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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

Dallas Personal

Summer 2017!

Now that I have finallyyyy finished the Ireland posts (again, apologies for the delay) I can focus on the rest of my amazing summer!

Here are some highlights and pictures to tide you over until my next post: ISRAEL!

Celebrated my birthday (again!) with my Texas friends in Uptown (while jet-lagged). We went to dinner in Dallas at The Social House. I got my dress for free from Rent the Runway (you know I love them) #notanadvertisement and I got to wear my new Loubs! I missed my friends so much while I was gone and wish they all could have visited me. Having Melissa and Brian, even for a week, really saved my spirit. Having friends is one of the best things about life and I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. They all mean so much to me and it was really amazing that they all came out to help me celebrate my special day (belated as it was). 

Took my mom out for Mother’s Day to brunch in Denton at Barley and Board. We then went blackberry picking at this super cute farm, which didn’t have very many blackberries, but had AMAZING blackberry cobbler! If I can get the recipe I’ll post it on here. It was seriously soooo good! 

Got in a small fender bender on the way to work 🙁 I was literally totally fine driving for THREE MONTHS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, but I am home less than a week and run into the back of another, smaller car. #angst 

Had an afternoon of wine tasting at the Shops at Legacy with Melissa, Becca, and Scott. The Cru Wine Bar is now one of my favorite places to have a chill, but upscale afternoon. We tried so many different kinds of wine and snacked on two charcuterie boards. We of course had to also make a stop at Oil and Vinegar. I bought some amazing roasted garlic olive oil that I still need to pull out for a well-planned dinner. They always have great samples and the staff is very knowledgable about all of the products; how to pair them and how to use them creatively. If you’re ever near one of their outposts I highly recommend going in even if just for a small sample. 🙂 They also can do private parties and my friends have been talking about having one someday so maybe I’ll just have to make that happen this year!

Finally visited Magnolia Market in Waco with Julia! Unfortunately, we did not see Chip and Joanna, but I plan to return on a less busy day and hopefully catch a glimpse! #couplegoals 

We also got to see some of the other landmarks around Waco that are regularly featured on the show such as the store and workshop for Harp Design Company, some of the renovated houses, and the coffeeshop, Common Grounds. There are also some copy-cat design stores that are near the Silos, which are way less crowded and have similar items. Obviously, I had to check those out as well. Julia and I got lunch at this awesome Greek place called Alpha Omega. I highly recommend it if you are looking to get lunch near Downtown Waco and don’t feel like dealing with the lines at the Silos. There is also the last remaining Ninfa’s restaurant next to The Spice Market (another really cool shopping destination). I didn’t get to try this location, but if it is like any of the other Ninfa’s then I am sure it is awesome. I wish the one in Lewisville was still there. I have such fond memories of visiting there for dinner after elementary school so long ago. Next time I go to Waco, Ninfa’s it is!

Got a belated birthday present from my sister: a puppy carrier for Karma! It is seriously the cutest thing ever and I love dancing around the house with her in tow. She likes it sometimes, but other times struggle to break free from my loving embrace. I wish she could understand just how much I need to be holding her at any given time. She is too precious for words. 

I restarted Paleo and fell in love with it all over again. I kept it up for the entire time leading up to my trip to Israel. I have been falling off of the band wagon since returning, but this weekend I am going to do some SERIOUS meal planning to get back on track. I felt amazing and could immediately tell a difference in the way I felt. I’ve been on a new medication that makes me nauseous and fatigued so I’m praying that paleo can once again come to the rescue and save me from these side effects. I cannot keep falling asleep at work… #notgood 

I also managed to sell my house and find a new house right before I left for Israel. Let me tell you, house stuff is always: #1 more expensive and #2. stressful than you originally think. It had been a few years since my last experience and this time I was doing this without my dad’s help so I felt the full weight of responsibility. It’s totally do-able and hopefully you pick awesome people to work with, but it can be overwhelming at times. Just being honest.

