Mini Road Trip – Wicklow National Park and Glendalough

When we moved to Dublin we promised that we were actually going to see a bit of the country. We had lived in Edinburgh for a year and never quite got round to leaving the city! I worked weekends and The Boy was at uni during the week, making it harder to really get a few days to go somewhere. So this time we said we HAD to see more of the country. Plus all the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland make it look so gorgeous, I didn’t want to miss out.

20161030_103400We hired a car for 24hrs (not long!) but we just wanted to head down to Wicklow and Glendalough for some walks and a scenic drive. We do try to make the journey as part of the day as much as the destination. We went via Greystones so I could try out The Happy Pear café! And oh my, it was so worth the little detour. We 20161030_105722parked next to the beach and walked along the sand up to the café. It was so lovely to be on the beach…it has been a while since I’ve properly seen the sea. The café is a healthy little place with a great courtyard to sit in while you enjoy your breakfast. I went for the porridge with everything on. It was so good and super filling – just what I needed before the long walk we were going to do. The coffee was also pretty tasty. The café was really busy but still the service was quick. Unfortunately though they had already sold out of their avocado on toast but one of those things…just gives us an excuse to go back again. We headed back to the car but walked through the town this time, it’s a classic seaside town which always makes me really happy. Reminds me of my childhood! I could have happily spent an afternoon just wondering around there. But we got back to the car and headed down to Glendalough and the Wicklow National Park.

 

20161030_133432The drive took about 30-40 minutes from Greystones but what we didn’t realise was the rest of Ireland seemed to have the same idea! To get into the car park took us about 45 minutes!! So if you do go down, go down early or try to not go down whenever one else is!! I know that’s easier said than done. Anyways, we parked up and set off. We took the long ish walk (I believe it’s the orange one on their map!) which is about 8km taking around 2 hours. And it was gorgeous!! We went left passed the medieval ruins, which are pretty cool. The most obvious part is the 30m Round Tower. It’s a pretty spectacular building. I loved how the door is high off the ground as to stop intruders coming in. There are also ruins of a Church built in the 6th Century along with all the grave stones. It’s amazing what can survive.

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20161030_150229Not many people were doing the full walk, or if they were they were walking in the opposite direction to us, and even then it was probably only 3 or 4 couples that passed us! We felt truly alone and it was wonderful. The walk was of medium toughness, though take into account we are both semi fit. There is a small incline about half way. This takes you to one of the most beautiful views of the valley! We just stood there for about 15 minutes taking it all in. It helped that the weather was perfect too… warm with blue sky with a little overcast, perfect walking weather in my eyes. Once I had finished taking lots of photos we moved on. You then go into the more foresty part. This is where the Poulanass Waterfall is. It’s so pretty but I warn you now this is where it is a lot busier! It does take away from it a little but it’s still gorgeous. Plus the sound of the waterfall semi-drowns out the other people.

From here, we walked back passed the car park and headed to the Upper Lake. Yet another fantastic view. Between the refection and the mountains it was stunning. There are also a lot of people with their dogs which I find great fun to watch! Watch them bounding in and out of the water. Wicklow is a real family place, it’s great for kids get them out the house and running around.

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We headed back and instead of taking the main roads we drove through the park. It was dusk at this point but it was still so gorgeous. And, much like our walk, it was quiet! The roads are super bendy so at points I did get a little nervous. Though I always do when I’m not too sure on the road. It only took about an hour and forty five minutes to get back, not too bad in the grand scheme of things. And it was worth taking the scenic route, to me it just makes it feel so much more special.

I found it so lovely to see this part of Ireland and it really isn’t far from Dublin. You can easily get there by public transport, so you don’t have to get hire a car. I highly recommend going down if you want to get out of the city.

 

 

Mosa – Sushi Burritos in the heart of Dublin

20170329_180632Every month I get my BBC Good Food Magazine (via my Mother as it’s posted to her house in the UK!). And to my great delight on their feature page was a restaurant in Dublin – Mosa! Not just that it was Sushi Burritos – two of the best things, Sushi and Burritos!! So come date night it was obvious where we were going to go for dinner. It was a bit odd at first as restaurant is a bit of a stretch, probably more café/fast food! They specialise not in the sushi burrito but bubble tea. I know a lot of people love this but I just can’t get over the texture so we didn’t try it. Though I do think next time I go I will, just to see if it was because I had a bad experience once.

20170329_180452There is a wall covered in colourful post-it notes where people have written everything from reviews to love notes to quotes. It’s sweet as you sit there waiting for you food having a little insight into other people’s lives. There are also origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. I have a massive soft spot for the cranes, as a long time ago I made them for The Boy when we weren’t seeing each other regularly.

To the food…I managed to convince The Boy that he wanted to go halves, which was a miracle in itself! I went for the California Dream – Crispy chicken, sesame seeds, avocado, cucumber and mayo. While The Boy went for the Fantastic Salmon – lettuce, 20170329_181150avocado, salmon and lots and lots of mayo! He was definitely glad we went halves as mine was definitely the better one. The Salmon was just not as flavourful, and had way too much mayo on.
The sizes were also pretty small, definitely more snack size than dinner size. Two things wrong here – the price is not snack size and we went there for dinner! So we ended up getting some popcorn chicken which was deliciously salty.

20170329_182621The service was great! They all seemed to be really happy bubbly people. It’s always so nice getting great service in places, however big or small they are

In all it was good but that’s just it, it was good…nothing to spectacular. I might go back again but there is a lot of other places I would like to try before I do.

The Guinness Storehouse

You can’t live in Dublin and not write a blog on Europe’s leading tourist attraction. The Guinness Store House has over 1.4million tourists visiting last year! And I’ve been 4 times!

First and foremost, book your tickets online! Beat the queues!! You’ll thank me later!

It consists of 7 Floors – Ingredients, Brewing, Tasting, Marketing, Pour your own Guinness, Dining and the Gravity Bar. It’s a self-guided tour so no set times to arrive by which I find a lot nicer and more relaxing. It means you’re not tied down and can insure you get to do some other things before without any time pressure. They do however, do an introductory talk at the beginning if you miss the talk just make sure you see the 9000 year lease in the floor! And look up, the Atrium of the Storehouse is the world’s largest pint shaped glass. Also don’t forget to walk around the outside and fine the famous James Gate Gate! img_20160923_173633

Now let’s go floor by floor…

Ingredients – I have to say I think this is one of my favourite parts! They have the four ingredients all set out in pretty large consistencies. There is almost a sandpit of Barley, img_20170206_212249_390stick your hand in and feel it round through your fingers. See how tall the Hops can grow. Try to peak in and see the Yeast in the safe, protected from all competitors. Hear the waterfall of Water rushing down, brewers are very protective of their water! It’s very informative if you don’t know a lot about how beer is made. I however have been to many brewer tours, plus you tend to pick up a few things when The Boy is a brewer with a Masters degree in it! But I think that Guinness have done a great job in the way they have set it up, very original! Compared to others they have managed to make it a feature of the tour rather than just having it there for the sake of it.

From here you go up a floor to the technical part – how they make the brew! Though first you do go through moving portraits which I just find odd (read pointless)! It’s about Arthur Guinness…the founder if you didn’t know. They clearly don’t have some pictures of him 20161113_140050and his family so they get “normal” people to talk about him and his life. I personally think that this could have been done in a different way but hey-ho each to their own. Anyways, head through there and you get to how they brew The Black Stuff (which isn’t black at all, its Ruby Red in fact!) Remember that – you’ll get a cheeky extra taster later on! You’ll learn about how they roast the barley to 232°C, mashing it to create wort, fermenting it to get that lovely alcohol and everything in between! It’s really interesting! And again well done by Guinness. Follow on to where you can watch videos of Cooperage and how Guinness made it around the world (over 150 countries!!). Spot the sculptor of the “Guinness Pint – Made of More” depicting the past and future of Guinness. It was done by more than 20 artists and took more than 600 hours to do, take time to appreciate their work.

Head on up and don’t miss the Tasting Rooms like two of my friends did! Though this was entertaining to watch as they got on to the escalator with no way of coming back. You go through to a white room filled with aromas of beer. You get given a teeny tiny perfect “pint” of Guinness and get taught how to drink it – sounds odd but it is fun to do! Remember the colour of the beer – if you’re lucky this is where you’ll get an extra taster! They also have all the aromas in smoke form, gives the room a Willy Wonka vibe!

Keep on going up, this time to the marketing…I think this will appeal to the older generation a bit more – all those adverts they grew up with are there as well as some of the newer ones. Don’t miss the room of screens were you get submerged into their adverts. I really love their adverts, I actually don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Their marketing team has always done well, from the super simple posters to the completely out there TV adverts. And the fish on a bike, a classic!

