Exploring Lisboa

I have to say Lisbon wasn’t on my top places to visit until very recently…mainly when I discovered it was one of the most consistently warm places in Europe and I had a Hen Do to plan! I didn’t think much of it. I just thought of it as “just another city” and oh man, was I wrong! I think I fell in love the second I got a taxi from the airport. I don’t normally get a taxi from the airport but the three bridesmaids were waiting for me to arrive so I wanted to get there ASAP. A quick note on that, if you can book a taxi in advance, I ended up waiting for about 15 minutes. And yes, at this point I realised it would have been quicker to get the metro but we live and learn.20170430_130655.jpgIn the morning, I popped down the road and get some freshly made pastries to take back to the apartment and all the girls. I did take a mini detour as it was so quiet I couldn’t resist seeing the Arco da Rua Augusta and Terreiro do Paço empty! Though it’s beautiful at anytime of day it’s great to see it so early. I would recommend getting up early on one of your days just to see the city in silence – there really is something beautiful about it.IMG-20170502-WA0044I love to walk (something my family still can’t believe having ones loathed it!) so I organised a good walk around the city. Starting at Carmo Convent, which is ruin of a church. Founded in 1389 it was the largest church in Lisbon but in 1755, an earthquake off the coast of Portugal caused significant damage. Today, it is a roofless nave open to the heavens, a gorgeous piece of history. The square on which it looks on to, Largo do Carmo, has some great little bars so we grabbed a seat, quite literally pulling them into the sun and some sangria – after all when in Lisboa… It was lovely just to sit, chat and watch people coming and going, a mixture of tourists and locals. IMG-20170729-WA0019Not long after we headed up to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, the gardens to Palacio Foz. They have the prettiest views! When we arrived there was a little market going on with food, drink and knick-knacks. It was incredibly touristy but still nice to look round and grab some food. It was so cheap! A massive ham and cheese sandwich with a beer for €5! Plus it tasted fantastic!IMG-20170502-WA0036After a nice chilled out lunch looking over Lisbon we headed on to Park Bar…it was pretty cool. Again touristy – but let’s be honest all rooftop bars are but we all still love them. Park is located on top of a multi-story car park. They don’t take reservations and they make it super clear that they don’t!! It was packed but we managed to squeeze onto a table! It overlooks the city, the river and the bell tower of Santa Catarina. It’s safe to say it was pretty spectacular. The booze wasn’t actually too pricey either and guess what, we had sangria!! Have you noticed a pattern here, views and booze.Screenshot_20170729-113747After a while we left to continue walking around the city. It is just beautiful to meander around, to look up, all the different tiles, the different floors, something different on every street. This is why I fell in love. It was genuinely such a gorgeous city. At this point though we realised were reminded as to why Lisbon is known for its seven hills…our calves were definitely feeling it! We headed back to our apartment to relax, shower and play some hen do games. Check out my blog here if you are looking for inspiration on Hen Do Activities. After much squealing, laughing and drinking we headed out. Drinking out was good fun, there is so many places to explore. Head over to FXFactory where there is a lot going on.Screenshot_20170729-113937The following morning a couple of us walked up to Castelo de S. Jorge. A Moorish Castle, approximately 1500 years old, with parts of the structure being built in the 6th Century! Though we didn’t realise you had to pay so we abandoned that and got Pastéis de Nata from Nata Lisboa which I have to say are a must! They were incredible. I want to move to Lisbon just for these!20170430_125626-e1501325157447.jpgJust around the corner from here is the best wine and food tasting! It worked out at about €35 pp. With this you got a bottle of red, white and wait for it…port…between…FOUR people!! Not just the the food was great and the service even better! We were there for about 2 and a half hours just taking it all in.IMG-20170502-WA0069Make sure you check out “Time Out Market”. It opened in May 2014, and has 35 kiosks selling regional specialities, such as Azeitão sheep’s cheese, flowers, Alentejo ham, sardines, wines and chocolates. Grab some food, some souvenirs (note – you can’t take sardines in your hand luggage, apparently they are classed as a liquid!) and take a load off your feet!

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There was still so much to see! I want to head back just to wonder down the small streets, take it all in all over again.