I ended up with an awesome, new (to me) house in a much better area with a shorter commute to work, closer to friends, and closer to Dallas! I am still in the middle of fixing it up/organizing (it’s been almost two months at this point… don’t judge!), but once I get everything situated then I’ll take a home tour and give you guys some more details! I am 95% finished painting and my floors are being delivered on Saturday. My mom is getting my little, back patio fixed up so that may or may not make it into the house post. We will see how well everything progresses and if it’s not ready then we will just do another house post later 🙂 Karma is loving it so far, but she has quickly ruined the carpet, hence the new hardwood floors that are on their way. In all fairness, I was already planning to get the floors even before she had her many accidents, but this just makes it more necessary to get it sooner rather than later.

I’ve managed to pack a lot into a very short amount of time. This summer is one for the books and I am so excited to tell you allllll about my wonderful, life-changing trip to Israel!

Happy Reading!

-Savannah 

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 Travel

April Recap

 

This is me being a diligent blogger for once in my life and actually starting on a post on time! You can thank the fact that I needed to deep condition my hair, which means I actually am very productive around the house for those few hours a month. Settle in because this is going to be a long one and it’s not even covering the full month 🙂

I wanted April to be different than March or February. I was going to proactively do things around Ireland even if it meant doing them alone. First step: get a piercing. Right after that I think the surrounding pedestrians noticed my realized confidence and someone asked me for directions #localstatus

My high school friend, Ruthie, was coming to visit so I had that to look forward to, but when I went to pick her up from the airport she surprised me and brought along our other friend from high school, Alicia – FROM ALASKA! I was very surprised (it was also 6AM on a Sunday) so I’m not really sure what my reaction looked like other than confused lol. I don’t get surprised like that very often and I was only half-awake so I think I just hugged everyone and then got back into the car. We immediately left Dublin for the Cliffs of Moher.

I had already been (if you’ve been reading since the origination of my blog then you already know this), but this was the first time in Ireland for both Ruthie and Alicia and that is one of the #1 sites to see so off we went. Because we had such an early start we managed to beat most of the tour busses/tourists to the Cliffs. It was a GORGEOUS day as you will be able to tell from the pictures below. They have updated the visitor center since the last time I went and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. I will probably end up doing another photo post at the end of the trip with updated pictures since everyone else took a bunch and haven’t uploaded them yet.

After the Cliffs, we went to Galway for a bit for some lunch. The drive between the Cliffs and Galway is so beautiful and green. It was staying a nice day, which was awesome since I had to drive on some very tiny roads! We hung out in Galway for a few hours and then made our way to Limerick for the night.

I had the next day off of work so we visited King John’s Castle before heading back to Dublin. I showed them a little bit of Dublin and found out their plans for the week. Ruthie had originally just given me some basic plans because she didn’t want to let on that Alicia was also coming. Alicia also is super handy and helped me air up my tires because I’m basically helpless with car issues.

 

Alicia’s dad is originally from Ireland and was adopted as a young child. The rest of the family is very interested in learning more about his heritage, but since most of the records from that time were only recently released, you generally have to actually come to Ireland to learn anything. The girls spent two days doing some of that research and were actually able to come away with a lot more information than I thought that they would. They also went to the Book of Kells at Trinity College, did a walking tour of North Dublin, and had high tea at a hotel. It was a short visit, but they made the most of their time.

On their last night we went to Murray’s over on O’Connell Street where they have Traditional (Trad) music and Irish dancing. They pulled Alicia up on stage to dance and she was presented with a certificate that we made the bartender sign. He also shared with me that you can add Black Currant juice to Guinness and now I can finally finish a whole pint. #proudmoment  

In between the guests I needed to attend to my roots. At home I generally go see Sydney, my hairdresser, every 6-10 weeks (depending upon upcoming events). Three months without at least one touch up was not going to cut it for me. It took us a long time to get my hair to where we are and I was really nervous about anyone else touching it. Fortunately I found a salon really close to my apartment that uses Olaplex (if you don’t know what it is SEE the magic) and seemed to really know their way around blonde hair so I felt like I was in good hands. Five hours later I am pleased to say that my hair is still a gloriously silver blonde through and through. If you are ever in Dublin and need a salon I can now highly recommend Angels and Cowboys in City Centre.

