And… Then There Was Galway

Galway stole my heart… I’m really not quite sure when or how it happened, only that it did. It happened in less than 48 hours.

We got on a bus out of Dublin in the morning, with the expectation of arriving in Galway 2 hours later… Wow, what a surprise when the college girl behind us informed us we were not on the express bus! We had another 3 hours to go! WHAT????

Travel Lesson: Pay attention to the bus schedules and what you are boarding!
The Positive: We traveled at a VERY leisurely pace and saw some of the most incredibly beautiful countryside of Ireland… What’s the hurry anyway right?

Galway City in Ireland

Where’s our hotel?

Once we arrived in Galway, we went in search of The House Hotel in the Latin Quarter. It wasn’t horribly far from the bus stop, and we quickly found our way with the help of some friendly locals.

House Hotel in Galway Ireland

The House Hotel, Galway Ireland

You have no idea how happy we were to arrive at The House Hotel! OMG cute appeal! The décor of the lobby and the lounge made me feel as if I had stepped into an Alice In Wonderland fantasy! After our nightmare hotel in Dublin, we felt like our fairy godmother had sprinkled fairy dust upon us and blessed us with The House Hotel! The location was ideal, the service phenomenal, the hotel very eco-friendly… And, the staff absolutely amazing! I’m already planning my return trip!

House Hotel Galway Ireland


Make sure to check out the lounge… They are open late and you’ll be sure to get some good craic with the bartender!

Lounge bar in the House Hotel in Galway Ireland

Check out the lounge!

Once we checked in… Food was the priority! After over five hours on the bus, we were starving! We had been given many recommendations of where to go, but we decided to wander and let fate play it’s hand…

We didn’t have to wander too far. We stumbled upon Cactus Jack’s, which was just across the street. Make sure to go for the Early Bird pricing! Despite the Early Bird Hour name, this is usually dinner time in the USA… Bonus is cheaper prices.

The food was delicious… And, I mean everything! Make sure to get some wine too… Get the bottle, not the glass.  The Early Bird pricing applies to wine too… It’s worth it! We chose a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and it was fabulous!

Cactus Jack's Early Bird Special

Early Bird Special

The staff was fantastic… Our waiter was an American guy that fell in love with an Irish girl and stayed…  Ahhh love! It’s a good thing!

They gave us a list of where we should go after dinner to hear some Trad, and then for some late night fun… All I can say is, I can’t thank you enough! Wow! Good times!

So, that being said… No matter where you start, you will most likely end up at The Quays in Galway. They’re open late, they have live music, and well… what can I say… it’s lot’s of fun!

Quays .Pub.. Late night Galway

Quays… Late night Galway

The Quays Pub Galway Ireland

Inside The Quays

I love all the fireplaces in the pubs in Ireland… Cozy!

Galway Ireland Cozy fireplace in The Quays

Cozy fireplace in The Quays

In the morning, and I use the word morning loosely, we found our way down to Griffin’s Bakery for breakfast. Any place that serves crepes, Nutella, maple syrup, and a stack of bacon on a plate… Well, what can I say other than I will return to over and over again! I know… It’s not a traditional Irish breakfast, but good God… It’s oozing with a whole lot of sugar, and of course let’s not forget the bacon! For a picky eater like myself, it was a good thing!

Bakery in Galway Ireland Griffings

Griffin’s Bakery

February is not the warmest time to visit Ireland, and most wouldn’t choose this time of year to come… I, however, found it refreshing and invigorating to my spirit, and my soul.

Living in California can get somewhat boring in the realm of weather…. I love rain, thunder storms, clouds, mist, dreary weather and all that comes with it… It’s the space where mystics, dreamers, poets, and writers are born and thrive…

This is what I found in Ireland… In a sense my home away from home. I can breathe here and dream… I found peace and a connection that can’t really be explained…  Can I stay please?

So Ireland… I fell hopelessly in love with you… Head over heals, and I will be back… Nothing will keep me away!

Did I dream it or did it dream me? Galway Ireland

Did I dream it or did it dream me?

