My Trips

Rediscovering Ireland: Coney Island, Sligo.

From Eagles Flying to a quaint little island; the next stop on my trip brought me to the lovely Coney Island.  While it may not be as famous as the Coney Island in the USA, it certainly has a lot to offer. Well, at least in my eyes anyway! At approximately 400 acres, the island is quite small to say the least but, as they say, size isn´t everything. The island is located just off the coast of Sligo, between Strandhill and Rosses Point. It´s a curious little island as, if you´re feeling adventurous, you can walk or drive there from Strandhill. Make sure to check the tide times before you go though, the last thing you want is your car to be swallowed by water! However, don´t worry, if you´re not up to the drive then you can always get a boat taxi from Rosses Point. That ruins all the fun though, if you ask me!

Coney Island, which got its name from the vast quantity of rabbits which can be spotted on the island, is an island packed with rugged beauty. Not only is it visually pleasing but, to add to its charm, it is packed full of legends which tell of faeries, mermaids and spirits.  If this is something that appeals to you then this is the island for you. While there, you can indulge in its folklore and visitors can even visit St Patrick´s wishing chair, St Patrick´s well, the remains of a washed up whale and some fairy forts: just to name but a few of the special attractions on this island.

Nowadays, the island is only inhabited by one family. Which, for me anyway, adds to the charm of this little retreat. As you wander around the island, apart from rabbits, you are hard pushed to bump into anyone on the single lane track that boarders the island. Such a fantastic place to go if you want to completely disconnect! Be careful though, as we learned, it is not advisable to drive round the island. Its track is not exactly what I would can roadworthy. We had the rather challenging task of doing a two point turn on a cliff edge, as we could not drive any further on the track. My advice: park up at the pub and explore the island on foot!

So; if you´re looking for an experience that´s a little different,  I´d certainly recommend a trip to the island. I have to say though, as much as I enjoyed the island, the highlight for me was most certainly the drive over. It´s more than a little memorable. At points in the journey you feel as though you´re actually driving on water. My friend and I were so taken by the drive over, it´s all we could talk about when asked about our trip there. It´s not everyday you get the experience of driving through the sea!

There you have it, a short and sweet post on a small and sweet Island. It´s a little later than I had anticipated, life gets in the way sometimes. I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip there.  I most certainly would recommend visiting the island. While I´m not sure if it would be everyone´s cup of tea; I do know that it was an experience I´ll never forget.

Just a quick little note before I go. I have just managed to be featured on Expats Blog, a site which brings the expat community together, and I need your help.
My link is lacking some comments. If you have the time, and you enjoy my blog, please go to this site, vote for my blog and leave a little comment. It will only take a minute and I would really appreciate the support. Thanks very much.
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/6591/chasing-butterflies-sunshine-and-freedom

Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

Rediscovering Ireland: Knocknarea Hill, Sligo.

Next stop on the trip was: Knocknarea Hill. By now, fourth post into this series on Ireland, you may be starting to think that I have a slight obsession with the outdoors. You know what? I probably have. I can´t help it – I just love being out and about; exploring, taking photos. Just enjoying the fresh air, really. That´s why I loved this trip so much! It just felt so good being in the outdoors, soaking up the natural beauty of my surroundings, for a whole week. No work to worry about.  Anyway, enough rambling. Time to tell you all about Knocknarea.image

I was quite excited about this hike. My friend, who does this walk on a regular basis, had been raving about how spectacular it was. She even went as far as saying that I would be in photography heaven once I stepped out of the car and, I have to admit, she was right. However, be warned; you need more than just your camera to venture on this uphill trek. There isn´t one specific pathway, so be sure to wear a good pair of sneakers or hiking boots to navigate the sometimes rough terrain. Apart from being rough, it´s also quite steep and,  after climbing the final 40 feet in this expedition, you will be glad you wore your sneakers. Not only because of the height of the hill but also because the loosely deposited rocks can make this part of the hike difficult at times. However, the pay off when you reach the top makes it worth every minute. All I can say is: if you were impressed by the mountain’s summit, you will be in awe once you reach the top.

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The hike itself takes about forty minutes in all. However, being the photo addict that I am, it took us about an hour in total to do the walk. I was literally winded on this walk, and not due to my fitness levels, the landscape that unfolded was just breath-taking.  The summit of Knocknarea is nothing short of fascinating, offering views of the town and surrounding county. It´s easy to see why William Butler Yeats referred to it as “The land of heart´s desire.” There was just such a variety of tones and textures; between the mountains, the sea and the countryside,  it´s hard not to be impressed by it.

