Take me back to: Dublin

I have just realised that exactly a year ago today the boyfriend and I celebrated three years together by nipping over to Dublin for a quick city break, and somehow I forgot to mention it on my blog! So here’s my low-down on what we got up to and why I wouldn’t say no to another visit!

We flew with Ryanair from Manchester airport which was hassle free, convenient as the train station is inside the airport and cheap too (about £28 each I think). Although a bit cramped on the plane in terms of leg room, the flight was only an hour so wasn’t too bad.

We stayed at Leeson Bridge Guest house for 3 nights (around £40-£45 a night if I remember rightly) which was a little bit out of town but easy enough to get to on the bus from the airport, and you could walk into the city centre if you wanted. Leeson Bridge was fabulous- the staff were lovely, the breakfasts huge and filling and meaning we didn’t need to buy lunch if we smuggled out some fruit! The main selling point for me though was the sauna in the bathroom which was so perfect as an anniversary treat and needed after a long day’s sightseeing!

Our first day sightseeing we headed to Dublin Zoo- if you’re a regular readers you know how much we love animals and can never resist an good zoo! Since we had no car we decided to buy a 3 day city tour bus pass that drops off  near the zoo at its furthest point which took a while but at least was easy and has a stop right outside the guest house. Despite it being freezing we had a great day walking around and getting over excited like little kids (even buying tiny cuddly toy souvenirs!). With a long bus journey and several hours at the zoo we decided to head back to the guest house to have and go in the sauna before heading out to an early dinner at a small restaurant called Cafe Java down the road which served a really good mezze platter.

Our second day was chosen by the boyfriend and so we again boarded our bright yellow bus and headed into the city centre to the Guinness Storehouse. A little on the pricy side buy a must see while in Dublin, you get a self guided audio tour about how they make Guinness and then other small exhibits and tasting areas as you work your way up the building, which is shaped like a Guinness glass. I’m not a huge fan of Guinness but quite enjoyed my time looking around, and could exchange my pint token for another drink in the sky bar. Unfortunately it did feel like mostly a marketing hall as it’s not got much of a working brewery left on site, but it was still an interesting way to spend the morning.

We then headed into the city centre attend visited Dublin Castle. You have to book onto attend tour to actually go in, but if you just turn up and they’re all full like we did, you can still buy attended limited access tour which we did. It was decidedly average unfortunately and we probably could’ve just done with admiring the castle from the outside. Our next stop was the Dublin writers museum for the boyfriend who was finishing a Masters in English Literature at the time. While not really my cup of tea and swarming with bored school children on a trip, he seemed to enjoy it so was worth the detour. Absolutely exhausted by this point we headed back to the guest house to get changed and go out for dinner, again in one of the local pubs called O’Brien’s near Leeson Bridge for our anniversary meal. Although the food was really good and they did damn good cocktails, the whole of Dublin seemed very expensive for food and drink. I know it’s a capital, tourist city but we did end up spending more than we planned on this trip, so just be aware.

Not my photo, it was swarming with crowds when we were there!

On our final day we were flying out just after lunch so we got up early and hopped on the first bus to Kilmainham Goal, where the Easter Rising rebels were held and executed. You can’t book the tour, it’s purely a first come first served basis and despite and arriving around 9am, the queue was already huge and we were told it’d be over an hour and a half wait, and with the hour tour and having to collect our bags before going to the airport, we just didn’t have time.

Disappointed, we got back on the next bus and headed into the city centre. The bus driver recommended the Jameson Whiskey tour but again, bad luck struck and we had just missed the tour, the next one not being for another hour! In desperation, we followed a sign for a museum called ‘The history of the Irish’ and after paying something like €17 we had found something to do for the morning. It was so, so bad… a guy dressed up like Gandalf clearly thought he was the next big acting breakthrough dramatically took us through a series of rooms (through magic portals!) to tell the history of Dublin, and helped by videos of Irish goddesses…. there was only us two and one other woman looking very awkward and trying not to laugh. Honestly, it was such a rip off and I’m sure even kids wouldn’t be impressed by the takky costumes! He didn’t even go into anything about the Troubles as “it was too divisive” despite being the most important part of their history. Feeling pretty miffed off yet very confused/amused we headed to the airport.

Despite the failure of the last morning, I did really enjoy this trip and certainly have fond memories of Dublin. However, there’s still plenty left to see, especially the old fashioned pubs with the folk music that I was totally gutted we didn’t do, as we were just too tired after a long term at school to drink until the small hours. My dad did promise to take me to Dublin specifically for this purpose on my 18th birthday, and I’m still waiting six years later so here’s hoping I can persuade him to take me this year!