River Corrib in Galway Ireland

River Corrib, Galway Ireland

Many thanks to the Tourism Board of Ireland for sponsoring our stay at The House Hotel in Galway Ireland. This is one of the top hotels I have stayed in and will do so again, as well as recommend it to others.

Swept Up In A Water Protest – Dublin

How Did We End Up In A Dublin Water Protest?

It was day two in Dublin, and we were ready to start exploring. We went in search of the Dublin Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. We thought it would be a fun way to get a feel for the city, and grab some photos along the way. Off we went, directions in hand. As we neared the River Liffey, we quickly realized something was up!

Thousands of people carrying signs, and chanting were converging onto O’Connell Street from all points. What was going on? We decided to check it out, and somehow ended up in a protest!

water protest in Dublin Ireland

Maybe I should have had a sign!

So, what exactly were they protesting? We started talking with the people, and they were more than willing to explain the issue.

Unlike the USA, the people of Ireland have never had their water usage metered. Up until now, water services have been paid through taxation.  They consider water a human right and a public good, not a commodity. What a concept! What if we did this worldwide? After all, who really owns water?

Water protest in Dublin Ireland

Sold out by the government!

I was impressed by the passion of the people, and quite amazed by the amount that came out to protest this issue. It was estimated over 30,000 people participated!

Dublin Ireland water protests

Pure passion!

Where have I see that guy in the mask? He looks familiar…

Protesters in Dublin Ireland

No EU Rule In Ireland!

The water protest continued through the streets of Dublin, ending at Leinster House where the Garda (Irish Police) stood ready and waiting for the protesters.

Garda and dogs waiting for Water Protesters

Garda and dogs ready to pounce!

The entire protest had been peaceful… No violence anywhere, so I wasn’t sure what to expect once we saw the Garda with the dogs. What did they think was going to happen? Did they know something we didn’t? We didn’t have to wait long for action… Flares started going off, and there was a jumper! Over the fence he went, and he was running… But, not for long! Garda took him down!

It was reported that he fell inside while trying to get a photo… Hmmmm, don’t know about that. I think if that was they case, he would have been sprawled out on the ground, and not running! However he ended up on the other side didn’t matter much, he was promptly taken away and arrested.

As I was shooting the video on my iPhone, the Irish Times was capturing everything as it unfolded… Was I ever surprised to see I had made it into the Irish Times! That’s me on the other side of the fence, right before the protester was taken down!

Exciting times in Ireland!

I made the Irish Times! Photo Credit: Eric Luke/Irish Times

I made the Irish Times!
Photo Credit: Eric Luke/Irish Times

If you’d like to learn more about water charges and get involved, you can find information through Right2Water.

Coming next: Galway…

Temple Bar and TRADFEST

Ahhh Temple Bar… So much fun to be had in this area of Dublin! It did not disappoint! To be clear… There is an actual Temple Bar Pub in the Temple Bar neighborhood of Dublin, which features live Trad Sessions daily…

The actual neighborhood is an eclectic mix of many pubs, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and hostels. We kept hearing that this area is where the tourists go, and I’m sure to an extent it is. We encountered many Europeans on a weekend holiday, and hey… We were there too! You will, however, find plenty of  Irish people also go to Temple Bar! It’s just a fun area to hang out in!

The drinks tend to be pricier in that part of town, however I found it to be comparable to California, New York, Chicago and Las Vegas prices… In other words, I wasn’t shocked by it, and it did not deter me from hanging out there.

Temple Bar Pub in Dublin Ireland

The actual Temple Bar!


It’s most lively from Thursday through Sunday.

The Temple Bar neighborhood also hosts TRADFEST! It’s an annual music festival, now in it’s 10th year,  where many venues play host to Traditional Irish Music Artists. It’s good fun, and not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be in Dublin when it’s happening! We saw many amazingly talented artists, and I am now hooked on Trad!

One of my favs was Mundy at Fitzsimon’s in Temple Bar.


Coming next… Dublin Water Protests.

Ireland… Where Do I Begin?

