Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

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Sometimes you feel fenced in by darkness. But the light does slowly return. There can be value to be found in both..

Sometimes you feel fenced in by darkness. But the light does slowly return. There can be value woven in both..

From the shadows into the light

It’s a journey that all of us take part in at Winter, simply by living and breathing on our planet as it slowly begins to spend more time facing the sun after the Solstice. For those of us whose Winter Solstice is in December, the holiday season elaborates on the basic physical fact of this extending time of light and imbues it with extended facets of meaning. In Ireland many of our megalithic prehistoric sites elaborately mark this change, illustrating how this returning of light has been hugely significant to humans for over 5,000 years.

The Journey

The journey from shadow into light has been especially resonating with me these past two years as I have struggled to cope with marriage breakdown, serious family illness, my own physical illnesses, disabilities and operations, financial pressures, the loss of my dearly cherished dogs, 2 house moves, and my ensuing mental health struggles. By the spring of 2016 I became unable to cope with even seemingly simple things, as the ‘you could hardly make it up’ crazy medium and major stressors kept on coming out of the blue. I started to have severe anxiety and panic attacks about small things like making and receiving ANY phone calls, texts, emails, social media or post, and also with writing more than a single short sentence for any reason, as well as over the bigger challenges I was facing in life. It was painful and confusing, and I was scared to death.

I was trying to make peace with the darkness whilst also staying open for the return of the light, but it often felt as if at every turn fate placed another painful obstacle in my path. I also knew I was not helping by beating myself up about things, but it was hard to break out the chaotic spiral of anxiety and panic, decorated with lashings of piercing guilt about things left undone.

 

What helped?

(I should say *helps*– I’m still in recovery, and I know also that life will continue to be a dance of dark and light.)

The support of loved ones and friends. Do let them know how you are feeling.

Counselling (I ended up doing 3 rounds with 2 different counsellors. One may suit you better than another. If after a few sessions you really don’t feel it is for you, see if you can try a different counselor. It can be worth it.) There can be a waiting list for counselling if you are going through the Medical Card, so do talk to your GP to get on the list as soon as you can. 

An 8 week structured mindfulness class. I took one taught by Erica at Mindfulness Kilkenny. Highly recommend.

The book True Refuge and the podcasts by Tara Brach (the class above, book and podcasts were true lifelines for me in times of deep heartbreak.)

Art therapy. 

Supportive physicians. It is important you have a  primary doctor you are happy with; my tip is to try to find one such when you are well, as the stress of doing so when unwell can be an extra burden. 

Spending time immersed in nature. Free, and yet so valuable. 

Plenty of time and a safe space to cocoon and grieve/rant/rest/heal. Things cannot be rushed, no matter how much we need and want them to be fixed/over more quickly. 

Cooking. Preparing foods from scratch, reading excellent food writers, being inspired by & armchair travelling via recipes from all over the world, and foraging for local wild ingredients all provide me with a no-pressure creative outlet. Additional benefits are healthier eating and saving money! The cooking became even more do-able when I received a Kenwood Chef as an early Christmas; chopping veg and repeated stirring were no longer hindered by triggering my neck-arm problems. If you also have these issues, try a Chef! It opened up a whole new world of possibility for me. 

Keeping in mind that setbacks will happen, and that is normal.

Remembering that nothing lasts forever, not even the shite. 

 

Reaching for the light in the darkness.

In thinking about who held out the light for me over the past two years, as either friends, family, or professionals, I realize the majority of them were women. So I think that it is fitting, now at the time of extending light and my returning ability to *gently* reactivate Vibrant Ireland, that my first venture back be to share a special woman-celebrating event.

Nollaig na mBan, Illuminated

This coming weekend, Friday the 5th to Sunday the 8th of January, to coincide with the Irish tradition of Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas), Illuminate Herstory  is lighting up Ireland, and also encouraging us at home to light up in order to celebrate the amazing women in our lives, communities, and history.

“Illuminate Herstory is a new light projection festival to celebrate women and girls, illuminating the country with images of women when the Christmas lights go out over the weekend of Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Little Christmas) on the 5 – 8th January 2017. From the shadows into the light, we will share women’s stories from our families, communities, tales of lost national heroines and women who we admire around the world.”

Events for Women’s Christmas

There will be illuminations and events in several counties across Ireland, and you can find the events listed here. If you are on MOBILE, look for the little plus sign at the top right of the page, and click that to see the listings. It took me ages to figure that out on my phone, so I thought I’d share that tip in case you might be the same 🙂 Women’s Christmas is on the 6th of January each year, and it’s a time for women to take a day for themselves, gather, laugh, chat and make merry. A tradition worth keeping!

To celebrate Nollaig na mBan I will be with some of the dear women friends who helped to keep me going. I’ll be at the Zwartbles Ireland farm, where I often found comfort, solace and strength via my irreplaceable friend Suzanna and her animals. Happy Women’s Christmas! And for those of you who also wish to take part in #IlluminateHerstory, here are some ideas:

I will likely share some photos on @VibrantIreland’s Twitter, and I also reactivated the Instagram, but I’m not quite up to re-activating the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page just yet. I’m nearly wrecked from trying to remember how to post an article up on this here website! It looks like several things need fixing on the site, too… I’ll try and figure it out all in good time, no panic 😀

Happy 2017, may it be kind to us all. XX


Out To Lunch Arts Festival 2016, Belfast. January's Top Pick for Cultural Adventure

Out To Lunch Arts Festival 2016, Belfast. January’s Top Pick for Cultural Adventure

With over 50 intriguing events from comedy, music, food talks, art, magic & more, the Out To Lunch Arts Festival will add zing to your January afternoons and evenings from the 8th to the 31st!

Plus, as accommodation is generally cheaper in January, it’s a great time to visit Belfast! Your biggest issue will be trying whittle down what shows to see from the tempting array. Listen in to get a taste of what’s in store, and the wee video of some Belfast street art is below the podcast.

Belfast Street Art Video (under 1 minute)

Visit the Out To Lunch Arts Festival at cqaf.com/outtolunch/2016 to see all the listings and book tickets.

Keep an eye on @BelfastFoodTour and @SeedheadArts on Twitter to see if they add another combo walking tour 😀

Check in to www.discovernorthernireland.com/food every so often to see what will be added on as 2016 Northern Ireland Year of Food starts to get going.

Here is their info on the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink:

With two Belfast restaurants – Ox and Eipic – recently bagging Michelin stars, Northern Ireland’s artisan food and drink producers are reaping international renown from food critics and the media.

With record breaking performances at the UK Great Taste Awards year on year, Northern Ireland is something of a best kept foodie secret.

But not for long – 2016 has been designated a Year of Food and Drink. There’s going to be a big celebration of all that is good about the top notch local produce. And the world is invited!

Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016

Yum & Fun! Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016

It’s a leap year. So that means 366 days of opportunities to taste, munch and quaff your way through 12 specially selected themes for each month of the year. There’ll be special foodie events, festivals, money-off deals, pop-up restaurants, tastings and tours galore.

