On the road to Kilkenny

With my parents being over in autumn, I took the chance to plan a day in the beautiful town of Kilkenny. To be honest, my mom’s biggest dream was to go there eventually, after traveling to Ireland several times. I made her dream come true. Other than the local beer breweries I have not really looked into Kilkenny myself. Being part of the #IrelandsAncientEast campaign of Tourism Ireland there is definitely loads to see: design, fashion, arts and of course historical sites.

A visit to Kilkenny A visit to Kilkenny

Most impressively, when you enter the town is surely Kilkenny Castle which is located on top of a little hill overlooking a river. When I was standing on one of the bridges into town center, I was astonished how present the castle still appears. And of course I was wondering, what is in there? What’s the story behind it? 

A visit to Kilkenny A visit to Kilkenny

Castle Dreams

I always wonder who lived in the castles, who worked here and how those big rooms ever heated up not to be damp and cold. Kilkenny Castle is one of the enriching highlights in town. It might be very touristy in summer, but when I got there (late September) I didn’t need to queue for a ticket.  You enter the castle, pay your fees and walk through the dungeon and one of the towers into Medieval times. Meeting noblemen and reading (or listening to) stories from former times, I eventually felt like a noblewoman myself. Walking through several rooms who have been re-decorated and refurbished to their 19th century looks. The castle is old, very old indeed. It’s 800 years but it’s looks have changed several times, especially on the inside. Very interestingly, the castle has been owned by the same family, the Butlers, for 600 years.

Kilkenny Castle

You work yourself up from the tower, Ground and First floor and end up in the Picture Gallery Wing which is a happy place. The very decorative mid-19th century style with a wooden roof and many paintings on the wall, it was strange and lovely at the same time. Even the castle website quotes the magazine, The Irish Builder criticizing the decorative scheme:

 a roof probably intended to be Byzantine but is merely bizarre.

The gardens and the courtyard give an impressive view into the country and of course onto the castle and the town of Kilkenny itself. If you find yourself relaxing there on the grass on a sunny day, take a snack with you and have a picnic. Plus: in the former Kitchen Hallway you find a contemporary gallery! Isn’t it great that old and new, history and art are together in one place? You find Opening hours & admission fees here. 

Design Hot Spot

Just across the castle gateway the National Center of Design opens up in the former stables of the castle. The beautiful building itself houses a fabulous shop (very touristy!), a gallery and some workshops (Rudolph Heltzel Goldsmith). I walked through buildings, had a look at beautiful pottery and ceramics as well as scarves and wollen goods and ended up in the Butler House & Gardens behind the Design Center. I really wished I was able to live in the early 20th century just to see how people dressed and walked through the little yard, sat on a bench next to the pond and picked rose hips to make some tea. You might call me romantic, but I love to dip into a different era. A visit to Kilkenny

A visit to Kilkenny

Back in the gallery, I was delighted with the exhibition Obj.  in which artists present objects overlapping with technology, artificial intelligence and robotics. Since I am currently studying Digital Education I am still stunned of what you can make through digital processes. My favorite piece was definitely the interactive sculpture by Daniel Rozin.

The Design Center also hosts an art festival in August.

How to get there

I looked up train and bus times, but since my parents do not own a LeapCard to get cheaper tickets, I went for a local car rental in Naas. I was really happy with the car (Opel Corsa, only 4.000km) and the service there, easy, quick and without much notice.

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From #madaboutcork to Madly In Love With Cork

Your perfect day in Cork should probably start and end like mine. I hope you are as lucky as I am with the weather. The sun is out and it’s already autumn. But even when it’s cloudy and kind of miserable, Cork is enjoyable with many places to fall in love with indoors.

Cork Harbour
Port of Cork

 

Nash 19

Have your breakfast diner-style at the self service place Nash 19. It’s at Princess Str. and opens up from a self-service counter to a nice gallery space for Irish artists with spacious seating. I decided to go with porridge, fresh fruit, almonds and maple sirup. The cappuccino was OK, not a barista-style one but still very good. Plus, you could get endless refills on the filter coffee. I enjoyed the free space, free wifi and nice staff.

Nash 19
A wonderful morning starts with a wonderful breakfast

Since Nash 19 is right in town, you should wander around there. I really love the little paths through the town where I easily get lost. A river here, a canal there. There is always something to explore. Cork is a big, big building site at the moment. It will change a lot in the next couple of years into a more modern and driven riverside town with its harbor and closeness to the sea. But Ireland’s south will – in my opinion – never get into this hush-rush like Dublin. It’s laid back and easy going.

Cork Harbour
Cork Harbour and it’s blue sky and blue river Lee

So are all its students. University College Cork just a little out of the historical town center is a space to lean back and enjoy. On days like these students are gathering in the sunny spots outside and on the grass, having coffee and sandwiches, chatting away. I walked past them and visited:

Lewis Glucksman Gallery

The gallery was founded in 2004. Founding donor, philanthropist and financier Lewis Glucksman gave the gallery its name. After winning prices for its outstanding architecture it is also a hub for interesting exhibitions especially the themed ones are extremely challenging. I happened to be allowed to touch objects of art in the exhibition Please Touch. The second show I walked through is mainly connected with the Please Touch one due to prepared stations where you could also touch facsimile of the abstract art works. Can Josef and Anni Albers‘ artworks be experienced without using our eyes?

University College Cork
I was able to feel and to touch art work in the ‘Please Touch’ exhibition. A very new way to walk through a gallery.
Anni and Josef Albers exhibit
The Anni and Josef Albers exhibition offers a lot of playful ways to feel and to ‘see’ through your hands.

 

Another part of the gallery I didn’t use my eyes for was the cafe. It’s simply delicious and has many vegetarian and vegan options. I went for a green tea kombucha and a peanut butter sponge cake.

Opening Hours

10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Saturday

2pm – 5pm, Sundays

Closed Mondays

Blackrock Castle

A heck of a walk! Black Rock Castle and Observatory is slightly outside Cork city centre but totally walkable. If you decide to walk next to river Lee you are surrounded of beautiful old (I think) pine trees planted like an alley. When you reach Blackrock you could either stop at the Natural Bakery and have some kind of treat or head on to the castle which is about 600m from Blackrock square. You pass gorgeous villas and bay houses,… I might have had a peek into one or two.

View to Blackrock Castle
Blackrock Castle approaching

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Blackrock Castle itself is situated on a rock leaning into the river and a beautiful courtyard inside. You can have some lunch here at the cafe. It’s busy and buzzy but still nice. Visit the castle with one of the two tours or even both of them. I ran out of time and had to choose one tour and went for the observation tour. After you have a look around the different topics from questions like how did the human species evolve? to what kind of galaxies to we know of? the observatory offers a very broad and interesting view of modern astronomy and space science. But there is also a space to learn about the history of Blackrock Castle and why it was important. For the observation tour the tour guide asks you to enter a blow-up dome in one of the towers of the castle, to sit back and relax. For around 30 minutes you learn about the Northern hemisphere and its sky, its stars and planets and what you will be able to see the night you visit. I learned much about the planets visible – Jupiter, Mars and Saturn – as well as some galaxies far, far away. I love the way you get detailed information about star signs and constellations, how they were created in Ancient Greece and why their called Cassiopeia or Orion. I definitely need to hang out more in the country to find those constellations more easily.

Blackrock Castle & Observatory
A little bit of science, please

The second tour is a historical tour around the castle including a visit of the terrace to overlook river Lee.

Opening Hours

daily 10am – 5pm

last admission 4pm

Ichigo Ichie

Ichigo Ichie is an experience you will not forget easily. The fine Japanese dining restaurant just achieved its first Michelin star in 2018 (Congrats!) and Ichigo Ichie’s chef Takashi Miyazaki is the most laid back haute cuisine chef I have ever met. I went for a space at the bar to watch him plate and was absolutely delighted to make conversation with him throughout the dinner.

Ichigo Ichie
Welcome to Ichigo Ichie

I decided to get a 6 course menu rather than 12 course. Even though the portions are small, I usually cannot take more than 6. It was plenty and it was absolutely gorgeous. The menu focuses on local fish and seafood, trying to get ever bit as fresh as possible. I had oysters from Galway, since they were in season. Aged fish with innovative toppings (like truffle) and Miyazaki’s dashi were my favorites. But see yourself and be convinced why to make your way to Cork:

Ichigo Ichie
One hell of a starter…
Ichigo Ichie
Sashimi and Sushi
Ichigo Ichie
Steamed egg in dashi and salmon with ginkgo nut
Ichigo Ichie
Autumny chocolate mousse with pumpkin

 

I’m not #MadAboutCork which was their hashtag to apply for the cultural capital 2020 but madly in love with the town.

How to get to Cork

Cork is easily reachable via train or bus from Dublin and Limerick. The best way to pre-book tickets is to look at Irishrail or Buseireann or Dublincoach.

More pictures

Cork 2018

Richmond Barracks: A Different Kind of (Hi)Story

To be honest, I was there to get some coffee. But then I sat down in this beautiful building just around the corner of the Red LUAS line at Blackhorse, Dublin and looked around me. This is an old building, but I couldn’t figure out what story it wanted to tell me.

Niall, my personal guide for the time spent there introduced himself before I walked down the hall to grab my cappuccino (it was alright, I really want to try lunch at The Mess Café). He took my big backpack (I just came back from a trip to the West coast) and put it into the locker room and was looking forward to showing me around. I was intrigued! Already, after only 5 minutes in a building I wanted to know more:

What is the (hi)story!?

After finishing my coffee and chatting away with the only customer but me, a family and military researcher, Thomas, who also reminded me of why I loved the Irish so much. Thomas was given a photograph of a British soldier which’s features could not have been closer to Thomas’. Since then, Thomas is doing major family research in genealogy to find out more about his family.

I was pleased to hear one family’s story before I headed into the history of the building which remained to be here. Fortunately, I must say. Because every building but three has been knocked down on the 17,000 acre field. So much history just went with that. But I suppose it was necessary.

 

Richmond Barracks
Approaching the barracks © Lucie Taeubler

The Richmond Barracks, now part of the Dublin City Council, are a former military base for the British Army stationed in Ireland from 1814. After the Easter Rising in 1916, and after the Free Irish State was founded the Irish Army used the buildings until 1922. The most interesting fact about the barracks is that more than 3,000 suspects of the so-called Easter Rising were behind bars there. Including every leader except James Connolly. It was mind-blowing to read and to hear all about it. Exceptional work has been done in the research concerning women in the revolutionary years.

77 women’s stories

In the recent exhibition called The Digital Quilt 77 women of the revolution are represented with their attributes on a three piece quilt. 77 contemporary female artists worked on the women’s stories and put it together to an extraordinary wall piece. The histories of the women all crossed the arches of Richmond Barracks since they were arrested and held at the barracks in 1916. I could not resist and bought the book about the 77 women to get to know history from another perspective. Or better: from more perspectives than just one.

Richmond Barracks

Richmond Barracks

Visit the graveyard next to the canal. Don’t hesitate to ask your guide for advice or more stories. Niall was very happy to tell me more about the barracks, the women’s stories and  the museum itself.

Richmond Barracks

Old Bulfin Road, Inchicore, Dublin

Monday-Friday, 10am – 4pm

Saturday only with pre-bookings

Sunday closed

Offbeat in Iceland

I know, I know. Iceland has been on travel bucket lists and on itineraries of cruise ships. Iceland has become very trendy for layovers before you hit North America. Iceland has been on the news due to masses of tourists entering this peaceful place. Restrictions?

Iceland

No, do not restrict people to go to Iceland, but show them their wide ranged options. There are hundreds (more, thousands) of places you can stop, enjoy the views, eat, have picnics, listen to music or just hang out for a while. Simple as that:

Iceland is worth every single ISK. Every single euro. Every single dollar. And you will spend loads.

