Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Holiday Vs Trip

“Going anywhere nice this year,” the hairdresser queries as she starts her process of small talk.
“Nothing planned yet, but Im going for four days to Berlin in April” I inform her.
“That will be a lovely holiday, never been there myself,” she states.

The Berlin Wall
(c) fifiheavey
But it isn't a holiday. I specifically said four days. Everyone knows that is a trip, right?
Like really it is just a long weekend Thursday – Sunday. How could she possibly have mis-interpreted that?

A holiday is seven days or more, probably over ten days really to suffice the 'holiday' title.
Over the last few years a “holiday” to me also needs to include a long haul flight or at least a different continent and usually has to have some sort of “adventure days” and “relaxing days.”
That is a holiday to me.
Not a city break, or a get away weekend or a brief rendezvous.

(c) fifiheavey

What does a holiday mean to you?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Rock of Cashel

The Golden Vale in Co Tipperary has some of the best pastures in Europe. From this luscious, sweet, green, flat carpet rises up an impenetrable fortress.
For over 1,000 years The Rock of Cashel boldly stood as a symbol of power and high faith, today it towers over the valleys as a testament to ancient Irish history.

The Rock of Cashel can be viewed for miles around
(c) fifiheavey
The song does not lie – it certainly is a long way to Tipperary from the North West of Ireland. I was starting to question my destination for a weekend away just before The Rock came into view. The actual Rock on which the Carraig Phádraig (formerally St Patrick's Rock) is built on looks so harsh in this pretty setting. It looks dangerous, something out of a fairytale – a location which must be conquered to free the princess. But that is what makes it all the more important.

The impressive round tower dominates the Rock (c) fifiheavey

The Rock of Cashel took our attention on entrance and exit of the historic town, but we saved it as the last thing to do on our weekend away. As we took in the delights of Dundrum Manor House Hotel and fine dined our way around the town of Cashel, the rock loomed over, beckoning us.
Closed on Saturday, despite the decent crowd of foreign tourists peering in the locked gates, we waited until Sunday to brave the cold and the wind on top of the craggy top.

Perfect day for discovering The Rock (c) fifiheavey

The site of the conversion of Aenghus King of Munster by St Patrick in the 5th century, the Rock boasts the original St Patrick's cross. Which does not take the form of what we now use as the crucifixion cross. The Rock makes room for a beautifully intact round tower, the impressive Cromac's Chapel, the Hall of the Vicar's Choral and an audio visual theater as well as a large number of graves, many marked by glorious high crosses.
One of the many of the High Crosses on top of Cashel (c) fifiheavey
The stone carvings particularly took my interest, especially the symbols which can still be viewed on GAA and sporting crests today.
A visit to The Rock of Cashel comes much recommended, but make sure you avoid the parking fee. The car park beside the rock costs over €4 (all day) which is steep when really you will probably spend about 30 mins up at the rock (especially if it is gusty.) You can park in the town or further away from the rock for much cheaper and it is timed. Our admission was €6 each with 50c extra for a tourist map. I found the price a bit steep without any tour guide, but it was off season.

Make sure you have plenty of room in your tummy for some excellent food choices in Cashel. We really filled up on fine cuisine at Kearney's Castle Hotel and Bailey's Hotel. Oh and leave some room for Wonka Sweets!

Make room for some delightful Wonka Sweets when in Cashel!
(c) fifiheavey

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Simple weekend away

Lets take a short hotel break – anywhere, I don't mind I just want to get away.
  • But it has to have a ... gym, swimming pool, spa, bar, restaurant, disco ...
It is not easy to pick a hotel for a weekend away. I took on the task this week, all I wanted was a good deal, or so I thought.
A nice two night BB including a dinner – no expectations, just somewhere to get away and relax.

The hotel has to have a spa.
Maybe somewhere new, where I have not been before. (That really tightens the list!)
A massage would be nice though – so it has to have a spa.
The other half has started a new training regime. “It has to have a gym” he pipes up.

City or country I ponder. It would be lovely to take in some scenery – city life needs too much energy we need R&R. Country it is.
A castle would be perfect - too expensive though.
Maybe an old Manor house or a spanking new resort.
Comfort is a must.

I whittle the selection down to a handful and show off the contestants.
“This one is nice” I display, pointing out its recent awards, and the superb high gloss photos.
“Oh it doesn't have a swimming pool” was the response.

Oh and the hotel needs a swimming pool ...

It needs to have a swimming pool? “Well it would be nice” I am told.

So we pick the one with the swimming pool, gym, spa, nice price and attractive website.
(Well if you can't keep a good website – what state must the hotel be in?!)

It only took a few hours ... over a few days. We were not looking for much really, something simple ;o)

What makes or breaks a hotel selection for you?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Irish Tourist Season

Bust those January Blues with a super saving weekend deal at ....

The January sales are here for hotels all over the world. And while many will spend the month slowly watching the very few pennies left in the bank, others will take the opportunity to go on a short cheap break.

What a brilliant opportunity to visit somewhere new in Ireland, tick something off the to see list and all for a nice tidy price, I thought.

But the Irish Tourist Season is not open for business. The doors are closed until March.*
You know because of earthquake season...
And it is still sort of cold I guess, there are definitely clouds in the sky and no one owns a coat here.**

It does rain a lot in Ireland ... Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo
(c) fifiheavey

I found a great deal for a hotel in Cashel, Co Tipperary. The hotel looked lovely and I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Rock of Cashel which received huge publicity during the Queen's visit last May. But the doors are closed.

Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly would be nice to see, the ancient monastery, the graves, the high towers. Closed to tourists until March though.

Skellig Michael, Co Kerry
World Heritage Site Skellig Michael, co Kerry looks intriguing, spectacular – but the experience center is closed yep... until Tourist season opens.

UNESCO Geopark in Cavan and Fermanagh which includes the Marble Arch Caves a window into 650 million years ago could be a nice detour... but this is not the time of year for fun.

Yes many other attractions around the country are open, but why not all? Can we not be open for tourists all year around? Is it the rain – because I think anyone who doesn't live in a dungeon knows it rains here.

We all don't get our two weeks holidays in August, people travel all year around. Do we need to rely our entire tourism industry on just the three Summer months?

Tourist Season March to October should maximize our tourist attractions, but certainly not eliminate them for the rest of the year.

Our slogan should not be:

Cead Mile Faile go hEireann (March – October only)

* True
** Not quite true 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The simple life

Ah the simple life.

On the treadmill  of life
Life is as simple and as complicated as you make it right? Correct. But it also depends on circumstances, where you live and the culture you live in.

As I jump on to the treadmill of 2012 and try to stay on without falling off, try to keep up with the changes around me, and meet my expected goals I can't help but wonder about a much simpler life.

A new year requires quite a bit of organisation, resolutions, goals, events, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, parties, holidays need to be penciled in so we don't forget them on the hectic cycle through the year. But as I filled out my work diary, calendar, home diary and smart phone I became exhausted.

The simple life in Fiji
(c) fifiheavey
I stared up at a picture from Fiji, and I recalled the first time I ever really experienced the real simple life. Living in a beach hut with only cold running water and electricity for three hours each night I was in bliss. We stayed in a family run resort – but not a resort as you know it. A few beach huts scattered on a remote island in the tropics of Fiji.
Away from the politics of communism, the island was run as a commune with a King at the head. The meals were cooked together by all the families, they held religious ceremonies together and the village had one TV for a large number of families to share.

And they were so happy – not that put on 'Bula' false smiles but true content. Once their days work was complete, the individuals did what they do best: relaxed. Even the work was carried out slowly, due to the immense heat, if you had to walk somewhere you did it slowly. But it all got done, everyone knew their role. They could come and go from the island as they pleased, but they usually stayed together because that is where they knew their place.

And I was happy there, I read and walked and danced and played cards and talked. Oh boy did we talk – to the visitors to the family who cared for us to the neighbours, to the king! We watched as newbies joined the island life, full of stress and plans and as the days went by slowly relaxed into the way of Melbravo life.

Melbravo Resort on the Nacula islands, Yasawas, Fiji

If you wake up one morning, sick of the rat race and decide to return to the simple life in Ireland – you are branded a Hippy – not the flower power kind the dirty kind.
But I understand the lifestyle choice. After working on the farm at home last Summer I had a similar epiphany. My back was sore, I was physically exhausted but I never felt so satisfied. Caring for animals and being self sufficient is a real gift. It is the meaning of life day after day watching the world renew itself in the eyes of baby animals and surprise you with a fresh crop of food.

Man kind has taken huge strides to get us where we are today, but remember the simple life is always only a few steps away.

Looking out on the blue sea, and the landscape of Fiji. The home of the simple life.