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My Birthright Trip to Israel: Adventure of a Lifetime!

Where to even begin??? 

This summer my sister and I were lucky enough to be accepted on a Taglit Birthright trip to Israel for 10 days. It is open for young adults 18-26 with at least one Jewish parent to go on a free trip to Israel. We picked to go with the LA group (since we are originally from CA and there are no groups that leave from TX). There are many different themes for the trips such a culinary, LGBTQ, outdoor adventure, and yoga, but we chose to go with Israel with Israelis. The entire 10 days we had current IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers with us as well as former IDF soldiers and one security guard. Our Israelis were amazing and became like family to all of us over the course of the trip. Having them as guides through their own cities enriched the experience in a significant way that we would never have been able to attain on our own. They, along with our guide, Yossi, and our trip leaders, Natalie and Amy, truly made the trip an experience of a lifetime.

This is going to be a longgg post so bear with me. I am going to try to summarize as best I can but it was a JAM PACKED 10 days. There is a lot to tell!

Pre-Trip (Wednesday)

I had the day off from work and had to finish packing up my house because it had already sold and was closing RIGHT when I got back from Israel. Got my hair done (#travelbun) and then Tara and I flew to LA to meet our group. Our trip was going from LA to Toronto to Tel Aviv (I realize starting in LA was going in the wrong direction, I couldn’t help it!) We chilled in the American Airlines lounge in DFW for awhile and they had an open bar 🙂 Our flight to LA was a little delayed, but that was cool since it meant less wait time in LAX.

We finally got to the Air Canada desk in LAX and were the second group to arrive at check in. We waited for a few more hours for people to arrive and then we made the mass exodus to our gate.

The six hour flight to Toronto went well and I slept most of the time. We had about a two hour layover in Toronto to get snacks and stretch our legs before the 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv. Tara and I didn’t get to sit next to each other on either flight, but we both slept a good portion of the time and have movies to watch so we were ok. I like meeting new people, but once you’ve already been on two other fairly significant flights, the third one becomes a struggle. I’m very glad I slept though because apparently almost everyone around me was throwing up for most of the flight. I don’t handle throwing up well for either myself or others (reason #1 I should have never declared myself a nursing major) so sleeping through most of that was probably the best thing that could have happened.

Day One (Thursday)

We finally landed in Tel Aviv, went through a veryyyy long security line, collected our luggage, and met Yossi, our guide, and our Israelis! They greeted us with mini-falafel sandwiches and a group dance.

We then boarded a bus for a 2 hour ride north to the Sea of Galilee in the Golan Heights where we would stay for the next three days in our Kibbutz. Upon arrival we were given our room assignments and I was nervous because Tara and I were not rooming together. It wasn’t a big deal though since both of my new roommates were really cool (shoutout to Ali and Zoe!) and were also closer to my age. I had waited quite awhile to go on this trip since I wanted to go with Tara and both of our schedules for the last few years have been super crazy. I was about to age of the program so I was one of the oldest on the trip at 26.

We ended the first day by hanging out at the Kibbutz and enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Sea of Galilee. We were warned not to go down into the water since there is a very strong undercurrent. While we were there two people (not in our group) actually died from drowning in the sea! It looks calm above, but is very dangerous below the surface.

Day Two (Friday)

The next morning we ate what would become our normal breakfast buffet of salad, pastries, homemade bread, and fruit. Almost everywhere we stayed had a similar spread, but it was delicious at every single stop.

After breakfast we went on a water hike through the Zavitan stream. Yossi tried to tell me there was a shark in the water, but I was not fooled. It was extremely cold and an interesting start to the trip.

We then were told that we were going to see the boarder of Syria and then have another water adventure. Kind of the downside of not being the only Birthright trip is that you do actives in a very weird order. There are specific sites that Shorashim and Taglit want you to see, but you have to compete with other Birthright groups for the same locations so everyone sees the same things, but usually in a different order. It’s nice because then there aren’t 20 groups in the same place at the same time, but it’s weird because then you sometimes see things in a very strange order. It was weird to us that we couldn’t do the two water activities back-to-back, but there was a method to the madness.

The Syrian border was very surreal. We in America hear all of the time about the fighting that is constantly happening over in the Middle East and I actually got to experience it. Even though we were still in Israel, we could see and hear guns and bombs going off in a boarder city not that far away. While we were there we were told not to be concerned about the bombs hitting us since the Syrians were just fighting with each other. We later found out that about 45 minutes after we left a stray Syrian bomb fell on the Israel side of the boarder and we would have had to evacuate! It was not meant for Israel, but things like that happen often. There is always a military presence to keep watch over the fighting and ensure that it doesn’t get too close to Israel. The watch point we visited was an old IDF bunker on top of Mount Bental, complete with coffee shop.

After our sobering experience on the boarder, we went on a rafting ride down the Jordan River. It was very similar to going floating down the Brazos in Texas, but instead of hearing Spanish I heard Arabic and Hebrew.

It was a very fun afternoon and great start to Shabbat. I grew up mainly only celebrating random Jewish holidays, but never going through real Shabbat or attending Synagog. While on the trip we experienced two Shabbats and I plan to take some of those traditions into my own every day life.

Day Three (Saturday)

Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night and ends at sundown on Saturday night. During Shabbos you are not supposed to use technology (if you’re really strict) and basically just rest and spend time with your family. We all hung out at the Kibbutz, listen to Yossi give some lectures on Jewish Identity, and some people made a slip-in-slide out of trash bags. My sister led a good portion of the group in yoga and everyone really seemed to enjoy the experience.

We visited the graves of some of Israel’s most famous poets since it was only a short walk away from our Kibbutz. Our Israelis (with soloist, Ann) sang us a lovely song and we learned the national anthem that one of the poets buried there wrote. We went back to the Kibbutz to end Shabbat with a ceremony called Havdallah

Day Four (Sunday)

We had breakfast, packed up our stuff, and drove to Tel Aviv! We got to pick where we all wanted to go for lunch so I went with Ann and a group of others to Aroma, which is basically the Starbucks of Israel (but with really good food). I got my first Israeli Iced Coffee and it has changed my life. Basically anytime I saw an Aroma after that I had to stop in for a coffee. Amazing.

Then we went to Independence Hall which is where David Ben-Gurion declared Israel an Independent Jewish State in a 30 minute ceremony. The curator of the hall was extremely well-spoken and knowledgeable which only added to our excitement of finally being in air-conditioning.

After the talk we went to the Taglit Birthright Entrepreneurship Center right next to the Stock Exchange. Israel’s nickname is the “Start-Up Nation” and there is a huge emphasis on technology and innovation. We listened to a young entrepreneur tell us about his fitness product that he is launching to major retailers and were able to ask him questions about his journey. Before the tour was over we got hang out in this room that showed some of the major advancements Israelis have made in the fields of technology with apps, water purifying inventions, and virtual reality. I learned that my favorite navigation app, Waze, is actually an Israeli invention!

