Irish Summer Wishlist 2017

Irish Summer Checklist 2017
Bray, July 2014

I really want to make a tradition of making little wishlists every Summer for places I want to visit in Ireland. Summers always feel like they’re full of possibilities here, more than any other places I’ve lived in. Probably because the Winters are so long and dreary, you feel lucky and so emboldened as soon as the sun shows its first rays. You really owe it to yourself to make the most of the brighter days. I made one of theses lists back in 2015, and used it through that Summer and the next one. Actually, I still have a few items I need to tick off so I will definitely go back to it (go have a look at it if you need activity ideas, I reviewed the ones I have done). But I also wanted a fresh one for this new Summery chapter. If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, it won’t surprise you that this lists feature a few grand houses and nature spots. Also, most of the places are close to or easily reachable from Dublin. Here they come, the 10 things I most aspire to do this sweet Irish Summer.

  • Visit the handweaving mill at Avoca (co. Wicklow)
    I would love to see how Avoca’s colourful blankets and throws are made  They are some of Ireland’s most famous exports and this mill is said to be the oldest one working in the country! I’m hoping I can combine the tour with a visit to its neighbouring Knockanree Botanic Gardens.
  • Tour Ardgillan Castle (co. Dublin)
    There’s nothing that makes me happier than visiting a period house and its gardens. Especially when those come with impressive sea views. Bonus point, this castle is in county Dublin so it should be easy enough to get to it!
  • Pick raspberries at Lamberts Fruit Farm (co. Dublin)
    I can’t think of a more summery activity than picking fruits in a field! Located in Rathfarnam, Lamberts Farm open its door to the public for a couple of months just as their berries (strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries) get ripe for the season.
  • See the puffins at Great Saltee Island (co. Wexford)
    Up until recently I thought you could only see puffins on the West Coast of Ireland, which is not that easily accessible for me. But it turns out, and it looks like it’s a bit hush-hush, there’s an island off the Wexford coast, where hundreds of puffins (and other birds) like to spend the nesting season. It’d be a dream come true to take a little boat trip there! (granted it is done with respect to the local wildlife).
  • Finally tick off Glendalough from my Irish bucket list (co. Wicklow)
    Yes, I’m not proud of myself, I have been living here for 9 years and I still haven’t visited this Irish nature wonder which attracts thousands of people from all over the world. Don’t ask me why, I’m as confused as you are.
  • Meditate in Victor’s Way Garden (co. Wicklow)
    This garden is said to be contemplative, it is full of Indian statues, some of them looking rather strange. Definitely not your typical Wicklow garden!
  • Buy a 99 with flake at Teddy’s Ice cream (co. Dublin)
    Last year, I finally tasted Murphy’s ice-cream. I think it’s time, this year, I tried this Dublin institution. I’ll probably go to the original Dun Laoghaire location, as I’ve been meaning to explore this sea town again. It looks like it changed quite a bit since the last time I went.
  • Eat at The Happy Pear (co. Wicklow)
    I’ve been meaning to eat there for aaages, I’m just a klutz when it comes to read opening hours. This Summer, I’ll tattoo them on my arm! I would also love to make more of an effort to eat vegan when I’m out. Do you know of any great cafes or restaurants that have an interesting vegan menu?
  • Walk in Talbot Botanic Garden (co. Dublin)
    This garden is located on the grounds of Malahide Castle. Last time I was there, albeit a long time ago, they were closed for renovations. It would be nice to see what they did with the place and it would be the perfect occasion to finally take a tour of the castle!
  • Visit Castletown House (co. Kildare)
    I promised myself to explore county Kildare this year. It is a direct neighbour to Dublin and quite well-served by transport, so really there’s no excuse to my vast ignorance when it comes to this county. I would love to start with Castletown House as I love the Palladian architecture, also it hosts a very cute market every Sunday!

What are your plans for this Summer?

