Ireland – The Emerald Isle

Prior to visiting Ireland, all I knew about it was that it is very, very green and there are a lot of sheep. While doing research about what we would do while there, I discovered that Ireland has so much to offer and it got me pumped for my very first visit with my family.

Ireland, Dublin specifically, is a 6 hour plane ride from the NJ/NYC area and that is where we decided to make our home base for the next few days. We spent 3 nights/4 days exploring the city of Dublin as well as venturing out to the countryside and Northern Ireland. To be completely honest, Ireland was never on my list of places I wanted to visit, but my husband had his eye on it for a while and I am SO happy we finally made the trip there.

Just a side note: Our itinerary might sound a little aggressive for some people, especially if traveling with younger kids, with such a short amount of time but for our family I knew it would work.

Where to stay?

When you don’t have too much time in a city, location is KEY! My one big issue with Dublin was how expensive accommodations are. Most decent, non hostels, in the heart of the city will easily cost you $300+ per night when approaching peak season. I personally prefer rentals when traveling because they provide more room for my toddler and always end up being more cost effective. We found the most PERFECT rental and I couldn’t have been more happy with our choice. Dublin City Condo is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with full kitchen, washer/dryer and balcony. It was in a great location too – 1 minute to the nearest grocery store, 2 minutes to a Starbucks and in walking distance to pubs, restaurants, shopping and most major tourist attractions. Best of all – it was a lot more affordable and had way more space than any other hotel we could have booked.

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Click HERE to view our rental.

 Day 1:

We landed in Dublin at about 6am but by the time we went through customs, grabbed our luggage and made it to our rental – it was almost 9am. We were exhausted, so we took a quick nap and then headed out to explore. Prior to heading to Dublin, I scored a great deal on Groupon for a 1 day Adult Dublin Pass – normally priced at 59€ (abt $69) for only 40€ (abt $47) so picked up 3 of them as I was traveling with my husband & mother – Victor is still free at most attractions! If you are not familiar with the Dublin Pass, it’s basically a sightseeing card that includes a ton of the top places to visit. Even though we had a late start to the day, we were determined to make the most of our pass. These are all the things we were able to do/check out on our first day:

-Hop on Hop Off Bus

-Dublin Castle

-St. Patricks Cathedral

-Teelings Distillery

-Guinness Storefront

I would say my highlights were St. Patricks Cathedral and Teelings. I’m not religious but I love visiting churches while in a new city, mainly because many have a lot of history behind them and architectural wise are simply stunning. Teelings was also a big surprise to me because I feel like people don’t talk about it as much as Guinness or Jameson. It was my favorite of the 3 – it is much more intimate in the sense that the people who work there seemed to genuinely LOVE their job and telling you the history behind the distillery and overall just more personal. The tasting room was great & parents, it’s kid friendly so absolutely don’t miss doing a tour when you are in town.

 Day 2: 

I knew I couldn’t visit Ireland and not make my way to the Cliffs of Moher. Usually, I have no problem just renting a car and driving while on vacation, but we decided that ultimately the best thing to do for this trip was to book tours. Doing this allowed us to see more in such a short amount of time. While that may not be ideal for everyone – it ended up being the perfect decision for us. I booked the Cliffs of Moher tour with Irish Day Tours that included a visit to Doolin, The Burren and Galway City. The tour was about 12 hours long but we never felt rushed, except for the short stop in Galway. The drive was super serene and scenic with lush greenery going on for what seemed like forever. I can’t really properly put into words what it feels like when you get to the top of the cliff and are finally able to just take that view in. It’s one of those things that in pictures it’s amazing BUT in person… you are left speechless. I think at that moment, I officially fell in love with Ireland. Each stop left a big impression on me and I am looking forward to the day I get to return to Ireland to Glamp in Doolin and spend a few days exploring Galway.


