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Month: October 2017

What To Do With 12 Hours in Amsterdam

What To Do With 12 Hours in Amsterdam

Stopovers can be a very strange experience. It’s as if you enter a parallel universe where water costs 5 euro a pop and it becomes totally appropriate to drink whisky at 10am. Some people relish the opportunity to kill a few hours in an airport but personally I detest it. I always feel grubby, like I need a good hosing down after getting off the last plane that was a container full of germs. And I get bored of the shops within the first few minutes (mostly because I feel like a peasant who can’t afford any of the products they’re selling!).

There is truly no look that induces as much shame as the one from the snooty cosmetics lady at an airport is there? Especially the moment when she catches you spraying yourself from head to toe in an expensive perfume, asks you with about as much sarcasm as one can gather, if you need any assistance. No I don’t need any help thanks but I guess you knew that from the fact that I’m wearing furry socks with flip flops and have a fistful of samples in my sweaty hands! Oh the shame!

 

BUT. Sometimes, if you’ve been blessed with a stopover of more than a few hours, then that strange experience can actually turn out to be one of the best parts of the trip. A gift that gives you the opportunity to escape the madness and tension of the airport and upgrade your holiday by spending a few hours in a city you weren’t expecting to see. Why suffer when you can pop in to Dubai for a bit of breakfast? Or Hong Kong for dinner? Or, in our recent case, lunch in Amsterdam?? We had half a day to kill in between flights on our way home from Bali last month and jumped at the chance to explore the city instead of just moping about its airport. It might have been a flying visit (hardy har har) but it felt like we were getting a little taste of the Netherlands for just one day and it really was the perfect way to end an already amazing trip.

Here’s a few things that we managed to cram in during our 8 hours…

Dam Square

We got the train in to Centraal Station which only took around 20 minutes on the Sunday morning and couldn’t believe how easy it was to get right in to the city centre. From there we walked down the eerily quiet main street towards Dam Square which at 8am on a Sunday morning, was completely devoid of tourists. It felt as if we had the city to ourselves, strolling through the square and gazing up at the Royal Palace wondering where all the people were. It was incredibly peaceful so we were definitely not complaining.

Nine Streets

A hop over from Dam Square are the most photogenic streets in Amsterdam. Known to locals as ‘The 9 Streets’, the area is jammed with trendy shops, cafés and restaurants that you could easily spend a whole day wandering through. What we came here for though was the opportunity to get the quintessential Amsterdam photo of canals and bikes (have you even been to Amsterdam if you don’t have that photo?). It was a beautiful walk because it was so quiet, only a handful of early risers out walking their dogs on the hunt for their morning coffee. We popped in to Pluk when we were on a stroll and I instantly fell in love, a definite recommendation for a coffee break.

Bloemenmarkt

When you’re done taking photos by the canal, potter on down to the world’s first floating flower markets just a few minutes walk away. In the summer it will be a tulip paradise but in the colder months you will see the winter flowers making appearances with the sellers wrapped up from the cold. It’s best to get there early when the stalls are full of colours and before the punters have descended.

Koffieschenkerij De Oude Kerk

I’m not even going to try and pronounce the name of this café out loud but what I will say is that it’s a spot you have to pop in to for a bit of brunch or tea and cake. It’s located within the sacristy of the Oude Kerk church in the middle of the Red Light District – a church that has seen it’s fair share of sinners I’m sure! We ate our cake in the courtyard under Autumn blue skies and feeling very much at home amongst the rest of the Sunday brunchers. A worthwhile pitstop I can assure you.

After our treats we headed towards the airport feeling conflicted because we were both wishing we had a few more hours for our stopover while at the same time, dreaming of a hot shower and finally getting in to our own bed!

What Not To Worry About #41

What Not To Worry About #41

Hello friends! How are we feeling this Monday? There is a definite nip in the air in the mornings isn’t there? I’m finding myself getting out of bed a little slower, with one foot out first, tentatively testing the floor to check it’s not too cold before retreating back under the covers for just a few more minutes. The clocks are due to go forward this Saturday so the mornings will be even darker and the bed will feel even toastier I am sure. I might just have to start treating myself to a warm porridge to lure me out, with lots and lots of honey of course.

