Category: Travel

Beautiful Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way

Westport – the town that stole my heart

Mayo stole my heart.  This beautiful county was my home for three years.  I was welcomed by the wonderful warm people and enchanted by the magnificent surroundings.  I return to Mayo as often as I can.

The Wild Atlantic Way conjures up images of crashing surf over jagged rocks, rugged mountains and landscapes with changing hues. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about the culture of local music and literary festivals, museums and historical sites. And don’t forget those beautiful white sandy beaches in hidden away coves and the hospitality that comes with a good old fashioned Irish pub. You’ll find all these things anywhere along the Way, but none more so than in the western and north western counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.  I really need to extend my exploring up the coast.

Mayo is often described as being ‘hauntingly beautiful’. Perhaps it’s because you often have the windswept landscape all to yourself. Or maybe it’s that stories of the famine seem to resonate more loudly here. Either way, much like the rest of the west coast, the scenery is breath-taking and dotted with spectacular vistas.

As you travel from Letterfrack in Connemara on your way into Mayo you’ll pass along the southern shore of Ireland’s only true fjord, Killary Harbour. The fjord stretches 16km from the Atlantic to Aasleagh falls where Galway and Mayo meet. Along the way, stop off and take a boat cruise where the spectacular nature of the fjord can be truly appreciated.

Aashleagh Falls on the Wild Atlantic Way

After Aasleagh falls your destination is Mayo’s jewel in the crown, Clew Bay and the Georgian town of Westport. Most would take the N59 straight up to Westport. Instead, take the scenic route and while there’s no coast road to follow for quite some distance, the R335 will take you through the absolutely stunning DooLough pass. This valley is home to a famine memorial that is definitely worth the visit.

A worthwhile detour is to divert from the Louisburgh road and head to Silver Strand and the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley is a sheep farm run by 6 generations of the Bourke family. It also serves as a famine memorial where it’s possible to visit deserted communities not inhabited since the famine. The beach at Silver Strand adjacent to the farm is unspoilt, but, beware of bathing as the waters have been described as treacherous. Overlooking the farm and the beach is the magnificent Mweelrea mountain. It’s Connacht’s tallest peak at 814 metres.

Around Clew Bay

The road gets closer to the coast when you get to Clew Bay where there are rumoured to be 365 islands. One for every day of the year. There really aren’t that many, but why let facts get in the way of a traditional story. Why not stop along the way at the foot of Croagh Patrick. There’s no need to climb right up to the top, but a short walk up it’s base will give you spectacular views of the bay.

The most welcome respite on your road trip is the beautiful Georgian town of Westport, my home for a while, just a short distance from Croagh Patrick. The pubs and cafes provide excellent food and drink and there’s plenty of accommodation to suit all pockets.

Westport is strategically located so that it’s easy to base oneself there while exploring the south and northern coastlines of Mayo over a few days.

A short drive along the north shore of Clew Bay lies the delightful town of Newport. The town is a renowned angling centre and stands at the entrance to the Bangor Trail, which is now part of the Great Western Greenway, a 43.5km cycling and walking route from Westport to Achill Island.

Achill Island and North Mayo

You really should include a visit to Achill Island a place that epitomises the Wild Atlantic Way with its rugged landscape, steep cliffs, rolling mountains, sheltered beaches and deserted villages. There are loads of adventure activities like surfing, horse riding and hiking as the well as the famous hospitality of its pubs and restaurants. It’s no wonder that there are plenty of families who make Achill their annual holiday destination. To the North West of Achill sits the 11,000 hectares of the unspoilt and uninhabited Ballycroy National Park. It’s a massive area of bog and peat dominated by the Nephin Beg mountains and is also part of Mayo’s Dark Sky park, where on a clear night you can see over 4,500 stars in the sky.

A short distance from the park is Mayo’s Gaeltacht of the Mullet Peninsula and the Barony of Erris. Belmullet is an ideal town from which to explore the peninsula’s cliffs and wild landscape. There is a plethora of water and adventure sports available.

As you drive away from the Belmullet along Mayo’s north coast, you can see the coast and beaches of Donegal miles in the distance. Stop in the picturesque seaside village of Killala famous for it’s role in the 1798 rebellion. Killala is packed full of tourist amenities and its skyline is dominated by a 12th Century Round Tower.

Ballina is Mayo’s largest town and is more or less the last stop before you enter County Sligo. Sitting on the River Moy, Ballina is considered an excellent Salmon fishery and its famous Ridge Pool in the heart of the town is a ‘salmon angers paradise’. In July, the population swells as the town hosts the annual Ballina Salmon festival with a week-long feast of free entertainment.

Travelling to Mayo is enchanting.  Pack the car and head out and I promise you might fall in love with the beautiful county and it’s people.  However as I have learned it is best to be prepared.

Before you hit the road make sure you are covered with Liberty Insurance Ireland. All our our car insurance policies come with 24/7 breakdown assistance with Home Start as standard and it won’t affect your no claims bonus. Get your car insurance quote online now.

This is a sponsored post, however as you know I never post about anything I don’t believe in.  It is a pleasure to feature the beauty of Mayo on my blog, and to remind people how important it is to be prepared.

