Wandering The Streets of Prague

One of my greatest annoyances about life in Europe is that if you ever try to make a generalisation about Europe even one that is positive, you will  be met with cries of ” but Europe is a huge place and all the countries are so diverse and cultured” as if that is not true for every continent and even country. Once I got into an online debate with someone about racism in Europe. I made it clear that I had travelled and lived in different European countries and witnessed racism in all of them. I wasn’t saying all Europeans are racist just that there are racist people everywhere. The reply I got was “but Europe is very diverse”.  Since no one has ever changed their mind about anything on the internet that is where I gave up. But I digress. The point is that even though that is my pet peeve it’s true that European countries vary drastically from each other, which is why I was excited to visit a new country, the Czech Republic, specifically Prague.

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We landed on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and after a taxi ride where I envisioned us in the next instalment of Taken (this happens in every taxi I take, I’m not singling out our very lovely taxi driver) we arrived at our hotel BoHo Prague, a small boutique hotel. If you’re staying in Prague, especially for first timers like us, I would highly recommend it. It was so comfortable and, perhaps better, it was right in the centre of the old town so it was perfect for getting to all the tourist spots, which we did all of.  Our first afternoon we drank a Radler and got a delicious sandwich from a street vendor before falling asleep with the intention (not really) of getting back up. However, the next day we awoke refreshed and ready to go to Prague castle.  The castle is one of the most expansive castles in Europe and as such it was fairly busy, but the views and architecture were impressive. After walking down we headed to the beer garden to enjoy some famous Czech beer and also another famous tourist tradition of charging you for random things. Again, not singling out Prague this happens in every tourist place but c’est la vie! We were touristing and enjoying it.

The next day we went to the Communism Museum after I made a pit stop at the capitalist museum, ie: the shopping mall, ie: mainly Sephora.  A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my husbands friends about privacy, something that I believe my generation needs to be worried about even though personally I find it hard to do the necessary work to protect my privacy. Walking through the communism museum reinforced my view that we need to be concerned about privacy as it is essential to democracy. Here were terrible stories of what happens when privacy  is taken away, and it is a recent part of history as well. That had a big impact on me and I left thinking about how forgetful we are as a human race. The museum is well presented, it feels increasingly claustrophobic as you go through it and the writing is excellent, as are the photos and displays.

Later we went for some traditional Czech food. Full disclosure, we went to one of those touristy places that was off of a  main square BUT the food was delicious.  I had the wild boar goulash and my husband had a platter of sorts which was a variety of meats, a lot of meat…so much meat. Where was I? After dinner we rolled home, very full. I would also like to add that sometimes those touristy places aren’t the horrible clichés we think they are. For example, in Valencia there are lots of paella restaurants on the beach, which obviously lend themselves to tourists but mixed in with the over-priced cocktail bars and a place where once my patatas bravas were totally covered in shrimp hairs, are the good restaurants where local families go to eat their Sunday paella. Anyway I can’t guarantee the place we ate wasn’t a shrimp-hair-on-potatoes kind of place but our food was good.

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Revived from our food coma we went on the boat tour the next morning. It was bright and crisp and the views from the river were spectacular. Later we went to a quiet Irish bar to watch football. I mean, I think we know it wasn’t me watching the football. But I enjoyed a few drinks and a lot of chicken wings. Many European cities (that I’ve been to) have these types of places, the atmosphere of an Irish pub but that has American football one night and soccer the next, that has pub quizzes and American style food but done well. And usually there’s a blend of locals, expats and tourists and I find these places charming.

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prague river view

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For our last day, we headed to the Café Louvre, a café famous for entertaining famous guests like Einstein and being a big part of café society. I am intrigued by the Lost Generation and A Moveable Feast is a book that I enjoyed immensely despite reminding myself frequently of what a, let’s say, not-good, person Ernest Hemingway was. Anyway, my point is, sitting in the café Louvre drinking a café au lait and eating my brunch with other tourists and locals, someone writing, what I imagined to be their travel memoirs, well, it felt cool and it reminded me of A Moveable Feast.   For brunch I had smoked salmon on pancakes (for fellow North Americans, they weren’t exactly pancakes but fluffy, savoury delights) with sour cream and it was delicious. Apparently there can be long waits on the weekends but we got in easily on a Sunday morning.

