Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Lost at Slane

I lost my phone, my camera, my jacket and some memory cells, but Slane 2011 was worth it!
The Kings of Leon kicked off Ireland's festival season last Saturday night, they played a truly marathon set and although some will condemn their lack of interaction with the crowd, and their failure to experiment with their live sets - to be honest there just wasn't time!
Slane ticket - not my picture obviously!
They played all the hits, some really old stuff and a few new songs.
They sang and played exactly like you hear on their albums, which can be disappointing for some, but really it is impressive, when all you hear about is sound editing and audio perfecting, to listen to a live band that are studio quality is extraordinary.
I love the festival atmosphere, and so even though I wouldn't be the King of Leon's biggest fan and only know a few Elbow and White Lies tracks I went the Slane way because it may be the only big outdoor event I get to this year.
Walking through Slane Village and into the castle grounds, you really get a feel of festival go-ers mood. This was not the place for young 17 year olds, because the average age I would guess to be about 27 or 28. The vibe was laid back and despite the gloomy weather forecasts, all us revelers received were a few showers and they were light and well received!
Moving on from an episode where my partner in crime lost her ticket and we had to trick our way in, and after smuggling some alcohol, we arrived in the beautiful grounds just in time to hear Thin Lizzy really tear it up. Thirty years on and missing a vital ingredient, the guys really were the highlight of the day.
Elbow were good, but we missed a few songs as we prepared for King of Leon (this meant queuing for the toilets and finding 'The Best Spot').
When King of Leon arrived on stage, we were ready and so were they. We jumped (and fell) and sang, it seemed as if everyone knew all the words to every song. Man Utd supporters cheered arm in arm with Barcelona jersey wearers and the only complaint about the concert was that it passed too quickly.
As usual we had some issues with getting out bus (back to City North Hotel) but as a consolation after losing all my worthy goods God sent us a man from Glan (Mc Govern Coaches, Glangelvin) to ferry us to our comfortable beds.
A few bruises, and a hangover later with no photos to claim my own, I will always have the memories of Slane 2001, the Kings of Leon, the lost ticket, my lost items and that scar on the top of my head ...
Can you ever be too old for a festival?!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Festival fever

Looking for something to do this June Bank holiday? Take a gander at some of the interesting festivals on in Ireland that weekend.

Writer’s week, Listowel, Kerry (1st – 5th June) 
For budding writers and authors, head to the lively literary festival in Listowel and get your creative juices flowing. Learn from established writers in intimate workshops and debates, get your point across in seminars and join in readings and competitions.

Flat Lake Festival 2011, Monaghan (3rd – 5th June) 
Feast your eyes on film screenings and sculptural exhibitions, feed your soul with literary and historical talks and poetry recitals and indulge your senses with delicious food and drink, that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, at the festival of creative skulduggery in the glorious Hilton Park Estate in County Monaghan. With children’s entertainment, campfire camaraderie and heated debates, this festival has something for everyone! 

Bloom, Phoenix Park, Dublin (2nd – 6th June)
For a ‘blooming’ amazing June bank holiday weekend, why not head to the Phoenix Park for Bloom, a festival full to the brim of show gardens, floral displays and gardening workshops? Whether you are a gardening enthusiast or not, Bloom is the perfect festival pick for a day out, with a large scale artisan farmers market, live cookery and craft demonstrations and family entertainment. 

The Beat on the Boyne Festival 2011, Louth (3rd – 6th June) 
The beat is on the street from June 3rd to 6th at the 3rd annual Beat on the Boyne Festival, which is an extravaganza of music on the banks of the River Boyne. Due to popular demand, this year’s event takes place over two days. From Funk to Punk, Ska to Rock, Blues to Bluegrass and Trad, expect to catch it on the Boyneside stage, located in the relaxed and open river walkway close to the D Hotel and Scotch Hall. Pop into the many pubs and venues over the weekend to catch other live acts in the evenings. 

Rosscarbery Festival by the Sea, Cork (2nd – 5th June) 
Rosscarbery Festival by the Sea, brought to you by the Rosscarbery Business Association, is a festival of fun for all the family. From bouncing castles, face painting in the playground and puppet shows for the kids, to music from some of Ireland’s hottest acts for the teenagers, and pitch and putt and fishing competitions for mom and dad, this festival has something for all ages. Rosscarbery will play host to two free open air concerts in the amphitheatre square, along with open air dancing, so go on, get your jig on! 