All stories have a beginning… There are just so many that occurred in Ireland that I struggle as to where to even begin. I guess I’ll start with signs from the Universe… Yes, I’m a big believer! The day before our flight, we were running around getting all our last minute trip essentials. While we were out, we decided to grab a pint to launch our trip, and headed over to the Press Room in Santa Barbara. It’s a small pub where you can find expats from the UK & Ireland enjoying a pint over a football game. It seemed appropriate.

Press Room Pint in Santa Barbara

Pint to launch the trip!


















Sitting at the bar, we struck up a conversation with the only other person there besides the bartender… As luck would have it, he was from Galway, Ireland! We were pretty excited since that was the only other city besides Dublin that we had planned to stay in. He gave us a list of his favorite pubs, restaurants, names of people to ask for, and things to do while we were there! And just for good measure, we grabbed a photo of him to show his friends!

Guy from Galway, Ireland

Galway Guy!














Once we got back home, we scheduled our taxi for our 4:00am pickup, finished packing, and attempted to sleep…

Imagine our surprise when this taxi arrived…

Luck of the Irish, Sign from the Universe, Lucky Cab, Ireland trip transportation

It’s a Lucky Cab… Shamrock and all!

This was not who we had scheduled with! We scheduled with Rose Taxi! We giggled and got in! It seemed right! All was good with the Universe!

Fast forward to our Dublin arrival… How many hours had we been traveling? It seemed like forever… We were lucky enough to arrive an hour earlier than expected! Yay tail winds! We found a bus for 6 Euro that dropped us a couple blocks from our hotel. Our hotel’s entry door was sandwiched between a pizza place and another business. We walked by it several times, wondering if we had been duped!

Can't find our hotel, Dublin Ireland

Where’s our hotel???


After thumping our luggage up a very steep, narrow staircase we were more than ready for a nap! We were hoping for an early check in, but that was not to be had! Instead we were greeted, and I use that word lightly, by a very unfriendly woman that wouldn’t even make eye contact with us! (SHE WAS NOT IRISH!) She pointed to an area, which was not secure whatsoever, where we could leave our luggage, and told us to come back at 2:00pm. I will elaborate in a later post with a scathing review on this hotel, which I wouldn’t recommend to a cockroach… But, I digress…

We had several hours to kill before we could check in, so we set off to find breakfast. We had our first proper Irish breakfast with tea at the Queen of Tarts. It’s small, quaint, cozy and full of delightful treats! Good luck getting a seat! This place packs!

Queen of Tarts, Dublin Ireland, Tea

1st Tea in Dublin!

After breakfast we wandered around the Temple Bar area in Dublin, which was where we were staying… We still had lot’s of time to kill before check in and seriously needed to sit. We had now been up for 24 hours! We stumbled upon Peadar Kearney’s Pub and had to go in… How could you go wrong when the Chef’s Special was Guinness! Our first pint in Ireland was before noon… But, hey that’s 4:00am according to our time zone…

1st pint in Dublin, Ireland at Peadar Kearney's Pub

1st pint in Dublin!

The people and bartender were extremely friendly here! The pub is just outside of the Temple Bar area, and the prices are easier on the wallet too! They host live music during the week… Check it out!

Coming next… Temple Bar & TRADFEST.

Dublin Bound

Dublin Bound… Ireland here we come!

Trip to Dublin Ireland, Travel bloggers, Photography of Dublin, Dublin Bound

Dublin Bound!

Finally, the day has arrived! I have been quite excited about this trip, and very anxious to start it. I am traveling with Jenna Dosch, a fellow photographer from Las Vegas. We begin our trip in Dublin, arriving just in time for TRADFEST.  We have fifteen days to explore the rest of Ireland and plan on squeezing in as much of possible!

We plan on blogging along the way, and also posting on social media, so be sure to check out our adventures!

If you’re a local, and want to join us for a pint, message us on twitter! If you surf, contact us! We are heading west to Galway and possibly up to Sligo! We want to photograph some big waves and are hoping to find the best locations to do that!

Check out our websites/blogs:

Manipulated Reality I will be blogging here as usual!

Jenna Dosch Photography You can find Jenna here!

