Ireland: The birthplace of my ancestors and a magical place of mystery, wonder and beauty

Ireland: The birthplace of my ancestors and a magical place of mystery, wonder and beauty

I’ve been to Ireland twice, and even though both times I have seen and explored a lot – there is still so much more I want to do there.

The land is filled with ancient wonders, from the neolithic period, to the time of the Celts and druids and onward to today. There is so much to explore, see and do in Ireland. If you are planning a visit, I highly recommend hiring a car and taking the roads yourself, without the use of a guide. Turn off the main road and take the dirt road to nowhere instead of sticking to the highways; trust me, you won’t be disappointed. You never know what you will find hiding at the end of the road; a castle, a monastery or an abandoned estate. At every turn, I was left inspired by what this amazing country had to offer and I can’t wait to get back to further the adventure.

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stay tuned for my blog on favourite things to see and do in Ireland – coming soon.

Finding peace and tranquility at the Nan Tien Temple

Finding peace and tranquility at the Nan Tien Temple

When you’re feeling stressed and need a break from life, The Nan Tien Temple south of Sydney is the perfect place to visit.

From the tranquil gardens, the peaceful temples and the delicious food, it’s the perfect place to visit when you don’t want to travel far, and are looking to unwind, relax and enjoy a stroll through their beautiful gardens.

The Nan Tien Temple is a stunning Buddhist temple, which is located approx 1hr south of Sydney and around 15 minutes north of Wollongong.

I’ve been a few times now to visit the temple, and each time I go, I find my self re-balancing my Zen. It might have something to do with the fact that so much meditation, harmony balancing and chi centering goes on at the temple, which keep the grounds very peaceful, mindful and relaxing – but every time I go, I feel stress levels drop and my inner chakras balance. Which is probably how I found my zen at the temple. And I didn’t even have to meditate to find it. The energy bouncing through the trees, in the air and off the building, resonates nothing by peace and tranquility and I already know I will be back there again soon for another visit. Even if it’s just to eat the food there – amazing. Absolutely delicious and made with some of the freshest ingredients around.

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The temple is situated on a large block of land and consists of 4 specific areas for exploration, mediation or prayer. The main Pagoda; which is where you park upon entering the temple grounds, is a tall Buddhist tiered tower. From here, you can then enjoy a nice leisurely walk through the beautifully designed Chinese gardens to the central hub of the temple, which is where you find the Large Buddhist Temple. Here you will find additional prayer and mediation rooms, which have walls lined with mini Buddha statues, all holding their own light. From here, you can try your hand at calligraphy, or continue your walk through the gardens, which eventually leads you up to the top ofย  large hill, where a large Buddhist bell sits. An afternoon visit is highly recommended, especially when standing at the top of the hill, as it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the southern highlands of NSW.

Definitely eat at the Dew Drop Inn Tea House. You won’t be disappointed.
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Went to a pumpkin festival and tried the best pumpkin pie ever

Went to a pumpkin festival and tried the best pumpkin pie ever

Every year, in a small rural town called Collector, a GIANT pumpkin festival is held, to celebrate all things pumpkins.

The whole town shuts down for the day, to allow for hundreds of stalls and activities to line the streets, which include everything from pony rides, pumpkin wheelbarrow rides, scarecrow building and giant pumpkin competitions.

It’s a pretty big day for Collector, and for many outsiders. Collector is located about 25 to 35 minutes out of Canberra in New South Wales. So there were a LOT of people, probably most of the population of Canberra. With ques a mile long for many of the events and food stalls. And although it was a nice day, walking in the beautiful sunshine of a stunning Autumn day, I was a little disappointed there weren’t a lot of pumpkin inspired things there. Sure there were plenty of activities for kids which were related to pumpkins, like the pumpkin rolling and pumpkin wheelbarrow race. However, there was only 1 stall in over 100 which was selling foods inspired by pumpkin. The rest were hamburgers, hotdogs, plenty of coffee, deep fried food and even more than 4 stalls selling Gozleme, none of which were selling pumpkin inspired foods. The rest of the stalls were more about selling stuffed animals, chilli, fresh veggies and clothing.

I did commit to waiting in a line for nearly 30 minutes in order to try the pumpkin pie, and must admit, the wait as worth it. Would I ever go ahead? Probably not, but I am glad I went to see what all the fuss was about. But, don’t let that turn you off from trying it out next year. Every one has a different experience.

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Giant Pumpkin Festival

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Spud Spirals – Yummy
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Delicious Pumpkin Pie Tarts

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We went 20 meters under Freemantle Prison and explored some deep dark tunnels

We went 20 meters under Freemantle Prison and explored some deep dark tunnels

Build by the convicts the tunnels were built under the city of Freemantle, as a way to access fresh water.

Always looking for fresh new adventures, I managed to convince my partner of doing three different tours in one day, all at the one ocation – at the Freemantle Prison of Western Australia.

The first one was in the morning and was a historical walking tour of the prison, the second one was to go deep under the prison and explore tunnels built by the prisoners and the last was in the evening, which of course was the walking ghost tour. Yep, three tours of Freemantle Prison in one day, and I loved every minute of it. I’m pretty sure my partner did too. Well, I hope so anyways, seeing as we were there all day. LOL. Out of all three of the tours, the tour of the underground tunnels was by far the most exciting, scary and unbelievable thing I have ever done.

The thing is, I am both claustaphobic and scared of heights, and of course before you get ready to go ahead with the underground tour, you need to sign a disclaimer stating you don’t suffer from those two phobias. So, I went ahead and signed the disclaimer anyway and got ready to deal with my phobias face to face. And within the first two minutes of the tour starting, I was pretty much regretting that decision immediately. Oh boy, what have I got myself into. They start you off in an underground cavern, not that deep under the prison, where there is a museum of sorts and a change room for you to gear up and get ready for your descent into the tunnels.

The gear involved a jumpsuit of sorts, which was paper thin, a hard hat, boots and a miners safety belt; sort of like a harness, which was secured around your shoulders, waist and hips and had a nice large mountain clip attached to it. So, this is where panic began to set in a little. I literally have no idea what I have gotten myself into. My partner on the other hand, was all geared up, excited and ready to go.

The fear has now set in, I am now standing at the mouth of a deep dark hole, with a ladder than descends 20 meters below the grounds surface. So, the 10 minute journey down; which feels more like 10 years, begins. My partner was so patient with me, as he guided me down, talking me through the instructions, keeping me calm. Until my shaking legs finally hit the ground.

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Here’s what I mean about the 20 meter ladder we descended down (image care of palassis).

And although I was started to regret my decision in going on the tour; when I was staring deep down the 20 meter abyss, by the end of the tour I was so happy I got to experience something, I never thought I would have done in my lifetime. Incredible.

Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, the guide leads you on a trek by foot through dry sections of the tunnel, before loading you into a replica convict punt; which looks like a canoe, so you can explore the many winding tunnels which are submerged under water and only accessible by boat. It’s very damp and dark, bit an amazing experience for anyone who might be travelling to Freemantle. The tour goes for approx 2-hours. you can’t take any equipment with you, which includes cameras (shame), so here are some photos I found online to show you want the tunnels look like.

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The tunnel museum
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Looking down the 20m stair descent
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The boat tour of the tunnels