Featured Post

Looking bACK at Nantucket Wine Fest 2013 & beyond…

"Crime Scene" snack provided by Chef Lydia Shire at NWF Gala 2013, courtesy Gene Mahon NWF Founder, Denis Toner w/ Elisabeth of currentVintage & husband Mark Donato, Nantucket Wine Festival Grand Tasting 2013 NWF 2014!! Today begins the 2014 Nantucket Wine Festival.  As always, we are...

Read More

Ireland: Dingle to Donegal

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Fashion, Food, travel, Vintage, Wine | Posted on 30-11-2009

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1

Dingle Spuds

Dingle Spuds

Ennistimon "window"

Ennistimon "window"

In the last post, I left off with Dingle, the charming town ¾ of the way to the end of the Dingle Peninsula.  Having made our way from Dublin to Dingle over the course of a week, we had stayed in many nice places, eaten out 2-3 meals a day and were basically spoiled in the scenic sights department.

Dingle sheep

Dingle sheep

On a trip of this sort, things have to get progressively more interesting or the destinations at the start of the trip have an unfair advantage of being new and first, and therefore, remembered most fondly.  Well, Dingle did not disappoint.  The town is cute as it can be, even with nearly every single restaurant closed on a Thursday night.  We dined at the most beautiful restaurant, The Old Stone Bar & Grill, which I would recommend for drinks ONLY.  We ordered the mussels and some other small plates…not long after, we noticed a kitchen employee put his coat on and head out into the night.  When our mussels were served a bit later, they did not come with the usual homemade Irish soda bread.  No, we got a toasted hamburger bun.  It had pesto slathered on it, but it was still a boring white bun!

Connor Pass

Connor Pass

The cliffs at Slea Head and the rugged coast are breathtaking and the drive the next day, over the Connor Pass and to the flat sand beach on the northside of the peninsula was awesome.  The tide goes out nearly as far as you can see, so the beaches at lo-tide are fantastic.

North Dingle Beach

North Dingle Beach

While it was hard to depart the beauty of picture-perfect Dingle, the comforts of Dromoland Castle awaited.

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

Elisabeth in new shoes at Dromoland

Elisabeth in new shoes at Dromoland

Dingle to Dromoland:

We raced from Dingle to Dromoland, with barely a stop, in hopes of arriving in time for an afternoon walk with the hounds and some time at the spa.

En Route:

Visit the tiny village of Adare, home to a row of charming, if touristy,  thatch-roof cottages housing several boutiques.  The town was given it’s award-winning makeover by an Englishman in the 1820s, in effort to create the perfect village and has been attracting sightseers ever since.

Adare

Adare

Shop:

Rococo Shoe Room at the Rose covered cottage—Where the beauty on the inside even surpasses the outside! Drool-inducing array, including Spanish designeres Paco Gil, Pedro Garcia and Pura Lopez, as well as quirky American Beverly Feldman

Dromoland Suite

Dromoland Suite

Stay:  Dromoland Castle near Newmarket-on-Fergus

We were awestruck upon arriving at Dromoland—it looks as if King Arthur and the knights will be back any minute.  Worth a night for the opulence.  Our room was extravagantly appointed, as were the common areas.

petit fours

petit fours

Eat:

Dromoland is an all-inclusive deal, so our meals were taken in the Earl of Thomond dining room.  While we enjoyed the flourish, pomp and circumstance, the food was unremarkable.  I enjoyed the turbot, which seemed fitting, and was grateful they were not serving pheasant, having noticed a large number of birds and hunters running around the grounds.  Breakfast was a similarly lavish affair, and all that silver is fun, even when they are serving white toast with your dry omelet.

Castle Fiddle Player

Castle Fiddle Player

Drink:

An after-dinner drink in the intimate bar is obligatory—listen to the fiddle player and try to count the number of Staffordshire dogs that decorate the walls.

Dromoland Knight

Dromoland Knight

Do:

While you can golf, boat, hunt pheasant or visit the Falconry, we chose the Leisure Center in the club house next door.  Swim, jaccuzi, steam, sauna, repeat.  We were made to purchase little black stretch bathing caps for 5e to enter the pool.  We must have looked suspect, because no one else was wearing them…

O'Connor's Pub, Doolin

O'Connor's Pub, Doolin

Dromoland to Galway via The Burren:

Departing Limerick and entering Clare, I was interested to see how things had changed since my last visit, seventeen years ago.  O’Connell’s Pub in Doolin is still there, but so are dozens (hundreds?) of vacation homes and B&Bs.  I’m sure the music scene is still thriving, but tourism has hit this area hard.

Galway City is music central—so many cool pubs in such a small area, plus fab restaurants and great shopping.  What a wonderful town!  We were there for Game 1 of Ireland vs France World Cup qualifying match.  While super to be in a Galway pub cheering Ireland on a Saturday night, the 1-0 outcome was a bummer.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

En Route:

Cliffs of Moher—the majestic cliffs are a must in any season.  It’s probably a good thing that there is now fencing and roping, although few seem to abide the “STOP: Do not Enter” sign where the path has been blocked off.  The Cliffs are so windy, it can be hard to stand up-right, and I wonder how many have ended up below in the cold Atlantic…I’d rather be a wuss than a statistic!

The Burren

The Burren

Ennistimon, Lahinch, Doolin, Lisdoonvarna…cute little towns to drive through and scare up lunch en route to the R480 road through the Burren

The Burren—a fascinating, stark landscape; scenic drive to Poulnabrone, a simple, ancient burial site out in the middle of nowhere.  We zig-zagged the backroads to see as much as possible.

Bathroom, House Hotel

Bathroom, House Hotel

The House Hotel, Galway

The House Hotel, Galway

Stay:

The House Hotel, Merchant St, Galway—great location; Fun & modern décor.  Although the first  room we looked at was ug-ly, the upgraded larger room was fantastic and one of our faves.

Eat:

French Restaurant on Abbeygate?—casual, superb lunch

Nimmo’s—Cute, cozy and really good:  Butternut squash soup, risotto and a bottle of “Paddy” New Zealand Pinot Noir.  Super popular with locals and critics, which is nice

Galway Swan

Galway Swan

House of Thai—Fancy Thai; close to our hotel and perfect for a rainy Sunday night.

Butler’s—Decadent Hot Chocolate

Drink:

The Quays Pub—Our friend, Eithne, says it’s a must for a pint

Crane’s Bar—a 10 minute walk over the bridge from Quay St.  Great Trad music on Sunday afternoon and again on Sunday night, possibly every night

See & Do:

Walk!  Quay St and all the terrific shops around town

See the Swans on the Quay near the Spanish Arch

Walk to Salt Hill (2mi)—a pretty seaside promenade with shops and restaurants.   We gambled ((video roulette) in the casino for a little afternoon shelter and fun.

Quay St, Galway

Quay St, Galway

Castle for Sale

Castle for Sale

Galway to Sligo via Connemara:

We got up pretty early in the morning and prayed for good weather.  There’s no point in going to Connemara if you can’t see it and the area is known for fog and mist.  Luckily, although it rained, it was not deal-breaking and we persevered through the rugged mountain roads and lovely coastal towns, riveted by the sight.

En Route—

The Quiet Man Bridge—near Oughterard (Ook-ter ard).  The iconic John Wayne film was filmed on location in Connemara and you will find numerous references to it in any guidebook.

Roundstone—Cute, tiny town on the coast; we stopped for photos and a couple of bananas, since there had been no opportunity for a morsel of food between Galway and there, at least not at 8am.

LOVE Vintage

LOVE Vintage

Clifden—A bigger resort-town, with bakeries and restaurants.  I was devastated that the adorable store, LOVE Vintage, a kindred spirit, was not open:(

The Twelve Pins—We traveled back on N59 toward Galway, so we could take the R336 by Lough Inagh, to Kylemore Abbey.  The drive was one of the most scenic in Ireland, even in the rain—I can only imagine the lake with the towering mountains behind in the sunshine…

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey—Arising out of the woods, the Abbey is that gorgeous castle you always see pictured next to anything mentioning Connemara.  Eleven elderly Nuns occupy the Abbey and they don’t miss a trick—there is a wonderful cafeteria/restaurant and a terrific gift shop on the grounds, selling jams, puddings, mohair throws and handknit socks.

