The Writer’s Room at the Westin Dublin

While not normally staying at more than one hotel on a city vacation, my visit to Dublin had me at three hotels and five rooms (yes, I know the math doesn’t work so see this post for the three rooms in one stay).  I started out at the very stylish boutique hotel, The Morrison, moved to the conference hotel (under renovation) the DT Dublin before settling in for a two night stay at the Westin Dublin.  While I am a big fan of the Westin, often times, the same old gets old, however, the Westin Dublin had a few surprises in store for me, namely The Writer’s Room.

Westin Dublin Writer's Room

The theme to my Writer’s Room

Location

The Westin Dublin is across from Trinity College.  Two blocks away in one direction is the River Liffey and in the other direction, St. Stephen’s Green park. It is a great location to walk everywhere.

Trinity College

View of Trinity College from the Westin Dublin

Check-In

Greeted by the doorman, I entered the foyer through the swinging doors.  With a high ceiling and marble stairs (and a ramp too), I could tell this historic building was a happy place for me – the fresh flowers defintitely helped.  Walking up the stairs, the concierge stand was to the right and the restaurant entrance on my left.  Walking straight, I entered the lobby with it’s gorgeous wood flooring and turned left to the front desk to check-in.

Westin Dublin foyer

Westin Dublin foyer at the entrance

As it was early morning before my See Dublin By Bike tour, I figured my room would not be ready.  Greeted by the Gold Member host, I got the bad news that the standard room booked (I used cash for this stay as no points were available), was not ready but for an additional cost of x, I could go to a suite immediately (I absolutely hate the upsell at check-in).  As  SPG Gold, I should automatically get a room upgrade if available (standard to deluxe). The desk clerk and I got a bit annoyed with each other (it was early and I wasn’t thrilled with the upsell and told him).  I left for my tour and stored my luggage.

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Categories: Dublin, Hotels, luxury hotel, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Solo Dining NYC: La Pizza La Pasta at Eataly NYC

Solo dining is either embraced or feared.  I decided a long time ago to embrace it and look at it for what it is – I’m hungry and am allowed to eat, by myself, alone at a table and enjoy my meal just like the couples and groups around me.  I really don’t care what other people think about me alone – they can feel sad, pity or jealousy, that’s their emotion not mine.  Rather than hide in the hotel with room service (not that I haven’t before), I try to explore the new city and food is part of the exploration.  So ditch the book (I play a game or two on my phone sometimes) and immerse yourself in the restaurant experience – watch the people, the servers, the action – make up stories of people at tables, interact with the staff or the table/person next to you – have fun, enjoy the food and make it part of your story – the story of your travels.  Just don’t eat and run to hide – you have every right to eat at the restaurant and “Table for One” should not be a bad thing.

New York City – Eataly NYC

My friend Mindi of 2FoodTrippers mentioned the Italian Market, Eataly NYC, a mecca of fresh foods with seven restaurants.  The concept is that the various departments of the entire market are there for you to enjoy on the spot or to go.  Their motto is “eat better, live better”. The restaurants are next to their speciality area – fish, meat, pasta & bread, produce, cheese, panini, rotisserie with takeaway, counter seats and tables. There are also cafes too – gelato, coffee, desserts and a rooftop bar!  It sounded solo friendly with many options so I figured I’d give it a try.

Eataly NYC Cheese

Pick a cheese, any cheese – too much choice at Eataly NYC

So, I’m in New York, it’s a Saturday night at 7:30 and normally this would be a trifecta of “no table available until 10pm” or a great reason to do room service. However, my hotel, 70 Park, did not have room service or a restaurant on site so I had to forage and jumped into a cab to Eataly NYC, located at 200 Fifth Avenue between 23rd & 24th streets.  The sidewalk was abuzz with people going in/out of the market.  I entered on the wrong side of the market for a hungry person – gelato and pastries.  Tempted to just eat cake and sorbet for dinner, I quickly walked through the crowds to the heart of the market and it was packed with people all enjoying themselves in conversations, laughter and wine – just as it should be on a Saturday night.

Eataly NYC La Pizza La Pasta

Inside La Pizza La Pasta at Eataly NYC

With pasta and pizza in mind, I approached the hostess stand  of La Pizza La Pasta with a bit of apprehension as the couple ahead was told “an hour or so wait”.  So with my “do you have space for one?” query, I was happy to hear “sure, about ten minutes” so I milled about the area waiting and watching.  My beeper went off and I was shown to the last seat at the counter with a view of the open kitchen.  On my right was the kitchen pickup area for the servers, I was overwhelmed with amazing pasta choices coming from the kitchen and didn’t even have my menu yet.