 

 

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Top 10 Things to do in New Zealand – North Island

As all my friends and family know I fell in love with New Zealand. The scenery, the people, and the drink. I say I’m lucky enough to have gone back to NZ recently for the Lion’s 2017 tour but we worked hard and have made the choice that travel is more important than other things. We wanted to go back to see this beautiful country again. And as expected it didn’t disappoint. I’ve decided to do a few blogs on this gorgeous country as I don’t want to bore you all with one big one, or make you too envious! I’ve put together my Top 10 of the North Island. This is definitely just a guide as I’m sure if you go yourselves you’ll find new and different things which would go on your own list. I’ve organised it geographical aside honestly don’t think I could put this in a true Top 10 List!

1. Cape Reinga

This is (nearly!) the top most point of New Zealand, where the Tanzanian Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. To get here we drove straight from Auckland, approximately a five and a half hour drive. A hard one but worth every second. The road has only recently become sealed which is great, makes the drive that bit more pleasant. There is also a campsite on the coast about a 10 minute drive from the car park.

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Park up and take the 10 minute walk down to the lighthouse. Just walking down is gorgeous. The view is just incredible. It completely took my breath away. The blue sky (we were very lucky, especially as it was torrential rain the day before), the lighthouse and the closing sea. It gives an end of the world feel.  You can understand why Maori legend be lives this is where the souls go to make it to the underworld. Just stand and take it all in, and I can tell you now that feeling of awe will never leave you.

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2. Auckland

One quarter of the population live in Auckland and you can see why. This might not be the reason why you go to New Zealand but it’s well worth a few days there. Start your morning by hitting up one of the amazing cafes – my recommendations are either Bluebells Cakery or Chuffed. Go for a cupcake at bluebells or the pilly steak sandwich at Chuffed. Neither will disappoint. And obviously the coffee at both are fantastic.

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Head up Mt Eden, a dormant volcano. It gives some great views of the city. At the summit you can see both coasts at once. We actually climb the smaller peak first thinking that was it, till we got to the top and actually saw mount Eden behind! For more great views you have the sky tower which is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere.

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The Auckland museum is a must! A few highlights – a Moa (now extinct) replica which was huge. The boy pointed out it was too tasty to the Maoris to survive. The section devoted to Maori culture is interesting though a little reparative and hard to follow. The paintings of some Maoris where incredible, the tattoos they have and the way they distinguished tribes was impressive.

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3. Hot water beach

It’s up on the Coromandel Peninsula so a little out of the way but well worth the trip. Either hire a spade for $5 at your campsite or little shops on the way. Most places take a deposit of about $20 just so you’re aware, wouldn’t want you caught short and not be able to get digging!

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There is a Top10 campsite near by to stay at which is incredibly useful as it’s only about a 10 minute walk to the beach. Plus, they are so helpful and lovely – they gave us a late check out for free as well as the facilities being clean and well kept. Oh and only an extra $2 for a powered sight, which I can tell you now makes all the difference when campervan-ing around. They also have up when low tide is. You want to head down two hours either side of low tide to be able to dig your pool.

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It’s great fun! Find a hot patch and get digging. But watch out it can get burning hot. I was sceptical on my way down that it would only be a few degrees warmer than the sea but oh how wrong it was. We paired up with a few other Lion’s fans and created a pretty big hole, with a wall to protect to us from the sea and everything. It was great fun digging the springs and then relaxing in the water. Safe to say the boys had more fun digging the hole and protecting it with walls and even a moat , than relaxing! Not sure I’ve laughed so much at grown men effectively playing with sand like children.

4. Watimo caves

Drive down to Otorohanga for the Waitomo Caves! First you abseil 27m down into a stream, it’s a lot deeper than it looked. From here you walk into the caves which are incredible – the glow worms created what looked like a starry night. If you’re lucky you might get to see a weta! It’s an incredibly active time with lots of small holes to climb through – I have to admit I passed on the first as I couldn’t think of anything worse, the second I just followed everyone and guess what, I ended up stuck! I was not happy! Though our tour guide just laughed which in a way made me ease up and I clearly got out otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. You then get to do Black Water Rafting which is amazing: you turn your lights off so it’s pitch black apart from the glow worms – just beautiful! You’ve gone down so you’ve got to rock climb out!! It was hard I have to say, and scary but you really don’t have a choice  as it’s the only way out.

