We slept like babies! Our little part of the farmhouse is so cozy, and there are these amazing old wood shutters on the windows that make the room so dark. Breakfast was a typical Italian one, with lots of sweet things and cappuccinos. This small meal provided all the energy we needed to tackle the day.

During breakfast, we made our plans for the day, an exploratory journey to a town called Montalcino. This is one of the medieval towns that sit on the top of a hill. Of course, coming from Texas, their hills are our mountains and we were not ready for what was in store for us.

The town itself was around 25 minutes from where we were staying, and of course, we were using navigation apps to get us along the way. What we would soon find out once we set off was that the “quickest” route was through an old gravel road that was cut through the Tuscan countryside. This “road” is about 1.5 lanes wide at the best of times, and a great opportunity to practice your ability to pray while a crazy Italian is barreling toward you. After the longest 10-minute drive, we were back on the pavement and my blood pressure returned to a normal level, at least for now.

I spent a bit of time before we left working on locating the parking for the city as I had heard that it can be a bit tricky to find one. The reality is that these spots are not only small, but also apparently everyone wants them. To make matters worse, there is a fun thing called a ZTL zone in every city. This is basically a place set aside to prevent tourist from driving into these tight areas that are designed only for the residents. Unfortunately, it is easy to miss the sign or get turned around and without much effort they had pictures of your license and you get a nice fine as a gift when you get home. For us, we had to just loop around for a good fifteen minutes before we were able to stalk an old grandmother to her car and grab her spot.

The town itself started off nice, mostly because we were at the top of the hill. As we made our way down, the writing was on the wall that getting back to the car was going to be a beast of a climb. Fortunately for us, we were able to get into a delightful little resuraunt with a killer view for lunch. For most meals, Lindsey and I compete for who had the better meal. For this one, I think I certainly won it!

We walked around town for a bit just going down alleys that looked interesting and managed to find a castle that I am sure if one of the key features of the town. After having a wonderful call with our kiddo at the top of the castle, we made our way back to the farmhouse to take a little nap and get ready for dinner.

For dinner we went to Pienza to a restruant that our hotel recommended. It turns out that this is one of the main ones that the locals go to since we were the only ones who spoke English. The meal was amazing, I had duck ragù and a second dish with roasted rabbit, and Lindesy got bruschetta and gnocchi. It was really tough to know who won as my rabbit and her gnocchi wereboth fantastic. It was pouring rain when we got out of dinner so we headed back home and did not have a chance to walk around town. Little did we know that the next day would more than likely be one of the best days of our entire trip.

We woke up on Wednesday full of energy and ready to get on with our day. After a nice breakfast at the hotel that appeared to be void of any real coffee (assuming it was weak instant coffee), we decided to head back out to the streets of Florence before we checked out. We managed to find that the Arno River was just a block away from the hotel, this is the larger river that splits Florence into two. From there we walked to the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is some fancy old bridge that has some very expensive jewelry stores on it. For me, this was a bit underwhelming, and I was more interested in the people on fancy row boats in the water. However, it was early and the shops were not open, so maybe we swing by there again at the end of our trip.

We meandered around the streets of Florence for another hour and managed to find the Pitti Palace (a place that I think we may revisit). As well as Piazza Della Signore which is full of old statues, a replica of the David statue, and a cool Neptune fountain. It was a square full of naked (an obviously cold) statues of men.

We needed to head back to the hotel and somehow using my excellent sense of direction (luck!) I was able to navigate back this time without any assistance from a map. We packed up and said our goodbyes to the excellent staff and headed back to the tram for the airport where we would pick up our car. We used points for our car rental and I found Alamo rental was reasonably priced for what we needed. This was a great choice because most of the Europeans were renting from well-known rental places so we were able to walk directly to our counter to pick up our car. We ended up getting a Spanish car, a Seat Tarraco. This beast only had 13 kilometers on it and still had the new car smell, as well as a great dashboard that works with Apple CarPlay.

After watching some YouTube videos on how to teach the car to speak English instead of Italian we were on our way to Tuscany. The drive would be around an hour and a half and would be one of the most intense drives of my life. I have mentioned previously that we try to plan the smallest amount on this trip. There is one issue with this plan, I had no real understanding of all the types of traffic signs in Italy. There are signs for speed, no passing, no waiting, no stopping, end of speed zone, construction, minimum speed, limited traffic area, smaller lanes, and the list keeps going. Not having any form of Italian or English on the signs meant that we had to guess what they meant. Imagine driving down the street and seeing a sign that looks like the speed limit is 50mph, then going a mile down the road and seeing another sign showing the speed limit is 30mph, but in blue numbers. What would you do? I know what I did, I was changing speed like some sugar-crazed ADHD kid who could not make up my mind. In reality, any of the speed limit signs in blue number were the minimum speed…so obvious!

