northern ireland

Aug 7

My flight to Dublin, Ireland was delayed over an hour. I honestly didn’t realize it was delayed until I woke up, seated on the floor on the airport leaned up against the windows, from my nap at 11:55 pm, the time my plane should have been boarded and about to take off. By the time I was seated on the plane I was tired and just wanted to be in the air. The doors to the aircraft were closed and there was no one seated next to me so I was looking forward to taking up the entire row to sleep (but I wasn’t going to be that lucky). The flight attendant came over to me and asked me to move to a seat next to a woman the other side on the plane. Being tired and impatient, I politely asked why she wanted me to move and there was a family of 3 she wanted to seat together, and she offered me an Option Plus package that gave me a pillow, blanket, headphones, dinner and beer or wine… I couldn’t say no to that (even though I would have moved so the family was able to sit together)!

 

Aug 8

I slept the whole flight and landed in Dublin in time to grab my bag, change, and catch the Aircoach from Dublin to Belfast. My plane landed just before 1 pm and by the time I grabbed my bag and got on the bus it was 2:10 pm. I slept most of the bus ride and arrived at the Eurpoa Buscentre in Belfast at 4pm. I walked from the buscentre to Established, which is a cute little coffee shop I found while scrolling through my Instagram when I was looking for things to do and places to visit while I was going to be in Ireland. The coffee shop was quite cute, very industrial looking. I had to walk down cobblestone alley ways to find it. I got to the coffee shop around 4:20 pm. When I told Elanna I was hoping to stop at the coffee shop before catching the train to Ballymoney (where her and Paddy live) she mentioned her husband Paddy works in Belfast and he offered to pick me up at Established. Right as I got my Americano and took a few pictures I noticed Paddy walking up the street towards the café.

I waved and introduced myself to Paddy. He was very warm and welcoming from the start! Elanna was right when she said I couldn’t miss him because he is a very tall guy! I offered him anything from Established but he said that he was okay! He helped me carry my things to where he parked his car and we were off to Ballymoney. The drive was breathtaking. It was a gorgeous sunny, clear day and I got a great view of farms and rolling hills. I really enjoyed talking to Paddy during the drive. We took about 45 minutes to an hour to drive the entire distance, but it gave me the chance to get to learn a lot about Paddy and he told me a bit about some of the different places and a bit of the history of the country.

When we arrived at their home I was welcomed by Elanna and their cavapoo Sandy! It was so nice to meet Elanna, after hearing a lot about her from Erica, she was just as sweet and kind as I imagined her to be. I feel so blessed to have been connected to such a warm and welcoming couple. From the moment I emailed Elanna I feel like her and Paddy really made an effort to make my stay an unforgettable one! They really welcomed me with open arms!

Minutes after settling into the gorgeous guest bedroom they set up for me, Elanna had dinner ready for the both of us (Paddy was meet up with a friend for dinner who was moving to the UK). Elanna made 2 delicious salads for dinner: a pesto pasta and a fruit and nut with balsamic dressing. They were both incredible! Elanna and I sat and ate on the couch in their sitting room, which was really cozy, and it had nice big windows which were letting in all the sunlight. Before Paddy left to meet up for dinner with his friend, him and Elanna planned a fun-filled evening for us. While Elanna was a part of a webinar from 7:30 – 8:30 pm, Paddy and I would drive along to coast and hike down to some castle ruins before meeting Elanna in Portstewart for ice cream at Morellis.

Elanna and I spent most of the evening talking before Paddy returned from his dinner. She is such a fun and interesting person to talk to, and so easy to get along with. After only just really getting to know her in person I feel like I’ve know her for ages! I’m happy to have finally had the chance to meet her in person after hearing such sweet things about her from Erica (when I told Erica I was travelling to Ireland she encouraged me to connect with Elanna, they have been close gf’s for over 11 years)!

Paddy came home around 7pm and we headed out shortly after so Elanna could be a part of her webinar.

Paddy, drove Sandy and I along the coast. I’m so happy that the weather was as great as it was because I could see the gorgeous, lush scenery and how beautiful and blue the ocean is. Paddy, Sandy and I hiked down to visit the castle ruins, it was interesting to see how the castle and portion of land that it’s on is still standing, because majority of the rock around it has been worn away from the tides. We walked to the very point of the rocks before walking back. Hiking down to the castle was much easier than the hike up, it was nothing for Paddy with his long legs but those stairs were quite deep and long!

