For this week’s fabulous #BirthdayBucketList, it is the journey itself that calls to us. A sweet sojourn harkening back to a time when life moved at a slower pace and glamour, drama and luxurious detail were in high demand while traveling… not simply upon arriving. With the advent of technology we can be on the other side of the world in mere hours. While the thrill of travel is certainly alive and well, especially with the prevalence of social media – where one is able to peek into the farthest corners of the world with the swipe of a finger, the journey itself has lost a bit of it’s luster.
Setting foot on a plane for most of us includes long lines at a sterile, unfriendly airport, enduring other, likely irritated passengers and noshing on pre-packaged peanuts while we amuse ourselves with media to pass the time until we arrive, albeit a bit rumpled to our destination of choice. Henry J. Tillman stated, “the saying, ‘getting there is half the fun’ became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines.” Let’s face it, you don’t come across many ‘double-tap’ Insta-worthy snaps inside a plane – most preferring to capture boarding passes, take-offs, landings and maybe a sunset snap or two – inferring the thrill of ‘going someplace’ but certainly not enjoying the journey of getting to “there.” Instead of biding your time on a jet-propelled bird, this week, we’re suggesting you put away your guide books, sit back and let the glamour of a gorgeous journey overtake your senses aboard a “luxury country home on rails.”
See Ireland in a New Way
With this week’s #BirthdayBucketListoftheWeek we’re taking #tbt to a whole new level – back to a time when the journey was just as jubilant as the destination – with a little help from our friends at Belmond, who have almost single-handedly resurrected the glamorous days of train travel. Come August of 2016, they will add the Belmond Grand Hibernian to their luxurious stable of trains, which also includes the famed Orient Express. You have a little time to pack up your trunks, cock your chapeaus and step one sky-high heel onto the Belmond Grand Hibernian Train for a #BirthdayBucketList cutting a swarthy, sensational path through Ireland with itineraries both intimate and awe-inspiring - and we’ve got your insider’s look.
Heart & History
It’s fitting the gentleman who first devised a working steam engine would be named Hero. Sixteen hundred years before it would ever come to fruition, Hero, a Greek scientist, made mention of harnessing the power of steam. During the Industrial Revolution, while it was both a time of great hardship and hard work for many, steam travel single-handedly opened up opulent worlds to the every man/woman, or man with means, mostly – train travel was synonymous with intrigue and luxury. Throughout the years, train travel, much like so many other things in our modern world, became streamlined or replaced with faster, more convenient and decidedly less elegant options. But it’s obvious to us, there is connective tissue missing, a piece torn from the in-between of the destination and the desire to go somewhere.
We can confidently say Belmond is now the modern master of building and refurbishing luxury trains for the traveler looking to lend themselves over to these magnificently curated symphonies of luxury travel experience. We were lucky enough to be able to speak to the folks beautifully behind Belmond’s Grand Hibernian experiences and the excitement isn’t only electric, it’s palpable.
Overview of Opulence
What to expect as you hop aboard this luxurious line? As this is the first luxury rail experience of it’s kind in Ireland – you’ll see the captivating countryside with rich, verdant history unfolding from outside the windows as well as unfurled softly and elegantly within the sumptuously appointed cars.
To start, the train has been modeled after the “most elegant country house on wheels.” Belmond has acquired 10 cars from Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail), of which it will transform into a luxury sleeper train with accommodations for up to 40 guests traveling in 20 elegant, en-suite cabins. Bonus? You can reserve the entirety of the experience for your menagerie of marvelous friends and family for the most important milestone birthday of your life – the next one. “Design draws inspiration from Dublin’s classic Georgian architecture, blended with elements of ancient folklore and tradition. The result proudly reflects the country’s cultural heritage with an indulgent, contemporary twist. The experiences by rail include a selection of two-, four- and six-night journeys. All depart from Dublin and encompass the highlights of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
Design Detail on the Rail
If you’re like us you may or may not have obsessively watched the “Sex and the City” episode where Carrie and Samantha travel by train from New York City to San Francisco called “The Big Journey” – both for the travel they undertake as well as the gentleman thusly named who had recently moved to their destination city. Suffice to say, it’s certainly less “Orient Express” than New York subway with tiny sleeping quarters and an observation car less Cavalli than cramped. The Belmond Grand Hibernian is exactly what Carrie & Samantha were hoping for as they placed one Manolo’d heel in front of the other in the hopes intrigue and luxury were still alive and well on the rail.
The 5 sleeping carriages on Belmond Grand Hibernian are named after Irish counties: Down, Waterford, Leitrim, Fermanegh - each of their color tartans will reflect on the decor of the cabins. Thusly, each train car - will have it’s own color scheme. These aren’t cabins so much as luxuriously appointed apartments. All cabins are en-suite, with additional features including a wardrobe, writing desk and chair. Large windows let you admire the verdant landscape as it unfolds and the desk a place to properly wax poetic in the land of Wilde and Joyce.
