Powerscourt ~ Ireland

Just south of Dublin is the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens, a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. It’s in Enniskerry, County Wicklow and was recently voted #3 of the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic.

And let me tell you, it was lovely.

Gardens, statues, lakes, secret paths and even a pet cemetery awaits for you, to come and discover its beauty. Afterwards, drive 5 km to the Powerscourt waterfall, Ireland’s highest waterfall. I would recommend for you to pack a picnic, a blanket and your camera. And a cold bottle of champagne never hurt anyone. 🙂

Come on! From the gardens:

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Gorgeous, right? Here’s some more gorgeousness for your eyeballs.

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This picture doesn’t do this justice. There was a HUGE wall of hydrangeas –  bright pink, lavender, vibrant blue and frosty white. It was like the garden threw up all colors of hydrangeas. But in a good way.

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Nice shot, right?

I found the pet cemetery very charming. Some plots with more than one animal. They were loved. Dogs, cats, horses and even cows!

And I tried not to think of the scary Stephen King movie.

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Everything good? I hope you enjoyed yourself at the Powerscourt Gardens. But wait! There’s more! Time to get in the car and drive to the Powerscourt Waterfall.

Don’t forget that champagne.

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water

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You are surrounded by so much nature.

Beech, Oak, Larch and Pine trees were planted some 200 years ago, plus Giant Redwoods which can grow up to 80m high. If you’re a bird lover keep your eye out for Chaffinch, Cuckoo, Raven and the Willow Warblers. And you may even spot a Sika Deer or two that were introduced to Ireland in 1858. But of course you should know the tale – you won’t see a snake in Ireland! Those were driven out by St. Patrick.

Enjoy the Powerscourt Estate. So much fun and beauty for all ages. Now GO!

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A Weekend In London

SATURDAY:

First things first. I needed to return to the pub I worked at when I was a young, twenty-year old, think I know everything chica. Yeah, that was a long time ago, back when I was almost finished with college! Because now I am old enough to REALLY know everything. 😉

12:00 p.m. – Walk through Hyde Park to the pub. Check out my Hyde Park blog here.

1:30 p.m. The Scarsdale Tavern

I mean seriously, just look how cute this place is! Ahhhhh, my old stomping grounds for a few months in 199- …. er, awhile ago.  In the lovely neighborhood of Kensington.

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The food was super scrumptious. I finished everything they set in front of us. We shared the tomato, basil, pine nuts, roquette and buff mozzerella bruschetta. And hell yeah, we added the prosciutto! And then we shared the Scarsdale burger with stilton cheese. I have been dying for a good burger lately, Spain just can’t seem to find really good ground beef for some reason. And when I’m in England, vinegar goes on the chips. That’s fries to you Americans. Everything was so darn good. Plus my Guinness with black currants and then a cider. What a way to start off my weekend in London Town.

The Scarsdale Tavern – 23a Edwardes Square, Kensington   +44.020.7937.1811

4:00 The Tate Modern Museum

Not only is this a cool place to view international contemporary and modern art but it’s free admission (except for special exhibitions)! I love free. Amazing art.

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And through May, the exhibition – The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection is at the Tate Modern. It’s an amazing private collection of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s–50s. It’s £16.50 and well worth every penny.

Also, check out the restaurant at the top with panoramic views of the London skyline. It’s a nice place to grab a bite and a drink after a few hours of art viewing.

Tate Modern – Bankside, London   +44.20.7887.8888

8:30 Chiltern Firehouse

This is the new hot spot. The place to see and to be seen. There are two parts – the hotel side and the restaurant side, both are great. If you get here early enough and the hotel restaurant isn’t busy, that is the place to see the famous peeps. But the other side is just as cool and popular. We had some appetizers at the bar to start out with – fried chicken (YUM), deviled eggs and bacon cornbread. And then for the main course we had the Iberico Pork and the Welsh Lamb. So freakin’ yummy. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. It gets busy quick so don’t forget to make a reservation.

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Chiltern Firehouse -1 Chiltern St., Marylebone  +44.20.7073.7676

 

SUNDAY:

Time to do some shopping. But not any shopping, I wanted to do some vintage shopping in East London. And off we go.

12:00 Vintage Shopping on Brick Lane

Grabbed a cheesy toast and a latte with an extra shot of espresso from Starbucks at the Bond Street Tube station and headed for the Liverpool Tube stop. Once there we headed north – walk up Commercial Street, turn east onto Fournier St and your second street will be Brick Lane. That is where all the good vintage shops are. First stop was Blitz on Hanbury St. This place puts the other shops to shame. Seriously good stuff here for good prices. Two floors of rails and rails of neatly presented vintage fashion. Good book selection too.

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If you want more of an eclectic selection, head back to Brick Lane and just a block up is the Vintage Market. Lots of smaller booths run with a large selection of clothes, jackets, hats, records, books. A bit claustrophobic but an excellent selection to browse through.

Blitz –  55 – 59 Hanbury Street   +44.20.7377.8828

The Vintage Market – F Block 85 Brick Lane   +44.20.7770.6028

4:00 Big Chill Bar

Vintage shopping sure works up a thirst! Right around the corner from the Vintage Market is the Big Chill Bar. A reggae vibe runs through this lounge bar with its own resident DJ. I had a cider, Donita had a Bloody Mary. Food looked good but we only had drinks.

Big Chill Bar – Dray Walk   +44.20.7392.9180

6:00 Tower Bridge

You gotta do at least one touristy thing when in London Town. Right? My choice, Tower Bridge. We walked (!) from vintage shopping on Brick Lane to Tower Bridge. It was about a 25 – 30 minute walk, but super easy.

Tower Bridge is AH-MAH-ZING. I love it. The details, the size, the blue! Construction started in 1886 and took eight years and five major contractors to complete. The bridge is 800 feet in length with two towers each 213 feet high, built on piers. It is a very, very busy bridge with traffic (bus, car, taxi, people) continuously travelling on it.

And I find it very beautiful.

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9:00 ROKA

I was craving sushi and luckily enough one of the hippest sushi restaurants in London is just a few doors down from my friend’s apartment. Even though it was so close we still had to use an umbrella because it had been your typical rainy, winter evening in London.

Donita had been at ROKA only a week before and Steven Tyler was there. He even stopped by to say hi to her and her friend. What a nice dude! Alas, Mr. Tyler was not there that evening but we still had a fabulous time. The tasting menus looked scrumptious but we opted for our usual fare – miso soup, edamame, some sushi and a roll. Super yummy. Even had to order another round of toro (tuna belly) for me. I gobbled it up and thought about ordering even one more. I decided for one more cold saki and then sadly … that was the end of my weekend in London.

ROKA –  30 N. Audley St., Mayfair    +44.20.7305.5644

What are some of your favorite places, haunts, restaurants in London?? I can’t wait to go back. But I also miss Cornwall, England. Maybe I can talk Felix in going there soon. Cheerio mates!

London ~ Hyde Park

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Thought I’d pop on over from my island of Mallorca to the slightly larger island (the 9th largest in fact) of Great Britain to see my friend who is working there for a few months. More specifically, I went to London. I was supposed to fly in and out of Gatwick but due to airline malfunctions, I flew into Heathrow. From Heathrow I grabbed the Heathrow Express, which takes you to Paddington station, where you can catch the Tube or a taxi. My taxi ride was quite short, to Oxford Street, but the whole time from airport to front door was around 25 minutes. I love it when things are that easy. It was a rainy evening but it was London, so that made everything okay.

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Since I got in so late (thanks plane!), we just hung out in her apartment, drank some wine and ate my favorite snack, hummus. You just really can’t go wrong with good hummus and crackers. And it was soooo nice to have an actual apartment in LONDON to chill at! Made it all feel very luxurious, just how I like it.

Next morning, up and at ’em! Started the day by walking through Hyde Park.

Hyde Park is HUUUUUUUGE. So many different directions to go, so many things to see. A little bit of background history for you. Hyde Park was created for hunting by Henry VIII in 1536. Do you get that song in your head when you hear or see the words Henry VIII? “I’m Henry the Eighth I am, Henry the Eighth I am, I am.” I hope you are singing it now too. Anyways, Hyde Park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens, which are often assumed to be part of Hyde Park; Kensington Gardens has been separate since 1728. But their total area together is 625 acres (253 hectares), so a little bit smaller than NYC’s Central Park.

We entered at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, walked past the Marble Arch and the Speaker’s Corner, which has acquired a large reputation for protests and demonstrations. And then we headed towards the center of the park. There are many walking paths to choose from but we needed to get to the southwest corner of the park at Kensington High Street. We passed by some cool older buildings – The Old Police House and Magazine Cottage. Then followed Policeman’s Path towards the Serpentine Bridge. The bridge marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the eastern part of the lake is the Serpentine and the western is known as the Long Water.

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Large numbers of swans nest in this area. It was a beautiful place with the Lido Restaurant on the Serpentine if you feel like resting and doing a bit of people and bird watching. The Princess Diana Memorial is just south of the Serpentine.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial wasn’t what I expected. I’m not really sure what I expected actually but when I think of fountain, I usually think of something large and spitting water with a statue or two of something beautiful. Made from 545 individual pieces of Cornish Granite, this memorial is an oval, stream bed that is quite shallow. The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom.

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There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go sit in the middle. The fountain is surrounded by lush grass where you can sit and enjoy the sounds, the day, the birds, your company, the silence, whatever you would want. This is what the artist, Kathryn Gustafson, wanted to accomplish. Diana was seen as a contemporary and accessible princess, so the goal of the memorial fountain was to allow people to access the structure and the water for quiet wading and contemplation.

And my last memorial from Hyde Park (actually from Kensington Gardens) is the Albert Memorial. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most ornate monuments. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert in 1861 of typhoid. It’s located directly across from the Royal Albert Hall.

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There are just so many things going on with this memorial, which is humongous, by the way. First of all, there is a seated Prince Albert, who is now covered with gold leaf. Then, you have the Frieze of Parnassus at the base of the memorial, which depicts 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors. Then, at the corners of the central and outer area, there are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences, and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a bison for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.)

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Within the canopy features several mosaics showing poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture with two historical figures on each side – King David and Homer, Apelles and Raphael, Solomon and Ictinus, and Phidias and Michelangelo. Near the top of the canopy’s tower are eight statues of the moral and Christian virtues, including the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. Above these, towards the top of tower, are gilded angels raising their arms heavenwards. At the very top of the tower is a gold cross.

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WOW! That’s a lot of beauty, stuff, things on the memorial. I didn’t think I would spend so much time writing about Hyde Park but I realized there is a lot, so for you I dedicated a post to it. Go see it yourself! Or if you have been what is your favorite area, memorial, of the park?

And that, is Hyde Park, my friends. Stay tuned for more London goodness!

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Dia de las Islas Baleares

March First – Balearic Day. WHOOOP! The Balearic islands are so gorgeous -Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Have you been to all of them?

Here is one of my favorite beaches in Mallorca. I call it the Secret Beach because it can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t know about it. But it’s true name is Caló des Moro.

Man, am I ready for summer. See you at the Secret Beach!

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Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco was exciting, fascinating, not very frightening but I felt that sometimes I should keep my senses about me in this culturally stimulating and lovely country. This was my first time to experience the people,  the food, the environment.

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Marrakech, Morocco – Landed around 9ish p.m. and after going through customs and exchanging my euros for dirhams (at the moment it’s 1 EUR = 10.7 MD), we waited around for our hotel ride from the airport. Unfortunately, that never happened. So we negotiated with the taxi drivers. Well, not really, we told the main taxi dude where we needed to go and there seemed to be an intense discussion amongst the other taxi drivers when it was finally settled for around 20 euros, we hopped in.

This is actually one of my favorite times – when you see a city for the first time. All is fresh, all is new and crisp. I remember what seemed to be a barrier with tall walls surrounding the city, older looking taxis, people out walking.

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The taxi drove down narrower and narrower streets all while speaking on his phone in Arabic from the airport to now but switching several times between one person and the next. He parked at the end of a street that was still not our hotel. There were several random small shops selling anything from saris to chicken on a stick to brand new Nikes. A young boy opened our car doors and grabbed our suitcases while motioning for us to follow him. Well, he had our suitcases and I still had zero idea where our hotel was so … we followed. After a five minute walk we finally arrived. And then began what we would experience the entire time – people wanting to be paid for this service that we never really wanted or negotiated for. But nonetheless, we had needed him to find our hotel. We forked over probably about 10 euros (!) when the door opened to the Riad Dar Darma and were whisked away into paradise.

The Riad Dar Darma was a lifesaver for me. Check out my blog post about it HERE. The streets of Marrakech are so confusing with twists and turns it is easy to get turned around, which we did many times. The first day was a spa appointment at the Hammam de la Rose for a traditional Hammam. You must go!! As aforementioned about the streets we got so lost we ended up 2 hours late. I know, shame on us. But seriously, COMPLETELY LOST. This time we actually met a nice person who put us in the right direction and we finally found it. Perla had to plead to them to let us have a new appointment. Thankfully they did, an hour and a half later. So, like all good Americans we headed for the bar to wait. Although Morocco is an Islamic country, there is a laid-back attitude towards alcohol, with bars in most tourist areas staying open late. You just have to search for them.

We found one very close to the spa, making sure to not get lost again! And it became our favorite place to grab a drink during our days there. The Souk Kafe was a lovely spot with a terrace overlooking the rooftops of Marrakech. Pretty good food, decent prices and they had wine!

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The next day was a lovely trip to the Jardin Majorelle. We viewed many gorgeous plants, trees, flowers, fountains – it was a breath of fresh air to get into some nature. Afterwards, we had lunch at the restaurant there with a delicious mint tea.

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I had the egg tajine (a popular Moroccan stew-like meal named after the type of pot it is cooked in). So good. Plus a cute cat hanging out with us. We took a horse ride back to our hotel – one, because we had walked to the gardens and our dogs were barkin’ and two, we wanted to see some new sights and not have to deal with people wanting money to show us back to our hotel.

All in all, it was an entertaining, interesting, and new experience for me. And I will return. But next time I will be better prepared with finding my way around and possibly hire a guide for a day to show me the markets and the best sights. Ooooh! And I want to go to the mountains! So much to do!

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