New Year’s Resolution: Take every opportunity to travel!

I didn’t use to make (and definitely didn’t do well at keeping) new years resolutions but since my 2016 one of getting healthier actually succeeded, I thought I’d set myself another one for 2017…. to take every opportunity to travel! Although I’ve got a bit more to spend on travelling this year, I doubt it will be as ambitious or adventurous as many people as I’m also trying to save up for my own house but it’s a start. 

So far I have properly planned a couple of trips but there’s others I would love to fit in at some point this year and cross some places off my city break bucket list

London: several trips to London are in the pipeline over the next few months- a birthday weekend celebration with my uni friends at the end of the month, a mini break during February half term to be a complete tourist plus a wedding in March to look forwards to. 

Cyprus: We’ll be returning to Cyprus over the Easter holidays for a spot of sun and relaxation and hopefully explore further afield if we hire a car this time.

St Andrews, Scotland: Another wedding in August takes us to St Andrews, and we’re going to make the most of it, having booked a family holiday for the week with my parents, brother and his girlfriend. Not exactly summer holiday weather but it will no doubt be good fun!

Spain: One of the perks of working in a private school is the long holidays, and I have a few weeks at the beginning of July when I am off and for once wouldn’t be done over by school holiday price hauls. I’m thinking Barcelona, Valencia and possibly Granada in a long road trip. As much as I love going away with the other half, sometimes travelling alone is just what I need.

Paris: The boyfriend’s mother lives very close to the Eurostar and so when we visit in July sometime I’m planning on popping across to La Belle France for a day or two to explore this beautiful city.
Vienna: Absolutely would love to visit Vienna and my dad is also very keen so it might be a perfect daddy-daughter get away. I was thinking May half term for this one, as it would be beautiful in the sunshine but not too hot for my cold blooded Yorkshire father!

Amsterdam: Not sure when I can squeeze this one in, but with mini cruises leaving from my home town of Hull, it seems like a perfect one to tick off over a bank holiday perhaps? A girly weekend might have my name on it…

So there’s my plans! Have you got any tips or suggestions to help out a budget traveller wanting to see it all? 

Top 15 European City Break Bucket List 

Since travelling solo around Europe this summer, I’ve been badly bitten with the travel bug and have been planning my next trip ever since returning. So here’s the top 15 places in Europe I would like to visit for a long weekend city break or a short half-term holiday (in no particular order of preference, more by geography):

Barcelona 

Image result for barcelona

I’ve wanted to go to Barcelona for a while now- I remember working in France in the summer of second year and being very jealous of the other girl who was there and going to Barcelona afterwards, and kept showing me photos of where she would be going! I also follow Barcelona Blonde who’s blog has beautiful pictures of this city as well as ideas for the best places to visit and eat while there. Also it’s close to a beach and fairly warm, so I wouldn’t just be a culture vulture all weekend.

Granada 

Image result for granada

Granada has been on my list since I did my A Level history course on the reign of Isabella and Ferndinand who created modern Spain by recapturing the city and finally expelling the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. The city is therefore a mix of European and Arabic styles and steeped in history- the Alhambra Palace where the royal family settled looks stunning! Again, being southern Spain the weather would be lovely and sunny which always helps!

Lisbon

Image result for lisbon

I passed briefly through Portugal last summer on the way into Northern Spain and realised there’s a lot more here to see. I figured visiting the capital would be a good place to start, and Portugal is known for being cheap at the moment. Lisbon seems to be becoming very fashionable on the Foodie scene so I reckon we could try some really amazing cooking while here too.

Paris

Image result for paris

I think the last time I went to Paris was to go to Disneyland at about 9 years old, and didn’t really enjoy the culture as much as I should have- I only really remember counting the stairs of the Effiel Tower and attempting to eat snails- yuk! I’d love to go back and do it all properly, especially after my brother visited about a year ago and raved about it for weeks!

Venice

Image result for venice

Who wouldn’t want to visit this iconic city? Mostly I want to see it before the tourists completely take over and ruin it so would definitely visit off season, but it just looks so beautiful and jam packed full of intriguing history! My very lucky friend Cass was taken for her birthday weekend and I’ve been jealous ever since!

Florence 

Image result for florence

Florence is high on both mine and the boyfriend’s list and could end up as more than just a long weekend, but again it looks beautiful and a classic Italian culture city. Not only the views, but the food also sounds pretty tempting too… you may be sensing a theme here. Lots of history and culture all day and stuffing my face with local food at night- the perfect holiday!

Rome

Image result for rome

OK so here come the huge history geek ones- I’ve always wanted to visit Rome as it’s long history and mythology is fascinating plus it’s mostly warm when I picture it. Again it’d be one to visit off season to avoid too many tourists and one that the little brother loved- how come the poor student always seems to beat me to these places?!

Athens

Image result for athens

The centre and beginning of the civilised world as we traditionally see it, Athens sounds so interesting! Greece is cheap right now so makes up for the longer flight, and I have really come to love Greek food after visiting Cyprus this summer. The language and totally different alphabet completely baffled me but that’s what Google translate is for right?

Amsterdam 

Image result for amsterdam

Amsterdam is super easy to get to from my home town of Hull, which is only an hour from my current home so the ferry seems the most reasonable option. P&O do a lot of 2-4-1 tickets for thier mini cruises and you can choose to spend a night in Amsterdam and get the next ferry back for a longer experience of this city, famous for bicycles and the house of Anne Frank.

Vienna 

In 6th form we were supposed to have a trip to Vienna that never happened and I always wondered what I missed out on. My friend Sophie visited recently and reminded me of the pretty architecture, museums and of course, the Lipizzaner horses- every little girl’s dream! Also to visit the home of Sachertorte would be amazing as it’s by far my favourite type of chocolate cake…

Berlin 

Image result for berlin

I’ve been meaning to visit Berlin with uni friends for a while now but we never get around to organising anything! As a history teacher I’ve spent a decent chunk of each year teaching 20th century German history and really feel I should visit. It looks a little bleak but very interesting and cool (Im not sure I am cool but hey, I can still try!)

Prague 

Image result for prague

Prague looks stunningly beautiful- my friend Nicole went last winter and bombarded my news feeds with beautiful snowy pictures and it looks so perfect for a long weekend of culture and hot chocolate. I also met someone while working in France this summer who lived nearby, so would even have a free tour guide!

Budapest 

Image result for budapest

Another city I know little about but looks amazing, Budapest is lingering at the back of my mind. I actually think not knowing much can be more fun as it’s as bit more a surprise when you get there and allows you to be more spontaneous! I think it’d be a spring time trip though, as the temperatures drop quite a bit over the winter months and I’m definitely a summer baby!

Reykjavik

Image result for Reykjavik

OK, despite just saying I’m a aummer baby, Iceland seems like a place you should only really visit in winter. Another friend, Helen, went to Reykjavik for new years last year and while freezing her ass off, had an amazing time and even saw the Northern Lights! I also follow This FP Planet whose recent posts on Iceland make it all the more tempting and real in my head!

Copenhagen

I’d never really considered Denmark before, but two weeks ago I happened to be watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekend when he visited Copenhagen at the same time as scrolling through my newsfeed when I saw several posts by Ticket to Adventures about the city and it just seemed like it was a sign! A little off the beaten track it’s still full of the things I love- lots of history and interesting food!

So that’s it- my 15 top European cities I want to visit! Of course there’s lots of other places I want to visit in Europe and further afield, and if I was given the opportunity I’d practically go anywhere! If you have any suggestions or have been to these places, let me know!

 

Top 3 Tavernas in Mandria 

There are several restaurants in Mandria, 3 traditional tavernas, a fish and chip restaurant and a Chinese and Indian restaurant. We felt that it would be silly to eat English food we could get at home while on holiday so stuck to the 3 more traditional tavernas. Here’s what we thought of each:

1. Kentpoikon 

By far our favourite, we ate here almost every night. It’s a family run business and all of the staff are so friendly and welcoming. While they do have some English dishes available, we tried nearly all of their Cypriot ones- halloumi and fig salad, moussaka, kleftiko, stifado, lamb meatballs, pork kebabs and sheftalia pittas. Every portion is enormous and all reasonably priced, from around €5 for a pitta to €10 for the kleftiko. All their ingredients are locally sourced and delivered fresh daily. Their cocktails are also amazing- €4 each and just enough kick of alcohol to them for a pleasant buzz in the evening sun! They also do delicious desserts- we tried their waffle with chocolate and icecream. Their breakfast sandwich is also perfect for setting you up for a big day sightseeing. Absolutely 5* review!

2. Klimataria 

We ate here twice, trying out pizza, a lamb burger and a village salad. All these meals were tasty and again were very filling portions, but unfortunately he pizza base was a little soggy and the service was not quite as friendly as Kentpoikon. Also, it was slightly more expensive. All of these things are little niggles and wouldn’t prevent me from eating there again, but I would give it a decent 4* review.

3. Maria’s Taverna

We only ate here once- having a village salad with chips and a halloumi, lountza and spicy sausage pitta. The pitta was huge and very tasty but the salad was a little disappointing and there wasn’t  really any other choice for a vegetarian. A decent enough meal at a very good price, but being a bit off the main road meant it was very quiet and maybe because of this the menu was smaller. Still a solid 4* though.

Tomb of the Kings, Paphos 

Our final place to explore while in the Paphos area was the Tomb of the Kings. It is not actually the burial place of royalty but rather a large necropolis for wealthy Romans from around the 3rd century BC. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site, excavated and under the care of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.

You can easily reach it by the 615 bus to Coral Bay but there’s no big sign announcing that your at the right bus stop- thankfully the boyfriend can read a bit of Greek enough to read the writing on the bus stop sign. It is a very reasonable €2.50 pet adult to enter, and I have to say that they couldn’t really charge much more after out visit.

Don’t get me wrong, the tombs are fascinating and we spent an hour walking around exploring them. There are 9 main tombs that have information boards plus many more small ones dotted around. As with many European sites, these boards don’t have much information on them, just a description of the layout of the tomb and nothing about the people or objects that were once inside.

Tomb 3
The best tomb was by far number 3, with a large atrium and adjoining rooms. Tomb 6 was also notable for the small section of fresco you can spot behind modern gates to keep people from touching. This was the only area that was off limits- you could  climb and touch everything else, but considering these were the final resting places of real people I felt a little odd about clamboring all over and taking selfies like some of the tourists. 

Tomb 6 with a tiny bit of fresco above the alcove

Overall, it was a good way to spend a couple of hours but it was VERY hot even underground in the tombs so be sure to take plenty of water and wear sensible shoes as it is quite uneven in many places.

Discover Scuba Diving with Dive Point Cyprus 

I have always wanted to try scuba diving but never been tempted to try it in our cold English waters and family holidays to France weren’t quite right either. Seeing how many dive companies there are in Paphos I knew I had my opportunity. We emailed a few companies but one was fully booked and another never replied, so by default we ended up with Dive Point Cyprus which was actually a really good thing!

We booked onto the Discover Scuba Diving course for €60 each but they also have children’s and PADI certificate courses. We were picked up from the bus station by Ray who owns the company and was very friendly and funny and answered all of our initial questions.

Along with one other couple, we were under the care of instructors Carol and Curtis, both of which were fantastic. They only dive with ratios of 1:2 so you feel properly looked after- we were even offered tea and biscuits! It started with Carol explaining the basics of scuba diving with a short quiz to check we had listened before being kitted out.

We headed into the pool to learn a few basic skills we would need and just to get used to breathing using the mouthpiece. This I found the hardest as I struggled to only breathe through my mouth- it turns out breathing through your nose even a tiny bit just lets water into your mask! You can pull out at this point at no charge if you really don’t like it, but I was rearing to go into the sea!

Although we only went to the bay area outside St George Hotel it felt huge and was really pretty. We saw loads of different fish- rainbow and ornate rass, flounders and bream to name a few. We also found the home of an octopus with stones piled up in fron of his hole but he didn’t come out. It was beautiful underwater and you quickly forgot about the people swimming above you. 

I absolutely loved the experience and am now looking into doing the PADI course and learning to scuba dive properly. I would 100% recommend Dive Point as they were so friendly and professional, and made you feel fully at ease. 

Atlantis Turtle Watching Cruise, Paphos 

There are loads of boat cruises from Paphos harbour, of varying durations and prices, but we were after one particular experience of seeing turtles and the Atlantis Turtle Watching Cruise promised just that. 

It sets off from the second pier in the harbour twice a day (3-5 and 5.45-7.50) and costs €20 per person. The boat is small and in need of a little TLC but the owner George was good fun and makes the most of your time on board. The main difference to other boats is the underwater windows that enable you to see the turtles up close.

It takes about 20 minutes to reach the turtle site, and this was the worst part of the trip as the skipper drove like a madman into the waves and made everyone feel a little sea sick. Once we had stopped to spot the turtles however everyone perked up.I spotted 3 turtles but they were surprisingly much too fast to take a picture of!

We then headed a bit further on to see a shipwreck ( not sure which one though,  maybe the famous Zenobia? ) before going back to the turtles to make sure everyone had the chance to see them.

Our final stop was for swimming and snorkeling. George provided the snorkels and lowered the steps so everyone could jump in- some brave people jumped from the top of the boat but I wussed out! There was also the opportunity to take pictures of your friends/family swimming through the underwater turtle viewing windows which was cool.

This was a fantastic experience and worth the money (despite the seasickness) but I would recommend doing the later cruise as apparently you see more turtles in the evening and the sunset over the sea must be beautiful- we now know this for next time!