I decided to go to Iceland because friends of mine from the states were getting married. They picked the land of fire and ice to say Yes! and invited me to come along. Well, I am not the only one who followed their invitation. I know Marcus and Gwen from a while ago when I traveled the US east coast in 2012. I met up with them in Prague and Vienna, hiked Torres del Paine in Chile with them and became part of their travel group. As a matter of fact: I am very happy for them!

The couple!
The beautiful couple Gwen & Marcus

As well, I am very happy for myself to spend some crazy nice days on an island I would have not gone to this time of the year. These are some of the spots I recommend you to go off the beaten path:

Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavik and the Arctic Fox Rescue Center

As you know, I love stories. I love to tell them and I also love to listen to new ones. Iceland is full of stories and people who want to tell them. I stayed with Mila, in her Helgugata Guesthouse in Borgarnes at the West coast. It was a good deal to stay at her place because only 90 Euros per night, breakfast included is a cheap (plus comfortable) night. She has a three story house, very nice interior and magnificent friends. I met Masha, her friend from Georgia who now married to an Icelandic, lives there, collects Danish design objects and works for the police force as a translator. How cool is that?

From Borgarnes it is only a 2 hour drive to Hólmavik entering the Westfjords. Hólmavik is a charming and quiet little town but has two major attractions: The Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft and the Arctic Fox Rescue Center.

Arctic Fox

Fisherman Café, Restaurant and Hotel in Suðureyri

Hitting the Westfjords of Iceland was probably the best decision made. Why? Because there were barely any tourists around. Suðureyri is a little fisherman village which as only become part of mainland Iceland through a tunnel in 1996. I was absolutely fascinated of the beauty and rawness of the fjord belonging to Ísafjarðarbær. How did I find out of this special place? I looked up sustainably but touristically interesting tours in Iceland which were off the beaten path. Fisherman Seafood Trail was one of them.

Fjords, Sudureyri

Peter and Eva invited me to be part of one of their tours which was not only a pleasure but mind-blowingly interesting. My guide invited me to a historical, yet foodie tour around the village, starting at the place where the first farm was situated a few hundred years ago. While fishermen were trying to catch the best fish in this raw area between fjords and rough sea, the farmers went to use the little land they had to grow potatoes (only during 19th century) and winter veg. On the plus side their fjord still offers them geothermal energy which means heating, warm water and relaxing pools are not a problem at all. Other than that they figured out how to survive in conditions like these, off from everything else, only reachable through the seaway. They got their protein and fat through dried fish. Hung in open stalls in the winter they could collect it and eat only one filet per week. Of course I tried some!

And now with the hammer I feel like Thor!

Fisherman Iceland

In Suðureyri the fish factories gather the most income and help rise economy. Yet, they are wonderful examples how to use everything of the fish, even fish head. On the trail I tasted fish cakes and freshly made Plokkfiskur (see the recipe in the link) !

Fisherman Iceland Fisherman IcelandFisherman Iceland

Westman Islands

For a very special getaway from ‘mainland’ Iceland take the ferry to Heimaey, which is part of the Westman Islands archipelago. It is the only inhabited island of the islands south of Iceland with a population around 4.200. The Westmans or Vestmannaeyjar as it is called in Icelandic have a rich history but even richer is their flora and fauna. While walking through lava sand and stones bedded in moss you look up and see the beautiful volcanos Helgafell and Eldfell. The second one only appeared through a major eruption in 1973 when the whole island had to be evacuated to Reykjavik. Houses, streets and everything left were covered in volcano ashes. You can find out more about this tragic yet force of nature event at the museum Eldheimar. I was mostly impressed of how many photos and videos of this time were taken.

Westman Islands At the very South, Westman Islands

Two Volcanos, Westman Islands

Plan your travels ahead

Rent a car or try to find someone to share a car with. I have found so many people traveling from Reykjavik to several destinations, only two or three people in the car. They have space. Use it!

Beauty of a car

After looking into bus times I decided to rent a car with Budget / Avis car services. It is very expensive and I would rather recommend a different deal. Look into local car rentals like SADcar. I have been following Route 1 and Route 60 for most of my travels there. It is concrete and very easy to drive on. You do not need 4×4 on your car. But it is always appreciated in Iceland to be prepared for the worst.

For going to the Westman Islands I decided to try public transport. I went with the local bus services Straeto (No. 52) to go to Landeyjahöfn to take the ferry Herjólfur to Heimaey. It is very inexpensive to go this way.

35 Euro for the bus ride (per direction)
12 Euro for the ferry (per direction)

More information about the Westfjords and Westman Islands. This trip was not sponsored or funded of any of the companies. I was happily invited to the Fisherman Seafood Trail.

Iceland

Summer in Sligo

On my road trip on the Wild Atlantic Way I decided to spend some time in County Sligo which is close to Donegal, where I also spend some days wandering around. To be honest, I am a huge lover of the seaside and whenever I get the chance to dip my feet into proper sea salty water, here I am!

Strandhill_01
Irish sunset. Just absolutely stunning. © Lucia Täubler

Seaweed, Surfing and Shells Café

When I hit Sligo Town in early June, I was absolutely astonished how great the bus took anybody to whichever place they wanted to go. I decided I would come back to stay in town another day and hit the beach in Strandhill for sandy toes and sunny freckles. Strandhill is about 20 minutes out of Sligo Town on the bus, viewing the two major hills Ben Bulben and Knocknea Mountain. Also, I heard about seaweed baths and exceptional surfing conditions. Plus, as I am always reaching out for great food, Shell’s Café was recommended to me of a friend.

I signed up for a 50 minute VOYA seaweed bath directly at the coastline. You have to make an appointment since their rooms are booked quickly, especially at weekends. Two types of seaweed which heal your skin and detox the madness out of you are soaked in a bath tub. Salty water with hot water are mixed with it and you jump in after about three minutes in the steaming room. The steam opens your skins pores, and the good stuff from the sea can really clean it. Stay hydrated, was one of the recommendations. Water is prepared for you on the side, you can also ask for different kinds of herbal tea. The seaweed folds upon you and your skin, you can even try to get more of the indulging lotion out of it (I popped the juice out of it… this sounds kind of dirty, but it really isn’t!). Don’t shower after your treatment. Even though you might think you smell like the sea (in a bad way) or like fish, the gel coming out of the plants recovers throughout the day on your body and is soaked in.

50 minutes of pure enjoyment (dirty again, I know) and relaxation to a cost of 28 euros are a very good deal.

After all, I was tired and very chilled, but also hungry. Nothing better than getting some great food from VOYA’s neighbor Shell’s Café. I decided to try Shell’s salad which turned out to be vegetarian and was absolutely amazing. Homemade bread and special cakes are on the menu everyday as well as vegan and vegetarian options. If the weather is sunny and happy, try to reach out for a spare seat outdoors – the sea is right there and you can watch people surf. The little store offers the perfect combination of little seaside souvenirs for loved ones and presents for yourself after a long, tiring day at the sea.

So how did the surfing go, you might ask yourself. I chickened out. I was too afraid even though my AirBnB host Con told me I missed out perfect conditions on the shore. Damn it! But there are several 2 hours courses, or if you want to stay longer, week long courses to get yourself going on the board.

Instead I decided to hit sunrise on the Knocknea mountain. A hike which I was recommended of the Sligo Walks community. Their maps are correct and very informative. I got up at, hold your breath, 5.19am to miss real sunrise but find the sun rising above Ben Bulben into Strandhill. What a delight! It took me about 45 minutes to climb the top. At the peak you are not allowed to climb the real peak which is a pile of stones in honor of Queen Maeve’s death. So please do not pull out stones or climb the pile. Enjoy the views though…

How to…

Sligo can be easily reached from Galway or Dublin by train or bus (cheaper!). I suggest to get an AirBnB or B&B in town. There is also camping with amazing views, so probably that is your cup of tea. Next time I will rent a bicycle because you can also just go to Sligo town (10km) and enjoy the landscape.

Strandhill_02
Or just fly here… © Lucia Täubler

What to do in Sligo this summer:

For more information just visit Sligo Tourism.

