A Love Letter to Ireland…of sorts.

We have all felt it; the doldrums, the melancholy, the gloom you experience after returning from a long-awaited getaway. It’s commonly referred to as “post-vacation blues” and I’ve got ’em bad!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my hometown. So much so, I’ve even made a career out of convincing other people they should love it too. I also cherish the opportunity to explore the world, absorb different cultures and marvel at the scenery but often times with a keen desire to return to the familiar. With all that said, this strangely strong post-vacay malaise has caught me a bit off guard. This overwhelming “off-ness” has forced me to take a step back and do what I do best, over-analyze and obsess ad nauseam. After a several-weeks-long journey of self-discovery, here’s what I’ve figured out. It’s Ireland’s fault! Please allow me to explain.

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I blame the people. Folks like Johnny, the Killarney National Park jaunting car driver; with his well-worn tam, straight outta central casting looks, quick-witted humor and thick Irish brogue. His unrelenting insistence on my husband and I using his red plaid woolen blankets to shield ourselves against the crisp gale of an October morning and seemingly genuine interest in whether we were enjoying our time there. All that sincerity and charm…the nerve!

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Killarney National Park and our noble steed, Sampson

I fault those views. Waking up to the most dramatic of vistas, punctuated in greens that even Crayola has yet to imagine; stretching on in every direction as far as the eye can see. Devious!

I point the finger at the music. The lilting sounds of pure joy, trickling out of every pub doorway, rolling down the alleyways and pulsing in the streets. The audible sound of merriment around, beneath and from within you everywhere we ventured. Diabolical!

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The food was complicit. All of those scrumptious meals crafted as if they could have been lonvingly prepared by my very own apron-clad granny (given that she were a little more “fish & chips” and a little less “shrimp & grits”)

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The Fish ‘n’ Chips at Scotts Bar inside Scotts Hotel Killarney

The beer did interfere. From local craft beer yumminess like Killarney Brewing Company to legends like Guinness, we were quickly transformed into Irish beer fans. Downright tricky!

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*To be noted: my husband, with no actual training or basis for his determination, but with (let’s be honest) a pretty sizable sampling pool has declared the Guinness served in the bar at The Brehon hotel in Killarney to be the best in all of Ireland. I’m certain, thanks in no small part, to those darn people again. Crafty!

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Even though you’ve put me in this quite difficult position, I choose to forgive you, Ireland. Perhaps, once I’ve had some time to heal, I will even visit again… and, again.

So now that you’re reading this, consider yourself duly warned. If you choose to make the foolhardy decision to visit the glorious Emerald Isle, be prepared to deal with the beautiful aftermath.

 

Ireland: A Foodie Destination? Absolutely!

When I began planning a glorious getaway (disguised as a business trip) to the Emerald Isle, the prospects of imbibing on pints of beer as dark as midnight, strolling along pathways carpeted in mossy majesty and dancing a Celtic jig to fiddle-playing folk were all major points of interest on my “Ireland experiences” list.

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What was NOT on my list? Food.

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How to Find Great Live Music in Unexpected Places

It’s true the main reason I’m here is to reminisce, report on and give a few inside secrets about experiencing some of the most inspired music vacation adventures my twisted little mind can think up. BUT today, I’ll let you in on the absolute best, well-kept secret to discovering the most memorable “I’ve got to tell you about the time I saw…” life moments out there. Are you ready?

Listen Local.

That’s right, I said it. Get out and find your local happening venues where “the next big thing” might be perfecting their craft right now.

My husband still hasn’t lived down the time he was “not interested” in taking me to see Gavin DeGraw at a local bar literally weeks before I Don’t Want To Be hit big.

With local in mind, let me tell you about a few of my favorite talent troves here in my hometown and underrated music incubator, Huntsville, Alabama.

Humphrey’s Bar & Grill

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Humphrey’s Bar & Grill courtyard, photo courtesy of AL.com

Why I like it here: Comfort. From casual music appreciator to full-on aficionado, you’re going to feel right at home here. The food is tasty and the environment is super-relaxed with an outdoor space that’s beyond inviting on any cool afternoon. They keep the line-up fresh with numerous genres represented and if you’re not necessarily a night owl, they often have live music at varied times throughout the afternoon and evening. Continue reading

Some Great Reward: Rome and Depeche Mode’s Global Spirit Tour

Today I begin with an ending…of sorts. You see, what has up to this point been my singular bucket list item for as long as I can remember, was recently checked off thanks to an adventure with my amazing mother.

As your quintessential child of the 80s, the musical influence which served as the soundtrack to my formative years was Depeche Mode. David Gahan, with his creamy baritone, and Martin Gore, with his angelic bari-tenor, sang to me about love, cynicism, hope and just enough naughtiness to make them feel slightly forbidden. Seeing them perform live has been “the dream” for much of my adulthood. Finances, distance, parental responsibilities and the like have always thrown up barriers to making this ticket a reality; that is, until my truly bad-ass mother kicked down those barriers and said to me, “I just did something crazy!” The crazy? Buying tickets for me and her to see my bucket list band…this summer…in Rome.

We land. We’ve got four full days in Rome. We’re off and running. We’ve chosen a three-room guest house/bed and breakfast conveniently located within a 2,000 year-old stone’s throw of the Colosseum, Tre R Colosseo. The rooms are modern and clean, the included daily cappuccino and pastry provided by the adjoining restaurant is delightful and there is a well-stocked mini-fridge with refreshing beverages awaiting your return after a hot Roman walk. The owner and staff are friendly and accommodating and are exceptionally helpful with arranging transportation. Unexpected bonus: Get in a cab anywhere in the city and, regardless of any language barrier, simply say, “Colosseo” and you’ll get close enough.

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Tre R Colosseo seen from the second level of the Colosseum.

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My morning cappuccino and, on this day, chocolate croissant from Oppio Caffe.

Together, Mom and I agree to employ my “top three and then, let’s see” travel mantra. First up on our top three? The Colosseum. (because, required)  Continue reading

Us, Them and a Little Bit of Bourbon

Christmas in May arrived over Memorial Day weekend this year! You see, concert tickets and vacations replaced bottom-of-the-closet holiday offerings in our family years ago; so, “the hubs” and I are off to redeem his yuletide YOLO (I’m so sorry and realize it’s not 2012 but sometimes alliteration is hard…but, I digress) in the form of two tickets to see Roger Waters: Us + Them Tour at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The show is not until Sunday night so, we’re off to find a little trouble to get into on this long and needed break of a weekend.

First, a little how we decided to organize this trip. As someone who spends my entire life in planning mode, I’ve decided to start taking a more laissez-faire approach to my downtime. In recent years, I have developed a vacation planning mantra: “top three and then, let’s see.” We decide our top three, absolute “I will be sad if I miss this” stops and then let the wind take us where it may.

Conveniently, I am traveling with a bit of a bourbon connoisseur so, a trip to Louisville has him up and at ‘em on this Saturday morning like a six-year-old girl headed to a Disney princess breakfast. Our first stop on the list of top three: Bulleit Bourbon and the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. A few bottles of Bulleit have passed through our home over the years and we’re curious to see where they start their journey. We arrived on this steamy Saturday and quickly found ourselves among the throngs of other weekend wanderlusters out to explore this most urban of the locations we would visit; like, literally in the backyard of a few nearby homes and businesses. We hurriedly signed up for the next available tour and tasting. This tour followed the formula of many such distillery tours with a visit to their innovation space, the barrelhouse and back to Tom Bulleit, Master Distiller’s, office and then on to a tasting room. It’s a quick 30-minute tour of a historic and interesting space. The $10.00 per person admission (for those 21 and over, 21 and under are free) included the tour and a sample tasting of Bulleit’s flagship Bulliet Bourbon, the Bulleit Small Batch, Bulleit 10 Year and Bulleit Barrel Strength. We walked away with a pint bottle of the Bulleit Strength which we’re told is currently only available at the distillery. Overall, this was a small time commitment, limited walking tour with some fun anecdotes about things like the famous crooked Bulleit label. For true hands-on/show me experience enthusiasts, it’s important to note that the bourbon is not actually made at this location, making this outing more a casual tourist stop.

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