Cycling In The Aran Islands

aran islandsGenerally you shouldn’t admit that you aren’t good at cycling. I mean, we say “it’s just like riding a bicycle” about something that is relatively easy and/or that anyone can do. I, however, cannot ride a bicycle. I mean, in theory I can, I understand the basics but in practicality…no, I cannot. Do you remember that episode of Frasier where Frasier learns to ride a bike but keeps crashing into things?  That’s me. I mean, I see the various walls, bollards and other obstructions but I just can’t seem to keep myself from driving straight into them, like the proverbial moth to the flame. Many times on my European adventures, well meaning people say to me “let’s go rent a bike and cycle around ______” and I always say “yes, great idea, I am a competent adult woman who has gone to University, held down and been good at many jobs and successfully travelled solo around Europe, I can certainly ride a bicycle” completely forgetting my penchant for colliding into all around me. Usually these days end with complete and utter destruction of my self-esteem (and usually the bike) and a firm resolve to not do the cycling ever again.

In May we (my boyfriend, sister and I) took a trip to Inis Mor (Inishmore) one of the Aran Islands. We arrived full of hope and belief in my cycling ability and feeling confident and worldly because we had not gotten sea-sick on the ferry. As cars are not allowed on the island (except by people who live there) and it is relatively small, the main method of transport for tourists is cycling.  We rented our bikes and made it to our Bed and Breakfast with only minor hiccups (me, crashing). The sun was shining, the sea was blue, people were drinking sangria on patios, everything seemed perfect.

 

So, we fortified ourselves with Bulmers Irish Cider and set off to cycle to Dun Aonghasa, a prehistoric fort. A fort, which, the receptionist informed us, was a “a nice bicycle ride on flat and even terrain.” YOU GUYS. I am from the prairies where we regularly tell the joke about the farmers dog who ran away and they could still see it for three days. We build hills so people can go skiing. As someone well acquainted with “flat and even terrain” I would not describe this trip as such. There were many hills. I crashed into a wall and five minutes later crashed into another wall. There were blood (mine) ,sweat (mine) and tears (also mine) but eventually we arrived to the base of the fort where we needed to be FORTified (hehe) with more Bulmers. There were loads of tourists around us who, I can only imagine, were also thinking about how much they hate bicycles, although they seemed to be smiling which I have no explanation for. We left our bikes and hiked up to the fort.  The view from up there was spectacular, no sarcasm it was amazing. It felt as though we were at the end of the world or in an especially magical place.

aran islands Cian

dun aonghasa

As it was starting to drizzle we headed back down with me going at a snails pace wondering how I could get out of cycling back. Well my friends, tell the universe what you want and it will deliver. When we got to the bottom of the hill our bikes had been stolen. I pretended to be upset for like, 30 seconds, max. I was like an actor in a D-movie about monsters who’s boyfriend/girlfriend has just been eaten by a bad CGI shark/killer croc/demon spider. That was my level of acting about the missing bicycles. Note that we had paid for the bike rental and deposit in cash and they hadn’t taken any information from us. And, as the island is relatively small the most likely thing is that the company had collected bikes they thought were left behind or something similar. In any case at that moment a taxi/small bus zoomed up and rescued us like a special agent zooming up to rescue Jason Bourne at the last minute (I don’t know if that’s what happens, I only saw one of those films). We made it back into town, had dinner and retired to our 80’s extravaganza hotel. There was a lot of wood panelling and frills in there is all I can say.  In the morning we took the ferry home and my sister and I got massively sea sick. When we arrived back to the mainland we both disembarked with the speed of lightening and nearly fell on our knees to kiss the ground, like a sailor who had been lost at sea and was seeing land for the first time in ages.

Fin

check out my instagram for more pictures of my travels in Ireland…and, let’s be honest, my dogs

It’s Okay To Be Sad About The London Terror Attacks

This week’s terror attacks in London were scary and sad. Four people died, leaving behind family members and friends and colleagues who now have a massive hole in their lives. For the rest of us it’s frightening to think that cities like London or Paris, European capitals with large police presences, cities many of us  have visited, could be dangerous. Now I’m not necessarily extolling large police presences or saying that as Western nations we are somehow blameless victims of the current political climate. Furthermore there are people being radicalised on all sides and that’s scary too. But this isn’t a post about that. If you spend a lot of time on social media, as I do, you know the cycle. First shock and outrage and then criticism for not being as outraged about the other injustices in the world and then pleas that we remember that most people are good. In the travel community it goes like this: everytime there’s a terrorist attack, or a backpacker is murdered or dies accidentally or some other tragedy occurs the travel community has barely uttered words of condolences to the family before they start extolling the virtues of backpacking and couchsurfing, of the beauty of whatever country the attack/accident took place in, of the virtues of travel in general and of course the pleas to everyone to “keep travelling”, “conquer your fears”, “don’t let the bad guys win” and blah blah blah and I’m here to say bullshit to all of that. First of all it’s a bit trite and a bit silly to tell people to not “let the terrorists win” by telling them they can still go on their  beach holiday/ 2 week Eurotrip. Secondly while anger, unity, and bravery are all valid and good emotional responses to such events sadness and fear are also valid and good. We can’t dwell in these emotions forever but experiencing them momentarily doesn’t make us weak or bad.  Thirdly it seems useless to me to pretend that there is no danger anywhere in the world  and we should live as if there wasn’t. Of course bad things can and do happen anywhere but, for example, is it  inherently more dangerous to stay with strangers from couchsurfing than a hotel with all the security that that entails? Of course. Does that mean that no one should ever stay with someone from Couchsurfing? Of course not. But can we really make a better, safer travel community without addressing actual issue? I would argue that we cannot . Lastly there is a kind of travel we do need to do but it isn’t one that necessarily involve a physical travel. Rather we need to seek out people and cultures that are different from ours, to learn about the struggles that, particularly marginalized people, face. We need to find ways to make the world safer and more equal for everyone.

Personally I don’t believe that travel has an intrinsic value, it can be good or bad, moral or amoral or meaningful or meaningless depending on how and why you do it . I intend to keep travelling myself. But let’s allow ourselves to feel sad and even scared by certain events, we owe that to survivors and victims of violence around the world. Let’s travel whether it’s to work or to a new country with the goal of learning something and meeting people that challenge us to be better, to be more loving, to be more understanding.

On Saturday night my boyfriend and I were exhausted and turned on the TV and were too lazy to find something to watch so we ended up watching Evan Almighty. Now this is as weird for me to write as it is for you to read but I found something useful in that film. Morgan Freeman’s God character tells Evan (Steve Carell) that he can change the world by doing small acts of kindness everyday. As simplified as it sounds I do believe we can change the world by being kind. Of course there is a time for more action and I’m not suggesting that violence can be solved by bringing someone coffee or something like that. But radical kindness, trying to see the other side of a story, a quest for truth and compassion, a dedication to doing good in all areas of our lives, fighting for justice and empowering people, I believe these things can change the world.

Me Before You-Book Review

picture of me before you in a review of the book

****Mild Spoilers Ahead****

The problem with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is that what it intends to deliver and what it does deliver are two very different things.What it presents is a story about a young, working class woman who ends up in a job as a carer for a quadriplegic and they both end up learning more about themselves and what it means to live life fully. What it actually is is a story about a young working class woman who ends up in a job as a carer for a wealthy, vapid quadriplegic which allows her to live a life she would never have been able to before. The poor/average woman who finds a wealthy man who jets her around the world and buys her luxury clothing items which she had previously  mentioned in passing is a tale as old as time in the “chick-lit” genre. Those stories, though, don’t pretend to have a moral.

When Louisa Clark loses her job in a cafe she has to quickly secure another one to support her family, for which she is the sole earner. The job she finds is as a care giver for Will Traynor, a young and handsome quadriplegic with a bad attitude. Of course, she softens him up and when she learns that he wishes to end his life she attempts to change his mind by taking him on various adventures funded by his insanely wealthy parents. Okay. Even if we take out the extremely problematic idea that people are better off dead than handicapped this book still leaves us with a lot of problems. First of all the idea is that the characters change each other but this isn’t true. Will changes Louisa but absolutely refuses to learn anything from her. Secondly, there was a bit in the middle where I thought that the book was going to make an interesting statement about classism and ableism but then it…didn’t. Louisa is thrilled to be making £9 an hour which she uses to support her sister, nephew, parents and grandparents so when Will suggests she needs to live a fuller life it is actually mind boggling that we are supposed to nod in agreement with him. Certainly someone who is supporting their family and living in a council estate isn’t going to jet off on African safaris, attend classical music concerts, enjoy fancy restaurants every weekend or take up sky diving and yet we are supposed to accept Will’s criticism of Louisa for not “living fully”. Secondly, we are told of a traumatic bit of Louisa’s past that has hindered her from being more adventurous but instead of encouraging her to seek help, both Will and the book suggest she should just get over it. Those problems aside, the writing I found to be hit and miss. There were parts that I thought were genuinely good, excellent even. If this book had just been about the life of Louisa and her family I would give it five out of five and read all of it’s sequels. However, for no clear reason at all Will refers to Louisa as “Clark” like an old-timey business man and Louisa refers to Will by his full name. Some bits were filled with absolutely useless facts (Louisa uses hand sanitizer!) But the thing that really annoyed me was the fact that while most of the book is told from the perspective of  Louisa some chapters were from the perspective of other characters. This gimmick not only didn’t reveal new information but made the characters seem like completely different people altogether.

In conclusion: this book seemed like it wanted to teach us something, but that something seems to be that dying is better than being handicapped and poor people should feel bad for not “living more fully”.

A Weekend in Sligo

Good Morning!

We were road tripping around Ireland last weekend and spent two nights in Sligo where we ate, drank, relaxed and did a bit of shopping too. Saturday night we ate at A Casa Mia. Since I lived in Spain I feel like I am the foremost authority on tapas (haha!) and these were delicious. The service was lovely too.  Before we went for dinner we stopped at a proper old man pub, that I don’t even know the name of. Bf and I both love little hole-in-the-wall type places and this was the best of the best. Rickety old stools, old men drinking, an old fireplace, bottles and kegs stacked in the corners and, according to reports, excellent Guinness. On the way home we stopped at a small waterfall for a little walk and to eat some icecream and get take away coffees. It was freezing cold and the icecream man was wearing a jacket but we didn’t let that stop us. Also, take away coffee is one of my guiltiest pleasures. Whenever I get a coffee to go people always comment that it’s “so American” but I read the other day that Canada is the third largest consumer of coffee in the world so I’d say it’s more “Canadian”. Coffee is life! In any case, did anyone do anything exciting this weekend?

sligo-collage-2

sligo-collagesligo-2sligo-3picture of glencar waterfall in ireland

 

A Weekend In Banff

Hey friends! You know what I love doing? Planning holidays. I’m sure I’ve written about this before but one time I planned a dream ski-holiday for fun. I certainly have no intention of ever going skiing again (I went once when I was a teenager and spent the whole day on my face and dreaming of poutine). Right now I’m browsing Secret Escapes (has anyone used this site and if so please tell me how good it is) and looking for a quaint Irish town to visit for our birthdays which are in July. Did you know that it’s possible to spend 7 hours in a bus in Ireland? I thought that 7 hours would take you around the whole island several times.

Anyway, since travel is still a few weeks away I’m sharing some pictures from our trip to Banff last fall.

picture of Banff in a article about travelling to Banff

 

Brunos restaurant in Banff Canada

A non-outdoors-person’s guide to Banff, ie: My 5 Must Do’s in Banff

1.) Have a breakfast burrito at Bruno’s
2.) Pamper yourself with a visit to the spa or a couples massage at Banff Avenue Bliss
3.) Have dinner or drinks in Tooloulous.
4.)Wander the streets, take a walk by the river and pop into the shops. Buying things on holiday is always so much funner.
5.)Stuff your face with a Beaver Tail covered in Nutella or sugar and cinnamon (or, if you’re me, both)

Banff Collage

Where are you dreaming of? What’s your next trip?

xx

A Weekend Camping in Northern Ireland

So the other day I went down the proverbial rabbit trail of looking at #Van Life  pictures on Instagram and Pinterest and you know how they just show you stuff similar to posts you’ve already liked? Well  now whenever I look at either it’s just loads of pictures of camping, pine trees, ceramic mugs and Airstream trailers. I think it’s really interesting that it’s so popular to pack up your life and seek freedom on the road , in a ridiculously expensive and super stylish trailer of course. I’m saying that as a person who would not, under any circumstances want to live in a trailer. And as I write this the universe is conspiring to make me living in a camper van at some point, I’m certain. Dear Universe I like the Airstreams best, okay thanks. Anyway, feeling inspired, we packed up (and by packed up I mean, I nearly packed everything we own, I am a chronic over packer and will read every article on the internet about packing light and then completely forget it and bring 20 pairs of heels to the beach, don’t judge me) and headed out to the woods on a small secluded island, that is, we walked willingly onto the set of every horror movie ever.  There was even a TV left behind just perched on a tree. I know what you are thinking. Why did we stay there after seeing that?? Well my friends,  I can tell you! It was because we’d already set up our tent that has private bedrooms and that thing was a pain in the arse. No, really, the TV was there because the river flooded this past year and washed up all the garbage that had been in the river. I’m sure the river didn’t put it in the tree and that was an intrepid camper and definitely not the guy from Saw. And now you’re asking who disposes of a TV in the river and I second that question. YOU GUYS, we have fucked up the environment already, we have to stop doing this before we all die from climate change or the animals revolting like in that wonderful garbage show ZOO. Anyway we cooked over the fire and drank beer and sangria. I’ll fully admit I’m one of those people who at every social gathering must bring my “special sangria recipe”so I can tell everyone that I lived in Spain, don’t judge me for that either. Also my “special sangria recipe” is wine and whatever fruit I find in the shop. It’s “authentic”. We brought our dog, Tyson,with us as well and were surprised at how well behaved he was, he went to sleep as soon as we put him in the tent! He did momentarily light his tail on fire by going to close to the fire, but no damage was done. It was a wonderful and rejuvenating night for everyone. Except for Tyson’s tail.

picture of camping in Northern Ireland

How did you spend your weekend? Would you live in a camper van for the long haul?

xx

 

A Weekend in Dublin

The weird thing about moving abroad is that you think you’re going to miss big things from home but it’s really the littlest things that vex and confuse you. While we were out in Dublin this weekend with friends a Spanish friend  expressed her extreme annoyance with having to wait for hot water in Ireland (it’s true, you have to ask yourself if the heat has been on to warm the water or turn on a little “immersion” heater, it’s quite the production). Other things that surprise me about life over here are the hot and cold water taps (how are you supposed to wash your hands?), how delicious the ready made meals are in the supermarket and British television, just to name a few.

dublin2

Anyway, we were in Dublin this weekend and what a surprise for both of us. I lived there for a few months when I was 20 and loved it but walking around again I remembered how cool Temple Bar is, how fun it is going out there and, to be honest, how good the  shopping is. I haven’t done any clothes shopping since moving so I went a bit wild. I was a kid in the 90’s and remember making my first style choices back then so I am nostalgic for the 90’s revival looks. My boyfriend was also surprised by Dublin and enjoyed seeing the sights.We both felt like we were seeing it with new eyes. We also ate a delicious seafood platter at Klaw, it was tasty and the server was so nice. Probably the best thing about the weekend  was being able to catch up with each other and friends and getting a little bit day drunk.

dublin collage

Back at home now and trying to recover from the weekend by eating energy bites and doing Pilates (uggh).

Anyway in conclusion, Dublin is good, working out is bad!