A Travellerspoint blog

Day trip to Western Ireland!

sunny 65 °F

Today was another great day – the fun is nonstop! Incidentally, so is the light … it is 10:15pm as I’m starting to write this, and still bright outside. It starts getting dark around 11 or 11:30pm, and starts getting light again around 4:30am! Part of this is because the days are longest right around now in mid-summer, but part is also because we are so far north. Anyway, it’s pretty strange!

Today, Kev and I went on a full-day excursion to the West Coast of Ireland, specifically to Limerick, Bunratty Castle, The Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, and Galway Bay. You can see the course we took here (taken from www.railtoursireland.com). dh06.gifKev had researched the Cliffs and knew he wanted to see them while we were in Ireland, so we decided to take the full guided tour to several destinations to squeeze in a bit more for the distance. It was so worth it and we’re really glad we went! We took 176 pictures today, so I’m clearly not uploading them all on the blog’s photo gallery, and will be highlighting only some in the actual post, but rest assured that not a view went uncaptured!

We had to be at the train station at 6:40am, so it was an early morning. Here’s Kev on the train. Honeymoon_Day_8_001.jpg
We took one train ride to Limerick Junction, then switched cars to get to Limerick City. We passed through County Kildare, Newbridge (a town that makes carpets and cutlery), the Curragh of Kildare (famous for racehorses and the home of the Irish Derby), Monasterevan, Portlaoise (home of the maximum security prison), Templemore, and Thurles (home of the Gaelic Athletic Association). The train was moving quickly, so pictures didn’t turn out great, but it was gorgeous – so green, lush, and beautiful, just like how I pictured the Irish countryside! Honeymoon_Day_8_003.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_002.jpg

Once in Limerick, we got on a bus and got a guided bus tour of the city. Limerick was granted its charter in 1197AD, making it older than even London, and was also home to Frank McCourt, author of ‘Angela’s Ashes.'
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We first got off the bus at Bunratty Castle. Honestly, we didn’t have any expectations for this because we didn’t know what it was, but we had a blast and learned a lot! The castle was originally built in 1425, and was actually used to protect and house various Irish rulers (mainly the McNamara and O’Brien families) and their troops. It was restored in the mid-20th century by a wealthy family who bought it from the government, and they also added in a “Folk Village” in the surrounding area – a re-created village with homes, shops, and agriculture/ livestock/ farming just as it would have been in the days of the castle! Honeymoon_Day_8_013.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_019.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_021.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_023.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_024.jpg

Many of the artifacts in the castle date back to the 15th or 16th centuries. Here, Kev and I are standing in front of the actual fireplace used to heat the troops guarding the rulers on the upper floors; also, an unrestored, original tapestry from the 1500s, and me sitting on a bench dating back to 1520! During rare addresses to the troops, the King would sit in this throne-like chair, so of course we had my King sit there :) Honeymoon_Day_8_026.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_030.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_036.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_040.jpg

Going up through the castle, we saw several bedrooms and chapels, all with original "stuff" from the 1500s. Here are a few shots: Honeymoon_Day_8_053.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_055.jpg

The stairs were really steep! But when we finally made it to the top, the views were great.
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After we finished touring the castle, we explored the folk village. We got to see the surgeon's office and home, the local pub, the printmaker's shop, the post office, and several other local businesses. We also got to see the insides of homes of various "classes" of people, and the differences were pretty astounding! Everything in the homes was original - including the china, which I may or may not have picked up for a picture's sake ;)
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We even found a sign for Lyons' tea - which is all over here! Honeymoon_Day_8_074.jpg

Our last stop in the village was the Bunratty House, built in 1805, when the castle was getting too outdated for the family living there. Again, all authentic "stuff" inside! They had a really pretty garden, and ... a reindeer??? Honeymoon_Day_8_075.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_080.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_081.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_083.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_076.jpg

After Bunratty castle, we drove a bit further to Doolin, where we stopped at a local pub for lunch. It was just OK - the "dill" dressing on my salad looked a WHOLE lot like mayo, and for those of you that know me, you know that is a VERY bad thing, but you'll be proud to know I ate the whole thing anyway! Kev got chicken with mashed potatoes, squash (he thought it was sweet potatoes, don't tell!), and broccoli. Honeymoon_Day_8_087.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_086.jpg