Castlebar Blues Festival, Castlebar, Mayo (4th – 7thth June)
Don’t have the blues this June bank holiday weekend! Instead, get out and enjoy the Blues at Ireland’s longest running Blues festival, the Castlebar Blues Festival, which will see performances from Imelda May, Willie Nelson and Status Quo. Soak in the atmosphere in all the main pubs in the town, root through the myriad of CDs and records at the fair or enrol you kids in a vocal workshop or fun day on the mall. 

Clancy Brothers Music & Arts Festival, Tipperary (3rd – 5th June) 
Not heading to Mayo but love the Blues? Then pop to the Clancy Brothers Music and Arts Festival in Tipperary. Listen to live music in all the main pubs in the town for free, bop till you drop with the headlining acts in The Royal Theatre Castlebar or hunt for your favourite tunes at the CD and record fair in The TF Royal Hotel.

The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Kilkenny City (2nd – 6th June)
Looking for a laugh? Spend the weekend in stitches at the internationally acclaimed Cat Laughs Comedy festival in Kilkenny, which showcases the very best in Irish and international comedy acts. With no shortage of side splitting humour in the atmospheric setting of this charming medieval city, Kilkenny is the place to go for laughs, giggles and lots more.

Ocean to City – An Ras Mor, Cork (4th June) 
Fancy an adventure this bank holiday? Then, the unique and spectacular 15 mile rowing race, Ocean to City, is for you! Starting at Crosshaven, travelling through Cork Harbour, to finish Cork City, the Ocean to City festival takes place on Saturday, 4th June.  Dive into Irish food and craft at the market in Cork, submerge your kids in the many activities available or soak up the music and maritime exhibitions. Organised by Meitheal Mara, boats are available to rent for crews who are unable to bring their own craft. 

Gordon Bennett Irish Classic Car Run, Carlow, Kildare & Laois (3rd - 6th June) 
Fine tune your engine for the 7th annual Gordon Bennett Irish Classic Car Run and see if your vintage car peps up to the range of vintage and classic cars, which come from all over Ireland, the UK and further. The festival kicks off in style with a civic reception at County Hall for all participants on the Friday evening. On Saturday the cars link in with the Rose of Tralee Qualifiers for a parade through the town of Portlaoise. Then, the main event happens on Sunday when the cars drive the original Gordon Bennett Route. 

An Tostal, Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim (May 30th - June 6th)
One of the last remaining An Tostal's in the country is still running in Leitrim. Join in the folklore, heritage and music of Leitrim. Impromptu sessions, folk, country and rock music will take over the streets of this idyllic town. Think colour, life and flavour mixed with old time traditions and a good old knees up!

What are your plans for the June Bank Holiday?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Well it is pretty impossible to ignore it: Queen Elizabeth II is in Ireland.
Hard to imagine a cute little 85 year old woman could cause so much commotion, but she has certainly stirred up emotion on the island.
Has the visit come to soon?
Have we fully recovered from the wounds of British occupation?
Can we afford the massive security for the visit?
Do we care?
Well the one question I can answer factually is that indeed we do care, despite the differing opinions of the above issues, on Tuesday, May 17 everyone paid attention to the news, the first shake hands between the Queen and Irish President Mary McAleese was watched with bated breath around the world as well as in every home and office in Ireland.
President Mary McAleese with Queen Elizabeth II
Photo: nationnews.com
No matter what our views, this shake hands on Irish soil was monumental.
Later on, the Irish nation watched with disbelief as the head of the British Monarch laid a wreath at the Irish Garden of Remembrance, the burial site of those who fought for Irish Freedom from the British.
Again whether you agree or disagree with the event, it was venerable and significant, the picture of the Queen's head bowed beside the wreath as the band played 'Amhrain na BhFiann' was emotional for some, sickening for others, but indeed a massive event in Anglo- Irish history.
1,200 international media are in Ireland this week, I am sure much of them will prolong their stay for the American President Barack Obama's visit next week.
Again this visit is costing the Irish state million of euros that we all know we simply don't have (especially since security has been kicked up a notch since the killing of Osama Bin Laden).
The Obama's visit will be epic, it will hopefully secure the long historic link between this small island and the great US nation.
American President Barack Obama
These two huge state events follow on from visits from the Dalia Lama and Prince Albert of Monaco as well as the expected visit from the Roman Catholic Pope Benedict next year.
Images of this beautiful island will be beamed around the world and can only do positive things for our international image with the hope of attracting tourists, business and interest to this country.
Currently Ireland is in a terrible state, we have taken an IMF bail out, our unemployment levels are through the roof, our health system is in tatters and our general spirit is at rock bottom.
But if we Irish are good at anything, it is holding our heads up, shaking off our shackles and with a bit humour and good fun lifting ourselves up and getting on with it!
We are a charming bunch who certainly know how to have a good time, this is our time to shine, to show the world that we may be down but we will not be forgotten.

Céad Míle Fáilte Rómhat go hÉirinn.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Stereotypes of the World

“Well you know what those Germans are like,” started the conversation last week that got me thinking about national stereotypes.
A friend was talking about a German girl who had given out to her for being late for the train and because she had failed to organise every exact detail of their mini trip ... typical Germans?!
Of course stereotypes can never define a group of people, because we are all so different in our own unique way, but we all have stereotypes of people from different countries and although I am an open minded person, there are many times when your foreign friend is a complete stereotype for their nation.
It just takes one really, one rude American, one stuck up French person or party animal Australian for the entire nation to be painted with the same tar.
While many embrace their national characteristics, others try their best to break the links.
For me some of the ones that really stood out were:
The Italians – a fashionable crew, who are passionate, forward and quite unorganised! I had a a very inappropriate issue with an Italian security man in the Vatican a few years ago. In the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Pope, I had an Italian man running after me begging for my number, for a kiss, a hug .... and much more!!
The English – generally chatty, fun loving and polite but can be sprinkled with some rude larger louts (usually soccer fans). When in a foreign speaking country, I always find it refreshing after a few days to find an English person, someone who enjoys a nice cup of tea and can converse freely and understand sarcasm and a joke!
The Canadians – I love Canadians, I don't think I have ever met a rude person from Canada on all my travels. They are usually tolerant, multi lingual and interesting people who are fun to hang around with.
The Australians – party loving, shallow but honest peeps. I lived in Australia for a while so really got to know them inside out, and you can always count on them for cheering you up and having a laugh with.
The Germans – the most well travelled nation in the world I believe. You always meet German people on your travels. Stereotypically organised down to the smallest item, many leave their sense of humour at home (they are quite funny in Germany) but you can rely on them for a good recommendation every time.
The Thai people – are so polite, smiley and friendly you just have to love them.
The Fijians – You have to love the Fijians, I loved them so much I wanted to take them home with me. Warm, friendly and love to cheat when playing cards!
American tourists cartoon
The Finish -Reserved, honest and trustworthy. Do you really want to know how you look in that new outfit? Ask a Finish person they will tell you the truth, believe them.
The Americans – despite their bad reputation as tourists, I have had more pleasant than nasty experiences with the 'Yanks.' The Americans are always kind, fun and knowledgeable. I have found some to be quite US centered but I think the majority try to steer away from this and open their minds. The Irish love Americans because they are “gullable” - will believe anything you tell them. Did you hear the one about the leprechaun ....?!
The French – Pompous, arrogant, opinionated – and rightly so! In France, 'a petite Francais' goes along way to unlocking French hospitality. Away from the home land the French are usually the people you follow to find a good restaurant!
The Brazilians – Impulsive, assertive and might I add good looking! I have had a lot of fun with any Brazilians I have met and I look forward to seeing how they treat tourists in Brazil.
The Indians – intelligent, always really polite but usually unable to comprehend a joke because of their perfect English.
New Zealanders – its hard not to like the Kiwis, Strong minded, tolerant and laid back with a rural mind set, always seeking adventure.

I am Irish and very proud to be so, Irish people are the best in the world; fun, friendly and usually very memorable! But while travelling I made a conscious decision to take a step back from the Irish mafia groups abroad, the huge swamps of Irish people drunk, singing and shouting enmasse swinging a tricolour. We do love to enjoy ourselves, and as we have a problem saying' no' the public's perception can sometimes be less favourable towards us.

What stereotypes have you come across?
Do you agree with the above stereotypes?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Adventure at home

My boyfriend and I have been on a sort of adventure the last few weeks, as we frantically prepare to move into our new home.
Although I would usually use the word adventure in the context of travel, this has actually been an adventure into the unknown. We didn't quite know what to expect and like traveling it has taken on a life of it's own as well as an uncontrollable budget. We have learned so much on the journey, one of us even acquired a new skill!

Although we are both so excited to move in and resume normal life again (like having time to breathe) we will both be sorry to see the end of our adventure. I think it reminded us of our round the world trip, the large number of small decisions that had to be made each day, the consultations and sometimes even the arguments!
Renovating also means being exhausted each night, for me it was coming home from work each day to quickly change into paint splattered clothes and start the real manual work.
We were so lucky to have so many people to help us and to join in our adventure and our decision making. Many of them would laugh when they would ask a question and it would have to go to an executive meeting between the two of us!
But don't worry although we are moving into a new home, we are far from “settling down” and hope to be conducting some real adventures pretty soon.
Research has shown that moving house is one of the most stressful life events, right up at the top with divorce and bereavement.
Do you agree?