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Pack your bags: Ireland

I recently went to the Emerald Isle for a week. Apparently I must've been blessed with some Irish luck because we had sun every single day and not a drop of rain. People told us it was the warmest summer in 20 or 30 years. Score! Of course the downside to warm weather in a country that isn't used to air conditioning. Call me a spoiled American, but I need to be cool when I sleep. And a bed and breakfast with a window and no fan isn't the most conducive to a good night's sleep. But I can't say enough good things about Ireland. The beauty simply took me by surprise. I expected green rolling hills and sheep... ...and while we did get plenty of that, we also went to beaches - plural. And marinas. There was so much water and seaside that oftentimes I felt like I was in Hawaii or a tropical locale. Sans the palm trees.

So here are a few of the highlights and must-sees - in my opinion - from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher and back again. Slainte!

We flew into Dublin and drove across the country to the West Coast and the Cliffs of Moher. This stunning vista is not to be missed. We hiked up well beyond the "allowed" portion and it was worth it. Not only for the great workout (have to burn off those scones and fries somehow) but for the breathtaking views. The gorgeous weather is obvious in my pictures. We purchased our tickets online in advance and therefore avoided any lines or having to pay once we arrived. It wasn't even crowded, a huge plus! Bring water and snacks if you plan to hike as well. I'd estimate we were there for 3 hours.

Another favorite stop was the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. We took a car Ferry from near Doolin and cut out about 2 hours driving. The Peninsula is considered a smaller "Ring of Kerry." You can drive around the entire thing and the views are similar to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in California. We landed on Inch, a stunning beach where, yes, they taught surfing. In Ireland! As we continued around the peninsula we found this cove in Castlegregory. I collected shells to bring home to my son and reveled in the small nook, cool water and awesome flora and fauna.

Kinsale is not to be missed. In County Cork, this lovely seaside town was a delight to dine and wander around. And we went to this cool fort, Charles Fort, to be exact, which is a star-shaped fort and one of the largest military installations in the country. "Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history. The most significant of these are the Williamite War 1689-91 and the Civil War 1922-23."

It's just really cool to wander around and the views of the water are breathtaking.

Galway was an impromptu stop on the way to Doolin and we didn't regret it. Another seaside town, we dined near the water and bought lovely Irish woolens. The main street was packed with buskers (Irish musicians) and tourists as well as locals enjoying food and drink on the sunny day.

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle. It's said that those who kiss the stone will be given the gift of eloquence. Being a writer and an extrovert, I'm pretty sure I've got this covered, but you can never be too careful.

And while in Dublin, we did like the locals and partook in some Guinness. Touring the Storehouse, learning how to pour the perfect pint, and becoming a certified pourer. I even have the certificate to prove it.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Got any tips or must-sees for next time?

Happy Left-Handers Day (yep, it's a real day!)

Throwback Thursday: Get your summer games on!