Exploring the Rhine and Moselle Valleys in Germany

After months of closure due to Covid-19, the German/Luxembourg border recently opened up and we planned a much-needed, socially distanced, trip away from home for a long weekend. We booked a last minute car rental from the only rental agency in town that was open, carefully picked one of the many AirBnb’s that were available, and hopped on the road for a quick two hour drive to a relaxing weekend filled with hiking in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany- a fairy tale land of winding rivers, ancient castles, and terraced vineyards.

Also known as the Rhine Gorge, this 65 km stretch of the Rhine River is a UNESCO designated world heritage site. There are 60 small towns that follow the river and 40 hilltop castles overlooking the valley. Most castles are in ruins, and the dramatic combination of the region’s natural beauty with the ancient ruins strongly influenced many writers, poets, and composers during the Romantic movement of the 19th century. This, coupled with the region’s important role in facilitating trade between the northern and southern halves of Europe for thousands of years, makes the Upper Middle Rhine Valley a unique combination of natural beauty and historical significance.

We stayed in the charming town of Winningen, a stone’s throw from the Moselle river, and a short drive away from where the Moselle and Rhine rivers meet. It was a welcoming town surrounded by vineyards, with hiking trails that led from the town up into the vineyards, overlooking the lush valley below. Although almost everything was closed due to Germany’s lock-down measures, a few restaurants had opened up, and you could hear people laughing and enjoying each other’s company late into the warm evenings. It felt like a small step towards normalcy.

The trip was exclusively hiking and driving, as those were what we felt to be the safest ways to explore during a time like this. After three months of lock-down in Luxembourg, barely leaving our apartment except for exercise and errands, we were in need of something to keep our spirits up. This trip was the breath of fresh air that we needed. We spent our days driving to little towns along the Moselle and Rhine rivers, briefly wandering the city centers, then hiking to the nearest castle- nearly every town had one. We hiked through forest, farmland, and vineyards as we soaked in the rich views of the Rhine and Moselle valleys and discovered Germany’s incredible long-distance trail systems, which are well marked, easy to follow, and offer endless miles of hiking.

Because I know we’ll want to come back and spend a lot more time hiking in this region, here are three of the long distance trails we hiked on:

  1. Rheinbergenweg Trail
    • 195 km trail that follows the Rhine River from Bingen to Remagen-Rolandseck.
  2. Rheinsteig Trail
    • 313 km trail that follows the opposite side of the Rhine River from Bonn to Weisbaden.
  3. Moselsteig Trail
    • 365 km trail that follows the Moselle River from Perl (close to the meeting point of Luxembourg, France, and Germany) and ends where the Moselle and Rhine rivers meet near Koblenz. Along this trail is the Eltz Castle, which some consider one of Germany’s most beautiful castles.

While we didn’t explore the towns we stopped in for long, we did get a good feel for what they have to offer travelers in non-pandemic times. With how close the region is to our home in Luxembourg, I have a feeling we’ll be back here for many weekends trips in the future. Here are the highlights of the towns we visited.

Boppard

Sankt Goar and Rheinfels Castle

Bacharach and Stahleck Castle

Cochem and Cochem Castle

Eltz Castle and hike around it

Being in nature rejuvenates us, and scratching the travel itch, however briefly, reminded us why we moved here. This trip was the perfect getaway.

For more information on this region, see the UNESCO website: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1066/

-Neal

Settling into Life in Luxembourg

The process of relocating from our home state of Oregon to a temporary (and too brief) time period in Ireland, and finally moving to Luxembourg has been a whirlwind. Life in Luxembourg has been really good, but it hasn’t been an easy adjustment. It’s now been eight months since we moved from Ireland, and this whirlwind is settling down. We are finding rhythm and feeling more comfortable here. It’s actually more about being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. That being said, I want to document the range of emotions and experiences we had in our early months in Luxembourg. It’s easy to forget some of the silly, simple things that felt so challenging at first.

For several months, it felt INTIMIDATING to be here. I really believe it all stems from the language barriers. It’s common to speak French here (or German or Luxembourgish) and we unfortunately only know English. The language barrier has caused previously simple tasks to feel stressful and difficult to navigate. Not being able to read our apartment rental contract or government immigration documents just really shook us. I also like to connect with people, and that’s difficult when my only words are “bonjour” and “merci”. We immediately missed Ireland where thick accents were our only barrier to communicate.