(not a sponsored post)

The next day was still lovely so I finally made the trip out to Howth. I was supposed to go multiple times on different occasions, but plans always fell apart. You need nice weather when you go too and you never know when that is going to be so make the most of it! #carpediem.

I really enjoyed seeing a part of Dublin that I hadn’t visited yet and am now totally contemplating getting a vacation home in Howth when I am rich and famous. Howth is a small, seaside town with a Marina and hiking trails. I visited Howth Castle then made my way down the road to the coast. I indulged in some fresh seafood, walked around the town and the little market, then took a hike on Howth Head. I managed to get out of there before it started raining again, but I am hoping to go back once more before leaving.

 

A few days later Melissa and Brian came to visit. They have frequently been featured in the blog and always have a couch for me to crash on at home so now I get to return the favor. They were staying for a whole week and I took a day off of work so we shoved as much into those days as humanly possible.

They also took advantage of this service I had discovered on my last trip: Flytographer. Basically, the idea is that pictures are one of your best mementos from a trip, but either you’re traveling alone and relying on the compassion of other travelers to capture that moment for you or you are a couple and can never be in the same picture together. Flytographer has photographers based in cities all over the world who are there to capture that trip for you in a photo session. Melissa’s birthday happened while she was here and it was also their 10 year dating anniversary (they have been married for three). The day after they got here they had a photo session with Vanessa and absolutely loved it. By the time they left their pictures were ready so I was able to see them and account for their awesomeness. I am now super jealous that I didn’t also book a session for myself, but there will hopefully be more trips in the year to come. #fingerscrossed 

After their photography session, we went for Melissa’s birthday dinner at the hotel where I stayed last time, The Shelbourne, at The Saddle Room. It was delicious, but because we were not guests of the hotel and it was Good Friday, we were not allowed to drink. Randomly, Ireland takes Good Friday VERY seriously and no pubs or restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol (so a lot of places are closed). Hotels can, but only to their residents. Curiously though, on actual Easter you are allowed to drink and most business are open. I had prepared by buying some wine before they arrived so we partook once back at the apartment and there was rejoicing in the land!

The next day we went to Kilkenny and Waterford. We left Dublin super early in the morning on the train (which was a new experience for me in Ireland). We stopped first in Kilkenny, which is apparently a big party town that I will need to re-vist next time I come. The town had a huge castle that we toured and had tons of cute, little shops and very friendly people. We discovered that Brian had an inner-photographer in him that had been lying dormant until this moment. Once they upload all of their pictures I’ll nab some for my photo recap post once my trip is over.

After Kilkenny, we hopped back on the train and headed to Waterford for some lunch (shoutout to Brian for overcoming his salmon allergy before eating ALL the seafood chowder in Ireland) and then we visited the Waterford Crystal Factory. I don’t know why, but I have been obsessed with seeing the factory ever since I found out it was in Ireland. It was honestly really cool, but it was totally different in my mind (as was Waterford). I wanted to buy everything, per usual, but settled on a package of 4 wine goblets that are currently being shipped back to my house. I’ve got my eye on a peacock carved crystal bowl though (also available at Macy’s) in case anyone wanted to get me a birthday present (on the 25th!).

 

 

We were supposed to take the train from Waterford all the way back to Dublin, but something was going on with the line we had to use so we took the train as far as we could go then they put us on a bus for an hour to get back to Dublin. While at the train station in Waterford, Melissa discovered that she had lost her phone… which was also holding her credit card and driver’s license.

Fortunately it was safely in the cab we had just left that was still nearby and we were able to avoid disaster once retrieved! The rest of the group we were with consistently asked her at each of the next stops if she had her phone as did Brian and I the rest of the trip. She will never live that down 😉

The next day was another early one as we set off for Blarney and Cork. On the way to Blarney we stopped at the Rock of Cashel. I had never heard of it, but honestly it was really beautiful and I would love to do a photoshoot here. Melissa and I just kept marveling over how Dublin always seems to have the best lighting for pictures (i.e. overcast). The Rock of Cashel is an ancient church in ruins complete with a graveyard. I was really impressed with this seemingly commonplace ruin (there are just so many of them).

