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Every visit to Sligo absolutely thrills the English major in me. I concentrated in Irish literature (super useful in the real world) and spent a ton of time studying W.B. Yeats. Sligo is Yeats country, and his inspiration and words are everywhere.

Whenever we visit Ireland, we try to find a short side trip from Galway, whether it be to Kinsale or Northern Ireland or Rome or Prague. This time we stayed close to home and went up to Sligo to enjoy the inspiring Irish countryside, some spa time, and simple relaxation with my in-laws.

Ben Bulben

We stayed at the Radisson Blu in Sligo, and we absolutely loved it. The above was the view from our room. We have stayed in a few Radisson hotels, including in Edinburgh, and they are always really enjoyable. Like my favorite, the Radisson in Galway, the Sligo property had a lovely spa with a thermal suite, where we spent time unwinding after a long hike.

Our room, a junior suite, was well appointed and included free still and sparkling water, Nespresso, and a crazy big Irish breakfast buffet. The service in the lounge was very, very slow (probably a good thing since we drank less) but overall the staff were great and very friendly.

Radisson Sligo

Sligo town is quaint and offers  lot of Yeats history, along with great pubs and restaurants. Just outside Sligo town lies W.B Yeats in the Drumcliffe Graveyard, his tombstone engraved with the famous words from the poem Under Ben Bulben : Cast a cold Eye On Life on Death Horseman pass by.

Yeats’ grave is outside a regular church, but there is a small craft and book shop and cafe on site. It’s well worth a visit if you are in the region.

Yeats grave

 

Drumcliffe Church

 

drumcliffe church yard

 

 

 

And then there’s the natural beauty of Sligo. I haven’t seen the whole world, but I know that Ireland will always be one of its most beautiful places for me.

Rosses Point Sligo is a rugged seaside area where the wind and the waves and rocky cliffs come together to take your breath away.

Rosses Point Sligo   Rosses Point Sligo

Yeats Country

Just a bit further inland, farms dot the landscape as they do in most of Ireland. You may want to smuggle home a new friend or two. . .

sheep in Sligo

And then there’s Ben Bulben. Formed during the Ice Age, Ben Bulben’s crazy shape came from shifting glaciers. I have seen nothing like it. The mountain inspired Yeats, and he mentioned it in both Under Ben Bulben and The Celtic Twilight.

Ben Bulben also plays a big part in Irish legend and history, including in the Irish Civil War.

Ben Bulben

Nowadays Ben Bulben is a spectacular and magical place for a hike. You can’t help but stare it its strange formation and beauty. Even in late November, it was green and lush, dotted with fluffy sheep and surrounded by the cry of howling winds.

 

Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben Our walk along the base was all we could do; the mountain itself can be treacherous and with the winds we have, we opted not to climb. Our walk showed us all sorts of things though, including lichen and heather and beautiful wild birds.

Ireland

Ben Bulben walk

walking around Ben Bulben

It was the perfect stretch of the legs after a flight and a big meal at Ashford Castle.

Guinness and soup And there’s nothing better when in Ireland after a long, blustery walk than a pint of Guinness and a bowl of hot soup. The Yeats Country Hotel is cozy and beautiful with views of the sea and a crackling fireplace.  On a cloudy day, all bundled up inside, I struggled to stay awake after lunch.

Yeats Country Hotel

Sligo is no doubt a dreamy place, and it’s easy to imagine the cranky poet and his pen. If you ever go to Ireland, I encourage you to go West. In the meantime I leave you with one of my favorite Yeats poems.

A Drinking Song

By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.

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Tags: Ben Bulben, County Sligo, Food, hiking, hotels, hotels in Ireland, Ireland, Irish, Irish countryside, Travel, travel advice, travel blogger, travel posts, Yeats

Sit back, relax, and get ready to take a journey to Ireland for the next couple of weeks. Sure, I will have some blog posts on holiday recipes and other things, but we just spent eight days in the West of Ireland, and I am back with a full heart and hundreds upon hundreds of photos and sweet memories.

On the first trip back to Ireland I made with my husband, his parents took all of us to lunch at  Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo. My jaw dropped at the beauty of the castle and the elegance and delicious food. It’s been almost 10 years since that visit, and a wedding, two houses, and many nieces and nephews have happened since. On this past trip, we all returned to Ashford for Sunday lunch.

The castle, which was recently purchased by Red Carnation Hotels, goes back to 1228 when a castle was built on a monastic site and run by the de Burgo family. Its history is long and winding, and the building has housed many famous guests including Oscar Wilde, King George V, John Lennon, John Wayne, Princess Grace of Monaco, and many others.

Ashford Castle

Arriving at Ashford Castle is pretty grand in itself. There’s a gatekeeper and a long road that winds through the golf course and leads you up to another gate over a river, then the castle.

Ashford Castle gate

Ashford Castle golf course

On the inside, Ashford Castle exudes regal beauty, with plush carpets, ornate chandeliers, and comfy chairs.

Ashford Castle

While we sat in the lounge waiting for lunch, we had a round of drinks, mine a perfectly chilled Manhattan.  A Manhattan in a castle on a Sunday afternoon felt pretty darn decadent!

Manhattan

And the view from of Lough Corrib from the lounge just couldn’t be beat.

image

Sunday lunch at Ashford involves a prix fixe menu with choices for appetizer, entree, and dessert. The Irish are known for their smoked salmon, and I went with a traditional and simple preparation, fresh salmon with a bit of fresh salad and lemon.

smoked salmon

Entrees are on the heartier side, and choices included Connemara lamb, pork, and hake. Entrees are all served under silver domes which are dramatically removed at the same time by members of Ashford staff.

The pork came on a cart and was carved tableside. We felt so spoiled!

Ashford Castle tableside service

Ashford Castle tableside service

Since we were surrounded by beautiful water, I went with a fillet of hake with sweet creamed carrot, prawn bisque, and boiled potatoes. It was the perfect choice, filling but not too heavy, each of the elements’ flavors coming through without being overbearing.

fillet of hake

Portions were generous but not overwhelming, and I was left with plenty of room for dessert, a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Rum Raisin Ice Cream. Yum.

The wine selection at Ashford is impressive, with pages and pages of wines including some very expensive ones. A bottle of Drouhin Pouilly-Fuissé Chardonnay went well with our hake and salmon and was just a delicious wine.

sticky toffee pudding

One of the best parts about lunch at Ashford Castle is being able to wander the beautiful grounds after. Every nook and turn has some sort of beautiful old detail, and stretching the legs after  a leisurely lunch feels wonderful.

Ashford Castle

Lough Corrib Lough Corrib is a stunner on its own. With 365 islands, there is something magical about this lake, and the light after lunch was perfect. We could see across to County Galway and to many of the little islands that dot the lake’s calm surface. It’s the perfect spot for boating when the weather is nice, and our Ashford visit has me counting down until we are in Ireland again in August.

Lough Corrib

Ashford Castle

If you get the chance to visit Ireland, I always recommend spending a lot of time in the Western part of the country. Ashford Castle is a beautiful place to splurge on a meal or a night’s stay if you are lucky.

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Tags: castle hotel, castles, cocktails, Cong, County Mayo, Food, Ireland, Irish countryside, Irish hotel, Travel, travel blog, wine

Do you ever have one of those weeks months where everything seems to fly by at lightning speed, when you rarely have a night free, and where you’re constantly going over plans for days and weeks in advance just to make sure you’re not missing something?

That’s how life has been lately. House stuff, work photo and TV shoots and events, travel planning, family, and more house stuff have made me feel like I am being spun around in a game of pin the tail on the donkey. During that time though, there were so many fun and delicious moments that I thought a rainy, dreary week could use a roundup of happy; that’s what today’s post is all about.

roast with red wine gravy

Slow cooked meals on weeknights – For some reason the kitchen is like therapy to me, and coming home after a busy day is made better by working on a comforting meal. This roast was absolutely incredible. It involved me searing the meat on all sides, then seasoning with garlic powder, pepper, and thyme and deglazing the pan with Travessia Jester red wine and beef stock. After that, the roast went into an oven at 400 with lots of vegetables and an entire head of crushed garlic. The end result was heavenly, the meat even better served cold with horseradish the next day. If you live in Massachusetts and haven’t tried Travessia wine, a visit to their tasting room is a perfect cold weather activity!

photo 4 homemade French toast

Visiting family and hanging out in pj’s on a cold and dreary Saturday with my mom’s French toast is just the best. I can’t wait until Christmas!

stray cat house  A yard full of cats – a stray mama cat and her kittens adopted us. While we try to catch them to bring them to a rescue, they have a little home to live in, along with two meals a day. I am constantly stressed about their wellbeing and hoping a rescue will get back to me soon!

Boston Cream Pie Day

The Massachusetts Governors Conference on Travel and Tourism – My work is so intertwined with Massachusetts travel, plus I love this state, so being at the JFK Library for the day with other tourism professionals was interesting and inspiring. The food at the library is delicious, and it happened to be National Boston Cream Pie Day, so the Parker House contributed the real deal.

JFK LIbrary The JFK Library has such an energy about it. It is also a great Boston day trip.

EF building opening event Speaking of energy and inspiration, the EF Education building opening was another beacon of light on a rainy day. They pulled out all the stops to celebrate their brand new building, and the event included fall cocktails, a flash mob, and the Landfillharmonic, a group of children from a Paraguayan slum who play instruments made from trash recovered from a landfill. The kids played “Imagine”, and there was not a dry eye in that tent. Beautiful.

Atwoods Cambridge We savored the outdoors while the weather was still fine, with beers on Atwoods’ patio and a day out at the Head of the Charles.

Head of the Charles And we played tourist in Harvard Square, checking out beautiful architecture in the First Parish Church. In all of life’s chaos, I sometimes crave the peace that faith brings, and it was nice being in such a beautiful, faith-filled space.

church windows

Head of the Charles cocktails at Grafton Street have been a tradition since we went on one of our first dates, and it was a nice enough day to sit by windows open on to the street. Along with sipping drinks, we made friends with a handsome pitbull named Hudson. It was love at first sight.

cocktails at Grafton Street I have to admit that our dining has been indulgent, and our exercise nonexistent. Lunches on-the-go have included a burger topped with lobster and guacamole at the Legal Sea Foods at Logan Airport. My goal is to join a gym the day we return from Ireland and to try to once and for all get back in shape and lose some of the weight I have gained this past year. It’s definitely been getting me down, and it’s been hard to turn around while so busy. Still, choices like this don’t help!

lobster guacamole burger Finally, we’ve been loving the natural beauty of the season, including the changing leaves in the views from our home.

autumn views Chilly days are still fine for beach trips, and Duxbury Beach sparkled one windy Sunday.

Duxbury Beach And my garden is still hanging on! While the vegetable garden has been turned under and mixed with compost for the season, my little “cottage garden” as I call it, still has flowers and greens sprouting. It adds a little cheer to those dark mornings and evenings when we come and go. I don’t love that we almost never see daylight this time of year!

cottage garden

Are you feeling the  busy-ness of this time of year?

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Tags: blogging, Boston, cambridge, cocktails, cooking, events, Food, head of the charles, lifestyle, roundup, wine

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