What’s it Really Like Celebrating Thanksgiving While Living Abroad?

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What is it really like celebrating Thanksgiving while living abroad???? Here in Ireland our Thanksgiving is spent chugging Guinness with the sheep whilst our wee ones knit cream colored, chunky knit sweaters or carve ornate St.Brigid’s crosses out of the local peat then hawk them to unsuspecting tourists on Grafton Street. Just kidding!!! This is 2016, ya feckin’ eejit, and this is not PS. I Love You!dingle-sheep

All joking aside, Thanksgiving abroad can be amazing and awful all at the same time. The first Thanksgiving I spent here in Ireland was just a month after I arrived in country, so it was lonely and sad, despite being surrounded by friends. At the time, Thanksgiving was all about the traditions we had been used to having and the familiar faces around our table.

The second Thanksgiving is when I discovered it was difficult to find pumpkin puree and French’s Onion’s and impossible to locate canned cranberry jelly. I’ve got to say that finding traditional Thanksgiving ingredients here in Ireland can be tough. Even the main event, the turkey, must be ordered up to a week in advance and is a hefty 50 euros or more for a 15lb bird.

Last year I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner in Dublin and I prepared ahead to make sure I had French’s, cranberry jelly, and corn meal. All of this preparation and doing without made me sure of one thing…..be thankful for what you have! You see it’s not what you are putting in your mouth, but who you are stuffing your face with that matters.

Every year I have spent away from home on Thanksgiving has taught me new things and made me more comfortable here in Ireland. I embrace spending Thanksgiving sipping lunch time Guinness with my husband because our kids are at school. No need to kill yourself cooking a turkey when you can dive into chicken wings in city center. There is definitely something awesome about celebrating Thanksgiving when everyone else around you is going on about life like it’s a normal day. No lines at the Tesco for groceries and if you forget something during the preparation of your meal you just run up to the store and get it because the store is open today in Dublin. No Thanksgiving here!


I’ll be spending some quality time with Uncle Hendricks while everyone else Stateside is fighting with their uncles about politics and avoiding their aunties moral lectures. On the other hand, interesting characters (aka family members) make the meal, I say, even if sometimes they ruin it. What else would you talk to your friends about if you didn’t have your drunk uncle, crazy Jesus lovin’ aunt, or alt-right cousin to make the merriment more amusing? My personal favorites are the grandma on a moral high horse, drunk uncle, bible beatin’ aunt, stoner cousin, or the random, weirdo date that got drug along to Turkey day. May you experience one or more of these folks at your feast today. thx giv card.png

The truth is that I have learned to adapt to change and meet new people and enjoy the celebrations of Thanksgiving in a stress free way. Every single year in Dublin has seen us breaking Thanksgiving bread with new friends, as many of our new friends will only be in Dublin for a short time period, but amazingly enough the food and friendship is still present. The true spirit of Thanksgiving survives and it’s the feeling we have that makes it such a wonderful holiday.

I’m thrilled to pass on the Black Friday greed and the expectations we so often feel forced to live up to at holiday time in America. I look forward to our last Irish Thanksgiving as a quirky Saturday event held when adults are off work and children aren’t in school. I’m going to cram my small townhouse with nearly 30 people and cross my fingers that no one gets whacked with a Louisville slugger when the kids go crazy on the pinata that has become a part of our yearly meal. I’ll secretly hope someone has enough wine to make some bad decisions and that my husband’s much anticipated group selfie captures at least one person acting inappropriately. But, my real money is on the dog…..who is likely to morph into one of the Bumpus hounds when he smells that delicious scent of turkey wafting upstairs.Dublin Ticknock Buster.jpg

I’ll just sit here and drink my wee beer saying, in my most American way, Thanksgiving in Ireland, is better than yours, any day!

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Cheers and Happy Turkey Day Fellow Yankees,


Top Things to See in Dublin: The Docklands

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I spend a lot of time posting about my travels in Ireland, but I often forget just how amazing Dublin can be. Most travelers make Dublin their city of arrival and departure without taking the time to take in the capitol city. One of my favorite spots is the Dublin Docklands….there are plenty of spots to grab a good cocktail or relax with a pint in a pub if you wish. I love the architecture of the Docklands just outside of the Marker Hotel and the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

Any traveler will enjoy strolling around taking in the sites and making the short walk into city centre for some craic. The Dublin Docklands is home to the Marker Hotel where one can have rooftop drinks if the day is sunny. Or the Ferryman Pub is a hotspot during happy hour for both locals and tourists alike. The beautiful Samuel Beckett Bridge and Sean O’Casey bridge are just  a minute walk away too.

