Lisboa and the craft beer revolution

We decided on a city break at the start of the year. Well, initially it wasn’t going to be a city, initially it wasn’t even going to be a break. After making the momentous decision to replace the bathroom in the summer, we felt we probably shouldn’t be going anywhere at all, however, this proves hard to do when you are sitting in the glumness that is post Christmas and new year blues and what seems like a lifetime of early dark nights.

I had received an email from #lonelyplanet that had stated ‘a craft beer revolution in Lisbon’. This had immediately appealed to us. A short break and flight time that includes beer? Craft beer at that? Where do we book?

Well, unfortunately, Ryanair for a start. The problem with this airline is that in terms of prices, no other carrier comes close. I dislike Ryanair for so many reasons that I won’t bore you with now but had I have had a choice to fly with someone else, I would have done.

So, the flights were (very) cheap. Something like £170 return for the both of us. The accommodation was cheap too. We did some quick research on where to stay and found a company called Portugal Ways Conde Barao Apartments that appeared to be placed in a really convenient part of town. These were also really well priced at about £200 for Monday-Friday. In addition to the apartment, we were offered a connection service from the same company which meant that as well as picking us up and returning us to the airport, on the last day they would take our bags ahead of our flight meaning we didn’t have to drag our luggage around the cobbled streets – and, if you see the cobbled streets of Lisbon, you would be grateful for this!

I am sure that you can get a taxi to and from the airport (it is only 20 minutes max away from the centre of Lisbon) but as our flight didn’t get in until just short of midnight, it wasn’t something we wanted to mess about with.

We departed from Terminal 3 at #manchesterairport. Now, I wouldn’t usually bother writing about an airport terminal but I feel I need to mention this. Terminal 3 is great providing it is not busy. I understand that it is operated mainly by Ryanair and as a result of that, lots of people have their carry on luggage with them. Bare in mind, however, that it is also the smallest terminal and so lots of people with lots of baggage means only one thing: carnage. Thankfully we had booked into the airport lounge – the one good thing about Terminal 3. The views are fantastic, you literally sit on the runway and get to watch the planes take off and land, something which I really enjoy for some reason.

Anyway, back to Lisbon. We checked into our apartment with ease. I understand some reviews on #tripadvisor claim this wasn’t an easy thing to do but we really had no trouble whatsoever. The code to get into the apartments and our actual room was emailed to us several days in advance (I did have to pay a city tax as well) and hey presto! It worked. Our room was spacious and very clean. It did overlook a construction site and again, this has received some criticism from people who have stayed there. I can understand why but if I am honest, you would be hard pressed to stay in Lisbon where construction isn’t taking place at the moment. There is investment everywhere. Old apartment blocks are being renovated all over the city and I can imagine in a couple of years time it will be even more wonderful than it is at the moment.

We arrived late on the Monday night, so we didn’t get to explore any of the city until the next day. The first thing we encountered was the #timeout market, something that wasn’t mentioned in our travel guide strangely enough. Needless to say, we might not have discovered the place unless we were staying nearby. The Time Out Market is attached to a massive fruit, vegetable and fish market. Had we not have been short on time i.e. staying longer, I am sure we would have bought some fresh produce here and made our own food. They had so much on offer, we would not have been disappointed.

Walk into the Time Out market and it is this huge courtyard of various different eating houses. There is something for everyone. We returned later on on the Tuesday when it was far busier than when I took this photo!

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Beyond this, we walked up to a place called Principe Real. This is a steep walk (as most of Lisbon is) but worth it for the view. A stunning 360 degree aspect of the city and as we had really good weather for the time of year that we went (an unseasonal 23 degrees) then this only enhanced what we could see. Clear blue skies and dazzling sunshine that swept across the ceramic tiled buildings.

At Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara, there is a little market. It sells things from tiles to handbags from freshly squeezed lemonade to sangria. Obviously, we stopped and sampled both. It would be rude not to!

