Holland Part 4: Meet Mondrian

Holland Part 1: Falling for Amsterdam
Holland Part 2: Jewish History in Amsterdam
Holland Part 3: Snapshots from The Hague

While I’m not the art buff or enthusiast that M is, I did enjoy the opportunity to see some unique exhibits. This includes the largest collection of Mondrian paintings in the world at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

*IMG_0066*IMG_0071I was familiar with Mondrian’s famous red, yellow, and blue paintings thanks to a college art class and rudimentary knowledge of popular culture, but like most people in the world, I had no idea that Mondrian started out as a traditional and prolific Dutch painter.

IMG_0097IMG_0098IMG_0103IMG_0106As Mondrian’s painting career progressed, his paintings took a turn for starker, bolder imagery.

IMG_0114IMG_0117And then a hint of what was to come.

IMG_0118Finally, the paintings that made Mondrian famous.

IMG_0119IMG_0122IMG_0125IMG_0126IMG_0128This is Mondrian’s final masterpiece, Victory Boogie Woogie, inspired by the musicality of jazz music. When Mondrian died in 1944 in New York City, this still unfinished piece was his final legacy.

IMG_0130IMG_0133.JPGA model of Mondrian’s New York City apartment when he died.

IMG_0136If you didn’t know about Mondrian before, start paying attention. You’ll start to see the famous composition in TV shows, movies, and basically everywhere. We were given gifts of Mondrian socks by the Holland tourism office (which M wears all the time!), and you can even purchase a Mondrian inspired dress (but not cheaply!)



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Holland Part 3: Snapshots From The Hague

Holland Part 1: Falling for Amsterdam
Holland Part 2: Jewish History in Amsterdam

If Amsterdam is the Netherland’s New York City, The Hague is its Washington D.C. The Hague is a short one-hour train ride south of Amsterdam. While M went off to look at art, I strolled The Hague and played photographer.

Let me take a moment to remind you that the whole reason we were on this trip was because M was invited to visit Holland’s exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the De Stijl movement – and one of its founders, Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. If you don’t know the iconic red, blue, and yellow paintings Mondrian is famous for, you will shortly when you see how The Hangue decorated various buildings and landmarks in the spirit of Mondrian’s stark composition.

These buildings included our hotel, as well as the construction paneling surrounding the train station.

**IMG_0052As you walk through The Hague’s center, you will pass many government buildings, including the Department of Justice…

*IMG_0037…and a protest in front of the Department of Justice.

*IMG_9708**IMG_0038Finally, I hit the beautiful Binnenhoff, a complex of buildings that houses the States General of the Netherlands, the Ministry of General Affairs, and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. The castle-like buildings were built in the 13th century and became the center of Dutch political life in 1584. It is the equivalent of Washington’s Capitol campus.

***IMG_9798***IMG_9835Even the Binnenhoff got in on the Mondrian fun with red, yellow, and blue squares in the Hofvijver lake. Apparently, the pigeons loved Mondrian’s squares so much, the squares quickly turned white from all their pooping. A weekly cleaning of the squares was quickly arranged.

***IMG_9882**IMG_9871I was surprised to discover that the banks of the Hofvijver are covered in sea shells.

IMG_9887I turned into town and explored the narrow streets and cute shops. I even bought myself a pair of colorful socks.

**IMG_9910The Hague’s version of Chinatown.

*IMG_9934An indoor arcade and shopping mall.

***IMG_0021Another fine example of The Hague getting into the spirit of the De Stijl movement.

*IMG_9955IMG_0001M joined me and we did a quick stop at the Church grounds where the famous Jewish (and excommunicated) philosopher Benedict Spinoza is buried.


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Holland Part 2: Jewish History In Amsterdam

Holland Part 1: Falling for Amsterdam

Apologies in advance for the marathon post, but it seems fitting to group the Jewish sites together. Together, they tell a story of Jewish prosperity and extermination in Holland. It is not a pretty story, but a story that must be told.

