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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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) !
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.
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!
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.
For a sustainable lifestyle it’s not only important to know where your ingredients, your products and your clothes are coming from. I always try to take public transport. Of course, you are less flexible, you need to look at confusing timetables and the prices seem to be much more higher than just renting a car (which is a myth if you think about fuel and the renting fees). In particular when you are traveling in a group (in this case, I would actually recommend a car). Good points! But if you are traveling solo, like I do most of the time, I tend to have a lot more fun on busses and trains. You meet people, you get to know the surroundings better since you don’t have to concentrate on driving and you can take a nap. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case because I get stuck at the first two advantages of taking public transportation.
My recommendation if you think about taking the bus or the train is to look into prices. Busses (mostly Bus Éireann) are much cheaper and take you into town centre and to places afar from towns. You can talk to the driver to drop you at a different spot or ask where the best path for your hike is. Although you are not supposed to speak to the driver, they usually know their way around well to offer advice. Trains are only available in some towns and the railway system is not as widely connected as you might want to go. For instance, you cannot take a train to Donegal town. Train times are much more reliable than bus times since they do not get stuck in traffic. Plan ahead, and think about puffers for delayed busses (and trains). Always take a book (or better, an e-reader with you) and some music with you. The bus will arrive, eventually and will most of the time run smoothly. Going in and out of Dublin at rush hour is demanding. What is very convenient is that there is WiFi on public transport most times.
Visit Ireland in 8 days without a car
I chose to visit places in Ireland I have not yet visited. One of them is County Donegal, which is way up north, de-located and hardly reachable by public transport. The Wild Atlantic Way starts in County Donegal (or ends there, whichever way you look at it). It is so worth the trip! After visiting some places in Donegal and Northern Ireland, I decided to go down to County Sligo and visit the beach in Strandhill. After two relaxing days there, I took a long journey through Galway into Limerick, where I went to see EVA international. The bus taking me down to Cork drove me through beautiful landscapes, lots of green.
Trips taken in 8 days
I took ten trips on busses and trains in only eight days and decided to go to Coleraine, Northern Ireland, by car with a friend, which was free of charge.
You can easily work your way through with Google Maps or use Transport for Ireland which also comes with an app if you want it on your phone. I did not book way ahead which left me in the position to take whichever hostel had a free bed. So, for high season pre-book your accommodation via AirBnB, Hostelworld or whichever other platform you might be using.
This article has not been sponsored by any of the corporates named.
I really like traveling by myself. Spend some me-time with this person who I spent most of the time with anyways. But there is usually no time to think about stuff which is bothering me or celebrating life. I love to wake up, stretch and breath, watch sunrise and get a coffee. I do not need to speak to anybody in those thirty minutes. I do not need to see anybody. I brush my teeth without anybody watching. I like to be rushed by none but myself. My me-time is precious to me. Although, I might turn into that old cat-lady (without cats) over time…
Three big questions which you will get asked before you depart on your solo trip:
Why do you travel all alone?
If you have ever considered traveling by yourself you have learned quickly, that you’re never traveling alone. There is always someone coming along. There is always someone sitting beside you on the plane, at the airport, at the bus stop, on the bus or the train. There is always a person at the reception, who cares about you (or is not at all interested in what you are doing).
I feel more open-minded if I travel solo. The minute you spend time with a friend, your boy- or girlfriend, a family member or whoever you decide to travel with, you are making compromises and you are always focused on questions like, What are we doing next? Does he/she want to go there? What should we eat? Do not get me wrong, I like those kinds of travels as well and I appreciate to spend time with friends and family. But this openness to share and to let things happen is probably easier to reach just with yourself. You are making all the decisions.
Aren’t you afraid traveling by yourself?
People, especially female friends tend to ask me out of curiosity and anxiety. My typical answer, very courageously put is usually, No! Why should I be scared? But honestly, I am excited to bits. Sometimes I cannot sleep for several days because I am thinking about what will happen and how everything will turn out. Then I read a lot of literature – travel books and guides, blogs and whichever publication comes to my mind – to calm down.
Another thing is, that I have never been in a dangerous situation while traveling. I never felt lost, was never threatened. I generally trust in people and in the good in them. Maybe I was really naive spending over 100 euros for a (illegal) taxi in Santiago de Chile from the airport to my Air BnB. I just hopped in that person’s van and we had a great chat, after which I was ripped off. It sucked. But on the other hand, I felt safe the entire time and I hope he got to spend that amount of money on something worth it. Or there was this time in Washington D.C. where I decided to try to couchsurf and couldn’t get in touch with the person who accepted to share her room with me. But it all turned out well. I had an awesome space to stay at and a wonderful time to spend with people I would have never met otherwise.
So no, I am generally not afraid traveling solo.
Do you ever eat out alone then?