Tel Aviv is home to Jerusalem Beach as well as a bunch of jellyfish. We made our way there next and were delighted to get the opportunity to swim in the warm, Mediterranean Sea. Most left the water not long after getting in due to the jellyfish stings. I was zapped a few times, but there were also little fish that liked to take nibbles on my legs so I was never sure if was being stung or bitten. I wish we could have stayed longer, but time was precious and we had a lot more to do that day.

We checked into our hotel, were assigned new roommates (shoutout to Danielle and Stephanie!), and got ready for dinner. Our restaurant, Dr. Shakshuka, was an experience. Shakshuka is a tomato dish with baked eggs; you eat it with bread and it is glorious. We sat outside (still very hot even at dark) at these communal tables and ate family-style with our new family.

After dinner we finally got to have a night out! Most of us made our way to a random bar, danced a little, drank a little, and had a group toast with Arak, this Lebanese liquor that taste like licorice/anise. The group mainly split up after that and I found myself with a group of the recent UC Davis grads going to a Hookah bar. It was right down the street from our hotel so we hung there for awhile and eventually most of the group caught up with us and we had to head back to the hotel. We continued the party back at the hotel and then I stayed up with my roommates having Girl Talk. It was a blast 🙂

Shorashim has gotten very strict over the past few years about drinking and going out, but several people had siblings/friends/cousins who had gone on the trip back in the day and had a crazyyyy time. Even with the “strict” rules, we still managed to have a good time; it was basically a party wherever we went. Our group got along so well, especially compared to the other groups that were there at the same time as us. I am so happy we picked the LA group instead of my first choice, New York. This would be a very different blog post if that happened.

Day Five (Monday)

The next morning came very early. The motto of the trip quickly became “Sleep when you’re dead”. We ate our usual breakfast in the hotel and then were split into two groups for tours of Tel Aviv. Tara got into the Graffiti Tour and I was assigned the Market Tour. We were very pleased with these decisions and made sure to fill each other in afterwards.

Markets in the Middle East are still very much a part of everyday life. They are also called “shuks” and sell literally anything you could ever want from fresh vegetables and fruit to tchotchkes to fake Kylie Jenner Lip Kits! I could spend all day in these markets and still never see everything.

You also get to do one of my favorite activities: Haggling! Not sure if I am the best at it, but it’s seriously so much fun. I was on the lookout for souvenirs since we actually didn’t have that much time to shop at any of our stops thus far. (At the end of the trip I managed to lose a bunch of stuff I bought, unfortunately). During the tour we talked our tour guide into stopped at THE BEST HUMMUS PLACE EVER! I took literally the best picture of this hummus (see below) and it was actually reblogged by a bunch of Israeli Instagram accounts, including the restaurant’s and the Official Shorashim account!

We were walking around the Shuk and I could have sworn the temperature was 115 degrees, but when I checked my phone said it was only 86…. THAT IS HOW HUMID IT IS. Britney Spears was there at the same time that we were and the newspaper said “Heat Me Baby”. Unfortunately we did not run into her, but we were very hopeful.

After our tours we accidentally ran into the Mayor of Tel Aviv! His office is right next to Rabin Square, which is also where an assassination had taken place in the 80’s.

Our activity was to go up to people and ask if they remembered what happened, what changed after the assassination, and how they feel about politics now. Not going to lie, I was not really feeling this activity. It was veryyy hot. I was wearing a Maxi-dress since we needed to dress modestly for the activities later in the day and I made the dumb decision to wear that allll day instead of just throwing it on later for a little bit. After the activity we got lunch and hung out at the Shuk for awhile before meeting back up with the group and heading to Jerusalem.

Our many bus rides mainly served us as extra nap time. There are way too many pictures of me circulating around napping while wearing my travel pillow. Also: that travel pillow is the real MVP. It was a total game changer in the nap arena. If you are going on a trip like this do yourself a favor and #treatyoself to this pillow. I got mine at Target and it is grey, comes with a carrying case, and can double as a real pillow if you are lying on the group. It has these little clips on either side that clip together and then you can tighten it so it stays on when you’re resting your head. I think it was about $40, which seems like a lot for what it is, but trust me it’s so worth it.

Once in Jerusalem we visited the Jewish quarter and finally got to go to the Western Wall. Literally everyday, multiple times a day, there was something that just made me go WOW and this was no exception. All my life hearing about this region, the history, the people, the conflicts, it all cumulated to this point.

Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of being at the Wall. We learned that we were going to return at the end of the trip for Shabbat at the Wall! This day though, while crowded, was way less intense then Shabbat at the end of the trip. I was very over walking by the point (skirts, thick thighs, and hot weather do NOT mix. TMI?) so fortunately we were checking into our hotel/Kibbutz. It was not the original one were supposed to be in, but this was easily the nicest place we stayed the entire trip (also had the best food). I did not want to leave. Also: the only hotel with a hair dryer so guess who took advantage of that! 😉

That night we had a chat from a professor on a little bit of the history of the conflicts that are still happening today and then we regrouped afterwards to prepare for our visit to Yad Veshem, the Holocaust museum.

Day Six

We woke up, ate the best breakfast, and packed our stuff. We immediately went to Yad Veshem. Yossi told us that whenever a foreign dignitary visits Israel they immediately visit here first. When we got there the museum was preparing for the Indian Prime Minister to arrive so we took a different path than normal. We saw a specific memorial to the children lost in the Holocaust and it was super trippy. Our tour guide was very long winded so we all eventually just toured on our own through the museum (I might have been really tired and fell asleep whenever I sat down in any given exhibit, my bad).

This was a very large museum compared to the one in Dallas that I am used to, but the one in DC is also awesome and I think I enjoyed that one more. I ran into another Liberty grad in the museum, but I figured out that we weren’t at school at the same time. Still, really cool that we are all over the world! Yad Veshem had a lot of interesting things that I had not yet seen before in any of the other Holocaust museums I had visited in the past. I am hoping to return another time when I am not so tired and have a better guide. In the gift shop Adi showed me a book her grandfather had written!  She said it was his life story about living in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. It will soon be translated into English and it is called “Denouncing and Rescue; Dutch Society and the Holocaust“.

We then drove south to Sderot and visited a playground in a bomb shelter that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) built. They showed us a video about how when a bomb is coming near the city an alarm goes off and everyone has 15 SECONDS to get into a bomb shelter. It’s now a law in Israel that every single home has a bomb shelter. In other cities they may have longer to get into the shelter, but instead of 15 seconds maybe one minute. The video depicted a children’s birthday party being interrupted by the alarm and everyone having to scramble into the bomb shelter.

The director of the playground said that there have not been bombs for the past few months, but to live constantly in fear that you could get bombed at any time is incredibly scary. The playground is built so that anything is easy to jump off of so when the alarm sounds the kids can quickly get into the bomb shelter. We were able to play with some of the kids and hang out in the air conditioning for a little bit before heading to our next Kibbutz.

