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MLB All Star Game Block Party, Futures Game, and Celebrity & Legends Game

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On a gorgeous and sunny summer Sunday, Minneapolis welcomed baseball fans from around the globe to the All Star Summer Block Party, Futures Game and Celebrity & Legends Game. Awash with sunshine, Target Field and the surrounding area gleamed.

At the All Star Summer Block Party, visitors could check out the newest Chevy lineup, create a personalized draw string bag, play a super-sized bean bag toss to win prizes, grab some food from food trucks, try out the newest made with real sugar Pepsi flavors, and see the Budweiser Clydesdales amongst other fun and games.

Inside the ballpark, the Futures Game showcased the best of the best up-and-coming talent in the Minor Leagues. Twins’ great Tony Oliva threw out the first pitch to start the USA v. World MLB Futures Game. Hall of Fame Pitcher and Twins’ broadcaster Bert Blyleven represented the Netherlands as coach of the World team and former Twins’ Manager Tom Kelly coached team USA to a win.

Between games Panic At The Disco entertained the fans as they enjoyed the beautiful day at the ballpark.

Next up, it was time for some fun on the field as baseball greats and celebrities took the field for the All Star Celebrity and Legends Game. Jim Thome, Ozzie Smith, John Schmoltz, Mike Piazza, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson and former Twin (and Twins’ Announcer) Jack Morris represented the legends of the game and Zach Parise, Adrian Peterson, Nelly, January Jones, Maya Moore, Jennie Finch, James Denton, Andrew Zimmern, David Nail and Rob Riggle were just a few of the legends and celebrities on the game’s roster.

The first of the three days of events at Target Field ended with a fireworks show that wowed the crowd.

All Star Game Concert @ TCF Stadium

It was a beautiful Saturday evening for the All Star Game Concert. The stadium was packed as locally-based Atmosphere took the stage. They played for about 45 minutes to a pretty engaged crowd, waving their hands in the air with many sporting the bullseye printed shades handed out by Target (sponsor of the concert) at the gates. Then as the sun started to sink behind the stadium’s scoreboard, it was time for Imagine Dragons. The mostly twenty to thirty-something crowd was ready to rock, creating a party-like atmosphere in the stadium. They played a high energy set filled with chart-topping singles including “On Top of the World”, “Demons” and “It’s Time.” The band also performed a great rendition of U2’s “With or Without You.” The highlight of the evening was their last song, “Radioactive.” The concert closed out with a spectacular fireworks show which even included a smiley-faced firework that went off as Pharell Williams’ “Happy” played.

100 Years of Wrigley Field

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Ahh…the bleacher seats at Wrigley. Set above the Wall of Ivy, the seating isn’t comfy, but the view is spectacular. In front of you is the playing field, behind you is the famous scoreboard. On a hot day, you may be cooled by a nice breeze coming in off Lake Michigan…and on a cold day…well you may get a real feel for “The Windy City”. Watching a game here is truly an All American experience. From the Chicago hot dogs to the Old Style beer, it’s the quintessential ballpark experience for baseball fans young and old. As of today, the antiquated walls of the Friendly Confines have welcome visitors for 100 years. If you listen closely you can almost hear the roar of the crowd from Opening Day 1914.

What’s your favorite Wrigley Field memory?

Sláinte!

Where’s the best place to grab a pint in Dublin? Well, there are many fantastic pubs around town, but if you really want a view, you’ve got to enjoy a pint of Guinness in the Zero Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse.

We visited the Guinness Storehouse late in the afternoon. We’d taken one of the touristy double decker buses to St. James’s Gate. On the way there we’d been rained on a few times, and our walk into the Storehouse was very cold with a chilly wind blowing at our backs. I remember how nice it felt to walk into the warm lobby area, and it was fun to see the gift shop on the right filled with every Guinness branded product you could imagine. Next up was to start our tour.

The self-guided tour was very interesting. First, we learned about the key ingredients in Guinness: Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast. After we learned about the ingredients, we went on to learn about the brewing process, next a bit of history about Arthur Guinness and the legendary beverage, then onto an area featuring advertisements through the years—then it was time to visit the Zero Gravity Bar.

When the elevator opened, the bar was packed with Americans sporting Notre Dame gear (they were there for the University of Notre Dame vs. Navy Football Game). To our surprise there were bits of sunlight in the bar area making for a clear view of all of Dublin! We got our complimentary pint (included with admission to the Storehouse) and worked our way around the room, taking in the views of Dublin, reading about each of the places we could see and sipping our pint of the world famous Guinness.
I really don’t think it tastes the same back home, and it’s never quite the right temperature. But just one sip of Guinness takes me back to the Zero Gravity Bar. In my mind I can see the landmarks of Dublin, the way they looked with the hints of sunshine that had made its way through breaks in the clouds and onto the buildings. It also reminds me of the rainbow we saw over the Guinness Storehouse as we drove away on the tour bus.

Fish, Chips & Claddaughs

From Dromoland Castle we took the train to our next stop, Galway.

While visiting Ireland (and England), I enjoyed my share of fish & chips. From beer battered to sprinkled with sea salt, spritzed with lemon or just fresh from the fryer, my award for the best version of the classic dish goes to McDonagh’s on Quay Street in Galway. http://www.mcdonaghs.net.

This place has been serving up fresh fish since 1902, and they really know how to make amazing fish & chips. We ate in the casual Fish & Chips bar, and despite the crazy long line, the service was quick and the food was excellent. The batter was the perfect crispiness, the Cod was the perfect texture and full of flavor, and the chips (peeled and cut on site) were simply superb.

Plus, the restaurant is conveniently located near Thomas Dillon’s of Galway—the oldest maker’s of the Claddaugh Ring. So you can have amazing fish & chips and then pick up a souvenir filled with history. At Thomas Dillon’s you can get sterling and gold Claddaugh rings, brooches, bracelets and more. Plus while visiting the jewelry store, you can check out the museum that explains the history of the ring and its design. http://www.claddaghring.ie
Personally, I selected a sterling silver design—and I wear it all the time as a reminder of our trip to Ireland.

Queen For A Day

If you really want to make your trip to Ireland unforgettable, plan to spend at least one night in a castle. With many castles to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which castle to select. After a lot of research, we decided to stay at Dromoland–the perfect choice.

Seeing the castle in the distance made me feel as if I were living in the scene of a movie. Surrounded by rolling green hills, Dromoland was picture perfect. At check-in, we were upgraded to a suite! The bellman showed us to our room and it was amazing. There was a living room area, two dormer windows with window seats, surround sound stereo system, fluffy beds and a large bathroom complete with towel warmers. The room was absolutely lovely, and so lavishly large compared to a typical European hotel room.

After a stroll around the property through the walled garden and by the lake with the swans swimming, it was time for Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room. Seated at a cozy corner table, the room was elegantly furnished with high ceilings, floral curtains, red-striped wallpaper and plushy overstuffed chairs. We leisurely enjoyed hot tea, finger sandwiches and dainty desserts.

Exploring the interior of the castle was an experience in itself. Around every corner there was art, or armor or some exquisite architectural element to admire.

Dinner at the Earl of Thomond restaurant was a truly wonderful experience. Exquisitely decorated in traditional high class Irish style, the dining room was fit for royalty. The food was absolutely superb in flavor and presentation, and the service was excellent. Next to our table, there was a woman playing a traditional Irish harp. The soft music added a soothing soundtrack to our already perfect dining experience.

Following our meal we went to the cocktail bar to enjoy an after dinner drink while being serenaded by a local singer/songwriter. Set in the castle’s former library, the intimate space with a roaring fire was a great place to wind down an absolutely perfect day.

Waking up the next morning, I had to pinch myself! Our stay at the castle seemed like a dream. From the moment we checked in, until it was time to check out I felt like a queen. Of all of my travels, I must say that our one-night stay at Dromoland is one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had and a memory I shall treasure for years to come.

Just Add Jameson

The next stop on our trip was the Jameson Experience in Midleton, County Cork. http://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/us/tours/jamesonexperience.

Our visit started with a video about the history of Irish Whiskey, followed by a guided tour of the old distillery grounds.

It was a lovely afternoon, with the sun casting a beautiful glow on the complex as we walked through the restored buildings learning about the whiskey making process. With some of the buildings dating as far back as 1795, it was fascinating to see the old mills and malting areas, and to hear the sound of the water wheel churning the water to power the mill as it has done for so many years.

The visual representation of the aging process was particularly memorable, as they had a wall with glass-front whiskey barrels showing the change in the color of the whiskey as it goes through the aging process.

One of the stages of the aging process
One of the stages of the aging process

The final stop of our tour was the Tasting Room where we participated in a whiskey tasting comparing American whiskey, Irish whisky and Scotch. It was interesting to compare Jameson with the sweetness of Jack Daniels and the smokiness of Johnnie Walker Scotch. After the comparison, we were treated to a Jameson drink of our choice.  We sipped our Jameson & Ginger Ales while enjoying a fun conversation about the Aran Islands with a couple from Galway.

Whiskey Comparison
Whiskey Comparison

It was a memorable experience and I love that a sip of Jameson instantly transports me back to a wonderfully sunny day in Ireland.

Returning To My Family’s Roots

My Grandfather’s Grandmother left Ireland in 1880. Despite tons of research, I’ve yet to determine the county she lived in before she left for America. Which is exactly the reason I wanted to visit the Cobh Heritage Centre http://www.cobhheritage.com.

Located in a Victorian Railway Station, the museum features fascinating exhibits about what it was like to emigrate from Ireland. Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown was one of the main exit ports for emigrants. From 1848 to 1950 over 2.5 million people waved goodbye to Ireland and sailed away to a new life in North America (and Australia). It was also the last port of call for the Titanic before it sank.

For me, it’s very likely that my great-great grandmother left from this port, so it was quite surreal to stand there, next to the statue of Annie Moore (the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island) and see the port, feel the salt air on my face and hear the seagulls. I thought about what it must’ve been like, to say goodbye to your home, knowing you’ll likely never see it again and to go to a new land promising a better life…yet with so much unknown.

It was the first stop of many on our trip, but it was a moving experience to learn more about the reasons why so many of the Irish chose to immigrate to America.

Annie Moore Statue, Cobh Harbor.
Annie Moore Statue, Cobh Harbor.
Titanic Exhibit
Titanic Exhibit
Inside the Cobh Heritage Centre
Inside the Cobh Heritage Centre
Hotel advertisement in Cobh Heritage Museum
Hotel advertisement in Cobh Heritage Museum

Irish Daydreams

With St. Patrick’s Day just a week away, I find myself thinking often about my 2012 trip to the Emerald Isle.  So for the next week, I plan to post a daily daydream as I reminisce about my seven day adventure to Ireland.

We started in Cork, then took the train to Limerick where we hailed  a cab to Dromoland Castle, then back to the train to Galway, and across the country to Dublin. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I’ll always carry a piece of Ireland in my heart.