Saturday, October 22, 2016

God's Own Junkyard

Last weekend Joey and I hopped over to London for a weekend of non-touristy exploring. Why non- touristy? Well, at this point I've been to London 5 times (Joey has probably been upwards of 20) so we decided for the most part we we're going to live the local life and explore things that weren't quite on the tour guide radar.

Enter: the coolest coffee shop I've ever seen. So cool that it basically came to life and told me it needed it's own post. Don't worry, I've got a full London post coming up soon, but I couldn't stop myself from sharing these early! 

I can't take credit for this one, Joey is the mastermind behind this outing. He saw this place on Instagram and immediately knew it had to go on our radar.

This glorious establishment (as you might be able to tell) it called God's Own Junkyard. It's located in Waltmanstow in East London. It's a bit of a trek if you're staying in central London, but I mean....look at this place 

It's essentially a collection of neon lights in a big warehouse (all of which are for sale, of course) whilst simultaneously being one of the coolest places to grab coffee & cake in the entire world. And sandwiches too! I mean, what's not to love here??

This place has cozy nooks galore, and is also family friendly. There were plenty of (well behaved) little ones running around in awe.

The outside of the warehouse is equally as lovely. The weather wasn't great so we didn't spend much time out there, but on a sunny day it would be an amazing place to come and enjoy a cup of tea and a book.

The funniest thing? Waltmanstow is the most suburban, upper middle class neighborhood. You would NEVER in a million years think this place was amongst the cute brick houses and old couples sitting in the park.

Honestly? The coffee isn't the best. But it was easily forgiven by the incredible atmosphere. A true hidden gem in London, and an Instagramer's paradise. Also, an excellent alternative to a stuffy art gallery! If you find yourself in London with a hankering for an adventure a little off the beaten path, I couldn't recommend this place more! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Weekend Wander: County Cork

Last weekend I was invited down to County Cork for some good ole Irish exploration!

My lovely friend Katie's husband is from there originally, so myself and my friend Molly played third & fourth wheel and joined them for their weekend plans. We were completely spoiled with hospitality and given a proper tour of the area. Which, in typical Irish fashion, is extremely majestic:

We visited beaches, saw ruins, lots of beautiful greenery & briefly explored the city of Kinsale, which I'm already itching to go back (hint hint nudge nudge, Joey!)

It was a very relaxed weekend and a perfect way to mentally check out from city life for a while.

In an effort to share more on this platform, I've decided to share more of these "weekend wander" photo diaries - short, sweet & photo filled. For those of you who prefer my regular lengthy posts - no worries, those will always be around! But when the mood strikes, I think this will be a cool way to share some photos and update you guys with my smaller adventures. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sunday on Skellig Michael

Apologies for the lack of posts, my FREAKING computer keyboard broke, naturally. But alas friends, I am back - with vengeance. A couple weekends ago, I think I traveled to what is by far the coolest place I've ever been - and definitely the most remote!

Have you ever heard of Skellig Michael? If not, click here and have yourself a read before continuing. Knowing the history of this island will make this post significantly cooler. I'd add it in myself, but...well..that would take too long, and I'm WAY too excited to share these photos with you!

Some of you may recognize the name right off the bat, especially if you're a Star Wars fan. In the newest film, this is the island where Rey confronts Luke Skywalker for the first time. The location was chosen for it's remote location and other-worldly appearance.

Travelers have been able to go to Skellig Michael for years, but because of Star Wars it's REALLY blown up as a tourist destination. So much so that back in May when I went to book tickets for mid-summer, I was told the earliest I would be able to get in was September 18th. I was also told that just because my tickets were booked does not mean that I have any guarantee to actually get on the island - it's completely dependent on the weather. To the point where the boat could even pull up to the island and have to turn away. (Something to keep in mind - Ireland has terrible weather, even during the summer.)

Now, as I previously mentioned, this island is....remote. To say the least. It's an hour ride on a power boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Country Kerry. I knew this previously, but I did not understand exactly how remote this was until we were actually ON the boat heading there.