Deign to Dine – High-Speed Gorgeous Gathering Spaces
“The Observation Car brims with the warm atmosphere and elegance of a Dublin saloon. It is the perfect place to mingle with fellow travellers, listen to live musicians and animated storytellers or participate in craft sessions.” Can you imagine sipping slowly from an Irish stout as the lush, green countryside whirs by softly as you exchange stories about everything and nothing with your friends or fellow travelers? Hello, bucket list. Interactions are encouraged as everyone is bathed in a soft glow amidst a lively atmosphere of conviviality comingled with a distinct sense of adventure, as you barrel through the beautiful countryside, together. While you may not be literally carving a new path, proverbially you have moved from tourist to traveler – one who knows where they’ve been but not where they’re going.
We’d be ever so remiss to think the food is in any way an afterthought or a smidge less than utterly amazing. “With cuisine rivaling the best restaurants in Dublin, dining aboard the Belmond Grand Hibernian is an experience not to be missed for the seasoned foodie, showcasing exceptional and authentic Irish fare. From wonderful artisan cheeses and superb smoked fish to the freshest seasonal vegetables, the onboard menus feature the finest ingredients from the regions the train travels through. The chef and his team serve breakfasts, lunches and dinners in two air-conditioned dining carriages named after Irish counties.” There are two dining cars – the Sligo and the Wexler. Sligo is nothing short of sleek and elegant. A true restaurant car boasting Waterford crystal amidst a setting of warm grey woods and white linen table cloths. Wexler is the more enigmatic and sociable of the two, including feasting tables and encouraging banter over the breaking of bread.
“The Purpose of Life is to Live It”
When we had the chance to interview the Belmond team about what specifically makes this set of experiences so very “bucket list worthy” they said “all excursions are private, up close & personal with owners or family members. Add in historic & iconic venues plus golf at prestigious courses for those that fancy this sport” and the beauty of the train.
We also asked if there is an Insider’s Tip, something that absolutely cannot be missed in this chic and curated collection of Irish adventures and they unequivocally said: “Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. However, legend has it the columns are the remains of a causeway built by an Irish Giant (Finn MacCool). Finn was challenged by a Scottish giant to a fight and built the causeway so the two could meet. Those daring enough should cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, connecting a small offshore island to the mainland.” This is one of so many once-in-a-lifetime curated experiences as you embarck on this elegant journey through Ireland.
While the journey is certainly luxurious and jubilant, breaking bread and making merry among marvelous scenery, sumptuous accommodations and 5-star suppers washed down with authentic Irish stouts with friends old and new, the curated experiences are bucket-list worthy on their own. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure between three itineraries that last 2, 4 or 6 nights. Want to talk Bucket List Adventures? You have an array of destinations to choose from. How about a visit to the Old Bushmills Distillery to uncover the secrets behind the 400-year-old whiskey and enjoy a sample or two.
How about a tour of Blarney Castle and Gardens? Home to the fabeled Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone (Irish: Cloch na Blarnan) is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, Blarney, about 8 kilometres (5 mi) from Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). For over 200 years, literary legends and giants of the silver screen have made the pilgrimage to this place holding so much mythical power.
How about a visit to Connemara National Park?
Spread across 5,000 acres in County Galway, this natural haven is known for its otherworldly atmosphere. Blanket bogs, rugged moorland and mirror-still lakes are hemmed by the Twelve Bens mountain range.
Connemara ponies roam freely, seals sun themselves on the rocks of unspoilt beaches, and sheepdogs watch their flocks along the hillsides.
Maybe your idea of a bucket list adventure is simply pulling up a seat at a local pub for oysters, Guinness, and live music? All of this is bespoke, beautiful, possible – and Bucket List worthy. Bonus? Belmond Grand Hibernian will be the first luxury sleeper train in Ireland - a completely new way for travelers to visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland’s capital is a vibrant city with a buzzing art and dining scene.Home to the world’s largest Titanic visitor centre, other attractions include the Grand Opera house, the baroque City Hall and the flamboyant Crown Liquor Saloon.
As Oscar Wilde said “I never travel without my diary, one should always have something sensational to read.” Whether stepping one well-heeled shoe on or off the train during this extraordinary collection of experiences, you can be sure you’ll fill up your heart, mind and diary with adventures so exquisitely beautiful, mind-bogglingly bucket list worthy, the journey itself will fuel the fabric of your life. So saddle-up sweet sojourners and choose your own bespoke adventure through the lore of Ireland on a luxury line.