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What is a romantic escape? Does it really have to be about time with your significant other? Does is have to be a honeymoon trip or anniversary journey? Is it who you are with or is it about where you go?
My affair with Ireland began before I visited this magical place. I read about it as a child, with stories of fairies and legends like The Blarney Stone. I read about the mists in history books and her heroes in my romance novels. When the offer was made to travel across the ocean and actually step foot on this island, I jumped at the chance to meet one of my crushes.
My entire being began to change when I stepped off the plane. My hair curled up, and I longed to start my exploration of the land that inspired so many writers. I visited faery rings, wondering if any of these places were portals into other worlds, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I enjoyed dinner at a private residence overlooking the inspiration of Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats while my host read the poem aloud in between courses.
I visited a seaside spa in Sligo and floated in a seaweed bath, imagining myself as a mermaid. I walked the streets of Dublin late one night, in search of Bram Stoker’s residence where he penned Dracula. I enjoyed a pint of Guinness at Davy Byrnes on Grafton Street, the place where James Joyce used to frequent.
I learned about my name, Shannon, and the river my mother named me after. I also learned that the Irish don’t name their children Shannon, as it would be like an American naming their child Mississippi or Rio Grande, but the legend of Sinaan and how the river was named is a fascinating story in itself.
I danced with friends and I danced with strangers all over the island, from Sligo, to Donegal, to Dublin. I enjoyed the food and the drink and the people. I fell in love with Ireland and I discovered a new depth in my soul and even fell in love with myself. I knew that when I returned home to my family I would be able to hold the memories of Ireland dear to my heart whenever I thought my life was dull with dishes, laundry, and carpools.
Every once in a while, when life gets still, one might be able to find me listening to a bit of Celtic music, drinking a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and flipping through photos or reading the poetry of Keats. My romantic affair with Ireland will always be in my heart, never to be forgotten.
Ireland is a welcoming destination for families, romantic escapes (with or without spouse), girlfriend getaways, and definitely soul-oh trips. When you find the real Ireland, you find yourself. For more information visit DiscoverIreland.com or find your own romantic escape closer to home.
This article was originally published here on October 26, 2008
This post is dedicated to all those Traveling Mamas, from the past and present, that have traveled to settle North America. This post was originally published Thanksgiving 2008.
The United States has long been a haven for those fleeing political or religious persecution. It is a well-known fact that Native Americans lived in North America long before settlers from Spain, England, France, and all those from the East came to explore, conquer, and live. But today, our country (and this Continent) is a mixture of ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds. We are so fortunate to live in a place where we can be ourselves, where we can go where we want, where we can dream of the family trips we’ll someday experience.
I sometimes travel alone to places, without a family member or a friend. It can be scary to many people, being alone in an unfamiliar place.
When I traveled to Missouri a few weeks ago, my plane landed around midnight in Kansas City. People rushed off the plane, oblivious to those around them, anxious to get to baggage claim. I walked along, just like everyone else, until the automatic doors opened and a cold biting wind hit me. There was an older Black woman wrapped with a bed sheet around her head. She wore house slippers and held her hands out as if begging.
People walked past her as if she wasn’t there.
I stopped to see what she needed, but all she could do was make an unintelligible sound, tears in her tortured eyes as she looked at me. There was a lanyard hanging around her neck with a card she showed to me.
“Hi, my name is XXXX. I am a refugee from Somalia. My destination is Kansas City, Missouri. If there is a problem, please call this number XXXXXXXX.”
No wonder I couldn’t understand her. She was speaking in another language. I called the number listed and was told that someone should be there to pick her up. I motioned to her asking if she had luggage, but all she had was the plastic shopping bag in her hand. I settled her in the waiting area while I retrieved my own bag and thought of the bravery of this Traveling Mama, leaving her country with just the clothing on her back.
As I grabbed my bag and turned around, I watched two young boys run to the woman and embraced her. Apparently they were her sons that she had blindly sent ahead to a different country to escape the violence and poverty of where they lived, hoping that she would one day see them again. The tears streamed down their faces as they just sat there, embracing. It touched my heart.
The experience made me think of my life and how fortunate my family is. I am thankful to be born in a country where today my children can be raised without fear of where our next meal will come from and where violence is not part of a typical day. What are you thankful for? Be sure to check out TweetsGiving.org.
One the aspects I love about cruising is that I don’t have to cook for days! On the Carnival Breeze, there’s a wide array of dining options to fit every craving and taste. Here’s the complete list of where to nosh while cruising on the Carnival Breeze cruise ship. These venues are in addition to reserved dining in the two main dining rooms on board and the no-added charge 24 hour room service.
Bonsai Sushi – This is Carnival’s first full-service sushi restaurant offering a variety of sushi, sashimi, and rolls along with bento boxes and even their own version of a sushi boat. Carnival makes the sushi experience accessible for those who haven’t had the chance to try it while at home, giving guests a ways to broaden their culinary experience. Check out our review of Bonsai Sushi on the Carnival Breeze.
Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ – Currently only offered on sea days, guests on the Carnival Breeze can enjoy authentic down-home BBQ. While everything on the menu is pretty darn tasty, the pulled pork sandwich has to be my favorite.