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This was our first time in Prague and it was a truly lovely time. I always think you need to go somewhere twice. The first time to be a tourist and the second to, well, do the non-touristy things. Which means, Prague, we’ll be back.

 

 

 

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Go Ahead, Be a Tourist

If you’ve gone on 0 trips or 7000 you know that you don’t want to be a “tourist” you want to be a “traveller” and you want to seek out “authentic experiences” you want to see “the real ____________”. I’ve heard that everywhere I’ve lived and travelled too. “Dublin’s not really Ireland” or “Rome is a typical destination for a North American” (still don’t know what that means, it’s the capital and a historic city so probably lots of people go there not just North Americans??). I am here to say bullshit. Look the truth is, yes if you live somewhere for a while it will feel different then stopping by for a week or two, and the longer you live there the more your perspective will change. Yes if you learn the language you will have a deeper experience. These things are true. But if you’re travelling somewhere, even if you’re living there, stop looking for authentic experiences. You are having an authentic experience right now. Even if you eschew all the traditional tourist things, you’re still a tourist. At least that’s how I see it. In my years of trying to be an “authentic traveller”  I have yet to have someone come up to me and say “wow Stephanie, good job, you’re a traveller and not a tourist”. What’s more I’ve spent a lot of time trying to please other travellers and impress them with the tales of m authentic travels and you know what? That certain type of person is never happy because there’s always someone who’s been somewhere more “interesting” or done something more adventurous, or been too more countries or whatever the case may be. And you know what that’s true. Because whatever you do there will someone who has done something different.

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Seeking so-called “authentic” experiences often means that one, particularly a Westerner, is attempting to be an arbitrator of another culture and what defines their culture. If  Spain, for instance, and I’m just using this as an example, decides to ban bull fighting or the running of the bulls in the near future it is not the job of  me, or anyone else to say that they should keep the tradition because it’s, well, a tradition. What’s more, what’s often described as the “real __________” is the countryside, the rural places that have remained more homogeneous (or have been seen to remain homogeneous, in reality these places are disappearing fast as well) . It implies that the more multi-cultural cities, the thriving multi-ethnic places don’t really represent a certain country. That things should stay a certain way or else lose their charm. It treats people and cultures as museum pieces that can be preserved for you and your entertainment. It doesn’t allow countries or communities to change as they see fit. Many times on my travels I’ve hear ” oh there’s a Starbucks/McDonalds/ other American corporation that can be used to describe everything that’s wrong with the world in every city” and that’s more or less true. I’m not here to say Starbucks or McDonalds are good or should be everywhere but I mean, I like Starbucks festive drinks and sometimes you just need a Big Mac but I digress. I would argue, and will readily admit if I’m wrong, that cultures are strong enough to survive a McDonalds popping up on the corner. I’m not here defending McDonalds and there are real conversations to be had about gentrification and the harm it does, just to say that maybe a lot of handwringing when we see someone from another country enjoying a 6 euro coffee is out of place. Look, I’m not immune. There was a little cafe in Valencia that was what I would describe as a typical Valencian old man bar/cafe. The kind where everything is kind of orange and brown, there’s probably a fan in the corner and a cigarette machine from the 18th century or so, they give you a coffee for a euro and they seem angry when they do it. If you’ve been to Spain you know what I’m talking about. Last time I went to Valencia it had turned into a brightly coloured, stylish looking place. I felt kind of sad. But guess what? I don’t live there anymore and I don’t own that business. If that makes them more money, or makes them happier or caters to tourists then hey, that’s their choice.

All of this is a long winded way to say, let’s get rid of this elusive idea of a “traveller” because who even knows what that means?When I’m travelling from now on I’m going to be a tourist.  So let’s embrace it (respectfully of course), enjoy the Eiffel Tower it’s iconic and pretty damn cool. See Big Ben or the many churches around Europe. Take some cheesy pictures, stop worrying what everyone thinks of you.  You have the privilege of being able to travel to a new place, enjoy it, without wondering if it’s good enough, real enough, true enough. Readers will know that I’m concerned with travelling ethically and that stands, I think we need to be informed about where we go and what we do when we’re there. But if you’ve done that then just enjoy yourself, do your trip your way and enjoy yourself. You get to travel!

Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

and if you want to see pictures of dog and cake and sometimes even travel follow me on instagram

Overwhelmed by Travel Culture

I belong to many travel groups on social media that, like anything, are sometimes inspirational, sometimes helpful and sometimes annoying. And often posts will appear by people who quit their job to travel the world and now hate it, or have gone on a long backpacking trip and want to go home or who are just otherwise burned out. Before I go any further I want to say that I don’t mean that we should give up on anything that becomes difficult or that things that are hard aren’t worth doing. Getting an education is hard but worth doing, work is hard but necessary even relationships can be work but we don’t give up on them. Even travel can fall into that category. When I first moved abroad I found the first few weeks very difficult but I wouldn’t be where I am in life or the person I am now without that trip and the subsequent ones. But when I see articles talking about how to deal with travel burn out I want to scream into the void. Because travel was and remains a luxury item. Even if you’re eating beans and rice (or a weird onion soup I tried to make one time when I was broke) you have the luxury of taking time off of work, the ability to afford travel to another country and the assurance that you can go home and resume your life. This isn’t a moral judgement. I’ve spent most of my twenties travelling and have enjoyed it greatly. But travelling is a product and I’m a consumer.Travel can be a valuable experience but it has no inherent goodness. You don’t become a better person just by travelling. Sure it can open your eyes and broaden your horizons if that’s what you want to happen and are already open minded but it doesn’t magically turn a bigoted person into a understanding and compassionate one. The adage that seems to be a sort of Millenial chant that we are and should be “buying experiences and not things” is used to explain why we should travel. But what is an experience and what is a thing? A flight is certainly a thing you’ve bought, as is a hotel or hostel and music festivals and luggage and clothes and miniature beauty products and so on. Inherent in this way of thinking is a judgement and one that is just plain wrong.

When I started travelling I liked and related to every post or story about choosing “freedom” instead of a house, car, family etc. I am still the same person, I’m not ready to settle down, I still don’t own or desire to own a car or house but now these same posts make me bristle. They make me bristle because I am not more free than the people who do have those things but a different kind of free (if any of us are free at all but this isn’t a philosophy blog so we’ll leave it at that) . Sure I could pack my suitcase this minute and go somewhere but financial stability, serious friendships (whatever anyone says, long term travel will strain or break friendships) those are another kind of freedom. And, even if they weren’t there’s another problem. The language around Millenials is that we are “choosing” to free ourselves from the burdens of a stable life, the “American dream” if you will that was sold to our parents. But if we are constantly bombarded with messages that say we should travel, we should spend all this money on experiences and even go into debt to pursue them, that then we will be truly free, we are just being told a different lie. And it’s insidious because the message is, if you don’t travel you are closed minded, you aren’t motivated enough, you just need to work harder and save more money and stop drinking that coffee on the way to work. The message is that you should travel even to places that are hostile towards you and yes, there are places that are more dangerous than others. And you know what that is? Convincing people to go into debt and to endanger their lives in the pursuit of something that is not a necessity? That’s consumerism my friends.

I don’t write this to poo-poo travel or those who travel. I write it because I am feeling exhausted. I’m exhausted by article after article criticising people who don’t travel. Exhausted by “don’t date a girl who travels” or “travelling solo is best”  and other posts that seem to think getting into a relationship or even making friends-God forbid- will ruin all your fun. I’m really tired of the particular safety concerns women, trans men and women, people of colour and others, face being brushed over with “oh well travelling alone is still the best way what can you do”. I’m tired of the idea that we should pursue travel at all costs, even when it’s damaging the communities we are travelling to. When we’d rather stay in an Airbnb that  is pricing people in Barcelona (and other cities) out of their homes than pay for a hotel. When people do volunteer projects that could actively harm the people it purports to help and we say “oh well they have good intentions”. I write this because I love to travel and hope to keep doing so. But I want to do it in such a way that people who don’t want to can say “no, this isn’t for me.  That we can have actual, honest conversations about travel that don’t get derailed by “but travelling is good we can never criticise it”. More importantly I want to do it in a way that doesn’t harm others, that’s sustainable and accessible to all.

 

Culture Shock: A Canadian In Ireland

The first time I tried to wash my hands in Ireland there were separate hot and cold taps and I, a person who has been washing their own hands for 30 years, didn’t know what to do. Washing your hands with cold water seems unsanitary, but burning yourself doesn’t seem advisable either. What about trying to make a little cup with your hands and mixing the water together? Ineffectual.When you’re confronted with something silly and mundane like this in another country you feel small and strange. Luckily, a few days later someone posted on Facebook about being confused at the separate hot and cold water taps in Ireland and the UK and some of my anxiety eased. What about landing in Europe and wondering if that sign that shows a man running into what is clearly a wall and not a door is the exit? The absolute terror I feel at eating in front of other people over here because I hold my fork in my right hand. After years of beating myself up and wondering if other Canadians know how to eat properly (mostly, no) I felt some palpable relief at reading an article on some silly aggregation website about cultural differences. A European person wondered why Americans never hold their fork in the correct hand and avoid using a knife at all costs. Phew, I thought. It’s not just me, it’s my whole continent. For the record I have devised a sort of awkward fork and knife method and now just let people believe I’m left handed. There’s the obvious culture shocks like the seasons, or their absence. Constant rain is tiring and sitting by a fire, inside in July seems wrong somehow. How can I drink a festive autumn drink when it’s the same weather it has been all year? Where are the crunchy leaves and cardigans and pumpkins? There’s my pet peeve, the fact that there are some European people that disparage “the colonies” like we are still in the 18th century, boldly refusing to take blame for any of the evils that Europe has inflicted upon the world during colonial times. The times I argued with Spanish people who insist that the whole world recognises the greatness of Spanish culture while referring to all of North, Central and South America as “America”. Yes, I recognise that that is the correct way in Spanish and I’m not arguing on a linguistic level, but refusing to see two (or three) whole continents as unique, as having their own recognisable cultures and histories is confusing and strange. Of course this is not everyone but it’s not no one either. The sense of propriety here, at least in rural places such as where we live now, is stressful to me. The need to always look young and be perfectly dressed in designer clothes, your house a spotless temple filled with expensive or expensive looking things bewilders me. Sure, Canadians are vain too but in an entirely different way. Rather than attempt to look perfect all the time we dress up to make a statement. Going out without make up can say, “I don’t care what you think of me” or “my life is too busy and wonderful to put it on”. In general we don’t want everything to be too perfect or look like we put in too much effort. A designer bag or scarf is good but you might be wearing gloves from the dollar store or shoes from the charity shop.

But mostly the things that are different are delightful and entertaining. Having the washing machine in the kitchen is as logical as sequestering it away in it’s own room like a naughty child you keep out of sight. Leaving your shoes on in other people’s houses is good for everyone, you don’t have to take off your shoes and they don’t have to worry that they spilled something on the floor and didn’t properly clean it and your feet will stick to it. The nutrition information being listed on everything as per 100 grams, forcing you to either have to do some math or grossly under or overestimate how much you can eat of say, a Galaxy chocolate bar. There’s hearing an Irish name  and hoping you never have to repeat it or worse, spell it. What about the great bacon debate? I firmly fall on the side of North American bacon, it’s delicious when it’s crispy or soft and you can eat it cold, hot or reheat it and it will still taste the same and it always has that smokey flavour. Of course, I wouldn’t dare say that here where I show my reverence for their bacon like my life depends on it. On the other hand, Ireland invented the breakfast roll which is a bunch of meat stuffed into a baguette and if that isn’t something that was invented by a hungover person I don’t know what is. Naturally the belief that everything from one’s own country is the best is not limited to Ireland. On social media I constantly see Canadians lining up or rather, queuing up for Tim Hortons even though McDonald’s Canada has better take away coffee and I will defend that position. It’s these small, confusing, wonderful things that make living abroad an exciting and terrifying prospect.

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When you move abroad there’s an expectation that it will all be fun and easy and exciting. Even though I have spent most of my twenties moving about I still feel that when I get to the next place it will be the most exciting, that day to day life will be  thrilling just because I am in a new country. That the coffee shop on the corner will be as exciting as the Eiffel Tower. And sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s frustrating, boring, plain.  Sometimes you fantasise about running to the airport like you’re in a 90’s sitcom and you’ve made a terrible mistake and have to get home immediately. But sometimes you feel that you are home, that you belong and that you’ve done something right to end up where you are. And if you aren’t oscillating between these two emotions constantly, then, well, you aren’t living abroad.

