Friday, August 3, 2018

Finn Lough


Joey's birthday was in June. Being my handsome suitor,  I knew I wanted to treat him to something special. He loves camping and isn't afraid to rough it. I on the other hand am unfortunately a littttttle too high maintenance to truly thrive in outdoor living. I wanted to find an amicable alternative to camping that we could both enjoy, so when I found Finn Lough I knew we were DESTINED to visit!

If you're like "uhhh what is Finn Low" - let me explain. It's a resort in Northern Ireland. It's actually pronounced "Finn Lock". It's located on an island on a lake (lough means lake in Irish), and the resort owns the whole space. On the island are different types of vacation rentals, the most famous of them being the Bubble Domes. 



I'm sure many of you have seen things like this on Instagram. Most of them are in Finland, Iceland, Norway - places where you can see the Northern Lights. In Ireland the chance of seeing the Northern Lights is very slim, so to make up for it they plopped these bad boys smack dab in the middle of the forest. Therefore, I was able to give Joey the outdoor living he desired while staying indoors, in a big cushy bed, with a working bathroom, shower, bathtub and electricity. 

Bless. 







There's no WiFi and no TV, but there's a lot of sweet touches and amenities. They had a coffee machine, a record player, a heater (plus heated floors and an electric blanket) and my favorite touch, an instant camera filled with film & a photo album for you to fill with pics to take home.



Staying in the Bubble was lovely, but I wouldn't recommend it for more than two nights. First, the bubble intensifies whatever weather is outside. Though they're clearly prepared for cold weather, they're not prepared  for hot weather and the bubble can BOIL in the late afternoon during the summer. Also - once the sun is up, you're up. There is (obviously) no curtains. They do provide you with sleep masks but ultimately it is pretty blinding up in there. That being said, it was truly a wonderful experience. Just not somewhere I'd want to stay for say for an extended period of time, ya know?

In the end, the bubble wasn't even my favorite part of the resort. It has SO much to offer beyond the bubble!



First off, it has gorgeous trails and nature to explore. You can have a good walk, or use their complimentary bikes to explore the premises and search for fairies/leprechauns/etc.



They also have the cutest little lakeside bar where you can enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down.




Seriously, how cute is that?



If you pay a little extra, they will set up a campfire for you in front of the lake with some snacks and drinks. I splurged on this because I love all things campfire related and honestly it was incredible. We read books, drank hot chocolate and feasted on nuts and s'mores.



PROPER campfire s'mores.

And once the sun went down, well...



It was perfect. Having a campfire in front of a lake is such a simple thing to do but honestly it was one of my favorite things I've done this year. I wish I could do it every night!



We ended our campfire with a G&T nightcap from the lakeside bar, then head back to the bubble to sleep. 

We woke up naturally at like, 6am. If you know me, you know I NEVER wake up early, so this was a true anomaly. 



Breakfast is included, so we trekked over to the main house for a feast. 


Food was delish. They offer dinner as well, which we passed on for the campfire, but I'd imagine that their dinner is also delightful. 

Now, friends, post-breakfast we embarked on our greatest experience yet. We indulged ourselves at the crown jewel of Finn Lough - the Elements Trail.







Truth be told, they tell you not to bring your phone with you, but I wanted to share this with you guys SO bad that I broke the rules. Oops.

The Elements Trail is their spa experience, but it's not a traditional spa. You basically follow a trail in the forest that leads you to different experiences (saunas, hot tubs, outdoor showers, etc) and let me tell you, this ALONE is worth the trek to Finn Lough. You don't need to stay at the hotel to use the spa! You get two hours of spa time (roughly 20 minutes in each experience) and by the end of it you have reached a new plane of existence. Best part: you don't share the spa with anyone else except who you want to share it with. It's all private!


If spas and campfires aren't your thing, worry not. Finn Lough also offers kayaking, fishing, boat rental, and an 'adult playroom' which sounds dirty but is really a room where you can go when the traditional Irish weather comes rolling in. They have a theater, wine tasting, afternoon tea, etc. I would happily stay here even when it's frosty outside. Couldn't recommend this place more, I can confidently say it's tied with Skellig Michael as the best thing I've done in Ireland (and definitely the best thing I've done in Northern Ireland!) 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Favorite Things To Do In Paris


Here's a fun fact for you: 6 years ago I moved to Paris for a month with my best friend. I had DREAMED of Paris for years (we're talking posters on my walls, Eiffel Tower iPhone background, the works) so I knew I wanted to spend a solid amount of time there in my 20s. We rented a cute apartment walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, fully expecting to live our best lives - and I hated it. Though the city was as beautiful as I'd imagined it to be, the frigid November weather coupled with horrible neighbors and generally rude Parisians had me thinking I'd never return. That being said, there were lots of bits I did love. I even had some incredible memorable times with some of my favorite people. Plus let's be real, there is NO denying the food in France is spectacular.

