When our friends Aaron and Maeve invited us to meet them in Ireland this summer, we jumped at the chance. Maeve’s family is from the area outside of Dublin, and we were excited for the insider’s perspective and eager to spend time with friends. We’ve also always wanted to see the Irish countryside—having only been to Dublin for a few days back in 2009 when TH and I backpacked through Europe—and the sweeping hills and lush, green landscapes were as pretty as we imagined.
I fully recommend visiting the Glendalough valley and the Wicklow Mountains National Park, just an hour outside of Dublin, which features an incredible 9-kilometer hike that follows a wooden boardwalk up the mountainside, climbing up more than 600 wooden steps to offer sweeping views of the whole area. We caught a glimpse of a herd of deer before climbing down the rocky, waterfall-like hillside. We stayed in the nearby town of Laragh, and had a great Irish meal at The Wicklow Heather, where we also enjoyed a whiskey tasting, especially timely considering I had just participated in a tasting with Singleton in Berlin, so I knew my stuff! We also walked around the gorgeous Powerscourt gardens, named the third best garden in the world, and saw Ireland’s largest waterfall.
Although it was a short trip, there was plenty of time for Guinness, beef stew and visiting with our friends. I can also recommend Lynham’s, also in Laragh, as well as the fish restaurant A Caviston in Greystones, a cute little town with a nice street of cafes and shops that is also nice for a walk through. At almost every meal—as toast for breakfast and a side during lunch and dinner—we were served the deliciously dense and hearty Irish brown bread. Similar to soda bread, this quick dough is easy to make and includes whole grain flour for flavor and buttermilk for that moist crumb. I’ve added ground flax seed into my recipe, but you can also use wheat germ to get a similarly nutty/grainy taste. I was excited to come home and make a batch myself, but immediately after leaving Ireland, we took off for two weeks in Montenegro and Croatia—more on that to come! Back at home in Berlin and here’s the Irish brown bread, wonderful slightly toasted with a smear of good butter.
When Miss Katzie mentioned in December that she was planning a visit to Paris this spring, I happily agreed to meet her in the French capital. I had been wanting to put a trip together ever since reading David Lebovitz’s post about fancy éclairs in Paris, and the fact that the trip coincided with TH’s birthday was an added bonus, as we often like to plan special, world-traveling birthday trips. I mentioned the travel itinerary to HouseTrip, for whom I recently contributed some Berlin highlights for a forthcoming food guide, and they offered to host us and asked if we would test out their Paris guide. With all those stars aligned, the trip was set.
Planning our five days in Paris, I was happy to use the the HouseTrip guide, as it’s a collection of tips and foodie suggestions from local bloggers and experts, and some of my favorite travel discoveries lately have come from local’s suggestions, including recent trips to Hamburg and Amsterdam. Along with HouseTrip’s recommendations, I was also lucky to have some tips from a new Berlin friend Mimi, who recently moved from Paris, and Ashley, who just spent a weekend there herself. Armed with plenty of great recommendations, we set off for a long weekend having little more planned than eating and long walks in the city of lights.
We spent a few days in Cologne this past weekend for the German celebration of Karneval. Wow! What a crazy experience. When I was very young we lived in Mainz, where they call the festival Fasching, and I remember streamers and candy and a parade with big floats. As an adult, the experience was much more a party, with loud music, and crazy costumes, and lots of drinking everywhere we went. These photos from the Rose Monday parade capture just a little bit of the wild enthusiasm that takes over the city during the festivities.
Back at home in Berlin, I was inspired to make a batch of pfannkuchen, the jelly doughnuts eaten during Karneval before the Lent season begins. The treats line bakery windows by the hundreds, but we had a delicious one at the small shop Bäckerei Balkhausen, tucked around the corner from Cologne’s Neumarkt. We were also able to squeeze in a great burger at Freddy Schilling, but most of our 3-day trip was taken up with the Karneval festivities. Hopefully we’ll find ourselves back in Cologne soon to explore the city and the many great recommendations we came armed with!