Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Packing for unpredictable weather is always tricky... And since it's been snowing CATASTROPHICALLY in Ireland, off and on for the last few weeks, this trip was really a challenge!

But I managed to cobble things together well enough - hallelujah! Of course, knowing that I would have my coat on most of the time makes things much easier.

2 things were really issues, the expected cold weather, and the unexpected moving out of the AirBNB into a hotel. I packed relatively lightly (for 10 days) because we were counting on doing laundry pretty regularly during our stay. Belovedest ran TWO Parkrun 5K's when we were there, so there were gym clothes in need of care...

So, theoretically, I would have been okay with just the clothes on my back when we arrived... I would have had to do some serious hand-washing, and my feet would have eventually grown SICK of the boots, but otherwise I could manage. If I can manage, then everything else is just a bonus, right?

travel outfit to Dublin Ireland March 2018
parka - Lands' End; earrings - Kendra Scott (similar here); sweater - L.L.Bean; scarf - Julie Egli; shirt - Lands' End (this print is unavailable, but other are here); corduroy pants - J.Jill; suitcase - Tumi; backpack - Standard; boots - Blondo

I tried to be really strategic about how I dressed for the flight - waterproof boots, because there had been snow in Ireland. Comfortable, but not sloppy, corduroy pants. A neat shirt that doesn't wrinkle easily, and a cotton sweater because I stay warm pretty easily. A parka, because we were going to want our parkas with us for the rugby match. A snazzy as heck scarf to make it all look better than the sum of the parts, and a pair of earrings that I wore EVERY DAY...

The Standard backpack was a gift from the team at Standard - full disclosure. But I've got to admit that I would love it anyway, and be likely to buy it. It's very... neat... with a sleek profile, and good solid structure. We actually CHECKED IT THROUGH because of the strict limits on Aer Lingus baggage, and it emerged from the Purgatory of the baggage hold looking brand-new...

I've GOT to give a big shout-out to the people at the Schoolhouse Hotel. If you've got no other idea about where you want to stay in Dublin, stay here, because I'm telling you to! The staff was outrageously nice to us...

We got to Dublin REALLY early - sort of the pre-dawn darkness... We took the Air Link bus into the city, and were dropped outside of the Schoolhouse, which was just a couple of blocks from our AirBNB. Of course we couldn't get into the apartment this early, so we went into the hotel for (a delicious) breakfast. Everybody was lovely, and we lingered in front of the fireplace...

The fireplace in the dining room at The School House Hotel Dublin Ireland

But the clincher was when we were leaving. We were going to take our bags over to the National Gallery, check them, and spend the morning there...

Siobhan, our server, RAN OUT OF THE HOTEL AFTER US, and told us to bring our bags back and leave them there. We assured her that we weren't actually going to be staying there, and she frankly assured us that it didn't matter... The entire staff that we met, both when we left our bags and when we picked them up, were only interested in helping us. It was a touching and wonderful first hour in Dublin...


This is what I packed, with one "phantom" item that wasn't actually in my suitcase on the way over, but was purchased the 2nd day we were in Dublin! I knew that I wanted to get a dark (as close to black as possible - Aran sweaters don't usually come in pitch black) cardigan with a zipped front and the most classic style possible. I bought a man's sweater (size small), because the ones for women were too... decorated. Lots of diagonal buttons and draped collars and stuff that didn't fit my requirement for timelessness!

Ireland March 2018 travel capsule wardrobe
cardigan - Aran Sweater Market; black & white turtleneck - Muji (similar here); down vest - Uniqlo; wool shirt - IceBreaker (similar here); gingham shirt - Lands' End (unavailable print, but others here); grey & white striped turtleneck - Lands' End; plaid nightshirt - Lands' End; white ruffled shirt - Lands' End; jeans - Dearborn Denim; athletic pants - Lands' End; athletic shoes - New Balance; flats - Arche; velvet pants - Uniqlo (similar here)

When we arrived I had a really clear vision of my cardigan purchase, and much less clear or insistent ideas of anything else that I might buy; I was pretty open-minded that if something had "whappage" I would make my move, but that otherwise, I would refrain...

Charcoal Aran cardigan, antique marcasite & sterling ring, black tweed scarf
cardigan - Aran Sweater Market; ring - Rhinestones; scarf - Stable

I love to stop into a little store called Rhinestones - it's in the rabbit-warren of little streets west of Grafton Street where there are lots of stores... (18 Saint Andrew's Street, Dublin 2) (they have no website...)

Yes, there are numbers after Dublin addresses - they're as close as Ireland gets to zip codes! The even-numbered areas are south of the Liffey, and the odd-numbered are north. I used to live in Dublin 1, which was just too cool...

If you're looking for beautiful knitwear and scarves, head into the enclosed mall beside the Westbury Hotel, also really close to Grafton Street. There are 3 stores there that I particularly love (so far):

  1. my scarf came from Stable, which is tiny, but has some of the most beautiful, authentically Irish scarves available;
  2. A cashmere shop called Madigan, which is SO TINY, but where the lovely ladies will make any design that they carry in any color that they carry (a staggering possibility!), and also
  3. Stonechat, where the jewelry is made right there in front of you.