So, over the last 6 years, while living and Europe and watching all my friends visit and return with incredible photos, stories, & restaurant recommendations, my curiosity was peaked. Springtime is supposed to be Paris at it's finest, and apparently it's the most romantic city in the world (6 years ago I was newly single, now I am very much attached) so when the opportunity to visit presented itself, I said hey - everyone deserves a second chance, right? 


Well, I'm happy to report that this time round I had a MUCH more pleasant time. Spring in Paris is stunning, and the warm weather seemed to warm up the locals attitudes. Being with the love of my life also helped, as I was definitely able to pick up on the romance this time round. 

So, in honor of my rekindled flame for the city of lights, here is a list of my favorite things to do in Paris - some I discovered while I lived there, and some from this last trip! 


Eat, eat, eat & eat some more

When someone asks what your favorite food is, most people name a geographic cuisine - Italian, Mexican, Thai, etc. I rarely hear people say French, which is I N S A N E because French food is honestly the best. Croissants, baguettes, macarons, pastries galore. Not to mention croque madame (a personal favorite), duck confit, soup a l'oignon, even escargot (it's delicious, I swear!) So needless to say eating my way around Paris is always a top priority. My favorite cafe to pop into is Cafe de Flore in Saint Germain. Violently overpriced, but you can't beat the food, ambiance, and amazing history (the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and many other famous writers and philosophers frequented back in the 1920s, making it a popular haunt with incredible energy!)




Museums Galore

Paris is home to the broadest collection of art in the whole world, and holds THE most famous museum in the whole world (hello, Louvre) so going to Paris and not splashing out on visiting the museums is a serious travesty. Pictured above, myself checking out Monet at Musée de L'Orangerie, which was jaw dropping. I also recommend Versailles, which is definitely my favorite museum in Paris!




Listen to the choir in Notre Dame

I'm not a cathedral girl. I don't particularly seek them our or look forward to visiting them, but Notre Dame was a game changer for me. The first time I walked inside I was speechless. If you can go during a choral performance, it is seriously such an incredible, uplifting experience. 




Stroll on the Isle de Saint Louis

For some reason I find the Isle de Saint Louis to be the most magical area of Paris. Every corner is picturesque, from the beautiful buildings to the river views to the ice cream at Berthillon. It's a living portrait of what I imagined Paris would be when I was younger. 




Hunt for Treasure

I've never found better second hand shops then I have in Paris. They are EVERYWHERE, and the treasures you can find are truly unrivaled. I also enjoy walking through the Marche de Saint Ouen (the Paris flea) where I snapped the photo above. 


Gallerie Vivienne 

This is a new discovery, but somewhere I will be going back to. It's essentially a tiny shopping mall, but not in the traditional sense. It is STUNNING, filled with beautiful specialty shops and cafes and really gives you a *pinch me* Parisian moment when you're walking through. 




Disneyland

I fully realize this isn't everyones bag, but Disneyland is my favorite place EVER so whenever I'm in a city that holds one, it's a must visit. Truthfully, Disneyland Paris isn't the most impressive Disney, but it is beautiful and NEVER crowded - 45 minutes would be a SUPER long wait time there (as opposed to 2+ hours at Disneyland California!) Plus Space Mountain and Phantom Manor are MUST rides for Disney fans - they are far superior to their American counterparts! 




Montmartre

Montmartre stole my heart from the minute I stepped foot into it 6 years ago. It's a bit rough around the edges, which is refreshing in a city known for its pretension. It's also chock full of incredible history and has the best views in Paris (and some of the best second hand shops, too!) 




Visit Cafe Kitsune and sit in the Palais Royale

This place is a blogger favorite, and now that I've been it's easy to see why. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but the coffee is great (one of the only places we went that served more than just espresso) and it is RIGHT on the Palais Royale, so it's wonderful to have your coffee, sit amongst the gardens and people watch. 



Picnic @ the Eiffel Tower 


Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is fun, and definitely something to put on the bucket list, but once you've done it once (or twice in my case, once at night and once during the day!) the beautiful stretch of green in front of it becomes more appealing. I love picnics, I love French food, and I love nice views, so a picnic on the Champ du Mars marries all 3 of those things perfectly. Picnic recommendations: baguette, brie, hummus, carrots, salmon pate, madeleines, macarons & lemonade. The dream. 



Just writing these things out is making me want to go hop on the next plane. I think my Parisian hatred may be cured for good. I'll definitely be back! 


