Ireland: Galway to Donegal via Sligo

Day 7 was a Sunday and we left the bad B&B in Galway (see Ireland: Doolin to Galway for that story) and headed for Sligo at 6:30a.m.. My last name is Irish and my dad told us to go to Sligo to see this famous statue of one of our "relatives". The sisters and I showed up and nothing was open. It turns out that on Sundays shops open up around noon, if at all. Here are a few pictures from Sligo.

Cool modern architecture.

We wondered around Sligo looking for the statue my dad told us about and I finally asked an older Irish gentleman if he knew where it was. Hi did. It was an hour south of us. Great. We decided not to try to find it and pushed on for Donegal.

It was another beautiful day in Ireland and Donegal was having a festival called Donegal LIVE. The town was packed and there was all kinds of live music going on. The sisters and I walked around the town a bit taking in some of the sites.

At about 8:30 we decided to head back to the B&B as downtown was getting a little crazy. Our B&B was far enough away that we didn't hear any of the late night concerts and were in bed about 10:30. Donegal was a one night stop over and we headed to Portstewart the next day.

Ireland: Doolin to Galway

Fresh off a great stay in Doolin the sisters and I headed north to Galway. A lucky turn took us through the Burren and for the first time this trip I started thinking about maybe coming back to Ireland. I should of realized I was jinxing something because driving in Galway was not fun and then we had a little bit of bad luck with the B&B but the drive to Galway was beautiful. Here are a few pictures from the road.

Driving in cities is our least favorite place to drive in Ireland but eventually we found the tourism office and asked for a place to stay. Originally we had thought of staying in Galway for 2 days but after setting foot in the B&B our plan changed. The problem was the B&B smelled like cigaretes. Not the room we were staying in, per say, but the whole house. Someone who lived there smoked and you could smell it everywhere. Truth be told, we should have walked out when we first walked in but we have this "nice" complex sometimes that doesn't really help anyone. We decided to stay for one night and rearranged our itenerary again.

On a side note: The B&B was called Liskea and run by Kathleen. I am going to do a blog post that covers all the B&Bs we stayed in but this was by far the worst. On top of smelling like cigaretes the room was very small. So small that it would not have passed the yoga mat test. The yoga mat test is having enough room to put down a yoga mat if you wanted to do some yoga. Some other things that happened at this B&B is that Kathleen charged us more than the tourist office told us the cost was and did not take off any money when we told her the night before we were leaving at 6:30 a.m. so we would not be having breakfast. All other B&Bs take off 10 euros if you were not having breakfast. If you are traveling to Ireland, TripAdvisor is really big here. There are a lot of reviews and we have started to us it a lot. Liskea House was not on TripAdvisor, but it will be soon with our review!

Galway was not impressing me. The sisters and I walked back to the City Center along the ocean and even found the European version of TJ Maxx! (it is called TK Maxx here). Everyone was out as the weather was beautiful. Galway is a university town and lots of people were sitting by the water drinking beer and getting some sun. Every person we talked to said this was the best summer weather they have had in 2 years. Lucky us! The weather felt just like home (California).

We cruised the Latin Quarter and were lucky to score a table Ard Bia. Ard Bia was on the Middle Sister's resturant list and it was very good. We sat upstairs and it was charming. I would highly recommend it.

Photos from Ard Bia:

We were finishing up our wine when two gentlemen at a nearby table started talking to us and ended up joining us. We split two more bottles of wine and had a great time talking with them. We started dinner at 7pm and left at 11pm. The Irish certainly have the gift of gab but these two gentlemen saved Galway for me. The meal was the best experience I had in the city and I am glad we ran into them.


Ireland: Doolin - Cliffs of Moher - Doolin

Day 5 the sisters and I were up "early" to see the Cliffs of Moher. "Early" in this case means we were on our way at 9:30 a.m.. So far it does not appear the Irish are early risers. The shops open between 9-10 and close between 5-6. It is not uncommon to see a note on a door at a shop that might say "back in a while". I am all for "when in Rome do as the Romans do" but this did take a little getting used to. Even at the B&Bs, the proprietors seem a little less talkative first thing in the morning. It could be that the sun is setting so late right now (about 10 p.m.) and the sun seems to be rising at 4 a.m.. With the great weather Ireland has been having, everyone is trying to take in as much as they can of it in the evenings.

At 9:30 we were on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. They are about a 10 minute drive from Doolin and we beat the crowds. Here we are near the visitors center with the Cliffs in the background.