This language barrier has forced us to get creative and use our resources. The day I discovered the camera feature on my Google Translate phone app was life changing. I am constantly using it, whether translating the official government documents (written in French) or the washer/ dryer settings (written in German). I use it frequently in the grocery store. Although, it seems the translation might not always be perfect.

Besides Google Translate, I really rely on facial expressions and context clues if I’m trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. I’ve had some situations where I’m pretty impressed with the creativity of hand gestures. Phone calls with local companies will probably forever remain challenging because I don’t have the luxury of using context clues or hand gestures. It was comical how long I was on the phone with a local rental car company, trying to ask about snow chains. Thankfully, Neal remembers some French from his high school/ college studies which means I sometimes send him texts like this…

Shockingly, the Arlon, Belgium IKEA has been a surprising source of comfort. We’ve been to the Portland, Oregon IKEA many times, but I didn’t expect the Arlon store to feel so familiar. Crazy to realize how much comfort can be found in recognizing brands, but I take it as an indicator of how unfamiliar we had been feeling in Lux. Visiting IKEA in Portland was always a fun idea that turned into a stressful event. It’s a busy, chaotic store. Suddenly, going to IKEA here for our Luxembourg apartment was a breath of fresh air. A place I recognized. A system I already knew. Helpful, because we had a few very successful IKEA trips that resulted in an overly full rental car. Neal’s really good at playing Tetris. Turns out we could have/ should have brought a lot more of our Portland furniture with us.

Of all the countries Neal’s company could have asked us to move to, I am so grateful that we landed in Luxembourg. This country is unique because of how many other expats live here. I have made more friends than I ever expected and it feels so cool to get to know people from different cultures and backgrounds. We have a lot in common. Most people did not know where Luxembourg was before they moved here (like me). Most of my new friends do not have work visas and cannot practice their professions while they are here (like me). Most of them are struggling with learning French (LIKE ME). I am so thankful for those friendships. It’s really nice to start building community.

Because Luxembourg has so many expats, the government gives every new resident a book called, “Just Arrived”. It’s a resource guide on everything an expat could need: from integrating culturally, sorting recycling, navigating administrative procedures, locating nearby health clinics, listing public holidays, truly EVERYTHING. It’s amazing that the government would have such an organized system in place for welcoming new residents and give them resources to be successful in this tiny country.

There really are many reasons to be thankful we’re in Luxembourg. Luxembourg has free public transport (trams, buses, and trains) and it makes Neal and I so happy that we don’t need to own a car. Also, wine is incredibly cheap here. Although we cannot find Mexican food and miss it terribly, we have identified our favorite pizza shop, and it’s only two blocks away from our apartment.

The city is so small, and yet I still discover new things all the time. For example, I’ve walked by a particular museum many times, but I never knew these old fortress walls and a gorgeous view were just behind the building.

One day, I went for a walk in city center and ended up stumbling upon a royal visit from the King and Queen of Belgium. As I walked by the Grand Palace (where the Grand Duke of Luxembourg conducts business), there was security, members of media, and a small crowd of people gathered, all waiting for something. Once the military band started playing, the royalty processions began. Oh, Luxembourg. I can’t believe I just stumbled upon this.

It’s a magical country. I’m so thankful we get to have this unique experience of living here.

-Shelby

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A few lessons we learned early on, guaranteed to make us smile as we read this later

  • When I thought saying “Thank you very much” in French was “Merci Voo Cue”
  • We thought Auchan was a German grocery store, and pronounced “Awk-Can”. Turns out, it’s a French grocery store and is pronounced “Osh-ON”.
  • The ongoing discussion about how to pronounce the name of the National Sports Center, “Coque”
  • That time we bought used book cases from a “neighbor” through Facebook Marketplace, not realizing Google Maps doesn’t account for elevation change. Like a scene from The Three Stooges, we (Neal mostly) carried book cases up and down the hills of Luxembourg in the dark back to our apartment
  • Finding comfort tuning in to OPB/NPR and hearing familiar voices
  • Learning people say “Take Away” here, not “to-go” or “take out”
  • Buying tickets for public transport and wondering why no one else was
  • My urge to respond in Spanish instead of French
  • Losing my phone (TWICE) and the process of retrieving it
  • When Google Translate and two nearby people couldn’t help me communicate with the internet installation guy, I’ll never forget that cave means basement
  • The process of finding peanut butter for Neal, ordering it in bulk from the UK

España

Our first trip to Spain was a crash course on Spanish culture- from learning about its rich history, to wandering the streets and plazas of its world class cities, to enjoying tapas and delicious wine late into the warm evenings. We started in Madrid, then drove to Granada, Nerja, and finally Seville, in a jam-packed week with Shelby’s dad Blair and his wife AJ that left us eager to go back, and a bit more rotund than when we arrived. 🙂

