Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Soaked In Bleach: Docu-drama on Kurt Cobain's Death - REVIEW

Thanks to the release of Montage of Heck earlier this year, there's been a lot of renewed interest in the life and death of Kurt Cobain.

There always is an intrigue of cult around those celebrities who's self-destruction results in their untimely deaths; their demise unfortunately becoming a myth of gothic glamour. Metaphors of burning bright and dying young turn avoidable tragedies into something nearly romantic.

But in the case of Kobain, the intrigue runs a little deeper than that for most - as there are many who aren't convinced his suicide was a suicide. While I won't profess to be a huge Nirvana fan, I am a huge fan of mysteries. The logical part of my brain loves attempting to make sense out of the senseless, to unravel the unanswerable questions frequently provided by real-life events.

While Soaked in Bleach has gotten much less publicity than Montage of Heck, it's an intriguing watch for hard-core Kobain fans and those, like me, who are addicted to mysteries.



The docu-drama is told from the perspective of private investigator Tom Grant who was hired by Courtney Love days before her husband's death. Initially, Grant was told by Love that she needed him to chase some stolen credit cards. She soon reveals though that she actually wants him to trace her missing husband - one of the most famous rock-star's in the world, who she hasn't heard from since he checked himself out of rehab.

And so begins a journey down the rabbit hole that is in equal measure disturbing, fascinating, and intriguing. The film makes use of actual audio recordings between Grant and Love which at best, paint her as a self-involved, unstable women and at worst, hint that she had some hand in Cobain's demise.

Combined with some compelling questions about the shoddy police investigation that was carried out into Cobain's death and forensic evidence that casts serious doubt on the sequence of events laid out in the official report -  plus the bizzare actions of Love in the days leading up to the tragedy, Soaked In Bleach provides more than your usual conspiracy yarn.

Although Grant himself isn't beyond reproach (indeed, he appears somewhat obsessed by the whole thing and has probably generated a significant revenue for himself over the years out of Cobain's death), his audio recordings combined with other facts provide the credibility that he sometimes appears to lack.

While Grant may be over-reaching in what he hopes the film will achieve (a re-opening of the police investigation), it is a captive piece of work, despite it's flaws, that is well worth a watch - for fans of Nirvana and fans of intrigue alike.

You can check out the trailer for the film here:


Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Sailor's Log: Malahide to Dún Laoghaire

The sun shines as we stand on the pontoon, but a look at the gathering clouds tells me it won't last all day. We pull out the sails from below, clip the jib onto the front stay and check the ropes and halliards. A roaring burst from the motor, interrupting the quiet stillness at Malahide Marina, and we begin to navigate the shallow waters to sail onto the open sea. 

As we make our way out, we pass by rowers in boats, young-in's on lasers and families on the beach, enjoying what may very well be the last sunny Sunday of the year. As the crew chat and make jovial jibes among themselves, I occasionally join in. But mainly, I allow the sea air to fill my lungs and the sense of peace that bathes my body take over once I'm out from land. 





With sailing, while things might not always be simple, they are straightforward. There are direct instructions with specific results. You know that if you don't duck when the boom swings, you're going to get hit. There are no games with sailing, or with the sea. Instead, there's a mutual respect for the agreed rules and nuances which one always remembers. 

I take the helm for the first time and it takes some getting used to. With introverted direction, my initial efforts have us essentially zig-zagging across the water. A fellow crew member corrects me every time I go wrong, instructing me what to do in a no nonsense tone. I like the directness of commands that come with sailing. There is no room for pride or ego; you follow and give instructions as needed and that is that. Everybody understands. Finally, I begin to steady the helm and receive an equal amount of encouragement from the crew member as I did correction. 

With a few tacks and a call ahead to the club, we round into Howth for a spot of lunch. The sky has darkened a bit since the morning and about ten minutes before we tie up, I begin to feel a chill in my bones. The other half makes sure I get hot soup and tea into me and adds an additional two layers to the three I already have on as we set off again. Within minutes I feel the difference as the adventure resumes.