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6 Places Where to Stop and Smell the Roses in Dublin

Places in Dublin Where to Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m sure you have all sorts of busy plans for this Summer, jet-setting here and there. Or maybe working throughout the whole season. With a busy schedule, it’s all the more important to stop and smell the roses. Especially as we have so many fantastic places to do just so here in Dublin. Heck, we even have a festival dedicated to the pretty posy.
And because roses are repeat-flowerers, it means you’ll have until early Autumn to maybe take a few minutes for yourself in one of the places below where roses rule as queens.

Places in Dublin Where you Can Smell the Roses

1. IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL GARDENS

If I had to pick one place to come to see the roses in Dublin every year, this will be it. There’s something about the architecture that makes me think of the Roaring Twenties. I can imagine a glamorous flapper being serenaded here under the moon light, one warm Summer night. The roses are spread around a concrete pond in two sunken gardens on both side of the Stone of Remembrance. Four granite bookrooms holding the names of the Irish soldiers who died during WWI stand majestically on both of the rose gardens’ entrance.

Places in Dublin Where You Can Stop And Smell The Roses

2. IVEAGH GARDENS

The Iveagh Gardens are known as Dublin’s secret garden. Located just next to Stephen’s Green, it lives in the shadow of its bigger and more famous sister. If you’re looking to escape Stephen’s Green’s crowded lawns in Summer, this is here that will find your peace and quiet. The Gardens counts whimsical, at times wonderland-esque, features: a yew maze, two striking fountains, a cascade and, you’ll have guessed it by now, a rosarium. The smell inside the arches is so potent you’ll want to bask yourself in it for hours.

Places in Dublin Where you Can Stop and Smell the Roses

3. ST ANNE’S PARK

If you have any interest in roses and you live in Dublin, chances are you have heard of St Anne’s Park in Raheny. This large park facing Bull Island has the biggest rose garden in the city. It even holds a yearly rose festival on the month of July.  It’s a joyous, familial event where you can of course admire the roses in full bloom (I especially love the canopies) but also mooch around craft and food stalls. If you want to know more about the event, you can read my coverage of it here.

Places in Dublin where to Stop and Smell the Roses

4. PORTOBELLO

Portobello is undoubtedly one of my favourite neighbourhoods in South Dublin and it truly comes alive with Summer. Dubliners love to sit along the Grand Canal to sunbathe and roses add colourful touches to the typical cottages’ front gardens. Some of my favourite streets to admire the local blooms are Arnott Street and Portobello Road along the canal but wander aimlessly and you’ll be rewarded! And if you want to make a pit stop for a refreshing drink and a slice of cake, you’ll be spoilt for choices as Portobello is the home to so many great cafes. Bibi’s, Love Supreme, Little Bird, The Greenery, Meet Me in The Morning,… to name a few.

6 Places in Dublin Where You Can Stop and Smell the Roses

5. NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS

If you keep on your left once you enter the gardens then cross the Tolka River, this is where you’ll find the rose garden. I’m mentioning this because even though I visited these gardens many times, I’ve always missed it. It’s certainly easy to get distracted in this beautiful place. The rose garden has the traditionally circular shape and its centre you’ll find one of the garden’s two sundials. The roses there are a joyous multicoloured bunch, there’s even a deep purple species which is something I had never seen before!

