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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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?

How to Plan the Ultimate Day Trip to Capri

Though I may not be Italian by blood, I am certainly Italian by heart.

Visiting the Amalfi Coast convinced me as much.

It took me no time at all to immerse myself in their way of life.  Espresso in the morning.  Friendly banter with the locals.  Gelato midday.  Aperitifs in the afternoon (oh the aperitifs). Carb load at dinner.  Wash, dry, repeat.

And what’s more Italian than a day trip to Capri?  If you happen to get so lucky, here’s what not to miss.


Boat Tour

IMG_0036.jpgThe only way to get to Capri is by boat.  Sure, you could take a ferry with crowds of people and get there as quickly as possible, but then you’d miss so much of the island’s character. 

Why not reserve a spot on a semi-private charter boat with a local boat captain, meet six to eight new friends and catch all the landmarks along the way?

You’ll even get to navigate through the natural caves, referred to as grottos, as their blue waters are illuminated by the sun’s reflection.  Each is uniquely its own.  The Blue Grotto is probably the most well known, but the Green, White and Red Grottos are equally as awe-inspiring.

IMG_0038.jpgThe tour also brings you by I Faraglioni — a natural stone archway that stands as yet another testament to mother nature’s magic in this area.  Legend has it that if lovers kiss under this arch they will have a lifetime of happiness together.  I am not superstitious but even I was sure to sneak a smooch from bad as we passed below.

Note: We used Blue Star Positano, who I highly recommend.  You can book them through Viator.


Funicular

Once you make it to the island, there are couple ways to make your way up to the center of town.   One that is really unique is the funicular.

You travel directly through the lemon groves in a cable car that climbs uphill and ends at the Piazzetta.

It’s not only the fastest route but has the most spectacular views.


Gelato

IMG_0042.jpgWalking around with a waffle cone in hand is not optional. 

Since I really don’t think Italians know how to make a bad dessert, you’re probably fine stopping at any gelateria along your route. 

However, our absolute favorite was the hazelnut gelato at Buonocore Gelateria.  If you happen to pass by, you should check it out.  I also hear they have amazing pastries if you’re not an ice cream person (though I can’t imagine such a person exists).


Anacapri

Any good day trip includes some quality shopping, so after your gelato, jump on a bus and make your way to Anacapri. 

This area is a bit less crowded than Capri and offers a quieter, more authentic island experience.  There’s everything for boutique stores with luxury items to small, artisan vendors willing to make you custom leather sandals (for a price, of course). 

Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, be sure to take the chairlift up to Mount Solaro and catch the amazing views.


You could certainly spend a full weekend in Capri, but if you only have 24 hours, I say make the most of it!

Baecation Days: Porto, Lisbon and Algarve, Portugal

The Best of Both Worlds in Portugal: From Cities Streets to Sandy Beaches

I am a beach bum.  Give me a lounge chair, some sand between my toes and time to work on my tan, and I am content for days on end. 

But bae is more about that urban life.  After just a couple hours of sitting still, he is itching to get moving.  He prefers wandering city streets where he can explore the country’s history and culture with a more hands on approach.

The good news is we both appreciate the other’s tastes.  I still love a good city adventure and he finds his own ways to stay busy in beach towns.  We have no problem compromising, he gets Copenhagen in August and I get Fiji in December. Win. Win.

But sometimes, the worlds align and we find a destination that offers the best of both worlds.  Cue Portugal. 

When we went a couple years ago, we spent a week working our way south from Porto to Algarve taking in everything the country had to offer.

Here’s how we found the perfect balance between sun, sand and cityscapes in Portugal.


Porto

Porto was the first stop on our journey through Portugal and it remains a big reason the country has stolen our hearts.

Nestled on the northwest coast of Portugal, Porto has a charm unlike any other.  Trekking up hill on the city’s narrow cobblestone streets, you can’t help but feel like you’ve gone back in time.

Though I could have stayed for weeks, 48 hours was more than enough time to experience Porto’s main attractions.

Our favorites were:

  • The Cais da Ribeira — We spent almost every meal sitting along the banks of the River Douro enjoying local cuisine and sharing pitchers of sangria made with local Port wine. The city truly comes alive in this area with street performers, tourists and locals alike enjoying the laid back vibe down by the river banks. 
  • The Ponte de Dom Luis I – Trust me when I say admiring this bridge from afar just doesn’t do it justice.  Be sure to take the walk over and enjoy the views of the River Douro from both sides.  It can be a bit of a hike up to the bridge but it is worth it. 
  • Funicular dos Guindais — If you want to make the journey to the bridge a bit less burdensome, you can always jump on the Funicular dos Guindais.  The ride up in the glass enclosed cable car boasts unparalleled views of the city and costs only 2.50 euros.
  • Clerigos Tower — Another great place to view the city from above is Clerigos Tower.  Again, the climb up is a bit strenuous, but once you reach the top the views will take your breath away.
  • Palacio da Bolsa – Also known as the stock exchange palace, Palacio da Bolsa is an impressive structure inside and out.   
  • Rail Station Sao Bento — Sao Bento, the city’s active train station, is also home to some of the most beautiful mosaics in the country.  There is no charge to enter and learn all about the city’s past as depicted through the station’s traditional Portuguese tiling.
  • Wine tours — Of course you have to check out some Port wine while you are there.  Our favorite was Churchill but there are plenty to choose from.
  • Yeatman  If you need somewhere to relax after all that walking, climbing and sightseeing, the Yeatman is your place.  With private baths and a world-class spa, you’re sure to leave completely recovered and ready for another day of exploring. 

Lisbon

Though the our next stop was another city, this one was uniquely its own.  In contrast to Porto, Lisbon is much more modern and trendy with the metropolitan feel you’d expect from a large European city.   We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere in Lisbon and found a lot we loved about the city.

  • Alfama — Charming narrow allies lined with craft stores and cafes lead through to amazing views of the Largo das Portas do Sol.  Even the old buildings add to the area’s character and draw tourists from near and far.
  • Bairro Alto – The “it” party spot for college kids, Bairro Alto is a vibrant neighborhood filled with bars and restaurants. The streets are quite literally filled with young people mingling and enjoying the vibe. If you’re looking for some nightlife, this is the place for you. 
  • Belem – A bit of a bus ride outside of the city center, there is plenty in Belem to see and do.  You won’t regret the time investment getting out there. While you’re there don’t miss Jerónimos Monastery, Padrao dos Descobrimentos or Santa Maria de Belem Church – all are true testaments to Lisbon’s rich history.  Before you head back, be sure to refuel with some delicious pastel de natas at Pasteis de Belem. They are famous for them.

Algarve

After five days of maneuvering cobblestone, hoofing up narrow hills and climbing hundreds of stairs, this beach bum was ready for a lounge chair and a fruity cocktail. 

Algarve did not disappoint. 

There was not only sand, sun and waves galore, but the views of the cliffs along the coast were like a scene from a postcard.

To be honest, we spent most of our time in Algarve relaxing by the pool and beach, which was exactly what we needed.  However, here are some highlights from the brief moments we were awake between our sun-induced slumbers.

  • Pine Cliffs Hotel — This Starwood hotel was absolutely gorgeous.  From the picturesque outdoor dinning to the views from the glass enclosed elevator that takes you down to the beach, every detail was designed to showcase the natural beauty of the area.
  • Downtown Albufeira — A great place to reassimilate into society after secluding yourself to the beach, Albufeira is full of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.  We spent a night there enjoying everything from our piri piri sauce to people watching.

Whether you’re looking for sand and surf or cobblestone and culture, Portugal should be on your list. It’s got something for everybody.

Splurge or Save – Four Places to Eat in Copenhagen on Your Budget

Bae and I are complete opposites when it comes to our spending when we travel.  He’s all about taking advantage of every local experience regardless of the cost, and I thrive on finding the cheapest way to soak in the culture.

The good news? Most of the time we balance each other out.  He makes sure I don’t miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I make sure he doesn’t wipe out his entire life savings.  Win-win.

Our trip to Copenhagen in August was a great example of our budgetary mindsets colliding in perfect harmony.  We tried everything from street food by the water to a Michelin Star restaurant, so I can say with confidence that you can find great food in Copenhagen no matter your budget.

Here are my favorite finds.


Papiroen: Copenhagen Street Food

Price Range: $

Type: Street Food/Fast Food

Vibe: Outdoor, laid back, modern

Papiroen has something for everyone with more than 30 vendors serving everything from sushi to cheesecake.  You can even grab an adult beverage to enjoy on the picnic tables by the water.  We were especially smitten with the pizza from MadenItaly and the Moroccan flatbread from Marrakech.  To top it all off, everything is super affordable.


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Carlsberg Brewery

Price Range: $$

Type: Beer and Bar Food

Vibe: Outdoor, laid back, historic

Everywhere you go in Copenhagen, you’ll find Carlsberg on the menu, but to truly understand the mark it’s made on Danish history, you need to visit their brewery.  For DKK 95 (~$14), you get two beers and a self-guided tour of the facility, which features an active stable, brew house and (probably my favorite part of the entire experience) the world’s LARGEST beer bottle collection.

When you’re done with your tour, you can enjoy your two beers in their courtyard area or upstairs in their restaurant.  You’ll often find a DJ keeping things lively.

And since I promised food, you can order from a pretty extensive bar menu that’s even equipped with a dessert option.   Beer and dessert, they know the way to my heart!

The brewery is about 15-20 minutes outside of the center of Copenhagen.  They even offer free shuttle service!


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Nyhavn

Price Range: $$$

Type: Variety of Options

Vibe: Outdoor, casual

Nyhavn is a must see.  It is home to the iconic Copenhagen tourist photo attraction (see above) and a whole host of great restaurants.  Most are middle of the road when it comes to price and you really can’t go wrong with any of the options.  So sit down at whichever one catches your eye, order a nice cold beer and take in the beautiful views of the canal.


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Geranium

Price Range: $$$$

Type: Scandinavian, Organic

Vibe: Formal, modern

So this is when I admit that sometimes (just sometimes) bae is right and a splurge is worth the price tag.  Deciding to try one of the several Michelin Star restaurants in Copenhagen was definitely one of these times.

Geranium is more than just a great meal, it’s an experience – as I am sure most Michelin Star restaurants are but I really wouldn’t know since this was my first.

Forget having to choose your entree, from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave, you’re presented with course, after course, after course of mind-blowing food.

There’s a team of about 15 of the world’s greatest chefs working in an open kitchen so you can watch the magic, and you meet almost all of them as the chef that prepared each dish brings it over to explain how the ingredients work together and the story that inspired it all.

To say this was the best meal I have had in my life wouldn’t do it justice.  This was the great experience I have ever had with food.

Trust me if you can swing it, it is worth every penny.