The second leg of our journey has the potential to be less smooth than the first as we would be rounding The Baily which is a known spot for changing winds and unpredictable conditions. "Jib up", "Steady the helm", "Get ready to tack - tacking now!" these commands are the symphony of the voyage, a melody I love.

                                                                        The Baily 

The wind began to pick up even before we tacked around The Baily, then ended up averaging about 7 knots for our journey back to Dún Laoghaire. I take to the foredeck, legs swinging over the side, in a state of simple happiness one is hard pressed to find on land. 

In content solitude, I absorb the journey. The sea ripples like great swaths of dark grey silk; looking like material fluttering in the wind as it rises into a wave - it's true form finally given away by the white burst of crest atop, and the subsequent rise our boat receives from the swell. 

I take gulps of sea water and my face is moistened with spray and I think to myself that I could happily stay here for a year. 

Unfortunately, the wind and I are out of co-ordination on this occasion and we're motoring into Dún Laoghaire harbour at least 45 minutes earlier than expected. Had we been racing, we would've made great time. 

Sea-soaked and smiling, himself takes this picture of me outside the marina changing rooms. 




That night, in the arms of a sailor and with sea air still in my lungs, I sleep peacefully. 


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Big Grill Festival 2015: REVIEW

It's a Thursday and Summer in Dublin. The blue skies and warm breeze had commenced the day before. Would we be lucky enough to have it hold out for 24 hours?!

Lucky we were. Thursday arrived, opening day of The Big Grill and Craft Beer Festival in Herbert Park Ballsbridge. The sun beat down in glorious unrestricted waves, an unmistakable upbeat atmosphere infecting the capital along with the surprising weather.

We bought our tickets on Living Social so we were told the festival opened (multiple times) at 4:00pm. With both of us being fortunate to be off that afternoon, that's the time we headed out for... And were then kept waiting for an additional half hour to gain entry. Apart from an apology from the hired security, no explanation was provided.

Desperate for our BBQ and craft beer (like the big hunga/alco) that the other half and I are, we found our patience was wearing. But all was forgiven upon entering this real-life mirage of paradise which had descended upon the suburb.



We were greeted by delightful sights and even more delightful sounds. All types of BBQ cuisine were on offer; from South Carolina smoked pork, to Pakistan spit-roasted lamb, slow-cooked meats on blah bread, sausages on skewers and everything in between.



We did a little reccy, taking in the offerings of food and drink trying to decide what our hungry bellies wanted to consume. But first, we had to get "Big Smokin's" i.e vouchers to purchase goods.
Given that it was a one euro for one voucher trade and they came in books of five or twenties, I'm not quite sure what the purpose of them was; a quirky touch or a way for the festival to take a cut from what the vendors were selling.

However, it did add to the carnival like atmosphere and reminded you of begging your parent to change their cash in ten p for you to play slots and tipping point out at the arcades in Bray.



As we were deciding what to eat, we noticed that Justeat.ie were offering a table service for certain stands, including two we wanted to order from. Score! For no fee, they took your order and delivered your food as I sat in the sunshine enjoying some chilled rose (5 euro for a glass) from O'Briens (who also were offering 3 samples for the bargain of a euro. Nom).

Chatting at our picnic table in the sun, our food arrived so quickly that himself had only come back with my rose before he went to get himself a beer, and the food had already been sitting there for a few minutes. We ordered from Asador, an Argentinian BBQ restaurant on Haddington Road that I had heard great things about and was on my Dublin Food list and 147 Deli at Parnell Square. One of them was superb, the other, quite disappointing. 


                       From top: Beef Ribs and Pork Belly From Asador, Pork Neck Bun from 147 Deli


At a discounted price of what the dishes would normally be in Asador's restaurant, we were not expecting the full dining experience. But nor were we expecting what we got either. 

We ordered the beef ribs - 10 euro - which were overcooked and pork belly - 8 euro - which was alright,  except for the piece of crackling on the side which was the best crackling I've had in a while, both accompanied by some zingy salad. For a place I'd heard so much hype about... I was disappointed at how unremarkable the food was. If the aim of their presence at the fair was to inspire people to visit them at Haddington Road... It didn't do it for me. In fact, both of us agreed it was better we got to try it this way then go to the restaurant and pay their much higher prices if this was the standard they were cooking to.