Thanks for reading

 

Kerry xx

Thank you to Connemara Wild Escapes for the wonderful photos.

 

 

 

 

Escaping to the Wild Atlantic Way

When I think about travel, I tend to think about aeroplanes and the need for a passport.  Sometimes we forget that we have some glorious opportunities on our own doorstep.  Why not consider a little staycation closer to home?

A reason to celebrate

It isn’t that I need a reason to go on an adventure, but when the Merriman Hotel in Kinvara invited me to try a midweek break, I thought it would be an excellent way to celebrate our June birthdays.

So, we packed a little bag and headed off to Kinvara which is a beautiful fishing village on the Wild Atlantic Way.  A little over an hour from home Kinvara is also the gateway to the beautiful Burren in County Clare.

There are pros and cons about the Irish Summer.  The pros are that the landscape is truly picturesque, and the expression ‘50 shades of green’ is truly in bloom.  The con is that for this lush landscape to bloom we have  a lot of rain!  I am used to rain by now, and a good coat with a hood means that I am ready to go – regardless of the weather.

The Merriman Hotel in beautiful Kinvara

The Merriman Hotel, the largest thatch roof structure in Ireland and has a cosy traditional feel, inviting you in and encouraging you to stay.  As we were on a mini break I wanted to pack as much as I could into the day.

After checking in, we headed off for a walk through the town, stopping to browse in some interesting and quirky shops.  We landed up at Sair a coffee shop gallery for a delicious cappuccino and a naughty slice of pecan nut pie.  Despite being June, the weather was crisp and after the walk I had built up an appetite for dinner.  We returned to our comfy room, and then to settle in before thinking about an evening meal.

More Delicious Food

We decided to stay at the Merriman that evening and dine at the Thatch Bar.  One of the great things about a mini break is that you can relax, enjoy a drink and know that you only have to wander upstairs to bed and that nobody has to drive home.

I cannot recommend the food at the Thatch Bar at the Merriman enough.  It was lip smackingly delicious.  I chose traditional fish, chips and mushy peas.  The batter was crisp and delicious and the fish so fresh!  The portion was huge, but that was ok because himself landed up having both his sticky spare ribs and some of my fish.  As it was a birthday celebration we indulged in dessert.   Apple crumble for him and a delicious Eton Mess for me!

Day Two in Kinvara

After a great night’s sleep and a few cups of tea in bed we came down to breakfast, which was served buffet style with a large choice of fruits, cereals and pastries plus of course a traditional full Irish breakfast.  Once again excellent food, of course washed down with a few more cups of tea.

I am not used to a full breakfast, so we decided to go for a walk before heading off.  The grey skies were threatening, but we donned our coats and took a refreshing walk down to the harbour where the views across the water were simply stunning.

Visit Kinvara on a Thursday night – there is a good reason …

If you are booking a mid-week mini break at The Merriman Hotel, I would advise booking a Thursday.  The reason is that on a Friday there is really the most fabulous Farmers Market which takes place on a Friday morning from 10 am.  You will find a huge range of delicious food items (to eat there or to take home), local crafts and a great choice of fresh fruit and vegetables.

As we were rather full of our delicious breakfast I did a little shopping for home.  I bought a sharp local cheese with a hint of chilli, some very indulgent cinnamon and spice buns, and a ciabatta, which is was yummy toasted.

Onwards on the Wild Atlantic Way

Kinvara is a great stopping off place for visiting the Burren and County Clare.  It is only another short drive to amazing beaches such as Flaggy Shore, and Fanore Beach (my personal favourite), and the iconic Cliffs of Moher.

I am really blessed to live so close to this area, and I will definitely be back on a sunny day.  Stopping first at the Merriman Hotel for their famous Sunday carvery lunch and then making my way down the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

Thank you for reading about my adventures.

Kerry xx

 

p.s  Thank you to The Merriman Hotel for having us to stay.

 

 

 

 

Unplugged in Mabalingwe


It is ok to be unplugged!  To leave behind responsibilities and that fine but strong thread that ties us to the online world.  It isn’t easy though.

The lure of the African bush

When we started planning our trip to South Africa, I just knew I wanted time in the bush.  Time to get back to my roots and feel ‘African’.  It is hard to describe the assault to the senses that sunset in the bush is – it’s the smell of the soil and the aroma of smoke as the fires crackle for night-time braais (BBQs).  The gentle sun on my skin, and the sparkle that the sun creates as it touches the leaves in the trees and kisses the water.  It is the taste of a cold beer, or glass of wine and the company of good friends.  And, It is even the laugh as you look behind you and find a family of warthogs wanted to join in.

Dreams do come true and we had our bush experience at beautiful Mabalingwe, a nature reserve in the Swartberg Mountains in Limpopo Province in South Africa.

Letting go

We shopped, we packed and set off on our journey.  It is funny that the first thing we seem to do when we get anywhere is to check our phones.  And when we got settled in to our gorgeous cottage, we had nothing.  No signal at all!   Between us we tried all sorts of positions and combinations but to be honest no matter what we tried it didn’t work.  Standing on my tip toes with my head angled towards I don’t know what, I managed to send a message that we had arrived safely.  We relaxed, we ate good food, we chatted and laughed and yes, had that glass of wine or two.

Mabalingwe is an amazing place, with the opportunity to go on self-drive safari.  We got up early in the morning and headed out at a slow pace, rambling along taking in all the sights, sounds and smells that epitomise the African bush.  Lucky for us, we saw some amazing sights including my two favourite animals, zebra’s and giraffes.

Unplugged and without transport!

I told myself I was fine, not being connected.  After a couple of days of no internet access I felt quite smug. I could do this.  That was until I finished my book on my kindle and realised I didn’t have a way of downloading a new one.

On Monday I needed to confirm that the hire car I had booked would be delivered.  Now my stress levels started rising.  I couldn’t make a clear phone call as the signal kept dropping.  I couldn’t access my emails and to be honest I didn’t feel good knowing that I was so out of touch.

Eventually I asked the hotel reception for assistance and some hours later the car turned up.  Sometimes we need a reminder of how things were done before mobile phones arrived.

To celebrate the arrival of the car, we visited Vultures View – the amazing pub that is literally in the sky and offers great service, good food and views begging to be posted on Instagram.  And, we discovered, the best WiFi!

I downloaded a book, or two, checked my mail and social media accounts and realised that truthfully, I hadn’t missed much.

Choosing to be unplugged

For the balance of the week, I chose to be unplugged (almost 24/7).  It was quite freeing to know that scrolling through my phone was pointless.  Instead I read lots of books and took time to simply do nothing.

I also, treated myself to a couple of treatments at the Mbali Spa.  Self-care is a bit like being unplugged – you know you need to do it, but in the hustle of daily life it gets forgotten.  I made my choice and simply relaxed. My first treatment was a geranium and pine sugar scrub.  I felt so good after it that I booked a facial for the next day.

I must admit that every couple of days we visited the pub and ‘checked-in’.  We even got caught in the most amazing and scary thunderstorm one day, when even the higher powers unplugged the electricity.

Perhaps I need the thought of our beautiful time in the bush to remind me to stop scrolling and unplug.

Thank you for sharing my adventures.

Kerry x

 

Marmaris, Turkey – the Friendliest Place!


Our recent trip to Marmaris in Turkey was literally a tale of two parts.  The good however significantly outweighed the bad.

Although I love the idea of travelling the actual travel day is incredibly hard, especially if you are struggling with mobility.  As mentioned in a previous post, this trip started on the right note with a wonderful night at the Carlton Hotel in Blanchardstown.  At 4 am all excited we set off on our new adventure to a place that we had never visited before. (read about our wonderful night here)

Arriving in the friendliest place

Almost 5 hours on a budget airline is tiring.  It was wonderful to land at the brand-new airport at Dalaman and to feel the sun on our shoulders.  The transfer system here is very slick, and we were soon installed into a smart little mini bus, complete with a cooler of drinks.  All the transfer buses stop off half way, and I was delighted to stretch my legs and treat myself to my first Turkish ice cream – it was called blue sky – and looked exactly like the sky above us.  I was curious to try it and wondered what it would taste like – hard to describe but the closest I could get was caramel delicious.

A word of warning

Before we arrived at our hotel we knew it wouldn’t be great.  We had been doing some research on Trip Advisor and were a little worried to be honest.  The reviews were shocking.  We already knew that it was a five-story hotel that had no lift.  When I found this out I called ahead and explained my mobility issues and thankfully we were in a room on the first floor.  The hotel was very run down, but thankfully clean (this is important to me).  We had also booked full board – and one look at the dining room, the food that looked like it was recycled for each meal, and the kitchen led us to a quick decision that we wouldn’t be eating in.

On the plus side the location of the hotel was perfect, only 5 minutes from the beach, with easy access to the town and lovely eateries.  It also had a great rooftop pool, that had me taking a daily dip!

It is important to check things out.  We do travel on a budget, so were not expecting 5 stars.

The most delicious food always served with a smile

The food in Marmaris is amazing.  Let me just say that.  From a gorgeous Cappuccino to a full mixed grill, everything was fresh and delicious.  It was also extremely affordable, and served with a smile.

The first morning we went for a walk along the seafront.  After a while I was hot and tired, so we chose a restaurant for a refreshing drink.  Vamos appealed to me from the sidewalk, and it was a good choice.  Although we were only having a drink, I read the menu (I always do this – its ok to dream).  I noticed a starter of watermelon and feta and never mind that it was 11am I ordered it.  The portion that arrived was enough for three!  They quickly brought extra utensils and told me that this was not the normal portion size but that they decided to treat me.  It was fresh, juicy and so delicious.  And, it set the tone for a foodie holiday.

A firm favourite on the Turkish menu was lava bread.  This is literally a balloon of bread – crispy and light served with salsa, garlic yogurt and garlic butter.  I think we shared one every day, and I am missing them already.

Food was so affordable and the quality was outstanding.  We indulged in gorgeous kebab skewers, the most delicious pizza, and tasty gorgeous Turkish breakfasts.  If you fancy, there is always a great English breakfast – available in most restaurants.