M an I visited a number of important Jewish sites throughout our time in Amsterdam. While some are beautiful, most are sobering, a reminder that Amsterdam’s once prosperous Jewish community came to an abrupt halt on May 10, 1940 when Nazi Germany descended on its neighbors to the west.

We started with a  self-tour of the Portuguese Synagogue (Esnoga) in Amsterdam’s old Jewish center, a stunning historical building that should be on your to-do list.

While many European countries persecuted and evicted the Jews throughout the Middle Ages, Holland’s relative tolerance made it a safe harbor for many Jews, especially Spanish and Portuguese Jews fleeing devastating pogroms and the infamous Inquisitions.

In 1665, the Jews of Amsterdam built a new synagogue that was, at the time, the largest in the world. Finished in 1675, the synagogue still looks the same as it did more than 300 years ago.

**IMG_9356The building itself is huge, so huge I had trouble capturing its size on my camera.

*IMG_9347The main sanctuary is beautiful, just beautiful.

***IMG_9396***IMG_9409***IMG_9422***IMG_9424***IMG_9435We made our way upstairs to the women’s section (men and women sit separately in Orthodox synagogues.)

***IMG_9486***IMG_9487***IMG_9491***IMG_9512**IMG_9508**IMG_9514***IMG_9522We made our way back outside to tour the grounds and the library of historical treasures. The below picture is a sukkah – the hut-like structure Jews eat in on the holiday of Sukkot.

**IMG_9528A small sampling of the synagogue’s many silver and gold treasures.

**IMG_9578*IMG_9470Here we are touring the synagogue’s candle room. If you are fortunate to attend services in the main sanctuary, you can see all the candelabras lit up. M and I attended night services, but it was held in the much smaller and newer winter sanctuary (the 300-plus year old sanctuary does not have heat).

*IMG_9540Below is an outdoor washing station for the kohanim (priests) to wash their hands during services.

*IMG_9543Below is the mourning room for funeral services.

*IMG_9544*IMG_9545Our last stop was the treasure chambers, where we saw many stunning historical relics, including Torah scrolls, prayer books, and other ritual items.

*IMG_9561*IMG_9569*IMG_9570*IMG_9571After our visit to the Portuguese Synagogue, we made a quick stop at the Jewish Museum across the street, which is constructed out of four old Ashkenazi synagogues. We only had an hour, so we did a quick tear through the exhibits, including a history of the Jews in Amsterdam and an array of Jewish relics.

*IMG_9597The history of Holland’s Jewish community has a tragic end, like so many other Jewish communities throughout Europe. The exhibit walks you through the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, and the subsequent annihilation of the Jews.

In the early 1900s, Amsterdam’s Jewish community totaled approximately 60,000. By the start of World War II, it had more than doubled to 140,000 Jews. Six years later, in 1945, only 30,000 traumatized Jews remained.

*IMG_9599IMG_9602We caught a glimpse of the main sanctuary of one of the four original synagogues.

*IMG_9608In the basement of the museum, there  are a handful of intersting artifacts and paintings.

*IMG_9638*IMG_9641*IMG_9642*IMG_9650*IMG_9657*IMG_9661*IMG_9663*IMG_9669Later in the week, we stopped at Hollandsche Schouwburg (the Holland Theatre), the National Holocaust Museum, and the Anne Frank House, possibly the most popular tourist spot in all of Holland.

The Hollandsche Shouwbrug was a Dutch theater that was turned into a Jewish theater after the Nazi occupation in 1941, and then served as a deportation center. Today, it is a small museum and memorial, worth a bit of time if you are interested in Jewish history.

According to the museum:

Built as a theatre in 1892, the Hollandsche Schouwburg became the main playhouses in the district… In September 1941, as one of the many anti-Jewish measures introduced by the occupying forces, its name was changed to ‘Joodsche Schouwburg’ (Jewish theatre). From then on, only Jewish musicians and other performing artists were permitted to perform here – to an exclusively Jewish audience… On 20 July 1942, the occupying forces seized the Hollandsche Shouwburg as an assembly point for deportations. In total, over 46,000 Jews were imprisoned within the theatre’s walls prior to deportation to the transit camps Westerbork or Vught. From there, they were deported to an almost certain death in the concentration camps and extermination camps in Germany or Occupied Poland.


The names of all the Dutch Jews who were murdered by the Nazis


An outdoor memorial dedicated to Holland’s Jewish community


A memorial wall


A tulip memorial with hand written notes


A note in Hebrew


The front page of the newspaper the day Germany invaded Holland


A photo of Dutch Jewish children with their obligatory stars


A photo of Dutch Jews being rounded up

The National Holocaust Museum is across the street, and still undergoing finishing touches when we visited. The buildings used to house a nursery and a Christian Culture School. During World War II, some of the adults snuck Jewish children out of the nursery when the tram rolled by obscuring the Nazis’ view across the street. According to a plaque at the museum:

Across the street from the Kweekschool is the Hollandsche Schouwburg, where in 1942 and 1943 more than 46,000 Jews were held captive while awaiting deportation. Jewish children were confined to the Creche next door to the Kweekschool, from which they were sent on to Westerbork transit camp and later deported. In January 1943, Johan van Hulst consented to an illegal plan to bring children from the overcrowded Creche into the Kweekschool daily for an afternoon nap. Gradually, the Jewish employees of the Creche and Director Van Hulst established a bond of trust, and they were able, starting in April 1943, to arrange for many Jewish children to escape through the Kweekschool to safety. Some 600 children from the Creche were saved.


View of the museum with the tram running by

IMG_1178The first floor had an array of photos and items from children who perished in the Holocaust.


Edith Rolef (b. 1926) and her twin siblings Ilse  and Gerd Rolef (b. 1929). On May 28, 1943, Gerd was murdered in Sobibor. On February 11, 1943, Edith and Ilse died in Auschwitz.


Drawings the children sent to their parents in Germany


The museum’s backyard serves as a kind of memorial

IMG_1210The downstairs space is reserved for special exhibits. During our visit, we were lucky to catch a exhibit celebrating the recently discovered photographs of the husband and wife team, Annemie Wolff-Koller (1906-1994) and Helmuth Wolff (1895-1940).

Helmuth was Jewish, while Annemie was not. The couple fled Munich for the Netherlands in 1933 after the Nazis rose to power. They built a successful photography business until the fateful day on May 10, 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland. Five days later, the couple attempted suicide, assuming the end was near. Helmuth died, but Annemie survived, and continued with her photography throughout her life. During the war, she was active in the Resistance, and took many portraits, many of Jews. Some of these portraits were used for forged ID papers or applications for certificates of non-Jewish descent. Annemie printed the latter photographs with blonder coloring to help substantiate her clients’ case.

These photos were thought to be lost for decades. It turns out, all of Annemie’s negatives were saved and recently found. For the first time, they are available for public viewing.



A portrait of the couple



The couple at a photoshoot on the beach


Examples of the Annemie’s many portraits



From the description: Ruth’s mother Marta asked Calmeyer’s bureau to certify her daughter as ‘half Jewish.’ She claimed that Ruth had been born from her relationship with an ‘Aryan’ Dutchman who often traveled to Germany, and who submitted a statement to the same effect. It was a lie, but when Ruth had her measurements taken by the German anthropologist Weinert in the Hague, it had been concluded that she had ‘Aryan’ features. Ruth survived. 



A view of the theater from outside the museum

We also toured the famous Anne Frank House, but photos are not allowed. It is a sobering but fascinating exhibit of life for the Franks during Nazi occupation in Amsterdam. If you are planning on visiting, I highly recommend purchasing tickets well in advance, or you will be stuck waiting in this line that wrapped around the block and then around the next block.

IMG_1284.JPGM used his press pass to get us press tickets so we were able to skip the line and go right in at our appointed time.

All in all, there are plenty of important and interesting Jewish sites in Holland. As I walked through these sites, it was hard not to ask myself “What if?” What if Hitler never came to power? What if Anne Frank had survived instead of dying a mere couple of weeks before liberation? What if the Portuguese Synagogue had been bombed to smithereens like so many other Jewish synagogues?

There are no answers. There are just the stories of all the people and places that came before us. It is a a story of persistence and struggle, life and death, and the undeniable truth that these stories are part of our stories. History is the preamble to our lives.

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Holland Part #1: Falling for Amsterdam

Going to Holland one week after we got back from Iceland and Ireland was a crazy idea. But what’s that saying about all the best ideas being crazy ideas….?

Our Iceland/Ireland trip was long on the books when M got invited on a press trip to Holland to see an exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of theDe Stijl movement.

M couldn’t pass up a free press trip to his favorite country, and I had never been to the Netherlands. So even though I knew I would be exhausted, I used my Chase miles to book a KLM flight via Flying Blue.

We planned a couple of free days in Amsterdam on either end of the press trip, and joined up with the Holland tourist office on a jam-packed itinerary that took us to The Hague and Leiden – two key cities of the De Stijl movement.

M promised me I would love Amsterdam, and he was right.

Amsterdam is a unique city with its own culture, feel, and architecture. Of course, there are the famous canals. I did not adequately appreciate how pretty they would be or how much I would love exploring the maze of streets and waterways.

Our first day, we walked all around the city, covering nearly seven miles of canal ogling. We had no agenda, no museums, no exhibits, just pure exploration.

Amsterdam mapWe started at our hotel, the Renaissance Amsterdam (Marriott), and made our way to Dam Square – Amsterdam’s historical center just south of the central train station. It’s a great place to people watch, grab a snack, or snap pictures, like I did of this street performer.

***IMG_9006***IMG_9027We continued south, looping around the Singel canal to the floating flower market, enjoying the sites along the way.

**IMG_8913**IMG_8897**IMG_8946**IMG_9045**IMG_9119@IMG_9162The floating flower market is exactly what it sounds like. You can buy all kinds of plant seeds, flower bulbs, wooden tulips (which we already have plenty of), and other souvenirs, including your own cannabis starter kit. Because who doesn’t need a cannabis starter kit?

***IMG_9062***IMG_9066***IMG_9072*IMG_9083*IMG_9087*IMG_9092*IMG_9094*IMG_9095M suggested that we check out an old-fashioned Dutch windmill at the Eastern Docklands, so we continued southeast along the Amstel canal. We passed de Schaduwkade monument, a memorial to the 200 Dutch Jews who lived in the neighborhood before the Nazi occupation.

**IMG_9133Nearby you can check out Magere Brug, a narrow historic bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.

**IMG_9117We stopped to watch the biggest boat crossing we have ever seen.

*IMG_9174We continued to Oosterpark, which turned out to be a beautiful surprise.

***IMG_9206**IMG_9194Okay, so this was weird. In Holland, if you’re a man (and super lazy), you can just pee outside in an outdoor urinals. Let me just tell you from personal, first-hand experience, they do not shield as much as you might think.

**IMG_9200Finally, we made it to our windmill at the Eastern Docklands, and enjoyed a breather  at a Dutch beer garden (beer for M, water for me).

**IMG_9260***IMG_9241I love the geometric architecture.

***IMG_9254**IMG_9272After that, we made our way back to the hotel. Of course, there were more pictures.

**IMG_9690Here is the view of the central train station at dusk.


Our first day in Amsterdam was tiring (starting with a flight snafu that involved a last- minute refuel stop in Brussels and an hour-long wait for our luggage), but awesome. I can’t believe it took me so many years to visit this incredible city.



