Monday, 28 October 2013

Memories are made of this!

Recently I've discovered that a couple of old friends of mine have headed to Asia traveling and are now based in Vietnam. Looking at their facebook updates and instagram photos has left me reminiscing about my tour in NAM man. After a year, I've certainly rocked up some favourite moments.

Seeing my little brother for the first time in months as we landed at the airport, our clothes already sticking to us and tears pricking the backs of my eyes. Who knew? Ironically I spent most of my childhood telling him to leave me alone but as I saw his lanky late self appear in the sea of Asian heads I suddenly realised I had missed him. 

The first sight of the ocean heading along the coast road towards Mui Ne. Bear and I had hung out in Ho Chi Minh city for months, we had toured the city, checked out museums and the nightlife but now, it felt like the city itself was closing in on us so we booked ourselves a weekend at the coast. No, we didn't know it was 8 hours away but seeing the glistening ocean was like Christmas morning. 

Speaking of Christmas morning- our Christmas dinner in McDonalds at the airport in Kuala Lumper was particularly epic. A celebratory feast of mcnuggets and fries was definitely a memory. Not that I didn't miss my parents and Gran sitting around the Christmas table and of course presents and stockings, there is something awesome about wearing shorts and a vest on December 25th. 

And of course Christmas trees and sunshine! 

Hue was another piece of fantastic, like stepping back in time to a century or more ago. With gas lit lamps and no wifi! A simpler time, with simpler food and a curfew. Hue was where we took our trip to the DMZ and Bear got some Khe Sanh sand and I felt like an extra in a Vietnam war movie. We sweated buckets for three days and I developed an unhealthy addiction to cornettos. 

Waiting for Papa to arrive was like waiting for Santa- I had a countdown to 'Daddy Day' and I don't think I'll ever feel so overjoyed again, the way I felt when I saw his head bop head and shoulders over all the Asians at arrivals. I could have clung to him for hours like I used to as a child but I knew he'd be be embarrassed so I choked back tears and led him to a taxi. Some of my favourite memories of being away are from the two weeks I spent with him. Bussing it through Cambodia, crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels and climbing to the top of temples at Angkor Wat- I mean how many of us get to see the one the ancient wonders of the world with their Dad!!? 

Boys and their toys! 

Celebrating my birthday for the first time without my parents should have been melancholy but thanks to Bear, his visiting parents and my super friend Kyla- I had the most awesome time. Dinner at a French restaurant where on Miss Kyla's assistance they rang a bell in my honour and afterwards to a jazz club for a saxaphone fix! 

Hoi An is one of the most special places I have ever visited. The entire town is trapped in a time warp like so much of Vietnam but Hoi An has something more enchanting than any of the others. Specialising in tailoring and lantern making, I bought three beautiful silk lanterns that I can't wait to put up in my new home. 

Naturally, I can't talk about my time there without mentioning some of my kindergardeners. So many of my classes were the best fun and most of the time they were such fun. Most of the time. But who can resist these faces?! 

But the best thing about going away is the coming home- and one of my favourite life memories is the look on my Grans face when I surprised her coming home. Bear and I had some great adventures i Asia- now on with the adventures back home! 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Home Sweet Home

We're finally in!

It's been a busy few weeks for Bear and I- both of us are back in student mode studying and I have teaching placement as well ESOL classes and grinds but somehow Bear managed to put his back in (and out!) into building our little nest.

I can hardly believe I'm sitting in our little love nest which, was once Little Bro's workshop. Only two months ago what is now our kitchen was a mass of angle griders and chopsaws and our bedroom was once a flowerbed.

Papa and Bear put in trojan work making it right, Little Bro put his furniture designer hat on to come up with designs- it hardly seems real- from simple CAD drawing to walls, floors and windows.

We've had apartments galore in the past five years but this place is ours- we picked our own colours, fnishes and could debate about worktops and features. As I said, we've had apartments before but now we have a home. Before we lived together- now we've created a home.

When I say we- I suppose I really mean Bear. I made coffee for the workers, brought breakfast and made sambos- my physical contribution is neglible but Bear and Papa made it for us.

I honestly never knew how much work was involved in building a house- foundations, plumbing, heating, electricity, waste pipes and supporting beams. It's like speaking a foreign language but somehow the men in my life managed to learn the syntax fluently, discussing joining angles and mitering over coffees. What's more- they did it part time.

Moving Day was like Christmas as I rediscovered my dusty artefacts from times gone by in boxes in sheds and attics. Arranging them on our new shelves was the ultimate in satisfaction and joy.

I would like to take this opportunity to publically thank Bear's parents for having the serenity and  patience to put up with us much longer than they bargained for and for welcoming me into their home as one of their own. And to my own parents without whom this would never have been possible. Without family so much would never be possible.

Now the only thing left is to think of a name, but what's in a name? Can you ever put a label on something that encapsulates so much?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Having the craic in Dublin

No one does drinking better than the Irish- so while in Dublin, there are many many watering holes to chose from. 

Why not start at St. James' Gate, the home of Guinness. While here, you can take a tour of the factory to see how Guinness is made and at the end take a brief course from an expert bar tender to learn the secrets of the famous Guinness two-part pour. Enjoy the spectacular views of Dublin's skyline from the Gravity Bar while you wait for your pint to settle. 

For something a bit more low key try, Kehoes, some say it's the oldest pub in Dublin and is packed to the rafters every weekend. On a sunny day you'll see punters spilling out onto the street. Based on South Anne Street, a side street off vibrant Grafton Street, it's well worth the visit. Despite the crowds, the pints are rated as some of the best and the wait is never too long. Undoubtedly, you'll ind plenty of banter. 

O'Neills of Suffolk Street is renowned for it's traditional Irish food menu, great rooftop section and traditional live ,music most nights. If it's rhythmic sound of the bodhran you're after slip into O'Neills for a pint of the black stuff. 

The Porterhouse on Nassau Street boasts a prime location opposite Trinity College, is always a busy spot with live music and the real selling point is that they brew their own beer on site and can offer something for everyone's tastes. 

Cafe en Seine based in the middle of Dawson Street opposite the Mansion House offers a Parisian-esque ambiance where the gentle notes of Edith Piaf float through atmosphere. They are renowned for their vast wine selection and delicious bar food menu. 

Ireland is renowned for its pubs and whether you choose to go to the upscale Gravity Bar or decide on a more low key pint in a pub on the corner, there's something for everyone and you're bound to have the craic agus ceol! 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Confessions of a Blogger.

For those of you who don't know I'm currently in Barcelona at the behest of the Catalonian touristboard on  behalf of the fabulous travel writing duo- Becky and Grey of Global Grasshopper (please please check them out on!).

Now it's confession time...

Confession 1:
Despite my constant rsnting about anglophone's inability or pure laziness when it comes to learning foreign langauges and my constant belief that it is respectful to other nations to have a fewwords of the vernacular. However, after spending most of my school time Spanish classes daydreaming, I have developed a complete mental block about learning Spanish. A few speedy you tube videos before I left equipped me with the shaky languages skills of a typical tourist. Thing is, we're not typical tourists- we're travel bloggers and the amazing mulit- lingual skills of my counterparts left me feeling well and truly in the shade.

Confession 2:

I've had a number of disastrous trips to Spain, ranging from the package Canary Island to the small local village job. On the back of aforementioned disasters, I had developed some preconceiving misconceptions relating generally to Spainish people and friendliness. However- I had never been to Catalonia before (bar a whistlestop Barcelona trip about 10 years ago..the less said..), and Catalonian people are super friendly and helpful. The hotel staff, resturant and even in the local store- everyone wants to make sure you have a good time in their city. And that's the thing- Barcelona  is their city. I've never encountered such a collaborative effort by a community- albeit a very large one- to , in many respects, show off their city, proudly. To quote Bear- they like peacocking. And they do it magnificently!

Confession 3:

Despite proclaiming to be an openminded traveller, willing to embrace all cultures I have a dirty little secret. Everywhere I visit is metaphorically measured against Paris. I was completely captivated by the city- I loved every cobblestone, every sniff of arrogance and every inch of glamour. J'adore Paris. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: 'Ireland is my country, but Paris is my hometown'. After all that gushing, lets get to the point and my point is this- Barcelona is delicately nipping at those well shod Parisian heels. The city oozes a charm that is not engulfed in the glamour and pretentiousness compared to Parisian charm. Barcelona has attitude. Barcelona has swag. As you stroll down La Ramblas it feels like any moment a party could start, that all it could take is one wildly swinging feather boa or one vibrant beat and the city will erupt into an impromptu mardi gras!

So basically, what I'm saying is- Barcelona and ultimately Catalonia on the whole is untapped resource for me and I've learnt my lesson not to live precariously on predjudiced judgements.

To embrace all things glamour head to Paris, but to embrace life, head to Barcelona!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pigs just flew!

I'm pretty sure most of you who know me well, will be shocked to find me sitting    clad in a Barcelona jersey with excellent seats for the game, munching on a giant hotdog and guzzling beer but here I am. And it's great. 
I've now upgraded my footie status to 'available for live games only'!
The atmosphere is electric and I find myself chanting Barca Barca Barca!! 

FC Barcelona, Catalonia Experience and Global Grasshopper- what kind of animal have you created?!? 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Caution: men and women at work!

Today, I learned a valuable lesson. Advertisements lie. Especially Dulux. 

All the Dulux advertise their broad spectrum of colours in tastefully choreographed adverts of young couples and families frolicking around rooms gleefully painting their rooms in colours like; warm sands, moonlight bay and soft lime. A young couple playfully flick paint at each other and in some scenes a dad sits patiently painting a safari mural on his daughters bedroom wall as she colours in giraffe stripes. At the end of it all, an old English sheepdog ambles in. 

None of the above is true. 

I spent the day painting our little nest. Pale gold in the kitchen, highline in the bedroom as Bear repeatedly rolled brilliant white on the ceiling and Papa pottered around filling in gaps with plaster. Within minutes I was covered in paint, it flicked into my eyes so I had to wear super sexy goggles to ensure I don't become any more blind than I already am. My clothes, boots and hair were splattered in shades of white, yellow and beige. I dread to think of the scene when we start on the red bathroom!! This never happens in the ads- the home owners are always mucking about in pristine jeans and white shirts- not a speck of colour in their perfectly groomed hair. 

This was the scene I was expecting when Papa burst in, telling it was time to paint. I imagined perfect brushstrokes and a playful flick of yellow landing on Bears clean-shaven face. Not the way it worked out, though I couldn't resist when the opportunity to run the roller of white through little bros hair, giving him a Cruella de Ville-esque streak through his thicket of black curls. In saying that, I thought booping Papa on the head with a full paint brush was going a step too far. 

However, painting is slow, boring and slightly soul-destroying it is awesome to see the finished product and for for the first time throughout the entire build I can claim ownership and say: 'I made that!'. Papa was right. I would feel a sense of achievement at the end of it. 

Today, I think, was our most productive on site as everything started to take shape. A doorframe created by little bro meant a hole in the wall became a door and an arrangement of glass blocks became a contemporary design feature, suddenly a shed is becoming more like a home. A home, we decided, created and designed together. This is our baby, something we both created out of both our personalities, and given the amount of care and commitment it needs right now, it's baby enough for me for a long time. I'm exhausted from catering to all its needs and the thoughts of a soft pillow and cosy bed have never been so appealing, though I think the swish swish of the paintbrush will echo in my dreams. 

Some say, get a dog to test your parenting skills as a couple- I say build a house from scratch.   

***the writer wants to acknowledge that without the help of Papa, Ma-Ma, Little Bro and their vast array of skills and talents, none of this would be possible for Bear and I. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Dday arrived!

Dearest readers,

My apologies for the lack of updates, but I have literally been snowed under a heap of college, school and building work with hardly any time left to breathe.

I've been back at my alma mater now for almost three weeks as a student teacher and am thoroughly enjoying it. Although there are some elements that remind me of being in school; the cliques, the bitchiness and chldish moaning about workloads- this time it's in the staffroom!

It's been nice to meet some of my old teachers and for them to treat me like peer equals: some of the time. The students are babies! I don't remember being this innocent and naiive in first year but how times change. I have students sidling up to me telling me they like my necklace or my shoes, or asking me completely irrelevant questions or telling me completely irrelevant stories about their pet dog.

Everyday they say something that cracks me up and makes me smile inwardly- for example; 'Girls, how long do you think the Roman Empire lasted for?', one hand at the back shot up with the answer- 'more than 20 years anyway?'. Yes, definitely more than 20 years but they have no concept of time, the idea of BC and AD completely baffled them so after a stellar class performance on the test I decided to havr an activity.

Using an old plastic container filled with soil and hidden artefacts, I got them to take turns digging and being archaeologists for the class. Well. I'm sure if their dad asked them to help him dig up weeds in the garden they'd shoot him down, no question but bring some soil into the class and a couple of tablespoon 'shovels' and they thought it was the best thing since microwave pizza.

So between, planning classes that make history and english fun for 12 year olds, fielding all manner and kinds of questions and then come 2pm I revert back and become the student again at UCD where I hang out drinking student union coffee and flicking through photos of funny animals on Pinterest during boring lectures.

I think this is what our lecturer calls bi-location....