Greetings from Ireland

Happy Saturday!

Bo and I are enjoying the long weekend in Ireland!

My parents have been in Europe for ten days so far, touring Norway and Ireland before they head down to Switzerland and Italy. Since Monday is a Bank Holiday in Geneva, Bo and I decided to hop over to Ireland for a weekend of pints and good fun.

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After landing in Dublin at noon, we headed West via a main highway and smaller, local road until reaching Dingle. The drive was supposed to take four hours but unfortunately we hit some “rush hour” traffic and construction traffic. Six hours later we reached the picturesque, coastal town of Dingle.  Needless to say we were very happy to see their smiling faces when we arrived!

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Located in Kerry County, Dingle is also the capital of the Gaelic region. A major fishing port, our bed and breakfast has views of the harbor as well as the surrounding lush, green hills.

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We stopped in O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub, a popular local pub, for pints of Guiness and cider before a delicious seafood dinner at Doyle’s.

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Multiple people recommended Doyle’s for a dinner experience which would give us a taste of the local seafood. Between the grilled oysters, local scallops and hake, no one at our table left hungry. The meal definitely answered our seafood craving as Bo and I don’t have access to good, fresh seafood in Geneva.

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Not ready to end the night after dinner, we walked across the street for one last pint. Listening to  traditional Irish music, performed by two fiddlers, was a great way to end the evening.

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Today, following an Irish Breakfast at our bed & breakfast we are heading out on an Eco Tour which will take us to a local island to see puffins, dolphins, whales and other local wildlife!

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History’s Worst Marathon

Happy Thursday! The weekend is almost here. This week is all work and no fun, as I am trying to complete 12 looming items on my work To Do list before we fly to New York City. I hope you enjoy today’s post from Bo, which will take you down a bit of Olympic history as well as giving you another spot to add to your Travel board on Pinterest!

Yesterday, I learned that at the 1904 Summer Olympics, the 3rd Olympic games following the 1896 Athens games and the 1900 Paris Games, Thomas Hicks, the Gold medal winner of the marathon, ran a 3 hour and 28 minute marathon. However, to be fair, he came in second, though was given gold after it came to light that the winner traveled a third of the 26 miles in a car!  These days, his 3:28 marathon time wouldn’t have even qualified for Boston!

Thomas Hicks

Switzerland is well known as the land of fondue and chocolate as well as a country in which you can find world-class spas, skiing, and some of the most awe-inspiring views in the Alps.

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Due in part to its historical neutrality, Switzerland is also home to a great many important global institutions. The United Nations, FIFA, (watch the John Oliver video if you haven’t seen it), The Red Cross, and the International Olympic Committee all call Switzerland home.

Olympic Museum

Though I love the Olympics, and have called Geneva home for almost two years, until yesterday I had not yet made it to The Olympic Museum. Located in Lausanne, only a 45-minute train ride from Geneva, the official museum of the Olympic Movement sits on a hill with amazing views of Lac Leman and the Alps beyond. I first learned about the Museum last winter in a New York Times article that the Olympic Museum had then just recently reopened after a two-year $60 million renovation. I finally made the short journey to Lausanne yesterday, and it was well worth it. I love the Olympics, so perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I would recommend this as a must-see for anyone spending some time in Western Switzerland.

The museum is relatively small, and it is easy to see everything in just over an hour though you could spend significantly longer if you watched all the videos. It is split into three levels, each with a different theme. The first, “Olympic World” begins with a history of the Olympics starting with its origins in ancient Greece and continuing with Pierre de Coubertin’s inspired vision and successful Olympic revival with the 1896 games in Athens. In “Olympic World” you also find the history of the Olympic symbols such as the motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger"), the five rings (representing five interlocked continents) and the flame.

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The Olympic flame relay torches have definitely shrunk over the years!

The next level is the “Olympic Games.” The exhibit is intentionally sparse and intended to celebrate the athletes of the games. As you enter, the right side celebrates the Winter Games, the left side celebrates the Summer Games and a small area in the back celebrate the Paralympics. Both the summer and winter sections are split into 3 – 4 small displays of memorabilia from a date range. These displays are surrounded by screens on which you can learn facts and watch highlights of the games from those years.

How would you like to compete in a major cycling race on this nice fixed gear model?

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Who knew that modern rifle competitors needed such a complex optical apparatus?

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The final level, called the “Olympic Spirit,” celebrates what it takes to be an Olympic athlete. Displays here range from life in the Olympic Village to the mental and physical preparation that the athletes undergo, to the evolution (and sometimes banning) of technology related to competition.

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This bike design was banned after the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

It is on this level that you can also find replicas of all the medals dating back to the 1896 games in Athens made from the original molds.

Overall, this was an amazing experience. It is exactly the right level of depth to hold your interest for the entire time and will leave you inspired and looking forward to the next Olympics.

Your turn: What is your favorite Olympic memory?

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Where to Eat & Drink in Barcelona

Where to eat and drink in Barcelona

A month later, Bo and I are still dreaming of our time in Barcelona. We fell head over heels for the city, due in part to the incredible food and bar scene. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced four nights of meals where every, single dish leaves us wishing there were more. Once you decide to go to Barcelona, spend the next evening mapping out your restaurant and bar plan. Many of the spots are closed at least one night a week, and others fill up more than a month in advance. Similar to New York City, the array of restaurants and bars can be overwhelming but if you leverage Yelp and posts such as this, everything will work out just fine!

Restaurants

espai Kru – If you’re a seafood person, the Espai Kru tasting menu is an absolute must. As you know, we grew up right on the coast of Georgia, so we are harsh critics of seafood. This was one of the best meals we’ve had in ages. 