In Madrid we were led on a journey through Spain’s history by a delightful tour guide with a Spanish and Scottish accent. I had never heard r’s rolled like that before, but he was wonderful to listen to as he taught us about the triumphs and follies of Spain’s monarchs, its complex past that led to a unique blend of cultures and religions today, and its modern day political struggles. We wandered from the Plaza Mayor to Puerta del Sol, down the Gran Via and through the bustling aisles of the Mercado de San Miguel. We listened to street performers play music while fighting our way through the El Rastro flea market, dined on the local delicacy of calamares (calamari sandwich), and stuffed ourselves on sipping chocolate and churros at San GinĂ©s, a cafe founded in 1894 known for, you guessed it, their chocolate and churros. We even made it to the Prado during their free-entry hours, and appreciated powerful works by Velazquez and Goya, among many others, and got lost taking in Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. We enjoyed lazy lunches in the plazas and late-night tapas and wine every evening, starting off our week in Spain on a relaxed but adventurous note.

On our last day in Madrid we drove to Toledo for the afternoon, and spent hours exploring the narrow streets that wound throughout the city. Toledo is an ancient city perched atop a hill, where it is said that Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious communities coexisted peacefully during the Middle Ages. You can see the influence of the different religions in the architecture throughout the city, such as with the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, an ancient mosque converted to a church in the 11th century.

After wrapping up our time in Madrid, we hit the road to Granada. It was a long drive to get there, but between stopping for lunch in Jaén and admiring the endless miles of olive trees that stretched as far as the eye could see, it passed by quickly.

Granada was everything we had hoped for and more. Resting at the foot of the vast Sierra Nevada mountain range and with the imposing Alhambra watching over the outstretched land, it charmed us with its architecture, friendliness of locals, and delicious tapas.

We spent half a day wandering the Alhambra, an old fortress built by the Nasrid dynasty on Roman ruins as a place of governance, until it was taken over by and built upon over the years by Spanish monarchs. Although the fortress itself was made Christian, a lot of the old Moorish architecture was kept intact, such as with the Nasrid Palace. We had never seen such intricate and beautifully detailed buildings. We wandered the palace for hours, soaking in the rich history of a culture largely unknown to us.

After the Alhambra, we split up and Shelby and I explored the shops filled with clothes, colorful lights, and souvenirs in the AlcaicerĂ­a, an old Arab-style bazaar, wandered the very narrow streets of the old Arab corridor, called AlbayzĂ­n, soaked in views of the land from the San Nicolas viewpoint on top of the hill, and sipped sangria while munching on olives to pass by the afternoon heat in the shade of a cafe built into the hill with views of the Alhambra. We topped the night off with a dinner that consisted of wine, tapas, more wine, and more tapas, and a delightful waiter.

Sadly we eventually needed to leave Granada (it was my favorite city that we visited this trip). We drove to Nerja, a small touristy coastal town with lots of charm (and retirees), where we passed the afternoon relaxing on the beach and doing a bit of rock climbing. We stayed the night in Frigiliana, an even more charming town up the hill from Nerja that is home to a lot of foreign retirees. To give you an idea of what that means- we ate at a Mexican restaurant owned by a guy from Scotland, and were served by a guy from England who was talking to us about the number of Scandinavian retirees that live there. It was a sweet town nestled in the hills with views of the ocean.

After leaving Nerja, we drove to Jerez where we saw an Andalusian dressage performance on the way to our final stop, and Shelby’s favorite city of the trip, Seville. Seville was a charming and inviting city, with interesting cultural sites around every corner- some dominating that you can’t miss, and others hidden such that you will walk right by them if you aren’t looking carefully. We stayed in the colorful neighborhood of Triana, a short walk down and across the Guadalqivir River from city center. We explored every inch of city center, meandering through the streets from Triana to the Plaza de España, stopping everywhere in between. We rode scooters along the banks of the Guadalqivir, admired the famous bullfighting ring Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de CaballerĂ­a de Sevilla and the Catedral de Sevilla, the largest gothic cathedral in the world, and enjoyed a powerful and passionate flamenco performance at the Teatro Flamenco Triana. Sevilla is one of the most livable cities we’ve ever visited. It’s pedestrian and bike friendly, there’s no end of things to do and see, and food and wine was delicious, as we’ve learned is custom in Spain.

Each trip we’ve been on since moving to Europe has outdone the last. We moved here to see a new part of the world, to meet new people, see different ways to live, and continually push ourselves out of our comfort zones while embracing the adventure of it all. I’m sure I am going to finish every blog post this way, but… we can’t wait to go back.

– Neal

A Swiss, French, and German Christmas

No, this isn’t the beginning of a cheesy dad joke. It’s where we spent our first Christmas living abroad! It was also our first trip since moving to Luxembourg longer than a weekend.

Our holiday started in the Berner Oberland region in Switzerland- a magical, mountainous place with picture perfect views everywhere you look. Shelby, Luna, and I drove from Luxembourg to the town of Grindelwald, about 30 minutes past Interlaken as you head up into the mountains. It was night when we drove into Switzerland, and while we had a strong feeling we were driving past some stunning sights, we couldn’t tell with certainty given how dark it was. It wasn’t until we woke up the next morning, excited as kids at Christmas to see the mountains, that we realized just how in the mountains we were. I could wake up to this view every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.

On our first day we explored the charming towns of Grindelwald and Interlaken, soaking in the mountain views and fresh air, and searching for the restaurant at which Shelby was first introduced to the idea of eating applesauce with mac and cheese, called Ă„lpler Makkaroni. We found it, and enjoyed a dinner of it with some locally brewed beer and lambic.

We spent the next two days in Switzerland hiking, exploring, and enjoying the snow. First, we took the cable car from Gindelwald up to do the First Cliff Walk. On any other day, this would have offered breathtaking views of the Alps, but it was a blizzard at the summit and the walk was closed, so instead we spent the day hiking down the mountain, stopping for hot chocolate and fries along the way.

Our last day in Switzerland was the most magical. We drove to Lauterbrunnen and rode the cable car to Gimmelwald, a traffic-free village hugging a steep cliff that drops off into the Lauterbrunnen valley with a population of just over 100. It felt like stepping into a winter fairy tale. The ground was covered in snow, it was snowing heavily, there were very few people in sight, and we were able to wander through the village with its charming buildings, stopping to take a picture every few feet. People would occasionally ski past us, zig-zagging between the homes down to the cable car to ride it back up to the top of the mountain, as we meandered through the snowy village. We were surrounded by mountains so tall that you had to crane your neck just to see the top of them. We hiked from Gimmelwald to MĂĽrren, another small village at the foot of the Shilthorn peak. MĂĽrren was a bit bigger and more touristy than Gimmelwald, but had all the charm of a quaint Swiss mountain village. After stopping for a snack, we hiked on to GrĂĽtschalp where we caught the cable car back down into the valley.

As our time in Switzerland came to a close, we packed up our stuff and headed north to the Alsace region in France. There were a few things immediately apparent about this region: there’s a strong German influence that can be seen in the names of places and in the architecture of homes and buildings, and they LOVE Christmas. Alternating between German and French control over the past few centuries has resulted in a region that, as our AirBnb hosts put it, has the best of both worlds– ranging from cuisine to traffic laws. We stayed in a sleepy little town called Schwindratzheim, which put us in close proximity to a healthy combination of outdoor and city activities. We celebrated Christmas Eve with the Rusk family tradition of making Mexican food (which we miss SO much from the US), and Christmas day with a traditional meal of ham, potatoes, vegetables, and homemade gluwein. This was the first Christmas away from family and with just the three of us. We reflected on our time in Europe thus far, the adventures we’ve been having, and on the new traditions we’re starting as a family. We also thought forward about what we want to accomplish with this incredible opportunity we have to be living here, which won’t last forever.

The rest of the trip was a combination of hiking, sightseeing, and city-exploring. We walked through Strasbourg with its endless Christmas lights and dominating Gothic-style cathedral, wandered the streets of Colmar with its architecture that feels plucked straight from medieval times, hiked the dense Petite Pierre Forest, and drove through the Black Forest in Germany from Baden-Baden to Triburg, stopping at Lake Mummelsee and Allerheiligen Wasserfälle. In Triburg we had dinner family-style at a big table with six people we’d never met. Five of them spoke zero English, while one spoke some English and engaged with us all dinner. Our dinners took the longest to arrive, so one of them shared their pizza with us because we looked like we had “good appetites.” It was an endearing peak in a cultural norm that we are not used to: sharing dinner and conversation with complete strangers. The Black Forest and warmth of its people reminded us of home, and left us making plans to come back in future years.

While the holidays this year were different without family, friends, and what we’re used to from back home, they were magical and full of good memories.