Follow us on twitter:

Manipulated Reality

Jenna Dosch

Follow us on Instagram:

Julie Plevak

Jenna Dosch Photo



Burlington In The Winter

Things To Do In Burlington In The Winter

Burlington, VT is one of my favorite cities to visit. It frequently finds itself on many “Best Of” lists, and after spending time there, it is easy to see why. Burlington has a lively downtown scene, a thriving art community, an array of dining choices, and bars featuring local live music. The close proximity to multiple ski resorts makes it easy to spend the day on the slopes snowboarding or skiing! It’s a family friendly town that hosts multiple activities for kids too!

Here are few things to check out while visiting Burlington:

Shelburne Farms

I highly recommend a visit here. It’s my number one choice of places to see. The grounds are absolutely magnificent. The farm covers 1,400 acres and is located on the shores of Lake Champlain. Shelburne Farm provides learning experiences for a sustainable future by partnering with the community, and hosts events year round. In the winter you can take a horse drawn sleigh ride, take a class and learn about the animals, or even learn how to make bread and butter. Check their calendar for the many choices offered.

things to do in burlington in the winter, sustainable farming, shelburne farms vermont

Shelburne Farms

Cross Country Skiing, Ice Skating, Sledding
There are many parks in Burlington that offer groomed ski trails, ice rinks for skating, and hills for sledding. What’s more fun that playing outside in the winter? And, these are all free!

winter activities in Burlington, things to do in the winter in Burlington

Burlington VT in the winter

Church Street Marketplace
The Church Street Marketplace is an open air pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown Burlington. The streets are cobblestone and it’s lit up beautifully at night! It’s a fun place to hang out with many shops, restaurants, and galleries to stop by.

If you like books, be sure to pop into Crow’s Bookshop. They offer a great selection, and a cozy atmosphere, which is a refreshing change if you’re used to the mega bookstores in most cities.

Need a chocolate fix? Lake Champlain Chocolates will hook you up! The chocolates are made locally and you can even visit the factory!

If that’s not enough to feed your sweet tooth, head over to My Little Cupcake. They specialize in delicious mini cupcakes and have a ridiculous amount of flavors to choose from! It’s hard to decide on just one, so plan on trying a variety. They are located at 217 College Street, which isn’t too far from the Church Street Marketplace.

For real food, try out Sweetwaters. They have a full bar, and extensive menu with a large amount of gluten free options. The restaurant is housed in a building from the 1880’s and still retains some original architectural details. Former bank vaults now function as walk-in coolers in the lowest level of the restaurant.

Things to do in Burlington in the winter, church street marketplace

Kids love Church Street Marketplace

Burlington Art Scene

I was really impressed with the art scene in Burlington. Art is everywhere, so you will not have to go far to find it! If you happen to be in Burlington on the first Friday of the month, check out the community wide First Friday Art event. It’s a great way to check out a variety of local artists in one night. You can also check the Vermont Art Guide to find out about current openings and exhibitions.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to two very talented Burlington artists, that were gracious enough to let me wander through their studios while they were working.

Check out the artwork of:

Duane Albro at Tao Woodworking. My favorites were the SUP’s. They are absolutely gorgeous! And, when you stop by, make sure you say hello to Chomsky the St. Bernard. He usually is hanging  out in the shop!

Bruce R. MacDonald at HAVOC. His metal wall sculptures are on stainless panels. Holographic effects create a feeling of movement through out the pieces. To see the visual depth and illusion of the art, check out these videos!

Top Tips For Long Flights

Top Tips For Long Flights
Flying tips for a long flight, Top Tips For Long Flights
Ok, here we go… Every frequent flyer has many tips to share with other travelers. I think we all do our best to make it easier for the next guy.  Here are my Top Tips For Long Flights!

Get enough sleep. I try really, really hard to do this before early morning flights. Unfortunately, I am usually not too successful. I’m usually just too excited about my upcoming trip, and everything relating to it is competing in my brain for my attention.

Sleep on the plane. In most cases, I end up doing this for several hours. This one can take some prep if you are a light sleeper as I am. I like the window for sleeping. It provides a little more stability… Of course if you don’t mind getting cozy with your fellow passengers, then definitely pick a middle or aisle seat! Nothing like a good shoulder to lean on right? On shorter flights, I don’t bother with a neck pillow, but I recommend using one for long flights. Your neck and back will thank you later. Eye sleep masks and earplugs are a great if you just want to block everything out! Don’t worry about how you look… If you’re that worried about fashion, draw some eyes on your mask!

Hydrate. However tempting it might be to have a drink, as in alcohol, I avoid it. Water is my first choice, and tea is nice if you want a warm drink. Bring your own individual bags if you like herbal teas and want to avoid caffeine. Just ask for some hot water. You will feel less sluggish once you arrive at your destination.

Don’t carry on that much. Think about your comfort level, and how long your flight is. Suddenly, the extra fees for checking your luggage won’t seem too bad. There is nothing worse than trying to figure out where to cram all your stuff. I for one like my legroom, and I’m not very tall!

Just carry the necessities. Make sure too bring a small toiletry case, with toothpaste (it’s a long flight!), hand lotion, and lip balm. I find myself getting dry while I fly… Once again, I emphasize the importance of staying hydrated. Sanitizing wipes are a must-have, cause you just never know what kind of germs are lingering around! Aspirin, ibuprofen, and throat lozenges are a good idea too.

Entertainment. iPads or other tablets are always a good choice, especially if your traveling with the kiddos. They provide hours of entertainment… Just be sure to charge your batteries before you leave! Inflight TV offers movies on DIRECTV. Bring your own headphones, or get some from the airline. Just swipe your card, and you’re good to go! If you’re not a techie, there are always books and magazines. I usually bring a book too. I zip through magazines way to fast. I’ll blame my self-diagnosed Adult ADD for that one!

Eating. I try to eat something light before any flight. I’m not a fan of eating on a plane, or the food that is usually available. For longer flights, I like to pack my own sandwich, roll-up, fruit and some sort of snack. If you do choose to bring food onto the plane just be conscious of your neighbors… They will be suffering from the stink of the onions, that you just had to add onto your burger, long after it is gone! Being aware of our neighbors brings me to my next tip…

Snacks. I saved this one for last. Who doesn’t love a snack? We all do of course! There are so many to choose from. So, the next time you have to make that choice,  please consider your neighbor. The child or the adult sitting next to you may suffer from a life threatening peanut allergy. Shockingly, people don’t take this seriously enough, and I am quite appalled by the lack of concern and behavior exhibited by normally intelligent adults.

I have family with small children that fear traveling. Two trips have come to a quick end due to a random peanut. Rather than use the trash, someone tossed it on the ground where the children were playing. Thankfully, the children were removed from the situation in time, and no EpiPen was needed.

Nobody should ever have to experience a loved one going into anaphylactic shock or using an EpiPen to save them, praying the whole time that they won’t die.

You won’t die if you don’t eat peanuts for a few hours, but someone else might.

If you’d like to learn more, check out The No Nut Traveler. It’s a great resource for flying with food allergies, and provides current information to help create more public awareness. It will provide a view into the world of what it’s like to travel with life threatening allergies.




10 Free Things To Do In Chicago

10 Free Things To Do In Chicago

10 Free Things to do in Chicago

Chicago Skyline

It’s always fun to find freebies while you’re traveling. Here’s some to check out in Chicago.

Chicago Blues FestivalGrant Park at Jackson & Columbus

This is by far, one of my favorite events to go to in Chicago. It’s held every summer in Grant Park and it’s FREE! It runs for 3 days on 5 different stages, and features some of the best Blues Artists around!

Millenium Park – 201 E Randolph Street

Millenium Park features one of the most popular tourist attractions, commonly referred to as “The Bean”. Be sure to check out Lurie Garden, and the free concerts which are featured all summer long.

Lincoln Park Zoo – 2200 N Cannon Drive

Lincoln Park Zoo is open year round. The Zoo covers 35 acres and features more than 230 species of animals. It’s located between Lake Michigan and the high rise buildings of the city! They have featured events throughout the year, so be sure to check the schedule.

City Gallery At The Historic Water Tower – 806 N Michigan Ave

Check out the rotating work of local photographers and artists in the City Gallery. The Chicago Historic Water Tower is located along the Magnificent Mile.

