National Botanic Gardens | Dublin

National Botanic GardensNational Botanic Gardens
I recently went to Dublin’s Botanic Gardens to film a little segment for an upcoming video and it reminded me that I had some pictures in my archives I haven’t shown you yet. They were taken at the same time two years back. This is one of my favourite places in Dublin but it’s truly glorious come Spring. The tulips are swinging, the bluebells turn the little forest patch into a magic land, the rhododendrons and magnolias fluff out the the trees and the daffodils sprinkle the grass with their round happy faces. There are few other places in Dublin I’d rather be right now.

National Botanic GardensNational Botanic GardensNational Botanic GardensNational Botanic GardensNational Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens is a beautiful place to wander, sit and breathe. I especially love the beautiful iron-wrought glass houses. They host cacti, exotic palm trees and a great orchid collection among other species. Some of the ironwork actually come from London’s Kew Gardens, which make me love the place even more, if that’s possible.

National Botanic GardensNational Botanic GardensNational Botanic Gardens
There’s also a little café with terrace where I had a nice squishy cookie and a lemonade. At the table next to me, a man was singing Irish rebel songs to soothe his baby, which made the infant laugh furiously, which in turn made me grin like a mad cat #onlyinireland

National Botanic GardensNational Botanic Gardens

Did you know?

The scientists at the National Botanic Gardens discovered the potato blight responsible for the Irish Famine. They predicted its effect on the crops before it all happened. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to find the remedy in time.

National Botanic Gardens

Practical Information

National Botanic Gardens – website
Dublin 9

Admission: Free

Opening Hours
Summer: 9am-5pm (Mon-Fri) / 10am-6pm (Sat, Sun & Public Hols)
Winter: 9am-4.30pm (Mon-Fri) / 10am-4.30pm (Sat, Sun & Public Hols)

Bus: 4, 9, 83

Quinta da Regaleira | Lisbon

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

When I saw Carrie’s post on her visit to Quinta de Regaleira, I knew I needed to check this magical place out for myself; surely it couldn’t be real, it was some photoshop trick or something.
So when I had the chance to visit Lisbon at the beginning of this year, a trip to Sintra, where Quinta da Regaleira is located, was high on my priority list.
Sintra, if you’ve never heard of it, is this little town, a mere 40 minute train journey away from Lisbon. While it is a picturesque little village very stairs-y and colourful, it is also weird in the way that it is surrounded by so many fairytale castles.
It was my aim to visit as many palaces as possible but that was without taking into consideration my unfit state, the rain and my propensity to take things a little bit too easy. Basically I got caught in a rainstorm in a middle of ascending a hill, trying to reach the Palacio de Pena just before closing time. Moral of the story: take the bloody bus when you see it.

Quinta da Regaleira

Luckily though, I made one wise decision and that was to visit Quinta da Regaleira upon my immediate arrival to Sintra. And I’m happy to report Carrie’s pictures were telling the truth. Quinta da Regaleira is truly a magical place. What I liked about it the most is it’s not only magical in a fairytale kind of way, it also has a dark and creepy side. When I got a first sight of the palace above the wall from the street, I had the feeling that I was facing the Portuguese Manderley. Maybe it was the January chill or my vivid imagination, but I couldn’t help shiver a bit.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Although owned for many years by the Regaleira family, the estate became the oddity it is today when a Brazilian millionnaire bought it and with the help of an Italian architect, remodeled the place after his interest in the occult during the first decade of the 20th century. He drew his inspiration for the garden features from secret societies like the the Freemasons, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians while also using symbols from Alchemy. The result is one of the most enchanting and mysterious place I ever seen, it kinda made me wish to be 10 again and have a massive hide-and-seek party.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

The gardens are laid out on a hillside, they feature underground tunnels, grottoes, fountains, ponds, turrets and a chapel. But the pièce de résistance is without a doubt the Initiation Well, which is inspired by the masonic rites. As you go down the spiral staircase, you can see on the bottom of the well, the Knights Templar’s cross.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Unfortunately the house felt a bit like a disappointment after the amazement of the gardens. The actual features, feminine frescoes, beautiful tilework and intricate woodcarving, offered an interesting contrast to the dark character of the gardens, and while they were certainly pleasing to the eye, I couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed by the use of the rooms. They were some objects displayed under glass and architecture drawings you could flick through, but nothing quite captured my imagination as the otherworldly landscape outside.

With that being said, I visited Quinta da Regaleira in January and as I understand it many rooms were closed as well as the balcony which I would have loved to stand on and enjoy a panoramic view on the estate. So my advice would maybe skip the indoors during Winter season if you’re in a hurry, unless you have a thing for romantic wall paintings, they’re really quite beautiful.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira
Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Top tip: Bring a torch or some powerful source of light to explore the underground tunnels. The one leading up to the Initiation Well is lit up with fairy lights but the rest are dark as the soul of the tea. I didn’t have any light on me but was adamant to try to explore one of them near the pond, it only took a few steps until I freaked out… yep, definitely not the adventure backpacker travel blogger you were looking for here.


Quinta da Regaleira

Practical Information

Quinta da Regaleira – website
Rua Barbosa do Bocage, 5
2710-567 Sintra

Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm (Nov-Jan) / 10 – 6.30pm (Feb-Mar & Oct) / 10am – 8pm (Apr-Sep)

Train: Sintra Station

Admission Fee: Adult 6€ / Concession & Children >14yo 4€ / Children <9yo Free / Children <14yo 3€

Kew Gardens | London

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
I thought that since I showed you the third most beautiful garden in the world last week (according to National Geographic), I would post today about Kew gardens, which rank at number two on the list (Versailles is number one FYI, but I haven’t visited it… yet).

I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens 2 years ago and I had to kick myself for not checking them out earlier, despite living in London for a little while. It almost instantly became one of my favourite places on Earth. The fact that it is a little ‘off the beaten track’ might have explained why it took me so long to finally cross if off my ‘London list’. But still, it is not an excuse as the English capital’s transport system is so efficient, it is in no way a pain to get there. I’d definitely recommend that you’d schedule a whole morning or an afternoon if not a whole day to visit Kew Gardens, if you like me enjoy a good glasshouse or two. I spent a morning and the early hours of the afternoon there and only managed to cover half of the park. It is pretty big! The map they give you at the entrance is definitely essential to your visit.

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is just under a fly path, planes fly so low I felt like I could almost touch them; not going to lie it got me a little nervous at times

I didn’t have a plan when I got there so I just walked where my feet led me. I walked toward the huge Pagoda and hung out for a while in the Japanese Garden, then crossed a beautiful field of daffodils. I then tried to battle my fear of heights on the Treetop walk, a sort of transparent-ish suspended bridge at the top of very high trees. It didn’t last long until my legs started to shake and I had to go down the stairs, holding to the banister for dear life #chicken.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

What I was looking forward the most were the glasshouses and especially the Palm House. I had seen pictures of the beautiful white wrought iron structure and couldn’t wait to take some pictures inside. It was actually my first proper ‘big camera’ outing and looking at the pictures today makes me realise how much I learnt.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

I finished my visit to the Kew Gardens with a yummy lunch break in the café’s terrace, soaking up the sun rays of baby Spring 2012 and then had a browse in the cute little shop full of beautifully designed objects, not too dissimilar from Avoca actually.

Maybe for my next visit, I will be more organised and go straight to the giant lily pond or Kew Palace; or I’ll just succumb to Kew’s magic once again and get wonderfully lost.


Kew Gardens

Practical Information

Kew Gardens – website
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond, Surrey

Opening Hours: check out website as they are updated every year

Admission Fee: Adult £15 / Concession £14/ Children <16yo Free

Underground/Overground: Kew Gardens (on the District Line)
Train: Kew Bridge
Bus: 65, 237, 267, 391

Powerscourt Gardens | co. Wicklow

pegasus powerscourtiron garden gate

I visited Powerscourt Estate for the first time last year after a long and cold Irish winter that coincided with a long and dark season in my personal life. It was April and I was starting to wonder if it will be sunny ever again. It looked pretty bleak, it even snowed the week before.
But somehow, the miracle of Spring happened again and as sun rays pierced the thick clouds, I decided to finally visit that place I had heard so much about. Lonely Planet listed Powerscourt as one of the greatest houses and this year National Geographic voted it the third best garden in the world.
Pretty impressive, right? Those titles are definitely not unearned, the estate brought back some needed magic in my life. It made me realise that I have all those amazing places practically on my doorstep and I needed to start exploring, look for my Spring and stop waiting for it (which is a message I’m trying to convey through this blog, everyone’s backyard is worth exploring).

powerscourt housepowerscourt statues
powerscourt house + sugar loafjapanese garden
fountain powerscourt
iron chairspink azalea

Powerscourt Estate goes back as far as the 13th century and has been a work in progress over the years. Today, when you visit the estate, you’re met with an impressive mansion holding an array of shops that boast beautiful Irish design and craft within its walls. If you’re in the market for gifts, souvenirs and local delicacies to bring home, this is a brilliant place to shop as you have so much choice on hand. Not an Irish product but I was super excited to see that the shop Avoca stocks some of Rifle Paper Co‘s divine stationary.

On the first floor, you will find Tara’s Palace, one of the greatest doll’s house in the world, in the Childhood Museum. Click here to read about my visit there.

The terrace café is a lovely place to have a slice of cake (or two) as the views on the Wicklow Mountains are stunning. Outside you’ll be met with the beautiful Italian Gardens and a panoramic view over the estate. There is so much to explore: Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, a walled garden, a greenhouse, the Pepperpot tower, a deerpark and the highest waterfall in Ireland.

french gardens
gilded garden gate
flower parterre
powerscourt house + mountains
wicklow mountains powerscourt

Did you know?: Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in Powerscourt House. Powerscourt has actually been used as a filming location many times, check out IMDB for the full list.

My favourite part was the walled garden, not surprisingly, and especially the gilded iron gates which reminded of pictures I saw of Versailles’s gates.
Although I’ve been to Powerscourt twice already, I’ve quite a bit left to explore. There’s the pet cemetery, it might sound weird but the stones’ epitaphs are said to be heart-warming (I kind of avoided it last time as my dog had recently passed away and I was worried to lose it); and also the waterfall and the deerpark.
This time, I’ll do a favour to myself and not wait for Spring to visit Powerscourt again.


powerscourt estate

Practical Information

Powerscourt Estate – website
Co. Wicklow

Check out their website for the events programme

Opening Times: 9.30am – 5.30pm; During Winter, gardens close at dusk
Closed on December 25th & 26th

Admission Fee: Adults 8.50€ / Studens, OAP 5 € / Children < 16yo 3.50€ / Children <2yo Free

How to get there (from Dublin): Take the Dart to Bray then the Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)

More information on the Waterfalls and Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood

Wexford Lavender Farm | Co. Wexford

lavender rowswoodland path & bag

Last year, I got completely obsessed with this article on Kinfolk Magazine called “Tips for Growing Peonies“. I visited the page countless times and sighed so much at the beautiful photography. I had one thought in my mind: one day, I, too, will frolic in a flower field as painfully beautiful as this peony farm in Salem, Oregon.
I wondered if there was something similar here in Ireland. Surely among all the lush greenery the island has to offer, there must be one or two flower fields open to the public. Peony, lavender, sunflower, it didn’t matter. I stored that new goal of mine in my little goldfish tank of a brain for when spring came around the corner.
Fast forward to May, I hadn’t had much luck with my research and decided to ask on Twitter if anyone could help. The ever so knowledgeable Susan from Vibrant Ireland came to the rescue and recommended the Wexford Lavender Farm, which looked like the perfect fit with its cute little café.

So last month, Magda came to pick me up and off we went to Wexford. I should probably start a series on this blog called ‘Wexford with Magda’ , she took me to so many cool places this year in the sunny county.
The lavender farm is about 1,5 hrs away from Dublin by car (a car is probably your best bet to be honest) and even though it feels like the middle of nowhere, once you left the motorway the road to it is well signed.

low-angle lavenderlavender farmlavender fieldhouse lavender field

When you get to the parking of the farm you’re met by a beautiful sea of purple and the distinctive fresh smell of lavender. The field in itself is medium-sized (2 acres), it is next to a play area for kids and a pen where 2 sheep hang out next to ducks busy having their very own pool party. Say quack?!
At the back of the field, a little sign promises woodland walks.

sheeppoppy & lavenderlavender potduckie pool

First; we headed to the café. The home-made cakes looked rather tempting and the shop was full of cute little lavender by-products but we stuck to coffee. We got cozy in the courtyard next to the little plant sale (5€ the lavender pot) and wondered how persistant the Irish sun was going to be that day. Spoiler: not very.

wexford lavender farmcafé courtyardwexford lavender farm cafésoapwoodland walkfields

We finished off our floral escapade by following the sign to the woodlands. We first crossed a bucolic barley field and once in the little forest, opted for the shortest walk (I suspect Magda and her boyfriend were trying to spare my couch potato self). It was lovely and I stocked up on so much oxygen (translate: I nearly fainted – ed.: it was a 15 min walk), and I only wished it was blackberry season as the path was bordered with so much bramble.

The farm will close in the end of September so do go frolic to your heart’s content before the lavender goes into winter mode, it makes for such a lovely day out for the family. Also, check out Magda’s post and her swooning pictures of the day!


Practical Information

Wexford Lavender Farm  – website

Co. Wexford

Opening Hours: 10.30am – 5pm (Apr – Sep) / Closed on Mondays, except Bank Holidays / Open for events on Halloween & in December, check out the farm’s website for updates

Admission: Free 

The Flower Carpet | Brussels

flower carpet brussels

Yesterday something quite special happened in Brussels. Something that only happens once every two years. Hundreds of thousands of petals have been laid out all day to form what is the largest flower carpet in the world. Until Sunday night, the carpet will brighten up the centre of one of the most beautiful squares in Europe (okay I might be biased here):  Grand Place. I remember the event being one of the highlights of my Summer as a kid and I’m a bit sad I won’t be there to witness it this weekend. Those pictures are from a couple of years ago but fortunately my mum sent me pictures of last night’s opening so it’s a bit like being back home for a bit.

The design of the carpet follows a different theme each time and this year, it celebrates the 50th year anniversary of  Turkish immigration in Belgium. The pattern is inspired by the intricate Persian carpets ‘kilims‘.

grand place flower carpetflower carpet close-up

The carpet is made of hundreds of thousands of begonia petals. The begonia proves to be the perfect flower for such a feat as it’s quite robust against bad weather and it doesn’t lose its vivid and colourful aspects under the bright sun. The tradition started in the 70s and lit many a Brusseleer‘s (aka Brussels’ inhabitant) heart with joy and pride.

I couldn’t recommend enough you go and see the flowery Grand Place with your own eyes, it is truly quite something to witness the serious grandeur of the square buildings that lasted many centuries come together with the bright, cheerful ephemerality of the carpet.

Also, every evening, a light and sound show will take place on the square to top up this giant flower cake.

flower carpetgrand placeflower carpet from above

Top Tip: For a panoramic view of the carpet and the Grand Place, enter the City Hall and access the balcony.

flower carpet view from city hall balcony

Practical Information

Flower Carpet, from the 14th to the 17th of August 2014 – website
Grand Place
1000 Brussels

Admission: Free

Light & Sound shows: 10pm / 10.30pm / 11pm

Admission to the City Hall Balcony is 5€ and it’s open from 9am to 11pm

VIDEO: Dublin blooms

bloom dublin

The garden festival Bloom is back this week so I thought I would reminisce with this little video I shot at last year’s event.
Located in Phoenix Park, Bloom makes for such a lovely day out. Whether you want to admire the outstanding garden designs, eat some delicious wholesome food or pick up gardening tips, I feel there is something for everyone. And don’t think you need to be a garden buff to enjoy the event, my gardening facilities extend to a windowsill and my non-existent green thumb murdered many a succulent; the gardening experts will gladly have a chat no matter what your level is. And well, if flowers and vegetables leave you indifferent, there’s always the food village. Loads of sampling action there! I may or may not be still dreaming about a pineapple chutney I tasted last year…

Also, super good news this year if you can’t make it to Phoenix Park, for the first time a pop-up version of the festival will come to the streets of Dublin! Bloom Fringe, as its name tells, will take place “on the edge” of Bloom with events all over Dublin such as tours to discover the city’s secret gardens, food trails, talks, pop-up green spaces, yoga classes,  etc… with the main Bloom Fringe garden on George Street. I personally look forward to the floral workshop in Powerscourt Centre the most but I’m also quite intrigued by the upcycling workshop, the herbal remedy class, the introduction to essential oils… and the seedbomb-making workshop sounds absolutely brilliant!

Take a look at the programme and see for yourself if something tickles your fancy.

Practical Information

Bloom 2014
From May 29th to June 2nd
Phoenix Park

Admission Fee: Adult 20€ /  Senior & Students  13€  / Children < 16yo Free
Tickets booked in advance are discounted – book online here (until 01/06)

Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm

Luas/Train: Heuston Stop; then hop on the free shuttle bus on Parkgate Street
Bloom Fringe 2014
May 31st
All over Dublin

Check programme for events’ location, prices & availability

Altamont Garden | co. Carlow

altamont house

Hello hello! How was your long Easter week-end? Mine was super lovely thanks for asking :) It was (mostly) sunny and great time were had outside and particularly in the ole countryside, thanks to my friend Magda who kindly took me along for a little adventure (go check her post of the day, she took fantastic pictures!).
We went to Altamont Garden, which is best known for its snowdrops but we were a bit late for those unfortunately (we actually meant to visit the garden that day we went to Wexford, but ended up being short on time). I think the best time for snowdrops is actually mid-February.
Anyways, the Altamont Garden were all-the-same breathtaking on this morning of April. The Spring flowers were in full bloom and I reckon come Summer, the roses must be as enchaning! The Altamont Garden bears the title of the most romantic garden in Ireland and I can see why, there is many a bridge to be serenaded on and nooks and cranny a-plenty if you want to whisper sweet nothings to your lover’s ears, away from prying eyes.

gardening shed altamont garden
magnolia tree and tulips altamont garden
peahen altamont house
azalea bush altamont garden
window magnolia tree altamont house
magnolia tree and lamb altamont garden

An added surprise for the animal-obsessive I am was that the place featured a good dose of cuteness, what with it being lambing season. Also present were cows and calves and a majestic peafowl couple (the peacock seemed rather aware of his charms and kept checking his reflection in a window).

peacock's reflectionplant shop altamont gardenewe and lamb fieldwalled garden altamont gardenpeacock altamont gardencow altamont garden
rose and temple altamont garden

At the back of the garden, there is a woodland area where we walked along a charming little brook that gained strength as we got closer to the River Slaney. We left the little forest and crossed a field, stopped at the temple where we admired the stunning views of the Wicklow mountains. Last stops were the gorgeous walled garden and the colourful plant shop. We rested at the café in the company of chubby hens before it was time to hit the road again.

Hope you all had an as equally pleasant Easter!

P.S.: Don’t forget to check Magda’s drool-worthy blog. You won’t regret it!

altamont house and garden

Practical Information

Altamont Garden
Bunclody Road
County Carlow

Admission: Free

Opening Hours: 9am to 7.30pm

Airfield House & Farm | Dublin

airfield house dundrum walled garden
lambs airfield
Last week saw the official re-opening of Airfield House & Farm in South Dublin. The estate was being renovated for the past 2 years, offering now to the public’s enjoyment a revamped farm, gardens, cafe and the stately home of the Overend family.
I hot-footed to Dundrum on Saturday, bursting with excitement at the hope of seeing lambs and calves.
I do love a beautiful walled garden, so it was a nice surprise to see the well-maintained space around the house, with stunning views of the Dublin mountains.
My curiosity was also piqued when I read about the Overend sisters (I couldn’t help linking them in my mind with the Mitford sisters – an old obsession of mine – and while their story has very little in common with the English socialites, there is just something fascinating and inspiring about independent women of their time).
walled garden airfield
cherry blossoms + beehive airfield
walled garden airfield dundrum
Their family home is now an interactive museum, where you’ll find correspondence and memorabilia displayed, attesting to their charity work and hobbies such as gardening, travelling and cooking. The guide lady was absolutely lovely and full of interesting facts about Naomi and Letitia’s lives. Like how they had to write letters to their deaf cook to organise the menus or how Letitia was quite the sight cruising in her Rolls Royce around the village.

vintage menu airfield houseairfield house memorabiliamirror on mantelpiece airfield houselilac airfield housevintage children books airfieldvintage dollhouse airfieldgardening memorabilia airfield houseview from the window airfield housepink lilac airfield house

Visiting the farm was a joyful experience, I discovered that lambs wag their fluffy tails when feeding, which is about the cutest thing I ever witnessed. I also petted a playful goat kid and fawn over sleeping calves. The Overends were also known for breeding Jersey cows which you can still see at Airfield. They are milked on the premises, so it’s a great lesson for city kids who think that milk comes from cartons (enquire at the entrance for feeding and milking time).

sheep lambs airfield
jersey cows airfield farm
peekaboo baby goat
tree cosy by Sandra McAllister airfield
view on dublin mountains airfield farm
The kitchen garden is still a bit barren, so I reckon it will be worth a trip back in the Summer when the fruit and veg start showing up. But I think I’ll actually come back sooner than that as the sow is expecting and her piglets are due this May. They won’t be the only ones squealing in Dundrum, that’s for sure!
airfield house dundrum

Practical information

Airfield House & Farm
Overend Way
Dublin 14

Check out the activity programme at

Luas: Balally
Bus: 11, 14, 14C, 44, 44B, 75, 116

Admission fee: Adults 10€ / Children 5€ / <3’s Free / Senior Citizens 9€ / Students 8€

Opening hours: 9.30am to 5pm (Sep-Apr) / 9.30am to 8pm (May-Aug)

Estufas | Lisbon

estufa fria flower
estufa fria lisbon

Estufas in Portuguese mean glasshouses and if you’re anything like me, it’s the kind of words that make your heart sing in every language. If you’re having a stroll through Eduardo VII Park (check out the view over the city while you’re there!), pop by these greenhouses, I think they make for a beautiful, peaceful break after spending the day in the charming hustle and bustle of Lisbon.

estufas statue
cactus estufa quente

The history behind this place is a bit of an interesting one. It was actually meant to be a shelter for the exotic plants imported to adorn the closeby Avenida da Liberdade (Lisbon’s Champs Elysées you could say), but World War I put everything on hold and the plants took roots. Years later, this space was re-discovered and turned into a public greenhouse in 1933.

estufa doce
camelia estufa fria
estufa doce door
estufa doce 3

The Lisbon Estufas comprise of three glasshouses:
Estufa Fria (Cold Greenhouse) which is not technically a glass house as it is just covered by a lath roof, this space houses plants that can live in Portuguese climate such as ferns, palm trees and the beautiful camellias.
Estufa Quente (Hot Greenhouse) is reserved for tropical species such as mango, banana or coffee trees. I suspect it must be a far more exciting visit when those are in season.
Estufa Doce (Mild Greenhouse) was my favourite as it houses all the cacti and succulents. One species I especially enjoyed was the cactus that sported spooky eyes on its stem.

estufa quente 2
estufa fria 3
cactus estufa quente 3

Practical Information

Estufa Fria de Lisboa
Parque Eduardo VII

Metro: Parque/Marques de Pombal
Bus: Marques de Pombal is a bus terminus so the bus possibilities are endless

Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm (March-Oct) / 9am – 5pm (Oct-March)
Closed on January 1st, May 1st & December 25th

Admission Fee: Adults 3,10€ / <18 year old 2,33€ / Students & Pensioners 1,55€ / Children <6 year old Free
Free on Sundays and Bank Holidays until 2pm