We decided to do the walk / hike to Hag's Head as it was such a nice day. The hike ended up being a little over 6 miles and the sisters both got sunburns on the hike. Everyone seemed to be getting sunburns and we started calling them "Irish Tans". Here are a few pictures from the hike:

Hag's Head: Moher Tower

That evening I had my best pub experience to date in Ireland. We ended up at Fitz's, just across the way from our B&B. They had live music and the food was pretty good. We made friends with the people sitting next to us from New Zealand and got to see two diffrent groups perform. Our waiter Martin was pretty fun when he said I was too expensive to be a wife when I ordered a lot of food.

All in all Doolin was a great place to stay and I am glad we spent two nights there. I got to catch my breath, catch up on my sleep, and experience a little of the pub scene everyone talks about. I even bought a CD from the band!

Ireland photos on Flickr

I am a little behind in my Ireland blog posts but wanted to let you know I am also uploading Ireland photos to my everyAUGUST flickr account. You can view them here http://www.flickr.com/photos/everyaugust/sets/72157629842674472/ if you want to see more pictures from Ireland!


Ireland: Kenmare to Doolin via the Ring of Kerry

Day 4: Started with a hearty breakfast (I feel like all breakfasts in Ireland are HEARTY) and we were on our way to Doolin via the Ring of Kerry. There are parts of the Ring of Kerry (like the part above) that are stunning, but having lived in California and driven Pacific Coast Highway from Mexico to Canada many times, I have to admit it was not as amazing as I thought it was going to be. The truth about the drive is that you go around the pennisula and a lot of it does not have views like the one above. A lot of the "views" are of vegitation growing so high on the side of the road you can't see what is on the other side of it. Never the less, the weather was amazing (the best summer day in Ireland in two years the locals told us) and we had a good time.

The sisters had re-done the itenerary again and the new plan was to drive to Doolin and stay there for two nights. We stopped in Listowel at the Grape & Grain for lunch. It was pretty good and the owner / bartender was a wealth of information. From the Grape & Grain we headed to Tarbert to pick up the car ferry and then we moved on to Doolin.

It took us about 8 hours to arrive. Claire in the tourist office found us a place to stay and even had recommendtions for live music later that night. The weather was beautiful and everyone we talked to said we had brought it with us from California. Doolin was charming and the sisters and I settled in for a few days.


Ireland: Kinsale to Kenmare

Day 3: Kinsale to Kenmare took about 5 hours but it felt a lot longer. The weather was wet and the roads were narrow. We stopped at the Timoleague Friary but other than that is was mostly driving.

One of my sisters made a comment about people who take road trips not minding the driving, but thinking about it more (as a person who takes a lot of road trips) that is not really the case. The road trips I take with T involve a lot of drivng, but also involve a lot of stopping and hanging out. This trip to Ireland did not include any hanging out and I didn't realize how much I needed that.

We arrived in Kenmare (a gateway to the Ring of Kerry) and found the Tourist / Information Office. These offices are great for finding a place to stay. The lady working directed us to the Rockcrest house, about a 5 minute walk out of town. This B&B was lovely, with Marilyn, the owner giving us tea and biscuits the minute we came in the door to warm up. Here is the house:

After getting settled down, we headed out to explore the town. I had some great honey ice cream, but other than that the joke seemed to be on us. A lot of resturants were closed on Wednesday and we ended up getting a bottle of wine at a local shop to have with some farmer's market cheese. We were in the sitting room at our B&B and I fell asleep. My sisters said I should go to bed and I did. Guess a little jet-lag and driving around all day had worn me out. The moral of this story though is that my two sisters started talking about the Ireland trip so far and decided to come up with a new itenerary because they were not having very much fun driving everyday too. They asked me if I had anything I really wanted to see and then made a new plan. Basically we would spend one day driving (a lot) but then stay put the next day and enjoy the area we were in. I was up for a change and that is what we ended up doing the next day.


Ireland: Kilkenny - Kinsale

Day 2 and the truth is, driving is killing our trip. I am still not the one driving (the middle sister has taken on that) but I am the one navigating and Ireland is driving me nuts. I can usually roll with the punches but today (day 2) I kind of lost it a little inside. The problem we realized later is that street names are not marked very well or at all. I realized this after we had missed something three times. I finally walked into a very nice hotel and said "Can you help me? I have no idea where I am". I didn't even know if I was in the right city. I started to feel a little less bad when the girl told me the streets are awful in Ireland and you have to navigate by landmarks. She then proceeded to give me directoins by drawing on my map and telling me the landmarks to look for. We never would have gotten to our destination with out her but it dawned on me that this driving thing was really cramping our style. It made us stressed out and grumpy and I thought a few times that it would just be better to scratch the driving thing all together! The Little Sister and I both can get car sick and the curvy roads are not helping anything. I am still wondering about all of this, but our evening in Kinsale was better than the day and I am trying to forget about it. We will see if tomorrow is a repeat of the trip so far.