After lunch, we got in the bus and drove another couple of hours to Moher, our main stop for the day. The Cliffs of Moher are a completely natural, untouched phenomenon (now up for the "New 7 Wonders of Nature"), and are actually Ireland's most visited tourist attraction. The Cliffs are just that - cliffs that stretch for 8 km and rise STRAIGHT up from the Atlantic Ocean, then flatten off at 214 meters above sea level. It is impossible to describe, and even with our phenomenal camera (Rover!), you just can't see the true beauty, but here are a few shots. It was so peaceful and amazing, and we feel so fortunate to have gotten to see it! Honeymoon_Day_8_093.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_099.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_100.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_097.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_101.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_104.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_105.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_113.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_111.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_120.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_125.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_123.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_119.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_135.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_142.jpg

We also did a little wedding ring photo shoot, because hey, we're newlyweds and we're excited :) Honeymoon_Day_8_136.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_148.jpg

Once we left Moher, we drove to The Burren, which is a huge (several miles) stretch of limestone running right into the beach. Many people say it looks "lunar" - we thought it was just pretty amazing and strange and fascinating! Here are more pictures: Honeymoon_Day_8_159.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_160.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_161.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_163.jpgHoneymoon_Day_8_168.jpg Honeymoon_Day_8_170.jpg

After that, we hopped on the trusty bus (seen at the bottom), and drove along the coast to Galway Bay. This has been rated one of the top 10 coastal drives in Europe, and it was very pretty, but somehow picture taking escaped us! We were tired (after a long day of ... sitting???), and pictures just don't seem to come out as pretty when taken through a moving bus window. It basically looked like the Irish countryside seen before, just sometimes bordering the water, with more of a rocky border rather than the beaches we see in the US. There were also tons of cows and sheep, some horses, and a smattering of llamas and random castles throughout the countryside! When we got to Galway, we headed back on an ~3 hour train ride to Dublin. I'd be lying if I said we didn't doze off a bit during the ride, but it looked a lot like the first one :) We also ate, did a few thank you notes, read, and chatted. It was an AMAZING day and we're really glad we got the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful country!!

Sorry for the tome-like blog posts of late, we've just had some incredible days! Tomorrow is going to be filled with some more relaxing, a little bit of sightseeing, and the Guinness brewery tour, probably followed by a new pub, so hopefully I'll have less to drone on about :) We love hearing from all of you - thanks SO much for the comments!
-Megan and Kevin
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Posted by megandkev 14:38 Archived in Ireland Comments (5)

Walking, football, and pubs

semi-overcast 67 °F

We had a great day today in Dublin! As a result, this post is kind of long … sorry! It’s only been a day since we’ve arrived, but I already feel like I’m getting to “know” the city, how to get around the main areas, and a bit of history. Dublin has such a great vibe – the people are friendly and there to have a good time, there are always TONS of people walking around on the streets, and the general feel is pretty laid back.

We started today with a workout in the gym, followed by a quick grab-and-go breakfast at a local deli. I ordered a double American coffee – it was SOO strong! I never throw away coffee, but this one had to go! We then made our way to Trinity College, where the historical walking tour would start. Our guide was named Cleona and was very friendly and knowledgeable. The whole tour took about 2 hours and took us to the major historical points in Dublin. It was a great overview of the history, without getting into too many details.

