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!!

http://powerscourt.com/

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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.

My thoughts on solo travel now I’ve done it

Ok so I was nervous last year about the thoughts of going to Peru alone but when that changed and my friend accompanied me I felt slightly bummed. I realised I wanted to test myself to see if I could actually do it. I booked Thailand soon after I came back and without the big ‘will I won’t I’ drama I had put myself through previously. 

The travelling on airplanes was fine as I watch movies anyway so the first time it got strange was when I finally arrived in Phuket and had to decide on transportation to Patong. I quickly made the choice once I got outside to take the nearest taxi on offer no matter the price. 

Hostels are the best place to meet people travelling solo however I struggled my first two days. I work in sales so I am not shy however it took until the 3rd day for me to have conversations with people. Once I got going I was grand. I ended up having a companion for 6 days. 

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how long you are travelling for, (2 weeks, 3,4,5,6….or longer) everyone who travels gets it and welcomes you. They appreciate the fact that you are trying to see outside the box. I did get asked a few times by a group of English guys on a typical lads holiday why I was on my own. I think they pitied me. I told them my friends have different priorities, I wanted to see Thailand so why not? For every one person who asks that question there are 5 people doing the same as me. I don’t think they realised it until they met others like me. In fairness I am 34 and it was only last year that I realised I could do it. 

Does it get lonely? Yes of course. It may only be two weeks but having multiple days of just your own company can get tiresome, and I like my own company! Then there’s the days where you would love to share your experience with someone you love and who loves you. I’ve had fleeting moments like that and I’ve had some a little longer than fleeting. However I remind myself I am in paradise, most people don’t see places I am getting to and that being in a relationship can be lonely too at times. 

My phone has become my ally. I lost my kindle to an infinity pool and a steep step I wasn’t expecting! So this phone has become my communication to home and people I met along the way. It’s my lifeline for travelling with my hostels/hotel/flight bookings on it. I also have now come to rely on it for my kindle reading (better than nothing). Also I forgot how happy music makes me and how I feel less alone with it. With all these uses the battery goes pretty quickly so my advice is to get a really good battery bank. I was lucky my friend gave me one of hers as she moved onto a different island. 

Eating alone is no issue. Again I had my phone with me so I was fine. Last night I looked around the restaurant on the beach with a fabulous sunset, filled with couples and noticed most people are on their phones anyway. Whether taking photos or talking or texting. One couple didn’t speak as she was on a call and he was on his kindle. So never feel self conscious, you aren’t the only one. 

If you aren’t sure I would try a solo weekend trip to test it out and stay in a hostel. As I got to go to Peru with a companion I was able to see how many people go solo without doing it myself. The ages range from 21-70, though in Thailand I mostly met 24 year olds so keep that in mind for there. Also do your research. Don’t expect luxury going to a hostel, whilst I have visited nice ones, most are basic. If they say party hostel Do not expect sleep as you won’t really get any, however you are guaranteed to meet people. It’s something I struggled with as I badly wanted to mix with people but sleep aswell. I chose a nearby hotel in Phi Phi as none of the hostels looked great, plus I already had someone to meet with. 

My main bit of advise is No regrets. You hear it all the time but sometimes we choose to go a different way due to fear. I looked at this trip as a way to calm my mind. I feel it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done. You will always wonder what if?? I now have done it and whether or not I do it again I have answered myself and know I can do it. That is an achievement I have done for myself. A box ticked. A lot of people wouldn’t be so brave and they will tell you that themselves, so if it’s in your head just do it xxx

Travel plans for 2017

So I’m starting to think I have a slight problem, I can’t help but look up flights and hotels when I have no money to pay for them! Even when I can work my way around that problem a nagging voice in the back of my head adds that spending money would be required too. I’m my fathers daughter, he comes home from the supermarket every week with bargains he doesn’t really need because the offer was too good to pass up. I’m just the same. I want to travel back to Barcelona as I only got to spend one day there and I loved it. It normally is an expensive city to fly to and stay in however I found a 4 star hotel where the stay has been cut by 50%. (Prob an error on a website but that went in my favour before). Just when I had it justified in my head I actually spoke out loud the trips I already have booked and common sense took hold 😕.

In just a few weeks I have a family trip to Banna Beach, Kerry. I booked this as the resort allows dogs and Kerry is a beautiful county I want to explore more. My sisters family and my parents are coming so there should be good memories made. It got voted as the top beach in Ireland the day after we booked so I am looking forward to bringing Izzie on a long walk on the sand (weather permitting of course). Though it will be inexpensive enough I still need money for food and travel whilst there.


The following week I am jetting off on my first official solo trip to Thailand. I’ve decided to not stay in Bangkok but head straight to Phuket instead. My reasoning being is that I’ve heard more bad than good things about the city and I want to ease myself into my solo travel rather than be freaked out and turned off at the first hurdle. I’m not counting out visiting on my way back, we’ll see. In Phuket I have three nights booked in a hostel near Bangla road and that’s all. I want to go with the flow of possible. I know I want to visit the elephant reserve in Phuket, go scuba diving and snorkel at night to see plankton lit up. 

That’s all my I have planned in my head!
June is an empty schedule however the start of July sees me off to London for my first visit there in about 14 years! I never did any tourist stuff on my previous visits so I intend to do a bit. However my reason for this trip is to see The Killers in Hyde Park. I am going solo as I am not missing out on seeing them! Booked into a hostel for two nights near the park and hopefully meet up with a friend for a drink beforehand. 

August then sees me flying to Brussels with my friend. The whole weekend is cheaper than going to a hotel in Ireland so we decided to book and see what it has to offer. Not 100% about what sites we can see but if the weather is fine we will wander around and wine will surely be drank.

September I have nothing scheduled unless I end up booking Barcelona! 

