for a little while. All in all, another pretty great day!

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Honeymoon Recap – Corsica

Another port visit on our honeymoon adventure took us to Corsica. We planned to do a half-day guided tour of Ajaccio – the Imperial City. We started out on bus for the first hour and then spent about 90-minutes walking through the city.

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They are very proud of Napoleon here. We first stopped at a monument to him with what our guide called a realistic statue on top as opposed to the other ones we would see of him throughout the island that made him look Roman. The statue was right next to a small cave where he supposedly played as a child.

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We drove along the coastline taking in some breathtaking views as we learned more about the history of Corsica. Once we set out on the walking portion we saw two different Churches  and learned how intermingled culture and religion were here. Also, many of their monuments are new and have been put up very recently – something different than most of Europe.

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We also saw the still-occupied French garrison, which no longer has a moat and instead has donkeys there to eat the grass. Finally we stopped at Napoleon’s house and birthplace.

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I finally ran out of energy so we called it a day and ventured back to the boat after our half-day tour. We enjoyed a bottle of our new favorite Italian wine we had brought from the hotel in Rome on the balcony of our ship-room. We watched the most amazing sunset as we pulled away from Corsica and the Blood Islands on a perfect night and sat talking into the dark.

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Honeymoon Recap – Nice, Monaco & Monte Carlo

Our amazing honeymoon trip continued with a stop in Nice. For this port, the boat docked out in the water, so we took mini boats called tenders in to shore. Ian and I chose to do this day mostly on our own and opted just for transportation. We hopped on the bus to Nice and our tour guide welcomed us with the warning that she usually loses at least one on each trip, so don’t be late getting back to the bus. She then handed out cards with the number for the cruise in case we did get left behind – yikes!

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To top things off, because every couple ahead of us decided they EACH needed a map, she ran out of maps by the time she got to us. She insisted we would be fine if we just, “memorize the city with our eyes.” I tried to explain that would be tough given we had never been here before. No one wanted to part with their maps though, so we struck out on our own hoping for the best! Sheesh!

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Nice was a cool city, but with only a few hours we didn’t get to see too much. We saw the Court – called the Palace of Justice – and walked through the flower market. We saw the statue of Apollo and then walked through a park built over a river bed that steam shot up through. We took a bunch of pictures here pretending to walk through the steam like badasses, because we are just that cool!

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Before finding our way back we took a long walk along a rocky beach. I was expecting beautiful white sand beaches, so this surprised me, but I’m guessing they are in another part of Nice?!? We also stopped at a cute little cafe/bakery where we had the best peanut butter chocolate chip cookies – they were still warm along with a hot chocolate for me and an Oreo milkshake for Ian!

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The bus took us to Monaco next. This might be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and one of the places I would definitely want to go back to some day. We started our afternoon in Old Monaco City, which is built on top of a giant cliff and has unbelievably beautiful views from the top.

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We got a quick history lesson and learned why Monaco is referred to as a Prinipality instead of a Kingdom – it is a country too small to be considered a kingdom so they are ruled by a prince who will never become king. We walked by an Ocean Musem once run by Jacques Cousteau and saw the Church where Princess Grace is buried.

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We ate lunch outside of a small restaurant called Pasta Roca. With apologies to Rome, Ian enjoyed the best fettuccine alfredo he has ever had and I had one pretty amazing four cheese white pizza. Yum!

The best part of the day was we got to visit the city of Monte Carlo, which we were initially told would be closed because of a meeting of heads of state. We took a city bus to Monte Carlo, which took us along the route of the famous Grand Prix there – so cool! The bus was empty except for us and a guy in a three-piece suit. Apparently this is what happens when you have public transportation and no poor people in a city. As we pulled in to Monte Carlo we got a glimpse into how the other half lives…or maybe the other one percent is more like it.

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We of course went to the Casino Royale. The cars parked in front were unreal. We saw Bentleys, BMWs, a McLaren, a Rolls Royce and more! I had never heard of a McLaren – when I asked Ian if they were considered nice cars he told me they cost a million dollars – wow. The casino was also surrounded with expensive shops like Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and on and on.

