Travel: How to Switch Off When You Are in Vacation Mode

Why is it that the day you’re supposed to leave on vacay you find yourself working with a million ‘little’ things to take care of before you can log off… well, you may need to send a few emails at the airport, and maybe bang out the draft presentation during the flight, but as soon as that plan lands, that’s it, your done…well, maybe you’ll just check your email quickly before you head to the beach.

It’s Hard to ‘Let Go’ of Work

Caba de Roca, Portugal

Hands up if you sometimes have trouble letting go of work thoughts when on vacation! 🙋🏾‍♀️  I also don’t like planning vacations (finding flights, deciding on accommodations and itineraries), airports or flying, or packing and feeling like I’m going to forget something. Or not wanting to come home…🙃 Gah! (but I digress)

It’s funny how work can creep into your downtime when you don’t expect it. I get it, you want to make sure everything is taken care of before you go and that no one is left having to do your work while your gone. It can also be hard to shut off because you are so used to being “on” all the time.

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? Being “on” all the time and never truly “letting go” of work that gets in the way of being present and enjoying the vacation.

I did a solo travel to Portugal because I needed to let go of work and the best part of the trip was when I decided to set the intention to relax. I seriously had to tell myself that I was going to take the day off, grab my novel, a book I had for about a year without cracking it open, found a lovely little cafe and read, eat pastries and sip espresso. It was bliss.

3 Tips for Letting Go of Work While On Vacation

Here are 3 ways I’ve use to help me let go of work thoughts when I’m on vacation and enjoy the time off to the fullest:

  1. Never check my work email once I’ve left for vacation
  2. Stop and breathe: Plan to be fully present in the moment. I take the time out to really look at my surroundings and the beauty of the new landscape and to simply just take it all in. 
  3. Planning to ease back into work: I always take an extra day on my return to unpack, do laundry and other chores before going back to work. 

Being Present while Travelling is Good is Good Self-Care

Travel is great for destressing, reminding ourselves to slow-down, be present. Being in a beautiful place can also serve as a great remind to practice gratitude as well as way to awaken our creativity and liven our spirits. It’s my kind of therapy ,that’s for sure!

Now if only they could invent a way to beam me to my destination! Captain Kirk knew what it was all about! 💫 

Do you find challenging to let go of work while heading into vacay mode?

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Solo Traveller: Portugal (Selfcare Made Me Do It)

Dealing with the fallouot from Burnout

I was exhausted, both psychically and mentally and looking forward to a much-needed staycation. Basically, I planned on firmly planting myself on my sofa with a bag of sweet potatoes chips and binge-watching British dramas on Netflix. 

That was the plan until a colleague told me about her recent trip to Lisbon. She mentioned that it was less expensive than other European cities so my Canadian dollars would go further, the weather was incredible, the people were nice and the pastries and wine were delicious.

Self-care made me do it (…or could it have been the promise of sunshine and pastries?). In any event, I managed to get the last seat on a flight to Lisbon using my Aeroplan travel rewards points. Now that’s what I call serendipity!

Going the Stress-Free Solo Travel Route

As a solo traveller, I try to book my trips well in advance, do a bit of research and pull together an itinerary with top places to see and restaurants to check out.

Not having plans would normally stress me out. However, I was already stressed out and truly exhausted and in desperate need of some self-care. That meant being strategic in my effort to spend as little energy as possible to find ways to make this last minute trip as stress-free as possible.

Here’s what I did to have a stress-free trip:

(1) I spoke with colleagues about their recent trips and asked for and received recommendations that formed the basis for an itinerary.

(2) I contacted my local Flight Centre and worked with them to pre-book some parts of my trip including hotel stays in Lisbon and Porto, a few sightseeing tours and a train ticket to Porto.

Bonus: This also provided a great opportunity to get some travel info from the travel associate who had been to a number of cities in Portugal.

(3) Leveraged the knowledge of hotel and restaurant staff for recommendations on where to shop, things to do and places to eat.

Days 1 – 4 in Lisbon:

My first four days in Lisbon was spent learning about its history, getting to know some of the locals, enjoying the famous pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), and learning to say “thank you” in Portuguese. (I will save the mishaps of this trip for another post. What I will say, is that I felt like I was being tested for sure!)

