Saturday, October 21, 2017

Lost Luggage, Irish Whiskey and London Love... Part Something... I've Lost Track.

We woke up early to catch the train from Dublin to Kilkenny. I LOVE train travel, and wish we had a better rail system in the US. We got to Heuston Station about 20 minutes before our departure time, which gave us plenty of time to grab coffee, have a seat, and watch the boards for our platform announcement.

The train ride was nice and quiet, and gave me the opportunity to get a little more sleep. When we arrived in Kilkenny, we discovered that from the station, it was only about a 10 minute walk to our hotel, The Club House Hotel, so we decided against calling a cab. The walk through Kilkenny was easy, and it is an absolutely adorable town. We dropped our bags off at the hotel, found some breakfast and headed to Kilkenny Castle. 

Just before the main entrance to the castle, we noticed a set of stairs that lead to the castle grounds and a beautiful small garden. We decided to take a seat and take in the view before heading inside. 

It was a busy day at the castle, with a lot of tour groups, so I didn't take many pictures, but I did get the courtyard and the gallery. When we left the castle, we noticed a number of people in costume with numbers pinned to their chests. We learned that the Medieval Marathon was happening that day, and that a number of runners would dress up in period costume. It was amazing! 

I thought the castle's gallery was beautiful.
The Castle's Dower House... Had to get a pic for Cousin Violet.

We wandered around Kilkenny a bit more, and had a great lunch at a little cafe called The Fig Leaf. GREAT gluten free options, and the ability to substitute GF bread on sandwiches. After lunch, we decided to go back to the hotel, take a nap, and get cleaned up for dinner. On our cab ride from the Airport to the City Center in Dublin, our driver told us about a fantastic restaurant in Kilkenny called Langtons, so we decided to give that a go.

Langtons was only about a 5 minute walk from our hotel, which was nice, because it was raining, of course. We bellied up to the bar to grab a drink before dinner. We saw tables next to the bar, and figured that was the restaurant. Oh how we were mistaken. We were directed to a hallway behind the bar, which lead to the restaurant.

The place was beautiful. It almost felt like we were dining in an atrium. and the food... the food was incredible. I ordered the lamb stew, which was simple and delicious. I'm not usually a lamb fan, but this could turn me. 

After our leisurely dinner, we headed back toward our hotel to find a bar to finish the night. We passed by a statue of Hurling players, so I had to take a pic. Hurling is a really popular sport in Ireland, and one that we started to follow after our last trip. I was shocked that rico said that he wanted to go to Kilkenny, as our team is Tipperary (Up Tipp!) and Kilkenny is their biggest rival. 

We headed up to a bar called The Left Bank, which turns into more of a club in the evening. We grabbed a drink, and found a seat. What I thought was cool was that it looked like patrons ranged in age from 18-75. The bar was illuminated with red light, the music was loud and thumping, and everyone looked like they were having the best time. We finished our drinks and headed back to the hotel, because we were once again going to have an early day.

We woke early the next morning to catch the bus to Cork. The stop was about a 2 minute walk from our hotel, so we grabbed some coffee, and hung out at the stop for a bit before the bus came. An older couple joined us after a while and told us that they were from Newfoundland, and were traveling around Europe for an undetermined amount of time. Talk about goals! Our bus arrived, and we settled in for our beautiful 2.5 hour ride to the city.

When we got to Cork, the sun was shining, the weather was warm, and we were excited to see another city. Our hotel, Hotel Isaacs, was a very short walk from the bus stop. We checked in, dropped our bags, and headed out.

Hotel entrance, complete with waterfall.
Rico and I with the waterfall.

 Cork was stunning. We walked around for hours, looking at monuments, stopping for tea, and hunting for Irish chocolate. There was an football match between Mayo and Dublin that afternoon, so we found a pub where we could watch. Mayo lost (boo), but it was dinner time, so we ate at our hotel restaurant, and headed to bed, because of yet another early morning. I wasn't mad about it though, because in the morning we would be headed to my favorite place in the world... London.

Up Next: Some London Fanciness and Anne Boleyn.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Lost Luggage, Irish Whiskey and London Love... Part 3

Day 2, our last day in Dublin, started quietly with some coffee at the Starbucks (I know, I know) on Dame St. It was a rainy morning, and didn't look like the rain was going to break any time soon, so we wanted to sit down and plan our day. We love hop on hop off bus tours, and found that the City Sightseeing tour stop was just across the street. We made the plan to ride the full tour once, while deciding where to stop.

We finished our coffee, bought tickets in the tour office, also on Dame St, and waited four our bus. We elected to take the "blue route" tour, since it would take us close to the Jameson Distillery. This route also stopped at St. James Gate, but we had been to Guinness on a previous trip and decided to pass this time. The tour gave us the opportunity to look at the fall Dublin streets, without getting soaked. The ivy on the buildings we passed was a beautiful mix of greed and red, which, to me, gave the city a cozy feeling.

Sorry about the black window pane line.
We made our way to the stop for Jameson, just as the rain was really picking up. We hustled a couple of blocks to the entrance, and procured tour tickets.

The tour started just a few minutes later, and walked us through the history of Jameson, and the distilling process. The tasting at the end of the tour consisted of a comparison of Scotch (Johnnie Walker Black Label), Irish Whiskey (Jameson, duh), and "Bourbon" (Jack Daniels). I say "Bourbon", because JACK DANIELS IS NOT BOURBON. IT IS TENNESSEE WHISKEY. It says so right on the bottle.

I know it is splitting hairs, but it is important to me, because I love Bourbon, and I don't like Jack Daniels 👸. Jack Daniels is so sweet to me, whereas a Makers Mark or a Knob Creek would have been a better representation. The Dutch couple next to me asked if I drink this, and I explained that this is way sweeter than what I would drink. The gentleman said that he could see mixing it with Coke, but not drinking it on its own, and I told him he was spot on. When the tour was over, Rico told our guide, Eoin, that they really needed to get a better Bourbon representation. Eoin agreed, and said that he had mentioned it to their head of marketing, but kept getting shot down. I know I just ended with a rant about the Bourbon, but the tour was really good, and Eoin was really entertaining.

The tour ended with a complimentary beverage, either a Jameson Cocktail, which I think was Jameson, Ginger Ale and lime, or a Jameson neat or on the rocks. We both went for a Jameson on the rocks, and found seats in the packed bar area. We were quickly joined by a young Dutch gentleman who explained that he lived in Amsterdam and was in Dublin for the weekend. He asked us if we had any recommendations on what he should see next, as he had never been to Dublin. He said that he was trying to hit a new European city every few weeks, since it was so easy to travel in the EU. We asked him about the European airlines, and he told us that his flight was about €30, and he was staying in an Airbnb, while Airbnb'ing his apartment while he was away. He then laughed as our jaws hit the floor, and our skin turned green with envy. We explained to him where we live in the US and pointed out that to fly to Chicago, which would only be a 4 hour drive for us, would cost roughly $500. We grabbed a couple more drinks, chatted a bit longer, then our new friend had to take off. As we sipped our second round, I contemplated home redecoration, and decided I needed a couple of candids of Rico.

This would look great in our tiny 1st floor bathroom.

We finished our drinks, and headed out. The rain had let up, so we decided to head to O'Connell Street to find Beshoff's, which had gluten free fish and chips.

View of the Spire from O'Connell St
We found Beshoff's, I thoroughly enjoyed my GF fish and chips, and we decided to take the night tour of Dublin that came with our hop on hop off tickets. The tour didn't start for another half hour or so, so we ducked into a pub for a drink. We we were enjoying our beverages, when we were "treated" to a woman loudly sing/screaming the University of Wisconsin fight song. Seriously, people, don't do this. Time came to board our night tour bus, so we headed over to the stop and were lucky enough to get seats on the upper level, where to our delight, our tour guide was sitting, with a guitar, and explained that between commentary, she would be singing traditional Irish folk songs. Everyone on the upper deck seemed really happy about this, with the exception of the woman behind me who loudly said that she hoped our guide's guitar would break. Delightful. This woman also spent the majority of the tour loudly complaining about anything she could think of, so that was awesome. Our guide had some great stories and facts to share with us, and was an incredible singer. She encouraged us to sing along with her, which we did, and I got to hear some beautiful songs that I wasn't familiar with. The lady behind me had finally stopped talking, except to tell her date that she was glad he made her come on the tour because she was really enjoying it. Our guide said that she had time to sing one last song, and began to strum a few notes, when Swishy McJackass behind me started to loudly tell her date that she hadn't eaten much that day, and went on to list her entire Taco Bell order, with detail on what she didn't like about her chicken soft tacos. I don't think she was talking directly into my ear, but she had to be damn close. I heard someone sitting behind her politely ask her to lower her voice so that they could enjoy the song, and she finally stopped. Our guide then surprised us with one additional song, Carrickfergus,which was so sad but so beautiful.