-Neal

Cologne and Monschau

When deciding where to go for our first weekend away from Lux, we had three requirements: be within driving distance, have good AirBnb options, and most importantly, be dog friendly. When searching for nearby cities we discovered that Cologne, Germany checks all of these boxes. Dogs are allowed on public transit and in many restaurants, and there are plenty of green spaces for them to take care of their business when nature calls. TMI maybe, but that’s what drove our decision. And we weren’t disappointed.

We arrived at our AirBnb, only about a 30 minute train ride from the city center, and were greeted by a delightful host who had a bottle of the region’s famous Kölsh beer ready for us in the fridge. The next morning we caught the train to central Cologne, and immediately upon leaving the train station were hit with this view of the stunning Cologne Cathedral.

After taking a few hundred pictures of the cathedral, the three of us wandered through the streets of Cologne, along the Rhine River which runs though the city, and partook in a walking tour. We stumbled upon a carnival, had wonderful sausage and beer, and saw ruins of a Roman-built wall in a parking garage. Part way through our walking tour we took a break at a beer shop. Not to sit and drink beer, but to buy a bottle and enjoy it while the tour continued. When you can drink in public, why limit yourself to a bar? You’ll find a picture below of me drinking a beer next to the previously mentioned Roman wall. I challenge you to find a more enjoyable way to learn about the history of a city.

Cologne was wonderful, but after a full day exploring we were ready for something in the wilderness. The next day we drove to the town of Monschau, Germany. We fell in love with the town and its old, Medieval-style buildings that felt like they were plucked straight from the past. After walking the length of the city and enjoying a lunch of schnitzel and fries, we concluded our first weekend away from Lux with a drive down through Belgium and the north of Lux, soaking in the rich fall colors while we drove.

-Neal

Hiking in Echternach

Our first and only hiking experience since moving to Luxembourg, other than wandering the fairytale-like streets of City Center and the lower valley, was to a town called Echternach, right on the border of Germany. Also known as the Little Switzerland of Luxembourg for the geographic similarities to its namesake, it is the starting point for Mullerthal Trail, a 112 km trail split up into three sections.

Map from: http://www.mullerthal-trail.lu/en/the-trail

We hiked the first section, not venturing far from Echternach. We parked on a side street in the city and walked to the trail head, an easy-to-miss footpath in a neighborhood. After a steep ascent that rewarded us with views of the city and surrounding region, we plunged into the forest.

It didn’t take long to be in the dense, beautiful forest, with brightly colored fall leaves covering the path. It also didn’t take long to start raining. Hard. Being the Pacific Northwestern’ers that we are, we threw on our rain jackets and didn’t break stride. I was sick though, so we only hiked for about an hour before turning around. The beauty left us wanting more– and it left me with an itch to lace up my trail running shoes and hit every one of those 112 kilometers over our next couple years living in Lux.

-Neal

Hello, Luxembourg

Life has moved quick since arriving in Luxembourg. Before I talk about what’s happened over the last three months of living here, I’ll start with saying that we love it!

Luxembourg is a small country sandwiched between Belgium, Germany, and France. The population is just over 600,000, and there are three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish. The city of Luxembourg is beautiful, with old buildings and ancient ruins mixed in with state-of-the-art infrastructure all throughout town. It has old world Europe charm while still feeling like a wealthy tax haven, which creates a simultaneously adventurous and comfortable atmosphere. It’s divided between an upper and a lower town, with the lower town in a deep valley lined with old neighborhoods, cobblestone streets, and walking paths that follow the Alzette River. The land is lush, with rolling hills and vineyards that produce delicious white wine and a local specialty called crĂ©mant. The weather is similar to the Pacific Northwest, so we feel right at home.

Settling into life here has had its ups and downs. We landed in a part of town called Kirchberg, which is the financial district of the city. We were in a big, impersonal apartment building in close proximity to other big, impersonal apartment buildings, within walking distance to work. It was a good place to land while we got oriented to the city, but we were eager to find a neighborhood more our style. Fortunately, that only took a few weeks. Within a month of moving to Luxembourg we signed a lease for a sweet, old apartment in a neighborhood called Limpertsberg. It’s walking distance to city center, cafes, restaurants, a park called BambĂ«sch that feels like Forest Park in Portland, and it’s biking distance to work. And now that our personal belongings from Portland have arrived, it’s starting to feel like home. We’re finally settling into a steady pace of life, creating routine and community as we gear up for the next couple years of living here. Between bi-monthly work trips to London, weekend trips to Germany, Belgium, and France, and short, cheap flights to almost anywhere in Europe, we’re already seeing so much of the continent and its diverse cultures, while continuing to add to the increasingly long list of places we want to visit.

We’ve long dreamed of moving abroad to experience living in a different part of the world, learning about different cultures, challenging ourselves to grow in immeasurable ways, and expanding our worldviews. With our time in Dublin, it feels a bit like we’re already in the thick of it. But at the same time, with our time in Luxembourg just now truly starting, it feels like we’re taking our first steps- or rather leap- into the adventure of a lifetime.

-Neal

Time to leave Ireland

Our four months living in Sandymount, Dublin have flown by and we are truly sad to be saying goodbye. We knew living in Ireland was going to be temporary, and that encouraged us to make the most of it. It was a beautiful summer with a steady stream of family visits and weekend roadtrips. All of these experiences helped us learn about the Irish culture, and it didn’t take long to fall in love. The rugged coast line, traditional music, and friendly, genuine people– we couldn’t get enough. Something about Ireland’s culture feels familiar with the Pacific Northwest and we became comfortable, fast.

Luxembourg, our next location, probably won’t be as easy to adapt to. With French, German, and Luxembourgish as their main languages in a country of 600,000 people, we aren’t expecting it to feel as familiar. It’ll be more of a challenge and ultimately that is one of the reasons why we wanted the living abroad experience.

We will forever be grateful for our time in Ireland. Such a lesson that you can build cherished memories in a quick amount of time. We feel so lucky. -Shelby

Edinburgh, Scotland

I took a few days off work and we flew to Edinburgh with Will and my parents to finish off their Europe trip. We fell in love with Edinburgh with its old architecture, rich culture, and close proximity to the Highlands. We stayed in an AirBnb near Haymarket Station, a 30 minute walk and 10 minute tram ride into city center.

We got oriented to the city with a walking tour of the Old Town area on our first day, and that left us eager to see more. We covered every inch of the Royal Mile, walked through Grassmarket Street, explored the shops in Diagon Alley (I forget the actual name of it), and saw the grave sight of Grayfriar’s Bobby with its daily offerings of sticks and tennis balls. We toured Edinburgh castle, took a Harry Potter walking tour, and visited the Royal Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery, and the Writer’s Museum. On the Harry Potter walking tour we saw the cemetery that is rumored to have provided inspiration for characters’ names in the Harry Potter books. We saw grave sights with the names of Moody, McGonagall, and Tom Riddle. We even learned Scottish Line Dancing at a pub called Stramash.

We hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, where legend has it that Camelot once stood. It was a steep and windy hike, but the views of the city from the top were worth it.

On our last day we rented a car and drove to the Scottish Highlands, exploring the villages of Balloch and Luss, and topping off the day with a stunning hike up Conic Hill. To me, that hike was the highlight of the trip.

On our way back to Edinburgh, we stopped by Loch Rusky and the town of Ruskie. Our last name Rusk is said to have been derived from this name, and the Rusk clan once inhabited the area. When we decided to visit Scotland we had no idea we might have Scottish heritage. It was a special place to finish up our first of many Rusk Family trips in Europe.

– Neal

County Cork and Blarney Castle

The Rusk Clan visited from Oregon for two weeks, and we had a wonderful time with them. I had to work for most of their trip unfortunately, but we did get to spend two weekends traveling together. The first weekend was County Cork and Blarney Castle.

We blasted traditional Irish pub music on our drive down to County Cork on Friday night. You might have noticed a trend- we love Irish trad music. We even have a Spotify station with all of our favorite songs. Before long we had the whole car singing along. Our AirBnb was in the town of Youghal (pronounced ya’ll). A quiet, sleepy town on the coast, but like anywhere you go in Ireland, it was beautiful.

On Saturday we explored the town of Cobh with an impressive cathedral overlooking the bay, where we stumbled upon a triathlon and had a traditional Irish breakfast. Will tried black pudding for the first time and liked it. Only Will…!

Next up was Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. None of us kissed the stone- we couldn’t get over the thought of kissing something so many other people had kissed- but we did explore the castle and got to skip the queue of people waiting to be blessed with the gift of gab and eloquent speech.

We finished the day in the sweet town of Kinsale with drinks, a delicious meal, and some pub music.

We wandered Cork for a few hours the next day, then Shelby and I caught the train back to Dublin, while Will and my parents drove on to Galway and the Aran Islands. Weekend #1 was a big success and left us all excited for Scotland a week later.

-Neal