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Life experiences and interests from abroad

Burren Yoga Experience June 7, 2008

Filed under: Travel,yoga — emccan2 @ 2:44 pm

Following my trip to Connemara and Galway City, I headed down to Cappaghmore for a Bikram Yoga retreat.  I haven’t practiced much Hot Room Yoga; I usually do Vinyasa Flow/Ashtanga yoga, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to be in +100 degree temps.  When the cab driver pulled up to the location, I could tell this was going to me an amazing experience.  I was greeted by the owner of Burren Yoga, David, who showed me to my room.  Right away I was enthralled with the woodwork.  There were three bunk-beds in my room, each handcrafted with these unusual wood panels that enhanced the pure and back-to-nature but also very comfortable feeling of the whole place. 


Friday night was very restful, but come Saturday, we had two pretty intense yoga sessions with a lovely hike in the middle of the day.  I won’t drag on about the details of the yoga, but will sum it up by saying that I don’t think I ever sweated that much in my life.  When they say hot yoga, don’t misinterpret that for ‘warm’.  It is going to be hot – really, really hot.  My warning for anyone thinking about doing Bikram yoga – don’t sit by the stove oven – it will just make it that much hotter for you.


In addition to the fantastic yoga and incredible vegetarian meals (don’t worry my Midwestern family – I haven’t turned vegan), the afternoon hike up Abbey Hill was a bonus to the whole weekend.  You can see from the pictures below.  It was a little difficult getting back into school mode after such a fantastic weekend retreat, but I only have one more week to go!


Western Ireland: Coonemara, Galway and The Burren May 28, 2008

Filed under: Travel — emccan2 @ 3:30 pm

Since I had a break from classes last week. I set out for Western Ireland to experience the beauty of the West I had only seen pictures of.  Luckily, my friend Kieran was heading out West for business and gave me a guided car ride from Dublin to Connemara and then on to Galway City.  We took the long way around to Leenane, which is in Coonemara, so I could see more of the countryside.  From the pictures below (I forgot my camera so these are courtesy of John Miranda – an amazing photographer I found on the web), you can see why I was so happy we took the scenic detour. 



 We made it to Leenane, where we saw the famous bridge that got washed away and left people from ‘civilization’.  In fact, it is a pretty tiny bridge that you could almost jump over, but apparently because the of the ruckus people raised, a temporary bridge was put up quickly after it got destroyed by the landslide. 

After enjoying the small town of Leenane, I moved on to Galway City for a few days before heading to the Burren for a Bikram (Hot Yoga) weekend retreat.  Though I didn’t do much in Galway, I had a lovely time walking around the town and enjoying the coast.  When I arrived in Galway City, I discovered that the big European Soccer Finals were on between Manchester United and Chelsea.  I had never watched a soccer match before, but headed into town to watch the match with the locals at Murphy’s pub.  It turned out to be a fantastic match, going into overtime and penalty kicks.  Though MU is my alma-mater, I have a new respect for the meaning of MU.

Friday finally came and I caught the bus to Gort and made my way to Cappaghmore for a weekend retreat at the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre.  That experience deserves its own blog entry, so watch for details in a few days.  To find out more about the program, visit their website at www.burrenyoga.comand photos on their flickr site at


Tasmanian Pinot Noir – An Irish Recommendation May 3, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:31 pm

This week I have been traveling around southern Ireland with my classmate, Jenny, to interview store owners as a part of our final project for the MBA.  For our project, we are analyzing the current state of a 52-store franchise business of off-license stores across Ireland.  Our recommendation, which is due on May 17th, will provide the headquarter office with methods to improve their buying power, overcome IT challenges, adjust staffing responsibilities, and improve marketing and promotions for stores.  To help with our analysis, we decided to conduct one-on-one interviews with various store owners to understand how they are or are not benefiting from being a part of the franchise.


 This week, we traveled through Wicklow to Waterford and ended our trip in Cork.  I decided to stay the night outside of Cork in a town called Ballincollig while Jenny set off to spend the weekend with family. 

Why Ballincollig?  Well, since I will be doing a lot of touristy things in Galway in a few weeks, I decided to skip kissing the Blarney stone and checking out the city so that I could relax at a nice hotel called the Oriel House.  The hotel was running a promotion with a hot stone massage, so I decided this was the ideal place to spend in Cork. 

