Posted by: gracehyne | January 24, 2012

Under the African sun

Jennifer Collins, 22, tells tales of her travels around Kenya and Tanzania, working for a charity and delaying the inevitable humdrum of adult life.

I went to Mombasa, Kenya in East Africa with two friends after finishing university. We organised our stay with a company called GVI to volunteer to teach in a primary school for 6 weeks. On arrival, we were very excited but I personally had never experienced a culture shock quite like the one I had driving out from the airport.

We spent the 6 weeks teaching Monday to Friday in a school called Precious Vision Care Centre. Over these weeks we had a class each and taught English, Maths, Art, Sports and Reading, all of which the children loved. They were so enthusiastic and full of energy that it seemed impossible to believe the type of living conditions they had.

Play-time at the school

Me teaching the kids Maths during school-time

On the weekends we were free to organise our own trips away from Mombasa. We mostly travelled down south towards the Tanzanian border using local transport called a Matatu which are similar to a minibus but with twice the amount of passengers it actually seats. The most memorable trip was to Shamoni where we had 2 home stays with the locals. The village itself was very small and had a jetty where we caught a boat over to Shamoni Island. The island is approximately 2 miles long and has no electricity or running water, yet two civilianised villages live perfectly at peace without much dependency from the mainland. In the evening on the island we went to a local woman’s home and had a Swahili cooking lesson, we thought it was the best food we had the whole time travelling!

When we finished teaching we left GVI and their volunteers and headed down to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where we organised a 3 day safari in Selous Game Reserve. This was an amazing experience and saw all sorts of wildlife. Seeing the lions was especially exciting as they came and sat right next to our safari land rover to shade themselves from the hot African sun.

Catching the boat to Shamoni Island

Arriving at Shamoni Island where we had to cover our heads due to their Muslim religion

Swahili cooking lesson in a local's home

Arriving at the Game Reserve

Driving around on the Game Reserve

The safari was one of the most unique experiences I had in Kenya

We then got the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Town, Zanzibar which is a small island just off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar was my favourite destination as it has perfect beaches, plenty of shopping in Stone Town, friendly locals, mesmerising sunsets and was small enough so that we could travel the whole island within the 2 weeks we were there.

The world is a tiny place with a rich expanse of adventures just waiting to be had. Want to tell me yours? Email them through and let the rest of us who are forced to remain in sunless offices or university buildings live vicariously through you.

Kendwa, Zanzibar

Local markets provided endless amounts of shopping opportunities

My friend and a traditional Masaii warrior

The sun sets at Zanzibar

Posted by: gracehyne | January 11, 2012

Holiday memories in pictures

Pictures tell a thousand words.

However, friends and family don’t often appreciate being forced through hour long slideshows of every morsel you ate, every sunset you saw, and every item you bought.

Jessica Mason, 22, loves a view that doesn’t need to be shared with those local to the Devon area:

Bolberry Downs, Soar Mill Cove

She says, “This is my most favourite walk and place to be in Devon when you need a bit of time out. Either a cold and horrid day with the dogs or a sunny Sunday with my favourite people. I have visited a few countries and beautiful places in this world but Devon just completes it. You could be anywhere in the world looking from this photo;  stunning.”

While some holiday pictures can only be treasured by the few who experienced it, the Guardian proves that perhaps a photograph’s ingenuity can capture the moment for many.

Check out their “Been there” photographs of 2011; from London, to Canada, Thailand to India, this competition proves that with either a seemingly mundane task of running through a sudden onslaught of rain or a spectacular hot air balloon landing amongst the sandy deserts in Egypt, there are moments that will truly live forever.

My favourite is this picture of a fisherman in Goa:

A moment caught at sunset

As always, keep dreaming of those holidays soon to come.

Posted by: gracehyne | January 4, 2012

Fearless travelling

Admist the Arab springs, the bombs, the attacks, the earthquakes, and the floods, travelling has taken on a dangerous and threatening edge in recent times.

