Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dublin: Where to Eat

I think it is pretty safe to say that our favorite thing we did in Dublin, was EAT. We had a few great meals and I am going to share those with you.

The Favorite: Kinara
Type of Food: Indian/Pakistani

If you read my blog at all, you probably know my love of Indian food. So I was very excited when my mother-in-law found this place and suggested we go. It was a little outside of the city center, but so worth the little bit longer taxi ride. They totally accommodated our group of 14 and gave us a private table upstairs in a private room that had its own bar. (This was also prefect because I was able to smuggle in McDonald's for the kids without the whole restaurant being privy to the situation.)

What we ate:
The brought us an assortment of the best lamb shanks we have ever had. BBQ'd to perfection and little on the spicy side. Also we had prawns, chicken, and aloo-tiki (potato cakes with garlic)! Yum!
I also had the Kinara signature martini to start. It tasted like a grapefruit!

Charlie and I split the chicken tikka masala (always a favorite) and the Nehari Gosht. It is a traditional Pakistani beef dish. Both were excellent. It was all served with an assortment of cheese, sweet, and regular naan.

The Chicken Tikka Masala came in these cute little red pots!

Most people had the assortment of mixed ice creams, but I had the Mississippi Mud Cake. Yes, you heard me right....that is why I had to get it. Do Indian/Pakistani people that live in Dublin know anything about Mississippi Mud?? The answer is NO. It cam out more like a chocolate chess pie. It was not the Mississippi Mud I grew up with. It was still good.

Yeah..not quite what I had envisioned.

My Irish coffee for my dessert with my dessert. Made with Jameson. Too strong for me. It did not get left undrinken (is that a word). With the McDonald family it was sure to find a happy home.

The view outside the restaurant. Gorgeous.

Restaurant #2 was called Millstone. This was a more traditional place that served more traditional items. They also had an early bird menu that was a great deal. You basically got 2-3 courses at a set price, so that was nice.

We started with the garlic cheese bread...very good. Some people had salads which looked awesome. They were very much a traditional garden salad, which in Europe is sometimes hard to come by.
Main course:
Most people go the Chicken breast or the Beef with peppercorn sauce. Both looked amazing and I was a little bummed I had not ordered it too. However, I got the vegetable lasagna and it was very good.

We opted out of the dessert because on the way there we saw this place....

Yes, that is what it was. A milkshake bar. You basically select what you want and they whip it up. Sort of like a Blizzard, but better and not as thick.

The other place we ate at for lunch, and made many other stops at every time we walked by, was the Queen of Tarts. You know it has to be good just by the name alone. There were actually 2 locations, so either way we were walking we were sure to walk past. We stopped in mostly for the desserts. Macaroons, cheesecake, cupcakes, cookies, and of course tarts. The lemon meringue was a crowd favorite. We actually did eat here for lunch too one day. They had great sandwiches, salads, and soups. I had a potato and onion tart, that was a little dry, but very tasty!

My potato and red onion tart lunch.

Charlie's berry pie...the whipped cream was heavenly.

One last place to mention would be Bewley's. They are well known for their tea, but we stopped in for breakfast the morning we arrived. We got in about 8:30am, so of course our hotel rooms were not ready, so we walked down to Grafton Street and had a little breakfast. This was a great stop. They had regular breakfast items (like pancakes) which made it great for the kids, but they also had small Continental breakfasts with tea/coffee that were perfect for us. A nice place to hang out!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dublin: Where to Stay

Yeah! I am finally getting around to doing my 1st post about our trip. I am going to start with Dublin, because that is where we started. I am going to break down Dublin into 3 parts. Where to Stay, Where to Eat, and What to Do. I will by no means have all the answers to any of these, but will share with you our experience. As with most places, you can't really see it all and do it all in one trip. I already have a list of things I want to do on my next Dublin visit!

So Where to Stay:

This is where we stayed: The Arlington Hotel

I guess I should probably preface this post and all posts about the vacation a bit by saying that we traveled as a group of 15 the entire 3 weeks. In order to coordinate this madness, my mother-in-law booked all hotels. This was a task that I was very glad to relinquish to her, however, in hindsight, I would have probably made slightly different choices in some cases. Dublin, however, was not really one of those. I feel she did a good job of getting us a nice place to stay, at a good, reasonable rate, great location to the heart of the city, and an overall good choice.

Pros to the Arlington Hotel:
1. Clean and Comfortable (You will see from the photos that our room was quite spacious. We had a corner room with a king sized bed and 2 twins. Aside from the girls having separate rooms, this was quite a nice arrangement.)

2. Staff was very friendly at front desk and breakfast. The breakfast was very nice with lots of options and it was included in the price of the room.

3. The location of the hotel was ideal for walking in Dublin. We were right on the River Liffey next to the O'Connell Bridge. Trinity College, Grafton Street, great restaurants, and a train station were all just short walks from our hotel.

4. There was a pub located within the hotel, so it was easy and convenient to grab a drink before dinner or before heading in for the night. They also advertised Irish Dancing every night (however, to our & Sarah's disappointment, we never actually saw it).

5. The price. Being that we would be traveling for 3.5 weeks, we needed to stay within a certain budget. There would be no Four Seasons every night so to speak. On average, I would say our hotel rooms cost about $100-$120 euros a night. Keep in mind we usually had the bigger rooms b/c we had the kids and sometimes the nanny. Several hotels we stayed at were under 80 Euros, so we did well on the cost for decent places.

6. It had Internet. Period.

Cons to the Arlington Hotel:
1. There is a pub downstairs. This makes for quite a lot of noise at night when you are trying to go to sleep. Especially on the weekends. We had mild weather while we were in Dublin and had the windows open at night (there is no air conditioning) so the music and conversation could be heard into the wee hours of the morning.

2. The bathrooms were tiny. Not always are hotel bathrooms big, but these were pretty small. Also, aside from our corner room, the standard guest rooms were a little on the small side, as well.

3. It did not have very many amenities. If you are like me and are more of a luxury hotel goer, it was lacking in some areas. However...only in big cities would you find a lot luxury in Ireland and there was the budget thing. Still, there was no air conditioning, small elevators, sparse decor, that I am naming all the things I think I missed out on, I really didn't need them. It was just an overall feeling of luxury, I guess, that I missed.

So you see...all in all...this was a good place. I would recommend it to friends and family and you get your money's worth.

However...the next time I go...this may be the place I want to stay....The Shelbourne

A family friend was actually in Dublin on business a couple of weeks afterward and this is where he stayed. Now again, I realize that this was on his company's dime, but if you compare the 2 websites, you will be able to see the difference. (Not to mention my friend said that Bono was seen in the lobby on multiple occasions while he was staying there!!!) Now that is my kind of place!

So, I am sure there are tons of great places to stay in Dublin and I have not done a ton of research on this topic. Dublin is a great city and I recommend it highly and both the places I mention above.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why I love July

One might think I love July because of my birthday or just simply because it is the summer, but the reason I love it is because of the 4th of July. What is not to love...warm weather, red-white-blue, fireworks, hot dogs, blueberry pie, watermelon, swimming, baseball, and lemonade. I have always loved this holiday..well, I actually love all the holidays...but I LOVE this one. This years was pretty picture perfect in my book. First off....Charlie was home. This can be rare in July. With the Tour de France, baseball, NASCAR, and a whole host of other random sporting events that happen this time of year, he 9 out of 10 times, is not home. It was a huge treat to have him this year. So on Saturday we took our kids to Southlake to see the fireworks and partake in the festivities a little bit. It had rained earlier that day, so it was actually very pleasant outside. We ate dinner at the Cheesecake Factory..always a crowd pleaser, and walked around the Town Square a little. We got the girls ice cream and then we parked our chairs in prime viewing position for the fireworks. Luckily there was a little 3 year-old girl sitting next to us who was very sweet and kept the girls very entertained while we waited for it to get dark. The girls had glow necklaces, so that was a treat.

Then the fireworks oh, boy did they ever. Lauren about had a heart attack and was scared to death for the whole 20 minutes. You could not have pried her off of Charlie's shoulder if you tried. Poor thing was terrified. Sarah on the other hand loved it. As did I! I got to practice taking shots with my new camera and had a blast. I think the photos turned out decently well for my first try so I was pleased!
What do you think?

The next day, on the 4th, we hosted our family and close family friends over for swimming and a cookout. The girls loved having their friends over to play with them. I was so glad all of our family could come. I wish my older brother and my dad and step mom lived closer so they could have attended. We had Charlie's parents, his aunt, uncle, and cousin, his brother and sister-in-law, and her mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and her parents and grandmother, and then our friends who live the next neighborhood over that have 2 girls Sarah and Lauren's age. They had a blast swimming. The little ones played in the baby pool and the older girls swam in the big pool. Sarah really needs to learn to swim...we almost had a catastrophe b/c she lost her kick board in the middle of the pool. I have never been more frantic. All is well, though.

We had sooo much food. We grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken kabobs, beans, salads, deviled eggs, appetizers, cookies, brownies, and blueberry cobbler. Out of all that, the cobbler was the only thing I got around to snapping a photo of. It is hard to play host and photographer at the same time! Go HERE to get the recipe for the cobbler.

It was a great afternoon/evening and a wonderful weekend. It was back to reality today as Charlie jetted off to work and we started a new week. Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July weekend!
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