Our first stop in Tuscany was Podere Spedelone, which is an old farmhouse that they have converted into a hotel. The trip from Florence to there was stressful, but most of it was expressway driving and not too bad. However, as we got into the heart of the country we soon found another feature that did not show up on Google Maps. The hills of Tuscany are…hilly… with lots of windy roads. Poor Lindsey has been doing all she could to keep from getting sick pretty much anytime we get into the car.

We make it to our little farm hotel and it is just lovely. Lindsey was able to unpack all of our stuff, something that she has been looking forward to doing since we will be at this location for six nights. They have a great restaurant and one that Lindsey has been dying to try since they are so great at their Instagram by always putting the menus up. We decided to eat here since it was such a busy day and it made everything so much easier on us. They start the meal off with a traditional appertivo (like a happy hour) where they have a magnificent spread of meats, olives, and other wonderful things. For dinner, we had a great Rissoto followed by veil cheeks on top of sweet potatoes, and then something similar to cookies and cream ice cream for dessert.

We ended the evening knowing that our time here was going to be amazing and looking forward to the rest of our time.

The year is 1492. An Italian guy who goes by the name Chris decides that he wants to find an easier way to get to India. Queen Izzy slaps down some approval for his little trip. He gets a few boats together, all with easy-to-remember names (you are saying them in your head right now, right?), and heads west. West…that is the plan. There are no specific details on what to do when he gets to Asia. The journey is the destination.

Five hundred thirty-two years later, a couple of crazy Texan explorers set out for a similar journey, traveling east to find a place called Italy and making our way to Tuscany. They were armed with only one plan: go to Tuscany, eat food, and drink wine. Two hours before the pair got on the plane, you could ask them, “What are you going to do in Italy?” The response would be a resounding, “We don’t know; we are going to Tuscany.”

Vacuuming, driving, seafood, and the proper doneness of steaks are topics on which Lindsey and I rarely agree. In fact, just mentioning these topics raises my blood pressure. Traveling, on the other hand, is an area where Lindsey and I naturally sync. The women on my side of the family are obsessive planners regarding vacations. They are satisfied that they can experience “everything” when they go somewhere and, as such, have everything planned to the most minor details. Alternatively, Lindsey and I enjoy living in the moment, experiencing things as they come. For us, being tied down by plans means that if we fall in love with a place, we can’t stick around with it as we are constantly moving to the next thing.

For this trip, we will stay in four locations over 18 days: Pienza, San Gimignano, Cinque Terra, and Florence. Of these locations, Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, home of Michelangelo, and the Duomo, we only have one full day. The rest is spent in the countryside, where we wake up most days without any firm plans for what we will do.

So, as we prepare for our journey, we look forward to sunsets, gelato, and a slower pace, enjoying the journey rather than all the places we “should” go.

A new adventure is soon to come as we embark for an 18-day trip to Tuscany. Join us as we dust off this blog (Really? Do people still blog?) for new fun times!

I feel a little older and more wiser as I am sitting here in the adult-only area of the ship drinking a glass of wine with my lovely wife.  As a look over at her wind blown hair, I cannot help but think about Ferrah Faucet and her beautiful feathered hair.  As we have some time now for reflection, I think I will give us a 9 out of 10 for our embarkation experience.

Lindsey decided to get only a few hours of sleep last night while I am on the back end of a upper respiratory infection and have been taking plenty of medicine to “help” me sleep well.  We both got up and moving around 7am.  Fortunately, we had all of the bags packed last night with the exception of our carry on gear.  The plan was to be on the road at 9:30 AM but for some reason my traveling anxiety (I guess I am finally putting a name on it) was not going nuts and I really was not in a crazy rush to get going.  We stopped at the bakery on the way out to get some breakfast and were on the way to our vacation around 10 AM.

I was thinking that we would run into some of the Lone Star Motorcycle Rally traffic on the way, but it really was smooth sailing all the way to the port.  Once we arrived at the port, we found out where all of the bikers were hiding.  Lindsey was told that they were going to be on the opposite side of the strand from the cruise terminal.  Turns out that was a big fat lie!  They were practically sitting on top of the terminal.  This made first time cruisers like us have a heck of a time dealing with parking and getting our bags checked properly.  We managed to get into the terminal around noon.  As we were going through security, we heard the announcement of the first family being allowed on the boat.

Once through security we went ahead and got checked in.  The line was a bit long, but we knew that we had plenty of time before our turn to board.  After check-in there was the kid’s section check-in.  Technically, we could have avoided this line and just picked up Jennifer’s access bracelet on the kid section of the boat, but since we were boarding group number 24 and they just called group 9, we went ahead and stood in line so that we would not need to stand in line on the boat.