There are other shops in this little mall that will interest - including one that carries gloves in every color you can ask for!

Also, if you've got a penchant for antique jewelry, Dublin is a feast of choices. The area west of Grafton Street - particularly Powercourt Mall - teems with antique jewelers. Have a clear idea of what you want and what you're willing to spend, or you could find yourself overwhelmed!

One last thing to share - we spent a night in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We were driving up into the area to do some family research for Belovedest, and chose to spend the night rather than drive up and back in 1 day. (although that would be pretty simple - it's a 90 minute trip...)

We stayed at the outrageously gorgeous 10 Square Hotel... the common areas downstairs give you NO SENSE of how lovely your room will be...

a bed at the 10 Square Hotel Belfast Northern Ireland
our bed...

Before dinner, we took a LONG walk, and then settled in for a cocktail at the Merchant Hotel. It might be the most expensive cocktail you ever purchase, but it will very possibly be the best cocktail you've ever had! And it's worth it just to experience the hotel and bar environment... it's quite posh, with some quirky art on the walls, too!

After this serious alcohol moment, we walked a bit more and had dinner at Hadskis, which is in a little courtyard just south of the Cathedral. It was delicious, and I've never been in a happier dining room - laughter was everywhere. I don't remember what I ate, but we had GIGANTIC Aperol spritz cocktails that were delicious. Maybe that's why everybody was so happy?

All in all, if you're considering going to Ireland for a vacation, I will scream YES YES YES at you. Unless you simply can't tolerate a bit of cool and rain, you're going to have a good time, and meet some of the loveliest people on the planet....


What I Wore, What I Packed, and What I Bought in Dublin
Like this article? Save it to Pinterest!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Back in Chicago, and slightly jet-lagged... (I know, the 2nd day is always worse...)

We had a glorious trip - the highlight of which was the Ireland v Scotland rugby match at the Aviva Stadium. If you're not a sports, or a rugby, fan, trust me that this was a REALLY BIG DEAL, as it was the match that clinched Ireland's victory in the Six Nations Tournament, and set the stage for the St. Patrick's Day show-down against England at their stadium in London.

It's quite the achievement to have clinched the title to a tournament with a match still yet to be played, but Ireland was so dominant in their first matches that nobody could touch them... It was delightful!

Vodafone billboard with Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney, and Peter O'Mahoney
Yes, the Ireland players were everywhere...

Belovedest and I had a couple of  "player sightings" in the days running up to the match... We were at one of my favorite places for a snack - Lemon - in the heart of Dublin. The "restaurant" is basically rows of picnic tables, with a service area down one side of the... room... using the term loosely. It's very casual...

When we walked in, 3 players were already sitting there - pretty exciting. And after a few minutes, 3 MORE players came in and sat beside us at our table. We were respectful of their privacy except for a brief greeting as we were leaving. But for someone who's lived in a very large city for DECADES and never seen a famous athlete "in the flesh," it was a cool moment!

Even if you're not a sports fan, it would be hard to not get caught up in the excitement that bubbled through the city during the week. From the staggering men in kilts that ornamented every street after the Ireland/Scotland match, to the anticipation of a St. Patrick's Day showdown against the English, there was a kind of buzz everywhere...

This is a little bit of the lead-up to a home game:

Enough of sport...

People who tell you that the food in Ireland is terrible are just plain out of touch with the current experience of being there - especially in Dublin, but really in the country as a whole.

We had some AMAZING meals. Our favorite restaurant remains Pichet, both for the quality of the food and the genuine warmth of the entire experience. If there's 1 restaurant that we make a point never to miss, this is the one.

But we also had really good food at Mario's in Ranalagh (a neighborhood on the south side of the river), as well as at Delahunt, which was right around the corner from our hotel.

Do be warned that the Irish excel at cocktail mixing... Trust your bartender or waitstaff and drink what they suggest. Tylenol PM before bedtime is highly recommended!

And yes, we ended up in a hotel - even though we were booked into (and spent our first 2 nights in) an AirBNB. This is something that you have to consider when you want to stay in an apartment:

The apartment was lovely - exactly as presented, and it felt very familiar for those of us who've lived in an apartment in Dublin before. But the 3rd day, we got home to the sound of dripping... which can NEVER be good.

Water. Dripping out of the light fixture. IN THE BATHROOM.

When I can't turn on the bathroom light, I'm in trouble. Our landlord was lovely - a true gentleman - and we decamped down the canal to the Hilton Charlemont. (another area/neighborhood designation). The biggest issue with this is that we had packed with the assumption that we would be able to do laundry in the apartment as needed. We could, of course, have the hotel do laundry, that that's an entirely different bucket of money to throw out a window...