Great value for money

I had underestimated how much spending money we needed – primarily because we ate out all the time.  After one attempt at drawing cash from a Turkish language ATM which was stressful, we realised that it was easy enough to choose a multiple language version.  By this stage I thought I was accustomed to the Turkish Lire.  I had bought three pairs of Birkenstocks, and we had tried out all sorts of treats from the supermarket.  I drew a couple of hundred lire, and then realised that it was barely 30 Euro.  Your money goes a long way in Turkey.

We booked our budget trip with Love Holidays.

A long walk to Icmeler

We love to walk.  Even though I walk slowly and with my trusty stick Stan, I am game to see how far I can go before I need a rest.  One day we decided to visit the next village – Icmeler.  I am not sure why we thought we could walk there, but we did.  We walked and walked.  I got hotter and more tired, and started complaining.  Himself kept on saying, it’ll be around the next corner.  After about six or seven corners I called time and we popped into a café with a Wi-Fi sign for a cold drink.  I checked google maps – it was 8km further!!!  Suffice to say we went back to the hotel for a swim and took a taxi the next day. I fell in love with Icmeler, bought the most delicious Turkish delight and indulged in yet another Lava bread.

Be prepared to lose your inhibitions

I had heard about a Hamman – a Turkish bath.  Feeling brave I booked in and descended the stairs to the Hamman spa.  Now, please remember that I am fabulous plus sized lady.  I was shown the changing room and offered a Turkish towel which is probably slightly bigger than a large dish towel.  I blanched!  A young lady came to assist and managed to truss me up in two towels – I had elected to keep my underwear on (for now).  After a sauna, I was shown into the Hamman room and invited to lay down on this large marble slab.  There was then a confusion of communication and eventually and English speaker came to clarify – did I want a man or woman to wash me.  A woman please!

This was a great choice as from this point on I realised that I had to simply give up on inhibitions and enjoy the experience.  I was given an invigorating aloe vera scrub, followed by a massage with what can only be described as pillow cases full of foam.  It was sublime.  The experience concluded with a full body (and I mean full body) oil massage.

I have shared my turkish bath story with a few people.  I have told that I didn’t sell it well.  Yes, it is an extremely intimate experience – but I would do it again.  Just remember to leave your inhibitions at the door.

Sailing away with pirate ships

The bay of Marmaris is extremely picturesque. From the first moment, we glimpsed it on arrival, I wanted to paint the misty hills that enclosed it.  The first morning we noticed Pirate ships on the bay, and I was intrigued.  There are several ships all offering day trips around the bay.  In the end, we chose the Black Pearl, primarily because of the friendly man who engaged with us.  I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a pirate ship, but then again we got to watch the Pirate ships instead.

This day out was brilliant value and included all drinks on board as well as a delicious lunch.  The views were stunning and so inspiring.  We dropped anchor at various spots for swimming, sightseeing and to view truly magical caves.

My lasting memories of Turkey

When I think back on my trip, the overriding memories are of the friendly people, and the kindness of strangers.  For the most part, people are honest and kind.  We had great chats with locals and other tourists, and felt truly welcomed.

We will be back – and next time we will stay in the lovely Icmeler but of course we will visit the beautiful bay of Marmaris.

Thank you for reading.

Kerry xx

 

The best way to start a holiday!

I love going on holidays.  What I don’t like is the getting ready.  I get quite stressed about the packing in case I leave anything behind.  My other big stress is getting to the airport.  To drive or catch a bus?  Where to park?  Quite honestly I don’t normally want to be around myself the day before travel.

The Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown offer a service called #StayParkFly –  you can stay over at the hotel the night before you fly, and leave your car there.  They then offer a shuttle service dropping you right at the airport.

I was delighted to collaborate with the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown on our recent visit to Turkey. We were flying at 6am on Sunday morning so needed to be at the airport at 4am.  And, yes the shuttle bus was available at this hour of the night.

This was such a cool experience that I decided to dedicate a full blog post to what I am now calling the first day of the holiday.

Day 1 of my Holiday

On Saturday afternoon we took a leisurely drive up to Dublin arriving at the hotel mid-afternoon.  I have visited the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown before and I know the rooms are lovely but we were given a real treat and upgraded to a suite.  I felt like a movie star!  We settled in with a cup of tea and some lovely little cakes.  I stretched out like a star fish on the bed and himself watched a little TV.

Instead of my usual stress I felt so relaxed, like I was on holiday already.  And what better way to celebrate the beginning of a holiday than a wonderful G&T!  The bar is so lovely and welcoming and all the staff were super helpful.

We needed an early night (as we had an extremely long day ahead of us) so we had an early dinner.  A delicious juicy steak for himself and some yummy pumpkin ravioli for me, before heading off to our gorgeous room for a bubble bath and an early night.

Watch a video of my ‘room tour’ here

Day 2 of our holiday

The next morning I woke up and instead of being stressed, I was excited!  The attitude of the staff at this hotel is fantastic.  Before 4am we came downstairs with our bags to be greeted with a smile, and two little bags with take-away breakfast of croissants, muffins, fruit and water.  Our cheerful driver Michael set off for Dublin Airport – next stop for us – Marmaris, Turkey!