For five euro (which was a lucky error we were gifted as we were one of the first to arrive and the price was soon correctly moved to seven) we got.... From 147 Deli.

It was heaven on a bun. The meat was tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. The hardworking mayo complimented the main attraction perfectly and the crispy onions were just that; crisped onions and not sad, soggy slithers of grease. It was by mutual agreement - 147's dish was our favourite of the day.


Apart from the food, there was plenty of other things on offer too. from all types of craft beers and ciders, to cocktails from Dingle Distillery


As we meandered around, a drink in hand, we came across a demonstration from Johnnie of Living Wilderness Bushcraft School in Co Carlow. To an intrigued crowd, he demonstrated how to make fire out of nothing and myself and the other half spoke extensively with him about the bespoke bushcraft courses he and his team runs and are figuring out when we can head off on one ourselves. You should definitely check out their site here to get a feel for what they're about. 

As the sun began to slither down the sky and those of us who's bellies had been filled took to the grass to soak up the atmosphere, listen to the DJ and enjoy some drinks in the sunshine.





While it is near impossible to try out all the food on offer at the festival, I do have a two other honourable mentions to make:

Red Dog Artisan Foods: Run by two eccentric Americans, such curiosities on offer included Raspberry Chioplte Sauce (seriously delish) and a wide range of hot sauces and flavoured sea salts. Have a gander at their site here

The Dublin Cookie Co.: It was with great excitement that I spotted Jenny and Elaine's stall at the festival. I'd heard much about their delicious, chewy, American style cookies and had been dying to get my greedy mitts on them for months - and I was not disappointed. Opting for the selection box, I got to try their mouth-watering and classic chocolate chip, along with some more daring but equally delicious ones such as salted caramel and pecan and one with a bit of whiskey in it. They were munched happily in bed later on that night. 

If you do one thing in the next week, try these cookies. And to thank me for introducing you to such glory, send some my way ;). 


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sex Education For The Under 20s

I'll admit, 48 hours ago, I had no idea who Carter Reynolds was. I know that I'm not the only human with internet access who has become aware of his existence for all the wrong reasons over the last day or so.



In case you missed why the YouTube/Vine star's name has suddenly become common knowledge, it's because of a sex video. But this is not your typical celeb sex vid, nor was it followed by a typical response.

The storm causing the swirl in this particular tea-cup is because in the video, 19-year-old Reynolds is pressuring his 16-year-old girlfriend to perform oral sex on him while she's drunk. Despite her protestations and expressions of how uncomfortable she feels, Reynolds is heard to direct her to do it anyway, despite her clearly not having any desire to participate in the act.

What made the situation worse was that Reynolds responded to the leaked tape with a long statement, where his defence included that him and the girl were dating at the time, and couple's do stuff like this all the time.

Um, no. It doesn't actually matter whether you were dating or not at the time, pressuring somebody into a sexual act is not okay. And (healthy) couples do not pressure their partners into engaging in sex acts they are clearly uncomfortable with.

But I'm not going to crucify Reynolds. First off, that's already been pretty much done by the rest of the internet. And as disturbing as I find his actions and attitudes, I'm more concerned with the fact that he's probably an accurate representation of his generation.



In an ever-increasingly sexualised society combined with the easy availability of hard-core porn and the normalisation of violence/coercion and sex together - be it in an ad for a perfume or the latest music video playing on the TV in the middle of the day - Carter Reynolds is a manifestation of a problem that previous generations have failed to address.

Reynolds, like so many other 19-year-olds, have grown up in a world where men are portrayed as being masculine when they are causing the submission of a woman, and in a world where the sex education that both sexes receive is hopelessly disconnected to the messages geared towards them on a constant basis.



So. I think it's time to clear up a few potential areas of confusion when it come to sex, having sex and engaging in sexual activities. The following may be particular helpful for those in the under 20s category, but do feel free to garner any wisdom that you can, even if you're 20s happened sometime around Janet Jackson's Super-Bowl nip-slip:

Not everything is guaranteed to be waxed. Hair is perfectly natural.
Even if some things are waxed, that doesn't mean all things will be waxed.
You are not expected to stick two of anything in any orifice.
If somebody is crying, that is not an encouragement to continue what you're doing.
No, not all women look that way.
And no, not all men's penis' look that way.
Foreskin does not make you a freak.
If you're pushing someone's head to a particular area and find that you're meeting verbal or non-verbal resistance, stop.
It's okay to like missionary. You're having sex, not performing a set number in Cirque Du Soleil.
It's also okay to not want anything to go up your ass, just as much as it's okay if you do want something up your ass.
Sex is not just for men, or for the pleasure of one participant. Girls, you too can orgasm. Multiple times.
You can also masturbate. It isn't just for guys you know. And no, it doesn't make you a slut. Nor does any other sexual behaviour you might engage in.
Also, you don't have to swallow. You don't even have to do that at ALL if you don't want to.
Not even porn stars have sex like they do in porn when they're not making porn. There is a huge difference between a constructed fantasy made to be filmed and real-life sex.
If the person you're seeing actually behaves like Christian Grey, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
It is perfectly fine to want to try things - but do not expect every sexual partner to be up for everything you've seen online.
Things will get messy sometimes - on both sides. Don't be embarrassed, it's perfectly natural. Leakage, spillage, unattractive noises, even more unattractive facial expressions and sweaty limbs are par for the course.
Contraception is not just one person's responsibility.
One word - foreplay.

But most importantly; it is okay to know what you do and don't like, what you may or may not be interested in trying, and what does and doesn't work for you. There should never be expectations with sex - what you should do, how you should be able to bend and what you're willing to put where.

If someone tries to project their expectations onto you and make you feel as if you are somehow lacking, inferior, boring or prudish because you don't feel comfortable with doing something - you tell them to f*ck off, show them the door and go find yourself a real man/woman.




Thursday, 16 July 2015

Free Pass For Rape

A man who repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted his girlfriend as she slept has avoided jail time, despite a written omission from him of his crime and a guilty plea submitted in court. Location: Ireland, 2015.



It was with shock and repulsion that I read about this case. It's never pleasant reading about such news; rape, rightly so, remains one of the crimes in our modern society that still shocks and appalls us when we encounter it in one form or another. Take for example a TV show like Game of Thrones; we've become desensitized to countless murders and executions, but every time there's a rape story-line, there's an outcry of horror.

It's fair to say that most sound minded people would concur that sexual violence is a hideous crime and deserves punishment. And yet, here we have a self-proclaimed rapist receiving no jail time (instead, he got a suspended sentence of seven years imprisonment) for acts he committed between 2011 and 2012.

I'm not going to go into the details of the case, the specifics of what he did to his victim. That is widely available for you to find if you so wish to read about it, as I did myself. And as I read, I found myself not only horrified at what this man had subjected his girlfriend to, but I became enraged. Not at him, but at the judge and at our judicial system.

How on earth do we live in a society where somebody admits to a grievous crime and receives no jail time for it? How can someone literally walk away, free to carry on their own life, after destroying the life of another?

And particularly for rape, a crime difficult to prove in the eyes of the law anyway, can somebody who has admitted committing this crime, receive insignificant punishment?

There is a huge issue in regards to crimes against women in Ireland. In 2003, a study by the Rape Crisis Network of Europe revealed Ireland had one of the worst conviction rates of the 21 European States - clocking in at a shameful 1% conviction rate.

10 years later, in 2013, the situation had not improved much. The conviction rate stood at 19%, including those who pleaded guilty. Of those that contested the charges, only 7% were convicted.

Part of this problem lies in the rape culture, victim-blaming society that we unfortunately inhabit. We are making progress, but not quick enough. If you want an example of this, you need look no further than this particular case - as part of the defence, the fact the victim has also previously been a victim of sexual assault as a child was included.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that unless a victim immediately receives medical attention and has a rape kit done in order to collect biological evidence that the crime has occurred, a successful conviction is highly unlikely. In these scenarios, it often comes down to a case of he said/she said with the most common defence being the sex was consensual.