We got to the next Kibbutz and were assigned new roommates again. Tara and I finally got to room together along with Rachel. We got dinner and then Yossi taught us some traditional Israeli dances! It was extremely hot in our little meeting room, but we all had a blast learning the dances and putting our own twist on them. That night coincided with the 4th of July so after the dances the Kibbutz opened up their bar and almost everyone went down to party and celebrate. I unfortunately was not feeling well and was greatly in need of some alone time so I just went back to my room. I love being with other people, but sometimes I just need to be alone and recharge. I apparently missed quite a night so that is my main regret of the trip (besides losing like half of my souvenirs!

Day Seven (Wednesday)

We ate breakfast and started hiking in the Negev Desert. Every two seconds the leaders were reminding us to “Mickey Mickey!”. It’s a drinking game that Israeli’s play, but instead of alcohol we had water. Staying hydrated is crucial in Israel since the climate is so hot and humid.

After the hike we went to David Ben-Gurion and his wife’s graves. He could have been buried in another cemetery that we visited later, but he wanted to be different and be buried in the desert. Yossi told us that Ben-Gurion was really into headstands so we had our resident yogi, Tara, demonstrate a headstand.

There was a snake sighting at the graves, which was scary, but what was more exciting were the Ibex goats that we saw! They were super cute and skittish. We were all obsessed with them.

We got on the bus and headed deeper into the desert to the Bedouin tents where we would spend the night. We all shared a huge tent where we dropped our stuff and then finally got to go ride the camels! #humpday

I had been wayyy too excited about riding the camels ever since I first saw the itinerary before the trip started. Tara pulled the vegan card and refused to ride the camel so I shared Clarissa the Camel with Sarah.

I wish we could have ridden longer, but my 15 minutes with Clarissa were magical and will always be remembered fondly. After the camel rides we had a traditional tea and coffee ceremony with a real Bedouin. The IDF do not let them roam freely anymore so this campsite was more of a re-creation of one meant for visitors.

Some may have been upset that this was not the “real deal“, but this was about as close as you could get since the real thing no longer exists. My opinion was that this was a FREE trip and we should be grateful for the opportunity to be here so they can take me wherever they want to go.  I still had a great time and enjoyed seeing all of the other Birthright groups that were there at the same time. A few tents away was a musical group trip from Argentina. They played music allllll night, but were amazing so I didn’t care that I only got three hours of sleep.

Day Eight (Thursday)

We awoke before dawn to pack up and go hike Masada. There really wasn’t breakfast so Tara and I ate some snacks that we had brought along just in case. Tara, as previously mentioned, is a vegan and we were nervous about not having enough food options for her before we left so she bought a ton of snacks. However, Israel is suuuuuuper into veganism so finding something for her was never a challenge.

Masada is the ancient fortress of King Herod and is quite a hike! There are several ways to reach the top, but all of them are challenging (except the gondola that I found out about after the hike…). We hiked up before the sun had fully risen and were greeted with the most amazing view.

I also appreciated that we were there before the heat hit full impact. We hung out on the top for awhile, saw where the inhabitants used to collect the water, and then several people in our group put on a little play directed by Yossi. After the play we finally got to have our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs! Since Tara and I did not grow up going to Synagog we had never gotten the opportunity to participate in this aspect of Jewish culture.

It was very exciting to recite our Torah portions (that Roi had taught us the night before) and finally “become women“. I think Natalie has a promising future as a Rabbi and I’ve even commissioned her to perform a future Bris. 🙂 (google it at your own discretion)

We then hiked down Masada, which was almost worse than hiking up! At the bottom we enjoyed our lunches and then changed into our swimsuits to swim in the Dead Sea! There was a little gift shop in front of the beach that you had to enter to get to the beach and they sold the mud that you see so many people in pictures using. At least at this part of the Dead Sea there isn’t any mud on the actual beach so you buy a cheap, large bag of mud to slather on yourself.

You are not to put your head under the water or get the water in your eyes. There are freshwater showers right next to the beach to rinse yourself off from the salt. It was seriously SO SALTY. You hear that, but until you experience it it’s rather alarming. What I hadn’t heard before is that the water is also kind of oily from all of the minerals and the bottom of the sea is actually like rock salt. You must wear either flip flops or water shoes in or else your feet will get torn up. Of course the only cut on my body was this huge blister on my foot so that wasn’t very pleasant. Before we arrived at the beach, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough time there, but our two hours was plenty. My skin felt amazing afterwards though and I bought some more Dead Sea products at the gift shop for gifts. Those made it home!

After the Sea we got back on the bus and headed back to Jerusalem where we would be the rest of the trip. We ended up in the worst hotel of the trip for the next three days. We were back to the roommates from the night before the tents so Tara, Rachel, and I headed up to our room to unpack and shower. It was time for lunch and shopping so I grouped up with Ann, Lior, Stephanie, Cheyanne, and Jordan to get some food and explore more of Jerusalem. We had a lovely afternoon of chatting and shopping, but yet again we had to move on to our next activity.

This is the part where I took so long to write this that I totally don’t remember what we did, sorry!

Day Nine (Friday)

In the morning we visited Har Herzl, the military cemetery. There are also many former Prime Ministers buried in the cemetery, except Ben Gurion. There was a funeral going on while we were there and we also spoke with the family members of a solider who had died several years prior who were there visiting. Yossi showed us several specific graves and told us the stories of the people who were buried there. It was a very sobering visit and I think very important for our group to see.

After the cemetery we went to the shuk in Jerusalem to shop, get some lunch, and buy something to bring to Shabbat. An organization called OneTable gave us each a little bit of money to get a snack to share for Shabbat. Amy and I teamed up to bring tea and then I bought wine with the intention of bringing it back for my dad, buttttt it might have gotten drunk a few hours later… oops 🙂 Of course I had to many another stop at Aroma per usual to get my iced coffee fix.

We went back to hotel and got ready for Shabbat. We were going to go back to the Kotel and I really didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, it was incredible. To see so many people gathering for Shabbat at such a holy and ancient place is something I will remember the rest of my life. There was dancing, singing, praying, laughter, reunions, and of course our favorite “game” Sha-sha-shabbat-shalom! It reminded me of like a huge family reunion, which in it’s own way it sort of was.

We were trying to be as observant of Shabbat as possible for a group of non-religious Jewish millennials AKA we walked home instead of taking the bus (but we still used IG,snapchat, and WhatsApp). That walk home was fun at first, but someone failed to tell me how long that was going to be and my sandaled feet were not prepared.

It was really interesting to see NO cars on major roads and highways that night going into the next day. Apparently Jewish teenagers take pictures of themselves sitting on highways during this time since there are hardly any cars out and the ones that do show up you can see coming from really far away.

We got back to the hotel and ate dinner then had our Shabbat snack. Another memorable round of sha-sha-shabbat-Shalom and we were free to drink for the evening.

Day Ten (Saturday)

Shabbat was still happening so we walked to our morning activity of seeing some government buildings and other parts of the city. We had a lively political discussion, which I think was much needed to show some people that not everyone believes the same thing in Israel. Israel has many different political parties ranging from conservative to religious to liberal to secular. Even among our Israelis there were many differing views and it was refreshing to hear the conversation that took place. Now, it was probably a little late in the game for a few, but valuable nonetheless.