However, as with all things, if you take precautions and are aware of your surroundings, danger abroad will be no more threatening than what’s outside your front door.

Traveldudes, a travelling Twitter site with many faithful followers, have provided these simple tips to be a fearless traveller:

1. Leave Your Home in Good Hands:

First, stop your your mail, don’t order shipments right before, leave a light on, care for your plants and pets, tell someone in your family about your itinerary and leave the key only with someone you fully trust.

2. Trust Air Travel:

Air travel is the safest mode of transportation. Make sure to stay hydrated on the plane, have your favorite distraction (music, movie, book), understand requirements of airport security and do not question the rules; it will only bring you anxiety, just follow them. It’s all for your safety.

3. Pack Light and Do not Check In Luggage:

My best tip to you is to never check in luggage – yep, never, and I am a woman too! – and you do that by taking only the necessities with you. It is liberating beyond words to have all your belongings near you and not to have to drag it or deal with luggage fees or lost luggage.

Do not worry about losing luggage- avoid check ins (Photo by C.M. Keiner)

4. Know the Safety Condition of Destination:

Information is power and you need to get it from the right source. Go to top travel sites and security advisory boards online and understand the current conditions of your target country. Know the top safety rules about the environment and always trust your gut when you are going about your business at home or abroad.

5. Respect Cultures & Learn (a bit of) the Language:

It makes for best memories when you respect the cultures and learn about the language enough to get by. It will make your experience much better and also leave you the best memories. You will be most welcomed even if you learn 5-10 words in the target country’s language and use them.

Learn everything about the country you are about to enter (Picture from discoluxxx)

If you want tips from those who travel in their careers, especially reporters, check out Ashley Parker‘s article, ‘Get them to the debate on time: reporters’ tips‘.

Safe travels!

Posted by: gracehyne | December 28, 2011

Celebrity sightings and musical temptations

Famous talent (and otherwise) is not exclusive to L.A. and other celebrity-attracting cities; you don’t have to travel great distances to find live music you love.

Sleepy, small Devon towns have raised big musical talents.

For example, our extremely unknown and quirky Totnes has housed Ben Howard who cultivated a musical sound that has blown up throughout the UK. In an industry thirsting for talent, rather than the over-produced sounds and auto-tuned masses blasting over radios and headphones around the country, Howard has quietly and confidently emerged as a contender for real, and beautiful, music that has become a source of recognition and pride for Devon and its inhabitants.

Recently, my sister ran into him at our local deli, Red Earth Deli, in Kingsbridge and later spent the evening in the pub with his friends.

Moreoever, not only Devon but Cardiff is seen as a venue for up-and-coming artists to find their footing in an uncertain music industry. The Swn Festival has seen many artists garner acclaim for their talents, including the aforementioned Howard, as well as the equally fantastic Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Daughter, and Ffred Jones.

Cardiff stands as a grove of hidden talents to see and enjoy before they start headlining big-named festivals and begin charging substantially more for their obvious talent; isn’t the discovery of such people part of the fun?

Have you ever walked into a local pub or concert and loved a performer that soon became appreciated by the masses? Send me a comment.

If you’re interested (and a follower of reality tv shows, publicly or otherwise), here’s a little update that may excite you (if musical talent is not such a strong factor):

Salcombe, Devon, a tiny get-away country town for many living in the UK, attracted the Made in Chelsea, e4’s hit reality tv show, cast to its cosy seaside (and its pubs).

Local Sami Franklin and Jamie and Spencer from Made in Chelsea in Salcombe, Devon

And for those lovers of the 90’s and its secret musical code left uncracked by  other generations (its password: Zigga-zigg-ahh), Geri Halliwell is often a frequent visitor to Thurlestone (another seaside town) and the local (and only) club, Coast.

Posted by: gracehyne | December 22, 2011

Travelling on a budget

Lonely Planet sorts out the riff from the raff in economic travelling.