A few pictures of Trinity College, and a couple of the interesting facts that stood out from this stop:
-Despite being founded in the 1600s, neither women nor Catholics were allowed to attend Trinity College before the 1900s. Catholics didn’t start attending until late 1970s, actually, due to a ban from the Catholic Church (not from Trinity College).
-The library at Trinity College has a copyright privilege, so it gets a copy of every single book published in Ireland for free every year. If anyone knows how to snag one of those deals, let me know!!!
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From Trinity College, we went to the Bank of Ireland, which was initially the House of Parliament. The House of Lords is still preserved (although Parliament is not actually held here anymore), but the House of Commons has been split into several bank chambers so we didn’t see it. Here, the guide talked about Irish history. I was interested that throughout the tour, Cleona was very vocal and open about the conflicts between Ireland and England, as well as between Anglicans/ Protestants and Catholics, but she seemed to skirt around the subject of relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland itself. She did end the tour by highlighting the cease fire between Northern Ireland and Ireland that was activated in 1997 and still stands, and said that the Irish hope it stands permanently. The first statue you see is on top of the Bank of Ireland (Parliament building), and the woman depicted is “Brittania.” The British would not let the Irish remove the statue when the Irish began feeling tension with England, so they built the Irish equivalent statue (I forget her name) across the street, and ensured that she stood a few inches higher than Brittania!
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From the Bank of Ireland, we went to the Dublin City Hall. We learned more about politics here, including O’Connell, the guy pictured in the statue here, who was educated in France since he was Catholic and couldn’t go to Trinity College, and was inspired by the fighting going on there to promote violence-free politics in Ireland. Not too much more commentary, but the decorations in this place were great!
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We next went to the Dublin Castle, followed by the Christ Church. Not much more relevant commentary here, but some more good pictures! The tour finished in Temple Bar (which is just an area of Dublin, not an actual bar). Other interesting facts from this part were that every school child (from primary through high school!) is taught Gaelic, but very few people actually speak the language. The government wants to preserve it, though, so it sets up financial incentives for people to live in Western Ireland, speak primarily Gaelic, and continue traditional Irish customs. Kev says his favorite part of the tour was learning about Bloody Sunday, since he has heard about it in the U2 song. There were actually 2 Bloody Sundays – one was in 1887 and was a demonstration in London against British control of Ireland; the second was in 1972, and was when the British army shot 13 unarmed protesters in Northern Ireland (and yes, I had to check Wikipedia for those dates!).
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After the tour, we walked around Dublin a little bit more, before finding a new pub to watch the the US vs. Slovenia “football” game. The pub was called the Aulde Dubliner and was again very Irish-feeling and authentic. They had some Irish music and several native Dubliners, so it was a lot of fun. We were amazed that SO many people are just sitting in pubs drinking at 2pm on a workday – is this just because of the World Cup, or is this just how people roll in Dublin? We’re not sure! It was fun to see the US play, even though we don’t follow soccer at home. It ended in a tie (2-2), but the US should have won if their 3rd goal wasn’t taken away!
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After lunch and the game, we walked along Grafton Street (lots of shops and people walking around) to St. Stephen’s Green, which is a big park in Dublin. It was nice to walk around and very pretty. We also stopped in St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Center to get some thank-you cards, as we realized we didn’t bring enough from the States. If you’re reading this and you got us a gift, please accept the delay in thank-you note – it’s coming from across the pond eventually!!!
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After the walk, I took a 20-minute power snooze, and we headed back out to a pub to watch the second World Cup game, England vs. Algeria. This one was more boring (0-0 tie), but it was fun to watch the Irish cheer so vehemently against England! I had vegetable soup (again! The way they make it here is great – it’s kind of like pureed vegetables instead of broth with vegetables floating in it) and Greek salad; Kev had beef lasagna (which, like everything, came with “chips” (fries) and salad). We strolled around a bit after the game, but are heading to bed now, as we have to be at the train station at 6:40am tomorrow for our train day-trip to Western Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher! Stay tuned for tons of pictures tomorrow!
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Posted by megandkev 14:45 Archived in Ireland Comments (2)

Finally in Dublin!

semi-overcast 70 °F

I'm going to make this a little bit quick, as we're pretty beat (well, Kev's been sleeping for a little bit already!), but wanted to let all of you know that we made it to Dublin! (And by "all of you" I mean both sets of parents, who are probably the only ones concerned :))

Yesterday we soaked up every single hour of enjoyment before we had to leave Ladera. We ate a leisurely lunch (chicken caesar for Kev, tuna nicoise salad for me), and only took pictures of this awesome sesame-encrusted feta cheese appetizer. Oh, and Kev's "bread face" ... Ladera serves amazing bread baskets at each meal, with different selections (cinnamon buns, muffins, scones, etc. for breakfast, different varieties of rolls and breads for lunch and dinner), and EVERY SINGLE MEAL Kev would grab the basket and pretend to be hiding it from me and make this funny face like he was going to take the best one. OK, I guess you had to be there, but I laughed every single time. I guess that makes a good couple - when you think each other's (really awful) jokes are funny!
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Also, here are a few shots of our last day, including the spa where we got massages and the entrance to our villa. IMG_0292.jpgIMG_0293.jpgIMG_0297.jpg

Once we finally left the resort (kicking and screaming!), we arrived at the St. Lucia airport. This is a very small airport - pretty much just one big room with minimal air conditioning, a few shops, and 2-3 gates. When we checked in, though, they said we were granted access to the "Lounge" since I was had status with the airline. We figured why not check it out, not expecting much, and it was SO nice! It was a full bar, snack bar, and large lounge area (with AC) with a dedicated staff, and only one other couple in there! We didn't take pictures, but it made our 2 hour wait at the airport much more pleasant!

