Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Newgrange ~ Visiting Ireland’s Ancient East!

Newgrange in Co Meath is somewhere I’ve wanted to bring my kids for a long time, as I remember really liking it when I went on a school trip many moons ago. We tried to visit a few years ago but only got as far as the visitor centre to be turned away as all the tickets were sold out. They limit the amount of tickets sold per day for conservation reasons. 

Tickets are not available to purchase online so it’s first come first served, we needed to be there early if we wanted to secure a place on a tour. That meant booking an overnight stay in the area and in the hopes that there wouldn’t be too many people visiting Ireland’s Ancient East we went off season.

What is Newgrange?

Newgrange is a 5,200 year old passage tomb in the Brú na Bóinne complex, it predates Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids in Egypt. The structure is made using rocks and earth with grass growing in a mound on the roof. Newgrange was constructed using stones from a few different counties some as far away as 50km. 

These stones and rocks were transported to the site over land and water, an amazing feat considering the size of some of the boulders. Archaeologists are still at odds as to the exact reason for Newgrange being built but they do agree that it has some religious significance. 

One of the most intriguing features of Newgrange is that the inner chamber is lit by the sun entering through the roof box on the shortest day of the year, winter solstice and for a couple of days before and after. There are two similar passage tombs in the same area Knowth & Dowth. I’ve always loved the Neolithic curvilinear artwork that’s carved into the entrance rock and kerbstones; so much so that I had my husband’s wedding ring handmade using these designs.

Where is Newgrange and how can I get there?

Newgrange visitor centre is located in County Meath on the south side of the River Boyne overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Driving is by far the easiest way to visit using directions from HERE or you can get a private bus.

Collins Coaches that leave Irish Life Mall in Dublin every hour costing about €7pp each way alighting at The Brink Stores and getting a taxi for the last 7km or you could join one of the many tour companies that run tours to Newgrange and other heritage sites along the way.

Where to stay near Newgrange?

As we’re a family of 7 it’s difficult to get a place to stay that doesn’t involve booking at least two rooms and spending a fortune so we usually rely on Airbnb to source accommodation. I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across Rathgillen Farm in Nobber Co Meath; it’s a private 3 bed house on a 125 acre working sheep farm. 

Peter our host was fantastic, so welcoming and friendly he makes sure to welcome all of his guests with hot tea & warm scones, such a lovely touch. The house suited us perfectly and was well equipped with everything we needed for our overnight stay including free WiFi. My husband went to the local chipper for our dinner while I got the kids into their pj’s. 

Peter was thrilled to hear that our 5 year old Cillian is mad about Sheep so he called over to us bright and early the next morning before we set off for Newgrange to bring us on a tour of his farm and for Cillian to go meet his sheep, Cillian was over the moon and hasn’t stopped talking about it since! We paid just €45 instead of the full price of €80 for our 1 night stay as we had €35 credit from referring someone to Airbnb. BOOK HERE.

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Visiting Newgrange:

As I mentioned tickets are only sold at Newgrange so get there early. There’s plenty of free parking available on site. The interpretive centre is fantastic; it’s a state of the art facility with exhibitions showing what it would be like to live in the Neolithic period complete with a full scale replica of the inner chamber of Newgrange. Unfortunately during our visit Knowth was closed for the season but we did get to go visit Newgrange, we had to use the foot bridge to cross the Boyne before we got on a shuttle bus to drive us the 3km to the ancient site. 

We all had a magnificent time, the kids they particularly loved seeing the winter solstice sunrise being replicated by high power lights in the inner chamber. Photography is permitted everywhere bar inside the passage tomb likewise with buggies, everywhere is accessible just not the passage into Newgrange itself. 

Once we were back at the visitor centre we stopped for tea and hot chocolates in the restaurant to warm up and bought some souvenirs in the gift shop including an ornament for our Christmas travel tree. As we were just visiting the exhibition and Newgrange a family ticket would have cost us €16 but we have an annual OPW Heritage Card which covered the cost of our visit. For more information visit their website HERE

Have you been to Newgrange? What did you think? 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Monday's Moments ~ 27/03/17

Leaving the house early this morning in hazy sunshine with the heat already rising, I thought it's been a little while since I've shared some Monday's Moments. If you're new around these parts since my Truzee's Snapchat takeover today (more on that below) Monday's Moments are where I take a minute to recognise five moments from the previous week that chase away my Monday Blues. It's ridiculously cathartic & I can't recommend it more. 