Places in Dublin Where you can Stop and Smell the Roses

6. DUBLIN’S FLOWER SHOPS

Dublin has some amazing flower shops and stalls, I would highly recommend visiting them to bring a bit of rose magic in your own home. You can find two of my favourites only a few meters from each other, in Dublin’s creative quarter.
These beautiful rainbow roses were sold by Appassionata Flowers when Ireland said yes. Their display is always a joy to look at, no matter the season. A few minutes away, you’ll find The Garden in the Powerscourt Townhouse’s hall, spilling their lovely posies on the building’s majestic steps. Inside the shop, the beautiful collection of plants, pots, candles and stationary fill the Georgian entrance with breathtaking grace.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
I hope I’m not jinxing it by it saying it out loud or rather writing it here but it feels like Spring is finally in the air. The last few days have shown more blue skies than I’ve seen for the last 4 months and the sun has felt distinctly warm upon my skin. The snowdrops have come and gone, to be replaced by the cheerful daffodils and a few shy bluebells. Some trees have already adorned their branches with some tiny fluffy pompoms and magnolia buds are getting stronger and stronger. Every year, the change of the seasons and the feeling it springs in my heart catch me by surprise. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, maybe it’s because the Irish Winters are the most miserable I have known but come Spring I feel like, I too revive. From a lethargic state, I suddenly turn effervescent and I have this burning desire of witnessing every single blossom in the city quiver in the Spring breeze. Alas, the beauty of this season also lies in its ephemerality so I thought I would compile a list of the best cherry trees in Dublin so we can enjoy Spring without wasting any precious minute.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
SAINT STEPHEN’S GREEN

Saint Stephen’s Green is a prime location to observe the change of the seasons in Dublin. It’s no wonder that the expression of the Irish Spring reaches romantic heights here. Walking along its paths planted with cherry trees is just poetry.

The Best Places to see the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
TRINITY COLLEGE

A few cherry trees shadow the walkway next to the cricket pitch of Trinity College. Their petals fall like snow on the constant flux of students going back and forth from the university pub, the Pavilion Bar. Come Spring, the whole area is energised with a wind of change.

Best Places to see the Cherry Blossom Trees in Dublin
IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL GARDENS

It is widely known that the War Memorial Park is a breathtaking place to be in the summertime when the sunken gardens are filled with fragrant roses. However the grassy patch next to the temple packs a punch in April and May. The trees look like fluffy cotton candy and as the season goes, they turn the lawn in a joyful pink blanket.

The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
HERBERT PARK

This is probably my favourite spot to honour the Japanese custom, Hanami (literally meaning, flower viewing). The reason is, despite a few unfortunate recent chops, the park holds the highest concentration of cherry trees in Dublin. Also, the location is far enough from the city centre that it still feels like a special secret place.

The Best Places to see the Cherry Blossoms in Dublin
FARMLEIGH

I couldn’t make this list without mentioning Farmleigh in Phoenix Park where Experience Japan Festival takes place. Every year, when the cherry trees are in full bloom, this Japanese festival welcomes Spring with a host of fun family activities.

More information on Experience Japan Festival here.

National Botanic Gardens
NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS

You’d make a serious mistake not take the 83 bus to the National Botanic Gardens in the springtime. The place beams with colours and fragrances, it is a heavenly treat for the soul. It would be difficult to pick which is the star of the show among the cherry trees, magnolias, the little enchanted bluebell patch, the clouds of azalea or the rainbow of tulip beds.

Looking for more seasonal recommendations? Watch 7 Things to Do in Dublin this Spring

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens | Gibraltar

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

I can’t hardly pretend it’s ‘business as usual’ over here. Like many of you I’m sure, I feel stunned, confused and sad right at this minute. I’m generally of the mind that my travel blog is not suited for politics but with recent events, it’s getting harder and harder to hope for the best and just keep going. I want to talk about what’s happening to us and those who represent us. I just might, I don’t know, I need to tidy up my mind, it’s all jumbled up and raw in there. I think travel can open our minds and horizons, change our definition of what it is to be human and to belong. The topic is obviously close to my heart but I keep wondering if what I write here is enough, in a world that seems to be dominated by the fear of the unknown, I feel like I should push myself to write about travel in a way that brings us closer. I’ve no idea if I have it in me or what shape it is going to take but I’m going to work on it. Anyways, in case you need a bit of escapism, here is the post I had planned for this week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I spent a couple of days in Gibraltar last month. It actually was the second time I visited the Rock (the isthmus, not the wrestler) and these pictures actually date back from my previous trip. Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, also known as the Alameda Gardens, were on the top of my list of things to see. You know me and my Botanic Gardens! Once, I crossed the Spanish border and the airport runway, I made a beeline for the gardens. In 15 minutes, I had walked the entirety of Main Street (Gibraltar High Street) and found myself standing in the car park where the cable car that goes to the top of the Rock is located. Very conveniently, the garden entrance is just next to it.