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Wisteria Hysteria


I occasionally have 'basic bitch' tendencies. For example, I love taking photos of my food. Anything unicorn themed or rainbow colored I want immediately. I own a pair of Ugg slippers (not boots, okay. SLIPPERS.) And I LOVE, love love love love, wisteria. 


Every year around this time I wait for it to start popping up and I pretty much freak out whenever I see it. My ultimate dream is to own a house absolutely covered in it. But this wisteria in particular is my favorite in all of Ireland. Not only is it appropriately drenched over the School of Botany on the Trinity College campus, but it's SO bushy and full and well groomed (I'm assuming because the Botany students know what's UP) 


Since the beginning of April, I've made sure to walk through the Trinity campus as much as I could in order to monitor the progress of this beauty. It's truly ridiculous how quickly it comes up once its finally time for it to bloom. 

Some fun facts: wisteria is in the legume family (so like, it's related to beans, lol wut) but it's SUPER toxic so don't try to eat it. It also is notoriously difficult to grow, and can take anywhere from three to TWENTY years to actually bloom once it's planted. Pretty much the definition of "all good things take time." It's native to Japan, so if you google "wisteria Japan" you will see the exactly how stunning this stuff is.

Anyway, I fully realize this blog post is about a bunch of flowers which is totally random, but I forced Joey to have a photoshoot with me and I'm SO happy with how the photos came out that I just wanted to share!


This handsome ass man only made handsomer surrounded by Wisteria (enter heart faced emoji here)




Mark my words, one day I will have a blog post up chock full of photos of me being majestic in Japan under a Wisteria tunnel. Major bucket list item!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Curating the Perfect Grazing Board


Once upon a time, on a cold January evening, a girl named Alyse came across a photo on Instagram of a grazing board. Being a lover of cheese, charcuterie, succulent fruits and all types of carbohydrates - she was immediately intrigued. After browsing through roughly 10,000 photos of grazing boards it was determined - she needed to make one. But when!? Can one simply whip a grazing board up with no one to share it with!?! Nay. She needed an occasion. It was decided then and there that for her birthday in April (an agonizing 4 months away!) she would soothe the pain of turning 28 by creating not one - but TWO - epic grazing boards, and invite all her friends over to share it with her. The rest, as they say, is history.

Great story right!? You can all call me Alyse Hemingway from now on.




In all serious, this is one of my favorite creations to date. Fun to make and fairly easy (albeit slightly stressful when you're feeding 20 people) and perfect for a variety of occasions.

A traditional grazing board is essentially a glorified mixture of a cheeseboard, charcuterie board, and fruit platter. One of my more intellectual friends described it as "a cheeseboard on crack." My first board (pictured above) had all the typical foods associated with those type of nibbles - cheese (5 types, may have gone a bit OTT), various sliced meats, various crackers, smoked salmon, bell pepper, pretzels, hummus, honey (lavender infused because I am extra AF sometimes),  strawberry jam, fresh bread, sliced apples, grapefruit, grapes, assorted berries and clementines. Oh, and deviled eggs with bacon and radish, courtesy of my friend Lucy (queen of my life).

The idea behind a traditional grazing board is that you have little free space on the table, and no space in between each food item. Every inch of the table should be covered either by beautifully curated and laid out food, or by garnishes - rosemary, thyme, parsley, and edible flowers are winners in my book. They're not only a nice edition to the table from a culinary perspective, but they easily fill up awkward spaces and look beautiful while doing it.

Now, for the second board....we decided to go a little untraditional. I mean, traditional grazing boards are wonderful but are generally considered appetizers. So I decided my dining room table would be a HUGE, ultimate grazing board filled with both main dishes and desserts - but generally sticking with small bites and finger foods (minus the cake - every birthday party needs cake!)




Behold! My table of wonder!

The dinner menu:

Lasagne bites
Tortellini with sun-dried tomato
Mini chicken pot pies
Mac and cheese bites
Basil and parmesan meatballs
Two types of pizza (spicy chicken & veggie)

The dessert menu: 

CAKE. That I custom ordered and paid entirely too much for hehe.
Whiskey pecan brie with apple dippers
THREE different types of homemade cookies (funfetti, chocolate chip and toffee)
Apple pie biscuits
Cookie butter brownie bites
Ginger snaps
Homemade brown butter rice krispies

Are you drooling yet? 



It was truly the spread of dreams, and I couldn't have done it without my friend Lucy. SERIOUS shout outs to her. She HOME FRICKIN' MADE 90% of this food (I quite literally made nothing, I am sad and useless) and it was ALL mind-blowing good. I'm very obsessed with her and I know she's going to read this so HI Lucy, thank you a million times infinity - I LOVE YOU!



Now, as you can see - filling up all the space on this table was rather difficult. We did not succeed in doing so on the main table as well as we did on the appetizer table. However, I feel this flaw was unnoticed due to the adorableness that was the garnishes. Not only did we garnish with extra flowers, greens and fruits, but all of the bites were served with the CUTEST skewers ever (also courtesy of Lucy...seriously I do not deserve her). Please notice the unicorns in the photo above, and the hearts in the photo below!


And the palm print plates (also courtesy of Lucy lol I don't know why she is friends with me)



SHE EVEN GAVE ME THIS BANNER TO PUT IN THE BRIE. YES, THE BRIE HAD A BANNER. 

Also, shout outs to my friend Maddie for making this brie! (One of two things on the table Lucy didn't make haha!) 


Besides Lucy and Maddie I need to give shout outs to my friends Molly and Hayley who helped me orchestrate and design the tables, my friend Katie who is the BEST mixologist ever (she made the rum punch pictured above AND champagne jello shots!) and my flatmates Joey (aka bae) and Hugh for letting me yell at them while they help blow up balloons and put up decorations. It takes a village to throw a party but ultimately myself and my village-people were VERY happy with the results!

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Weekend Wander: Copenhagen


Last Christmas Joey bought us flights for a quick trip to Copenhagen, which he scheduled for the weekend before my birthday...which was two weekends ago! Woo! We arrived on a Friday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon, so it was truly just a quick taste of the city - but I loved it. Unsurprising really considering how much I loved Oslo, it's a very similar vibe (I think I might have a crush on Scandinavia). There's not too many touristy things to do so you can focus on exploring all the quaint streets, shops, & cafes and eating ALLLL the food.

I wasn't there long enough to make a full post of recommendations, but here are some highlights of our trip!

Starting first with my all time favorite apartment I've ever stayed in on Airbnb (and yo girl has stayed in quite a few):


LOOK. AT. THIS. PLACE.


Perfectly curated Scandinavian interior goals


& this couch was the most heavenly piece of furniture I've ever had the opportunity to sit on. Big claim, I know. We loved this Airbnb so much that we spent our Saturday night chilling here instead of out on the town (not that Joey and I are big nightlife people, but you get my point!) I couldn't recommend this place more, you can find it by clicking here.

That being said, our Friday night was much move lively and age appropriate as we spent it running around the stunning Tivoli Gardens (enter like 15 heart eyed emojis here)


Tivoli is a theme park, but not the same type of theme park Americans would think of. Yes, there's amusement rides, yes there's novelty areas, but Tivoli oozes sophistication and zen that I've never experienced in a theme park before. It's very grown up - gourmet food, beautiful design, bougie shopping, floral installations - this place is my actual dream.  It even SMELLS amazing! Like flowers and food and no sweaty people. It's also insanely well priced - entry is equivalent to only $18, and if you want unlimited rides it's only $37! I don't know how the Danes managed to create this wonderland but it is ABSOLUTELY worth the trip!




I also recommend having a meal there, there's SO many cute restaurants with incredible cozy ambiance in addition to a MASSIVE gourmet food hall!

Speaking of food, food culture in Copenhagen is very strong - as is al fresco dining.



  However eating outside isn't the only commonality I noticed amongst locals  - a love of coffee, fresh flowers, and good lighting are also prevalent. All of which I can connect with on a spiritual level.  



In terms of cafes, I really loved Original Coffee for it's lovely view and delicious cookies, and The Coffee Collective for it's general aesthetic and a crackin' iced coffee. 



Outside of cafes and Tivoli, our favorite food spot was Torvehallerne, a traditional Scandinavian food hall chock full of fresh produce, seafood, chocolate, craft booze, and juice:


I always pick up overpriced juices on my holidays because it makes me feel fancy AND like I'm counteracting all of the carbs I'm eating. A win win situation.

The only part of Copenhagen that we got to FULLY explore besides Tivoli Gardens was Freetown Christiania. Yes, friends. We ventured into hippie territory and it was...actually really clean and pretty and nice with lots of art work and music and food?!


When I first read about Freetown Christiania, its lack of government, open drug use, and its departure from the European Union, I definitely expected it to be DIRTY and very uncomfortable. On the contrary, it's such a lovely place! It appears that most people live off of the land, raise and grow their own food, bike, smoke weed and just have generally very happy simple lives. It's no where to be afraid of and is SO interesting to walk through, I think everyone should check it out! 



The only downfall to Freetown Christiania - you can't really take photos there, it's frowned upon. But I was lucky to capture the last two shots of some very cool street art we stumbled upon. 

The only downfall to Copenhagen? The rumors are true - it is expensive. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't go back in a heartbeat!