Around this time last year, myself and my friend Emma were living it up in San Francisco. I had wanted to go and see San Fran and Alcatraz for years. We went for 5 nights and we packed a lot in. Unfortunately, my camera lens started to die while I was there so I took most of my photos on my iPhone. Then to top that off, during the night on the  second night, my phone had some sort of meltdown and I had to bring it to the Apple store the next day where they had no choice but to completely reset it, so I lost all of the photos from the first two days, including Alcatraz. Oh and did I mention that our suitcases never made the flight? Mine turned up within about 15 hours but Emma’s didn’t show for about 48 hours. Sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it?!

To be honest, I forgot about all of those crappy things until I sat down to write this post. They are definitely not the take aways from the trip. The only downer about it is that I don’t have many photos of Alcatraz and I have absolutely none from the food trucks at Presidio Park. 

We fit in so much into such a short trip. We were up at about 6am every day and fell asleep about 10 or 11pm at the latest every night. The day we arrived we went to The Castro District. The Castro was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the United States. Some of the pedestrian walkways are made up of the rainbow flag colours that represent the LGBT community. When we were in San Francisco, the Orlando nightclub shooting had only recently happened and there was a very touching tribute to the victims of the shooting at The Castro.

The Castro District

After visiting The Castro, we got a taxi up to the top of Twin Peaks. We took some pictures and got some great views of the city of San Francisco. By the time we finished there, we went back to the hotel (hoping our luggage had arrived – it hadn’t!) and then went for some food. 

Twin Peaks

We woke at about 5am and decided this was the best morning to head to the Sausalito side of the Golden Gate Bridge to watch the sun come up. This was by far the highlight of my trip. We got soooo lucky because it was a really great sunrise. We got pizza blankets (I know, amazing!!) and went back a few mornings later but the sunrise wasn’t nearly as nice. After watching the sun come up, we waked back across the bridge. It was a lovely walk. I’ve read and heard plenty of people saying that they wouldn’t suggest walking all the way across. I disagree completely. I loved the walk so much, we did it twice. 


Pizza blankets

After the walk back, we went to get some breakfast and then went to see Lombard Street which was really busy but the houses along the road are really nice with some gorgeous flowers too. 

How beautiful? (Emma may kill me because she’s in this photo!)

 After Lombard Street we went to Presidio Park. We went to see the Walt Disney museum, which really isn’t worth a trip in my opinion. Then we went out to the food trucks in the park, which was another highlight of my trip. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no pictures of it, but if you go to San Fran, I would definitely recommend it. We sat out in the sun, enjoying a cocktail and trying some delicious food. 

After Presidio Park, we went to Alcatraz. I was so excited for this and took a million photos and lost them all so I only have this one below that was saved to my Snapchat of me in one of the cells. The tour was brilliant and there’s something so creepy about the place. 

An Alcatraz cell

We were exhausted after it and went straight home to bed. Then my phone died so we spent a couple of hours the next morning in the Apple store before jumping on the hop on/hop off bus. This way we got to see a lot more without getting off the bus. 

We got off the bus at Pier 39. I was a bit disapointed because there wasn’t many sea lions out. The whole area had a real holiday vibe to it with restaurants and amusements and shops. Then we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. Again, it reminded me of that Irish seaside town vibe, but a bit warmer and prettier. (Did I mention San Francisco had a heat wave while we were there and my scalp and shoulders burnt to a crisp?).


We got an In-N-Out Burger, which we had been looking forward to and it was so worth the wait. Delicious. I’ll never look at a Big Mac the same way again. Since we were so close, it would have been rude not to pop into Ghirardelli’s. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a chocolate company and it’s famous for it’s ice-cream sundaes. 

We paid for two days on the bus tour and we got to see China Town, The Oakland Bridge and Coit Tower. We also went to Haight & Ashbury which amazingly still felt like it had the hippie vibe that would have been there in the 1967 Summer of Love. We went from there to see the Painted Ladies which were absolutely beautiful. It was busy but not so busy that you couldn’t get a photo of them. I will say, as pretty as they are, I definitely saw some nicer houses scattered around San Francisco. We also went to see the Mrs Doubtfire house which was awesome, even if the taxi driver had never seen the movie and thought we were crazy.

Painted Ladies

We also managed plenty of shopping (hello Sephora!), lots of eating and a little drinking. We even fit in a visit to an Irish bar to watch Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in the 2016 Euros. So all in all, we had an amazing trip to San Francisco. It absolutely rivalled New York as my favourite place that I’ve been to in the United States. Now I have a favourite on each coast and I will definitely go back.

Is there anything I missed on my trip that you could recommend for next time?

2015 was a great year and these were my highlights:

January:

1. My cousin Louise’s hen night and wedding 

2. Visiting some of my lovely family in Exeter, Devon

3. Visits from my godson Lorenzo from England

4. Galway for a night with the girls 

Jan 1

January 2015

May:

5. Inishbofin with the mammies and daughters

6. Our friend’s Richard & Jacqueline’s wedding

7. Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden

May 2015

May 2015

June:

8. Liverpool with the girls

9. A day trip to Belfast with Dad, Marian & Mark

June & July 2015

June & July 2015

July:

10. Paolo Nutini concert in Marlay Park

11. Ed Sheeran concert in Croke Park

 

August:

12. Calpe in Spain for our friend’s Bud & Suzanne’s wedding

13. Visiting the Choctaw monument in Cork

14.  Fethard-On-Sea for the dog’s holiday with some family & friends

August 2015

August 2015

August 2015

August 2015

September:

15. Electric Picnic

September 2015

September 2015

November:

16. Stephen’s graduation

17. Ireland  qualifying for the 2016 Euro’s versus Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Aviva Stadium 

November 2015

November 2015

December:

18. New York trip with friends

19. My friend Kiara returning from Australia after over a year 

20. The Riptide Movement gig in Whelan’s

21. 12 Pubs of Christmas in Dublin City (well, the second 6 pubs of Christmas)

22. The girl’s Kris Kindle night as a 5 piece group (there was only 4 last year)

23. 2fm Xmas Ball concert in the 3Arena

24. Christmas Day drinks with extended family, followed by Christmas dinner with immediate family

25. Lots of  festive get-togethers with friends and family

26. New Years Eve with friends in Emma’s new house

December 2015

December 2015

December 2015

December 2015

Here’s to a great 2016…

Full Irish Breakfast
 Dane Me Bulmers

1) This is a half portion of a full Irish, I swapped the pudding (I’m not a fan) for an extra sausage. I dread to think how big the full portion is,  2) Dane,  3) Me,  4) a lovely cold pint of Bulmers

 

Boozy lunches are great, am I right? We woke up super late yesterday and decided it was a perfect day for a boozy lunch. Of course we had a few things to do including checking out a party shop for last minute Halloween costume ideas (of course) and so by the time we got to the pub it was half 3 (queue rumbling tummy). I sensibly started with a water to combat the dehydration of going from Ireland in October to 35 degree Celsius Dubai. Dane, however, went straight on the Bulmers. We ordered 2 Irish breakfasts (yes! Only the Irish believe a fried breakfast should be an all-day meal option). Half way through my meal I realised what was missing was an iced cold Bulmers so I order a pint. Our boozy lunch (at 3.30pm) turned into a boozy afternoon and early evening. Ah well, no reason to set the alarm this morning so why not!?

I’m in Dubai now but I haven’t even posted about Dane’s visit home in September so I’ll be doing some retrospective blogging over the next while.

Chief

Lady Mam & I Fethard On Sea

1) Chief tired after a long walk,  2) Lady relaxing,  3) My mam & I,  4) Fethard on Sea beach

I can’t believe it’s taken me over a month to write this blog post. This year is going by in a blink. On the 12th of August my mam and I took the dogs on a well deserved holiday. They have a very hard life you see, all that walking, sleeping and eating. We went to Fethard On Sea in Wexford for almost a week. My Aunty Pauline came with us for the first part of the week and we had a really relaxing time. We brought the dogs for long walks, had some drinks, cooked some nice food and even played bingo. When the weekend came around Pauline left and we had some other visitors including Annie the dog and my favourite little human Layla. The dogs had a ball on what was dubbed ‘The Dog Holiday’ and the humans enjoyed themselves too.I had a 99 ice-cream on the last day on the way home which is a must for a Wexford holiday.  I love visiting different parts of the world but there’s a lot to be said for a holiday at home. Ireland really is such a beautiful country.

 

For more photographs from the holiday, check out my album here

Kiara and IDane and DecoKiara and DecoKiara & ICheers Deco & Kiarapolice car 2Dane & I

1) Kiara and I,  2) Dane and Deco being competitive,  3)  Kiara and Deco outside The Burj Al Arab with the Jumeirah Hotel in the background,  4) Kiara and I with the Mercedes Police car,  5) Cheers – shot time!  6) Deco and Kiara,  7) Dane and Deco with the policeman and the Bentley police car,  8) I love this picture of Dane and I. It’s so silly. We had just posed for a picture together and this was what followed.

The fact that I’m writing this post almost a week after arriving home leaves me with a sad feeling. Dane always says that you don’t really appreciate a place and how amazing it is until you leave. In a way, I believe he’s right. You see it all the time with Irish people living abroad. They tell anyone who will listen how great Ireland is. So much so that I often wonder why they left in the first place. In my opinion, part of this is because the grass is always greener on the other side and part of it is because as time goes by we tend to forget any negative feeling towards a place, especially if there aren’t many, and remember only the positive ones. We also tend to build it up to be better than it was. It’s a funny one because although I remain firm on my stance that Dubai really isn’t for me, when people ask I still tell them how beautiful it is and about all the amazing things to see and do and I would always recommend it to people. Strangely enough, The first time I went to Dubai remains very close to the top of my list of holidays. This may come across as strange, but I feel comfortable in Ireland in a way I’ve never felt in any of the beautiful and spectacular places I’ve visited. I know now, more than ever, that Ireland is my home and I just can’t see that ever changing. That being said, I find myself missing small things about Dubai, most obviously waking up every day and knowing Dane is there.

Our last 10 days in Dubai were spent with Kiara and Deco, as you know from my previous post Summer in Dubai, Part 3. Although they were our third set of visitors in only 2 months, it was just as fascinating to see their reaction to all of the wonderful things Dubai has to offer. The same way a place can seem much more enchanting when you leave, it can seem very normal and everyday while you’re there. Especially if you’re there for a while and have seen it plenty of times. Seeing everyone’s reaction to the things only Dubai can produce was refreshing every time and it reminds you to appreciate it while you’re there. Kiara and Deco were very aware that this was mine and Dane’s last week or so together for a few months and were kind enough to arrange some of their plans for days out when he was off so we could spend some time together. All four of us had a great time and the 10 days went by in a blink. We ate, we drank, we shopped, we played cards, we laughed, we argued over the rules, we took silly photos in photo booths, they experienced Dubai – the Burj Khalifa, the bus tour, the market, Wild Wadi water park, etc. We had a 7 course, 7 star afternoon tea pretty much right after a trip to Burger King, we shopped some more, we went to Sega World and the ‘men’ reverted back to being boys – it wasn’t a long trip! We drank some more, we ate some more, including a McDonalds drive thru trip or 2 in taxis (I have never seen a human being consume food the way Deco can – he eats lots and very often) and we had some of the funniest taxi journeys ever, singing and dancing with the taxi men. Dane’s ability to sing in ‘Punjabi’ is second to none.

This summer in Dubai was interesting to say the least. I got to experience it with some of my favourite people and I am eternally grateful to them for making it that bit easier to be away from home for so long (I know what you’re thinking – you would swear I was away for 10 years but it was a daunting experience for me as I’m such a home bird). Having people that I love there stopped me from getting too home sick and certainly made the days when Dane was in work until 6, 7 or 8 at night much easier. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. I also made some lovely new friends and I hope to see them in Dublin in the near future.

Being in Dubai during Ramadan and the start of the 3 day celebration (Eid) that follows it taught me a lot. I learned to appreciate a culture that is so different from my own and because at times it was difficult, it also reminded me to appreciate my own culture. It taught me that although I love to learn about other countries and cultures, I am very lucky to live in a country that it is very liberal (not an opinion I would have had before, we’re still pretty far behind other countries on a lot of issues). Being in Dubai for Ramadan reinforced for me the lengths people will go to please their god and whether you agree with it or not, it takes a lot of strength to fast for 30 days in 40-50 degree (celsius) heat whilst going about your everyday life which includes working and for woman still cooking for children and all of this without so much as a drop of water from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is not only about fasting. It is also important to live a clean life during this period where Muslims should only think positive thoughts, refrain from gossiping, smoking or having sexual relations during daylight hours. It is also a time for giving and so it’s a nice time to be in Dubai because people are very kind and charitable.

Now that I’m home (well in County Wexford, which is about 2.5 hours from home), I am enjoying the familiarity and beauty that is Ireland and quietly remembering the magnificence of Dubai.