Another little interesting fact about Knocknarea is that, once you get to the top, you will see a 40ft high stone cairn, Meascan Meadhbha. This cairn is said, in Irish folklore, to have been built for the mythical Iron Age Queen Maeve. They say that Queen Maeve was buried there after being killed by her own nephew. Queen Maeve´s death is a curious one, having killed her own sister, her nephew sought revenge and killed her with a piece of hard cheese which he launched from a slingshot – strange but apparently true. Anyway, people say that you should bring a stone up with you to place on the cairn for Queen Maeve, it is meant to bring you luck. However, when we did the walk, I was oblivious to this custom. It was only after, when I was speaking to my uncle, that he told me about the reason for, what I had called: a massive pile of stones on top of the hill. Such a curse to be ignorant to Irish folklore and history. I keep threatening to  become more knowledgeable about Irish history but, unfortunately, I never get round to it: maybe this summer I´ll be able to brush up on my knowledge. Anyway, back to the cairn. Since speaking to my uncle I was inspired to read up on it and was surprised to discover that it is actually the largest unopened cairn in Ireland. They say that under the cairn, apart from Maeve´s tomb, lies a passageway. However, what truly lies beneath will most likely remain a mystery as there are no plans to excavate it.

That´s it for today´s post. It´s a little later than I had anticipated, I had too many corrections to focus on today. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure. Stay tuned for tomorrow´s post.

Just a quick little note before I go. I have just managed to be featured on Expats Blog, a site which brings the expat community together, and I need your help.
My link is lacking some comments. If you have the time, and you enjoy my blog, please go to this site, vote for my blog and leave a little comment. It will only take a minute and I would really appreciate the support. Thanks very much.
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/6591/chasing-butterflies-sunshine-and-freedom

Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

Rediscovering Ireland: Eagles Flying, Ballymote.

From graveyards to wildlife. My next post brings us to the beautiful Eagles Flying Centre, a sanctuary for Birds of Prey and Owls. The sanctuary, located amid the beautiful landscape of North-West Ireland, is one of the biggest centres for Birds of Prey and Owls in the country. The centre, which is run by Zoologist Lothar F. Muschketat, is very different from anything I had ever experienced before. Not only is the focus of the centre on educating people about these glorious species but, also, they have a hospital and rehabilitation centre where they dedicate their time to healing injured birds from around the country.

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Eagles flying is situated on 27 hectares of land. As you make your way around the grounds you really feel like you´re in another world. There are some donkeys, peacocks, hens, pigs, goats, rams, dogs, cats, and ferrets – to name but a few animals, roaming freely in their well-kept habitats. It´s so refreshing to see animals being allowed to wander freely; such a change to all the zoos that I have been to before. Somehow, whenever I go to a zoo, I instantly free sad. Seeing those beautiful animals caged up just feels wrong to me. However, the atmosphere here is completely different. The animals are lively, friendly and uninhibited by human contact. In fact, some of the animals, come running up to you as soon as they see you, which, in my mind anyway, shows just how well looked after they are when they are not afraid or threatened by humans.

How big is that pig?! Goose

The whole experience was a fun one. I was lucky enough to go with a friend and her godson. I say lucky because the staff are fantastic to young children. They were bubbly, full of chat and made the children feel so at ease around the birds and animals which, considering the size of some of the birds, is not an easy task. One of the staff members, who found out about my fear of mice through my friend, even tried to help me get over my fear. However, unlike with the children, he failed to put me at ease! But, hey, at least he tried, right? It´s not his fault I´m a lost cause!

Shortly after we arrived the interactive flying show started. The show itself was overseen by the knowledgeable and humorous  Zoologist Lothar F. Muschketat. I have to say that I loved every minute of the show. The main stars of the show were Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Vultures and Owls. All of  the birds delighted in the act of swooping over your head or, in some cases, landing next to you to say hello. During the show each bird has a moment in the spot light. And, while the birds themselves focus their attention on wowing the audience with their grace and beauty, Lothar provides the audience with detailed information about each bird including their unique hunting and flying skills. One fact that I took away with me is that birds only fly for three reasons: the first one ( quite obvious) is to get from A to B, the second is when they want food and the third is when another bird is attempting to eat them. The rest of the time the birds remain happily perched on branches watching the world go by. While this is actually logical – common sense, really,  I had never taken the time to think about it.