Eataly NYC Pasta

Eataly NYC Pasta on my right – I had to stop looking right!

When I sat down, the woman on my left (also solo) offered me pizza.  The woman on her left (also solo) as well as the waiter all chided me to have some pizza.  So while you shouldn’t take candy from strangers, it’s ok to have pizza!  This offer actually solved two dilemmas – one I wasn’t sure if I should order pizza or pasta, and two, would I have anyone to talk to during dinner.  My dinner friend was a local having dinner after shopping while waiting for her husband. As I was visiting for the travel show, the topic, of course, turned to travel.  Everyone loves to talk travel -where they’ve been, what they’ve seen and where they are going (or dreaming of next).

Eataly NYC La Pizza La Pasta Kitchen

Eataly NYC La Pizza La Pasta Kitchen view from counter seat

My free slice of margherita pizza was tasty – fresh mozzarella with the right amount of sauce and a doughy crust.  That one slice satisfied my pizza craving.  Having looked at the special board during my wait, I already knew that I wanted the truffle gnocchi but I let the waiter give me the menu to further confuse me as all different pastas kept showing up on my right side that I wanted to identify.  As I love gnocchi (really who doesn’t?), I ordered the special with a glass of Italian red wine.

Eataly NYC pizza and bread

Eataly NYC – pizza and bread

A fresh chunk of bread was delivered to me wrapped in the Eataly paper with fresh olive oil to dip.  I wasn’t quite done the bread when my gnocchi showed up and it looked fantastic!  One bite and I was smiling in the land of carbs. Service was friendly and quick and despite the people waiting, I never felt rushed to leave.

Eataly NYC Truffle Gnocchi

Eataly NYC Truffle Gnocchi – just sublime (that’s a foodie word, right?)

 

Eataly NYC pasta, bread, wine

Eataly NYC – a fabulous meal

After dinner was finished, my new friend and I said “goodbye” as I wandered (beelined it) for the desserts (I know it’s really a problem).  With so many choices (thankfully, no calories were posted), I settled on two items (they were small)- a panna cotta (my new favorite dessert) shot and a small gluten free sponge cake with fruit (somehow, convincing myself that this was a healthy choice).

Eataly NYC desserts

Eataly NYC desserts – I picked pretty with fruit (pretty should never trump chocolate!)

Eataly NYC Panna Cotta

Eataly NYC Panna Cotta – yummy!

 

Eataly NYC dessert

Eataly NYC dessert – it was the pretty one, sadly it wasn’t tasty and I had to throw it out! No dessert deserves to be trashed!

 

With my takeaway boxes, I joined the buzz of people on the sidewalk and with the cool night, walked back uptown to my hotel.   It was a great meal with good conversation and a food/travel memory that was much better than room service.

Empire State building at night

Walking back to the hotel, I had a great view of the Empire State building

Do you have any favorite solo dining memories in New York City? Any wonderful restaurants to recommend to others visiting New York City?

 

Categories: Dessert, New York, Restaurants | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Indie30 Art Project – Week 1 Catching Up

Everything starts with good intentions.  On the weekly Twitter #RTWchat I was intrigued by the Indie 30 Art Project when it was mentioned.  Initially, it seemed perfect for me, a daily prompt about travel – inspiration to produce a blog post, instagram photo, video or other artistic interpretation and share with the community.  But the word “daily” got in the way, it started to weigh me down, the expectations, the almost work feel to it, so I printed the prompts and let them pile up here on my desk.  So in the spirit of spring cleaning this weekend, I decided to group Week 1  Introduction prompts into one post and go from there (baby steps folks as I ignore that I should be on Week 3 with the rest of the group).  I would love you to participate with me, pick a prompt below and comment on your view/experience/opinion.

African sunrise

An African sunrise – a reward for getting up early

A Changing World View – How has your view of the world changed because of travel?