Today we left Kilkenny and headed for Cork and Blarney. Then back to Cork for the English Market and then on to Kinsale. Our B&B, Pier House B&B, is charming and right on the water. The Little Sister and I are sharing a room while we gave the Middle Sister her own room (she was the driver after all). After a few hours wandering around Kinsale we decided to have dinner at Max's. I went with the lamb and it was very good. For dessert I had a cheese plate with Irish cheeses and it was perfect with my last glass of red wine. I had my first pint in Ireland tonight and listened to some great live music at a local Pub.
Tomorrow the sisters and I are adjusting our plan. Instead of following the itenerary we prepared, we are now going to get in the car and drive until we want to stop. If we don't make it to the destination we hoped to see, oh well. We are trying to find a balance between seeing what we want to see and liking our trip. I am sure we will figure it out, but these first two days have been trying. For me driving in Ireland without knowing exactly where you are going is awful. I havn't been this stressed out in awhile and I am on vacation! Something has to change and the sisters and I are working out what that is.


Ireland: Airport - Killkenny

Day 1: I just finished my first day in Ireland and am exhasted. Jet lag played a part in it but so did the stress of driving on the wrong side of the road and everything associated with driving in Ireland! I should mention here that I did none of the dirving. I was the navigator but it was stressful enough doing that. My poor sister who drove. Bet she regrets telling me she would drive the first day now...

The day worked out today, but I am thinking we might have been a little over booked. From the airport we headed to Powerscourt Gardens.
The sisters and I walked the gardens and had some lunch there. It was very pretty but I guess after seeing so many beautiful garden designs in France and California, it just didn't have the same "wow" factor for me.

Next we headed to Glendalough and did the walk to the upper lake. This place was beautiful and I would recommend it if anyone is in the neighborhood. You can read about Glendalough here http://www.glendalough.ie/ (I am falling asleep as I write this sitting up). We visited the ruins and I love the pictures I got there.

There was all kinds of getting lost and car strangness but I think I will sleep on those adventures for a few days. The plan was to drive around the clock face of the island, but things might be changing. I will post updates when I have internet again.


Ireland countdown: 36 hours

In about 36 hours the sisters and I will leave for Ireland.
We have:
  • airfare
  • car rental
  • first nights accommodations
  • a rough plan
I have never taken a trip like this. By that I mean:
  1. A trip to Ireland
  2. A trip where I need to rent a car and drive on the wrong left side of the road
  3. A trip where I do not have a solid plan and concrete reservations
Looks like I am turning over a new leaf......Not happily though. It is REALLY hard for me to be uncertain about travel plans but I have a few things going for me.
  1. My sisters and I will have a blast no matter what happens
  2. They speak english in Ireland
  3. Things work out. Things work out. Things work out.
Ireland here we come. Even if I am ready or not....


Lamb Sliders with feta and homemade taziki on hawaiian rolls

I am playing catch up on a few blog posts and trying out blogging on the iPad to see if I can bring that (instead of a computer) to Ireland and Russia this summer. I am using Evernote (http://evernote.com/) to compose my blog posts and then emailing them to blogger to upload. It is a bit of a work around, but that is how technology is sometimes. If someone has come up with a better system, please let me know!

On to Lamb Sliders.

Last Sunday I was feeling like a home-body and wanted to have a BBQ with T and the sisters but the stars didn't align for me and I was looking at having a BBQ with myself. I had this moment where I thought I should probably just make something small for dinner and then decided that was not going to happen. If I wanted to have a BBQ, I was going to have a BBQ. Even if it was for a party of ONE!

And so I did. Seeing as I didn't have anyone to work with on the menu, I just winged it and decided to make Lamb Sliders. I went with the sliders because they were small and seemed like fun. I made my own taziki sauce and threw the whole thing together. I loved them! They were so good. Surprisingly so good that I had to write down what I did so I could do it again. I loved the hint of mint in the burgers and the sweetness of the Hawaiian rolls that played off the tang of the taziki. Make sure to grill the Hawaiian rolls! It really makes a difference.

Here is what I did for the burgers:

Lamb Burgers with Mint and Garlic
2lbs ground lamb (I think it was 2 lbs)
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
1TB Marks secret spice rub (my friend Mark makes this and won't give up the recipe, but promises to give me some for the rest of my life!) You can just use a spice rub that you like.
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (make sure the mint is really minty)

Combine everything in a bowl and make mini hamburger patties (sliders) and grill on a (charcoal) grill.

Easy and delicious.

Here is the taziki sauce I made. Apparently you can make it with garlic and mint too..... maybe next time.

Taziki Sauce
3/4c grated cucumber (layed out on paper towels to drain for an hour or so)
1c NF plain Greek yogurt
1/4c dill chopped
2TB lemon juice

Mix together in a bowl and season to taste. Refrigertate until ready to use.

I grilled the burgers and Hawaiian rolls. I placed a dollop of taziki on the bottom roll followed by feta cheese, burger, more taziki and the top of the Hawaiian roll. Heaven! These will be making an appearance all summer long!


Ten Days until IRELAND!

In ten days we will be on a plane heading for IRELAND! I can't believe it. I have so many unplanned plans to make. Time to get on it. Look for updates here! Who is going to watch Samson?


dinner @ Wine Cask (again) w/ Pictures

Saturday found me in Santa Barbara for an awesome (work related) conference. Earlier in the week I had mentioned I was heading to Santa Barbara to the Little Sister and thinking about hitting up Wine Cask again for dinner. (We were there two weeks ago and you can read about it HERE.) She said she was in! And the two of us spent the day in Santa Barbara. I was working and she was napping, reading, getting sunburned and clearing her mind.

After all that hard work we headed over to Wine Cask.....
Wine Cask

This time I asked to sit on the patio and it was beautiful. The weather was perfect and I want my house to look like this place. It is fantastic! (Here is a photo from the Wine Cask Gallery)

The Little Sister and I split a half bottle of the Flying Goat Pinot Noir (same wine as last time) and struggled with what to order. Do we get the same AMAZING things we got last time, or try something new? We finally decided to try something new.

We started with Quail with maple stuffing and a blackberry sauce. At least I think that was what it was. It was new on the menu and it was pretty good. I would think about ordering it again.
Wine Cask: Quail w/ stuffing and Blackberry Sauce
Next was the main course. I had the:
GRILLED WAGYU NEW YORK STRIP (Medium Rare) red flannel hash, chervil-horseradish
Wine Cask: Grilled Wagyu New York Strip
And the Little Sister had the:
DUCK CASSOULET ‘TRIO’ white beans, duck leg confit, braised pork cheek, Farpoint Ranch sausage
Wine Cask: Duck Cassoulet "Trio"
Both of these were really good, but we both agreed, that our first entrees at Wine Cask were a little better. To re-cap I had the (SPRING GARLIC MARINATED RACK OF LAMB (Medium Rare) BD farms wild greens, tourneed cauliflower and romaine hearts, romaine pistou and the Little Sister had the ROASTED DOUBLE-CUT KUROBUTA PORK CHOP black truffle puree, fingerlings, smoked lardo, Greek yogurt emulsion).

For dessert we ordered the MASCARPONE PANNA COTTA, strawberry crisp, rhubarb compote. It was good but not something I would write home about. I had been wanting to order the Market Cobbler and after we ate the Panna Cotta I did! I really wanted to try it because so far, the desserts were the weakest link at Wine Cask.
Wine Cask: Mascarpone Panna Cotta
I am glad I tried it because it was the best dessert I have had there to date. It was a BLACKBERRY MARKET COBBLER, cinnamon ice cream, Ojai Valley honey. The cinnamon ice cream was amazing. I would just order that if I had to. It was drizzled with the Ojai honey and the top of the cobbler was a biscuit. A biscuit! It was really, really good. I would order it again!
Wine Cask: Blackberry Market Cobbler w/ Cinnamon ice cream
I would HIGHLY recommend Wine Cask for dinner but the next time I head to Santa Barbara I will be trying Intermezzo, the sister restaurant of Wine Cask. I mean Wine Cask has a sister! How could I not try it?


Wine Cask again and some amazing Lamb Sliders

This weekend included a conference in Santa Barbara on Saturday and another trip to Wine Cask (with pictures this time) with the little sister. See my post HERE!

Sunday included some amazing Lamb Sliders and I will post the recipe soon. Fresh mint was key.

It's 9:30pm on Sunday and I can only keep one eye open to type this.

Tickets are booked for Ireland and I leave in two weeks. Two Weeks! Wow that is fast.

I'm blogging over at FierceFoods (eatfierce.wordpress.com) the first Friday of every month if you want to check out my newest post.

See you soon!