Tag Archives: castle

Round two!

We wake up with barely a hangover. Win! Refuel with a little morning java and enjoy our patio before getting ready for the day and more importantly, before our limo arrives.

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Since we already had a mug of coffee down the hatch. We figured it’s time to get the party started.… poppin’ bottles.  Before you get worried about our alcohol intake, please remember, the whole point of renting a limo for this trip was the sole fact that we planned to be inebriated.  As classy and sophisticated as we could… but definitely not sober.
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Our first stop is one that we highly recommend for those visiting the Sonoma area.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard. We scheduled their Food & Wine Pairing experience for 11am on a Friday afternoon filled with sunshine and cool breezes.  This vineyard is built on some beautiful landscape (aren’t they all?) A very popular place for people to get married.  Gorgeous mountains in the background.
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The pairing took place inside a lovely structure, the doors open to the fresh air outside.  There were two tables positioned half-circle style with the seating on the outside of the curves.  The wine experts walked through and around as they introduced each pairing.
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Each place setting had a leather-bound portfolio with the menu details & a notepad to write tasting notes in.  I vaguely remember doodling hilarious stick figure pictures and Bob Marley quotes on mine… at one point during the experience, Brett looks over and exclaims, “My feet feel like cotton!”  He is entirely enjoying himself, on top of the dosage of DayQuil (for his head cold) taken 30 minutes prior.  It’s amazing what a little vino and a little acetaminophen will do to ignite the senses!
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To be honest, I don’t even remember what all we had {so zoom in on this picture & read it!}  Nevertheless,  it’s true when they say pairing wine with a specific food enhances the flavors, it really works!  The whole experience was a delight. Something we would do again in a heart beat.
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Back in the limo we go.  The next stop, Ledson Winery and Vineyards. Originally, it was being built as a home, with 17 acres of Merlot planted on the grounds.  But as the structure was built, and the public became more interested, they ended up turning it into a vineyard and tasting room.  (well played Ledson clan!)  The structure is built with a French Normady-esque style, 16,000 square feet of woodwork and marble staircases.  Never missing the opportunity for a photo op, we enjoyed the front garden area with beautiful white roses and fountains.
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Their tasting room had wood floors and a beautiful bar area.  We sidled up and started to learn about their vines.  Little breadsticks were my saving grace as we sipped and sipped some more.
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After the tasting, we bought a bottle and went out back on their patio.  Some of us took naps in the sun : star-fished on the ground & loving life {cough, Carley}.  We toasted to friendship & love, as we looked at the rows of vines grown there.  What a neat place to have a summer party or a murder mystery dinner!
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A pretty spectacular roundup of the troops and we’re onto the next one!  Benziger Family Winery for the win!  This next one is a little blurry for me.  Understandably so; three vineyards in and I’m reaching my limits.
We made a pit stop potty break upon arrival (extremely necessary says the girl with the squirrel-sized bladder).  Then we hop on an extended golf cart for a tour of the vineyards.  Our tour guide explained the wine-making process at their location and the background story of the family that built Benziger into what it is today.
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I’ll be honest, a lot of what he said went in one ear and out the other.  We stopped along the tour at a little wooden hut and cracked open a white bottle of wine.  He served it to us in logo-etched wine glasses – nice touch.
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Cool little place.  Gorgeous farm animals to fertilize the soil.  Fluffy, mop-headed cows and little baby goats.  Ten points to Gryffindor for the golf cart ride, as I was not about hiking all over those poo-filled rows of vines.
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The middle of the tour took us into the wine caves where, guess what we did?… had some more vino.  It’s a lot of traveling small distances and then drinking wine.  Rinse & repeat.
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There was a really neat room deep into the cave that we all grabbed a spot at.  It felt very Knights of the Roundtable-esque, with tapestries hanging on the wall and unique art pieces.
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In the wine cave, I got in trouble for trying to snag some more breadsticks, but, please, this was a girl looking after herself!  Atleast some part of my mind knew I needed water and food.  Stat.
We circled around the vineyards on the golf carf and finished the tour in their Main Bar / Tasting Room.  I couldn’t tell you what took place in that space.  The next thing I remember is getting into the limo and somehow making it home in one piece.
Now, THAT was a tour of Sonoma.
Dinner plans were supposed to involve a bacon-infused local hotspot called Zazu, but we couldn’t make it happen.  We grabbed a variety of chicken breasts and brats at the grocery store to grill-out instead.  And it rocked our socks off.
Oh yeah, and we drank water, lots of water.
xo,
e
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ready or not Belfast, here we come

Everyday feels like a gloomy Sunday here, with the rain. Except for us, it’s not gloomy, it’s an adventure. But, could you imagine living here? No sundresses, no skirts, no swimsuits. Pale skin pretty much year round. I love, love passing through but don’t think I could spend my life here in Ireland.

Today we woke up and took super hot showers which resulted in very foggy castle windows. #castleproblems When else are we going to spend the night in a castle? We had to make the most of it! Breakfast was much appreciated before we packed up and shipped out. We took one of the four local taxis to the bus stop where we were dropped off our first day in Collooney. It is on the side of the road, next to a stone wall. The bus was a tad late and it was raining, drizzle-raining that Ireland is so well known for. I passed the time by perfecting my handstands and wearing my hipKNOTies in strategic placement.

The bus arrives at 11:10 and we board. We pay the bus driver in Euros (€17.50) to get to Derry. We make a 15 minute pit stop in Sligo (super cool surfer town that I wished we had a chance to visit… next time!) and spend about 2 hours en route to Derry. In Derry, we really quickly find a toilet (not restroom, or bathroom, they call them toilets) and pee. Then even more quickly we buy our bus ticket to Belfast. This happens within 2 minutes as the bus leaves on time. The currency now has changed to pounds (£) and the fare to Belfast is £11, about $17.58 in US dollars.

The train ride is about 2 hours and the majority of it is spent passing very yellow fields. How are they so yellow and dried out when it is always raining in Ireland? Don’t get me wrong, there has been a TON of greenery here… I’m just shocked to see any dry grass whatsoever.

There are these billboards that say “Old age isn’t a problem, loneliness is” and it makes me want to cry for all the old Irish folk that are lonely. Then I see the many kegs set outside the local taverns and pubs and a string of lyrics come to mind, “I stopped by the bar at 3 am, to seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend” (“Closer to Fine” – Indigo Girls). A therapeutic song, YouTube it.

I continued reading the only book I have loaded on my iPad, the second book of the trilogy series, 50 Shades of Gray… the lady a few rows up was reading it, too. Funny how those best sellers span other continents like that.

Finally, finalllllllllly, we arrive in Belfast. One of the bigger cities in Ireland. There are people everywhere, cars everywhere… it really has the hustle and bustle of city life. Urban life. We like it and we find our home at the Global Village hostel about 15 minutes walk from the bus station. I don’t know what has happened but apparently, my bag is bigger than it was. I’ll have to revise my packing strategy as I’ve only bought two tshirts?! The hostel is £55 ($88.00) for 2 people, for 2 nights. This is the way to see a country cheap people. Public transportation and hostel sleeping. You sleep in bunk beds and share bathrooms, but it’s extremely cheaper than a 4 star Hilton… and you meet other people from around the world!

We searched for a dinner spot and settled on boojum, a replica of Chipotle. But better, more eco-friendly, and their burrito bowls tasted very good. We hiked around the city and realized the Apple Store Belfast closed at 6pm. That’s a hell of a time to close?! Six!? How do they make any money? We plan to visit them tomorrow! And request a back of house tour. 🙂

The weather here is much colder than we expected. Between the 50 degrees and drizzling rain, it’s downright bitchin cold. My sweatshirt hoodie and two layers of long sleeves will have to do. A wise man once told me, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing….”

Chelsea and I end the night sharing a bottle of wine, dark chocolate, and planning tomorrows adventures.

I got the chance to FaceTime the parents home in Minnesota and for the first time I had a pang of homesickness. It’s the people that make time for you, that I plan to make time for. Whether we’re in the same time zone or not. Technology is absolutely freaking amazing. I was able to iChat with them as I vacationed in Costa Rica a few years ago, and now as I adventure throughout Ireland.

I’ll end with a quote I read on the side of a building tonight that, for some reason, resonates with me… and very well may end up as a tattoo someday, in some form….

Today’s plan is already yesterday’s – the streets that were there are gone.

Seize the day people, you only live once,
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I could get used to castle living…

Like spoiled princesses we slept away our hangovers in the castle.

But wait, before you judge, I can explain.

Last night was straight out of a movie.

As we caught up on our daily social media, we sat where the WiFi was strongest, in the lobby foyer near the giant open fireplace facing the red grand staircase. It was around 9pm and we were tired from the day, thinking we would have a few glasses of wine and watch a flick.

Somewhere between 9 and 10pm we were joined by two Irish couples in the foyer. The ladies drank white wine and the gentleman drank Guinness. Lots of both. We all start to converse. Discussing the haunted spirit in the castle, Johnny Cash, and the beauty of dogs. One couple had a giant 140 lb dog and a 6 lb Pomeranian they left out of their rooms. The castle allows pets, we come to find out. The dogs get belly rubs as we chat about a famous guest that stayed here at Markree Castle – Mr Johnny Cash. We are seated around the red grand staircase where he sang a song many, many years ago. In the guest book is his signature as well as June Carter Cash’s.

One woman happened to be a singer/songwriter and had a guitar in her room. She went up and grabbed it. Before you know it, Johnny Cash songs are being sung loudly in the echoing foyer. The two Irish men behaved like the guys in Boondocks Saints and were absolutely hilarious.

At this point, Chelsea and I decide to forgo our previous plans and see where the night takes us. We are staying in a castle after all, in Ireland, making friends and drinking with a bunch of Irish who have excellent singing voices.

Someone complains about our loud noise so we move the gathering into the bar area a bit further from where the guest rooms were located. We joined up with two other couples already seated in the dimly-lit bar. All 10 of our chairs in a circle. The music continued, as did the drinking and laughter. We were discussing everything from Irish politics to prime ministers to Lady Gaga to Canada to surnames to U2… we were absolutely all over the map.

2:50am rolls around, people are starting to waver when they stand.. Chelsea and I bid our farewells. Not before Johnny from Dublin grasps both of our hands and tells us, we are the future. We are going to do great things and to not be afraid of whatever comes our way. Johnny was about 11 Guinness pints in, but he meant well and we will remember his fond appreciation for U2, the Wanted and behaving half his age.

Fast forward to today. We wake up and shower: 1:30 pm. Chelsea calls the Markree Riding Stables to inquire about a ride. They’re ready for us at 2pm. We throw on tops, jeans and our tennis shoes and head out. The stable is a 10 minute walk from the castle (past the mama and baby foal).

We arrive, our lead is a super cute young gal named Niamh (pronounced Neeve… crazy, I know). She is 100% Irish and was recently voted the #1 Justin Bieber fan in Ireland.

We changed into some boots and got on our horses. Mine was a beautiful fast girl named Cheyenne and Chelsea rode a more low-key one named Major. It was just the three of us on this ride, so we took off on the trail. It was an hour long and we chatted the heck out of Niamh. We rode English and it was such a déjà vu time for me. I’ve decided I’m going to start riding again. Maybe i wont jump like I used to, but at least ride. It’s been a few years, but I love it!

This was absolutely one of the highlights. We rode horses around a castle estate, in Ireland.

We discussed the idea of taking Niamh home to America with us. She is all for it. I told her we can find a nice stable for her to work at, she can stay at my place and we’ll all ride horses and drink afternoon tea together.

This is the second product of Ireland that I want to smuggle home with me (baby foal is #1).

The rest of the day was spent packing and prepping for tomorrows travel. We walked into town and bought groceries to make a homemade meal (sandwiches & Guinness) in the room while we finally watched Gladiator.

Life is so sweet.
Xo

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to the castle we go!

Our roomie from Columbia left in the wee hours this morning. We woke up slightly early and began our packing process. But not before enjoying the most fabulous cappuccinos I’ve ever had.

The weather was beautiful, slightly chilly but clear and no rain drizzles. We went back to the cafe from day one in Galway. Located on the corner of the town square. We sat outside and enjoyed a solid 45 minutes of straight people watching, sipping on our cappuccinos and basically giddy at the fact that we are on a hell of an adventure clear across the world from home.

We grabbed pain chocolat pastries (chocolate croissant) for takeaway (to-go). Coincidentally it is the best pain chocolat I’ve had. It’s true, pastries just taste better in Europe. We bought our one way ticket to Collonney (€13.50) at the bus station and said adios to Galway.

Two and a half bumpy hours later, a dozen stops along the way, we make it to the tiniest town ever, Collooney. Home of maybe 3,000 people. The bus drops us literally on the side of the road. As the bus pulls away we see Quigleys. A gas/grocery/bar/lounge. I mention that it’s a fine time to purchase some wine so we cross the street and enter. Smallest grocery in the smallest town ever. Your typical old-as-dust Irish grandpa is manning the place and he’s gosh darn adorable. We buy the only two bottles of red wine left in the place. He calls a taxi (one of four in the city), bless his heart, and we bid him farewell.

The taxi picks us up and drops us right underneath the stone archway of Markree Castle. A beautiful location with lots of history. To recap, it belongs to an untitled family named the Coopers who were gifted the land as payment for serving in some war.

Our room overlooks the back lawn with rolling landscape as far as you can see. We feel right smack dab in the middle of a Disney fairy tale.

Two separate beds, a shower and toilet all to ourselves, now this is luxury, especially after being in hostels so far this trip. Not having to wear sandals to shower? Heaven.

We drop our bags in the room. An antique desk and chair sit near the window. Chelsea braids my hair as we listen to Lady Gaga. Afterwards, we explore the grounds. Well, some of them… with 300 acres of land, we didn’t exactly cover nearly a piece of it. The castle has their own flock of pure bred fluffy white Wensleydale sheep. Of course they do. Link to sheep

On the other side of the castle we walked on the road for half hour until we arrived at the Markree Riding Stables. A dozen horses grazed the grass on top of the hill as we inquired about riding options. Tomorrow night (Sunday), there is an evening ride around the premises (€25). We agree this is a must do activity.

On our walk home a momma horse and her foal were grazing in the pasture. The baby came right on over and greeted us. I discreetly tried to come up with a way to get her thru customs and take her home with us.

I couldn’t come up with anything logical. :/

Dinner consisted of road snacks (trail mix, these hilarious things Chelsea introduced me to called Digestives, our fave traveling item Justin’s Peanut Butter), a pint of Guinness and light bar fare. We dined in the castle bar area complete with shoddy upholstery, huge windows and terrible lighting. I felt like I was a dignitary or an extra in Beauty and the Beast.

Now we drink wine, giggle like little girls and watch a movie on the iPad (probably Gladiator to match our abroad theme)… this is the perfect spot for a sleepover.

Meet us in the castle basement for scary story time at midnight?
Xo

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