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Barraca – This was written up in the most recent 36 hours in Barcelona as a great place to get paella.  While neither of us were crazy about paella, in general, the vibe was nice, and the views of the beach and ocean are great. In addition, we enjoyed a few delicious appetizers, and the quality of their paella seemed better than any that we saw at other restaurants. Our seafood paella was packed with seafood!

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Dos Palillos -  This is another can’t miss spot even if you just sit at the bar and enjoy a couple of tapas and a glass of cava.  The chef / proprietor here is an El Bulli alum and received a Michelin star soon after opening this small Japanese influenced small plates restaurant. Little bites like flash-fried avocado were amazingly creative and knocked us out of our seats.  Evidently its hard to get a reservation in the back for the tasting menu, but the bar upfront and terrace area are first-come, first-served. We  so it was great for a relaxing snack at like 7PM before a late dinner.

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Tapeo – In between the morning and afternoon portion of our walking tour, we had one hour to grab lunch. Luckily we found this little tapas gem on Yelp. Eight tapas later and a pitcher of white wine sangria,  we left highly impressed.  It’s a perfect spot for a casual dinner or lunch if you are walking around the El Born neighborhood.

IMG_0243IMG_0245 Pepito – We needed to find a place that was open for dinner on Easter and our concierge made us reservations here.  The entire dinner and experience exceeded our expectations. Think perfectly executed Spanish food in an intimate setting. In fact, it reminded us a lot of Gramercy Tavern in New York City.  In another city, this might be a standout but in Barcelona, the food scene is so good that this one kind of fades into the background.  Again, the execution was perfect, service was great, but it doesn’t have the pizzazz that other restaurants in the city have.

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Tickets – Mark on your calendar one month out and log-on to the Tickets website to try to get reservations or call your concierge.  This is supposed to be something special.  They were closed for Easter when we were in Barcelona but in her 48 Hours in Barcelona recap, my friend Casey said that dinner at Tickets is “the top restaurant experience of my life.”  

Drinks

La Vinoteca Torres – Our hotel concierge suggested this wine bar as they not only serve wine but they also sell it at a discount! Bodegas Torres is a family winery that has now expanded and has properties in Spain, the US and Chile.  We spent two hours creating our own wine flight and tasting experience. The staff helped teach us about the wine and then guide us towards a dozen or so bottles which we brought back to Geneva! One of the added benefits is that they sell their wine at a discount versus menu prices.

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Ultramarinos Hendrick’s Bar – Barcelona started the whole infused gin and tonic craze and Ultramarinos is one of the best.  They probably have 20 different flavor combinations and the staff is very nice.  My favorite drink of the evening was their lime, mint and pineapple gin and tonic. All the fruit an herb ingredients are freshly muddled in front of you at the bar! How’s that for fresh?

 

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Barcelona Running Tour

Hands down, my favorite memory in Barcelona was our sunrise running tour with Robin, the owner of Running Tours Barcelona.

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As soon as we booked our trip to Barcelona, I started researching running tours. In large cities such as Paris, Barcelona and London running tours are a great way to remove the intimidation factor, learn a great deal and squeeze in a great workout.  While we’ve had a tough time finding running tours in smaller cities during the off-season, we thoroughly enjoyed our Paris running tour last November.

Running Tours Barcelona offers 7 private to semi-private tour options as well as 4 group tour options for those who are looking for less expensive options. Since each of our three days in Barcelona would be quite full, we booked the Early Bird 10km tour which starts before sunrise, at 7am and finishes by 8:30. The early hour of the tour allowed us to experience Barcelona in a whole new way – without the distraction of people.

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We met Robin, our guide, outside our hotel at 7am, just before the sun rose, ready for an hour of exploration. He quickly explained that the tour would lead us through many parts of Barcelona including many of the top sights but also including smaller, lesser explored areas such as the Olympic athletes village and Parc de la Ciutadella.  

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As you can see from the pictures, the streets were empty of people except the stragglers leaving the late night clubs when we started and a few people walking their dogs as we ended. As we ran through the streets, Robin shared history and facts with us, many of which we didn’t learn the previous day during our walking tour. While that tour focused more on Barcelona’s history and Gaudi, our running tour focused on modern Barcelona such as the impacts of tourism, government changes, the future of Barcelona’s port, the impact the 1992 Olympics had on Barcelona, as well as what it is like to live in Barcelona.

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We sprinted to the beach to ensure we made it in time to watch the sunrise.

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We were able to learn about the increasing demand for mega yacht space in the Barcelona harbor while ogling the huge, gorgeous boats.

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We followed the beach front path through Barcoleneta towards Port Olimpic while enjoying views of Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish and Peix Hotel d’Arts.

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We marveled in the now empty Place del Rei, as we learned about Christopher Columbus ties to Barcelona.

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We enjoyed the beauty of Ciutadella Park, home to the Barcelona Zoo, Parliament of Catalonia, and a large fountain designed by Josep Fontsere.

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The 12 kilometer or 7.5 mile run flew by and before we knew it we were entering Las Ramblas and stopping for a final selfie at our hotel.

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While the running tour wasn’t cheap, at 75 euros, it allowed us to see new parts of the city and as well as enjoy the gorgeous sunrise views and Robin’s extensive knowledge. Thank you Robin and Running Tours Barcelona for the amazing start to our day!

I was not compensated or provided a complimentary tour in exchange for this post. All opinions are our own; we really just LOVED the tour and love supporting small companies!

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