My view of the world was initally formed from what I saw on television, read in newspapers, views of family & friends and from books until I traveled. Travel opened my mind up to so many different experiences, views and made me challenge much of my beliefs.  Traveling allows me to watch news programs and read newspapers in other countries to get a different spin on the U.S. and the World.  Most of the world doesn’t dislike Americans as we are led to believe, in my opinion people dislike our politics (heck, I’m apt to agree with them at times, I’m not a fan of our politics either) and how it affects their lives thousands of miles away but the folks I’ve met along the way can separate out the people and the government.  What I’ve learned traveling is that we are all people first with the same wants and needs ideally – be successful, raise families, find happiness and be loved.  Attending film festivals has also been an eye opener – I’ve seen amazing films, including fascinating documentaries, met directors and actors from many countries.  No matter what language, the messages are the same – the people in all countries want to laugh, cry and share in the experiences of life, love and happiness.

Baby Elephant w/Mom

Baby Elephant in Chobe Safari Park

Travel Origin – When did you get the travel itch?

My first international trip to London was during a college fall break over Thanksgiving in the late 80′s.  I remember all of the “wow” moments and realizing how much I wanted to learn about new cultures firsthand. Being in London, the most important rule was “Look Left”.  The internet didn’t exist then so I didn’t have pictures, blogs or research to help me – I had a heavy guidebook that I poured over trying to breathe in all of the data.  I craved more knowledge of the world.

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge, London

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Room 409: A Small Room with Style at 70 Park Avenue, a Kimpton Hotel in NYC

70 Park Avenue, a Kimpton HotelOn my first cruise, I would open up the door to my lower deck inside stateroom and just laugh.  You think you know how small rooms will be when you read the brochure or view online but you never know until you open that door.  With a cruise, the point is not to stay in the small room but to get out and explore the ship’s offerings and the ports.  This is the same premise with small and often tiny hotel rooms I have encountered throughout my travels – you are meant to escape the (generally bland) room and visit the city.  As a solo traveler, I’ve had my share of single bed rooms, rooms with odd layouts, rooms that made me sad and rooms that could double as a closet.  Many of these rooms have been, no surprise, in Europe but a few are in the U.S., specifically in New York City.   During my last visit to the city for the New York Times Travel Show, I would add a new small room to my collection – Room 409 at 70 Park Avenue – a Kimpton Hotel.

The Location

70 Park Avenue hotel is at 38th street, approximately a twenty minute walk from Penn Station or a quick cab.  Grand Central Station, Starbucks and CVS are two blocks away with many restaurants and attractions a short walking distance.  It was a quiet location without the stress of the clogged sidewalks or traffic other locations are subject to.

Arrival

Immediately upon entering the lobby you sense the Kimpton-ess of it all.  As this is NYC, the lobby is compact – the concierge and lounge on the right, the front desk ahead of you up a few steps (there is also a ramp on the left).  The evening wine socials were, as always at Kimpton, full of energy and guests mingling. Good wine, new friends and fun conversations – what else do you need?

70 Park Avenue, a Kimpton hotel lobby

The lobby at 70 Park Avenue always crowded during wine social hour

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Categories: Hotels, New York, Travel, U.S. | 3 Comments

Planning an Award trip to Paris & London with my niece – Best Aunt or Insane Aunt?

My sister began reciting all the rules over dinner, thankfully, I had a large glass of wine as my niece started to sound like a gremlin and not the adorable kid who went to see Frozen with me a few weeks ago,  I didn’t know there would be rules for Paris & London:

  • Keep her fed at all times even if she says she isn’t hungry ( I added “but don’t feed her after midnight”? no one got the joke!)
  • She needs to sleep, make sure she gets good sleep (um, we are going to be in Europe, they eat late and stay up late!)
  • Your idea of “walking” and an a kids’ idea of “walking” is vastly different (I admit my walking will never equal anyone’s idea of walking as I was trained to “watch the tram car” on the Wildwood Boardwalk – I am a Pro Walker and it wasn’t until this year that I realized it was an Olympic Sport – I could have been an Olympian!)
  • She takes a long time in the shower to get ready (ok, so water good, unlike a gremlin).
  • She will say she “hates you” a lot – don’t worry it’s fleeting (um, great, look forward to this one, I thought this was a gem directed at parents only, not aunts/uncles?)

So I had to stop them with all the rules.  As the aunt, I usually get them for a small period of “good” time and return them when they hit the “bad” phase.  I have dabbled with the in-between and usually end up with a glass of wine and chocolate soon after to soothe my nerves. I was beginning to rethink my “awesome surprise” and my face must have given me away as my sister said “She is going to love it, you will have a great time!”

Love the view from the wing when flying

Love the view from the wing when flying

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Categories: Airlines, Europe, Hotels, Loyalty Points | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments