Monday, June 27, 2016

Dublin, Ireland

We drove into dreary Dublin around noon. While it didn't rain, the clouds shut out most of the light. We popped into random shops on Grafton street and wandered in to Fallon & Bryne for a quick snack. We walked through Dublin Castle and Temple Bar before we had to head back to our hotel (The Shelbourne) for our high tea reservations in the Lord Mayor's Room.

It was an Alice in Wonderland themed-tea. Each item matched the theme - the food and drinks were labeled "eat me" and "drink me" respectively. I think they switch up the theme every month or so. I picked the white tea and Jason, the irish coffee tea. Both were delicious (and unlimited), but we really enjoyed our glass of Veuve Rose. The whole sitting was 90 minutes and food and drinks were brought periodically. We had sandwiches and then 3 delicious tier's of sweets, but out of all the food, the best part was the traditional scones with clotted cream and jam. It was a super fancy experience and a fun way to splurge! 

The Shelbourne was fantastic - definitely one of the best places we've ever stayed. The location overlooking St. Stephen's Green was fantastic, there were multiple bars to hang out in, the room was amazing - the Irish constitution was even signed in the hotel! The funniest part was pulling up to the valet in our little stick-shift Nissan in the company of Ferraris and Porsches. 

That night, we wandered to Temple Bar to see what all the fuss was about. We ended up wandering along the River Liffey and seeing Ha'penny Bridge and turning right around. While it was interesting to see all of the crazy stag and hen parties, we split some fish and chips and Leo Burdock's and headed back towards our hotel. We grabbed a few drinks at O'Donoghue's, which was much more laid-back.

The next morning, we walked to Trinity College right at opening time. We were the first in to see the Book of Kells (which, while pretty, wasn't really that interesting) and quickly walked to see the Long Room Library that inspired the library in Hogwarts! The smell was just fantastic and we enjoyed just wandering around by ourselves before the rest of our time slot arrived.

We also hit up a few of the must-see sights this morning - St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Stephen's Green.

We had booked online tickets for the Guinness Storehouse Tour and I'm glad we did! We bypassed a line of 100+ people and made our way to the kiosks to print off our tickets. The tour was surprisingly fun! I really liked wandering around the advertising and marketing floor. We grabbed lunch at one of their many cafes and it (sadly?) ended up being one of the best meals of our trip! The food in Ireland wasn't anything to write home about, with the exception of the fresh seafood...

Anyways, the tour included a pint of Guinness and we chose to redeem ours at the Gravity Bar. There was a 360 degree view of Dublin, which we were able to take advantage of due to the beautiful weather! We chatted with a nice couple from Shannon for a while, but had to leave because we had reservations for a whiskey tasting!

Teeling is the only functioning distillery in Dublin. (Jameson actually makes their whiskey in Midleton - where we visited the day before!) We had been looking forward to trying their whiskey, so we upgraded our tasting to include some of the premium whiskeys. 

At the end of the tour, you get to sample the whiskey, but there is also a bar to purchase cocktails from. This bar isn't accessible unless you book the tour, so it was a nice, uncrowded place to spend a few hours. I had the BEST cocktail here and we bought a bottle of the Single Batch to bring home with us.

That evening, we had a pre-set theatre dinner at Ely Bar & Brasserie, which is set underground in the wine caves! Afterwards, we made our way to the Abbey Theatre to see Othello. Both were lovely and a great way to end our time in Dublin.

The next morning, we frantically rushed through security (thanks to no nearby gas stations and a TERRIBLE experience with the rental car company) and took advantage of custom's pre-check. This makes it so that when you land in Boston, you just walk off the plane to baggage claim - no need to go through Passport Control!

Ireland was wonderful. The people were friendly, the weather was cooperative, and the vibe was chill. So grateful for our positive space passes for making this trip stress-free and CONFIRMED! After a quick 5 hour flight, we arrived in Boston! I will recap both our long layover and our last day next!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kinsale & Cork, Ireland

Kinsale is an adorable little fishing village in the south of Ireland - along the Wild Atlantic Way. It popped onto our radar during a cooking class in Bali, of all places, where we met two Irish girls who told us we MUST go to Kinsale. It is a foodie hot-spot, and fittingly, we had some of our best meals here.

After a long day of driving around Beara, we took it easy our first evening. We arrived and headed straight for dinner at the White Lady (just your average pub, but the Asian-inspired meals were quite a delicious surprise!). Afterwards, we wandered around the harbor a bit, savoring the 10pm daylight! 

The next morning, Jason woke up early to go play a round of golf. He really enjoyed it becase many of the holes were situated along the ruins of an old castle! I had a bit of a lie in and then went to gym/sauna/spa for a relaxing morning. 

When Jason got back, we went to lunch at Fishy Fishy. This place is pretty famous and later, when we were wandering around Dublin, saw the owner's picture everywhere! Apparently we met a celebrity? Haha. 

Both of our dishes were amazing, but we both agreed that the best dish was my Fishy Fish pie. This was made of white fish, salmon and shellfish cooked in a cream sauce topped with herb breadcrumbs and house mash. SO good. After lunch, we headed out to James Fort and walked around the little "island" for a bit.

Earlier that day, we decided to spontaneously make late night reservations for The Steakhouse. The atmosphere of this place was right up our alley - brick walls, tall ceilings, moody lighting. We ended up closing the place down - losing track of time talking with the delightful staff members. Just something funny - my salad had more potatoes than lettuce. When in Ireland, right? My favorite part of the meal was the banoffee pie though. I'm obsessed with all things banana and this was no exception.

The next morning, we drove up to Midleton, the home of Jameson Distillery. This tour was actually quite fun and concluded with Jason doing a "whiskey comparison" and me discovering my new favorite drink - Jameson, Ginger Ale & Lime. Quick tip: When they ask for volunteers, shoot that hand up in the air ASAP!

The rest of the day was dedicated to exploring Cork. We walked through the English Market, grabbed lunch at Farmgate Cafe, bought TONS of Butler's chocolates, had a pint of Murphy's in the Oliver Plunkett, and explored the University College Cork - which was super close to our hotel, the Kingsley. For being the second largest city in Ireland, it really had a great small-town feel.

The next morning, we packed up and drove 3 hours north to our final stop in Ireland - Dublin!