Faced with an extensive list of places to go and see, along with passports, visas, trolling through countless websites and travel agents, choosing from the best of two evils (EasyJet and RyanAir), buying holiday clothes in a frenzy of excitement (and constantly checking the weather forecast of your destination to rub it in the face of friends and family only to see it turn overcast the day before your flight), planning a trip can seem pretty overwhelming.

Ryan Air- so cheap but is it worth it? (Photo by Mikel Ortega)

Lonely Planet highlights some simple (but sometimes overlooked) tips for some stress-free, economic travel planning:

The bad bits: things we love to hate

Budget airlines seem to get a bad rap for so many things. Some of it justified, others because people have either set expectations rivalling that of regular airlines, or because they’ve failed to read the fine print.

Delays. These seem to rank high on the list of annoyances, but unless a volcano has just exploded, the situation really isn’t so bad. According to website www.flightontime.info, much-reviled Ryanair flights only suffered an average delay of 13.7 minutes in 2010 and the statistic currently stands at 7.3 minutes for 2011. Not bad at all. Of course, if a volcano does explode, you might be stuck with minimal compensation.

Extras. The other obvious bugbear is the extras you have to pay. You’ll get nickel and dimed for food, entertainment and even a blanket. Want to pick your seat? Sure, you’ll have to pay extra…per sector! Want to check in more than 15kg of luggage? Want to pay for that flight with a credit card? Yep, you’ll have to pay extra. What? You need to pee? For a while there were plans to make you pay for that too.

Landing far away. What about the landing proximity to the ‘actual’ city you want to get to? Forget about it. When a budget airline tells you that it’s taking you to Frankfurt, it might actually mean that it’s taking you to Hahn, from where it’s a two-hour bus ride to Frankfurt proper.

Other future issues could be the reduction of toilets on the plane (more seats!) and even standing room seats. God forbid!

The good bits: why it might be worth it

Tickets can be cheap.Really, really cheap. Zero-cost fares (plus fees and taxes of course)? It’s true!

A cheap ticket to somewhere exotically warm- priceless (Photo by Saby)

They’re expanding routes. And these routes are cheap! Budget airlines are moving into long-haul flights and last we checked, you could snag a return ticket from KL to Europe or Australia to LA for US$1000. Expect to pay more than double for a regular carrier.

Regional airports aren’t so bad. Sometimes, a smaller airport means that you’ll clear customs and get out quicker than you would at the main airport. Think Subang Airport versus Kuala Lumpur International Airport or Stansted versus Heathrow.

Living with budget fares

Here are some things to note when you’ve resigned yourself to taking a budget carrier.

Use a flight aggregator such as Skyscanner, Kayak, Travelzoo or Lastminute.com to find the lowest fares, but watch out for extra ‘booking’ fees levied by these websites. Sometimes, you’re better off getting details of the booking and jumping onto the actual airline website to avoid booking fees.

Be flexible and be ready to go at any time. Budget deals come fast and furious. You might snag a $1 flight from Melbourne to Hobart…if you book 3 to 6 months in advance (oh the agony of waiting for that holiday to come round). And act quickly because tickets sell out fast. Expect some gnashing of teeth too – websites often crash on sale day, so be patient. Of course, if you go for the cheapest option, you’ll usually have to forfeit the ticket or pay hefty fees if you want to change dates.

Travel insurance. Get some. Make sure your policy covers delays and cancellations. Or get ready to sleep in the airport if your flight is delayed or cancelled (see exploding volcano point above).

Work out actual costs. If you’re planning on getting food (you might have to on a long-haul flight), picking a seat with more legroom, or checking in luggage, prices will creep. Why not check prices against a regular carrier? Also note that in peak seasons, the gap in prices between regular and budget carriers starts to close up.

Read the fine print. We know many peeved travellers who didn’t notice that they had to print out their own boarding pass to avoid paying $25 for it at the airport.

Watch the clock.When a budget carrier tells you that their check-in counters shut 45 minutes before the flight, they really do mean it. Rock up a minute late and you’re off the plane. Some airlines skimp on staff, meaning that there might be only one counter operating, so arrive early to ensure you make the cut-off time.

Despite these many tips and meticulous planning, some things are out of your control.

Do not be one of those travellers racing through the airport in a panic (Photo by Lijing Khoo)

Many people have nightmare stories (horriffic and highly unamusing at the time but shared around as now extremely funny battle wounds of an intrepid traveller). Watching countless people trying to stuff their slightly too big suitcase into those ever-so strict baggage carrier measurers before boarding flights brings back memories of stress amongst many of my friends but I have yet to see how it would feel to stand an entire flight.

Any stories? Send them through. Until then,  keep dreaming of an occasional glimpse of sun through those clouds; 2012 is just around the corner.

Posted by: gracehyne | December 15, 2011

Bargain holiday: Cardiff vs the world

Cardiff’s hidden depths have the ability to entertain cash-strapped travel lovers in search of a break from reality.

Headlines proclaim what your purse has already told you; the country is poor. With that comes long working hours and ever increasing bills leaving no time to jet across the world and spend copious amounts of money in beach bars and hotels.

Nancy Jones, 33, went to Ibiza earlier this year because it was a cheap deal staying at her friend's house; she misses her regular holidays

The economic and fiscal outlook for November 2011 has kindly revealed to us that the economy has grown less than what was predicted in March because inflation, increasing higher than expected, has cut household incomes and consumer spending.

The central forecast is 0.7 percent growth in GDP in 2012, which in comparison to the average external forecast of 1.2 percent, is less than stellar. Even Channel 4 recently reported that unemployment has risen to a new 17 year high.

Travelling is no longer a yearly luxury. It is becoming a distant memory of times when phrases such as “the credit crunch” only procured thoughts of breakfast cereal.

Travel agent Thomas Cook is a stark reflection of the public’s inability to travel. In late November the debt laden company were in desperate talks with banks to avert a winter debt crisis; despite securing an additional £100m to existing borrowing facilities, the group’s net debt is expected to reach £1.5bn by the end of December.

Lydia Cassalger, travel advisor in Cardiff’s Thomas Cook, says, “Business has remained steady here despite the recession. There are definitely more Europe and UK holidays being booked. It was more the wars and turmoil abroad that has affected the amount of people looking to travel.”

With this recession comes a new appreciation for the wealth of opportunities around us. Not only are cross-country trips more appealing but so are cheaper places to stay.

Jason Fiyne, employee of Cardiff’s Nomad hostel, says business has remained regular as people always need somewhere cheap to stay; he says the majority of their clientele are students searching for cheap accommodation.

In fact, Cardiff sits as an undiscovered terrain of new discoveries for travellers for all ages with perpetually itchy feet, at a distinctly smaller price tag than holidays abroad.

TRAIL OF DISCOVERY

Find places and activities to fit your every travel mood on this handy Cardiff map and see roadsuntravelled followers’ favourite travel stories

Ed Townsend, in charge of Cardiff and Co’s PR projects, believes people have taken notice of Cardiff and visitors have increased during this recession. “We have been in economic difficulty for about three years as a nation and during that time people visiting Cardiff has increased steadily to 18m,” he describes. Cardiff is somehow managing to brush off elements of the recession, he notes.


In the rough

If exploring local markets is a treasured travelling pastime, Cardiff has countless markets to search and enjoy.

Cardiff Market’s sits in a glass Victorian structure which abounds with things to see and buy.

It has been in trading since the 1700s so any history lover can enjoy that some of the old features still stand today.

Townsend believes Cardiff Central market is one of the finest markets you will find. “It retains all its Edwardian, Victorian brashness and you get good bargains, fresh produce, and books you thought you’d never find again a secondhand bookshop; it’s got that buzz that an indoor market will have, right in the middle of the city.”

Alongside the markets, Cardiff Arcades provide shops selling things from food, clothing, jewelry, books and souvenirs so avid travellers can find places to immerse themselves and dig for hidden treasure. There are seven arcades in the city centre; go and explore.

