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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!

Bali: A Guide to Canggu & Uluwatu

Bali: A Guide to Canggu & Uluwatu

I am one of those travellers’ that researches relentlessly before a trip. I want to discover hidden secrets, places to eat in that locals rave about, beaches that won’t be crowded all because I’m terrified that I’ll miss something fantastic. This might take the joy out of it for some people but it’s almost my favourite part of a trip, to get to know a place before I even put my feet on the ground.

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Hindu blessings which decorate the streets all over Bali

Canguu (pronounced chan-goo) was where we decided we would begin our Balinese adventure since it was known to be a bit more chilled out than it’s noisy neighbour Kuta. Kuta is a popular spot but is renowned for being full of drunken Aussie’s and having mopeds bumper to bumper so we thought we would keep our distance and seek solace at a safe distance.

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I had mentally prepared myself for Canggu before we left, imagining surfers walking barefoot down the street, surfboard in one hand and chai latte in the other. I imagined trendy shops selling clothes that were too cool for me and yoga studios filled with flexible tanned bodies. And while all of this was definitely true, I hadn’t expected to love it quite as much as I did.

Canggu has an atmosphere that immediately relaxes you. Everything is slow-paced (sometimes a little too slow-paced for my hungry belly) and you never have to stray too far to find delicious food and even more delicious cocktails. We were also surprised by how spread out the area was even though it still had that surfer-village feel to it making it fun to explore on our moped in the evenings. In fact, we loved it so much we ended up coming back to stay on our last night in Bali!

Where to Stay

During our first time in Canggu, we stayed in this Airbnb which served us very well. We had a pool right outside our door which was shared but we only ever saw one other person there so it felt very private. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, even dropping us to a restaurant one night to save us walking around looking for a taxi.

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We stayed there three nights and found it very handy to walk to nearby restaurants and cafés. They didn’t serve breakfast but this made us get up early and explore the area more in the mornings (always a good idea when you’re feeling a little jet lagged like we were).

My favourite part about this place was the bathroom which sadly I didn’t take a photo of. It was huuuge! The shower was open and in the middle of the room and the water felt like heavy rainfall which was perfect for washing the sand out of some tricky areas if ye catch my drift.

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On our second trip to Canggu we stayed in this joint for one night which was a little closer to Kuta than before. It was a bit tricky to find on the moped but that meant it was super quiet at night. We had our own private pool here, kitchen, two bedrooms and a massive bathroom that was probably the same size as our whole ground floor of our house!

We had staff come in and cook breakfast for us in the morning and the late check-out time meant we could swim in the pool and soak up the morning sun while we could. I loved it here and wished we could have stayed a little longer. Next time I guess!

Where to Eat & Drink

Scouting out places to eat is the best activity on holidays, isn’t it? And my oh my were there plenty of choices in Canggu!

Here are a few of my favourites:

Little Flinders

A great spot for a Nalu Bowl (I didn’t know what it was either until Bali but it’s the most colourful and delicious way to eat breakfast!). It’s an Australian-owned joint which has been finished beautifully so definitely an Instagram-worthy spot if you are that way inclined.

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Betelnut Café

Another healthy stop to un-do all the cocktails you had the night before. The upstairs area is open which makes it a great place to cool off and enjoy some kombucha or vitamin-packed smoothies. No one needs to know that you were actually a rum-swigging, table-dancing minx the night before.

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The Grass Terrace

We ate here soon after we arrived at our villa like a pair of ravenous hounds. The food was simple but really yummy and satisfied our weary bodies immensely. They also do an all day happy hour meaning 2 for 1 cocktails ALL FRIGGIN’ DAY. You can’t say no to that, can you?

Finn’s Beach Club

We spent most of our last day here drinking cocktails and watching the sun set in to the ocean which was a perfect finish to our trip. Unfortunately there is an entrance fee (around £15 for the whole day) but our accommodation gave us free passes which meant we didn’t have to pay in. The club has pools, a gym, spa and multiple restaurants to eat in as well as being right in front of the famous Berawa surf break. The waves in front of the club are easy to learn in which is what Andrew did while I read by the pool drinking multiple margaritas!

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Warung Dandelion

This was an authentic Indonesian restaurant with the friendliest staff we encountered in Canggu. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and feels very romantic with candles flickering everywhere. The food is just as lovely, I inhaled my tuna which was cooked in a banana leaf in about 5 minutes! This restaurant is a good choice if you fancy somewhere with a relaxed atmosphere that serves excellent local food.

