Destination: County Wicklow Ireland

Some of you may know that I'm of Irish descent. I haven't been there in 25 years, so I was thrilled to meet Irish blogger Ashling of Allthingsnice. While I'm a city girl, Ashling is a country girl, and revels in its vast glory. I guess I might be too if I lived in such beautiful surroundings. She lives two hours north of Dublin near the border with Northern Ireland. Ashling is going to take us on a tour of County Wicklow, Ireland

Let's get to know her first.

Q: Dogs or cats? 
Cats. I have no pets at my house, but we now have four cats on the farm. Only two have names: Tommy and Tilly. They keep the mice away.

Q: Tea or coffee? 
Oh tea. I drink way too much. On average I take about 10 mugs a day- addiction I know!

Q: Cooking or baking? 
Cooking. I’m not a great baker.

Q: Spring or fall? 
I like both equally, although in Ireland we don’t use the term fall we just call it autumn. The countryside is really pretty in both spring and autumn. Spring is so green with lots of new life emerging in the hedges and fields and along the lake shores, and then in autumn the trees are amazing with all their rust, red and yellow leaves.

Q: Beach or mountains? 
Beach probably as it reminds me of good weather. My parents have a holiday home at the beach, and I love taking walks on the sand and collecting shells.

Q: Favorite city? 
That’s a difficult one. I love lots of cities, however I am a country girl at heart so I much prefer spending time in the countryside. I do like Paris, London and Prague though.

Q: Funniest travel experience? 
Meeting the Minister of Finance at the airport when going on holidays to Madeira. Coincidentally, we ended up checking into the same hotel, and meeting him almost every day there.

Q: Best meal you’ve ever had? 
Homemade Irish Boxty. If you ever visit Ireland, you need to try it.

County Wicklow Ireland

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to take a short staycation in Ireland and went to County Wicklow. It is located just South of Dublin with easy access on the motorway. We visited Avoca Village with its lovely Meeting of the Waters where two rivers merge together. Avoca village is also home to one of Ireland’s oldest working woolen mills and one of the world's oldest manufacturing companies - Avoca Handweavers.  

 {Avoca handweavers shop}

{woollen items for sale online too}

{meeting of the waters}

We also stopped off at Avondale House set in a 500 acre forest. The house is Georgian and is well worth a visit.

 {Avondale House}

{gate house at Avondale House}

From there we visited one of the main visitor destinations – Glendalough an ancient monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century. It is set in a glaciated valley with two lakes and beautiful scenery. It includes a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. It really is worth a visit. Michelle Obama and her two children visited on their trip to Ireland.

{the lake}

Our final destination, and one of my favorites, was Powerscourt Estate with its wonderful gardens and magnificently built heritage. You can spend hours taking in the beautiful gardens, have something to eat in the Avoca CafĂ© and shop in the bespoke Irish-owned shops. One of Ireland’s highest waterfalls is also nearby. The scenery and landscape are spectacular. Powerscourt is only 20 km south of Dublin, so for anyone visiting Dublin, you should plan a day to visit.

{Japanese garden at Powerscourt}

A few more questions for Ashling...

Q: Who do you travel with?
I always go on holidays with my husband. Sometimes with my parents.

Q: Where you stayed?
We stayed in a small guesthouse, however there are plenty of B&B’s and guesthouses in County Wicklow to choose from.

Q: Travel tips? 
When holidaying in Ireland, it is always a bonus to get good weather, but always come prepared with rain jackets and good footwear.

Q: If I were to do it again, I would…
When in Ireland, make sure you explore rural Ireland not just Dublin city.

Q: Where to next? 
Having recently traveled to Italy, Montenegro, mainland Greece and three of the Greek Islands along with my husband and my parents, we plan to stay close to home.

Thanks for stopping by Ashling. I hope to travel with my husband and children to Ireland in the next few years. We will definitely visit County Wicklow. In the meantime, I enjoy following Ashling on Instagram. She's an amazing photographer!

2016 Oscars fashion...

As in the past several years, I was not wowed by what I saw on the red carpet last night.

Only one person stood out in my mind -- Naomi Watts. She is on my list almost every year. Perfect head to toe as always. Just stunning.

I'm a bit torn about Cate Blanchett's dress. The color is flattering, but the embellishments, especially around the sleeves/straps were too much IMO. What did you think?

Over embellished up top. Get rid of all that stuff and it would have been lovely. 
See comparison with wedding cake on Instagram.

The plunging neckline was popular last night. It worked well for Cate, but not others. How low can you go? Take a look at Charlize Theron's gown. She was stunning, but her dress was way too low IMO.  See side boobage.

Her co-presenter Emily Blunt gets my vote for cutest. Pretty in pink with baby pump. Love her. 

As far as awards went, I was thrilled to see Spotlight win for best picture. It was my favorite movie last year. Too bad I didn't pick it for my pool. I would have won.

PC matters addressed on last night's agenda. Not going there. I'll let others duke it out on Facebook. 

Until next year...

My favorite places: Ponce City Market

I've been waiting for more than a decade for Atlanta to become an "in town" city. It's finally happening and I am thrilled! Ponce City Market is currently my favorite place to eat and shop.

PCM has a long and interesting history. It is housed in the fully renovated Sears, Roebuck & Company historic building. It sits on the Atlanta beltline, which makes it easy to access on foot or bike. Paid parking is available, but can be hard to come by on the weekends. I've had no problem finding a spot during the week.

{hop on or off the beltline}

{cool places to sit and hang out}

Shopping opportunities for well-known brands and boutiques abound. But the food is where it's at!

The food hall is aptly described as culinary central for the South. I've already eaten there more times than I can count. Here are my faves so far:

W.H. Styles Fish Camp
Brought to you by Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia fame, W.H. Styles Fish Camp aka "Dubs" is a casual fish house and raw bar. It's named after Anne's great- great- great- great-grandfather W.H. Styles whose nickname was Dubs. It's also the name of her dog. Cute. Like all of her eating establishments, the food and ambiance do not disappoint. The interior is well appointed with tasteful sea-inspired decor. Retail shelves are filled with everything you'd ever need to host a clam bake, oyster roast or low country boil.

Place your order at the counter for table top dining or belly up to the raw bar. Limited indoor seating is available, as well as a large designated outdoor area. The menu offers classic fish house sandwiches -- like a shrimp po' boy, lobster roll and today's catch -- along with some other not so typical items. To date, I've eaten at Dubs three times. The North Georgia trout fish plate -- which is also available as a sandwich -- is served with capers and pickled onions on a bed of bean salad. Tasty, but not outstanding. Our fish came with a bag of Utz crab chips that brought me back to my days on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The creamy little neck chowder with chunks of roasted cauliflower is not to be missed. It could stand with a few more clams, though. The super rich she-crab soup is worth a try. A little goes a long way though, so order a cup and share it with your dining companions. The Vietnamese crispy salad seems a bit out of place on a fish shack menu. Don't let that throw you off. It's served with the catch of the day and is divine. It's my fave on the menu. The crispy calamari stands out with fried chick peas that add some texture to the dish. The generous portion makes it perfect for sharing. Be sure to order a house-made seltzer to go with your meal. A bargain at $2! You can't go wrong at Dubs.

Some food porn.

Minero offers casual Tex-Mex at its best by Chef Sean Brock. I was eagerly awaiting its opening after hearing such great things about the Charleston location. A bit about the name. The unofficial history of tacos dates back to the 18th century. "Minero" means miners and "tacos" refer to the dynamite -- gunpowder wrapped inside piece of paper -- miners used to excavate ore. The first reference found was "tacos de mineros" meaning "miners tacos." I'm including this so you can impress your friends anytime you eat at a Mexican restaurant.

On to the food. The space is lively and fun. A small market right outside its doors offers Rancho Gordo dried beans and dried chiles, along with a case full of cookbooks, hot sauces and other accoutrement. Sit indoors or outside when the weather is nice. I've eaten at Minero twice. The menu is limited. Go for the tacos. They are small two- or three-bite sized on corn tortillas for $3.50-$4.00. I would personally order 3. They are all good, but the pork tacos are the best, especially the pork carnitas. The guacamole, which is excellent, is served with chips in a cute tortilla warmer. The rice and beans were both bland. My advice is to skip the sides and stick with the tacos. And, if available, pick up a pint of fresh guacamole in the refrigerated case to take home.

{pork tacos are the best}

 {minero #shelfie}

{order some chips. they come in these cute tortilla warmers.}

Brezza Cuccina
Brought to you by Jonathan Waxman, the cuccina offers traditional Italian with an American bent. It's open for lunch and dinner plus brunch on Saturday and Sunday. I've eaten there once for lunch. The space is large, open and bright. My friend and I tried to cover all sections of the menu although we didn't have room for pizza. We split the gnocchi and chicken parm sandwich served with a side of kale salad. A full size salad is on the menu for $9.00. It would be a nice choice if you want to eat light. We enjoyed everything we ordered, but the chick pea fries stole the show. Delicioso! I would definitely order them again.

 {mushroom parm gnocchi}

 {chick pea fries. yum!!!}

Hop's Chicken
Hop's Chicken is Linton Hopkin's (Holeman & Finch, Restaurant Eugene) fried chicken joint. Order fried chicken in a bucket with traditional sides like mac 'n cheese (counts as a vegetable in the south) or the chicken biscuit. Although I prefer the biscuit, they are both finger licking good.

{recreate hop's biscuits at home}

H&F Burger
You can now get the famous H&F burger you relish at Braves games right here in town. Located next door to Hop's, H&F serves up burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes. You can't go wrong with the burger. They are big, so if you're not really hungry, order the Mighty Jr., which was big enough for me. Make sure to order them naked if you have picky eaters. H&F is a good family-friendly spot.

Honeysuckle Gelato
Save some room for dessert and head over to Honeysuckle Gelato -- the company's first retail space. Choose from scoops, sandwiches and shakes. My advice is to go for the cookie sandwich: one cookie + one flavor + one topping for $5. Bargain. The brownie cookie with vanilla bean and sea-salted caramel is my fave. I've also tried the fresh mint rolled in chocolate chips. Five percent of all sales for every $5 spent goes to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. No brainer.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll be back. In the meantime, if you haven't been to PCM, go!

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