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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 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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Food Tips Travel

Tips on eating alone when travelling

Photo Source

So you took the plunge and bought your tickets to go on an adventure. But now you realize that you’ll have to do lots of stuff on your own. One question that has come up several times when talking about my travels is how do I feel comfortable eating alone?

Sure, if you’re staying in a hostel that has a communal kitchen or if you’re renting a house/apartment that has a kitchen you can avoid eating out and save a bit of money but what’s the point of travelling if you’re not experiencing the local cuisine? I find that food is such an integral part of a culture, so it’s important that you experience it when you’re travelling.

A lot of people feel really awkward about going to a restaurant alone. It’s not something we do back home; we go out with friends and family, or we do pick-up/delivery. Our society is driven by judgment and from conversations I’ve had with several people, judgment is what drives their fear of eating alone. “What if I look like a loser? What if people make fun of me? What do I do while I’m just sitting there alone?” I used to be one of those people that thought eating alone was suuuuper weird and avoided it, but that changed when I started to travel. I wanted to experience the local food. So, I put on my big girl pants and went to try some awesome food.

So what happened?

I ATE SOME AMAZING FOOD! I didn’t feel awkward at all, and the world didn’t end. And even better, I realized that when I was at home at a restaurant, and I saw someone eating alone, not once did I judge them; it was so irrelevant to me! So, if I don’t judge people for eating alone, why would people judge me? It was quite the pleasant revelation, and it was freeing.

It might be a bit awkward at first; you’re used to sitting at a restaurant with others and having conversations. You need to adapt to being solo.

So here are some things I started doing when I am eating alone to make the time go by:

  1. Write

    I find bringing a book, tablet, or phone and jotting some thoughts down works really well. I order a bottle of wine or some beer depending on where I am in the world and I just write. I’m immersed in my writing and don’t even notice that I am alone. It’s also the perfect time to log your travels if you’re keeping a journal or memoirs of your adventures!

  2. People Watch

    This is one of my favourite things to do at home so it’s no surprise I enjoy doing it abroad too. When a culture is different than yours, you can learn a lot when just watching them in their element. By just sitting quietly and looking at other people I’ve seen couples fight, people drag a friend who was too drunk to walk, and families simply interacting together.

  3. Communicate with the wait staff

    The chances are that your waiter or waitress is from the area. You can learn a ton of information about local spots from these people, and they are usually quite happy to talk about their city. You can get some cool stories and maybe even make a friend.

  4. Send some e-mails

    Chances are your family is expecting you to keep in touch with them. Why not take this opportunity to send a few e-mails to let them know you’re alive and well. You’re not busy walking around the city or partying with your new friends, so it’s the perfect time to take a minute to say hello.

  5. Bring a book

    Do you enjoy reading? Why not take a book along and read. Chances are you don’t get many opportunities to read while you’re trekking and sight-seeing so why not use the hour and a half to read your book.

  6. Listen to a podcast

    If you’re into podcasts, this is an excellent time to put those headphones on and listen to one of your favourites! I like this one a lot because I can drink my wine, people watch, and listen to my podcast all at once!

Eating alone is honestly a relaxing and enjoyable experience, and there is nothing shameful about it. Don’t let what you think other people could be thinking about you to affect your actions. Enjoy some local restaurants and learn more about what that culture is all about!

Comment below 🙂

 

PKat.

 

 

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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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