After the show it was time to head to the petting zoo. Which, if I´m honest, was one of my favourite parts. Seeing how excited the children were as they got to play with rabbits, with mice, with sheep and have real piggy backs on the humongous pig was just priceless. At one point Lothar even brought out a snake for the children, and me (the biggest child),to play with. He was so patient with the children, teaching them how to stroke the snake, how to behave around the snake and telling them all about the dangers of being around snakes. He was fantastic. Even when one of the younger kids thought it would be a good idea to run and jump beside the snake Lothar remained calm and just explained the danger of the child´s actions. They did think I was a bit different though;having a fear of mice but yet being able to hold and play with a snake. However, once I quickly explained that any animal that eats mice is a friend of mine, they laughed and saw the funny side of my illogical fear.

All in all, it was a memorable experience. So many things stuck out for me while I wandered through the centre. It was great to see how at peace the animals and birds were in their home, how much freedom they had to roam about, how friendly the staff were and how much time and dedication they gave to each of the animals. It´s an experience I would most certainly repeat again. It´s something that I feel would provide you with a different experience each time you go because, as we all know only too well, animals and birds are spontaneous so each visit would be unique.

If you would like some more detailed information on the sanctuary then feel free to click here to be brought to their website.

That´s it for today´s post. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure. Stay tuned for tomorrow´s post.

Just a quick little note before I go. I have just managed to be featured on Expats Blog, a site which brings the expat community together, and I need your help.
My link is lacking some comments. If you have the time, and you enjoy my blog, please go to this site, vote for my blog and leave a little comment. It will only take a minute and I would really appreciate the support. Thanks very much.
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/6591/chasing-butterflies-sunshine-and-freedom

Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

Rediscovering Ireland: The Grave of William Butler Yeats, Drumcliffe.

Having satisfied our thirst for the outdoors, by visiting the Gleniff Horseshoe, we decided to stop off in Drumcliffe on our way back to Sligo. Drumcliffe, or Drumcliff as it is written in some places, graveyard is a famous landmark in Sligo. As many of you may know, and those of you who didn´t have probably guessed from the title, Irish poet W.B. Yeats chose this peaceful place as his final resting place.

imageThis stunning churchyard is located at the foot of the Benbulben mountain. The scenery there is striking, especially on a sunny day! Apart from the churchyard, and some gravestones, there is a lovely little tea house and craft shop located on the grounds. Just in case you feel a little hungry – the cakes did look amazing in the tea house! However, being celiac, I settled for just a coffee and a quick browse around the craft shop!

So, short and sweet, that was my trip to Drumcliffe.  It´s a sweet little village. However, if it weren´t for W.B. Yeats, I feel that it would go unnoticed. If you plan on doing the Gleniff Horseshoe, then this makes a lovely little stop off: either on the way there or coming back. Especially if you feel like a slice of cake and a warm cup of tea!

I’m going to leave you now with a poem from W.B. Yeats about Drumcliffe. Along with a few photos, unfortunately, due to storage problems on my camera, I have lost most of the photos that I took here that day. Hopefully, though, from the few I managed to retrieve from Facebook (thank god I decided to upload while I was there), you will get a feel for the place.

“Under bare Benbulben´s head

In Drumcliffe churchyard Yeats is laid.

An ancestor was the rector there

Long years ago, a church stands near,

By the road an ancient cross

No marble, no conventional phrase,

One limestone quarried near the spot

By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye

On life, On death

Horseman, pass by!”

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Just a quick little note before I go. I have just managed to be featured on Expats Blog, a site which brings the expat community together, and I need your help.
My link is lacking some comments. If you have the time, and you enjoy my blog, please go to this site, vote for my blog and leave a little comment. It will only take a minute and I would really appreciate the support. Thanks very much.
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/6591/chasing-butterflies-sunshine-and-freedom

That´s it for today´s post. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure. Stay tuned for tomorrow´s post.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

Rediscovering Ireland: The Gleniff Horseshoe.