But it all turned out well - we had breakfast included in our room rate, and the breakfast there is AMAZINGLY GOOD. Anything you might reasonable think of as a breakfast food was on the buffet. For those of us who like to go full-on "mushrooms, beans, fried potatoes" for breakfast, it was heavenly.

breakfast of fried potatoes, baked beans and mushrooms

I eat like this because we walked for miles every day, and because it sets a good base for things like this:

Orchard Thieves Cider on tap

This is probably the sweetest cider that you'll find widely available in Ireland, and I can drink it like water, to my chagrin...

You can always supplement with goodies from the Rolling Donut:

An assortment of donuts from The Rolling Donut

Although sport and food occupied a lot of our time, I think that we spent the majority of our days in art museums. Dublin's National Museum is lovely, and has all kinds of unexpected little nooks and crannies where you'll find unexpected treasures. It is composed of 2 buildings joined together into a seamless but very confusing whole, which makes it all a bit of a treasure hunt.

They have world-class (a term I usually dislike, but which in this case is appropriate) special exhibits; the last time we visited they had an extraordinary Vermeer exhibit running. This trip, we were treated to an artist of whom I knew nothing - Emil Nolde. I wasn't supposed to take photographs. (and honestly, I wouldn't have if I had seen the signs sooner!)

But since I have transgressed...

Emile Nolde Large Poppies (Red, Red, Red)
Emile Nolde Large Poppies (Red, Red, Red)

Since I'm ALWAYS thinking about wardrobes - couldn't you see this as a navy or grey core wardrobe with three different "French 5-Piece Wardrobes" in pink, orange, and dark red?

And this lovely thing shows the glorious possibilities of navy with yellow and green...

Emil Nolde seascape - title unknown
Emil Nolde seascape - title unknown

I can't believe I didn't get the title of this piece... I get so distracted by beautiful colors that my mind goes to pieces. (and being kindly chastised by the security staff for taking photographs was a bit distracting, too!)

A museum that's worth seeking out is the Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane. Don't ask me why it has 2 names... But it does have my most favorite in all the wide worlds stained glass - a telling of the Keats poem "The Eve of St. Agnes."

Details from stained glass Eve. of St. Agnes by Harry Clarke
Details from stained glass Eve. of St. Agnes by Harry Clarke

The work is taller than I am, and FULL of details. This photograph shows an area that's maybe 10 inches square... Imagine the entire thing before you. Sigh...

Another museum that we always visit is the Museum of Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks. It's a bit west of the downtown, but an easy ride on the Luas (the tram that connects much of Dublin) and worth the effort.

They're currently running an absolutely riveting exhibit about the Easter Rising of 1916. It's easy to feel like history is all "a really long time ago," but it's stunning to see how the first battles of the Irish Revolution were fought in the time of photograph, and of incredibly detailed records. If you want to know who ate what pot of beans at what outpost of the revolutionaries at what time of day, someone has that written down! The information about the lives of the men killed during the Rising, and those executed afterward, will touch the coldest heart.

While you might not be fortunate enough to see that exhibit when you visit, rest assured that there's probably something completely amazing and unexpected on exhibit - we've seen an entire large display of Celtic grave crosses one time, and another visit featured the hats of Philip Treacy (which was UNBELIEVABLE...)

And yes, all the national museums in Ireland are free. Be prepared to donate, generously.

Tomorrow I'll share the adventures of my packing, and the THREE very lovely purchases that I made...

Ireland! What a Vacation...
Like this article? Save it to Pinterest!

Monday, March 19, 2018

While I'm in Ireland, here at The Vivienne Files we're wandering back through some of my most popular posts on Pinterest...

Isn't this wardrobe timeless? I wrote this a year and a half ago - long enough for some people to want to get rid of every stitch and start over! - but I don't see a thing here that I wouldn't cheerfully wear today...

4 by 4 Wardrobe in black and beige

I hope you're all well and happy! If you're interested in where I am, and what I'm doing, come follow me on Instagram....

A Timeless 4 by 4 Wardrobe
Like this article? Save it to Pinterest!

Friday, March 16, 2018

I'm so happy to see this post showing up on Pinterest a lot - I think that systematic decluttering of our closets might be one of the most gratifying domestic projects possible...

cleaning out the Magpie Wardrobe

Everybody keep your fingers crossed that (a) I'm actually IN IRELAND, and that (b) it's not snowing...


Thursday, March 15, 2018

This image turns up frequently on Pinterest, and that makes me really happy! This might be the concept of which I am the most proud, of all of the work that I've done on The Vivienne Files. The idea of being able to be well-dressed and fully-prepared for most of what life throws at us with only SIXTEEN pieces of clothing... Simplicity, economic responsibility, and care for the environment, as well as a clearly-defined personal style - they're all here!

A template for a 16-piece Wardrobe organized in 4 sets of 4

But this is NOT the only template that I have suggested for planning a wardrobe - the original post from which this came runs through a variety of planning ideas that might be helpful...

An Oldie, but A Classic...
Like this article? Save it to Pinterest!