It all starts with ’breakfast’ in January (ah, the famous Ulster fry) and ends in December with ’Christmas and premium foods’. In between there’s everything from ’love meat’ to ’brewing and distilling’ to’ heritage and traditions’.

Northern Ireland’s epic landscapes, traditions and people make its food heritage very unique. Thanks to its wild coastline, endless green fields and famously fickle weather, the country produces some of the world’s finest and freshest ingredients – from fabulous seafood to rare meats and iconic breads, organic vegetables, artisan cheeses, premium spirits and craft beers.

Three of its home-grown foods hold EU Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) status – Lough Neagh Eels, Armagh Bramley Apples and Comber Early Potatoes – putting them on a par with the likes of Parmesan cheese and Champagne.

Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016 potato farm

These Northen Ireland potatoes are on par with champagne 😀

And there’s more. Shortcross Gin from County Down (MY NOTE: yum! I’ll have a gin taste test post up soon which includes Shortcross) recently scooped a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Glenarm Organic Salmon is lined up on shelves in Harvey Nichols and Abernethy Butter is the darling of London’s Michelin-starred chefs.

From a Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea at Ballygally Castle Hotel in the heart of ’Thrones’ country in County Antrim to the Titanic Menu at Rayanne House on the edge of Belfast Lough, the local food reflects local stories.

But there will be many more local tastes and exciting menus crammed with creativity and foodie sensations all through 2016.

Northern Ireland food is so good. Be shrewd, you’d be mad if you eschewed it.

www.ireland.com

www.nigoodfood.com

Head Out To Lunch in Northern Ireland! For the festival and the food 😀

Happy 2016! Slainte, Susan 


Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!

After much thought, I’ve concluded that I’m going to have to make some changes to VibrantIreland.com in 2016.

I’ve been struggling physically in writing the blog posts, (I could insert my spine & neck health story here, but I’ll spare you!) and even using voice assisted typing as I’ve done the past few posts isn’t enough– editing and such must be done by hand. I also type with one finger… s.l.o.w…! I don’t make money from this blog, so I can’t pay anyone to assist me. But I think all is not lost!

From anguish to excitement

I am going to go to predominantly podcasting, videos and photos, with a minimal amount of writing text. This website will still be functioning; it will be filled with posts using all of the above, and hopefully with more posts on it than ever! Physically having to spend time at the computer should be less, so instead of being lucky to create 2 posts a month, I think I’ll be able to do more. After months of fretting about my limitations and trying to make something work that just wasn’t & took a big toll on me, I’m now excited about my possibilities!

So, Happy New Year, and I hope YOUR possibilities are abundant in 2016! 😀  Susan

Quick little non-fancy video I just did also as an explainer:


Kove Restaurant has views over Lough Erne

Kove Restaurant has views over Lough Erne
(Kove’s pic; the rest are mine)

Killyhevlin’s newest restaurant Kove had the unenviable task of having me, a US-expat, as a guest for (a normal) dinner on Thanksgiving.

Was Kove restaurant up to the challenge?

You may know that Thanksgiving is a very important day in the US calendar when Americans eat a rather specific and much loved set of foods. These are hotly anticipated, and in many ways this meal is even more important than the Christmas dinner. Americans’ mouths water with just the thought of the home cooked fare from recipes reverently handed down from great-grannies and grannies filling up the dinner table. How on Earth would Kove restaurant compete with my nostalgia-laced memories of delicious dinners past? I’d been invited up North by Fermanagh Lakelands tourism during a time when my memories of home could scupper things…would they?

My review of Kove Restaurant

Kove is one of two restaurants at the Killyhevlin Hotel, (the other is the Boathouse Grill) and is making a name for itself in the Enniskillen food scene. Kove has an interesting selection of dishes on their a la carte menu, but probably because of my memories of Thanksgiving I went for something I normally wouldn’t choose; set menu’s chicken. Again, I was probably setting Kove a very hard task– the reason I don’t normally go for chicken isn’t due to anything esoteric, I just don’t really like chicken! I know, I know, choosing it seems to make no sense– but it was stuffed chicken, the closest thing to Thanksgiving Turkey! 😀

Kove restaurant goats cheese & sundried tomato stuffed chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon

Kove restaurant goats cheese & sundried tomato stuffed chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon

Seriously though, I chose the Kove’s chicken because the description sounded delicious:  Sun-dried tomato and goat cheese stuffed supreme of chicken wrapped in Fermanagh black bacon. 

Kove Starters

But wait, I am ahead of myself; I must mention the starters. I had the salmon and prawn salad with greens and Marie Rose sauce. Prawn salad with Marie Rose is making a comeback after being an abhorred cliche that most ‘good’ restaurants wouldn’t dare serve. But Marie Rose sauce is making a comeback because when made well with quality ingredients it is fabulous with prawns– and the salmon. Yes indeed, it was very tasty. I couldn’t help myself; I ate every little bit, which for me is a mistake as I get full quickly. I had behaved myself not eating too much of Kove’s tasty bread beforehand, but I fell at the hurdle of the starter!

Salmon and prawn salad at Kove restaurant in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen

Salmon and prawn salad at Kove restaurant in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen

I was interested in several starter items on the Kove restaurant menu; for example the roast scallop with cauliflower puree, black pudding, and cumin oil on the a la carte menu caught my attention. Kove is a member of Good Food Northern Ireland, and likes to source what they can locally; I see that their scallops are sourced from Donegal. As a fish lover it was good to see a nice selection of seafood as well as the more traditional items like chicken, lamb, and steak. We have so much edible bounty from our island and waters; no wonder 2016 is going to be the Year of Food in Northern Ireland.

Local Specialty Mains

Fermanagh black bacon is a local specialty from pigs who live free range on Inishcorkish Island in Lough Erne. This bacon is scrumptious. Indeed, my mains of Kove’s stuffed chicken dish wrapped in O’Dougherty’s Fermanagh Black Bacon made this non chicken lover very happy. The chicken was flavorsome and moist, the slightly sweet, salty and zingy accompaniments bringing out the best in the meat. The bacon is like bacon you remember from years gone by; perhaps even better. Bursting with flavor, black bacon is hung for several months, and is neither over salted nor pumped full of water or fillers. It goes very nicely with the ingredients of the stuffed chicken. The locally sourced side vegetables were perfectly cooked, Kove’s portion sizes were generous, and I was sorry that my partner was not with me to help finish this delicious dish!

Digging in to Kove restaurant's stuffed chicken and black bacon

Digging in to Kove restaurant’s stuffed chicken and black bacon

I gazed at my leftover portion of black bacon wrapped stuffed chicken and mourned. I knew that if I ate another bite of it there would be no attempting the desert. Surely that would be a sin– no dessert!?