You know the feeling when you come home from holiday.  You have been travelling hours on a mini bus and a budget airline and you are beyond tired.  This is normally the time when you have to either climb on a bus for another few hours, or play the game of find the car in among hundreds of cars in the long-term parking.  By this stage my fatigue normally has me close to tears.

What a difference this was.  Despite our plane being delayed, the cheerful driver Michael was waiting for us, he had even called ahead to check that we knew where to find him.

I can honestly say that the wonderful service from the staff at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown contributed to a wonderful holiday.

Kerry xx

Our stay at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown was gifted to us.  Thank you very much!  Thank you also to Sinead from the Irish Blogger Agency.

p.s.  The next installment of our holiday in amazing Turkey will be coming soon!  And it includes my take on a Turkish Bath!

12 Tips for Travelling on a Budget

I love to travel.  There is something about visiting a place that is not home that captures my imagination and quite simply excites me.  I had to find a way of travelling on a budget.

We are on a very limited budget.  I am in fact on a medical pension which makes it even harder to travel, but not impossible.

My excuse was that I couldn’t’ afford a holiday

For many years I was the person that said I can’t afford a holiday.  I looked on with envy as many people jetted off to sunnier climates and felt frustrated and a tiny bit left out.  What I didn’t realise is that there are a few tricks and techniques which make it perfectly possible to travel – on an extremely limited budget.

  1. Book out of season – it’s one of the advantages of being a little older.
  2. Be prepared to trawl the internet – the deals are there to be had, you simply have to spend time looking. Our favourite site is www.loveholidays.com
  3. Be flexible with dates, and places, you might have to compromise a little but I promise it is worth it.
  4. Let go of the 5-Star dreams. We travel on a budget and understand that if you aren’t paying 5-star rates you won’t get a 5 star hotel.  However, you might get a really clean self-catering apartment in a perfect location.
  5. Choose self-catering. Although we have tried various options, but if I am honest I do prefer self-catering.  It is fun going to the supermarket and figuring out what might be delicious.  It is also a lot cheaper.  A bottle of wine, or even a bottle of water from a supermarket is more affordable than one in a restaurant.
  6. Eating out is cheaper than at home – just remember to do your research. Trip Advisor is great for knowing just exactly what you are getting.  I love the European café culture – so am always happy to pay for a great coffee and a pastry and sit and write in my journal or simply watch the world go by.
  7. Save! Yes, no matter how cheap it is savings are going be needed.  I am personally very happy to have baked beans on a baked potato for dinner for a few nights and know that I can make the holiday payment.
  8. Choose to pay monthly. I find it quite difficult to save up a lump sum, but many holiday operators offer the option of paying monthly.  We allocate 10 Euros each of our weekly budget to paying off holidays.  It is easy enough to find 10 Euro and we are heading to our third European holiday this weekend.
  9. Research transport options. You might be able to pick up a bus pass for the week for as little as 10 Euro.  I love to walk on holiday but sometimes you need to catch a ride.
  10. Think of the extras. I used to get caught by extras like check-in fees, and parking.  Parking can be quite a chunk of spending money if you don’t get it right.  One option would be to stay at an affordable Dublin hotel which offers a shuttle to the airport and parking while you are away.  We are delighted to be staying at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown before leaving for Turkey.  An added advantage is that we need to be at the airport at 4am.  This way will be rested and ready for our holiday.
  11. Look into the local currency. If you need to convert your spending money before you go.  (And yes you guessed it I save that too for a few weeks before the trip)
  12. Check out mobile phone and internet access with your service provider. The last thing you want is a rude bill on your return.

It is exciting to go on holiday and the best part is when everything is sorted and paid for before hand.  I am off to pack my bag, tick off my checklist and get ready for Turkey.

I hope you are inspired to go travelling on a budget.

Follow me on Instagram @fabulouskerry to see how we get on.

Thanks for reading.

Kerry xx

How to pack fabulous into a 10kg carry-on bag!

Packing for a week in a carry-on bag is the biggest holiday challenge for me.  I want to be comfortable, feel fashionable and pretty and still not incur excess baggage costs.

It starts with shoes …

Shoes are the most important item in my holiday wardrobe.  Firstly I must be comfortable, and walking is always a huge part of the holiday.  In addition shoes are the heaviest item in your luggage and when you have 10kg for a week’s worth of style some forward planning is needed.

I was recently introduced to Hotter shoes.  These fabulous shoes have transformed my wardrobe and my foot comfort.  So stylish and super comfortable.  My pale blue Flare sandals are a dream to wear.  They are seriously stylish but are so well designed that they even have fastenings that adjust – absolutely perfect for me as my feet swell in the hot weather.

Blue is a favourite colour for me – and like denim they go with everything!.

Red shoes, in my opinion are magical.  Gorgeous soft buttery leather and a padded,shaped innersole make these Nirvana mary-janes so comfortable, while still being fashionable.  The design of this shoe is perfect with dresses, leggings or jeans.  Such a versatile choice that I know will take me through the seasons.  A great choice for travelling!

