Ireland – Doolin, Limerick, Galway, & Whiskey

In September, Nico and I went to Newport, RI for his cousin’s wedding.  We were there for barely 48 hours, but it was my first time back in the US in 6 months, and this is what I realized that I missed the most (besides my friends and family, of course!): the ease and incredible selection when shopping for anything, the way restaurants give you a huge, free glass of water filled with ice without you even having to ask for it, and how friendly and chatty strangers are.

We flew from Dublin to Providence with Norwegian Air, which usually has really great deals between Europe and North America (I paid around $250 round trip, which was cheaper than my flight from Lux to Dublin lol).  As neither of us had been to Ireland before, of course we made a holiday out of it.

Day 1 – Doolin

We landed in Dublin jet lagged at 8am, picked up our rental car, and made it about 15 minutes before we had to stop at the nearest coffee shop to gather our wits.  Our ambitious plan was to drive 3 hours to a hostel in Doolin and then check out the Cliffs of Moher.  I’m lucky enough to be able to sleep on flights relatively easily, so I drove while tried to catch some Zs.

From our hotel in Doolin, we headed off on the Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail, but there is also a Hop On Hop Off bus that takes you straight to the visitor center and popular view points.

So windy

Holy crap, it was so windy.  It’s a beautiful little hike, a bit muddy, and the waves crashing into the cliffs are awesome.  That day, it was so windy that the mist from the waves down below were being blown straight up.  The wind also literally blew me off my feet, and I tweaked my injured knee and didn’t get to finish the hike.

Cliffs of Moher

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Slovakia – Banská Štiavnica, High Tatra Mountains, Gerlachovský štít

I’m alive!  I suppose this is what happens when I work too much…  It’s been 3 months since my last post, so let’s get on with it, continuing from this post on my trip in the Czech Republic.

Day 6 – Banská Štiavnica

This whole trip involved a lot of driving and exploring and hiking, which are all things that I love.  Banská Štiavnica is a cute little medieval mining town about a 2.5 hour drive from Bratislava, with a population of about 10,000 people.  We even had lunch at a restaurant with an old mining shaft in it.  The town crest is decorated with a gold and a silver lizard, referring to the legend that says these lizards first led a shepherd to discover gold and silver ores.

Banská Štiavnica
Štôlňa Glanzenberg mining tunnel

We were hoping to get a massage to recover from our Sněžka hike, but were a bit deterred by this sign…


Day 7 – High Tatras

The goal of this trip was to climb the highest point in Slovakia, which is located in the High Tatras Mountains.  We had driven in the night before to Štrbské Pleso, a little ski resort at the foot of the mountain range, where we spent the day relaxing and finally getting that massage.  For some reason, we opted for a “local special” as part of the massage, which involved getting strapped into a contraption and being flipped upside down and just hanging out for 15 minutes upside down.  Did not like.  Do not recommend.  Will never willingly do that again.

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Czech Republic – Prague, Bohemian Switzerland, Krkonoše National Park

Since my surgery, I’ve pretty much been grounded: limited walking, no running, no flights.  However, there were a few trips that I went on beforehand that I haven’t written about yet, so enjoy 🙂

N and I went on a long trip in August while he had some time off, and we did it in an N kind of fashion.  I usually like to do a little research before I go anywhere, and I almost always book my lodging ahead of time because as a woman traveling in a foreign place, I at least want to know where I will be sleeping.  N is way more chill and enjoys having the flexibility of staying longer in a place that he likes.  I tried his method of traveling this time, and it was pretty cool.  We did see a lot of places I knew nothing about, however, it does require decent internet access to look things up or book lodging on the fly (as we had difficulty with while driving through the land without cell towers, otherwise known as Slovakia).

Vltava River

Day 1 & 2 – Prague

We got to our Praha 8 AirBnb late in the afternoon, visited the very educational Museum of Communism, took a nice stroll through the Old Town Square, and had a nice hearty dinner.  Prague is a gorgeous and lively city, separated into districts with the beautiful old town in Praha 1.  It’s very busy, filled with tourists and families during the day and party goers at night.  Our AirBnb was in a much quieter, more residential district that had several hipster restaurants and cafes.  We went to Můj šálek kávy for breakfast both mornings we were there.  Don’t ask me to pronounce it; I spent nearly the whole trip trying to get “thank you” (Děkuji) down…  During the day, we walked across the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), up to the Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), and then to the modern art Museum Kampa.

Pretty Praha

Day 3 – Bohemian Switzerland

We rented a car from Prague in the morning and drove 2 hours north to the České Švýcarsko National Park in Bohemian Switzerland for a short hike.  The forest is full of boulders, like Fontainebleau in France or Mullerthal in Luxembourg, and the occasional large rock formation jutting out above the trees.  There’s an iconic formation, Pravčická brána, the largest sandstone arch in Europe.  We hiked to the touristy spot, but holy crap the spot smells like sewage due to the inn located there, and the guy running the ticket booth was so rude and the least helpful person ever.  My recommendation is to view the arch from the hiking trail and don’t bother going up to it.

Smelly inn and the Pravčická brána arch
České Švýcarsko National Park

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Luxembourg – 6 Month Recap & ACL Surgery

It’s been a little over 6 months since I moved across the pond.  I had a blast being unemployed for most of that time, as you can probably tell from all my previous travel posts 🙂  But now I’m settling back into being a real adult.

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The Alzette River in the Grund

Did I do anything other than travel during my time off?

I took an intensive French class.  I’m still terrible at French.  As a native English speaker, there is not enough incentive to learn French, German, or Luxembourgish because most people in the city speak English as a second (or third or fourth or fifth!) language.  Even if I attempt to speak French, I either leave the conversation not quite understanding everything that was said, or I end up slipping back into English.  Thankfully, everyone is usually quite friendly, and they accommodate my lacking language skills.  Here, English is the lingua franca where 47% of residents in the country and 70% of residents in the capital city are foreign nationals coming from 170 different countries.

I learned how to drive stick.  In Europe, most people drive stick.  If you want to rent a car, it’s at least twice as expensive to rent an automatic car than a manual car.  And that’s if they even have an automatic available.  I know like 4 people total in the US who own a manual car.  Poor N had been responsible for driving both of us everywhere we went, until I rented a car for a week and asked him to teach me.  That wasn’t fun either.  I might have cried after stalling in the middle of an intersection and getting honked at by a bus driver…   Aaanyway, it took me a good few days to get the hang of it, but now I’m capable of driving stick on the left as well!  I still stall here and there, but at least I don’t freak out anymore.

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Hints of fall in the Grand Duchy

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Stockholm & Helsinki

A very accomplished friend and former Dell colleague of mine, Ang, was spending 7 weeks traveling around Europe before starting business school at Harvard, and she let me tag along for a stint.

Hotel Diplomat Stockholm
Boulebar Rålambshov


We stayed at the City Backpackers Hostel near to the central train station.  It was a great space where we met a bunch of cool people, and the hostel offers a few different types of tours as well.  The first night we were there, we went to the Ice Bar with some random people from the hostel.  It was cold but a bit kitschy for me.  Can’t say I need to do that again.

Stockholm Public Library

Day 1:  We went to the Stockholm Public Library (I know, I guess have a thing for libraries).  Then Ang and I rented a kayak from Rålis Kayak and even though I still do not know how to kayak properly, we paddled for 2 hours around the Kungsholmen island.  The guys running Rålis Kayak were really chill and nice, but this was the only place we encountered the whole time in Stockholm where we couldn’t pay with our credit cards.

Strandvägen, Stockholm

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Vienna, Bratislava, Feldkirch, Liechtenstein

and Zurich too!  Yea, it was a lot for one week.  My main purpose for this trip was to visit family and check out some spots along the way.  My favorite aunt and uncle (who is Austrian), were spending a few weeks in Austria, and I wanted to see them since I was so close.  The last time I saw them was 9 years ago in Beijing, right after I graduated high school.  My uncle currently works for the Austrian embassy in Lima, Peru.  In the past, they have lived in Beijing, Vietnam, Slovenia, New York, and other places, with a home base in Vienna.

My aunt and uncle live in the 21st district of Vienna called Floridsdorf, in the northernmost part of the city limits.  They are for sure an interesting pair!  My uncle started learning Mandarin at university, and he went to Shanghai in the early 80s to continue studying Chinese.  Back then, he was probably the only Western looking guy for miles around, much less one that could speak the language.  He found a job at the Austrian embassy in Beijing, and then met my aunt shortly after.  My mom (her sister) had moved to the US with my dad around that time.  After marrying him, my aunt moved to Austria without knowing a lick of German, and now she and my uncle speak a combination of Mandarin and German with some English and Spanish thrown in for good measure.  It’s quite confusing at times!

So this was my rough and rushed itinerary:  Vienna > Bratislava > Vienna > Feldkirch > Liechtenstein > Feldkirch > Zurich > Luxembourg.  Given how quick each stop was, I’ll just share pics with a few notes.


Vienna / Wien

  • Food
    • I did a free walking tour and then ate schnitzel at the 3rd gen Figlmüller because the OG and 2nd gen locations were full or closed (respectively).  Was delicious but slightly touristy.
    • I waited in line to have the Sachertorte at the Sacher Hotel Cafe.  Was very delicious, but very touristy and not worth the wait in the hot sun.
  • Sightseeing
    • St Stephen’s Cathedral: lovely square, beautiful roof, crowded
    • St Peter’s Church: gilded and ornate interior, not as crowded as St Stephen’s
    • Austrian National Library: pretty interesting Free Mason exhibit, beautiful old globes, statues, and painted ceilings
    • Belvedere Palace and museum: looove Gustav Klimt, paid €15 for just the Upper Belvedere, then took a stroll around the palace grounds for free

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48 Hours in Malta

Contrary to popular belief, or at least my belief, Malta is not full of Maltese dogs running around everywhere.  I didn’t see a single one… 😦

Sand colored buildings, rocky cliffs, and blooming desert shrubs.  Malta is part of the EU and is made up of three main inhabited islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino.  It used to be part of the British Empire, so people drive on the left and English is an official language (Maltese is the national language).  N doesn’t like driving on the left, so I finally got to pull my weight with some of the driving.

Qrendi coast next to the Ħaġar Qim Temples

Straight from the airport, we tried to go to the megalithic Ħaġar Qim Temples not too far from the airport.  Unfortunately, we got there just before closing time, and they wouldn’t allow us in.  We were still able to walk around the outside of the UNESCO site and check out the amazing blue ocean.


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