We got back to the hotel and were broken up into groups to do little skits about all of our days on the trip. The creativity was very apparent in some groups with songs, dances, and artistic interpretations of the activities we had gone through. The whole trip was a blur at this point and we all felt like we had known each other forever. After the skits we went around the room and said something we were grateful for on the trip and something that we would take back with us after it was over. I didn’t realize that we were literally going to go through allllll of us so I saved mine for one of the very lasts and was called out by my own sister (but I got her back later 😉 )

We ended Shabbat with Havdalah and were invited to dinner and swimming at Amit’s family’s house. We piled into the van and had a dance party on the way over. It was so much fun and her family made us sooooo much good food. They were so sweet to open their home to about 50 crazy strangers and we had the best time. We left and continued the hang out back at the hotel with the rest of the wine. Pretty sure I only got about 30 minutes of sleep before it was crunch time to get packed up and head to the airport.

Heading Home (Sunday)

Not going to lie: totally didn’t shower after swimming before a 16+ hour plane ride. Shame me as much as you want, I deserve it all. We headed to the airport and said our tearful goodbyes. Tara had decided the day before that she was going to extend her trip for another month and I was really sad that she wasn’t going to head back home with me. I am really glad she decided to stay though since it was such a great opportunity and she was with people I trusted. Ann and I cried multiple times. We all did our group dance that we did when we first joined the group at the beginning of the trip and then we headed through security. Ben was super nice and helped me out carrying my other carry-on that Tara was originally going to help with since I bought so many souvenirs. He was a life saver! We got on our first flight to head back to Toronto and I fortunately was able to sleep most of the way. We had our layover in Toronto and got some food. Amy was super nervous that we were all not going to make it onto the plane since some people enjoyed wandering off and she had to run to a business trip after Israel so she couldn’t stay to find us. Fortunately we all made it back to LA safe and sound. I still had some points leftover so I had gotten a room at the Renaissance Marriott. I immediately took a shower and slept for what felt like forever. I had gotten a later flight the next day so I chilled at the hotel pretty much the whole day and just enjoyed being along for the first time in like two weeks. I made it home and the rest as they say is history.

Post-Trip

This was without a doubt the most important trip I have taken in my whole life. Here we are several months later and we still have our group chat going in WhatsApp. Several people have traveled across the country AND back to Israel to see each other. The bonds created within this trip is everything that I read and dreamed about. I’ve talked to others who have gone on different birthright trips and they may have one or two people that they kinda keep in contact with afterwards, but nothing like our group’s connection. Next month Tara and I are going to meet up in NYC with a few people, one of the girls from the trip lives in Dallas and came to my house warming party. I still talk daily or weekly to several people from the trip and I hope to always continue to keep in contact with everyone. I am really trying to make a reunion trip happen with everyone who is available next year.

Tara and I are planning to eventually do Aliyah and hopefully Masa. Several people from our trip have already signed up for one or the other and I am so excited for the new experiences that they will have and hopefully share with our group. This is one of the most positive things I have ever done in my life and I am so glad that I didn’t let it pass me by before I turned 27.

If you are on the fence about going my advice to you is stop worrying and just GO! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on my social media accounts and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If I can’t answer them then I can find someone who can. I am convinced that every Jewish kid NEEDS to go on either this trip or the equivalent trip through another organization. I can only speak for Shorashim, but I hope you can tell that I had an awesome experience and if I could do it all over again I totally would in a nanosecond. I’m already trying to figure out ways to get back there and get all of my friends there too. All of my coworkers and non-jewish friends are super jealous that they can’t get on this trip and I tell them even if you have to pay for it, go. It’s so worth it.

I think this post is now sufficiently long AND overdue (I got back in July and it’s now the middle of October…) so I will end it. Here’s to amazing adventures, good friends, and crazy dancing. Also Tubi60 is the best and Texas is a boss for importing it.

Also: Not all pictures are my own. Borrowed from other’s in my group. Credits: Natalie, Rachel, and Brandon

Happy Reading!

Savvy

Ireland Travel

Ireland Wrap-Up

It’s almost September and I’ve been back from Ireland since May….. Sorry guys!

Life got reallyyyy crazy there for awhile (I think I say that every single time, but it’s very true!), but it’s finally starting to slow down again for a bit. Let’s hope that I remember everything that has happened!

May

Bought my Christian Louboutin shoes as my birthday present to myself!

(they are wayyy cheaper here just like LV)

Went to Jameson Distillery

Celebrated my 26th birthday at work

Went out with my Irish twin, Marie!

Got brunch a few more times….

Had the sunniest day ever in Ireland. I even got a little sunburn on one arm!

Youssef and I ate our weight in Indian to commemorate all of the delicious meals we had at Diwali

(I still dream of it)

Went out one last time with the work crew

Spent the last few days enjoying my favorite things in Dublin

Flew home 🙁

Living abroad, even for a short amount of time, was one of the top 5 most amazing experiences of my life. I feel like I really got to experience the life of a real Dub, at least in the small sense. I really wish the trip could have extended a little bit longer, but I am extremely grateful for the three months that I did have. Hopefully I will be going back for a WEDDING next year!!

(fingers crossed that Therese actually lets me be the flower girl!!) 

Happy Reading!

-Savvy

Ireland Personal Travel

February + March Recap

Remember that time that I really thought I had updated this more than I actually had?

Yeah…. sorry about that (again).

Since we last spoke two months have FLOWN by and I am literally one month away from leaving Ireland. I have a funny feeling I’ll be back at some point in the future, but plans can change as we all know. I really should have kept up with this more because I know I am going to be missing some things so let’s just go by the highlights of February and March:

February:

  • Landed in Dublin without any issues with my flights or luggage #praise
  • Settled into my apartment: cannot be more grateful for my location/accommodation/situation
  • Got my car and a driving lesson: obviously asked for an automatic. Only minor mishaps have occurred thus far *knocks on wood*
  • Working lots (but it’s what I’m here to do so obviously)
  • Work night out with the girls and lads
  • Hanging out with friends from past visits
  • Joined an Expat Networking Group that I should probably interact with more…

 

March:

  • Pancake Tuesday: instead of Fat Tuesday they have Pancake Tuesday and they eat pancakes and crepes all day! It’s wonderful and I think this should happen on a monthly basis 🙂

  • St. Patrick’s Day: I sadly had to work that day so by the time I got home all of the parades were over and most people had already been day drinking enough to pass out so that night was actually pretty quiet. Totally did see piles of vomit everywhere #typicalIrishday

  • Nights out with the girls

 

  • Got my first Thai massage: very different than the normal Swedish massage of which I am accustomed. Instead of the normal rubbing movement in circles they just like push the area in one direction. It was less relaxing during the actual massage, but the after affects were better than my normal Swedish one. Also – you can’t beat 40 euro for an hour.

  • Ate ALL the Indian food: My apartment happens to be right around the corner from one of my favorite Indian places from my previous visits: Diwali. UGH SO GOOD. I seriously went 3x one week…. twice. Please refrain from judgement.
  • Hung out with friends
  • Went shopping: Hello, VAT Tax 😉
  • Hiked on Dublin Mountain the first good weather day I had (somehow subsequently got lost while still following the trail)

  • Hurt my foot out dancing (or potentially from the hike)
  • Saw Beauty and the Beast, 50 Shades Darker, and Logan.