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What’s Next: Central Europe

The traveling circus is off to Europe again in two weeks, making this our third trip to Europe this year. Not that I’m complaining.

This trip began like a lot of our trips: me playing around on the computer, randomly looking up flights, and saying “Hey babe, you want to go to Berlin?”

Basically, there was a ton of United award availability to central Europe and we had replenished our points accounts since Amsterdam. So Berlin, Prague, and Vienna – here we come.

How did we do it?

Flights: I splurged on business class tickets to Berlin in the hopes that we will arrive well-rested and can hit the ground running (fingers crossed). We will fly United Polaris (sadly not the fancy new United hard product) to Berlin with a stopover in Dublin. There are no direct flights from D.C. to Berlin, and flying United requires less miles than United partners like, say, Austrian Air. Total IAD – TXL for two people: 115,000 United miles and $16.80.

On the way back, we’ll be flying economy from Vienna to D.C. for 30,000 United miles each. Business class would have been nice, but at 70,000 miles per person it was too much. At least, the flight is non-stop. Total VIE – IAD for two people: 60,000 United miles and $178.32.

Hotel – Berlin: Picking hotel rooms is my favorite part of traveling. I know, some people like the sightseeing, the food…whatever. I love the hotel analysis. It takes all kinds, right? Since I have diamond status at Hilton, my heart always gravitates there, and I had racked up a ton of points thanks to work travel. Berlin was easy. The Hilton Berlin is smack in the middle of the city, with easy access to major sites. I booked five nights, taking advantage of Hilton’s five for the price of four deal. Total Hilton Berlin for five nights: 161,000 Hilton points.

UPDATE: I occasionally check on my already-booked hotels to see if prices have gone down. Lucky me, the Hilton Berlin was going for 139,000 points for the same five nights. I chatted Hilton and they immediately redeposited 22,000 points into my account!

Hilton Map

The Hilton Berlin is the red icon, just a few blocks south of Berlin’s main drag, Unter den Linden.

Hotel – Prague: I had a free IHG night I needed to use before it expired in November so it made the Intercontinental Prague an easy pick. It’s not the best value for my free night, but it’s better than not using it all. In the end, because prices were relatively cheap, I paid for two nights with cash, one night with points, and one night with a free night award. Total Intercontinental Prague for four nights: 40,000 IHG points and $302.56.

intercontinental map

The Intercontinental Prague in the city’s old town. Super excited about the location and the proximity to the Jewish sites.

Hotel Vienna: This was a tough one. Vienna hotel pries are more western Europe than eastern Europe, and we were fresh out of Hilton points. It came down to Starwood vs. Marriott. Starwood offered a slightly better location, but my gold status with Marriott gives us more bang for our buck. So I transferred a bunch of SPG points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio and booked the Vienna Marriott, where we got five nights for the price of four. Total Vienna Marriott for five nights: 160,000 Marriott points.

Marriott Map

Most of the key attractions in Vienna are located inside or around the ring. The Marriott is directly on the ring road. Looking forward to the lounge here.

Trains: We booked two trains from Berlin to Prague and from Prague to Vienna. Thanks to Seat 61 (the best website for anyone attempting train travel), I was able to find cheap prices on the Czech Republic train site. Total Berlin – Prague for two people: $65.63. Total Prague – Vienna for two people: $53.72.

So that’s how you do two weeks in central Europe on the cheap without slumming it.

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Ireland Part 7: Where We Stayed

Points will get you only so far in Ireland if you leave the major cities, so I tried to maximize our points staying options where I could.

With Mark and I being Hilton Diamond members, we chose The Morrison (DoubleTree) on the banks of the River Liffey for our single night in Dublin. When we checked in, I asked for my upgrade, and we were given a satisfactory room. Usually, I try to push for a luxurious suite, but with one short night in Dublin, I decided to save my pushiness for another time.

2017-05-17 20.44.442017-05-17 20.44.512017-05-17 20.45.292017-05-17 20.46.072017-05-17 20.48.53But then, Mark checked in to his room at 11 p.m., and they gave him the biggest ass suite I have ever seen in my life. I was more than a little jealous.

2017-05-18 10.53.38You walk into the suite, and there is a nice-size dining room and window seat.

2017-05-18 10.53.56Then, because that’s not enough, there’s a separate living room area with plenty of seating room.

2017-05-18 10.54.002017-05-18 10.57.16Oh, and there’s a wrap-around porch that offers views of the river.

2017-05-18 10.54.19The bedroom is a separate room with another window seat.

2017-05-18 10.55.39The headboard is some kind of funky, multi-colored… something. There is actually a remote control to change the colors.

2017-05-18 10.56.19And the bathroom was bigger than our entire room.

2017-05-18 10.55.48At least, breakfast offered a nice spread, somewhat lessening the sting of Mark’s hotel room jackpot.

2017-05-18 10.09.17All in all, the DoubleTree was nice hotel in a good location with an impressive breakfast. For 50,000 points, we saved ourselves a couple hundred of dollars.

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Ireland Part 6: Some Mountains Are Too Big

When Mark told me he wanted to hike Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland said to be climbed by Saint Patrick himself, I said “You know it’s that’s a 2,500-foot hike, right?”

And then I said: “When was the last time you went on a hike?”

Mark brushed off my concerns, that is, until we drove up to the base of the famous pilgrimage site and his eyes traveled northwards.

Needless to say, we did not end up hiking Croagh Patrick, much to M’s dismay. Instead, we spent our last day in Ireland driving leisurely back to the Dublin airport, stopping to to sightsee along the way.

One of the amazing things about Ireland is that there is no shortage of historic sites. From abandoned castles, to ancient churches, every off-the-beaten road took us to another surprise.

So the moral of the story is, sometimes, laziness has its perks.

*IMG_8622Here we are arriving at the famous pilgrimage site.

*IMG_8623And then looking up at the mountain…

**IMG_8633…and then crossing the street to check out some ruins that didn’t require any exertion whatsoever.

**IMG_8674I don’t even know what these ruins are, but it was on the water and it was beautiful. And there were cows!

**IMG_8683**IMG_8689**IMG_8690**IMG_8706**IMG_8718**IMG_8727From there, we headed east, making our way slowly back to Dublin. Mark found the ruins of an old monastic site called Clonmacnoise that was stunning. I got to take pictures; Mark and M got their church and ancient history fix; everyone was happy.

**IMG_8763**IMG_8828**IMG_8845The monastery was founded in 545 A.D. with different buildings dates to different time periods. According to Wikipedia, it was one of the most famous monastic sits in Ireland during the 9th to 11th centuries. More information here.


**IMG_8855**IMG_8807**IMG_8786**IMG_8769Temple Finghín & McCarthy’s Tower is dated to the 12th century.

**IMG_8840*IMG_8842And sheep! I love me some pictures of sheep.

IMG_7301After a couple of hours of driving and spontaneous rain showers, we caught sight of a double rainbow just as we were nearing the outskirts of Dublin. What a fitting end to a lovely trip.


Ireland Part 5: The Only Fjord in Ireland

There is only one fjord in all of Ireland, and we got to cruise down on it on a lazy, rainy morning.

The Killary Fjord is located in western Ireland in Connemara, stretching 16 kilometers from the village of Leenaun out to the ocean. The 90 minute trip offers beautiful views, food to order, and indoor and outdoor seating.

@IMG_8547The boss and the husband, hard at play.


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Ireland Part 4: Aran Islands

I had no idea what to expect from the Aran Islands, and it turned out to be my favorite part of our Ireland trip. It felt like a mini-vacation within a vacation. Maybe because it’s remote, or because there isn’t much to do once you get there. Maybe because I was chauffeured around the island in a horse-drawn carriage.

Whatever it is, it was awesome. I highly recommend the trip.