Guy’s Burger Joint -This has to be one of the most popular dining venues that Carnival has introduced during their FunShip 2.0 initiative. I know it’s one of my favorites and its the first meal I had when stepping onto the Carnival Breeze for a quality control check. Yeah. It’s still as good as I remember from the Carnival Liberty. When Guy’s Burger Joint was first introduced, the daily number of burgers served was 400. Now on the Carnival Breeze, 1200-1500 burgers are served each day.
BlueIguana Cantina – Most cruisers don’t realize they can get breakfast from this Lido Deck venue located near the Beach Pool. The freshly made tortillas can be prepared however you want, be it a burrito or a soft taco. I not only enjoyed a breakfast burrito one morning, but on another afternoon I sampled the fish tacos and chicken tacos. This venue is convenient and I love the salsa bar.
Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez – On sea days, the Punchliner Comedy Brunch is a nice and luxurious alternative to the Marketplace Buffet breakfast. The menu is extensive and offers either a breakfast or lunch menu, depending upon your cravings at the time. There is also a Bloody Mary bar if you’d like an eye-opener to enjoy during the brief comic relief offered by the comics booked on the Carnival Breeze. I was pleasantly surprised to see cheesy grits on the breakfast menu — and the dish was delicious!
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse – Carnival ships always have a nice steakhouse and the Carnival Breeze is no exception. The steaks are always consistent from ship to ship in the entire fleet and offers a romantic setting for a quiet high-end meal while on the ship. Fahrenheit 555 is a California inspired steak restaurant offering an extensive and top-notch wine list. There is a premium of $35 per person but does include a four course meal.
Cucina del Capitano – First introduced on the Carnival Magic, Cucina del Capitano brings an old Italian homestyle kitchen on board certain Carnival ships in the fleet. It pays homage to the heritage of Carnival’s captains, serving Italian cuisine and special dishes made from many of the captains’ family recipes. A fun aspect of this dining venue is the singing waiters and the Chianti cart. This is a premium restaurant with a $12 charge and the Chianti is $5 per glass ordered from the cart. It’s a very good value for family-style dining and the portions are enormous. Check out our review of Cucina del Capitano.
Lido Marketplace -This is a casual, pool-side eatery and has international offerings from paninis to Indian Tandoori. If you are craving pizza, it can be found here. A Mongolian wok station is always ready to cook your choice of ingredients and almost everything else can be found at this buffet.
“The Comfort Kitchen” – This is a new venue located in the Lido Marketplace offering American-style “comfort food”.
Ocean Plaza – This indoor/outdoor cafe serves cappucinoa, lattes and espressos, along with pastries and other sweets (for a charge). During morning hours, a light continental breakfast is offered (at no extra charge) at The Taste Bar, which is adjacent to the Ocean Plaza. In the evenings, cocktail service is available.
RedFrog Pub – When one is at the RedFrog Pub, sometimes the munchies sneak up on you. For a very minimal charge, Caribbean-inspired fare can be found in this themed pub. It’s always a fun atmosphere with live music going on at various times. It has a British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West feel to it and is always a great place to chill.
Serenity – This adult only retreat area used to only serve drinks at the bar, but on the Carnival Breeze salads, sandwiches, wraps and other light fare can be found for those relaxing in this area connected to Cloud 9 Spa.
The Taste Bar – A new aspect of the FunShip 2.0 enhancements introduced on the Carnival Breeze is this complementary appetizer program located in the Ocean Plaza. Each evening, bite sized offerings inspired by different dining venues are available to guests during cocktail hour. There are also signature cocktail specials tied to the theme of the evening.
Sea Dogs – Coming in November on the Carnival Breeze, guests can enjoy American hot dogs served from a hot dog-shaped cart located in the SportSquare outdoor recreation area. I’m confident this will be a hit with kids and adults alike.
For more information on the Carnival Breeze or to book your next cruise, visit Carnival.com or contact your favorite travel agent.
Carnival Cruise Lines hosted international media, including this outlet, on a media junket for editorial research.
The superstar boy band, One Direction, was hosted by Universal Orlando Resort on June 28, 2012 to experience the all-new attraction, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, officially opening on July 2, one of many new attractions at Universal Orlando. During their day at the theme parks, they encountered Gru and his daughters, Margo, Edith and Agnes before being transformed into minions on the ride. The band visited Orlando as part of their headlining summer music tour, featuring hit pop star Olly Murs – who joined them for a day at Universal Orlando’s theme parks.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is Universal Orlando Resort’s newest 3-D attraction. This brand-new ride combines the outrageous humor and memorable characters of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s blockbuster film Despicable Me, with an all-new storyline, incredible new animation and the latest 3-D technology to create a wildly hysterical theme park experience.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is located in Universal Studios Florida. For more information about Universal Orlando Resort, visit www.universalorlando.com.
Planning a family holiday to Universal Orlando Resorts? Be sure to check out our review of Loews Portofino Bay Resort, our tips on visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and all about Seuss Landing.
Image of One Direction and minions provided by Universal Orlando Resorts.