AJ Travels :: Dublin, Ireland

Ireland is known for a few things: its lush, scenic countryside, Guinness and whiskey, and its friendly people, all of which I got to know dearly over the few days we spent on the Emerald Isle. 

Our first day in Dublin, we hit the ground running. After a relatively short red-eye flight (compared to Japan - only about 6 hours!), we dropped our luggage off at the Tipperary House, a darling hostel that felt more like a B&B than a grown-up dorm. I'd highly recommend the accommodations for budget travelers - we had a private room for four nights for less than $300. It's close to Heuston Station and a LUAS stop, and most everything is less than a 3 km walk away.

On the agenda for the first day: exploring the city and getting the groundwork of our neighborhood, a jet lag induced nap, then our first pint of Guinness (EVER!) at an adorable neighborhood pub, Nancy Hands. Their Garlic Cheese Chips are among some of the best things I had the whole trip.

Day two was all about Guinness. We spent over two hours exploring the seven story Guinness Storehouse, a museum within the brewery. Over 1.2 million barrels of Guinness are brewed each year, making them the largest stout producer in the world. While tickets are a bit pricey (especially if you aren't a beer lover), there's plenty to see on this tour. We actually got to pour our own pint of Guinness - which takes two minutes from start to first drink - and learned all about the glass and proper pour. We became expert tasters in a private tasting room, explored the history of their advertising, and topped the day off in a spectacular bar at the top of the Storehouse, which provides a 360° view of Dublin.

While New Year's Eve wasn't an all-out crazy event like we celebrate in the States, we still rang in Day three and 2017 with a bang. NYE we had an amazing dinner at The Bank, a restaurant built in...you guessed it, an old bank. The inside is absolutely gorgeous, super cozy and romantic. The Goats Cheese Mousse was by far my favorite thing we ate there. After that, it was pretty standard, toasting with prosecco at a trendy pub, hanging out in a cozy wine bar and danced in the streets with some Irish women, the Macarena at a completely nuts latin club that I'm still not sure how we found.

New Year's Day was fairly low-key, thanks in part to many places being closed to celebrate the holiday. We did a tour and tasting at Teeling Distillery, which I highly recommend to whiskey fans. No trip to Ireland is complete without dropping into Temple Bar, especially for first timers. I'm SO glad we didn't let reviews scare us off - many people said it was too touristy. Tourists or not, it was a blast. 

Our last full day in Ireland was a big one. We decided to hop on a bus for a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher. I wish we'd had a few more days to explore the countryside; Ireland's landscape is some of the most beautiful I've seen since my trip to New Zealand. While we toyed around with renting a car and doing Galway and the Cliffs on our own, I'm kind of glad we did the bus instead. The roads are scary narrow and curvy. We traveled with the Dublin Tour Company, which made several stops along the way. The guides were informative and entertaining, and we had plenty of time to see a LOT in a day.

Honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of Ireland. When we make a repeat trip some day, I plan to spend a lot more time on the west side of the country. Also a very useful fact: Western Ireland would be a great place to wait out a zombie apocalypse. There are rocks everywhere to trip them, hardly any people, and you'd see them coming for miles. If stuff goes down, that's where you'll find me.

I loved Ireland. The people are some of the kindest, funniest people I've encountered on my travels. They're friendly and warm, and so excited to share their beautiful country and heritage with you. I honestly could get quite used to spending my evenings in cozy pubs, making new friends everywhere I went. Seriously, every place we went we made some friends; one couple invited us to summer in the midlands with them.  

Each of these stories above was made with Steller, a fantastic little storytelling app. Click through and explore each of my days in more detail, and tomorrow I'll be posting all about the second half of our trip: London!

AJ Travels :: 9 Hours in NYC

I'm back! I'm back in the land of muggles and currently experiencing some serious post-departurem depression while I adjust back to the real world. My husband and I just got back from two weeks over the pond in Ireland and England, which I'll be recapping a bit over the next couple of days. It was my first jaunt to Europe and I found it just as magical as it looks in the movies.

Not enough time to drop in for Hamilton this trip, sadly. Still one of a million things I haven't done.

Not enough time to drop in for Hamilton this trip, sadly. Still one of a million things I haven't done.

In preparation for the trip, I did what any normal person would do. I watched a ton of Rick Steves, that movie "Leap Year," and bought as many sweaters as I could possibly fit in my bag. 

This trip was a bit of a last minute deal, because I found roundtrip tickets from Dallas to Dublin for just $400. The catch, of course, was that we had a 9-hour layover in Newark, New Jersey. We planned to hang out in the United Club for part of that time and drink as many vodka sodas as possible, but even in the comforts of the club nine hours would prove trying. So we decided to hop in a cab and drive into NYC for the day while we waited for our plane to Dublin.

I created a little story about every day on our trip using Stellar, a pretty nifty little storytelling app. Here's our first adventure!

Next up: Our adventures in Ireland! Rather than drag this out over a few weeks, I'm planning on posting one post per country, with all of the Stellar stories embedded so you guys can peruse them at your leisure. And if you just can't wait, you can see them all on my Stella profile now. I hope you enjoy!

"Outfit" Details from this story:

Coat: Zara
Tote: Briggs & Riley Large Shopping Tote
Boots: Ugg Adirondack II in Otter
Vest: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down
More about Spectacles

What to Pack :: Weekender

I took a little weekend trip with my bests last weekend to Eureka Springs. It's a funky little town in Northwest Arkansas, known for its biker bars, weird shops, and hilly nature. We booked an AirBnB on Thursday and drove up Saturday morning for an impromptu getaway, which I highly recommend for basically everyone. Anyway, it got me thinking about how I haven't done a "What to Pack" post in a while and I wanted to do a recap of what's in my weekend bag! If I'd planned ahead, I would have pictures. But I didn't. So I don't. Bear with me.

You'd think it would be easy to fit LITERALLY a night's worth of clothes into a small weekend bag, but it's not. We were actually met with surprisingly warm weather, so I was grateful for the random t-shirts I threw in at the last second. I also packed a wrap just to wear around the house that I ended up wearing on Sunday just because it was so cozy. You never know what you're gonna need!

What you will need, of course, is an adorable weekend bag. Shopbop has a bunch of cute ones right now (DYING over that Kate Spade one!), and Sole Society has an awesome selection as well (love my Cassidy weekender!).

1. Skinny Jeans. It may be tempting to throw a pair of boyfriend jeans in there, but skinnies are far more versatile. In a dark or black wash, you can dress them up with heels at night, then roll them up with flats or sneakers for a casual day look. One of my favorites? Hudson's Nico cut, which sits just low enough to have a cute front tuck but just high enough to battle muffin top.

2. A couple of tees. I always throw one or two extra t-shirts in my bag in black or white, just in case. Even if it's just something you wear to lounge in, it's a good thing to have. Layer one under a leather jacket with a statement necklace for a cute night look - I've been lusting after all of the DANNIJO styles lately.

3. Speaking of...a leather jacket. It's my favorite of all of my jackets for travel. The leather does well with cutting the wind, and it's appropriate for a number of occasions. This doesn't actually go in the bag - you wear it.

4. A nice silk top - or whatever fabric you prefer. I like to have at least one stand-alone top that I can wear to a nice dinner. This weekend, it was this adorable wrap top from Asos. Rebecca Taylor has some of the prettiest flowy tops, with really interesting shapes.

5. One pair of flats, one pair of heels. You want something comfortable to walk in, and something to dress up with (if you want). I love Soludos for cute flat espadrilles, and they lend themselves to travel well thanks to their collapsible nature.