October 28, 2011

We Heart Dublin - Angela Scanlon

Angela Scanlon
It seems fashion doesn't happen in this town if Angela's not involved - stylist; fashion journo; blogger; hero.  Check her out here

Angela in Kelly's Hotel

Best place to eat dins?
My boyfriends, he cooks a mean dinner! 

Best place to for cheap eats?
Cornicopia - I'm a seasonal veggie so when I'm feeling virtuous it's the only place.

Best place to booze?
Best place to rave?
My back graden at home in Meath, we have awesome fire-lit parties there when the mood hits.

Best place to shop?
Best place in Dublin?
Fish and chips in Howth...

Best thing to do in Dublin?
Ice cream in the park. Iveagh Gardens rather than Stephens Green.  

Best place for Sunday brunch?
Lennox Cafe or Taste on South William

Grogan's South William Street

Best place to sleep? (For people coming to Dublin)
Kelly's Hotel on Georges St.

Best night out?
Early eats and early drinks after a long days work. The impromptu Thursday session is a Dublin special too and always wonderful!

Best kept Dublin secret?
Hop House on Parnell St has some seriously good sushi. Don't be put off by the decor, it rocks.

What to read for what’s going on in Dublin?
If you had one day left in Dublin what would you do?
I'd hop on a bus, head home and have a rave in my back garden.

October 25, 2011


India wasn't on our plan initially.  A little pique of curiosity would pop up about it from time to time when we were planning our route but I'd never had an over whelming urge to visit. Everyone I spoke to about it was divided on their opinions of it - half loved it passionately, the other half didn't.  However, fate took a hand in things when we landed in Bangkok to the worst monsoon Thailand had seen in 50 years.  A quick check of every weather website we could find and next thing we knew we were booking flights to New Delhi.  Flights are relatively cheap.  Skyscanner has become one of the most important websites for us so far for finding the cheapest flights.

Landing in New Delhi was exciting.  It was like nowhere I've ever been before, a totally new sensation for the senses.  This instantly made me fall in love with it just because it was so different.  The intricately decorated trucks with their hand painted signs were… pretty.  The constant beeping from every vehicle was endearing.  The frantic driving by the calm drivers was fascinating.  The friendliness of the staff at the guesthouse when we checked in even though they couldn't speak any English was adorable.

Once we landed our plan was to get a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  We were planning on doing it as a day trip and had been trying to book train tickets from the moment we decided we were going to India - approx 3 days.  The Indian train system is a gas thing altogether.  The Indians swear it works but it is very confusing at first.  The Cleartrip website makes it a little easier but still… Tickets are sold for the allocation of seats and you are given a confirmation.  They oversell the tickets as people cancel etc and if you book one of these you are put on a waiting list and you can check where you are on the waiting list with the PNR number.  This number shows where you were in the queue when you booked the ticket and where you are at the time of checking.  You don't get your final position until the charts are done at the station on the day.  If your over 10 chances are you aren't getting on but it's like a lottery, you never know.  This provided hours of entertainment for the first few days, it was like gambling as we had booked loads of trains so checking it to see where we were was like a game.  Naturally the novelty quickly wore off.  We never did win the lottery and make it to the Taj Mahal.   

Not making it on the train to Agra meant we had the chance to explore New Delhi.  It was overwhelming, but in a good way.  We had a lovely Tuk Tuk driver who we paid for the day to bring us on a whistle stop tour of the city.  it's the only way we've seen Delhi but it felt like the best.  We saw all the landmarks as well as day to day Delhi life - the Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, the spice markets, slum life, elephants on the street, local restaurants for lunch etc.  It also felt secure.  We're be two confident girls but both of us felt more at ease with a local on our side.

India seems to be working really hard on changing the way women are seen in their society - there are billboards and ads in the papers highlighting women in a positive nature (weird in itself to a western woman) but it hasn't quite spilled down all the way to men of India.  We were careful to be respectful of the Indian cultures and traditions when we were getting dressed and covered every little bit of skin we had however nothing prepares you for the uninhibited stares from the men.  You get used to it after a while but there is no efforts at discretion when it comes to their staring.  They are going to stare you down whether you like it or not.  On the other side of the coin, for all the staring they do, as a woman you suddenly become invisible when it comes to queueing or being served.  We were next in line on a number of occasions and Indian men cut in front of us.  Even when we tried to assert our position, the men behind the counter simply served the men.  I'd be interested to return to India in 10 years to see if the women's movements efforts makes any difference.

We left Delhi and made our way to the beaches of Goa.  We'd imagined beautiful white sand beaches and weren't wrong however the rubbish (and cows) on the beaches is really off-putting.  I was reading Shantaram while we were in India and because of xxx beautiful depiction of the India and its inhabitants tried to get out of a western mind set and try to get under the skin of the Indian nation.  It was really hard though.  The rubbish everywhere is just hard to deal with no matter how you try to rationalise it as part of the culture. Same goes for the incessant spitting.  HUP.  

Again, inspired by our readings and people harping on about the friendliness of the Indians, we were really surprised by how rude we found them.  We really tried our best to get beyond the abrasiveness and find the warmth but by golly it was difficult.  We have no doubt the people we spoke to weren't lying about the joy they found in the Indians but we were at a loss to find it and we were really sad about this.

We eventually got on a train to Kerala to visit an Ashram but after a not very pleasant 19 hour trip decided we'd given India our best but it was time to leave the land of the surly and head to the Land of the Smiles.  We booked flights and bid India farewell.  Our last memory of India was flying out of Mumbai.  It really is such a shock and an extremely humbling experience to see the slums of the city as you fly out.  Elsewhere poverty lives next door to salubrious homes but the sheer extent of the slums is hard to grasp.

Honestly, it feels disappointing to come away from India feeling like this as we really wanted to like it and tried so much not to be ignorant westerners storming in with our expectation of how things should be and try to understand their ways.  We failed.  What makes it all the worse is every time the Indians asked if you were enjoying their country they seemed so proud and happy to accept any affirmations as a personal compliment to them.  Maybe we just needed to try harder.  Or be men.

Main attractions:
The Golden Triangle of New Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur
The beaches of Goa - Anjuna; Palolem; Colva;
Kerala Backwaters
Ashram - Kerala 
Holy city of Varansai

Packing List

Little and large... but mine has wheels

If I heard one more time "You'll pick up anything you need on the way" when I was getting ready to leave I probably would have vomited.  As someone who thinks your clothes communicate as much about you as a person as any other way you communicate with people, I wasn't ready to pack 4 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts and a pair of flip flops.  I understand the whole joy of just being able to throw on the aforementioned outfit however that doesn't fill me with joy so why pretend.  One thing that that's really become apparent to me since I've left is that just because you're going 'traveling' doesn't mean to instantly have to change into a different person, the typical backpacker traveller.  You don't have to change the way you dress, you don't have to stop doing the things you like doing - you just have to take those things and make them work for you and have an open mind to what else you might discover.

So back to the packing.  I don't have a backpack but my bag is approx the same size as (a big) one.  The baggage allowance mostly on international flights is 23kg and domestic is 20kg so I aimed for 20kg.  At check in I ended up with 28kg, Oops.  So it's obvious I'm not the lightest traveller but we haven't paid for excess baggage once (on international or domestic flights) and at the time of writing the bag currently weighs 21kg.  AND we've gotten trains and buses with no problems, we're as agile as you like, and without back pain from a back pack.

What did I pack?

Beach/Day dresses x 12
Night dresses x 7
Day skirts x 5
Night skirts x 3
White vests x 8
T-shirts/tops x 7
Cardis/cover ups x 5
Cotton trousers x 3
PJ bottoms x 2
Shoes x 8  (Gladiators, gold evening flats, 3 x flat sandals, converse, chinese slippers for beach, espadrilles - this reads very excessive but they take up no room)
Belts x 5
Bras x 6
Pants x 12
Socks x 15
Towel x 1
Scarves x 4
Bags x 4 (beach, evening clutch, bumbag, day bag)
Hoodie x 1
Bikinis x 6
Jewelry x loads

If I posted that on the Lonely Planet forum I can imagine the gasps of horror but a month in and I can honestly say the only thing I overdid it on is the socks.  I've used or worn everything.  Sure I could have survived with less, but where's the fun in that?

October 8, 2011

We Heart Dublin - Philly McMahon

Philly McMahon
One half of Thisispopbaby, Philly is also the man with the plan when it comes to theatre in Ireland.  He writes; directs; produces.  Upcoming is brand spanking new musical Alice in Funderland.  Produced by the Abbey, it's the first time they've produced a musical in thirty years!

THISISPOPBABY are redefining theatre for people left cold by traditional drama” – The Irish Times

Philly McMahon at the Project Arts Centre

Best place to eat dins?
I'm a sucker for a bit of home cookin' - I'm a bit of a fussy c*%t, so I never feel like I'm getting what I really want from a restaurant.  You can't beat an auld cycle out to yer Ma's gaff for a bit of TLC.  This tip is probably not helpful to anyone who doesn't own a bike, or know where my Ma lives.

Best place for cheap eats?
Ten Euro Bento Box before 7pm everyday in Ukiyo on Exchequer Street.  The staff are fun and attitude free and the food is super fresh and really filling.  You can even pop downstairs for a bit of Karaoke if the mood takes you afterwards.

Best place to booze?
Gayers get thee to Pantibar on Capel Street - great atmosphere, especially when the hostess herself is propping up the bar.  Straights - what's your problem?  Why won't you try a same sex relationship?  Are you afraid you might like it?  Sheesh - live a little already!  Mixed - check out the Bernard Shaw in Portobello - diverse, dingy and divine (in the right light) - some of the best sessions have started (or ended) here.

Best place to rave?
I like the singles over 30's dances at Barry's Hotel on Great Denmark Street.

Best place to shop?
Fanci Smancy Vintage - this gorgeous little Aladdin's Cave is tucked away in a basement beside the Central Bank under a shop called Flip - there's some really great finds, you'll find.

Best place in Dublin?
Project Arts Centre is a haven for culture vultures - it's our coolest arty spot and you can nearly always take a chance on a show here.  It's in the heart of Temple Bar and whether it's experimental post dramatic theatre, contemporary dance or a good old comedy - you can usually find something to your taste in the big blue house.

Best thing to do in Dublin?
Go to the Phoenix Park - it's one of the biggest enclosed city parks in the world, is home to a gorgeous herd of Fallow Deer who have been there since the seventeenth century (well their grandaddies were).  Rent a bike or go walking at sunset - it's heaven.

Best place for Sunday brunch?
Odessa - I bet everyone is saying that, but it's a great spot for a fry up and a glass of bubbly.  Mmmm

Best place to sleep?
It all depends on your budget.  A real bargain for people with champagne tastes and beer bottle pockets is The Town House on Gardiner Street.  it's essentially a posh B&B set in Georgian splendour - they are reasonably priced and do a killer breakfast.  It you've got cash to splash check out the The Clarence, The Morgan or The Morrisson (as featured in The Rules of Attraction) - all great hotels.

WAR in Andrews Lane Theatre

Best night out?
For young energetic tourists, I'd recommend WAR in Andrews Lane Theatre every Friday.  It's like an episode of Skins on acid, covered in WAR paint.  It's not for the faint hearted - but you definitely won't leave disappointed.

Best kept Dublin secret?
The Royal Oak pub in Kilmainham - worth the short trip out of town - look it up!

What to read for what's going on in Dublin?
The Ticket in The Irish Times usually has most of what's going on.  Everything else can be found with a clickety click of the Googleplex.

If you had one day left in Dublin, what would you do?
Gather some friends, some booze and go play rounders in the park.

Bottle Beach Thailand

Where's your favourite place to travel to outside of Dublin?
I've been to Thailand a few times and it's somewhere I could return to again and again. Incredible food, friendly people, excellent service and the most beautiful beaches. On a more adventurous trip I travelled to Khao Sok National Park where you can stay in a treehouse in the jungle. It was equal parts divine and terrifying - the natural noises from the jungle at night will either lull you to sleep or scare you into a shivering mess. More recently friends took me to a really special secluded beach on party island Koh Phangan. Reluctant at first (Full Moon parties don't float my boat), I was surprised by this slice of paradise tucked away on the far side of the island. Accessible by water only and with just some beach huts and cafes lining the beach, this isn't for the thrill seekers (although a guide will bring you to and from the Full Mooners if you're so inclined), it is instead a place where you can really relax. Everything you spend goes on a tab that you settle on leaving, so there's a real sense of stepping out of life for a few days. The food is unbelievable and you can snorkel, get a massage or watch pirate movies with other travellers. Highly recommended! www.bottlebeach.com