Dinner was in the Earl of Thomond restaurant with a nine-course tasting menu and nine wine pairings from all over the world carefully selected by head sommelier Ian Scott. Just to name a few of these mouthwatering dishes, there was Native Lobster Roulade, Cauliflower and Tarragon Butter paired with Mourillon Blanc Chardonnay from France; and Roast Red-Legged Partridge, Butternut Squash, Smoked Bacon, and Cabbage, paired with Peppoli Chianti Classico from Italy. Needless to say, we were totally full, and slightly inebriated by the end of the meal.
The following morning after breakfast, we took a 2 ½ hour ride from Dromoland Castle to The Westbury Dublin Hotel (www.doylecollection.com/hotels/the-westbury-hotel). The ride was a captivating change of scenery because we were leaving the countryside and heading into the city. The stylish and unconventional Westbury is at the center of many social and cultural experiences. I found it quite nice that The Doyle Collection celebrates equality and diversity with their annual Belonging Day Festival (www.doylecollection.com/equality-diversity) every August 11th. Upon arrival to the hotel, it was time for afternoon tea/lunch with miniature handmade desserts, finger sandwiches, and pastries. I cozied up near the fire with some rose petal tea, blended with red rose flavors and yet another glass of champagne. The roasted free-range chicken with tomato and basil aioli was delicious. We met Elizabeth Quinn, a public relations executive from the hotel who gave us all the cool insights of places to go and what to do in Dublin throughout our time there. Elizabeth is really sweet and such a genuine individual.
My room was a luxury studio suite with minimalist furniture and had a nice view of the city below. The hotel is in the process of renovating the rooms, floor by floor. They have completed the 5th floor renovation and have started to work on the 6th floor. I was able to see one of the renovated rooms during the site inspection of the hotel with Katie Farrell, Director of Sales and Marketing, and may I say it was quite impressive. Each room is luxurious and state of the art with an open plan design, artwork, and designer furniture. The Westbury has 205 rooms and suites. The Grafton Suite is known for hosting weddings with its marvelous marble columns, stunning Waterford crystal chandeliers, and abundance of elegance.
In the mood for a cold one? Grab a pint of Guinness at The Guinness Storehouse (www.guinness-storehouse.com/en) in the heart of St. James’s Gate. The Guinness Storehouse was once the original fermentation plant of the brewery. It was interesting to learn about the step-by-step process and what goes into the making of Guinness beer. Flights of escalators take you through the different stages of what goes into the Guinness making process and what makes it a successful brand. I was able to experience The STOUTie, which uses technology to take a selfie and print it onto the head of the beer. It was cool to be able to pour your own beer and see your face on the foam of the beer.
The Storehouse is also home to the Gravity Rooftop Bar, which happens to be one of the best rooftop bars in Ireland and looks over the whole city with panoramic views. It was nice to see the city of Dublin from all different angles while sipping on a refreshing Guinness.
Later that day, it was time for the Gin Tasting Experience at the Sidecar Bar in The Westbury Dublin (www.doylecollection.com/hotels/the-westbury-hotel). Here, I tasted one of the Gin & Tonic’s made by bartender Oisin Kelly, one of Ireland’s best cocktail maker. He won a Gold Medal for Ireland at The World Cocktail Championship in 2019 in China. I was introduced to Bernadette (aka Bernie) Gallagher, the Chairman of The Board of Directors for Doyle Hotels. Her inspiration, design, and vision are astounding for each of the Doyle Collection Hotel concepts. Then it was time for dinner at Bafles Restaurant in the hotel, featuring great food, conversation, and delectable wines. The restaurant is inspired by Paris and New York influences and provides guests with a gorgeous zinc-covered bar, and more. They have a signature cocktail list with an array of delicious drinks like the enetian Spritz, which is their creative take on the Aperol Spritz made with Aperol, Campari, Apricot, Tonka, Cocoa, Manzanilla Sherry, Dandelion and Burdock Bitters, and Champagne. For the meal, I started with the buffalo milk burrata, roasted cherry tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts. My entrée was corn-fed chicken Milanese with parmesan, rocket, caper, and lemon vinaigrette. I ended the night with my first-ever espresso martini, which was delicious like everything else.
In the morning, breakfast was served at WILDE, named after LGBTQ+ icon Oscar Wilde. Their Traditional Irish Breakfast is a Westbury favorite with back bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, grilled vine plum tomato, and free-range eggs cooked to order.
After breakfast, it was a short stroll to the world-famous Trinity College (www.tcd.ie), known for its diverse environment and LGBTQ+ inclusive culture. There was a graduation going on and I saw multiple graduates wearing a furry hooded cloak on black fabric, which I found intriguing. I found out that Bachelor of Arts students wear a furry hood on black fabric for graduation. The hood represents the specific degree they are qualified to receive. Candidates that receive more than one degree, wear the gown and hood of the senior degree. In many Commonwealth universities, bachelors wear hoods edged or lined with rabbit fur.