The great part is that once we got checked in to the kid section, we only had to wait around 1k0 minutes before our group was called.  We had a family picture taken and then we walked onto the boat.  For Disney cruises, they announce the names of all the families as they walk on the boat. While there was only a handful of crew members in the area, it still does give a little touch of pageantry.  

Once on the boat, we already had a game plan on how we were going to attack the needed tasks.  Lindsey stood in line to book the princess and Frozen meet-n-greets and character breakfast.  I went to the adult area to sign us up for the drinking seminars, and took the kid with me since I would be faster.  Jennifer and I were done fairly quickly and went ahead up to our room to drop off the carry on gear that I had been lugging around.  I told Jennifer that we could not poke around the room too much since we wanted to experience it as a family and it was not fair to Lindsey since she was still waiting in her line.

Once we accomplished all of our tasks, we were then able to head up to the room to unpack and look around.  Fortunately, by the time we got up there our luggage had arrived.  While I love Lindsey, there is nothing that can stop her from holding off from unpacking clothes that are sitting there looking at her.  Within no time we had all our clothes unpacked and all of the luggage stored under the bed.  Amazingly all of our stuff fit perfectly in the space that they provide.  This room, for the size that it is, can hold a ton of stuff and does not overflow into the living area.

We hung around the room until the muster drill was done, and then we headed to the top deck for the sail away party.  It was nice to experience this in person after the hundred of videos I watched.  All the classic disney characters made an appearance and had a very interactive party for the kids.

After the party we headed back to the room to get ready for the afternoon activities.  Jennifer and I were sitting on the veranda while the ship was pushing away.  She was having fun hanging all over me and somehow managed to knock my glasses off of my head….down the boat…and into the ocean.   Yes, my glasses, which I need so badly, are sitting in the Gulf.  Fortunately, I was a Boy Scout and thought ahead to bring my spare pair of glasses.  Jennifer was very upset from what happened, but it is not the end of the world and having a second pair means that we do not miss a beat, and I don’t have to dictate any of the blog for Lindsey to write.

I will end the blog post here.  We have been able to explore the ship and have our first night’s dinner.  It is a bit late now and we are ready to get a good night sleep and be fresh and ready for the morning.  Catch y’all tomorrow!


Getting onboard

Castaway Party


Happy Cruise Eve!

It almost does not seem real that cruise day is almost here. Next to the Manhattan Project, I don’t think as much work has been put into researching a trip. The constant searching of Youtube, Blogs and vacation tip sites have hopefully armed us with all of the needed information to have a successful vacation. We do have some positives working in our favor though. First, we have a kid who loves to engage with others. She can talk at length to kids, adults and even statues. The second, and perhaps our strongest asset, is the fact that we are laid back. We never feel like we need to do or see everything. Most things that we have scheduled revolve around drinking…so we have that going for us.

Today has been a day of getting all of the last minute things taken care of. Laundry has been done and the house is clean and ready for us to come home. We are now starting the packing process. The bad part about this cruise is that the trend is to dress up a bit for dinner. This means that between excursions, theaters and dinner it is possible to go through three sets of clothes in one day. I think all of our luggage is going to make an appearance for this trip. There will be no one on that boat that cannot say that we don’t look damn fine though! The downside is that if anything were to happen to our luggage, we would be missing a good portion of our work clothes in the process.

Our arrival time tomorrow is set for 1:30 – 2:00 PM. Lindsey is already prepared for Captain Travel (me) to have us there by noon just to make sure that we have no chance of delays. The word around town on the interwebs is that general boarding starts at 12:30, so there is a good chance that we could just walk on the boat shortly after we arrive and get through security. Once we get on the boat, the fun does not start. They have recently switched to a ticket system for all of the princess meet and greets. This means that once we get on the boat, we need to rush to the area that is handing out the tickets since they are first come, first serve. While, oddly enough, Jennifer has told us that she is not that interested in princesses anymore, I am sure that things will change when they are standing in front of her. The next thing we need to do once on the boat is sign up for the adult drink activities. There are two that we are most interested in, Mixology and Stem to Stern. The Mixology is just as it sounds, a taste and learn about mixing different drinks. It is apparently a must-do on the ship for adults and has all the good stuff I love, alcohol. The other one, Stem to Stern, is a wine tasting session in which I am sure they try to upsell expensive wine to us, which we can not drink until we get off the boat.

