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Kilkelly, Ireland: why every backpacker MUST visit!

Kilkelly ireland

So Matt and I are heading to Ireland in 61 days, and it just makes me want to relive all my previous experiences. I want to tell you guys about a small town in Ireland called Kilkelly.

As you know from a previous post, I went to Ireland with Jordan and Dani in July 2015, and I had a blast. Ireland was so much fun that I decided to go back for eight days at the end of my trip to drive around the country and see more of it. I decided to find small towns around the country to staying with Airbnb and just go with the flow. I covered a lot of ground this way and ended up staying in tiny towns which were all great experiences.  By keeping my options open and not settling on the typical tourist spots, I was able to find the town of Kilkelly in Mayo County.

According to Wikipedia, in 2011, Kilkelly had a total population of 1211 including rural and urban living. That’s pretty small when you look at Dublin for the same year pop. 527,612 and then think of all the tourists added on to that number. It’s just under three hours to drive from Dublin to Kilkelly, and it’s a beautiful drive. I was comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road at this point, so I was able to enjoy the scenery. Although, some of the roads are tiny so when cars came rushing by me the stress levels went up a bit.

Arriving at Kilkelly

When I drove onto the main street of Kilkelly, I knew I had found something special. I was in “real” Ireland and not the bustling city/tourist laden Dublin. The Airbnb I was staying at was right on the main road. I had to go to the butcher’s to call my host and let them know I had arrived. The B&B I was staying at was right over a bar (y’all can appreciate how happy I was about this) which was also owned by the same family (the Duffy’s). I had my pick of rooms, and they had breakfast food for me in the fridge which was very appreciated. Mr. Duffy told me that the bar opened up a little later in the afternoon and that I should come by for a beer.

I showed up a bit after opening and sat down at the bar. Mrs. Duffy was bartending, and she greeted me warmly. I decided it was time to have a Guinness in Ireland and I was not disappointed. I never liked Guinness before, but there was something completely different about the taste. Interestingly enough, I learned later on when I went to the Guinness store house that it tastes differently due to the water used to make the beer in Ireland. I sat and talked with one of the locals and Mrs. Duffy and enjoyed learning about the County I was in.

A bit later on, a group of younger people arrived at the pub. They seemed to be a lively group, and they clearly knew everyone else in the pub. I got up to go outside and dropped my cell phone on the floor and one of the guys in the group laughed at me. That was our introduction.

I explained that I was a Canadian travelling in Europe for fun and he invited me to their table. Everyone introduced themselves, and I will always remember meeting Colette. She spoke SO FAST! Every time she said her name I would just hear “Clit” which I thought was a pretty unusual name. You can imagine awkward me going: “Clit… okay nice to meet you!”. They all laughed, and she said: “No! It’s Co-lette” in an over exaggerated way. I laughed full heartedly and apologized for misunderstanding while everyone else just howled at my expense (another one of my epic blonde moments).

I met many people that night. Each and every one of them made my night amazing and fun. I sometimes had to ask them to repeat themselves due to their accents but it was well worth it.

The beers were flowing, and everyone was having a good time. One of the guys I met, Bryan, decided it was time to get his guitar and sing some tunes. To my delight, he legit pulled up a bar stool, sat down with his guitar and started singing some Irish songs. Everyone sang along (except me because I knew none of these songs) and I was just in utter awe. How cool was this? I had no words, but the smile on my face would have given you a good idea of just how happy I was.

Karen, another of the people I met that night (who was dating Bryan the musician) asked me if I had tried a real Irish breakfast yet. I told her that I had not had the chance yet. Her mom was at the bar with us, and they both invited me over for breakfast the next morning. I was a bit shy about just going over to their house, but they insisted: “just walk up the street – it’s a few doors down and just come in!”.

Breakfast in Kilkelly

I  woke up the next morning feeling like death. You know the feeling I’m talking about – the “I am so hungover I just want to die” feeling. I looked exactly how I felt which didn’t help me feel any better. Then I remembered I was invited to breakfast. At that moment, it was probably the last thing I wanted to do. Crawl back into bed with a big bottle of water seemed like a much better idea. However, you only live once, and I knew I would never get such an amazing opportunity again, so I put on my big girl pants and got ready for breakfast.

I was a bit nervous that once the alcohol wore off, things would be awkward but I convinced myself to stop being ridiculous. Funny how we always create our own fears which often stop us from doing awesome things. I walked out the door, marched up the street (I think it was like three or four doors up), knocked lightly on the door and walked in. Karen’s mom greeted me with open arms and welcomed me into her home.

She made a FULL spread. I couldn’t believe it! Bacon (the Irish kind), sausages, tomatoes, eggs, pudding, beans. It was ALL there.  Karen and Bryan came down for breakfast, but Karen’s brother stayed in bed (like I said it was a rough night of drinking). I was completely blown away by their hospitality and their kindheartedness.

breakfast in kilkelly
My proper Irish breakfast

More of County Mayo

After breakfast, I decided to head out and explore some more of Mayo County. I visited the Cong Abbey as well as Ashford castle. They were both breathtaking even if it was a very windy/rainy day.
Having a car made this infinitely easier but driving those tiny roads in those weather conditions was interesting, to say the least! Kilkelly is located in a good spot where I was close to lots of cool things.

Here is a video I took while at Ashford castle (you can hear the hangover in my voice – sorry not sorry!). It’ll give you an idea of how massive and beautiful it is. It’s actually a hotel now, but I can’t fathom the price per night.

More of Kilkelly & Ireland

I decided to stay in that night and relax. I ended up watching Taken on TV and catching up on some much-needed sleep. The next day, I walked around Kilkelly a little bit and decided to head out again to do more exploring. I drove an hour North East to Parke’s Castle and lucky for me it was a beautiful day. If you hadn’t realized this yet, I have a thing for castles.

Ireland
An epic view on the drive up
Ireland parkes castle
Parke’s castle

That night, I met up with Colette and some others from the gang and went out once again. A few people stopped me at the pubs to welcome me to Kilkelly. It was kind of crazy to have people know who I was before I even met them. Word traveled fast about the Canadian girl visiting Kilkelly (I’m a pretty big deal, m’kay?). We had another great night, and I am so glad I picked Kilkelly out of all the places I could have gone to.

To sum it all up

Kilkelly had some of the nicest and most generous people I ever met. If you like to have fun and you enjoy your pints of beer – you’ll fit right in. I hope I can return one day to enjoy their company once again. I can’t highlight enough just how great it was. And like I said, the location is great to hit up a bunch of different spots in the region. I never expected to write a 1500 word post but there is now a Kilkelly shaped hole in my heart, and I had to share with you my time there.

Time for some promotion

As I said, I met Bryan during my time in Kilkelly. He had an incredible talent, and he’s currently in the process of launching his first album (I believe it comes out in October)! If you guys want to discover a great musician from Ireland now living in Australia, go check him out. His links are below:

Facebook

Soundcloud

Youtube

 

As always, your comments are welcome below the post 🙂

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Europe Random Travel

Have an adventure – Be daring! My daring Irish Adventure

Do you wish you had a little bit more adventure in your life? Would you like to have some awesome stories to tell your friends and family?

There’s actually a simple way to achieve this.

Go with the flow. Be brave; dare more than usual.

Here is a great example of an adventure I had in Ireland that could have been a very typical “go visit the nice old castle and go home” type of day but turned into so much more.

Jordan, Dani, and I decided to rent a car in Dublin and head out into the country to see some real Ireland (Dublin isn’t the picture we had of Ireland – it was missing the rolling hills and the beautiful landscapes we had envisioned). We wanted to see the sweeping green landscapes and the castles we had heard so much about. I’m the only one who knew how to drive a standard transmission so as you can imagine; I am the one who got to drive for the first time on the opposite side of the road. I can’t even describe how nervous I was for the first hour – the word terrified comes to mind.

When I had to face my first roundabout (which for the record you need to take from the opposite side as well), I was in complete panic. I got out of the roundabout and stopped in someone’s driveway to calm myself down. Both girls were telling me I was doing a great job and that it was OK for me to take a breath and regroup which really helped me calm down.

Jordan brought her Ireland guide book with her, so we decided to go to Glendalough in Wicklow County to see the Monastic Site which was a bit over an hour drive away.

The site was breathtaking, the ruins were incredible, and the scenery was surreal. It was quite something to find myself sitting on ruins older than my own country.

 

We walked through the ruins, snapping pictures and enjoying the moment. As you can see from the above photos, it was pretty amazing.

Next, we decided to move to quaint town relatively close by (about an hour away in County Carlow) to check out this small castle Jordan had read about in her guidebook. We drove up to the entrance and walked around a little bit to find out that we missed our chance to see the grounds and the inside of the castle. We are all disappointed and STARVING at this point so we figured we would find some food in town. If you’ve ever been around a hangry (so hungry you get angry) woman you know three of them together could turn into a disaster, so we needed food fast. We found this random tiny fast food place with two tables outside and decided to order some burgers and fries.

As we are eating our food, a group of Irish construction workers in pickup trucks went in to order some food. As they waited for their food, they kept looking back at us and whispering amongst themselves (note that was a tiny town and we probably stuck out like sore thumbs). Some of them took off with their food and others sat down at the other table to eat. They started talking to us a little bit, and we told them we are from Canada and that we tried to go see the castle but it was closed.

One of the guys stays behind after everyone else left. He told us he’d been living in the town for his entire life and he used to play in the gardens of the castle as a child. He says he can take us around and show us a ‘secret entrance’ so we can check out the grounds. The three of us looked at each other excitedly and we jumped on the occasion to have a bit of adventure.

The real adventure begins

His ‘secret entrance’ was actually jumping over a fence and just walking onto the property. We got a little nervous at the idea of trespassing, but it’s was a chance in a lifetime, so went ahead and jumped. This guy was the embodiment of small town Ireland; we could barely understand him when he spoke because of his accent. He tried to tell us stories of him playing on these ground when he was a child, and he brought us to a few cool spots.

Funny side anecdote: this guy was TOTALLY enamored with Jordan and it was hilarious to watch him try to flirt when she could barely understand the words out of his mouth. Awkward for Jordan but hilarious for Dani and I.

Walking the grounds, trying to be relatively stealthy as we were technically breaking the law by trespassing on castle grounds (yeah… I’m a badass!) and listening to this Irish guy talk was a pretty surreal experience. I would have never experienced this had I not gone with the flow and let things happen. We could have just seen the castle from afar, been disappointed and gone on our way but we decided to live a little and it was SO worth it.

So be daring, embrace your opportunities, and go where life takes you. Click To Tweet

Opportunities for an adventure show up when you least expect them in life and it’s the same with travel. You need to let yourself go sometimes and not let a schedule interfere with possible adventures. It’s a crazy world out there and you just need to open yourself up to it to make your adventures even more incredible. So be daring, embrace your opportunities, and go where life takes you.

Do you have some crazy adventure stories from your travels? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Are you a clumsy person? Don’t miss my blog post on a great tool for the clumsy traveler. You can find it here.

Cheers,

PKat

 

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Europe Food Tip Series Tips Travel Uncategorized

Save Serious Money when Backpacking Europe (or anywhere else)

When you’re backpacking through Europe, you’re usually on a budget. You can’t spend too much money in one place because you know it means sacrificing something else at a later time. Well, I am here to give you the BEST way to save serious money when backpacking Europe (or anywhere else) on a budget. Implementing this trick will save you SO MUCH money and will allow you to do way more cool things.

It’s a really simple trick that I break down into two parts. Are you ready for it?

The BEST way to save serious money when backpacking Europe is….

Hostels with free breakfast.

Guys, if you’re not focusing your hostel search on the ones with breakfast included, you’re doing it wrong. As you know, I use Hostelworld for nearly all my hostel bookings. I love them because it’s super easy, gives me access to a ton of Hostels around the world, and I can specify criteria when I am searching for a hostel. I usually do a search for a hostel that has free wifi, free breakfast and a bar (but those are just my criteria).
Free breakfast means that you can avoid spending your hard earned cash on an extra meal. Most hostels that offer free breakfast have their prices set very similar to the ones that don’t so the difference is barely noticeable when you’re paying.However, the difference is very noticeable when you start having to pay for breakfast each morning.

Doing this alone will save serious money and ensure you can spend that saved money somewhere else. BUT, I have a way to make it even more worth while and I’m about to share it with you now.

Make yourself some lunch.

So you have free breakfast, and they have all these pieces of bread and cold cuts and spreads available in the morning… Why not make yourself a sandwich or two and save it for later? This is an awesome way to save on food spending. I would make some sandwiches in the morning, wrap them up in some napkins and bring them with me in my backpack for the day. Lunch can turn into an expensive ordeal if you’re not prepared so having some sandwiches on the go is a great way to save serious money. Plus, who doesn’t like a nice lunch on a park bench overlooking a fountain somewhere in Europe? I know I do!

Save serious money – go to a hostel with free breakfast!

It’s a super easy way to save money and put it into your travel experiences! Try it out (and I suggest you use Hostelworld since you can set your search criteria for included breakfast)… and as always let me know what you think in the comments below!

Want to save more money while traveling? Check out my blog post on things you should be doing to find cheap flights here.

 

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Berlin Europe Travel

The best tours in Berlin for the young adult

Hello, travel peeps! I know I said I was going to post about Amsterdam for my next post but I got a message from one of my readers about Berlin and I decided to share with you the best tours in Berlin that I used when I was there. One is a free (donation based) day walking tour, and the other one is a night (bar hoping) tour. They’re both from the same company, and I couldn’t recommend them more.

The free walking tour

If you don’t know already, Berlin is an incredibly special city. It’s the perfect mix of a bustling capital and underground culture. There is a ton of history to learn about and witness, and you should definitely look into the regular free walking tours most hostels offer to learn about all the interesting parts of Berlin.
The tour that I want to recommend is slightly different and does not focus on the regular WW2 historical tour but more on the fringe aspect of Berlin. You get to see some amazing street art (Berlin is famous for it), learn about the different underground culture of Berlin, and even witness it first hand.
The guides are extremely knowledgeable, and you get to learn a lot about Berlin that you wouldn’t usually learn about in a regular walking tour. If you have any interest in learning about ‘the fringe side’ of Berlin I couldn’t recommend this tour more. Don’t forget that this is a FREE tour so if you liked, it tip the guide well!

Here is a pic of my favourite piece of street art which actually has a really cool story. I won’t spoil the story for you guys but I will just say ‘bring back the lampost’,  and you will know what I mean once you go on the tour!


You can find more information about the free tour here.

The bar hopping  tour

OK, let’s be honest. One of the cool things about travelling through Europe is going out to party with other travellers and having fun. Berlin has a TON of underground bars and clubs that you would never now about unless someone told you to go there.
The 666 Anti Pubcrawl is your chance to experience some pretty impressive establishments in Berlin. I got the chance to drink in a 60’s hippy bar, play ‘around the world ping pong’ (ping pong is HUGE in Berlin – it’s very surprising, and you learn about it during the free walking tour I mentioned above), be amazed in a Gothic style club (which actually had a big bronze penis at the top of the stairs – super random), dance in one of the biggest nightclubs in Berlin, and end my night in an underground club. This underground club was in some old factory in the basement (you had to take a freight elevator to get in), there were different rooms, the whole place smelled old, wet and musty, they had german rap battles going on in the back room, and had people doing face painting on random couches. I can’t even tell you how weird and epic it was at the same time.
You get a bunch of free shots, and the tour only costs 12 euros, so it’s definitely on the cheap side and perfect for the young backpacker looking for a good time. I went with a friend I met in my hostel in Prague (we were both on the same train to Berlin and decided to do a few tours together) but we met a few people on the tour, and there were lots of solo ‘partiers’ so don’t let that stop you if you’re travelling alone!

I can’t recommend this tour company enough. The guides were great for both the free tour and pub crawl, I always felt safe, I learned a lot, and I had a ton of fun. I linked the specific tours throughout the post but if you just want to check out the company itself click here.

 

Have you ever been to Berlin? Let me know in the comments!

 

If you haven’t already, check out my post about the most important thing to do when travelling here.

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Europe Food Tips Travel

The BEST gelato in Rome!

Behold, my first review post! 

If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know that Gelato is one of the most delicious kinds of ice cream on earth. It has this beautiful creamy consistency that cannot be replicated by the ‘Breyers type’ companies of North America.
You can find gelato shops everywhere in Italy, a quick google maps search in your area should populate several hits. If you’re planning a trip to Italy you cannot, I repeat, you CANNOT skip gelato tasting!

I’m a huge fan of ice cream in general, and when I was in Italy, I made it a point to try as many gelato shops as possible. Vanilla, chocolate, tiramisu, mocha, cafe… oh so many wonderful flavours to try! I’ll admit, I was always one of those travellers who thought that I needed to avoid the ‘touristy’ places and go for the real local spots. Because of this, I went to all these different small gelato shops in areas less frequented by tourists. Well, let me tell you, I was proven wrong on this assumption when it came to gelato. The absolute best gelato I tried was in a relatively touristy area and was definitely tourist friendly with an English menu. It was so good I returned twice, and I’ve recommended it to all my friends that have travelled to Italy after me.

Here’s my ‘Gelato Story’:

I was walking back from the Colosseum which was about 4 kilometers away from my hostel. It was a quite hot day for April, so hot that I needed to buy a new pair of shoes as my boots were no longer tolerable. I was walking on the busy street Via Nazionale which had many stores, restaurants, and cafes. All of a sudden, I see a very colourful shop with my favourite Italian word: Gelato! I probably wouldn’t have bothered to go in and try it if it hadn’t had been such a warm day. I didn’t need some expensive gelato marketed to the tourists of Rome. But, it was hot, I still had 1.5 KM left, and I could definitely use some cold ice cream to reinvigorate me.

So, armed with a healthy dose of skepticism, I walk in. I take a quick look at the flavours available (they had a plethora), and I stop dead in my tracks. IS THAT NUTELLA GELATO I SEE?! Yes! Yes! It’s Nutella gelato! Who doesn’t love Nutella? I mean, if you don’t enjoy the taste of Nutella I’m pretty sure we can’t be friends.
I get excited, I look at the other flavours and then the last remnants of my skepticism disappear; they have Ferrero Rocher gelato. In extremely broken Italian, I ask if I can have a bowl with two flavours. In even more broken English, the sweet Italian girl points to the wall with all the prices and says “si”! So, I go ahead and order Nutella and Ferrero Rocher gelato, pay, and head back outside.

About 300 meters up the street, you can find Piazza della Repubblica which like most Piazzas in Italy has a beautiful fountain in the middle.  I decide to walk up to the Piazza to enjoy my gelato and do some people watching. Obviously, I can’t wait before tasting the gelato, so I walk and eat at the same time.

I can’t even put into words how good it was. 

I guess the closest I can get is IN-CRE-DI-BLE. It was extra creamy and thick, and the flavours tasted exactly like the real thing; it was like O was eating Nutella and Ferrero Rochers. If one can experience pure joy from eating food; I was there.

I made my way to the fountain, sat down, inhaled the entire bowl in about 5 seconds and seriously considered marching right back to the shop for more. Luckily, I managed to regain control over my body, and I didn’t go back for more right away. I did, however, return the next day as I was passing by on my way to the Vatican. And I returned one more time before departing Italy when I returned from Florence.

Just sitting here writing this, I’m dreaming of having that gelato again. I still have much to see in Italy, but a stop at Wonderful Ice Cream is a must.

Here is all the information you need if you want to venture out when you’re in Rome yourself.

Name: Wonderful Ice Cream
Address: Via Nazionale, 19a, 00184 Roma, Italy
Website
Map:

I want to impress on you, my lovely readers, that I wasn’t sponsored to write this blog post and I didn’t receive anything to put this information on my blog. I honestly believe this Gelato shop was out of this world and I want you all to have a chance to experience it if you go to beautiful Roma!

Have you ever been to Rome? What was your favorite food/drink establishment that you would recommend?

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