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We peeked into the main Casino to see the lobby, which was beautiful, but were chased out when we were unwilling to pay the 10 euro fee each just to get on the casino floor. We popped into a side casino where we played pin-ball like roulette for an hour and turned our 5 euros into 12.50. Woo – we took money out of Monte Carlo! I left out the exact amount and just told everyone else on the bus we had more than doubled our money, haha!

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After heading back to Monaco we took in some more views of the Alps and the water. We saw so many amazing yachts including one so big it had a helicopter pad!

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It was a very cool trip and if anyone ever wants to bankroll me, I would love to go back and really play in the Casino Royale!

 

Honeymoon Recap – Pisa & Florence

We woke up bright and early our first day on the boat as we arrived in the port of Livorno. After breakfast on the ship, we boarded a bus for Pisa to check out the Leaning Tower. Our tour guide was pretty entertaining saying she was from Livorno and they didn’t understand why the people of Pisa were so proud of their leaning tower and thought that tourists should be more impressed with towers that stayed upright!

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The tower was a very cool sight though. We snapped some pictures pretending to hold it up and tip it over. It was a beautiful, sunny morning so after looking at the Tower, we walked around the grounds and also checked out the Church and Baptismal around it.

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Naturally, we stopped for some gelato before hopping back on our bus for Florence. Florence is a very cool city. It is a walled city so it grew up instead of out, which was really reflected in architecture. It’s a very tall and skinny city. Before we got started touring we grabbed pizza and a sandwich for lunch at  the Burger Beer Club. It was a good little spot and the pizza was not surprisingly, delicious.

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We saw the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, which is a cool stone arch bridge with shops built right on top of it. It was also the only one that survived WWII intact.

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From there we walked to the Piazza Signoria where we saw the replica of David, Neptune’s Fountain and many other statues by the Uffizi Gallery.

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We continued on our way to the Cathedral and Baptistry Duomo, which were really impressive. It was built with beautiful red and green marble. The design was also incredibly intricate – as intricate as anything we saw in the Vatican.

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We walked back to Santa Croce Square where we started and wandered through the tents selling food, beer and souvenirs and checked out some  leather stores before catching up with our bus back to port.

Florence was a cool walkable city with interesting architecture, history and delicious food. This is another one I would certainly recommend!

Honeymoon Recap – Ireland Part 2

Day two of our Ireland adventure kicked off with a 6 a.m. walk to the train station to catch our tour group to the west coast of Ireland. Thanks to our cartoonish style tourist map, the station was on the other side of the river from where we were looking, so we nearly missed it and had to make a mad dash down the platform to catch our train!

It might have been a tough start, but it was all awesome after that.

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Our first stop was Bunratty Castle in Limerick. It was beautiful and kept historically accurate by the owners. It had Irish elk horns everywhere, which Ian really liked. We also learned about the spiral staircase design common in many castles. They are used so those coming up couldn’t swing swords and those coming down could easily use them with their right hands.

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In the main hall, we were told to grab a seat while our guide talked about the history of the castle. A little while later, I learned I was accidentally sitting against a fertility statue which we were told makes you instantly ten times more fertile. I might have instantly jumped away, haha. Here’s hoping it waits until we’re ready for kids!

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After exploring the castle on our own, we walked around the Folk Park surrounding the castle and made quick stops in the Tea Room and Mac’s Pub before getting back on our bus.

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We stopped for lunch on the way to the Cliffs of Moher and then got some good pictures by the Harbor. Soon we were at the Cliffs. They are one amazing sight! It was my second time there and it was just as breathtaking as my first trip. We trekked around the cliffs for awhile in some of the strongest winds I have ever walked through! It felt like we were going to get knocked over a few times.

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After the Cliffs it was back on the bus where we grabbed a few more pictures by the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Galway. We were pretty tired and hungry when we arrived in Galway so we ended up eating at the first fast food pizza place that we saw before walking around Galway Square. We also walked down to the Spanish Arch and the Bay before heading to catch our train back to Dublin.

 

I highly recommend a visit here if you are traveling to Ireland. We had such a good time and the natural beauty was staggering!