I went venturing into the village of Ballincollig and being the wine lover that I am, stopped into several off-licenses.  There was one in particular, O’Sullivans, that carried several Pinot Noirs, so I decided to pick up a bottle to open that night.  When I went to purchase what I thought was a nice bottle of Pinot Noir from New Zealand, the store owner asked me to wait a second and consider another option.  I am always in favor of a new Pinot experience, so I followed the owner to the New Zealand selection and listened intently as he offer some other suggestions.  His last suggestion was Devil’s Corner, a 2007 Pinot Noir from Tasmania for 11.99 euros.  My previous experience with Tasmanian Pinots has not been that great, so I was hesitant to get steered into this direction.  However, when the owner described the wine as one that is silky, elegant and fruity, I had a feeling this bottle was going to be different than the others I had tried. 

And yes was he right!  This Tasmanian Pinot was just what he said it would be – very light in color, silky smooth tannins and a great deal of fruit.  It’s incredible that in such a small place as Ballincollig, a town many will never have reason to stop in, did I find such a delightful wine lover to discuss our passion for Pinot Noir.  Though I didn’t catch the store owners name, I must send a big thank you from Dublin for helping make my stay far more relaxing and enjoyable I could have imagined.


Duke Rugby World Cup Tournament April 21, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA,Travel — emccan2 @ 8:11 pm

Every April, Duke University’s MBA class (Fuqua) hosts an annual Rugby Tournament that brings schools to Durham, NC from all over the world.  The women play touch rugby (non-contact or somewhat like flag-football for my American friends) and the men play full contact rugby with shortened halfs.  Beyond that, I don’t know much more of the rules or terminology. 

In November, when our MBA class began organizing our teams for the tournament, things were looking a little uncertain, especially for the men’s team.  The reason was that many of my male classmates had never played rugby before but still wanted to play.  The efforts in organizing the practices, finalizing the teams, getting sponsorship, and arranging the logistics for travel were a bit of a nightmare.  Though thanks to a lot of hard work and effort, especially at the end, we managed to send 46 Rugby players overseas for one weekend of a lot of fun and competition.


As for the women, we fared well for being out of the country for the whole month of March, but didn’t come away with a trophy.  ON THE OTHER HAND, the men stole the show!  With a team of mostly injured players and the will to win, the Smurfit Men defeated London Business School in the finals to claim the 5th straight victory at the Rugby World Cup. 




Personally, I wasn’t sure if everyone was actually going to get up in the morning and be well enough to play the tournament because of some late evenings out.  Despite my misgivings, the Irish showed their true blood and kept trucking on and pushed through some tough games while suffering from the deadliest hangovers.   






Full Circle April 6, 2008

Filed under: Travel — emccan2 @ 7:24 am

I returned back to Dublin Saturday evening after flying for over 20 hours from Auckland to LA to London and then finally back to Dublin.  I began my trip around the world on March 9th and in 21 days made a full circle back to Dublin.  Here’s the details:

  • March 8:            Dublin to London, London to Shanghai
  • March 9-14:      Travel around Shanghai visiting businesses and sightseeing
  • March 14-17:    Byron Bay for Ann and Adam’s Wedding
  • March 17-20:    Nelson, Abel Tasman, Marlborough
  • March 20:          Christchurch stopover
  • March 21-26:    Queenstown
  • March 26-29:    Auckland and Waiheke Island
  • March 29:          Fly to LA
  • March 30:          Fly LA to London then home to Dublin

Looking through this list, it seems like a pretty intense trip, but actually it was one of the most relaxing vacations.  The reason being is that no activities, other than in Shanghai and Ann’s wedding were planned in advance.  This allowed for endless options and wild spontaneity – as seen in the pictures below.  Next up on the travel adventures is Durham, North Carolina for the Duke University Rugby Tournament.  Hopefully, this time no one will end up with any black eyes.




At The Sweet Spot – New Zealand Wine Travel March 30, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:54 pm

To quote an article in today’s Economist, “At the Sweet Spot”, I was able to witness first hand the wine industry explosion happening throughout New Zealand.  The article talks about how the New Zealand wine industry is experiencing a boom: it just exceeded the wool exports in value and is the country’s 12th most valuable export.


Over the past two weeks, I have been traveling across New Zealand along with Rich, another devoted wine lover, to discover the small production wine growers’ outstanding Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. After all the tasting, I have boiled down my top 5 Sauv. Blancs and Pinot Noirs below.  This list is based on my personal preferences, not from any ratings or awards.  Fortunately, for The Taste in Queenstown, I was able to sample multiple wines at one location thanks again to the wonderful Enomatic Wine machine. 

Top 5 Pinot Noirs:

  1. Amisfield
  2. Herzog
  3. St. Clair 
  4. Rockburn 
  5. Waitiri Creek

Top 5 Sauvignon Blanc

  1. Vavasour 
  2. Wither Hills 
  3. Alan Scott Wines
  4. Amisfield – Lake Hayes
  5. Seresin

Other notable mentions go to Amisfeld Riesling and Rose, Church Road Chardonnay, and Moana Park Ice Wine. 

While the New Zealand wine market is booming, the massive continent 1,200 miles northwest of NZ (Australia) is suffering from the worst droughts in history and are seeing acres of dried up vines.  The areas hurt the most are in North-west Victoria, and of the 7,000 wine growers in Australia, it is anticipated that around 1,000 will be forced to leave the industry because of the draught.  When I was visiting the wine regions in the Barossa and Hunter Valley, the drought was noticeable, but the impact hadn’t quite set in.  With the drought I wonder if New Zealand will become the next Australia in terms of growth and exports.  As much as I love my Shiraz and Cabernet, I wouldn’t mind seeing this trend surface and gain access to some of the smaller New Zealand wines that aren’t currently exporting their wine outside the country.   


The New World of Wine in New Zealand March 22, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 6:40 pm

The diversity in activities as well as wine are clear as one travels through New Zealand’s south island from Nelson to Queenstown.  After just one week in the south island, I have enjoyed gorgeous weather, spectacular landscapes, and magnificent wine and cuisine.  The Nelson region provided a much more relaxed atmosphere where I kayaked along the Abel Tasman National Park, starting at Kaiteriteri bay.

  img_1221.jpg  img_1224.jpg

The water was so clear and blue and the view up to the mountains was particularly beautiful.  More outdoor adventurous are soon to come in the adrenaline-rushed town of Queenstown.

As for my wine experiences thus far, I visited two major wine regions near Nelson.  One is just west of Nelson and the other is due east in Marlborough.  According to, “The longer, cooler growing conditions in the Southern regions promotes stronger and more vibrant fruit flavors together with higher acidity levels. Well over two thirds of Sauvignon Blanc vines are to be found in Marlborough.” To the east, I stopped at Neudorf and Himmelsfeld.  cabsav2001sm.jpgBoth produced excellent Sauv. Blancs, but Himmelsfeld’s wines in particular showed unique, aromatic characteristics that are the outcome of care and consistency of the winemaker, Elizabeth Eggers.  Beth was kind enough to give us a tasting of her range of wines, which included a “cool climate” Cab and Chardonnay unlike any I’ve ever tasted. 

To the east of Nelson, in the popular region of Marlborough, there were far more stops on the wine trail on the drive to Christchurch.  Focusing on recommendations and notable vineyards in this region, there were 5 cellar door stops including: Allan Scott, Hanz Herzog, St. Clair, Cloudy Bay and Huia.  All of Herzog’s wines were splendid, including their Pinot Noir, which was unexpected for the region.  My favorite Sauv. Blanc from this mix was Huia, but could have tied with St. Clair.  Since Marlborough is know for their Sauv. Blanc, it was hard to distinguish a clear favorite when all of them are so good.  What I consistently found, aside from Herzog, was that most of the Pinot Noirs were a little too tannic for my taste and tended to be more earthy and burgundian than the California Pinots I love.  However, I am yet to explore the Central Otogo region, which is known for their Pinots.  From the few I have already tried around Queenstown, I have a feeling that I will find some new gems in the Central Otogo region I will need to keep my eye out for when I get back to Ireland.