Tübingen Chocolate Festival

Chocolate hedgehogs! Creamy, thick, hot chocolate served with Amaretto! Row upon row of Belgian Chocolates! This weekend, I went to the Chocolate Festival in Tübingen with friends, Germany’s largest chocolate festival, and it was pretty damn wonderful.

Founded in the 1100s, Tübingen is one of Germany’s most idyllic towns. Filled with cobblestone streets, half timbered pastel houses and glittering pine trees during this time of year, Tübingen is a magical place.

Checking in at about 35 degrees, it was definitely a brisk day in Tübingen, which served to enhance the Christmasy vibe. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this festival, but let me begin my telling you, this was some of the most delicious chocolate I have had in my life. The chocolate hedgehogs from a stall selling Belgian chocolates were my absolute whimsical favorite, and I feel could have been perfectly at home in Harry Potter. Every chocolate we tried including the salted caramel truffles and chocolate mousse truffles were divine. The hot chocolate was much creamier  then in the U.S, think the hot chocolate from Chocolat (you know, Johnny Depp’s favorite drink), and served with Amaretto. They also had a stall with a deli display window full of beads, pizzas, salamis eggs and other deli goods all made from chocolate!

 

We strolled the town sampling chocolates, and enjoying the buzz of the city. The festival is quite large, set in the main Marketplatz square, and filtering out to other side streets. We explored the castle and took in the beautiful views of the city.

I am going to make this post short and sweet, as a friend of mine from college is visiting and I am desperately trying to get over a hideous cold, so that I can show her a great time in Germany!

The dates have not yet been announced for the 2019 Festival, but I will update my blog when they have been posted. If at all possible, I recommend visiting this on the weekend, as it is a very popular festival 🙂 It is an easy hour and a half train ride from Stuttgart.

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Two Days in Dublin

Ah, Dublin! During our five day trip to Galway, we spent the first and last days in Dublin, and let me tell you we managed to pack it all in. We arrived late the first evening, and after picking up our rental car, then stopping quickly at our hotel to drop of our baggage we headed to the temple bar area just before 10pm, and picked a cute pub for dinner called Quays. An extremely friendly waiter greeted us with a “hey lads, the pub is closing soon, but I can fit in your order quickly. Fish & chips sound good?” Brad and I didn’t even have to look at each other. “Yes please,” we said happily sitting down. Within ten minutes we had our piping hot fish & chips, cider and Guinness.

We heard some music playing downstairs, and decided to spend the evening sipping our drinks, people watching and enjoying the live music. We had an earlyish wake up call the next morning for our drive to Galway, and wanted to wake up fresh.

The Temple Bar area can get very packed,  by the end of the night it’s thronged with revelers – but the iconic area filled with brightly lit restaurants, pubs and bars should still be included on your itinerary.  Bonus – Temple Bar was ready for the holidays by the first of November!

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Temple Bar ready for Xmas!

After three days in wonderful Galway, we headed back to Dublin and hit the ground running. First we visited Trinity College’s The Book of Kells. The long room at the old library  is an absolute must for book lovers. Filled with high domed ceilings, spiral staircases and wall-to-books, I 100% spent my time there pretending I was in the library scene from Beauty & The Beast.

Next, we headed to the Molly Malone statue, an iconic Dublin statue based on the song of the same name. Dublin is an extremely walk ablecity, and about 10 degrees warmer than Galway, which I considered a big win.

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“In Dublin’s fair city Where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone”

After this, the wind began to pick up so we decided it was time for a drink. We stopped at The Long Hall, one of Dublin’s oldest pubs built in the 1800s, boasting wood paneling and plush red carpeting. We grabbed the only open seat, and promptly sat down to enjoy our drinks.

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Next, I have a confession to make guys. We had dinner at Five Guys. If you aren’t familiar, Five Guys is a California based burger joint, that serves the most delicious fast food. I usually eat about one burger a year, and at least try to eat the local cuisine while traveling, (one notable failure, looking at you Basque country), but if you’ve ever been into a Five Guys, once the scent of those perfectly salted fries overwhelms your senses, you are a goner. Anyway, we decided to relax and enjoy ourselves. Sometimes the most memorable parts of a trip can be something unexpected, like giggling in a diner while gobbling burgers in Dublin. During our trip to Cornwall this summer, after a day of hiking, we came back to our B&B early, opened the windows so that we could hear the crashing of the waves and read books in bed eating Scottish shortbread and sipping coffee.

