It’s a fight for the right to Choose!

Ok, so I’ve kept quiet with my views on abortion & Repeal the 8th for a while now. Partly because I feel like who wants to hear my opinion? However, the main reason is that I am not very good at articulating what I want to say when faced with confrontation. I become frustrated which leads to anger and obstination. A trait that I can see in my father so I am giving him credit for it! It is getting harder to keep it to myself lately, especially with it being in the news or on social media daily. So I will stand with the other people who are calling for a change and support their cause.

I spoke about this recently on Twitter when a topic about how kids are afraid to voice their pro-life opinions in school was discussed. When I was a very young girl I was pro-life as I believed everyone should be. I was Catholic and I thought the world was as easy as black and white, yes or no. Abortion was wrong. When visiting Dublin city centre I was bombarded with messages that abortion was wrong. Vivid images of dead fetus’ were advertised in favour of pro-life. I was a young girl, horrified by this. Looking back it is not something that any child should be exposed to. However, as I became a teenager I started to see the grey side of life. Not everything was easy. I remember in second year,  I was 14 approx., a religion class was taught by a lady who taught Sunday school in my local church. Ireland was still very Catholic in its schools back then so most religion teachers were opinionated regarding beliefs. This lady taught her class on abortion and explained in detail how different abortions were performed. Not once did she show empathy towards women who had abortions, nor did she explain different explanations as to why women chose abortion. Towards the end of class a discussion began. A very vocal and one-sided discussion about women who chose abortion, how they were murderers and how could anyone be that heartless etc. I spoke up, which was unusual as I was quiet spoken back then. I voiced my opinion about rape and how when a woman is fertilized through rape, why should she be forced to have a child she doesn’t want and be constantly reminded of her ordeal. Well, I became a bit more unpopular as a result. The girls in my class started shouting at me, trying to make me feel bad for my argument and continued to give me verbal abuse. This class taught me not to speak up as much, however, it did not change my views.

Living in a Catholic country has meant that pro-life views have been the dominant voice in this debate for many years. That is why I get so frustrated seeing pro-life people saying that pro-choice people are so loud and overpowering. They are annoyed because for years they were smug and had the government in agreeance with them. They are getting scared now. The government is starting to change their views. The Catholic church no longer has the pull that it used to. People are grown and see that life is grey.

Pro-choice and people who want the 8th amendment repealed are not saying that they are pro-abortion. Some people hate the fact that it has to exist. They are just fighting for people to have a right to choose. Everyone deserves to make their own choices. When I vote for abortion to be introduced it is not because I want to have one. Nor is it because I  want to force people into having one. However, by Irish people voting to save the 8th, they are forcing people to live by their choice. How is that fair?

Ireland has evolved so much over the last few decades. It was a country I was proud to be from when Gay marriage was voted in. Catholics can marry other religions without the stigma attached years ago. Bi-racial couples are welcomed. Couples are choosing to live together and have children together without marriage. Divorce was voted in two decades ago, thank god. I made a choice to marry, nobody forced me into it. I also chose to end that marriage, made easier by the fact Ireland no longer disagreed with separation and divorce. If I was forced to remain in my marriage I know I would not have survived. I have the choice to look upon my marriage as a learning curve and I can move forward thanks to the majority who voted for the right to choose divorce.

Make no mistake abortion is not an easy decision. I know women who have chosen it and it is upsetting. But none of them have regretted it. Women make mistakes, and it is rare that I hear of them having more than one abortion. They learn from their mistakes. Raising a child is a tough job. I do not have kids, I would if I could afford to on my own but in this country that is near impossible unless you want to live off the state. This does not mean that I have had an abortion. Though some people do class the morning after pill as one. These are probably the same people who disagree with contraception.

When I was a teenager I discovered a friend at the time had one at the age of 12. She became pregnant after her grandfather had sexually abused her. She wasn’t the only grandchild apparently either. How can people not empathise with that? I find that the hardest. Pro-life voters are choosing for victims of sexual abuse to be put through more heartache. Do not get me wrong I have no doubt it still is a hard decision for these girls and women to make, but it is their choice.

I read a personal story this evening of a twenty-four-year-old who had to travel to Liverpool to be induced early. Her child would not survive after birth. This was confirmed multiple times to her by professionals. She was twenty weeks pregnant so would have months of people innocently asking her about her child. She had to wait four weeks before making the journey overseas. The poor girl had to bring her child home in a coffin in the back of a car. When people say that to “choose love, choose both” what they are really saying is choose our decision. To say that these mothers who have to make that heartbreaking decision then travel to another country to deliver their children do not love their kids is slanderous and hurtful and mean. No one ever gets over losing a child. They already blame themselves for the cause of their child’s illness and everything else that they are not at fault for. Why put them through more pain?

What about the women who may die as a result of their pregnancy? Is that choosing both or loving both? They don’t love their child any less however they have to fight for their right to live. Why take away that right? Pre-internet I would have been told to stop exaggerating, however, is this not how this campaign came to light? There are more and more of these cases being shared.

