My Dublin: All About Shopping!

powerscourtflowers.JPG

Dublin, especially on Grafton Street, has its share of chain stores that can make the city feel very similar to other European cities. But I found some great new-to-me shops in Dublin that are centered around Irish design and products.

Here are my favorites, in addition to Avoca, the Irish department store that I wrote about here

Kilkenny Design Centre - This is the most touristy of the bunch, but it's still worth a stop. It's a large store with a wide range of Irish designers and well-known Irish products like Waterford crystal. I loved the Orla Kiely display - she has designed some of my favorite Kate Middleton ensembles and Carole Middleton wore one of her dresses when she visited Prince George in the hospital. 

Industry - If I lived in Dublin, I would dream of buying everything for my apartment here. It's just cool and gorgeous, with a range of new, upcycled or vintage items from all over the world.

industry.JPG
industry1.JPG

Irish Design Shop - I absolutely loved this shop and Catherine shot here for our National Geographic assignment. I wanted to buy things for my kitchen, like these cool mixing bowls.

irishdesignshop.JPG

Jam Art Gallery - Focused exclusively on Irish art, this is a tiny, fun shop to stop by for a few minutes. There are two locations - the one on Patrick Street that I visited and a newer one in Temple Bar, closer to the tourist center. They're incredibly nice here!

jamartgallery.JPG

Daintree Paper - There is a cute little coffee and cake place I liked called The Cake Cafe in Dublin and we walked through this cool paper shop next door as we were leaving. You'll see brides-to-be designing their wedding invites or moms creating baby shower invites so it's a nice snapshot of local life. The papers are gorgeous and you might pick up a sheet or two. The paper is also ethically sourced, something that you never hear about when it comes to paper (food and clothes? yes. But paper? not really).

papershop.JPG

Powerscourt Centre - This place blew me away because I never knew it existed! I love visiting Powerscourt Estate outside of Dublin, and this gorgeous mansion was the family's city home, now a collection of shops and restaurants called Powerscourt Centre. You walk in and are greeted with lovely fresh flowers for sale, and a sign detailing the history of the mansion. From there, there are a few levels of shops to explore. My favorite shop was Article on the first floor for cool European design - when you go in, look up at the ceiling to see the designs of the former sitting room. Upstairs, you can explore the bridal shop and salon and see the architecture of the former ballroom. It is so lovely.

powerscourtcentre.JPG

Cow's Lane Design Studio - Close to adorable cafe Queen of Tarts, Cow's Lane Designer Studio is run by a group of independent artists that switch off working at the shop. There is a wide range of jewelry, artwork, clothes and scarves, hand-poured candles and other fun items that might strike your fancy. Every Saturday, they host the Cow's Lane Designer Mart, featuring many of the artists that have products in the shop.

cowslanedesign.JPG
cowslanedesigners.JPG

The Orient-Express to Sandringham

SandringhamEvery once in a while, there are days when I travel that I'd like to wake up and repeat the whole thing again because it was just so magical. In England, it was the day I boarded the Orient-Express British Pullman train to Sandringham, the Queen's country estate in Norfolk and where they spend Christmas every year. They open presents on Christmas Eve, walk to church on the estate on Christmas morning (and crowds line up to see them), and spend a lot of time mucking about their gorgeous grounds and gardens. It was a big deal when Kate married William and she went to Sandringham for the first time (last year, they decided to spend Christmas at the Middletons which was a surprise to royal watchers).

My favorite viewIf I did this day again, I'd have it be a wee bit cooler. It was during London's heat wave, and the train isn't air conditioned. But still, it was an extraordinary day. You board the train in London and it takes about two hours to actually get out of London because the train is so long and they have to switch tracks. But I didn't care - I was enjoying my orange juice, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon with lovely company. Soon you're whizzing up to Norfolk.

Checking in at London VictoriaGetting ready to boardI could sit here awhileBrunch on the trainI'm still glad things can take my breath away and the first view of Sandringham did. It was so recognizable from all the pictures I'd seen but yet better than I could have pictured it. The house is so homey with flat-screen TV's are hidden in old-style furniture and a huge fireplace in the main Saloon. The heat outside didn't help but I still could picture a blustery, snowy day with all the royals dressed for the holiday. The women have to be ready - Kate had to change five times on Christmas day alone.

First glimpse through the treesI went through the house three times - the first time it was too crowded. And each time I went, I got new info from all the guides stationed in each room. There's a decent museum near the house, and a great gift shop and garden shop.

When I realized I had half an hour to spare, and I had wandered around the lakes, I found a huge, shaded tree, put my phone away and gazed at the house (munching on pretzels I might add). Thirty minutes well spent in the English countryside, without any distractions. Bliss!

My treeSandringham LakesWalking to the churchChurch of St. Mary MagdaleneOrient-Express is running this day trip three times in 2014 - book it this year or add it to your list of must-do's in England. It's iconic and a wonderful day trip from London. Check out my other favorite royal day trips here on my National Geographic blog.

