Christmas Trip to Chicago

Another quick hitter post to get closer to catching up to current day. Wife and I took a quick (2-night) trip to Chicago during Christmas, 2015. We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton on points and got cheap roundtrip flights on Southwest. Flew from New Orleans (MSY) to Chicago (MDW), with a connection on the return in Nashville (BNA). Highlight of our trip was dinner at Girl and the Goat on the West Loop. Fantastic food and great atmosphere, can’t recommend enough.


Looking down the Chicago River




Daytime view from Ritz-Carlton Chicago


Christmas Market in Chicago


Enjoying our Glühwein


Nighttime view from Ritz-Carlton Chicago


Random picture of Trump Tower. Little did I realize what was to come.


Trip Report: Ireland – Day 6 & 7: Powerscourt to Dublin

After a wonderful stay at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt my wife and I departed around 8:30 AM for a quick trip to the Dublin airport to return our rental car.  While the experience of picking up the rental car was painful, our experience dropping it off at the SIXT off-site location was pretty easy. (As a tip there is a gas station about 1 KM past the SIXT drop-off location on the right hand side)  We returned the rental car and within about 10 minutes were back at the terminal catching a taxi into the city to our hotel, the Conrad Dublin.

The taxi ride took about 25 minutes and cost approximately 35 Euro plus a (small) tip to get to the Conrad Dublin.  We arrived at the hotel pretty early (10 AM) but we were allowed to go ahead and check-in since I am a Diamond member and they had already cleaned our room.  Here are a couple of pictures of the room:

Conrad Dublin ($$$$- We used HHonor’s Point for the 2 night stay)


Exterior of Hotel

Once we had thrown our stuff in the room we headed out to explore Dublin!  The city itself is lacking of truly “historical” sites like a London or Rome so we did not set out like we normally do to conquer a number of sites.  We set out with the purpose of relaxing for 2 days while walking around and drinking a pint every now and then.  It worked out well!  With that said, the one thing we did take the time to see was the Book of Kells at Trinity College (6-8 Euro admission, **** – worth it just for the library alone).

Since we didn’t do anything in particular I will let our pictures speak for themselves, enjoy:

St. Stephen’s Green (very close to Conrad Dublin, free entrance dawn to dusk)


Grafton Street viewed from side street (Pedestrian shopping street with good street performers)

Trinity College (Home of the book of Kell’s discussed above)

Temple Bar (Good bar, even though it is touristy, for a drink) (Please note the guy in front with the women’s swimsuit on)

The Dublin Spire (right up there with any other weird monument I have seen)

Inside Temple Bar (sorry for getting out of order the with pictures) (This must be an Irish/British thing to have Stag parties where everyone wears matching shirts, see the guy in red)

Me with a Guinness inside Temple Bar courtyard

River Liffey in Dublin City Centre

That concludes my trip report for our 7 day trip (quick) trip through Ireland.  As I am sure you can tell if you have been following along we had absolutely fantastic, and unusual per the locals of Ireland, weather during our trip.  Seven straight days of cloudless sunny skies with high’s in the upper 60’s (F).  Look for a post tomorrow with some remaining pictures that didn’t make the initial cut for my trip report!  Cheer

Trip Report – Ireland: Day 5 – Kinsale to Powerscourt

After our quiet evening at the Carlton Kinsale Resort and Spa we began our journey to the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt (30 km south of Dublin) via Cashel and the Powerscourt Gardens.  The route was supposed to take us around Cork but somehow we missed a turn and ended up going directly through the center of the city.  I guess it made for a more interesting but longer drive to Cashel (supposed to take 1.5 hours but took us 2 hours).

Upon arriving in Cashel we found what we thought was a good parking spot in the centre of town as we did not see any parking around the Rock of Cashel, our destination.  From our parking space we had about a 10 minute walk to the ruins and discovered that we had definitely missed the correct parking spot.  There is an abundance of parking right next to the Rock of Cashel, but you have to drive right up to it on the city side.  Regardless of our various missteps that day we made it to the Rock of Cashel which was quite spectacular.  Here are some pictures:

Rock of Cashel (I think it was 6 euros apiece and definitely worth it ****)

Another picture from the hill it sits on looking out over the countryside

One picture of the interior

After touring the Rock of Cashel for approximately 30 minutes (there is a short video presentation in the attached museum but we did not stay as I typically do not find those very interesting) we made our way to the Russborough House, an old estate home near Naas, Ireland.  While our guidebook didn’t say much about the house we thought it would be fascinating as we had plenty of time to see something different.  It turned out to be one of our better decisions as it was an hour-long guided tour through the house by an older lady who obviously cared very much about the history of the estate and of Ireland itself.  Quite entertaining.  Here is a picture of the exterior of the house:

Russborough House (*** – Worth a stop if you are touring the Sally Gap or Powerscourt Gardens)

After we toured the estate we ate lunch in the cafe attached and it was actually pretty good and inexpensive.  Upon finishing our lunch we began to make our way to the Powerscourt Estate Gardens via the Sally Gap Military Road through the Wicklow Mountains.  It was one of the most spectacular drives I have ever made and I would highly recommend it anyone renting a car in Ireland.  Here a few pictures from the drive but it is a shame that they just do NOT do it justice:

Sally Gap (***** – Great drive through the Wicklow Mountains)

Sheep roaming the countryside

After the relatively long drive, given the distance, through the Sally Gap we made our to the Powerscourt Estate Gardens.  It is supposedly one of the finest formal gardens outside of continental Europe and I must agree with that assessment.  Although formal gardens are not my “cup of tea” so to speak, it was pretty incredible.  Here a few pictures:

Powerscourt Estate Gardens (*** – Worth a day trip visit from Dublin)

The gardens took us about 1 hour to walk through, a bit faster than the recommended pace, but we were quite anxious to get to our hotel for the evening.  I had used some Marriott points to book us a room in the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt hotel which is adjacent to the Powerscourt Gardens.  The hotel also has a Gordon Ramsay Restaurant which we had planned to try out that evening as a treat for ourselves.

When you pull up to the Ritz-Carlton it is not the most visually stunning property in the world (the reason is that the backside of the hotel is the focus due to the proximity to the gardens) but it still has the feel of a luxury hotel.  We were driving our tiny Toyota Yaris and it is always fun pulling into that kind of hotel in that kind of car!  After parking in the FREE! self-parking we made our way to check-in where we were helped by a friendly staff member who promptly checked us in and assigned a bell boy to take us to our room and show us the features.

We were quite blown away with just how nice the room was and I hope the pictures below can convey how nicely furnished and designed it was. (We had a room on the ugly front side of the hotel but we also had a balcony which was nice)

King Garden Deluxe Room at Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt ($$$$$$$$ – Basically use points!) (There is also a couch to the right and a walk-in closet)

Here is the balcony

Once we were settled into our room we walked downstairs to the front desk and made reservations later that evening for dinner at the Gordon Ramsay Powerscourt. (Normally, I would not pay to eat at a place like this but we both love Masterchef, which is hosted by Chef Ramsay, so we thought what the hell) Here is the exterior of the restaurant:

In hindsight, we were glad we ate the restaurant just to say we did, but we were not blown away by the food.  It was good but was nothing otherworldly.  I guess our expectations were slightly out of whack.

We finished the evening in the fabricated pub located in the basement of the Ritz-Carlton and came away pleasantly surprised by how reasonable the beer was down there.  Given a second chance, I think we would choose to eat in the pub instead of the much pricier Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.

I hope y’all enjoyed this as I know we certainly felt like this was one of our favorite days of the trip!  I hope to have Day 6 – Dublin posted either tomorrow or Friday.