I learned through my tours that the city is made of seven hills (or so it is said). I believe it, as the muscles in my legs burned as hot as the sun that was beating down on me as I explored the cobbled stoned, narrow streets of Alfama, Chaido, Barrio Alto and Alfama neighbourhoods.

I had nothing but time on my hands. So I stood more still, and for longer periods of time than I ever have, simply taking in the Instagram-worthy panoramic views of the city with its clay-coloured rooftops dotting the horizon from different vantage points.

There were some very familiar-looking monuments too, including the towering Christos Rei statue, inspired by the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 25 de Abril Bridge, which bears a striking resemblance to San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge.

My sightseeing tours took me to the famous Coach Museum in Belem, a royal palace in Sintra and a tiny beach and fishing village in Cascais. I also stood at the end of the earth, well, maybe it wasn’t the end of the earth but Cabo da Roca, the famous landmark identifying the westernmost extent of continental Europe, had a pretty stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and nothing else as far as the eye could see.

Days 5 – 7 in Porto:

On the fifth day, I boarded a train at Lisbon’s architecturally impressive train station to the coastal city of Porto (known for port wine and Dom Luis Bridge).

At this leg of the journey, I had planned to do some sightseeing based on an itinary my good friend put together for me to help eleviate some of my stress.

However, I was stuck in traffic from the train station. What was supposed to be a short 15 minute cab ride too what seemed like hours. I probably could have walked.

That set the tone for the trip for me. After checking into my hotel, I went for a walk and realized that Porto was teeming with tourists. After a day of sightseeing, I gave up. I was tired and I felt like what I really needed was to give myself permission to do ‘nothing’.

I spent the remainder of stay roaming the streets with my camera, popping into shops, sipping espresso, eating more pastries and finishing the novel I had brought with me. It was, in a word, relaxing.

One of my favourite solo travel tips:

If you are anything like me, limited experience as a solo traveller, and one who sucks at reading maps and is slightly directionally challenged, then consider adding tours to your trip.

I found it to always be a great way to familiarize myself with a city in the first few days and get to learn about the history, culture and visit key landmarks without needing to read a guidebook.

Two cities in seven days were just the right self-care remedy for me. It was enough time to get a taste of what Portugal has to offer and for me to feel a lot calmer and well rested than before I arrived.

There were a lot of places in Lisbon I didn’t get the chance to visit and there are a number of other cities in Portugal I’d love to see. You know what that means? I’ll just have to plan (or not plan) another self-care travel trip to Portugal soon!

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How Dry Eye Syndrome affects my life and what I’m doing about it

Chronic Dry Eyes affecting your Life

Does this sound familiar? Imagine you have a blind date one evening and your dressed up, looking hot and look in the mirror and staring back at you are two severely red eyes and your first thought is “argh. I look like a hot mess”. This happens throughout your day at the office, at after work events, and after a couple hours on the computer.

You can reach for popular eye drops to “get the red out” but you know relying on that only makes the problem worse and that you’re issue isn’t going away, no matter how much sleep you get.

Well, that’s basically my chronic dry eyes story! Can one have ‘clear eye” envy? Seriously, is that a thing? Cuz I got that! My ‘demon eyes’. That’s what I’ve taken to referring to my dry eyes lately. Chronically red, very dry, sometimes painful and always super embarrassing. That’s what I deal with every single day with my dry eye syndrome.

In the past I’ve also experience such hypersensitivity to light it was brutally painful to open my eyes. Thank you aging, Canadian cold winters, and probably LASIK.

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome or dry eye disease in the simpliest terms is what happens when your eyes don’t make the right quantity or quality of tears to properly lubricate and moisturizer the eyes’ surface.

Dry eye syndrome symptoms can include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Sensitive to light
  • Blurred vision ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Is there a cure to dry eyes?

Nope. Looks like I gotta live with my demon eyes for forevah! (Cue: legit bawling)

Dry eye syndrome is brutal y’all and it’s just not cute. I feel it’s gotten worse over the years because of aging, laser eye surgery and too much screen time.

On a recent visit to my Optomitrist, she suggested I try:

  • Omega 3 vitamins ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

How I take care of my dry eyes

Since there’s no cure I’ve been changing up my lifestyle a bit to help ease the unpleasantness that comes with always looking like I haven’t slept or have been crying for 10 years. Argh.

Here are some practical ways I’m taking care of my dry eyes and finding some relief:

  1. Daily eye drops. First thing when I wake and throughout the day.
  1. Eye Compress. I’m also trying these rather stylish Heyedrate Compress from Eye Love the Sun  and the Medi Beads Eye Compress by Bruder to hope provide some much needed relief and hydration. ⠀
  2. Screen Time. My reduction in screen time at night;
  3. Omega 3 vitamins; and
  4. Air Care: I’ve also been using a humidifier at night which helps with the dryness of the air in my bedroom.

I’m rolling with the punches of this thing called life. When it comes to dealing with my chronic dry eyes I’ve been reading what I can about dry eyes and practising gratitude because in the grand scheme of things, I can’t complain because I’ve got my sight and fairly healthy eyes (I visit my Optomitrist for regular checkups) and for that I truly am grateful.

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9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Better Sleep


 

Why Sleep Deprivation is a Bad Thing

Is sleep envy a thing? If it is, I got it. My friend told me once her head hits the pillow she sleeps like a baby. Another friend says they get eight hours of restful (and deep) sleep each night. Another said she could easily sleep for nine hours and even 14 if she could. I envy all you great sleepers out there!

Me, Insomnia and late nights with BBC

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a terrible sleeper. I have no trouble falling asleep but staying asleep, well that’s another story. I suffer from bouts of insomnia as well. Sometimes I would find myself wide awake at 2 am, watching documentaries on BBC and internally freaking out about the fact that it’s 2 am and I have to get up in a few hours and I’m gonna be a hot mess!!!

About two years ago things with my sleep came to a head. I suffered chronic hip pain that left me miserable and sleep deprived for nearly a year. I mean  I was NOT sleeping for more than two hours at a time, getting up in serious pain, using a Spikey ball to loosen the muscle spasm, then back to try to get another 2 hours. Needless to say, I was freaking miserable and not a fun person to be around during the day. Not getting enough sleep affects your:

Mood – don’t be offended if you notice people avoiding you at the office cuz no one wants to deal with the cranky pants version of you.

Ability to concentrate, problem solve or exercise good judgment – yup, lack of sleep can lead you to make some dumb decisions (on the upside, you can always blame your dumb decisions on lack of sleep!)

Creativity and productivity – chronic lack of sleep can mess up your alertness, attention and ability to concentrate. you may find yourself stuck on that same paragraph for an hour now or worse missing important deadlines. 

Overall health – weight gain and weakened immune system can also happen, because the normal weight gain and hormonal changes that come with ageing simply isn’t enough ladies! (rolls eyes)

Skin! Yes, fine lines and dull looking skin. Chronic sleep loss can make you look all haggard and tired with dark circles under your eyes that even the best concealer couldn’t cover-up (unless of course, you’re a 40-something sleep deprived Beauty blogger/ Youtuber who can work miracles cuz it will take some serious hocus-pocus!)

woman sleeping

9 Things to Try for Better Sleep

Having to figure out how to get better sleep become a priority for me. What has made the difference for me in the past year has been:

Easy Fixes can make to help improve your sleep

I have my morning ritual down but never paid much attention to what habits, good or bad, I had for a nighttime routine.  The game changer came when I decided I needed to be more intentional about establishing a nighttime routine. I needed to focus on getting enough, and better, sleep and to take deliberate action to make that happen.

Here are simple ways to improve your nighttime routine:

  1. iPhone Screen Time and Do Not Disturb features – Using my iPhone features to power down and cut off screen time by 8:00 pm. This reminds me to put the phone away and pick up a book before bed. I keep saying I want to read more, now I can.

2. Eliminating caffeine intake after 2pm. I love an evening cup of tea but recently switched to decaffeinated tea so I don’t have to give up that simple pleasure while setting up my body up for better sleep.

3. Eliminating the glowing screen distractions. No t.v. , laptops, digital alarm clocks or tablets in bedroom. Of course this also means no more watching 2am BBC documentaries in bed if insomnia kicks in. Instead I practice deep breathing exercises until I fall back asleep.

4. Putting the phone out of reach. I put my phone face down and on the farthest end of my night table, out of arms reach. Some folks put the phone in a different room but I like to have it close by in case of family emergencies or my own.

5. Keep calm once sleep time is gone. To keep that calm, well rested vibe going, I don’t check emails or messages when I wake up. Ain’t nobody got time for notifications to ruin my morning zen! Instead, I only use my phone when I wake to access the Headspace app for my morning 10-minute meditation session. Then I put the phone away until an hour later when I’m heading to the office.

More costly upgrades for improved sleep time:

6. Blackout curtains. I need quiet and darkness to sleep well and blackout curtains do the trick for eliminating street lights and early morning sunlight in the summertime.

7. Improved Air Quality – I got a really good, pretty quiet, humidifier – the dryness in the air affected my chronic dry eyes which in turn affected my sleep. I’m also one of those people that cannot sleep with the constant humming noises from things like humidifiers or even the ticking of clocks. It was important to me to find a dehumidifier that was quiet enough to not disrupt my precious hours of sleep.

8. Pillow perfect – I invested in an ergonomic pillow that supports my head and neck just right and is comfortable which definitely added to an improved sleep experience.

9. Proper foundation – Consider getting a new mattress. One of the best sleep I’ve ever had was in law school one summer when I sublet my friend’s apartment for the summer. Her mattress was ridiculously comfortable and helped me to sleep really well.

Would love to hear what good nighttime habits you have in place to help you sleep better! Leave a comment

 

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Year in Review: Looking Back and Staying Positive in Setting Your Goals

Year In Review

Reflections and Regret

I’ve got a confession. I can’t remember what goals I set for this year. I’m sure I’ve got them written in one of my many journals somewhere but since I haven’t actually looked at them since I wrote them down. I can’t recall what these goals are and whether I have indeed managed to crush them or not. #FAIL. Does this sound familiar?

To be honest, I was so happy to see the end of 2017 that my primary focus was “hoping” that this year would be better than the last. That’s right, my approach to goal setting was simply this, “things can only get better,” with fingers crossed.

However, despite not having any specific and measurable goals and plans to achieve them, when I look back on the year, I did accomplish some good things that I’m happy about, learned more about me, and while I didn’t move forward in other areas as much as I wanted, I’m ok with it.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Travel: I travelled to Iceland where I not only went on my first hike (I even bought hiking boots!) I also rode a horse for the first time ever (in freezing cold temps, heavy winds and pouring rain).  I also travelled to Ireland with a friend, two firsts there!

Family: I reconnected with my family in a deeper, more intentional way which resulted in my cousin and I photographing my mom and her sisters in Mint Room Studio as a gift. I now call them my Silver-Haired Squad and I am grateful for the time we spent together over the summer.

Social Media: I shifted focus in how I showed up on Instagram, with a new name, spreading more positive vibes, inspirational quotes and self-love and connecting and engaging with some awesome people. I also took and posted self-portraits on my Instagram which is something I was never comfortable with.

Professional Development: Lastly, as I end out the year, and on the professional development tip, I’ve challenged myself by taking a career coaching training course and currently working with clients. This experience so far has been uncomfortable but in a good way.

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Room for Improvement – Personal Growth 

One regret I have is not taking the time at the end of last year to do a better job at setting specific goals that I could seek to achieve with more intention, optimism and purpose. What I missed out on by not being intentional about setting goals for the year ahead was a chance to reflect on the personal challenges, the lessons learned, and the triumphs no matter how small they were. I didn’t take time to see how much I grew, examine where I didn’t do so well, and how I could move forward with more purpose in the hope of doing things differently, better.

BestYear_Ever_Notebook

Preparation Is Key

For the upcoming year, I’m thinking about the things I personally want to accomplish, things that matter to me and no one else. I believe that you are more likely to achieve goals if they are things that you are excited about. Do this for you and no one else. Set goals that excite you and are important to YOU.

I’m also starting with a positive mindset. Sure, you may have had setbacks or may not have achieved everything you set out to at the beginning of the year, or you’re like me and set some wishy-washy goals that you can’t recall. It’s ok. There are opportunities there for learning and growing and for doing better. Focus on the possibilities for the new year and let that guide you in your reflection and goal setting going forward.

course-3

Setting Yourself Up for Achieving Your Goals

Here is how seven tips for setting and achieving personal, or career goals, that I plan to put in place so that I can move forward with intention and plan for success differently:

Celebrate the Small Stuff: Take a moment to celebrate the small stuff and big stuff alike. Go on, you deserve you bask in your awesomeness for a minute. You deserve it.

Keeping It Simple– I’ve identified four areas in my life and will set 1 – 3 goals in each one. For example, my areas include Personal Growth (e.g., personal relationships and interests and hobbies), Career, Money and Health & Wellness (e.g., mind and body).

Plan to Get Uncomfortable: Include achievable goals but also include ones that will challenge you to be better. Being challenged is the key to personal growth. For example, my theme for this year was “stepping outside my comfort zone”.

I’m mostly introverted and definitely not a risk-taker, so my version of being uncomfortable did not involve jumping from planes or climbing mountains. Instead, I found a few opportunities that worked for me both big (e.g., riding a horse) and small (e.g., taking self-portraits).

Write it Right: I know that goals should include, dates, be broken down into steps to achieve the goals and requires you to take action. I know this. I have always believed in writing goals down in a journal – pen to paper. But, then I do nothing else except put the pen down and close the notebook. I’m guilty of missing the creating ‘steps’ and “taking action” part, and this explains a lot. If I expect success in the new year, then I will need to do things differently.

Check On It: No, I’m not talking about the Beyoncé song (although really, if I could find a way to work in “Dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it” into this post, that would pretty awesome. But I digress, Beyoncé will do that to me. When I say check on it, I’m talking about the practice of keeping an eye on those goals throughout the year. I have not been good at this.

Since I’m doing this differently this year, I plan to leave my goals in a visible place where I can see them because writing them in a notebook that I cannot even recall has proven, well, ineffective.

A final note on achieving goals:

I will leave you with one final comment. Be open-minded and flexible. Sometimes the journey we take to achieve goals may take a different path than we intended. Things come up, opportunities appear, stuff doesn’t work out. It’s life. Be open to pivoting and swerving if you have to. That goal may end up looking a lot different in the end as a result, and that may be ok.

I dare you to join me in doing this goal-setting thing a little (or a lot) differently this time around!

 

 

 

 

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BRINGIN’ SEXY BACK: PRACTISING SELF-LOVE IN YOUR 40s

Feeling confident with age

Beauty in Confidence

Embracing Self-Love in Mid-Life

SELF-CONFIDENCE – BRINGIN’ SEXY BACK (and tryin’ to hold onto it 😬)

JT and SexyBack! I remember watching that video and turning it uuuuup! Like most of us, it was my jam! In fact, it still makes me wanna get up dance whenever I hear it. More to the title or hook (not so much the lyrics) has become a bit of little anthem for me. As I age, I find my “sexy” is something I’d like to not only bring back, but I also want to continue to maintain it.

By sexy I don’t necessarily mean my body (well, ok, having abs like my 25-year old self or arms like #MichelleObama can’t hurt and neither can body positivity at any age). What I mean by sexy is a kind of age positive attitude, a self-confidence, swagger, grit and spirit that says, “I’m comfortable in the skin I’m in at this particular point in my life”, because trust me, nothing prepared me for the way I’m changing with age.😯

Learning to Love the Skin I’m In

Honestly, I’ve watched myself change, physically, the shape of my body, my skin, my hair (lord knows I fight the greys on the daily) and seen my self-confidence waver and shift with each stage of ageing and not always in a good way 🙄

As I get older, I’m also getting mentally tougher, tapping into resilience and setting my priorities for self-care and overall wellness. How I respond to these changes now has shifted. Instead of staring at my forehead and wondering if that wrinkle was there the day before, I’m working on learning to redefine and embrace my sexy at whatever stage I’m at (fist bumps to Tweezers and to Olay 🙌🏾 you guys help make the facial hair struggle a little easier to deal with😌)

Confident Woman

Confidence is Sexy

Yes, I still curse the jiggly bits (Y’all know I love my French Toasts and Croissants! #livingacarbslife 🥐 🤦🏾‍♀️) and I hate the grey hairs right now – they are kinky and stealthy and seem to hijack my hairline violently when I’m sleeping (wtf) 😩

At the same time, I’ve also come to really love the shape of my arms, and muscles in my back, the way my quads look when I wear heels (Bootcamp payoffs 😝), the smoothness is my skin and the way my hair shines on a good day (basically, on day 2 after my salon visit and when I skip Bootcamp 😬).

Blackwoman_stylish_athome_

Self-Portrait

I keep striving to bring my own sexy back on my own terms and in a way that makes me feel good about myself, accepting that there will be good days and days when I feel like crap. But that’s OK, as long as I keep those crap days at a minimum 🙅🏾‍♀️

Ladies, how are you bringing your own brand of sexy back?💁🏾‍♀️

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40s Traveller: 7 Tips for Surviving Day-long Rail Tours

Ireland_CliffsofMoher-5

Dublin, Ireland. The rain welcomed us in as our overnight flight landed Midmorning in Dublin. My first reaction was “argh!”, but then the passenger beside me assured me that it wouldn’t last for long. She was right.  Be prepared for lots of photos!

Where we stayed: The Sandymount Hotel

The Sandymount Hotel in Ballsbridge, just a 20-minute taxi ride from the Dublin airport and a convenient  10-minute train ride to central Dublin.

Ireland_Sandymount-3

 

The staff at the hotel were, very friendly, helpful and a very diverse group, which made the experience that much more enjoyable. Staff seemed to be from across the globe! Some places I discovered were from Spain, Portugal, Mauritius, and Japan. It was awesome. The service, the food, the interior lounge areas and the efficiency with rich we were served was awesome. 

There is also the quaint Sandymount village and a waterfront that we didn’t get the chance to explore would have loved to if we had more time.

DAY 1 – DUBLIN: FISH & CHIPS AND REALLY REALLY OLD BOOKS

After checking into our hotel, we set out to the nearby train station to head into central Dublin by noon. We had only 2.5 days of sightseeing after all and we wanted to kick things off fast. We also had to be up at 6:00am for our tour,

We started with lunch at The Bank on College Green for its proximity to the Hop-on-Hop-Off City tour stop. We decided on taking the CityTour bus because we felt that was the best way to get around the city quickly and to the major sites within a relatively short period of time.

What we saw: 

Impressive Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells.  Dublin Castle grounds – not really a castle as we expected and we opted to walk the grounds instead of spending our limited time going inside.

Inside of the Trinity College Library in Dublin, with rows of old books

Few minutes in very busy Temple Bar area. Wish we had more time walk along this street and explore the area. More importantly, to sit and listen to some impressive live music (what little we heard made us want to hear more). That was one of the few downsides to this quick trip. 

Guinness Store House (Exterior Only)  – This was a highly recommended tour – from my online research and the passenger in the seat next to me! But we didn’t think to buy tickets online and by the time we made our way there, later in the afternoon, the queue was very long and we were very tired! We decided the weather wasn’t great for getting a good panoramic view of the city and a pint of Guinness, while jet-lagged with a 6:00am wake-up time, did not seem smart. We vetoed that tour and headed back to the hotel for dinner.

Quick Tip: If that’s a tour on your list try to buy tickets online or perhaps go earlier and make that one of the first places – and not the last to visit as we did. There is a separate queue for online ticket holders.

DAYS 2 & 3: IRELAND BY RAIL AND COACH TOURS 

We booked Royal Irish Tours for the two full days we would be in Ireland (would use them again!). This was a good plan in terms of getting around and seeing as much of the countryside as we could while learning a bit of history (and not having to navigate driving on the other side and relying on GPS). Downside? It meant we would have to be up at 6:00am and 5:00am respectively. On the bright side, that left very little room for jetlag of any kind to set in!! 

DAY 2: ALL THE PRETTY SHINY THINGS 

First just a shout out to Tour Guide Paddie McArdle with the RailTours Ireland Guided Tours! I mean, come on! with a name like that, that almost guarantees a great time, right?! Having a friendly, knowledgeable and, very funny, Tour Guide made the world of difference for us.

(Tour deets: Waterford Crystal, Kilkenny City & The Suir Valley – this last part was more of a view from the train and not an actual stop)

photo of the showroom with table settings and large crystal chandeliers hanging from a mirrored ceiling

Photo credit: N. Calabro

 

The House of Waterford Crystal tour surprised me. I didn’t know what I expected but it wasn’t that I would enjoy it so much. But then again, shiny pretty things and an actual behind-the-scenes “how it’s made” tour, well that’s just perfection, really. Seriously tho, the designs were delicate, beautiful and intricate. You couldn’t help but be fascinated by the craftsmanship and how it was all made (and then buying a little something to take home with you! Because, it’s a little piece of history and it’s pretty and shiny! 😊). This was my favourite part of my Ireland stay.

On to Kilkenny

We visited Kilkenny and the exterior of a castle before going a bit of souvenir shopping in a local store. I wished I had the chance to walk around and pop into some of the shops and just soak up the vibe of the place. Sadly, this was not to be and we simply did a bit of a scenic tour, by foot and a bit of a guided mini-trolley thing that felt like we were at an amusement park and asked to sit on one of those small trains.

Ireland_Kilkenny

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DAY 3: OCEAN VIEWS, CASTLES AND FINDING MY WINGS IN GALWAY 

(Tour deets: The Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, The Burren & Galway Bay)

Ireland_CliffsofMoher-17

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Our day started at 7:00 and with a Full Irish Breakfast on the train. We visited Bunratty Castle – great tour, complete with guides in costume and gruesome tales of war. Then the rain started and we worried that by the time we made it to the Cliffs of Moher we might be hit with fog. With our rain jackets on and umbrellas up, we strolled around the quaint village surrounding the castle, hung out with a couple of asses, chickens, goats, and possibly some fairies.

We head to the Cliffs of Moher where the views did not disappoint. It was later in the afternoon and there were lots of people. Should I have the opportunity to make this visit again I will try for first thing in the morning or catch the sunrise with as very little people as possible. I can only imagine the feeling of peace and tranquillity you could experience taking in the vastness of the ocean from atop a cliff.

Tip: be prepared to give your legs a workout as it’s a long hike. Ask the guide which is shorter route before you head out and be prepared to feel the burn along with the incredible view – maybe don’t look down.

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After the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to Galway for traditional Irish pub fare – Bangers and Mash – and the long train raid back to Dublin. I also got my wings in Galway! 🙌🏾

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HERE ARE SEVEN (7) TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT TOUR:

  1. Tour Bookings: My best tip would be to book your tours in advance as it can take a few days for confirmation I believe and the tours seem to be fairly packed. If you happen to find yourself booking last minute then call directly and speak to someone rather than trying to do it online. Sometimes it’s better to speak to real live humans, as they may be able to help you in a way the good ole’ internet cannot.
  2. Arrive Early: For the tours, I would suggest trying to arrive about a half-hour early to check-in and get sorted. Again there can be quiet a few people so it’s nice not to be rushing.
  3. Eat Breakfast: You may also grab a coffee and a light breakfast before getting on the train or to bring with you. The train did have snacks but I was glad to have grabbed a coffee and muffin beforehand.

    Also, bring some snacks. You can buy snack and beverages on the train but our train didn’t offer a proper breakfast so we bought coffee and muffin in Heuston Station in Dublin before boarding the train and had granola bars in case we got peckish before lunch.

    I would also suggest buying a snack or something light on your way home depending on how long you will be on the train heading back to your destination – if you know you might be in need of snack along the way (a couple of the travellers bought slices of cake to go and I have a sweet tooth so I wished I’d had some with a cup of tea on my nearly 4 hour ride backs to Dublin. 😊

  4. Layer up and be prepared to walk: This is Ireland so the weather is, well, wet and unpredictable. Wearing layers allowed us to be comfortable when it got warm on the train or tour bus and when strong winds hit us on the Cliffs or the sun came out while walking around Kilkenny. To add to this, please wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking. My travel buddy said she clocked 12,000 steps on one tour. 🙌🏾
  5. Throw (on) Shades: Bring sunglasses, even if you think you won’t need them. The sun came out and surprised everyone!), a raincoat and umbrella and layers – it was hot on the train but chilly outside, then it began to rain, then the sun came out. The weather is unpredictable. Best to be prepared.
  6. Camera Basics: Bring spare camera batteries and a travel charger. I use both a mirrorless Sony camera and my iPhone to take pics so having extra batteries and a charger (or two) was essential.
  7. Backpack it: I carried a sturdy, Briggs and Riley waterproof travel backpack.  I was able to fit my camera, 2 lenses, extra batteries and charger, wallet, raincoat, cardigan and a small travel umbrella, with room for souvenirs.  It was comfortable on my back for all the walking I knew I would be doing.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The best part of the tours? The weather was shockingly working for us- some rain, but not too much, sunshine and clear skies when we needed it. Honestly, we were stressed out about going to the Cliffs of Moher and to be greeted by fog like the group that went the day before, but the luck of the Irish was on our side. 🙌🏾

The other best parts of the trip:

  1. The people and their sense of humour (the accent was lovely too);
  2. The green grass, grazing animals and picturesque countryside; and
  3. Really great comfort food (stew, chicken pot pie and bangers and mash).

Yes, it was a really short trip but it was still well worth it. We hope to return for a longer stay and take in some more of the sites and Full Irish Breakfasts!

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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