Cheese course on the train back to London

Fashion, Gardens, Tea! At Kensington Palace

I can't imagine a trip to London without a visit to Kensington Palace. Sure, I harbor a small fantasy of running into KP resident Kate Middleton and Lupo on one of their walks, hitting if off, and deciding to grab a cup of tea together. Nevertheless, there are some fabulous exhibitions, like Victoria Revealed, all about Queen Victoria's life and how she lived it after losing her beloved Albert, laying out his clothes every day until the day she died (I just realized they were first cousins. Ew. But perfectly acceptable in their day).

Dress of Queen Elizabeth IIThis summer, a new exhibit opened called Fashion Rules, showing off dresses from the collections of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret (her hard-partying, gal-about-town sister), and Princess Diana. While the exhibit is small, I always enjoy seeing dresses in person and marveling at the tiny waists and fashion evolutions. Really, Diana's red dress on display can only be described as in the style of a Christmas ornament.

Dresses of Princess DianaIf you have time before or after your visit to the palace, The Orangery at Kensington Palace is one of the best places for afternoon tea in London. Built by Queen Anne, the 18th-century Orangery was the setting for royal parties and today still has a beautiful white interior and bright light.

Path to the OrangeryOrangery

Dress from the collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales
- See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/WhatsOn/FashionRules#sthash.gWB6HGcY.dpuf
Dress from the collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales
- See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/WhatsOn/FashionRules#sthash.gWB6HGcY.dpuf

I also love Kensington Gardens, which is adjacent to Hyde Park. I stayed at the lovely Royal Garden Hotel, which allowed me to wake up early and stroll the gardens, pretending like I lived in London. Save time to sit in the Italian Gardens, with gorgeous fountains and sculptures.

Italian GardensSerpentine River, Kensington Gardens

Ridiculously In Love With London

Primrose HillI could live in London. I'm sorry New York. I'm having an affair. I am ridiculously in love with London and always have been. So I don't ever want to waste a single second. I arrived at 6:30 a.m. yesterday, zipped through customs with my carry-on, and got to the Royal Garden Hotel a stone's throw from Kensington Palace. My room was ready (unheard of!) so I dumped my stuff and was thrilled to see a view of the palace and front-row seats to the helicopters landing and taking off. This is where the Royal Baby will come home to after Kate spends time with her family in Bucklebury.

I wanted to see some areas I hadn't seen before, but also wanted to catch the Coronation! exhibit at Westminster Abbey. Here's my day broken down:

  • Scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and great people watching at the grand Delaunay
  • Westminster Abbey was a madhouse but I did see the small exhibit of Coronation photos
  • Tube to North London, where I wandered the quieter areas of Hampstead, Belsize Park, and Primrose Hill for an amazing view of London
  • Popped over to the crazy Camden Market & somehow skipped getting a tattoo or piercing. Saw the original British Boot Company, where Doc Martens came from
  • Walk over to St. John's Wood. Wandered in Panzer's Delicatessen and shopped the sale at Whistles on the high street.
  • Are you tired yet? Somehow, I wasn't...yet. I went to Notting Hill and grabbed a couple of spicy, delicious tacos at Taqueria & looked over the (mostly) junk on Portobello Road.
  • Shower. Decide I want to do the hour walk to welcome dinner at The Goring Hotel and wander my favorite areas of South Kensington and Chelsea. Stopped for a juice at Zefi on Walton Street and drooled over baby room artwork at Dragons of Walton Street (Royal Baby nursery designers).

My travel days are normally not THIS packed but sometimes I want to do a giant, quick overview of certain areas. And I fell even more in love. Luckily I have much more time here this week and can take it slower. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where I try and post different things to all accounts. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Coworth Park, Ascot, England

On my way to Hampshire, I stopped in Ascot to see Coworth Park, the still-new British hotel and spa for lovers of polo and horseback riding (including Kate and William, who came to Ascot last in May). It's also just 15 minutes from Windsor Castle and Eton College. Surprisingly, it's also only 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport, where I picked up my rental car. That first car ride was terrifying as I navigated my way through roundabouts, the left side of the road, insane drivers, and a manual car but I made it to beautiful Coworth Park. Doesn't the name make you think there should be some fabulous British drama set here about rich polo players, their love lives, and clashes with other players?

English countryside at Coworth Park

Common area in the Mansion HouseThere is quite a bit of history at Coworth Park, owned by a number of regal families, but it didn't open as part of the Dorchester Collection until 2010. You can stay in the Mansion House, which is closer to the restaurant and lobby scene, or the renovated stables, which are great for families. Restaurant Coworth Park in the main building is sophisticated and delicious, but I loved dining at The Barn at Coworth Park best, a short walk away and in the original barn frame with a great stone fireplace and views out to the English countryside. The spa is housed in a separate, totally contemporary and airy white building, with 100% organic treatments, a nice gym, and a bar area to enjoy a healthy snack or glass of champagne.

The Barn at Coworth ParkRustic table setting & stone fireplace at The Barn

Hallway in the Mansion HouseCoworth Park Mansion House roomCoworth Park is all about idle pleasuresStable rooms at Coworth ParkActual stables! What's more English than this? Nice gym I'll sit and stay awhileLoved how this teapot was being used!I can't wait to go back when the flowers are blooming at Coworth Park and the entire exterior changes. It's a beautiful addition to the landscape of English country hotels and so close to London!

Before the flowers are in bloom!