October I visit a country I have heard good things about; Croatia 🇭🇷. We start of in Dubrovnik for 3 days then we make our way to Split for the remaining 3. Apparently we pass through Bosnia to get there so that will be nice to see. Holiday season will be over by the time we arrive however my friend and I are both planning an easy going break. Reading, walking, dining and wine. I can’t see how we will be disappointed in any way as I’ve heard it’s a stunning country. Really looking forward to seeing it!

As it stands I have nothing planned for November or December. They can be busy months with Christmas anyway. Ideally I would love to visit Iceland or Norway but as both are quite pricey I don’t think they will be an option for me!

Along with all this I have Ed Sheeran and U2 gigs at home to see. I am going to have to find a money tree 🌲 somewhere 🤔…

Trying new things

So last year I made the decision to try as many new things as possible and that has continued to this year! It made me feel great to do stuff I had never tried before and gave me a great sense of achievement. For so long I had felt low in myself, I doubted a lot of stuff about myself and my life that to actually do something I set my mind to and complete it, well that just helped build back up my confidence. I can do things by myself, I just needed a reminder.

These things do not have to be monumental huge events like climbing Everest or running a marathon (though they would be amazing, I know my boundaries!). They can be baking a cake or cooking a meal you have never tried before. Go for a walk alone or even to the cinema. Take that course you always wanted to try but keep telling yourself it’s not the right time!

For me I tried the following:

  • A concert solo- ok when I booked a ticket to Brandon Flowers last year I figured it wasn’t too expensive if I decided not to go. The reason I booked was because I’m a huge fan and the last time he came I thought my ex would surprise me with tickets but he didn’t and it sold out. I always regretted not going. Also we went to a concert before and I basically was left alone as he went off to find a friend that went solo and kept him company instead of his fiancé! So I kinda had done it before. The concert was the night before I went to San Fran and I was a bit nervous going alone but it worked to my benefit. I got closer to the stage as the bouncers pitied me! I got to enjoy every minute as I had no one else’s enjoyment to worry about and no one was trying to talk to me. Great concert and I realised I would rather go solo than miss out on an artist I want to see again 👍🏼
  • So my next thing was (as per my San Fran post ) testing out driving in America. I have to say I felt sick even though I am a confident driver. The highways are crazy, like 5-6 lanes and big massive trucks over taking you. I hated every minute of my first day driving, I couldn’t wait to reach LA from San Simeon so getting to the hotel was the best relief ever 😅. However the next day when we had a break I decided to give it another shot. I reasoned with myself that it was like being a learner driver and I just needed practice. So I continued to drive for the next three days. I drove up to Griffith observatory, to Venice Beach and then to Las Vegas. By then I didn’t want to return the car, I loved it. I didn’t give up and I easily could have. I got to see more of LA than I would have without the car and I now know I can drive on the opposite side of the road and survive!
  • Horse riding was next. I always wanted to do this since I was little but never had the opportunity. My friend Kate sent me an offer of a 2 hour horse trek for half price so we snapped it up. When we got to the stables we got nervous looking at the height of the horses. Typical that we got put on the two biggest ones when we were complete amateurs 😂. The rest of the group had a clue what they were doing, I always seemed to be at the back of the trail. But I loved it! My horse was great and didn’t bolt. I was sore the next day but so happy I did it finally. I’m actually hoping to book to do it again this summer. 

Ziplining- I booked this with my friend and my sister thinking it would be quick and easy. Not a bit! It was like an obstacle course in the trees. We went to zipit in Tibradden wood, Dublin which you book in advance. http://www.zipit.ie/welcome-to-zipit-forest-adventures/

I was the last of my group to start so they had gone on ahead before I had to do the zip line part. It took a few minutes for me to grow some balls, luckily no one was behind me! I finally did it and it felt great. It was a long line too. When it got to the other lines it got easier to throw yourself off the platform and trust the line will hold you!! Probably the hardest bit was at the end where you have to base jump to finish. My sister who is normally fairly balsey, nearly wet herself with fear! When we did it, we laughed at how silly we had been. We were totally safe in the harness, we just had to trust it

  • Croagh Patrick is something that never crossed my mind. It was on my friends bucket list so I said F it I’d join him. It was a horrible day in August which is a pity as the views are amazing from what I’ve seen on Instagram. It also made it so much tougher climbing up with hailstones beating against you (yep i did say August!) and the rocks wet as you try to climb. However after nearly two hours of me moaning I reached the top! I realised that I didn’t give up, I stuck with it and I could do it. I swore I would never do it again, especially as on the way down I fell at least 4 times!! However I am thinking about it again as I feel like I missed out on the view 🤔

Finally the scariest thing I did last year was tell somebody that I liked them. This may seem immature to some but it was a huge deal to me. I always chickened out as I grew up. I don’t have the biggest confidence in myself and my last relationship made things worse. However I really liked this guy, to the point of babbling infront of him and my hands shaking when I was near. I’m a grown up ffs and it had to stop! So I did it, not face to face as I didn’t think it would be a good thing for either of us, but by message. I got a reply after what seemed like days but it was only hours and it was a positive response. It wasn’t anything definite but it gave me hope and made me glad that I did it. Nothing came from this, date wise, but I didn’t regret doing it. This guy I liked wasn’t repulsed that I liked him, which shocked me. It gave me hope that maybe I could find someone nice and they may like me too! Also I got an answer instead of hanging around wondering what if?. I finally began to feel like I was getting control of my life again 😊
So that was my new things of 2015! I have a couple of new things done this year so far but I have a list I still need to complete. Hopefully my trip later this year will tick off a lot of boxes so that I can fill you in.

Life is for living people, try new things. If you don’t like it don’t do it again. You have a choice, you are in control of your own path. Just have as few regrets as possible 😉