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.

 

Come away

“The host is rushing ‘twixt day and night,
And where is there hope or deed as fair?
Caoilte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away.”

– W. B. Yeats

Elf’s afternoon in Dublin

It has already been a week since our adventure to Ireland began. I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful place Ireland is. So friendly and so lush.

We start in Dublin with our solitary half a day to explore before we head off to the country side. So where to start? With a free walking tour of course. Everyone that knows us, knows we love a free walking tour. Just to explain a little about the idea…it’s not free. You can find this idea all of the world, sometimes run by independent companies or individuals and sometimes a company charges a marketing fee to the freelance tour guide. In all cases it is a pay what you think situation. If you think the tour is great, you pay up more, if it’s okay, maybe a bit less if you hate it…perhaps you slide off half way though.

So we joined up with a free walking tour and explored the city. We head through the streets, stopping to listen to lots of history and stories. The TempleIMAG3551 Bar area is interesting in that it is named after a sand bar that used to run through the area and the Temple family who helped to develop the area. It is now a theatrical and nightlife centre of Dublin.

Another highlight is the Dublin Castle where there has been a building since 1200s! The Record Tower is the only surviving part of the medieval castle and is at the heart of the story of Red Hugh which is well worth looking into if you don’t know it already.

The Gardens behind the Castle are a beautiful kept secret and I recommend having a look. It is peaceful and surprising to find.

Next we head to Trinity College where apparently you can sit your exams with your sword by your side.

We finish up in the early evening and wander back towards our hotel, stopping of course for a Guinness on the way. For dinner we find a pub close to us that is very popular and we share a table so that we can eat some of the best stew I have ever had!

And that’s all the time we have for Dublin this trip as the next morning we are up early and in the car to head off to Co. Meath.

 

Berlin in one day

I’m in Berlin but on a tight time schedule, I still want to experience some of what this city has to offer.  So this is what we did.

I’m lazy when I arrive at Tegal airport and opt to taxi to the hostel.  I know…lazy.

After ditching the bags, we head to Checkpoint Charlie via the U ban and S ban.

Stop 1: Checkpoint Charlie is a must for your trip to Berlin.  Head into the black box and read about the history of the boundary and the people who lost their lives here.

Stop 2: We walk 10 minutes to the next point, the Topography of Terror.  This is a centre of history, we spent our time at the outdoor information point about the history of Berlin “Between Propaganda and Terror”.  This is very well worth a visit.  We don’t have time to go inside the building but I will definitely add it to the list for a longer visit.

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Stop 3: 15 minutes on foot we arrive at our next stop, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  This is a stark and striking memorial, like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I walk amongst the stones… it makes you feel small and very human.

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Stop 4: We head on to the next stop on our walking whistle stop tour, is the Brandenburg Gate.  The Gate has been restored and attracts a crowd.  The area around the gate is lovely, and the wide road leading away from the gate is boarded by a beautiful looking park.

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Stop 5: The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building.  The Reichstag is topped by a glass dome which has a full view of the city.  I would recommend booking tickets in advance if you visit in summer.

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Stop 6: The longest walk of our foot tour, 30 minutes of strolling through the city and we arrive at our next and final stop.  Berlin Cathedral, its full name is: Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin.   Its 7 euros to get inside and 4 euros for an audio guide.

 

And we are done.

Well not really done.  Obviously there is so much more to Berlin.  We have’t stepped inside a gallery or museum.  But with limited time, I feel like we managed to get a fair amount in and it was light on the budget as well.

Also, if you come across Woop Woop ice cream…try it.  It is worth it, very yum.

 

Ponte De Lima and Lindoso

This is a combo post about two of the great little places we visited one day during out drives around Northern Portugal.
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The First is Ponte De Lima.  

Ponte De Lima is a cute little Medieval town on the Lima River bank.  It is named after the bridge that crosses the river.

The car park seems odd as you appear to drive on to the bank of the river but aside from this it is an easy place to visit.  The main square is beautiful looking back across the river and the old bridge to churches and countryside.  As always with any town, move away from the main square if you want to save some money on food or drink.  We wander in the streets and enjoy the old village feel.  This town is lovely and I would definitely like to revisit it.  There is a big and famous market that opens every second Monday, all the way along the river bank…alas it is not Monday when we visit.  But this sounds spectacular.

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Lindoso

Lindoso sits within the national park and surrounded by beautiful ruggard countryside.  The area is famous for the old granaries which are called Horrreo.  The Horrero look like little stone houses or tombs, you can find them in some of the towns hidden among the older areas, or all gathered together on hillsides.  Linodoso have a big group that stand together near the castle.

The castle is great, its free to go into except the very inner walls which are only open a small part of the year and coast a couple IMAG2919of euros to get into.  The Castle has a long history and was used up until 1910 by the Portuguese

Government.  We spend an hour walking along the walls and enjoying the view and crumbling history.  It definitely feels like an adventure.

 

Also….The National Park is home to special cow found in this area of Portugal, they are called Arouquesa and they are wonderful.  Look at this guy!!

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