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Afternoon Tea in Titanic Belfast

you can’t buy happiness but you can buy tea and that’s kind of the same thing.

Afternoon Tea is something that should be enjoyed, may not be everyone, it’s a treat for sure.  When I was kid, until the present day, I have always been interested quite extensively about the Titanic. From learning of the stories linked to a a disaster that never should of occurred, being from Cork and it having such a local impact. I’ve been to the Cobh Heritage Centre a few times which displays a great insight to the Titanic link from there (then known as Queenstown).

Titanic Belfast opened only in 2012 in the former shipyard of Harland and Wolf, fast becoming a leading role in Ireland’s must see’s and bucket lists. My interest grew and a personal desire to come and indulge in Afternoon Tea was apparent. So finally, I took a day trip to Belfast and really enthusiastically happy about it.

Getting from Dublin to Belfast couldn’t be easier, Aircouch run hourly services from O’Connell Street and the  Dublin Airport right into the centre of Belfast to Glengall Street, right beside The Europa Hotel (where we popped in for tea before the tea). Titanic Quarter is really not too far walk outside the city centre either, it took us just over 20 minutes, taking our time and the walk along the River Lagan is quite peaceful tranquil escape out of the city.

When booking Afternoon Tea in the Titanic, it is only available Sundays and is available with or without entry to the exhibition itself. Being the Titanic fan that I am, purchasing the ticket really was a no brainier. To be honest, I had heard mixed views about the experience which was something to consider, however, I also am a firm believer in generating my own opinions, especially when it is things I want to experience myself.

The setting for Afternoon Tea is a room based on a ballroom just like in the Titanic facing towards a stairway which a band playing classical music in the background. While the food was divine and possibly one of the best afternoon teas yet, I was more impressed by really high levels of service by the staff. It’s a great thing when staff are nice because they have to, yet when the staff are genuinely lovely, it’s authentic and really very adored. The staff outdid my expectation and such a credit to Titanic.

Back to the exhibition, I personally though the experience was really very good, and worth going to see, if someone wasn’t into exhibition or Titanic, yes you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much as much. The biggest default was that it was quite busy, what tourist attraction isn’t though?

 

September – Festivals and Events

Recently, I took a little break from writing on here. After a few weeks of big changes in my life, I decided to take some time out. More than anything I wanted to find out what way I want to bring to Irish Travel Key and in my journey here. After learning a few lessons, I have begun to start taking a new direction, slowly, so hopefully an exciting few months ahead.

As summer comes to close in what has felt like the fastest year, September like any other month has provided us with many a festival to look forward to.

for the wise man, every day is a festival

From a lovely list below, I would love for you to share any festivals or what motivates you to go out and experience life.

ABV Beer Festival in Belfast from 1-3 Septemeber.

2 weeks today, the doors will be opening 🙂 #ABVFest #BeerFestival #Belfast

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Clifden Arts Festival from the dates 14-24 September,

Galway Oyster Festival From 22nd to the 24th of Septemeber.

#BIM postcards we have at the festival marquee. Aren't they pretty 😀

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Cork Oyster Festival runs from the dates 22-24 of September

Dublin Fringe Festival – September 9-24th.

 

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival runs for the whole month of September up until October the 8th

Irish Craft Beer Festival in the RDS, Dublin from 7th to the 9th of September,

Dingle Tradfest from the 7th to the 9th of September.

Elemental, Limerick Arts Festival from 8th to the 10th of September.

National Ploughing Championship from the 19th to the 21st in Offaly.

 

Dublin Theatre Festival running from the 28th of Septemeber to 15th of October.

 

Wexford Documentary Film Festival is happening between the 22nd and 24th of September

Hard Working Class Hero’s is happening in Dublin from September 28th to 30th.

Disappear Here Film Festival, Ballyliffin, Co Donegal – September 22nd – 24th.

Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival, from September 1st to the 3rd.

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Bluefire StreetFest on the 23rd September in Dublin. Takes place in Smithfield, a family event with workshop, performances and the likes.

Celtic Fringe Festival 22nd to the 24th of September.

Doolin Motorcycle Fest runs from 1st to the 3rd of September

Cork Day Out: Brunch in Ballyseedy and a boat trip in Cobh

Life was meant for goof friends and good adventures

Outside Carrigtwohill in the Fota Retail Park, you’ll find Ballyseedy Home and Garden Centre. The Cork home of Ballyseedy is a beautiful setting for a casual catch up with friends as the cafe ‘Bakestone’ sources all the food locally and everything you order is made fresh. When choosing my food, this is my main one and only love. Fresh and local always the best, always the best thing about eating in Cork. As you see from below, I went for the usual bacon and eggs benedict (with Americano separate) and no, it did not disappoint. If coming I would really recommend trying the cakes or they have home made brown bread also.

Brunch in Ballyseedy

After brunch, we made our way the short distance to Cobh. Expecting a possible sight of a cruise ship, we parked up. If familiar with Cobh, Cruise Ships sometimes make their way into Cobh and the town is filled that day with visitors. Often markets appear when they arrive in also. On this lovely Sunday, no cruise ship was in and thankfully we were packed earlier enough before the town started to get busy. After an ice cream stop, I brough my friends on a hunt for an Instagram photo.

These house’s with the Catheral in the backround is one of the most iconic photo’s of Cork and I just had to get in on the action. Have you liked me photo? Was it worth the climb?

Orginally, we had planned to take a trip out to Spike Island but as it was a last minute decision all the tours were fully booked this day. So tip, plan Spike Island in advance, especially during summer months. Cork Harbour Boat Hire became our afternoon activity and was THE BEST IDEA ever. We hired a boat or €49 altogether, which breaking it down between four of us really wasn’t expensive, and you could get up to six on board with no problem. With a guide in a separate boat, the trip is self drive and he brought us around the harbour, around Spike Island, so we kinda got close. The spin out in the boat takes up to hour and is really fantastic thing to do some afternoon.

A day in Helsinki

Early on Sunday morning in Tallinn, I booked a ferry to Helsinki, If you had read my post on how I booked this trip, you’ll see I booked through a company called Tallink. The ferry was leaving Tallinn port at 16.30, which was taking two hours to Helsinki. It was a misty day in Tallinn, the first small bit of rain I had got on my trip but nothing too heavy. Thankfully I left my hostel good and early for the port, it wasn’t too far away by any means, I had a minor mishap on my way. I GOT THE WRONG FERRY TERMINAL and I needed to be checked in 20 minutes early. This was 16.00 when I realized. So with a quick sprint across, I checked in 7 minutes later and board by 16.10 exactly.

The ferry was a passenger/car ferry which they all would be between the two cities. Plenty of floors with restaurants, shops, a bar with even a live band playing. Also on board, large lockers are available for luggage (or people) for a mere €2. By 18.30 I arrived in a very rainy Helsinki, and my commute plans in hand for a tram to my hostel, my tram never arrived. Sure why would it?? Anyhow, with some help from a staff member in the ferry terminal (and google maps) I got on another tram and made my way (in the rain) to the hostel, chilled out after my eventful day and had an early night.

Due to the rain from the day before in Helsinki, I booked the Sightseeing Tour Bus something I would normally not partake in. It never rained the next day, It was positively glorious. With only one full day in Helsinki, the bus tour was still a great opportunity for the day. Starting at the beautiful Senate Square which is home to Helsinki Cathedral, I also explored the Rock Church (yes this is what it is), the flea market, the market in the city center. Walking around the city itself. The drive along the seafront and taking in the sights of the little islands was really quite beautiful.

So I mentioned on my Instagram about a really interesting trip home from Helsinki.

So this post has been a long time coming. When I booked my flight home from Helsinki, I booked with SAS Airlines, to come home via Oslo. The flight duration including a stop over was approx 6 hours to be in Dublin for 11.45. The direct flight was with another airline Finnair, however, at the time of booking had been coming in and about €200 more expensive. When I arrived at Helsinki Airport that morning to collect my boarding pass, I was told my details were flagged. This made me nervous as you can imagine at first until I learned my Oslo flight was overbooked and it was unknown if I could board, I was given a boarding pass to get through security and to be at the gate 15 minutes before departure. I did just this, the plane was overbooked and I never got my flight to Oslo. SAS then arranged for me to get on the Finnair flight direct Dublin, therefore, meaning I would land in Dublin two hours earlier than planned. I laughed at how the overbooking of a flight worked so much to my advantage. SAS also compensated me for the inconvenience (far from it lads). The compensation was more than the cost of the flight.

6 Things to Tallinn

Tallinn was my favorite city of the three cities (Riga, Helsinki also) that I visited on my recent trip. Not that I didn’t fall in love with Riga and Helsinki, however, Tallinn has a character and charm that I just felt connected with. The Estonian capital on arrival was lunch time on a June Saturday, a little chill in the area. I’ve often been accustomed to the word ‘Baltic’ been used to refer the feeling of cold. I now really can relate to that some much more after being in the Baltic States.

After arriving in Tallin into the bus station from Riga, I accessed the tram to where I was staying in a hostel called ‘Fat Margarets’ near the ferry terminal. The hostel was perfect and really well located.

So here are 6 things I got up to in Tallinn or I recommend:

  • When I first arrived in Tallinn, I went straight to a walking tour with Traveller and the guide was a lady named called Heli, and no word of a lie, She was the most memorable, charismatic, energetic guide I had the pleasure to experience. Her passion for Estonia her sense of humor. Of all city guides, she’s been my favorite.
  • One of the recommendations I received was visiting the KBG Museum in the Hotel Viru. Being honest this part of Estonia history and the Soviet Union, I am so ashamed to admit, I knew so little about, here in the KBG Museum is a unique opportunity to get insight into this history up to very recently in 1991 when it was left by the KBG.
KBG Museum
  • My one regret of the whole trip was not visiting Tallinn Legends. A new attraction to the city, this gives you an opportunity to experience the Tallinn middle ages through interactive performances.

  • Visit the many museums including the Museum of Occupation which is a real insight to the history of Estonia occupation by other countries. I really enjoyed this museum more than I expected too.

  • While Estonians themselves are not religious, the country itself comes with many churches. Some not used for religious reasons. Walking through the old town, the most captivating church personally for me was Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which is an Orthodox cathedral.

  • Spent a day walking through the old town of Tallinn, walk up to one the viewing points taking in the city which resembles a fairy tale city.

Getting to Tallinn from Dublin is pretty easy with direct flights with Ryanair. Personally, I arrived on a bus from Riga and a ferry to Helsinki as you do. Read more about my trip Here

July – Festivals and Events

Every summer has its own story and so do you. Go out and create some experiences, some laughter in your belly. Life is not just about bill paying, I promise. Have a search through the events below and enjoy.

#GIAF17 Galway programme launch…and so it begins

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  • Liberties Festival – Running from the 15th to the 22nd of July in many venues throughout the liberties with many events being free. From walking tours to gigs, and children events.

Here are some of @Liberties_Fest Family Funday photos! #family #community #fun #summer @SICCDA @libertiesdublin

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  • Laya Healthcare City Spectacular Is running in both Dublin and Cork, back to back. Dublin is the 7th to the 9th of July. Cork is the 15 & 16 of July. I’ve volunteered at this event in the past and I can honestly say it is a wonderful day out, no no kids or kids. Completely free and loads going on at it.
  • SeaFest – A wee marine festival, gwan  and gotill July 2nd in Galway,
  • Clonmel Junction Festival – 3rd to the 9th of July, music, arts, food and street performances.

Our tote bags have arrived! They'll be available for €5 at the box office and some of the venues. #BAAA #cjf17 #betheblacksheep

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7 Things to do in Riga

Riga is the largest city in the Baltic countries and largest in that of Latvia. After hearing ever so slight information about the Latvian city, I was curious and interested in this part of Europe and felt the need to find out for myself. I flew Ryanair on a Wednesday evening and had two full days in Riga, which was enough to see a great chunk of the city.

From wondering and exploring, learning a new culture, every city needs some curiosity and an open mind. Here are a few things why I recommend a stay in Riga

  1. Visit the Central Market – Not a far walk from Old Town Riga, the market is the heart of Latvian and Riga market trade. Full of locals doing a daily shop to tourist making their way through. Full of fresh veg and fish, one not to be missed and if you want to do some normal shopping there is a shopping centre next door as part of the train station.
  2. Take a day trip to Jūrmala – Never went when I was in Riga, yet heard so many lovely stories about the area. However, this summer resort is not far from Riga and seems to be really popular.
  3. On my second morning, I did a Free Walking Tour. Personally, I love doing walking tours on the first morning as I gather a bearing for the city, The guide was great and friendly, learned quite about Riga’s history.
  4. Eat some local food and drink. bad blogger very limited food photos, this being said, my favorite dish which I have pictured below was Latvian Borscht Soup in a bread bowl. I ate my bowl.
  5. Get lost in the Old Town. This to me was just super amazing and my most enjoyable part of my stay. I love arriving at new cities getting lost down the cobblestone streets, exploring the churches and basking in the history.
  6. See all of Riga fro, the viewing point in the Latvian Acadamy of Sciences. Actually came across this slightly by accident. Located near the central market, for just a few euros you can get entry to the top with views throughout the city.
  7. Visit the Freedom Monument, is a tribute to all those who lost their lives during the Latvian War of Independence. Latvia just like it’s neighbor Baltic States has a history of independence, a history I knew so little about before embarking on my trip.

Getting around Riga, I found very easy and accessible. Personally, I walked everywhere I need to go. The only public transport I got was on arrival in Riga, I got a taxi which cost a mere €14. Also on leaving Riga, I got a bus to Tallinn which was only just €12. If going to Riga I would really recommend to combine it with a trip to Tallinn, as the cities are so close.

How and Why I booked a trip to Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki

A few months back I applied for a role as cabin crew with a well known Irish airline and got to the final stages, a job I dreamt so much as of as a child. Airports and airlines already excited me loads, from studying tourism in CIT I even did work experience with this same company. When three months passed and I never heard back, I felt deflated. Teenage me was well and truly crushed. So I sat down one evening and decided to take my love of travel in a new direction, because in all honesty since I started this blog my motivation and intentions have changed.

Something needed to happen, one evening while home from work, precasting over blogging (Schoolboy error). I needed a pick me up, I needed a holiday. So I opened three tabs Google Maps,  Rome2Rio and Skyscanner and began my research. At this stage, I needed and wanted something low cost, not long distance, however unique.

Many options I came across, however, I came up with the conclusion to fly into Riga, Latvia from Dublin and return via Helsinki, Finland, stopping in Tallin, Estonia on the way. So I planned the trip around June bank holiday weekend to maximizing holiday days (needless to say my job situation changed in the meantime). So the very next day I booked the time off work and went straight to booking flights. The flight to Riga was with Ryanair (which was found through Skyscanner, I always go here first for my flights). The flight was a very affordable €70. On the return from Helsinki, this is where things get a little more interesting. Skyscanner provided me with two options, A direct flight with Finnair which was approx €250 in price. The second option was SAS Airlines for €60, however, this was to stop in Oslo making the journey 6 hours. For the sake of three hours, I picked the one with SAS, I was still going to be back in Dublin for lunch time.

Next step was accommodation when I travel by myself, I always tend to stay in hostels. Hostelworld is where I choose to go search for my hostels, since backpacking in Australia 7 years ago now, this has always been the case. As I turned 30 on mt last birthday, I tend to be unaware how long more I can sustain staying in hostels, however, from what I learned and experience on this trips, hostels are really are about a mindset. While I never made many friends like I usually would, people of all age groups, more so than before I experienced had been staying in all three hostels. In Riga, I stayed in a hostel called Funky Hostel which was located pretty central just a few minutes walk from the Old Town. When I arrived in Riga, it was late on a Wednesday night, so I opted for a taxi from the airport, which I normally wouldn’t do due to sheer cost, the taxi cost was €12 so completely affordable.

View from hostel in Riga

In Tallinn, I stayed in Fat Margarets (Hope Margarets won’t be insulted now). This hostel was the biggest and fanciest off all three on this trip. The hostel included a jacuzzi and a sauna, a very rare find in a hostel. Lastly, Hostel Diana Park was where I lay my head in Helsinki. With 24 hour reception, really clean, friendly staff, it was ideal for my short Helsinki stay.

Traveling between the cities was genuinely very easy and very common. Between Riga and Tallinn, Ecolines was the name of the company I got the €12 bus with. The bus journey took 4.5 hours, free coffee and individual tv screen were on board, however, the scenery along the way was worth the bus trip for sure. I mentioned earlier about Rome2Rio was part of my planning process. For those who haven’t heard of the site, it is truly a godsend, especially for trips like this. The site allows you to put in where you are leaving from and destination then supplies you the cheapest and most direct routes. It covers all modes of transport, not just flying. So like Skyscanner in a sense but for every mode of transport to get between two places.

Bus from Riga to Tallinn

 

Tallinn to Helsinki – I booked this trip on the morning I left with a ferry company called Talinnk, however, many ferry companies are available and many different services. The ferry was just two hours, many restaurants, bar, shops and lockers for your bags. Another great option for the trip and offered an alternative to flying for sure.

From from Tallinn to Helsinki
From from Tallinn to Helsinki

So here’s how I planned the trip, it was very easy, manageable, always there is an opportunity to improve in travel plans, always an opportunity to grow from it. So tell me have you ever been on a trip like this?

 

 

June – Festivals and Events

Can you believe it’s June already? Now that summer has started, regardless of the weather, more reasons then ever have surfaced to experience the different types of festivals that happen all over the island. I am firm believer that regardless if you are low on cash or the weather is not great, no reason should stop you from going outside. Life happens anyway. Some of these festivals are free, if it means bring a packed lunch and just buying a ice cream.

Vantastiva Is a family themed event happening the bank holiday weekend the 3rd and 4th of June in Beaulieu House, Co Louth. This is a camping festival with some day trips available also.

Bloom in the Park A festival that has seen massive grown in the years from having the opportunity to go last year, I can understand the hype behind it. I’ve no garden I need to add, yet still enjoyed the day, but mostly the food. Always about the food. For those who are unaware, Bloom is held ever year in Phoenix Park, a gardening festival with a food village also supporting local Irish Brands. The event this year takes place between the dates 1st to the 5th of June.

Rory Gallagher Festival A tribute to Rory himself is taken place in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal between the 1st and 4th of June.

Oliver Goldsmith Festival The third oldest literacy festival in Ireland takes place in Longford-Westmeath are between the 2nd and 4th of June.

Belfast International Photo Festival is held throughout the whole month of June in different venues across Belfast. The festival showcases some fantastic contemporary pieces of photography.

Taste of Dublin The yearly food festival returns to the Iveagh Gardens between the 16-18 of June.

Street Feast A community initiative ran throughout the country where people like yourself and I, host a lunch. Supported by Food Cloud this helps to give a sense of community to every area.

 

Belfast Book Festival is a ten day festival from the 7 the 17th of June. Now in it’s in 7th year the festival has different stages and different events to capture the minds of most from workshops, poetry and discussions.

Sad I won't still be in town for this. #belfast #bookfest #belfastbookfestival #travel

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Insomnia Gaming Festival The UK gaming festival comes to Killarney’s INEC on the 9-11 of June.

The #CWLBHam is nearing its FINAL few hours at #i60. Have you caught any gameplay this weekend?

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Ava Festival is a really interesting one, why? Because it combines a conference and a festival but also can purchase separately. The event is all being held in the Urban Sports Academy in Titanic Quarter in Belfast. The event is almost sold out and is on the June bank holiday weekend.

Laser test under way 🔊🔊

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Lismore Immrama Between the 14th and the 18th in this Waterford town combines Travel Writing, Good Music

Titanic Maritime Festival With a massive history connecting to Titanic and Belfast it its own right a maritime city, this festival celebrates this on June 16th to 18th.

Tall Ships Ahoy! ⚓️⛵️#tallships2015 #titanicmaritimefestival

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Dublin Port Riverfest This June back holiday, a family day out, time to explore the tall ships that have explored into town, kayaking or the village markets.

 

Killarney Walking Festival. A two day walking festival between on the 9th to the 11th of June

Gripping walk to the Gap of Dunloe fantastic October Sun ! #lovekillarney #autumn #autumnsun #gapofdunloe #walking #killarneynationalpark #killarneywalks #

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Bloomsday Festival from 11th to the 16th of June, food, drink, culture this festival is possibly one of our favorites and is really worth checking out if you’re in Dublin

Dublin Day Out: National Botanic Gardens, Brunch at Fallon and Byrne

The value of experience is not seeing much however seeing it wisely

National Botanic Gardens

When traveling to different cities throughout the world, in the places you can visit, is there anything more peaceful then Botanic Gardens in a city. Gardens or parks of this kind. In the middle of urban sprawl, a place far removed from the traffic and noise to just wander. Located in Glasnevin right beside the cemetery in the National Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1975 by what is now know as the Royal Dublin Society, the botanical gardens are home to many living plants and multi-storey complex which includes training facilities and a cafe. On my experience, I just wondering around aimless for about an hour and a half taking in a natural beauty. Also in my visit to the area, I visited a cafe not far from the entrance called McMahon. Possibly one of the cutest cafe’s, the personal favorite points I need to note are the blankets out front and the doggie bowls also, cause furry friends are the best.

Brunch at Fallon and Byrne

My girls and I do love out food and use any excuse to meet up to involve food. One particular Sunday we met for Sunday brunch at Fallon and Byrne, the Wine Celler. When entering at door level, you go down to the cellar (obvs) the only reservation I have against this, when the weather is better in the summer months, it may proof to be somewhere less attractive. What I did enjoy about the layout tough is the wine itself across the side wall making the set up some bit more authentic. Yes, I know it is called the Wine Celler.

For my brunch delight, I indulged in Smoked Salmon on brown bread with scrambled egg (which was extra) and crushed avocado. I’m really happy I branched out from my usual Eggs Benedict as every inch of this serving went down whole. After we as a group decided on two desserts of mini donuts, salted caramel & Jam. This being honest we were a little less impressed. The chocolate sauce was great though. However, as a whole, the dessert was an average result from us.