Once we get done with all of that business, we should be able to get to our stateroom. We have a room that has a veranda ocean view. It is classed as a “navigator’s porthole” which means that we have a large opening, but unlike the other verandas our has a metal bottom. For us it means that we have a little more privacy in our outdoor area and a little more lounging options. I’ll shoot out some pictures which can better explain what it looks like.

Time to finish packing and get a good night sleep. It is going to be a long day tomorrow of “chillaxing.”

Testing one, two, three….is this thing still on?  It turns out that we have not had enough adventures to merit a blog post, but as Jennifer’s favorite musician says, “the times they are a changing!”.  Months ago Lindsey and I started to look for a enjoyable family vacation destination which we can all be a part of.  I guess we felt a little guilty with all of the fun we had in Ireland without the little one tagging along.

The first place that came in mind for me was Disney World.  As a kid I was blessed enough to visit Disney World quite often, and to this day still have fond memories of our time there.  Lindsey on the other hand only went once and had much more fun playing in the off-site hotel rather than her time in the park.  For those that do not know, while Lindsey is one of the most caring person I know, she does lack a little bit of patience (this is the nicest way I could phrase this).  From the immortal words of Paula Abdul opposites must attract, as my patience is one of my strong suits.  To that end, we are divided on the desire to stand in line after line at Disney World.  

Lindsey mentioned the idea of doing a Disney cruise, bridging the gap between my desire for Disney and her desire of lounging around drinking pretty drinks with fruit on the top.   It turns out that Disney was just planning on coming back to Galveston on the date that we were looking on taking the vacation.  For full disclosure it turns out that having the word “Disney”  in the name of the vacation means that it is several thousand dollars more expansive than other cruise options.  We had to really dig into how Disney stands above the others.  

It is no surprise that Disney Cruises have an exceptional kids program.  We are certain that our social butterfly of a kid will be right at home with their program.  On the ship there are two kids “clubs” which are in her age range.  For each club she will be given a wrist band which will let them know where she is at all times on the ship.  The kids area is a kids-only area, we are basically only able to drop her off and then are “forced” to go relax on the deck or in the adult areas.  I know, it will be awful.  For her age group the kids area is open from 9am till midnight.  They are able to provide her both lunch and dinner if need be, however I suspect that she will eat with us most times as the selection of food will be a bit better (and the desserts plentiful).  Each day we will  be given a Personal Navigator which will have a schedule of all events on the ship, both for adults and kids.  From this, Jennifer can plan her day around which club she wants to hang out in.  I have seen copies of these from other ships, and I will say that she will have a blast and I will not have to worry about any guilt of handing her over while Lindsey and I lounge.

As if the pot was not sweet enough there is another wonderful facet to the Disney cruise which I tip my hat to (seriously I need to class it up and really tip my hat more often), the dinner service.  There are two dinner services, one at 5:30 and one at 8:30.  We have chosen the late service, which at first I regretted.  Through my research I have discovered that this is actually the best service to go with for no other reason than Dine and Play.  Oh heavens do I want to kiss the person that thought of this idea!  Parents, what is the worst part of any fancy family dinner?  You can say it….that impatient kid(s)!  They are like piranhas, devouring their food and once it is all gone they either want more or to run off and do something else.  For some reason Jennifer can not seem to enjoy a nice conversation about diversifying our 401k and just wants to go off and play.  In steps Dine in Play!  For this we just simply inform our server that we will be participating in the program.  They will bring Jennifer’s food out ahead of ours (including dessert) and once she is done a counselor will come by to collect all of the kids like the wonderful lady in Hansel and Gretel and check them into the kids area.  We are then left to enjoy our dinner, and drinks, at our own pace while Jennifer gets to run off her dinner!

As a result of the wonderful children programs we have decided to go on a Disney Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder.  The best part, we sail in four days!  That rights, on November the 6th, we will be heading on a 7 day cruise which will visit Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth Jamaica.  The main purpose of this blog is to get back in the swing of detailing my thoughts, but also test out how much data blogging will require.  While the ship does have internet, it is charged based on the data usage.  This means that I need to be careful with how much data I actually push out to the internet.  Normally I would do this all on my laptop, however I have promised that no laptops will be brought on the trip to prevent even the possibility of dealing with work.  So I must do all of this on the IPad which will include writing the offline version of the blog, transferring images from iPhone to iPad, and beaming it all up to the internet so that the updates go live.  Hopefully it all works like a well oiled machine, but it is good that I have a good understanding on how to limit our data use.

I end this post with troublesome image, one that I do not easily admit to.  I, Jeff Drouet, am the owner of a selfie stick.  Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest!  For weeks if feels like I have hidden in the shadows with this little secret.  Yes, Lindsey, wanted us to have one.  However, I was the person to actually order it; a transgression that is not easily forgotten.  Please forgive me, and do hold my family accountable for my actions.

“Selfie Stick of Shame”

Our past two days in Norway have been much more relaxed than our time in Ireland. Since I have been here a bunch of times, I find that I do not have as much of a fire to go out and see things, not to mention it is sinfully expensive here.

On Saturday we had a slow morning which started at breakfast in the hotel. This was a first for Lindsey, as it had many traditional Norwegian foods like different fishes, many cheeses, and a big pile of liver available on the buffet. There, of course, was the normal goodies like eggs, bacon, bread and cereal. Lindsey did fall in love with the bread selection and raspberry jam. I think she would have no problems living here as long as she had a steady supply of fresh breads and butter.

It turns out that on Saturday the Oslo Marathon was taking place. This meant that most of the buses in the area were not working as they should due to delays or cancellations. We had planned to go to Vigeland Park and the Norwegian Folk Museum, but taking the bus was not a good option due too all of the detours. We ended up taking a taxi, which to put in perspective, cost $50 to go 8 miles. Vigeland Park is an interesting place that is not for the modest person (i.e. Lindsey). To put it lightly, it is a place that is fully of naked statues. By naked I mean NAKED, lots of dudes statues anatomically correct wrestling other dude statues. I, of course, am fully evolved and this did not bother me….sure that’s it.


Vigeland Park, when babies attack!


Vigeland Park


The monolith at Vigeland Park


Vigeland Park Fountain


Cool statue at Vigeland Park.

Given that the buses were all out of order, we decided to walk to the folk museum which was about a 45 minute walk up a big hill. The folk museum was cool. It a large area full of historical buildings that represent the architecture of Norway throughout the years. The most impressive part was the Stave Church. It was beautiful and had amazing wood work. While we were there, we went to the gift shop to have a look around. Lindsey had always heard of the Norwegian sweaters that they have here and that they would last you a life time. Turns out they had a few at the gift shop, only problem is that it cost $1000!


Stave Church


Stave Church


Norwegian Storehouse ca 1800

When we finished up at the folk museum we were going to head back to the hotel. We had some crazy idea that we would walk back to the hotel. According to my Google maps, this was showing to be 13k away and would take us 2.5 hours. The map was showing good walking paths, so we though this would be a good chance to enjoy the weather and get to see the sights. As we started our walk, we passed by one of the last guys finishing the marathon. He appeared to be the last runner, as he had his number on his shirt and was being escorted/followed by some marathon workers clearing the signs after he passed them. Lindsey and I just wanted to cheer him on, as he looked to be pushing himself pretty hard to get through the race.

For a while, our path led us by the fjords, which was a beautiful route to take. Unfortunately, once we got passed Lysaker, things started to take a turn for the worst. Our pretty walking path started to get confusing as we walked through the train station. We ended up taking a wrong turn and the GPS rerouted us to another path. This led to many other diversions, which added time/distance to our trip significantly.


Really? This was on a backroad in Oslo…can’t imagine what it taste like.

To make a very long story short, it ended up taking us almost 3 hours to get back to the hotel. It was a wonderful walk, and with Lindsey and I focusing much more on healthy things, it really fit our lifestyle. At the end of the day we had walked 20 miles, which just barely beat out our first day in Dublin. As we started to approach the city that our hotel is in, Sandvika, I thought back to that guy we saw in the last place of the marathon. I just wished someone would be sitting by the side of the road cheering us on and acknowledging our accomplishment.

On Sunday, we did not plan on too much and just wanted to enjoy our time together. We ended up getting on a train to Oslo to have a walk around the city and look at the bigger sites. It is a beautiful city, but unfortunately it was a bit rainy today which made us feel lazy. We had a chance to look at one of the cathedrals, the National Theater and the Royal Palace. We had just arrived at the royal palace for the changing of the guard. While not as elaborate as the one in London, it was still very impressive. We were planning on going to the Opera House, but our legs were tired and were we getting a bit too wet, so we decided to head back to the hotel.


Inside church in Oslo


Wood roof inside church in Oslo


Royal Palace in Oslo

We had a little rest in the hotel and went downstairs for some coffee. While downstairs, we ran into some of my coworkers who have arrived for our meetings. I was glad that Lindsey had a chance to meet the people I work with in my virtual team. We make up 10 different countries and somehow are able to work with each other. A few of us were able to go out to dinner tonight, which included a half Norwegian/UK, Chinese, and Polish guy. We were able to swap stories and try to keep the geek talk to a minimum for Lindsey’s sake.