First port of call when I arrived in Ireland was, Sligo. I had been there before, on a family holiday about twenty-two years ago, but, due to my age at the time, did not have much recollection of the area. However, one thing that had left a lasting impression on me was Benbulben. I remember being blown away at the immensity of this mountain. Especially considering how small I was back then.  So; I was excited to be in the area again and at the prospect of seeing Big Benbulben again.

Benbulben

Benbulben

When I found out that the first stop on my Irish adventure was going to be the Gleniff Horseshoe I really  couldn’t contain myself. It´s funny that it´s referred to as a horseshoe, it´s not a horseshoe at all, in reality it´s an eight kilometer loop of single lane road. However, whatever it may be, it most certainly is impressive. As you drive along the loop you´re surrounded by stunning views of the Tieve Baun, Truskmore, King´s, Benbulben and Benwiskin mountains.

So; off we set, picnic in tow, on our little adventure. We chose to start the loop at Benbulben. However, you don´t have to start there, you can actually start the loop at whichever point you prefer. At first sight, I was rendered speechless. As the sun beamed down on Benbulben´s head all I could do was stand there and soak up the beauty I was seeing. Eventually, once I snapped out of my love struck comma, I managed to take some photos.

Benbulben

Benbulben

Not quite ready to leave Benbulben behind just yet; my friend and I decided to set up a picnic by a stream we had seen under Benbulben´s head. And, let´s face it, after seeing such rugged beauty, we needed to refuel!

After our lovely relaxing picnic it was time to continue the journey. We drove along, stopping here and there when something took our fancy, until we reached the remains of Bartye´s Mill. We parked up here and decided to explore the forest that has been developed through the land. To me, this forest was like a mini horseshoe within the Horseshoe itself. It really was something special. Such a mix of landscapes, textures and beauty.

 

Having completed the walk we found ourselves back in the car heading towards the Magic Hill and Diarmuid and Grainne´s cave. Amazing. I honestly thought nothing could compare to Benbulben but, I was wrong. As we continued uphill this mass of mountains appeared before us. It was like something out of The Lord of the Rings.

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At one point on our journey, the mountains were so imposing that it seemed as though they had shallowed the road and that our only option would be to drive through them.

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Then; the magic came into play. We had heard about this magic hill. A hill where, according to people in the area, a car can “magically” drive itself uphill. Crazy. Not being brave enough we didn´t try it. However, I´m starting to wish we had; just out of curiosity!

 

So; there you have it, the second post in my series: Rediscovering Ireland. Picnics, mountains, caves and magical hills. What more could you want from a drive? If you ever find yourself in Sligo then I highly recommend doing this drive.

That´s it for today´s post. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure. Stay tuned for tomorrow´s post.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

 

Rediscovering Ireland: Introduction

So, those of you who read my posts regularly will know that I was lucky enough to get back to Ireland on holidays this Easter. It´s shocking to think that it´s been almost four years since I last stepped foot in my beloved birth country. However, this, as with everything, has some advantages. Those advantages being that if you´ve been away from a place for so long, when you do go back, it´s like seeing it through fresh eyes, you fall in love with the place all over again. Everything, that you sometimes take for granted while living in a place, is now that little bit more special than before.

Galway

Galway

I had been so busy over the last four years, settling in and falling in love with Spain, that I had almost forgotten just how special Ireland truly is. While that statement is quite shameful to admit, especially seeing as Irish people are known for their pride in their country, it´s  true.
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That said, when my plane landed in Dublin airport, I was full of excitement and anticipation. Greeted by my friends and a rough plan of what was to come I was thrilled to be on Irish soil once again. I have to say my friends are what made this trip for me. They ensured that I got to experience as much as I could while I was home. I´m so grateful for that, with their help I managed to have a jam-packed holiday. So, if you´re reading this, thank you so much!
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That said; due to the vast quantity of places I managed to fit into my trip home, I´ve decided to make my trip home into a series. A post a day on the highlights from my trip. I know that I could have tried to fit them all into one post but I feel that each place merits its own post. Also, I think, if I had chosen to write just one post, it would have ended up being too long. I mean we all know how much I love to talk: being brief is just not something that would work for me. But, I suppose, I wouldn´t be Irish otherwise, would I?
So; I´ve decided to call this series, as the title of this post might suggest: rediscovering Ireland. Not a very original title, I know, but that is exactly what this trip was for me. Seeing Ireland in a new light.
So all that remains in this introductory post is to tell you what to expect over the next number of days. So here it is:
Post two: Rediscovering Ireland: The Gleniff Horseshoe.
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Post three: Rediscovering Ireland: William Butler Yeats Grave.
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Post four: Rediscovering Ireland: Knocknarea.
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Post five: Rediscovering Ireland: Coney Island.
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Post six: Rediscovering Ireland: Strandhill.
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Post seven: Rediscovering Ireland: Eagles Flying.
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Post eight: Rediscovering Ireland: Kylemore Abbey.
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Post nine: Rediscovering Ireland: Kilcooley Abbey.
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So, there you have it. A little taste of what´s to come over the next number of days. I hope you´ll enjoy it as much as I did while I was there!
Hope you all are having a great day.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