After that little stop we hopped back on the bus and were soon in Blarney to visit the very famous Blarney Stone. Our tour guide warned us that if that was our major goal for the day then we needed to hop to it before the rest of the tourists did. I didn’t think we were that excited initially by it, but Melissa and Brian took off RUNNING for it so I followed. We did manage to beat most people to the stone and as I am always competitive that did give me a sense of accomplishment. We got our pictures with the stone (I fake kissed it since I heard rumor that drunk teenagers sneak up there to pee on it) and headed back down to enjoy the grounds.

Clearly, I had not done enough research because I totally didn’t realize that there was an actual castle and grounds in Blarney. We spent several hours wandering through the forest, taking about a billion pictures (Brian), and enjoying the beautiful day. We finished the site with some Irish coffees to-go and headed back to the bus to visit Cork.

 

We were in Cork just long enough to finish a pint before heading back to the bus to get back to Dublin. The wonderful thing about tours is that even though most things are several hours away YOU don’t have to drive! You are free to nap, read, write, daydream, eat some snick-snacks, do whatever you please. I have generally had great experiences with using tour guide services and still continue to recommend them. They are generally incredibly knowledgeable about the locations and sometimes even have their own funny stories.

As we were leaving Dublin that morning our bus driver/tour guide drove us by this huge open field that Braveheart had used when filming. Apparently back in the day, when they were filming it cause a lot of traffic issues for the people living in the area. To alleviate some of the grievances the movie crew told the village that they could all be extras in the movie and would even get paid. If you have seen the movie (which I have not…. yet) then you may remember a scene where several men lift up their kilts and moon some people. My bus driver was proudly one of the mooners and remembers that time fondly. #culture

I had that next day off so we slept in a bit and then tried to go see Bram Stoker’s grave at Christchurch Cathedral right by my apartment. It was like 6 euro to go in and we didn’t really feel like it at the time so we skipped out and bought some carrots to feed the deer. We drove over the park and fortunately found a small group of the deer fairly quickly. They LOVED the carrots and let us pet them before the park ranger came over to break up the party. We then walked closer to the front of the park to see this huge statue then left to go visit the Tullamore Dew Distillery.

Brian’s #1 request for the trip was to visit the distillery. This is a fairly small one and no tours leave from Dublin to see it. Fortunately, I have a car this time so I was able to accommodate this request fairly easily. What I didn’t realize was that to get here you have to get on the M50 Motorway and pay a toll, but not at the tollbooth. For whatever reason you have to remember to call or visit a website to pay you toll by 8pm the next day…. guess who forgot and paid it a few days later. I’ll have to update you when my rental car gets turned in about the outcome of that delay.

The distillery is actually really cool. It was recently updated in 2014 after being out of commission for a long period of time and all of the floors are original. We got there pretty early so we ate lunch in their restaurant and started peeking at the gift shop. The legal limit in Ireland is .01 as opposed to America’s .08 so I was not going to be imbibing. They gave me a little take home bottle as compensation for my abstinence. I was also REALLY tired so I found a comfy seat and promptly slept through the entire tasting session so it turned out to be a win-win. We bought way too much at the gift stop (I’m an enabler – what can I say?) then headed back to Dublin for a Skype session with some of our friends in Africa.

We got dinner at Boxty and it was delicious per usual and Melissa even got some of the Boxty mix to bring back home. I may have to pick some up as well before I leave. We did some souvenir shopping and then got one last drink for the night at a pub just outside of Temple Bar.

I had to go back to work, but Melissa and Brian ended up going to Giant’s Causeway and The Cliffs of Moher the next two days so I would meet them back in Dublin at night for dinner to hear about their adventures. We also visited the oldest bar in Dublin – The Brazen Head. It was a good way to end their trip and I was really sad to see them go. I always have a great time with them and am very fortunate to call them friends. 🙂

Side story: My friend Blair is super into finding flight deals and had made plans for our friend group to take an adventure in September. He was going to look in May for something and we would knowingly only have a small window of oppotunity to say yes before the deal closed. I happened to get a text from him in April the day of the United Airlines catastrophe about a deal at the end of September for Belize. I’ve never been to South America and I trust his trip-planning skills so I whipped out my credit card and confirmed my excitement for yet another adventure! I’ve only heard good things from several other Irish people who’ve gone and I am looking forward to a beach vacation SO BAD. I also discovered that there are sharks there so I’ll be diligent about my water activities since I think that a shark attack is probably one of the worst ways to die/have to live the rest of your life remembering. Even if the sharks don’t get me I’ll be on the lookout since I’m flying United now 😉

April isn’t over, but this post is getting ridiculously long and we haven’t even hit my birthday yet so I’ll just make the next post at least for the end of April or potentially combine it with part of May. Stay tuned and see what happens 🙂

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

Dallas Denton Personal

New Year – New Post

I realize that this is now officially a month late, but trust me life has been HECTIC, which equals more blog content. Christmas and New Year’s went fairly well. Some sad family issues had occurred around those times so that did put a damper on some of the festivities, but life goes on, as you all know.

In early December I had the honor of being in the house party for my friends, Becca and Kent’s wedding. I got to show people where to sit and then dance my face off. It was a little past Fort Worth so my friends and I decided to stay at the Omni Fort Worth since we don’t live super close to the wedding location. You should know by now that crazy things just seem to happen to me. My car’s key fob is broken, but it would sometimes still lock my car. I usually don’t lock it and whenever I give it to valets they apparently don’t either. I think nothing of this and get my car valeted at the Omni. When I made the room reservation and signed up for the rewards program I SWORE that it said that valet was included. I told the front desk this and they immediately comped my parking (which was a ridiculous $32 a night).  My other friends did the self-parking, which was down the street and still $28 a night. Ridiculous. Anyway, we get ready to go to the rehearsal dinner and I text the code to the valet to bring up my car. We head down and they tell us it’s going to be a minute…. 30 minutes later they tell me they can’t find my car. They then realize they know where it is, but they’ve manually locked it and now cannot get it unlocked. However, they feel really bad about this so they offer to comp the parking again, send a cheese plate to the room, and drive me and my friends around in the hotel’s super nice Lincoln Navigator. #designateddriver 

The next day I head down to the valet stand early before we head to the wedding to see if I can get the car unlocked. For whatever reason my actual key cannot unlock the car either so they have to use their unlock kit to get my car open. We go to the wedding, it was beautiful, we did a mannequin challenge, and danced so much. When I get back to the hotel that night I talk to my valet and say “Are you the one parking my car?” He tells me yes and I say “DO NOT LOCK IT”. He says that he has to and I say “NOOOO I’m that girl that has been causing the problems. DO NOT LOCK IT!”. Homeboy totally locks it which I find out the next day at checkout… Guess who made sure to fill out that survey!

For NYE my friends and I went to Beats and Bubbly at the Perot Museum in Dallas.

I got my dress from Rent the Runway and LOVED it! It was long, sparkly, and totally worthy of a fancy New Year’s Eve. If you’ve never heard of Rent the Runway let me break it down: basically, you have some event that you need to attend whether it be a bridal shower, Christmas party, wedding, birthday… anything where you would normally need to go buy a dress. Instead of spending potentially hundreds of dollars for these events to have dresses you might only wear once or twice, instead you can rent an even nicer dress for a fraction of the cost! The dress I rented was designer and normally retailed for $750; I rented it for under $100! You get 20% off of your first order and if you use the code in my link above then I also get a $30 credit 🙂 #treatyoself

This was actually my second order from RTR. For my company Christmas party a few weeks prior I also ordered a similar, but shorter dress and had an awesome experience. Everyone complimented me all night and now I think I should buy that dress lol. However, it also retails for several hundred dollars so I will just rent it whenever I really need it. Some other great perks: not only do you get your size, BUT you can also have a backup size for free in case the original size doesn’t work out , if you join Pro then you get a free birthday rental (plus some other perks), there are tons of reviews on all of the dresses so you can make a really informed decision on fit and how to style the dress.

Honestly, I wish I would have started using this sooner:

  • You don’t have to get the dress dry-cleaned since it’s included in the price.
  • They send it to you in this cool, zip-up garment bag with a pre-paid return slip.
  • You can get the dress for either 4 or 8 days.
  • Just drop it all off at a UPS store by the designated date.
  • If you have any issues just message the company and they will make it right 🙂

For my dad’s Christmas present I got him a cooking class from Sur La Table in Southlake. We learned how to make several different types of dumplings: pirogies, gnocchi, and su mai (not sure how that is spelled). It was a really nice day and the only other people in our class were another father/daughter duo where she had also given him the class as his Christmas present! Our instructor was super nice and was able to accommodate us since apparently I had not actually completed the class sign up online (oops!). However, there was more than enough food and plenty to keep us all busy. Always a good experience!

 

Life started to get a little bit crazier after that (if you can believe it):

  • My tax return was apparently also filed by someone else pretending to be me.
  • The IRS told me I wouldn’t get my refund until APRIL (spoiler: just got it yesterday).
  • I reported my doctor to the Medical Board of Texas and will potentially be suing them.
  • I got stuck in an elevator at work for an hour… alone.
  • My phone broke two days before I was supposed to leave the country for three months.

So that’s been my past two weeks… Fortunately everything else is working out really well now (knock on wood) and I have just started my newest Ireland journey! I will be staying in Dublin for the next three months for work and am looking forward to this next adventure 🙂

Stay tuned!

-Savvy

Dallas Denton Personal

Fall Activities 2016

After coming back from Ireland I was immediately thrown back into the swing of parties, weddings, and dinners. I got back a Thursday, had Friday off, went to a birthday party on Saturday, and had a wedding shower on Sunday. Never a dull moment!

My friend Blake was turning 26 and his girlfriend Kyla suggested we all go to The Deep Ellum Brewing Company to celebrate! They have this really cool deal on Saturdays: they close down the brew house and host tours. You pay $15 and get a souvenir glass and three beers of your choice. Pretty good deal and I don’t even like beer!

I had actually never been on a brewery tour so this was pretty exciting. I do prefer winery tours, but learning new things whilst drinking with your friends is usually a good time. The weather was really nice, the company ideal, and it was essentially just an enjoyable afternoon.

The next day I went to a wedding shower for my friend, Becca. Sadly, the only downside to my Europe trip was that I had to miss her Bachelorette Party 🙁 Her shower was a ton of fun. Her Maid-of-Honor and my friend Melissa’s mom makes cakes and certainly delivered for the shower! She also made her wedding cake a few weeks later and of course I devoured my piece in mere seconds (but that is for another post).

Halloween was slightly less than enthusiastic this year, but we still had fun nonetheless. I was Ginger Spice/Baby Spice and Karma was a Beer frau. Basically, we were Europe. If I had been thinking about it more then I could have been #Brexit. Tara was Sailor Moon and we went to this little block party in Denton for about five seconds before leaving to get Thai and go home.

As per tradition, my friend, Danielle, hosted Friendsgiving 2016 in her new apartment. I made Macaroni with a Beer Cheese sauce in the crockpot. Easy and delicious! There was wayyy too much food, a mannequin challenge, and free flowing wine.

Ignore the fact that the video doesn’t have Black Beetles playing. The struggle was real to just upload it.

 

On November 23rd I finally made one of my personal dreams come true……

I MET GOOD CHARLOTTE!!!!