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

The gardens were built in 1816 by the governor as a place for locals and stationed British soldiers to take a break and wander. They’re still a splendid place to do just so but they’re also a great source of education today. A great array of plants from parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate are displayed on terraced beds while facts pertaining to them are beautifully written on tiled boards. My favourite section was the succulent and cactus area, those weirdly shaped spiky things really thrive in the Gibraltar salty air.

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

The location of the park is in itself worth the detour. One one side, its high position offers impressive views over the bay where huge tank boats go about their business. On the other, it is overlooked by the majestic Rock Hotel hanging on to the… well… Rock! Its Art Deco architecture evokes so much 1920s glamour, it’s difficult not to imagine the lavish parties that must have taken place there.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

The gardens has a few interesting features to explore. For instance The Dell, a mysterious staircase surrounded by orange trees or the typical red telephone box that looks wonderfully out of place, lost in the foliage. One thing that made me stop in my tracks is a statue of Molly Bloom. Let me tell you I didn’t expect a James Joyce character in such an exotic place but had I gotten over the first few pages of Ulysses, I would have known that Molly Bloom is a native from Gibraltar and the Alameda Gardens are actually mentioned in the Irish classic. Funny how some things follow you in the most unexpected places!

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

Another great surprise for me was to find the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park at the back of the gardens. You see the week I was visiting Gibraltar the cable car was under maintenance which meant I couldn’t go up to  see the monkeys to my utter dismay. Luckily, the conservation park had a few Barbary Macaques as guests that day. They care for native species that are considered for reintroduction to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. But their main vocation is to offer a haven for animals who were rescued from illegal traders and raise awareness against the issue. When I visited, they had parrots, rabbits, tortoises, bats, peacocks and a couple of otters that were having a full conversation over the wall separating their pens.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

Gibraltar is really small so there’s no excuse for you to miss this beautiful haven. You can easily walk there from pretty much everywhere but in case you were feeling pressed by time, the nearby bus stop is served by all the lines (except the 8).

ALAMEDA GARDENS PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Gibraltar Botanic Gardenswebsite
Red Sands Road
Gibraltar GX11 1AA

Opening Hours
8am – 9pm (or Sunset if earlier)

Admission
Free

Alameda Wildlife Conservation Parkwebsite

Admission
General £5 / Reduced £2

Opening Hours
10am-5pm

Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities | London

The Last Tuesday Society

Halloween is creeping up on us so what better time to take you to a dark basement in East London, right? More precisely, we’re going to Hackney. There’s this strange-looking pub on Mare Street, with a black front and curious knick-knacks haphazardly displayed in its window. Inside the atmosphere is suitably lugubrious. On the ground floor, the Last Tuesday Society is a pub like no other. As your eyes get used to the poorly lit environment, you may notice that patrons may look rather strange… Yes, you’re seeing that right, it’s a rather menacing stuffed lion wearing a top hat sat at that table! Now as much as this is definitely the most intriguing drinking institution I’ve been to, I’m actually here to tell you about what lies beneath it…

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

Mention the museum to the bartender and you will be shown to a gaping hole on the ground where a staircase spirals down to a red-glowing mouth. Hold tight to the banister, a few more steps, please, please mind that one, and you’ve landed in Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. There, a couple of rooms are lined with glass cabinets filled with so much stuff you don’t know where to start. There’s a lot of taxidermy as one expect from such places but the specimens are arranged in strange scenes, sometimes placed alongside surprisingly mundane objects. For instance, there’s this striking stuffed two-headed lamb standing right next to Dora the Explorer.

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

The associations are mesmerising, you feel like you’ve just tapped into Viktor Wynd’s stream of consciousness. His interests are strangely intertwined behind the glass windows: tribal art, erotica, taxidermy, celebrity culture, Happy Meal toys and the flashy world of dandies. With his personal collection mixed with donations, Viktor Wynd wishes here to “recreate a 17th century Wunderkabinett with 21st century sensibilities”. The idea is not to educate but to leave the visitor with a sense of wonder. Undoubtedly, some pieces are awe-inspiring such as the perfect dodo skeleton, the precious glitter suit of celebrated dandy Sebastian Horsley or the predator bones lurking behind the bars of a cage at the back at the museum.

The Last TuesdayThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

But mostly, this little shop of horrors is deliciously facetious. A closer inspection to the book covers will make you blush, with titles like The Naughty Nun or Mrs Thompson’s Water Domination (!). And look at that angry stuffed chihuahua taking cover under the giant crab! It’s also well worth reading the labels on the various pots and jars exhibited on the shelves. There are some very puzzling spontaneous donations such as Russell Brand’s pubes (which are actually beard trimmings sent by his hairdresser), Amy Winehouse’s (fake) poo and Russell Crowe’s (actual) wee. The world of Viktor Wynd is undoubtedly fascinating but what you make of it is the added reward.

The Last Tuesday Society
Practical Information

The Last Tuesday Society,
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities – website

11 Mare Street
London E8 4RP

Opening Hours
12pm – 10.30pm (Wed-Sun; same hours as the pub)
Tours are also organised

Admission
General £5 / Concessions £3 (includes a cup of tea & a guide book)

Bus
26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 388

Memories from Mojácar | Spain

Mojácar

As I’m about to fly to Spain this week, I was reminded I had a few pictures of my Spanish adventures last year to share here. I’m going to be honest I had written off most of the coast as a sterile destination full of overdeveloped sea resorts. There are certainly quite a few of those but let me tell you, I had to eat my hat hard.
While travelling along the South Coast, I was completely blown away by the variety of landscapes: from towering sea cliffs to green valleys via miles of desert (it’s no wonder that the old Hollywood crowd used to come here to shoot some of their classic Western movies). It dawned on me that this would be the perfect setting for an epic road-trip. Besides these, there are adorable villages of white-washed cube houses resting on top of hills. Like, for instance, Mojacar. It’s just too charming and I thought it had a certain air of Santorini.
But Mojacar is not only a pretty face, it is an important historical crossroad and it also has the strangest legend involving America’s most famous figure of all time.

MojácarMojácar

Located in the province of Almeria, the old pueblo of Mojacar is nestled at the top of a hill facing the Mediterranean sea and the tourist resort of Mojacar playa. It is thought to have been populated since the Bronze Age. It’s been under the rule of the Greeks, Rome and in the 8th century, the Moors took over. The town was actually once on the frontier with the Christian civilisation to the East which led to many invasions and blood baths in the 15th century. Up until a pact of free association was agreed between the local Moors, Jews and Christians at the fountain Fuento Moro, which you can still visit today. Locals regularly come here to fill up plastic bottles.

MojácarMojácarMojácar

Mojacar bloomed for centuries as it welcomed diverse traders inside its walls but ultimately it fell into decay in the 19th century. In the 1960s, the local mayor reversed the trend by giving away pieces of land to a community of artists. Today the town is an interesting combination of different architecture styles basked in a bohemian aura. Amongst the expected souvenir shops, you’ll find arts and crafts shops as well as vintage sellers.

MojácarMojácarMojácarMojácarMojácar

It’s better to explore the meandering alleyways by foot, you can pick up Mojacar map from the tourist centre. You’ll notice along the way many beautiful details: iron-wrought doors and windows, potted plants, vibrant bougainvillea, blue tiles, orange trees and the Moorish pebble-covered paths which were thought to be beneficial for the back. You will also notice that several house-fronts sport a match-stick man carrying a rainbow. This is the Indalo (or Mojacar Man), a drawing from the Bronze Age found in a nearby cave and thought to cast off the evil eye and bring good luck. This symbol of Mojacar became so popular that it now represents the whole province of Almeria. The town also features a couple of miradors which boast spectacular panoramic views stretching to the Mediterranean Sea. Mirador del Castillo is the highest point of town, you shouldn’t miss it!

MojácarMojácar

Now onto that bizarre local legend… Rumour has it that Mojacar is actually the birthplace of Walt Disney. I know, crazy, right? It is believed he was the child of an illegitimate liaison and emigrated later in the US. The Guardian has an interesting article on the subject if you’re into your conspiracy theories *grins*

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited

Since we’ve just entered the month of September (sigh), I thought we could look at my Irish Summer Checklist from last year again and see what I’ve managed to do so far!

Irish Summer Checklist Revisited
✓ Go on hikes around Dublin
I did the Howth Cliff Walk and went up the Hellfire Club. The Bray Head hike is next on my list!
✓ Taste Murphy’s ice-cream (Dublin)
I went for the classic Brown Bread and Dingle Sea Salt flavours.
✗ See the mills in Skerries (Dublin)
✗ Visit the Burren Perfumery (co. Clare)
✗ Get lost in Russborough’s maze (co. Wicklow)
Irish Summer Checklist Revisited
✓ Visit Drimnagh Castle (Dublin)
You can read on my visit to this Norman castle here.
✓ Photograph the roses in Saint Anne’s Park (Dublin)
Click here to read my account of the day.
✗ Go back to Killruddery to do a tour of the house (co. Wicklow)
✓ Wander in Mount Usher Gardens (co. Wicklow)
I’m giving you a tour of these spectacular gardens here.
✓ Stand in the lavender field in Kilmacanogue (co. Wicklow)
More on this little patch of Provence in Wicklow here.

6 out of 10 is not too bad I reckon! Of course I might have updated my list but I’ll keep that for a new version next Summer. The month of September is often a good one here, weather-wise, so I’m hoping I can cross off a few more these coming weeks!

On an unrelated note, I wanted to say a huge thank you to those of you who voted for me in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards competition, The Art of Exploring has made it to the finals! I’m completely floored by your kindness, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Summer Days in London

Summer Days in London
Last month I went for my annual trip to London and as always I had the best time exploring my favourite city. I only stayed a long weekend and this time I felt like taking it easy and didn’t pack as much as my last trip. A lot of time was spent in parks just basking in the sun, it was wonderful. I thought I would write a quick and casual summary of what I was up to during these few blissful day because there were a few great London discoveries that were made.

When your breakfast spot has the prettiest facade on the street 💕
Day 1 started with a lovely breakfast at Well Street Kitchen. I opted for the granola and greek yogurt topped by a deliciously tart berry compote. Portions were generous and everything was well done and fresh (bar the OJ that tasted like it was cut with concentrate juice which was slightly disappointing). The digestion phase was spent sitting in the nearby park and observing the people passing by. It always strikes me how close-knitted the East-end community looks like from afar, everybody seems to be talking to each other.
Summer Days in London
Summer Days in Dublin
Next I hopped on a bus to Islington High Street. I had briefly window-shopped there before, it’s quite a vibrant area with an interesting mix of shops. I took advantage of being in the area to check out Home & Pantry, an independent Interior Shop I had long wanted to visit. But the real reason I was in the area was to go to the Victoria Miro Gallery to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. This was first on my ‘London wishlist’ this year as I really didn’t want to miss it before it closed. I had previously seen Kusama’s work before in the Tate back in 2012 and absolutely loved her universe. This time the exhibition seemed to focus on reflections, ripples and pumpkins. It was a completely mind-blowing experience to stand in the room of ‘All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins‘.
Summer Days in London
Afterwards, I went to Spitalfields market where I had a late lunch at Leon. I had heard of their sweet potato falafel box and thought it sounded like a great combination. It turns out it was a tad bland, it was nice but nothing to write home about. I immediately got luncheon remorse when I noticed that Pilpel was just outside the market hall. Oh well, you win some, you lose some… I wanted to wander in the area to take pictures of the old Georgian streets. I went back to Folgate Street where stands the molto brilliantissimo Dennis Severs House and explored Fournier Street and Princelet Street for the first time. These were honestly two of the most beautiful streets I had ever trod on, pure film set material.
Summer Days in London
The day’s explorations ended with a walk along Brick Lane and a quick look to the facade of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It was unfortunately closed by the time I got there but it’s a fascinating place, full of history, as it is here that Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were cast. I definitely need to come back during business hours.
Summer Days in LondonSummer Days in London
On Day 2, I went to Sutton House. This I will need to write a post about but it is a beautiful Tudor manor, the oldest residential building in Hackney actually. It used to belong to Ralph Sadleir, a courtier of the terrifying Henry VIII. You can visit the many rooms but if you don’t care much for history there’s also a tea house and a cafe. The inner courtyard is a wonderful little place to sit down and have a cuppa.
Summer Days in London
And on the final day, I went to Camden Market. I hadn’t been there in years! Even though my recollection of it was the most crowded place in London, I’m pretty sure it managed to get even busier since the last time I was here. The market stalls expanded quite a bit too. The food variety would make anyone’s head spin (especially if you suffer from option paralysis like me). Unrelated question but does anyone know what happened to the group of punks who would always hang out by the bridge? Did the crowds make them run away and hide? Is punk dead?
Summer Days in LondonSummer Days in London
Following that, I was in dire need of a quieter and greener place so I took off and headed to Primrose Hill. But first, I stopped by Wholefoods to get a few snacks for an impromptu picnic. Another overwhelming place for little old indecisive me but I managed to get out with some interesting quinoa crisps and novelty pop corn as well as a refreshing cold-pressed watermelon juice.
On my way to the top of the hill, I crossed a couple walking 5 dachshunds. Their little stumpy legs were working hard! Incidentally, this is not the first time I see 5 dachshunds on a hill!
Primrose Hill offers fantastic view over the London skyline (although I think I might prefer the view from Hampstead Heath). The wind was strong at the top and some kids were flying kites. Which meant I had Mary Poppins Let’s Go Fly a Kite looping in my head all afternoon!
Summer Days in London
I noticed the hill was not too far from Little Venice so I hopped on the canal pathway and lazily wandered along the water. I’m actually not sure I even went through Little Venice (?), I walked until I met a dead-end. It was such a pleasant stroll, the canal was bordered by grandiose-looking manors. Back onto the streets, I found my way to the nearest tube station. Next stop: Westminster!
Summer Days in London

Summer Days in London
I hadn’t seen Big Ben in years! It still takes my breath away and fills me with nostalgia, bringing me back to being a teenager discovering London for the first time. I’m forever impressed with this city’s grandeur, the Houses of Parliament look like it was chiselled from ice and the Thames so strong, ploughs through the city like a thousand concrete-coloured stallions. Just as I was crossing Westminster Bridge, I noticed a group of Asian couples in the middle of a wedding photoshoot. It was just the weirdest thing, the brides wore sneakers under their beautiful tulle dresses and gave their best smiles to bossy photographers.
I patiently waited for them to finish their shoot and headed to that little tunnel under the bridge to take that famous framed picture of Big Ben. Unfortunately the light was pants but as I crossed to the other side of the bridge, I was welcomed by the warm golden hour.
Summer Days in London

This was the perfect ending to another successful trip to this city I love so much. It was great to chill and revisit old favourites. I’m quite chuffed with the new places I saw too. But now it was time to go to the “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning” and bid good bye to London. Until next time old friend!

Drimnagh Castle | Dublin

Drimnagh Castle

Did you know that the only castle with a flooded moat left in Ireland can be found in Dublin? You’d think with such a title, the castle would also be ‘flooded’ with tourists. Not quite. It is a bit of a locals’ secret probably due to the fact that it’s located rather far off the tourist track. In fact, the castle was completely unknown to me despite having lived in Dublin for 8 years! It is located in the capital’s South West suburbs, in a residential area called Drimnagh.

Drimnagh Castle

Case in point, when I finally visited this Norman Castle earlier this year, I practically had the whole place to myself bar a group of kids from the primary school next door. I had unfortunately just missed the tour guide but the helpful volunteers in care of the grounds kindly let me in and provided lots of information.

Drimnagh Castle was built around 1215 by the De Bernivale (sometimes spelt Barneville and later anglicized as Barnewall). They had received the land in recognition for their services during the Crusades and the invasion of Ireland. They resided here for 400 years.

See also: Love Irish Castles? Check out this Norman Castle just outside Dublin

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

The castle you see today had been updated throughout the years: the main castle on the right of the tower dates back from the 15th century, the tower was built in the 16th, the porch and the stairway in the 19th and various buildings were added during the last century.

It also holds the title of being the longest inhabited castle in Ireland but by the mid-1980s it had completely fell into ruins. Thankfully the local community and An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) intervened and brought the place back to its old glory. They even added a beautiful 17th century-style garden.

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

Inside the castle, the piece de resistance is without a doubt the Great Hall. It has a gorgeous red and black tiled floor, an imposing mantelpiece and curious carved oak figures adorning the walls. Back in the day, the hall had a dual purpose of sleeping quarters cum living room. During the day, the mattresses were replaced by tables and benches.

Drimnagh Castle is certainly a charismatic place and it won’t surprise you that it was used as a shooting location for several productions among which The Tudors and Ella Enchanted.

See also: Killruddery and Powerscourt Estate were also filming locations for the TV show The Tudors.

Drimnagh Castle

DRIMNAGH CASTLE PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Drimnagh Castle – website
Long Mile Road
Dublin 12

Admission
General €4.50 / Students & OAPs €4 / Children €2.50

Opening Hours
9am-4pm (Mon-Thu)
9am-1pm (Fri)

Bus
18, 56A, 151

 

Rose Festival & North Bull Island | Dublin

Rose Festival & North Bull Island

It was a hot afternoon in July, I had just come back from London, right in time for Saint Anne’s Park Rose Festival. I had been wanting to visit the park and its yearly floral event for a quite a while now. Every July, for a weekend, the beautiful rose gardens are celebrated by the local community. Families gather the time of a weekend, to enjoy the festivities. The cheerful atmosphere actually reminded me a lot of the Bloom Festival. Plant sales, craft stands, food stalls were lined up in the park’s paths while a band was giving the crowds a soundtrack for that happy Summer day. The kids were flying mini kites or queuing for a ride on the carrousel. And let’s not forget the star of the weekend, roses in their different shape or colour were admired in one of Dublin’s best rose gardens.

Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island

St Anne’s park is located in the north of Dublin bay, between Clontarf and Raheny. It offers many interesting features, aside from the rose garden. Most prominently, many follies in decay but also a walled garden and a clock tower, as well as the Red Stables which houses an arts centre, a cosy little cafe and markets on the weekend. And last but not least, there’s a line of oaks that bears a striking resemblance to the Dark Hedges from TV show Game of Thrones. This park is so fun and its diverse landscape made me think of my childhood grounds, le Parc Solvay in Brussels. This might just be my new favourite park in Dublin!

Another great thing about this park is that it’s facing the seashore, more precisely the entrance to North Bull Island. I had never been there so I decided to kill two birds with one stone while I was in the area and pay it a visit.
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull IslandDublin Rose Festival & North Bull Island

The road to the island crosses salt marshes which holds a UNESCO protected bird sanctuary. Dublin is actually the only capital city which has an entire biosphere reserve within its walls. At the end of the causeway, you’ll find dunes and the man-made beach Dollymount Strand. It’s a beautiful sandy beach which offers great views on the Dublin bay, on one side, the Poolbeg Chimneys stand tall while on the other side, Howth head lies on the fluffy sea.