Tomorrow I will bring Lindsey to the train station in the morning, so that she is able to make her way back home. It is a long day for her, but fortunately it is easier to go back and deal with the jet lag rather than coming to Europe. I know that she will be the most happy to see Jennifer again, even though we have talked with her on the computer most days, it is just not the same.

I will be staying in Norway until Saturday, sitting in all day long meetings the entire time. I do not suspect that I will do much blogging as we have some evening activities planned and honestly most of it will not be too much fun to talk about.

Thursday began a little slower than the previous days, as we both were a little worn out from the previous night of drinking. We also both had a tough time sleeping, as the hotel had a lot of persistent and annoying noises throughout the night. Lindsey woke up at 6am and happened to catch that her flight from Newark to Houston was cancelled for some random reason. She went ahead and woke me up to let me know (I was happy for this) and it turns out that the original flight was replaced with a different plane. She did not have an assigned seat anymore so we went ahead and fixed that for her. We both stayed up until about 7:30am and then fell asleep for another two hours before heading downstairs for breakfast.


Panoramic view of Kilkenny

After breakfast, we packed up our luggage and checked out of the hotel. We put all our gear into our car and went for a walk around Kilkenny. The plan was to walk around their market area and then go visit St Canices’ Church and round tower. The church dates back to 1128 and it the one of only two round towers left in existence in Ireland. The round tower is around eight stories tall and the top can only be reached by a series of very small wooden stairs inside of the tower. It was a challenge to maneuver the extremely small space while dealing with people going both up and down the stairs.

The view from the top of the tower was very impressive and gave the best view of the entire city. We were able to get a few pictures and enjoy the view before too many people came up to the top and made the space all too hard to move around. We made our way back to the church to have our self paced tour. The church was full of very old tombs and historical items dating back to the 1100s. We were rushed to get out of the church as it was closing early, which was helpful so that we could get a head start on our way to Powerscourt.


Lindsey outside of the church and tower.


The steps up the round tower, tight fit!


Inside the church.


Inside of the church

Our next destination was Powerscourt, which was more of a relaxation stop rather than a site seeing location. It was about an hour and half drive to the hotel, which unfortunately was not through too many back roads and stuck mostly to the bigger roads. I will say that I am getting much better at navigating Ireland. Driving on the “wrong side” of the road is becoming second nature to me. We knew that we were getting closer to the hotel by the influx of hills and mountains.

The Powerscourt hotel is by far one of the most elegant hotels I have been to in my life. When we arrived, the room was not fully ready for us. They were able to get my number, take our luggage to the room, and would call us when it was ready. We went ahead and had a bite to eat for a late lunch before the room was ready. The room itself was huge! It had three rooms: bathroom, closet room (it was the size of most large bathrooms) and a large bedroom. The bathroom had a huge tub, separate toilet and shower areas and a TV built into the mirror! It was by far my favorite room in the hotel. The bedroom had an amazing view overlooking the mountains. For convenience all of the lights and the air conditioner were controlled by a touch panel located on a touch panel on the night stand. The room even had a doorbell outside of the door!

We took it easy for a bit before heading out to the Powerscourt mansion and garden, which was only a short walk away. By the time we got to the gardens, we only had an hour before closing time. There were a bunch of small shops in the house, one of which had food and wine. We went ahead and purchased a bottle of wine, since it was much cheaper than getting it at the hotel. While time was tight, we had to move quick to get through all of the gardens. It was such a peaceful walk which I can just imagine that Laurie (Lindsey’s step mom) would fall in love with. Even with it being a bit of off season for the flowers, there was still plenty of beautiful roses of every color you can imagine.


Powerscourt Garden


Some hot guy with the central part of the garden behind him….hubba hubba!


Love all the gold accents on the metal railings, and Lindsey is kinda cool too.


Part of the Japanese Garden in Powerscourt.


This was a neighboring field next to the Powerscourt estate.


So many different flowers!


Look at all of the different color hydrangeas


Lindsey hates this picture so much, too bad I am in control 🙂

After the garden we headed back to the hotel. We decided to order room service and just stick to the room. This was a great idea, as we really needed the relaxation and it allowed me to finish yesterdays blog. The dinner was great and the wine fit the meal perfectly. After dinner we went ahead and got all of our stuff packed up and ready to head out to the airport early in the morning.

When we woke up in the morning, we got moving right away. The trip to the airport took about an hour and our GPS lead us through a very tricky route. Fortunately, we were able to get to the airport without any huge delays and got through security with no problems. It was still early, which meant that most of the cafes were still serving breakfast. We got a some pastries, muffins and coffee and waited for the flight to start.

The trip to Oslo was short, only two hours, and was just enough time to watch a movie on my iPad, while Lindsey took a nap. When we arrived in Oslo, I made sure to explain how the airport, security and customs works for Lindsey, since she will be traveling back alone. This is actually the part that I am most worried about. While these things seem second nature to me, I am also much more used to traveling by myself. Fortunately, the airport is not very complicated. As long as she is able to make it to the correct train, she should have no problems.

We took the airport train to Sandvika, which is just outside of Oslo. The train took about an hour to get to Sandvika and then we needed to walk to the hotel. The easiest way to get to the hotel is by cutting through Norway’s largest shopping mall. Fortunately, I have made this trip so many times that I was able to navigate us through the mall and to the hotel without getting lost. After checking into the hotel, we went and grabbed some food from the only place nearby that has menus in English. I wanted to give Lindsey a chance to ease her way into Norway and the language barrier and I figured that this was best way to start.

We are now back in our room relaxing and watching some TV. Tomorrow we will head out to Oslo for some sightseeing, which should be a blast!

**Note: This is being posted today, Thursday, but it was the days activities from Wednesday that I started in draft form**

We started off today in Cork with an early wake up. We planned to drive to Ballycotton first thing in the morning, so that we would have plenty of time to do the cliff walk. It was about a two hour drive to Ballycotton, which was an experience. You see, when you get into the backwoods of Ireland, the roads go from a two lane road to a one lane road that is shared by all traffic. What this means is that there are winding, hilly roads that only one car can fit on with lots of corkscrew turns and blind hills. Needless to say this was a nerve racking drive, but it was also very fun not knowing what was around the corner. When we got to Ballycotton, we were both happy to be out of the car and to have successfully navigated to the cliffs properly.


Ballycotton Cliff walk (at the start)


Ballycotton Cliffs towards the start

The cliff walk itself is a trail that follows the coast through both improved trails and private farmland. Having a look from the starting point, it really does not look that far. From the start of the walk, we thought we could see the end of the trail. It turns out that what we were looking at was only the halfway point, which still left much more to go. This walk definitely brought my father out in me. Each time there was somewhat of a side path, I had to follow it to see where it would lead. We came up to one such side path which we found to lead to a very steep set of stairs. Lindsey, being the trooper that she is, only required a small amount of prodding to convince her to have a look. The stairs themselves were very small and took some dexterity to manage to get down. They lead all the way to the bottom of the cliff to the large rocks by the water. I could only get Lindsey to the bottom of the stairs, which left me to explore the rocks on my own. I was hoping to find some creatures in the tide pool, but I was not so lucky and it just allowed me some good pictures.


Ballycotton cliffs, this is the steps down to the bottom. Very steep!


Lindsey wanting to focus on stairs and not pictures.


Lindsey had gone far enough, waiting for me to finish playing.

We made our way back up to the top and found that this may not have been the best idea to use up precious energy this early in our trek. The weather looked like typical September weather in Ireland, overcast and with a fairly persistent wind. For much of our time at the cliffs, it looked like it could rain at any moment. This would really get old if I ever lived here because I would never want to go out to do anything with the fear of rain ruining the fun.


Ballycotton Cliffs, the furthest hill all the way in the back is almost to the end of the walk.


The cliffs in the back is “The Hump” where the heavy winds were.

We made our way up and down the hills and cliffs for what seemed like hours. During our time there, we only ran into a handful of people, which made this little adventure seem that much more exclusive (even though it is one of the top ten items on Trip Advisor). The main path eventually lead into some private farmlands. At each intersection there was a very small concrete walk way that we could only barely fit through. It is a great thing that Lindsey and I have both lost so much weight, as this would have been difficult to maneuver through without it. The paths themselves are dirt paths that have been well maintained and cleared of any plants. Throughout most of the walk, the pathways were flanked by either blackberry bushes or huge thorns that I swear were only put there to hurt Americans (I say this since I only saw Americans being hurt by them – mainly only me).


Lindsey showing how her tiny caboose fits through the “gates”

At about the half way point we found a very secluded rock covered beach that was just breathtaking. If felt like a secret place that only the locals knew about. I was expecting someone to be standing there kicking anyone out that did not have the last name of O’Malley. We were able to take some great pictures and I had a chance to play before we headed back onto the trail. As we made our way through the trail, we came to a spot that was more exposed to the elements than the rest of our walk. It was like a little peninsula that had a small rocky hill on top that the locals call “The Hump.” As we approached the hill, we found that this is where the two currents meet. It was by far the most windy place I have ever been in my life. It was much windier than any hurricane I have been in and I was having to lean forward just to keep from being pushed over. Lindsey could not stand the wind for long and swiftly made her way down the cliff and away from it all.


Pretty lady walking on the beach


Sitting on our secluded beach


Waves crashing in on the beach


Me in a cutout of the cliffs

Video: On the Hump. Very windy – sorry about the finger in the view, was just trying not to fall over.

