Three Incredible Places to Stay in Ireland

Carbs. Countrysides. Castles.  What’s not to love about Ireland? 

When bae and I set out to drive the southern half of the country a few years back, we couldn’t have predicted how much we’d enjoy our week — or how much extra weight we’d be bringing back with us.  Seriously, those Irishmen know how to handle heavy food and booze!

Bae was responsible for keeping a roof over our heads as we made it across the country, and I have to hand it to him, he knocked it out of the park.

Here are our three favorite hotels from the trip:


Glenlo Abbey

We were transported back in time as we drove through the gates of the Glenlo Abbey.  Suddenly, we were in 1740 visiting a knight’s family in their Galway castle complete with estate staff and medieval embellishments.

As we brought ourselves back to present day, we were stopped in our tracks as we took in the property’s sprawling green lawns and vibrant gardens.  Inside, everything from our metal room keys to our lavish suite was fit for royalty.

fullsizerender

We were particularly fond of the oak cellar bar nestled below the structure’s massive stone foundation in the basement the castle.  It was one of the coziest places we drank all trip.  However, they’re more well-known for their Pullman Restaurant — a diner set on two original Pullman carriages.  This may sound gimmicky to some but apparently the food is nothing to snuff at as the restaurant was recently awarded the prestigious AA rosette.


Adare Manor

As we left the Glenlo Abbey, we were sure our accommodations would go downhill from there.

We were wrong.

The Adare Manor had even more expansive grounds and required a golf cart to get from one side to the next.

Adare.jpg

Inside, the building’s Neo-Gothic heritage rings true and the level of design detail is unbelievable. 

A bit more secluded than the Glenlo, Adare Manor is located in the quiet town of (well you guessed it) Adare.  With only a few restaurants and stores in town, the castle is truly the focal point of the area. 

The resort is currently undergoing a renovation, which will bring the room count to 104 bedrooms.  I am at a loss for what they could improve, but someone will need to visit and send me pictures.


Dublin Westin

After a week of castle hopping we were ready for a change of pace.  The Westin was just that.

Centrally located by Trinity College, the Westin offers all the comforts of home with a bit of Irish flair and history. 

Their bar, The Mint Bar, is particularly awesome.  It features the original vaults of the old bank that once stood in the Westin’s place.  It is renown for its cocktails but also serves dinner, lunch and bar bites.

mint


One thing is for sure, there’s no shortage of exciting places to stay in Ireland — all you have to do is get there.

Advertisements

Why I Keep Coming Back to Block Island!

Something happens when you grow up going to the same place every summer. 

It starts to feel like home. The people there start to feel like family. The atmosphere starts to feel like a culture, and you start to feel like a piece of your soul stays there year round.

Block Island is that place for me.

I’ve traveled the world and still get a rush as I step off the ferry in Old Harbor, crave the smell of a killer donut, and long for the sound of the blender mixing me a banana mudslide.

A small island off the coast of Rhode Island, “the Block” as we regulars like to call it, has all the charm and allure of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, without all the pretentiousness. 

On the island, boaters, tourists and locals have a deep appreciation for the art of relaxation.  They’ve found the perfect composition of boat, beach and bar that all comes together to form the perfect tropical masterpiece. 

blockisland

Those lucky enough to stay for more than a weekend quickly find they’re on “island time,” which is code for no concept of time at all.  Who can blame them?  Its easy to lose yourself in the sun, sand and sunsets. 

If you’re looking for a family friendly destination where adults have just as much fun as the kids, Block Island is the place for you.  Here are some of my favorites on the island.


Where to Stay

Payne’s Dock – Payne’s Dock rests in the center of New Harbor, which is the quieter of the two main island harbors. This family owned and operated marina is an oasis for boating families.  Kids are able to go crabbing or swimming off their boats while the parents are able to enjoy the tiki bar, restaurant and sunsets from the dock.  I’ve spent two weeks of every summer since I was 3-years-old at Payne’s so I can say from experience that staying here is like staying with family. 

Payne’s Harbor View Inn – If you’re not a boater and prefer to sleep on solid ground, Payne’s Harbor View Inn is right up the road.  This quaint bed and breakfast offers a more low-key vibe — perfect for a romantic getaway. Try their sushi.  It’s fantastic.

paynes2.jpg

Spring House – A bit upscale, the Spring House is steps away from the center of town where you’ll find shopping, eating and entertainment. The hotel itself is offset on a rather secluded hill, where the views are second-to-none. Their restaurant is one of the best on the island but their martini night is probably their most popular attraction.  Check it out on a Thursday!

springhouse

Rent a house – If you’re traveling with a larger group there are plenty of houses all over the island for rent.  Be sure to plan early though as many rent out as early as January.


What to do

Scotch Beach – There’s about 17 miles of beach along Block Island’s coast, but my favorite by far is Scotch Beach.  It is about a ten minute walk from Town Beach and tends to be less crowded and touristy.  It boasts spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean with sand and surf that can’t be beat.

scotch beach 2.jpg

Kayak/Paddle Board — If you’re looking a water activity without the sand, kayaking and paddle boarding is popular around the island. There are several rental shops but I’d suggest Pond and Beyond Kayak.  Renting from here, you can paddle around New Harbor, which tends to be sheltered — allowing for a much more enjoyable ride.

Bike — Want to avoid the water all together? Rent a bike and explore the island.  Only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide, you can see most of the island by bike in one day.  Just be careful of cars and be sure to hydrate — the terrain is not the most forgiving.

Mohegan Bluffs — While you’re biking your way around the island, be sure to pull off to explore the bluffs.  These beautiful clay cliffs tattoo the southern edge of the island.  If you can handle the hike, be sure to walk down the stairs and take in the view from the beach as well.

bluffs

North Lighthouse — On the other side of the island, the North Lighthouse is worth the journey off the beaten path to get there.  I personally feel it has much more character than the Southeast Lighthouse, but I would certainly suggest seeing both.


Where to party

Mahogany Shoals – Payne’s Dock makes the list again.  A cozy, pub like environment this it truly the bar you’ve been practicing for.  The music is great, the people are great and the drinks are great.  What’s not to love?

Trader Vic’s – At the end of the dock at Champlin’s Marina, Trader Vic’s sits along side some huge yachts.  Check them out while you sip on your banana mudslide.

Captain Nick’s — Two words: Regae night.

Ballards – A stones throw from the ferry in Old Harbor, on the weekends this is the ultimate beach party.  On week nights it’s a bit more low key, John Brazile plays almost every night.  He is one of the most talent musicians I’ve ever stumbled across. Don’t miss him while you’re on the Block.


So throw on some flip flops, grab your koozie and sail away on the Block Island Ferry — paradise awaits.

An Ode to Costa Rica’s Arenas Del Mar

Having traveled to more than 10 countries and countless U.S. states together, bae and I have visited many memorable hotels.  We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed everywhere from luxurious Ritz Carlton suites to private spice garden hideaways in India.  Through it all, we’re yet to find a resort that captured our hearts quite like Arenas Del Mar

Chalk it up to the frozen sangrias or the pura vida lifestyle but our trip to Arenal and Manuel Antonio four years ago was pure magic.

We zip lined down the side of an active volcano.  We lounged in natural hot baths. We hiked through the jungle.  But nothing beat our time at Arenas Del Mar resort.

Set between pristine sandy beaches and the Costa Rican jungle, Arenas Del Mar is not just a resort.  It is an experience. 

DSCN1108.jpg

Here’s why we’re still longing to return.

(FYI: I truly just love this resort — no partnership or sponsorship.  I only wish!)


The Authenticity

Staying at Arenas Del Mar truly feels like staying at a luxury treehouse in the jungle.

They’ve done such a good job embracing their surroundings that it’s almost as if the resort was always there. In fact, you’re so enveloped by nature that you often share your porch with monkeys (side note: the monkeys have sticky fingers — so be sure to deadlock all the doors and keep your valuables close by).

fullsizerender-3


The Exclusivity

Being so secluded, the resort features a private beach and roads only trafficked by their fleet of golf carts.

IMG_1242.jpg

The beaches are so private, they offer oceanside massages.  Bae surprised me with our first couples massage here.  There’s nothing more relaxing than hearing the waves crashing as all the tension from endless desk days is worked away.


The Hospitality

Everyone you meet at Arenas Del Mar takes hospitality to another level. 

The moment you walk onto the grounds, you’re greeted by a concierge who hands you pressed juice to sip on as she describes the amenities.  From there on your encounters only get friendlier, from the server who brings you the most delicious breakfast you’ve ever eaten to the worker who offers you a coconut fresh from the tree, everyone is committed to making sure you find your bliss.

IMG_1307.jpg

Not surprisingly, my favorite encounter was with the bartender at happy hour each night.  Yes, they have happy hour!  Try the frozen sangria.  I still dream about it.


Until the next time, Arenas Del Mar.  Because trust me — there will be a next time.

The Real Reasons We Love Ravello

Some places leave a mark on you.  Simply thinking about your time there can alter your mood, take you back in time and leave you longing to recreate those memories.  Realistically, you’re probably planning your next trip before you even leave.

Ravello was that place for us. 

After five amazing days along the Amalfi Coast — shopping in Positano, day tripping to Capri, and boating off the coast of Praiano — I thought it couldn’t get any better.  Boy was I wrong!

Nothing beat Ravello’s charm. Though we technically stayed in the town of Amalfi, we couldn’t stay away from Ravello.

Here’s why we fell in love.


The Views

Set a top the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, 365 meters above the sea, the views from Ravello are second-to-none.  From the edge of town you see nothing but crystal blue water and classic Italian boats jumping from port to port. But what truly makes Ravello unique is the view from the center of the piazza, where you can experience the true spirit of Italy — the local neighborhoods forever engraved in the cliffside.

img_2336

Tourists, artists and writers alike have come to Ravello to be inspired by these views and we could see why.


The Culture 

Though Ravello is primarily a tourist town, it’s held on to its culture remarkably well.

Probably the most notable of Ravello’s cultural landmarks is the duomo.  Built in the 11th century, the cathedral still features bronze doors gifted to them in 1179.  The structure is breathtaking and full of history.

img_2376

My favorite attraction by far was the Villa Rufolo.  Between the rustic ruins, gorgeous gardens and sea views, it was easy to lose ourselves as we wandered around the grounds.


The Shopping

Ravello is littered with quaint, local artisan shops.  I spent hours navigating into and out of the stores lining the cobblestone streets.  Like most towns along Amalfi Coast you can find everything you want — food, clothes, souvenirs and much more.


The Food

I did not have a bad bite of food in Ravello (or Italy for that matter) but my favorite meal by far was at Mimi Bar Pizzeria.  Even without the views Ravello is known for, it has earned the number one spot on TripAdvisor while remaining casual and relatively inexpensive.  All I can say is the pizza was everything. 

img_7258


In Ravello, the wine tastes sweeter, the views look clearer and your problems seem smaller.  How many more reasons could you need to love Ravello?