Day 3: 

On this day, we got to visit Belfast, the Giants Causeway and Carrick A Rede Bridge with Wild Rover Tours, which also was about a 12 hour tour. Sidenote: I’m pretty sure Wild Rover is the only operator in Dublin that offers something that includes all 3 of these in one day. While in Belfast, we took a 1 hour Black Taxi Tour and I now totally understand why they are so highly rated. I am very fascinated about history in general but visiting Belfast makes you open your eyes to current day issues and I honestly was so shocked to learn about how separated by religion/national communities they still are. The art work on Shankill and Falls Rd show two complete different ideologies. My top highlight from that day would have to be seeing my son cross the Carrick A Rede Bridge. At only 2 years old, he is so brave, because after crossing once – my knees were shaking but it was worth EVERY STEP. That evening me & Ryan stepped out solo for some adult fun. The bar area around Temple Bar was a little more rowdy than I could deal with after a super long day, so thankfully we found this really awesome spot called Mulligan & Haines. I highly recommend this spot for drinks and good music.

Day 4:

Today was our last day in Dublin.  Since we would be catching a flight to our next destination later in the evening, we decided to sleep in a bit and then head to the Jameson Distillery for a drink and then catch lunch at The Brazen Head, which is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. The Brazen Head was super busy but was worth the wait for a table. We got a table at the back bar area and stepping in that room you are instantly transformed to a past era. There is something really cool about having a pint of Guinness in the oldest pub in Ireland, so I would say this is one of those stops you have to make when in Dublin. The food was also really good!

One of the questions I got most from people after our trip was regarding safety while at some of our stops – in particular, the Cliffs and walking across the bridge. Victor is your typical toddler boy. He is full of energy and is very curious. We discussed before leaving for our trip how we would make certain stops work. When we got to the part of the cliffs that were fully open, my husband held him. As you can see from the photos above, the only shot I got of him there was behind a secure wall and in front of a castle. To me personally, his safety is worth more than a cool shot. If not careful, it can be very dangerous as it is fully open. I would not recommend letting a small child walk/run around this area by themselves. As far as the bridge – it’s actually very secure and I did a lot of research about small children walking across it before deciding we would let him. We knew that when we made it to the bridge, if he expressed that he did not want to go (my son is very vocal about not doing certain things) one of us would stay back with him but he was so brave and crossed it, holding my husbands hand, with no issue. This bridge is also much shorter than it appears in photos. Getting to the bridge was actually way more work than we anticipated but was totally worth it.

Ireland exceeded my expectations. It’s such a gorgeous country and for the parents that follow me – it’s super doable with kids. You know your children better than anyone else, so just plan accordingly  and go at their pace. As always – if you have any questions on my recap or maybe something I didn’t cover, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Greece has always been on my MUST VISIT list, so my husband and I didn’t think twice on making it the destination for our honeymoon. Since we aren’t very traditional, we skipped out on engagement photos and instead decided to do a photoshoot while in Santorini, our first stop in Greece. I use Tripadvisor for all travel related questions before any of my trips, so I posted in one of the forums looking for a photographer but honestly all of the suggestions sent to me just weren’t my style. A few weeks before our honeymoon I got a message from a photographer, RAZMIK. He is based out of Lebanon but would be in Santorini, the same time we would be, shooting a wedding. I checked out his website and I booked him right away! Our day shooting around Oia with Razmik and his wife Rita was nothing short of magical. The photos captured on our honeymoon session are some of my favorite memories.

I highly recommend booking a honeymoon shoot if your budget allows, even if it’s only an hour or two.  We spent a few hours with Razmik, so we left the creativity and locations up to him but if you are short on time, discuss your vision with your photographer. Click HERE to check out RAZMIK’s website. Since he is a traveling photograper he might just be in whatever European city you are visiting.

Here are a few of our favorite shots:

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It’s been almost 5 years since I traveled to Budapest.

Back in 2013 when my boyfriend (now husband) suggested it as one of the stops for a multi city Europe vacation I was planning I was like whattttt??? Budapest? Where is that and why do we want to go? Long story short, it’s in Hungary and that is where his family is from.

