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Summer Road Trip to the Lakes

Is there anything better than jumping into a lake on a hot summer’s day? Well Collinstown Lakes is one of my favourite spots to go to in the summer.

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For me growing up it wasn’t known as Lough Lene, it was ‘the lakes’. If Mam said we were going to ‘the lakes’, you could be sure we would be high as kites getting ready to go. It was a big occasion for us when we were sprogs. Going to the lakes meant  jumping off the jetty (which we thought was massive at the time) and getting a 99 ice cream, A rare treat.

The water is great! It is rather warm at the lakes. It is very still. It’s a perfect place to bring children. There’s no salt water obvs so your hair doesn’t feel as gross after.

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There is a nice big area for kids and families. Always throw an eye on your children though. As safe as Lough Lene is, we want the kids to go there and come back in one piece.

When I was 5, I went there with my mam and my brothers and sisters. After swimming and having my bun, I went for a bit of a wander. I took a particular interest in an old shed that were bathrooms at the time. I sauntered around that part of the lake for a bit until my Mam found me. She was near Cardiac arrest at this point so it was good she found me when she did.

There are changing areas and bathrooms on site. There are rubbish facilities and life saving rings on site also.

The lakes are accessible by car. Search for the Lake Rd.on Google maps. You will spot a car park on your right (free parking) and the lakes are a short walk to the left.

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I highly recommend this as a day out 🙂

Rebecca.

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Inis Mór Holibobs

“How long will you be on the oilean?” asks the driver. He blesses himself as we drive past a statue of our Lord on the side of the road. He tells us how he was born and raised on the island. He offers us a minibus tour but we politely decline saying we would prefer to walk. He drives 8km to our BnB and charges us €5 a piece. He wishes us well, we say goodbye and he returns to the pier to await more passengers.

Last summer, my boyfriend and I spent two days on the Aran Islands. We got a hell of a lot done in those two incredible days.

We left Co Meath at 9:30am and caught the 1pm ferry from Doolin pier. It was all smiles as we board and the crewman tell us it will be rocky for the first 25 minutes. The boat bounces upon the waves as we make our way to our first stop, Inis Oírr.

We catch a glimpse of Sandy/Dusty the dolphin as we head for the island. Upon disembarking, two divers enter the water and begin to swim with the dolphin. The next hour consists of cheering and laughing at the majestic creature swimming through the sea.

Suddenly, it begins to rain, hard. We seek shelter under the nearest roof, a bike rental shed. We are greeted by two islanders who welcome us into their shelter. They comment on the rain saying it is unusual to be raining as the clouds generally surpass the island. Their faces are tanned and they smile at us and we tell them our plans for the next two days.

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We board the boat to Inis Mór. It is windy when we alight and we find ancient minibuses waiting by the pier waiting to ferry us around the island. We hop into a red transit van with five other tourists. “How long will you be on the oilean?” says the driver. But he pronounces it like allen. He blesses himself as we drive past a statue of our Lord on the side of the road. He tells us how he was born and raised on the island. He offers us a minibus tour but we politely decline saying we would prefer to walk. He drives the 8km to the BnB and only charges us €5 a piece. He wishes us well, we say goodbye and he returns to the pier awaiting more passengers.

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Kilmurvey House is massive. It is situated at the foot of Dún Aonghasa. We are offered tea and cake on our arrival, and a complimentary return trip to town when we feel like getting dinner.

We unpack and head for the beach. It is a 7 minute walk. We edge into the freezing sea under a deep blue sky. Some locals peer out the windows of their houses as I shriek in the cold waves. We last all of 15 minutes then decide to hop out. We’re giddy with adrenaline.

We return to the house, shower, change and hop straight into another mini bus. We step out of the bus at a place called ‘The Bar’. We are served the most amazing meal. A sign outside reads ‘Live Music Every Night.

A mixed race man with afro-textured hair enters the bar. He takes a stool and sets up a piano and guitar. He begins to play Christy Moore’s ‘Back Home To Derry’. Once finished he thanks the audience for the applause. He speaks with a strong country accent. It reminded me of that scene from Father Ted.