April will be a little more coherent because all of those events happened not too long ago so I can still remember them.

These past two months have been amazing and I relish getting out of my comfort zone, but at the same time that is not without growing pains. I am an extrovert and I love being around people (not to say that I don’t enjoy alone time, but I digress). It is very difficult for me to try to be a tourist without also having someone here for activities. I probably would have utilized my weekends better in the beginning had I realized that was going to be such a big challenge for me. I am starting to accept it and force myself to still try new things even though I am alone. In April I did have some friends come see me and I easily packed more into those weeks that the rest of the time exponentially. There have been many #solobrunching experiences and lots of lonely walks around Dublin. When I am at home in Texas I am also usually alone, but I don’t really need to explore things there so I generally don’t think about the loneliness. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t travel well alone. You would think that I should know this by now, but it is still a weekly challenge for me during this period of time. Now that the weather is finally nice on weekends I am really trying to get it together to go do the rest of the activities on my list.

 

Side note: I think all of my family have been lying about our non-Irish heritage this whole time.

Look at the names on these pubs! BOTH SIDES REPRESENTED

 

I promise the April update won’t take as long to reach you as this post has 🙂

Happy Reading!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

Dublin for 3 MONTHS!

Yes, you read that correctly.

My dream of living in another country (if only for a short while) has finally come true! I get to be in Dublin, Ireland for THREE WHOLE MONTHS! This time I have an apartment and a car like a real city dweller. I am incredibly nervous to drive! I got my car today, but my driving lesson got moved to tomorrow. I had to drive the car around the block to park it in my garage and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. The driver’s side is on the opposite side AND they drive on the left hand side of the road instead of the right. #firstworldproblems

 

This time I flew to London before getting on a short flight to Dublin. I made some nice friends in the DFW airport in the American Airlines lounge and one at the MAC makeup counter. Everyone was so nice and chatty that day! Since I left on Valentine’s Day there really weren’t that many people at the airport, which made getting through TSA a breeze. There are still no direct flights to Dublin directly from Dallas, but I think I prefer to fly to NYC and then to Dublin rather than London first. If I go to London first then I have to do customs there AND in Dublin. The Heathrow airport is HUGE too, so if you are ever using it for a connecting flight make sure that you allow plenty of time for your layover. I had three hours, which may have been a tad generous, but I could see where on a busier day (it was the 15th by then) where you would need all 3 hours. Also, remind me to not look like a total slob if I ever fly into London again. You should have seen the drastic difference from everyone in the lounge vs me after an 8 hour flight. I was frightening.

After I landed in Dublin I was greeted by Brian from the relocation company who was to collect me from the airport and help me get adjusted. He normally collects people who have never been here before, but I was super easy since I’ve already been here twice. If you’ve never had someone holding a sign for you at an airport, it’s fairly exciting. I’m sure you all know by now how much I like to feel like I’m famous so that only helped my ego, which is totally unnecessary according to some. Brian was super great and didn’t even act phased when I totally tried to get into the driver’s side because I forgot that it wasn’t the passenger side in my jet-lagged haze; not the first time I’ve done that and it probably won’t be the last. Brian had picked up some groceries for me prior to the collection and helped me take them up to my new apartment along with my luggage. He did question my need for 4 suitcases for a 3 month stay… and after unpacking I also have questioned my decisions. I asked for more hangers… I will still need more. #sorrynotsorry

Brian took me on a drive to the office since I generally don’t really pay attention when my cab drives me there at 6:30am. Coffee might have to start becoming part of my daily routine again… I normally don’t have to be at work until 8, but here they start at 7 since traffic can get so bad. We drove all around just getting acquainted with the route and then we walked around city centre getting used to this new location. His son works at Lush, which happens to be one of my major stops every time I’m in town. It’s way cheaper here than in the States and the dollar is almost flat with the Euro (aka I need to shop more). My skin is going to look ah-maze-ing after all of this salmon and skincare.

Every time I visit this city I learn new things. I will be here during several major holidays to include Easter. Back in the states we have Fat Tuesday before Lent, but here they have Pancake Tuesday! All day they eat pancakes! People have tried to pull jokes on me with things like this before (like feeding Leprechauns) so I totally didn’t believe my coworker when she told me about this wonderful day. It is in fact a thing and work is bringing a Crepe truck for lunch that day! (Also, they pronounce them creps, not like grapes with a c instead of a g)

I have just spent the past few days getting used to the time change, arranging my apartment, and getting back into the swing of the city. I still get American holidays so I don’t have to work on Monday for President’s Day, but obviously that’s not a normal holiday here in Ireland. I also have cable TV here, which is a very nice treat since I only use Amazon Prime or Netflix at home.

I do miss little Karma and my friends. I am hoping that people come to visit since I managed to bring a queen sized air mattress with me. Brian and Melissa are coming in mid-April and I am so thrilled to have them! Tara potentially will come for her Spring Break, but has lost her passport… so she’s got to straighten that out. I haven’t planned any weekend trips here yet, but my friends are all very exited to do some little road trips. I am fortunate that I’ve made friends in previous visits who are excited to hang out while I’m in town. Last night I went out with Marie and one of her friends. Last time I was here Marie posted a picture with me and all of her friends were like “Who is your new friend? Why don’t we know her?” which sounds to me like a slew of new friends to be made 🙂

Stay tuned for the rest of the adventures!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

Last Leg of Europe 2016 – One Night in Dublin

I am never excited to leave somewhere. I have always had separation anxiety and I don’t handle goodbyes well. When I was little and my mom would tuck me into bed I would make her stay with me for FOREVER even though I knew she would be in the next room and I would see her later when I woke up. I try to handle this better as an adult, but leaving somewhere is still really hard for me.

After Berlin I flew back to Dublin to pick up the majority of my stuff from work (and a few things left at the hotel… oops!) I stayed in a really cool Air Bnb near the Kilmainham Jail…. not exactly right next to the heart of Temple Bar as advertised, but it was nice anyway. I met up with some of the girls from work for one last dinner. We went to Elephant and Castle, which is right next to one of my other favorites, Boxty. I had never been, but was very happy with the choice.! If you happen to go there I recommend the wings. I also finally rode the Luas (their rail system)!

I had to get to the airport pretty early, but with my new Global Entry customs pass getting through the lines was a breeze! I should have invested in it a long time ago. As mentioned previously in my post last year, Dublin Airport is one of the few airports in the world that let Americans go through customs before actually going back to America if you are flying directly to the US. It saves sooo much time! It’s also probably the #1 reason I don’t take a detour through Heathrow before coming home. If you went Dublin to London to Dallas then you would have to do customs back in the US. It’s all you own personal preference, but now that I know how easy Global Entry makes the customs process I may chose the London route next time.

If we can avoid another Chicago Disaster of 2015 then life is good. I made all of my flights, nothing was delayed, and all my luggage made it home with me safe and sound. Couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

I have been back for a few weeks now and I still speak as if I was just there. Dublin has quickly become one of my favorite places and I hope to be able to visit again in 2017.

