Daily Wanderlust: Dublin’s Liberator Statue

There are gorgeous statues dotting the streets of Dublin, Ireland.

One of the most well-known is the Liberator Statue (also known as the O’Connell Statue) on O’Connell Street. The bronze statue depicts Daniel O’Connell, an Irish political leader from the 1800s.

When I wasn’t celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and making my liver hate me, I was wandering around the River Liffey, hitting up Temple Bar, and admiring some of the historic landmarks, like The Liberator.

Liberator Statue, Dublin

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Dublin’s Guinness Factory

I realize just in writing this how entirely lucky I am: I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland in 2010.

Damn. Lucky.

However, while I was lucky to be there, I did have one tiny problem during my five days in this charming country (Dublin and Galway). My liver hated me. Despised me. Was ready to fall out of my body, shrivel up and die.

I attribute this to the copious amount of drinking I did with fellow blogger, Abbey, and her friends. Between a raging first night in Temple Bar to being one of the official whisky tasters at Jameson, to the Guinness tour and the perfect pint, to the random drinking thanks to being a stubborn Irish lock on St. Patrick’s Day Eve to the grand daddy of them all,  St. Patrick’s Day, by the time I left Ireland, I didn’t think I could drink ever again. That lasted about 22 hours.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Galway, Ireland

Exactly two years ago, I was sitting in a bed, hungover and in a fight with my liver after meeting Abbey, of A Chick With Baggage, in Dublin.

For four days, we took on Ireland, hitting the Jameson Distillery, Guinness factory and pretending we owned Temple Bar. The day before St. Patrick’s Day, we, along with two of her friends, drove her tiny car across the country to Galway, where Abbey was living.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day IN Ireland … what an experience!

Here, Galway surrenders to the twilight of evening, the day after celebrating St. Patrick.

Destinations

Backpacker Recipe: Corned Beef Quesadillas for St. Patty’s Day

Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from Executive Chef Jose M. Navarro from the Las Vegas outlet of the popular Beso Steakhouse. He’s agreed to lend his culinary expertise to d travels ’round and provide backpacker recipes you can make without breaking the bank or getting too elaborate. We all know how great some hostel kitchens can be! 

I had been cooking for about five years the first time that I stepped into a cafe kitchen.  And it was probably a couple months before I had a run in with a Reuben sandwich. It was a fluke really, the cook– might have been me— fired one too many and ended up with an extra.

As for the Reuben sandwich … I had made many, but never before tried it.  The pink meat looked and smelled a little bit off. Briny and a little sour.  The sauerkraut was not much help either.  But on this particular day I was hungry.  I had skipped on lunch and clock-out time was still a few hours away. I took a look at the sandwich and thought “What the hell?”

It wasn’t love at first bite, but I was intrigued. I realized it was more my apprehension towards the meat, than me actually disliking it that kept me from realizing that I liked it! Eventually, I came to terms with it, and accepted it!  I liked corned been, and I was now a fan of Reuben.

There’s no doubt. Preparing corned beef is an act of love.  Sure, there are quick recipes out there, but good corned beef takes at least five days worth of brining, followed by three hours of slow simmering and cooking. (And, if you want my recipe for this, leave a comment and perhaps it can be included in another post.)

Fortunately, once cooked, corned beef can be used in other recipes besides rubens. I like it in quesadillas, and for those who want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a little Irish ingredient, a corned beef quesedilla is a quick, easy and affordable way to do so.

Braised cabbage

Ingredients:

For four people (hey, might as well share the St. Patty’s Day love), you will need at least four Guinness beers (or beers dyed green) and the following:

8   flour tortillas

1/2   lb  cheddar cheese, shredded

1      lb  cabbage, shredded.  I like to use a blend of red and green.

6     oz  onion julianed

1     oz  chopped garlic

2    fl oz  oil, canola or an olive oil blend

4    oz  1000 island dressing

5    oz corned beef

1    beer (whatever you’ve got that’s cheap … don’t waste the good stuff!)

Preparation:

Ideally, a large 10” skillet will do the work for four people, however– not all hostel kitchens  may have this. So, feel fre to use a smaller skillet and just cook separately.