In no particular order of deadliness this week: 

1. Announcing this week that I'll be hosting the Blogger Panel once more at Blogger Conf. On May 20th in the Mansion House, it's one of the most practically valuable conferences in Ireland right now, if you've ever been you'll know what I mean. 

You'll know why I'm thrilled to the taking and/or dropping the mic once more too. (Are ya coming?) 

2. Aaron made my year this week when he arrived home with the most perfect earphones for my tiny lugholes. 

I've been searching forever for a decent pair, that fit & perform. These are Sennheiser, noise cancelling, full base GODSENDS! 

3. Managing a last minute Mammy's Day glass of wine with Stone Travel & our Momma because Corrina got back from her trip early!

4. Having a MARE with Stila's new Metallic shadow in Smouldering Satin, not only did it COVER my face in glitter and survive two subsequent showers but, while interviewing a client today - by the time we finished up HE had glitter on HIS face!

5. Doing ALL the talk about Motherhood in Ireland today to kick off a week of #TheMumBrigade in aid of Crumlin over on Truzees Snaps today. 

The reaction has been phenomenal! Be sure to tap in during the week to see some truly inspirational Mamas share their stories too (mine is live now HERE 

Tell me, what's been one Moment this week that's chasing your Monday Blues away? I'd LOVE to hear? 

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Things That Rustle My Jimmies ~ 24/03/17

I tried to let a week go without unrustling my jimmies but you know, PEOPLE. 

There are many, many incidents of assholery this week, to name but a few: 

1. People that share graphic pictures of those injured in terrorist attacks

2. Youtubers using ever more ridiculous implements to put makeup on their faces... A condom covered Beauty Blender, A BOILED EGG?!

3. The 'People You May Know' section on Facebook consistently being dolts I've spent my entire life avoiding ...

4. Trusting the March sunshine in Ireland 

5. Old American men that infest the Facebook comment threads on women's rights in Ireland!

Tell me, can you relate? What's been rustling your jimmies this week. Release that Kraken!

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CHiPS - Movie Review!

Who's In It?

Dax ShepardKristen BellVincent D'Onofrio, and Michael Peña

What's It About?

An undercover FBI agent is paired with an ex-motocross rookie officer to take down a ring of dirty cops in the CHP (Californian Highway Patrol).

Any Good?

CHiPS seems to have tried to go the route of 21 Jump Street with a more 'R-Rated approach' to comedy, and completely failed.

I can kinda see what it was trying to do, but it just kept devolving into screams of homophobia and making fun of a guy who's wife is cheating on him. It's not even like they're the main offending jokes - they're two of maybe four or five IN THE WHOLE MOVIE.

I'm not quite sure what to say about the acting, because there wasn't really a wide range on display. Dax Shepard is therapy-quote spouting man shouting about homophobia and Michael Peña is sex addict man shouting about not being homophobic and his partners wife having sex with others. I guess Vincent D'Onofrio is good as the leader of the dirty cops, but that's just because he's still Kingpin sized and is really threatening.

My best guess is that the studio wanted a new 21 Jump Street and after reading Dax Shepard's previous (they're all pretty interchangeable) scripts they thought it could be the right stupid style film to have him shine, but it just came out the same AGAIN. 

It's not even a Beerfest or Eurotrip type of trash movie (that are incredibly enjoyable) - it's just boring.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Weekend in Warsaw - How To!

Due to family commitments we had to take Sue’s annual birthday trip a week early this year but by mid January we still hadn’t decided on a destination well that was until we were invited to the Polish Embassy in Dublin to sample the wonderful hospitality of the Polish people. 

While we were there we learned a lot about Poland as they showcased some of their beautiful cities. We decided there & then we were going to Poland so I started researching the best city at the best price for a visit in early March, I quickly realised Warsaw was our destination!

The Best Way to Visit Warsaw on a Budget:

My first port of call as usual was Skyscanner; it took me less than 2 minutes to work out that Warsaw was the cheapest to visit in March so I booked return flights from Dublin to Warsaw costing just €55.38pp flying out on Friday 10th March at 17:15 returning Sunday 12th March at 21:45.