I hope your weekend was a good one despite Brian trying to out-do Ophelia with more wind and rain! Shannon (my little sister) and I had trotted down to Dublin for the weekend but the weather made it pretty difficult to see where we were going never mind actually seeing the pretty buildings. Fortunately Dublin isn’t short of cosy pubs to dry off in so we spent a few hours warming up between dodging puddles so we can’t complain too much.

In spite of the weather we still had a ball exploring Dublin and most of all, enjoying the wee luxuries that came with staying in the Merrion Hotel, a pretty swish hotel in the centre of town. The stay was a birthday gift from Shannon and my Dad and it was so exciting to feel like an aristocrat for 24 hours; the doorman welcoming us in, the concierge delivering our suitcases to our room, a little birthday tart waiting for us by our bed (the dessert you filthy minx!). Of course this is not the life we are used to so we lapped up every second and took a million photos of it all because if you don’t Instagram it, it hasn’t actually happened right?!

The most stylish elderly couple walking arm in arm (I had to take a photo!)

Luckily the weather cleared up on Sunday and we went for a mosey around St. Stephen’s Green, admiring elegant couples and ivy clad walls. After making a final stop in O’Donoghue’s (the birthplace of The Dubliners whose portraits you can find hanging on the walls), we drove down to the Powerscourt Hotel to admire the estate and the hills, bracing the chilly winds for a few seconds to snap a few photos before running back to the car. It’s a beautiful part of Ireland, so rugged and wild it’s hard to believe you’re only a half hour’s drive from the city. We promised ourselves that the next time we pretend to be fancy we will do it in this hotel and run about the heather like we’re in a Brontë novel.

Our doorman

Alas, we are back to porridge today and with that in mind, I have another weekly roundup of the unnecessary worries that I am letting go of for good. Feel free to borrow some of mine or even better, tell me some of yours? Would love to know!!

Choosing ethical clothing – in last week’s post I mentioned taking a few photos with my pal Mel Wiggins who is an inspiration to anyone who is wanting to make more ethical purchases when buying clothes. Sometimes we can really stress ourselves out when we go shopping, worrying if we’re contributing in any way to an industry that exploits the vulnerable & impoverished. This is where Mel steps in and introduces businesses that are doing it the right way and who are producing beautiful clothing that will save our conscience. Have a look at her latest post for more information including the photos we took while dandering around the Argory 🙂

Providing Hallowe’en treats – I LOVE Hallowe’en so it’s no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy decorating the house a little in preparation for the little visitors that descend upon the house searching for treats. Last year Andrew put a sheet up on the front window and had a scary projector show which amused the adults way more than the kids so we’ll be keeping that tradition up this year. Also, I’m going to be trying my hand at these bad boys to try and shake up the usual habit of buying a multipack of sweets that I just end up eating myself anyway!

Repetitive breakfasts – I am so boring when it comes to breakfasts! I have the same thing almost every day; granola, almond milk and chopped berries. Now that we’re approaching the dark and cold mornings I have decided I am going to start making porridge although I haven’t made it in years. Is there a good receipt to use that you’d recommend? Who does the best oats?? It’s the type of thing I should be ringing my Granny for!

Lack of documentaries – I have loved watching Louis Theroux’s new ‘Dark States’ series which has provided an incredible insight in to working class poverty in America. The series has finished now but the new series of Blue Planet will be starting this week and I am so so so excited to hear David Attenborough’s grandfatherly voice coming out of my TV, sharing the most amazing footage of the deep blue. Hans Zimmer has provided the score for the series too so no doubt I’ll be an emotional wreck after each episode!

Having a poor bedtime routine – my bedtime routine is something along the lines of: take off make up (un)properly, brush teeth, take a book to bed in the hope that I’ll actually read it (and then end up scrolling through social media for a half hour) and try to have a normal conversation with Andrew before passing out. Not too impressive is it? Reading this article gave me new inspiration – and a good laugh too!!

 

Have a great week folks!! x

8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

I have known some amazing people in my life; people who have broadened my mind and taught me life lessons that no classroom ever could. There was once the young heroine who travelled between parallel worlds, using a knife to cut through the curtain that separated them. And the girl who shared the power of language with adults at a time when the world was falling apart.  Oh! And the boy with autism who solved a mystery about a murdered dog!

And while admittedly none of these people were actually real, they existed so vividly in my mind that they became familiar, like someone I had known forever. It never ceases to amaze me how I can fall in love with/detest/fear/pity characters that are purely fictional and yet, while I am reading the pages their world is contained in, I am so engrossed that they become a part of my own little world.

Yes, this is the magic of a good book. It pulls at your heart, making you feel a longing that you didn’t know existed. A good book will leave you in mourning for weeks.

Naturally, there are a lot of blog posts around this time of year full of book recommendation as we prepare for the season of hibernation. Books provide an escape, an adventure that we are denied during the darker months when things are slower and a little safer. There are thousands of stories that we can read that will scoop us up from our couch and transport us somewhere entirely new and exciting but for logistical reasons I am choosing eight for the autumn and winter that should just about see me (and hopefully you) through to spring.

My taste in books doesn’t discriminate; you’ll find a mix of genres here so I am confident that you will find one that you can add to your list. And, as always, I am open to lots of suggestions so please share with me the books you are choosing for your dormant hours.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman

If you haven’t read Philip Pullman’s epic ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy then you have been missing something truly magical from your life! Although the series was marketed to young adults, the themes of the book speak to all ages with elements of fantasy, philosophy and theology all thrown in. It’s been 17 years since the release of the last book in the series, a book which made me cry at the age of 20 and I, along with the an army of fans, have been waiting a long time to meet Lyra again. The new trilogy is an “equel” as it is both a prequel and a sequel all wrapped in to one with the first book released today. I’ll be waiting by the door like a giddy child until it arrives in my hands!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

This is a non-fiction book, not my usual cup of tea but the story was so tragically fascinating that I couldn’t put it down. The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, known as HeLa, that came from Lacks’ cervical cancer cells in 1951. It sounds heavy because it is, not just because it involves some medical jargon that you might need to read slowly but also because it addresses the painful history of racial politics within medicine. Despite this, I still think it’s an important read because the author doesn’t just throw out scientific facts but bravely tells the story of a woman who, unbeknownst to her family, changed the course of medicine and scientific research. A powerful read but one that might take a while to get through.

All The Light We Cannot See – Antony Doerr

I have just started this and have already fallen in love. It tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who along with her father has taken refuge in a coastal city while the Nazis invade Paris. Her story collides with Werner, a German orphan who is fighting for Hitler Youth and who are about to face attack from the American bombers. I had read about this book after it won the Pulitzer prize back in 2015 and suggested it for my book club in work so I have high hopes that there will be positive reviews all round at the next meeting!

The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris

I’m going to sound extremely American here but…. My psychologist recommended me this book! I started seeing her about a year 6-8 months ago because it’s something the Cystic Fibrosis team encourage us to do since it can obviously be a bit stressful living with this nasty illness. The thing is, I hardly ever discuss CF and we mainly chat about the day-to-day stresses that all of us experience because these are the most consistent worries we have. This book encourages the reader to move away from the belief that we must be happy all the time in order for us to live a fulfilled life. In fact, the more we strive for happiness the more we will suffer in the long term. The author provides mindfulness skills on how to escape the “happiness trap” that will reduce stress and worry. I’ve just started it but can’t wait to learn a new way of thinking that could possibly change the way I live – no pressure of course!

Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has gained recent notoriety after her book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was turned in to a TV show this year and shamefully, I hadn’t read any of her books before hearing about her. This will soon be remedied though as Andrew bought me this book as a birthday present and I can’t wait to get stuck in to it! The author has described the story as “adventure romance” which sounds like a mixed bag but I’m totally down with it. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize back in 2003 and has great reviews to support which sells it even more.

All The Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Cormac is well known for his bleak themes that dominate most of his work (The Road was not an easy read!) but this book is a little more romantic and hopefully a little easier to digest. I’ve started reading it and while the dialogue is a little different, I quite like the approach since it feels like I’m getting inside the character’s head. The book tells the tale of John Grady Cole, a 16 year old ranger who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch in Texas who runs away after learning that the ranch is to be sold. A wild western book that will surely feel a lot different to my life in Belfast!

Rising Strong – Brené Brown

I’d heard about Brené Brown at a recent blogger’s retreat when the speaker, Mel Wiggins, quoted her in one of her talks. The quote was,

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow and shame.”

Wowza. Hearing that quote stirred something within me and I knew immediately I had to hear more words from this woman so of course I went straight on to Amazon and ordered a copy of Rising Strong. In this book Brené discusses how the process of rising after a fall, regardless of its magnitude, teaches us the most about who we are. It sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to get deep in to it in the depths of winter.

The Christmas Chronicles – Nigel Slater

Odd to throw a recipe book in to the mix but this isn’t just your ordinary cookbook. Nigel is the most delicious writer and this book his is ode to winter; the season for crisp mornings, candlelight and promise of snow. It was released today and I have pre-ordered it in time for the holidays when I maybe need inspiration more than any other time of the year. I can’t wait to snuggle up with it by the fire and no doubt drool all over it.

 

Happy reading!!

 

If you like this article, then give this one a whirl if you’re struggling with finding time to read or this one if you are in need of finding a new bookshop.

What Not To Worry About #40

What Not To Worry About #40

Happy Monday friends! As I write this, I am curled up on my couch, watching hurricane Ophelia whirl herself around my wee house making it creak like it’s about to take off ‘Wizard of Oz’-style in a matter of minutes. It’s a beautiful name for a storm that could potentially wreak havoc on an island that isn’t quite used to dealing with anything remotely tropical but we are used to rain, lots of rain, so despite meteorologists urging us to take the warnings seriously there is little chance that a few drops of rain and wind will spook us too much. I hope.

Before Ophelia greeted us she pushed some weird weather our way over the weekend; lots of mizzly rain with temperatures warmer than they had been for months. I had planned to meet an Instagram pal on Saturday to take some photos and was hoping the weather might clear a little. Alas we were forced to brave the drizzle and skipped around the Argory getting our toes thoroughly soaked in the process but in the end we came away with some very pretty snaps that I think made the trench foot worth it.

Mel and I became friendly over Instagram after I immediately fell in love with her writing. She writes a wonderful blog that is full of content that lifts you up and pushes you forward, championing women and their wide range of ambitions and dreams. Mel believes that if you are passionate about something then you should let nothing stop you from pursuing it and has proven that herself in what she has accomplished. She was recently awarded an MBE for her work in anti-human trafficking, she organises seasonal gatherings to bring together local creatives hoping to make connections, she is raising two kids and on top of that she writes for her blog among other publications. Freakin’ wonder woman, right?

Online relationships are commonplace in our modern society but what is becoming even more common are the friendships that are formed through social media. Little communities are created among people who have a united passion, who want to encourage creativity in others and receive support for the work they produce which is predominantly shared online. Some of these friendships can be more fruitful and rewarding that those we have in real life and although we may never even get to meet the person behind the screen, it doesn’t make them any less valid.

Luckily Mel is only down the road from me but it really got me thinking of all the amazing people I have been able to meet through Instagram and the blog. By creating connections with people who inspire me and attending events like Mel’s gatherings or Emma’s retreat, I have opened up a whole new world for myself and forged friendships that maybe wouldn’t have happened if not for the online world. It’s a new age we’re living in and I feel damn lucky to be a part of it.

Now, on to the worries I am letting go of this week. Here’s the weekly list for today, I hope you are reading it from a safe wee spot, preferably wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea warming your mittens…

Speaking the same love language as my partner – when I drove down to Kerry a couple of weeks ago with my pal Rebecca, we got in to a very deep chat about the different love languages that exist between partners and how couples should figure out their respective language in order to make the relationship work (deep I know but a road trip will do that to ya). Since then I came across this article and I found it fascinating and so eye-opening – definitely worth a read.

Making light of sexual harassment – I have been engrossed in articles relating to the Harvey Weinstein scandal since it emerged and what surprised me most was how unsurprised I was at the ability of a successful man to continually harass and abuse women for decades. Women are victims of this kind of harassment from such a young age it’s like we become immune and stop feeling shocked which in turn, only allows for this kind of behaviour to be acceptable. I read this piece on my favourite website and the comments moved and enraged me so much. Maybe the actions of this horrific man has started an important movement – who knows?

Confusing comparison with inspiration – sometimes when I read someone’s work, look at their beautiful photos or watch them talk I am filled with this feeling of despondence. I wonder to myself if I could ever achieve success like theirs and hate myself for comparing myself to them when in actually fact I should be relishing in being inspired. I should be taking notes or thinking how their work might better my own because being inspired by someone usually ignites the passion you needed to succeed in the first place. Lesson ongoing!

Wearing pumps – I think that ship has sailed now as I got my feet soaked at the weekend. Winter boots at the ready!

Dark mornings – I got up in the dark for the first time this morning which wasn’t too fun but what I have started doing is meditating right after my breakfast. I’ve been using the Headspace app and using a few minutes in the morning to relax and regroup before work. I’m hoping it’ll make the dark mornings a little easier to bear – worth a go for a few weeks!

 

Have a great week folks!

 

 

 

Autumn Yumminess: Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Autumn Yumminess: Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Autumn is a season of sounds. Leaves crunching underfoot, the cooler winds howling at night, the first fire crackling in the hearth. Nature puts on the finest display for us before the famine of winter when we are robbed of foliage and fruit and the sun barely makes it over the horizon to warm our ruddy faces. There is nothing more autumnally glorious to me than the sensation of bitterly cold air nipping at my nose and ears, threatening to take away all sensation before escaping in to the warmth of the house where a hot bath awaits me.

But before we retreat indoors we must absorb every little bit of the harvest season by foraging for the treasures we miss so much in those long winter months. Being from Armagh, the orchard county of Ireland, I’m a cute hoor and have many opportunities to gather the last of the season’s produce whether it be plums, damsons and as always, the faithful Bramley apple. The bramley is something of an icon in Armagh and it’s been the principal variety to be grown here for almost a century. It’s blossom decorates the Armagh countryside in May and it’s green skin turns red in the heat of the late summer; even the apples get sunburned in Ireland!

 

I popped down to my friend’s orchard about a fortnight ago to gather some apples before the end of the season and as usual I came away with too many to use. Last year I made an apple tart but this year I wanted to use the blackberries I had picked from the roadside at home a few weeks before and thought an apple and blackberry crumble would be just friggin’ lovely as a midweek treat for two. Of course this recipe can be used for a rustic dinner party or to cheer up a mate or to just eat in one big bowl by yourself when you’ve had a shitty day. Your choice my friend, no judgement here.

I hope you can give it a whirl but more than that I hope you are embracing Autumn and all of its amazingness because this is the time to start doing things for you. Summer can be a hurricane of plans and commitments but as the colder months unfurl we are treated with weekends to ourselves, moments when we can actually revisit the things we cast aside in the summer haze. Let the briskness and sharpness of the change in seasons wake you up to what truly makes you happy and get out and do it.


Apple & Blackberry Crumble 

Ingredients

For the crumble topping:

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces

For the fruit compote:

  • 300g Bramley apples
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • 115g blackberries
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • big dollop of ice cream

Method

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture – try not to overwork it! Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins or until lightly coloured.
  2. Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut the apples into 2cm dice. Put the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Stir in the apples and cook for 3 mins. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for 3 mins more. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
  3. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with a big scoop of ice cream or a dollop of fresh cream – yum!

What Not To Worry About #39

What Not To Worry About #39

Good day old pals! How are things shaping up on this grey and dreary Monday? It was if the sun barely rose this morning and my mind never fully woke up to the fact that it was daytime – the opposite of what I needed. I work in an office that looks out to the Cavehill mountain in Belfast and on a day like today the clouds roll over the cliff edge and down the hill in a misty swirl, a little distracting if I’m honest.

What I do enjoy on days like this is getting home and lighting candles in different rooms around the house. I tidy up a littel bit, cook something hearty that warms my belly before settling on the couch with a cup of tea and a book to read. There is something so indulgent about creating a cosy atmosphere at home, something that’s a little harder to do when it’s summer and all the windows are open to the world.

This past week has seen me driving from one end of the island to the other (6 hours of driving is not kind to the behind, I tell ya) to attend the TBEX conference down in Kerry. My good friend Rebecca from A Clothes Horse had asked me to go with her a few months ago and I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to meet people with such a similar passion to mine because blogging isn’t something a lot of people really understand up here (“You mean you don’t make money from all this carry on?!”). Rebecca is the one person I have to bounce ideas off and I have taken her prisoner as my mentor because after blogging for a decade, the gal is a friggin’ wealth of knowledge.

I think the reason why I devote so much of myself to this wee space is simply because of how much happiness it brings me. This blog is more than just a hobby; it’s something I am more passionate about than anything I have done in a long time and knowing that my words might make one person either think or feel differently about a topic or themselves fills me up with more joy than any job ever could. That is enough for me and if there is a day when someone might actually pay me to write the words that tumble out then that would just be a dream come true.

Of course I was beaming pretty much the entire time I was in Kerry. We attended talks that filled me with so much inspiration I felt I would burst if I didn’t get every single word written down. We were able to meet with companies that I could never have imagined being in the same room as never mind actually having a chat with! It was hard work but the kind of work that feels all worthwhile especially when you can end the day in a pub drinking a Guinness and tapping your hooves to the beat of a bodhrán (the Americans go wild for a good dose of “ceol agus craic”).

It’s safe to say that despite the grey Monday I am feeling super positive and very happy to share a few worries that I am choosing to let go of this week. Let me know if you’re joining in too – would love to hear the worries you are saying goodbye to 🙂

Being shy – there was absolutely no room for shyness at the conference. I had to be shiny and sparkly which I can sometimes struggle with but somehow I managed to enjoy every second of it. I think it was because I was just so excited to be there and I wanted to leave without a single regret, even if it meant almost losing my voice in the process!

Hostels – another reminder that I am getting old is the fact that hostels now give me the creeps. Rebecca and I had booked ourselves in to a twin room in a hostel to save a few coin during our stay in Killarney but we ended up only staying one night because:

  1. I sank a good two feet lower when I sat on the bed (this was not due to holiday weight!)
  2. The sheets felt damp
  3. The radiator wouldn’t work
  4. The shower had a push button that would leak out freezing water for a minute before you had to push it again (like a freakin’ leisure centre)
  5. The pub below us meant we could hear a pair of lads having a very audible heart-to-heart at about 1am

I won’t say where the hostel was but let me tell you we booked ourselves in a hotel the next day ASAP. I was never as glad to see a proper mattress in all my life (and this is a girl who loves camping!).

Being the big spoon – I read this article yesterday which was a little bit adorable to read and also confirmed my belief that being the big spoon feels just lovely even if your partner tries to swat you off because apparently you’re “too clammy”.

Being a bit of a pyromaniac – I am counting down the days until we can light our fire again because my favourite sound in the world has to be the sound of a crackling fire. I was also really happy to read this article and learn that humans are actually wired to gather around fires so it makes perfect sense!

Taking photos in public – as a blogger I have to take lots of photos in front of people who look at you like you’re a bit mental – why are you taking photos of yourself drinking a coffee love? I’m getting used to it though and kind of laugh now when locals wonder what the hell I’m at – you even get a few who want to join in!

Bali: A Guide to Ubud

Bali: A Guide to Ubud

I was asleep when we first arrived in Ubud. We had taken a taxi from Canggu and I had been lulled in to a nap by the motion of the car and the afternoon heat. When I woke up I could see nothing but green around us. The bright green of the rice paddy fields, the yellow-green of the jungle vegetation, the brown-green of the palm trees bending under the weight of the coconuts… My Irish soul felt right at home.

Ubud (pronounced oo-bood) is in the centre of Bali found close to the volcanoes in the north and about an hour’s drive from the busy Kuta area to the south. We had been urged to visit by friends who had been here before who had all experienced something special while they were there – just like Julia Roberts herself did on the set of Eat, Pray, Love! After the release of the book and movie the area saw a massive increase in the number of those seeking their own version of inner peace and while there is an abundance of mediation, yoga and silence retreats to enjoy, the real appeal for me was to explore a place that has been able to hold on to a culture so rich and unique that it’s different to anywhere else on the island.

While there is no denying that Ubud is a magical place, what surprised me most was the infrastructure and how much it is struggling to accommodate the mass of yoga-pant-wearing tourists that are coming in their droves. Ubud is actually a collection of 14 villages which have now merged and the centre of the area is continually congested with trucks and mopeds (usually with a whole family on the back) with fumes that would nearly knock you out if you’re in traffic for too long which makes it a little harder to cleanse the soul!

Although the pollution isn’t ideal, there is still so much beauty here that you just have to experience if you’re in Bali. There are hundreds of temples, too many to visit during one trip but there is every opportunity to immerse yourself in the Hindu culture, taste Indonesian food cooked by world-renowned chefs and drive alongside rice paddy fields so quiet it makes you forget the traffic you left behind. Just be sure to get a mask for your mouth and nose while on a moped!

Where to Stay

We stayed in this Airbnb which was about 10 minutes from the main centre and had just opened within the last few months promising a modern room which is always a win in Bali!

This place was Andrew’s favourite as soon as we walked up to the rooftop pool which overlooked the jungle surrounding us. We could see palm trees for miles and the cockerels were crowing in the quiet streets below. It felt like we were finally seeing the rural Bali we had missed in Canggu and we had to drag ourselves away to explore more beyond the villa walls.

We were given breakfast on the rooftop each morning and were even given breakfast early at 6.30am one morning when we were checking out. The staff organised everything for us; a volcano trek, moped rentals and our transport to the Gili Islands which took the pressure off of us and gave us more time to enjoy Ubud for the few days we were there.

Where to Eat & Drink

Copper Kitchen & Bar

We ate here on our first evening in Ubud, hoping to treat ourselves to something a little special. The view from the terrace is stunning and the setting is extremely romantic however it was a little over-priced for the serving we received. I would recommend this place if you were looking for something high-end because the food was truly delicious (the chef even came out for a chat before our meal) but if you’re on a budget then it might be best to opt for something a bit cheaper.

White Box

 

A great wee patisserie that sells tasty sweet treats. We picked some desserts to take home with us after our dinner at Copper and ate them in bed while catching up on Great British Bake Off (we are WILD).

Three Monkeys

We had a late lunch/early dinner (Linner? Dunch?) here after a mammoth day chasing waterfalls up north. We hoovered up the food which was simple but super yummy. The back of the restaurant looks over a rice paddy field so it’s quite lovely to sit out there with a glass of wine and watch the sun go down after a hectic day of sight-seeing.

Watercress Café

This was probably the healthiest place we ate while in Ubud but the dishes still felt hearty and filling. This is a good place to go before your yoga practice (or after a heavy night that you’re hoping to un-do!) with a great location in the middle of everything.

Mamma Mia

A great pizza joint if you’re after something quick and easy. We popped in here to kill some time before our spa appointments and shovelled the tasty pizza slices in to us within minutes. I would definitely recommend this place to families looking for no fuss and fast service.

Alaya Resort

A beautiful hotel that serves some very tasty cocktails with staff who make you feel like you’re a guest despite the fact you’re staying in an Airbnb at a fraction of the price down the road!

Caramel 

Another wee spot to grab some desserts to go! A huge variety of tasty treats to balance out all the walking and yoga stretches you have been putting that body through.

 

What to See

Campuhan Ridge Walk 

This is a beautiful walk near the centre of town which you can take at your own distance and pace. The walk is about 2km long so easy to do for those who aren’t quite as fit for a big hike but who want to immerse themselves in the jungle – definitely worth doing at sunset before dinner.

Gitgit Waterfall

Gitgit comprises of three different waterfalls, two of which has pools you can swim in. We drove our moped about 1.5 hours from Ubud, snaking up the mountain roads taking us north and in to the clouds. Rice paddy fields give way to strawberry fields where you can pick your own punnet to take on the journey with you. We arrived at the waterfalls in the late morning and were surprised at how few people were there and just how easy the climb down to them was. You only need to walk for about 15 minutes until you can hear the deafening roar of the water and feel the waterfall spray on your face.

We had the pools to ourselves, jumping in and out of the clear water that wasn’t quite as cold as we were fearing. It was one of the best experiences I had in Bali because it’s something I had never done before, swimming underneath this huge body slamming in to the earth. We could still hear the sound of the water ringing in our ears as we drove down the mountain back to the rice paddy fields.

As we were almost off the mountain we felt the moped starting to wobble and pulled over to find we had a flat tyre – not good when you’re in the middle of the countryside! Since everyone drives a moped in Bali we were hoping a mechanic wasn’t too far away and started to walk the moped towards the nearest village. All we could do was laugh as locals kept pointing us further and further down the road until we finally reached someone after about 1.5km that could repair it for us. The mechanic didn’t speak any English but he was wonderful and super quick. The repair cost us about £5 so a bit of a bargain considering he saved us from some serious bother!

 

Oh, one more thing, there is also a beautiful gateway on the way to Gitgit which is worth stopping by for pictures because if you haven’t taken a pretty photo in a gateway have you even been to Bali??? Make sure not to miss it!

Mount Batur

Mount Batur is an active volcano about a two hour drive away from Ubud and is a popular hike amongst those chasing a sunrise with a view. I was a little nervous about the climb because it was over 1700m and my lung function had been sitting around 70% before we left. It was something I was determined not to miss so I soldiered on and we began the climb about 4am in the pitch dark and chilly cold.

The trail is a busy one and there are times that we had to stop and wait for people up ahead which was a relief for me because it gave me a break! We reached the top as the sky was lightening and just before the sun began to peak over the mountains ahead, turning the sky a multitude of pinks and oranges and the lake below a mix of silvers and greys. After the sun was fully up and our bones began to warm up we walked over to the crater that still has steam escaping from it’s centre which was both terrifying and frightening! A wonderful experience that I was so happy I committed myself to.

Gunung Kawi Temple

Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple about 20 minutes from Ubud and is perfect to do alongside the Tegallalang rice terraces in an afternoon. The temple is set across quite a big area and has beautiful stone carvings that each represent a member of the 11th century Balinese royal family. The sound of water is everywhere as a river runs directly through it which makes it feel extremely peaceful. Both men and women will need to wear a sarong but you can borrow one at the entrance for free.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

This is an iconic site that most people will want to visit when they are in Ubud. It is very busy which can make it difficult to take that perfect photo but the trick is to go up and and around the back of the terraces where it is much quieter. You are asked to pay through a few gateways in the fields but we only paid to get through one and argued with the others since it is not mandatory. Definitely try and get a view of the wooden Titanic replica which is up at the top of the terraces – I spoke to the man who made it and he was so excited to hear I lived in Belfast where the Titanic was built!

Spa

There are plenty of spas to choose from in Ubud depending on what your budget it is but we chose DaLa Spa at the Alaya Resport which was super luxurious and worth the little bit extra. We opted for a couples Balinese massage but we were treated to a traditional foot ritual for free (which after a volcano trek felt friggin’ amazing!) and got to choose our own oils. It was a really special experience to share together and we lapped up our surroundings afterwards drinking ginger tea and feeling thoroughly relaxed!

What Not To Worry about #38

What Not To Worry about #38

And so it was October. A month that feels a little bittersweet as nature puts on a final show of colour and magic before the sedentary months of winter roll in. Despite it being a month that sees the temperatures fall and the trees baring themselves to the world, October is when I find myself reawakening and finding the motivation that disappeared in the haze of summer.

It’s as if a light switch goes off as the world outside darkens, I suddenly remember the tasks and creative projects I had set aside months ago and immerse myself in books and articles that I know will inspire me. I spoke of the blogging event I attended in last week’s post which is one of the ways in which I am trying to push myself back to where I want to be again, surrounded by people who lift me up and encourage me to create.

I am also attending the TBEX conference in Kerry next week which I am so so excited about (and a wee bit nervous if I’m completely honest). My friend Rebecca had asked me to go with her earlier this year and I jumped at the opportunity to speak and listen to photographers and bloggers who have travelled the world while making a living. I have had to use up the rest of my annual leave (it’s going to feel like a long time until the Christmas break!) but I reckon it will all be worth it, even just to have the opportunity to leap about the fields of Kerry.

I hope you’re feeling just as motivated these few weeks as we say goodbye to the summer that never was but if you are lacking a little and are in need of a gentle push, have a gander at the worries I am letting go of this week. I have linked some articles which have inspired me too so please read them to enlighten you or even just made you chuckle because a wee giggle can be enough to lift us 🙂

Here goes…

Listening to bullshit – we don’t have to put up with it and we’re actually doing ourselves a disservice by participating in even listening to it. Read this article which is an excerpt from Brené Brown’s new book to help convince you!

Not being able to write – working a full time job and then coming home to write a post from scratch can feel almost impossible which is why I need to have a wee space at home to wind down. I loved reading this piece where writers spoke of how they get their creative juices flowing, where they can create best and even what they choose to wear!

Getting major wedding envy – I trawled through the photos from Sara Tasker’s wedding (who is the genius behind Me & Orla) and heard a little whimper escape because it was all so beautiful. If I ever get married it will be in a barn I am almost certain with ferns in my hair OR I might just wear ferns in my hair at the weekend for kicks.

Being a very lazy baker – I have hardly baked all summer and feel guilty that my cake mixer has been sitting in the corner abandoned and unused. With the apple season rounding out I decided to pop down to Armagh to bake some apples and either re-try this recipe or give Rebecca’s mum-in-law’s recipe a go.

Missing someone – Autumn brings with it moments of contemplation and this can sometimes lead to pangs for the people we wish were by our side. Read this poem if you’re feeling the same. It made me ache in the most beautiful way.

 

Have a lovely week folks and if you have any tips for Kerry, help a sister out and leave a comment!