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Potato Head Beach Club

Andrew and I were recommended this place by his friend who has been to a Bali a few times and we went along for dinner one evening, not too sure what to expect. What we didn’t expect was a swanky beach club bar that blew our little tourist socks off. To be fair, the prices here are a little more than what we were used to but it is very cool and we loved the laid back atmosphere. We found a day bed pretty easily as it seems to be quieter in the evening and dined like royalty for the night. It was definitely one of the most expensive meals we had but we both thought it was worth it, especially the cocktails which were divine!

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Old Man’s

We just had a few drinks here after dinner at Warung Dandelion but this was still a fun place to check out for some dancing and people watching. It’s a popular haunt for the surfer’s who drop by here on their back from the waves so it has a very chilled out atmosphere, perfect if you fancy going somewhere in your flip flops and shorts!

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Where to Explore

We only had two full days in Canggu so we didn’t have an awful lot of time to explore. On our first day we had a late breakfast and had a nosy through the many many shops that are dotted on the main streets before spending a few hours down at Old Man’s Beach paddling in the waves and drinking some very tasty Bintang (when in Rome, eh?).

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In the evening we were hoping to catch the sunset at Tanah Lot temple but we hadn’t anticipated the sun setting so early and so we actually managed to just miss it! I was a little gutted that we missed the opportunity for photographs but the sky was still a dusty pink and we were able to take a few just before the sky darkened. The temple is Hindu and is perched on a rock that becomes an island when the tide rolls in. It is definitely worth a visit if you want to see a temple that is hundreds of years old, much older than the hundreds of temples that are lived in by families throughout Bali. There are also markets on the path to the temple so it’s very handy for picking up a few souvenirs if you’re visiting towards the end of your trip!

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What I loved most about that evening was the drive there on the back of the moped with Andrew driving. As the sun was going down the colours around us seemed to deepen with the rice paddy fields turning this vibrant green. The air was warm and I just remember smiling and telling myself to never forget that feeling. I have a few videos from that drive which I will re-watch forever!

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The following day we took the moped down to Uluwatu which was a little more of a trek than we had realised. The traffic in this part of Bali is crazy and it took us a good two hours to get from Canggu to Nyang Nyang beach which was only about 20 miles away. What I would definitely advise if you’re renting a moped in this area is to invest in a mouth mask because the fumes are difficult to breathe and my lungs were impacted from not having one – rookie error!

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We also had a little scare when we thought Andrew’s wallet had been stolen from our bag which I had been wearing on the back of the moped. Luckily for us, Andrew was just having a senior moment and had forgotten that it was actually in his pocket (this was after he nearly had a meltdown as we were buying litres of water for the beach) but it served as a lesson because it’s very easy to get pick-pocketed on a moped. We were also sure to keep our hands close to us while we were trying to work Google maps on our phones because it’s so easy for someone to just take it out of your hand and scoot off!

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Despite the few hiccups, Nyang Nyang beach made it all worth it. There are no signs so you will have to use your phone and there’s also a fair climb down the cliff to get to the beach but the views are so beautiful you can stop as much as you want. There are people selling water and snacks along the walk but we brought our own because we’re stingy and were terrified there wouldn’t be enough snacks.

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When we reached the bottom we were greeted by a herd of cows who were taking a break from the sun under the trees like they too were on their holiday. The beach itself was practically empty and we found a spot to relax and take in the turquoise waters. We spent a few hours here, bringing the sensation back to our asses (mopeds are not kind to the derrière) and going back and forth from the water.

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There just so happens to be a boat wreck at Nyang Nyang beach which just so happens to be covered in colourful graffiti which had absolutely no reason for my decision to bring Andrew there at all. Promise. But since we were there I thought we might as well have an impromptu photoshoot where I skipped about like a so-called model and had no shame in posing since there wasn’t a soul to judge me (apart from Andrew which he definitely did but he took the photos anyway – what a guy).

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Not an ounce of shame there – spot the bikini line?!

After the photoshoot we started the climb back up the cliff, taking plenty of stops because we were sweating buckets, and then hopped painfully back on the moped to make our way to Uluwatu Temple. The temple is quite touristy and is famous for it’s beautiful sunsets so we tried to find areas that were a little quiet. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any English guides and we missed out on learning a bit about the temple but it was still beautiful to walk around and see the views from the cliffs.

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There are a few rascals about the temple that we encountered and actually watched thieve a pair of sunglasses right from a man’s head. The monkeys are fairly brazen so I wouldn’t recommend visiting the temple if you are a bit skittish. They didn’t bother us but we were careful not to wear anything on our head because we didn’t want to give them an opportunity!

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And that’s the guide for Canggu, with Uluwatu thrown in for good measure! I hope you can make use of the advice but all I can say is ENJOY EVERY MOMENT. Bali is a place with extraordinary landscapes and beautiful people that will make you glow from the happiest part of your belly.

Have fun!

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What Not To Worry About #37

What Not To Worry About #37

Happy Tuesday friends, the last Tuesday in September… How did this happen?! Despite writing this from a hospital bed, I am feeling more invigorated than ever after a weekend full of creativity and inspiration. It is truly amazing how things land in our lap in abundance when we need it most and what I needed more than ever was to feel inspired in this little moment of vulnerability.

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I was admitted to hospital on Wednesday evening and although it’s never a nice experience being hooked up to an IV drip or to sleep on a squeaky plastic mattress, it has been a restorative week and I am feeling more like myself again. Thankfully I am not chained to the bed and I’m allowed to ‘escape’ for a few hours during the day to inhale real fresh air (man, hospital air can drain the very moisture from your bones) which has saved me from going a bit mad.

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And so I took myself off on Friday evening to the streets of Belfast and decided to explore everything Culture Night had to offer. For those of you who maybe aren’t local to the city, Culture Night is a one-night-only event that happens every September and sees Belfast come to life with over 250 free events taking place in venues scattered across the city. The organisers were expecting up to 100,000 people to attend this year and I think they might have been about right as I squidged myself between hoards of people carrying maps in their hands, hunting down the next event they wanted to get to.

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The night was a real success and walking through the streets reminded me of the reasons why I love Belfast. It is a city that is at it’s best when celebrating diversity and rejoicing in the unique. Over the space of a few hours I roamed from a cathedral hosting a youth jazz orchestra to watching a swing dance competition, to listening to psychedelic rock in a hairdressers bathed in red light, to an Afro-Caribbean festival, to a drag queen street concert.

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I went on my own as a last minute decision which was possibly the best way to experience the night since I could wiggle my way between the crowds and pick and choose what I wanted to see while stumbling upon events I had no idea were happening. It was a fantastic night and could possibly be the most positive and happy event the city has each year.

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Keeping in tune with my new love affair with Belfast, I visited the Tesco Taste Festival at Custom House Square with my cousins on Saturday. A love of food is in our genes and we fully encouraged one another to eat as many samples as we could fit in our bellies – not an ounce of shame between us! The scale of the festival was a real surprise, I hadn’t expected such variety and there were Michelin chefs cooking for an audience live – not something you see every day!

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And then Sunday happened, a cherry on the top of a weekend that made my soul happy. Emma who writes the Life at Littlewood blog (beautiful writer – go read her work!) had organised an event for other bloggers called the ‘Country Blog Retreat’ which was aimed at bringing a group of creatives together who are perhaps needing a little inspiration with their blog or in any part of their lives. We can all struggle with believing that our voice has the right to be heard and the event was full of like-minded people who had this common desire to create something of meaning to themselves.

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As we found our seats (and practiced some self-control with the gift bags) there was a collective murmur that descended within the room. People began exchanging advice on where they were at with their Instagram account, how they were struggling with photography, how disillusioned they sometimes felt with writing blog posts and whether they should be writing at all. There was an immediate atmosphere of support and it felt like a community had just been created within that room that only strengthened as the afternoon wore on.

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The knowledge the speakers had was invaluable and I know that it definitely shook me out of the ‘creative coma’ I’ve been feeling for a number of months. I had been struggling massively with writing good content and feeling a little adrift in terms of what I wanted to be writing about so when Mel Wiggins spoke about writing for ourselves, writing content that we would want to read, it felt like a switch went off in my head!

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So here I am, feeling rested, inspired, invigorated and ready to write more than ever. As well as that I have a few more worries that I will be leaving behind this week. Here they are:

Knowing how to cool down a cup of tea – I am one of those people that leaves their tea for a few minutes so it’s just warm and then I drink it all in one go. The danger in this is that I often forget I have the tea to drink and when I go to drink it I’ve left it too long and it’s like dishwater – the horror! I recently read this article about lessons readers had learned and I found that adding 2 ice cubes is perfect for cooling down tea quickly – who would’ve thunk it?! Read the article for more ingenious insights and lessons.

On having regrets – We all have them don’t we? One of my biggest regrets is missing all those lectures in University because I would give anything to immerse myself in knowledge like that again. The lesson is to learn from these regrets and here are some amazing women who have their own thoughts on how to do that.

Attractive physiotherapists – I had a not-too-shabby physiotherapist pop in to my hospital room on Sunday to perform some physio on my chest which would have involved him actually laying hands on my chest. Eh, don’t think so pal! I kindly told him to come back in a while and then promptly did my own physio to avoid any embarrassment and humiliation. Crisis averted.

Having a purpose – turning 29 has made me very contemplative and wondering where I fit in the grand scheme of things. I think this is fairly normal the older we get and it’s nice to know I am not alone in this. I’ll probably write something of my own regarding this communal symptom of age but for now, read this if you fancy delving in to something uplifting.

Hospital food – Because no one wants to have to slice their mashed potato like it’s a cake.

 

Have a great week folks! 

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A Guide to the Midi-Pyrenees: Part Deux

A Guide to the Midi-Pyrenees: Part Deux

Waking up in an antique bed and opening the shutters to see a field of sunflowers is certainly one way to start your day on holiday. And that’s just the way every day started while Shannon and I were in France in July. Our aunt and uncle’s house almost felt like we were staying in a boutique hotel except we were able to eat our breakfast in our jammies (boiled eggs, peaches and croissants – yes please) and snooze in for as long as we wanted.

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Our second full day was going to be a long one; we planned to venture a bit further as far as Lagrasse, Minerve and then back through Carcassonne on the way home. With this in mind we set off early with a basket my aunt had prepared for us including picnic blankets, bread and some beer. All the essentials for an afternoon in the French countryside of course.

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I think those drives through the valleys and alongside fields of all kinds of colours were my favourite parts of the trip. Road trips are always the best way to see a country I remember thinking as we watched how the landscapes changed from vineyards to mountains to crumbling villages perched precariously on ancient hilltops.

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We reached Lagrasse just before the markets finished which were abundant with local crafts, cheeses, meats and sweet treats. I purchased a wrap and we bought some souvenirs for the folks at home before finding somewhere to hide from the midday heat.

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We managed to find a place hidden in one of the cobbled streets called Les Trois Grâces with a wee courtyard out the back that provided us with just the right amount of shade. I decided to go very healthy with a pasta and Shannon opted for a lamb tagine which we washed down with a carafe of wine like true Europeans.

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After filling our bellies we felt like a little snooze by the river and so off we went, with baskets in hand to the river flooding with locals having a swim on their lunch breaks. We dipped our toes in for a little while but found it just as relaxing on the river banks where we could read and have a few beers (just Shannon to be fair – I was the ever-responsible designated driver).

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Feeling suitably rejuvenated and realising the time, we packed up our little Aygo and typed Minerve in to our Google maps. We left Lagrasse and turned up towards a mountain with a perilous lane curling up it’s side overlooking the valley below. I drove the car up the lane, not daring to look to my right and hoping that Google maps knew where it was taking us. It turns out the app was drunk and we ended up on a dirt track with a dead end and in very real trouble. Our wee rental was in danger of being completely ruined as we drove at snail speed over the rocks praying that we didn’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere with no signal.

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With Shannon directing me we eventually made it out of the (quite literal) woods and back down the scariest lane in the land. Once back down to a safe height, we decided to forego the plan for Minerve in favour of living and headed towards Carcassonne which was on the way home.

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Carcassonne is one of the biggest cities in the Occitanie region but the main attraction is La Cité, a medieval fortress which looks over the modern city which has grown around it. The castle is a stunning piece of architecture that was saved from dereliction in the 19th century and became a UNESCO  World Heritage Site in 1997. The streets are a labyrinth of shops and restaurants, very easy to get lost in which is exactly the best way to explore the grounds.

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The fortress has two outer walls and the best place to escape the crowds is between these two walls. Here you will find a space to roam in peace, admire the architecture and get the best views across Carcassonne. Shannon and I were completely enchanted, imagining the stories and lives these walls must have seen over a thousand years.

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After we ate some pizza and managed to recover from our near-death experience (slightly dramatic but we are a dramatic pair), we decided it would be best to get home to our aunt and uncle’s where we would be safe from cliff roads and less likely to suffer a tragic fate. Turns out driving on the opposite side of the road is even harder in the dark and my knuckles we white gripping the wheel for fear of drifting in to the wrong side of the road!

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On our arrival home, we were given some delicious hot chocolate (made with the really good stuff) which we took outside to drink under the night sky, spying a few shooting stars to wish upon before heading to out long-awaited beds. It had been a long day!

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The following morning we decided to keep close to the house, only nipping out to grab some roast chicken from the local stall in Castelnaudary and then to the Sunday markets in Saint-Michel-de-Lanès. Here I got to see just how cheap French antiques can be and I had to hold myself back from purchasing a huge vintage suitcase which I am sure wouldn’t have made it to Ireland on a plane. Instead I settled for 4 beautiful carafes which I stole for an eye-watering 5 Euro and 2 pipes for a Euro each because I liked the idea that they had been cherished by someone for a long time.

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After a Sunday roast that was eaten mostly with our hands, we finished the day lying outside watched the sun go down over the sunflowers and showering golden light over everything around us. We ate our desserts on the grass, not wanting to move inside because it meant our last day was over. Eventually the chill forced us inside to get changed in to something warmer as we took a spin to the canal for a few drinks by the water, swapping stories until we couldn’t avoid sleep any longer.

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We were awoken the morning after by the sound of gentle rain on the terracotta roof. Our flight was in the early afternoon and we soaked up the morning in our beautiful bedroom, packing half-heartedly and sitting on the windowsill to watch the rain. With a touch of Autumn in the air, our uncle decided to light the stove in the sitting room and brought the dining table inside so we could eat breakfast by the fire. It was the sweetest gesture and cemented our decision to return to this beautiful hideaway next year. Although next time I ain’t drivin’!

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What Not To Worry About #36

What Not To Worry About #36

Happy Tuesday pals! How is your week going so far? Have you been digging out the cosy knits and winter coats from the back of the wardrobe this week? I have to admit, despite how completely unready I felt for Autumn, I have been secretly relishing the brisk mornings and having a real excuse for having a hot chocolate at 8am. It may have been a pretty lousy late summer but there seems to be a few brighter days on the horizon so we can at least squeeze a few more after-work sunset walks in before those dark afternoons descend on us.

 

Unfortunately I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since coming back from our holidays. I managed to push through last week when I was back to work but my stubbornness had to take a back seat when I came down with a temperature on Saturday night. Andrew was the one that talked me in to calling the hospital and telling them I needed to be admitted on Sunday morning but, as is the case a lot these days, they didn’t have any free beds so I am having to wait until one becomes free.

 

For those of you who are new to the blog, first of all, I am so glad you’re here! Second of all, I am sure you’re wondering why on Earth I would be needing to call a hospital, right? The reason for the hyper-vigilance is because I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease which affects my lungs and digestive system (check out this blog post which goes in to a little more detail). My main issue is maintaining an infection in my lungs which I do through physiotherapy but sometimes my body can grow tired and the infection can cause more problems than normal. These are the times when I need to be admitted for IV antibiotics and more intensive physiotherapy which usually takes two weeks.

 

I am lucky in that hospitalisation is rare and I am able to live a normal life with minimal treatment however it doesn’t make going in to hospital any less scary or disheartening. This is a time when I am at my most vulnerable, when I am forced to tell my managers and colleagues about my health which can leave me feeling a little exposed and embarrassed. Of course I am perfectly entitled to take time off when my health is in decline but having to communicate this in the workplace is terrifying because I hate to feel like I am a burden to anyone.

 

Fortunately my employers have been more than supportive and so I have been waiting on a hospital bed from home, resting and giving myself a head-start before I am admitted. I am hoping to throw myself in to the blog more and use my time wisely but most of all I just need to be still and rest this wee body of mine so I am in tip-top shape for this long ass winter of ours!

 

I am not worrying about myself too much, in fact I am fairly positive it won’t take much for me to bounce back so there is no wallowing in this camp. Instead I am letting go of more silly worries and thoughts so I can feel a little lighter and hopefully spread a little more happiness in to your week too! Here’s the list for this week.

 

The in-between season wardrobe – how do I dress? Can I get away with bare legs anymore? Is it too soon for woolly hats?? September is a weird month for fashion.

Googling answers to life questions – I am a sucker for Googling weird and wonderful symptoms but it turns out us humans Google pretty much everything that pops in to our little heads. Here’s the list of the most Googled how-to questions which offers some insight in to our quirks and insecurities.

Email spam – I really need to give my inbox a good spring clean because it is littered with crap I just ignore and never delete. I am going to try and delete 50 emails a day so I just be done by about 2072.

Not sticking to my summer bucketlist – I never manage to but I am going to use a few goals from this list to keep me happy this Autumn.

Feeling post-shopper’s guilt – when I feel sick I tend to have the urge to buy myself something so I went out yesterday and bought myself brand new PJ’s because I am a granny and this is what makes me happy 🙂

 

Have a lovely week!!

What Not To Worry About #35

What Not To Worry About #35

Hello old friends. How have you been? Staying dry and praying for the long awaited Indian summer I hope? I’m sorry for the silence on this little space the last fortnight or so. I feel like an irresponsible parent as I have gallivanted across Indonesian islands with barely enough time to post on Instagram let alone write (and that’s sayin’ somethin’). Oh but what a time I had without fretting once about work or the blog or anything at all really (apart from where my next margarita was coming from which is a genuine reason to fret I think).

 

I have lots of stories to share from our time in Bali and the other wee islands we hopped across and there are hundreds of photos waiting for me to edit which is freakin’ me out a little I must say. More so because I’ll be constantly reminded that the holiday was real and not a dream and, more devastatingly, all over. The post-holiday blues are a privileged mixture of emotions because how lucky are we to even experience the longing for a place we were fortunate enough to even visit? But these emotions also remind me that I am a real adult with real responsibilities and real annual leave which only goes so far in accommodating my dreams of being a globe-trotting goddess.

 

So back down to earth I have arrived and with a bang, I’ll tell you. The rain was horizontally howling at me as I stepped off the plane in Belfast, taunting and teasing me as if sensing my immediate disdain for it. We arrived home and emptied our suitcases in to our tiny kitchen, swamping the floors so we could no longer see the tiles. My herbs have died too. I had asked my lovely (and untrustworthy it turns out) neighbours to water them while we were gone but instead we were greeted with a very sad-looking (and dead-looking) herbarium along with a note apologizing for forgetting to water them. They did leave us little welcome home gifts – a loaf of bread and a carton of milk in the fridge and so their thoughtlessness was instantly forgiven for their thoughtfulness. Although we’ll be asking Maureen to water our plants next time.

 

Aside from mourning my holiday and my rapidly diminishing tan, there really isn’t much that is greatly worrying me within my life at the moment. Of course there are the greater troubles in the world (global warming, the Great Pacific Garbage patch, Trump, countless wars, countless children that are needlessly starving across the world, families with no access to clean water, the inequalities and exploitation of vulnerable people as a result of the decisions of strangers) but this weekly post of mine focuses on not the big worries which we can attempt to improve in our own little ways (post on this coming soon) but instead on the unnecessary worries we have or the niggling thoughts that we torture ourselves with which serve no purpose other than to grind us down. We deserve better than to be our own enemy. We should always be on our own side, fighting our own corner and above all, liking who we are.

 

With that in mind, here are the few silly worries that I am letting go of this week…

 

The fact that the penultimate Game of Thrones is over

We watched the last episode in our apartment in Bali (I have no shame in admitting this!) and I’m now crushed at the thought of waiting a whole year to the next one. I need a new series to sink my teeth in to – suggestions please?! In the meantime I have my weekly instalments of GBBO that will tide me over for a little while more so because I adore Noel Fielding and fully appreciate seeing him in his patterned shirts making jokes about muffins.

 

Realising that I have to wait another 4 months before I can plan another holiday

After a trip to a TBEX conference in Kerry in October, my annual leave has been reduced to diddly squat. I have been dreaming what our next big trip should be and after reading this article, I have decided that it should definitely involve a road trip with me eating my way through the southern states. I already know that New Orleans will seduce me with her beignets and beads!

 

Heights

I am terrified of them and have this weird urge to throw myself of something high which both terrifies and fascinates me. When we were on holidays we descended a metal staircase attached to a cliff to reach the bottom where a temple was built in to the rocks. I was so scared because I could see through the steps to see the waves crashing violently below. I did it though and felt proud that I conquered another fear and then I read this article and thought: Dude must be mental.

 

Being crap at sticking to my goals

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions as it creates too much pressure especially in the peak of winter when just about everything is harder. I think September is the best month to revisit the goals I want to achieve and I’m not alone in this. Check this piece out for a little autumnal goal inspiration.

 

My photography skills

I always feel a little frustrated after a holiday because I worry that I didn’t take enough photos, didn’t really capture the moments that truly moved me when I was there. This holiday we both took so many photos, poor Andrew having to deal with me orchestrating so many for fear of missing a good opportunity – the man deserves a medal! However none of them compare to this amazing collection of travel photos that have inspired me to keep up the work and push myself even further.

 

Wishing you all a lovely week!!

What Not To Worry About #34

What Not To Worry About #34

Happy Tuesday! A little late with the post this week as my mind is consumed with the prospect of feeling the sun on my skin and the sand in between my toes. I have never felt more ready for a holiday especially since it felt like I woke up in a misty cloud this morning, the air thick with moisture even though it wasn’t even raining. And last night was the first time we had the heating on in months. Yes, I think Autumn might have arrived a little early.

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Despite the sad, sad weather we were determined to make the most of the weekend and finally get that afternoon of hiking that I’ve been talking about all summer. We arranged an afternoon climb up Cavehill with friends along with their 10 month old baby who they carried in a very impressive and very professional looking backpack thingy that I was supremely jealous of because he looked so darn cosy in it. Although I have been jabbering on about going hiking for ages and even included it in my summer bucket list,  I actually don’t own a pair of hiking boots (the pair I had from my uni days have scarpered during one of my million moves). I thought I would be grand in my gym trainers but I was oh so WRONG. After a few rain showers the grass was thoroughly muddy and so on our descent I was a victim of a perfect comedy slip (legs waaay up in the air) that left me covered in muck and a little bit of shame. I’ll be buying hiking boots for next summer for sure.

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Luckily, the rest of the weekend was a little less testing with a mountain of good things to celebrate. The first being my best friend Caoimhe getting engaged to her ‘boyfriend of a million years’ Simon which was just about the best news to hear. Caoimhe and I have been best buds since we were young cubs when we were borrowing each other’s Tammy Girl clothes and Collection 2000 make-up for the teenage disco. She has been there to listen to my worries and fears around the world, namely:

  • When I cried over my first love in the Gaeltacht (where we were supposed to be improving our Gaelic in Donegal but mostly ran after boys)
  • When we worried if we’ll actually pass our AS Levels while on our first girls holiday in Santa Ponsa
  • Holding my hand while I panicked on our first long-haul flight to San Francisco
  • When I was sick in SE Asia and made me eat food
  • When she reminded me of home while we lived in Australia
  • When she would let me talk for hours on walks around the Lagan river in Belfast

What memories we’ve made over the years and to see your friend beaming with happiness is all you can ask for, right?

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The second bit of celebrating happened on Sunday when I stood as godmother for Dara, the son of my friends Catherine and Phily. This is their third child and I find it amazing that I am even friends with people who have three children let alone being thought of as responsible enough to be a guardian in any shape or form. But it turns out I can actually pull this whole godmother thing off and I felt very grown up as I held him, proud as punch. It is on afternoons like that when I feel so glad to live close to home and be a part of such a happy event. Seeing families rallying together to welcome in their new little person, taking far too many photos and passing him around for cuddles while eating plenty of cake. It really was a good weekend.

Carrying on with this positivity, I have a few worries that I am letting go of this week…

People getting judge-y about how people should enjoy their engagement

I have never been engaged before but I’ve watched a few friends go through the experience and wondered how the hell they deal with all the pressure. All the questions and opinions even within the first few days must be a little overwhelming and it was no surprise to read this article which talks about the bucket-loads of anxiety some people might feel at first. People should just chill out and understand that everyone is different whether the couple stay engaged forever or book their wedding an hour after they get engaged. Just do what makes you happy!

My make-up bag

Ugh you do not want to go in there. I have brushes in there that haven’t been washed since I bought them (Lord knows when) and mascara so old it’s like cement. I recently read this post which taught me when I should be throwing things away instead of hoarding all of this crap that I know I will probably never use.

Worrying that I am a millennial or too old

Does a millennial have to born after 2000? Or do I belong to the most hated subset of the population? Either way I major LOL’d at this bit of internet gold.

An invisible hair on my face

Probably the most annoying thing to have on one’s face when one is trying to remain in a serious conversation with a coworker. No I don’t have a tick I just have a hair on my face which is driving me INSANE!!

Living ethically

I often worry about my impact on the environment and if I am truly doing everything I can do live as mindfully as possible which is why Mel Wiggins is my go-to gal for ideas on how to live a more ethical life. She has just started an e-course for families who are looking to improve the way they live socially and environmentally which you can find here. I think it’s amazing what she’s doing and if you’re looking for a way to begin a change but are unsure how then I couldn’t recommend this course more.

 

Have a lovely week and here’s to turning the heating on and closing the curtains the moment we get home!!

A Guide to the Midi-Pyrénées: Part Une

A Guide to the Midi-Pyrénées: Part Une

Growing up as one of three girls meant that family trips were anything but calm. Someone would be breathing too loudly in the car, someone would be sitting too closely to someone else or a mass riot would ensue if a sister was seen wearing another sister’s dress/shoes/anything that wasn’t their own.

Nowadays we’re mature adults, you might find it hard to believe that I ever broke her nose when we were kids. Twice. But those turbulent times are over and now we are more than capable of surviving a short holiday together especially when that holiday involves eating our way through the villages of southern France and taking lots and lots of pretty photos.

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So with that confidence in mind, we decided to take a quick trip last month to stay with our aunt and uncle who have spent the last 10 years converting an old barn in to the most beautiful chateaux by the Pyrénées (trés middle class, I know). As they are fairly rural we decided to hire a car and after an hour long process (why do I always get the employee who has just started the job the day before?) we finally hopped in to our beautiful Toyota Aygo that just about fit us along with our carry-on bags.

The French drive on the right hand side of the road which made for an interesting journey to our uncle’s house. It took a few attempts to leave the airport (and Shannon couldn’t even bring herself to look out the window when we eventually joined the motorway) but we made it in one piece to Maison de Donnelly in the late afternoon. After we were hugged and my uncle commented on the rental (“that’s some wee yoke there” – typical Irish man review), we were shown around their humble abode which wasn’t so humble and moved me to real-life tears. They have managed to create a home that is warm and still so full of character, each room decorated with gorgeous French vintage market finds at prices that made me shed even more tears. I immediately promised myself that I will be a regular pest of theirs for as long as they would have me.

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My aunt Bronagh is an incredible cook and once we were settled, we sat at a table overlooking the sunflower fields (am I making you sick yet?). The food was glorious and the wine even more so. We sat chatting until Shannon and I could barely speak with tiredness and so with heavy heads, we retreated to our beautiful bedroom to sleep in our beautiful beds. Turns out we are still kids at heart and we fell asleep in the same bed, talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. 

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On our first morning I trotted down to the village to get croissants for breakfast because that is what one does in France. We planned our route for the day over our crumbs and then set off for Fanjeaux, a little hilltop village with views for miles. The rain decided to show up for the first hour or two but I was ferocious in my cheeriness that the rain would soon clear off. I’m one of those travellers that vehemently believes that rain should never dampen sprits but really all that it does is convince my fellow traveller that I’m a bit mental (picture me in the pouring rain with a manic smile screaming “WE ARE HAVING FUN, AREN’T WE?!).

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Fanjeaux is an old Cathar town with crumbling medieval walls surrounding the Dominican chapel. It was beautiful despite the drizzle with plenty of cobbled streets to get lost in (or do circles like we did). It was so quiet and felt a little eerie in places because we hardly saw a soul save for a few damp tourists. We didn’t stay too long as we didn’t have an umbrella but it’s a place I would love to go back to on a clear day.

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Luckily for everyone the skies cleared as we were headed to Limoux and as the clouds parted we could spy the Pyrénées in the distance. The valley between Fanjeaux and Limoux is covered in vineyards which makes it a little difficult to be the chief/only driver. The area is famous for a sparkling wine called Blanquette which is sold by the vineyards alongside the road or in all the local shops. If Shannon had have been driving I would have been making a pitstop at every vineyard but being the ever-responsible big sister I stuck to caffeine and saved the wine-tasting to the evenings when I could guzzle guilt-free back at the barn.

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As we approached Limoux we could see that it didn’t quite have the same charm as Fanjeaux. It was a little busier and there were plenty of roadworks which don’t really scream rustic tranquility. However there is a lovely square there which was perfect for soaking up the delayed sun rays and drinking the first coffee I have ever actually enjoyed. After years of trying to like coffee (and failing), it seems all it took was a mocha in Limoux to win me over. I feel more grown up than ever now.

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After a charcuterie feast which was mainly eaten by moi, Shannon and I dawdled back to our car crossing over a very pretty bridge with fantastic views across the river. On our way we dodged a few lengthy gazes from French men who we soon discovered were unashamedly comfortable with staring. Oh how different they are to the typical Irish fella who would look anywhere but the woman he is interested in for fear of coming on too strong…

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Back in the wee Aygo we made our way to Mirepoix with a quick stop off in Luc-sur-Aude. Oh my, this drive was so spectacular. Trees seem to line the entrance of every town in the Languedoc but this road was truly special. Mountains seemed to appear out of nowhere with sheer cliffs towering over the winding roads. Shannon and I had our noses to the windshield as we gazed upwards in awe, not speaking save for tutting to ourselves like old women.

We pulled in to Luc-sur-Aude to give our necks a break and again were so surprised at how quiet the little village was. We walked through the streets wondering where the people were or if there was some apocalypse we hadn’t heard about as we ascended up a hill to check out the view. There were vineyards for miles surrounded by mountains and despite my attempt at taking a photo of the view, I couldn’t do it justice.

 

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The late afternoon sun was burning above us as we headed up the mountains towards the fairytale town of Mirepoix. Our ears popped as we snaked up the hills and we pulled over to drink in even more beautiful views. The roads were so quiet and when we sat overlooking the valleys below all we could hear were the cicadas buzzing in the heat. 

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We got to Mirepoix in the evening and as we hopped out of our car and walked towards the main square, we looked at each other with immediate glee, silently agreeing that we had definitely saved the best place to last. The town looked like something straight out of a Disney movie set and I half expected people to burst in to song at any moment. Shannon and I grew up on these movies and you can imagine how giddy we were to see such a place in real life. We strolled through the market stalls and circled the old town walls before picking a spot in the square where we could soak all of the colours in. We sat with the golden light on our faces, barely speaking a word but feeling incredibly content with ourselves.

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Drunk on the day we just had, we headed back to the barn for another feast until the sky. Desperate not to finish the day just yet, we dandered down to the village to watch the locals play bowls (or boules if you want to get technical) and drank coffee while the stars came out. Finally shattered, we fell in to our beds, thoroughly satisfied that sisters really do make the best travelling companion. Even if their driving might terrify us.

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Stay tuned for another French post coming soon…