Honeymoon Recap – Ireland Part 1

We started off our honeymoon in Ireland. In this post I’ll talk about our first and third days, which we spent in Dublin. Part two, coming next week, will highlight our day trip to Ireland’s west coast.

Ian likes to say I vacation hard and notes that he often needs a week to recover from my vacations. He’s probably right, but I can’t help it. When I get to new cities I love playing tourist and want to see anything and everything that I can cram in. I’m also a big fan of walking everywhere we go, so you can really get to know a city. After averaging seven to 10 miles a day though for the first few days I gave in and discovered the wonders of public transportation when we got to Rome. More on that later though.

After a few hour delay in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, we were on our way to Dublin. This threw off my day one itinerary as we got in too late for the historic walking tour I had planned on attending, but we were able to fit that in on day three. We knew we had to power through the day, but ended up succumbing to the jet lag and napped for a bit before getting started. The first day after flying across the Atlantic is always brutal, even if you do sleep on the plane!

We stayed at the Fleet Street Hotel right in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar district. It wasn’t the nicest hotel, but the price was right for the location. Even booking one of the biggest rooms, we had just enough room in there for a double and a twin bed (either that or 3 twins were the only choices here) and not much walking space! It was clean and close to everything though, so I would recommend it to anyone wanting to stay right in the thick of it on a budget. Bars are open late and all around the hotel and neighboring streets, so not a great place for a family trip.

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The hotel advertises it’s affiliation with Sullivan’s Irish Pub, which is partially true as it is directly underneath the hotel on the backside. The front entrance shares an entryway with TGI Friday’s though, which left us chuckling. We did not fit in a stop there!

We quickly found our way right into an Irish Pub called O’Connells for beers and lunch. With our energy restored, we set off on foot for the Old Jameson Distillery.  We managed to avoid the rain during our lunch break and enjoyed pretty decent weather throughout our time in Ireland – especially for this time of year. It was mostly sunny and hovered around the mid 50s, although when the winds picked up it felt a lot cooler at points.

I read this sign wrong at first and was a little disappointed!

I read this sign wrong at first and was a little disappointed!

While we waited for our tour to start, I learned how much I like Jameson in hot chocolate and that Jameson and Ginger tastes great – how have I never drank that?! The tour walked us through the history of Jameson and the process to make it. We were also given a heads up that we should jump at the chance to volunteer if asked and that certainly paid off.

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Ian and I both got picked for the taste testing after the tour. We started with Jameson, followed by Johnny Walker Black and Jack Daniels. After giving the correct answer that of course the Jameson tasted best, we were awarded with official whiskey taste tester certificates!

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We then proceeded to close down the Jameson bar with more rounds of Jameson and Ginger until realizing we were the only ones left in the place and they were picking up around us!

On our hike back to the hotel we stopped at another pub (really, they are EVERYWHERE!) called Thomas Read for drinks.

Before calling it a night we had dinner and drinks at a pub near the hotel. The menus are pretty similar from bar to bar so if you enjoy pub food and a few pints you really can’t go wrong!

Day three of our trip was another day of exploring Dublin. We finally got to take that historical walking tour of Dublin, which started at Trinity College just around the block from our hotel. We also saw other points of interest including the Dublin Castle and learned a lot about Irish history. Our tour guide was entertaining and full of interesting stories.

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He showed us to an expensive restaurant called The Bank after our tour was over. We didn’t end up going in, but it sounded very cool and we’ll have to check it out if we ever make it back. It was an old bank that was converted into a restaurant but the interior was never really changed. He told us the bathrooms were in the vaults, calling them the safest bathrooms in Ireland!

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Exhausted and hungry after a two-hour walking tour turned into three, we stopped for lunch at the Vat House pub. More good pub food and more beers/ciders. I generally ordered a Bullmer’s Irish Cider while Ian’s most frequent drink of choice was Smithwicks. He also enjoyed the Guinness Dublin Porter.