I hope you enjoyed my European Adventure for 2016. Stay tuned to see what 2017 brings!

-Savvy

Travel

Leg Four of Europe 2016 – Berlin

Guten tag from Berlin!

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On Sunday I left Amsterdam for Berlin, Germany. The nice thing about my Air Bnb in Amsterdam was that it was fairly close to the airport. Schipol is apparently the fourth busiest airport in all of Europe. It was rather large, but everything was run very efficiently. I flew KLM, which is very popular here, but not as popular in Texas. My flight was only just over an hour, but they gave out free sandwiches! It was a full flight and I had the middle seat, but no one came for the window so I just scooted right on over 🙂 The flight was uneventful other than that, which is exactly what you want to hear; traveling with only a carry-on has greatly helped in that regard. I think I am a converted traveler after not checking a bag this entire trip (except for the very first leg to Dublin and on the way home in a few days).

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I took a taxi from the Berlin airport to my Air Bnb here in Berlin, which is in Marlene Dietrich‘s old apartment building! I thought that was pretty cool in itself, but my apartment is also super awesome. It’s really artsy and well thought out for a flat. It’s basically one medium-sized room broken up into sections. The bathroom is right next to kitchen, which is a little odd, but works for this space. The bed is on a platform with a closet and underneath the platform is another bed as well as a printer. I could totally see myself living in a place like this if I could bring myself to purge about 80% of my belongings 🙂 My host is also suuuuper awesome. Even though there is a printer it wasn’t working with my laptop and if you fly Ryanair you have to print your own boarding pass or pay a $50 fee… I asked him if he knew a internet cafe nearby so I could print my boarding pass back to Dublin and he just had me email the boarding pass PDF to him and brought it over to me! He is totally going to get a glowing recommendation for sure. 🙂

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I got here on a Sunday and fortunately the weather was very lovely. My Airbnb host also told me about this cool bar that is on top the 25 Hours Hotel near the Berlin Mall called The Monkey Bar. The bar overlooks the Berlin Zoo’s monkey enclosure. Due to the language barrier, my understanding was that you could drink with monkeys so I was off! I was sadly mistaken that you could only view the monkeys, not actually drink with them, so after a quick self-guided tour, I moved on down the block. I walked so much that first day and ended up seeing a few sights that were actually going to be on my tour the next day (that seems to be a theme with me). I’m glad I did a ton of walking to orient myself that day with the nice weather though since the next two days proved to be fairly miserable with rain.

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I was also very excited to get my hands on some authentic German food since I had such fond memories of being in Mannheim 10 years ago and eating so much good food. Apparently, Berlin German food is very different than Mannheim/Frankfurt/Heidelberg German food  AKA no spatzel! 🙁 You don’t even know my level of disappointment. I had to drown in in making up for it with schnitzel and strudel, which were both still very tasty, yet not spatzel…

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The next day I had booked a walking tour throughout many famous Berlin sites from World War II and The Cold War. Everyone always tells me how FUN Berlin is…. not going to lie, this portion of the trip was rather depressing. I totally have to come back and only do fun things because I definitely got all of the sad parts out of the way right off the bat. I do feel that I learned so much though in these past two days and from really knowledgable sources. My tour guide through the actual city was a lady named Merren from Australia, but is of German descent. She has her master’s in history and came to Berlin four years ago. She had some great insights and managed to walk us briskly through the cold all while being several months pregnant! Fortunately the rain stayed away until right after the tour was over, but it was significantly colder than the day prior.

Sights Seen in Berlin:

  1. A portion of the Berlin Wall

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2. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: a very controversial memorial since there is no set meaning to the art piece, there are no descriptions on the slabs identifying that this is for the Jewish people, and the company who produced the chemical that is coating the concrete slabs to protect them from graffiti is the same company that provided concentration camps with the chemicals for the gas chambers. Here is the wikipedia article to give you some more information. It was very erie to walk through and actually experience.

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  1. Checkpoint Charlie

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  1. Museum Island

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  1. The Brandenburg Gate (in the daytime and I had accidentally already visited the previous night)

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  1. The site of the Berlin German book burning in front of the Bebelplatz. There is a clear window into the ground into a room with enough blank bookcases to hold the amount of books burned that night.

  2. The statue of “Mother Holding Her Dead Son

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8. Topography of Terror: a museum where the SS offices used to be.

  1. The car parking lot over where Hitler’s bunker used to be. Only a small signs marks this spot so as not to make it a memorial for Nazi sympathizers. The sign is a recent addition from the last time the World Cup was held in Germany (2006).

  2. The hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his infant son, Blanket, out of the window. (not WW2 related, just interesting and happens to be right next to the Brandenburg gate)

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Germany has made many of these sites free to the public as part of their “penance” for so much of the wrong that was done to so many different people groups. They want everyone to be able to view these sites without having to worry about cost since it is such an important part of all of our histories.

After this very intense day of sight seeing I went back to a biergarden with some others from the tour. Although I do not like the taste of beer (they didn’t have cider) I had to take a picture with one of the traditional glasses.

As if one day of intense images wasn’t enough, the next day I went to a concentration camp just outside Berlin called Sachsenhausen. Ironically, it was also my half birthday; what a way to celebrate…. If you are a new reader to this blog let me just let you know now that I am Jewish.

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Fortunately, most of my relatives (to my knowledge) managed to escape the majority of WW2 terrors. My great-grandfather actually escaped from a concentration camp and made his way to America. It was incredibly sobering to be in a place that was dedicated to the cause of wiping out entire people groups: Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Homosexuals, etc… Even though I am not full-blooded Jew, just being partial would have been enough for the Gestapo to arrest me and send me to die in a place like Sachsenhausen.

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My guide today also had his master’s in history: specifically in how Germany treated public school history textbooks post-WW2. Apparently, they initially basically cut out everything after the 1860s. Up until 1960 this was happening until the young adults realized what had happened and started the movement to add it back into the textbooks so future generations would know so it would not be repeated. During this time period that age group felt a tremendous amount of guilt for what had happened, even though they had not even been born during that time period. Now the country is trying to reach a medium where they are not racked with guilt for something they personally did not do, but are not having “amnesia” about the events since it did in fact happen in their country.

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The concentration camp was eventually taken over by the Red Army who tore down parts of the camp in an attempt to show this as a victory for the Soviets and a place to come revel in that victory. Portions of the buildings still exist and most have had to go through major restorations. In the 1990s a small group of Ne0-Nazis tried to burn down some of the buildings; you can still see their efforts in one of the barracks where the ceilings and walls are charred from the fire. Several buildings remain as well as part of the gas chambers and the crematoriums. There are several marked sites over the grounds to show where the ashes of the burned prisoners were dumped once the trays were full.