5. Hobbiton

Based on the outskirts of Matamata, you have Hobbiton, the real film set for both LOTR and the Hobbit films. Photos do describe this best (and I don’t want to ruin it too much for you!) so here are just a few facts –

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  1. The hobbit holes were built to different perspectivesie50%-100% to make Gandolf look bigger and the hobbits smaller. Very cleverly done.
  2. Everything is real except the mould which was made using yogurt, and the oak tree in the hobbit.
  3. The original oak tree in the LOTR is real but Jackson needed a younger looking tree for the Hobbit so took it down, replanted it and replaced it with a fake tree with over 200,000 fake leaves on it.
  4. The Green Dragon pub’s exterior was real but the interior was built after they came back to film the Hobbit which means you canhave a drink in it. You can also purchase these in the shop to take home!

6. Taupo

This is a little town on the edge of Lake Taupo (in case you couldn’t work that out!) The view over the lake is gorgeous. You can see as far as the mountain range on a clear day. Here you can take a tour to the Maori rock carvings which are pretty cool.

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In the morning we got a great coffee and toasties from Stir Cafe. We took it back to the van which we parked up next to the lake and just admired the view. It was a crisp morning which really just added to the whole experience.

Just north of here, about a 15 minute drive, are the Huka Falls. 900 litres of water pouring over every second is definitely worth a visit. They are beautifully clear blue and the sound is pretty intense! There are a few walks you can do but to be honest we just went to look at the falls.

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There are some great little pubs just set back from the lake which do great food and beer. If there is a rugby match on I highly recommend you go to Pub n Grub. They have a great atmosphere and great hospitality (even to the opposition!!). Watching rugby is a must in NZ and where better than at this place with a great view too.

7. Mt Ngauruhoe and the National Park

This is perrfect for those that love some good walks! The first one we did was to the Taranaki waterfalls which was great. It’s  a really scenic walk and the falls were beautiful. This is only about an hour round walk.

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But my favouirte walk, which I really think if you can you should do… 5 – 6 hours, 17 kilometres return to the Tama Lakes! There is a view of the lower lake before climbing a steep slope to the upper lake view point. Make sure you take windproof clothing! It can get cold! Don’t forget your camera, you’re going to want it.

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When you’ve finished all your walking go for a cuppa in the Grand Chateau it gives an incredible view, plus you can say you’ve had tea where the LOTR cast did!

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8. Napier

The Capital of Art Deco, Napier is a must for people who love architecture and a bit of history. This whole city was flattered by an earthquake in 1929 which meant that when it came to rebuilding the city it was built in the gorgeous art deco style, popular with that period. Take it all in with a walk around the city. Check out the Telegraph Building and the what is actually now the Lone Star.  Stop off at Hopi for a coffee before mooching round a bit more. The opossum world is worth a visit, though only because you won’t see this anywhere else. The hate of opossums in NZ is summed up in this one shop!

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Head out of town to Silky Chocolate Cafe. Go via the National Tobacco Company. Another great building demonstrating the 1920s decor. Have the chocolate extravaganza. It’s a warm melted chocolate pot topped with cream with the option of chilli flakes. It’s incredibly sickly but brilliant all the same. For $8 there is a museum you can do too. It’s pretty interesting learning about the origin or chocolate and some of the biggest chocolate factories of today.

IMG_9291.JPG9. Martinbourgh

This has a cute village feel, it actually reminded me of my home town!. It’s full of those nick nack shops and of course wine! The whole area is full of vineyards. This wine region, for me, is the best in New Zealand. It’s a bold shout I know. Go for either a Pinot Noir which they specialise in or the classic Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling all made in the area. The Rieslings are one of my top choices, lovely and a little sweet. Plus not badly priced – two glasses $16 (£9/€10) wouldn’t get that here anymore. So spend a couple of days here ether visiting the vineyards or the bars, both will give you lots of different wines to choose from.

10. Wellington

The first stop in Wellington has to be the Weta Cave Workshop. It’s the company co-founded by Peter Jackson who made a lot of the costumes ie armour for LOTR as well as working on projects like Tintin and Avatar! You get to see the way technology has developed and shaped the film industry. It’s really interesting, even for those who aren’t big film nerds. For those Hobbit fans, you get to see the troll statues used – they are huge and so detailed! For lunch, head to the Chocolate Fish Cafe. Food and coffee were beautiful and the staff were so helpful. Plus, drinks also came with a marshmallow chocolate fish!

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Head to Te Papa which is one of the top museums in NewZealand. You’ll learn a lot about the history of the country and it answers loads of questions that we had ie why New Zealand was involved in the Vietnam war. Plus it was free which is always great for the purse strings.

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There are a lot of beer places to pick from but I would recommend heading slightly out of the main town and go to the Garage Project. It’s pretty small and can get very busy but the beer is worth it. And the service is great so even though it’s busy you’re not waiting long to be served. If you enjoy the beer, you can head down to their brewery and off licence and pick up a bottle…or can…or growler!

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Do the cable car, and admire the views! It’s not too expensive and it’s good fun. It also takes you up right near the botanical gardens which are always nice in any city.

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It was hard to just pick 10 so here are a cheeky few other places I would recommend – Rotorua (Thermal Activity), Whakarewarewa (Redwood Froest), New Plymouth (Seaside town), Surf Highway,  Mt Taranaki, Ohakune (Mount Rauapehu), Palmerston North (New Zealand Rugby Museum).

 

What are your favourite place in New Zealand? Or where have you always wanted to go?

Pergola on The Roof

What I love about London is all the unique pop ups you get in the summer! As I don’t actually live there now it’s hard to squeeze them all in, but don’t worry I do find away! 

With an afternoon free when visiting my family for a weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with a friend and go to one of these lovely places! 

First on the list was Pergola on the Roof. Situated just past Westfield Shopping centre in West London and both of us based that way it was meant to be! Also helped by the fact it was a gorgeous sunny day (annoyingly though sunglasses were forgotten!) we headed up. We didn’t have a reservation but they do have a few seats available for walk ins. They obviously aren’t as swanky as the reserved ones, just being garden folding chairs but still in did us perfectly. Like I said annoying we forgot the sunnies, the stones reflected a lot of light so I did spend a lot of time squinting at my friend! Thankfully she didn’t take too much offence to it – well I hope she didn’t!! 

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Obviously the first place to start is the bar! After lots of debating we ordered two frozen margaritas…what they don’t mention is you can only get that from the main bar, frustrating but as it wasn’t busy not too irritating. They were pretty good, alcoholic slushes, what’s not to love?! Down side though, and yes we know why it’s the case, but they were served in plastic cups. When it’s around £8 a drink you would think that you would get at least a hard plastic glass but unfortunately not. This bugs me not because no one really likes drinking out of them but they aren’t exactly great for the environment. Maybe something they should think about for next year…or even their winter event! But let’s move on from that, they were refreshing which was exactly what you want on a warm summer day in London. 

After drinking and chatting food was going to happen. Starting with Breddos Tacos, we ordered a couple of Tacos (obviously haha) to share. And man, they were good! We didn’t look amazing while we ate them, but what are friends for but not to mock you while you try not to drop your food everywhere.

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With the second drink in hand we then moved on to 8 Horton Square. Describing 20170507_143625themselves as Mediterranean Food Shack, you really can’t go wrong. If we are honest though, we wanted chips, picky food is what we were after but with Salt n Sauce only serving them with their fish – I don’t think they had prepared for being so busy as they did have just chips on their menu! And with Patty &a Bun being so busy we went to 8 Hoxton Square. And oh we were delighted! With them doing deep fired baby potatoes with probable the best mayo ever we felt like we had landed the jackpot. Safe to say we got our own massive bowls and polished them off easily. I think we will actually need to head to their actual restaurant to try some more of their food soon…maybe when pop up season is over! 

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The atmosphere was perfect – lots of young people with friends, family lunches and definitely some first dates going on. It felt relaxed, yet energetic. There was a buzz that you only get with day drinks in the sun. 

Head up, and don’t forget those sunglasses! 

 

Planning a Hen Do!

I had the great experience of helping to plan my Big Sister’s Hen Do. I was so excited when she asked me to be her bridesmaid but the thought of planning a Hen Do made me nervous, like really nervous! Who do you invite? What should we do? Where should we go? So this is my mini guide for all those out there having the same stresses as me.


Talk to the Bride

The best place to start is to talk to the Bride – it is her day (or weekend) after all! Find out what she would like and go from there. Some people want a lots of classic hen do things (talking willies everywhere), some people don’t want any of that and other will want a combo of the two. It’s hard when you fall into one category but the Bride another. Obviously bring some of your own personality to it too, otherwise it will end up feeling very forced but not just that you won’t enjoy yourself either. The main thing is though, don’t force the Bride to do anything they won’t like. 


Guest List

Also get the Bride to do up a guest list!! Don’t guess as you never know you might miss someone off or invite someone they aren’t that close to anymore! Either way make sure you get that list very early on. In fact, pester the Bride until you do and don’t start any major planning until you know. If you’ve got a group coming from all over check everywhere flights/trains to that location or make sure people can drive to it. Pick a location and give everyone an idea. We planned for the most number of people but made sure that if X number of people couldn’t make it it would still be affordable for everyone else.


Pick your location

This is hard, but hopefully your Bride will give you an idea of what she wants. My Sister was after sun and relaxation. So as she lives in the UK that meant time to head abroad, as, let’s be honest the UK isn’t the sunniest. We went off to the amazing Lisbon! It was perfect for what we were after, sun, scenery and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. We were able to get an AirBnB big enough to fit us all in and still have space to hang out and play games. Now that leads me on to the next point…


Games

I was feeling uncomfortable about thinking of games to play – remember it’s my big sister’s hen do, not a friends. I was lucky enough though to be planning with one of her best friends! She came up with some amazing ones, here they are so you don’t have to worry about thinking of things to do:

Pass the Parcel – instead of music you stick an embarrassing story of each guest on the different layers. Whoever has the parcel has to guess who the story is about. It’s a great one to ease people in when not everyone knows each other. They get it right first time they nominate someone to do a shot, get it wrong first time and they have to do one.

Find your Partner – everyone picks a piece of paper out of a bag and they have “position” on and you have to get into them with your male/female counter part. This can cause lots of screaming! Be warned your neighbours might not like this one as we found out!

Build your Willie – you have 2 minutes to make a willie out of play dough. The bride picks her favourite 

Make a Wedding Dress – lots of loo roll is needed for this. Split into teams, pick one person to dress up (one should be the bride!) you have 5 minutes to make the best dress. The game host picks the best one.

For our winners – they nominate a shot

Our losses – got shots


But you don’t have to have alcohol! These games are just as funny sober! 


When we looked for our accommodation we made sure there was a space to play these games. Lots of people just get hotel rooms but this felt much more personal, I would highly recommend getting a house/flat!


Cost

This is a hard one! In groups you are always going to have people on different salaries. Don’t make people feel pressured to come, never ask why when they say they can’t attend. Main thing is plan to a budget and make people aware of that when you start planning. Give a list – flights, accommodation, an activity, food/drink and what you think they will cost. Also some hen groups will pay for the bride…I personally don’t think that’s necessary and thankfully neither did our bride. Ours came to about €240 plus spending money. I didn’t think that was too bad for 3 nights in a different country. 


Activity

It’s great if you can to plan an activity out. We went for wine amd port tasting, we were in Portugal after all. It meant the Bridesmaids could also relax and not worry for a few hours as we were very much in the hands of someone else. It doesn’t have to be very big but try to do something that the Bride has always wanted to do or will just enjoy. If she’s an out doors girl maybe go rock climbing or if she likes to be pampered book nails to be done. Don’t make it an expensive thing, I would aim for around  £30 per person if it’s a full afternoon thing.


Goodie Bags

Now this has become a thing to do recently and I think it’s entirely optional. You should never go expecting a gift bag. And if you do do one, it doesn’t have to have anything expensive in! Plus remember you have to get it all to the location to so try not to get anything too heavy or bulky. I did not take my own advice – I took 13 glasses with Beyoncé quotes on a plane, in my hand luggage! Safe to say I did not have many clothes! Get the transfers from here – bespokebride.com – if you fancy being as crazy as me! 

We then got paracetamol, tic tacs, Bride Tribe transfers and a homemade glass charm! I have to say one of my favourite parts was the Bride Tribe transfers, super simple but brings everyone together. I also advise you take spares just in case anything goes wrong, don’t want one person feeling left out. One of the other bridesmaids also found some fantastic personalised bags too! “Lets Party Bitches” one side and the girls names on the other! It was a great little touch.


Decorations 

I think the more the better – and they don’t have to be expensive. We printed off 80 photos of the bride through the ages and stuck them all up around the flat. Safe to say this was one of the best things we did. All the girls had a great time laughing at them all…

We also got the classic “Team Bride” banner and some colourful pom-poms. Also, it tends to be the case, but a lot of one group will start to get married and have hen dos around the same time. So when packing up, don’t throw them away, up-cycle and give them to the next person planning a hen do! They will appreciate it and it doesn’t feel like a waste of money!


Number One Rule

ENJOY YOURSELF! You’re going to have put a lot of effort into it all and it is a break for you too so make sure you’re having fun! 

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.

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.