Lemon and Duke, Dublin

You know yourself, sometimes you just find a place that you fall in love with the second you go in – well the Lemon and Duke is mine. Having been taken there by The Boy as Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Rob Keraney and Dave Kearney (Ireland Rugby players if you didn’t know) own it, it has since become a favourite.

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The setup is a chic, vintage, cocktail feel. But it’s so much more.

It’s Guinness is smooth, refreshing and most importantly clean. You would be surprised the number of pubs and bars that don’t clean their lines which makes the beer dank and well, gross! It’s the perfect place to go to after work for a couple. Or, as it’s just off Grafton Street, the perfect place to duck into when your shopping, it’s the best form of bribery if you are with someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping! 😉

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They have their “Tank Beer”, which they also have in The Bridge 1859, a fresh, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. It’s so nice! Plus, if you go on match day when Ireland is playing you might have a chance of winning an Ireland Rugby signed jersey. They give you a raffle ticket for every pint you buy during the match. When I went we edged our bets and 7 pints later, between two I might add, our number, “126”, was called! Even better that The Boy was wearing is England jersey at the time. They all took it well and everyone had a great laugh. Another thing that makes the L&D so great is it’s staff members. All helpful, kind, and great craic.

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Though I know they do food, I have only ever had chips –  they are my kryptonite what do you expect! They are AMAZING with their dip and crispiness. My friend has had the children’s (don’t judge!) chicken goujons and chips. She seemed to enjoy them. But more importantly, the staff got them for her, none of this “but you’re an adult”, they just gave it to her as that is all she fancied. I swear we are grownups, even if we only wanted the picking, bad for us, foods.

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It’s open seven days a week serving brunch (well they say brunch they open at midday which in my eyes really is just lunch but whatever), lunch and dinner. Their little bit outside gets the sun in the afternoon/evening, making it a fab place for a post work beer.

Head down, say hi and get an ice cold beer (or cocktail, or coffee…..)

 

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Must do Tours of Rome

I can see why people say that Rome is their favourite city in Europe. It’s full of incredible ruins, food and drink. You can’t turn down a street without find one of these things. We there for two and a half days and it was amazing. I will write about different parts of our Rome trip later on, but this is just about the two tours we did. I feel like these need to be given the recognition they deserve!
So my first bit of advice is to book your tours before you go! Or if you are super keen book your time around the tours you want to do. We used a company call “Dark Rome” to book ours, though when we got there it was under City Wonders. Having just looked at both their prices they appear to be the same which is good having just been and paid for the ones on Dark Rome! Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t cheap but they are 100% worth it! Plus occasionally they have deals on. We got our Vatican City Tour with about 15% off.

Colosseum
This is probably one of the most amazing buildings you will see. And probably one of the busiest. This was pretty hard for us, we’ve been to several “tourist” sites but nothing prepared for these. There were just so many people queuing to get in and so many people just trying to sell you crap. Really does take away from the beauty of the ruins but one of those things I guess.

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We ended up doing the Express Colosseum Tour with Gladiator’s Entrance & Arena Floor, the main reason we picked this was because the one we really wanted to do was sold out!! However, this was still fantastic. The tour guide was amazing, knew so much about the history of the building – what it had been used for, what had happened to it etc. It’s also really good as they give you head sets, so as long as you keep up with your group you can hear everything they have to say without worrying that you are stood too far away.
We also entered though the Gladiators entrance, which I have to say, was incredible. You get a real sense of what they went though, and you can just imagine the crowds and noise you would get from 50,000 spectators. In doing a tour as well, you miss the crowds and the queuing which means more time spent doing the things you love. When we were on the arena floor there was probably 2 or 3 other groups which meant there was a lot of space for everyone and you really got to take it all in. The only small criticism I can come up with about this part is you don’t get as much time I was would have liked. But that really is just my view because I’m one of those crazy people that could have stood there for about half an hour looking at it all.

