Serenity Eco Guesthouse, Canggu, Bali

 

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Serenity Eco -Guesthouse, Jalan Nelayan, Canggu

I’m not going to lie. I could base myself absolutely anywhere in Bali and still probably end up wanting to stay forever. Even if anywhere meant the little shack on the beach just 150 metres down the road from Serenity Eco Guesthouse in Canggu.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

 I took a taxi from the airport in Denpasar to Canggu, which took all of about 40 minutes once the driver had calmly arrived 30 minutes late and then proceeded to search the entire car and car park for a further 20 for any sign of his misplaced keys. This was my first encounter with the legendary workings of what they call ‘Bali time’, and let me tell you – it’s a real thing, people! 12388317_10153233258303483_515787682_n

40 minutes late here? An hour behind schedule there? “Sorry mate, I got carried away in the surf! Have you seen it today?”,Oh, yes, we are running late today. How would you like your eggs?”

Nearing Canggu, according to the signs I observed, I tried to commit directions and landmarks outside the window to memory in an attempt to get my bearings for when I rented my motorbike (60k IDR per day from Serenity, but available at a lot of nearby rental-sheds too).

Finally turning onto Jalan Nelayan in Canggu, we pulled up outside the bamboo thatched roof and awning of Alkaline Café, the line of motorbikes parked up outside overshadowed by a large timetable outlining a yoga-schedule for the day, and signs. My kinda place, I thought happily.

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Serenity Eco Guesthouse was everything I’d hoped it would be – and more. Initially only booking in for 3 nights, I ended up staying well over a week and making friends that I am still in contact with even now having returned home.

Maybe it was the fact that up until then I’d been staying in communal hostel rooms of up to 18 people, but the single room at Serenity was perfect. They also have double, privates, and a larger shared backpackers dorm. I splashed out on the single room. Spotlessly clean, secure, and cool even though there was no air con – December in Bali meant it wasn’t entirely necessary.

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Free breakfast and then other meals (not included) at the vegan/vegetarian Alkaline Café were honestly so delicious I was spoiled for choice every day, with the signs around affirming how to ‘Let Food Be Your Medicine’ really reassuring me that what I was getting was good, fresh, organic, and healthy concoctions of both western and Balinese dishes. My first time to try vegan ice cream was genuinely a very pleasant surprise, and I made sure to try almost every flavour of Alkaline’s homemade nice-cream.

Your choice of daily yoga class is only a small bit extra if you stay in Serenity, and the Ashtanga and Vinyasa flows proved both a challenging and refreshing change from the rather monotonous self-practice flow I had become accustomed to on my travels. A special ‘Yoga for Surfers’ is available too for those more inclined to be found on Batu Balong Beach than the yoga studio in the early hours, 150 metres down the road and only a short distance away from the popular Old Man’s, which really is the place to be during any visit to Canggu, no matter if you stay on past happy hour or not.12386743_10153233255198483_419303146_n

The staff were extremely helpful and friendly during my stay and I honestly couldn’t recommend them more – they even took care of me during an extremely rough dose of the 24-hour Bali-Belly bug, which floored me for over a day and meant I couldn’t even leave the guesthouse – DON’T eat at the dingey warungs down by Old Man’s!!

Serenity really caters for the needs of all travellers – proximity to the beach and local nightlife suiting those more inclined to surf for the day, or party at night, whilst the yoga classes schedule meant there was never long to wait before the next class. There were also a few families staying there which I thought was brilliant, the quiet surroundings catering for both young and old, whatever the daytime priority may be. As for me, I partook in all of these activities and more, exploring the local area everyday on my motorbike and returning in the evening for a relaxed chillout by the pool.

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Surf n’ Turf at Batu Balong Beach, Canggu

I really hope I can return to Serenity soon and partake in more of the yoga and meditation sessions- I made friends in the area too who showed me around many of the cool spots aswell as Old Man’s, such as Deus’, Pretty Poison, Betelnut, Café, and Crate, to name but a few (more on the Cafés of Bali HERE).

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My taxi on to Ubud at the end of my stay I shared with one of the many friends I’d made at Serenity, yet we parted ways on arrival as our itineraries differed slightly.

 Serenity recently uploaded this video online and it’s made me nostalgic for the time I spent there, and also made me more determind and eager to return as soon as possible!!

Until then,

Hati-Hati, and Namasté!!

 

 

 

Useful links:

Serenity Eco-GuesthouseFacebook/Twitter
Old Man’s Canggu – Facebook
Betelnut Café – Facebook
Pretty Poison – Facebook

12 Babhla Bricfeásta na mBeatha i mBali – The 12 Breakfast Bowls of Bali

*LEAGAN BÉARLA FAOI – ENGLISH VERSION BENEATH*

 

12 Babhlá Bricfeásta na mBeatha i mBali

 

Cé go mbeadh a ndotháin tithe tábháirne agus bialanna thart timpeall na n-áiteanna is mó i mBali le ’12 Tithe Tábháirne na Nollag’ a chríochniú go héasca agus cáil speisialta na nÉireannach a bheith ‘in ann ól’ a comhlíonadh go héifeachtach, i mbliana is i dtreo eile agus níos soiléire uilig atá mo shúile caite seachas ag dreamanna i ngeansaithe bailithe taobh amuigh na tithe tábháirne nach ligeann isteach iad a thuilleadh. Is cuid ríthábhachtach don lá i mBali é an bricfeasta, ar a ndéantar an iomarca neamhaird agus a chuireann sceitimíní orm fiú ag smaoineamh ar an oiread féidireachtaí, roghanna, agus áiteanna atá fós ann le thriail agam.
Is maith liom fhéin ag éirí go moch ar aon chaoi, leite agus torthaí úir an lae caite ar bun, ach níor smaoinigh mé riamh go mbeadh an méid seo féidirtheachtaí bricféasta timpeall orm anois, ag tógáil an béile is fearr go céim níos airde ná mar a bhí sé ariamh.

Cé nach bhfuil ’12 pubs’ críocnaithe agam i gceart riamh, ná coincheap an rud é féin mínithe go cuí go daoine áitiúla anseo nach bhfuil an dearcadh céanna acu nuair a thagann sé don alcóil in aon chor, tá beartaithe agam i mbliana an dúshlán seo a ghlacadh agus turas a dhéanamh timpeall ar na háiteanna is fearr Babhla Bricféasta a fháil i mBali, seachas pionta Bintang.

Is ag breathnú ar an méid caifé, bialanna agus áiteanna sláintiúla agus orgánacha ar fud na háite atá an cinne déanta agam an liosta seo a chuir le chéile de roghanna torthaí, cnónna, agus cómhabhair úra eile atá feicthe agam go dtí seo. ‘Séard is ‘Babhla Bhricféasta’ ann sa chás seo ná babhla déanta de cnónna cócó agus líonta le meascáin éagsúla de thorthaí, cnónna, sú, granola, coirce, íogurt nádúrtha, síolta, bainne agus im almóinne, spionáiste, rísín, meascanna sú ….leanann an liosta ar aghaidh.

Cé go dtuigim nach bhfuil agam anseo ach tús agus go bhfuil fós neart babhlaí Bali agus roghanna eile le triail agam go fóill (tá súil agam!), i mbliana tháinig mo chomháireamh síos don Nollaig fhéin i bhfoirm na babhlaí galánta, sláintiúla seo a leanas….(gan aon ord áirithe).

 

 

 12. ‘Nagu Bomb’ – Betelnut Café, Canggu

-Dragon fruit, meascaithe, granola orgánach, sú talúin, banana, cnónna cócó gratáilte

Tá cáil faoi leith bainte amach ag Betelnut Café i Canggu le turasóirí agus daoine aitiúla maraon, agus níl ort ach an biachlár a fheiceáil le tuiscint go bhfuil sé tuillte go maith acu!

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 Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

 

11. ‘Shelter Super Crumble le Síolta Orgánacha Chia’ – Shelter Café, Seminyak

-Cnónna cócó, síolta chia, banana, coirce, sú talúin, granola, cnónna, úll stobhta, agus íogurt vanilla, im almóinne
Os cionn Nalu Bowls ar Jayan Drupadi, is seodín rúnda ar an díon é Shelter Café in Seminyak, ag breathnú amach ar pháirc peile agus ag freastal ar gach saghas charball nuair a thagann sé don bhricféasta.

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10. An ‘Teahuppo’, Nalu Bowls – Canggu, Seminyak, Uluwatu.

-spionáiste, banana, bainne cnó cócó, úlla glasa, almóinne, síolta, uisce cnó cócó, granola, agus sméara meascaithe.
An chéad stad ar an liosta de ‘Nalu Bowls‘, agus an ceann ab ansa liom go dtí seo! Tá 3 suíomh ag Nalu Bowls i mBali faoi láthair agus arís is fiú an cuardach a dhéanamh le teacht ar an gcuntar beag gealgáireach – gach rud sláintiúil, orgánach, agus déanta os comhair d’aghaidh!

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

9. Leite Amh Cnó Cócó (Vegan Raw Grain-Free Porridge) –Atman’s Kafé, Ubud

-cnó cócó, síolta flax, almóinne, síolta chia, gallchnó, banana, rísín, síolta puimcín, siúcra palm, torthaí tirim, agus uisce cnó cócó
Go héasca an babhla is ansa liom ar an liosta, d’fhill mé ar Atman’s Kafé  don bhricfeasta cúpla lá ina dhiaidh a chéile ach ní raibh mé in ann aon rud eile a ordú! Breosla teolaí sláintiúil roimh rang íoga láidir sa Yogabarn!

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

8. ‘The Breakfast Bomb’- Crate Café, Canggu

-banana, bainne almóinne,  museli, sú talúin, torthaí an dragúin 
Mothóidh tú mar cheann de na ‘cool kids’ cearta is tú ach ag suí sa chaifé seo. Liosta le háireamh de roghanna bhricfeasta, iad uilig scríofa le marker ar an mballa, mar, yknow, sin an chaoi a dhéanann siad inniu é…

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

7. ‘The Hulk’- Eden Café, Canggu

– spionáiste, avocado, úll glas, bainne cashew, granola, sú talúin, banana, pailin beacha
Go héasca an rogha is saoire ar an liosta, is áit beag, cairdiúil agus dírithe ar an sláinte í Eden Café, chuile rogha ar an mbiachlár líonta le cothathaigh agus vitamín rúnda.

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Suíomh/Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

6.  Chia agus Sméara Meascaithe –Avocado Café, Canggu

– síolta chia, smeara dubha, sméara dearga, bainne cashew, bainne cnó cócó, cnó cócó, cnónna cashew, banana, sú talúin, muesli
Ceann eile ar liosta mór fada na caiféanna in Canggu, thaitin Avocado Café liom go háirithe mar gheall ar na maisiúcháin taobh istigh agus an suíomh breá congarach don bhóthar…

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

5. ‘Super Tropical Bowl’- Garden Kafé, The Yogabarn, Ubud

– torthaí séasúrach le lime, muesli úr agus íogurt nádúrtha beo
Is áit foirfe í an Garden Kafé ag an Yogabarn athbhreosla a dhéanamh tar éis rang crua Power nó Bikram Yoga. Chuile rogha pacáilte le torthaí agus ábhar nádúrtha eile, níl leithscéal ar bith agat ach do chuid torthaí is glasraí a thabhairt in éineacht le do mata íoga!

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Site/Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

4. ‘Uluwatu’- Nalu Bowls, Canggu/Seminyak/Uluwatu

-torthaí dragúin, bainne cnó cócó, banana, papaya, cnó cócó, granola, sú talúin, súanna craobha

Ar ais go Nalu Bowls arís don cheann seo, an ‘Uluwatu’. Níl tú in ann aon rud a fheiceáil faoin granola breise ar bun sa phic seo, ach is dath corcra láidir atá ann ón dragon fruit…dochreidte!

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Site/Facebook/Tripadvisor

3. Leite Almóinne Quinoa agus Vanilla – Shelter Café, Seminyak

– quinoa orgánach, almóinn, bainne almóinne, vanilla, cinnamon, banana, sméara meascaithe, cnónna meascaithe, im almóinne, síolta
Bhí sé seo comh blásta is a bhfuaimníonn sé. Bheadh chuile ábhar leis féin dochreidte blásta, agus mar sin iad uilig curtha le chéile bhí cóisir i mo bhéal an maidin áirithe seo…ba bhreá liom dá dtosódh an Builín Blásta plátaí mar seo a dhéanamh…

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Suíomh/Facebook/TripAdvisor

2. ‘Babhla Thrópaiceach’- Betelnut Café, Canggu

-torthaí dragúin, bainne cashew, granola, cnó cócó, uisce cnó cócó, anann, mealbhacán, banana, cnónna, papaya, síolta chia, im cashew
Tagann Betelnut chun tosaigh arís le babhla blásta eile, an uair seo le bainne cashew agus tuilleadh torthaí ar bhun, atá beagnach níos fearr uilig ná an ‘Nagu Bomb’ cáiliúil atá ag Betelnut anois. Beagnach.

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1. ‘Maverick’s’- Nalu Bowls, Canggu/ Seminyak/Uluwatu

– acai blend, sméara meascaithe, mango, banana, almóinn, sú talúin, granola, bainne almóinne, uisce cnó cócó, cnó cócó
An stad deirineach atá againn ná Nalu Bowls arís agus an blend acai rúnda agus speisialta atá acu. Nílim cinnte fós go díreach céard atá istigh ann, ach tá sé corca, dochreidte blásta agus íocsláinteach!

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Suíomh/Facebook/TripAdvisor

Nollaig Shona daoibh!!!

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-BÉARLA – ENGLISH –

12 Breakfast Bowls of Bali

 

Although there would be more than enough public houses and restaurants with bars around the main areas of Bali to allow for a kind of makeshift ’12 pubs’ and drunken fulfillment of the Irish reputation for being fond of alcohol, this year my gaze has been less-hazily drawn towards the woolly-jumper clad throngs of merry-makers congregated expectantly outside the various pubs that no longer let them in, but towards something else entirely. It’s the one part of any day in Bali that gets massively overlooked and deserves a whole lot more attention, purely because the breadth of possibilities and flavours it encapsulates is so vast I get excited just thinking about the options and places I’ve yet to try and discover.

I’m an early-riser anyway, and it’s no secret how fond I am of my porridge, but the expanse of healthy and delicious breakfast-food options available in Bali has taken things to another level entirely.

Aside from the fact that I’ve never actually successfully completed a real 12 pubs let alone attempted explaining the concept of it to a Balinese locaility where a Bintang with dinner is considered a luxury, I’ve decided this year to take my proximity to all of these delicious menus to my advantage. The sheer amount of health-food cafés and restaurants along almost every street boasting organic and fresh ingredients and original recipies with bowls of fruity, nutty, and tasty goodness have led me to compile this list of 12 of the most impressive and delicious “Breakfast Bowls” I’ve encountered thus far – ‘Breakfast Bowl’ in this sense being used to describe the coconut-bowl-servings available in nearly all of these establishments of varying mixes of fresh fruits, granola, nuts, berries, seeds, muesli, oats, yoghurt, nut butters, chia and acai blends, coconut milk, water and juice mixes and spinach infused with yet more fresh fruit on top….the list of deliciousness goes on.

 While I’m aware I’ve probably only barely touched the tip of the mint and lime-infused iceberg of breakfast bliss, and that there are still (hopefully) many many mornings I’ve yet to wake up to these bowls of happiness, my festive countdown this year has come in the form of these brightly coloured and elaborately decorated bowls of fruit and health foods, as follows (in no particular order)…

  12. Nagu Bomb – Betelnut Café, Canggu

Dragon fruit, mixed berries, coconut milk, granola, strawberries, banana, grated coconut
You only have to glance at the menu in Betelnut Café, Canggu to understand the hype and reputation it has built up for itself among tourists and locals alike!

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

11. Shelter Super Crumble with Organic Chia Seeds – Shelter Café, Seminyak

-coconut, chia seeds, banana, oats, strawberries, granola, nuts, vanilla yoghurt, stewed apple, and almond butter
Shelter Café is a hidden gem situated on a rooftop above the Seminyak branch of Nalu Bowls, looking out over a local football pitch and catering to every kind of palate imaginable when it comes to breakfast!

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11. The ‘Teahupp’O’ – Nalu Bowls, Canggu, Seminyak, Uluwatu

-spinach, green apple, granola, chia seeds, ginger, orange, pineapple, mango, banana, mixed berries, almonds, coconut water, coconut milk
The first stop on the list of Nalu Bowls, and my favourite until now! Nalu Bowls currently have 3 locations around Bali and again it’s worth the searching for this small, bright counter – everything healthy, organic, and put together right in front of your face!
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Site/Facebook/TripAdvisor

9. Raw Vegan Grain-free Porridge Bowl- Atman’s Kafe, Ubud

-coconut, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, pumkin seeds, dried fruits, raisins, bananas, palm sugar, coconut water
Easily my favourite bowl on the list! I returned to Atman’s Kafe a few days in a row but wasn’t able to make myself order anything else! Perfect hearty fuel to get you through a power yoga class at the Yogabarn!

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

8. ‘The Breakfast Bomb’- Crate Café, Canggu

– Banana, almond milk, muesli, cashew nuts, strawberries, extra banana and dragon fruit on top!
You will feel cool and like part of the gang just sitting at this café. Trust me. Endless breakfast options, all written on the wall in permanent marker because, yknow, that’s hip and stuff…

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Facebook/ TripAdvisor

 

7. ‘The Hulk’- Eden Café, Canggu

– spinach, cashew milk, banana, avocado, green apple, bee pollen, granola, strawberries
Easily the most affordable option on this list, Eden Café is an extremely friendly and health-orientated little place, every option packed to the brim with nutrients and hidden healthy boosters.

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6. Chia and Mixed Berry Bowl – Avocado Café, Canggu

– chia seeds, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, banana, cashew milk, strawberries, muesli, coconut, coconut milk
Another to add to the list of amazing Canggu cafés is Avocado Café. I especially liked the decor in this place and it was really usefully situated right at the top of my road!

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

5. ‘Super Tropical Bowl’- Garden Kafé,  The Yogabarn, Ubud

– seasonal fresh fruit with lime, raw muesli and live probiotic yoghurt
The Yogabarn’s very own café is an amazing place to refuel after a tough Power or Bikram yoga session, and with wholesome, organic and freshly prepared juices, you’ve no excuse not to pack the fruit and veg along with your yoga mat.1931892_10153243943753483_1150289886_n

 

 

4. ‘Uluwatu’ – Nalu Bowls, Canggu/Seminyak/Uluwatu

dragon fruit, banana, papaya, coconut milk or apple juice, strawberries, coconut, raspberries, granola
Back to Nalu bowls again for this one, the ‘Uluwatu’! You can’t see it in this picture underneath all the extra granola but the smoothie blend is a deep beautiful shade of purple from the dragon fruit…unbelievable!

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Site/Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

 

3. Vanilla Almond Quinoa Porridge – Shelter Café, Seminyak

– Organic quinoa, vanilla, coconut milk, cinnamon, banana, berries, mixed nuts, almond butter, fresh almond milk
This was just as delicious as it sounds. Absolutely every ingredient alone is mouth-wateringly tasty and so combined it made for pure porridge heaven. I’d absolutely love if the Builín Blásta started doing dishes like this….

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2. ‘Tropical Bowl’- Betelnut Café, Canggu

-dragon fruit, cashew milk, pineapple, watermelon, mango, grated coconut, chia seeds, granola, cashew butter, coconut water
Betelnut delivers yet again with another bowl of deliciousness, the addition of cashew milk to this one and a heap more fruit on top making it almost preferable to the famous Nagu Bomb Betelnut has become famous for. Almost.

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Facebook/TripAdvisor

1. ‘Maverick’s’ – Nalu Bowls, Canggu/Seminyak/Uluwatu

-acai blend, mixed berries, mango, banana, almond milk, chia seeds, strawberries, coconut water, shredded coconut meat, granola
Our last stop is back in Nalu Bowls again, for a taste of their own special secret acai blend. I’m still not entirely sure what exactly it contains but it’s purple, super tasty and incredibly healthy!

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Site/Facebook/TripAdvisor

 

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

The Secret of 61 – Dublin’s Stop on the Subway

Foodswings Reviews

Platform 61 – South William Street

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Barely a subway stop away from St. Stephen’s Green, your ticket to Platform 61 is finally here as the newly-opened underground kitchen cooks up some of the tastiest grub South of the city, providing a service worthy of the VIPs catered for at the elusive ‘Platform 61’ on the New York subway for which it is named. They don’t take Leap Cards, but you’re sure to be warmly welcomed on arrival!

Reserved for presidents and art-enthusiasts lucky enough to be on the guestlist for one of Andy Warhol’s famous ‘underground parties’, the story of the secret platform beneath New York’s  Waldorf Astoria Hotel is a treat in itself to listen to, the various Warhol quotes around the walls and abstract banana signposts in the bathroom reminding you at regular intervals that there is more to this restaurant than meets the eye.

 As you enter through golden doors reminiscent of 1960s New York elevators and decor Don Draper (Mad Men) would be proud of, you can’t help but feel slightly disorientated as the black marble walls mirror one another, making great use of a small space yet still succeeding in coming across extremely classy.

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Only in it’s third week of business here in Dublin, there was no sign of any maintenance work or staff ‘only learning’ the ropes, and the service ran smooth and punctual from one course to the next. A mixture of options on the menu caught my eye as we debated over what direction to take, eventually settling on the ‘Italian Mozzarella and Tomato’ dish and the ‘Shrimp Gambas’ to start. I’m a fan of small menus as it minimalises decisions, but to be fair everything looked very good and we weren’t disappointed, each dish being served promptly and proving realistic portion-sizes, unlike many of the new food-stops that have sprung up recently around Dublin.

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 The steak was sampled, as was the Superfood Salad with added chicken, and although prices slightly outreached that of the average commuter dinner it was made up for in taste and quality, the sweet potato fries on the side adding a delicious kick and nice reminder that eating out doesn’t always have to mean greasy, unhealthy & unnecessary indulgence.

 Our munching on the shrimp and subsequent pomegranate seeds in my Superfood Salad was accompanied by an absolutely killer playlist in the background, the likes of Alt-J and Foals providing the icing on top of the dessert that we were too full to order, though in hindsight I would have liked to try the Flourless Nut Brownie.

The lunch and brunch menus also looked incredible, the ‘Stun Bun’ in particular catching my eye, a ‘grilled chicken fillet on a brioche bun with guacamole, tomato, onion, baby gem and homemade tomato relish served with spicy potato wedges’. Due to it being still in the early stages of the restaurant opening, however, the waiter informed me that they had yet to start serving this menu, instead focusing for now on the dinner options. I will definitely be back to sample a Stun Bun when they do!!

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A glass or two of Chilean White wine and a house speciality beer cocktail later (a delicious concoction of Luxembourg-brewed beer, lime and apple juice) the whole experience was over too soon as we had to leave to catch the next train home.

Navigating our way out to the world back above ground it was easy to see how Platform 61 would go unnotticed, a haven glowing golden down below one of the busiest streets for bars and restaurants in the city.

Overall we were extremely pleased with the experience, and will definitely be recommending the service for anyone wishing to be transported back in time as they chow down on great food, the journey from starters right through to a final farewell complimentary glass of wine proving comfortable and enjoyable, in a stimulating and artistic environment.

 ‘Mind the Gap’ and be wary of the steep steps on the way out of the platform – especially if you’ve sampled some of the beer cocktails!!

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Useful links:

Platform 61 on Facebook
Platform 61 on Twitter (@Platform61)
Platform 61 website

The Good Food Store!

Foodswings Reviews – The Good Food Store

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 This is actually not my first trip to The Good Food Store, but it’s the first time I’ve sat in, which I feel gives me a lot more credibility to write about the place accurately.

I got free cake with a coffee I bought last week, which I’m only seeing now that I’ve started following them on social media was being given out because it was the ‘2 year anniversary’ of their first store in Ballsbridge opening. Sweet.
This branch itself on South Great George’s Street still has the woodshavings and empty-box feel of a place that is just coming to terms with the fact that it’s long narrow interior has been bustling with activity since a rather- rushed opening – the place is extremely busy!
With their homemade selection of delicious organic salads, soups, hot pots and sandwiches, for anyone working in or around the area The Good Food Store is an absolute must-try for a quick steal of a lunch. The salads come in 2 sizes, and prices are based on weight, but really the taste of the sweet potato, spinach and cashew nut, and also the roasted veg mix concoctions will have you willing to throw your hard-earned fiver at the friendly and helpful staff behind the counter. Alternatively you can choose to fill a sandwich, roll, wrap or bap with whatever you fancy, a small hot-meat counter ensuring the freshest of cuts and marinated chicken breasts. A great selection of homemade cakes and bread also draw the eye as you debate over what goodness to indulge in, the deliciously soft chocolate fudge cake I tasted last week glistening enticingly at me as I glanced over them.

 If yelling at the friendly cashier to ‘take my money!!’ doesn’t do the trick, you can busy yourself while you queue by studying the amazing selection of organic health foods and fresh produce stocked along the walls that they also supply. Nut butters, vitamins, fresh fruit and veg, and not to mention a great selection of vegetarian and vegan products, The Good Food Store is really exactly what it says on the tin – and more, because a great deal of the brands on sale are Irish.

Being my nosy self I commented as I sat at the makeshift table area down at the back, only 3 chairs facing the deli in a bar-like setting – ‘This place would do brilliantly as a café!”
The waitress who heard me turned and smiled, saying there are definitely plans in the pipeline to expand, and that where I was currently sat was merely a provisional layout while things took off.

This knowledge delighted me, not only the fact that I was now privy to it, but the thought of coming here for a lunchdate and actually sitting in a more open-plan, chill interior surrounded by such freshness, feel-good people and products made me extremely excited, and I made sure to take a glance over the menu options again as I left to plan ahead for my next visit.
The Ariosa coffee blend used also proved delicious, another homegrown brand, and I left feeling altogether more balanced; a happy tummy filled with ‘Good Food’ proving the key to a less stressful and more productive afternoon.

Literally my only qualm being the fact that there are only a few bar-stool seats offered as a ‘sit-in’ option having been debunked and deemed a temporary issue, I couldn’t recommend a trip to The Good Food Store more highly.
Prices range from the small salad box right up to the larger filled-sandwich options, but really if you come to a place like this it’s quality you’re after, and the delivery of that quality is more satisfying than anything!

Useful links:

The Good Food Store on Facebook
The Good Food Store on Twitter
The Good Food Store 

Seaweed and Martinis

Foodswings Reviews – The Meeting House

Burmese Cuisine in the heart of Temple Bar!

This place has been on my ‘must-try-sometime’ list of restaurants and bars in Dublin that I walk past regularly for a while now, although for no particular reason– it just looks very cool from the outside. Graffitied exterior and prime location off Meeting House Square in Temple Bar (hence the name) aside, as soon as you walk into The Meeting House it’s clear the place means business with it’s colourfully decorated and well-lit walls scattered with Marilyn Monroe-meets-The Joker quotes and pictures that are guaranteed to get even the most awkward of Tinder-dates talking.
That’s not all there would be to discuss, as every single option on the menu contained something we found very difficult to pronounce, and we mused for a good fifteen minutes over all the exotic looking choices. As there were 3 of us, we decided eventually to go with the menu option of 6 dishes for €36 (it was a Monday), as opposed to the 3 for €21 that would have suited just two. We were chuffed to discover that all prices were €3 cheaper on Sundays and Mondays, a fact which greatly influenced our decisions and indulgent sides!
I must point out here that all the portions themselves were quite small – think 3 tapas between 2 people, 6 between three – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it was dinnertime!
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My choice, which was also to share (when it comes to tapas, I find things generally don’t get too heated so long as everyone is on mutual terms about the whole ‘sharing’ thing!) was a Fillet of Sea Bass with Stem Broccoli in a fish broth infused with Lemongrass, and the Crab Salad with strips of Mango and Peanuts. This was extremely tasty, however slightly small, and definitely would not have served as a full dinner.

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As we had all agreed we would try each others’ dishes, I also succeeded in tasting the Tuna Sashimi on a bed of seaweed, Prawn Tempura, and the Organic Chicken Coconut Curry, all of which were delicious – the chicken curry was probably the only dish big enough to be considered a satisfying full meal in itself, but we enjoyed picking and tasting, also ordering a side of Sweet Potato Fries because let’s be honest, who doesn’t order Sweet Potato Fries when they’re on the menu?!
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Although initially being refused entry as we had arrived ten minutes prior to opening at 5.30pm (talk about eager eaters!!), the service proved itself both speedy and cheerful, with our drinks order arriving promptly before the food, and being checked back consistently every 10-15 minutes to ensure our continued satisfaction.
A good selection of craft beers such as Brew Dog and Five Lamps Lager kept us chirpy throughout the meal, and instead of asking for a dessert menu we decided to indulge in some of the extremely attractive-looking cocktails following the 6 empty plates’ hasty departure from the table in the arms of the attractive waiter. The ‘Pornstar Martini’ came complete with half a passion fruit floating on the top, while the decision to sample a classic ‘Old-Fashioned’ really allowed us to channel our inner Don Draper from Mad Men, with a curled orange-rind and crystallized glass only partially masking the strength of the whiskey.
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Overall, our group thoroughly enjoyed the visit to The Meeting House, and our decision to move elsewhere for a final drink was only made because we felt another ‘Old-Fashioned’ would have sent us too far over the edge! The fact that it was a Monday and everything was a whole 3 euro cheaper (€6.66 for all dishes and drinks on Sundays and Mondays!!) really added to our cheerfulness as we bid farewell to the establishment, accidentally spilling some candlewax on the counter as we tried to read some of the other quotes written on the walls inside.

While we were lucky that our choice of day was in accordance to the cheaper menu prices, Tuesday-Saturday prices would still warrant a visit, with all dishes and drinks standing at €9.99. If you’re seeking a bigger feed however, you’d be better off ordering the 3 or 6 dishes deal, depending on the size of your company – Burmese Tapas would be a better description of the single menu options, but for light and exotic bites The Meeting House succeeds in every way. Overall atmosphere was extremely pleasant and welcoming, despite the rain outside, and the playlist was great. Will surely be returning soon – if only for the generous cocktail sizes!

Useful Links:
The Meeting House on Facebook 
The Meeting House Website

Cakes on the Corner of Camden

Leagan Gaeilge(Irish Version)
Foodswings Reviews – Cakes on the Corner of Camden 
I have a new favourite café in Dublin!
I’m not going to lie – I haven’t much of a notion how to go about this whole ‘food critic/restaurant review’ craic, but I sure as hell felt I had to say something about this place!
I get the impression that The Cake Café, just off Pleasant’s Place (even the name of the STREET is inviting) and also accessible through Daintree’s craft shop on Camden Street, is probably not such a well-kept secret as it would have been a short while ago before it’s inclusion on Dublin’s ‘Fab Food Trail’, and generally widespread word-of-mouth praise it’s gotten from everyone I know who recognises it.

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I arrived shortly before lunchtime and even then its’ cosy interior was bursting with life and the aroma of fresh Irish produce, homemade goods and an exciting freshly blended coffee that was leaving home in takeaway cups with the delightfully punny message ‘Cupán Will Ya??’ printed on them (I’d be lying if I said I’m not a fan of ‘The ol’ bitta’ Gwaeilga’”). Brian Dobson was sat in one corner sipping a coffee and looking slightly out of place while a few other well-to-do looking clientele in suits and blazers clustered around some of the rickety seats outdoors, & I noticed some wine glasses and attractive looking craft beers nestled amongst the freshly squeezed glasses of juice and mugs of tea.
My kinda’ place, I thought.
I trudged in with my yoga mat slung over one shoulder and a laptop in my bag, navigating my way through the tightly packed and populated little tables, looking for somewhere new to do a bit of work and hoping against hope I’d fit in with some of the other ‘foodies’ and lunchtime coffee-lovers who began arriving as the dainty little china-clock on the wall ticked closer to 1pm.
 When I say this place does everything, and does it well, I mean it. Divided into a ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Savoury’ section, with options of sides and of course the all-important ‘Cakes’ at the end, the menu itself as a whole is not extensive. As I sat and downed my coffee however, I couldn’t help but notice how mouth-wateringly tasty and also most importantly healthy everything that was being served to many clearly very regular customers looked.
The staff bustled around cheerfully, acknowledging some by name and others simply with a warm smile and gesture of the hand to an empty table. I gave in and asked for a menu, eventually deciding on the ‘Chorizo and Goats’ Cheese Salad with Homemade Brown Bread’, substituting the chorizo for chicken, and biting my tongue hoping I wouldn’t end up with food envy as the little girl beside me was served granola with natural yoghurt topped with peanut butter and banana. (The staff get bonus points for being so sound about this minor adjustment to my order).
While the child’s bowl of yoghurt and peanut-buttery goodness had me already pre-planning my breakfast for the following morning, the arrival of my meal sufficiently distracted me from thinking ahead so much, and I was forced back to the moment to devour this fantastic concoction of flavours, nourishment and colour which also scores triple bonus points for being super super healthy and satisfying.
I usually despise dates, but these ones were warm and gooey and complimented the rest of the ingredients incredibly well – I thought I was hilarious messaging a friend a picture of it and organising a ‘date’ there again next week.
unnamed-2Chicken, goats’ cheese, dates & beetroot salad with homemade brown bread’
Before I get too excited about the (fabulously yummy) Lunch and Breakfast menus, I must mention the cakes. It is, afterall, in the nature of a ‘Cake Café’ to serve cake. ‘The Cake Shop’ people (because what else would we call them) pride themselves on ‘making and delivering cakes to order within 24 hours’, and surely enough I witnessed a steady flow of orders and cake-for-money transactions over the counter taking place while I munched on my beautifully served lunch. Not only pre-ordered and entire cakes, of course, but slices, buns and tarts too. While the variety looked fabulous, and certainly everyone around me seemed extremely satisfied with their choice of tartlets, I actually didn’t taste any of the cakes that first day. I couldn’t decide, and after my decadent (and very satisfying) lunch, I simply didn’t feel the need to indulge. If the other food is anything to go by though, I thought, it’s definitely something I need to try soon.
Price was something I had been concerned about, given the seeming exclusivity of this oasis of nourishment, yet the quality of the food and the atmosphere of the place in general really sent any qualms I’d had flying with the iced butterflies which decorated some of the cupcakes. I lingered awhile after finishing my meal, observing mostly, but also succeeding in getting some work done – one thing I noted was that the eggs and also the roasted vegetables seemed to be very popular choices.
The fact that they serve wine, prosecco, and a selection of beers and cocktails really just put the icing on the cake (wouldn’t be a cake shop review without that sentence!) for this place, and I made a mental note to come back some evening for a tipple and some cake before heading out on Camden Street.

Returning the following day to grab a coffee and takeaway piece of lemon yoghurt cake (devine in it’s own right), I may have emitted a momentary ‘fangirl’ squeal of delight as I spotted Bressie on the opposite side of the café. Yep. Bressie. Fairly sure he caught me looking, too. Bressie likes cake. Therefore, I like cake. Don’t we all?!

If that’s not enough to persuade you to come to The Cake Café soon, I don’t know what is.
Yum!
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Useful Links:
 Dublin’s Fab Food Trails
@The Cake Café on Twitter
The Cake Café on Facebook
The Cake Café Online

LEAGAN GAEILGE

Cácaí ar Chúinne Camden

Leagan Béarla
Tá caifé nua aimsithe agam i mBaile Átha Cliath!!
 An fhírinne glan – níl tuairim dá laghad agam maidir leis an gcraic seo i dtaobh ‘léirmheas caifé/criticeoir bialann’ a dhéanamh, ach d’airigh mé go raibh orm rud eicínt a rá faoin áit seo!
Díreach as Pleasant’s Place (meallann fiú ainm na sráide mé!) agus insroichte freisin tríd siopa Daintree’s ar shráid Camden, glacaim le seachmall nach rún eisiach a thuilleadh é ‘The Cake Café’, comh mór is a bhíodh tamaill ó shin sular cuireadh san áireamh é ar Dublin’s Fab Food Trail, a chuidigh go mór le cogar na sráide a scaipeadh ar fud na háite faoi.
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Is mé ag teacht isteach seal beag roimh am lóin, bhí an áit beag teolaí ag pléascadh le beatha, boladh thairgeadh úr na hÉireann, tairgí bhaile, agus pónairí caifé úra ag fágail bhaile i gcupáin brandáilte leis an bhfrása iontach ‘Cupán Will Ya?’! (Admhaím go mbím thar a bheith sásta an Ghaeilge a fheiceáil in úsáid nuair nach bhfuil mé ag súil léi!).
Ina shuí sa chúinne ag ól braoinín caifé agus ag breathnú beagáinín as áit bhí Brian Dobson, fad is a bhailigh cúpla culaith eile thart timpeall ar na boird beaga a bhí taobh amuigh. Thug mé cúpla gloine fíona agus beoir ceirde faoi dheireadh i measc an sú úr agus muigíní tae ina measc.
Mo chineál áite’, a smaoingh mé dom fhéin.
Shiúil mé isteach go hamhrasach le mata íoga thar ghulainn amháin, agus laptop sa lámh eile, ag lúbadh mo bhealach isteach tríd na boird a bhí dingthe agus daonraithe le hoibrithe oifige ó na comhlachtaí móra timpeall na háite. Ní raibh cúis imní agam le fada, dar ndóigh, de réir is a tháinig na ‘foodies’ eile isteach, ag líonadh na háite faoin am ar shroich an clog beag caoindéanta le 1 i.n.
Nuair a deirim go bhfreastalaítear ar chuile thaobh san áit seo, agus go bhfreastalaítear go maith ar, deirim go láidir é. Scartha i rannóga ‘Bricfeásta’ agus ‘Lón’, le rudaí breise le fáil ar thaobh agus dar ndóigh na ‘Cácaí’ ríthábhachtacha ag deireadh, níl an biachlár é fhéin roleathan. Is mé ag glugadh siar mo chuid caifé, áfach, ba léir dom go raibh na rogha uilig ar an mbiachlár dochreidte agus níos tábhachtaí arís – thar a bheith sláintiúil, is mé ag faire amach orthu ar a n-aistear ón gcistin don bhord.
D’imigh na mná óga ag obair ann thart i bhfuadar an chaifé ag freastal ar roinnt custaiméirí le hainmneacha ar eolas acu, agus roinnt eile le mangáire agus comhartha i dtreo na boird a bhí fós folamh.
Ghéill mé faoi dheireadh, agus d’iarr mé biachlár uathu, mo chinneadh tar éis roinnt éiginnteacht ag dul leis an ‘Chorizo and Goats’ Cheese Salad with Homemade Brown Bread’, ag iarraidh sicín in ionad an chorizo, agus ag súil go mór nach dtiocfadh ‘food envy’ orm is an cailín óg in aice liom ag fáil granola le íogurt nádúrtha, peanut butter, agus banana. (Pointí sa mbreis ag dul go na freastalaí álainne as a bheith comh deas faoin athrú beag seo i m’ordú).
Is an babhla granola in aice liom do mo chur amú agus ag pleanáil bhricfeásta don lá amárach cheana féin, stop mé ag smaoineamh comh fada chun tosaigh nuair a tháinig mo bhéile fhéin. Cuireadh díreach ar ais so nóiméad mé le blaiseadh a thógáil den mheascán speisialta seo de cháis, trátaí, sicín, dates, beetroot, agus roinnt dathanna agus glasraí úir eile! Faigheann an saléid seo pointí chun tosaigh arís as a bheith thar a bheith sláintiúil agus taitneamhach, agus freisin as caighdeán an arán donn a tháinig in éineacht leis.
De gnáth ní thaitníonn dátaí liom (dates), ach bhí na cinn seo te agus bog agus chuir siad go mór leis na blais eile a bhí ar an bpláta – cheap mé go raibh feith an ghrinn liom ag seoladh pictúir dóibh go cara liom ag eagrú ‘dáta’ eile ann ansin an tseachtain seo chugainn.
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Saléid de goats’ cheese, sícín, beetroot, dátaí agus arán bhaile
Sular n-éirím ró-sceitimíneach faoi na biachláir (thar a bheith blásta!) i gcomhair lóin agus bricfeásta, caithfear trácht a dhéanamh ar na cácaí. Is ‘Cake Café’, atá ann, ar deireadh. Cúis bróid atá ann do mhuintir na gcácaí (mar céard eile a gcuirfeá orthu!?) cácaí a dhéanamh is a sheoladh amach le hordú taobh istigh de 24 uair a chloig. Cinnte, is mé ag suí ann liom fhéin ar mo sháimhín só le mo lón chonaic mé neart idirbheart cáca-d’airgid ag tarlúint thar an gcuntar. Ní hamháin cácaí réamhordaithe nó fiú cácaí ina iomláin, ach slisíní, bocainí, agus tartaí ildáite comh maith!
Cé gur bhreathnaigh na rogha uilig dochreidthe, agus ba chosúil go raibh súp á bhaint astu ag na daoine thart timpeall orm a roghnaigh ó liosta na gcácaí, níor thriáil mé aon cheann acu an chéad lá sin. Ní raibh mé in ann cinneadh a dhéanamh, agus tar éis mo bhéile (thar a bheith sóúil) fhéin, níor theastaigh uaim a thuilleadh bia saibhir an lá sin. Rinne mé cinneadh liom fhéin áfach go bhfillfinn ar ais go luath le ceann a bhlaiseadh.
Ba chúis imní dom an praghas a shamhlú is mé ar an eolas faoin eisiachas atá ag baint leis an áit seo, ach sheol caighdeán an bhia agus an tseirbhís aon amhras a bhí agam ag eitilt glan as mo chloigeann leis na bhféileacháin ildáite ag maisiú na gcacáí. D’fhán mé ar feadh tréimhse ina dhiaidh mo bhéile a chríochniú, ag faire amach timpeall orm, agus thug mé le fios gur rogha coitianta a bhí sna huibheacha agus sna glasraí rósta ar arán donn.
Ba shilín ar an gcíste é (ní léirmheas ‘Cake Café’ a bheadh ann gan an frása sin a úsáid!) go bhfuil fíon, prosecco, agus rogha deas beoir agus manglaim (cocktails) á ndíol acu comh maith, agus cinneadh eile á dhéanamh agam liom fhéin teacht ar ais oíche eicínt le deoch agus píosa cáca roimh dul amach ar shráid Camden.
Ag filleadh ar ais an lá dar gcion le cupán caifé a fháil agus píosa cáca (go hálainn, ní bhéinn ag súil le níos lú!), scaoileadh sceamh beag ‘fangirly’ ó mo bhéal nuair a chonaic mé Bressie ag suí ar thaobh eile an chaifé. Sea. Bressie. Beagnach cinnte gur thuig sé mé ag stánadh air, freisin. Taitníonn cáca le Bressie. Mar sin, taitníonn cáca liom. Nach hea sin a dheireann siad??
Mura dtugann sé seo cúis duit cuairt a thabhairt ar an ‘Cake Café’ go luath, níl a fhios agam céard eile ar féidir liom a rá.
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Íum!

Nascanna úsáideacha:

 Dublin’s Fab Food Trails
@The Cake Café ar Twitter
The Cake Café ar Facebook
The Cake Café Online

European Vs Irish Music Festival – What We’re Missing Out On

Okay, so it’s not as if I’m pretending to be an expert or hardcore attendee of music festivals all over the world, but I like my music, I like my festivals, and I just thought I’d express some opinions and realisations I’ve had here after attending Sziget festival in Budapest last week.
As someone whose general vision and experience of music festivals has up until now included multiple layers of clothing, umbrellas, ponchos, muck, and copious amounts of alcohol, the differences between this European festival and the likes of Electric Picnic or Forbidden Fruit at home were something that hit me at every single colourfully signposted and culturally unique corner.

 First of all, and probably most obviously; the weather. Having gone from being a total newbie to the interrailing lifestyle, my opinion of European climates ranging from varying extremities of heat to cold and ‘home’ as a default becoming all jumbled up in my head all meant I hadn’t given the temperature much thought before I left. Luckily my instincts overpowered at this point as the word ‘holiday’ seems to have been engrained upon my brain, triggering an unconscious reaction to pack only Summer clothes.
The weather in Budapest at Sziget this year rarely dropped below 30 degrees, something which makes or breaks a pale ginger Irish fresh-air junkie such as myself, especially considering the lack of air conditioning available whilst camping (I’ll give you a guess – there’s none!!). Not to mention the constant battle with our neighbouring ant colony to keep the tents clean and cool enough to actually provide some sort of respite from the blaring midday heat. I’ve gotten to the stage now where I know better than to even try to withstand a sun like that for longer than a few minutes at a time, and dreams of attaining an actual tan from it are frankly laughable, so my bottle of factor 40 came with me everywhere I went.
My one main complaint with festivals at home has always been simply that it has been too cold. There’s only so many times you can justify standing waiting for one of your favourite bands, shivering beneath layers of soaked plastic ‘waterproof’ jackets and squelching along miserably back to a tent that may or may not yet have been flooded, trampled on, or worse – inhabited by unknown drunkards mistakenly thinking they’ve found their own resting hovels. Of course, this may be where the tendency to over-indulge in alcohol comes into play at Irish festivals – any excuse to keep warm and be able to sleep somewhere you usually wouldn’t put your dog to rest is surely going to sound like a good option after dutifully standing in wait for hours in unpredictable and rowdy crowds at varying levels of intoxication.
But this is what I mean. The good weather lent itself to every aspect of the festival abroad. Not only did it allow us to enjoy the daytime activities and decorative features for what they really were – a makeshift ‘beach’ and volleyball courts adding hugely to the ‘holiday’ feel of the place – but the sun and warm weather put everyone around in a good mood, and generally just brought out the best in everything. In that heat, tolerance for alcohol is down, so one or two drinks is all that was necessary to obtain a good buzz; even at that there were days where I completely avoided the bars, not by choice, just by sheer preoccupation with the amount of things there were to do and see around me. This in itself is a huge contrast to any festival at home, where the general consensus once entry has been successfully gained and tents hurridly pitched is to ‘head for the bar’ or ‘meet back here for pints’. Starting as you mean to go on only really works when the festival itself only lasts a day or two – a week of that kind of debauchery would be enough to cripple even the most seasoned festival-drinker.
Even so, it was amazing to see all those different walks of life and nationalities merging together in one place like a giant Noah’s Ark, as representatives of each country arrived and set up camp in twos and threes. All this in the love of music, life, and having a good time really succeeded in cementing in my head that life is for living, enjoyment, and sharing that love through a balance of art, music, and a general understanding of one another.

If there is one thing human beings from all corners of the globe love more than anything, it’s having a good fucking time and enjoying the fuck out of what little time we have here.

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The experience of the likes of a week-long festival such as Sziget being condensed down into a 3-day pissup in a field in Laois is something which really opened my eyes to the state of Irish festivals and our attitude towards them in general. Although Sziget is very much a limbo kind of paradise in that many travellers attend as a stop-off on an interrailing trip, it still manages to stand alone as an ‘Island of Freedom’, as they call it, and I spent a few content mornings alone wandering the island as the sun came up and many of the hardcore stragglers stumbled home or collapsed under various trees and bushes dotted in the mainstage area – none of the bars or DJs in the arena stopped until 5.30am, something we sadly discovered after setting up camp less than 50 metres away from one.
This closing time is something that in Ireland would only tempt fate and end badly, yet here it somehow worked with such a culturally diverse crowd of attendees merely looking to meet new people and share in the delights of such a positive and interesting atmosphere. Again, this idea of music and the arts bringing people together is more successfully executed and appreciated due to a better attitude towards alcohol comsumption and social norms – people actually talked to one another in these ‘clubs’, and I found the best place to make new friends was literally – anywhere you wanted to do so. All you had to do was look around, smile, and ask someone where they were from. Of course, this might just have been the incredible holiday-atmosphere and general happiness of everyone in attendance, but it’s difficult to imagine getting a similar reaction everytime at a festival in Ireland – people would think you’re either extremely drunk or just really creepy.

Of course a lot of this is all a massive generalization, as I’m still 100% going to attend Electric Picnic again this year, and more than likely enjoy it immensely. The main difference will be that this time I’ll be making sure to keep a broader mind when it comes to evaluating my understanding and appreciation for it, and hopefully experience more of the cultural and artistic side of things than I have before. Maybe this time I’ll also try to be aware of the various nationalities that (I’m sure) are always in attendance. Sziget has opened my eyes to the world through musical and creative displays of individuality, yet contrastingly has also helped me draw many parallels between myself and other human beings; this European melting pot (in 39 degree heat, this sometimes became literal!) and hub of life, activity, and 200,000 people roaming about a field in their own filth and excessive food and drink consumption, all just silently in search of love or some other form of connection with someone else – because in the end that is what we all seek, is it not? Not necessarily love, or a partner, or a means of procreation – it is merely companionship; likeminded souls who share a similar disposition and understanding of our situations, regardless of background, heritage, culture, or previous successes or failures. These are all just things which become wrapped up in negative and unecessary tension. They do not really matter. For a week on end I shared a common location, contentment, and various experiences with walks of life I never could have dreamed of encountering were it not for this fantastic festival.

As eye-opening as most travel can be in this respect, there was something extra special about the context in which people came together at Sziget. It wasn’t just to satisfy a niggling wanderlust, or to escape from a hometown or a job for the weekend, or even just an exuse to get drunk – it was out of a genuine love for music, life, and a celebration of all the good things there are to be had from this combination if we just do it right and balance it out. While it differed immensely from my experiences of music festivals at home, I’m certain now that when I next attend an Irish festival, I will do so with a completely different attitude, between expectations, enjoyment, and ability to sit back and enjoy the show, the acts, and the surroundings – even if the Irish weather is promised to put a dampener on everything!

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48 Hours in Bratislava

 

This day last week I was in the middle of a 48-hour stay in the city of Bratislava, a pitt-stop on the way to Sziget music festival in Budapest (more on that in the next post!).
As a ginger who hasn’t been on a proper sun holiday since the cringy days of family package deals to Majorca where any hotel without a kids’ club wasn’t worth batting my glitter-glued eyelashes together at, I’ll admit I may have slightly underestimated the European heat – this was only the beginning of my knowledge of Slovakia proving itself to be extremely limited. The heat struck like a wall of dead, sweaty air when you walk into a heavily populated gym, and I immediately thanked myself for having left my warm jacket at home.

After stumbling our way through the barrier of sweat, hastily-applied suncream, and unhelpful Slovakian bus drivers, we eventually made it to the tram station which would take us in the direction of our hostel. What I hadn’t anticipated was the large amount of dodgy-looking characters who roamed the streets – drunks, cripples, barely-clothed scrawny faces who revelled in approaching young unaccompanied travellers at the stations. I’m not saying it was extremely dangerous, just slightly less civilised and more suburban than many of the other European cities I’ve visited – and this was only in the first few hours or so. Still, we had to avert our gaze as a man covered in dried blood boarded the tram and sat staring at us, making no obvious inclination or cry for help, and seemingly oblivious to the extremity of his unknown injuries.

On finding our hostel (Patio Hostel, Bratislava), a wave of relief swept over me at being briefly removed from the sun’s preying rays, and also at finally being able to remove our backpacks. Shoulders aching, we attended a welcome BBQ downstairs in the garden, accompanied by several hen and stag parties, complete with inflatable and edible items of memorabilia…apparantly Bratislava is a serious hotspot for European pre-nuptial celebrations, who knew!

After locating the local Tesco and stocking up on some essentials, we went wandering in search of ‘Rock OK’ , a lively and dimly-lit underground bar, advertised as the starting point of a nightly pub crawl aimed at integrating the many socially-awkward and party-seeking backpackers who pass through the city during the Summer months. (Rock OK)

Considering it was a Saturday night, the streets were fairly quiet and we found ourselves wondering did such a pub crawl even exist. The streets were buckled under roadworks, with cones, railings, and upturned earth blocking off the streets which Google Maps had set out ahead of us. I got the impression that the entire city was very much a work-in-progress, as the roadworks were central to much of the scenery and background of the busiest areas we encountered.

After a rather sexist drink allowance of ‘Free glasses of beer, or wine for the women’, we got talking to our fellow travellers in the Rock Bar, and did our best to mingle – I’ve found that in situations such as these it is one of the best things you can do to be open, friendly and inviting – we were all in the same boat, after all, and so there was no point in being shy.
Many of the other travellers, some from Spain, New Zealand, England, and Italy, to name but a few, were also stopping off in Bratislava on their way down to Sziget, so a common topic of conversation was easily established.
Making friends with a group of Australians proved to be one of the highlights of the night, as well as typically rejoicing together as we realised there were two other Irish lads on the crawl – although unfortunately they lived up to the ‘drunken Irish’ label the other nationalities muttered to one another. We didn’t stay for the entire crawl however, as after the third ‘pub’ proved to be more of a nightclub than anything else, we decided it was time to navigate our way back through the dilapidated streets, sleeping JCBs and makeshift gravel footpaths.

After wonderful cold showers and a brief annoying realisation that someone in the hostel downstairs had stolen and eaten the bread we’d bought, we set out for a day of exploration in the city. We decided to decline the appeal of a walking-tour of the city purely because of the heat, our timeframe, and also because we much preferred the idea of discovering things independent of tour guides and plans.

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Using some of the roadworks as points of reference, we meandered down the main streets which proved a lot busier during the daytime, a large quarter of the city around the church and fountain being pedestrianised to accommodate travellers. The Old Town proved to be extremely inviting, the ‘Alstadt’ area full of great picture opportunities, innumerable bars, cafes and restaurants that looked good enough to stay in all day. The former Palace of the Hungarian Estates surrounded by the many little cobbled streets proved extremely enjoyable to wander about, despite the midday heat!

We voted in favour of a Pad Thai style lunch instead of sampling some of the local cuisine, and were thoroughly impressed by the service and food of The Green Buddha, close to the main square.

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After impulse-buying another pair of ‘Uganda-pants’, as I call them, (my first ever pair having been purchased in Uganda) in one of the many little craft shops along the street, we took the 83 bus to the end of the line, and got off at Temantínska, and followed the beach-ready stream of locals and tourists alike down a short distance to Drazdiak Lake. This freshwater lake was the first experience I’ve had of an inland lake in Europe, and it didn’t disappoint! Although there were hoards of overly-exposed sun-worshippers and naked children throwing rocks at the (extremely patient) swans, the atmosphere and simplicity of the place really appealed to me. We secured ourselves a beer after hopping the language barrier of the bar, and for the first time since the trip had started we felt really at ease as we chilled in the sun (or in my case, the shade and beneath a light throw cardigan).

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That evening we wandered back through the city and had an early night, as the prospect of a busy day navigating our way to Budapest loomed ahead of us.

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‘Wilder Mind’

‘Wilder Mind’ – Mumford & Sons, 2015

The cherry blossoms are in season. It’s that confused kind of not-too-warm, not-too-cold time of year when going out of the house requires an assortment of potential necessary items of clothing, as the weather is as subject to change as my mind when I think about how I feel that Mumford and Sons have neglected to include the banjo in their newest compilation of songs, the highly anticipated ‘Wilder Mind’.

 In the beginning, I automatically adopted the generalistic hipster belief that any Mumford and Sons album not featuring a banjo somewhere amongst it’s folky depths should not have any right to call itself a Mumford album, and expect to have the same appeal to people.
It’s an easy side to take. It is different.
But man is it good.
I have tried to be unbiased in my judgement, which proved near impossible as my love for the London quartet is still so strongly rooted in good memories and positivity that I was forced to mentally detach myself from them in every way before listening to the album in full – a move ultimately made easier by the slight alteration in sound made by the exclusion of Mr. Banjo (*tear*).

The colloqiualization of the opening track ‘Tompkin Square Park’ invites us away from our present situations to briefly meet in this obscure location, and from the opening electric guitar riff sets the pre-affirmed tone of ‘different’ – undoubtedly giving hardcore critics exactly what they wanted within seconds of their listening. However as the track progresses, the reliability of frontman Marcus Mumford’s acute ability to capture complex emotions within a few short words is thankfully reassured with the line ‘No flame burns forever, you and I both know this all too well”, leaving a relatable echo of regret and a sense once again of the question of the Laura Marling love-affair as inspiration being left unanswered.

Believe’ and ‘The Wolf’ consistently follow, having been the first two tracks released from the album and subsequently the subject of much Mumford-discussion over the past weeks. Crashing drums and guitars further cement the progression of the bands’ sound to a more rock-fueled and bassline orientated expression of the same old beautiful melodies, Marcus’ distinguishable vocals ensuring it does not in fact stray too far from the Mumford and Sons we’ve grown to love so much.

The more I listen, the more increasingly difficult I find it to describe my feelings for the title-track ‘Wilder Mind’. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve actually pressed ‘repeat’, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it so damn incredibly special. There is a combination of truth, positivity, and natural beauty to the intense lyrics which suggest a deeply-rooted origin in mental health and the tribulations of having an uncontrollable ‘wild mind’, as it is in this sense, so aptly put. ‘You can be, every little thing, you want nobody to know”. …To me, it perfectly captures the potential and power of our own minds and the will to steer our lives wherever we wish. We are so easily influenced by external sources and beings that we so often forget and lose ourselves to the fact that we are all the masters of our own destiny, for want of a less cheesy expression. ‘You can call it love, if you want’ – it shows me that life and relationships and the world are literally what we each make of them, and that we ultimately are in full control of our own lives. It’s an empowering, emotional, and deeply-reaching four minutes of pure bliss to listen to, and I’m genuinely already excited to experience it live someday soon. I could probably do an entire post/review dedicated to this one song, but for now let’s move on.

 The album continues with its’ discussion of love and relationships with a somewhat dark-undertone, the likes of ‘Just Smoke’ and ‘Snake Eyes’ declaring young love to be a fleeting and unreliable source of happiness, yet with a more mature and knowledgable approach to the ever-present possibility of hurt – ‘it’s in the eyes, I can tell you will always be danger”. While this may seem negative, I feel it also reflects a sense of personal growth and strength as the realisation of one’s own worth and independent awareness is deemed separate and stronger than any relationship could ever be – an evolution of sorts from the earlier sorrowful ballads of ‘Sigh No More’.

Worth a mention aswell in the sense of personal growth and independent acceptance is the more upbeat ‘Ditmas’, the leading line of which ‘This is all I ever was” again giving a sense of positive contentment with one’s current existence, embodying the practice of mindfulness in a single line.

I could honestly discuss the ins and outs of each and every track on this masterpiece of an album, imagining hearing them live on a Summer’s day at an outdoor gig and being completely contented with life at that moment. ‘Hot Gates’ being the most recent release, the ebb and flow of the swelling bass echoing that of the earlier ‘Lover of the Light’ from ‘Babel’, I can perfectly imagine the dimmed lights and uplifting harmonies of the choir as it’s performed, a chilled atmosphere and sense of peace eminating from the extended bass lines and lyrics, once again suggesting a personal growth and final movement away from past hurt and troubles. The ‘Hot Gates’ that lead on to somewhere more positive and an acceptance of circumstance ‘There is no way out, of your only life, so run on, run on…’ really leave us with a sense of peace and positive progression as the album finally comes to a close, a sincere, honest, and flawlessly-worded message of contempt to any haters who doubted the bands’ change of sound, while also guaranteeing the validity and certainty of positive things to come.

While I never thought I’d manage to glean over 1,000 words writing an album review (and if you’ve actually kept reading this far, I thank you kindly for your patience!), I have to admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the analysation and excuse to intently listen to these songs again and again.

The falling petals of the cherry blossoms even celebrated the beauty of ‘Wilder Mind’ like confetti around me as I listened again on a walk home, and I realised that this album is in fact a flawless compilation of songs that will stay with and comfort me for a long time to come.