Funnily, I think about eating out in restaurants or grabbing a drink at a bar often when I am back at my homebase in Vienna. How would it be? Should I just head out? What would people think? I am in my comfort zone-mode and it is quite hard to take a chance and just change your point of view. I have just finished reading Kristian Ditlev Jensen’s book Ord I Orientekspressen who tells his stories about riding exciting trains throughout the globe. One chapter talks about eating alone in a restaurant and REALLY enjoying it.
I share Kristian D. Jensen’s problems he refers to in his book:
Shame whenever you ask for a table for one in a restaurant you are kind of pitied. The waiter feels with you. You are unloved. There is no one you can share your table and food with.
Strangers whenever you are eating alone, you are not alone. Like I already said, you are never just by yourself. There is always someone sitting next to you or seated beside you. There might be awkward situations. Sometimes you find yourself in intelligent, nice conversation.
Care whenever shame turns into disproportionate care it is very hard for someone to enjoy the food you have ordered. If the waiter (like in the US) asks you Is everything alright? all the time, you tend to doubt yourself if you are alright.
I like the way Kristian D. Jensen also talks about eating out alone as a feast for yourself. I love the way he puts it. You have to learn to go across borders and enjoy eating out alone. Forget about staring into your phone or try to read a book (seriously, who can turn pages and eat at the same time, I have never really got that!). Focus on the food you are served. What are you having? What’s it smell like? Where does it come from? How is it processed? Do you miss anything? There are so many questions to ask yourself while celebrating this feast with yourself.
Prepare some great meals for yourself…
…and enjoy it!
To be honest, I have enjoyed eating out alone maybe once or twice. But I am not tired to learn. I feel strange and tend to feel ashamed too. If there is anybody sharing the table with me I like to talk to that person. Although it would not be necessary.
I would like to say that I like to eat by myself in a restaurant. Still learning though. That’s what it is all about while traveling solo.
Of course there are many blogs and articles about female solo traveling and how to get on with it (plus which gear to pack if you want to be prepared for any situation):
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 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:
Passing the Science Gallery
as well as this beauty
always following the light
to RHA in Dublin.
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.
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.
I have learned from several films about St. James way in Portugal or Spain or even in France (Saint-Jacques … La Mecque or Ich bin dann mal weg) that the Pilgrims’ hostels/auberges are crap. I am sorry. I know you should clear out, push yourself to a limit and sleep with 40 other people in a room. Maybe to connect or to share your stories. No.
As I already told you, my mam and I were planning to walk parts of the Caminho Portuguese because it is supposed to be beautiful, mind-blowing and extraordinary. Well, it is! We did it and picked those lovely quintas, run by wonderful and charming people. Spend more than just one night there, take a weekend trip to the Portuguese country, just outside Porto. If you choose to take a car it’s simply 30 minutes from Porto, you can also rely on bus- and train service.
Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the greatness of life.
You arrive at Jorge Pedro Reis and Graça Viana Reis’ casas and feel like home immediately. After a long day of walking I arrived, sweaty and hot with swollen feet and exhausted legs, at Jorge’s quinta which seems to be heaven on earth. Orange trees blossom and have fruit at the same time, cold spring water collected in a fountain where I could cool my feet. Places to sit down and chill out, relax: everywhere. Architecturally, the old quinta has been refurbished and reinstalled, but got also some new adaptions. You have the option to stay in one of the three casas (Eira, Quinta or Lagar).
Quinta da Cancela, every detail is perfectly arranged and still comes naturally.
So happy to reach this door…
From Balugães you can easily take two or three day hikes to explore the countryside or simply stay in and read. You can even enjoy the seaside, the rough and wild Atlantic Ocean is right around the corner; it showed itself tender and nice as well this time. Also, book yourself a dinner for just 30 Euros and enjoy Portugal’s culinary to the fullest:
Dinner and breakfast space in the old cottage building
Salmon with potatoes and lots of garlic
Homemade vanilla ice-cream with profiteroles and some strawberries from the garden
Reaching Antonio José Rodrigues’ wonderful quinta in Arcos is a pleasure. For your feet and your heart. The very small town lies in-between seaside (Vila do Conde) and countryside (Barcelos). It felt like traveling back in time. I opened the huge wooden door and wandered through stone houses, bright alleys and extraordinary gardens. Staying in one of the apartment rooms with kitchenette, bathroom and bedroom, you have total privacy. But I even had the pool to myself (yes, the pool!). Unfortunately, late April after a season of just rain it was too early to go for a swim, at least for me. But May should be fine to enjoy the pool.
Comfortable bed with towels and soap prepared. That’s the Camino-way to do it…
Wonderful old stones holding old and new together at Arcos
Relaxing at the pool? Yes, please
Stay here as long as you want. You can drive, walk, bike or whichever vehicle you choose to Barcelos, the closest town and enjoy the heaps of Portuguese wine. Vinho Verde is the wine region called and also its wines Northwest of Porto. I was offered to enjoy the “green wine” most of the time. António makes his own wine, just for fun and for friends.
If you are busy getting married, the Rodrigues’ place is your choice of heart. They own a beautiful wedding parlor, with gardens connected and serve amazing food. Plus: you can stay right there after ceremony and party.