Our government and judicial system have a duty to deal with crime in a satisfactory manner; both in terms of justice for the victim and as a deterrent for other members of society for committing the same crime. Prison does not serve as a rehabilitative space, although rehabilitation should be an associated aim. It's purpose is to punish those who have broken the law by revoking their freedom and removing the possibility of them committing a crime against another member of society.

Rape is a serious violation of a person's human rights. While it is correct that an accused remains innocent until proven guilty, surely when found guilty, there should be a level of punishment equal to the crime committed?

What we all should be asking in light of this recent case is what kind of message does this send to the members of our society? What does it tell people who are currently being assaulted? Who could potentially assault someone? What does it say to you?

And the final question I'll ask is how would you feel if this were your sister, daughter, wife or friend? If you had stood by them as they fought and clawed for their case to be brought to court, to have to go through another ordeal of reliving the case and giving evidence, and then watched as our judicial system failed?

For every person we love, because although rape is primarily committed against women, men are victims too, we need to be outraged. We need to demand better. We need to demand justice.




Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Gym Guys, I Don't Need Your "Compliments"

I love going to the gym. These are words I thought I would never utter. Pre-gym life, I scoffed at those who "pumped iron" on a regular basis.

Talk of TRX and protein drinks caused this frozen look to appear on m face as my brain quickly zoned out, thinking of anything else in the world except the actual conversation I was expected to participate in.

All this changed last October, due to a combination of factors; I had just turned 24, I had put on a bit of weight - nothing massive, but I had more jiggle than I was comfortable with - and a growing awareness that I should probably start taking care of myself a bit better.

So I joined my local gym and surprisingly, took to it like a duck to water. The benefits to both my body and mind have been incredible and I have incorporated a regular routine with ease and enthusiasm.

However. There is a blight on my new found gym life (think #ThugLife but with sweaty faces). That blight, is men.

I hasten to point out, not all men. There are many guys in the gym who do their thing without feeling the need to behave in the ways I'm about to outline. My beef is with some men - not everyone who has a penis.

Over the course of the last 9 months, I have encountered some real d*cks as I work out. There was the guy who felt it necessary to say "Nice arse, love" as I bounced about on a cross-trainer. There's the guy who openly spent 10 minutes staring at my moving chest as he exercised on the machine next to me. There was the overly muscly idiot who stood behind me, in front of a mirror as I lifted weights, and eyeballed my arse with such obviousness, that I turned around and called him out on it. When I did, he just grunted "Yeah", without a stroke of shame, causing me to respond by calling him an arsehole.

They were "the lads" in the jacuzzi with me, which I use after most sessions, who thought it was hilarious to make masturbation jokes at my expense as I sat in the bubbled water with my eyes closed in order to not have to look at any of their stupid faces.

This week, there was the middle-aged Hoff wannbee who felt it necessary to make orgasm noises as he worked out next to me and after each grunt, would make eye-contact as I uncomfortably tried to ignore his stare.

                                                               Photo: yupee.com 

Men are not animals. They have cognitive working brains which enables them to function as humans - just like females. So why is it that I can manage to refrain from saying "Nice package you've got going on there in your lycra" without receiving the same courtesy?

Upon sharing these stories with various people, there was a trend I noticed in the reactions - females were disgusted and encouraged me to say something to the manager; males found most of it entertaining. There was a little bit of non-outraged "That's not right" said in a monotone at some of the incidents (in particular, the jacuzzi one), but for the most part, the response was laughter. Or I was encouraged to take the attention as a compliment.

Fucking seriously? Firstly, this is the 2015. I don't need some grubby "compliment" from a guy who probably whacks off to some dodgy porn every night to feel good about myself. I'm doing just fine, thanks. I do not seek validation of my own self-worth from about my appearance from strangers.

Funnily enough, leery comments from men don't put a smile on my face with a "Oh gee, thanks!" bedazzlement because basically, why the hell would I care what you think of my appearance? I'm not at the gym to get the attention of guys, I'm there so I can take care of my body and not feel guilty when I've a rib-eye steak.