When we got on the plane, we were excited to fiddle around with our fully-reclining bed seats, sift through the menu for our overnight flight, and generally act like kids in a candy store :) Our two seats kind of faced each other, which was pretty great! One genius British Airways feature that American should definitely adopt - the underseat "laptop locker" which gives you space to put all the "stuff" you want with you on a long flight without having to keep rustling through your bag. Anyway, we ate a quick meal, read for a while, and got in about 4 hours of sleep, pretty comfortably. When we woke up, we ate again, read a little more, and arrived at London Gatwick! IMG_0300.jpgIMG_0301.jpg

Now, if you don't already know, we are doing this AMAZING One World Award ticket to take advantage of the mileage I have accumulated on American Airlines over the past 3 years. This ticket covers almost all of our flights, with one exception of today's transfer from Gatwick to Dublin. Again, if you don't know, there's a really cheap airline in Europe called Ryanair, so we booked tickets easily on there. However, on top of the cheap tickets, they also charge you for such "luxuries" as an actual seat on the plane, online check-in, a checked bag, etc. We knew that each of our checked bags would be over the 15 kg weight limit, but we figured we'd just pay that as well. However, when we arrived we found out it was 20 GBP (pounds) for each additional kg! We had 14 extra between the 2 of us, so that would have been about 280 GBP, or somewhere upwards of $400! So we decided to buy an extra suitcase (20 GBP) and pay for an additional checked bag (70 GBP). This was still ~$150 (complete rip off!!) and kind of a pain, but we had plenty of time so it was worth it. Oh well, we just sucked it up and forgot about it, and we think that Ryanair was still actually a bit cheaper in the end, but those things just bug me :)

Once we dealt with that, waited around in the airport for a few more hours (we had a 5 hour layover), ate, and got to our gate, it was time to go again. The Ryanair flight was a little less comfortable than the British Airways one, but it was quick and got us where we needed to go! We were excited to arrive in Dublin and were welcomed to our hotel with a warm congratulations for our honeymoon. IMG_0308.jpgIMG_0309.jpgIMG_0312.jpg

The hotel delivered wine to our room for the occasion. More exciting, though, was this other package we got ... from DEVIN and MICHELLE!!! They were just in Dublin (we missed each other by 1 day!), and dropped off a bottle of champagne, a really nice card with their Dublin highlights, and some awesome "Lyons" coasters. YOU GUYS ARE SO SWEET AND THOUGHTFUL!!! (After all, who else hand delivers a Green Monster in Mexico on my wedding day?) Thanks, Devin and Michelle! IMG_0303.jpgIMG_0306.jpgIMG_0305.jpgIMG_0307.jpg

After a nap, Kev and I wandered around Dublin a bit looking for a place to eat. We stumbled across this awesome authentic Irish pub and decided to head in! I took a ton of pictures because I thought it looked so "Irish"!! There seemed to be a mostly local crowd there, which we really liked, and it had a great atmosphere. We had some drinks (Kev got his first Guinness!) and dinner (vegetable soup and grilled chicken garden salad for me, club sandwich and fries and salad for Kev), and got to watch the Mexico-France World Cup game. We decided we would be for Mexico (after all, we did get married there!), but we wouldn't cheer too loudly until we figured out if that was a big enemy of Ireland or anything like that. Everyone here is REALLY into football (soccer), so it makes watching the World Cup a lot of fun, and ... Mexico won 2-0, yay! It was a great first night and we're really glad we found this place. We grabbed some Digestives (that's what they called plain cookie/ cracker things in Europe - Kev thinks it's wierd!) and some Smarties (BEST European candy - not like the Smarties we have in the US!) on our way home, and called it a night.
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Now, I'd love to wait up another 5 or 6 hours to watch Game 7, but I'm going to have to send the Celtics some good luck ESP instead. Aside from the 4-hour "nap," we've basically been awake for 36 hours! It is a little bit funny to say that, because in college (or some late McKinsey nights), I wouldn't consider 4 hours that bad, but I'm getting spoiled by this awesome honeymoon and 8-9 hour sleep nights!!! We have an awesome day planned tomorrow, including a leisurely morning, historical walking tour of Dublin given by Trinity College graduate students, late lunch and watching the US in the World Cup, maybe a nap, and either the authentic Irish Music Pub Crawl or an Irish storytelling and dinner combination. We are loving Dublin already and are so excited to really get started tomorrow! Thanks so much for reading all this :)

Posted by megandkev 14:35 Archived in Ireland Comments (2)

Rainbows for breakfast!

rain 90 °F

Just a quick update today. We are enjoying our last day at Ladera before we have to leave at 4pm for a red-eye to London. Because Ladera is SO nice and hospitable, they are allowing us to stay in our room until 4 (even though check-out is at 11am), so we basically gained a full day of fun and relaxing!

It stormed all night last night - great for sleeping, but not so great for horses. We were supposed to enjoy our horseback riding tour this morning, but because of the lingering rain, lightning (which really frightens horses!), and muddy trails, they "strongly recommended" that we not go. We were disappointed, but appreciate the advice - better safe than sorry! - and were happy to enjoy one more day in paradise. We were also fortunate that they gave us a couples massage in place of our horseback riding tour that we won't be able to take - it was relaxing and fantastic!!!!