Now if you’re a bar(wo)man this is a lot less fun, it will remind you of all those times someone came in, ordered 5 drinks and then saying they will have a Guinness at the end! Probably the most annoying thing someone can do as to get the perfect pint it takes at least 2 minutes, doesn’t sound like a lot until you have 5 other people waiting to be served! But if you’ve never poured a pint its good fun. You’ll learn how to pour the perfect pint and why it’s done that way. You can opt out of pouring your own if you think you’ve had enough experience or really want someone else to serve you. You also get a little certificate to show off to your friends. And well, you get your pint! Time to head on up for the final time and drink up…20161113_151038

 

To the Gravity Bar you go! 360° (almost, the stairs up block some of it off if you want to be pedantic about it) of Dublin! If you didn’t know Dublin is VERY flat so the bar is the highest point and you can see all the way across to the Aviva Stadium and further! Try and pick out the highlights of Dublin, they do give you some clues as to where to be looking! Try to get a seat, relax, and drink up!

Sláinte

Meet me in the Morning – Yet another great cafe in Dublin 8

As you walk down Pleasants Street you can be forgiven for thinking img_20161002_110157that there was so no café and it was just a row of houses but keep an eye out for the A-Board outside! Head in and wait to be seated. I advise to try to get one upstairs, which has been newly done due to demand, if its cold out, people don’t seem to want to close the door when they come in. Neither do the staff for that matter! It’s bright with a large window at the front and gives that simplistic home feeling with about half a dozen tables downstairs. As I’m sure you worked out I didn’t go upstairs so can’t tell you what it’s like up there! Head over repetitively early if you’re hoping to have breakfast in, it gets pretty busy, especially at the weekend.
20161206_104104Order your coffee and peruse the menu, it changes depending on what’s in season. It’s relatively small but I think that’s brilliant! Why does a menu need to be massive, surely fewer options are better cooked and prepared than a massive menu where a lot of it will have been precooked or pre-packaged!?! Where possible they seem to use organic, Irish produce which is always good to see. I love when companies, big or small, support each other when they can.

 

The first time we went it was glorious sunshine making it super warm next to the window (perfect in my eyes!). I had pancakes, this year I seem to be obsessed with them, I think I’ve eaten more this year than I have in the past 5 years! I used to only have them on Shrove Tuesday, now it’s every time they are on the menu. They were almost like an apple crumble pancake and it was amazing, though not for those who don’t 20161203_102525like sweet treats. They were so filling which is great way to set yourself up for a day of walking! The Boy went for potato hash with two poached eggs. He didn’t share, which meant when I took my parents there recently I had to get it to see what it was like. Though this might have just been because the pancakes had been taken off the menu, devastated!! The Potato Hash I had was made with pumpkin, potato hash, TWO poached eggs and pickled onion. It was delicious! The two men, also had the potato hash, added salami to theirs for an extra €2.50 while my mother went for the “Gubbean Chorizo Hot Pot” – a spicy chorizo “stew” for want of a better word, with peppers, tomatoes and rustic bread! They were all beautifully presented which is always great to see, even when the place is busy the chef seems to take pride in each dish he makes. It’s safe to say we all completely cleared our bowls and were all stuffed after. They also have delicious looking baked goods on the counter, take one away if you’re going for a walk after!

I wouldn’t say it was super expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either…I guess what I mean is they had the pricing exactly right for what they are serving – good, well prepared Irish independent food. You can see the care in every aspect of the café, every detail seemed to have been thought about!

Meet Me in the Morning was a perfect start to my parents time over here in Dublin and it kept us going until well into the afternoon which is exactly what you need when you’re having a tour of Dublin by your daughter. By the end of their time here they were still saying this was their favourite breakfast spot, maybe even their favourite meal…

I highly recommend heading over here! And I know will definitely be heading back again…whether on my own or with more visitors!

 

 

The Cake Cafe, Dublin 

​The Cake Café (http://www.thecakecafe.ie/) has the cutest sun trap court yard with a lot colourful tables which is why I was drawn to go here. I found myself a table inside next to the window thinking outside might may be too chilly. I promptly spent the next 30 minutes melting in the sun! But it was nice regardless. Better too warm than too cold in my world. They have all there cakes and sweet treats displayed up on the counter making it impossible to say no to something. I follow them on Instagram and saw they made meringues with lemon curd in the morning, I had to try them. I have to say it was a little pricy. It was €7.05 for the meringue and an oolong tea. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful but felt that it was a bit much. I do understand why, they make all there cakes in their bakery with Irish ingredients but yes, a bit much this time. The lemon curd was perfectly sharp which complimented the sweetness of the meringue. And I always love fresh fruit with my meringue, it reminds me of my Nanna at Christmas time. The oolong tea was nice, nothing really to report it was just nice. With all the beautiful crockery it was shame that the tea pot was just plain white. It felt as if they almost forgot that people would order anything other than their cakes and just picked a random teapot with no thought or feeling. I felt this took away from the rest of the café. Even if it had just been one block colour it would have been better than the plain white. It would have felt as if they wanted everything to be pretty instead of just the one plate. 

