Remembering an Irish Honeymoon
As we approach our five year wedding anniversary, Josh and I have been reminiscent upon our time in Ireland as newlyweds. We lived two miles from Playa Del Rey Beach when Josh and I tied the knot, and we were urning for something different. We were craving rain, history, and the type of sightseeing that you just can't find on the young west coast of America. Josh's family background is Irish and neither of us had ever been to Ireland so we landed on the Emerald Isle for our Honeymoon. Turns out that the only thing more romantic than a beach getaway is cuddling up in 600-year-old candlelit tavern with a good stout and an acoustic set on a misty evening in Temple Bar.
We landed in Dublin two days after our wedding. If you didn't already know, the Irish are chatty, and we made friends right away with our cab driver. He gave us tips on where to go and advised us not to drive as he drove us clockwise around a traffic circle. We told him not to worry. We planned on waking up with Irish coffees everyday and had already studied all the public transit options Ireland had to offer. He warmly shook our hands and gave us a congratulations as he helped us out at The Morgan Hotel in Temple Bar.
The Hotel was wildly modern with white walls and purple colored lights creating an interesting contrast to the cobblestone roads and old pubs of Temple Bar. We checked in as Mr. and Mrs. Burke (swoon) and got ready for an evening out. We hit the pubs that evening in jeans, tartan scarves, and sueded boots. It was cozy and made for a much more comfortable walk back at the end of the evening than my LA stilettos.
The next day we planned a day-trip to the Cliffs of Moher. If you've ever seen a photo of Ireland, it was likely the Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the western coast of the country near Galway, these magnificent cliffs are tall and mystical as they tower over the open sea. Coming from Dublin, we were in for a seven-hour day to go there and back on the tour bus - a long day that sounded like cake compared to Josh's 30-mile commute back in LA. What we didn't bargain for (or anyone else for that matter) was the unusual heat and a broken air conditioner on a bus that almost never needs an air conditioner. Hot as it was, we both look back on that day fondly. Along the way, we stopped at the Burren and learned about how the Irish were banished there by the English and how they survived off of the grass growing between the rocks. The tour was packed with history as we crossed from East to West coast and back. From the abandoned ruins of a chapel covered in tombstones with the name "Burke" to the tiny chocolate shop landlocked in the middle of the island with a grass roof and 1950's wallpaper, the tour was so much more than we thought it would be.
After some rest and lazy days at the hotel, we finally got a chance to take a walking literary tour that I had read so much about on TripAdvisor. Josh met me with resistance at first until I explained that it was a literary pub crawl, and that we would be drinking in the pubs of great writers around Dublin. Nothing compares to a tour about writers in Dublin. I think the Irish are the best storytellers in the world - and this tour did not disappoint.
We met the tour guides and a group of no more that 15 outside the first pub. They performed some scenes from a James Joyce piece and finished by telling us that this is the pub where he wrote it! Each place we stopped at allowed for a couple of stouts and then we would meet outside to head to the next place together. These weren't just tour guides - these were full blown actors performing parts in the dusky evening light that transported us to another time and fueled us with a brew for a five-senses experience. The nerd in me loved hearing about all the amazing works of art and literature and walking into pubs older than the country we call home. The city alone is an archeological study and it was fascinating. I can't remember if it was five or six or seven pubs that we visited, but each one had a unique story and each beer was delicious.
After a week in Dublin of touring pubs, the Guinness Brewery, and learning everything we could about Irish writers, we were ready to head to our next destination - Cork. We boarded a train and headed to the small town. We had learned on our tour to the Cliffs that Irish slang for "what's up" is "Craic" or more specifically "what's the craic?" and much to our delight found a little spot called "The Craic House" when we arrived in Cork. We stayed at a quaint bed and breakfast with two giant windows overlooking a small garden and I'd be lying if I told you we didn't think the place was haunted. Those two nights were the scariest evenings of my life, but the breakfast, tea time, and lovely staff more than made up for it.
While staying in Cork, we took a tour at the Middleton's distillery and learned all about whiskey. Did you know sherry barrels are used to age fine whiskey? Yum. We learned that American bourbons use new barrels and that's what gives them such an oaky finish. The Irish purchase used American Bourbon barrels in combination with sherry barrels from Spain for a more refined taste. We tasted a handful of elixirs in a wooded tasting room. Josh described it as butter and the best buzz he's ever had.
Next, we headed to the fanciest and most remote spot on our Irish tour - The Park Hotel Kenmare. Formal dinners, Barry Crockett, tea time, and silver-spoon breakfasts in an estate fit for the Royal Family (only they probably aren't allowed), this place was an Irish kingdom. We spent an evening walking along the coast, watching the water rise up towards the hotel and descend so far that full boats were docked in mud at the wrong time of day. Our room was complete with a welcoming champagne, a canopy bed with a stuffed bah-bah (sheep), and giant windows that always seemed to attract a butterfly or two. We walked through a lavish garden and around the small town of Kenmare, the Jewel of the Ring of Kerry, and at night we enjoyed a quite evening on the town where I remember eating stew in a dark and old restaurant by lantern light.
The next morning we had booked a full day at the adjoining spa. We left our room and passed by classic works of art and whittled wood through a corridor until suddenly everything was zen and modern. A babbling brook, a posh front desk, and a spa experience to die for awaited us. We had a couples massage and enjoyed several hours in the spa's amenities including an outdoor spa tub facing the misty and private woods. Later we enjoyed a beautiful evening participating in a formal dinner at the estate. Upon checking out, the concierge came running towards us with the stuffed animal from our room. "This is yours to keep" he said. We named the sheep, 'Craic'.
We headed back to Dublin for our last few days and stayed at The Temple Bar Hotel and Inn - a trendy hotel for a decent price. We used the time to take a few more tours including a day trip to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Legend has it that the hexagonal structures were built by a giant named Finn McCool who was building a bridge from Ireland to Scotland to fight his nemesis, another giant named Benandonner. Now we know that the odd shapes were created from a volcanic eruption 50-60 million years ago! The tour was fascinating. We learned about the history of Northern Ireland (still under English rule today) while the Scottish were voting on their referendum. We stopped in Belfast for some tea. We even walked across a swinging bridge high over the ocean and watched the chilly sea spraying on the rocks below us. It was adventure made for living in the moment, and it was our moment.
Happy Anniversary, Babe.
A Baby on Bourbon Street
We got a lot of strange looks - you know - walking through Bourbon street with a stroller, but we're no novices when it comes to New Orleans. My sister has lived in The Big Easy for almost three years now, and I went there a little too often myself in my 20's. This time we were back for my sister's engagement party. Coming here with a baby? Well that was a first, but surprisingly, still a blast.
Our weekend started out with Stefani and Ace's engagement Crawfish Boil. If you've never been to New Orleans, you should know that the food is an even bigger deal than the beads. We showed up to her future in-laws' property and drooled in awe over the giant barrels full of southern-style crawfish. Savory, juicy, and oh-to-tempting, you would have thought we were on the food network. Of course, the crawfish was good, but who knew corn could taste like that? We lazied around the yard, talking, petting the local goat, and watching Stef and Ace take adorable photos with giant ring balloons.
That evening we checked into the Four Corners Bourbon Street Hotel and watched partying strangers stroll la rue to live blues bands through the french door windows in the hotel lobby. It was like watching a crystal ball in reverse.
The next day was all about Magazine street - a lovely (and much quieter) boutique area of New Orleans. We strolled along to brunch with baby sunglasses and our jogger. Brunch was one of the most fabulous meals I've ever eaten. Apparently Ace knows some people really high up in food. Baby B was passed around the table like an accessory in a photo booth, and Stef helped me change his diaper on a sink only slightly larger than a pedestal. We went thrift store shopping and found a couple of authentic Dolce & Gabbana blazers.
That afternoon while strolling Bourbon st near our hotel, Josh and I took turns hopping into voodoo shops, and grabbing a beer to stroll with. Near evening, people were approaching us, commenting on our baby's sunglasses, and it became clear it was time to head back inside for an early evening. My mom babysat Bryce and Stef, Ace, Josh, and I had dinner nearby. We grabbed a bottle out of my mom's car on our way back to the hotel. As a club promoter grabbed my arm to drag me in, she saw the bottle and asked ,"Girl, what is that?!"
"My baby is back in the room" I said. It was an early night.
The next day, Josh, Baby B, and I walked the French quarter stopping for ice cream, and taking our time to admire the art. As we walked Jackson Square by the Cathedral, we lingered in the park. We spent several nights enjoying the view of Bourbon from the air conditioning of our hotel bar. On Sunday night, we watched Game of Thrones in our room to the muted sound of big bands and guests swimming in the courtyard pool below our terrace.
The Big Easy wasn't the same with a baby. We didn't get absinthe for lunch or even step foot in Lafitte's, but it was still lovely. There were still wrought iron vines wrapping the city in creole decor, and beignets, and of course there was my sister.
Congratulations on your engagement Stefani and Ace!
For any mama who's traveled with a baby, you know it isn't easy. Here are a few of the items we couldn't live without:
Saturday September 8th, 2018 will always be remembered as the day Morgan Hall and Antonio Cullari tied the knot. Of all the years I've known them, and the seven years they dated, I've never seen a wavering moment in their relationship. Morgan is feisty and powerful and outspoken and Antonio is her match on every point. It's no surprise that their wedding was breathtaking, meaningful, and the perfect mixture of traditional meets bohemian. They beat to their own drum, but their love is of the genre of timeless tradition and loyalty that lasts a lifetime.
The ceremony takes place at Maymont Estate in Richmond, Virginia, the 100-acre Victorian country estate of James Henry and Sallie May Dooley, completed in 1893. The estate is whimsical and romantic, covered in lavish gardens and fountains, and filled with butterflies.
Morgan primps and preps for the ceremony in the stone barn, where she drinks champagne and chats with girlfriends in anticipation. The dressing room is covered in bouquets, champagne flutes, and Chanel powder compacts juxtaposed against the old stone and reclaimed wood of the barn. It's a place where glamour and rustic meet.
A horse-drawn carriage arrives to take the bride and her mother, Sandy, down to the ceremony and the rest of us hop on a golf cart and hustle down to our seats before it begins. The outdoor atrium is filled with the intoxicating aroma of blooming flowers as Morgan walks down the aisle with her mother in arm. Surrounded by decorative Grecian columns, "Everything I do, I do it for you" by Bryan Adams begins to play and loved ones watch through water-glassed eyes. Morgan and Sandy approach Antonio and Morgan's father, Riste, at the alter. What follows is a heartfelt ceremony lead by both of Morgan's parents and enhanced by the genuine vows Morgan and Antonio have written for each other. At the moment Morgan says "I do" a monarch butterfly drifts through the alter and down the aisle - a beautiful sentiment that only the bride and her closest friends truly understand. I spy a tear on Royce's cheek, meet Kiki's wide eyes in amazement, and tissues are distributed hastily to the front row.
The couple finishes with a sand ceremony symbolizing where they've both come from, who they are as individuals, and who they become together. The sand may never be separated. There's a kiss to inspire a thousand romantic comedies.
The reception follows at the Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Richmond.
Venice Beach, CA
Roller Skates, Birds, and Beachside Bistros.
There's nothing like the drive down PCH from Malibu to Santa Monica to Venice Beach with my youngest cousin, Jade, aka the hippest person I know. Wind in our hair, famous houses on our right, and miles and miles of sand and sea. We head all the way down to Washington BLVD near Marina Del Rey to park and work our way back north on the Venice boardwalk that is currently covered in "Birds" or scooters you can now rent on your smartphone.
Our first stop is Figtree's Cafe, a bistro with healthy options and an array of non-alcoholic drinks (and cocktails for those who can drink). I've come here many times for a "salty dog", but this time it was camomile tea for me and a delicious chai latte for Jade. I would also highly recommend the avacado chicken melt and for my vegetarian friends, they've got a killer veggie dagwood (I'm looking at you Ruhi and Alyna!)
From lunch, we headed down the boardwalk stopping in the occasional store for some light shopping. My favorite was California Love where I found the cutest onesie complete with a retro VW Van printed on the front. I also indulged in a cute California Love bib and had to resist the urge to buy the pink one with the roller skate because we still don't know if it's a boy or a girl...
Jade, being much hipper than me, wanted to check out Gotta Have It, a Venice Beach vintage treasure that will have you thinking of Nasty Gal Girl Boss, Sophia Amoruso. Inside we gushed over leather jackets, brightly colored accessories, sequined dresses, and even vintage Chanel bags.
Finally, we walked back to our car at Washington, eating ice cream cones and posing in front of the sunset.
Cabanas, Piña Coladas, & Speakeasies
Day two started out unassuming and ended with a bang! We began the day by rolling out of bed around 9am for breakfast. Being pregnant, I needed to eat immediately, so Royce and I headed up to the 69th floor for a breakfast from heaven at Dekkadance, the hotel's international eatery. We were instantly wowed by the floor to ceiling city views and lengths and lengths of breakfast buffet options.
Royce and I headed to the buffet line and waited patiently for fresh Eggs Benedict to be prepared. There were pancakes, and french toast, and omelets... oh my! I loaded up on two Eggs Benny and grabbed a grapefruit. A waiter brought us drinks, and we noticed a few members of a K-pop group dining near us. We headed back up to the room where the rest of the girls ordered room service to die for.
After breakfast and a quiet morning, we headed to the pool and enjoyed a cabana suite on the 7th floor. Surrounded by city views, we sipped piña coladas and champagne poolside. A live band played beach-y covers of our favorite songs as we ate lobster avocado toast.
After some fun in the sun, we got dressed up for our evening. Que the false lashes, "Team Bride" temporary tattoos, themed buttons, and cocktail dresses. We started our evening at "The Little Easy", a New Orleans style restaurant with victorian furniture and bumping music.
We waited in a separate bar area while our table was prepared. Then we were led down a hallway into a room complete with a fountain and a private curtained dining area that felt more like a lounge than a restaurant. We ordered everything from Gumbo to Chicken & Waffles and I was happy to see a list of "mocktails" on the menu.
Finally, we ended our night at Clifton's, the type of one-of-a-kind club you can only find in a city like LA. This place featured everything from an open three-story nightclub, to a 40's swing dancing room, to a Tiki Bar themed speakeasy.
We entered into a room that could only be described as a an urban jungle full of flowing streams and self proclaimed "cabinets of curiosities". Ahead of us, was a massive club, and up an old country club style wooden stair case, was a room filled with 40's swing and what I can only assume were professional swing dancers. I was asked to dance and then instructed on the Charleston where I "graciously" stepped on a poor stranger's feet for the length of a song. Covered in smiles, I thanked him and headed back to the girls. We danced to club music in the "Gothic Bar" and worked our way to the Tiki Bar in the back, waiting patiently to get in. Once inside, the private decorated alcoves, and quiet bar was well worth the wait.
Pink tinsel, confetti balloons, and Jeffrey Campbell glitter heels...
It's almost here! In less than a month, Morgan Hall will become Morgan Cullari! (Let's take a moment to acknowledge how much we love her fiesty, spicy, super loyal fiance, Antonio.
It's not every bachelorette that turns out this spectacular, and its why I have to give Royce Nelson and Kiki Williams a sincere thank you for planning such an amazing event.
Friday evening began by checking into our hotel room at the Intercontinental downtown. To say this place is high tech, is an understatement. We arrive and are directed to the 70th floor to check in. Surrounded by little figurine art, we head to the first elevator.
Check in is gorgeous with floor to ceiling windows and a view of Los Angeles like I've never seen. It's quite ego boosting to be looking "down" at the Ritz. We're directed to another set of elevators and punch in our destination on a digital flat screen to request our elevator. Our ears pop a second time on our way down to our room on the 41st floor.
We arrive upon a rosegold tinsel door and Morgan knows it's for her!
Inside the room is floor to ceiling windows, a view of the city's best helicopter pads, and a heck of a suite complete with an automatic HEATED toilet! From the leather stitched pillows, to the marble bathroom floors, this place is everything posh.
The party begins with a meet and greet and some ice breakers as Morgan's friends from East to West Coast all arrive. We've got drinks, chicken wraps, hummus, and the entire hotel's supply of ice buckets filled with champagne.
Later that evening, we head up to Spire 73 on the roof of our hotel. The open-air bar is the tallest of its kind in the western hemisphere. Take that New York! Surrounded by 360 view of the city lights, we order lush cocktails (or in my case, mocktails) and spread out throughout the intimate bar conversing with each other over life, men, and new business ventures. It becomes evident that Morgan keeps only the most interesting of friends.
We're offered shots, the single girls lead on a few guys, Morgan cat-crawls on a bench, EDM plays, girls cluster into groups by the view, we huddle under crosshatch canopies, and finally we gather everyone for a night cap at the lobby bar. Those of us staying in the hotel stay up late catching up and getting to know one another. We sleep like babies.
Los Angeles - Part 1 - Torrance
Spent this morning on a light walk with my MIL and enjoyed some beautiful home-spiration from the city's best seaside suburb, Torrance.
This sweet neighborhood is nicknamed "Candy Cane Lane". In the winter, it's strung up with thousands of lights and Christmas decorations, and crowds of people walk door-to-door sipping the hot cocoa that's sold on the street. This time of year, the crooked trees and manicured lawns lend to show off the variety of architecture in the area. From cottage-y cape cods, to restored craftsmans, to tiled hispanic mansions, it's not hard to see why this neighborhood is some of LA's most sought after real estate.
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