To June Fest in Newbridge

June Fest
June Fest starts June 1 until June 24 in Newbridge, Co. Kildare

Although festivals have not come across my mind for the last couple of years (I dislike trashed places, non-flush toilets, tents) I am really looking forward to June Fest in Newbridge. Partly, because it will be my first festival attendance in Ireland after Electric Picnic in 2011 (total awesomeness at Arcade Fire!), partly, because I am looking forward to the folky-indie line up presented. Also, fancying a day off in the country? Take the train or go by car, it’s just outside Dublin…

It’s about music, arts, literature, history and all of us participating!

I’d love to meet some of you at the festival launch, June 1 with Kildare Art Collective Art Trail, music in the park (hopefully only a few raindrops) and an indoor gig of Vagabonds & Thieves.

What I am actually really looking forward to is the launch of two exhibitions at the Riverbank Arts Centre:

Home Is Where The Art Is

I always liked the saying Home is where the heart is because it is so true. Usually you’d only need some people around you who you trust and like and it feels like home. Or in case of this exhibition, you only need some great art surrounding you to be home.

Youth groups have been invited to work with visual artists and created pieces which will be shown at the Children’s Gallery. I am so delighted to see this reach out program for children and youth taking place publicly.

Riverbank Arts Centre, June 7-28

M7 – Michael Holly 

I have learned early in my various holidays, vacations and long-term stays in Ireland, that the M7 (Motorway 7) has been and still is a relevant road from Dublin towards the South (Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork) / West (Limerick). Motorways to me are places in-between. You don’t really belong there, you want to go somewhere, you just cross it to get to the junction to take off. But there are people living at, closely and working at motorways. The travelers are their customers.

Michael Holly documents the M7 with an artistic view. He walks, talks and exchanges stories with people living at the motorway as well as taping his journey.

Riverbank Arts Centre, June 9-29, artist talk on June 23

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June 16 – a night full of music

This might be the highlight of June Fest. Why? Because Super Extra Bonus Party are the first local bands I have listened to in 2008. I attended several gigs, watched their videos and really liked what they are doing musically. And now, they are bringing their friends: Ships, Share and The Comstocks are performing as well.

How’s that, June?

Oh, on top of all this, there will be family fun, markets and so much more going on. I am also really interested in how the knitting bombs are going …

For further information and details lined up, just visit the June Fest website or their facebook page.

 

With Your Body

Traveling can be really exhausting. Hours on planes, busses or in cars means putting yourself into a very still position: sitting. I have chosen to cycle and to walk for most of my journeys. But you need some distraction from what you have been doing the whole day.

Yoga

Yoga means ‘union’ or ‘connection’. In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ is used to signify any form of connection. Yoga is both a state of connection and a body of techniques that allow us to connect to anything. (Science of Awakening Self-Awareness)

I have learned that not only stretching but the combination with breathing helps me to relax and regenerate.

Adriene has told me some great moves around traveling and how you get yourself open and stretched, strengthened and healthily flexible. In her 2018 20-minute yoga dip-in, she talks about traveling:

 

Running

 

Exploring a new area or town where you have traveled to through taking a run is mostly enriching. Usually, I decide to step outdoors early in the morning to indulge the first sun rays. Also, I like empty streets, morning groans and waste collection services strolling through last nights parties. I think the colors are different. Running relaxes my mind and I can make plans for the day: where will I go? Who will I meet? What will I wear today? Running is basic and simple.

IMG_7595
Explore Dublin in your running shoes. © Runtastic, Lucie Täubler, 2017

Overload

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I have had two major experiences which told me that my body is most valuable. I really need to feel comfortable and healthy while traveling. Firstly, I remember last summer’s road trip to Albania, which I absolutely loved to bits. I might have had some bad food, drank some tap water or there was a virus concerning digestion in our hiking crew. I will always remember how miserable I felt spending hours over hours in a car, wishing for a toilet. Any toilet. Secondly, it was not long ago, when I went to walk Caminho Portuguese and suddenly felt my achilles tendon swelling up for no reason but overwork.

Never forget, you need your whole body (including a healthy mind!) for traveling.

Have you had similar experiences on the road? Please share them with me.