You can find me on twitter @athousanddress1 and instagram @stephanierosetravels

Glamping and Caving in Doolin, Ireland

Nature is a wonderful and surprising thing. I try my best to care for the environment by bullying everyone I know into recycling and composting.  Once I even got deeply emotionally invested in a nature program about a bird’s mating dance, you guys this bird did a dance and then made himself look like a leaf to attract a girlfriend. That’s amazing! Still, I believe, that no one loved nature as much as our tour guide when we went to the Doolin caves to see, what will henceforth be known as THE GREAT STALACTITE, because that is what it called on the Doolin Caves website. It is the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Upon arriving at the entrance to the caves the tour guide informed us with great severity that he had bad news. The bad news was that there was a fee to the caves. Honestly, he was probably a marketing genius because after the way he told us that it wasn’t free to see THE GREAT STALACTITE  he could have probably told us it was 100 euro per person and we would have paid it because it was less than we were imagining. After paying the, actually nominal, fee we descended down about 8 million stairs, donned a hard hat and went into the caves. I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly claustrophobic person but I felt a deep discomfort being underground, especially as our tour guide told us about the two Englishmen in ye olden times (the 50’s) who had discovered THE GREAT STALACTITE. They crawled through a tunnel only large enough for themselves in a crawl they described as miserable, because they were curious. CURIOUS. Men, y’all. I’m curious about a lot of things, for example how did that bird turn it’s butt into a leaf looking thing? Why do they always choose the cheesiest and most insincere people on the Bachelor and Bachelorette? Will I really make $150,000 dollars per week working from home if I click on the link in the Facebook comments (no)? But if I saw said bird going down into a tiny tunnel, I wouldn’t take it upon myself follow it and ask it it’s technique.  If it had been me telling this story it would have been with a undertone of “hahah but why” but not our tour guide, he spoke with reverence. Due to some bad timing on my part I arrived at the head of the group and had to make faces of appreciation when my heart was saying “hell no to these two explorers”  “where is THE GREAT STALACTITE” “maybe I do have claustrophobia”  and other variations on that theme. Anyway. After much dramatic flair, we saw the stalactite. The thing that is both wonderful and horrible about the human brain is that we can fathom things but only to a certain extent. The stalactite is tens of thousands of years old. Try imagine how much has happened in 10 000 years, for example. It’s impossible. Still to see something that has formed over that amount of time, that is still growing and will probably keep growing after we’re all gone, is impressive. It really puts into perspective how small and insignificant our times on this earth are and you know what? I don’t like feeling small and insignificant. Some people channel that feeling into not worrying about the future and to making the most of everyday but I prefer, due to being A NEGATIVE PERSON, to fall into a pit malaise and start smoking again because we’re all going to die and THE GREAT STALACTITE will still be there hanging out and being shown to tourists by over enthusiastic guides. Where was I? Oh yes, it’s an impressive sight. After we had thoroughly examined the stalactite from all angles, including trying to see it’s reflection in a puddle in the dark (I don’t know why either) we ascended back up the stairs. There weremany helpful signs telling people to rest if they need to and I really did want to stop, rest, have a beer, take a nap, go to the beach at many of them but it would only postpone the inevitable climb up 60 trillion more stairs so we ploughed through. But there’s more! There was a short nature walk you could take to really appreciate the landscape. Generally I really enjoy walking but I will begrudgingly admit that I wasn’t in tip top form and was a bit cranky. I tried that trick of when you say “oh will we go to the pub, we’ve seen a lot of nature” and then start walking in direction of said pub hoping everyone will follow. They did not. So after the nature walk we finally made it to the pub, my preferred holiday destination and then to our glamping tent.

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doolin donkey

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Glamping gets a bad rap as being a bit novelty, a passing trend, kind of cheesy and all those things that people like to say whenever something comes along that people seem to be enjoying too much.I, however, am a fan after our experience at Doolin Glamping. We had a lovely tent in the scenic countryside. Doolin is a small, touristy town on the west coast of Ireland and the caves are about a five minute drive from the town and the Cliffs of Moher are about fifteen to twenty minutes away.  In fact we got a bit lost trying to find it, with me, ever the helpful navigator shouting from the passenger side “are we the red dot????” as if I have never used Google maps before ( I have, many times) and my sister chewing anti-nausea pills like they were candy. She generally doesn’t get motion sick but I would argue that the roads in Ireland are enough to bring the strongest stomached person to the state of sticking your head out of the window as far as possible and only making grunts when someone asks you a question, lest you spew something other than words.  Sometimes touristy places get disparaged as being inauthentic but I would recommend a stay in Doolin if you want to see some of the surrounding sites. We saw the caves, of the Cliffs of Moher, the pub,  a lot of friendly people (we did not see a shop, so be prepared if you’re camping there) and beautiful countryside, which is all I ask for from any place.

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A Weekend At Body & Soul Festival

Ah music festivals! The time to don your sheerest, most floral, most fishnety outfits. To liberally cover your face in glitter and bright colours. To eschew the personal hygiene rules that have been instilled in you since childbirth. To survive off of beer and chips. To pretend you are at Coachella or Glastonbury even though you are sat in a puddle in Ireland!  Last month we attended Body & Soul festival, which bills itself as a sumptuous feast for the senses with delicious food, a scenic venue in the forest and a selection of art, dance and reggae music (among other genres) wood fire heated hot-tubs in the forest and even a masquerade ball hosted by Veuve Clicquot.  On our way into town to get a carpool to the festival my boyfriend’s sister-in-law said to us “you’re going to Body and Soul? The only people who go to that are real hippies”. I was delighted.  Delighted I say. As someone who has worked hard at cultivating this hippy image for years it was my moment of truth. I had arrived at peak hippy. Still, I asked myself why she had that tone of surprise in her voice. Most people would describe my style as bohemian. I am unemployed and have an arts degree. I make avocado toast. I wear a lot of flowing flowery things and do yoga. I take my horoscope seriously. The other day I found a small plant pot and showed it to my sister to see what she thought. She said “you might want to paint that” and I said “don’t you think it has a 70’s Hippy in Hollywood vibe?” and we both agreed it did. That is my style. In my mind at least, I am a well established hippy.

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As I write this I’m sure someone (and come on, we can all picture this person) is saying that “it was way better a few years ago and it’s too big now, etc. etc. etc” but ahaha to you miserable person who can’t enjoy anything unless they “discovered it” because it was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. There was a variety of ages and the food and atmosphere were excellent (and music of course!). I even found a poutine stand that had a Canadian flag (for authenticity). I ate two. The music we enjoyed most were the afternoon/evening acts where we sat on a hill and chilled out.  Look I’m not gonna lie, we are in our early thirties. We get tired and sometimes have a little lie down from which we don’t get back up until the next morning. That is, we didn’t make it to too many of the late night acts because we were asleep. The people in the tent beside us also didn’t make it to the late night acts but for an entirely different reason. They had consumed such copious amounts of drugs that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still awake.


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I’ve written a lot about how travel and consumerism are closely linked and festivals are no exception. Besides the cost there’s camping gear, drinks, food and a new “festival wardrobe”. I mean I guess that’s more important if you’re going to a warm weather festival or something because Ireland has a great climate of “cold and raining every damn day” so my “festival wardrobe” mainly stayed in my suitcase, although I did get great use out of my three euro flower crown from Tiger. I guess what I’m saying is going to festivals can be great but there are things that can be improved. When we were packing up on the last day there were people leaving behind brand new tents and clothes and leaving litter everywhere. Someone left a full tub of butter! Who brings  a tub of butter to a music festival?! Did they have a toaster in there too? Enquiring minds want to know. I think those are things we need to change. Dancing, partying and drinking breakfast beers is great, but we still need to be conscientious.


To do: Take a walk into the woods in the late afternoon, sip on the Stockholm Mules from the Absolut tent, wear bright lipstick colours, soak in the hot tubs (these are about 60 euro for two people for about half an hour but it’s a magical setting if that’s your kind of thing) and try as many of the food stalls as possible, our favourite was a place that did rice bowls with miso paste, kimchi, peas and a fried egg ( I can’t remember the name of the stall so if anyone knows, let me know!) and of course listen to some music!

To not do:  Please guys, don’t wear a Native headdress as part of a costume. On a lighter note the queue to charge your phone in the vodafone tent was massive and since they ask for your IMEI number it took ages for everyone to disassemble their phones, likewise for the queue for the ATM (minus the taking apart of phones, obvs), also do not forget to pack a substantial amount of baby/ face wipes, you can never have too many.

Bottom line: if music festivals are your thing, this is a good one. Wear what you like, listen to the bands you like and don’t worry about doing things a certain way. Also, please, let’s clean up after ourselves and consume substances responsibly. And of course, enjoy ourselves!

If you liked this check out A Weekend In Banff  or A Weekend Camping in Northern Ireland,

Or you can follow me in Instagram for cute pupper pictures and selfies!

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