Beautifully Presented Dessert

In order to report as fully as possible to you, I had a dessert. (Ahem.) I did choose what I figured was the lightest dessert on offer, the citrussy mousse. Look how beautiful it is! The lovely citrus zing was there, not too overpowering but not off simpering in the distance as can be the case in some other restaurants. It wasn’t heavy, but sadly I was too full for more than two or three bites. To be fair, the staff at Kove were attentive and helpful, and certainly would have set me up with a doggy bag for my leftovers, but with my travel plans I wouldn’t have been able to keep it cold and fresh. *Sniffle*

Desert at Kove restaurant, Enniskillen

Desert at Kove restaurant, Enniskillen

Dining Room Setting

Kove’s dining room looks out over Lough Erne, with Cuilcagh Mountain in the distance; the setting is lovely. I didn’t take photos of the dining room at dinner out of courtesy to the other diners, but I’ve one from the morning, below. I quite liked the blue lights; a splash of modern zing. It is obviously much brighter at breakfast, but Kove was well lit at dinner; you could see your food no bother. I imagine Kove is a popular restaurant with Enniskillen locals looking for a nice meal out, as well as being a good choice for dining hotel guests like myself.

As for wine or a cocktail, I didn’t indulge. The reason I didn’t has to do with my stay at Killyhevin Hotel– which I will reveal when I review it for you soon! I’d happily eat at the Kove restaurant again; the meal well pleased me even though I was in a nostalgic state of mind, and I think you will enjoy dining here, too. Keep your eye out for those wonderful local ingredients like Fermanagh Black Bacon, and save room for dessert 🙂 

See more, and download a sample menu and a wine list here at Kove Restaurant.

Killyhevlin Hotel also has some good special offers that include a dinner at Kove

 

 

Transparency: I was invited up by Fermanagh Lakelands Tourism, and was a guest at Killyhevlin and Kove, having a dinner and night’s stay with breakfast.  As always, opinions are my own.


Belfast Christmas Market with City Hall. Photo: Chris Heaney.

Belfast Christmas Market with City Hall. As it was raining the nights I was there, this photo is by Chris Heaney.

Would you enjoy a guilt-free break in the run up to Christmas? One where you could indulge yourself whilst also happily wrapping up your special gift shopping?

I would, and did, in Belfast! A Christmas break in Belfast is brilliant- the city is a perfect size as to be buzzy with city culture, Christmas cheer and unique locally made gift ideas without being a totally overwhelming teaming mass of crowds. I think you’ll love it!

Here are a few reasons why I recommend a Christmas break in Belfast:

Christmas beak to Belfast Belfast and St Georges Market & Belfast Food Tour

Christmas break in Belfast: Fun buzz and fab food in St Georges Market & Belfast Food Tour

Foodie Finds

Did you know St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market? What a hive of delights! I’ve just said that Belfast isn’t crazy-making busy, but the Saturday Food & Craft Market here isn’t quiet by any stretch, and later in the day many of the food stalls can sell out of their most popular items. My tip is to arrive around the opening time of 9 a.m. on Saturday, do a bit of gift shopping (SO much you’ll love!) and then indulge yourself on the Belfast Food Tour. Starting at St George’s, this walking tour meanders round Belfast as you sample local food and drink delights; you’ll gather excellent gift ideas into the bargain. And it is a bargain- at £45 for four and a half hours of local knowledge as well as the eats, I found it great value. Actually, a gift certificate for the tour might make a good gift!

Unique Treasures

I also love finding vintage gifts in addition to well made local products. The joy of discovery is part of the fun of shopping for presents, isn’t it– although there is the danger of discovering too many treasures for yourself! Belfast hosts several fabulous Vintage and Handmade Fairs throughout the year, and I came away with several vintage finds for under £20 total! As I write the next Fair is Sunday the 13th of December on the city’s outskirts at Belfast Castle, a fantastic location.

 

With stunning views over Belfast city and harbour, the Castle also has a lovely garden (cat themed!) plus several walks and archaeological sites to explore in Cave Hill Park. Did you know that the rock face of Cave Hill supposedly reminded Jonathan Swift of a sleeping giant? Thus giant Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels was born! Now that’s a scene deserving of a selfie 😉

Christmas Buzz

Christmas break in Belfast idea: Belfast Christmas Market with City Hall. Photo by Chris Heaney.

Christmas break in Belfast idea: Belfast Christmas Market with City Hall. Photo by Chris Heaney.

Back down in the city, Belfast City Hall is surrounded by the uber-festive Belfast Continental Christmas Market. You’ll hear fun patter from the stall holders, and there’s gluhwein galore. If you weren’t feeling the Christmas spirit before entering the Market, you’ll catch the cheer pretty sharpish in these surroundings, and of course the Baroque style City Hall building is a glorious backdrop. Another market to consider if you are in Belfast on the 20th is the Fine and Dandy Market of local artists, makers, bakers, and vintage sellers in the Crescent Arts Centre.  I came across a few of these stall holders at the Vintage Fair, so I’ll warn you—there’s some very tempting baking going on in Belfast. Do that Cave Hill walk to balance it out!

Night Delights

As your days can be happily filled browsing markets, tasting delights and strolling with views over or of the city, your nights should be no less marvellous. Restaurants in Belfast are serving top notch cuisine, and on all 3 of my weekend breaks I’ve been a very happy wine & diner. I couldn’t choose a favourite, but check out some award winners here. I can, though, give you a tip for choosing a spot for a festive drink if you love gin.

Christmas break in Belfast idea: enjoy some locally made Shortcross gin

Christmas break in Belfast idea: enjoy some locally made Shortcross gin

So far, I’ve 2 favourites; first is Muriel’s with 100 gins on her list, including Northern Ireland’s only gin distillery, Shortcross. Earlier this year Shortcross ran a gin drinks competition, and Muriel’s won the gin & tonic category. In the gin cocktail category, The Merchant won with their ‘9 hour Bill’. The Merchant is my favourite for the sheer elegance of the surroundings; I’d nearly drink mud there and enjoy it! Seriously, though, if you love cocktails, do call in—you’ll be spoiled for cocktail choice. (Stay tuned for more on Shortcross in an upcoming post!)

A wee drink before or after a show is perfect. This Christmas break I went to The Lyric Theatre to see an original Belfast play, Christmas Eve Can Kill You. It is full of that great Belfast humour that makes a visit here so fun. The Lyric was packed; Belfast folk love theatre, and why not, with venues like the beautifully modern Lyric and the beautifully Victorian Grand Opera House on their doorstep? It would it be so festive to see a show there this Christmas! Hop on the train, plane, or nip up in your car- Belfast is easy to get to! Check out discovernorthernireland.com for accommodation deals & more to help you plan your visit. Enjoy! 

I visited as a guest of Discover Northern Ireland, and a version of this article also is on their blog section. I’ll have 2 more posts on enjoying Belfast coming soon; one with ideas for the culture lover, and another full of flavorsome food & drink. I genuinely love visiting Belfast, & think you will too 🙂

Christmas break in Belfast idea: see a show at The beautifully modern Lyric Theatre

Christmas break in Belfast idea: see a show at The beautifully modern Lyric Theatre


Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Someone in your life love Ireland? Here are some handy Irish gift ideas, for Christmas or anytime.

From an absolutely amazing romantic getaway in a transparent Irish forest dome, to Irish art, books, Aran sweaters and more, you’ll find an online Irish gift you’d love to give – or receive!

Sea Sparkle!

One of the most unusual photographs I came across this year is by artist & photographer Vincent Hyland. He has 2 different prints available of the special natural phenomenon known as sea sparkle, here by the shores of county Kerry. Magical! Have a look at Vincent’s online shop to start you off on your online Irish gift shopping adventure 🙂

Sleep under the stars in an Irish forest dome!

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

For the ultimate romantic gift, a getaway to Finn Lough in one of there exclusive Forest Domes can’t be beaten. I’ve stayed here, and I was totally wowed! The food at their Finn Lough Kitchen is so very delicious– do avail of a package that includes dinner! Highly recommended! See more about the Finn Lough resort and their forest domes here.

Learn to Speak Irish!

What if your gift recipient can’t get to Ireland yet but wants to immerse themselves in it in some way? Or do they have a trip planned and would like a bit, or alot- of the native language? Bitesize Irish Gaelic teaches you as much or as little as you want to learn, with a free trial, and monthly or yearly plans. A very thoughtful and unique gift! See more at www.bitesize.irish.

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Once more in Dublin!

Romantic Once, the musical, is returning to Dublin this summer! Tickets will make a super gift if you’ll be there between 2 July – 27 August 2016. In case you don’t know of Once:

Based on the movie sensation of the same name, filmed and set in Dublin, Once features music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, including the Oscar winning Falling Slowly, and a Tony award-winning book by Enda Walsh.

Once is about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us. This funny, moving and life-affirming love story with glorious music has captured hearts around the world. Seeing it where it all began, at home in Dublin, is incredibly special.
8 Tony® Awards including Best Musical, Oscar Best Original Song, Falling Slowly, Grammy® Award Best Musical Theatre Album

You can book Once here to see it at  it’s ‘home’ in Dublin next summer.

The Cat Shepherd and Woolly Irish Pressies!

We have our very own feline farmer right here in Ireland, — Bodacious the Cat Shepherd! He helps his human Suzanna with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, and now he has his very own calendar & postcards! You can see what he gets up to and order postcards or a paw-tographed calendar here. You can shop online for the blankets and knitting wool made from his Irish Zwartbles sheep, here.

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Find Your Irish Roots!

Someone on your list interested in Irish genealogy? A subscription to Irish Roots would be a perfect gift!

“Irish Roots magazine is dedicated to helping you to trace your elusive Irish ancestors. Each quarter Irish Roots magazine is packed with lots of interesting, informative and practical articles written by Ireland’s leading genealogists. Irish Roots is a powerful resource tool for all those wishing to trace their family history.”

Irish Roots magazine is published quarterly in December, March, June and September. Subscriptions are: Ireland €25, UK £25, USA $37, Australia $42, Rest of world €27. All prices include postage.

Love Ireland Gifts!

Aw Go On - Classic Father Ted is a perfect Ireland themed online gift from I love Mayo

Classic Father Ted-ism; perfect Ireland themed gift by I love Mayo

On atmospheric Achill Island, papercut artist and painter Jane Steger-Lewis creates items that are perfect for gifts; cards, too. She says:

“I want to make things that bring joy into our homes and that make us smile. My Love Ireland range is all about referencing Irish culture in a contemporary, bright and fresh way, products that fit well with modern homes, I hope you like them.

The products you can purchase here are hand crafted with love, not mass produced in the cheapest labour markets. The emphasis is on quality, originality and care; I’m proud of every package I send out and I want you to be delighted with your purchase.” 

Find Jane’s I Love Mayo online shop here

Koo Koo Sneactha Emma Campbell Art; online Irish gift

Koo Koo Sneactha by Emma Campbell Art

Bright & Beautiful Irish Art!

For a special present that will bring cheer and zing into someone’s home all year round, have a look at the fabulous paintings and prints from artist Emma Campbell. She’s having a 12 Days of Christmas sale on her fine art prints, and many of her paintings come with free shipping. I’m a huge fan of her work, and she’s all types, from whimsical to more abstract. Here’s a fun winter one pictured; she has several different themes. Check out her online shop here – Emma is having a Christmas sale!

Traditional Claddagh, Belleek, More!

If someone on your list would love Irish Claddagh rings, Belleek pottery, or if you are frankly not sure what Irish- themed gift to give, a trip to Gilmartin’s online shop is in order!  A (physically) small traditional family run shop in the little village of Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border, Gilmartin’s has made the leap online with an extensive treasure trove of gifts. Known far and wide for their knowledge and customer service, it is wonderful to see a wee shop like this survive the recession by extending online. Go to their site and click their listings for Himself or Herself & away you go 😀

If you’d like to give an Aran Irish jumper/sweater, click here for my article with buying tips & links to buy online

Pure Shores by Magnum Lady, Val Robus. Belmullet, Sligo, IrelandThe Gift of Irish Summer!

Yes, it’s Ireland, not the Caribbean! See, we do have beautiful weather in Ireland 😀 But it may be wise to capture it like Val Robus, aka Sligo photographer Magnum Lady, has done. Give the gift of a year round Irish summer with this photo print, or peruse Val’s other items over on her MagnumLady Etsy shop.  I think all of us in Ireland could use this gift about now! Wind, rain, flood… that’s been our past few  Nov/Dec weeks!

Give an Irish Outdoor Adventure!

From gentle medieval history based river rafting to exciting white water rafting & more, Boyne Valley Activities in Ireland’s Ancient East probably has something your special someone will enjoy. We took the Medieval river float tour this October, and it was excellent! There’s a plethora of terrific sites in the area from prehistoric right on up; if you’d like to explore more as a gift to yourself do check out the Boyne Valley Area and the outdoor adventures at Boyne Valley Activities. PS, if you are in Ireland in October and your giftee loves Halloween, this is definitely the place to be! The Spirits of Meath festival is fantastic! I went to several of the events and had a brilliant (and scary!) time. I’ll have a full post on it in a few weeks, but til then, keep your eye on The Spirits of Meath running 15 October to 1 November in 2016. And if you’d like to recover from your fun & frights in a beautiful Georgian period suit, check out this video  (will embed video in this article when my internet is better) of when I stayed at the Darnley Lodge Hotel 😀

Nature Lovers!

Did this photo make you say ‘Ahhh, cute!’? If there is a lover of Irish Wildlife on your gift list, then check out photographer Christine Cassidy’s wonderful photos on her In Touch With The Wild Photography page.  Red Squirrels, brilliant turquoise Kingfishers, Irish Hares & more are available as prints. Have a look and then just message her on the page if you’d like to place an order. Enjoy her lovely page!

Book Lovers Bumper Selection of Presents!

Books are a perennial favorite, whether ebooks or physical books. Watch this video to help you choose some special Irish books. Before you do, let me add on one more author I missed telling you about in the video & podcast. Full of wonderful slices of life in the charming Dingle area of Kerry, Felicity Hayes McCoy has  physical books, audio books, and ebooks/Kindle. In regards to Dingle, The House on the Irish Hillside book came first, and is now joined by Christmas at the House on the Irish Hillside, and Enough is Plenty. See more of her books, and purchase, on Felicity’s author page on Amazon, here.