Leenane—Made famous by the Martin McDonough play, “The Beauty-queen of Leenane”, driving along the Kilary Fjord on the way was beautiful.  We would have hit Westport, et al if it had not been pouring rain…

Donegal Oysters

Donegal Oysters

Guy Charlemagne

Guy Charlemagne

Sligo:

Aaaaaaah, Sligo.  After a long day of knuckle-baring driving, We arrived in the lovely neighborhood of Strandhill, greeted by our friends with a glass of 2000 Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru “Mesnillésime”.  And it only got better!  Irish hospitality is not lost on our American friends in Sligo, who wined, dined and tour-guided us for four days.  They own a killer wineshop, The WineBuff, and, due to their proximity to France and direct-import to Ireland, I swooned with envy over their selection and the prices.

Sligo Airport Cemetery

Sligo Airport Cemetery

See & Do–

Hike & Walk–Between the Harbor, ocean, lakes and rivers, there is a surplus of outdoor beauty and opportunity for hiking in the area.  There is an amazing cemetery and ruins on the airport property.  Beware of “The Travelers”–Fearless Irish gypsies who live in campers in various parking lots.  They seem to pick the best spots!

Shop–Sligo is an adorable town with some excellent shopping;  gourmet foods, artisan crafts and traditional Irish woolens & tweeds.  Mullaney’s on O’Connell St. was a delight.  If you ever make it there, budget at least an hour for a chat with John Mullaney, whose Father started the business a hundred years ago.  He is the epitome of Irish friendliness with a dose of blarney.

Seaweed Bath–See Box!

Seaweed Bath

Seaweed Bath--the best tonic for a cold, wet day; For 25e, you get a 50 minute private steam and seaweed bath. The seaweed is surprisingly velvety and supposedly great for your skin and hair!

Eat:

Montmartre–a superb French restaurant in Sligo–who knew?!  Local Smoked Salmon, Authentic Lapin du Moutarde, cheese plates and a reasonable wine list.

Stay:  Ryall Arms—An invitation-only 5-Star resort in prestigious Strandhill, complete with two energetic dogs to walk and greet you every morning.  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Wine inclusive. (just kidding)

Donegal

Driving around Donegal was a highlight—so beyond beautiful at every turn.  Donegal town is a great place to shop and there are numerous cafes, like the Blueberry Tearoom,  for an afternoon sticky toffee pudding after a day of touring.

Lord Mountbatten's Castle

Lord Mountbatten's Castle

See & Do:

Glimpse the awe-inspiring turreted stone castle of the Late Lord Mountbatten in Mullaghmore

Solis Loch Eske

Solis Loch Eske

Eat:

Solis at Loch Eske Castle—We were somewhat humbled when we pulled up in our Toyota, given there were two dozen Range Rovers in the parking lot.  The humility grew exponentially, as we entered the grand resort to see elaborate sailing yacht ship models on display everywhere.  It turned out to be a “Sunseeker” sales meeting in rural Donegal, to be attended by clients from all over the world.  Solis is a stunning luxury resort–if you can’t afford to stay there, you can enjoy a club sandwich in the bar, as we did.

Red Guiness sign

Guiness whale sign

Two things to note about Ireland:

Never believe a sign you read;  Whether it says “Hours”, “OPEN”, “Do Not Enter”, etc  It may say “private”, but it’s no harm to look around.  If it says open until 11, they probably stop serving at 9.  If it says, “Bathing caps required”, they probably are not.

Simple pleasures.  My best food memories are of hot soups on cold days served with warm bread, café breaks with homemade desserts, hot chocolates made with care…If the menu says “Arancini”, consider yourself warned.

Lastly, and this is true wherever you go:

The joy is in the journey.

Ladies Room

Ladies Room

Kinsale Morning

Kinsale Morning

Ireland Part 1: Dublin to Dingle

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Food, travel, Vintage, Wine | Posted on 22-11-2009

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1

Hunter & Hounds, Co. Clare

Hunter & Hounds, Co. Clare

Arriving in Dublin at 4 am was not ideal.  Our flight from Boston caught a tailwind and deposited us in Ireland an hour earlier than what would have already been too early.  Thank goodness for the charming and sympathetic clerk at the Westbury, who taking pity upon us, snuck us into our room 10 hours before check in without charging us for an extra night.  We would have been happy with the maid’s closet, but the Junior suite we got was terrific—spacious but comfy with a pair of fab modern (not dated) burgundy velvet chairs.  We slept ‘til 11, then began our 2-week holiday with lunch at Dunne & Crescenzi, which was perfect.

Dingle street sign

Dingle street sign

The reason to go to Ireland is for the culture.  Not just the history and landscape, but the culture.  Even if you think you aren’t into beer drinking and traditional Irish music, you have to hang at the pub.  While the waiters and hotel staff are always cheerful, it is in the pubs where you really meet locals, and the people are where it’s at–Irish people are so friendly, so clever, so generous, so lovely.  Obviously, people make the country wherever you go, but when you are not traveling in an exotic place, but an English-speaking country similar to your own, meeting people is your only real window into any nuances of culture that distinguish the two.  The Lonely planet says ‘don’t go to Ireland without bringing a raincoat and a hollow leg’.  While there’s some truth to that–it will rain almost everyday, but usually not for too long…then again, sometimes for two days–the drinking part isn’t 100% true.  We made friends even when we were obviously pathetic lightweight yanks sipping Carlsberg by the glass in lieu of downing the black stuff by the pint.  Ok, maybe we participated a little more fully than that, but you don’t have to…

Detail Rock of Cashel

Detail Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Celtic Cross at Cashel

Celtic Cross at Cashel

Dingle Pub

Dingle Pub

Renting a car has the added bonus of Irish radio.  We listened to the Jerry Ryan show everyday and thus learned of current politics and issues, as well as the national obsession with “The X Factor”–the UK version of “America’s Got Talent”.  Silly me had never heard of “Jedward” before November 4, but I did not go one day in Ireland without hearing or seeing of the duo.  And talk about timing–we were there for the two heartbreaking Ireland-France World cup qualifying games, the outcome of which is still being contested due to the blatantly illegal winning goal, now known as “Henri-Gate”, after the French culprit.

Kilkenny Butcher

Kilkenny Butcher

Although there are plenty of happening restaurants and modern cooking in Ireland, the country is still not known for the food.  Maybe it was because,  coming from Nantucket and New York, we are pretty spoiled, or, perhaps because it is hard to be dazzled when you eat out so many days in a row, but we were less than euphoric over most of our Irish dining experiences. That being the case, the high points were really high, so I thought I would emphasize the food highlights of our journey as well as the sights.  The reality is, you can’t see every ruin, love every meal or drink in every pub, so here is my list of what is really worth it.

Dingle Pubs

Dingle Pubs

One caveat about fall/winter travels:  We were traveling in November and it is definitely the off-season for tourist destinations like Kerry and Dingle.  There was still plenty to do and see and no shortage of beauty and charm, but it did mean that a lot of places were only open weekends, if at all.  In addition to the off-season handicap, many restaurants all over are closed Sundays and smaller stores close Sunday & Monday.  Not a surprise coming from off-season Nantucket, but sometimes disappointing, nonetheless.  The worst part is, it’s still expensive!  The off-season specials only kept it from being very expensive, especially with the flagging dollar.  Rugged landscapes, beautiful lakes, lovely people, green pastures, gray skies, rainbows, castles, sheep…Ireland is visual splendor at any time of year.

Kenmare rainbow

Kenmare rainbow

Where & What–Dublin

Dublin is a blast. We had so much fun there, landing with a friend at McDaid’s (just off Grafton, right across from the Westbury –Hillary Clinton was spotted there recently) for a Guinness on our first night.   Most of our adventures were on the Southside, since we only had three days.  I chose the cultural tour, ie eating & drinking, Vintage shopping with my darling friend, Kate,  and admiring the footwear at Brown Thomas, while Mark did the historical city bus tour–the Guinness Factory, etc.  One of our Dublin highlights was a wonderful theatre piece, Johnny Patterson, at Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar.