From there we set off on another hike to find the Guinness Factory. I may have led us a bit astray and taken the long way, but we managed to find the entrance before it was too late. This was my second time doing the tour, but they’ve made a bunch of updates since my trip five years ago so there were plenty of new things to see. In addition to the history and the how it’s made, one of my favorite parts of the tour were the advertisements over the years. You could view both print and TV ads dating back to the 20s. I couldn’t help but laugh at the early ones touting the positive effects of Guinness on your health!

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After the tour we each enjoyed a Guinness at the circular bar atop the building. The windows are all glass giving you an unparalleled panoramic view of Dublin. It was a bit crowded up there so we didn’t stay too long but we did enjoy taking in the views and sipping on Guinness.

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Later that night we headed down the street from our hotel to Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub for an Irish Music pub crawl. Our tour group never showed, but we enjoyed some beers and Irish music on our own anyways. We hit up the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Temple Bar for a late dinner. The food was just OK, and the service was really slow. I’d recommended sticking to pub food while there.

Dublin was a loud, fun city filled with pubs that keep the beers flowing. We had a great time there!

Heart & Sole Is Back

Despite my best efforts and my last few promises of being back, the summer just got too busy and keeping up with the blog started to feel like a chore. Since I do this blog for fun, I knew that meant it was a time to take a break for awhile.

Running took a backseat to a lot of travel plans and a busy work schedule, so I never ended up registering for a fall half marathon. I did get to do a handful of shorter races though, and while not my speediest by any means, they reminded me why I love this sport so much and have me chomping at the bit to get back into serious training.

The last few months have been an amazing ride and some of the best times of my life so far. The highlight of the summer was my brother’s wedding. Him and his wife got married in Ithaca, New York and the wedding weekend was an absolute blast! The rehearsal dinner was at a restaurant called the Carriage House that served one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The wedding and reception were held in Six Mile Creek Winery. They had a pig roast, great music and fun games – even giant Jenga! It was awesome. Also, Adrienne – my new sister – looked absolutely beautiful.

View More: http://aliciaraft.pass.us/lerrowedding

Ian and I traveled for two more weddings for some good friends over the next few weeks. The first was a blast with the beautiful Cazenovia Lake as a backdrop followed by another great time in Minneapolis at a wedding that featured an after-party on a boat with a mac and cheese bar and soft pretzels…be still my beating my heart. (Those may just be two of my favorite things!)

Oh while all this was going on, we were planning our own wedding and amazing honeymoon adventure. On October 18, I got to marry the love of my life! The day was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ll share recaps on the wedding in posts to come so I don’t turn this one into a novel. Spoiler Alert: Otto the Orange crashed my Syracuse-themed reception! (If you’re not from the ‘Cuse that might not make much sense now, but more details and pictures to come soon.)

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We started planning our honeymoon more than a year in advance. We saved up money and vacation days all year for it and it was worth every sacrifice. We were also fortunate enough to have a lot of friends and family gift us amazing experiences along the trip through our honeymoon registry.

We started the trip in Dublin then made our way to Rome before setting sail on a Mediterranean cruise that would take us from Italy to France and Spain. It was the trip of a lifetime and the most surreal experience. I had so much fun! I’ll have more detailed recaps coming soon for this too, but here are some of the highlights of our two-week adventure if you prefer the Cliff’s notes version:

• Became certified whiskey taste testers at the Jameson Distillery

• Closed down a bar in Ireland

• Battled the wind to see the Cliffs of Moher

• Climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Dome at the Vatican

• Saw the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum

• Snapped pics of us holding up and pushing over the leaning tower of Pisa

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• Took selfies in front of the statue of David in Florence

• Walked the beachfront in Nice

• Won money at the Casino Royale in Monte Carlo

• Saw Napoleon’s birthplace in Corsica

• Drank wine on our private balcony as we watched the sunset over the Blood Islands

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• Spent an entire day at sea

• Toured a castle in Palma de Mallorca

• Walked in a bull fighting ring in Valencia before boating in Europe’s largest underground navigable river at the Caves of St. Joseph

• Let the waves of the Mediterranean wash over our feet in Barcelona

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And now it’s back to reality with the best memories and a chance to make many more over the coming years!