I absolutely LOVE boats, everything about them, but this boat was 60 minutes of actual hell.
The day we went there was a huge storm, but because the storm was meant to clear out by the time we got to the island,  the captain said we we're good to go. So off we went, 10 of us on a tiny little dingy....into the belly of the Atlantic...during a storm.

You know the scene in the Disney film 'Frozen' where Anna and Elsa's parent's ship gets swallowed? I genuinely thought that was my destiny. I know it sounds like I'm being a liitttle dramatic here but no lie, I was genuinely terrified. Not to mention out of the 10 people on our boat, 5 of them were getting VIOLENTLY ill the entire time. If you get sea sickness, this is not for you. At. All. 

Consensus: It's a VERY difficult place to get to, and not for the faint of heart. But when we finally pulled up to the island, the storm had almost stopped entirely, and just the view of this monster left my anxiety-ridden body with a sudden wave of calm.

After jumping (literally) from the boat to the island's dock, we started our journey to the top. From the minute we arrived I was just standing there in wonder. First wondering how the hell we didn't die on the boat, and second how a place like this possibly exists.

 Oh, I forgot to mention my two companions for this treacherous journey:

The handsome bearded gentleman you will recognize, but the small blonde strange one pointing to the (incredible) writing in the rock is my cousin, Parinaz. She flew over to Dublin to visit me and I took her with us - luckily she ended up loving the experience and not hating me for forcing her through that boat ride!

Getting half way up the island is easy. Though it's uphill, it's a steady incline with no stairs. The other half of the trek....well....

The steps are the equivalent of what it would take to walk up a ten story building, and are hundreds (thousands!?) of years old. They are NOT in good condition. Our guide mentioned that people have indeed died from tripping and falling off the steps, especially when the steps are wet (which of course they were the day we were there.) It was scary and tiresome, but once we reached the top, everything (including the boat ride) was 100% worth it. LOOK at this:

 Do you ever see something and just wonder HOW? Like HOW is it back in the 8th century these freaking monks took a boat here and created THIS? And lived here permanently!? HOW??? I mean "why" is also a good question to ask but seriously, HOWWW? Humans are AMAZING.

The boat we arrived is the red one. As you can see we climbed a LONG way!

The stone huts the monks built for themselves were....interesting. Cold, wet, dark, dirty. They said they wanted to feel excluded from the world to feel closer to God and well, I guess these would fit the bill? 

But it doesn't seem like it turned out tooooo well for most of them...

Also, they must have been TINY little creatures. Here is 6'1" Joey attempting to fit into a monk house:

Seriously though, how did these guys not die trying to get over here? How did they bring the stones? How did they eat? How did they not go mentally insane????

How did they not die from hypothermia?? WHERE did they pee!? Or...oh god, I can't even think of the other option.

Despite the mysteries behind it, the island does actually have a great energy to it. It doesn't feel creepy, it feels serene. It's one of those places that makes you feel insignificant, in a good way. 

After about a two hours of asking myself questions about this incomprehensible lifestyle, it was time to head back down to the boat.

(Can anyone spot Joey being a creep in the above photo?)

The boat journey back wasn't quite as bad as the journey there, but about 20 minutes into the journey the storm came back. There was a point where I LITERALLY thought I was being sprayed by a hose (I wasn't. It was the rain. Unreal.)

Overall, one of the most incredible places I've ever been. So epic I honestly feel like it could be a wonder of the world. 

If you've got strong sea legs, a love for hiking and a sense of adventure (and happen to be in a remote part of south eastern Ireland) I could not recomend this more. A serious bucket list item here! To be honest, had I of known what I was getting myself into I wouldn't have gone. The journey over alone would have put me off! But I am so, so happy I went, and if you're a big chicken like me I know you will be too. 

If you're interested, click here to check out the company I sailed with. It costs around 70 euro per person, and the trek only operates between May & September. Remember to book early!