Heat the skillet over medium high heat; add the oil, garlic and onions. Once they begin to brown add the cabbage. With a spoon or a utensil,  stir the cabbage around, pushing it down.  When the cabbage is half-cooked, add about 1/4 cup of beer, reduce heat down to half and cover. Drink the rest of the beer while the cabbage cooks. Once the cabbage is about 3/4 of the way cooked, add the corned beef. Cover it and allow it to steam warm. In a griddle, over med heat, place the tortillas– with an ounce of dressing spread over it– and cheese.  When the cheese is melted, add some of the braised cabbage, one quart of the corned beef, more cheese and another tortilla.  Flip over to the other side cook for another minute or so. Cut into fourths and serve.

Is there a recipe you’d love to learn for the road? Leave a comment and let us know!

About the Author:  Executive Chef Jose Navarro is no stranger to the kitchen. He began his culinary journey at the young age of 14. Now, a few (ahem) years later, Navarro is at the helms of Beso Steakhouse’s Las Vegas outlet inside City Center. He’s worked in nearly every aspect of the kitchen, perfecting his craft along the way. As executive chef at Eva Longoria’s popular outpost, Navarro develops seasonal menus based on the restaurant concept, oversees the daily kitchen operations and trains staff. Follow along and get the inside scoop on the Las Vegas culinary scene on Twitter and Facebook.

Guest Posts

Some place with a view

I sat in the back of Brock’s SUV, looking out into the nighttime desert landscape … flat and black, giving way to the Strip a few miles ahead of us.

It had been an emotional six days in Las Vegas. I had arrived days earlier and spent my first night with Kyla, showing her photos of my trip and drinking copious amounts of wine before we finally decided to call it a night.

In between then and that moment in the desert, I had gone through a multitude of emotions.

Why am I loving this town so much?

There’s a funny thing that happens to you when you decide to take your life, turn it upside down and then attempt to turn it rightside up.

You grow. You change. You are no longer the same person you were.

I found myself back in the town I had come to adore. And hate. And then love to hate. And then … love?

I had become mesmerized by the city.

It looks different after finding yourself.

My third night in town was my birthday. I had assembled my normal crew of amazing people for my birthday celebration at the old haunt, The Tuscany Casino.

Through my years in Las Vegas, the center bar at Tuscany had been my lifeline. Friends, lovers … they all had been initiated at Tuscany. It was our spot for “emergency drinks” which happened to be three nights a week back in the day. I was on a first name basis with the bartenders. When my favorite bartender had his baby, I dropped off a present for the baby. When a bartender we knew had passed away, I cried. It was my spot.

And, on my birthday, so many of the people I loved were there. My old family.

My comfort.

The next night, Kyla I went out to see my Bulgarian Travel Buddy, Abby, at a party at Gold Lounge inside of Aria at City Center. Abby had just returned from living the ex-pat life in Costa Rica to the pulsing Las Vegas as an editor of a magazine.

Seeing her was amazing. Refreshing. And then, beyond the ropes was my old co-worker and friend, Aimee, and her husband (also my friend), Ben. And then, another old friend from my previous days in Las Vegas, Jason.

I miss this life.

And then, after that, the five of us journeyed to Town Square to grab drinks and catch-up.

“Aimee,” I said to my friend as we sipped our IPA, “I think I may want to move back.”

Admitting it is half the battle.

“D,” she began, frowning, “You were miserable when you were here. I  am so afraid if you come back you will be the same way.”

I knew where she was coming from. I LIVED my misery. But, I also lived my misery in Atlanta, and coming into my own in Europe.

“This is what I want … I think.”

It wasn’t until two nights later, in the middle of the desert, with Brock, that it really hit home.

I love my friends, never misunderstand that. But, when you are traveling you lose touch. You know when you get home, the friendship will pick-up where it left off. However, there are a few people who I actually grew closer with when I was traveling.

Brock was one of them. He became an important person in the last month of my travels.

When I felt like my world was falling apart, when all I wanted to do was come home, when I needed anything, he was  there. We would talk on IM and he would help chase my sad away.

Seeing him was important to me. I wanted to tell him how much he helped me smile when all I wanted to do was cry in Bosnia, in Croatia. When I was dealing with my grandmother’s sickness, and ultimately her death, he was there … a simple click away, saying what I needed to hear.