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Tom Hardy ad displayed at Five Guys. I mean, come on  😀

After our meal, the rest of our day was devoted to strolling, taking in a few sights,  trying out different pubs and just generally enjoying the city at our leisure.

We stopped at The Stag’s Head, a Victorian pub on the outskirts of Temple Bar with a local vibe and while waiting for our drinks were treated to a group of older gentleman speaking Gaelic! I was really hoping to hear some Gaelic while we were in Ireland, so this was a perfect end to the trip. I heard the jovial group erupt into laughter, and when I realized they were speaking Gaelic, I literally gasped. Pretty sure I clapped a little to myself as well. If you haven’t heard it before, Gaelic is guttural, throaty and extremely foreign. It sounds like a language Tolkien would have created and I was completely thrilled.

Are you planning a trip to Ireland? Where would you like to visit most?

The Cliffs of Moher – Day Trip From Galway

I visited Ireland for the first time about ten years ago, and have been dying to show it to Brad for some time.  I knew the warmth of the people, the welcoming Irish spirit, the dramatic landscapes and the stirring live music would steal his heart. And, I really wanted to show him the Cliffs of Moher. Sometimes, a must-see sight ends up being a bit of a let down (I’m talking to you Sintra), but the Cliffs are an absolute showstopper. We stayed in Galway, which is a completely doable 1.5 hour drive from the Cliffs. The drive is gorgeous, full of castle ruins, rushing rivers, tiny fishing villages, and pubs along the way. In short, it has everything you could hope for from an Irish road trip.

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Dunvegan castle

Doolin – Pub stop time!

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Cliffs of Moher
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We arrived to the Cliffs of Moher during a fairly intense wind, and that light sideways rain you expect from coastal cities. I’m going to be honest, tt was looking pretty frigid. But, we came to see the Cliffs and that was exactly what we planned to do. We took a deep breath, jumped out of the car, buttoned our jackets, pulled on our hats, wrapped our scarfs tight around our faces, and just went for it. Let me begin by saying, the view is incredible. The green, verdant cliffs, windswept plains and ruined castles, all make for a breathtakingly dramatic scene. This is why people fall in love with Ireland. I think we actually lucked out with the rain, because the weather meant far less people in all of our shots, and it wasn’t too terribly misty, so we still had some great views of the cliffs.

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Spent a fair amount of time gazing out to sea, pretending to be in a scene from Harry Potter – in the 6th film, The Half Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore apparate to a rock in front of the Cliffs
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Windswept but happy!

After running about the Cliffs, exploring the ruined castle, and chatting to the grazing cows, we decided to pop into a pub for a bite and a drink. Typically I look up several options for meal/pubs while planning a trip, but the neighboring town of Doolin, filled with brightly colored thatched roof pubs and shops is tiny, so I thought it might be fun just to pop into a place that looked enticing. (Spoiler alert: they all did). Situated across from a rushing river, Gus O’Connors Pub fit the bill completely.  We grabbed a perfect seat right in front of the fireplace, ordered a couple coffees, plus two plates of fish and chips, with mushy peas. I have not yet hopped on the mushy pea bandwagon, but I continue to try it in hopes that I may develop a taste for it. The piping hot food was served almost immediately, and hit the spot after our windswept time on the cliffs. We relaxed in front of the fire, enjoying the warmth of the flames and listening to locals chatting about their day in their thick Irish brogues.

The Cliffs are so spectacular, I could have spent hours hiking the area, stopping for a picnic, breathing in the views. If the weather had been warmer, we could easily have spent the day.

Have you visited the Cliffs of Moher? Did you love it as much as I did? What other parts of Ireland would you like to see?

Five Days in Galway

Ireland in Autumn

We just returned from five days in Galway, and it was an absolute blast. Just a really, cracking, feel-good trip. (Did I use that term right? I feel like I heard it used all over Ireland. Either way, I’m owning it).