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From this viewpoint, you can clearly see other areas of the city. We decided to aim towards the Carmo Convent, a former Roman-Catholic convent. Again, another steep climb but again, another spectacle at the top with a fabulous back drop.

We started to learn more about Lisbon, probably stuff we should have read about before, like the city it used to be before the massive earthquake destroyed most of it’s buildings and nearly a third of it’s people. We felt quite ashamed that we hadn’t done more research but having said that, it’s wonderful to immerse yourself in history sometimes and enjoy it and understand whilst you are there.

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Having had an iWatch for Christmas, I was able to track our ‘walking progress’. There wasn’t a single day where we didn’t hit over 1000 calories burned. Yes, Lisbon is a city where the attractions and sites are close together, but it does involve some climbing.

Public transport is very cheap. There is the famous 28 tram that still operates through the city, but there is also a good bus and train service. On the day we decided to walk to Belem, we caught the train back costing us only three euros. It is a bit disheartening though. A walk that takes you most of the morning, can be achieved in a five minute train journey on the way back!

The walk out to Belem is particularly nice. Mainly because it is flat and when you have spent what feels like your entire life climbing a cobbled street, you really appreciate a tarmac pavement!

Along the waterfront is another up and coming area. Bars are starting to creep up along the way, as well as some places to eat and the views, again, are really great. The Golden Gate styled 25 de Abril Bridge (incidentally, I don’t know if it is styled on the Golden Gate but it certainly reminds me of it) is the constant feature along this path as is the Christ the King Statue. Both of these landmarks can be seen from any viewpoint in the city and they look particularly special lit up at night.

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Belem is worth a trip if only for the little delights on the way. We came across this attraction in addition to this statue. Another idea of what to expect from Lisbon. I felt that there was a real mixture of old and new and both had been executed really well. It was all tastefully done and a real compliment.

I could talk about Lisbon all day. I wish I hadn’t written this retrospectively and had completed it as and when I had experienced all of these different things like I have done previously. You live and learn.

A couple of other important things to mention. Walking around the city walls probably involves a queue but is well worth it. We took in the sunset over a couple of roof top bars mainly Noobai in Bairro Alto, which even if it isn’t open there is a great public space that people seem to flock to to enjoy the view. We also went to another recommended place called Le Chat, which is like a glass cubed cafe that boasts more great views (and great white sangria).

We also went to a coffee house called Hello, Kristof which, if like me you enjoy really good coffee in a contemporary atmosphere, then this is well worth a visit. As is the salmon on toast.

And finally – the craft beer revolution I hear you say? Well, yes, that was our initial plan but fortunately Lisbon had a lot more to offer than craft beer. We did seek out some gems of places but we literally ran out of time. That must mean we will have to return one day soon!

 

 

Beer o clock in the South West

Described as a desert in terms of real ale and craft ale, I wasn’t expecting too much from my Cornwall adventure. 

As described in my previous blog, the Bolingey Inn was ok but, if like us, you’ve had the opportunity to drink lots of great craft beers, St Austell, which is so widely available everywhere anyway, isn’t want you always want a pint of. Apologies if people disagree. 

I did a bit of research and read about a place called #driftwoodspars in St Agnes. It was described as having its own micro brewery which was a big tick from the start. It also had lovely views of the beach and a great selection of different beers, as well as being dog friendly. We tasted their Bawden Rocks, a 3.8% golden hoppy beer. Very nice. They had plenty more that we couldn’t sample due to driving, buT definitely worth a return visit. 

Up next was a place called the Water Front in Perranporth. I had seen a sign advertising #blackflagbrewery on the outside and felt it was worth an investigation. The Watering Hole is the famous bar in Perranporth, sitting a near perfect spot on the actual beach. However, don’t dismiss the Water Fromt, it has a beer garden and also great views. It’s family and dog friendly but had a lively atmosphere when we were in. 

It was here that we discovered Black Flag. I can’t actually write the name of the beer as it was tricky to pronounce and remember to spell! It was a nice pale ale, almost like an American pale at 4% on draught. Absolutely lovely.

When I typed in Black Flag on Facebook, I discovered two other pubs that stocked their beers. One was the Lamp and Whistle in Penzance and the other was the No 5 Alehouse in Newquay, two places we both intended to visit. Bonus!

Just to clarify we did do other things in Cornwall other than drink beer! I promise! 

Penzance is a funny old place. The largest town in Cornwall and somewhere stuck I between being a bit of a mess and actually quite nice. Lots of new shops/buildings mixed in with vintage and art. 

The Lamp and Whistle is on a back street not far from Market Jew Street. It’s been wonderfully renovated but unfortunately does not allow dogs in, which is quite bizarre for that kind of back street boozer and even more so in Cornwall, where dogs are allowed everywhere, including shops and cafes. So we sat outside but drank great beer all the same. Not Black Flag this time but a great American pale. 

Onto the wonderful No 5 Brewhouse in Newquay, which is a place that, in my opinion, has improved enormously. The new Brewhouse is on the Crescent, which has a great location near Towan Beach. I would say a lot of money has been on this new pub but it looks incredible with some original features maintained. We drank 2/3, which is what they serve of Black Flag’s Five Fingers, which was outstanding. Beavertown was also on the menu as well as three other craft beers. Impressive, as was the food. Fresh and very tasty. Well worth a visit. 

Wax, on Watergate Bay has long been a favourite haunt of ours due to its breathtaking location. This also has three hand pumps on of  Skinners brewery. 


We discovered on our penultimate night that the local off licence as all of these local breweries in and more, Corkscrew in Perranporth. I can’t believe it’s been until now that we have realised this. Fantastic choice proving that the South West is not a real ale or craft beer desert just yet. 

#no5alehouse #visitnewquay #waxwatergate #drftwoodspars #skinnersbrewery #waterfront #blackflagbrewery #corkscrew 

Wild seas, salty lips, sandy toes, white surf, sea spray, hidden coves … Cornwall.

After having this holiday booked for nearly twelve months, at times it felt like it would never come around, but at the same time you don’t want to wish time away. 

We wanted a holiday where we could take Ruby (how times have changed) and so we chose Cornwall for that reason. We decided to head towards the North Coast as that’s where the most dog friendly beaches are, especially in the summer when they change the rules due to the amount of families (I assume). It’s also where Laura and I both hold many fond memories. We’ve visited Newquay together in the past and knew of its reputation, so we decided to stay in Perranporth. It has three miles of a dog friendly beach and the cottage we found had spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Perfect.

Providing the weather would be OK. Fortunately it was. Not many times you can say that about England! 

So our cottage was a true find. A converted barn called White Horses, attached to another property but private all the same. Only one bedroom but more than big enough for the two of us – and Ruby! Outside it had a lovely decking area with a summer house that overlooked the beach at Perranporth and a view that would provide us with spectacular sunsets in the evenings. 


About a mile from the beach, perhaps not even that, there was a nice country path walk down to the sea. In the other direction was a place called Bolingey, where we were directed to a pub, which funnily enough we decided to visit on our first night. 

The Bolingey Inn. We often put our trust in the Lonely Planet guides and therefore invested in their Devon and Cornwall edition. It was published in 2014 and a lot can happen in two years, such as the recent boom in the craft beer industry, which would probably be mentioned in a more recent version. The Bolingey Inn was ok but I didn’t think it was particularly special. We’ve been so spoilt for good pubs and beer in Stoke/Newcastle that a local pub serving Doom Bar is just a bit disappointing. The locals seemed to like it though and it definitely had a good crowd.

Perranporth is family orientated and for that it’s brilliant. It’s got a great location for all of the areas of Cornwall that we enjoy. The Watering Hole bar that is literally on the beach has a wonderful location. It’s busy but provides a good atmosphere. We stopped there on the way back from walking Ruby.

The beach at Perranporth is dog friendly all year round, meaning we can let Ruby run to her hearts content for as long as she wants. There is an area where leads are recommended but beyond that there is a huge stretch of beach. Walking up and down it can easily be a good hour. 

More to come, including St Ives, Newquay, Penzance and Padstow. We’ve covered it all! 

#perranporth #cornwall #wateringhole

From home to Frome

We decided on this holiday nearly twelve months ago after acquiring our Cockapoo, Ruby. Pre-Ruby I worried that I would never be able to go on holiday ever again because I feared we would never find a dog sitter. Post-Ruby I worry about going on holidays that don’t involve her. I need not have worried about the dog sitter part, people are queuing up to do that!

So we booked a week in Cornwall initially and then decided we wanted to see Stonehenge and Glastonbury, so we did for the first time ever an Air BnB and added an extra two days onto our holiday. We had heard about Air BnB through friends and decided to give it a try. We literally looked at a map and picked a midway point between Glastonbury and Salisbury, home of Stonehenge. Frome appeared to be a sensible choice and it looked quirky. 

The Air BnB we have is a basement apartment at the bottom of what looks like a really old building. It’s within a ten minute walk to the town centre. Frome is very pretty, full of independent shops and home to the monthly Frome Independent – a local artisan market. Unfortunately it takes place on the first Sunday of every month and we won’t have the opportunity to see it. Like most markets, they all seem to take place on either the first or last weekend of a month. Very rarely do you get an event that’s on ‘the second to last Sunday of the month’. 

After we checked in, we headed into town in search of a pub, which is very unusual for us (quite clearly a joke). I wanted to try out Milk Street Brewery and their tap, The Griffin, but it was closed. Well, it opened at 5pm and it was half past four … Only kidding. We went in search of somewhere called the Cheese and Grain, which appeared to be a music venue as well as a craft centre. They also sold Milk Street beers, but not until 6pm! We were thirsty and desperate at this point so we settled for another arts centre called the Black Swan, on the basis that they sold beer in bottles.  

We intend to return to the Cheese and Grain, determined to sample Milk Street beer but when we got there, we were told that the bar still wasn’t open. ‘What time does it open?’ I asked. ‘Six’ she replied. ‘What time is it now?’ I queried. ‘Three minutes past six. But nobody has turned up to open it.’ She looked across in hope at the empty car park, clearly wanting a bar tender to suddenly appear. They didn’t. We left.

It was clearly a blessing in disguise as around the corner we discovered The River Cafe with a lovely view of the River Frome, and, you guessed it – beer! Although still no Milk Street but we settled for some good crafts instead. 

The following day we headed out to Stonehenge. Laura did her research: you have to pay to get in and dogs aren’t  allowed. Perhaps not quite what we needed to hear. However, we read about a back road where you could drive past and see it from a distance. The problem is the road gets very busy as people stop and slow down to view. I am glad we didn’t make the effort to go up close because not only was it chucking it down at this point, but they were not at all what I expected. Laura first thought she had spotted the stones, when in actual fact it was some hay bales stacked in an opposite field! We laughed and then realised they were in front of us and really … Small. Almost insignificant and yes, we were some distance away but not that far and nothing that would make us want to return. 

Glastonbury Tor on the other hand was outstanding. Free and absolutely stunning. You can see three counties from the top, although it’s pretty windy s would advise the tying up of hair, otherwise you won’t see a thing. It’s a steep climb and there were a few ‘spirited’ people about, but it’s well worth the walk. Ruby got accosted by a hippie carrying a bow and arrow. I had nipped back to the car and would t have believed it had I nothave spotted him in a nearby field.


We visited Wells during the afternoon as well. Another worthwhile place to see. The smallest city in the country but with a wonderful cathedral. 


Looking forward to Perranporth tomorrow! 

Singapore Sling

So it’s been a good few years since we did a really long flight. We’ve been to the States recently (NYC) and Europe, and those flights are no more than seven hours. Needless to say I was a little apprehensive about flying all the way to Perth, Australia for my brother in law’s wedding with #singaporeairlines.

I shouldn’t have been. When we boarded the plane at Manchester Airport, I couldn’t tell it was in a different class to other airlines. As always, I had done some research regards Singapore Airlines and I knew the statistics, not just for safety but also for customer service.

The plane looked luxurious – even in economy! Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration! But even so, it made my Ryanair flight to Ibiza last year look sub standard! No surprise there.

The air hostesses were dressed, as Laura described them, as ‘Singapore Princesses’ and they were delightful. Nothing was too much trouble – regardless of the time of day or night.

Our first destination was Munich where we were to get off the plane (admittedly this isn’t what we had been told at booking) whilst it was cleaned and then board ready to go onto Singapore. About 11 hours of flying in total.

About four hours into the flight and the sun started to set. I don’t particularly like flying at night but on a journey covering this distance you can’t really avoid it. I kept checking the progress of our flight as we crossed a multitude of different countries. Singapore Airlines had a very good interactive service in the back of each seat, meaning we could watch a variety do different films. There were literally hundreds – almost too much choice. I settled into the relatively recent release, ‘Brooklyn’ before going back to an old classic, ‘Dirty Dancing’ where I went back to Kellerman’s mountain in the summer of 1963 for about the hundredth time.

We had been given a menu highlighting all of our different food options for the entirety of the flight (including Singapore to Perth). I started with minced beef and ginger rice. It was without doubt the best airplane food I had ever eaten. Mind you, I like Asian food so this was always going to be a winner. Drinks were plentiful and before you knew it, I was relaxed and drifting off to sleep – something which I am never able to do on a plane.

We experienced a prolonged amount of turbulence as we flew over Iran. I wasn’t aware of this at the time and that was probably for the best. I am not sure I would have appreciated an emergency landing there! Already I can’t hear people say, ’emergency landing – for turbulence?’ But that’s how I view turbulence. Every flying expert under the sun can tell me a thousand times how safe it is to fly through various air bubbles or whatever, but I still feel like we will plummet from the sky or lose a wing whenever we experience it! Let me hope this is never the case.

As soon as we were through the worst of it, the captain turned off the seat belt sign and I returned to normality. Breakfast was soon served and I woke up just in time to land in the morning in Singapore. It looked delightful as we came in to land and made me realise how much of the world I want to go on and see. Unfortunately, seeing Singapore wouldn’t happen on this visit as we didn’t have the time. We would have a little over an hour in the airport before we continued on to our final destination, Perth.

All in all, a fabulous start to our holiday. The fact that it was raining when we landed in Australia is another story. Maybe we inadvertently took the English weather with us on the plane when we left the UK?

#singaporeairlines
#franwarr

How not to climb a mountain

When we arrived in Rhodes, I was very much aware that there was no beach near our hotel, not even within walking distance. Although I am not a massive fan of the beach (there’s too much sand) Laura is.

We originally intended to go to Faliraki beach, as I had been before and felt it was relatively nice. However we were persuaded to go to Tsambici beach as apparently it was one of the top 10 beaches in the world? I had previously never heard of it!

En route, the coach driver was going to take us to a natural reserve called 7 Springs. In true Greek style, when I say take us, he literally did just that. Dropped us off on a dusty roadside and pointed up to the side of a hill (mountain) and said ‘walk that way’. He gave us no idea how far up it was, how long it would take. The only bit of information we had was that we had an hour there. He said the bus would remain we’re it was parked but as soon as we got off, he drove off!

So up the mountain we climbed, in flip flops. Had I have had any idea about the terrain I was going to encounter, I wouldn’t have worn flip flops. It was red hot and between us we had no drink or watch (having left these on the bus). Laura, in her true style was standing close to the edges of said mountain taking photos.

After about ten minutes we reached the reserve. It was very nice, a few ducks swam on the water. There was a cafe at the top and people were dipping their feet in the cool water. This was despite a sign saying ‘don’t go into the water, it is for drinking’. Might think twice before I buy that mineral water in a supermarket because there were about 400 tourists paddling in this natural spring.

On the way back we had the option of going through a tunnel. Again there was water involved. Basically it involved you walking through an underground tunnel in the dark. Plenty of people were doing it and Laura started twice but each time came back saying she didn’t like it.

Now Laura is VERY competitive and she was not at all happy with herself for not being able to go through with it. She sat, depressed on top of a rock and was miserable. I soon had enough of this and declared I was going to do whether she was going to join me or not.

What a mistake. I have never felt so sick in all my life and I couldn’t believe I had voluntarily put myself in this situation. Laura had joined me. This tunnel was fit for a hobbit. Not very wide and not at all tall, there was also water flowing around our feet. You could not see a thing in front of you or behind. There was no way of getting out unless you went forward. I had a complete panic attack. Laura kept trying to take pictures with the camera so that the flash could provide us with some form of direction but by doing this she ended up losing a flip flop on the way.

It was about 200 metres long in total but it felt like 200 miles. Little children were doing it and all sorts, how I will never know.

Another beach, another incident

Tsambici beach was ultimately very nice. Clear water, very shallow, sand and not rocks. Lovely.

For those that previously read about my experience on a beach in Malibu, you will know that there was an incident about me attempting to get out of the sea. Basically I almost got washed out and lost half of my skin in the process.

How I managed a similar event on this calm, Mediterranean Sea is beyond me. Even though it was shallow, there was quite a steep drop getting in and out of it. I had mastered it the first couple of times but on the third, when I was with Laura, I just couldn’t do it. Every time I tried another wave came and pushed me over. At one point the wave had such force it knocked me right off my feet and all you could see was my hat floating on the surface. Laura said she was at the stage of laughing hysterically but border lining thinking ‘she may actually drown’.

Eventually she pulled me out and I was saved, thank God.

Sugar

Just a final, slightly strange note. Sugar sachets in Greece are all a bit odd. We keep having these ones with our drink at breakfast. Basically it’s about a person who is obsessed with coffee. They keep going out for dates with Mary and Tom and drinking coffee. They also love Sunday mornings where they ‘leap out of bed and run downstairs to make a coffee’. None of it makes sense. Bizarre!

Rodos!

I almost contemplated writing nothing about our holiday to Rhodes. After all, I had been here before, several times and I thought there would be nothing to say about our visit to the little Greek island.

But a few days in and there are a few funny things that maybe I should mention, if not just to provide a reminder for Laura and I in years to come.

The last time I stayed at the Garden Hotel was 10 years ago. It was 2003 and I was a much slimmer 21 year old on holiday with some of my friends. Looking back we had an amazing time, even though it did end up with one of us (AMI) coming home with her arm in plaster after an unfortunate encounter with a moped and a woman crossing a road? Can’t remember the exact run of events but it was something like that. I am sure Ami Roberts herself would recall the tale with much more enthusiasm.

So I am back at the Garden Hotel in Pastida, Rhodes. The hotel is still small but very friendly. It is now managed by Jenny, the daughter of the owner, Babis or Babos as Sarah Boyle use to call him. The food has got bigger, you get about fifteen courses with each meal but the drinks are still relatively good value for money, especially as we are in Greece, where I expected everything to be expensive.

There are other similarities of course. Obviously I am here with Laura, who has never been to Rhodes before and this is a very different kind of experience from when I was here last but I have noticed a few things this holiday has in common with the last one.

Feline Friends

Cats. Always on an excursion in the med, I never fail to come across some scrawny, meowing animal. Those who know me understand I am not a great lover of cats or any other animal for that matter.

Last time we came to Rhodes, we had an interesting experience with a cat. On one of the final nights of our holiday, Sarah, Ami and I were in bed. Mine and Ami’s bed were two singles that had been pushed together. It was the middle of the night and all of a sudden I was aware that Ami was awake saying, ‘it can’t be, it can’t be’. The next thing she was crawling across me before she switched the light on and declared ‘it is, it bloody is …. it’s a cat!’

To my (extreme) horror there had been one of the wild cats curled up neatly in between Ami and me. Literally in a little gap between our two beds. Just as I was starting to get ideas of cats being able to open doors and so on, we realised it had probably got in through the bathroom window. Neither myself or Ami were willing to pick up and get rid of the creature so we turned to Sarah for help. She rose from her bed as if this were a totally normal situation and picked it up, cuddled and caressed it before placing it on … the balcony. I soon pointed out to Boyle that as the balcony door was open, our cat friend was likely to come back in. She agreed and eventually put it out of the front door with me firmly closing the bathroom window behind her.

That was 2003. In 2013, I am sat dining alfresco, enjoying the warm evening heat, sipping a glass of locally produced wine and … fending off the felines with my feet and doing my mum’s tried and tested trick of stamping my foot on the floor or making a hissing noise. What is Laura doing? She’s feeding them! I was furious. She soon started to pick up the chips she’d been laying out for it, I can tell you!

‘I can recognise that accent anywhere’

The second similarity is perhaps a little less expected. I am not so sure I have ever stayed in a place where every other family appears to be from the same city as us. I can recognise, unfortunately, a Stoke accent anywhere and I first spotted it the day we arrived. Laura didn’t believe me at first but after a while she confirmed I was probably right.

After initial investigations, we discovered that not only were they from Stoke but they lived less than a mile away from where we do. Not only that, they were not the only family. There were two more, one of which lived in Blurton, which is about five minutes from us. That same night Laura and I were brave and decided to enter the quiz. The quizmaster turns up and he’s from … Yep, Stoke on Trent. Lived in Rhodes for the past 10 years or so. Such a small world.

We walked up to the village the other night. It’s about five minutes walk and there’s a few restaurants, bars and a supermarket. We sat next to a couple who again were from Stoke on Trent! I am beginning to think there’s no escaping them!

Last time I was here, we went out for the night in Rhodes Town. Walking down a street towards the end of the night, we bumped into these guys who were trying to get customers into their bar. At first we refused and there responses were ‘we can tell a Potteries accent anywhere!’ It turned out they were from Newcastle/Basford way and we spent the rest of the night playing drinking games that involved wearing a builders hat and being hit over the head with a mallet and ringing a bell which meant you bought everyone in the bar a drink. All in all, it was a good night.

Shakespeare was born in Stoke on Trent, apparently.

Part of the deal with booking the hotel we found through Groupon was that there was a nightclub situated directly below the hotel. It did mention that on weekends there would be a noise disruption and guests were to be aware of this. I still didn’t understand why an additional €20 supplement had to therefore be paid if you stayed on a Friday.

Especially if you heard the nightclub. Thank God we were as exhausted as we were because it was LOUD – and we were on the top floor of the hotel. I suspect that’s why the hotel was so cheap. It’s a shame because the hotel is lovely and well recommended but unfortunately the noise is just a little bit too much.

As part of our hotel deal we got a free Dublin bus tour. I don’t normally go for these things but as it was free we made the most of it. It also provided us with a nice lift to the Guinness Storehouse which I had never been to previously, Laura had though.

The Guinness tour has been done really well. Atmospheric, well laid out and spectacular views from the Gravity Bar at the very top. You can get a 360 degree look at Dublin, very nice.

After Guinness we headed back towards the Temple Bar and had a drink in our favourite haunt, The Porterhouse. Laura first introduced me to this pub when we went to London for the first time together in 2009, as they have a bar in Covent Garden. It was nice to visit the place in its home town. There’s always a good atmosphere in the Porterhouse. Laid back and relaxed. It’s well worth a visit either in London or in Dublin, or in New York I believe.

Our friends Kate and Will, had booked us a table at the recommended Arlington Hotel as a wedding gift on the second evening. Before we headed over that way we decided (again) to have a drink in the local pub literally by our hotel.

As we sat there in the early evening these two Irish guys got talking to us. We discovered that once the Irish get talking, they rarely stop (this is a compliment!) anyway, they asked us where we were from and we explained we lived near Manchester. We always say this because most people know where Manchester is even though Stoke is about 40 miles south, it’s just easier. One of the guys got very confused and said, ‘I know that place. It’s beautiful. William Shakespeare came from there’. I informed him that he was thinking about Stratford-upon-Avon which is very different!

The Arlington Hotel was brilliant. A meal accompanied by live Irish music and full on Irish dancing. The band were excellent. How they remember all of the words to the Irish songs I will never know! The Irish dancing reminded me of my friend Kate Humphreys. She’s a fan of an Irish jig at a party, especially when they play the Irish Rover. She is not a fan of Come On Eileen though! Her most detested song of all time!

We sat next to a couple from Israel at the meal. They looked like they’d just been told they were walking back to Tel Aviv. He sat glued to his phone all evening. How can you ignore a live band who are as engaged with their audience as much as these were in favour of your phone? As for his wife/girlfriend, she wouldn’t eat any of the food, she just flirted her salmon across the plate. When they asked her for a drink she replied ‘it is too soon for a drink!’

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Camden of a different kind!

So we booked our hotel through Groupon, which can be a little worrying at times. We have done a couple of Groupon/Travel Zoo deals now and all of them have been excellent. However, the reviews for our hotel were very mixed when we read the reviews on Trip Advisor.

We really shouldn’t have worried. The hotel is a little walk from the centre – well we say a little walk, it’s about 15 minutes. When we told the bus driver we were walking he looked at us like we said we were going to do forward rolls all the way there!

It’s on a street called Lower Camden, which is very similar to Camden in London in many ways. Quirky, interesting shops, bars and places to eat along the way. It feels like it has a lot of character. Not bad for a quick booking on Groupon.

Back to the hotel, the Camden Deluxe, a converted theatre that still has its original 1950s facade. Recently been renovated, it’s really nice. We are at the top of the building and we have a great big window overlooking the city. It was £99 for two nights which for Dublin, was a bargain.

Drank some Guinness yesterday at a bar called The International. The Irish can talk! Met a bloke called Kenny, who was the bar manager. He told us how he was asking his girlfriend to marry him next week. Laura suggested he did a lip dub video, he was thinking more along the lines of petals on the bed or something! Anyway, his girlfriend is German and older than him and for some reason I couldn’t get the image of Angela Merkel out of my head!

We headed on into the Temple Bar afterwards. Last time I went there was nearly ten years ago with my two friends Sarah and Jack. It’s very quirky and I liked it a lot. God knows how Sarah, Jack and me got around Dublin last time we came. I always look at recommendations and reviews and maps these days, we must have been walking around blind all those years ago.

Finally we went for a meal at a restaurant called the Chilli Club. It was Thai and they did the hot soups we like, like Tom Yum. Afterwards we headed to a bar across the road called Kehoe’s. It had maintained all of its Victorian interior and the bar upstairs was originally the publican’s living room and it had remained unchanged! It was absolutely heaving. You couldn’t move around at all but it contained a brilliant atmosphere.

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Top of the morning to ya!

Laura and I must be the only two people that have left the UK and gone somewhere where the weather is worse. However we expect the beer (Guinness) to be much better. Yes, we are in Dublin!

I’ve successfully managed my first flight of the year with Aer Lingus. It’s so quick it makes you wonder why people ever bother with a ferry. It took us less time to get to Dublin than it did to get to London on the train.

The one downside is the security checks at the airport. From someone who is very keen on keeping the skies safe, I am all for checks and what not at the airport. However, the new system at Manchester was like hell on earth! It took us over 45 minutes to get through with us having to wait for Laura’s bag to have an additional search. Apparently lipstick can be a weapon of potential mass destruction! Who would have thought it?

Laura and I are literally so tired. I didn’t even have the energy to get nervous about the flight this morning. Although there was a strange sound as we taxi’d down to the runway that I was very concerned about. It sounded like a cough but it was constant and very distressing!

It’s fair to say we are still on cloud nine after our civil partnership on Tuesday. We have been completely inundated with lovely messages, overwhelmed with people’s generosity and overall feel exceptionally lucky and blessed. We had the best day on Tuesday, it was everything we wanted and so much more.

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