Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Rediscovering Ireland: Roundstone, Howth, Malahide

At the beginning, I did not give Ireland a fair chance. 
I was sixteen and uninterested in moving continents. 
After moving to Dublin, I learnt how beautiful a place Ireland could be but many of my travels around the country prior to that were not appreciated to its true extent. 

Thankfully this summer, due to my internship with Stint Ireland as well as having a newly found travel buddy, my explorations of Ireland can continue.

First stop, Roundstone, Co. Galway.
A quaint little town in the outskirts of Galway.
The buses bring you there from Galway city but thanks to Lorcan's mum, Therese, we got a lift!

The town was adorable with their pastel-coloured houses side by side.
Roundstone was lovely to wander around with my eye catching every single dog that was within my field of vision. Spot the dog, which I thought was a stuffed toy...until it moved. 

The views at Roundstone were absolutely phenomenal. 
So untainted, peaceful and just stunning.

Thanks to my personal guide, I was able to explore the fields, rocks, and wander through the great unknown while possibly and very probably standing out like a sore thumb.

I was not the only one standing out though. Every so often, a pile of snowman-like rocks could be found - looking so unstable and yet strategically balanced. An art in itself.

Watching the dogs roam free through the grass at an abnormal speed summed up the feeling I had in my heart. 
The cool breeze, the great weather, the peace, the quiet, the freedom - pure bliss.

So much so, I actually did something only an Irish person would do - Swim. 
With the water temperature hovering under 14 degrees - it was indefinitely, painstakingly cold. 
We jumped into the water with full-force and no regrets.
Screams were heard, numbness and adrenaline followed, but it was a heart-stopping adventure that I would gladly repeat.

Adventures can obviously never be complete without food. 
For those who know me well, I live to eat. 

There was a small stall in the middle of Roundstone's town which was manned by a Frenchman with freshly baked madeleines and chocolate fondants. My greedy eyes along with the power of influence led us to buy one of each to nibble along our exploration.

We even managed to scout out some blackberries nearby - eight to be exact.

However, one of my favourite experiences was preparing meals together.
The ease of cooperation in the kitchen was uncanny. 
Unspoken instructions resulted in complete complement of preparation.

caramelised shallots
medium rare steak
olive oil and mixed herb roasted baby potatoes
stir-fried broccoli with a little bit of everything

Photo opportunities were very much seized at Roundstone.
Beautiful scenery and a lack of people results in fun shots.

Next stop: Howth, Co. Dublin

Only a 20 minute train ride from Dublin city centre, the ease of accessing this place is unbelievably easy.

Exploring the coast of Howth is definitely something everyone should discover if you live nearby.

The photo, left untouched without any photo editing can barely give justice to its natural hues.

The purple hedges against the blues and greens along with the coastal breeze were just magical.

What is absolutely crazy is that so many people just had houses by the cliffs.
Imagine waking up every morning and looking out to the open ocean.

Thankfully we got a decent enough weather experience throughout the hike. It started off well and it began to rain halfway - leading me to resort to this.

With my lack of umbrella and rain jacket (obviously six years in Ireland just doesn't teach me), I resorted to using my cardigan as a head scarf to shield from the rain. Thanks to my brown skin I totally fit the stereotype of a Malay Muslim back home. No wonder I was always mistaken for being so when I was little.

A hot box of freshly deep-fried churros with a chocolate dip from the Howth Market gave us a sugar boost to complete the hike!

And like any other, photo opportunities became a thing. 
It's hilarious how a camera-avoidant human being can transform into an avid photographer with some influence. Obviously, I'm not talking about myself.

Third stop - Malahide Castle and Gardens, Co. Dublin

Similar to Howth, it's also a short 30 minute train away from the city centre! 
Together with some of the Stint Ireland crew, we explored the castle and its gardens on a very fine day.

A short 45 minute tour of the castle was given by a local guide who definitely conveyed his Irish humour across.

For some reason, this painting within the castle caught my eye more than anything else. 

The ticket which cost 8 euros per student gave us both the guided tour of the castle and access to its walled gardens.

Pretty in purple.

Maybe the reason my eye got attracted to the painting earlier was this guy. 
Peacocks were roaming the walled gardens which was interestingly placed right beside the Avoca cafe so you could enjoy your meal outdoors while having peacocks roam nearby.

Which is exactly what we did!

The theme seems to repeat itself.
A good day for Audrey consists of food, pretty views, adventure, photos and good company.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Waterford: Spraoi Festival

The bank holiday weekend, was one like any other. Most other bank holiday weekends it wasn't taken very seriously as being in college wasn't as taxing. However, with the summer being here and everyone working in their own jobs, all of us wanted a weekend away. 

What started off as a Callum and I trip grew into a Callum, James, Lorcan, Iseult and Raegs trip :).

We booked two rooms at the Portree Guesthouse in Waterford as it was the Spraoi Festival!
It was happening for the entire weekend - several stages and performances throughout the city. 

There were music gigs, acrobatics, drama and much more all for free!

Not to forget the delicious food stalls throughout the city - fudges galore, crepes, burgers and so on.

Snagged ourselves some deep fried churros.

We stumbled across a small side alley which had medieval gear to try on and the shopkeeper kept encouraging us to give it a go.

The lads then went ahead to learn how to use a medieval bow. The fiver they each paid entitled them to a talk about medieval archery along with three tries at hitting a target.

None of the girls went for it to the shopkeeper's dismay who tried profusely to lure us with his other bows that were meant for ladies in the past.

Breakfasts together were an absolute treat as we discovered a quaint little cafe which served delicious food. Irish breakfast in a crepe at your service.

Along with the famous Waterford blaa (their specialty bread).

On one of the days we took a bus to Tramore and got absolutely drenched in the rain (this photo was taken several hours post-rain mind you). We crazily decided to go into the sea! 

Bar Raegs, we all put on our swimming suits and went splashing away in the icy cold water. Humorously, the lads were complaining that it was too cold more than anything.

Spontaneously, we headed to the Great Escape where the six of us were locked in a room which went along the 'Prison Break' theme. So there were clues, locks, hidden messages within the room that we had to solve together within an hour to break free.

It was a really fun adventure and it was intriguing to just see the different ways each person figured things out - it was a definite team effort to break free from the prison.

Unfortunately, the shopkeeper told us that if we were four minutes sooner to break free we would have broken the record! The shame!

On Sunday night, we watched the night parade by the river which were all musically themed followed by a beautiful night of fireworks - one of my favourite things.

Spending time with all these people over the weekend was unpredictable.
I began the Friday slightly worried that ye wouldn't get along as I was the linchpin who knew everyone but not everybody knew each other prior to the trip. 

It was so cute to see Iseult and James as a couple, Raegs and Callum as third wheels, the lads bonding together while the girls did as well. It was one amazing weekend filled with food, laughter, drink, photos, spontaneity and too many chats.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Killaloe: Return to the Motherland

The last time I was back in Killaloe, it was the Christmas holidays, not even kidding. It's really been awhile since I've gone back to visit the family. To make it all the better, the sister, Sonya, has also returned to work in Limerick since last week so I got to spend my time with her. To top it off, Lorcan also came down to Killaloe!

The weekend consisted of a variety of things. Catching up with family and friends while showing Lorcan around the nearby places.

Sonya was so gracious as to drive us around the place so we visited the Limerick Milk Market as well as Adare! 

Thatched roofs, good weather, the Creamery, and more.

Not to mention the funny signs available for sale within the Creamery 
'True friends stab you in the front'

The weekend wasn't complete with some form of exercise! We took a stroll down to Brian Boru's Fort. Intriguingly, I did not visit that place within the three years of living in Killaloe (quite appalling really) but now finally it's ticked off the list!

Drinks with the lads over chats were much needed. Familiar faces that I haven't seen in months, was really great to finally see Anna, Darragh and Phelim again who surprised us midway with his beautiful face :P

Good food was needed among the family. Sonya kindly treated us all to a magnificent feast at Tuscany Bistro just across the waters in Ballina. Thankfully we managed to get a booking at the very last minute! Food was absolutely divine!

Spinach and ricotta tortellini


Cheesy Portobello mushrooms

Spicy chicken wings with a cheese sauce


Eton mess


Creme Brulee

And to walk all the food off we went wandering around the place - random lanes, parks, the pontoon, which were of course great places to take photos!

It's been awhile, Killaloe.
You've definitely given me many memories this time round.
Positive ones that I hope will keep coming.