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Our lift is leaving at 9:30am. It is 8am and we are ready to lead. So we take on the 8km walk. We search the route on google maps and choose the longer route which diverts off of the main road. We walk and talk. I’m freezing in my denim jacket but win the rain coat off my better half.

About 3km in to the walk, it begins to rain, torrential rain. It is extremely mild and the rain is warm. We are drenched but it feels great.

When we return out clothes are ready to be wrung out. The landlady offers to dry them in her tumble dryer. What a legend.

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The next day, we have breakfast and make plans for the day. We want to visit Dún Aonghasa, Dún Duchathair and Poll na bPéist. The landlady is polite in saying we’re basically mad thinking we can do all that in three hours. But I am a woman on a mission.

We visit Dún Aengus. I am slightly underwhelmed by the views. From the aerial photographs, the site is unbelievable. Standing there, it is a different perspective.

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We head for the Serpent’s Lair otherwise known as the Wormhole or ‘Poll na Péist’. It is a long walk and we get lost. An islander is in his gardens strimming the grass. We approach him in our hiking gear, equipped with Raybans and DSLR camera cringing that we must be the 1000th tourists coming onto his property to ask directions! He is a gentleman. He provides clear directions and asks us how we are. 30 minutes later we are at the Wormhole.

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We leave at 3pm to catch the ferry at 4pm. Laden down with gear, we walk up the main road. 30 minutes later it becomes clear that we may miss this boat. We walk along with thumbs outstretched in the thumb a lift symbol but to no avail. Exhausted and feeling like a damsel in distress, my partner offers to leg it up to the bear carrying his stuff and 90% of my gear. I jog after him and catch sight of him speaking to a local. He motions to me that he has found a lift. Drenched in perspiration I sprint to the car.

A man, in his 70s sits in the front seat of a 1996 Toyota Corolla. On the back seat lie two planks of wood, a bottle of dettol and an iron stained jug. He begins to drive as my feet are still on the road. I can’t see this man’s face but the grey hair protruding from his ears are palpable. He speaks calmly as we express our gratitude. Upon arriving at the pier 8 minutes later,  we offer €20 for the ride, he refuses, we offer €10, at this point he is telling us to get out of the car. We thank him endlessly and run for the boat.

We reach the boat and hurry on board. We sit down and catch our breath. We stop at Inis Meáin and encounter and extremely interesting man made port. We reach Doolin by 5:30.  We decide to visit the cliffs of moher and Father Ted Parochial house before returning home. The islanders and the services they offered summed up the magic of Irish hospitality. We are indebted to their service. Go raibh maith agat, Inis Mór.

Barcelona…my heart is there 

Today, on the news it was reported that a truck drove the wrong down a road in Barcelona. The truck was driven down Ronda Del Litoral and ‘carregat de butà’ (loaded with gas cylinders). A time of panic and uncertainty.

My mind goes to the road, the location, the view, the smells. I think about where it happened and where everyone else was when it happened. Everyone I knew there. I missed Barcelona. I felt an instinctive sense of protection for the city.

Barcelona is an amazing city. Safe, sound and one of the most artistic locations in the world. My second home. Strangely, there is no where that quite compares to it.

It is a city where everything is okay. Dogs wear sweaters, the sky is blue, there is colour everywhere and young and old people share the streets. People are respectful – it is a lovely place to be.

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I’ve been there four times. A couple of times for flying visits and once for a three-month stay.

I lived in the incredible Walden 7. It is a utopian style apartment building designed by world renowned architect  Ricardo Bofill. It’s blue all over and so different to anywhere I have ever stayed!

I just came across this web page and I am totally blown away (bcn you keep doing this to me). This was my next door neighbour in Barcelona. Ricardo Bofill, internationally renowned architect. He built the Walden 7, the utopian building I lived in when living in Barcelona. I cannot deal with his house!

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It was overwhelming (in a good way) how there were so many things in such small proximity. In the one city, you have awesome beaches, the ocean, jagged mountains, the bustling city centre and the beautiful countryside.

Growing up on the flat plains of County Meath, I was now looking around at a completely different environment. But I loved that environment and all that that environment offered to me.

