Monday, 31 December 2012

2013 - The Bigger Picture

Perth, Australia  (c) fifiheavey

New Year’s Resolutions - you either make them or don’t. But the majority of people I know make some sort of pledges to change their lives on the eve of a brand new year.

Exercise more, eat healthy, take up a new hobby, lose weight or travel more are some of the most popular goals we set. And goals are very healthy, they challenge us and motivate. We all have our own obstacles to meet, either every day, monthly or seasonally.

But this year I hope to really push myself to and look at the bigger picture.
It sounds simple, but it is far from it. I fret the small things. I worry about the minute details and often forget to take a step back and assess the whole story.

We all do it, we get stressed, frustrated, annoyed and upset about things in our lives that are not ideal or perfect but forget to look at how lucky we are. The only time we feel blessed is when we see tragedy strike others, then we realise how good we have it.

I visited a close friend recently, she had just lost her job and was fretting over buying Christmas presents for her kids. Although the presents she bought were not as big or as expensive as she would have liked she was amazed to see how happy her children were to have their mother at home all over the festive season, playing with them, cuddling on the couch watching a movie and going outside for adventure walks. She realised although money was not plentiful, her family were happy and healthy and that was all that mattered.

Best wishes to everyone in 2013 and may your pictures be big, bright and happy!

The Burren, Co Clare, Ireland (c) fifiheavey

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Zooming in on the Book of Kells

The colours, the craft, the years of intricate details, gold lettering, the secrecy and the beautiful result of the Book of Kells is a sight to behold.

So when the news that The Book of Kells App for the iPad was released I was both happy and disappointed.
Happy because I want the world over to know about this illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks from the late 6th Century up to the 9th Century.
But disappointed because, for some they will download the app, scroll through it and never actually take the trip to Trinity College Library, Dublin to see this national treasure.

I made the trip to Trinity College to see one of our most sacred treasures a few years ago. The visit to see the Book of Kells is much more than the few minutes you get with the selected pages.
It it about seeing Trinity College, the most prestigious and historic university in Ireland. It is about
the other manuscripts on display and the magnificent Long Room which houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books in its oak bookcases and the build up to the main event with a ‘Turning Darkness into Light’ exhibition which provides all the background and info needed.

The Library changes the four pages on display every few weeks, so each visit is never the same, but of course it means paying the admission fee each time to see it. For $11.99 in the iTunes store the Book of Kells App contains all 680 pages of the manuscript.

The good points of the app are of course that you will get to see each and every page of the Book of Kells in intricate details with some you can zoom up to six times their original size!

Technology is amazing and it makes this beautiful and mysterious treasure available to everyone. People will be awe struck by it’s contents that may never have known of its existence or may never have had the means of plans to ever view it. Maybe we can get more theories on it, more information from researchers the world over.
So do purchase, download and admire, but please remember seeing the actual book is much more magical and dazzling than the touch screen of your iPad.

And of course the original was not created for zoom, tap and click it was produced to inspire, to amaze and to educate.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The difference is the security

When people ask me “what is Egypt like” I usually tell them “It is different.”
Different from Ireland, unlike your typical holiday destination, historic beyond comprehension, traditional yet modern, in upheaval yet relaxed.

What is so different? The Irish would argue our Newgrange is older than the pyramids so we can tick off history, Ireland has always been a traditionally religious country so we understand Egyptians passion for their religion, we understand borders too and the need to preserve our culture and we have also been known for our political upheavals.

The actual difference my friends is the level of security.

The amount of security around Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh is like none I have ever seen before. It is intense and it is everywhere. The reason for it is pretty obvious, but aside from the necessity it is there to make you and me and foreign diplomats feel at ease.
Except it does the opposite.

Mubarak party headquarters, Tahrir Square was burned out during the revolution in 2011
(c) fifiheavey

When I arrived at the Hilton, Cairo at 2am on our first night, I barely batted an eye to the security, well my eyes were barely open. But the next day the level and effort put into security around Cairo astounded me.

Airport security is something we have all come familiar with, we know the deal, the checks what is allowed, what is not. Now take that airport security, the metal detector, the bag xray machine, along with some serious looking armed men and their important and urgent questions and place that at every hotel in the country, every shopping mall, every cinema, every museum …. and you get an idea of the level of security in Egypt.

Security at hotel entrance of Marriott Sharm El Sheikh
(c) fifiheavey
If you take a taxi to your hotel, the taxi must stop and show identification before being let inside the 24 hour guarded gates. Also before the taxi can be admitted the boot must be popped open, and checked for explosives. Terrified passengers will also be given the once over with the guard's stern eye before you can be allowed to enter. You may have only left 20 mins before  but the same checks apply each and every time.

You may only want to step outside the hotel door for a cigarette or to check if your taxi is on time, but each time you enter you must pass the metal detector and your bag is scanned.
It is annoying, but is it too much?

For many it provides a safety blanket, a sure bet that your hotel will be safe from any suicide bombers and for a country that has a huge reliance on tourism that is a bet Egyptians want to win.

Sometimes it is the food, the people, the dress, the night-life, the social activities that divides one culture from another, for me it was the security.
Security is a loose term in Ireland, we don’t need it, so it gets little use. But even if we did need it, could we do it? I don’t think so not to that extent, we are too trusting and too lazy to be all the time on the watch out for terrorism activity.

The difference between Ireland and Egypt? The security.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Money scams at home and abroad

Going to any foreign speaking country with a different culture to your own, brings risk.
The biggest and most probable of those risks is that you will get fleeced for money.

Egyptian pounds
(c) fifiheavey
You will hand over too much money for services or goods. It may be by mistake or it may be that you want to avoid any international catastrophes.

Egypt is one of these countries where its inhabitants are professionally qualified to rid you of your money. And lucky for you they take any currency you have!
I am not talking about pick pockets here, no my experience of Egyptians is that they rather to politely ask you for your cash. Maybe for a tip or perhaps for some item that you do not want.

I didn't want a papyrus painting. I wanted to see the pyramids and go into the Egyptian museum and see the the Khan Ali-Kalili market. I also wanted to experience real Egyptian culture.
I did all of those things but I also bought a papyrus painting and some essence. I could have said no, I could have just walked away, at no point did I feel my safety was in danger - but still I felt pressured, I felt guilty and in the end I bought a painting.

Khan Ali-Kalili market, Cairo
(c) fifiheavey
My first 24-48 hours in Cairo were very expensive.
The main reason for that was it was my first time in Egypt and I stupidly told people that.
It is the first question Egyptians ask tourists. And the reason is if you say no then you probably know better than to trust them, but if you say yes – they have you!
So after 48 hours I was angry, I was resolved to be rude if I had to, to avoid spending unnecessary money on things, services I did not want.
And I mastered it, I haggled for my life, I walked away, I said 'NO' a lot and even tried to turn a money trick back on a native. I was a pro!

But then I got a huge shock, I had been fleeced for money long before I entered this new culture.
I was “robbed” at London Heathrow Airport.
My next door neighbours in the UK, of similar culture and the same language had tricked me out of so much more money than a hard working taxi man in Cairo ever could.

My flight to Cairo stopped over in Heathrow from Dublin. At the airport I realised that we would be landing in Cairo after midnight and was unsure if airport banks and exchanges would be open at that time. So I picked one out of the hundreds of currency exchanges shinning in the departure lounge in Heathrow.
I handed over €400, the nice smiley man told me an extra fiver and they charge no commission. Bargain. I did that and he handed me 2,600 LE (Egyptian pounds). It was only when we exchanged money in Cairo that we realised I had been squandered out of €100 in the first exchange because the nasty bankers had converted my money to sterling before moving it on.

Moral of the story: You don't need to go to Egypt to be fleeced, but at least I got a papyrus painting while there!
The Final Judgement -  the most famous scene to be duplicated on papyrus.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Fear Factor

“Things are hotting up in Egypt” is a popular comment I have heard over the past week – and the commentators are not talking about the weather.

In two weeks time I will be holidaying in Cairo. I am so excited and despite the media hype and misinformation abound I am not at all afraid that I will get caught up in some dangerous situation.
It may seem strange but I can't see myself walking out of the hotel and being hoisted on to the shoulders of mad protesters heading to Tahrir square or the US embassy.

Everything I have read seems to point that there were less than 500 at the US embassy protest on September 11, and that since then there have been no violent clashes. Protests continue – but protests continue in every country for a variety of reasons every day.

Protesters chant slogans amid orange smoke outside the U.S. embassy on September 11.
Photo: Time World

Several cruise ships have altered their plans to avoid Egypt and the US Government has warned against travel there. But have they warned against travel to Sydney or Paris? There are protests there too against the controversial movie.
Remember nobody was killed in the protests in Cario. 

Last year I joined (as in went to see) an austerity protest in Athens during a stop over. Days before and after buildings had been set on fire, the city was being flashed around the world as a violent city. But when I was there it was just a protest – a mass one with thousands of people, angry people – the city was piling high with rubbish due to strikes - but there was no violence on the day I was there, just some stink! We also did not get any hassle from the protesters, one of my friends got interviewed for Greek TV!

I don't want to join in any protests in Egypt, but if I get to see one I would find it interesting to see one from a safe distance. To gauge their level of discontent to get an idea of the age profile and to try and understand the issue from their point of view.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Do we still need guidebooks?

I caved in. I thought I could hold out. But it just all got too much.

Too many tweets, blogs, top tens, reviews.
So much history, power shifts, religion, myths.
I got cross eyed and overwhelmed but still seemed to be uninformed.

So I ordered the Lonely Planet guide book for Egypt.

I didn't want to, I actually sort of grimaced during the purchase – but I had no other choice.
It was either buy a Lonely Planet or go to Egypt like an American* – uninformed, and I couldn't do that.

I have surfed the whole world wide web, I have read pages of websites, blogs, reviews, top tens and everything else thrown in. And although of course these sites hold such valuable information (feel like I am doing myself out of a blog here) they didn't satisfy my need for a comprehensive overview.

I want to know what are the main attractions, I want to know the history of the country, the important struggles and more importantly I want to know how Egypt got to it's current situation.
And a few reviews of restaurants or tours wouldn't do any harm.

All of these 'need to know' things can be found in various forms online and print, but I have less than three weeks to take off and I don't have time for extensive research.
But Lonely Planet is the most trustworthy publication (in my opinion) to collaborate all the info into one bulky book.

I have used Lonely Planets all over the world, some for only research pre-holiday and in other cities a battered Lonely planet map has helped us direct a campervan or rental car around the streets!

Any guidebook should be used as such – as a guide.  
It is not the be all and end all, you do not organise your entire trip around it's paragraphs. But for an outline, a general idea or rough sketch then they can be invaluable.

But what about tripadvisor apps and widgets and google maps and you know the new era of smart phones and info at your finger tips 24/7?

Well they are super, time saving, colourful, helpful, interactive etc etc
But I am on holidays, my phone will be mostly off.
I want to look around me, not into a screen.

Anyone else still feel the need to purchase a guide book for holidays, trips and adventures?

*I threw in that terrible stereotype in to annoy you, to push you to continue reading and maybe send me an irritable comment – please do!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Insurance against natural disasters?

The flights are finally booked, the hotels have been reviewed to death, my credit card bill has plenty of reading on it and I can almost smell the sun cream.

There is plenty of build up time between now and holidays to get excited, but there is also one small issue (or large depending on your outlook): travel insurance.

For some, travel insurance is a must, it is essential and is booked at the same time as flights are booked and hotels reviewed. And it makes sense of course, because things can go wrong and you could be left paying a whole load of money for that 'budget trip'.

But still I ponder.

If I was to take a short trip to the UK or Europe (under 5 days) there is no way I would take out travel insurance. I would think of insurance as a silly additional cost.

Flights are of course delayed – but only by a few hours usually and there are always plenty of flight options available. Medically as an EU citizen I know I will be treated without question. I don't have medical insurance at home – so why should I panic just because I am travelling?

I have of course taken out travel insurance for holidays before – because it make sense, it is a fail safe, a peace of mind – a fall back.
But when travelling to Cuba a few years ago I was told I would not be covered there. The trip went ahead successfully, with no problems.
Then last year I went on a cruise to Israel. It was only at the last minute I remembered travel insurance, I was sitting in the airport about to depart and it sparked with me. I consulted with my travel partner and we decided to go on ahead. Nothing bad happened. We enjoyed the trip. We didn't need travel insurance.

I know I have been lucky, I have never been stranded for days in an airport, left in hospital with serious injuries or had all my stuff stolen. I also know the other stories the scary ones about thousands of euro of legal fees, medial treatment.

Some insurance companies are now covering against natural disasters. But I feel like travel insurance is putting a downer on my hols:

Passport – check
Money – check
Suncream – check
Insurance in case my boyfriend dies in a horrible complicated accident – check

Is travel insurance essential. Pic:

So travel insurance – is it really essential?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Flight cookies - not very yummy

My heart was beating fast, my sweaty palms held my credit card and I was about to explode with excitement as I finally got around to booking my flights to Egypt.

But then, wait.

That's not the price - €30 jump in a matter of minutes. 
But I checked the price last week and twice today – just be sure.

This is not God smiting me for my indecisiveness, this is for being too frugal, too careful. This punishment is for checking the flights costs, times, etc too many times.

I just want to board a plane.
(c) fifiheavey
My techie friends tell me that of course the more I search a certain flight on a particular date and time, the more demand it creates – putting the price up. 
That is fair enough, but:

“Some booking sites save your previous flight searches to figure out how badly you really want that flight – the more you search it , the more they increase the price.”- How cheeky.
The same sites can also increase prices after the date you have searched for to pressure you into thinking the price will increase if you wait to buy.

Outraged and a little sad that I had not just purchased the flight a week ago, I asked for help. 
The only tips I got were:
(A) Be more decisive – a personal weakness.
(B) Clear browser cookies each time you search a flight – making the sites think it is your first look every time.

Aeroplane cookie ...

To do this using Google chrome:
1- click the wrench icon on the tool bar
2- Select settings
4- In the privacy section, click content settings
5- In the cookies section – open the cookies and other data dialog
6- Remove all.

I did this and hurriedly checked the price again – no change. 
So maybe leave it a few days?
The flight is for October 1 – any advice on whether I should put off till later or just cave and buy now??

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Guinness: Pure Genius

  Guinness is disgusting - There I said it.

Guinness Storehouse, St James Gate, Dublin
(c) fifiheavey
I feel sorry for poor souls who think they have to drink a whole pint in order to really experience Ireland.
You don't have to – we understand. It is an acquired taste.
You wouldn't eat a whole jar of Vegemite to get the Australia experience so don't do it here - if you must order a glass!

Saying that I love Guinness, I love the two tone colour, the complicated skill of pouring the perfect pint, the symbolism, the creative ads and the name brand. So when my my friend returned home from OZ on hols and suggested we visit the Guinness Storehouse, I jumped at the chance.

Indoor waterfall, Guinness Storehouse
(C) fifiheavey
Seven story's high and surrounded in a glass atrium shape in the form in a pint of Guinness, the storehouse is a superb look at what goes into the legendary stout. Stepping over the precious 9,000 year old lease signed by Arthur Guinness (the genius behind the black stuff) you start on your journey through the main ingredients of water, barley, hops and yeast. The indoor waterfall gives a lovely background for photos as well as a surreal visual display.

An interactive digital man takes you through the process of mixing the ingredients, roasting, boiling and settling the liquid – and all the rigorous tests that the Guinness undertakes before it hits the road in the barrel.
Learning the trade, Guinness Storehouse
(c) fifiheavey
As a past bar maid in Ireland, I can let you in on a secret the reason why Guinness tastes so good in Irish bars is of course that we know how to pour it, but also because more people drink it here the pipes are cleaned religiously. In other countries the Guinness may not be as popular and so will not need the same amount of cleaning and maintenance.

One of the best exhibits in the storehouse for me was the adverts. You can go all the way back to the very first Guinness ad and keep watching as the creative brand makes a name for itself all over the world using wacky ideas.

There is a new drinking responsible quiz and tips and a new find your Guinness roots part as well as a short film on the amount of events Guinness sponsor around the world.

Views from the Gravity Bar, Guinness Storehouse
(c) fifiheavey
If you have never had a proper pint of Guinness or are intrigued by the pouring process I recommend you enter the Guinness Academy and learn how to expertly pour your own pint (you get a keep sake cert too to show your friends back home). As I obviously know how to pour, we moved up to the Gravity Bar for some stunning views of Dublin's Fair City. We got our complimentary pints and after using them as photo props we passed them on to those more grateful for the "distinctive" taste.

Good things come to those who wait!
(C) fifiheavey

Tip: Buy your ticket on line – it is a little bit cheaper (€14.50 compared to €16) and prepare to leave with a Guinness moustache!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

All countries great and small

The 2012 Olympics are on. London is shining. Hard working athletes are taking centre stage.
Medals are being won and lost, countries around the world are celebrating and commiserating.

But despite the 24/7 coverage of all things Olympic, my attention has been seized by all the countries taking part. 205 to be exact. 
205 countries have contributed 10,000 athletes to compete in over 300 events.
The symbol from The Hunger Games

The opening ceremony,  felt  a bit like the Hunger Games, or indeed something Victorian, something in a twisted fairytale or novel. A sort of war without weapons, battles without deaths. 
But still a contest between countries, nations - Democratic states, Republics, Dictatorships and Communist identities.

During the opening ceremony I looked on with awe as countries, nations carried their flags with honour – and many of them were unknown to me.
Arbua, Benin, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kiribati, Lesotho, Micronesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Tuvalu were some of the countries that did not spark with me. 
I couldn't place them on a map, I didn't have a handy fact to hand nor could I spell or pronounce them.

So while my partner stares and ooh and aahs at the nightly commentating from the London Olympics I am researching these 'new' countries, looking at histories, stats and checking out the price of flights!

So here are a few handy facts about those less well known countries – have these at the ready when the Olympic chat dies down or if your hairdresser asks you 'Any holidays this year':

Aruba - Aruba is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands just north of Venezuela.

Benin- Officially the Republic of Benin, West Africa and the birthplace of Voodoo

Burkina Faso - Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, it is one of the safest countries in West Africa.

Djibouti – One of the smallest African countries - you can snorkel with whale sharks there!

Eitrea National Flag
Eritrea - One of the most secretive countries in Africa, the capital boasts the most shining collection of colonial architectural wonders in in Africa.

Kiribati - Located in the Pacific ocean,  it was the scene of a number of the bloodiest battles fought in World War II.

Lesotho- It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 meters in elevation, skiing is a big draw here.

Micronesia – Found in the Pacific Ocean close to the Philippines, it is a group of islands Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap.

Saint Kitts and Nevis – Also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, it is a federal two-island state in the West Indies.

Tuvalu – Sitting midway between New Zealand and Australia with a population of just 10,554, it is the fourth smallest country in the world.

The island of Tuvalu


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Egypt: To drive or not to drive?

I am in holiday planning mode and the destination is Egypt.
Obviously the pyramids and sphinx will need to be visited, as will some amazing museums in Cairo. 
After a week of sightseeing we are hoping to retire to Sharm el Sheikh to while away the hours on the beach, scuba diving and relaxing.

It sounds very pleasant doesn't it? No real adventure there.

That was until I goggled “Driving in Egypt.”
The more I read on the dangers of driving in this north African country the more I want to do it! 
If I survived Casablanca – this cant be too bad can it?

“Cairo is one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world with more than 25 million inhabitants. Roads in the centre of the city can have up to 8 lanes, although the lack of actual marked lanes is what makes driving here quite difficult," explain Rhino Car Hire.

Traffic in Cairo
Ah the old 'lack of marked lane' issue. I drive on an 'unmarked' country road in Ireland most days – would that experience help?

“Not only do you have to deal with unruly cars but you can often see livestock and donkeys in the middle of the road.” - Ah so my country driving will come in handy. Livestock pouring onto the road will be no challenge. That is of course unless the said livestock is also combating the eight 'marked lanes' in the city ...

It is obviously a bit of an Arch de Triumph roundabout situation – so just push ahead I say. The speeding limit is 90kmph (about 59 mph) in Egypt so once we have out seat belts on we should be safe as ...
By law you must wear a seat belt at all times, front and back. Hardly any of the local cars in Egypt have working seat belts so it would be extremely unfair if police were to punish you for not wearing yours.” 
-Great. Really reassuring.

A different kind of traffic (c) fifiheavey
And just in case, I dared think that out of the city we were motoring happily: “Due to the heat, water should be carried with you at all times. You should also have anti-dehydration medication. If you get stuck in the sand don't spin the wheels as this will make a car sink deeper. You should avoid driving at night at all costs as there are many hazards in the form of pedestrians and carts.”

Also parking is next to impossible. And driving is one the right hand side. 

On the positive side we would get to cross the historic Suez canal, get a taste of the open road, get to see things off the beaten track, stop and go where we please.

And it would be strange of me to take a big holiday that does not hold any risks, no concerns for loved ones to worry bout back home Though maybe the unstable political tensions might take care of that one. 

Should we hit the open road?? (c) fifiheavey
So do I take a boring flight or risk my life?
Any positive Egypt driving experiences out there?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The passage of time

I got my reward the other night for sticking with a hard book to read.
(No not 50 Shades of Grey shite)
For the past few months I have been struggling through Virgina Woolf's To The Lighthouse.
The draw to the book was not the title or the cover but the strange and mysterious author.
Now To The Lighthouse is not a difficult read, it is a small book. But the story line is certainly not gripping and so I find it difficult to lay aside time to dedicate to it.

But I was rewarded last night – the chapters entitled 'Time Passes' were jewels you do not find in contemporary books. Beautifully, lyrically, written it has been swirling around in my head all day. And it has me pondering on the general subject of time.

This weekend I will unite with a best friend who I have been separated from for over 18months as a result of her emigration. A lot has happened over the year and a half.
I started to think about how those changes have affected me and in turn our friendship.

Also what do you pick to talk about and what do you throw away. Do we keep the conversation positive, talk about the things that make us smile and laugh or do we tackle the things that make us cry?
Do we take the recap chronologically? Event based? Maybe go along with a theme – love/ loss/ embarrassing moments?!

Or do we just forget the catch up and live in the present?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

For the love of music

I am still a bit groggy, continuing to find spots of mud on my body and unable to shake off that stale smell of muck, alcohol and urine.
But the music is still buzzing, my feet can't stay still and every few minutes I get the urge to throw my hands up in the air.

Phoenix Park Concert (c) fifiheavey
I am in post- festival mode.

Despite the rain, and mud (did I mention there was mud), the tiresome walk, and the crowds and queues the Snow Patrol/ Florence and the Machine concert in the Phoenix Park was a huge success.

Stuck in the mud (c) fifiheavey
Do you know why?
Because of the music.

I feel the need to explain why you go to a concert, because I am sick of the complaints, the moaning and the down right stupidity.
I cannot fathom why people turned up to the Phoenix Park in Dublin on Sunday in runners, flip flops and general silly footwear following two previous days of concerts, rain and muck. You may no longer watch the nine o clock news religiously but how on earth had the weather and geography of the land escaped you.

The queues: Ok lets start at the beginning – 50,000 approx people crowded into a field, many were drinking alcohol. So it would follow that a lot of people would need to use the portaloos. 
Tip – don't leave it until you are going to piss yourself to start queueing.

Anti-social behaviour:  If you go out on a Saturday night do you ever see someone acting unsociable? Now multiply that by 50,000. There will be some fights, some ejectile vomit and some falling, shouting abuse etc. **

The price of food: Shut up, you could have brought a packed lunch.
The price to drink: Ditto, loads of people smuggled in alcohol, you are just bitter you forgot to or drank it all really quickly!

The long walk: Number one - you are in Dublin – public transport is a joke in the normal 9-5 run of the day. The concert was in Phoenix Park – it has an 11km perimeter and over 700 hectares of land. There is no subway, no train or indeed inner city bus link to the concert. Yes the Luas had to be cancelled from Heuston Station - but walking is good for you, ya know!

Now ask yourself one question – did you enjoy the music?
You did not go to an outdoor concert for fine dining, for the comfortable facilities, for a relaxing stroll, or for VIP treatment.

Florence from Florence and the Machine at Phoenix Park, Dublin
(c) fifiheavey
If you had such a terrible time, just put it down to experience. Never ever put your head up for an outdoor concert again and stick to seated venues or just sit at home and grow old!

** Complaints about stabbings are legit – and I agree these are inexcusable. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

You can never beat the Irish

You can never beat the Irish.

Its a laughable statement, right?
 Ireland was the first team to be kicked out of the Euros 2012 with a 4-0 defeat to Spain.
Our country is a financial mess which requires handouts from everyone else.
There are flood warnings in June.
We are all poor.

But, despite all that. Pushing aside how much this wee country needed just one win at the Euros, just one small triumph. Looking past the fact that we are defeated, in almost ever possible sense. We achieved something magical in Gdansk, Poland.

As the eleven world class Spanish players celebrated the complete annihilation of their weaker opponent, they couldn't help but look confused. They had to stare up at the stadium of fans with some shock.
They deserved the celebration, they are world class. They make the game look beautiful.

And yet, it was to the booming Irish anthem of 'The Fields of Athenry' that they walked off the pitch.
The sound was amazing, it was a lament more than a celebration for Irish fans.
But the Irish went to Poland to support their team to fly their flags for Ireland and nothing, not a 4-0 defeat, not a rumour of another bail out was going to stop them doing that.

Were they angry at the Irish team's performance? Yes. Were they bitterly disappointed? Yes.
But the party must still go on.

For international readers, I wish I could explain, but I can't. Why we celebrated with the Croatian fans after a 3-1 defeat, why we partied with the Spanish or why will sing with the Italians.
We do it because we are Irish and - you can't beat us!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Tas- a Tasmania

Lake St Clair, Tasmania
(c) fifiheavey
For those thinking of visiting Australia (for work or holidays) I would recommend that you do not overlook Tasmania.
Yes the West Coast is a dream of beaches and surf, the East coast is a secluded marvel and the centre is dry, red and astounding, but 

Tasmania is a surprise you don't want to miss out on.

Even the Aussies themselves forget about Tasmania, for decades it was the haunted island of Van Diemens Land – an English Penal Colony, and although I do recall a few haunting moments from my trip that is the appeal, the sort of mystery shrouding the wild mountains and valleys, the winding roads and small villages of the Tasmanian hide away.

We went out of our way to visit the little Natural Island to the south, we spent over a week there and it was certainly well worth it for some history, hill walks and wildlife with some teeth!

Antarctic ship in the dock at Hobart
(c) fifiheavey
Hobart is the main town and has plenty of charm – including Antarctic explorer ships (Tasmania is the last stop and first one on the way back). It has a super hippy Saturday market and plenty of places to eat and drink.

Tahune Forest Airwalk
(c) fifiheavey
But you do need to get out of the city and I would suggest you first head to Tahune Forest Air Walk. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful forest ramble or are up for a more challenging hike, one of Tahune’s trails is sure to fit the bill. Did you know that some of the tallest trees in the world grow in southern Tasmania? Swinging bridges high above the trees – this is the perfect location for dreaming and to get over your silly fear of heights!

Next up get your walking boots on and prepare to be in awe of the scenery around Lake St Clair. Look up and around Cradle mountain surrounds you, it dominates the area and yet Lake St Clair etches out pretty coves and beaches and is home to some of the rarest wildlife. Watch out for Platypus, echidna or wombats!

Horror movie set at Queenstown
(c) fifiheavey
Visit Queenstown if you want to star in your own horror movie set in an abandoned mine town. We stayed the night is the scariest hotel. It was like something out of an old Western movie every floor board creaked and the steep hill out of town meant making a quick escape very difficult!

Climbing The Nut
(c) fifiheavey
Leave the horror behind and take a chair ride up 'The Nut' to the beautiful views of the volcanic plug before having a delightful lunch at Wineglass Bay where a pink granite mountains rises straight from the sea to form a magnificent sheltered waterway or one of the top ten beaches in the world!

Tasmania Devil
(c) fifiheavey
Of course you will need to take in some Tasmania Devils, I recommend Tasmanian Devil conservation Park. These vicious animals are the size of a small dog, and is the largest carnivorous marsupial – nice to look at not to touch!

And end your awesome tour with a scary visit to Port Arthur – this is one place I would advise against visiting alone – it scared the shit out of me! No special effects, no mad design, no characters, just derelict buildings and stories from 1833- 1877.
Port Arthur was known as an inescapable prison, much like Alcatraz – but of course people did.

Port Arthur
(c) fifiheavey

Think of Tasmania as a Thriller – plenty of shocks and surprises but the ending is very satisfactory.