A definite plus side of the bakery is that it’s environmentally friendly! They use rain water to flush there toilets. Its might not seem like much but it’s great seeing cafes make an effort because in the end a small thing is always better than nothing. 

The plate that it was served on was gorgeous. As soon as I finished I had to flip it over to see who it was made by! I was curious if you could buy it from them. Designed by Pony Ltd (http://www.ponybox.co.uk/words/) for the café I knew I was on to something. The design, “A tale of city-crossed lovers”, is available to buy from the cake café online store for €16. When I’m rich I might have to get myself one. They also do a lovely range of other bits such as tea towels, aprons and cushions. They do whole cakes in a range of sizes and flavours as well as savoury platters. They even do prosecco if you’re feeling a bit fancy.

In all, it was nice…and I’ve used that and lot I feel while writing this, it’s just because it was exactly that – nice. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, there just wasn’t anything amazing about it either…

Travel isn’t always smooth…

​I write this as I sit on yet another plane early in the morning. This sounds selfish and a tad arrogant but having moved to Dublin a couple of months ago I’ve spent a lot of time in the airport going home to my family in London, nothing to exotic or luxurious! This mornings events made me think of all those times when I’ve had bad travel…some are small and some make you question every decision you’ve made…

In my grand old age of 26 I’ve discovered I can’t cope without coffee. This morning proved that. Arriving later than I would like at the airport, 45minutes before my flight which is cutting it very fine in my eyes, I speed through the airport cursing the fact that I don’t think I have time to get a coffee. I stride through with the clip clop of my shoes echoing through the terminal. I arrive at my gate, I see a seat and happy to know that I’ve got there in plenty of time, no one has even started queuing yet. Very odd, people seem to love to queue before the gates open…panic sets in, I know something’s not right…crap I’ve gone to the wrong gate! I can’t see the departure sign and my flight is due to take off in 25 minutes, what if it’s the other side of their terminal? Calm, breath, it will be okay. 20 minutes till take off. Panic. Breath. Walk, just walk. I finally spot the departure board. The gate is close, I relax, I take a seat, and obviously there is so much time I could have crawled and got to my gate in time! 
Vietnam to Cambodia, its dark, its the middle of the night, okay it’s 9.30pm, but its pitch black and we are in the middle of nowhere. But let’s rewind and explain how we ended up there. We had done a “tour” on the Mekong Delta, really relaxing, saw coconut candy being made (was delicious!), got to wear a “traditional” Vietnamese hat (I was probably more excited than I should have been), went to a bee farm (cute) and saw a python (less cute!). It had been a really fun day. We all got back on this tiny very touristy bus but the two of us were soon turfed off and left at a bus stop ready to get a local bus but being told we would be dropped at our hostel. Didn’t think too much of it, must be totally normal we told ourselves. So we got on this sleeper bus and layer down and dozed…hours past, we were told it would only take two, something wasn’t right, we should have got there by now…it’s fine, we’ve learnt that nothing runs on time here it’s always a guess. It’s now dark. We have no idea whereabouts in Vietnam we are. The bus stops, a guy tells us to get off we are there, where there is I still have no idea. There was nothing, you could hardly see two meters in front of you. And low and behold there are two convenient motorcycles there, “happy to help”, “give us your bags we take you” they say. Oh hell no, I do not part with my bag and I do not get on strangers bikes (well in the middle of the night I don’t!). We look at each other and prepare ourselves for walking, we didn’t know where or what direction all we knew was we are walking quickly away from them. And that’s what we did…we walked until we spotted people. No English. They pointed and we thanked them in Vietnamese and carried on. Half an hour later we saw lights and instantly relieved. A hotel, not ours and very fancy looking one for the middle of nowhere but it meant people and a bed if we needed it. The concierge was amazing, so sweet and pointed us to where our hostel was. We had walked 2km in the dark with our backpacks and we’ve never been so happy to see a dirty smelly hostel. I still wonder what would have happened if we got on those bikes…
Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City – that moment when you arrive in a city having just got off a ridiculously long train and just need to dump your bags and get some food. Guy comes up to you and says centre? You assume he’s a taxi driver as that’s what they all do, you haggle and follow. So that’s what we did. But it got strange very quickly…we passed all the other taxis and he then pointed at his car…a plain white people carrier (very similar to one my grandparents had when I was growing up, comforting in a way). And then you see it’s full of cleaning products. This guy is definitely not in any way a legit driver. Safe to say we backtracked quickly. He yelled and we walked faster. We pretty much threw ourselves into a taxi, no haggling. We didn’t care. We honestly felt that that moment we could have had our finger tips burnt off and the car would have been bleached clean…we would have never been there. 
Netherlands, Amsterdam – early mornings are not my friend. Having left my friends at 5am I was tired, that’s my excuse anyways. This is only the second time I’ve left a foreign country on my own and not gone home. As I’m sure you’ve all realised I’m a nervous traveller. Once I’m in a country I’m fine. But getting there I panic, sweat and want to cry, every time without fail. And this time was no exception. I get off the plane and walk for ages. Amsterdam airport is massive!! Took at least 20 minutes to get through it. I queued for the ticket machine, and with lots of people behind me I wanted to be quick. It’s so straight forward it literally spells it out for you “city centre” easy. I choose that, get a return and rush to the platform, 2 minutes to my train. Run!!! I get on, get a seat. See the time. Crap. My train should have already left why is it still here. Ah, this is not my train, my train has definitely already gone. It’s fine, hop back off, and boom the doors literally close in front of me. Hmmm. Now what. I have a ticket clearly marked for the centre and I’m on a train to who knows where. Stay calm is what I keep saying. Don’t cry. It’s fine. Just get off at the next station and go back and start again. 15 minutes until the next stop, annoying but that’s just one of those things. Maybe if I had stopped and read the sign and not acted like a Londoner I wouldn’t have been in this mess. Then the ticket lady rocks up. Ahh no valid ticket. I start babbling, apologising a lot for only speaking English, didn’t even mentioned my ticket just babbled about only speaking English and how sorry I was that I hadn’t learnt Dutch, or German or French. She smiles, laughs and obviously replies in perfect English. She clearly pitties me. And tells me to get off in two stops time and there will be a train to the centre on platform five. I mange this, semi proud of myself before realising if I hadn’t been so stupid in the first place I wouldn’t have been in this situation! I get on the fast track train and realise still no valid ticket as it clearly states the airport to the centre. I’m so tense that by the time I get off I’m just so relieved that  I didn’t get a fine it takes me a few minutes to realise I’m in the picturesque Amsterdam! 
I’ve had many moments like these but these three stick out. These are the moments of travel that I look back on and always seem to wonder “what if”…so many different outcomes. I would like to say it’s been due to quick thinking, I’m smart and I worked it out. But in reality, I’ve been lucky. Some how it’s just worked out. What I have tried to learn is not not panic, clearly this morning shows I’m still learning that. But that’s really it, things will go wrong. Travel is not smooth but you’ll learn from it and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. 

LEGIT Coffee, Dublin

The name sums this place up really, LEGIT coffee co (https://www.facebook.com/LEGIT-Coffee-Co-1674469519458573/). It’s honest, good coffee. It’s a small cute little café img_20160909_090734situated on Meath Street in Dublin 8. Meath Street is an interesting one, I personally would have probably not have gone down there if I didn’t know LEGIT was there. The coffee shop is the perfect place to take a book or plan a trip. There are a couple of tables up the front with lots of natural light and overlooking the counter making it hard to say no to their baked goods (sausage rolls, cakes and pastries!). I snuck in and got myself a table at the back and made myself at home before ordering at the counter – a flat white and pain au chocolat. I had been craving a good pain au chocolat for weeks and this hit the spot perfectly. It had beautiful lamination, making a crisp shell to hold the lovely chocolate in. The room at the back where I was sat was long and thin. My step dad would not have enjoyed it too much as you really only stare at a wall. He makes me move tables if I pick one where he has to look at a wall, you would think he doesn’t like my company and needs something else to look at. There is some lovely art work which dresses it up but not a people watching spot, hence the need for a book if you’re on your own. The coffee here is roasted by Baobab which is located in Celbridge, Co Kildare (approx. half an hour outside of Dublin). They work hard to bring Ireland great coffee and they achieve it here. They sell sandwiches too which look amazing but I didn’t go for one (this time!) though I definitely will be returning for lunch soon! Also if you’re looking for other things to do, the Guinness Storehouse is only a 10 minute walk away. You can do a tour here, and obviously have a Guinness!