Alcoy: The City of Bridges.

It´s funny how things work out sometimes. We all make plans and, some of us, even go as far as making bucket lists. I´m most certainly one of those people. I make lists for everything. Lists of work goals, lists of life goals, lists of things I want to do and places I want to see. Some of these lists being easy to accomplish while others, hmm, let´s just say: debatable.

So; you may be wondering; what´s this got to do with Alcoy? Well; simple. When I first moved to mainland Spain, four years ago now, I was bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager to get to know my new country. I sat down with a pen, my much loved notebook and a map. I started making a list of places I wanted to visit within a two hour radius of where I was living. A realistic bucket list, or at least, that´s what I thought at the time.

Made the connection yet? Yes, I knew you would. One of the lovely places that was lucky enough to make it into my trusty notebook, and onto that glorious list, was Alcoy. Sadly though, I didn´t get to see it before I moved to Córdoba.

That said; once I moved back here, to Murcia, I dragged out that little list, which, by then, had started to gather a thick layer of dust. I vowed to myself there and then to start ticking these places off my list. So; I thought – why not share my experience with all of you?

Enough rambling, onto Alcoy.
Alcoy

When I first heard of Alcoy I was immediately intrigued by it. First of all, because the guidebooks I had read had referred to it as “The real Spain”, quite a bold statement if you ask me. And, secondly, because of its nickname: the City of Bridges. Having been there I can see what the guidebooks meant.

The minute you enter Alcoy you are faced with a mass of Bridges. Alcoy, being a town with many furrowed cliffs and steep drops, needs these bridges due to the natural lie of the land. Some of the bridges date back to the 17th century. Apart from their functional uses, such as providing access to both the industries which border the River Riquer and the more modern parts of the town, they are structurally stunning.

So; apart from the bridges, what has Alcoy got to offer? And, more importantly, why has it been referred to as “The real Spain”? That, I believe, is due to the evident remains of the cultures that once occupied this town. The Moors occupied Alcoy from the tenth to the thirteenth century. Their imprint has remained throughout the centuries and, quite strangely, the Moorish ruins lie beneath the modern day town. It seems that from the fifteenth century, when Alcoy came to prominence and its military might was invaluable to the Alicante region, that Alcoy began to construct a new town. I would imagine, as I haven´t read much on this, that the purpose for this was to accommodate the growth of the town. However, nowadays the town that lies below is not functional and all that remains are ruins. While it is a shame to see a mass of ruins lying below the town, it does add a touch of quirkiness.

Today, Alcoy is a lovely town. As you walk through the streets you get a sense of pride from its inhabitants. One thing that struck me as I walked around was the people. They were all dressed so well and each and every one of them was so friendly. I particularly loved Plaza España as not only was it surrounded by classic architecture but it seemed to be a meeting spot for some of its locals. It was filled with a buzz between the people congregated in the central square and the little shops which had brought their products out onto the street to make shopping a much more inviting experience.


I also loved the little parks that were dotted around this quaint town. They were filled with people and animals and, overall, were pleasant places to visit.

So; the only question that remains is: Is Alcoy worth a visit? Most certainly. Alcoy is a unique town with lots to see. It makes a refreshing change to the busier international holiday resorts in the area. This inland little hub is surrounded by mountains which serve as a backdrop to every street. The natural lie of the land itself is visually pleasing and the numerous bridges and viaduct are spectacular. Alcoy offers something a little different and its people are so welcoming and traditional that it´s a delight to spend time there. While Alcoy may not be everyone´s cup of tea, it´s most certainly a place that can be appreciated by all: especially if you´re keen on history!

I hope that you enjoyed reading about my little  trip and that you´ve all had a fantastic weekend.
Thank you for reading and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo