Ireland is full of many ancient wonders, which hold the secrets of a bygone era shrouded with mystery and unknown belief.
From the Stone Age people to the Celts, the lands of Ireland truly are a wonder and magical place. One of these magical and historical places is called Newgrange.
If you have never heard of Newgrange, it’s a giant neolithic monument in the Boyne Valley in the Republic of Ireland; a couple of hours north of Dublin. It’s an easy enough place to find if you drive yourself there, or if you don’t have a car; there are a lot of tour groups who go to Newgrange on a regular basis, which leave out of Dublin.
The monument itself, has been theorised by archaeologists, to be either a passage tomb or place of worship. Unfortunately, there has not been enough evidence to prove what the monument was used for, or who it was built be. And like most of our ancient past, it is all just speculation, until its mystery is solved. If ever.
Similiar to that of Stonehenge, the air here is charged with a strange energy, which makes you wonder whether the apparent tomb really was a passageway to another world. I guess we will never know.
If you’re ever visiting Dublin, I highly recommend a visit to Newgrange. Not only is the monument incredible to see with your own eyes, but to see the Boyne Valley is another amazing sight in itself.
It was such a relaxing day learning about the area, whilst exploring the inside passageways of the tomb itself and enjoying the sunshine outside whilst wandering through the breathtaking grounds of Newgrange. The staff are super friendly and most informative about the area, which added to the experience of out visit.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the monument, so I downloaded a few online for you, so you can see what it’s like inside:
Halloween in New York is an unforgettable experience.
I know Halloween has been and gone and is a good nine months away. But, I had such an amazing time in New York for Halloween, so I just had to share my experience with you. So if you are planning a trip to the NYC at the end of year, I definitely recommend you stay for Halloween.
We planned our Canadian and American Holiday pretty well (blog on Canada coming soon), and arrived into New York City on the 30th October, one day out of Halloween.
This is something I have always dreamed about (one of many of course), to celebrate Halloween in America.
Being of Irish heritage, Halloween has always been a special day for me. And although my family don’t really celebrate it (I am the first to start the tradition in the family), I have a very strong connection with my Irish heritage and have loved Halloween since I was a child.
So, it was a must that we timed out holiday itinerary perfectly, to make sure we arrived into New York, just in time for Halloween.
Of course, I realise the tradition of Halloween comes from Ireland, not America. However, the traditions of Halloween we have come to love and enjoy today are an American invention. And I just knew it would be a spectacular sight to be in America for Halloween.
If you have ever thought of celebrating any form of holiday tradition like: Easter, St Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Christmas or even New Year’s, New York City is definitely the place you want to be.
Here are my favourite 4 things to do in New York for Halloween. Just make sure you have plenty of camera memory.
Trick or Treat:
Head to Greenwich Village and take a wander. Many streets here close off the road to cars so kids can dart from house to house and collect candy in safety. And the decorations are spectacular. Some streets have been entirely transformed into a frightful village and it’s amazing, with many sightseers out and about checking out the incredible costumes and street decorations.
Every year, New York put on a spectacular Halloween parade, and anyone can march along (provided you are dressed for the occasion of course). The times and locations do sometimes change for when and there the parade will be starting, heading and finishing, so make sure you check for details a few days before the parade to ensure you find yourself the best seat in the house to watch.
Want to see more than 7,000 spookalicious carved pumpkins, all lit up and gleaming horrid smiles at you? Head to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. Dates do move around for this festival and the display is sometimes finished before Halloween starts (disappointing), so make sure you definitely check dates on the event, or you might miss out.
Dressed up Dogs:
New York are internationally known for their Halloween Dog festivals. The best place to see this, is at The Tompkins Square Dog Run Park. Here you can grab a seat and admire hundreds of dogs running around free or leashed, playing and interacting with other dogs, all whilst dressed in some of the cutest outfits I did ever see. This was the highlight of my Halloween experience in New York.
Of course, for those of you who prefer to party the night away on Halloween, there are plenty of nightclubs playing host to some unreal Halloween parties. And for those who really like to get the blood pumping, I’ve been told New York hosts some super spooky Ghost Tours in some old mansions, filled with gruesome stories of the past. I’ll add that to the list if I ever get back there.
So, instead of writing about all our adventures, I wanted to share with you my favourite pictures from our incredible journey.
Starting with an exploration of Phi Phi Island.
Before we arrived into Thailand, I researched the most ethical Elephant Safari there is and found one. here the elephants are not chained down to a pole of a night time, and no harsh tools are used in order to allow humans to ride the elephants. They are well treated in beautiful enclosures, right in the middle of the Jungle of Thailand. As you will see from the below images:
Of course, it isn’t a complete holiday to Phuket, without a visit to the famous Bond Island, aka: Khao Phing Kan, where the famous James Bond movie was filmed; Man with the Golden Gun. Which is how the place got its name: Bond Island.
If you didn’t already know, lying underneath the city of Edinburgh in Scotland, lays a network of spooky dark tunnels, called the Edinburgh Vaults.
And within these tunnels are the remains of a bygone Scottish era. The vaults were once part of a bridge; which consisted of 19 large stone archways and was built around 1785. Over time; as shops and apartments were being built on top of the bridge, these stone archways were blocked in and turned into vaults, which served as stock houses for the shops and apartments up above ground.
However, over time; due to bad ventilation in the vaults, they were eventually closed off, becoming part of Scotland’s history. Until 1985; when by chance, a new shop owner decided to excavate and expand his shop and happened across the hidden Edinburgh Vaults.
What better way to end your evening in Edinburgh, then on a ghostly tour of the Edinburgh Vaults. Here’s what happened on the tour:
I’m standing at the back of the group in the first vault on the tour, when I feel a light feathery touch brush past my back, before it then slides down the back of my right leg. Un-shocked, I turn around with the assumption someone is standing behind me. Except, when I turn around to inspect, there is no one there. I shiver runs down my spine and I discretely move through the rest of the tour group to stand next to the tour guide.
The guide notices I am little freaked and asks if I am okay. I explain what just happened and she just smiles. She then begins to explain, who they believe is haunting this section of the vaults; a cobbler (aka: shoe man). Many cobbling tools were found in the vault and many a tourist in this section of the tour has felt their legs and feet get touched by an unseen force. I am told he likes admiring shoes, sneakers are his favourite; being a modern invention.
Feeling a little spooked, I move past it and decide to leave my dad at the back of the crowd, so I can stay close to the guide (like she can protect me LOL). The rest of the tour is quiet, no touchy touchy and no mysterious sounds. I start to think maybe the whole experience from earlier, was just my imagination, until we near the end of the tour.
The deeper you dwell into the tunnels and vaults, the more you begin to hear things. Like small footsteps trailing behind in the distance, and soft murmurs heard in empty vaults as we pass them. The later the hour, the more people in the tour group start to feel uneasy. Clearly, I am not the only one hearing weird things. I ask dad if he can hear anything, he doesn’t. Is it our imagination? Or are we hearing the sounds of an era leftover from long ago.
As we enter the final vault on the tour, the guide start up with another one of her haunting tales of Edinburgh. Across from where I am standing in the vault, is a mother and daughter travelling together. Behind them, I can hear scratching on the rocks. I don’t say anything and shake it off. But then, I hear the mother and daughter whisper that they hear something and I decide to speak up and ask them if they can hear the scratching. Which they can.
We interrupt the tour guide to tell her what we can hear and the rest of the group falls quiet, to see if we can all hear the scratching. Nothing can be heard. Only our breathing, its deadly quiet. So, the guide picks up where she left off on her tale of another murder in Edinburgh. The scratching starts back up again, except this time it has moved to the back of the chamber.
The tour guide stops, and the rest of the group looks towards to the back of the vault – everyone can hear the scratching now. It’s very loud and rather urgent, almost like a warning. It’s hear the guide tells us they believe a ghost dog resides in the tunnels and vaults, and when something evil is near, the dog will scratch on the walls to warn you the presence is coming.
By this stage, I am totally freaked and unsure whether this is all part of some ghostly act, put on by the tour group. The guide explains this unnerving presence is known as Mr Boots. A nickname given, as you can normally hear the footsteps of heavy boots along the stone ground when he approaches. And he doesn’t like visitors. The guide suddenly out her ear to the last passage way we came through, before entering the vault we are currently standing in; as though she has heard something and her mannerism starts to change. She seems anxious and I can’t decide whether something spooked her or she is just role playing for the tour.
Either way, she seems nervous, as she asks someone from the group to walk with her around a corridor to switch the lights on, so we can all exit through the nearest door. And just like that the tour is over – very strange indeed, as I feel there was more to be had on the tour and it was cut short, just like that.
Not needing any further explanation to why the tour is over; to be honest I am pretty scared at this stage and happy to leave, I follow the rest of the tour group out of the vaults an into a corridor that leads you to the exit door of the tunnels. Assuming dad is right behind me, I walk at fast pace, not wanting to know whether there really is something lurking in the dark, or it’s all just an act.
I reach a final spiral staircase that leads you to the exit door and turn to speak to dad, to find he isn’t there. I pull to the side to let others pass, whilst I wait for him. He finally comes around the corner at the end of the corridor at a speedy rate. I can hear heavy footsteps behind him and ask him if there is anyone else coming. Dad is ghostly white; his only answer is: “You can hear that?” I tell him yes, and he tells there is no one there.
Now dad is a non-believer of ghosts and anything associated with ghosts. So, to see him scared the way he is, kind of freaks me out a little. Okay, maybe not a little, a lot.
Once dad reaches me at the stairwell, the footsteps reach the beginning of the corridor and start to head towards us. We bolt up the stairs, both too scared to glance behind us. As we open the door to our freedom, we hear one last heavy footstep close behind us, followed by the jingle of phantom keys, before I pull the door closed behind me (without looking back of course), sealing in whatever lurks in the deep dark tunnels and vaults.
If you’re traveling to Edinburgh, I do recommend a visit to the vaults. They are conducted by Mercat Tours: www.mercattours.com
As a holiday destination, Hawaii had never really been on my travel radar as a place I wanted to go and visit.
And, as far as tropical destinations go, there are other places like Bora Bora or the Coco Islands; which are placed much higher on my list of travel destinations to go to, compared to where Hawaii is listed.
That’s not a criticism on Hawaii of course – as the photos and stories I hear from many travellers visiting the Hawaiian Islands are beautiful to be sure. I suppose, I just prefer to personally visit more unique locations, where the culture of a place is still living and breathing strongly.
But, when friends and family came back from Hawaii and had nothing but amazing things to say about the place, including some incredible photos to back their stories. My partner and I decided to give Hawaii a go. So, we booked a ticket and within the year; after the family came back from their Hawaii adventure, we were boarding a plane to begin our own Hawaiian adventure.
I don’t want this blog to be negative in anyway – as there were some great moments spent on our holiday in Hawaii. However, there was also a lot that went wrong also. So, here are five things, I learned from my stay in Hawaii, and I’d like to share with you:
Tip One: Accommodation on arrival
Depending where you are travelling from, a flight to Hawaii may be a simple walk in the park for most. However, for us Aussies it’s a 10-hr flight (thereabouts). This means, most of the time you arrive into Hawaii in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, this also means you can’t check into your hotel room, as it won’t be available until the standard check in time of 2pm. A hard thing to deal with after a 10-hr flight. If you have the extra dollars to spend, book yourself into the hotel for the night before your arrival (making sure you let the hotel know you are arriving the next day of course). This way, you can at least check in, have a shower and change (sleep if you need to) and face your holiday adventure a little fresher.
Tip Two: Don’t stay in Honolulu
Now, this of course is dependent on the type of holiday you wish to have. My partner and I like to experience the culture of a country when we travel. And Honolulu lacks everything in culture, so don’t expect anything tropical (except for the heat) about the city, as there is nothing unique about it. It’s just a city sitting by the beach. Like I said, this is of course dependent on the type of holiday you like. If you prefer to stay in the hustle and bustle of a city, so you can eat, play and drink, whilst shopping and sunbaking, then Honolulu is perfect for you. However, if you prefer to stay away from the city scene, but close enough where you can still visit if you want to, then definitely stay a little out of the city. We booked ourselves into The Kahala Hotel & Resort for the last 3 nights of stay in Hawaii, which was the best idea ever. The resort oozes Hawaiian culture and is far enough from the city to unwind, but close enough if you feel like shopping.
Tip Three: Do rent a car
Don’t be scared if you are from a country (like Australia) that doesn’t drive on the right-hand side. It’s not as scary as it seems and renting a car is the best way to go out and explore, without having to rely on heavily booked out tour groups. We initially had no intention of renting a car, however, when speaking with the tourist booking office in the hotel about some activities we would like to do, we found the wait times and travel times for the activities was just ridiculous. An example of this, was when we wanted to book ourselves into a Quad Bike tour. The tour bus picks you up from your hotel at around 9am, however you don’t arrive to the Quad Bike location until nearly midday, yet the travel time to get to the location is only an hr & a half away. You basically spend most of your morning sitting on the bus going from hotel to hotel picking up a collection of tourists. Umm, no thanks. And the best part of renting a car, you get to stop when you want to stop. On a bus, they only stop at designated locations, which means, you miss a lot of amazing places along the way.
Tip Four: Do go Quad Biking
This was probably the highlight of the holiday (I have photos below of the Quad Biking). Because we self-drove ourselves to the location where the Quad biking adventure takes place, we beat all the bus loads of tourists who were booked in for around lunch time. This means, there were only 5 of us on the tour (including the guide), which made the whole experience far more intimate and enjoyable. If you want to experience the suburb Hawaiian scenery of lush green forest, rocky volcanic mountains and secret Hawaiian villages, this is the way to do it. The Quad bikes are programmed not to go over a 50km speed limit. But, with so much to see along the way, you wouldn’t want to go any faster anyway.
Tip Five: Eat outside of general eating times
Of course, if you have children this may be more difficult, unless your accommodation includes the buffet breakfast every morning. But, if you’re staying in Honolulu, you will learn quickly that most of the restaurants there (the good ones anyway) have a very long wait time to eat. So, when you arrive to go get dinner say at 7pm, when most people are, you will no doubt be waiting nearly an hour for a table. We opted for random eating times to beat the masses. Some mornings we ate breakfast at 7am, other times we ate at 10am. This meant we ate lunch at either 11am or 2-3pm and then dinner at sometimes 5pm or even later at 9pm. All dependent on when we ate breakfast of course. The most we waited for a table when eating at these random times was 30 min max.
I was going to add a 6th tip regarding Acai Bowls, as I must admit Hawaii has some of the best Acai Bowls in town. However, seeing as it was nearly 2 years ago, now, since we went to Hawaii and Acai Bowls have been around for a while, I will only say, that if you have been living under a rock and not yet tried one. Hawaii is the place to be introduced to them – they are probably the best I have ever eaten.