Thursday, August 29, 2013

We're off to the fjords!

Labor Day weekend! FINALLY! We are spending our last summer 4 day weekend by heading to the land of Vikings, fjords, and dried, salted fish-


I am definitely not this brave...

Scandinavia remains one of the places Fionn and I have never been, so we wanted to visit before winter hits and it becomes impossible. Even though I'm dreading the infamous crazy high prices, I'm pretty excited about fjords, breathtaking natural beauty, and checking out Norwegian cuisine.

I hope we come back with some awesome pictures and fun stories to share (fingers crossed for some sunshine!). Anyone already been to Norway and have some advice for us?

Have a great Labor Day, everyone! :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Day in Dublin with the Concertina Chemist

Once the Fleadh was over, I headed back to Dublin to catch my flight to Munich. I had a free day in Dublin, so I called up an old friend of mine who lives there and was happy when he said he could meet up and show me around a little. He's a great concertina player, the guy who seems to know everyone in the Irish music community, an all around nice guy, and he's getting a PhD in Chemistry. Talk about a Jack of All Trades, right? He's also camera shy, so I told him I'd give him a super secret alias when I recapped our day in Dublin.

So, without further ado, I present a day in Dublin with the Concertina Chemist! :)

Since I only had a few hours before my flight, we mostly stayed around the Trinity College and Temple Bar area, but it was still great. I always love having locals show me around their city. Yeah, you don't get an "official tour", but I like seeing what real people like-where's the best place for a session? Where did you once see something funny? Where's the best place for ice cream? (more on that in a minute!)

And honestly, as a former tour guide, I get very bored with official tours. Show me the real life!

Molly Malone and the Polish man putting on his fuzzy leprechaun costume...not kidding

I really like Dublin because it has kind of an edgy vibe to it that makes it fun. It's also very historical, which appeals to a nerd like me. We lamented how touristy Temple Bar has's always sad when you see the chain restaurants and Chinese magnet stores start popping up...

CC himself! Told you he was camera shy

One stop on our tour I really liked was Trinity College. Their campus is gorgeous! I'm jealous CC gets to call it home (though I think he's pretty tired of student life after years slaving away)

Pretty soon CC had to head to a class, so we said our goodbyes and headed in our respective directions. Since I had some time before my flight still, I took CC's advice and checked out a local ice cream place called Murphy's that he guaranteed me was pretty dang awesome.

The thing I liked immediately is that they had lots of choices. Not just the usual stuff, but different things like Sea Salt, Guinness, Brown Bread and Orange Marmalade! I liked that they had lactose free options too!

On CC's advice, I went for Kieran's Cookies and Sea Salt.

Oh my gosh, y'all. It was good. Verrrrrry good. I was sad I hadn't gone for a bigger cone so I could have tried more flavors! The cookies were just sweet enough with a little crunch and the sea salt was a really pleasant blend of salty and sweet. I'll admit, I was a little skeptical, but they got that balance perfect. Plus they harvest their own sea salt!

The guys behind the counter were extremely nice, and I liked that all of their ingredients were so fresh and local. All in all I just really liked this place. I can see why CC recommended it!

If you're in Dublin and hankering for ice cream, you can find Murphy's Ice Cream at 27 Wicklow St. They also have shops in Killarney and Dingle if you're in that neck of the woods!

Happily full of ice cream, I had to get on the road or I'd miss my flight. One last look at the Liffey...

Then a scone and tea for the road and we were headed back to Germany!

Even though it was a brief trip, it was nice seeing an old friend and trying some awesome ice cream. I love Dublin! Are you inspired to head on over to Dublin? :)

Welcome to all the Travel Tuesday-ers! Go check out this super fun link up if you haven't already! :)

A Compass Rose

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry

Last weekend I got to do something I've always wanted to do: go to the Fleadh Cheoil. The Fleadh Cheoil (Flah Key-ole) is kind of like the Olympics of Irish Music. Competitors come from all over the world to compete for the title of "All Ireland Champion" in music, song, old style dancing, and others forms of traditional Irish culture. It's also a huge, week long music festival and celebration of Irish culture.

For those of you new to the blog, I'm of Irish descent and grew up playing Irish music with my mom and brother. I'm from Savannah, GA, which is known for its Irish community, and I've been playing in bands, competing, and doing the whole Irish thing for years. I have always wanted to go to the Fleadh Cheoil, and was elated when I got the chance this year (it helps that Germany is way closer to Ireland than Georgia!)

Girl performing the broom dance...yep, you dance with a broom :)

Friday, I flew into Dublin and took the 4 hour bus up to Derry. We visited Derry at Christmastime last year, and you may remember me mentioning its troubled past. This was actually the first Fleadh Cheoil held in Northern Ireland instead of the Republic of Ireland, and everyone said this year had a different vibe to it. I'll just use that as an excuse to go again next year ;) Despite the difference, I had a blast!

As soon as I arrived, I felt like I had walked into Irish music land. Everywhere you turned you found people playing Irish music. All ages, all skill levels, all instruments. It was such a treat watching these phenomenal musicians busking on the street.

The Fleadh had been going on for nearly a week, but it was really heating up for the weekend. I was so excited to find out one of my favorite Irish bands, Dervish, was holding a FREE concert that night!!

*cue hysterical fangirl squealing*

It started raining halfway through but I didn't even care. A guy came up from the audience and even danced while they were playing!

Of course the highlight of the night was getting to meet the front woman, Cathy Jordan, after the show. She is one of the best and most entertaining singers I've ever heard, and I've been a huge fan of hers since I was 13. I was shaking I was so nervous to meet her in person! Luckily, I'd befriended two guys from Seattle and they very kindly took some pictures for me. Thanks, guys!!

Me, being a starstruck goober... :)

Seriously, if you like Irish music, heck, if you like MUSIC, go and google Dervish right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW. They will not disappoint.

Things only got better from there. The Fleadh basically turns a city in Irish music paradise. You can watch competitions (I saw some amazingly talented youngsters who gave me chills their music was so beautiful), check out the many musician-centered shops that pop up, and eat lots of tasty things. Honestly, I had the best time just roaming around the city, feeling like I was in music paradise.

My second night I checked out a concert called Transatlantic Fleadh, a concert dedicated to Irish music and its influences through the world (Scottish, Bluegrass, etc). They brought together some famous Irish names like John Doyle, Arty McGlynn, and Declan O'Rourke, along with some bluegrass greats like the guys from Union Station and Tim O'Brien. Mind blown.

I had my competition (I didn't place in the top 3, but I had a great time anyway!) and then tried to soak up as much Fleadh atmosphere before it all ended!

I was staying in a hostel and had planned on staying in that night, but I ended up meeting 5 really nice girls from County Monaghan. When they found out I was alone they insisted I come out with them, and I am SO glad that I did. We had the best time!

We ended up checking out one of the Fleadh bars for a Fleadh after party. Holy cow. We walked in, and all I can say is, it was the exact definition of a hootenany. A band was tearing it up with some awesome traditional tunes, and almost everyone was dancing in some shape or form. Some people were step dancing, some were ceili dancing, some were sean nos dancing, some were just doing their own thang, but everyone was dancing and having the time of their lives. The whole atmosphere just felt joyful.

Pretty soon the girls and I were dancing, and we stayed there until the security guards closed it down for the night and told everyone to leave. Then we sat in the courtyard of our hostel and talked about life. It was such a fantastic ending to a fantastic weekend!

I had such a good time at this year's Fleadh and I'd love to go back next year. It was such a dream come true to get to go, I only wish I could've stayed longer...

So, any Irish music lovers out there wanna come with next year? :)