Full to bursting with Irish charm, this bustling harbor city on the western coast was already decorated for the holidays by November 1st, and had such a festive spirit. We spent most of our time in the city’s hub, known as The Latin Quarter, which boasts fantastic live Irish folk music almost every evening, great stone clad restaurants, and plenty of rustic pubs filled with fire nooks. We feasted pretty much exclusively on fish & chips, savory pies, and ciders (Guinness for Brad). And, let me tell you, everyone drinks Guinness! I love when your ideas of a place turn out to be correct.

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Latin Quarter Galway
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Colorful Quay street
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Ireland ready for Xmas – Nov 1st!
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Eyre Square
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Dublin Harbour – you can’t tell by this pic, but it is filled with swans!

Great Restaurants:

McDonaughs: Excellent fish & chips shop. Open late. Grabbed a plate of fried cod, and perfectly salted fries. The portion is so huge we shared.

The Pie Maker: So delicious we went twice. I was introduced to pies in South Africa, so any chance I have to try a one, I do so. I had chicken and mushroom in a whiskey, rosemary sauce served with mash, braised cabbage and mushy peas. The braised cabbage tasted like Thanksgiving, in a great way.

Esquire: For brekkie. Sit down cafe just off Eyre square with great looking breakfasts, muffins, scones etc. I had I think, the best chocolate muffin of my life. Moist, with big chunks of melty chocolate. Pretty sure at one point I had chocolate in my hair. Worth it.

Great Pubs: Many places have music twice a day, once at 6:30pm and 9:30pm

Tigh Choli: Great live Irish music. Our first evening in Galway, we popped into this place and grabbed a tiny nook to sit and watch the music. We really lucked out as it was the only spot free to sit, and this place fills up fast. We caught the 6:30pm performance, and it was hands down our favorite. About eight people showed up with their instruments, including a couple of teenagers and an older gentleman who was clapping along with the show and at one point whipped out a flute and joined the musicians. It was a rollicking, lively, local atmosphere. At one point Brad and I just looked at each grinning.

Tigh Neachtain: Rustic, cozy pub filled with artwork and fire nooks. We had a great time, relaxing by the lovely fire places, listening to everyone with their Irish accents, and sipping Stonewell and Guinness. Live music wasn’t playing the particular evening we went, but we were told they often have it. *Stonewell was my favorite cider in Ireland, and I made it a point to try quite a few. I’m usually more of a wine gal, but you have to try a beer or cider when in Ireland right?!*

Taafes: Had a blast listening to live music in this place. It’s right across the way from Tigh Choli. After listening to over an hour of music at Tigh Choli we ran for dinner at McDonagh’s, and then popped into this place just in time to grab a seat and catch another round of music. Note – it fills up very quickly.

Galway was the perfect home base for a five day trip in Ireland. About 2.5 hours from Dublin, and 1.5 hours from the Cliffs of Moher, we could enjoy the adorable  town and fit in some great scenery, tiny fishing villages and pubs along the way.

 

Ireland has a way of working itself into your bones. It’s a place where I instantly felt comfortable, and knew I would visit again. I have long felt a draw towards the Emerald Isle. I feel the same way about Scotland and Cornwall. I think for my next trip, I would like to visit Cork and the Dingle Peninsula. My next blog post will be about the Cliffs of Moher!

What are your favorite places in Ireland? Where would you like to visit?

Cheers!

Hello friends! I am so happy that you are here. I am a California girl at heart, currently living in Germany, while my hubby Brad studies for his MBA, and writes his thesis in the company headquarters.  I have the wanderlust and I have it bad, so when the opportunity arose to live abroad, we took it. My little vegetarian, tropics-loving heart is struggling a bit in this world of beer halls and meat and winters and lederhosen. But, I have learned to embrace the culture of this beautiful country and attempted to find my niche (spoiler alert – so far it has been found in bakeries and hiking vineyards and at the Xmas markets). Follow my search for the best donuts, (not often successful), the most delicious pastries, the most beautiful hiking trails, and the best glass of bubbly. Join me on my adventures as I travel Europe, and the rest of the world, with my husband and best friend in search of the whimsical and wild.

Cheers! Na Zdorovie! Egészségére! Salud! Twoje zdrowie! I try to learn a bit of each language every place I go. Mainly, my takeaways have been the word for cheers. So, cheers to you and away we go!