Every time it surprises me, yet it is not surprising that such things still occur. While the new wave of feminism is spreading the message of equality in a more modern manner - it's not about bra burning, it's simply about treating people the same - there seems to be a gap in consciousenss with some men about how it is and isn't okay to treat women.

Men and women should be paid the same amount if they're doing the same job - but what's wrong with catcalling a woman on a street? Females being labeled as the weaker sex is an outdated idea - but mansplaining is totally fine because, you know, women need men to explain stuff to them.

And on it goes. This s something I've talked about with various males in my life and while some of them are sympathetic to it, they don't really get it. I'm not saying that they can't - but it is hard to understand that which they've never had to experience. They live in a world mainly run by men, for men. They've grown up in a society that tells them it's okay, nay, expected, for them to act this way. There are times when I'm recounting an experience that made me feel uncomfortable, I can almost hear them mentally thinking "So?". One time, I was told that this is a part of being a woman.

In the case of incidents in the gym, you may be wondering why I haven't said something to the manager. This is for two reasons: one, I can handle myself. I've a voice I'm not afraid to use and the cop on to know that sometimes, the best thing to do is just try ignore these twats and keep doing my own thing. The second reason is because the manager is not going to be able to address the real problem here: which is these guys attitudes to women. Reprimanding them is not going to make them realise they're behaving inappropriately.

The solution to such a thing is a lot bigger than what can be achieved by a slap on the wrist that would probably have the men saying that they're being victimised or that they were only having a laugh and I need to get a sense of humour.

Instead, I'll handle it as I always have - calling it as I see it. The biggest battles are won by individuals who fight in whatever way they can on a day-to-day basis.

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Spotlight on Killarney: TRAVEL REVIEW

The mercury was on the rise as I rolled my suitcase across Heuston Station. Even at that early hour, it was swarming with people; regularly glancing at timetable information as trains arrived and departed on the other side of the glass doors, emitting screeches and smoke as they did so. With barely contained excitement, I waited for the details of my voyage to appear in glowing red glory.

Aha! 11;00am to Cork, change at Mallow, platform 4. With the turn of my heel and the scan of my ticket, I began my journey to Killarney.

It's not an exaggeration to say when experienced in the right moment, under the right conditions, Ireland is one of the best holiday destinations in the world. This sentiment doesn't arise from a sense of national pride, but from the fact that for a little country, we pack a heck of a punch. Urban adventures? Check. Tourist traps that admittedly, when you're a tourist, you love? Check. Beautiful beaches, panoramic parks and fabulous food? Triple check - and that's in the capital alone. Venture beyond the pale and the delights you will soon discover will create a love affair that can span the decades.

It was many moons ago when I was last in Killarney - I fuzzily remember a childhood Christmas spent there, with queries about how Santa was going to get our presents into a hotel room and a "card" from the big guy himself, who's handwriting was suspiciously similar to my Mum's.

This trip however, did not involve the Gleneagle Hotel or freezing temperatures outside. A three day mini-break with the other half, our home for our stay was the Dromhall Hotel.  Like a modern castle with it's touches of gothic influence off-set by cheerful pastel paint, the four star hotel has been run by the Randles family since the 60s. It was the perfect place for us. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly and the rooms were luxuriously kitted out. Apart from a pizza in Kanye's - the hotel's on-site bar and bistro - we didn't consume any of our fare at the hotel. However, the menu at Kanye's is an appealing one, with traditional roast dinners and more modern meals on offer. Our gourmet Hawaiian pizza was a delicious fill-gap after hours of traveling.

One particularly nice touch we noted involved wine glasses - after a slightly boozy dinner in the town our first night there, we proceeded to bring back a bottle to our room along with some glasses from the bar downstairs. After our room had been serviced the next day, housekeeping had provided two sparkling new glasses in case we wanted to enjoy the rest of our bottle upon our return.

It is this eye to detail that so often separates one high-class accommodation from the other - I couldn't recommend Dromhall highly enough to anybody wishing to explore the beauty of Killarney.

Which, is what we set out to do soon after our pizza. Only a five minute walk from the town, we made our way around the assembled horse and carts that greet you before the junction to bring you into town and happily ambled around, gathering our bearings and eyeing up places for dinner.

For that night, we chose to dine at Treyvauds on the High Street in the town. Chancing our arm, we were lucky enough to walk in without a reservation and be seated - something I would not encourage you to do, as to miss out on the food would be a disappointment.

The boy went for the Kenmare Smoked Salmon to start while I chose the Pan Seared Chicken Bruschetta. It's not an understatement to say the last time I had bruschetta this good was in Rome. The palate pleasing continued with the mains - Pork Belly with an Asian twist for himself and Baked Salmon for me, who's lovely pink flesh flaked with the most gentle touch of my fork and was made even more delicious by it's parmesan and tomato crust. While I can't comment on the cheese board that rounded off the courses (dried meats are more my thing), judging by the fact we waddled out into the warm night air, slightly tipsy and very well fed, it's easy to classify the experience as a success. Although it was the most priciest dinner of our stay, it was worth it.

Day One - I Want To Ride My Bicycle
Refreshed and rejuvenated with only the mildest of hangovers, the heat of the morning quietly assured us that the overhead clouds would disperse by lunch - just in time for a biking adventure around Killarney National Park.




But before that, there was breakfast. After spotting a Parisian style bakery during our ramblings the night previous on High Street, we decided to break our fast there. Unfortunately, it would've been better breaking it somewhere else. 

Despite the charming decor and attention to detail with the furnishings - heavy wood, polished tables and stools, rustic decoration features and quirky farmesque items on display - the cafe was less impressive with its food. The pasta in the salad was overcooked, the accompanying honey mustard sauce was of disturbing colour and thickness with an equally disturbing taste and despite a cookie dough brownie looking like it could save it all, it was overcooked and dry. Oh, and the coffee? Not. Good. 

A little disappointed, the less than impressive experience was soon forgotten with peals of glorious sunshine breaking above our heads as we made our way back up the street to rent our bikes. There are plenty of places in Killarney town that rent bikes for the day (very reasonably too - it shouldn't cost more than 15 euro) and the transport method truly is the best way to explore the area. We went with the simply titled "Rent a Bike" at Market Cross (just beside Easons) although Flesk Bikes which is nearer to the National Park, looked like it had a promising choice of rentals. Open March-November, 7 days a week, you can contact the lovely owner of Rent A Bike on 0877654555 or 0873984018.

Now, before I go any further about the bike adventure, a few facts need to be established. I only learned how to ride a bike about three months ago. I had been on a bike precisely two times before the Killarney adventure. The first time, the other half patiently taught a 24-year-old woman how to pedal and balance. The second time resulted in me peddling myself into a wall after I got freaked out by traffic, and getting a nice bruise on my cheek in the process. 

So, although it is entirely possible for regular people who have average experience with a bike to cycle from the town up to the park, we chose the safer option of pushing ours until we reached a cycle path nearer the park - about a 15 minute walk away. 

Despite falling into a nettle bush, nearly careening headfirst over my handlebars and more falls and skids than is acceptable to admit, cycling around the park was the highlight of our trip. In the near distance I could hear the lap of Muckross Lake; across my shoulders and face, the sun beat down in beautiful perfection. The crisp air filled my nostrils while a gentle breeze brushed my cheeks as I picked up momentum. Travelling along, I thought to myself that this was the closest to flying I might ever get.



The park is fantastic for cycling in; there are plenty of wide paths for novices like me, plus some grittier trails for the more experienced. A lot of the paths are one way and directions aren't very well sign-posted in some areas, if you're following a particular route like we were, so make sure to have a map with you (usually given out free with your rental). Two other things; you can't actually rent bikes inside the park, so make sure you have one with you before you enter and two, I highly recommend picking up some juices from Nourish in the town to bring with you for your journey. Their Matcha Tea Juice is delicious and amazingly refreshing. 

We passed by Colleenbawn Rock and over Bricin Bridge before making a pitstop at Dinis Cottage for some much needed water and sugar. We then made our way to the Meeting of the Water and over the Old Weir Bridge before journeying up to Torc Waterfall - which is really worth the trip to witness its natural beauty and for a sup of it's clarifying water. 





Starting off at midday, we arrived at Muckross House and Gardens just after 5pm. The park closes at 6pm so there wasn't much on offer in the way of refreshments, but the grounds are really beautiful an deserve closer attention than what we gave them in a slightly hungry and tired state (at least for me). 

Following a painful hot shower with a bar of Dettol soap to clean out the mountain of scratches, grazes and cuts I got for my 20k+ expedition, we decided that large amounts of meat were needed for dinner that night. Enter, The Smokehouse

First off, if they open one of these in Dublin, I can say goodbye to ever wearing a bikini again. Also located on High Street in the town, the place looks very hip and cool from the outside - and crucially, delivers with its food. Brought upstairs, we were placed in a booth conducted of old bus seats with a sturdy table in between and presented with a menu that made me want to order, well, everything. 

I settled on Crispy Glazed Chicken Wings for starters while himself went for the Fishcake and we ordered some bread and dips to keep us going. It's a testament to how much I adore him that I willingly offered him to try one of my wings, they were THAT good. 

For mains, we both went for 12oz Medium-Rare Rib-Eyes Steak, which came with salad, a baked potato and sour cream, and onion rings. I simply could not finish all of mine, but the meat was cooked to perfection, tender in the mouth and perfectly seasoned. To describe The Smokehouse in one sentence, "high-quality ingredients cooked with care" would sum it up. What could be more delicious? And the damage to the wallet wasn't too bad - about 80 euro with a bottle of white wine. 

There were no desserts on offer that night (although normally there are), so we made our way instead to Murphy's ice-cream shop. Those from Dublin and Dingle will be familiar with the classic and unusual offerings of this modern institution. Very reasonably priced, well-crafted and imaginative ice-cream. Their Dingle Gin and Dingle Sea Salt Vanilla flavours are must try's. 

Day Two - Leisurely Discovery 
In order to balance the disappointment that was breakfast on the first day, we had one essential criteria for day two - somewhere that served good coffee. Ask and ye shall receive and our salvation was found in Underground - decent coffee, extensive tea menu and a nice mix of hearty and light breakfast options. 

As it was our last day in Killarney, we decided to potter around and take in the locale. There are a few great art galleries around the town; often on side-streets off the beaten track that are worth discovering. Dermot McCarthy has a wide-variety of original work, two of whose pieces made their way into my bag home as presents for people. 

We also made our way to Ross Castle - there's a lovely walking route that provides some fantastic views of the nearby mountains, which were being gently enveloped in mist that day. 




As one journeys around Killarney, you constantly experience the sensation of having fallen into a storybook, such is the natural beauty of the area. The castle itself offers guided tours and the accompanying lake provides tours and opportunities to rent boats and fishing gear (salmon and trout) but as were pushed for time, we had to settle for an amble around and a bit of picture taking. 


Ross Castle 



We did however hop on the back of a jaunting car to make our way back to town. We cut a deal, 15 euro for the pair of us which was slightly steep for the experience itself but lets be honest, you're paying so you can say you did it. Enjoyable, but missable (mainly because you can give the horses a little nuzzle in the town which is the best bit). 

After working up an appetite, we wandered into the gem that is The Laurels for a bit of lunch. You couldn't get a more traditional Irish pub if you tried - lots of stools kitsch, and horse racing on in the background. We opted for Seafood Chowder with Homemade Bread and the fish was fresh and plentiful. Slightly creamier than I normally like, I devoured all mine before himself had even finished (an unusual event in itself). 


We once again returned to Nourish to get some more fantastic raw juices and provisions for the train journey home (Brie and Bacon on Toasted Ciabatta and a Chicken Caesar salad) and with a touch of melancholy to be leaving this magical world behind, journeyed back to Dublin. 

Three days and two nights was perfect for us, but you could easily spend another night or two and not be bored - between local trips to Dingle Peninusula, the Ring of Kerry and many more fantastic eateries to try, it's not difficult to see why the town draws thousands of tourists, year after year. 

Until I return to the golden county (which I most definitely will), I'll retain a little bit of its treasure in my perfect memories. 

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo