Friday, 15 December 2017

A day of Christmas festivities in Dublin

We’ve got a busy and very festive day ahead of us, so let’s get a tasty breakfast! Beanhive is the perfect spot to start the day, with amazing Irish fry-ups and tasty treats for breakfast. Their coffee is amazing, and the attention to detail of the art is incredible!

The first stop on the festive trail is the Mansion House to see the Live Crib. With real animals and a depiction of the Nativity scene, it’s a lovely Christmas attraction to visit.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn hosts the Live Animal Crib outside the historic Dublin Mansion House, his home, on Dawson Street.

Now for a chilly walk to St. Stephen’s Green, be sure to be wrapped up well, as Winter has well and truly hit Dublin!

For some beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, take a trip to St. Stephen’s Green shopping centre. Pick up a few last-minute gifts maybe.

"The Dandelion Market, well known as the site of U2's earliest gigs and its array of stalls selling punk badges, clothes and posters was situated in the area the shopping centre now resides in. The site had been assembled over the years by the Slazanger family.

The market, which closed in 1981, is commemorated with a plaque, while Sinnotts Bar on South King Street is the only part of the original site that remains. Work began on the St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in 1985, with the whole project taking three years to complete. The centre officially opened its doors on 8 November 1988."

As the sun begins to set, the Christmas lights on Grafton street begin to twinkle and add to the cosy festive atmosphere of Dublin’s city centre.

Grafton Street is more of a window shopping street for most students, but with amazing window displays in Brown Thomas, it’s a must-see.

It might be time for a hot chocolate now as the moon appears, and the temperature begins to drop. The newly refurbished Bewley’s Cafe is the perfect spot for an indulgent hot chocolate and maybe even another Irish Christmas favourite, a mince pie!

Bewley’s Grafton Street, one of Dublin’s most iconic and celebrated landmarks, has reopened its doors. Following a multi-million- euro refurbishment, the much-loved café has been restored to create a bigger, brighter and better-than-ever customer experience.

Ensuring you feel well and truly snuggled in the Christmas spirit, buskers and carol singers can be found all the way from Grafton street, across the bridge to O’Connell Street, weaving their way down the inevitably busy Henry Street and Mary Street as people gather the last few gifts.

Now that you have made it across the bridge, you will find lots more lights and twinkling lights saying, ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’, meaning Merry Christmas to you, in Irish (Gaeilge).

"Nollaig Shona Duit"
(NO-Lig HU-na ditch).
However, if you were to be addressing the same greeting to two or more persons, you would say:
"Nollaig Shona Daoibh"
(NO-Lig HU-na DEEV)
This literally means "You have a Happy Christmas."

A Christmas tradition between Henry Street and Moore Street are the independent stalls, selling Christmas jumpers, lights, handmade gifts and everything in between.
Year-round the markets can be found on Moore Street selling veg and flowers.

"The famous Moore Street open-air fruit and vegetable market is Dublin's oldest food market. The market there is considered to be a famous landmark on the northside of the city. "

It is time to go back across the bridge, this time to Temple Bar, 
"Temple Bar is a busy riverside neighbourhood, spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes. Crowded pubs host live folk music and DJ sets, and diners pack restaurants serving Asian, American and Irish cuisine. Quirky boutiques stock clothes and crafts by local designers. The National Photographic Archive highlights Ireland’s past, while the Project Arts Centre and Temple Bar Gallery + Studios show contemporary art.         

There is an abundance of choice when it comes to making dinner plans in Temple Bar, everything from burgers in Bunsen to pizza or pasta in Milano's or just classic Irish 'pub grub' in The Porterhouse

As the day draws to a close there is time for a few more Christmas adventures. For a true taste of an Irish Christmas the Panto (Pantomime; Pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment.)
The Gaiety Panto is always a great night, a lighthearted, entertaining way to end your day.

If you'd prefer to continue exploring, a night at Dublin Zoo's Wild Lights show might be what you're looking for! 

Wild Lights is a must-see experience for family, friends and couples this festive season, where they will embark on an enchanted trail and discover a dazzling array of beautifully crafted, giant colourful lanterns inspired by wildlife.
Visitors will be treated to an awe-inspiring display of lanterns which includes a pride of lions, orangutans, tigers, giraffes, monkeys and much more!

 For the final touch on the perfect festive day in Dublin, a nice festive mulled wine or hot chocolate at The Hole In The Wall pub is the place to go. Located outside a small entrance to Phoenix Park on Black Horse Avenue, the 400-year-old pub always has the most amazing Christmas decorations!

And that brings our day to an end!

Monday, 13 March 2017

From the hills of Donegal and back again...

Only in recent years have I grown to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me in my home county. Growing up, almost every weekend we would head off as a family to one of the many beautiful beaches, walks, mountains or cliffs in Donegal. Eventually I grew bored of what I saw to be just a walk, the same walk we had done maybe fifty times or more. I failed to notice the magnificent scenery that I took for granted, the budding trees in Spring or the sweet scented flowers in Summer. 

Particularly in the past year and a half while I have been living in Dublin I have come to miss those family walks, for the company and breathtaking beauty that was only a stone's throw away. I have been very fortunate to have such spectacular surroundings in which to develop my photography skills. It was easy to take a beautiful picture but having learnt how to properly use my camera I am now able to do my surroundings some sort of justice in showcasing its beauty to those not fortunate to live in Donegal.
Ard's Friary is the place we go for walks most often as its only a ten minute drive. There are several beaches along the walk, the most beautiful being Lucky Shell beach. When we get some sunshine this beach looks like the Mediterranean, with turquoise blue water and sail boats anchored by the shore.
Rathmullan is the beach we go for a walk on if we've gone for lunch in Rathmullan town. It isn't one of my favourite beaches just because you can't swim there and it is often quite busy. However the view from the shore is spectacular and Spring has truly sprung in Donegal this past weekend.
Glenvaegh is a spectacularly beautiful place, there are many different walks and hikes to go on where you are surrounded my hills, a lake and a castle. No matter what season it is Glenvaegh never loses its charm and beauty.

Having been named as no.1 on the Cool List for 2017 by The National Geographic:
With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, Blue Flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered. Last summer, scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII were filmed on the Inishowen Peninsula. But this area of Ireland is also expecting 2017 to be a big year; there’s an array of reasons to visit, from surfing beaches in Magheraroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to Horn Head — a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell.'

I think its safe to see its a place to see, despite how far it may seem from Dublin, Galway and Cork, it will be worth it, I promise!


Thursday, 16 February 2017

From Prague, with love...

(Photo Credits: Jason Nesbitt)

Another city ticked off the list, this time it was Prague in the Czech Republic, another city I had never considered. This trip was unlike the majority of my trips, in that there were 26 other people with me! The trip to Prague was my second external college trip with Fotosoc and it did not disappoint. We traveled on the Monday afternoon and arrived at our hostel in the early evening. 

Luckily the events officer in the society had done his research and seamlessly got us from the airport to the Mosaic House hostel. I was blown away by the hostel, it was more like a hotel, really cool, modern architecture, a really vibrant foyer and chilled atmosphere. The dorms were also really impressive and much better than a lot of hostels I've seen! After a quick group meeting we headed to The Escape Rooms. We were split into groups before being locked in rooms where we had to solve puzzles in order to escape. We did a similar thing in Budapest last year and I surprised myself with more common sense and problem solving ability than I thought I possessed. After 'escaping' we headed out for food and despite my vote to try local cuisine we ended up in an Italian restaurant. I thought it was quite quirky that the pizzas we ordered were delivered from the Pizzeria across the road, but they were delicious! We had some hilarious conversations over that meal!

The next morning we were up pretty bright and early and got some coffee and pastries from a cute little french bakery on the corner of the street..again yet to try Czech food! 

We then began our first day of adventuring around the city. We walked down by the river towards Charles Bridge which is beautiful and a real melting pot of tourists from all around the world. Despite the beauty we were surrounded by it didn't take away from how absolutely freezing I was! 

We walked to the top of a rather slippy and snow dusted hill to Prague Castle. We had photography passes so we could snap to our hearts content. In the grounds of the palace there was the most stunning cathedral with incredibly detailed stained glass windows. 

One of the highlights of that tour was however the Czech hot dogs and mulled wine that was desperately needed to defrost a bit having spent hours walking around in -10c. 

The architecture in the city was so impressive. At every corner there was another building with such intricate design and detail. The Lennon Wall is really cool and because of the bright colours really stands out against the dark colours of the surrounding buildings.

(Photo Credit: Colin Tonge)

That night we finally went for some Czech food and it was such good comfort food after a cold day. I had chicken schnitzel that they serve with tartar sauce which is such a good addition! After the long day we spent exploring we had a chilled night in with a few drinks and lots of laughs and my little group of buddies and I in our dorm really bonded.

On the Wednesday we went to what we hoped would be a really cool market but as it transpired it was more like a car boot sale but the journey there on the tram did allow us to see more of the city. 

In the afternoon we went to the Museum of Communism which was not really my cup of tea. We then went to a really cool record shop and explored the main shopping area of the city. I ended up going back to the same Czech restaurant that night with a different group and this time had my eye on some goulash and dumplings, which I noticed was different from Hungarian goulash which is more tomato and paprika based. It was delicious and just what I needed to warm me up.

Our last night was spent in a really cool little cocktail bar, one drink turned to two and they were so good! Really did not enjoy the fact people could smoke in the bar though! 

On our last morning a few of us went to the main square where I really got some good shots on my film camera. We saw the famous Clock and saw some Czech buskers.
(Photo credits to Amy O'Connell)

And just like that it was time to go home. Despite the fact we didn't interact with many locals, the surroundings alone made me thoroughly enjoy my visit and gave me a really positive impression of the city.

Another pin prick on the map...where to next hopefully The Netherlands!

(Photo credit: Amy O'Connell)
(Photo Credit: Colin Tonge)