We wanted to catch the 7:20 train to Kilkenny, so we knew we'd have to head back to the hotel soon after the tour ended, but we wanted to have one last drink, and we wanted to do it in Temple Bar. We found a couple of seats at a nice pub, where Rico could order a Guinness and I could get a Cider.

We sipped our pints, and listened to some more music, and chatted up the bartender who told us how much he loved Kilkenny. We also met a couple who lives about 30 minutes north of us, and laughed about how small the world can be sometimes. We stayed a bit longer, relishing the last few moments of our last night in Dublin, and then headed back to the hotel one last time.

Up Next: Kilkenny is Awesome.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lost Luggage, Irish Whiskey and London Love... Part 2

After a 20 minute taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel. We were going to be saying in Dublin for 2 nights, and I tend to be a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to short hotel stays. Unfortunately, Dublin hotel rooms tend to be quite pricey, but I found one that didn't seem too outrageous.

I booked two nights at the Lombard Pub and Townhouse on Pearse St.

When I booked, the reviews on Trip Advisor seemed promising. After checking again a few days before our stay, the reviews had taken a turn for the worse. The rooms are actually housed in a building next to the pub, but you have to check in at the pub. When we entered, we were greeted by a very nice woman who said she could check us in, but was also waiting tables. We waited a few minutes to let her run orders, which gave us some time to take a look around the pub. One of the things I love about Ireland and England is the pub culture. A number of people were enjoying lunch, and the staff at the pub seemed to be familiar with almost everyone in there. We checked in, and got the key and the entry code to the building next door. We made our way up to our room, and were surprised at how large it was. The room was equipped with a king sized bed, table and chairs, and a bathroom that looked like it had been recently renovated. The reviews on Trip Advisor mentioned dirty sheets and filthy bathrooms, but I'm happy to say that our room and sheets were extremely clean. We noticed a sign that said that the remote for the TV and a hairdryer were available for a €10 deposit, which later gave me a chuckle since the dryer I was given sounded like it was on its last legs years ago and was about as effective as someone gently blowing on my hair. The room was more like a private hostel, but it suited our needs... except for the bed. The bed was TERRIBLE. Sleeping on the bar in the pub would have probably been better. Plus, I would have been close to alcohol when I couldn't sleep due to jet lag.

After about an hour of situating ourselves and cleaning up as best we could, we went back down to the pub to grab some lunch. We let the staff know that our bags were enjoying a leisurely journey from Paris, and to see if someone would be able to sign for them if they were delivered. They assured us that they would be able to help, and would take the bags to the room for us when they arrived. We ordered burgers for lunch, which were great, and they even had an allergen list for me to be able to make sure what I was ordering was gluten free. I actually found that nearly everywhere in Ireland, even back alley pubs, had allergen information listed on their menu for each item, or had celiac specific menus. The US seriously needs to catch up on labeling.

After lunch, we decided to head to Trinity College, which was only a few blocks away. Being a huge Oscar Wilde fan, Trinity always gives me goosebumps. Just thinking that Oscar could have walked on the same stones I was standing on, or looked at the same building I was makes the hair on my arms stand on end. We wandered through campus, when, of course, it started to rain, so we took cover near the entrance on Grafton St. I took the opportunity to try to call the airport to see if there was an update on our luggage, since the flight that it was supposed to be on had landed about two hours earlier, but couldn't get ahold of anyone. I left a message, and we decided to head out into the mist.

When we hit Grafton Street, we saw a sight that brought a slight tear to my eye; The Irish Whiskey Museum. If I couldn't have my luggage, at least I could have whiskey! We made our way into the museum, and decided to take the tour, which would start in about 30 minutes. This gave us plenty of time to grab an amazing Irish Coffee from the bar.

The tour was great, our guide Kate, was hilarious, and got a kick out of the fact that Rico had on his "Bourbon" t-shirt. We tried 3 great whiskeys, but I couldn't get my mind off of my missing belongings. We left the museum and made our way to the nearest Marks & Spencer, since my lack of undergarments was really getting on my nerves, and figured that buying toothbrushes, etc would also maybe be a good idea.

Items were procured, and it was getting to be about 8pm, so we figured that dinner should be next on the agenda. We found a nice pub with an upstairs dining room, and dug into some really tasty seafood. Dinner wrapped up around 10, and we headed back to the hotel.

When we arrived at the hotel, we pondered stopping into the pub to grab a drink before bed. I really wanted to check to see if our luggage had found its way to our room, or if we were going to be wearing our same super awesome smelling clothes the next day. I crossed my fingers, and headed up the stairs to our room. I slowly opened the door, because clearly opening doors slowly makes the outcome what you want it to be, and nearly jumped out of my shoes when I saw our luggage by the bed.

I have a weird thing about jinxing, so I informed Rico that our luggage came because we had bought replacement toiletries. As he silently contemplated why he, a reasonable, intelligent human, married such a nonsensical weirdo, we walked back down to the pub to end our night.

Up next: Whiskey, singing on a bus, and Newsflash: People do not give a damn about your Taco Bell order.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Lost Luggage, Irish Whiskey and London Love... Part 1.

After not leaving the country last year, the travel bug bit us pretty hard in 2017. We started with Cancun in January for Rico's annual managers meeting, followed by trips to Chicago & northern Georgia to see family, but we knew we had to make it back to Europe. We went to Ireland in 2009, and decided we were overdue for another visit, and well...

 London is always calling us back.

Planning started in June, with dates set and plane tickets purchased. We usually head over mid-October, but decided to try mid-September this time. Our last trip to London in October trip was incredibly cold, so we thought we'd try for warmer weather by traveling earlier, and we weren't disappointed. We planned to start our vacation with 2 days in Dublin, followed by a day each in Kilkenny and Cork, and then 4 days in London.

Our travel day started off with a notice from Delta that our flight from Cincinnati to Paris was going to be delayed by 40 minutes. The notice came in at around 11am, and the original flight time wasn't until 6:10, so I hoped that maybe the delay would magically disappear. The delay would only give us about 30 minutes to get our connecting flight in Paris, provided that everything else on the flight went perfectly. We were at the gate about 5:30, and lo and behold, there was a plane! But they weren't boarding us, and the Delta app still showed a delayed flight time. Our original boarding time came and went. As did the delayed time. We finally heard from the gate agent that the plane was being cleaned and they would try to board us ASAP. We boarded about 20 minutes after the quoted delayed time. Fortunately, the agent we worked with when checking our bags saw the delay and the 30 minute connection in Paris, and gave us a standby booking on the next flight from Paris to Dublin, which would leave at about 3pm. We weren't thrilled about the prospect of a 5 hour layover, but at least we'd be in Paris, and at least we'd be together.

We boarded with no issue, and settled into our seats. Once we hit cruising altitude, I started to adjust and get comfortable. That's when it happened... a dreaded event that big boobed women have nightmares about... my bra broke. IT. BROKE. The middle connector split. And all I could do was laugh. I had contemplated throwing a spare and underwear into my carryon, but decided not to at the last minute. BIG MISTAKE. I had big plans of asking he flight attendant if they had any safety pins or a sewing kit, but just said "Eff it" and threw it away in the lavatory trash. Rico laughed when I told him & said "I wonder what someone will think if they see it in the trash?" and I said "They will either think that someone got lucky, or really unlucky."

The reminder of the flight was uneventful, and I had resigned myself to the fact that we were going to get into Dublin later than planned. Our flight landed, we got off the plane, and out of habit, looked at the connecting flight display only to see that our original connecting flight had been delayed, and was currently boarding. We made a break for it.

Here's a fun fact: When you are traveling between States in the Schengen Area of Europe, you do not need to go through passport control or security when connecting flights in Paris. Another fun fact: Ireland & the UK are not part of the Schengen Area... which means that we had to go through security in order to get to our connecting flight.

Above is a diagram of terminal 2E at CDG. Our original flight to Dublin was delayed by about 20 minutes. This meant we had roughly 15 minutes to get from our arrival gate, located in hall K, to our departure gate in hall M.

We ran/jogged/power walked through hall K, and caught the light rail to hall M. We ran to security, where I essentially accosted the 1st airport employee I saw & told them that our connecting flight was leaving in 15 minutes. He rushed us into a short line, and we were out in about 5 minutes. From there, I looked at Rico & said "RUN". He booked it to the gate, which was of course the last one in the terminal, and I jog/walked as fast as I could (please remember the missing bra). I fully expected to see Rico walking toward me at any point, shaking his head, telling me we missed the flight, and would have to wait until 3. When I got to the gate, there were still 4 people in line to board. WE HAD MADE IT. WE MADE A 15 MINUTE CONNECTION AT CDG. We boarded, settled in to our seats, and I spent the 2 hour flight marveling over what had just transpired.

We landed in Dublin & made our way to immigration, and hey, Dublin Airport, if you are reading this, maybe don't have only 1 non EU window open when you have a few hundred people in line. Ok? Thanks. After about an hour and a half in line in immigration, we made it to baggage claim, where we waited for our bags. And waited. And waited. It then dawned on us that while we had made the ridiculous connection, our bags probably hadn't. We made our way to baggage services, where a nice man confirmed that our bags were still enjoying a leisurely venture at CDG, but would be on the next flight over. We filled out a form, and he let us know that we would get a call when the bags were to be delivered. We made our way to the taxi station, and within minutes were off to our hotel.

Up next: Whiskey, Missing Bags and Bus Ride Sing-alongs.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can I live in a hotel? Please? I said please!!

I love travel and I love hotels. I love them with a reckless abandon. Of course, the nicer the hotel, the better, but I even love budget numbers, especially the ones with "make your own waffle" stations. I freely admit that I am a constant sufferer of wanderlust, and I think hotels often, to me, symbolize a bit of freedom. 

I have been given the opportunity to travel quite a bit in my lifetime, starting at a very young age. My father worked in sales and traveled quite a bit. Many times, we were able to travel with him, and many more times, his frequent flyer miles and hotel points afforded us the ability to take some great vacations. 

In my adult life, I was lucky enough to find a wonderful husband, who enjoys travel just as much as I do. His job requires frequent, but short, trips, and on occasion, I get to travel with him. We are currently in Carlsbad, California, for his annual managers meeting. Unfortunately, the sun hasn't wanted to come out and play, but I will take the 65 degree weather over the 27 degrees at home, any day! 

Layover wine at O'Hare

We are staying at the Hilton Carlsbad Resort and Spa, which is beautiful, and has a fantastic restaurant onsite. I have enjoyed my breakfast each morning, although, I have yet to deviate from the Greek yogurt bowl (it is just too good). My plan for the rest of the day is to take the free hotel shuttle up to the Cedros Design District to wander through the shops and drink some wine.

The aforementioned yogurt bowl.

If you have to workout, this isn't a bad view to have while doing it.

Tomorrow, we will head over to Stone Brewing Company (my husbands favorite), and let the beer geeks in us run wild. Then Saturday, it's back home to Cincinnati and to our beloved children with fur. I think that if we could take them with us, we would never stop traveling. 

Enough about me, how about you? Do you love traveling? Hotels? Favorite place to travel? Let me know!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pre-Birthday Festivities, aka, Super Fun Times

My birthday was on Sunday, but the festivities began Saturday afternoon. Rico and I attended Fifty Fest at Fifty West Brewery, and tried some great local, and local-ish brews. My favorite of the afternoon was Gin Bunny by Christian Moerlein, with Kerfuffle Mild by Yellow Springs Brewing coming in a close second.

Rico looks pensive, but I promise he is having a good time!

I tried to give Rhinegeist another shot, with their Franz Oktoberfest brew, but it just didn't do it. I have discovered with Rhinegeist that their beer has flavor for the first second that it hits your tongue... After that, it just falls flat. I really don't understand all of the hype around Cincinnati about
their beer. I guess it goes to show what great marketing will get you. Anyhoo....

We headed out before getting too toasty, so we could get ready for dinner. We invited our friends Teasha and Dan to join us for a pre-birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant, Scotti's. If you haven't been, Scotti's is a fantastic, old school, hole in the wall Italian restaurant downtown. When my grandfather was still with us, we would go to Scotti's, and he would talk to "Mama" about the old
country. I believe Mama was either the mother or grandmother of the owners. It is always a great time, and brings a slight tear to me eye to remember my grandfather. No pics from dinner (too dark)' but I did get this gorgeous shot of the evening sky.

After dinner, we headed to Dean's Hops & Vines for some post dinner drinks. Deans has become my favorite bar on our side of town. It is a casual place, but has a fantastic craft beer and wine selection.  And the bourbon... Oh the bourbon...

The drinks *may* have something to do with our Olan Mills photo re-creations...

I call this one "Drunken Contemplation" or "This Took Us 4 Tries"

We decided that we would all look in different directions. Trust me, it was easier that way.

We headed out relatively early, so Rick and I would be in good shape for my birthday tea Sunday afternoon. More about that later!

It was a great night, with great friends, and definitely made me file like one special birthday girl!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


We are so lucky to have such a great Shakespeare company in Cincinnati. Tonight was "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)", and it was amazing, as usual.