The Aran Islands is comprised of three islands that can only be reached by boat. We took a ferry to the largest and most populated of the three, Inis Mor. The ferry leave from Ros a’ Mhíl, about an hour’s drive west of Galway.

**IMG_7964**IMG_7971**IMG_7987With a total population of 840 (many of whom still speak Gaelic), you can really feel Inis Mor’s unspoiled beauty.  Until not too long ago, cars were banned on the island – something we heard a lot about from our carriage driver.

*IMG_8003The island boasts several interesting, historical sites which you can see by private minibus, rented bicycles, or carriage. The below map is compliments of the Aran Islands website.

Since the weather was cold and windy (and some of us were lazy), we hired a horse-drawn carriage much to the delight of our driver, John, who regaled us with a never-ending stream of stories.


I loved the tour. The island is stunning. Our driver was a comedian, who could not go five minutes without asking us how we were enjoying the tour. (“Is this a live Yelp review?” M asked.) And it was so nice to to sit back, snuggle under a fleece blanket, the Irish air nipping at our faces while we enjoyed the sites.

John took us across the entire length of the island, first along the southern most road, then circling around to the northern edge. As you can see from the above map, there aren’t that many roads, and it’s pretty hard to get lost.

***IMG_8039Self-portrait here, with Mark peaking out of the corner.

@IMG_8439@IMG_8081**IMG_8092**IMG_8154Our first stop was Dun Aoghasa World Heritage Site, perhaps the most famous site on the island. John dropped us off, and we hiked 20 minutes up a gravel path to the remains of an ancient fort, dated to 1100 BC.

*IMG_8180***IMG_8291This is how you take a picture of a 300-foot cliff without falling over the edge.

@IMG_8221This is what the view looks like from said cliff.

**IMG_8237***IMG_8349**IMG_8316John picked us up at the bottom and showed us the remains of a seventh century church.

***IMG_8383*IMG_8377*IMG_8382As we turned around and rode along the northern edge of the island, we were rewarded with beautiful coastal views, seals in the distance (!), and what counts for a traffic jam on Inis Mor.

***IMG_8167I asked John why they built so many stone walls and he told us that the walls served no specific purpose. It was merely a means of clearing the fields of the layers upon layers of rock.

**IMG_8092***IMG_8448Oh oh… traffic jam. We got an earful from John about the proliferation of motor vehicles on the island.


**IMG_8484**IMG_8534That night, we slept in one of the small inns on the island (there aren’t that many to choose from) while M and Mark did more than their share of drinking. The next morning, we packed our new Aran sweaters in our suitcases, and took the ferry back to the mainland.

Have you been to the Aran Islans? What are you waiting for?!?!


A Ride Through Inis Mor from Nam Writes on Vimeo.

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Ireland Part 3: Go West Young Woman

After half a day in Dublin, we headed west. With an overnight in Limerick, the next morning brought us to Galway for a few hours before catching the ferry to the Aran Islands.

It was a casual morning, with no agenda. We wandered the streets of the old city, popped into a museum, checked out some ruins before piling back into the car.

In the Middle Ages, Galway served a port city and prospered off of its bountiful trade. Today, it’s a sleepy albeit charming city that offers a hint of its important history.




In the Middle Ages century, Galway was a walled city. Today, the most famous remnant is the Spanish Arc near the River Corrib. We took some pictures before popping into the nearby Galway City Museum.


If you want a further taste of the medieval city, you can check out an indoor archeological site called The Hall of the Red Earl. The site shows the remains of an old municipal building that was used to collect taxes, host banquets, and issue justice. The hall was abandoned in the 15th century when Galway’s famous 14 Tribes captured the city. Over the centuries, it was built over and disappeared from public sight until 1997.

*IMG_7959Perhaps the strangest ruin of all is the Shoemakers Tower, which can now be seen inside Eyre Square Center. Yes, that is a 17th century tower inside a mall.



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