Navy Pier – 600 E Grand Ave

Be sure to take a stroll along the pier’s boardwalk. Admission is free. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings in the summer, free fireworks are featured weekly.

Museum of Contemporary Photography – 600 S Michigan Ave

One of the only museums in the area devoted exclusively to photography.

WFB First Friday ArtWalk  – 1579 North Milwaukee Ave

On the first Friday of every month explore two floors of art in the historic Flat Iron Arts Building. Resident artists, guest artists, impromptu performances, and refreshments are all a part of the celebration.

Chicago Botanic Garden – 100 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

The Chicago Botanic Garden is open year round and a beautiful place to visit. There are 26 gardens and four natural areas to stroll through. The Garden is situated on 385 acres, with 6 miles of lake shoreline.

Tour A Brewery3340 N Kedzie Ave

Revolution Brewery offers 45 minute tours that include a tasting. They cap the tours at 30 people, so get there early! Tour schedule is listed on their website.

Free Music At The Empty Bottle – 1035 N Western Ave

Most Monday and Friday nights feature free music. Check the schedule on their website.

Looking for more to do in Chicago?

5 Most Inspirational TED Talks On Travel

 5 Most Inspirational TED Talks On Travel

Where is home? How many of us ask ourselves that question? Having lived in four different states myself, I often wonder if I will ever feel like I’m really home. I’ve lived in Santa Barbara, California for five years now, however when I travel back to Chicago, I always say I’m going home for a visit. Chicago is where I was born and spent a good portion of my life, but I don’t live there anymore. So, where then is home?

Writer Pico Iyer meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling, and the serenity of standing still.

Where Is Home – Pico Iyer

What have you learned while traveling? How has it impacted your life? After spending 4 months a year for the last 30 years living out of a suitcase, Rick Steves, shares lessons he has learning traveling the world.

Rick Steves – The Value of Travel

If travel allows a life of freedom, are these modern day vagabonds more free than the rest of us?
A photojournalist that dreamed of running away from home to live freely, now follows modern nomads into their homes, giving us a glimpse into a culture on the margins.

Kitra Cahana – A Glimpse of Life On The Road

Have you had a life transformation achieved by traveling? Francis Tapon shares how travel can be a catalyst for transforming your life by giving you insights that may be impossible to achieve by any other means.

Francis Tapon – How And Why Travel Transforms You

Is your personality given or chosen? Gulhan Sen discusses her experiences gained through travel and how it helped her realize the “given identity”.

Gulhan Sen – How Traveling Shapes Your Personality

Top 10 Must-Have Travel Apps

Top 10 Must-Have Travel Apps

With so many options to choose from, these are my favorite top 10 Must-Have Travel Apps:

top 10 travel apps must-have

Word Lens

Instantly translate printed words in real time by using your built-in video camera. How cool is that?

Wi-Fi Finder

Worried you won’t be able to find a WiFi? Be sure to add this app! It has a data base of over 550,000 that is constantly being updated. It gives you directions to the closest spot, and shows whether it is free or you have to pay for the connection.


Who doesn’t need help when it comes to tipping? Whether you are splitting the bill, or just need help figuring out the right amount to leave, this app makes it all easy. It also can convert to the local currency of wherever  you are traveling.

XE Currency

Confused about currency exchange rates? Enter the currency you want to convert between, and a display will give you the value of both. It’s a quick and easy app to use.


How many times have y0u heard music you like and do not have a clue who it is?  Just imagine traveling overseas, hearing amazing local music, and being able to identify the artist!


Create short videos of your travels. You can edit the clips, stitch it all together, add text, filters, and a soundtrack. What’s not to love?


Ok, this one is just fun! Create a digital storybook with your travel photos, videos, and text.


If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, Airbnb offers over 600,000 listings for apartments, rooms, or even houses in more than 34,000 cities. It’s pretty simple to use too!


And, for the Foodies… This app is a visual guide to good food and where to find it!


Ever wish you could send a postcard with your own photo on it? Well this app allows you to do just that! Touchnote has customizable templates which allow you to share your travels, and add a personalized message. For $1.99 you can send one to your family and friends.