The Old Library building at the University houses the Book of Kells, which is a spellbinding sight to see. The Book of Kells is known for its medieval illuminated manuscripts. It was a remarkable experience touring of exhibits of the different sections of the book and then catching a glimpse of the actual book through a glass case. The curators turn the pages from time to time, so each visit is a different experience and page. However, visitors are not allowed to take photos of the actual book. Up the stairswas the Long Room, an old library with wooden ladders and books lining all the shelves. People are allowed to use the Long Room to look for a book for their studies, making it a fascinating and historical experience.
Less than a ten-minute walk from the university is The Temple Bar (thetemplebarpub.com). Inside, live traditional Irish music can always be heard and visitors are greeted by Ireland’s largest collection of whiskey.
Next stop on our walking tour was Merrion Square Park, a small park with beautiful flower beds and home to the Oscar Wilde Statue by Danny Osborne (www.dannyosborne.com/oscar-wilde-monument1). The statue faces his childhood home that sits right across the street. Another must-see is l’Gueuleton restaurant for lunch (www.lgueuleton.com), which features a fantastic menu and a wonderful selection of wines from around the world. I ordered their Parmesan and Herb Gnocchi and it’s a must-have.
The people I met and the places I experienced gave me an appreciation for the fascinating history, culture, cuisine, and natural wonders that make the Emerald Isle one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
Afterward, it was time to do some exploring. I found The George Bar (www.thegeorge.ie) a long-standing staple of the Irish LGBTQ+ nightlife scene that’s steeped in history. The bar hosts daily entertainment, drag shows, and has TVs on the walls showing music videos from gay icons. They joined the Mercantile Group in 2015 and played a pivotal role in fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.
I did a little bar hopping that night and took a stroll across the bridge to The Pantibar (www.pantibar.com), a nice LGBTQ+ bar to stop in for a drink. It features a red and black interior and is owned by the Queen of Dublin drag, Panti Bliss (aka Rory O’Neill). They have signature cocktails and their own beer on tap, hilariously named Panti’s Pale Ale. The atmosphere is cozy with gay couples enjoying a nice cocktail and each other’s company. The Rainbow Mile website (www.rainbowmile.ie) has a map of all the LGBTQ+ spots in Dublin to check out.
I must admit I was a little skeptical about Ireland and it’s support of the LGBTQ+ community because it is a predominantly Catholic country. Then I learned that Ireland is very progressive and same-sex marriage became legal through a referendum by popular vote. In the Republic of Ireland, same-sex marriage was legally recognized on November 16, 2015, and the first marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples occurred on November 17, 2015. In 2017, Leo Varadkar became the first openly gay, and biracial, Prime Minister of Ireland.
When making your plans to visit Dublin, make sure to add Winter Pride Dublin (www.winterpride.ie) to your calendar. It is usually held between November and December, and in 2021 they had an art auction, live entertainment, a treasure hunt, and Wilde About Pride in celebration of Oscar Wilde, which explored his life and those of his LGBTQ+ contemporaries. The Dublin Pride Parade and March (www.dublinpride.ie) is held annually on the last Saturday in June. The march takes place from the GPO on O’Connell Street across the city to Merrion Square. Highlights for this year’s festival include Pride Village, a full-day festival in Merrion Square with entertainment, community zones, food vendors, and more. The nightclub Mother (www.motherclub.ie/home) will be hosting the Mother Pride Opening Party with other festivities throughout the weekend.
If you like to shop, head to the George’s Street Arcade (www.georgesstreetarcade.ie), one of Europe’s oldest city markets. The outside is a stunning Victorian-style building with red brick. Go inside and enjoy the variety of independent boutique shops and stalls. There’s also a selection of wonderful dining options.
On my last night at The Westbury, I experienced the charm of the 1930s at WILDE restaurant. There’s an abundance of greenery and a covered garden terrace looking over the streets of Dublin. The quiet ambiance is very refreshing and makes a perfect spot for a romantic dinner. Their Geese and Game menu is a celebration of Illustrious Irish wine, Geese, and local indigenous game producers. I ordered their delicious signature Carlingford lough oysters, shallot mignonette with Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV Champagne, and corn-fed chicken breast with roasted squash, salsa verde, and toasted seeds.
You can visit Ireland all year round thanks to the island’s mild, temperate, and often rainy climate. Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com), the lag carrier of Ireland is reintroduced flights from the Shannon Airport in County Clare to New York and Boston in March of 2022.
My first trip to Ireland (www.tourismireland.com) was definitely an experience that I will never forget. The people I met and the places I experienced gave me an appreciation for the fascinating history, culture, cuisine, and natural wonders that make the Emerald Isle one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.