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It was a very serious day and sort of a sad way to basically end my trip. I am very glad I went and thankful I was afforded the opportunity to pay my respects in this way. I am not sure how many of my other family members have visited other concentration camps, if any. My mother came to Berlin back in the late 70s/early 80s when the Wall was still up. She was able to visit East Berlin on a bus, but was not allowed to get off of the bus to walk around and explore. The answer when people ask how old Berlin is is basically “26” since that’s when the Wall came down. Berlin is still in a huge state of change and will probably be totally different by the next time I visit. There are construction cranes everywhere you look trying to build more apartments and bring in more tourism so the city can continue to rebuild and have a positive future.

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Tomorrow I head back to Dublin for a night then it’s back to the good ol’ USA after being gone for almost an entire month. As much as I love traveling/being on vacation, I do enjoy my routines and am eager to see my sweet little puppy. I am getting back right in time for a birthday party, Halloween, and a wedding shower so there is still no slowing down for awhile, but that’s the way my life always goes and I enjoy it.

Stick around!

-Savvy

Personal Travel Uncategorized

Leg Three of Europe 2016 – Amsterdam

Hello from Amsterdam! 

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Leaving Paris was bittersweet for me since I never want to leave, but at the same time I was so excited to go into the unknown once again. Dublin, London, and Paris, while not quite home, are familiar. It’s been several years since I’ve truly been immersed in another totally foreign culture. I have never been to Amsterdam, I don’t speak the language, know the transit system, etc. so it was a new and exciting challenge.

This brings up a few tips for next time:

  1. Try to book your accommodations as close to the city centre as possible. This will generally save you transit money (and confusion) even if it costs a little bit more per night. Trust me, when you don’t remember if your train stop is Waterlooplein, Weesperplin, or Wilbaustrautt and it’s getting late you will thank me.
  2. Learn a few key phrases in the local language
  3. Have the address of your hotel/hostel/Air BnB saved into your phone where it doesn’t require wifi or data to access it
  4. Download/Screenshot a map of the area
  5. Try to rely on wifi/data as few times as possible. Even if a country is in the EU that doesn’t mean that your data will transfer from one country to another. If you have a US data plan be prepared to pay a huge fee when you get home too…. #DreadingThatSprintBill

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The people in Amsterdam are very friendly, super chill (probably from the weed), and generally have a great grasp on English so this isn’t an incredible culture shock. The worst part was just remembering the train/bus stops. There are easily more bicycles here than cars (at least near the canals), but unless your GPS is working incredibly well I probably wouldn’t try to get in the fast lane with the more experienced cyclists. After breaking my tailbone in sixth grade, I generally avoid riding bicycles if at all possible so I was not eager to hop on for this trip. If I had a guide to show me where I was going then I would be more apt to rent one for the weekend. Side note: how they remember where they “parked” their bicycle is a mystery to me. There will be MASSIVE racks of bicycles that basically all look the same. There must be some trade secret that I am just not privy to to explain this situation.

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Marijuana and prostitutes are legal here and don’t have the same stigma as they do in the states. I did have to walk through the famous Red Light District just to see it for myself. It really is as easy as walking up to the door where the girl or guy is and hopping into the rented room. One prostitute thought I was there with someone else as a couple and I quickly managed to get myself out of that situation. There are tons of “cafes” where you can purchase all manner of weed varieties as well as edibles and mushrooms, but in most of them you cannot also get liquor, only beer or wine. However, Stoopwaffles are available everywhere and only contain fat and sugar 🙂 Illegal on my real life diet, but totally legal on my vacation diet!

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I also finally got to cross something off my bucket list: visiting the Anne Frank Museum. Unfortunately, they do not allow you to take pictures of the inside, but I got the see the actual red-checkered diary in which she started writing down her novel. If you do go, I suggest booking your tickets online in advance through the museum website. It’s around $12, but you also pick your time slot for the museum so you are guaranteed entrance. I am visiting in off-season and it was still packed. Make sure you do carve out at least an hour for it since there is a lot of reading involved and people in front of you may move slowly. Everything is in Dutch as well as English and you get to see the real rooms and the bookcase that covered the secret entrance to their annex.

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On Day 2 of the trip I went on another Viator tour to Zaanse Schans, which is about 30 minutes away from central Amsterdam. It is a historic town with a ton of old, restored windmills that are actually working to this day. Each windmill works for a specific purpose: one mills wood, another grinds the pigment for the paint used in the town, another made mustard! It was really cool to walk through them and see the people who are so dedicated to preserving their heritage. (again, not sponsored)

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After the windmills we were then transported to another village where we watched a cheese making demonstration. I have a great love of cheese and I was excited to find out that:

A.) They were making Gouda

B.) I CAN TAKE IT IN MY CARRY ON!!

I bought a regular wheel as well as an Italian herb one so invite me to ALL the cocktail parties! 🙂

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After the cheese demonstration we got lunch at a local restaurant. I got fried mussels, which were very tasty. I had previously mistakenly gotten the wrong type of waffle recommended to me by my friend Julia, but the correct type of waffle was being made right next door so I managed to snag one for dessert. True to form, they were tasty, but how can you go wrong with dough and nutella??

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Once the time in that village was complete we were herded onto this river cruise, which normally I would think would be delightful, but it was FREEZING. Of course by the time I got onto the boat all of the inside seats were taken so I froze outside about 80% of the time until I couldn’t handle it anymore and just stood inside to thaw out. Once the ice boat ride was complete we finally got to go to another little village that makes the traditional wooden shoes you always associate with Holland. Back in the day it would take 3 hours to make one shoe; now with “modern” machinery it takes 5 minutes per shoe. I succumbed to my inner tourist and bought a pair…. they are supposed to be water proof so maybe I’ll wear them around in the garden? Orrrrr just put them in a place of honor on my travel wall…..

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It was an action-packed day and a great way to end my time in Amsterdam. Next time I come I’m definitely staying closer to the city centre to take more advantage of the nightlife. Living so far away kinda put a damper on that idea for this go around. Not a problem though since I will most definitely be back and I really could use the down time in a very comfy bed 🙂

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I am now back in my Air BnB taking advantage of the fact that there is a washer and dryer available for my use since all I brought was a carry-on and we are now 7 days into the trip. I am fairly proud of the choices I made in my small carry-on, but I will make a mental note to bring fewer leggings, fewer shoes, and more shirts next time. I feel like traveling by carry-on would have been much easier in warmer weather. It is steadily getting colder and I know that I am going to probably need to buy a scarf in Berlin if this keeps up. #moresouvenirs 

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Tomorrow I head to Berlin for my last real stop on my European tour! After Berlin I’m back in Dublin for a night to pick up the rest of my luggage and then head on back to Dallas. There are still no direct flights to Dallas from Dublin (weird, I know) so I will have to make the journey back through… dun dun dunnnn CHICAGO. I swear to God, if I get stuck there again for another three days it will NOT be good. (if you are confused about to what I am referring, please read this post for context.)

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Leave me some love in the comments and stay posted for the rest of my trip!

Savvy

Ireland Travel

Back in the Craic!

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Judging from the title you might think I mean drugs if you have not been following me very long. I actually mean that I am back in Dublin, Ireland! Craic is an Irish word and it basically translates to “fun” or “what’s up” as in “what’s the craic”?