So yes, maybe Repeal the 8th is being shouted loudly and it might come across as forceful. However, this is just the voices of people who are fighting back after years of being hushed. For centuries this country held us under the rules of the Catholic church. The hypocritical church. The church who told us not to use contraception. Who only have men in power and who are not allowed marry when marriage is a sacred oath. They hold women in second place, put them in laundries and gave their children away without their permission. Making them feel shameful and using them as slaves in the laundries to pay their way. This is a church that refuses to acknowledge Gay rights yet hides the pedophilia that is a virus amongst its clergymen.

So whenever the referendum takes place I will be voting for it to be Repealed. I may never choose abortion for myself, however, I will not stand in the way of my fellow countrywomen who need this service. It is their choice, not mine. I only hope that women and men can see the Repealing the 8th does not mean pro-abortion it just means what it says on the tin, Pro-Choice.


Thank you for being a friend…h

Ok so it has been a long time since I posted on this. I’ve been busy with course work so that when I have spare time I do not want to spend it on a computer writing!!

This post will be a quick one so I decided to write it on a topic we will all be familiar with, friendship. It is a tough one to get right and often we confuse friends with acquaintances. I have a certain view of friendship and that is the type of friend I aspire to be. It doesn’t mean that everyone shares these views and that is fine. I have had many different types over the years and as a result of this I now know who my real friends are and who I want to keep in my life. Below I’ve looked at a few types I’ve encountered over the years..

The one looking for better

When I was younger I actually acted my age and sometimes wanted to remain a child. I wasn’t interested in growing up before my time and for this reason I was constantly dumped by friends. They would head off and play/hang around with people cooler than me then come back to me when they got bored. I would let them because I was so happy to have them back.

The selfish one

Ok we all probably have a slightly selfish friend which is fine once you are aware of that. However years ago when I was a dope I had a friend who let me pay her into clubs, buy her drink and we could only go to places she wanted to when she wanted. I learnt my lesson when she cancelled on me after the time we were meant to go out. All because I wanted to go to a different club. Turns out she cancelled me but then talked another friend into going to where she wanted. That was pretty much the end of that friendship.

The dramatic one

The one who craves drama whether they create it or just want to hang around you when there is drama so they get gossip. If that’s your thing then that is cool however I rather stay away from drama.

The one that will drop everything

There’s the friend who will offer to help you in every way and they actually will if possible. They will rearrange their plans and give you their last cent if you let them. These friends are great friends to have and not because you can get them to do all that but because they want to. The trick is to not ask it of them or put them in a position where you take advantage of their good will.

The organizer

It may be you in your group but there will always be one of your friends that will be the reason for the get togethers. This becomes harder to organise as you get older when relationships and families come first. These again should not be taken advantage of as sometimes it’s nice for it them to be asked!

The ride or die ones

These are the ones who have been there and remain there for you. You may have had fall outs but you know your friendship is worth more than who is right or wrong. They will accept you saying no to them and feel free to say no to you or pull you up on your faults. They will be honest about the *rsehole you have fallen for and will be there for your tears when they are proven right. They will be messy with you on a night out and not post the ropey pictures of your double chins the next day.

My ride or die always My ride or die always 😊

For me friendship is a two way street. You can’t have one person make all the effort with you, you have to make effort with them too. You have to be honest with them, especially when shopping! You also have to allow them to be honest with you. Real friends won’t try knock you down to make themselves feel better, they will look out for you or help pick you up. It’s ok if you haven’t seen each other in a while because when you get together it’s like no time has passed. You have to understand that the world does not revolve around you. Whilst you are going through a hard time, your friend may also have stuff going on so ask how they are. Above all I hold honesty and loyalty in very high regard in people whether it be friends or family. It might be why I’ve always been a dog person from a young age!!

I am lucky that I have a lot of different types of friends. When you know which type of friend they are you can exert the same amount of energy into the friendship that they do. Sometimes this helps you understand if they are worth hanging onto or not. Also think about what type of friend you are and if you can improve on that. Like I said this is a quick post and I hope it hasn’t been a waste of time 😊

So long 2017…..

Ok so I tried writing a post on 2017 & honest to god it was very depressing. However it was honest so I am going to try & start again, a bit more upbeat. Let me start by explaining I struggled this year a lot. On social media you wont see pictures of me unhappy as who really posts that online? However I am open about how hard I found life this year as for me it always helps when I hear of people who can relate. Therefore I want to use this blog for people who feel the same & may make them feel a bit lighter knowing they aren’t alone.

So here it goes…

Dating; I started 2017 communicating with a catfish, ignoring all the signs as he messed with my head & made me feel like crap. Eventually picked myself up from that to end up with two guys older than me who ended up ghosting me. During the summer I dated a younger guy but the age difference was something I couldn’t ignore no matter how I tried. End of the year saw me with two emotionally unavailable men, one who has become a friend of sorts, the other who made me realise I deserve to demand more for myself. So 2017 is ending with me still single, hopefully 2018 will end differently.

Travel; My best friends hen began my travels with us heading to Edinburgh. I then made my way to Thailand, struggled at the start however I met some wonderful people & am still in contact with one. London was next & this helped me realise that solo travel means doing whatever you want to do, even if this is spending it doing nothing in a park! Belgium was a fantastic short break in August & I finished my travels in Croatia which is an unbelievably beautiful country. I loved all of my trips though sometimes I felt I travelled too much abroad when there is so much to see in Ireland.

Health; Ok so this is partly why I struggled this year & I cant say my health was that bad. However it took my up until August to realise that how I felt for a long time was actually a physical health issue & not necessarily a mental health issue. Basically I have had bouts of depression this year. I mentioned before it is not a term I use lightly, however it was something that affected me. Along with this I had periods of exhaustion where I would come home from work & nap for two hours, still feeling tired after this. This was during the summer where the previous year I spent it hiking every chance I got. So being a vicious circle the lack of exercise & physical exhaustion lead to more depression. Eventually blood tests revealed it was an under-active thyroid which I was aware I would eventually have. I googled symptoms & this made me feel better knowing that I wasn’t imagining them. However by my second blood test my levels corrected themselves which meant I would not be out on medication. I at least am now aware that if the symptoms present themselves there is a possible reason. When I just started feeling normal & got back out to hike, I ended that day with spraining my ankle at home which messed me up for 6 weeks. I looked forward to the Christmas period as I had a week off to hike & I got a bloody cold! 2017 really wanted me to be lazy & put on weight!!

Car problems; When I wasn’t sick during the summer my car was acting up. I loved my car, it was only 8 year old. However every third week I had to leave it in to be fixed. Overall the car cost me €1000 which I really couldn’t afford. I ended up getting further into debt & upgrading my car to a 152.

Concerts; I was lucky enough to see Ed Sheeran this year & he was amazing as usual! I then went to Phil Collins which was way better than expected ( I was also drunker than expected). The Killers supplied me with extreme pleasure in London in July & again in Dublin in November. U2 were also in July however whilst their stage was fantastic I have seen better concerts from them. Little Mix was November & whilst I enjoyed them I felt the sound was sometimes off. Very eclectic genres of concerts!!

This year also saw me putting myself first when making a hard decision. Whilst it wasn’t easy & unfortunately it affected others I am happy to say I don’t regret my decision. I also signed up to a course to try challenge myself. Still awaiting results of my first assignment in 16 years!

So in hindsight I am glad I rewrote this blog post! I don’t think it was as bad as I really felt. I did have hard times & struggled with loneliness which is hard to explain to people when they know me as a social person & have their opinions of my life. People don’t always show their struggles. Mostly everyone tries to put on a brave face but only when people have experienced their own will they understand others. We can all try to be kinder to each other which is easier said than done I know.

For 2018 I have travels to look forward to along with more concerts. I have a divorce to look forward to! I will be testing myself further with this course & still on the lookout for someone to share my life with. I will hopefully still have my Izzie beside me, keeping me sane with her love & loyalty.

I hope 2018 will be a better year for everyone, especially those who lost someone they cared about xxx

To cougar or not to cougar

Ok so someone requested that I post something on my dating life and to give advice! I wouldn’t take advice from me on dating as I have never been successful. However I am honest and did start this page to tell my stories so here it goes;

The first year after separating it took a while before I was ready to open myself up again. My first endeavor was with this guy I met on a night out and not online. It was towards the end of the night and he was persistent with wanting to dance and talk to me so I gave in. He was cute and I liked how he wasn’t taking no for an answer. We exchanged numbers and I gave in to a kiss with him in the end. Well, I have never had this before or since, there was a feeling of fireworks that when we separated we both asked if the other felt it. Obviously we had to test it out again and it turns out we had really good chemistry. I was 32 at the time and thought he was about the same, however it turned out he was younger…a good bit younger. Again though, his persistence and eagerness became infectious and I over looked the difference because it was nice to be around someone like that and it was good for the ego. It quickly ran its course though.

After that I opened up my dating profile a bit to younger men. I dated a couple and on nights out kissed a few so my friends affectionately called me a cougar. In fairness my husband was two years younger and I’ve always gravitated in life towards being friends with people younger than me. I’ve never really felt my age and as a pre-teen when everyone was trying to be more grown up I was resistant.

However when I came across men around my age that I matched with online I got very excited. Obviously men my age you would assume to be more mature, want more than just random one nighters, they could be independent etc., but I was wrong. Though I have had a small period of kissing younger men, (when I say younger I mean more than a four year age gap. Four years either side of my current age to me equals men of my age!) I actually have dated more men in their thirties.

One guy I messaged for months before meeting as we could never seem to get a suitable date. I honestly didn’t think there would be any chemistry by that point as I saw him more as someone to chat to. However we hit it off. Our first date was with his friends which was scarey but we all got on so well. This lead to a couple more but he felt he was too busy with work and college to fit me in.

It went a few months before I dated again and the next man I only had one date with however this one still has an effect over me. We messaged constantly for a number of days and arranged our date for the night before I left for Peru. We both wanted to see if how we felt by text was worth the two week wait whilst I was away. I had never been nervous before a date before, well not in this way. Butterflies but also nervous energy as we got on so well and I really wanted the physical attraction to be there. I needn’t have worried as we hit it off straight away and he kissed me after 20 minutes. The night flew in and I had an amazing time. There was one issue which funnily enough should have been an issue I had with him but he managed to switch it around. I don’t do, nor do my friends, recreational drugs. He however did and believed that it wouldn’t work for us because I didn’t. My mind ran through everything and because I know how rare it is to connect with someone on so many levels I was willing to overlook it. I thought he was too. He text constantly throughout my trip, cheering me up when I was really sick in the hostel. He actually helped get me through it. We had a date planned for when I got home but as the time neared he got distant. Texted less. He eventually broke our date stating that it would never work with us, used various excuses but in reality he over thought the whole thing and convinced himself that was how it would be. This completely knocked my confidence. Like I said it’s so rare to find someone you connect with, that the thought that someone can throw that away without trying just effected me worse than I would have thought.

I have since dated a guy who for four weeks consistently saw me at least four times a week, sent flowers to my job, brought me for dinner, took me to a park I’d never been to & seemed so considerate. He was four years older and whilst I was a bit unsure about if he was too quiet for me, I thought it could lead somewhere if I wanted it too. I would get texts everyday until after four weeks he started ghosting me. I wasn’t even aware of the term until then. Texts became less and barely a response, my texts would be read and ignored. He made an excuse saying he was sick so I decided to give him space, after a couple of days I text to see how he was and he put the blame back on me and ended it. Total head fuck.

Two guys I have also dated this year, both seemed really into me but basically they don’t want a relationship. These are men older than me but obviously have too much choice that they don’t want to settle for just one person. I still talk to one actually as he was the most upfront about it and I value honest and knowing where I stand.

Even writing this all I am picking out from those paragraphs is that I am the common denominator in those scenarios. Maybe it’s not them it’s me? This is why dating has totally messed with my head and brought my self confidence down. Also why I don’t write about it, much easier to write about trips away!

To get back to younger men versus older men I have had more bad experiences with the older age. I have found that younger men can be more mature. It may be the fact that they have grown up with online dating and the abundance of women isn’t as exciting as it is to men my age. Possibly it could be that they haven’t had serious relationships to come out of and want time to themselves. Maybe I make more allowances for their age than I do older men. My main point is that age is nothing but a number. There are plenty of mature twenty odd year olds and plenty of immature thirty odd year olds! Follow your gut and do what is comfortable for you.

Must see places in Ireland: Powerscourt Gardens

Every year I mean to do more tourist things in Ireland, however my plans always get way laid or postponed due to my love of travel outside the country, work, hikes and hangovers. I live in a beautiful country that people spend a lot of money to travel to so why not take advantage of that?

One place I kept wanting to visit is Powerscourt Gardens. It is in county Wicklow about 30 minutes outside Dublin and whilst I visited the waterfall two years ago I wasn’t able to visit the gardens as I had my cairn terrier Izzie with me. 

This week I changed that by heading down with my mam. It is €10 entry fee per adult in and takes approx 1 hour to walk around the full garden. 

I would stress to wear comfortable shoes as there is a few steep hills you will encounter and it would be more enjoyable without the stress of heels. 

When you first walk in you notice the huge fountain and the beautiful landscaping that takes your breath away. The gardens are set against the backdrop of the sugarloaf mountain which adds to the stunning scenery surrounding them.

There are different sections marked on the map to visit and audio guides are offered if you wish. We declined these however if I go back I would like to get these to know more about the history. 

We wandered to the different gardens, enjoying the smells and the views around us. I don’t need to say much more about the gardens as the pictures speak for themselves!

Afterwards we had intended on sitting in one of the cafes within the house, however they were extremely busy. We had a look in some of the shops and window shopped in the garden centre before heading back to the car.

We drove two minutes down the road to Enniskerry which is a pretty village that offers a couple of dining options. We opted on pub grub that we got to enjoy outside as the weather was lovely. 

Overall I would recommend a trip to visit the gardens if you have the time. They are voted the third best garden in the world by National Geographic so it’s not just my opinion!!

Chilling in Brussels

Earlier this year a friend and I decided we would take a weekend break somewhere. With the prices in Ireland rising I checked out Skyscanner for cheap flights and settled on Brussels. Return flights were €60 with Ryanair and most 4 star hotels averaged at €100 a night, so it worked out cheaper than what we could pay here with the added benefit of ticking off another country on my list.

The flight was an early one and even though it was slightly delayed we still arrived at 9am. After looking at a website that showed prices for transport from the airport to the city we chose to take a taxi as there were two of us and seemed to be the same price as two rail tickets. However I would not do choose this option again if I return to Brussels. The taxi cost €45 to the centre which isn’t far, on a Saturday morning so there was no traffic. The driver was also extremely rude and unhelpful. It also turns out that on our return to the airport the train tickets were cheaper than expected at only €8 each. So I would go with the train in future!

Our hotel was Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noir that I had picked due to price and TripAdvisor rating. It was €100 a night or €115 with breakfast if you booked as non refundable. I recently noticed on my app that if your friend books and stays somewhere using a link that you both can receive a €15 refund off so we did that and basically looked at it as getting our breakfast for free!

The hotel is nice with a bright reception. There is a small lounge area with computer games for children and a few computers for guests use. Our room wasn’t ready so we left our luggage and went to explore Brussels.

We ended up taking a couple of right turns which lead into a small market place where a lot of restaurants were putting out their outdoor tables. We browsed the different menus and commented how pricey they seemed to be. I was quite ignorant going to Brussels, unaware of the language or culture. It didn’t take long to realise that French and Dutch are spoken, you can also see it in the architecture with the different styles. I am a big fan of Paris and I loved Amsterdam so I liked how Brussels looked. 

We made our way back to the hotel to use it as a base and looked up Grand Place as we had a walking tour booked for there in the afternoon. As we made our way to Grand Place we noticed the amount of restaurants and chocolate shops everywhere. There seemed to be a nice vibe around the city. Though a lot of homelessness too. 

Grand Place is a pretty square steeped in history. The buildings were centuries old. It’s also extremely busy with tours and tourists. After a quick bite in Starbucks’s we decided to find the shopping street to kill time before the tour. It wasn’t far away at all with the likes of Zara, H&M, Mango etc. Shopping isn’t top of my list when visiting countries however the street doesn’t have as much to offer as other cities that I’ve visited so if that’s what you are into I might pass on Brussels. 

We joined the tour at 1:30 with our guide Frazer who is Scottish. He gave us an entertaining run down on the tour and Grand Place. From there we moved on to see Manekin Pis, a miniature statue, an old church that was part of a pilgrimage to El Camino, the royal galleries which are beautiful filled with chocolate shops and restaurants. We stopped at a beautiful cathedral on our way to the Royal Park. We stopped here as Frazer told us about the EU parliament buildings, spoke about the recent terrorism in Brussels and thanked us for coming to view the city he called home for four years. He was very passionate when speaking about Brussels and it was nice to hear. We then went to the Royal Palace where he briefly spoke about its history and we finished our tour with a gorgeous view of gardens and the city. As it is a free walking tour a tip is expected to a certain extent. However on both SANDEMANs tours that I have taken part in it is not hard to part with your money. The guides I have met are well read in their history and entertain you aswell. I would recommend this if you are visiting.

The walking tour is a brilliant way of finding your feet in a city. I am good with direction anyway and there’s always google maps but I still appreciated the fact that I had an idea where I was going thanks to the tour. Brussels is compact so everywhere we wanted to go we walked to.

We were peckish so we made our way to a burger restaurant, where we just had a mains and some rosé. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as the restaurants we had viewed earlier! Due to our early start at 3am and the km’s we covered on our tour we were feeling tired but decided for one last drink before heading to bed. It was only about 7pm so we didn’t want to go too early! I don’t normally do this so don’t judge but we ended up in an Irish bar. It had the GAA match on tv for us to watch with a bottle of wine so we settled in there. Soon enough we were joined by a stags from London and before we knew it it was 1am. We made our way back to the hotel to get our backs and check in!

Obviously the next day we weren’t in any hurry to leave the hotel so after breakfast we went back to bed for a while. Breakfast had the usual cold meat and pastries offering along with a small selection of hot food. Tea and coffee were offered along with a juicer to have fresh oj. It filled us up anyway.

When we got up we went and got Belgian waffles with strawberries and cream. Not really my thing but I don’t drink beer so I thought I’d try the waffles! They were nice but too much for me. We strolled through the city as we made our way to the Palace. It’s open only in August for viewing. However after going into the cathedral we passed the day before we got to the gates at 3:45pm to find that they close at that time! We decided to go to the park and chill out for a while. It’s nice to take time to do that on a city break as so often you are trying to cram things in! 

Afterwards we continued to stroll as we get we had seen everything that we wanted to see. We settled in a nice Thai restaurant to people watch and have dinner. Again this wasn’t as expensive as we had expected. I think mainly if you are just having a mains and either drinking house wine or local beer it will be similar prices to Dublin. However imported beer or cider is pricier with a pint of Magners costing €8! 

We arrived back at the hotel a lot earlier this time as we were exhausted from the day before, we also still managed to clock up a lot of steps walking around! 

The next day we tried the palace again to discover it doesn’t open on Mondays so we never got to see inside! We also picked up six boxes of chocolates for €10 and split them between us. They were by far the nicest chocolate I had tasted! 

We walked to Central Station which was ten minutes walk from our hotel. It was quick and easy to get to the airport. I would advise though that once past security there is only one restaurant really for food and I thought it over priced. €20 for a burger meal. We went to the newsagents where I got a salad for €5 so a lot cheaper. Just maybe eat before going through security unless you don’t mind paying that!

Overall I liked Brussels. I’m not sure there was enough to make me return there however I have heard Bruge is lovely…

This is the link offer €15 reward on if you use to book and stay 😊

Rocking solo in London Town 

Ok so last weekend saw my solo visit to London to view The Killers in Hyde Park. I’m a massive fan and as they hadn’t toured in four years I booked my ticket once presale started. I booked my BA flight into Heathrow after much deliberation. I thought I would get it cheaper but in the end prices for flights to Standsted, Gatwick and Luton weren’t enticing me enough once you factor in having to take a train then the tube. 

Landed on a beautiful day to 28 degree heat. Got my tube alright and luckily enough the picadilly line went straight to the station I needed. I booked a hostel in Kensington beside the park. The only thing was the gig ended up being the exact opposite side to where I was staying. 

My flight was slightly delayed and the tube takes approx 60 minutes to get to Kensington. I then had to walk fast and follow googles directions to my hostel as quickly as I could due to a booking for a tour that was to begin quite soon. 

Kensington just screams money. Everywhere I looked Landrovers decorated the streets, white pillared residences gleamed and children with bonnets happily walked with their parents. I was shocked that a hostel would be in this area but it was. It was a good one too!

Astor Hyde Park was a great choice. Not only was it close to the park, the staff were friendly, the dorm was bright and airy and security was important. I checked in ok but as my room wasn’t ready I locked my bag pack away in a luggage room before racing to catch my tube to Covent Garden. 

I looked online at free walking tours and settled on Sandemans as it got good reviews. I later discovered a friend used them in Paris and was quite pleased with them. I made my 1pm booking with a minute to spare. Though in the end we ended up waiting a few minutes before we began. The large group was split into two and introduced to our guide. His name was Angus and he is Australian. He had studied Shakespearean theatre and this stood well to him as our guide. There was never an issue with hearing him and he had an entertaining way of telling us the history of the places we stopped. As I said it was a beautiful hot day so the walk at times was sweltering, at any chance we could we took shade. It was a royal tour so we visited St James Palace, Prince Charles residence, Buckingham Palace and Westminster. The walk took about 2/2.5 hours and my feet were very sore at the end. However I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though it is free a tip is welcome. After the tour I realised I hadn’t eaten for about 8 hours so I grabbed food and cider in a pub Angus took us to. 

Afterward I made my way to Oxford Street as I had to pick up a gift for a nephew. On my other occasions of visiting London I purely went to shop so I had been on that street a lot. However I never noticed its proximity to Hyde Park before. Don’t get me wrong it’s at the very bottom of the street, but still only ten minutes walk. I decided to walk there as it was so nice out and get my bearings for the gig the next night. On my way I passed Selfridges which had a different meaning to me after watching the tv show! 

The park was full of bars and activities thanks to BST who were hosting the festivities over the couple of weeks. Only for my feet were blistered from walking and I was exhausted I would have spent more time there on Friday evening. Instead I decided to walk back to the hostel to get an idea of the walk for the next night. 

Back at the hostel I made friends with girls in my room and went to a nearby pub for a drink. The hostel was hosting a charity night in aid of Grenfell tower with live music which I thought was a nice touch. Was also a good way for people to mix.

The next morning after breakfast I was indecisive about what I wanted to do. I ended up walking to Kensington Palace and queuing to get in. A tip though would be to book ahead and skip the queue as even though I was very early there was still a thirty minute wait. I spent about ninety minutes wandering about the exhibitions. I enjoyed the Diana one the most. Some of the talks gave a good insight into the history of the palace. I left the palace and looked around the gardens which were beautiful. 

I then decided to spend the afternoon doing nothing! The weather was gorgeous and I was tired, so I lay on the grass reading. There’s so much going on in the park though, I recommend a visit. 

After grabbing food and beverages in the local newsagents I went back to my hostel to clean up for the concert and meet one of the girls. We walked with the crowds to the concert. The park was set up well for an outdoor gig. The bars were a long wait as usual. I am not a fan of being too close to the stage as I always get stuck behind tall people! We got a good spot near the merchandise at the back. The Killers as always put on a great show. My only complaint is that it went by too quickly! 

The next day I checked out of the hostel and started walking with my bag pack. I decided to walk towards Harrods as I had never before seen the famous store. As it was a Sunday morning it wasn’t open but I felt like it was a box ticked. I still had time before making my way to the airport so I decided to fit in St Paul’s Cathedral. I didn’t mind the fact that I wouldn’t have time to go inside and explore. The main thing I wanted to see was the steps, as these were the storyline for the homeless lady in Mary Poppins selling pigeon food for “tuppence a bag”. After walking the circumference and marvelling at the detail in the architecture I noticed a fancy bridge down the street. A geeky part of me really enjoys architecture and engineering so I ventured towards it. I’m glad I did as the bridge went over the Thames river towards the Tate museums. From there I got to see Tower Bridge in the distance. Another box ticked off my tourist list. 

On the bridge I took a moment to enjoy the moment and to be proud of myself for another solo trip that I greatly enjoyed! I made my way back to the tube and to reality unfortunately. Though I always look forward to getting home to Izzie!

Phuket; The first stop on my Thailand Vacation

Ok so flying solo wasn’t too bad, I just didn’t dwell on the fact that I was alone. I watched movies & dozed off when possible. After customs in Bangkok I grabbed my luggage & headed upstairs to check in for my flight to Phuket. (By booking separately I saved time & money) I had booked a later flight in case there were any delays so I was expecting a 4 hour stopover, however the airline asked if I would like to check in for the earlier flight so that was a bonus. The one thing I noticed was how there were signs with power banks everywhere. You have to carry these in your hand luggage & not in your check in. They are strict about this.

I didn’t prearrange transport to the hostel & though I did look at ways to save money on getting there, I ended up getting a cab. It cost 800 baht but after nearly 20 hour travelling & the humidity enveloping me from every direction I didn’t mind paying it. It took about 40 minutes to get to the hostel.

On the drive I was amazed at two things;

  1. The electric wires running from post to post & the quantity of them grouped together
  2. The scooters, multiple passengers facing all directions with no helmets to be seen

Safety obviously not an aspect in this country.

The driver had to ring the hostel for directions. I had booked Bearpacker Hostel due to the reviews on Hostelworld & the proximity to Bangla Road & the beach. I also wanted a private room which they could offer for approx. €20 a night. The reception is bright & airy but before you step in you have to remove your shoes & be buzzed inside. Security is a big thing in this hostel. There are signs everywhere warning of penalties to any guest sneaking a non-guest inside. Check in was easy & I was shown to my “room”. Each floor is named after bears & come equipped with male & female bathrooms. The floors also have washing machines beside the bathrooms. My “room” was more like a pod at the front of the dorms. I am small (5’2) so it wasn’t much of an issue for me, though it could be claustrophobic at times. However if you are over 5’6 I recommend the dorms. I have to say the aircon was very good & effective compared to others I encountered, also the locker provided was large. After getting changed into a bikini & shorts, I made my way upstairs to the pool. There is a lady serving food from the kitchen in the common area up there, beers in the fridge & a sofa in front of a tv. Outside there were tables and chairs, the pool and bean bags on the decking. There was nobody there so I decided to explore. 

I headed down the street, past the various women offering massages, fast food restaurants and made my way to the beach. I found a place on the sand and took in my surroundings. The weather was overcast but the beach was still busy, many traders offering goods or refreshments, however once you say no thank you they move on. I like this as I hate being rude to people. I stayed about an hour before moving along. The beach wasn’t spectacular at all, nothing I haven’t seen before in Spain. This is most likely due to tourism taking over.

I was quite tired after traveling so I headed back to the hostel. Though there was people in the pool this time there was no effort at making conversation. They all seemed to be in groups. Though I tried initiating conversation, I was politely answered and that was that. I got some food of the lady in the hostel, it was nice and also only about €2 for dinner. I then headed to my room to FaceTime home (wifi was good here) then fell asleep early enough. 

The next day was similar. I spent a few hours at the beach, walked up Bangla Road and grabbed a cider, then went back to the hostel. Again failing to get proper conversation out of other guests! I gave up and spent my time reading and texting home. I had a nap before getting changed and heading back to Bangla for dinner and to watch Manchester United play terrible football. I went to the Aussie sports bar and I have to say the chow mein was lovely. Though I wasn’t finding Thailand as cheap as what people made it out to be by any means. For example most bars that served wine were charging €5 per glass. Cider (if served) was €2/3. Your best bet is beer if you can drink it.

I headed home wondering if I would ever make friends, also looking forward to the day ahead where I was being picked up early for a trip to the Elephant Sanctuary. I had to email them to confirm booking as luckily enough I had looked online where they mentioned they were having issues. I would recommend doing this if you booked well in advance. 

I was collected early and I was the first. By the time we got to the sanctuary we had an Australian family of 4, a solo young English girl, an English guy and his Polish girlfriend. For the first time in days I had conversations with people!! It was already a good start. They even shared mosquito spray with me. We had an introduction about the sanctuary and where our fees were going (€70 approx). We then were asked to help prepare the sugar and bananas before we went to meet the elephants. There were a few babies and they were very cute, but at the same time when one runs toward you get out of their way!! We got to feed them, pet them then bathe them. They were never tied up. We got a small lunch, a group photo then headed on our way. A good experience I have to say. 

After I returned from the sanctuary I headed up to the bean bags to chill out. After a while I started conversation with two Swedish girls and one engaged properly with me thank god. We had a few drinks when more people came up and when the two girls left I got to join them. They invited me on their night out and I gladly accepted. Everyone was ten years younger but when talking about travel and experiences age doesn’t seem to matter. We went to Bangla road and tried a few bars. It is an experience, very commercial and full of drunk tourists! I was so happy though to be mixing with people and having fun.

The next day, some were hungover so they remained in bed. Some of us went to the pool and spent the day chatting. I went off for a while to book my accommodation in Phi Phi which took forever as most hostels seemed to be party hostels which I’m too old for and the hotels weren’t getting great reviews either. Finally chose one and booked my transport at reception for the following morning. That evening I joined others for a meal on the beach which was nice then had a walk whilst paddling my feet. We got a few drinks and headed back to the roof for an hour before saying our goodbyes.

Overall I have to say it was tough at the beginning and Phuket wasn’t what I imagined Thailand to be like. Very touristy and commercial, not like paradise at all. However I was warned and some people like that. Everyone has different opinions.I didn’t  rent any bikes during my trip and maybe if I had I would have seen more amazing places. The hostel was lovely and would stay in it again. If like me you have a hard time getting people to engage, keep trying with different people. It isn’t you! Some people just rather keep to their own groups.

Summertime walks: Pt1 Hellfire Club, Dublin

Ok so I decided to share some of the walks I do during summer, sometimes during the year. The reason is because a lot of people I talk to never venture further than what they already know so it’s always good to discover there’s more out there. 

The Hellfire Club is in the Dublin Mountains near viewpoint and Masseys Wood. It is a moderate climb if you follow the path. If you go through the Forest however it is a lot steeper. As you walk along the pathway you will see an amazing view of Dublin City. Though I do need to warn you that on warm days the insects and flies can also be found in their thousands along the walk. 

Though there are signs saying otherwise I always feel it’s safe for Izzie to be off her lead. It can be tough on her paws with the gravel but worth it when she reaches the top and there’s grass to roll around in. Up here I take in the view and gather my thoughts. I never go in the crumbling building however!

On the way down I go through the forest as it’s downhill and quicker. The walk doesn’t take long and most people I know enjoy it.

My easiest way to get here is to take the m50 and turn off towards Firhouse. Take the left at the next junction near Woodstown and drive towards the mountain. When you get to the t-junction take the left then at the top of that road take the first right. A few minutes up the road you will see the car park on the right.

Jungle trekking to Machu Picchu; the big finale ⛰

I awoke before our alarms went at 3:15 due to the noise outside our window. I lay there thinking it was absolutely bucketing down and dreading the thoughts of walking in the rain, only to discover it was actually the river outside! We had quick showers then made our way downstairs to offload our luggage and start on our way.

We walked in the dark with our flashlights to guide us. Some people more eager than others to be the first in the queue at the bridge. We passed the bus line queue which was already forming even though it did not start until 6am. It was now 4am.

We waited at the bridge, eating rolls and sharing them with the stray dogs that loitered around. Eventually the gates opened and we were allowed cross. We had been told that it should take us an hour, though for locals it takes 40 minutes.

It took us 1 hr 30 minutes!! It was so so tough. 2000 steps! Don’t get me wrong, some people over took us. Others we over took. We were catching our breaths for the billionth time when a girl had to get sick from exertion. We stayed together and pushed each other up, the only way we knew we were near is when we heard voices above us. It was a killer! But my ass felt amazing 😂.

We made it up just before 6.30 am to be told by our Dutch friends that our tour guide wanted to leave without us. This annoyed us because we were told to meet at 6.30 plus the fact we were then left waiting for him once we got through the gates. We felt a bit like cattle as we shuffled towards the entrance.

I have to say I did feel a bit emotional as I got my first glimpse at the historical site. Sun was coming up & it was covered in cloud. Though I didn’t do the Classic Inca Trail the trek I chose took a lot out of me. Obviously this was partly due to sickness but even in good health I reckon I still would have struggled at parts. However despite all my grumbles I did make it. I didn’t appreciate it until a few months later but I finally gave myself a bit of credit. I met a few people who gave in & got the bus or the train because the same sickness knocked it out of them, however I persevered. It has to count for something!

Our tour guide had gathered a lot of people & talked us through the different parts of the site. Honestly though I didn’t take anything in about what he was saying. Apart from the fact that he wasn’t the best guide, it was easy to be distracted by the sure awe of the place & how it was built.

You are looking around at the architecture & seriously overwhelmed by how it was constructed. There’s a wall built into the mountain that I still don’t understand how it was made. Just when you are getting your head around it all you then spot Huayna Picchu mountain & spot building up there at a higher point. It is unbelievable.

We spent time wandering through the different parts. It seriously is crowded, full of people trying to get the perfect photo for their Instagram/Tinder profile. We overhear other tourists complain at their guide as they have been up since 7 am & they are tired of walking! We think ‘try walking up 2000 steps at 5 am missus!!’

What I did love about it was we seemed to meet a lot of people we had interacted with over the previous week. It was great catching up especially at the place which was probably our main reason of visiting Peru in the first place.

Due to the different weather conditions in Peru I had brought a onesie as I read Cusco gets very cold at night (which is very true). My friend dared me to wear it at the top of Machu Picchu. So I did, at lunch time when the sun was scalding us! She left shortly after to wait in the coffee shop as the tiredness suddenly hit her. I wandered about talking to different friends I had made. I also made it my mission to get the obligatory Lama photo.

We decided to make our way back for the bus. I have a problem with my knee & I knew descending those steps would cause me issues. I’m happy I did after recent problems I have had with it.

We had some food in Agues Calientes then went back to grab our stuff. We were all lethargic & couldn’t wait to rest our heads on the train back. About 5.20 pm we made our way to the train station for our 6 pm departure. Walking through the train station we thought it strange for it to be so busy, bodies lying about everywhere. We soon found out that there were delays. Communication in the station was a nightmare. No updates at all.

We eventually discovered there had been a train crash and that was what was causing delays. We only found out through talking to people, staff were unhelpful. For a few hours we lay on the concrete inside the station. We met up with Mary and her boyfriend who ended up joining our group when we eventually got seats outside. Some of the lads got alcohol and in spite of being exhausted we had a laugh for the most part. Our train company eventually gave us snacks to appease us, though we were annoyed it was mainly at the lack of information being given & the fact we were tired. Sitting outside was also cold so I put my onesie on over my clothes, I didn’t care at this stage. A group of Asian tourist had gotten drunk and were dancing around a smart phone to Barbie Girl, that amused us for a while.

Around 12.30 am we boarded the train. I think we all conked out as soon as we lay our heads down. The train doesn’t go all the way to Cusco so we had to get out at the final stop where we were to be brought back to Cusco by bus. It was near 3am and we were exhausted so what we disembarked to was absolute madness. Lots of people screaming at us for taxi’s & buses. After pushing our way through the crowd we finally found our group on a placard. We thought we could rest easy, instead we kept getting moved from bus to bus being told each one couldn’t take us. One of our companions got irate & snapped at the person in charge. A man came up and guided us towards a taxi, telling us he would take us. The lady in charge told us to go with him but we were on edge. We didn’t need to be as he brought us to our destination safely, we just were unnerved that early hour of the morning. Near 5 am we eventually crawled into bed in our hostel room, desperate to get heat in our bones and some rest after a very long day!!