How to pack for Summer sun

Summer means colour to me.  Banish those blacks and greys and get happy.  I love summer bright dresses that you can simply slip on and be ready to go the beach or eat dinner al fresco.

I start packing by laying out the clothes I think I want to take on the bed.  Then, I count the days and consider contingencies.  Most often do a bit of editing because we often take too much.  The next items to go in are shoes.  I normally travel with three pairs.  For a summer holiday, a pair of flip flops, a pair of sandals and a pair of shoes suitable for walking and travelling.  As I wear a lot of dresses, these all need to be pretty!  My Hotter sandals and shoes in blue and red were the first items in the suitcase. A quick glance at my holiday wardrobe assured me that they were the perfect choice.

My packing checklist

I work on a little checklist for all my trips – just to make sure I have all I need and nothing extra.

This would be for a seven-day trip.

  1. Footwear – sandals, flip-flops, shoes
  2. Dresses x3 – normally a couple of maxi dresses and a shorter one. (I do wash and wear)
  3. Leggings x 1
  4. Tops (for leggings) x 2
  5. Wrap/cover-up
  6. Swimsuit
  7. Cardigan
  8. Underwear
  9. Modesty tops (Little vests to go under my dresses and protect my modesty somewhat)
  10. Capsule make-up and cosmetic collection (it all fits into a little zip lock bag)
  11. Hair – yes I take my heated rollers with me everywhere, hairbrush, hair ties and pins.
  12. Medication – I do have to take a good bit with me – so that is a second zip lock bag.
  13. Extras – travel adaptor, phone charger, my journal
  14. Accessories – a fold up beach bag, sunglasses, and a few key pieces of costume jewellery.
  15. Handbag – I checklist all the items in here too – no harm in being prepared.

Tick everything off the list and then roll pack.  This way I fit everything I need in.

Yes, it can be done!  Carry-on luggage only.

I wouldn’t have believed it could be done.  It is possible to save on checked luggage and fit whatever you need into a little suitcase.  I do think it is all about choices, and for me it definitely starts with choosing the perfect shoes.

This is a sponsored post by the fabulous Hotter Shoes.  I was gifted the shoes which have honestly become my favourites.  I wrote about choosing the shoes and the wonderful service offered by Hotter in this blog post.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I have inspired you to book that summer break – and save the cost of check-in baggage for a nice dinner out on holiday and maybe a glass of wine.

Kerry x

Tenerife – it creeps into your heart until you don’t want to leave

Everyone has different expectations of a holiday and of course different budgets too.

We were so excited to be visiting Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife.  Endless hours had been spent on YouTube looking at travel videos.  I was very curious to experience ‘black’ sand!

The holiday didn’t get off to the finest start.  Despite being excited, the trip was long.  A four and a half hour flight, plus a couple of hours drive and of course airport waiting time all added up.  It meant that we arrived late in the evening a little tired and grumpy if I am completely honest.

Travelling with a budget airline on a short trip is fine, but absolutely no frills on a longer flight is a little more challenging.   The holiday had started and were eager to get going as we had a 90 minute transfer from the airport to our destination at the north of the island.

Something went wrong and we found ourselves waiting for more than an hour.  Eventually a small group was loaded into a mini bus that was not road worthy and we set off.  This was not the way I was expecting to start my holiday.

We travel budget style

We are on a budget and more than happy to compromise on luxuries for the chance of some sun on our bones.  Resorts wouldn’t necessarily be our choice either as we enjoy walking and soaking up the local culture.

Our hotel, Travador, was in the older part of Puerto de la Cruz, and despite the website reporting a big upgrade it was a little tired.  We eventually realised that it was the public rooms that had been upgraded and that the rooms were in progress.  Never mind, it was clean (a biggy for me) and the location was absolutely perfect.

Walking our way around Puerto de la Cruz

Both my partner and I suffer from arthritis, and one of the reasons we travel is to take advantage of the dry heat which makes such a huge difference on our pain and inflammation.  There are days at home where I struggle to walk.  In Tenerife I was walking 10 0000 steps a day (with my trusty stick Stan), but walking nevertheless.

On our first morning we started exploring the town, which in a weird way reminded me of South Africa.  The beautiful gardens which were part of the city scape incorporated Bougainvillea one of my favourite childhood flowers as well as many other trees and flowers.  I took hundreds of photos that first morning.  The heat on my back and the paw paw (papaya) and guavas outside the shops were enticing.

Location is really key – especially if you want to be able to walk everywhere.  After treating ourselves to coffee in an outdoor café we found our way to the beach only a 10 minute walk from our hotel and it was at this point that I started to fall in love.

It is odd looking at black sand, because it’s different to what your head says it should be.  The combination from an artist’s eye however is breath-taking.  The sea reflects an exquisite turquoise shade as it brushes across the sand.  I took loads of photos and can’t wait to get into the studio to try to recapture this amazing colour combination.

A beer and a beer shandy were just what we needed after our long walk and we simply sat back and enjoyed the magnificent view.  These positions at the beachside café became a daily indulgence.  Sometimes we indulged further tasting the local cuisine or a naughty ice cream.

There is something about the sea that calms and relaxes me completely.  I can look at it, walk along the shore line dipping my toes into the waves or simply close my eyes and take in the smell of the salty waves and sun on the sand.  I did a fair bit of the above in Puerto de la Cruz.

Musings from my journal

I journal every day.  It is part of my routine and certainly something that helps me in so many ways.  When we are on holiday, journaling time has to be planned for.  Most days this took place in a little café a stone’s throw from our hotel where I could order a pot of tea and a pastry for the princely sum of 2 Euro.

During the holiday I came up with these seven realisations/lessons that I learnt from my week in Puerto de la Cruz.

  1. It really doesn’t matter what you look like.  On the beach I saw woman (and men) of every shape, size and age all wearing bikinis and other skimpy swimwear.  They were happy and sunning themselves and not beating themselves up about what they looked like.  I made a pact to give up tangling with my sarong and simply relax and enjoy.
  2. I love the coffee culture. People watching is such fun and there is nothing nicer than whiling away an hour over a delicious café con leche and perhaps a sneaky pastry.  Costing less than 2 euro – including the nibble, I can afford to indulge.
  3. My IBS is better on holiday. I realise this is a bit TMI (too much information) but it is really relevant to me.  IBS is part of my life and a side effect of fibromyalgia and other conditions not to mention the many pills that I have to pop.  I think it could be all the walking (see point 4) or simply being truly relaxed and keeping hydrated.  It could be lack of stress.  I just know that somehow I would like to hang onto this advantage when I get home.
  4. Walking! Instead of dancing all night I could walk all day.  I walk fairly slowly and use my trusty stick much of the time, but I really enjoy it.  We walked on the beach, along the paved walkways which stretch across Puerto de la Cruz and wound our way through quirky back streets.  Yes, my feet got sore, and I got tired, but it felt so good to be moving with the sun on my back and a few breaks along the way to enjoy the atmosphere.
  5. My joints – the bane of my life with arthritis are much, much better in a dry heat. It is amazing to rely less and less on pain relief over the week, and of course to be able to move more.  The sad side of this is that within 48 hours of being back in Ireland, these positive effects are gone.  (Never mind I can book another budget holiday).
  6. You can travel on very little money. Both my partner and I are on a very limited budget.  Holidays are only possible if we budget carefully before hand and afterwards.  We invest a lot of time into digging out the best deals possible.  We are fairly flexible with dates which means that we can avail of the best offers possible.  This holiday was booked through Love Holidays and was paid off on an instalment plan.  We don’t mind the lack of luxuries, but do love the warm air and the sense of excitement that travel brings.
  1. Be adventurous! In everything.  We had a giggle every morning when we came down for breakfast because it wasn’t what we are used to.  Peas, carrots, and one morning pizza.  There were some really yummy cakes and pastries too.  Everyone is different and every culture that you visit has different cuisine.  Try things – you might not like them, but then again you might be back for more.

Highlights and low notes

As with any journey there are particular highlights.  One of mine was the night we treated ourselves to dinner at a little restaurant and were in turn treated to a feast of flamenco dancing.  I am very much an off the beaten track person, and would prefer to try smaller eateries.  One of the best meals of the trip was a shared plate of the local Canarian potatoes (wrinkly potatoes) – basically salted boiled new potatoes with two mojo sauces eaten at the beachside café.

On a low note, it took us 27 hours to get home.  A technical fault on a Ryanair flight had us diverted to a different airport and drinking tea at 4am in an airport hours from our car.  It wasn’t easy and it definitely meant that we arrived home tired, rather than relaxed.

Thank you for reading about my travels.

Kerry xx

Reading inspires me to travel to dream destinations

Reading giving me itchy feet.  It inspires me to travel to destinations that have until now only existed within pages of a book.

When I was about eight years old I didn’t read.  I didn’t like it – I thought it was boring.

I was then introduced to my first thriller/mystery and I was hooked.  I forgot about anything or anyone around me.  Nothing much has changed in the ensuing years.

These days I read on my kindle which is on my phone.  I still love a paper book, but I also love the ease of reading an e-book.  It is easy to hold and more importantly with me wherever I go.

Wednesday Quotation

I am delighted to be back bringing you a Wednesday quotation.  And this one from my favourite childhood author Dr Seuss really inspires me and tells a story of where I am in my life right now.

The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you will go.

I read every day.  Sometimes I forget things because I am absorbed in the story that transports me to places in my imagination.  I read fiction, I read travel books, I read inspiration and I read personal development and self-improvement books.  When I get a chance I still read childrens books too.

No matter what you read when you crack open the pages, virtual or not, you are learning.  You are learning about people and you are learning about places.

I am so excited to be travelling to Tenerife for some sun very soon.  There are lots of trips planned for this year and the next. My wish list that gets added to regularly, and sometimes directly in correlation with something I have read.

Travel does cost money and so many of my dream destinations will remain dreams for a while, but at least I can read, and research and allow my imagination to soar.

Thank you so much for reading

Kerry x

 

The Delights of Manchester and More!

There are two kinds of travel for me.  Travel to visit friends and family and travel to places where you can be anonymous.  I love both.  (They can of course be combined!)

