One of the highlights of staying at certain hotel properties in Ireland or Britain is the Afternoon Tea. This was my special birthday treat to myself when I stayed at Powerscourt Hotel in County Wicklow.
I was looking for a special way to celebrate my birthday at the end of November. I chose to stay at the Powerscourt Hotel. I remembered being impressed umpty years ago when I saw it in the distance. I checked it out on-line and then my son offered to use his points to make a reservation.
Tevis had to return to Boston for work, and his points allowed me to stay two nights and enjoy the hotel amenities and the garden at Powerscourt. His “status” earned an upgrade to a garden suite and I was tempted to not leave my room.
It was raining on and off, sometimes intensely. I had originally thought I might drive to other places in County Wicklow. The weather and the quality of my accommodation made it easy to stay put and focus on Powerscourt Hotel and the garden. I walked the labyrinth and ate dinner at the hotel’s pub.
They have a spa (didn’t try because I had a massage scheduled when I returned home). Breakfast was included with my upgrade and the downstairs restaurant served up a wonderful omelette. I would have stayed longer if I could. It isn’t far from Dublin (businesses in Dublin use it as a place for off-site training) and it could serve as a base for seeing the greater Dublin area and avoid the ridiculous hotel prices in the city.
One of the best gardens in Ireland is in County Wicklow less than an hour from downtown Dublin. Powerscourt gardens are beautiful and delightful even in the end of November–the mark of a garden with good bones. The house is a shell of its former glory since a fire ravaged it. The living spaces have been replaced by specialty shops and cafes. The stable at Christmas sells Christmas trees and greens. The garden drew me back and it still satisfies.
The entrance fee for an adult is 10 pounds from March through October and 7.50 pounds in winter. There are discounts for seniors, students and children and it is 25 pounds for a family of five. There are headphones with additional information and an introductory film, both available for free. Although the repetition of how proud the owners/descendants are of the property gets tiresome.
I first discovered Powerscourt many moons ago when I traveled around Ireland with Cameon, my chum from high school. I had won airfare for two in an Irish-American Club raffle on St. Patrick’s Day. We flew to Dublin and rented a car to travel around the island. We started by driving north so our stop in Powerscourt was towards the end of our week. I remember it fondly and have frequently wanted to return on other visits. Even though it is only 40 minutes from Dublin, I could never include it in my itinerary. I’m so glad I made it back.
We discovered the Donum Winery through their sculptures. My friend Cameon found an article in Artnet News that described the sculpture “park” opening soon (published in September). Cameon committed to figuring out how we could go as our adventure to celebrate my birthday at the end of November. We learned access to the sculpture gardens is through a tasting. And Donum has a limited number of tastings each day.
Donum Winery is in the Carneros region on the edge of Napa County and the San Pablo Bay. It was started as a premium winery made from the grapes the winemaker grew on vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Burned out after a few years, the winemaker was looking for a buyer. An art collector, Allan Warburg, made an offer on the condition that the winemaker stay on and continue her craft.
The Donum label celebrates each new year with Ai Weiwei’s image for that year (think Chinese animal). The wines are yummy. The sculptures are superb.
Most people think of a winery primarily as a place to go for a tour and a tasting. Been there done that, again and again. My friend Cameon and I are now fairly picky about what wineries we’ll go to for a tasting. The price of tastings has increased as well (Donum charges $80 a person but offers special pricing on wines.) Especially since wine aggravates my fibromyalgia so I’m only willing to do it if there is something more.
Warburg has great taste in wine and art. I will go again when the ground is dry so I can see more of the sculptures. By then I’m pretty sure there will be even more installations!
Most people visit Los Angeles for longer than 24 hours, unless they are going for business. I have flown down and back many times for a business meeting from Sacramento. Southwest Airlines makes it possible to say yes to attending a meeting in person. Southwest Airlines also makes it possible to say yes to welcoming the New Year with a show at Largo.
Sarah Harriet and I flew to LAX on the 11:55 a.m. flight. We had a relaxed morning and good night’s sleep. The flight was full-ish but all of the Rose Bowl fans would have flown the day before or earlier. We grabbed a Lyft to our hotel. While we took surface streets to The Elan, the traffic was light for Los Angeles.
Sarah Harriet gifted the tickets to see Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert at Largo for Christmas, so I gifted the hotel room. On this visit The Elan was a let down. Small room with light pouring in no matter how you close the curtains. It was a great location though. We were able to walk every where until the following morning when we headed back to LAX.
We walked to eat Plancha Tacos. This taco joint in a strip mall (some of the best food in LA is in a strip mall). We tucked in to a yummy Mexican feast. Then we walked past mostly closed shops (good on these merchants for taking a holiday and giving their employees the day off). We checked out a bakery and decided everything looked too sweet. If they had a fruit pie or a bun with a little bit of icing they’d have had a sale.
We walked on to the Beverly Center. At first we weren’t sure if it was a parking garage or a shopping mall. We rode escalator after escalator and then found the mall. This was unlike any mall in Sacramento as it had all high end designer shops like those on Rodeo Drive. We window shopped and then returned to the hotel.
Although we didn’t feel that hungry we wanted to eat before the 8 p.m. show because neither of us enjoys eating late at night. We used Trip Advisor and Open Table to decide to try Taste on Melrose.
We had the choice of the courtyard (outside with heaters) or inside. Although it was January it was still more than 10 degrees warmer than home, so we said “Courtyard!” The service was slow but the food was really delicious. Just right was the Melrose vibe.
To get to the show at Largo we had to walk just a few blocks back towards our hotel. Largo is a club that seats 300 people and the posters gave us the impression it is where Sarah Silverman and other comics try out material. We asked for our tickets at Will Call and couldn’t believe our luck! We had front row seats!