And, there we were, six weeks later … and I didn’t so much as whisper it to him.

Everything changes when you come home.

The two of us sat, side by side, in the back of his car, looking out into the desert while he strummed his guitar.

We sat there for hours while he played some of his original tunes. Note: Brock is a super talented singer, lyricist and guitar player.

Then, he played a song that hit home. About changing your life. About taking a chance. About going “some place with a view.”

He sat on the bumper, singing that song, and I looked out as the haunting chorus began. Above, at the twinkling stars. In front of me at South Point’s flashing marquee, at the lightning blinking in the distance, at the spotlight of Luxor extending towards the sky.

Thoughts of my trip came flooding back to me … learning Irish locks were tricky on St. Patrick’s Day Eve, teaching English in Spain, not taking it off in Budapest, stumbling onto the massive funeral in Krakow, experiencing Auschwitz, trekking for gorillas in Rwanda, falling in lust in Granada, wandering through Marrakesh, being a spectator at the F1 race in Valencia, Spain, taking it off in Barcelona, falling off a cliff in Turkey, Abby and I joining forces in Eastern Europe, Katie and David in Bosnia, touching my fingers into the water in the Adriatic, sitting by boats in Trogir and crying when I lost my grandmother, coming home.

I sat there, listening to his lyrics and matching them to the vast memories I had tucked away.

My eyes began to well up as I went back and forth between my past and my present. Between knowing what I wanted and having no clue. I sat there, bundled in a jacket, avoiding looking at him because I thought one look would give too much access to my soul.

And then, as he picked the last chords on the guitar, I realized something.

Las Vegas is my home.

“What do you think?” Brock asked, turning to me.

I wanted to turn to face him. To bury my head in his shoulder and cry. I was suddenly overcome with emotions, with feelings I hadn’t expect to have on that chilly October night in the middle of the Las Vegas desert.

You just made my mind open up. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t want it. Oh, you lovely little mind f#$%.

“It … I … I listened to that song and I really related to it,” I said, trying to sound like I at least kind of had my shit together.

Chicken.

I kicked my foot around as it dangled off of the bumper. Uneasy. Unsure of what else I could say without completely losing it and having mascara drip down my cheeks.

I didn’t want to look at him. There was too much of everything pulsing through me at that moment to make sense.

We sat awhile longer as he played me some more music, but by then I had already come to my conclusion:

I am HOME.

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The upside of Irish locks

I stood at the door of the house in Galway where I was staying, fumbling desperately with the lock I just couldn’t get to open.

“It’s an Irish lock,” Abbey explained on the phone, “You just have to mess with it.”

And mess with it I did.

Only, nothing worked.

I put the key in, pulled it out a little, lifted the handle, and tried it again. And again.

It was late and I was tired — we had been drinking since dinner, which was just after sunset — and all I wanted to was crawl into a bed and go to sleep.

But, that wasn’t going to happen.

“You having troubles?” A man’s voice called from the street above the walkway.

I turned and looked into the dark and a silhouette standing before me … weighing the situation in my mind.

Do I talk to him? Do I ignore him? He seemed pretty good-looking from a distance … maybe he was nice, too.

“I can’t get the lock open,” I began. “It’s an Irish lock … it’s not working.”

“You need help?”

“Yes, please,” I answered, hopeful he could open the door.

He grabbed the key from me and worked it into the lock with no success.

“Sorry,” he said, turning to me. “I can’t get it open.”

I looked at my watch … it was early and because it was St. Paddy’s Eve the bars were open late. I could only imagine how late everyone would be to arrive home.

“Well … thank you for trying,” I said, surrendering to my reality. “I guess I will go and get a drink back in town. Do you want to come?”

“I just got let out of the police station for having had too many drinks earlier today,” he said, light eyes catching mine and smiling. “But, sure.”

So, together we walked down into Salthill to grab a drink and kill time.

Jonathan, it turns out, had spent his day celebrating the upcoming holiday and was being a little too loud outside. The Garda let him out early because they thought all of the bars were closed and he would go home.

And then he met me, and I spoiled the plans of a quiet night sobering up.

Instead, we found ourselves in a cab together, riding to a Galway bar to have cocktails since the bars in Salthill were closed.

My new friend ended up taking me out the entire remainder of the evening, paying for my cab, buying me beer and Jameson with Coke, holding my hand and guiding me through the crowds to go outside and talk.

After a few drinks, Jonathan leaned in and kissed me.

I melted. But not really because of who he was or that I liked him (I can’t say our conversation was anything amazing … and he had just gotten let out of the police station for being too drunk) but I LOVED the fact that our paths had crossed accidentally.

I was trying to go home and go to bed and there he was, and then there we were … and the absolute unexpectedness of the moment just took me over and I loved it.

He asked me to go home with him.

I pondered it for a moment, then declined.

The evening had turned into something so random, but it didn’t need to go any further.

When one of Abbey’s housemates walked by us outside, I quickly took stride with him, bidding my farewell to Jonathan with kisses (on the cheek this time), and walked with him back to the house.

This time, his key worked. Perfectly.

Blog Travel

The time my liver hated me

I arrived in Dublin in the early afternoon, Abbey (that’s @ahesser on Twitter and the author behind the fabulous site, A Chick with Baggage) and her friend, Brian, greeted me at the airport.

That was the last time in five days there was absolutely no alcohol coursing through my blood (sorry, Mom and Dad).

The following is an excerpt from my liver’s journal:

Day 1:

After you checked into Abbey Court, the hostel on River Liffey just across from Temple Bar, you went to eat.

And by eat, you clearly  meant drink with a side of lunch.

So what if Brian had started a tradition earlier during their travels in Ireland — every time he ordered a beer (Guinness) he had to order a shot of Jameson on the side? You didn’t  have to do the same.

But, you did. And then you had another beer.

When it came time to move your bags from the storage room to the dorm, you didn’t need  to cross the river to Temple Bar to do some exploring … but you did.

And by exploring, you clearly meant more drinking.

Sure, you meant to go for only one drink, but soon it turned into an entire evening at Auld Dubliner. Followed by drinks near the hostel, followed by a not-so-sober Indian dinner.

Day 2:

D, you did it again.

First, it was a tour of  the Jameson distillery.

I must be the luckiest liver in the world — you were chosen as the whiskey taster at Jameson, which meant not only did I get to enjoy (if that’s what we are calling it) a complimentary glass of whiskey at the end of the tour, but also a taste test complete with Scottish and American whiskey.

You may now be a whiskey fan, but damn. After awhile, it just hurts.

In case Jameson wasn’t enough, then you went and headed to Guinness and toured the old brewery. Of course, at the end of the tour, there was more drinking when you received a complimentary Guinness. The three of you sipped your delicious and beautiful stout from the top of the building at Gravity Bar. While the bar did provide you all with stunning 360-degree views of Dublin, was the Guinness really necessary? Really?

When you returned to the hostel, I thought I would have time to recover, but noooo. Abbey did some work and you and Brian just had to sip on Jameson and Coke,and then head out a few hours later back to Temple Bar for more drinks.

Ugh.

Day 3:

You are slowly killing me, D.

I don’t care if it is St. Patrick’s Eve. It was fun to go and pick up Abbey’s friend, Emily, from the airport and head to Galway, Abbey’s home for three months, in preparation for the next day’s festivities.

Yet, you felt it necessary to include a Bulmer’s with your lunch when your group stopped in a little town.

Then, that night, you ended up in the beautiful seaside town of Galway, celebrating St. Paddy’s Eve. You drank even more.

I think I may loathe you.

Day 4:

You brutal bitch.

Did you really start the St. Patrick’s celebration in the early afternoon with mimosas, then head out to town to drink with the locals until the wee hours of the morning? 

Did you really consume that many beers and shots?

Day 5:

Ha ha ha.

What’s the matter? You feel a little groggy? You can’t get out of bed.

Serves you right.

It’s called rebelling. You better get used to it if you plan on drinking like you are 21 every day.

Seriously. You deserve every ounce of pain you are feeling.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the night off.

It is an absolute pleasure to be delightfully sober.

Do this again and I promise, I will kick your ass.

Love,

Your Recovering Liver

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