What I didn’t realize is that I would be exploring one of the most underrated cities with amazing medieval architecture, cool Turkish baths and several historic bridges. OH & they have a love for goulash and paprika… 2 things I am not a fan of to be honest but if that’s your thing – go for it.

Here are 12 photos that will make you want to visit Budapest:

  1. Hungarian Parliament Building – how stunning is this structure?

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PC: @krenn_imre

2. Not too shabby at night either….

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3. Thermal Baths! While there are many around the city, The Széchenyi Bath is one of the most popular ones.

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PC: flickr

4. Gelato Rose?! YES, please.

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PC: @zohar_shushan

5. In a city filled with history, the Shoes on the Danube is one of the most moving memorials in Europe.

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PC: flickr

6. Ride in style while visiting Margaret Island.

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PC: @pearls_and_paris

7. The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of my favorite spots in Budapest. You get the absolute BEST panoramic view across the Danube, Margaret Island and Pest!

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PC: flickr

8. Hop on the Buda Castle Hill Funicular to give your feet a break and for this view.

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PC: flickr 

9. What’s better than a pedicure? A Fish pedicure.

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PC: @pearls_and_paris

10. On one of our last nights in town, we stopped into Buddha-Bar randomly for a drink. They had a private event going on and we were invited to join in on the fun! The atomsphere in this place is amazing. Stop in for delicious food, yummy drinks and great music.

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PC: @krenn_imre

11. One of my favorite phrases is “Always make sure you look up” – the Budapest Opera House is the perfect example why.

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PC: @krenn_imre

12. New York Café – The most beautiful cafe in the world. 

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PC: New York Café

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I spent a majority of my Honeymoon in Santorini eating fresh seafood, drinking A LOT of Ouzo and catching the most spectacular sunset you will ever see. In between all of that though, we actually got to experience some really great activities. Here is a look at some of my favorite things to do while visiting Santorini PLUS one popular tourist activity that you should cross off your list.

  1. Book a sailing cruise with Sunset Oia – You can’t come to Santorini and not take a sailing cruise! We chose to book the premium semi private Lagoon 500 day cruise which held a max of 16 people but they also had some itineraries that held up to 55 people and started at 95E. On the Lagoon 500 we made stops at the hot springs, white beach and red beach. What I loved most is that you don’t actually go to the beach… they were at a far distance and you basically just jump in and swim and snorkel in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Included in the price is unlimited beverages and a delicious fresh lunch. At the end of the sail a bus can bring you back to your hotel or you can decide to stay and head to Perissa Black Sand Beach like we did. 4
  2. Watch the sunset from Oia – Santorini has hands down the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. If you are not staying in Oia, I highly recommend heading there to catch it at least one of the nights you are in town. You will get a full view of the caldera with the whitewashed homes with a rosey pink sky that changes hues until it is completely set. Just be warned… you and what seems like 91736847465984 people will have the same idea so find a spot early. We stood in Oia and lucked out because our cave had a private terrace and a clear view of the sunset – with no tourist lingering in our eyes view. 1
  3. Wine Tasting at Santo Winery – There are numerous wineries on the island but one of the most popular has to be Santo Winery. A place that you can literally visit for the view alone. Take a tour, order the 18 wine flight and enjoy the company of whoever you are visiting with. The sunset is amazing from here too so order another glass and enjoy the scenery. santo
  4. Have dinner in Amoudi Bay – Amoudi Bay is a tiny port located at the bottom of those 300 steps below Oia. The walk down, besides dodging donkey poo, is actually not that bad – the walk up…. yikes lol but totally worth it. There are a handful of restaurants and cafes that you can visit for lunch or an early dinner and just enjoy the gorgeous view and serene atmosphere. I had this incredible squid ink lobster pasta at one of the restaurants that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since. Santorini-Ammoudi-Bay-fionaTree-1024x682
  5. Rent a quad and go on your own to explore – A lot of people tend to only visit Oia + Fira when in Santorini but their are so many charming villages all over the island. Rent a quad, I believe they go for about 45E per day, and venture out. This allows you to visit beaches and other spots you otherwise would have missed out on. quad
  6. Have dinner in Fira overlooking the caldera – We only ventured into Fira once and ended up dancing late into the night there but the highlight for me would have to be dinner at Volcano Blue. Seeing the sunset over the caldera was beautiful, the wait staff was so friendly and the food was DELICIOUS! 3
  7. Visit the Santorini Brewing Company – My husband loves trying out the local beer whenever we are away and Yellow Donkey happens to be one of his favorites. This brewery is small but it’s definitely worth a visit if you are a beer lover. You will get a tour, a tasting of all the beers available and then can purchase some to go if you’d like. 910084c4eb3461ee8947cd42bdd4b146_XL