Not only did I get to see them at Edgefest 2016 (RIP 102.1), but I also got to meet them IN THE FLESH because your girl shelled out for VIPPPPPP! I HAD to! I met each and every one of them, gushed a little bit, gave them thank you notes, and basically fan-girled. To make the long story very short, I was running REALLY late to their concert and thought I would miss the Meet and Greet before the show. I happened to get there just in the nick of time and was the last person to see them before the Meet and Greet was over. Did that give me the chance to leave a lasting impression? I sure as heck hope so! They liked my outfit and my cat shoes. I basically dressed exactly like I did in 8th grade and it worked out. I am now blonde and decided to add glitter roots, but other than that it was basically the same. They had 3 openers, which I considered excessive and helped solidify the reality that I am in fact too old to be in the pit for punk shows. #dontpushmebro 

They finally took the stage before my stamina and bladder gave out and you know I was in the front row singing along with all of their songs, crying my little eyes out. My friends were a little drunk and FaceTimed me right when they were singing Hold On. It was perfection.

The next day was Thanksgiving. We weren’t meeting up with the fam until later so my sister and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather to take Christmas pictures with Karma. There is a little park down the street from my house. We were hoping to be able to put her in a baby swing, but this park didn’t have a swing set. It did have a baby slide so that became the next best thing. Karma’s face is priceless in these next few pictures.

Disclaimer: she wasn’t hurt in the taking of these pictures. It was a baby slide and Tara was waiting at the bottom to catch her.

Whew! That was a lot of activity for basically just one month. I’ll leave December to it’s own devices.

Sneak peak into what’s next: two weddings, a car adventure, birthday parties, company Christmas party, friends, food, Christmas, Hanukkah, and probably New Year’s Eve. It looks like it’s going to be another exciting month!

-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

Ireland Personal Travel

Leg One of Europe 2016 – London

After Dublin the plan is: London – Paris – Amsterdam – Berlin – Back to Dublin for a night – Texas. 

London: my parents took me here when I was 13, but that was 12 years ago. A lot can change in 12 years! I decided to do a highlights tour as well as hit up some of my favorites sites from last time. I had also never been to Buckingham Palace so this time I made up for it by accidentally going twice…

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Getting to London from Dublin COULD NOT BE EASIER. Ryanair is basically the European version of Spirit airlines (aka budget) and if you book your trip in advance (and on their app) the flight is 20 EURO…. Obviously I would be going EVERYWHERE if I lived here. That’s cheaper than a tank of gas just getting me around Dallas! The seats don’t go back, but the flight is 45 minutes; a small price to pay for such a deal! I will be using them later in the trip from Berlin to Dublin so stay posted on my feelings after a 3 hour flight…. The only issue is that Ryanair doesn’t fly into Heathrow, it flies into Gatwick. All you do is take a train from the airport into Victoria Station and then take either the Tube or a Taxi to wherever you need to go.

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I stayed in the Hampton Inn in Waterloo (thank you, Hilton points and Gold status!). Honestly, it was way nicer than I thought it was going to be. Also, the included breakfast was probably one of the best free breakfasts that I have ever had at a hotel, domestic or foreign. I would totally stay here again (not a sponsored post btw). It was really close to the Waterloo Tube station as well as most major sites. I totally did my fair share of walking, but I appreciated being so central to everything.

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I visited Harrods, Buckingham Palace (2x), the London Tower, London Bridge AND Tower Bridge (not the same thing!), a few cathedrals, saw some Roman ruins, had a wonderfully colorful British tour guide, and ended up getting to hang out with one of my friends from college! London was the shortest leg of the trip, but I made sure to pack in as much as I could.

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I had messaged my friend Alex about a month prior to the trip and asked for some recommendations. We met at Liberty in the HR cognant, both were in SHRM, and both worked at J. Crew. He has been living in London for the past few years and I caught him just in time since he is about to move back to the States! It worked out that he was free one of the nights I was going to be in town and asked me to go with him to the London outpost of Hillsong. I had actually never been to a Hillsong service even though they visit the Dallas area fairly often and I was actually in the Hillsong “neighborhood” back in the day on my Australian trip (never actually saw the campus though). It was such a great service and I was really happy I went. The guy speaking we are pretty sure spoke at Liberty our Sophomore year (I still need to verify the speaker schedule) and he also played the saxophone! He played “What a Wonderful World” and Justin Beiber’s song “Let Me Love You” (which my new little friend group and I continued to sing the rest of the night). After the service I was invited to tag along for dinner with Alex’s friends aka my new friends. We went to this Brazilian restaurant and stayed for a super long time just laughing and talking. Almost everyone wasn’t from London and I actually met someone who went to the same high school as my cousin! It truly is a small world. If I ever get to come back to Dublin/London I know who to call 🙂

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London was a great couple of days and, per usual, I wish I could stay longer. I could totally see myself living in London, especially once I figure out the Tube system!

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Stay tuned for the rest of Europe!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

Solo Travel – Dublin Wrap Up

Hello again!

Last year when I came to Ireland I didn’t know a soul. I managed to make quite a few friends in my month here and develop a sort of routine. This time I am coming into these few weeks with a roster of ready-made friends, but these people all have lives too. I cannot solely depend on others to keep me entertained and that’s a bad habit to have anyway. Always be as self-sufficient as possible. #lifemotto

Tips for times like these:

  • Be flexible if possible – make a list prior to the trip of places that you would like to see, but don’t necessarily have to stick to a strict schedule.
  • Download some books (or bring some along if space/weight isn’t an issue)
  • Always have pen and paper (or the electronic equivalent)
  • Comfy shoes – exploring on your own might entail getting a tad “lost”.  Always count on walking more than initially intended
  • Bring cash/currency, but not too much at one time

Here are some pictures  places I’ve been in the past few days. I of course had to spend a leisurely afternoon in St. Stephen’s Green park, which is handily across the street from my hotel. I have had the good fortune of nice weather this trip and that day was the perfect day for a stroll in the park.

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I also checked an item off of my personal bucket list: buying my first Louis Vuitton Neverfull (on my own!). Please spare me your arguments on how these are overpriced la la la… I wanted one, did my research, and discovered that Europe is the cheapest place to buy them due to the imports and how well the US dollar is doing against the Euro. Ideally, I would have liked to buy this in Paris, but since I am not checking a bag all of the money I saved by buying it in Europe instead of in Dallas would have been diminished. I can get it hot stamped back in Dallas so that’s not a problem. I don’t like to get the normal souvenirs. I want mine to be useful and what could be more useful than a designer bag? 😉

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Solo travel is going to become more a part of my life as my friends start to pair off and my sister is still in college (aka broke) so it’s either deal with being alone or don’t go at all. Not going at all and missing out on all of the opportunities that come up is a sad way to live. That being said, even if a travel partner becomes available they may not be the best fit for your type of travel, so choose wisely. Sometimes being alone is better than being with the wrong person (true in travel life and real life).

Here is an actual picture of my hotel from the outside and my room. I was pretty pleased with my stay at The Shelbourne. I think there are some updates still being made to the hotel so if I ever get the opportunity to stay here again my next room might look a bit different. I loved the location and how close it was to Grafton. The food here was also great, which is incredibly convenient when it is a typical rainy Dublin night and you just don’t have the energy to find a new restaurant.

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I also FINALLY made it into Copper’s! For those of you who don’t know, Copper Face Jack’s is the #1 most profitable nightclub in all of Europe. I thought it was fairly packed, but apparently it wasn’t even the busiest evening since you were still able to move around a bit. They play “cheesy music” (aka 90’s and early 2000’s pop – Spice Girls, B*Witched, etc…) and it’s basically a great time. This is a place where you end the night, so you can’t get there too early (or too sober). The Dubs definitely have a different way of dancing than we do in the States; cue to me being the only one fist pumping….. The funny thing too is that if you passed it on the street you probably wouldn’t even know it was a club. This one as well as another called Dicey’s (which I went to last time) are both located next to business offices in historic Georgian buildings. I totally passed here in my cab probably 20 times before I even noticed the fairly non-descript sign outside the door.

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And with that, my posts about Dublin are over for the moment and the rest of my vacation can begin! I apologize about the posts being so spread apart, but I was pretty busy during my time in Dublin. I will be back for a night in a week so I may have some more to add later. Keep on the lookout for the rest of my posts from other parts of Europe!

-Savvy