Some of the Irish book ideas include a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in modern Dublin, fun reminiscences of a boy’s getting up to mischief in 1940’s Belfast, a seriously based history of Irish farm wives with some dashings of tongue in cheek humor, a book filled with photos on Irish thatched cottages that will have you dreaming of one of your own, and several more fab books too.

If your internet is a bit slow for video (mine often is *sobs*) have a listen to this podcast instead 🙂

 

I could go on; in fact I might! I know I’ve forgotten some Irish gifts that I’d love to mention, so check back periodically 😀 Susan


She's 120 years old in December! Vintage Grand Opera House theatre goers in Belfast

She’s 120 years old in December! Vintage Grand Opera House theatre goers in Belfast– don’t you just love all the hats!

December is a GREAT time to visit Belfast, with shows, markets, & Christmas buzz galore.

And guess who’s turning 120 this December in Belfast?

It’s that lovely Victorian lady, the Grand Opera House Belfast!

It’s so easy to take the train from Dublin to Belfast or to just drive, and I’m super excited to be going myself during the start of the Christmas season. I’ll be reporting to you on the Belfast Christmas buzz & culture, the markets & unique spots to find gifts, the fabulous Mount Stewart Festival of Light, the delights of Northern Ireland’s own gin, Shortcross, and the scoop on great places to eat & drink, including the Belfast Food Tour. Whew! Though I’ll miss out on going myself this trip, the Grand Opera House Belfast has plenty on this December; so here’s more on her 120th anniversary & upcoming shows:

The Grand Opera House Belfast's interio

The Grand Opera House Belfast’s interior is, well, grand! 🙂

BELFAST OPERA HOUSE REACHES GRAND OLD AGE

This December will see Belfast’s majestic Grand Opera House celebrate its 120th Anniversary since the curtain first rose on December 23rd 1895. Located in the heart of Belfast’s bustling city centre, the Grand Opera House has delivered an unrivalled programme of entertainment over the course of its illustrious 120 year history and has played host to some of the greatest names in theatre and music.

“The rich heritage of the Grand Opera House make it a unique venue, with a history every bit as eventful as some of the shows produced on its famous stage. The diverse range of shows and performances which take place in the Grand Opera House make it a must see attraction for culture lovers on a trip to Belfast,” Tourism NI’s ROI Market Manager, Fiona Cunningham said.

“There are a wide range of performances, musicals and shows to suit every age and taste and visitors to this iconic building can also enjoy a fun short break in Belfast by staying in one of the nearby luxurious hotels or B&B’s, added Fiona.

Grand Opera House Belfast is 120 years old on the 23rd of December 2015

Grand Opera House Belfast is 120 years old on the 23rd of December 2015

Designed by prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham, it was a huge success from the outset, hosting a vibrant programme of opera, drama, pantomime, comedies, musicals and classic drama with regular performances of Shakespearean plays. In 1895, the capacity of the theatre was 2,500 (more than double what it is today) and the Victorian auditorium boasted all the luxuries of the day including tip-up seats, electric lighting, central heating and air conditioning.

The Grand Opera House has attracted large audiences right from the start, delivering an enviable programme of entertainment. Even the Great Depression in the 1930’s had little impact on audience numbers, with the highlight of the decade being a visit by Gracie Fields with a sellout performance in September 1933. Many more famous faces treaded the boards over the years including Laurel and Hardy, George Formby and Luciano Pavarotti, who made his UK debut in a production of Madame Butterfly in 1963.

A large scale restoration project was carried out on the Grand Opera House in the 1970’s and it reopened in September 1980. Throughout the 1980’s, the venue continued to prosper with healthy audience numbers and hit shows from London including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”, “Grease” and “Evita”. Local acts such as Phil Coulter, Mary Black and James Galway were very popular and Van Morrison played his first concert in his native city since 1967 there.

To this day, the theatre boasts a wide array of popular shows and additional facilities and even hosted the glittering BAFTA Awards in September 1994. Other services available include venue hire for corporate hospitality, functions and events and even weddings. Extended in 2006, the original façade has been joined by a striking addition to the Belfast skyline, home to a smaller performance space, the Baby Grand Studio.

The Grand Opera House Belfast nowadays provides an interesting visual contrast with the modern aspects of Belfast's architecture.

The Grand Opera House Belfast nowadays provides an interesting visual contrast with the modern aspects of Belfast’s architecture.

One of the most enduring traditions at the Grand Opera House is the Christmas pantomime. When the theatre first opened in 1895, the first performance was of “Bluebeard” and pantomime has been an annual feature of the programme from that day to this. This year’s panto, the much loved classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will take place from 28 November – 10 January 2016. Bursting with all the ingredients of a classic fairytale, including a Wicked Stepmother, a Handsome Prince and a Damsel in Distress, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” stars Northern Ireland’s Queen of Comedy, May McFetteridge in what will be her 26th consecutive pantomime appearance

Other not to be missed upcoming shows include The Bodyguard starring Alexandra Burke which will run from February 3 -13, Motown’s Greatest Hits which runs from January 27 – 28, The Magic of the Beatles which runs from January 15 – 16 and much loved musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which is on from March 16 – 27. See all the listings here.

Have you been to Belfast recently?

You really should take a trip to Belfast– it’s brilliant for culture lovers! I fell for Belfast last year, when I got to visit twice; once for a Belfast weekend break in Spring, and once in Autumn for Belfast’s Culture Night weekend. Do have a look around www.discovernorthernireland.com for more information on short breaks and things to see and do in Northern Ireland. You can check out my report on Belfast and the people of Northern Ireland here.

Happy Belfast Visiting! 😀


HAPPY THANKSGIVING in Ireland!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING in Ireland!

In Ireland for Thanksgiving?

Here are tips for finding your favourite Thanksgiving foods in Ireland, where to eat a Thanksgiving dinner out, and more.

Updated with more places to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland  for 2015, some recipe ideas, and a Thanksgiving reenactment. If YOU’VE tips, a fab recipe, Thanksgiving event or fun Thanksgiving in Ireland themed photo you’d like to share, contact me. @vibrantireland on Twitter or email hello@vibrantireland.com. Cheers!

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby's classic canned pumpkin.

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby’s classic canned pumpkin.

Thanksgiving food most missed in Ireland? Pumpkin Pie!

But wait, help is at hand! You can now buy that pumpkin pie classic, pumpkin in a can, in Ireland! How many of us grew up with this rather rubbery mass of surprising deliciousness? Often the brand of choice was Libby’s; You may enjoy the blast from the past Libby’s commercial below!

Note: I should say that while I didn’t conduct a rigorous scientific survey, in chatting to other North Americans over the years, Pumpkin Pie seems to top the list of what we miss most when we spend Thanksgiving in Ireland 🙂

 

 

Fallon & Byrne in Dublin carry Libby’s canned pumpkin in their shop; I know that  supplies sell out fairly sharpish in many places, and F & B is no exception. Perhaps just give Fallon & Byrne a buzz to check stock levels before you make a special trip. Of course just eating there in their tasty restaurant is a grand consolation if you find the pumpkin pie cans are all gone! Tel. 01 4721010 (choose 1 for the office) Open Mon to Fri 8am- 9pm,  Sat 9am- 9pm, Sun 11am- 7pm Location: 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2

I’ve seen canned pumpkin occasionally in Aldi or Lidl– it must have been during one of their special ‘American’ promotions (Hotdogs in liquid stuffed a jar, anyone? Umm, how is that even a thing? Did I miss this during my 30 years in the States?) If I were you, I’d keep my eyes peeled over the coming weeks in case these guys put canned pumpkin on their shelves again.

You can order Libby’s canned pumpkin online at americanfood.ie where it costs €3.45 a can. They also have some shop stocklists; here’s the list from their website:

Call before you go to make sure they have what you are looking for!

The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 1

Cleveragh Business Park (beside Doorly Park)

Sligo

Ph: 071-91-74077

Web: www.thefoodcentre.com

**********

The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 12

Hills Industrial Estate

Lucan

Ph: 01-601-0952

Web: www.thefoodcentre.com

**********

FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

1-4 Lower Camden Street

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-475-8033/8036

Web: www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie

**********

FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)

Unit 4, Block 1

Grand Canal Square (near the Bord Gais Energy Theatre)

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-671-8004

Web: www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie

**********

FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)

IFSC

Unit 2

Mayor Street

Dublin 2

Web: www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie

Ph: 01-672-0977

**********

FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)

Smithfield

Dublin 7

Ph:01-485-0271

Web: www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie

***********

Gleesons of Booterstown (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

44 Booterstown Avenue (accross from the Booterstown Church)

Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-288-0236

Web: www.gleesons.ie

**********

Londis (Drinks, Sweets)

Foxrock Avenue

Foxrock, Dublin 18

Ph: 01-289-4777

**********

McAteers, The Food House (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

15 Clanbrassil Street

Dundalk, Co. Louth

Ph: 042-932-6420

Web: www.mcateersthefoodhouse.com

**********

Super Valu (Rushe’s) (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

37 Castle Street

Dalkey, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-285-9477

Web: https://www.facebook.com/eurospardalkey

**********
Sweeties (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

56 Henry Street

Kilrush

Co. Clare

Ph: 085-732-8759
Web: https://www.facebook.com/sweetieskilrush/timeline

Fun! And how to make your own pumpkin pie- can or no can

A fun read with a great recipe for pumpkin pie is US expat Imen McDonald’s account of her first Thanksgiving in Ireland. Well! I find some of those reactions to the pumpkin pie almost sacrilegious 😉

Mouthwatering Recipes from ex-pats in Ireland

Thanksgiving can be a bit of a puzzle in regards to vegetarian eating; what main dish can you serve that is special, filling, and delicious? I think this gorgeous dish from Canadian ex-pat Janine may even tempt the meat eaters away from the turkey. (Note: Canadian’s have their Thanksgiving the second Monday in October.) Butternut Squash, Sage, and Buffalo Mozzarella, let’s be having you! The recipe is here on Cooking With Craic; do check it out & her other recipes too!

MY TIP: you can now get Irish made buffalo mozzarella. As well as online and at cheesemongers’, I’ve also purchased it at Aldi, for €1.99. Yum! 

Irish Buffalo Mozzerella - I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Irish Buffalo Mozzarella – I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Janine says:

Here’s a vegetarian lasagna recipe made with béchamel, butternut squash, sage and buffalo mozzarella. It’s not entirely diet-friendly, but we’re thinking of it as one of our final, creamy indulgences before our diet begins on Monday. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

I’m sure we will!

If you’d like to add a classic Irish flair to your Thanksgiving spread, why not try some easy Irish soda bread? Dee has added a few nutty bits to this, and pumpkin seed (sensing a theme?) but you can omit them if you’d like. Dee says:

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

I don’t recall eating soda bread in the UK, but soon discovered how tasty it is with a chunk of cheese or a bowl of soup when we moved to Ireland; as a result of Colette’s recipe I also learnt that it’s incredibly easy to make. There’s no kneading or waiting for the bread to rise, just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, transfer to a loaf tin, pop in the oven and it’s done. The traditional Irish bread soda recipe contains just four ingredients – flour, salt, buttermilk and bread soda but a few more bits and pieces have been added to this Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Dee grows masses of vegetables in her Irish garden as well as teaching others about vegetable gardening, and she’s great recipes for pumpkin rice and for pumpkin soup.

I also enjoyed this Instagram photo shared on Twitter by @Alanazdinak 😀 Now that’s a quick and easy Thanksgiving dinner!

No need to go home for Thanksgiving. All sorted now! #Merica #dublin2015

A photo posted by AlanaZ (@alanazdinak) on

For something more substantial, why not try Thanksgiving Dinner in Waterford’s wonderful La Boheme? They tell me that:

Our chefs have created a sumptuous feast of traditional Thanksgiving fare. Eric and Christine lived in the States when they met, and when they moved to Europe, they missed this traditional feast and therefore decided to offer the menu in La Boheme every Thanksgiving. Its a hugely popular day and menu in La Boheme, with many patrons traveling from far and wide to participate in the day, so reservations are appreciated. 

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

A tasty and easy way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland! La Boheme’s Thanksgiving dinner is €29.95 pp, and runs Thanksgiving evening only. You can check out their Turkey Day menu here.

 

Where else can you eat Thanksgiving dinner out in Ireland?

Well, I’ve gotten some tips via social media. — Over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page, Linda Fulton Burke says:  Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney has a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Their website is here: www.gleneaglehotel.com   Twitter supplied an idea for the Eastern side of the country, in Drogheda, county Louth:   

@Eseaboard is Eastern Seafood Bar & Grill, and they have served Thanksgiving dinner for the past 7 years. Give them a shout on their Facebook Page to find out the details for this Thanksgiving. You can get their Brown Hound Bakery pumpkin pie in Dublin, too:  

PIE LOVERS UNITE! #pumpkinpie Brown Hound Bakery Ireland for #Thanksgiving 26.11.15 also available for collection in DUBLIN from The Garden Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, D2 (1pm – 3pm) pre-orders only!

Posted by Brown Hound Bakery Ireland on Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk Park

It could be very interesting for North American visitors to see what they think of the Thanksgiving reenactment at the Ulster American Folk park in Northern Ireland. I’d be quite curious to see this myself, especially as it is based around a family in western Pennsylvania; where the majority of my own family immigrated to from Ireland. You’ll also get to sample some of the Thanksgiving food, including pumpkin pie. I wonder will it be as good as my granny’s? 😀

At the Ulster American Folk Park you can join the Partridge family for Thanksgiving as they prepare the turkey and anxiously await the return of their only son Joseph, an infantryman in the Union Army.

Costumed guides re-enacting a 1800s Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk ParkThe American Thanksgiving is an occasion for Americans to remember those from the Old World who first settled on its shores, consider the uncertain future of the pilgrims who faced many a hardship and to pay tribute to the Native Americans who greeted the first European newcomers.

At the Ulster American Folk Park you will be able to immerse yourself in living history to experience this grand tradition first hand. You will have the opportunity to sample the flavour of a Western Pennsylvania rural Thanksgiving in November of 1863, which was the year of the first national day of Thanksgiving.

Costumed guides from the museum will re-enact a Thanksgiving Day from the 1800s. You will have the opportunity to sample some seasonal dishes such as Succotash, Pumpkin Pie and Butternut Squash.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015 – in Ireland or elsewhere!


You may be able to explore inside the largest Loughcrew megalithic tomb via Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

You may be able to explore inside the largest Loughcrew megalithic tomb via Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

What the heck is choreosonography? How can I visit a locked 5,000 year old megalithic tomb? Some November events events & ideas for cultural adventure in Ireland!

This is the first in a series for the more adventurous person; not as in bungee jumping or skydiving kinds of adventure– this is for those of us who enjoy being a bit adventurous in the areas of Arts & Culture. Are you a cultural adventurer Check these out! 

In this week’s suggestions we have 2 cultural adventures that involve the outdoors, a challenging piano concert, a charming book and tour idea, plus several tips for enjoying Ireland’s very first City of Culture, Limerick. 

Let’s start off with some ‘easier’ adventures. Irish thatched cottages are the darling of many a postcard, but they are actually an endangered architectural species, with less than 1,600 left on the whole island. Many are private homes, but some are open to the public; one such one can be found at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre. I visited it last week, and the young men reviving this family cottage are a delight, as is the cottage itself. I’ll have more on the centre in an upcoming article focusing on county Meath, but it’ll pop up again here when we explore the 5,000 year old megaliths. In an example of perfect timing, this landed on my desk:

Map of Irish Thatch Cottages by Emma Byrne

Map of Irish Thatch Cottages by Emma Byrne

A charming book to inspire gentle adventure.

Irish Thatch by Emma Byrne Provides a rich visual theme for a gentle adventure round Ireland. Emma and her husband Johnathan live in a county Wexford thatched cottage, and the author is well versed in the joys and judders of living under thatch in a 200 year old cottage. (Fancy water pouring out of a ceiling light, anyone?) In her book, Emma brings you through the history & craft of Irish thatched cottages, and on a charming pictorial tour of these traditional beauties throughout Ireland. She took to the open road (or, winding road as the Irish case may be,) visiting these cottages herself; the book contains over 350 photos and an illustrated map listing thatched cottages open to the public. The thatched heritage cottage at Loughcrew was not yet open at the time of the book’s writing, so you’ll have to pencil it in yourself. You can purchase Irish Thatch at many bookshops, or order online from O’Brien Press.

 

This November, why not dream up a journey centered around Irish Thatch Cottages? Book by Emma Byrne

This November, why not dream up a journey centered around Irish Thatch Cottages? Book by Emma Byrne

While we are on the subject of thatch, let’s just also have a spot of Seamus Heaney, which is always a good idea 🙂

Thatcher

Bespoke for weeks, he turned up some morning
Unexpectedly, his bicycle slung
With a light ladder and a bag of knives.
He eyed the old rigging, poked at the eaves,

Opened and handled sheaves of lashed wheat-straw.
Next, the bundled rods: hazel and willow
Were flicked for weight, twisted in case they’d snap.
It seemed he spent the morning warming up:

Then fixed the larder, laid out well honed blades
And snipped at straw and sharpened ends of rods
That, bent in two, made a white-pronged staple
For pinning down his world, handful by handful.

Couchant for days on sods above the rafters,
He shaved and flushed the butts, stitched all together
Into a sloped honeycomb, a stubble patch,
And left them gaping at his Midas touch.

-Seamus Heaney

Explore the 5,000 year old ‘Hill of the Witch’ megalithic tombs at Loughcrew

With amazing views of approximatly 11 counties, and built around the same time as their famous neighbor Newgrange (which is now complete with fancy visitor center and a steady stream of huge tour buses), the cairn complex at Loughcrew near Oldcastle in county Meath is a very large, and much quieter, site. The feeling of wildness, of being generally ‘untamed’ by the OPW & tons of health and safety regulations, is strong. To get the most out of your visit to, arranging for a guide is best; usually your guide can get a hold of the key so that you may actually enter into the largest cairn on Slieve na Calliagh (The Hill of The Witch/Hag.) This ancient tomb/ritual place is home to the Hag’s Chair, and one the largest amounts of megalithic art in Ireland. At the autumn and spring equinoxes the rising sun sends its rays into the chamber, illuminating the back stones and rock art. A powerful sight! The aforementioned Loughcrew Megalithic Centre can give you updates on what equinox events may be happening, and as they are also open all year they’re super handy for a cuppa tea or coffee with cake or lunch in their cafe. Needed after the fairly steep walk up to the cairns! (Note; the way up to the cairns is not wheelchair friendly at time of writing; all steps.)

Guide: I had Malachy Hand as my guide– what a treasure trove of info and stories this gentleman is! You can contact him at malachyhand@hotmail.com 

Loughcrew Megalitic Centre: The two young men running it are Niall and Fechin. Theirs is a real labour of love, and as well as the thatched heritage cottage and cafe, they also provide camping & hostel accommodation. Shoot them an email at info@loughcrewmegalithiscentre.com and I’m sure they’ll be happy to answer any enquiries you may have.

 

Float Through Time! A Medieval River Tour of Trim

You can do a Medieval Float Through Time in Trim, Ireland

You can do a Medieval Float Through Time in Trim, Ireland

On a raft but no real paddling required! It’s all play and not really any work required as you float downstream on the river Boyne. I reckon you’ll love this fascinating and just oh so pretty journey through medieval Trim offered by Boyne Valley Activities. We went last week; the autumn leaves where ablaze and the hour & a half gentle float was just gorgeous. James knows tons of interesting facts and stories that you probably won’t find out elsewhere, so listen up! If you don’t capsize the boat anywhere (I imagine that would be pretty hard to do!) at the end of the river tour you’ll call into the tiny 14th century pub Regan’s at the riverside for a sip of what you fancy before the van brings you back to the centre. At the time of writing this, the Medieval River Tour is priced at €25 per person, and I feel that this is a terrific bargain & perhaps even a bit too low for all the work that James puts into it. Don’t miss this wonderful cultural adventure in Trim, county Meath! I’ll have more on this in my upcoming Meath article, too.

Tip: Depending on the state of the river & weather, this tour may not run in the wintery months. Contact James at info@boynevalleyactivities.ie to check. Do have a look at their other activities too! boynevalleyactivities.ie

Challenging the boundaries of music and dance

Figures, by Óscar Mascareñas

Figures is a new work for piano conceived, devised and directed by Irish-based, Mexican-born composer Óscar Mascareñas in collaboration with Mexican dance artist Nora Rodríguez. The work is the result of eight years of research in sound and movement that Mascareñas has been undertaking at the University of Limerick in Ireland.The aim of this project is to transform somatic forces into sounds through an exploration of the relationship between the piano and the body; the former not only seen and understood as a musical instrument, but also, and most importantly, as a space where the body moves, plays and interacts with its physicality and its sonic potential.  To describe the work, he coined the term choreosonography, a concept that involves the physicalisation of sounds and the sounding of physicality. A choreosonography is both a process and a work.

This conceptual work is the first of its kind, and represents a unique, innovative, state-of-the-art proposal that aims to challenge the boundaries of music and dance, as well as to provide a space for collaboration between artists of different disciplines, creating a discourse that will eventually change the way we approach, think about and experience composition and performance.

Óscar Mascareñas began to collaborate with Nora Rodríguez in September 2014  as part of their work at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, in the University of Limerick, and have worked on Figures since the beginning of 2015.

The full work will consist of seven to ten studies for piano, with a projected programme duration of one hour.

When? Thursday, 12 November, 8pm

Where? Tower Theatre, Irish World Academy, Univeristy of Limerick (see map below the video)

How much? Free

What else is in Limerick to see? Plenty! The Hunt Museum is always a good choice for the culture lover; have a look here for the Hunt’s current exhibitions. Until the 19th of November, there will be works by Brian MacMahon  on view, amongst others. You can check out the talks on at the Hunt Museum here. Just up O’Connell Street from the Hunt is Ormston House, another arts venue worth checking.  Also see another music event here, farther below. 

 

Limerick Docks by Brian MacMahon

Limerick Docks by Brian MacMahon

Any other tips? Whenever I’m in Limerick, I love to spoil myself by either eating or staying at One Pery Square in Limerick’s Georgian Quarter. (The Limerick City Gallery is just across the street.) One Pery Square does wonderful Afternoon Teas– and if you really want to indulge, how about an Afternoon Tea combined with a Thermal Spa? AHHHH! Check out their daytime menu with Afternoon Teas here. If you’d like to explore the Georgian Quarter a bit more, get in touch with Declan, over on Limerick Walking Tours. He’s great! He also does Medieval & Angela’s Ashes tours.

What’s for lunch? Well, there’s lots; if you are visiting the Hunt Museum their cafe is good, and just a wee stroll up O’Connell Street is one of my favorite Asian places, the award winning Aroi. Check out the Eat In Limerick guide map here.

Artists Biographies

Óscar Mascareñas (PhD) (Mexico/Ireland) is a poet, composer, performer and musicologist. He has given concerts, conferences and master classes extensively in Ireland, the UK, Slovakia, Hungary and Mexico. He is the founding course director of the BA in Voice and Dance, and was acting and assistant director of the MA Ritual Chant and Song at the Irish World Academy. Óscar is also founding director of the Irish ensemble HIBERNIA, and founding chair of the Cage-Cunningham Professorship in Contemporary Performance at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in Mexico. His forthcoming poetry book ‘[Sketches for] A Poetry of Desire’ will be published at the end of the year by the University of Nuevo León press in Mexico. He currently lectures and researches in music and contemporary performance at the Academy.

Nora Rodríguez (Mexico) is a versatile dance artist based in Limerick, Ireland. Her main interest is to develop live performance and video. Since 2009 she has been exploring the notions of corporeality, emotion, memories, space and sound. Nora has presented and performed work internationally. She is currently Dance Co-ordinator of the BA in Voice and Dance programme at the Irish World Academy in the University of Limerick. Nora is continuously engaged in the development of interdisciplinary projects. She is currently working with Óscar Mascareñas on a series of musical explorations between movement and sound, and on her piece (ALLOW) EVERYTHING SOMETIMES with actor Kevin Kiely Jnr. and poet Shane Vaughan.

Info via Limerick 2020, do give their Facebook page a like as they often share interesting cultural events happening in the city.

Trailer for Figures, by Óscar Mascareñas:

ART SONG – AN EXPLORATION OF BEAUTY, NATURE AND LOVE

Also in the area that day, you may also like to check out this free daytime performance by Eve Stafford (soprano) and Yonit Kosovske (piano,) which is based on four elements: poet, composer, singer and pianist.

“An art song strives to be the perfect combination of music and text. Songs become a marriage of exquisite music and beautiful poetry.”

This programme features works by renowned Irish, English and other European composers, including Michael Head, Haevlock Nelson, Hector Berlioz, Hugo Wolf, Hubert Hastings Parry, Eric Coates, Armstrong Gibbs and Roger Quilter.

Soprano Eve Stafford has won numerous competitions at the Féile Luimní, including ‘Voice of Féile Luimní’ (2013), in operatic solo, art song, lieder and sacred music. She won prizes at Feis Maitiú Corcaigh in early music, show songs and the soprano soloist category.

While specializing in classical repertoire, she sang Rosalia in West Side Story, her first musical to date, with the Cecillian Society. A student of Olive Cowpar, she enjoys a freelance performance career and has sung in various venues throughout Limerick, including the Hunt Museum and the University Concert Hall.

When? Thursday 12 November, 1.15pm

Where? Irish World Academy of Music & Dance, University of Limerick, Limerick

How Much? Free

What can I eat nearby? La Cucina Italian isn’t far, and is very tasty! Tis only small inside, but they also do a top notch Italian takeaway menu; check that out here.

So, which cultural adventures do you fancy doing? If YOU know of or have an event, book, tour, etc that you think would fit in well with the Vibrant Ireland cultural adventure articles, get in touch! You can email hello AT vibrantireland.com Thanks!


Dublin ; A Breath of Fresh Air! Hiking to a fantastic view over the city

Dublin ; A Breath of Fresh Air! Hiking to a fantastic view over the city

Dublin; A Breath of Fresh Air

Many of us who live in and/or  love Ireland get tired of the perception that Ireland = pubs = pints.

Sure, the Irish pub culture can be great fun, but there is much more to Ireland than this. Dublin especially has been painted with the It’s All About The Drink brush. So I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person thrilled with these new videos from Visit Dublin which give a much wider picture of Dublin. What do you think? What have you enjoyed in Dublin that wasn’t centered around a pint?

For example: Is the way to find Dublin’s heart through your stomach?

Fab Food trails Dublin Ireland

Corleggy Cheese! You can get a tasty sampler box for a fiver.

One of the best walking tours of Dublin is not a pub crawl! I think it is the Fab Food Trail. 

Not only will the eats & drinks satisfy your taste buds, a good tour will cater to your craving to experience an area’s history, culture, and local gems. This could be a tall order for something that lasts around 2.5 hours, but it can be done in Dublin with Fab Food Trails. You can find out more about the Dublin City food tour here.

And again, do share some of your favorite things in Dublin aside from the pub culture, especially if they are less well known– let’s spread the word 🙂 Leave a comment below. Thanks! 

There is a plethora of things to explore in Dublin in the arts, outdoors, history, top notch food, and interesting events all year round. Nip on over to Visit Dublin and check things out!