I will be here for two weeks and then I am jetting off to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin! It’s going to be a whirlwind month so I am going to try to take it easy this time in Dublin since I am just getting over tonsillitis.

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If you are a new reader, welcome, enjoy, and go read my previous post on getting to Dublin last year for some context on the rest of my travel postings.

Now that that’s out of the way you will be very happy (I assume) to hear that this adventure has been smooth thus far. I made it to all of my flights, they all left on time (or early!), and none of my luggage was lost in the process. I am now sitting in the lobby of the Shelbourne Hotel since my room is not yet ready. I did request early check in (since I arrived at 8am), but they were fully booked the night before so my room could potentially not be ready until 3pm…. I really should have just booked a room for last night, but oh well.

#currentlydying

#firstworldproblems

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This is not quite how I was greeted, but I’ll keep that for the comment card (jk)

I will try to stay up to date with the posts this time. I feel that I set the bar rather high last time, however have fallen short in the past few months so here’s to trying! 🙂

Cheers!

-Savvy

 

**This is not a sponsored post or endorsement for any certain company. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way.

Travel

Iowa Adventure

Hello…. it’s me….. 😉

Sorry, forgot I wasn’t Grammy award winning singer Adele for a second there.

So let me tell you about a wonderful place that you probably never considered visiting….

DES MOINES, IOWA!

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I feel like I were to settle down with a nice farmer and raise a slew of children, I would be very happy in Des Moines. There is still a J. Crew in the area and a Trader Joe’s so I would be ok. There is NO traffic, which is almost reason enough for me to move. I did not set up an account on FarmersOnly.com this trip, but who knows what the future holds. 😉

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Let’s be serious, I will probably never marry a farmer, but Des Moines does show promise as an up-and-coming town. It is probably the smallest capital that I have ever been in, but there are tons of cool little shops and restaurants in the downtown area closest to the capital building. The capital building also has the top covered in GOLD. It is rather impressive. It has been dubbed “the new Portland”. Everything in the city is super easy to get to and it’s not quite as spread out the way Dallas is.

You might be thinking: “Savannah, you’re just soooo sophisticated. How did you end up in IOWA??” (just kidding, no one says that to me) Well let me tell ya, there are two very special people in my life, Nathan and Elly, who have been asking me for months to come visit them.

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I was hesitant at first, but decided to throw caution (and some airline miles) to the wind and take a trip to Des Moines. I went to high school with Nathan and then he met Elly in college. They got married a few years ago and I still remember their wedding as one of my favorites. Elly and I share a love for Star Wars and all things geeky so of course we always have a good time whenever we get together.

Things we did:

  • Visited downtown especially this awesome store called Raygun. If you’re from Dallas, it is similar to Bullzerk on Greenville. Of course I had to buy some souvenirs/Christmas presents
  • Visited the Drake University Campus where the Democratic Debate was happening.

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  • Took a picture with the Drake University bulldog, Spike

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  • Went to the infamous Zombie Burger (kinda like Hopdoddy)

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  • Went running twice (!) and on some walks
  • Went shopping with Nathan for Elly’s Christmas present. I do this every year 😉 I’m a pro!
  • Went to an Apple Orchard! I felt like it was really fall at that point.

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  • Ate Qudoba and Noodles and Co twice… each…. maybe in the same day sometimes…

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  • Made tacos and cookies and lotssss of coffee
  • Watched lots of movies and Arrested Development
  • Went to The Brass Armadillo Antique Mall (then saw a huge fire!!)

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Generally just had a great time being with friends. I am very much a people person and I do better the more I am around people. When living alone and kinda far from even surrounding friends my mood tends to get more introverted and I don’t like that so it was great to be with two of my best friends literally almost the entire time I was there. They both have fairly flexible jobs, which was very conducive to having a guest. They have the cutest little cat named Nelly (their celebrity mash-up name) who was totally cool with snuggling with me on the couch.

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Now it is Tuesday evening and I am back to reality, wishing I was sitting on Nathan and Elly’s couch watching Tobias paint himself blue in the hopes of becoming famous. *sigh*.

Until next time, 

-Savvy

Ireland

The Sad Return

Hello Again,

Of course that time had to come…. That unfortunate time where I have to go home. Hardly ever am I happy to go home. I get settled somewhere, I start a routine then it gets ruined. As most of my friends will tell you, I do NOT do well saying goodbyes and tears are fairly inevitable. Go ahead and bring the Kleenex as a precaution.

Alas, the time did come for my trip to Ireland to end. I like to think of this as Phase 1 with more to come, but honestly who knows if or when I will get to go back. I’m hoping for the best, but expecting the worst per usual. I woke up the morning of my flight to discover that it had already gotten delayed a little bit due to a storm in Philadelphia where I was flying into. Not a bad way to start my day since I already didn’t want to leave. I had stayed up wayyyy too late the night before and had done a terrible job of packing so I jumped on that and then had breakfast with a coworker who was coming to relive me. Pretty soon the morning had flown by and I was off to the airport.

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Once I arrived at Dublin’s airport I found that my 11:30 AM flight that had gotten pushed back to 1:30 PM was now pushed back to 4:30 PM… Cool. I jumped into one line only to realize 10 minutes later, oh I can actually be in this line to get my boarding pass. I wait in that line allll the way until I get up to the front only to find out that I was supposed to stay in the first line. Long story short, I had to wait in multiple lines for several hours for them to just give me my ticket and put me on a different connecting flight back to DFW. Such a mess!

The cool thing about flying directly to the states from Dublin is that the Dublin Airport is one of only a few places in the world outside of the US where you can do American Customs before even reaching the states! However, I wish I had known that once you get through customs, there is literally NOTHING in that section of the airport. I sat there for four hours hungry and without an electrical socket. Good thing the battery in my laptop lasted as long as it did or this post would have been a tad less enthusiastic.

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Fortunately the flight delays were over at this point and I did get to leave Ireland at 4:30.

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I got into Philly around 8pm, which is the WEIRDEST thing to have an exceptionally long day like that. My layover was basically two seconds long and then I got crammed into the tiniest seat I have ever been on in my entire life. Thanks, US Airways for giving a shorter-than-average girl about zero leg room. What if I had been three inches taller? Being 5’5 is usually only a struggle when there is something I need on a top shelf, not when sitting on a domestic flight to Dallas. That plane could probably not have been more disgusting and I will be avoiding US Airways in the future. I had to fly them a lot in college since it was either them or Delta that left from my college town, but now I live in a major city and don’t have to be stuck with choices like that anymore.

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I got to Dallas in one piece and so did my luggage! I picked up another suitcase while I was over there and I had no idea if all three of them would make it, but we did it! My bags were also some of the first on the luggage belt so that’s alway a plus.

My little gremlin, Karma, was happy to see me again too 🙂 That is always the best part about coming home.

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Even though now that Ireland is over (for the moment at least) I will still keep posting about travel, life, Dallas, and anything else I want! 🙂 Check back ever so often to see what I have going on and if you have any suggestions for me for topics or things you want to hear about send me a message in the comments!

Happy Reading!

-Savvy