We didn’t know what to expect from Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert–two of our favorite authors who are friends–certainly not dancing for more than 5 minutes to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop (I always thought it was called Shindig). We laughed and laughed because they fully committed. I kept thinking “Don’t they realize how long this song goes on?” It helped to set the tone of vulnerability and fun.
You can hear the resulting conversation between Bell and Gilbert on The RobCast podcast. There are two episodes. I won’t spoil any of the good stuff, except to say that it was so much fun. One weird part of our experience was the woman sitting next to Sarah Harriet who must suffer from sleep apnea. First she was all into the show, then she got up and sort of tried to sneak out about 15 minutes in. Then 30 minutes later she comes back with coffee and noisily adds cream and sugar and chugs it down. Ten minutes later she is snoring loudly in spite of Bell and Gilbert talking no more than 10 feet in front of us and lots of audience response. The person next to me was frustrated and said, “Nudge her!” Sarah responded that she had several times. Afterward I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Sarah said that when she elbowed the woman, the woman elbowed her back without a pause in her snore. It takes all kinds of people in the world. We’d go again in a heartbeat to hear Bell and Gilbert (preferably in Sacramento–we have the Crest Theater!)
After a restless nights sleep, which often happens when you are nervous about getting up in time for a 6:50 a.m. flight out of LAX. Southwest delivered again. This time there were many elated Ohio State and disappointed Washington University fans in the airport. We were home by 9:30 a.m., before we left the house the previous day. Kind of amazing when you think about it.
On our last day in Alabama, we had a full Monday to explore. Alas, many places including the Sloss Furnaces and the Museum of Art are closed on Mondays. We were staying at a Hampton Inn close to Mountain Brook. Birmingham is a relatively new city formed after the Civil War to take advantage of the ore deposits in the tail end of the Appalachian mountains. Mountain Brook is one of the first “planned communities.” If Birmingham (B’Ham) has a specialty, it might be producing real estate marketers.
I was thirsty for a real cup of coffee, so I looked for a coffee shop near me and hit the bonanza! Church Street Coffee and Books offered two of my favorite things (it’s just missing yarn). I found my way there and enjoyed both the coffee and the latest Brene Brown book. Most of the books offered were either ones I’d read or ones I’d like to read. Whoever does their book list is my kindred spirit!
I zipped back to the hotel so Phyllis and I could go to Vulcan Park. We followed a class field trip of 4th graders up the elevator to the spectacular view at the top of the Vulcan statue monument. Then we took in the small museum that tells the story of Birmingham.
We were also close to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and we decided to spend an hour looking at the beautiful gardens. My favorite was the native woods. The gift shop was fun to browse in too.
Birmingham is a place that visitors could enjoy even if you weren’t focused on civil rights places and events. We were ready to go home to California, and we enjoyed our time in Alabama.
While Montgomery and Selma seem stuck in the past, Birmingham is positively forward facing with a robust economy. Birmingham experienced significant civil rights related strife in 1963, including the Children’s Crusade. The downtown is in the beginning of a renaissance and the Civil Rights scars appear to be healing. We started our Sunday at church.
After worship we sought sustenance in the form of brunch. One of the parishioners recommended a restaurant and we walked several blocks only to read the notice that it is permanently closed. The sign suggested we try Mr. Z’s Take Away. We went off in pursuit and ended up deciding to dine at Roots & Revelry, a newish restaurant in a bank redone as apartments and cafes. My chicken and waffles was divine. I’ve added a rule, besides trying pie whenever the opportunity presents, I am going to try fried chicken when in the South and it is on the menu.
My friend made the mistake of wearing fashionable shoes and we’d done a lot of walking already. We were determined to visit the Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park was just alongside both the church and Institute. Ingram Park has most of the stops along the Freedom Walk. There are multiple moving statues that tell the story of the Children’s Crusade. Even with the visual aids it was hard to imagine turning fire hoses and dogs on young children (until the recent tear gas at the border on women and children seeking asylum). Some things change and some things stay the same.
When we saw for ourselves the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church location at one corner of the park, we could better understand how it was used by the children as sanctuary and then how it became a target. This is the church that was bombed resulting in the death of four young girls.
Sometimes when I am sitting towards the back of our big sanctuary in Sacramento, I think of how safe I think I am–how little I worry about someone with violent intent coming into our midst. This is a luxury of a mostly Scandinavian Lutheran congregation. With the Charleston shooting, and church burnings, and then more recently the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I begin to understand what a violation it is to attack a “sanctuary”–a place where we go to worship God and fellowship, a place were strangers are made welcome. The events of 1963 are still relevant.
We did arrive in time to visit the Civil Rights Institute. It offers a comprehensive timeline of the Civil Rights movement. I wished this was our first stop instead of the last on our crawl. We spent quite a long time reading the exhibits and left just before the museum closed. The sidewalks were starting to roll up, so we made our way to the hotel.
This afternoon my mother and I enjoyed the final performance at the Capital Stage in Sacramento, California. The cast members of Mary Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley were each so suited to their characters and the dialogue was lively and fun. We found the performance of Mary and Lord de Bourgh especially charming. A Christmas romance with the Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice is a delightful play by Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon.
It is a small theater and there isn’t a bad view. I have not ever been to the Capital Stage together.
We ate lunch at the Drunken Noodle Midtown and then walked to the Capital Stage. We arrived early and enjoyed the outdoor courtyard. The toastie warm bathrooms are worth a special commendation.
Going to see a performance at the theater is a way to travel in space and time, such as England in 1815. This particular venue is in Midtown at 2215 J Street, Sacramento 95816.