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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Braveheart

just for fun!

 

William Wallace: “Royal Magistrate: The prisoner wishes to say a word. William Wallace: [shouts loud and long] Freedom!”
Magistrate: The prisoner wishes to say a word.
William Wallace: [shouts loud and long] Freedom!

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.

 

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