The ONE activity that I think everyone visiting Santorini should avoid is riding the donkeys. I’m in no way an animal activist but these animals spend day in and out with tourist on their back because “it looks fun.” If you participate in this you are contributing to the abuse they are receiving on a daily basis. They are typically overworked, mistreated by handlers, are often not given enough water & food per day and are forced to work in grueling heat by carrying people who often weigh more than they do. Santorini-donkeys

There’s something super charming about renting an apartment when visiting Europe. To live like a local for a few days or even a few weeks really helps you indulge in the culture and lets you see the city in a different light. Paris is MY city… I mean, it’s not literally mine but I just have this connection with it. The city, the people, the food…. the buildings! The buildings and architectures are this perfect blend of Gothic style and elegance. I have been to Paris twice now and both times have stayed at a rental property. Each so different yet both exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend renting a place in one of these beautiful buildings when visiting. These are a few of my favorite apartments that can be found through Cobblestone Paris Rentals.

  1. Balcon Notre Dame – This is the apartment I rented on my last visit to Paris just a few weeks ago. First of all, it’s located in the Latin Quarter (5th & 6th arrondissements) which happens to be my favorite part of Paris to stay in. It literally is located in the middle of everything and the ideal location for walking to many of the landmarks. The apartment itself fits 4 guest very comfortably between its 2 bedrooms and has a modern kitchen with a spacious livingroom area. My favorite part of the apartment is the walk out balcony that overlooks the Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral. 1 2 3 4
  2. La Charme Du Marais – This rental is super dreamy and where I want to stay for my next visit to Paris. It is an elegantly furnished 1 bedroom apartment that can accommodate 4 guests with a large open-style living/dining space with a full kitchen. It’s located on the border of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Arrondissements so you will have the pleasure of enjoying 3 wonderful neighborhoods of Paris. The small walk out balcony with chairs is a charming addition. 1 2 3 4
  3. Le Triomphe Elysees – This apartment is on the border of the 8th & 17th arrondissement where some of the most famous shops, five-star hotels and Michelin gourmet restaurants are located. You are steps from the famous Arc de Triomphe and from the “Place De L’Etoile” where you can check out views of Champs Elysees Boulevard and the Eiffel Tower. This one bedroom apartment is filled with historic Parisian charm. 1 23
  4. Terrasse Du Sorbonne – This 2 bedroom apartment is located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods, the Latin Quarter, right beside the Sorbonne University. It is a large, 2 bedroom apartment that fits up to 5 guests. From this apartment you will have an easy walk to many central sights such as Saint Germain Des Pres, The River Seine, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Du Louvre and the Jardin Luxembourg. It’s truly in the true center of it all and best of all – has a private terrace! 1 2 3
  5. Le Grand En Isle – This one bedroom apartment can accommodate up to 4 Guests. It’s located on exclusive Ile Saint Louis which is steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral. it is renovated with high-end fittings and furnishings and is stylishly decorated in a historic style to accentuate the original 17th century architectural. 1 2 3 4

 

Don’t these rentals make you just want to hop on the next flight to Paris?! Make sure to check out Cobblestone Paris as they have many more rentals all over the city.

If you guys have any more questions on where to stay when visiting – feel free to shoot me over an email.