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When you combine a whisky tasting room, whisky shop, and Scottish-ingredient inspired restaurant in one space at the base of Edinburgh Castle, you end up with a really good thing. Our recent trip to Ireland included a few days in Edinburgh, where we worked up quite the hunger and thirst and found ourselves at some fantastic restaurants, like Amber Restaurant, where we dined our first evening.

Scotch Whisky Experience

Our afternoon started out with a fantastic pub lunch followed by lots of walking, so when we hit the whisky tasting bar at the Scotch Whisky Experience, we were excited to take a seat and enjoy a wee dram or two. Kenny at the tasting bar was hospitable and super knowledgeable about each and every whisky behind him, and we enjoyed spending time reading through the menu’s tasting notes. Whisky, like wine, can exhibit so many different characteristics based on how it’s made, and each one we tasted offered a little something special.

Scotch Whisky Experience

This Isle of Skye 8 year blend was only one of what turned out to be several tasting choices. I didn’t take too many notes, but I did decide that my favorite whisky of the day was the Jura Superstition. It was definitely the little bit of spice that I loved in this Jura; though we tried many more whiskys along the way, this one definitely stood out to me.  I also loved the Ben Nevis 10 year, which had nice notes of cocoa and smoke, like a  bit of chipotle chocolate on the palate. Lovely.

Isle of Skye whiskyAfter spending a good bit of time with Kenny at the tasting bar, we headed across the room to the restaurant for our dinner reservation. Our table overlooked Edinburgh, which was just enchanting as the sun set. Rosy cheeked from the whisky and getting sleepy from our travels, we tucked into a deliciously memorable meal made with local ingredients.

Edinburgh

We decided to share a few items and started with Scottish smoked salmon. While in Ireland and Scotland, I ate smoked or regular salmon at least once a day, but usually twice, and one day three times. Salmon in that part of the world is so beautiful. It’s actually what originally started to sway me from vegetarianism. When I studied abroad in Galway, I was a vegetarian, tried Irish salmon, and started eating fish again!

smoked salmon

Continuing with the local seafood theme, we went for a big, steaming bowl of mussels with Isla whisky cream sauce and a prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce, another favorite when I am in Ireland or Scotland. Marie Rose sauce is similar to Russian dressing in flavor and color, and it makes for an incredible meal with some prawns, brown bread, and salad.

prawn cocktailThe second part of our meal was a bit heartier and consisted of perfectly roasted root vegetables and a lamb stovie, a traditional Scottish dish made with lamb, onion, and potatoes.

roasted root vegetables

lamb stovie

The stovie was so yummy and comforting, but since I don’t eat much lamb, I felt bad the next day when I saw all of the baby lambs bopping through the fields! I think they might be too cute for me to eat, as delicious as they are!

Eating out when traveling can be hit or miss, and we got lucky with Amber Restaurant. The food, ambiance, and service all contributed to the end of a great day in Edinburgh.

Speaking of lamb, if you are a fan, check out Lamb Jam, happening at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston this weekend!

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Tags: Amber Restaurant, Edinburgh, Scotland, Travel, travel blog, travel post, Travel Tuesday, whisky, whisky tasting

My “Wine of the Week” post usually comes along on Wine Wednesday, but due to Whole Grain Sampling Day, it’s a little late. Better late then never, eh? I think a wine recommendation is a good thing any day of the week, especially on Friday!

On our visit to Ireland, I got to spend our last afternoon in Galway relaxing with family at one of my favorite spots. Sheridan’s Wine Bar.  It’s bright, airy, full of good wine and food, and it overlooks my old apartment and the Galway Saturday market.

They had many wines open the day we visited, and they were eager to let us try them all. When we happened upon this Castello di Verduno Basadone, I halted the rest of my tasting and went straight in for a glass of this beautiful wine.

Castello di Verduno

This wine is a stunning, light ruby red with summery, fresh,  fruity notes, lots of brightness and acidity, and a finish that evokes spice and dried fruit. We kept saying beautiful with each sip and swirling our glasses to admire the color in the sunlit room.

Wine tasting made us hungry, and a cheese board was just the thing to curb our appetites until dinner. Sheridan’s Cheesemonger is downstairs, and it is fabulous.

cheese plate

My favorite cheese was the most local one, a Galway cheese studded with fenugreek. Afternoons spent lingering over wine and cheese while watching the action in the market are one of the best ways to spend the last day of a vacation.

A place like Sheridan’s is perfect for discovering new favorite wines. They are so passionate about what they do, and they are excellent at taking what you normally drink and offering something similar to taste.

Galway Saturday Market

Sheridan's Wine Bar

We finished off this wine tasting afternoon with a walk along the river to the Galway Cathedral, tea and music in the Meyrick, a big dinner, and songs at the Crane Bar. I have so many more Galway adventures left to share!

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Tags: Galway, Italian wine, Travel, wine, wine bars, wine of the week, wine tasting

It almost doesn’t seem real a lot of the time, the way the landscape in the West of Ireland rolls and changes, is cloaked by fog, then seen through the filter of a rainbow before being drenched again in rain or sun. I’ve said it over and over again, but to me, Connemara is one of the most magical places ever, and heading out there on each trip to Ireland is a priority. This trip to Ireland, before we dined and reclined at Ballynahinch Castle, we did some driving around Connemara and climbed Errisbeg, a mountain right outside the town of Roundstone.

Connemara, Ireland

Our original plans included climbing Ben Baun, where my father-in-law grew up, but upon driving West, we saw that a thick fog had taken over the top of the mountain. My FIL knows best when it comes to these mountains, and if he says it’s not safe to climb, we change our plans.

lakes of Connemara

We spent a bit of time driving, taking in the pops of yellow gorse against the green and brown mountain backdrop.

gorse

Connemara, Ireland

We stopped briefly outside Lough Inagh Lodge for a stretch of the legs and some photo ops as we figured out how we were going to spend the day, now that our original climbing plans were foiled.

Lough Inagh Lodge

It was decided we would picnic at Connemara National Park, then head toward Clifden and then on to Errisbeg, which, from what we could see, was in the clear.

Kylemore Abbey

On the way, we passed Kylemore Abbey, a place we have spent many lunches and tea times visiting aunties, enjoying the gardens, and soaking up silence in the Gothic cathedral. We had a mountain to climb, so we didn’t stop at Kylemore this time around.

Kylemore Abbey

Instead, we had a quick picnic lunch in the visitor center at Connemara National Park and then, after a short drive, set off to conquer Errisbeg.

Errisbeg

The mountains we climb in Connemara often look fairly harmless, even when I am in the best of shape, and I am always horribly wrong when I think the climb will be easy. Where it’s not always a super athletic endeavor, it is one that keeps the mind guessing. We hiked through bog, over stones that were covered in slippery lichen, and teetered on loose rocks and cliffs of earth. It’s a slow and steady wins the race type of effort, and while the seven of us were scattered about the mountain, we never lost sight of each other. A walking stick is an immense help for stability, as is a good pair of wellies. I often found myself over ankle deep in water and mud (and sheep poo!), and my feet stayed completely dry.

 

 

 

Hiking in Ireland

 Hiking in Ireland

Natural beauty isn’t the only thing you’ll observe on some of these hikes. On our way, we passed ridges where potatoes were planted prior to the Great Famine and the ruins of homes where people who depended on the potatoes lived. The homes were literally one room, made out of stones, and while the roofs were gone, the stones were stacked in a way that still keeps water out all these years later.

famine house ruins

The rewards for making the trek up a mountain in Connemara are absolutely endless. We were surrounded by sea on several sides, with Dog’s Bay and Rusheen Bay on one side and Roundstone’s harbor on the other. Like I said earlier, it almost doesn’t seem real. It’s a place where you firmly plant your feet, breath deeply, and experience the moment with each of your senses, committing it to memory, imprinting it on your soul.

West of Ireland

Throughout our Connemara hike, we had a bunch of laughs, plenty of quiet time, and a fair bit of competition, mostly amongst the boys, who had to go to the very top ridge, while the rest of us were satisfied with stopping at the hill below, thank you very much. It gets chilly and blustery up there, and when the fog and drizzle start to roll in, it’s time to find a cozy pub.

Errisbeg

Other hiking in Ireland posts you might enjoy:

Climbing Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill Connemara

Abbey Hill

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Tags: Connemara, countryside, County Galway, Galway, hiking, Ireland, Irish countryside, outdoors, Travel, travel blog, West of Ireland

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