Stay:

Westbury Hotel—location, location, location;  corporate sort of lobby, but excellent rooms

Eat:

Irish potatoes

Irish potatoes

Dunne & Crescenzi—Excellent Italian;  everything was fabulous

The Winding Stair—Just over the ha’penny bridge.  Good, not great–but bread & butter pudding was to die for. You cannot overestimate the pounds of Kerrygold in this dessert…like heaven on the way to calorie-hell. fyi, Bread Pudding and Sticky toffee pudding were consistently delish all over Ireland

Irish Brown Bread

Irish Brown Bread

Fallon & Byrne—A trendy downstairs hall serving wine and small plates below a stupendous Dean & Deluca-like market.  The best Smoked salmon on brown bread we had in Ireland!

Gruel:  Awesome corned Beef sandwich and hot soup for a cold day

Queen of Tarts:  Plum tart with vanilla ice cream was to die for…go here after soup at Gruel.

Powerscourt Townhouse restaurant (street level):  THE BEST SCONE IN IRELAND.  Go ahead—jam, Irish butter, clotted cream.  You will not have one like this again.

See:

Trinity College Old Library—If you see one sight, it must be this.  Book of Kells (or ‘Page of Kells’–there are only 2 pages on view:) and Long Library, with the library being the real attraction.

Guinness sign

Guinness sign

Drink:

McDaid’s pub for great pint of Guinness

John Kehoe on Grafton also good

Baileys Bar on Duke St for UNBELIEVABLE hot chocolate with Baileys outside under heat lamps

Music:

Hughes Bar on the Northside—the real deal old Irish pub with killer “Trad” (traditional) music–worth seeking out!

Krystle: IF you’re in to the VIP club scene, this is the place to go for it!  Two floors, indoors, outdoors = not boring

Shop:

Brown Thomas Shoe Dept, Dublin

Brown Thomas Shoe Dept, Dublin

Brown Thomas shoe department—just for appreciation!

Powercourt Townhouse—gorgeous exposed brick, cool boutiques, pop-up vintage store on Saturdays!

Avoca Colorful Handwoven Mohair Blankets

Avoca Colorful Handwoven Mohair Blankets

Avoca Handweavers—cool Anthropology-esque store with killer café for lunch or coffee and sweets

Weekend Markets!

Meeting House Lane market had all kinds of food vendors; Cow Lane = cool handmade stuff

Dublin Places we heard were great and WISH we could have patronized:

Toner’s Pub, Ely Winebar, Bar Italia

Storefront, Kilkenny

Storefront, Kilkenny

Where & What–Dublin to Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a vibrant, beautiful medieval town with a happening arts scene that is also the home of another great Ireland brew, Smithwick’s Ale.  The main attraction is the castle and we stayed in close proximity.  The castle itself is more about scale than opulence, but the grounds are lovely.  Kilkenny seemed like a really nice place to live.

Glendalough

Glendalough

En route:

Stop at Glendalough in Co. Wicklow for an hour or so.  Monastic church ruins on a lake…So beautiful and magical, it feels like St. Kevin just left.

Stay:

The Butler House—B & B manse adjacent to grounds of Kilkenny castle.  Not inexpensive, but wonderful for a night.  The president of Ireland stayed in our suite two weeks before we did…aren’t upgrades grand?

Full Irish

Full Irish

Eat:

Kilkenny Design Center Kitchen—Breakfast, lunch, or dessert;  serves breakfast for Butler House guests–one of the best Irish Breakfasts we had.  Basically, an upscale cafeteria with really good food.

Butler Tomb, Kilkenny Cathedral

Butler Tomb, St. Canice's Cathedral

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

See:

Kilkenny Castle–home to 650 years of the Butler Family

St. Canice’s Cathedral–great!  Climb the round tower and see the tombs of the some of the Butler clan

Black Abbey—small but great if you talk to the Friar and get the history

Shop:

Kilkenny Design Center—a group of amazing art and modern boutiques featuring cool, functional clothing, furniture and home goods made in Ireland.

Kinsale Harbor

Kinsale Harbor

Where & What–Kilkenny to Kinsale

Postcard-pretty Kinsale is called the Nantucket (or Newport) of Ireland.  We enjoyed just walking, dining and hanging for a couple of days.

En Route:

Awe-inspiring Rock of Cashel is worthwhile, even in the rain. Picturesque Lismore is nearly shut down in winter, but we enjoyed looking at the closed for the winter sights and had the most fun cup of coffee at the Rustic Cafe.

Old Bank House, Kinsale

Old Bank House, Kinsale

Stay:

The Old Bank House—nice, comfy B&B in the best location

Kinsale Pub Sign

Kinsale Pub Sign

Eat:

Fishy Fishy Cafe—A MUST; lunch only:(

Jola’s—absolutely gorgeous room with exposed brick, chandelier and fireplace.  John Dory with sultanas was amazing; local cheeses

Drink:

The Spaniard—Cozy, fun Irish pub with great trad music and peat fireplace;  nice walk up the hill

The Bulmen in gorgeous Summercove—the spot for an afternoon outdoor pint, even in winter

Blue Haven—When you want more than a pub; nice for a glass of wine by the fire

Gates of Old Head

Gates of Old Head

See:

Sunrise on the harbor

Old Head golf course—scenic 20 minute drive from town.  It’s posted closed/private, but you can’t believe most signs in Ireland

Shop:

Granny’s Bottom Drawer—Adorable store with eclectic mix of vintage linens, local designer wear and home goods

sunrise in Kinsale

sunrise in Kinsale

Where & What–Kinsale to Kenmare

Coastal Western Cork is breathtaking, even in the rain, as we saw it.

Timoleague Abbey

Timoleague Abbey

En Route:

Timoleague Abbey–off R600.  Moody, photogenic c1305 gothic abbey ruins just 12 mi. west of Kinsale that house a covey of pigeons

Drombeg Stone Circle–off R597.  Worth a look–a mini-Stonehenge sitting on a hill.  A 1500 yr. old slice of history surrounded by pasture.

Gazelle Boutique, Bantry

Gazelle Boutique, Bantry

Gazelle, Bantry

Gazelle, Bantry

Bantry Bay–Homemade soup and Fish & Chips on a rainy day at Fish Kitchen on New St in Bantry was amazing (upstairs above fishmonger);  Shopping at Gazelle, on Bridge St (across from Water Wheel) was even more so! Personable English shop owner, great Irish and European designs.  (New St and Bridge St are the same street–name changes several times as it does on most city center streets in Ireland)

Stay:

Brook Lane–an attractive “boutique” hotel on the edge of Kenmare;  the look is mod and not always successful.

Jam Cafe, Kenmare

Jam Cafe, Kenmare

Eat:

Jam Cafe–When you have had it with the full Irish breakfast (only in Ireland would oatmeal be a first course), go to Jam for a coffee and scone by the fire.

Salvados–A cute little Spanish tapas and pizza place

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry

Where & What–Kenmare to Dingle Peninsula

Entering the Ring of Kerry was amazing, just as they say.  In Autumn, the hills are not just brown, but every shade of yellow to orange to brown, which makes for a rich landscape tapestry.  We opted not to do the whole ring and proceeded to the Dingle peninsula.  The coastal road into Dingle was nice, but the rugged coast beyond Dingle town is what’s really special.  Leaving via the Connor Pass to the north side of the Dingle peninsula was awesome, as well.

En Route: Stop in Killarney National Park for a few hours and visit Torc Waterfall and Muckross House.  The town of Aghadoe outside Killarney is charming.

Lounging at Benner's

Lounging at Benner's

Stay:

Benner’s Hotel, Dingle–not the cheapest, but comfy and convenient plus a Dingle landmark.  It’s also a place with a little life and ambiance in the off-season!

Drink:

Irish coffee at Mrs. Benner’s Bar

See:

Slea Head–The spectacular loop drive beyond Dingle through tiny Irish-speaking villages was one of the highlights of our trip.

Canine Gate Keeper

Canine Gate Keeper

Beehive Huts–(historic rock monk cells) there are some just before Slea Head on someone’s private property.  The owner sits in a booth and his dog opens the window with his paw when anyone walks up.  That was worth the price of admission right there.

Dingle

Dingle