Finding time for family

I was reflecting on my travel schedule and realised that for the first time in 22 years I wasn’t going to be with my son for mother’s day.  This had me immediately reaching for my phone and looking for flights.

My son got his dream job and moved to Cheshire just outside Manchester six months ago.  Coincidently my brother and his family moved to the same area a year before when then made their big move from South Africa.

Booking a flight to Manchester seemed like the perfect solution.  A bit of travel, a bit of mother and son time and of course family time.  There is nothing quite like spending time in conversation with someone you have known your whole life (well almost).

A different departure

Due to my health issues, I need to travel assisted most of the time and get quite unsettled in busy loud situations, so I decided to try Shannon Airport as an option to Dublin.  What an absolute pleasure it was – the airport was quiet, clean and very efficient.  And I must pay tribute to the assistance staff who were helpful and kind on both legs of my journey.

I was collected at the airport by my brother and headed back for the first of many cups of tea and hours of conversation.

The adventures begin

The next day my adventures with my son started.  We started off with Sushi for lunch at Zuma – a fabulous little eatery with bottomless Miso soup.  This has become a bit of a tradition and I would really be bereft without a visit here.  My son went back to work and I had a wander around Wilmslow which is a gorgeous town with quirky shops and high street favourites.  I finished up with a cappuccino and cake and my journal – simply the right formula for a little thinking.

That evening I had a wonderful treat.  David has subscribed to a great foody idea.  Hello Fresh delivers carefully curated recipes and the precise ingredients you need to make a tasty dinner.  He has always been interested in cooking and this seems to be a great way to increase your exposure to different cuisines and learn new skills.  The chicken and courgette curry with delicious coconut milk served with flavoured rice was lip smackingly delicious.  I was savouring the flavours in my mouth and not even thinking of dessert.

It was early to bed for us because we had a great day planned for Friday.

We headed off via train and Uber to the Intu Trafford Centre.  This is really quite a magnificent destination – in fact I would call it an experience rather than a shopping centre.  Quite regal architecture invites you into a world under one roof.  I had my phone out and was snapping photographs straight away.

I have always tried to hold onto the childish delight in new experiences and the self playing piano was just the kind of novelty to put me in the right mood.

We wandered the shops being drawn into various establishments, and then we passed  and the most magical display of confectionary I have seen in a long time.  It was time for coffee and a treat.  Unicorn cake for me and an unctuous Ferraro Rocher cupcake for David.  After a nice sit down and a few plans we returned to the shops.

On my first visit to the UK many years ago I discovered Molton Brown.  This has to be my all time indulgence.  Evocative aromas and silky sensations.  I was invited to sit down and give my hands a mini spa treatment.  A cleansing scrub, a bath oil that was literally so sensuous I was swooning and then some luxurious lotion.  I was literally oohing and aahing.

The visit to this emporium was probably the highlight of my visit to Trafford especially when David told me he was buying the oil for me for Mother’s Day.  It was truly something that I loved (I think he got the idea I loved it from my behaviour in the shop).  This kind of gift is perfect as it keeps on giving.  Everytime I have a bath I will be transported back to my special day.

We finished our visit with a yummy visit to Wagamama – a healthy treat and special mother son time.

Cocktails in a Laundrette

The following day we were on the train again and then caught a cab to a laundrette.  Yes, a low-key, tatty looking laundrette with washing machines and baskets of undies.  Behind the door disguised as another washing machine was the most magical cocktail bar ever!

The Washhouse in Manchester is all about storytelling – in the form of delicious cocktails.  The host welcomed us and even as we walked towards our table my eyes were darting about looking at the amazing creations.  Each cocktail has a story and this is played out in the ingredients, the wonderful and creative presentation and of course the taste.

Three is a magic number so we each had three cocktail experiences.  Everything but a Beach – was a trip to the seaside.  The cocktail was served in red bucket and was a wonderful salty but fruity hit and it was served in a sandpit complete with a fallen ice cream cone.  The sand was delicious!  It was all delicious.

My second choice was the Tea-Total – and no it wasn’t a mocktail.  Everyone who knows me, knows that I love my tea and this drink was perfection.  It was served in a little tea-cup complete with a couple of biscuits and floating pink rose buds and the best part, a photograph of David and I pegged to the cup.  (another gift that will keep on giving as it came home with me!)

I finished up with Hard Breakfast – an orange and bourbon based glass of yum served with a tiny toast and marmalade side.  This was the strongest flavour of all my choices so I am glad I ended with it.  As we made our way to the station in the cold wind, my tummy was warm and my heart was delighted.  What a wonderful Mother’s Day treat.

Home comforts

On Mother’s Day the treats continued as my son and his cousins prepared a wonderful lunch for the moms and my brother.  Crumbed Camembert, Lime and Tarragon Chicken and a home-made Toblerone Cheesecake was a menu that couldn’t be beaten.  Thank you to you all – it was a delicious and comforting way to end off a visit that will be remembered.

I enjoy all sorts of travelling and this trip was a delight at every step.  So many of us have family spread out all over the world.  Creating wonderful memories through travel as like jewels in my mind.

Thank you for reading about this month’s adventure.  I wonder where I will go next ……

Kerry xx

 

%d bloggers like this: