Pack Your Bags: Dublin, Ireland

I'll be honest,
I might have Irish heritage
but Dublin is one place
I really don't connect with.

You know how some places just speak to you
and you feel, somewhere in your soul, a prickly feeling 
that can quickly escalate the enjoyment you feel over a lunch
into the hopes & dreams of someday relocating to that city
in order to recreate that experience every day?

Dublin isn't one of those places for me.

While it may not be my favorite city on the planet,
I can tell you that it's a place that you should visit once in your life...
just to experience real Irish culture up close & personal.

Because Irish culture really is charming...
but, dare I say it, better experienced out of this landmark city?

Since part of my job is to facilitate that once-in-a-lifetime experience for others,
I do know a few things that can help make sure that your trip to Dublin a bit luckier.


What to Do:

Visit Trinity College and see the famous Book of Kells-
gorgeous hand-written copies of the first Celtic Bible.

After you've worked through the exhibit, 
you'll be routed through the famous library
that you've probably pinned on your Pinterest travel board.


Take a tour with Lorcan Collins.
This guide is always one of my students favorite guides of the semester- hands down.

His tours aren't just walking tours of the city,
but are tours that explain the Easter Uprising of 1916.

{Think Tom Branson from Downton Abbey.}

He's completely Irish, incredibly smart, alarmingly sarcastic... but really a sweet guy.

The tours run every day from 11:30 (1pm on Sundays)
from March 1 - October 31 for €12 per person.


Visit Temple Bar.

Not an actual bar, per say,
but an area of town that is pretty touristy
but full of endless pubs that will make your visit
seem all the more authentic.


Tour the Guinness Factory...
Okay, so I'll be honest:
 I've never done this myself
but I've heard it's amazing and a must.

So therefore, you must do it and tell me all about it.

Where to Eat:

Ok, this is kinda cheesy to recommend
but you're in Ireland and it's actually kind of fun...

Go to the Arlington Hotel for their Irish dinner show.
It's €30 per person but you get dinner
(a really decent 3-course meal)
and you can watch some fun Irish music & dancing.

I've been twice. 

It's totally touristy, 
but hey, you are a tourist, aren't you?

{Editor's Note: If you're just up for the music & dancing,
 you can go in after the show starts after 8:30pm and sit at the bar instead. 
Shh... I didn't tell you that.}


Go to the Queen of Tarts for lunch or tea...
or both, if you're a fat kid like me.

This place is so cute! 

Eat a savoury tart
and then relax with a sweet homemade treat
and a fresh pot of hot tea.

Where to Stay:

If you're on the cheap... You can book a room at Trinity College. Like, an actual dorm room.
The rooms are affordable, centrally located, right near the airport shuttle-
but only available when students aren't living in them.


This is a historic hotel that often offer some affordable rates.
The breakfast is entirely Irish- complete with Irish oats & soda bread,
but the rooms, while slightly basic, are comfortable and have everything you'll need.

Plus, the front desk staff is so nice-
I swear you'll want to hug them before your stay is over.

Located right off O'Connell Street- right off the River Liffey.


This is one of the "nicest" hotels in Dublin...
but I have to say, if you find yourself in a standard room-
you'll know that the hotel reviewers had an upgraded room.

The rooms, while really large, lack any feeling of luxury...
and are very hard to keep warm in colder months.

The downstairs is nice for teas and drinks,
but unless you are willing to splurge on a nicer room
or find an amazingly cheap rate (like I did),
you can take or leave staying at this famous hotel.


So there you have it...
all my thoughts and ideas
to help give you a good starting point 
for planning your trip to Dublin.

Have you been?
Weigh in with your favorite places/meals/sites below
and help other people plan a great stay in Ireland!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Go Here: Clarinda's Tea Room in Edinburgh

When I'm traveling with my students,
I'm a bit of a sucker for routine.

You see, I'm often doing a similar circuit
that is really fast-paced,
so I enjoy a bit of normalcy in the midst of the whirlwind.

I tend to stick to my pre-approved list of good things
and spend the rest of my time staring blankly at the ceiling of my hotel room
trying to recover and plan for the day ahead.

But sometimes, even in the midst of exhaustion & routine,
you find that places can still charm & surprise you...
like I was in Edinburgh this week.


I was heading up the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace
right as Tyler was arriving at our hotel from the train station.

{Editor's note: Yes, he arrived a day later than I did
because home boy now has three ladies to support
and is feeling some pressure to work some wee longer hours.}

As I huffed my way up the hill in the cold,
I saw a cute little tea room named Clarinda's 
that seemed to be glowing from the window.

I texted Tyler if he wanted to walk down to meet me there instead
and he said he'd be there in ten minutes.

When I walked in the creaky door,
I was patting myself on the proverbial back 
for choosing to stop in this gem.

Tiny bouquets of flowers sat on
lace tablecloths draped over the tables...

Blue & white china hung spattered along the wall...

A table full of baked goods lay before me
glowing with the splendour of a pirates chest 
overflowing with golden coins & jewels...

And the menu had so many of my favorite things
at ridiculously cheap prices.

I was in heaven!

Please add this cozy stop to your visit to Edinburgh...
and pretty-please try the carrot cake.

Find Clarinda's on the Royal Mile

Just walk down and you'll find it 
near the bottom of the Royal Mile on your left-
sitting somewhere between the Canongate Kirk
(where economist Adam Smith is buried)
and the new parliament building near Holyrood Palace.


For more of my favorite things in Scotland, 
click here for additional posts.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Being Gifted: The Hostess Gift

I'm writing this from a ferry in between Wales & Ireland
as I make the last leg of the final trip
for my fall semester with my group.

Predictably, it's foggy and cold outside
but inside the ferry it's warm 
and I'm nursing a cup of tea
while my eye wanders back and forth from my computer
to the fat wedges of carrot cake sitting at the ship's cafe.

Speaking of fat,
my belly is getting pretty big these days.

I can officially no longer button my regular pants,
have split one pre-maternity dress all the way up the backside,
and have started being asked by strangers when I'm due.

At the finale of my semester and 24 weeks,
I now have the ability to tell when my babies are sleeping or awake,
and the awakening sensation that "this" is actually happening.

I'm going to have two babies...
and it's not going to be that far away.

Besides the tragic blowout of that dress, 
the other mile marker that is making all of this seem real
are my upcoming baby showers.

I'll be headed back to the States next week 
for two showers and an early Christmas in Oklahoma.

While I've been happily stocking our registry
full of cute things might someday fill our little flat,
I've also been shopping around for a way to say thanks
to the friends and family who are graciously sharing 
in this exciting time by hosting baby showers for me.

Hostess gifts are alway tricky for me.

What I want to buy and what I can afford to buy
for all of these great women
is a difficult equation to crack.

Today, I'm loving these new books
that my long-time favorite stationer & design studio,
Mr. Boddington has designed for these Penguin classics.

   All $17.99 at Anthropologie: Little Women | Jane Eyre | Pride & Prejudice | Sense & Sensibility | Alice In Wonderland

Classics like Pride & Prejudice, Alice & Wonderland & Jane Eyre
have been made to look oh-so-lovely.

I love any addition that can pretty up any home
without infringing on too much space.

{I'm not sure I can say the same for these two babies.}

You all have pretty good taste...
help me a sister out.

What's a hostess gift you have given/received that you loved?

Thanksgiving Goes Global

There are a lot of reasons to be thankful tomorrow.

When you're surrounded by people you love,
eating delicious food in lovely homes,
and enjoying the luxury of PTO...
it's easy to remember how good life is.

It's a little hard to feel those same feelings
when you are an ocean away
living in a country
that doesn't celebrate
or acknowledge this holiday.

So how does an expat cope
on this most American of holidays?

I've asked three of my favorite displaced bloggers
to chime in on how they celebrate Thanksgiving
where ever it is they've found themselves today.

Read more from Megan's hilarious life in Scotland here.

Read more from Liz's charming life in Amsterdam here.

Read more from Amanda's sweet life in Japan here.

So how will we be celebrating?
Well, if you've seen my instagrams,
you might know I'm in Scotland.

I'll be taking my students to St. Andrews
for a proper American Thanksgiving dinner

So when you can't be at home
eating seconds thirds of your mom's cherry pie-
you learn to find the next best thing.

And let me tell you...
being in a place like St. Andrews 
kinda does help ease the pain.

I'll be enjoying the day
being thankful for the jackpot God has given me:
his endless love, 
the funnest & nicest husband alive,
two (!) healthy baby girls,
work that constantly challenges & fulfills me,
a huge family who I couldn't love more,
and all of you, my blog family!