I personally love the atmosphere of the Docklands and the history is pretty cool if that’s your thing. I’ve gotten some pretty phenomenal photos around this area, especially at sunset and after dark. I recommend getting on Air BnB and checking out where you can stay in the Docklands area….you won’t regret it! Get out there and travel, my friends, and make a stop in Dublin…..you won’t regret it!





Hidden Gems of Ireland: Gweedore Bay and Doonbeg Wreck

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Are you looking to find the hidden, magical gems in Ireland away from all the tourists?Then make a plan to explore one of the most mystical, beautiful beaches in the Emerald Isle…..Magherclogher Beach in Gweedore Bay. This little slice of heaven is located in County Donegal in the Northwest of Ireland.  I stumbled upon this beach while doing research for my trip around Donegal in May 2016. I knew I had to visit when I spotted a rugged old shipwreck on an Irish beach outside the small town of Gweedore.

The Bunbeg shipwreck is affectionately known as Eddie’s Boat to locals; the ship ran aground during a storm in the 1970’s.  She has been there ever since and is Gweedore’s version of the Titanic. I was so amped up about exploring the wreck and photographing and then we arrived at Magherclogher Beach.

What I hadn’t planned on, was the stunning scenery that met my eyes, as my family of four descended onto Magherclogher Beach. We were THE. ONLY. ONES. for miles!!!! Every photographer’s dream! We happened to arrive (luckily) when the tide was out at around 8pm….just in time to watch the stormy dark sky go from gray and moody to highlighted by gold. The result was this magical shot below……and I hadn’t even gotten close to the wreck yet!

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Here is Eddie’s boat up close and personal. She was amazing!

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My two kiddos got to pretend to be the captain as I snapped a ton of photos. The littles (who are both native Floridians) seemed to think this shipwreck blew the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, at Disney World, out of the water….no lines, here folks!

I looked around and was dumbfounded by the variety of landscape types all in one beach….caramel sand beach framed by evening light in front of me, an abandoned hotel on a grassy hillside to my right, rocky green coast to my left, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all….the majestic Mount Errigal at my back. I literally, stopped dead in my tracks when I first saw Mount Errigal.

Donegal Gweedore Bay Mount Errigal 2016.jpgThe clouds had moved and a ray of light shone directly upon the summit, begging me to take a picture. I don’t have a way to take a 360 degree photo, so just take my word for it, this place is phenomenal.

Tips for future visitors: Type Magheraclogher Beach into your navigation system to find it easily, check out the tide schedule and only visit when tide is low, bring good water resistant boots to explore, and plan your visit just before sunset for best lighting behind the wreck. The villages closest to Magheraclogher Beach are tiny, so I would recommend making this a stop on your route, rather than spending the night nearby.

If you are looking for a day plan you may want to follow our route: We started early from Dublin then explored Donegal town, Donegal Town Square 2016

next we drove along the iconic Wild Atlantic Way to Killybegs Harbor for photos,

Donegal Killybegs Harbour 2016







then we visited Slieve League, Donegal Slieve League Cliffs 2016and finally checked out the Bunbeg Wreck before heading to dinner on the way to Millstone (we stayed at Millstone Cottages near Letterkenny). I highly recommend these cottages as they are clean, new, and the owners are fantastic.

The best part is, we did this day for nearly free (not including gas), only spending a couple euros each to visit Donegal Castle,

Donegal Castle 2016


and 6 euros to eat 99’s (delicious Irish soft serve with a chocolate flake).

Miss P 99


We also bought dinner. I recommend packing lunches, drinks, and snacks to maximize your time exploring and also because we found it hard to find open places serving food. Definitely, bring your cash, as many places don’t take plastic and ATM’s can be hard to come by. Lastly, everywhere we went we were either alone or in the company of only a handful of other people.

If you have any questions be sure to contact me as I’d be happy to give you advice, find me at ontheleftsideoftheroad on Instagram.

As always, pics are my own, so if you love them be sure to share them, just credit me and link back to my blog.



A Visit to the Famine Ship, Jeanie Johnston, in Dublin

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Today turned out to be a nice, sunny morning for a visit aboard the Jeanie Johnston famine ship in Dublin, Ireland. I’ve driven by the ship many a time and always wanted to check it out. Amazingly enough, this tall ship never lost a passenger on the grueling journey from Ireland to America during The Great Famine. Other tall ships were nicknamed coffin ships for the nearly 30% mortality rate of their passengers while on board.

Jeanie was very cool and I enjoyed photographing her with the view of the River Liffey and Dublin’s beautiful bridges in the background. The tour itself was a 6/10….our guide was nice and fairly knowledgeable, but the tour just seemed lack luster. Be aware of very creepy, realistic mannequins once below deck; my kids were terrified and I had to listen to our guide from the bottom of the stairwell.

I’d say visit the Jeanie Johnston only if you have any extra time in Dublin, but definitely don’t skip St. Patrick’s Cathedral or Dublin Castle to have a tour of Jeanie.  Save your time and money and take a few quick snaps from the edge of the Liffey and read her history online. Click here for more info.

Whether or not you decide to check out the Jeanie Johnston, I recommend reading up on the Irish Famine of the 1840’s before you visit this beautiful country, as that event certainly helped shape the Irish culture and landscape of today. It may be some dark history, but it is enlightening and something most Americans were barely taught about in school.



Travel is a Mindset

Skerries Windmill 2016

Travel isn’t about the distance, but rather the experience itself.

One of the best things about living in Europe is the ability to travel relatively cheaply to experience new cultures and scenery. While you might not be able to afford Europe or somewhere far off, remember travel is about the experience, not necessarily the distance travelled. Yesterday, I went about 30 km away from my house (4o minute drive) and found this pictured above,….not Holland, but the Skerries Mills just outside the gorgeous seaside town of Skerries, Ireland.

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We walked on another amazing Irish beach with the view of an Irish grid style pasture to the right and a stony ruin to the left.

The colorful village had a wonderful coffee shop and down on the other side of the water we ate some amazing Buffalo chicken wings at Blue Bar. Skerries Beach 5 2016.jpgOur day finished off with a tour of the Skerries Mills, which are several hundred years old. Truly an amazing day packed with local history and something to delight all five senses. All just a 40 minute drive from home!!!

Do a Google search near your home and get started on your summer local travel bucket list. Trust me folks, my tiny home town even has some cool historical places to visit, interesting buildings to photograph, and yummy Eastern European cuisine to be devoured.

Happy Hump Day!!!


As always, photos are my own, so if you love it then please share it, but link back to my blog.

How to Visit the Vatican Like a Pro

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“When life gets you down, remember to look up.” 

The Vatican in Rome, Italy is without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It is absolutely one of the top five things to do when in Rome.

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It is easy to get distracted by all of the beauty that surrounds you whilst touring the Vatican….here’s a little photography tip for your Vatican trip. Look up!!! The ceilings in St. Peter’s Basilica are phenomenal and the light coming in makes your photographs much more clear and will also make the colors pop.

Get to the Vatican as soon as it opens, (7am when we were there in April) and there will be zero lines, as you can see below. Our kids thoroughly enjoyed touring the Vatican and its tower, but babies might be difficult to take, as you must be silent whilst inside.

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Top tips for Vatican visiting are the following:

  1. Arrive to Vatican City as soon as it opens, so you have the place to yourself.
  2. Bring plenty of cash with you, as they do not accept cards for the main entrance or the dome.
  3. Book tickets for the Vatican Musuem at the pop up cashier just outside the cathedral doors. This opened after we walked around inside and were heading back out. This cashier only accepts cash, as well! You will have to select a time that you want to enter the museum. Another option is to pre-book a guided tour.
  4. Head to the dome after the basilica. Check out the tiny gift shop on the roof. They sell very nice charms for under a euro which are perfect tiny presents to take back home.
  5.  Finish off with the Vatican Museum. Another option is to purchase a guided tour to the Vatican Museum. I highly recommend this, but you must book in advance to avoid getting ripped off.  Plan to spend several hours on this part.

Expect to spend 4-6 hours for all of the activities above.



*As always, the pics are all mine, so be sure to share if you like them, just remember to link back to this blog.

Irish Lighthouses to Explore

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Happy travel Tuesday! So, where am I taking you today? Everybody loves a good lighthouse, so we are going to explore the fantastic Fanad Lighthouse in County Donegal, Ireland. This red and white beauty is perched atop lush green grass and overlooks the breathtakingly rugged Irish coastline. The lighthouse is located on the Fanad Head Peninsula  (on the Wild Atlantic Way),which also makes for a nice scenic drive after you are done visiting the lighthouse. Did you know Fanad Lighthouse has a self catering accommodation? For more details on spending a night in a lighthouse click here.

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Fanad is such a wonderful place to visit because you can run around the place wildly free. My kids enjoyed traipsing around the grassy grounds, but do be careful of sheep poo, as it is plentiful. There is an old military barracks that is fun to inspect and another stony cottage to climb in and look out over the water.

Adults can go a bit further and walk on the rocky terrain just make sure you have proper footwear. Donegal Fanad Lighthouse Rocks 2016.jpg

The parking is free and there are portable toilets onsite, however, there isn’t much in the way of food, so be sure to eat before you go and bring plenty of snacks and waters. The admittance price to tour the lighthouse and tower is very reasonable at 8 euros for an adult and 20 euros for a family of four. You can also opt, as we did, to simply explore the grounds free of charge. I do regret not touring the actual inside of the lighthouse, but children must be 1.2 meters tall to enter and neither of our little ones met that height, so we did not stick around to do two separate tours.

The Fanad Lighthouse is simply gorgeous whether you have a rare, sunny Irish day or you get a brooding, stormy sky day. I personally wish I could return on a stormy day to capture the choppy, whitecapped waves beating the rocky coastline, but that’s just the photographer in me.

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*As always, photos are my own, so if you like them please share them, just be sure to link back to my blog.

Is It Better to Be a Tiger Or a Sheep????

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Better to live one year as a tiger than a hundred as a sheep.” Madonna

Tigers are supposed to be powerful leaders and sheep are meek followers. I thought the quote above to be kind of ironic after my trip up to Achill Island.  Not only are the sheep there a pretty cool addition to the already stunning landscape, but they are certainly fearless. These fluffy fellas (and ladies) might appear to be following a leader, however, they run amock standing on the edge of rocky cliffs, running across roads without regard, and chomping the grass on nearly vertical faces of rock. Sadly, they are also very difficult to photograph in their treacherous positions when you are zipping along a narrow, winding Irish road that overlooks the water.

So is it better to be a tiger or a sheep, ewe decide? I say, I’d be a tiger, unless I could be one of those Irish sheep in Achill Island. They are living the life, alright!




Wanderlust Wednesday at Keem Beach, Ireland

Keem Beach House 2016

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Happy wanderlust Wednesday, everyone! I just got back from an amazing weekend in Achill Island in Ireland’s wild, wonderful West. I’m going to go ahead and say that hands down I have found the BEST beach in Ireland. Drum roll, please for…..Keem Beach.

The beautiful tan sand was not only soft but speckled with sparkly black mineral swirls in various locations. The scenery was stunning with rugged terrain surrounding the beach, fluffy white clouds, and a rustic old cottage. Keem Beach may be a bit out of the way for the average traveler, but it is a bucket list item for sure.

I made last minute travel plans to visit Achill Island and Keem Beach because I couldn’t let my tour in Ireland end without seeing the best beach on the Emerald Isle.




The Road Not Taken

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

Happy travel Tuesday!! Whether it be on your travels or in the journey of life be sure to take the road less traveled. The terrain may be difficult, but the view is much more stunning.

I simply adore winding road photos especially in the Irish countryside. This gorgeous photo is of Dingle’s finest winding road, Slea Head Drive. I hope all my readers get the chance to visit the majestic Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry when they visit the Emerald Isle. Come for the culture, colorful houses, Murphy’s ice cream, and of course, Fungi the local Dingle dolphin.

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The truth is….Slea Head Drive might not be exactly the road less traveled, but me living in Ireland and exploring every inch is the exact definition. My family had a very tough decision to make with two small children and we chose to do what almost no one else would have. I can’t imagine all the beautiful countries I would have missed out on seeing or the amazing friends I have made abroad. I never thought life would take me where it has, but I’m so glad I veered off the path instead of following the pack.

My last advice for today is don’t be afraid to hop out of the car at a moment’s notice to capture a photo like the one I’ve shared today. I owe most of my favorite pics to spontaneity!

As always, photos are my own, so if you like it be sure to share just link back to my blog. If you love it then let me know and you can have it to hang in your home.