After hurricane hill there was not much left to the walk as we found the path ending to a road. We read that you could take the road and it would lead you back to the starting place which would make for a 5.3k return trip. We choose to just backtrack through the trail, which brought our total distance walked to around 7 miles! Lindsey had her FitBit on, which also reported us going up 125 flights of stairs! We both agree that if we had attempted this a year ago before getting in such great shape, it would have been a miserable failure. On the return trip, we stepped up the pace to get a better burn on our aching calves. We knew we were about to be in the car for another two and a half hours to get to Kilkenny and wanted to enjoy the time sitting in the car.

By the time we got back to the car, we were spent, windblown and smelt of sweat and dirt. We found a bar not too far from the cliffs and dropped in for a bite to eat. While we were famished, we were too worn out to eat. Lindsey ended up getting a scone and coffee and I got a very good seafood soup. After lunch we got back on the road to head to Kilkenny.


Lunch in Ballycotton

The ride to Kilkenny was by far the best driving I have had in my life. The route followed the coast for much of the trip which lead us through winding hills that would crest to awe inspiring expansive views of the ocean. The Ireland drivers are all very polite and do not drive aggressively at all. It was a well orchestrated ballet of yielding and overtaking between the faster and slower cars. Even large trailers we very accommodating on sharing the roads with the faster traffic.

When we got to Kilkenny our legs were aching and stiff from the cliff walk. The hotel that we were staying at it was of the Bed and Breakfast variety with only 32 rooms to the facility. The rooms were large and had a very nice bathroom with a jacuzzi tub. The best part, the rooms do not have card keys and only used normal metal keys. This was much different than what I am use to, but it did provide a little more of a rustic and simpler feel to the hotel.

We got our luggage into the room and headed out for a walk. We did not plan to go far as we were already tired of walking and we wanted to get showered and ready for dinner. Since the hotel is next to Kilkenny castle we decided to stop by and take a look. The castle, at least what remains, is large and very midevil looking. We walked through the front gate, and while impressed with the architecture, both our jaws dropped when we saw the green field that was inside the walls. There is a large green area (about three football fields or 1,034 hot dog buns) that has a lake and some walking trails. All of this green space in nestled within the middle of the city and gave off a very distinct “Central Park” feel. After walking around the castle grounds, we went back to our hotel room to freshen up and get ready for dinner. We had made reservations to the restaurant in the hotel, which was a very nice place that served traditional Irish food. However, since our dinner was at 8pm, we had some time for a pint at the bar where some live music was playing at. The band was 2 men on guitars that played slow Irish songs, but it was the first time we heard actual Irish music in Ireland. Up until this point, all of the live bands we heard in Ireland, only played pop songs or very popular American songs which just does not have that Irish feel. In fact, many of the “authentic Irish restaurants” we went into were playing Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and One Direction. Kilkenny definitely had much better music than Dublin and Cork.


Kilkenny castle (about 600 hotdogs into the green area).


Us with Kilkenny castle in the background

After dinner, we went on the prowl for a place that had better music than our hotel bar. Lindsey really wanted to hear a female singer and after walking a few blocks with no such luck, we were just looking for anything. We turned down one of the smaller side streets and came to an open door with great music playing inside. The kicker is that the restaurant was called “Paris Texas” of all things. Inside were 2 men playing the acoustic guitar and an accordion. These guys were awesome! They played great songs and talked with the patrons. As the night went on and the drinks kept flowing, we were having a blast. Other guys came into the bar and just started to get on the mic and sing a few songs out of the blue. One of the guys had an amazing voice and brought his elderly father with him. His father looked to work in the hotel business, as he was manicured and in a well made suit. The flip side is that he was very drunk and very talkative. When he asked me what I did, his only response was, “Can you make me a computer that could put the sleeves on a mans jacket?” Really?!? How the heck do you respond to a question like that?


The band at Paris Texas bar

Video: The guy with the spoons just walked in and started to sing and play the spoons!

It was just before midnight when the music was over. We gave the guys a generous tip and made our way back to the hotel. The walk back was full of laughs, but nothing could be more amusing to two inebriated people than when we got to our hotel. It turns out that the front door of the hotel was locked and we did not have a key to get in. We went around back and found that the parking lot gate was also locked. Now we could not stop laughing because it felt like we were back at our parents houses and were breaking curfew. I discovered that the front door had a door bell on it which after ringing it and waiting a few minutes it opened to an apologizing employee. We got up to the room and set an alarm that would not be too early, but would get us up in time for the breakfast downstairs.


Goodnight Kilkenny Castle!