Where to stay in Warsaw:

I completed the usual search of hotel comparison sites like Trivago, Hotels Combined etc but it was on Amoma.com that I found a great bargain. Two nights B&B for two at the four star Hilton Warsaw Hotel for just £117/€134. The hotel is fabulous; it boasts numerous bars & restaurants along with a swimming pool, spa & gym also onsite. We had a spotless, deluxe room on the 19th floor with beautiful views over the city.

They were so kind to us and sent a bottle of wine to our room when they learned that we were celebrating Sue’s birthday. The bathroom was high end luxury complete with separate enclosed shower unit & bath. Breakfast was one of the finest spreads I’ve seen in a hotel way outstripping other Hiltons we’ve stayed in around the world. The Old Town is a 20 minute walk from the hotel or grab a taxi from the rank at the front door of the hotel for 17zł/€4.

How to get from Modlin Airport to Warsaw:

There are numerous buses operating from Modlin airport, you can buy a return ticket online or directly from the driver for roughly €16pp return for the 45 minute journey. You can also get an Uber but be careful as flights arrive in Modlin the prices increase drastically likewise the wait times. We priced a taxi and were quoted approximately 320zł/€76 by one driver even though taxi fares are supposed to be fixed from the airport. 

Luckily another driver overheard and offered his services for 160zł/€37, having given him sufficient side eye, we arrived to our hotel in style in a luxury blacked out Mercedes van. I made sure to get his card for our return journey, Zbigniew Kolacz, Tel: 0048 512007960 or mail zbyszek0_3@wp.pl to book - Tell him the crazy Irish ladies with the side eyes sent you!

Out and About in Warsaw:

Warsaw is not a city that you fall in love with at first sight you have to learn about its history and then you’ll have a deep compassion for the city & its people. We did just that on an Orange Umbrella free walking tour. It’s a very unusual city unlike most other European capitals. The New Town has a wonderful skyline that could easily compete with parts of New York for the amount of skyscrapers in such a small area. 

The Mermaid of Warsaw, fabled to be a Sister of the Copenhagen be-scaled one keeps watch over Warsaw
The Old Town is actually not that old. It was rebuilt less than 65 years ago by the people of Warsaw under Soviet influence after 85% of its buildings were raised to the ground during WWII. The Old Town is now the youngest UNESCO listed Heritage Site, due to the diligence of the restoration!

In the heart of the Old Town you’ll find Market Square and the monument of the Warsaw Mermaid the city’s symbol. Our guide Martyna was a fountain of knowledge and she held everyone’s attention for the full 2 hour tour of the Old Town. You'll see a clip of our tour HERE. There are lots of other tour routes and indeed other companies that run walking tours of Warsaw but one thing is for sure, you’d be mad not to join one!

On Sunday we visited the Uprising Museum located a 5 minute walk from our hotel. The museum tells the history of the events preceding, during and after the uprising in Warsaw with hundreds of photographs, film footage from eye witnesses and a 3D audiovisual recreation of the destruction of Warsaw during WWII. 

As soon as you enter the museum the sights & sounds transport you back to 1944 Poland. They’ve an impressive amount of artifacts and a replica B-24 Liberator. With men & women recounting their own tales of rebel fighting and their entire city rising up, if you want to learn about the determination of the Polish people this should be on your list of places to visit. Normal admission is priced at 20zł/€4.66pp, entry is free on Sundays.

Where to eat and drink in Warsaw:

During our tour Martyna told us all about milk bars that you’ll still find dotted around the capital, they are small, inexpensive restaurants serving traditional Polish home cooked meals costing about €3 for a 3 course meal. Pop into any bakery for Polish cakes and coffee costing less than €4 each.

We stumbled upon a Bobby Burger joint and decided it looked good for lunch, it was delicious. We had burgers, fries & beers that cost us just €15 in total! 

We were lucky with the location of our hotel as Tapas Gastrobar was right next door; it was so nice we ended up dining there twice with our bill never topping €20 for oodles of Tapas & wine. 

The Pierogi (dumplings, a popular Polish dish) are superb in Karmnik a trendy bar/restaurant in the Old Town. It’s a bit more expensive because of its location but still reasonably priced at €16 for two servings of Pierogi and two drinks.

Well that was our wonderful weekend in Warsaw, have you been? Did we miss anything?

One thing is for sure though; Warsaw was the first of many visits to Poland for this Travel Writer!