It can be a bit mad, same as any capital city. But they are streets ahead of Dublin. They have long, large boulevards for pedestrians, roads are clean and wide (you’re never shoved up against others), the buses come on time to the second and you can get public transport literally anywhere. You can take a bike, a bus, a tram, a metro, a funicular, a train etc.

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Barcelona is a very animal friendly city. There are parrots in the trees, pet emporiums and dogs are so well looked after. They’re also allowed everywhere. Even inside shopping centres!

Lavender plants grow around residential areas so everyone is always chilled af, there are orange trees that line the main streets, like that tree in The Simpsons except instead of lemons they have oranges. It’s just fab.

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Is it Barcelona dangerous? The orange trees, no. The city? Well, I was never pick pocketed. I go everywhere with a vice like grip on my hand bag, specifically over the opening. I do that everywhere. I am really vigilant. But even the most vigilant people can be fooled. Luckily, it has not happened to me.

Where would I not recommend? Les Rambles. I think I was there… hmm… three times in my life? For those of you not familiar with Les Rambles, it is a street where all the vendors set up shop and there is a large market and it leads down to La Barceloneta (beach). It’s pretty popular amongst tourists but I have never had much reason to go there.

I miss it and I long to go back. My future is here, in Ireland. But my heart will always in the Barcelona. Més que una ciutat.

Rebecca.

#viurelliure

Going to University in Perpignan!

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Yo! I thought I’d fill you in about Perpignan. I traveled there for Erasmus and there was very little literature about the university before I left so I decided to write this blog.

  • UPVD is an acronym for University of Perpignan via Domitia.
  • Perpignan is a town in the south of France, close to the Spanish border.
  • It is part of northern Catalonia.
  • UPVD is a bilingual (French and Catalan language) university. It is bilingual in the same sense education in Ireland is).
  • Many UPVD lecturers speak with a heavy Catalan accent.
  • I attended UPVD for two semesters.

It is a small town centre.

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You are in hiking paradise.

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People are weird. Men tend to follow you a lot and it’s a lot louder there than most places.

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It is not the typical Parisian French commune you might expect.

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Qu’est ce qui se passe in the South of France?

When I was 20 years old I moved to France. I lived there for ten months. It was for my Erasmus year as part of my degree. Perpignan is a small town 30 minutes from the Spanish border. It is situated in Northern Catalonia.

I lived in a small district known as Saint Jacques – the gypsy capital of Perpignan. It was populated mainly by North African Arabic people and French gypsies.  The women were hard working and settled. They had many children and sat in the street with them during the day. The women got up at 4.30am and worked the market until 1pm. It was desperately cold in the mornings, even in the warmer months.

The men in this district were quite different. On our first night, we were walked around the small streets of Saint Jacques. We were white women on new territory. Our landlord said it was to avoid problems by demonstrating to the street community that we were under the same roof and therefore not a threat.

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“This picture of a five year-old gypsy boy was taken on New Year’s Eve 2006 in the gypsy community of St. Jacques, Perpignan, Southern France”

Our community were very respectful of us and we had never had any problems within our district. I wish I could say the same for the whole of Perpignan but sadly I cannot.

Shortly after moving there I decided to cut my hair for two reasons;

1) I dyed it blonde and rekt it.
2) I received unbearable amounts of male harassment and attention.

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‘Blonde Bridie’

How do I know this? It was the first answer I got from every French person when I asked why was I being cat called, Followed and harassed – unlike many of my classmates.

I moved to France in 2013 to carry out two semesters in a French university as part of my degree. I was a typical ‘Bridie’. An Irish woman from the Irish countryside. I came from a place where boys and girls stood on the opposite side of the hall at the school disco. We were indirect, unassuming and painfully innocent.

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My long hair

Moving to France was a big culture shock. Not for the language, or the smelly cheese. But for the masochistic and direct behaviour of the people who made up my world. Men would follow you, whistle after you, stop at your front door and insist on taking you out. So romantic right? Wrong. It was a lot to take in. Our landlord was French. She told it like it is. If you’re pale and have long hair you are bait, she would say. What could be worse?

***Please read the next part with caution. This information is drawn from personal experience.*** There is one thing that’s worse… I was fortunate in that I had dark brown hair. I know students who had blonde hair and they suffered much worse. They had to put up with dreadful physical, mental and verbal harassment. I had a classmate from England was repeatedly harassed, called a whore, slapped, grabbed on the street.

On one occasion a man grabbed her by the hair on a busy train and tried to pull it from her head. This is a more extreme case but I mention it because there was nothing to ward the behaviour. She was a studious, attentive and diligent student. She did not deserve what happened to her. Another time, she was walking in the town centre when a man jumped off his moped and walloped her on the arse. He laughed and sped off. It was like I was living in an alternate universe. No one batted an eyelid.

Walking to college and visiting the town centre was a different story. “Vous êtes toute seule?” is an absolutely horrible thing to hear when you’re walking down the street. One could not walk in peace, sit on the beach front in peace, drink a coffee in peace. Men were constantly sitting next to us, remarking on how beautiful we are.

I suddenly begin to remember one time sitting by the rocks on Canet plage, I had just been for a swim and my hair was horribly matted and I had sand all over me. A guy came over and asked if I knew how beautiful I was. I was terribly naive and having watched too many rom coms I agreed to let him walk me to the bus stop. In this time he had said everything short of offering a marriage proposal. That night my Facebook was overrun with comments from him and he even shared one of my photos calling me his girlfriend. I blocked him and learned my lesson.

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After the chop

When I cut my hair, I noticed an astonishing difference in male attention. It was like I was sudddenly doing my day to day business in an invisibility cloak. No one noticed me and it was bliss. I was able to walk down the street with ease, I didn’t have to worry about being followed or pestered walking in town. I was alarmed by the difference in being brunette rather than blonde and having short hair rather than long hair.

It didn’t put an end to the harm however. I eventually moved

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Perpignan town centre

I spent ten months in Perpignan. I would like to say it got it easier as time went on, but it didn’t. From speaking with other students, I learned that these were not isolated incidents. Similar incidents were occurring all around the South of France. If you made a move to France, how did you find the intimate aspects of the culture?

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Perpignan on the map
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Phoenix park and its furry inhabitants 

The Phoenix Park is west of Dublin City Centre and is the largest park in Europe. You can find the deer just beyond the Pope’s cross. It is rutting season at the moment so expect to see the stags dueling each other. There’s a lot of noise and clacking of antlers but it is amazing to see.

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  • It is a walled city park.
  • The park was created in 1662!
  • It is 707 hectares making it one of the largest parks in Europe.
  • It is home to hundreds of deer who have free reign over the park since the 17th century.
  • The President of Ireland and the American Ambassador live in the Phoenix Park.

My Traveling Photography Kit

Hey folks! On my recent trip to Lanzarote I decided to go mad and bring whatever gear I had to test it out. I am still learning the ins and outs of photography and I thought it would be fun to share these bits and pieces with you.

Before travelling, I knew that I would be taking the majority of my shots on my camera phone. A couple of weeks ago I purchased the LGG4 smartphone. It was dubbed to be the best camera phone of 2015, in particularly sporting an 8 mega-pixel front facing camera. I picked it up online and it is like a phone with a built in DSLR. No more sore arms!

Amazing video on the LGG4 showing the full specs here.

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Waterproof Smartphone Case:
Lanzarote is a stunning island surrounded by beautiful beaches and vast amounts of ocean. We stayed in Puerto Del Carmen which is a location renowned for its water sports. I knew I would be spending my time jumping in swimming pools, paddling in the ocean and coasting around on a jet ski so I decided to invest in a waterproof case. I picked up the Frieq Waterproof Case in Hot Pink for Amazon.Com. It is not amazing, it’s pretty average. The top is air tight but I am not confident about the seal. It is a plastic and clips over the transparent bag. So I would be similarly happy using a freezer food bag!71Na+FKnoUL._SL1500_ (1).jpg

 

Olixar 3-in-1 Lens
A detachable lens for your smart phone, what will they think of next? I purchased the Olixar Photography Kit. I made a video which you can watch here.IMG_3016.JPG

Selfie Stick
There is nothing new about the selfie stick! They are pretty handy. I got on with the Olixar Photography Kit. We got amazing shots while hiking in Barcelona last year. I didn’t use the selfie stick very much. There were not many opportunities to.

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Tripod for Smartphone
This was part of the kit too and was a last minute idea. Timelapse is the latest photography craze for me. I didn’t use the tripod with the Olixar kit. It was far too risky and my phone fell out three or four times setting up.

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Goose Tripod for Smartphone
This turned out to be pretty crap. I bought it in Dealz and thought it was the bomb.com. It kept moving when I tried attaching it to my bike and I didn’t feel like any of it was secure. I left it behind as I didn’t see the purpose of having it.

Canon EOS 60D
Ah. My trusty camera. Granted, I still don’t know how to use 70% of the functions it sure makes me feel like I know what I am doing! I used my Canon 60D for a lot of my portrait close-ups which you can see on my Instagram page. I use a Canon STM 50mm f\1.8 Lens

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If you have questions, comment below 🙂
Rebecca xo

​3 Rules You Must Break To Fully Experience Your Year Abroad

Erasmus Support
Most third level institutions will boast extensive Erasmus resources and activities for prospective students.

Safety

I am the that person who always texts when I have gotten home safe, the person who has to accompany someone home and would do vice versa. But on erasmus,  your usual mates aren’t there and Mammy isn’t leaving the porch light on for you to come home.

Safety is an important element of travel but it is something I comprised on while on my year abroad. For example: I walked alone – both in the town and mountains, I met up with people from the internet ( in public places), I jumped on trains without paying (it’s not cool by the way) and have quite a bit of back talk to some dodgy looking men on the corner of my rue.

I spent time with people I wouldn’t normally socialise with back home (Rastafarian, Asian community and Arabic community). Cultures I new nothing about. Some had questionable living circumstances and outlandish lifestyle choices some might question. For the most part I was naive and I didn’t really know who I was hanging around with. I had figured that if they were at uni they must not have been dangerous.

I spent money I did not have. Usually to buy things I did not need but only to fill a hole.

Cohabitation

After my first eight weeks in Perignan, I lay in bed one night feeling lonely. I thought about how great it would be to have someone’s arms around me. It wash then I realised I had gone eight weeks without any real human toifu. I went from hugging my Dad every day to holding hands with my ex boyfriend and going to the cinema. I desperately missed that physical human connection.

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Summer Holidays in Lanzarote.

In September 2016, Myself and my better half visited Lanzarote. We opted for a one week stay in Puerto del Carmen. We decided to go on a typical cheap package trip that didn’t involve complicated museum visits, city tours or heaps of walking. We are so Wanderlust right?

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Playa Blanca

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In hope of finding beautiful aqua water and white sands we decided to broaden our horizons. We visited Playa Blanca. We walked along the boardwalk. On the way we peered into some beautiful resorts and admired the stone walls. They reminded me a lot of the stone walls in the west of Ireland.

Soon after, we ate at Sebastyians Greek Restaurant.I had the pork with honey and pineapple. It was simply divine.

Location, location, location

Lanzarote is a volcanic, black and barren island. This may be unappealing for some as it is not overrun with plush green lawns or yards. The majority of buildings are stark white in colour and some hotels can look out of place plonked in the middle of a quarry-type landscape.

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Playa de Papagayo

Lanzarote is small, yet diverse. It has multiple communes but is dominated mostly by British Expats. Puerto Del Carmen is the strip, the urban section with shops and restaurants running along side the beach. It is right next to the airport so you can watch the planes going in and out.

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Playa Blanca is a more beautiful place, with green sea, palm trees and less congestion.

Arrecife is the capital, with an impressive beach and commercial centre.

Arrieta is a surfer’s paradise, it is a small town in Haría with surfing schools. Based on the North of the island is windy making it slightly cooler but the waves are hard to beat.

We stayed in Hotel Aeqora Sentido Lanzarote. It is a modern four star hotel with apartment type rooms and over 368 vacancies. It boasts five pools and close proximity to Puerto Del Carmen beach.

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Famaras Beach, Haría

Wifi

Wifi is not readily available and when it is it is rarely very strong. Most attractions such as Rancho Texas, Beaches and popular restaurants will not have any wifi. Mobile data was good and strong enough for Google Maps, it will cost you a fortune so work offline where possible.

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