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You get to walk around a lot of the ruins, though there were still a lot of areas you can’t get to unless you are on another tour. It’s amazing how much of the buildings features are still there. One of the reasons so much was lost is because the Popes of the time stripped the building of the metals that was holding it together! There was then an earthquake where half of the Colosseum fell down. But despite this, you can still see some marble seats, full pillars and the basement where the gladiators were held before the flights. Another reason I would suggest you get a tour is because they don’t really have too many signs around so you wouldn’t learn as much about the history of the building. We wouldn’t have had a clue what 90% of the stuff was, or how old it really was, or how it ended up in the state it is now.
A small side note, and not related to the tour, but make sure you walk past the Colosseum at different times, in the evening it’s obviously still a little busy but nothing compared to the daytime. We spent about 20 minutes or so one evening post dinner just relaxing out side it! It was pretty special, and no people selling us stuff!!

Vatican City
We were up early, super early, 5.30am to be exact. We arrived at the Vatican at 6.15am, with our booking not opening until 6.30am we had a wonder around the walls, which is where we came up to the front of the St Peter’s Basilica. AND IT WAS EMPTY! It was just incredible to see it like this. I’ve only ever really seen images of it packed. This made it feel magical. So get up early and go down, even if you don’t have an early tour, it’s worth it.

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Our tour was breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard, followed by a guided tour of the Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. The breakfast was good, but nothing really to write home about, there were pancakes, food breakie, pasties etc, the things you would expect at a hotel breakfast. The view and setting is really what made it.

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Same as before with the Colosseum we were given headsets which was perfect. The amount our guide knew was amazing. They also had a flip book to show you some of the paintings original sketches so you could compare the original idea to the final master piece. One of these being Raphael adding Michelangelo into his fresco in the Papal apartments, The School of Athens; something you would miss without a tour guide! I loved every minute. I could have stayed looking at all these paintings all day, but the Sistine Chapel was calling. When we got there, it was busy but to crammed together. We could still find space to move around and not bump into people. It was about 10am when we got in, so the museum had been open for only an hour by this point. I have to say the number of people rushing past as to get to the Sistine Chapel was sad. It’s hard to understand why people would just walk past so many just as fascinating paintings to see one –especially when you have paid for it all!! But each to their own.

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The Sistine Chapel was breath taking. I did get emotional which I was surprised by. I have been dreaming of seeing these paintings for as long as I can remember. It honestly took my breath away. I know other people say it’s not worth it, but it so is. Get in early, book a tour and take it all in!! the craftsmanship of the men that painted them. The stories behind each fresco. Pure genius. We had 20 minutes in here, which to me was a good amount of time. Don’t get me wrong I could have probably spent a good few hours just in that room looking at each master piece but let’s be honest your neck would start to hurt after a while. Oh and BTW Michelangelo didn’t do his paintings on his back, he created his own contraption to be able to do it standing up apparently.
From here, it was onto St Peter’s Basilica. It was beautiful. It’s the largest Catholic church in the world, and no other is allowed to be bigger. The dome is actually directly above where St Peter is apparently buried. The art work, which is all made out of mosaics are amazing. The smallest details are so impressive. And many look as if they are paintings until you get up close to them. If someone hadn’t pointed this out I don’t think I would have noticed.
Again, like the Colosseum, once we were in and the tour was over we were left there to enjoy ourselves. We climbed to the top of the Basilica, and it is well worth the 500 ish steps. It was an additional €8 each, or for an extra €2 you can miss the first 200 steps by getting the lift. I can tell you now it’s not worth the €2. Those first lot of steps are by fair the easiest you could do. If you suffer from claustrophobia, this is probably not for you, as you can imagine the walls curve in. Take your time and enjoy yourself once you are to the top. The view is incredible. Thankfully on the way back down you go a different way so you don’t have to squeeze past people. You come out on the roof where there is a small café and toilets. Grab yourself a coffee and put your feet up for a bit. It’s really just an amazing place to relax for half an hour!

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I couldn’t recommend these guys enough! Everything about them was so well organised.

Have you been to Rome? Did you do a tour at all while you were there? What did you think?

Safari with Chasin’ Africa

In mid-April, my family and I went to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Safari has been something I have always wanted to do. I love elephants, to the point that I shake when I see them. I get so nervous and excited all at once. I think they are just the most majestic animal, so wise and massive and if you look into their eyes you can see into their souls… okay, I digressed a little then. OBSESSED is the word you are looking for. But basically, I’ve always wanted to see them in the wild, so a safari has always been one of the top things I want to do.

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The Kruger National Park is situated in the most North East of South Africa, bordering Mozambique’s national park, Limpopo. They have a partial fence between the two, most of it has been taken down to encourage natural migration of the animals. It is 19,485km², making it the largest game reserve in South Africa. It was originally established in 1898 by Paul Kruger, the President of Transvaal as the Sabie Game Reserve. Later in 1927, it merged with Shinwedzi Game Reserve, and became the Kruger National Park.

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We were collected from our lodge by Donald, who is one of the owners of Chasin’ Africa at 5.20am – an early start but 100% worth it. They get you in before the gates open so the park is quieter and you don’t have to queue to do all of the fun paper work. Something you don’t really think about when on safari, but everyone has to go through the same gates and have the same checks which can take a while to do. We were off and through the gates by 5.50am. Only 10 minutes before the rest of the crowd, but this really was our own fault as we weren’t the fastest at leaving the lodge, ooops! Either way though, we were in! We were also incredibly lucky in the fact that there was nine of us, the exact number that fit in their trucks! So it felt more like a private tour. We were also provided with blankets to snuggle under as it was a little chilly (okay not UK chilly but still!) that early in the morning which was great.

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Donald was AMAZING! I must admit, I was mostly interested in the mammals that live in the park – elephants, cheetahs, lions etc but he got us looking at all the birds, the plants and the bugs. All these animals and foliage help make up a remarkable eco system. It’s easy to forget that even the smallest of creatures make a massive difference to the Kruger. It also helped that when we didn’t recognise a bird he put it in context by using the Lion King – red-billed hornbill aka Zazu! It was just brilliant that he knew the best way to get people to take note of the smaller, but just as important, animals. From then on, we looked at so many different birds – fish eagle, lilac breasted roller, saddle billed stork. It was great to see so many different animals up close, that otherwise I would never have known about. His knowledge and professionalism definitely made the trip, it just made those stretches where we didn’t see much just as great as when we save the wildlife. I’ve learnt so much from him and loved every second of it. Though gutted we didn’t get to ask any questions that stumped him, next time!

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The skill of Donald also meant we got to see the Big Five in one day. An old hunting term referring to those animals most dangerous to hunt ie they kill the hunters – Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards and Cape Buffalo. It was pure magic seeing them all. Obviously, elephants were my favourite, they always were going to be, but seeing the others (and the cubs of the lions and buffalo) was extraordinary. I never really believed we would see them all. Apparently if you drove every road in the Kruger and could see 500m either side of the road you would still only see 5% of park! Isn’t that just crazy!! You then realise how fortunate you are to see ANY animals.

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The lunch available in the park is fairly average – sandwiches, pies etc, almost what you were expect in an airport. I advise you take your own, and DO NOT forget water! Super important! And mozzy spray for the sunrise and sunset part of your dive, you don’t want to be eat alive. Would take away from the joys of the Kruger if you are scratching the whole time.

We were out in the park for 12 hours! Initially supposed to be dropped back off at our accommodation at 4.30pm but Donald gave us more time so that we could we a Leopard and Lion cubs right at the end. We ended up leaving at 6.30pm!!

Hopefully I will one day be returning to the Kruger and if I do I will definitely be booking another trip with Chasin’ Africa, and I really think you should to.

Have you been to the Kruger before? Would you love to? What would be your favourite animal to see?

 

Life is SHIT, now let’s talk about it!

Disclaimer – if you don’t like swearing, I advise you don’t read any further… if you hadn’t worked that out from the title!

Last Sunday, my mum, my sister, and myself were putting the world to right over a glass (*bottles*) of wine. We discussed everything from Black Lives Matter, Women Belong in the Boardroom, the 8th Amendment and how SHIT life can be.

No one has it easy, but the problem is we don’t talk about how SHIT it is! We discussed putting our problems out there, how we really felt, in the hope that one person who feels the same knows that they aren’t alone.

I obviously have my blog, and this is a little ME part, to write and share my shit. I hope that others will too, this doesn’t have to be online for people to see, it can just be a scrap of paper that when you’re done you shred, a diary only for you, or a letter to a friend. But write and it will make you feel a world of difference. And remember, how little you think your shit is, if it is shit to you, it’s important! To give context to this, my Nanna visited her friend with breast cancer, and complained to her about her headache she had for days, then laughed saying I guess that’s nothing really; her friend turned to her and said, my breast cancer isn’t making your headache any less shit.

So my shit, my shit is that my father-in-law has cancer. The big C, that thing that now affects 1 in 2 people! That thing that, even knowing that statistic, would never affect someone I love. How could it, everyone I know is kind, loving, caring, why would it take someone like that. But guess what, it doesn’t care who you are, what you do, or what you are like. IT IS SHIT!

What makes this harder is it’s not my dad. Sounds crazy and backwards right!? But what I mean by this, isn’t that I wish it was my dad, but that I could ball my eyes out, I could refuse to do nothing, I could wallow (yes we all know it doesn’t help but sometimes you just need to!) because it’s my dad. This isn’t my dad, and I love him like family, but technically he’s not. And what I feel is only a fraction of what his children feel, what my stupidly strong boyfriend feels. And how can I compare to that. I feel like I have no right to be mad, to be upset, to cry. If they aren’t, why should I. Us Youngs are emotional folk, the Isards so much less so. We are chalk and cheese. But I dwell, I wonder how they all are, day in day out.

To top it off, my friends and family definitely don’t tell me their shit any more. Too worried to not over load me I think is their logic. But instead, this is even more isolating. You feel out the loop of more people that you care about. Then you feel like you shouldn’t share the less shit, (work, BF is annoying, you miss your family) because that then feels even more small and less important!

So I know I am not the only one in this boat, but it’s lonely, it’s isolating, it’s shit! But to all those other people in this boat with me, I’m here, whether we talk and share or sit quietly, we are in this together. I would like to say it gets better, but right now, I can’t say that, because I honestly don’t know.

Oh and one last thing – FUCK YOU CANCER! Donate to Stand Up To Cancer NOW! 🙂

My Festival Advice

“A long weekend camping”

Had you said this to me when I was younger I would have hated it, refused to go, kicked up a fuss… now, now I leap at the chance. Camping you say, I can’t think of a better way to spend my weekend! Booze, friends, and lot of memories.

Having done a few festivals now each one seems to teach me something different, so this is my advice to a good festival…

Pack for all weather – even if your festival is in sunny Spain it can still rain, or in Ireland it can still be sunny! You literally can’t predict the weather (as much as they try to!). I got caught in a thunderstorm while I was in Spain! None of us had any form of waterproof with us as we all made that decision “it never rains in Spain!”

It’s okay to nap during the day – if you need it, take that nap! It will make your night that much better. If you’re over tired you won’t enjoy yourself as much, you need your energy for all that partying later.

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See acts you’ve never heard of – there will be so many people on that you want to see but go out of your way to see something new. A lot of people start off at this events, you never know you might see the next Ed Sheeran or find a new love to replace him!

Set alarms – if there is an act you really want to see set an alarm for it! It’s easy to get distracted and not notice what the time is, and before you know it you’ve missed that one person you wanted to see. Though if you do, don’t beat yourself up over it, there will always be so many other great people on.

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Stick with a friend – boring, but let’s be safe here, girls stick with your friends. We all know the drill here. But boys, try to stick with your friends too, you’ll have more fun and not end up doing anything (too) stupid… hopefully!

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Don’t take valuables – take your phone yes, you’re going to want to take a tone of photos but don’t take that nice watch you got for Christmas or those expensive speakers you spent your last pay check on. There is a high chance of it getting stolen but there is also a high chance of it getting wet and breaking!

Mark your water bottle – take off the label, write on it, duck tap it. Do whatever it takes for you to know which is your water. You don’t want to mix it up with your alcohol in the middle of the night when you’re dying of that dry mouth hangover!

Mark your tent – if your early remember there will be hundreds of tents around you later. Put bunting up, put a long stick in the group, or use someone else’s marker! You will be so grateful when you stumble back and can spot it from a mile off. Plus it tends to stop other people getting confused that it’s theirs too!

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Enjoy every minute! 

If you meet someone be nice, if you can’t be nice, be good, if you can’t be good be safe