Pushing the boundaries

“Would you jump off a cliff if your friends did?”

For those who find the irony in fulfilling these words uttered by every mother on Earth, adrenaline racing and heart pounding adventure is available in the city for those who believe the true joy in travel is living life on the edge.

Townsend describes the many adventurous outlets Cardiff has within its city’s walls:

St Fagans is placed in beautiful surroundings, such as this rose garden

The National Museum of Wales can be a fascinating place for everyone

Cultural fascinations

Markets are not the only thing available to explore, however. History lovers will be enamoured with Cardiff’s cultural prospects.

St Fagans National History Museum has been open to the public since 1 November 1948 and the museum was placed in the grounds of St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th century manor.

You can walk from decade to decade through re-erected original buildings from different historical periods, allowing you to see the workshops where craftsmen still demonstrate their traditional skills.

Users of TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel review site, voted the museum as one of the UK’s top ten free attractions.

Another place to visit, a mix of art, archaeology, and geological evolution, the National Museum in Cardiff has something to interest everyone.

It educates people on how Wales has evolved over time, examining its history, different environments and artifacts, producing a rich and exciting educational experience.

The museum’s National Art Gallery is deemed one of the finest collections of Impressionist paintings outside Paris which is no idle claim, says Townsend.

Moreover, Townsend believes Cardiff Castle, placed in the centre of Cardiff,  is one of the finest visits a city can provide.

“It’s right in the middle of the city centre and has stunning state rooms, lovely grounds with peacocks, a Norman keep, Roman walls, a regimental museum and, to cap it all off, an interpretation centre,” he describes. ”I mean, what more could you want for 15 quid?”

Delectable delights

Many people find that experiencing local cuisine abroad is one of their favourite parts of travelling.

Often it’s not expensive, designer restaurants but street food that encapsulates the tantalising food a place has to offer.

Cardiff’s Riverside, Roath, Rhiwbina, and Llandaff North food markets are all a treasured part of Cardiff’s local community and sell things from homemade jam, parsnip soup, curry pots, Christmas wreaths to breads, meats and vegetables.

In addition, Cardiff offers a plethora of restaurants that try to emulate street food found abroad.

Thai Basil provides popular street food such as Pad Thai, Las Iguanas’ menu includes Latin street food such as fajitas and enchiladas, and Chai Street is a restaurant whose entire menu is based on street food available in India. In addition, 1Malaysia Cuisuine Restaurant has also opened recently to bring the spices and flavours of Malaysia to the UK.

Moreover, restaurants are continually being made to encapsulate food that people cherish as a yearly holiday luxury.

Anand George, renowned celebrity chef, has recently opened Purple Poppadom to create Indian nouvelle cuisine that is more authentic to its origins.

A city with a view

As cities go, Cardiff is aesthetically beautiful, especially for those who prefer the country’s sprawling landscape to the concrete jungles found in most cities.

Wales has a variety of beautiful views and beaches that rival those abroad; travellers can find what they’re looking for right, such as Rhossili Bay and the Brecon Beacons:

Not only are its surroundings treasured by many, Cardiff has parks, such as Bute and Roath, and a river that winds its way through the city that brings in scenery often missed by city regulars.

Townsend describes all that Cardiff has to offer:

No jetstreams needed

Cardiff Bay provides a beautiful waterfront for wonderful sunsets like these (Photo by Neil Ramsden)

So, put your overtaxed credit card down. Place your passport back in its appropriate drawer. Calmly unpack your already overflowing suitcase.

Overturn your jaded notions of a city you walk through every day and unearth its many possibilities.

Perhaps what you’ve been wishing for is a train ride away or, for the lucky ones, right outside your front door; while sun is in no way guaranteed, fun always is.

Posted by: gracehyne | December 7, 2011

Terminal hell

One huge downside to travelling? Not just the copious amount of time spent in an airplane (at least there’s in-flight entertainment) but the monotony of lay-overs.

Those hours on end of just waiting to get on another plane, wishing that you weren’t wasting hours, stuck in the same place and no closer to your destination.

However, there are a lot of terminals that provide food and entertainment to wile away those tedious hours.

Yet some airports haven’t seen the need to shell out those few extra pounds. You’re there to wait for that elusive flashing departing sign  and the phrase “a kettle won’t boil while you watch it” is completely lost on them.

Avoid terminals that provide a view of a runway as their only form of entertainment (Photo by Irish Jaunt)

Frommer’s Travel has kindly mapped out the terminals to avoid, no matter what the cost. As one who was forced to spend eight excruciating hours in the Newark airport in New York, with no food (not even a vending machine) or entertainment, I am well aware that a terminal makes a difference to your travelling experience.

Check out Frommer’s Travel article on the 10 worst airport terminals and see their opinion on the ones that could provide an unlikely architectural wonder to see.

What was your worst experience in an airport terminal? Was it the staff, the area, the lack of facilities? Send your emails through.

Until then, keep your eyes on the destination.

Posted by: gracehyne | November 30, 2011

Around the world

The sky’s the limit.

Transportation is expensive. Even when driving to and from work or school, much of our hard earned money is sucked out through the nozzles of the nearest petrol station.

Lonely Planet recently wrote a piece on the many ways one could travel around the world; from walking, to cycling, air ballooning it, soaring in a Lear jet with National Geographic, using a boat fueled by fat lipo-suctioned from your own body (no, I’m not kidding) to a solar powered car. They showed how there are countless ways to enjoy the act of travelling besides a plane.

The vast expanse of words from the article in this wordle highlights the eclectic and quirky, not to mention economically friendly, ways you can explore the world.

My personal favourite is “It’s on the Meter” blog where 3 British friends set off on the adventure of a lifetime, travelling from London to Sydney in a classic black London cab, nicknamed Hannah, raising money for the British Red Cross.

Johno, Leigh and Paul’s journey began on 17 February 2011 travelling via Europe, the Middle East, India, China and South East Asia and have earned themselves a World Record for the longest taxi ride, racking up a £54,000 cab fare.

They are hoping to earn the British Red Cross £20,000 through online donations and will have crossed three continents, 41 countries and 10 time zones by the end.

See for yourself:

And all this was thought up on a night out. Who says drinking isn’t productive?

Posted by: gracehyne | November 23, 2011

Home is where the heart is

The economy’s down and Christmas time is coming. There just isn’t enough dispensable cash to cover jetting off for the festive season and buying gifts for that ever-growing list of friends and family. Instead,  stick around and discover your very own Cardiff Christmas getaway.

Coming soon to this blog…have you ever tried finding the equivalent of what you’re dreaming about in a far off holiday right on your doorstep?

What are your favourite things about going abroad?

Is it the food? The views? The activities? The atmosphere? The markets?

I will be exploring Cardiff’s versions of ethnic and street food, which everyone loves to sample abroad, such as Chai Street, Roath and Riverside market, the German Christmas market, and will review the recent Malaysia Kitchen Street food tour that brought authentic Malaysian street food to Cardiff.

I will try and find the most beautiful views in Cardiff as well as some treasured ones across the UK’s most beloved cities.

I will also discover those hidden opportunities for adventure that Cardiff has to offer, from quad biking, parasailing, water skiing to ghost walks, St Fagan’s National Museum and Techniquest.

I may not be able to control the amount of sun provided but I will be discovering all your most cherished mementos of past holidays around the UK for you to enjoy, with minimal money issues and without the fuss of packing and booking hotels. The best part of it all? No jetstreams needed.

Posted by: gracehyne | November 16, 2011

Undiscovered

European treasures

I personally love going somewhere you’ve never gone before. There’s a wealth of undiscovered places, food,  shopping, history (I’m allowed to be a bit of a geek, it was my degree), and various activities  that just aren’t available wherever you live locally.

It’s like your very own amusement park…without those pesky height requirements (which have always been a bit of a problem for me).

I haven’t been to as many places in Europe that I would like and when three of my friends decided to go to Ireland for a winter escape and asked me to come, I jumped at the chance.

Ireland is known for its Guinness and charm but what I discovered was Dublin had much more to offer than that slim hope of meeting my very own P.S. I Love You-esque Irish man in an obscure local pub.

Embrace the cliche and visit the Guinness factory

We indulged in every tourist attraction known to man, camera at the ready, inevitably followed by the shame that accompanies taking pictures of anything and everything in every available minute. We went on an open bus tour, went to Dublin zoo, participated in a walking tour of Dublin, saw an incredibly quirky art exhibit, experienced the ambience of a true Irish pub, complete with an Irish dance performance, and of course, sampled its nightlife, particularly in Temple Bar.

There was a multitude of tour buses so you could get off and on as you pleased

For all animal lovers, the Dublin Zoo is renowned all over Europe

Ireland delivered. Despite Ireland’s infamous rainy reputation, a crisp but clear blue sky prevailed the entire weekend, the hostel we stayed at called Jacob’s Inn was immaculate (and even offered us a free can of Guiness which, after a sip, I politely tried to pawn off on one of my friends), and it turns out, despite severe irritation at having to learn about the mysterious disappearance of herring in Irish ports during A levels, (Google it- even now I still don’t understand or care), I absolutely loved every second of learning about the history the Irish are incredibly proud of.

The Irish will do anything to be different

While a three hour walking tour of a city seems daunting, it sped by and the fact that we got it for free didn’t hurt. They showed us a castles, walls adorned with Ireland’s most esteemed music performers, the Guiness factory, and other historical sites.

The walking tour took us around some Irish castles

Dublin's Wall of Fame showcases Irish musical talents (Photo by Phil Romans)

I wasn't exaggerating about the weekend being cloud free

It ended at a beautiful park complete with a river, swans,  statues, flowers and white-painted gazebos. The tour guide continually spoke of the Irish’s various attempts of over-throwing those ever-present and pesky English. He was so Irish and adamantly full of national pride that you just had to put aside that you were often their story’s antagonists and embrace all things leprachaun.

This picture does not do this incredibly large and beautiful park justice

Weirdly, as it was a 21st celebration, you would have thought our alcohol-fuelled celebrations would have overshadowed the tours I had in my sleep deprived state; this, however, is not the case.

I  do distinctly remember jaeger shots, or at least the  incredibly queasy following morning. I also recall  eventually starting every conversation with a bartender with, “What’s your cheapest drink?” (Don’t judge, the usual response was  a curt 9 euros for half a pint of cider and my bank account was in physical pain). We also met a multitude of your quintessential Irish men, although none of them were generous enough to offer a pot of gold to my ever-decreasing student bank account.

What stood out for me, however, was that three hour walk and being able to explore Dublin on my own terms, enjoying Irish culture at a very  personal and colloquial level.

The grounds surrounding the art exhibition, one of the stops on the tour

Many tourists abroad these days eschew these important experiences in favour of London-named clubs and McDonald’s  admist a plethora of local cuisine  and culture left untouched.

Don’t be that forever stereotyped Briton with a deepset sunburn, that could only occur to skin that  hasn’t seen the sun for 350 days out of the year, who deemed it unnecessary to wear sunscreen. Don’t be one of those people who loudly ask where the nearest fish and chip restaurant is, or that drunken tourist who is being kindly helped by a friend who holds their hair back as they elegantly puke into a gutter; just don’t let your holiday become a blurry, untouched arena of experience.

Open those hungover eyes, crawl out of bed, and go find some of the best hangover cures that country has to offer…even if it is after a traditional English fry up.

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Everyone has a favourite anecdote from their travels and quite often friends and family dread the inevitable, and never-ending, slideshow of pictures that accompany someone’s return. However, this blog revels in it so send them through! It would make my day.

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