*follow me on instagram for daily updates on my life in the UK: aspiringkennedy

Pack Your Bags: The South Shore, Iceland

Is it cold yet where you live?

It's pretty darn wintery feeling here in England.

Almost about the same temperatures 
that we were experiencing two months ago in Iceland.

Not that it is too surprising to find yourself
bundled up in a land named, well, after frozen water.

Don't worry though.

Despite the low temps,
you are typically so excited by the endless rainbows and waterfalls
you can find yourself jumping and skipping 
your way into a nice sweat.

Here are some of the gorgeous sites we saw
after leaving Reykjavic 
and heading out into the unknown
under the care of our awesome outfitters, Nature Explorer Iceland.

Getting my baby bump on at Skaftafell National Park.

The glorious (and famous) waterfalls,  Skogafoss.

Heading to Iceland's fourth largest glacier, Myrdalsjokull.

As close to the glacier that we could safely get. You can fall hundreds of feet in the cracks. Beware!

See what I mean?

This place could have anyone
 finding themselves in a hot fuss
over how gorgeous it is.

Just pack some warm boots, a bit of Gore-Tex
and your acclimating emotions will take care of the rest.

If you're planning a trip to Iceland,
here are some of the things we did (and loved) on Iceland's South Shore:

We stayed at Hotel Laki (recommended!),
took a boat ride through a glacier lagoon called Jokulsarlon,
went horseback riding on funny little Icelandic ponies at Hestheimar,
visited the stunning waterfalls of Skogafoss & Seljalandsfoss
and hiked through Skaftafell National Park.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

FOUR SALE: The Best Christmas Sweater Ever.

I did a double take when I saw this sweater the other day hanging in a store in London.

It was love at first site.

Without trying it on or feeling it,
I just knew that this £20 sweater
 was going to be my new best friend for the upcoming months.

As I paid for an armful of them,
the cashier asked me what they were for...

Ummm... gifts?

It seemed like an easier explanation.

If you've run into me at all this week
in person or on skype,
you may have noticed me wearing this...
it's because I love it
and want to wear it, well, pretty much every day.

It just feels perfect for anything this time of year.

I tried to take a picture of this in any way other than on me.
It wasn't working...
so here I am.

Standing on the street by our flat,
feeling like a pregnant fool 
to show you this sweater.

Yes, because I love you that much
and because it really is that important to me
that you have this sweater, too.


No refunds/exchanges- as I won't be able to return them, either.
All sales final.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for international shipping,
so that I can ship the cheapest way possible!

A Quick Trip to Camelot

After all the emotion from the election
seems to have died down,
let's enjoy a bit of Presidential style
that we can all, unanimously, agree upon.

{Plus, it is Monday and can only help.}

I was encouraged by the latest cover of The Economist...
it summed up so perfectly my feelings towards last week's results.

So with that, I leave you will their order:

 Democrats, it's time to go hug a republican.

Republicans, it's time to hug them back.

It's only by working together that 
we can make any sense of this mess we're in
and find ourselves back in prettier times.

*all images via

Just Your Average {Aspiring Kennedy's} Day

I think in blogging
its easy to make this space
a haven for venting.

We use the term "keeping it real"
to gripe and complain
about things...
and honestly, I try to not do that here.

You guys have enough going on in your own life...
you don't need to hear about my own drama
and honestly, it's a good mental exercise 
for me to find a nice element of life
and savour it a little here.

I really believe that almost every single day has those moments.

In the midst of what has been a really hectic and not-so-awesome week
mixed with getting sick, work junk and spending last night in the hospital with a student,
I was starting to get dragged down into Snarkyville.

But all it took was spending the afternoon with people who are happy 
and a surprise run-in with Tyler at the grocery store to get me back in stride.

Suddenly, life seems okay again.

Actually, it's better than okay.

It's really good.

Our Christmas Card after moving into our first home, 2008.

I'm sitting here with a giant belly
half-full of babies & half-full of chinese food
while I watch 30 Rock
 and nurse a bloody nose.

{Editor's note: Now that is keeping it real, folks.}

Life isn't always perfect...
but man, most days are pretty good, aren't they?

Here's to good normal days...
and the occasional glorious ones
captured in the moments below.

5th Anniversary- NY, NY (Photo by: Victoria Wall Harris)

2nd Anniversary- Victoria, B.C.

4th Anniversary- Cortona, Italy

Iceland, 2012

*all images original to aspiring kennedy
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