So far today, we've been lounging around reading and enjoying. One awesome benefit of the frequent rain bursts today was awesome rainbows at breakfast!!! I'll leave you with a few photos...
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Posted by megandkev 10:32 Archived in Saint Lucia Comments (3)

Last day at Ladera :(

Wow, another AMAZING day. We feel SO lucky to have the opportunity to spend time in St. Lucia at Ladera – it has been PERFECT! We’ve been talking about how we’re sad to leave tomorrow – but at the same time, we have such amazing destinations in store for us, that we can only be excited at the same time!

Let’s start with last night. We stuck to the plan and had drinks at the bar. We had a STUNNING sunset – the best we’ve seen in St. Lucia, we believe. Here are some pictures! We even did a little wedding ring photo shoot – what can we say, we’re excited! Honeymoon_Day_3_002.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_003.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_005.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_008.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_009.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_012.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_014.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_015.jpg

At the bar, we met the owner of Ladera’s daughter, and told her that we had gotten engaged at Ladera last year and spent the first nights of our honeymoon here this year. She thought the story was impressive and romantic, and was generous enough to buy us a bottle of champagne to celebrate! We are so appreciative – yet another example of how AMAZING and HOSPITABLE this resort is. As you know, we HIGHLY recommend it to anyone looking for a romantic getaway! (The one tiny caveat is that you must like the outdoors – it can get a bit hot, and I literally have upwards of 60 mosquito bites now! But it is SO worth it!) Honeymoon_Day_3_016.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_022.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_024.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_027.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_029.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_031.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_034.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_036.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_037.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_038.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_039.jpg

Anyway, we followed with dinner. We had the most AMAZING sweet potato and cinnamon soup – OMG, I could eat this every day! Kev got the Filet Mignon (amazing, again), and I got the christophene-stuffed chicken breast (incredible!). We shared a chocolate lava cake, but I forgot to take a picture! I “tricked” Kev by sneaking into bed early, as the several drinks + bottle of champagne got the best of me, and we had a great night’s sleep. Honeymoon_Day_3_040.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_041.jpg

This morning, we woke up early again to head out to the zipline tour. The “highways” of St. Lucia are a unique feature of the island – namely, there is only one “highway” (one-laned, in some parts) that goes around the island one-way. So, in order to travel a distance of about 1-2 miles, we drove about 80 minutes to arrive at the zipline course. Downside – VERY windy, bumpy roads = car sickness for Megan. Upside – the opportunity to get to see a LOT of St. Lucia, including several smaller villages, shopping centers, schools, and more. It was awesome!

Once we arrived at the zipline, we were guided to our equipment and helmets. Unfortunately, we did NOT bring Rover (our camera) along for the adventure, as he doesn’t like flying across vast distances at high speeds with no secure attachments. Let us just say, though, that the views were AMAZING! We rode on 11 zip lines, all through the rainforest of St. Lucia, and it was VERY exciting and beautiful! We had a blast!

When we got back, we ate lunch (chicken burgers for Kev, a salad with sweet potato-encrusted-date-balls for me!), and relaxed/ read by the pool. We each took a nap, and headed to the gym (a very short workout for me, as I’m still sore from yesterday’s hike!), then took up the bar/ dinner/ drinks routine. When we arrived at dinner, though, we found a General Manager’s Reception on the main pool deck, for drinks and appetizers. We met several other nice couples, also on their honeymoons, and enjoyed a great buffet of appetizers. Honeymoon_Day_3_046.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_048.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_050.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_051.jpg

Once we sat down to dinner, we had vegetable soup (for me), and lobster bisque (for Kev), a gorgeous fresh, local vegetable salad, and then headed to the buffet. The first thing I saw was a “suckling pig” (disgusting!!!), but the rest of the food was incredible – especially the cauliflower! Here are my plate and Kev’s. We followed with a dessert buffet – I only took a picture of the sign because it’s so cute! Honeymoon_Day_3_052.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_061.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_062.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_063.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_065.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_066.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_067.jpgHoneymoon_Day_3_068.jpg

After dinner, we headed to the bar and listened to the band, and are now sitting in the room listening to the crickets and frogs and gazing at the stars. Even though there are no TVs/ radios/ mass media at the resort, we are following Game 6 online – GO CELTICS!!!! Tomorrow, we head out on an overnight flight to London and then connection to Dublin, so we’ll see you across the pond! Thanks to everyone for your comments – we love hearing from you!!!!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 18:54 Archived in Saint Lucia Comments (2)

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