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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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!