We continued our drive along the coast to meet Elanna in Portstewart for ice cream at Morellis: Ireland's famous and multi-award winning Italian Ice Cream. When we arrive in Portstewart I had to stop and take a picture of the incredible sunset!  

Paddy and Elanna split a dime bar crunch (something like skore, at least that's what Elanna compared it to) milkshake and I got a scoop of sea salty caramel in a waffle cone (when don’t I order a flavour that isn’t some form of salted caramel)!

We sat in Morellis and chatted for a bit while before heading back. I drove back with Elanna this time.

When we arrived at their home we changed into our pyjamas and watched an episode of the Office together before heading to bed just after 11 pm.

Elanna was sweet and encouraged me to sleep in, she mentioned some of the ideas she had for us the following day (brunch, coffee shops, beaches, walks, dinner by the ocean!), which was everything I hoped to see/do and more!

 

Aug 9

Elanna was right when she told me not to worry about getting up at a certain time, because I woke up at 10 am (which I almost never do)! Although, I did wake up at around 7 am but fell right back asleep, which I’m glad I did because I felt well rested – no jetlag!

By the time I finished getting ready, Elanna and I headed out of the house to go for brunch around 11 am. We brought Sandy along with us!

Elanna had the day all planned! We had brunch at Bothy – a cute little café that Paddy pointed out to me on our drive last night. It looked like a sweet-looking, cozy wooden cabin on a hill facing ocean.

Right as we walked in the door I could see and smell the incredible food! We quickly looked at the menu before looking at the specials: an avo toast and a bagel option. Elanna and I both ordered the avo toast special! I got my usual, an Americano, and she ordered an orange and carrot juice!

I love when a place uses freshly baked bread. The toast was topped with avocado (of course), mine had halloumi and Elanna’s had bacon, arugula, 2 poached eggs, and house-made salsa, jam, and a cream sauce which really added a nice sweet and creamy flavour. She was going to pay but I insisted, it was my treat! We took our time chatting and finishing up our food.

When we first walked in Elanna spotted a treat behind the glass, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it! Earlier she mentioned that Ireland is a big baking country and said I couldn’t leave without trying a scone! So, after our brunch we each enjoyed a treat! Elanna got her _______ and I got the blueberry and white chocolate scone! You could tell that they were baked fresh that morning! And she wasn’t kidding when she said it was a baking country because the scone I had was amazing!

After brunch Elanna drove to White Park Bay and we walked with Sandy down to and along the beach. As we were driving along the road she stopped the car so I could take a picture of the beach from atop the hill (I’m glad she values capturing a good view as much as I do).

The carpark was full so we parked on the side of the road, close by, and walked down to the beach. It only took a few minutes to get down! It was a gorgeous day to visit the beach, that’s for sure! We spent about an hour or so down there. We walked from one end of the beach to the other. I really enjoyed myself! We leisurely made our way back to the car!

Elanna drove us to Lost and Found! We parked the car and walked around the city of Coleraine to the café. It was neat walking through all the different alleys and cobblestone paths (we don’t have those back in Toronto)! Lost and Found is owned by friends of Elanna and Paddy! It’s a cute independent café designed around the desire to celebrate the craft of simple, delicious coffee and food in an inspiring and welcome place, with a very cozy atmosphere and industrial-like decor.

I couldn’t help but admire the mosaic tiles on the floor, the art hanging, and the furniture in the space!

I went to order my usual, but the cashier recommended I try the pour over feature of the day so I decided to go with his suggestion, and Elanna ordered herself a lemon and mint drink. I followed Elanna upstairs and we sat in a pair of comfy, outdoor-looking chairs right beside a window facing what looked to be where each of the alleyways meet in the middle. We sat there chatting and admiring the gorgeous day until the upstairs area was closed. In my opinion there’s no other way I would have wanted to spend the afternoon.

We walked around the city a bit and browsed through some stores like Laura Ashley. I also took some pictures for Elanna to post on her Instagram of a cognac leather jacket she is promoting for the new Esmara by Heidi Klum Collection, Heidi and the City, exclusively in IE & NI Lidl stores from September 18th. I felt like a professional photographer haha (I wish… sometimes)! 

We had a bit of time to relax at home before Paddy arrived home from work. Elanna and I sat in the sitting room and shared some flower cookies a brand (Luxy Hair) she promotes had sent her, they arrived this morning.

Elanna is a beauty enthusiast and runs a great YouTube channel: ellepearls, where she uploads videos on mostly beauty tips, tricks, and favourite products. I choose to be very minimal when it comes to my makeup routine. I will usually only shape and fill in my eyebrows and apply mascara. I have more of a religious skincare routine. I’ve always admired the looks that Elanna does on her channel, so when she was talking about her job a bit I mentioned I would love if she could do my makeup (mostly because of how talented and knowledgeable she is and I really have no clue what or how I should properly and appropriately apply makeup to my face). She was thrilled to show me how she would do my makeup, I just let her do her thing.

Once Paddy arrived home from work Elanna and I headed up to her studio and she did makeup. She asked me if I had any absolute no’s when it came to makeup and I just mentioned I don’t like to cover my freckles because I feel it makes me look very pale and sick, she agreed and said she wouldn’t have covered them regardless. She had drawers of makeup products and somehow located the perfect shade for my skin tone on her first try. She told me how and where to apply each product. A few tips she gave me are to apply skin to skin (give a more natural finish, rather than using a brush or sponge), use cream products (they work best for my combination/dehydrated skin), stick to products with a lighter coverage (not to cover my freckles), blush always adds a soft, warm touch, and I look best in mauves (they complement my skin tone and eye colour best). She really is talented and it only took her about 10 minutes to apply everything! I was shocked when she told me all the products she used on my face were for me to keep! She insisted! The products she used were: NARS Hydrating Glow Tint in medium, Benefit Boi-ing Hydrating Concealer in shade no.2 light/medium, Lancome Blush Subtil Crème in je m'appelle rose, Thrive Triple Threat Colour Stick in dionne, OFRA blush/bronzer in millennium gold, COLOURPOP Super Shock Shadow in Brady and Sequin, and a cream light medium bronzer and cream champagne glow highlighter without any branding on their container. I only was hoping she would show me how to apply makeup but she wasn’t going to let me leave the chair without doing my hair too. She used a fanning then pinch and pull technique with Ouai products (texturizing spray and rose hair & body oil). She gave my hair a nice beachy look (I wish I knew about this technique sooner, I’m ordering the products she used on my hair on Sephora so when I get home they’ll be there waiting for me).

Once we were all ready we headed to Amici for dinner. Sandy tagged along for the ride because we planned to take her for a walk after. Amici is an Italian Restaurant that uses local ingredients in Portstewart. The restaurant sits right on the water edge beside the Old Golf Course. Paddy also pointed this restaurant out on our drive last night to meet up with Elanna (he mentioned it was one of her favourite restaurants). When we first got in it was about a 15 minute wait for a table so we sat and enjoyed talking to each other. I was thrilled when they came and took us to our table it was one facing the ocean. The view of the ocean was incredible.

I ordered the fungi and it was incredible – made fresh and so delicious. Elanna ordered the spaghetti alfredo dish but she asked for it to be made with penne pasta and chicken, and Paddy ordered the Amici burger. I wish it wasn’t our last meal together because I really enjoyed spending time with them.

Once we finished our dinner we got Sandy from the car and we walked around Portstewart. We walked along the shore and back to the same spot we came to yesterday.

On our way back to the car we grabbed ice cream again, only this time from Roughans. I got caramel square in a waffle cone (surprise surprise!) and Elanna got bubble gum in a cone. Paddy got his ice cream from Morellis again, only this time he got Belgian chocolate in a cone. It’s hard to compare the two shops, I think Morellis had a stronger flavour but Roughans had a nice creamy, gelato-like, texture, which I really enjoyed.

We walked back to the car with our ice creams. Once we got to the car Paddy drove us to the Dark Hedges to take pictures before sunset. The Dark Hedges are an eerily romantic, atmospheric, tunnel-like avenue of intertwined beech trees, planted in the 18th-century. Paddy and Elanna knew the later you go in the day the less tourists there would be. They were right, after about 15-20 mins of us being there everyone cleared out and we could take some great pictures and really take in the view of the magnificent trees, without people and vehicles in the background.

I took a few pictures of Elanna and Paddy, and Elanna took a few great pictures of me. Sandy even got in on all the photo-taking!

By the time we got back to their home it was fairly late. We watched an episode of the Office before heading off to bed. I said goodbye to Paddy because I knew he’d have already left for work by the time I would be getting out of bed, but Elanna planned to drive me to the train station in the morning so I said goodnight to her. I was very tired so I set my alarm to wake up at 7:30 am to give myself a bit of time to pack my things and head out by 8 am.

I’m so grateful for Elanna and Paddy. They are both so sweet, kind, and very generous. They truly welcomed me with open arms and made sure I felt right at home my entire stay.