Secrets

So, we wanted to share some of our favourite secret things we have learn on our travels.  In no particular order:

 

Amsterdam – Vondel Park

If you want something low key and easy on the wallet whilst you are in Amsterdam, we thoroughly recommend a Picnic in Vondel park.  Lots of the supermarkets sell little BBQs that are disposable, grab one and join the locals.  Really is wonderful.

 

Porto – BBs Bar 

For the best view and money saving beer.  Head under the bridge on the Porto side of the river and grab a cheep beer from BBs, then grab a bit of wall.  Perfect.  Simple as that.

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Ouse Valley Viaduct

A short train trip from London and a walk will bring you to this wonderful location.  This Viaduct was built in 1841 and it something to behold.

 

Esposende (Northern Portugal) – De Lili & Ca

For the best pastry you can imagine…only you can’t imagine a pastry with pumpkin that would taste like this.  Really Pasteis de Lili are something else!  Covered in icing sugar and crisp pastry, perfect with coffee.

 

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Trim Castle

Its raining…its been raining…but it is Ireland so we get up and head off into the countryside.  We are heading to Trim Castle via some pretty places on the way.

We stop at Bective Abbey and watch birds dip in and out of its ruins.  It’s stark beauty is strange and desolate.

When we make it to Trim, we park up head for cover in the entrance of the castle.  It is 2 euros if you just want to wander in the grounds, or 5 euros if you want a guided tour of the keep as well.  Pay the 5 euros…it is so worth it.

The rain is really coming down, so I walk the perimeter of the grounds rather swiftly even so it is clear that the castle is very big and intact.  Our guide arrives and we head into the keep.  Our guide is wonderful, she invites us to use our imaginations to see how the castle would have been in the different periods of its existence.

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We work our way up spiral staircases and visit the chapel and walk among the history of the Castle.  Eventually we make our way to the very top and look our on the misty countryside and town of Trim.  I very very much recommend this stop on your tour of Ireland.

You might recognize the Castle from Braveheart! There are lots of photos at the entrance of the transformation for the movie.

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Also another fact…this is the largest Ango-Norman Castle in Ireland.

When we are done at the Castle we head into Drogheda.  Drogheda is one of the oldest towns in Ireland.  St. Peter’s Church is one of the famous sites of Drogheda,  the church is not very ornate inside, however it does have one unusual thing…a severed head.  Yes, a severed and preserved head.  St Oliver’s head to be exact.  The shrine is quite beautiful and the hand written confirmation of the authenticity of the head is very intriguing.

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If you are hungry in Drogheda I definitely recommend The Bare Food Company.  We had scones and coffee and they were so good!

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And that is about it for the Elf in Ireland.

Elf at Newgrange

So this is our first driving holiday with me as the driver…dum dum duuuummm!  So we hire a car from Dublin airport which is relatively inexpensive and easy to arrange.  We drive out to Co. Meath from Dublin which is an easy hour drive and we arrive in Slane which has a fabulous farm food shop, Hugo’s Farm Food Shop…very yum. There is a big castle in Slane which we do not visit, but instead we continue on a bit further to Newgrange.

The only access to Newgrange and the other Neolithic sites is through the visitor centre.  When you arrive your option you have several options, we choose just to visit Newgrange.  The ticket cost includes the visitor centre and the bus to the site as well as the admission to the site.  Newgrange admission is 7 euros which I think is great value.

Newgrange itself is pretty spectacular.  Its imposing and gets even more impressive the closer you get to it.  No one knows what the site was used for, perhaps a temple, perhaps burial site…What we do know is that the site is older that the pyramids and and made up of materials from all across Ireland.

Part of the site visit is the inclusion of a guide who is well informed and this makes all the difference, especially when we get the opportunity to go into the internal passage. Once you squeeze your way in (not great if you suffer from claustrophobia) and reach the chamber at the end, you really get a sense of the magic of the place.  The inside is carefully constructed and watertight.  the most magical moment comes when the guide demonstrates what the passage of light at the winter solstice would look like.  The the lightbox from the front entrance travels all the way through and touches our feet before plunging us back into darkness.

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….just magical.

Next stop we continue our drive to lush countryside and arrive in Termonfeckin in Co. Louth.  Termonfeckin is a little and pretty village, conveniently located as a base for our next couple of days.  There is not much in the way of food options in Termonfeckin its self, except the Triple House Restaurant which was recommended several times during our stay…alas it books out well in advance and we were not able to try it.  Do book a head and let us know what you think.

 

Dublin we’re coming

So here is a bit of James Joyce in anticipation.

 

“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today.

I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”

 

– James Joyce

 

Autumn

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

John Donne

Mowgli’s first adventure

This is it.  Adventure time with Mowgli.

We catch the train to Winchester.

There is a lot of snuggling and loving of a polite dog loving man we’ve not met before.  (Don’t worry Mr Elf, Mowgli did the snuggling and loving not me).  This seems to be the biggest issue we encounter with a pup on transport…his affection for complete strangers is inexhaustible.

received_10155108356117655Transport in London is pretty pet friendly.  No dogs on the seats and they must be “under control”.  So tubes, buses and trains are all open as long as you have these two rules sorted.

The train to Winchester is about 50-60 minutes long and do able in puppy bladder terms.  although we do ensure he is empty before we get on and he gets a change to go as soon as we get off.

Pubs and cafes are also for the most part dog friendly in the UK although, do respect the signs that say otherwise when you see them.

We spend the weekend tearing around the garden and avoiding the cat.  Said cat…not too keen on this usurper of affection and steal-er of unattended food.

The train ride back is easy…Mowgli is happy to all asleep on a lap and wake up back in London.

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Pinhao and Wine tour

Next up on the Northern Portugal road-trip is Pinhao

Pinhao is a small village in northern Portugal. It is surrounded with vineyards and dips down to sit just on the Douro River. It is picturesque and when we visited quite calm and beautiful. The local train runs from Porto to Pinhao and although we did not take the train it is supposed to be a beautiful trip.

We park and pop into one of the IMAG2878vineyard offices to see if we can go on a tour. Unfortunately not…it would appear that booked ahead for the most part is a must. So we wander in the town and down to the river bank to do some googling.

We manage to find a smaller and newer vineyard called Quinta de la Rosa which can accommodate us for the afternoon tour. We march up the hill (perhaps get a taxi) it’s hot but the view is more than nice.

Once we have arrived and joined the tour group we head into the courtyard and off into IMAG2889the processing and storage areas.

Quinta de la Rosa still use the traditional stomping the grapes method which would be amazing to see (in August – September depending on the season). The tour is great, and informative and the lady who takes us around is obviously passionate about Port and the winery.

Next we move on to the tasting, we try in all 2 different wines and 3 different ports. I would recommend this winery tour is a great option for a reasonably priced option. Although there are lots of options out there…make sure you book in advance if you have particular tours you want to go on.

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This post is not sponsored at all but if you would like more information about Quinta de la Rosa please click here .