Tag Archives: australia

St Patrick’s Day Abroad

15 Mar

This is my 3rd year in a row being outside of Ireland for St Patrick’s Day, by far my favorite holiday of the year. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, New years…all fun but Paddy’s day beats them all hands down!

It is just pure and utter madness. 

At first I was quite sad to be away from home, away from all the fun and frolics, the parade, the drinking, the green, the singing, the ceili street dancing and the whole run up to our national day of pride…but after spending it abroad for the last few years, I really appreciate the diverse ways people celebrate all things Irish the world over!

In 2010, I spent Paddy’s Day in Melbourne. It was about 30’c, sun shining and every Irish, half Irish or wannabe Irish person was to be found in any number of Melbourne’s Irish bars…from as early as 8 O Clock in the morning. Well, that’s what time Vera and I started at and there were already some guys on their second pint.It was a pretty awesome day, spent with some Irish friends and many couchsurfers from around the world. We did an epic, day-long pub crawl through out the city planting shamrocks on strangers and jumping on random buses in an attempt to face paint the poor driver. AS it was not half as crowded or chaotic as any Irish city, getting around, ordering drinks, getting food and not being ripped off were all easily accomplished.

St Patricks Day 2010, Melbourne, Australia

Sun is shining, drinks are flowing!

Lat year, 2011, I spent Paddy’s day in South Korea…worlds away from both Ireland and Australia! As it fell on a week day, an all day drinking session was definitely out of the question! However, I did have an awesome day decorating my classroom with the irish colours and teaching my students all about St Patrick which was a welcome break from intensive grammar and spelling tests! That night I met some American friends for some DakGalbi (spicy chicken and rice cake dish). One of my friends was called ‘Jameson’, like the Irish whiskey so that was about the closest thing to ‘Irishness’ I encountered that day. It may not have been the normal St Patrick’s Day, but then again you should know by now… I strive for anything but normal!

My beautiful students in South Korea

Dak Galbi and a Beer with Laurel!

Now I can’t wait to see what fun is in store for me in The Netherlands!

I guess it doesn’t matter where you are…it matters who you’re with! :D

Loving Travel, Loving Life

12 Jul

Fellow Blogger Travel with Papino recently blogged about travel bliss, a rare moment when the outside world seems distant and all you can do is bask in your surroundings. Be it someplace exotic, a moment with good friends, or a break from it all; when we capture these unforgettable moments on camera they make for truly captivating photos.

I have just browsed through album after album of old photos from life in Ireland to life on the road, from Ireland to Latvia, Ethiopia to Taiwan, and Australia to Korea looking for photos that really capture the moment, be it travel bliss or just a moment of extreme happiness.  

This collection might seem a bit random but all these photos hold a special place in my heart and memories come flooding back upon seeing each one of these pictures. If you want to know more about any of them feel free to ask, but I think the picture with the caption tells it all. Let your imagination or heart work out the rest.

Feel free to share yours be it a story or a photo.

Thanks to Papino for this awesome idea.

Boracay Island, The Philippines

Holidaying at home; Baltimore, West Cork

Isle of Tiree, Scotland

Masaii in Mombassa, Kenya

Life is full of joy, Kitale Kenya

Close to Paradise; Auckland, New Zealand

Spreading joy on Childrens Day in Dublin, Ireland

Pure couchsurfing heaven...on a river!

Setiing my eyes on Sydney Opera House for the 1st time...Amazing

At the summit of Mt Seoraksan in South Korea...Breathtaking!

Frolicking in the Cherry Blossoms, Gyeongju

Pure Travel Bliss

Love to You, and You and YOU!

21 Dec

I just read a heartwarming blog post by fellow blogger Aaron, over at Blue Eyes in Korea, about how he asked his drama class to write Christmas cards to his Grandfather in which they talked about themselves and about what they liked about him. He writes,

I wish I could be with my grandfather when he receives all of the letters that I had my Drama Club students write to him. In the past two years he’s lost a daughter and a wife, so he’s a bit lonely right about now. Hoping these might cheer him up.

I think its true to say that Christmas really does bring out the best in all of us.

At Christmas time we all think of our loved ones, especially when far away from home. Whether we will spend it in their company or be there in spirit, they will always be in our thoughts and in our hearts. Aarons idea of sending letters to his grandfather reminded me of the beautiful letters I received upon leaving Australia in June. My dear grandfather had passed away and I had booked the next available flight home, in the hope that I would make it for his funeral.

Sadly this also meant I had to quit my job as an au-pair to 4 of the most beautiful children on earth. During our tear felt goodbyes, they each handed me a handwritten letter that I was to open on the plane as I made the epic 24 hour journey back home. As I sat in my seat, an emotional wreck having to say goodbye to an amazing family and a beautiful country and also thinking of my grief-stricken family waiting for me at home, I remembered their thoughtful letters.

“Dear Janet,

You were the best au-pair we ever had. We are so very sad that you are leaving and I will always remember you. I am very sad to hear about your grandpa dying. I think if he loved you as much as you loved us, he must have been a great man. (He most definitely was.)

(Tommy, aged 9)

Dear Janet,

Thank you for being my au-pair. You were always so kind to me and loved me so much. I am so sorry about your grandpa and wish you did not have to leave. I remember all the stories you told us about you horse called pumpkin and fun you had as a child on the farm. I love you Janet. You were the best au-pair ever.

(Daisy, aged 8 )


You were our au-pair. You were a great au-pair. With your great big, friendly face, your orange hair and big brown eye. (Yes apparently I have only one eye!!) I am so sorry about your grandfather who died. He was a great man and he loved you. (This made me cry as she talked about him as if she knew him!)

(Lily, aged 7 and a half years old)

I think it is a great testament to my beloved grandpa that children at the other side of the world, who had never even met him, seem to love him as I did. In fact a lot of people loved my grandfather. Many of my cousins on my Mums side, nieces nephews an even my friends from primary school used to always call him Grandpa despite not been directly related. And he loved them just as he loved us.

Even after his death, my beloved Gran, still thinks so fondly of him that when somebody recently dropped off a beautiful bunch of daffodils to the house she insisted, “Oh Grandpa picked these in the garden for me. Aren’t they beautiful?!” This will be my Dads first Christmas with out Grandpa, and I know he will miss him dearly.

So I guess this posts purpose is to push you all, no matter how hard it may be, to let your loved ones know how much you love them. I want to send my love from Korea to Ireland to all my family from my parents and sister, aunts, uncles and grandparents to my cousins and close friends. If you can’t say “I love youat Christmas, when can youxxx

Diversity is the spice of life

21 Dec

Some Kimchi with your Turkey, Ajamma? Another cocktail or an Ice-cream Miss Clause? Some more fish stew with that Injera, Miss? With Christmas just around the corner, I am suddenly left reminiscing about all the other Christmas’ spent abroad in distant lands, far removed from the traditional Irish Christmas day.

This year, as many of you know, I will be spending my favourite holiday of the year in South Korea, a country that I have grown to love. Despite this fact, the sad reality is that Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense so  I will have to compromise, settling for a roast Chicken from a street vendor rather than the traditional Turkey, time spent with friends instead of family and rocking around a Karaoke room rather than the Christmas tree!

South Korean Christmas;all about the kids

Christmas entertainment in Korea, mainly aimed and Children and Lovers

All my years of travelling have taught me that just because something is different to what you have been brought up with does not make it worse. As the saying goes “Diversity os the Spice of life”. This goes for everything; from people, to countries, to food, to how people celebrate holidays around the world.

Last year I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach. clichéd? Yes. But also an absolutely unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tens of 1000’s of bikini clad backpackers, chilling out with newly made friends, sipping cheap wine out of a box and breaking it down at Bondi Pavillion at Sunburnt Christmas Djs, renowned worldwide. There may not be Turkey, or presents or family, but there will be wet t-shirt competitions, beautiful sunshine, beer for breakfast and friends you will have forever. Also, the sight of a sea of red and white on one of the most famous beaches on earth is truly something special.

Nice View, Christmas Day on Bondi Beach, Australia

Fun in the Sun on Bondi beach

Three years ago, I spent a summer backpacking across Ethiopia. It was not planned, (my flights were booked 3 days before leaving) but it was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Not many people go on holidays to Ethiopia. It’s not exactly the “in” place to spend your summer vacation. In fact, truth be told, I don’t know ANYONE else that has ever randomly decided to go backpacking through one of the poorest countries on Earth, but that’s the exact reason I wanted to go.

What I didn’t realise was that Ethiopia uses a completely different calendar to most of the western world. They still use the Julian calender, and so, are exactly 7 1/2 year behind our Gregorian calender. Confused yet? I was! So as I was trekking up through the Bale mountains in rural Southern Ethiopia, with an awful stomach ache and fever (which later turned out to be a mild case of Dengue Fever) I noticed the date on my bus ticket. 25/12/1999.

 There I was puking my guts out in some adorable little mountain hut, while two child shepherds looked on in bewilderment, as I was treated my a local medicine man who insisted I rub some sort of red flower all over my face then eat it, whilst on the inside thinking “I can’t believe this is where I am on Christmas Day.” And also feeling slightly disoriented at the fact that I had somehow travelled back in time to the Nineties!!

So my friends, family and readers, wherever you ar this Christmas, whether you are celebrating in a traditional way or not, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading! x

My Saviour, local medicine man

A beautiful child Shepherd, looking at me cautiously, Christmas day 1999

I have a degree, GET ME OUTTA HERE.

16 Nov

What do you mean you DON’T want to eat beans on toast for the rest of your life??!

I hear ya, I hear ya! You’ve just graduated and you are DELIGHTED. You slaved away for 3 months writing a thesis that, after writing, re-writing and re-writing again got you top marks. You spent 4 years living on beans and toast and pot noodle (okay you could have being eating better but a social life is also an important part of college life). Now you have finally finished college, you have a well-earned degree, now framed in your parents house no doubt, beside a beaming picture of yourself in robes a la Harry Potter beside your proud as punch parents.

But what now? There are no jobs. Did you really slave away studying for hours on end (I know, I know half that time was probably spent on Facebook but STILL!) so that you could move back in with your parents in bally-go-backwards and apply for social welfare? I didn’t think so.

 So instead you are thinking of following in the footsteps of your ancestors and making the long trip to the other side of the world. A mass of land full of jobs and prosperity. Kangaroos and cuddly Koala’s. Irish men sleeping in cement mixers still drunk from the piss up the night before on Bondi beach or wherever. The promised land for nurses, carpenters, plumbers and builders.

Rewind. You’re not a plumber? Oh. You’re not a nurse either and you can’t tell a hammer from a forklift? You have an Arts degree or…a business degree? Riiight, well FORGET ABOUT OZ! Unless, of course, you don’t mind slogging your life away on below minimum wage picking pears on some smelly, rat and mosquito infested farm or standing on the street 10 hours  day, 6 days a week trying to sign passers-by up to some charity they really don’t give two craps about and will probably push right past you, shout in your face and waste your time.

Each night you will arrive home disheartened to a filthy, dirty dormitory or share house filled with 10 drunk backpackers to eat some noodles and watch shit TV cause you’re too broke to actually join in the fun everyone else appears to be having. (Believe me, I’ve been there and done that.)

Fear not recent graduates, I HAVE THE ANSWER! Why not ditch the depression session of Ireland, beat the recession and get your ass over to South Korea, a country that had simply banned the BIG R word from its vocabulary. All you need is a degree in any subject from any University and you’re in the club!

You have no teaching experience? NO WORRIES! You can’t pay for your flights over here? NO WORRIES? You can’t afford accommodation here? NO WORRIES. Its is ALL paid for my dears. Tax is low, wages are high and the craic is mighty! Korea; land of autumn colours, hiking, uninhabited islands, all night drinking, rafting, ziplining, all night drinking, caving, bungee jumping, all night drinking, naked spas, skiing, water parks and..all night drinking.

For more info on getting a job in Korea read THIS  post!

17 wineries, 84 wines and 1 smelly cheese shop.

27 Jun

Ahhh wine tasting. My favourite hobby on a friday night. So you can imagine my excitement at the thought of spending a WHOLE weekend tasting wine. This post will not be all that informative…we did not learn a whole lot about wine and often time the wine we liked the most was the cheapest of the lot. We did not do a winery tour nor did we go inspect the grapes or whatever other bizzarre things tourists come here to do. Our mission was to drink as much wine as we could, and we did a mighty good job.

Our group consisted of our tour guide for the weekend and fellow couchsurfer Warren, Dariuz from Poland, Gloria (G-Tran) from the U S of A, Linda from The Netherlands (although you would swear she wasn’t with her perfect english and lack of dutch accent) and little old me.

We left Sydney at the crack of dawn Saturday morning (ahem 9am but still way too early for my liking…!) and headed towards the wonderful Hunter Valley, arriving just as the wineries opened at 10am. Morning brunch was of the liquid variety, namely 2 reds, 3 whites and some dessert wine. Mmmmm dessert wine..ya got to love that Botrytis Semillon.

Tower Estate, Winery no.1

Pepper Tree, Winery no.2

Warren had us on a strict schedule…no more that 25 minutes in each winery in order to see as much as possible. Some people would call this rushed, we however looked upon it as a marathon, a wine tasting marathon, and we were very happy indeed.

We continued on to winery after winery, from Tempus Two, Harrigans, Pepper Creek, David Hook, Oakvale and Keith Tulloch to Tyrells and many more. Some shared the premises with Sky-diving centres (a few glasses of wine and anyone would jump from a plane I guess!), others with churches and convents. The wildlife was also abudant as we discovered in Hope winery where we proceeded to scare away about 10 huge Kangaroos!

Warren, Gloria and Linda @ Tempus Two (no.3)

Hope Estate, Winery no.4

Linda running towards out last winery, No.17

 It was one of the best days of my Ausralia trip. It was great to be out of the city with an awesome group of freinds spending the day drinking absolutely delicious wines. Oh and did I mention it was all for free?! All the wine tastings are free (up to 6 wines in each winery but they always offered us more!!). Whenever we got hungry we would detour to a cheese factory or chocolate shop. We dabbled in champagne and sparkling wines and even ended up in the Blue Tongue Brewery where we tasted 6 beers, of which we all agreed the ginger beer was the best.

More jumping at Lindemans

Wine makes us JUMP!

Janet, Dariuz, Warren, Gloria and Linda @ Hope Estate

 By 6pm Saturday we were absolutey exhausted so we headed to our home for the night, a nearby campsite. Once in the door we decided to chill out with..you guessed it..a bottle of wine, one of the many we had purchased. We brought 2 more along to the BYO Thai restaurant that evening but as hard as it  is to believe, we could not finish the first bottle between the 5 of us. Bed was calling.

Up bright and early Sunday morning we again opted for a liquid breakfast. We’re hardcore like that. We fitted in about 7 wineries before lunch including the beautiful Bimbadgen estate, Lindemans, Rosemount, Mcguigans cellar and cheese shop, Peterson Champagne house and Debortoli. Phew. We were welcome wherever we went and were never made to feel uncomfortable for not purchasing (although to be fair we did buy A LOT of wine!!). The wildlife was amazing, the scenery stunning and the wines…don’t get me started on those mouth watering wines…

So in summary over the 2 days we went to 17 wineries,a  smelly cheese shop, a chocolate shop, a brewery, champagne house, tasted over 84 wines and lots and lots of delicious types of olive oil, basil dips and other delicacies. Go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley…its one of the best things you’ll ever do. Ever. 

Keith Tulloch Winery

Bimbadgen Estate (Winery no 15!!)

The GREAT Ocean Road

4 Apr

After our amazing 2 week  road trip around New Zealand, I bid farewell to Ali, who had to fly back to Auckland. My parents and I flew to Australia to drive the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide, where we would be visiting Dad’s cousins.

Upon leaving Melbourne our first stop was the surfing haven of Torquay, home to world famous brands such as RipCurl, Quiksilver and Billabong, world reknowned surf spot Bells Beach, and the annual The RipCurl Pro. It is also home to the awesome Surfworld Museum, which is recognised as “the worlds largest surf and beach culture museum, and is home of the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame dedicated to tell the story of surfing.”

Surfer on Bells Beach

  Continue reading

Just keep picking, just keep picking…

14 Mar

Following a string of unsuccessful jobs and my funds running too low for comfort (!!!) the time had come for desperate measures. There was only one viable option for me left and the one thing I had said I would under NO circumstances do. FARM WORK!!! Eugh. I live on a farm back home, so why on earth would I travel half way across the world to do a job I can do any day of the week in Ireland. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

I packed my bags and headed off to Kyabram, a tiny village 3 hours north of Melbourne where I had secured a job picking apples and pears. First impressions were dire. The accomodation was infested with vermin, the beds were rusty and the rooms smelled rotten. Practically everything in the kitchen was broken and the TV was absolutely ancient. The only water we had was from a tank and came out murky brown. Spiders, mice, snakes…you name it we had it. But I put on a brave face and thought, oh well at least I can have a beer and forget this nightmare. WRONG. Alcohol was strictly probibited on the premises. As were BOYS!! This was goingto be interesting…

Besim And Co. Kyabram

The fruits of our labour...

We started work at 7am each morning climbing up these heavy ladders and practically getting lost in the pear trees. We were paid 34 dollars for big bins and 17 for small ones which would leave us with an estimated wage each week of 100 dollars once money for accomodation, a bag ‘deposit’ and tax had been deducted. Absolute SLAVE LABOUR! The farmer would often under pay us and would never deal with our accomodation probelms such as running out of hot water.

The days were long and as it was mid summer the temperature could soar up over 35’c. We seemed to be constantly attacked by mosquitoes and other sorts of fruit fly as we would fight our way up the ladders picking pears as quickly and carefully as possible. “Just keep picking, just keep picking…”, seemed to be our theme tune to get through each day. 

Murray, our supervisor, would often let Vera and I borrow his radio so we could sing along to Grease classics while performing ‘Go grease lightning’ from the top of our ladders. I can still remember the local radio station’s jingle, “Get out of the studio, get some fresh air and  meet every listener!”.

One of the giant apples we picked!

Delicious Japanese Gnashis

All in a days work

After the first week, the girls and I were fed up of our awful working conditions and pay so decided we would go on strike. That’s right; 14 girls sitting down in the middle of an orchard in rural Victoria ‘protesting’. As I was the ownly native English speaker it was up to me to persuade the farmer to give us a pay-rise. Afrter about an hour of arguing with the old bat we eventually settled on an extra dollar per bin. Succuess!

As bad as the work and living quarters were, myself and the girls (Vera, Sarah, Noemi along with half of Germany) made our own fun in the local village making the one bar, Hurleys, our second home. We got to know the locals, the barman and everyone inbetween. This made our 3 weeks in Kyabram not only bearable, but, truth be told, a hell of a lot of fun! We were invited to endless house parties, barbeques and even got friendly with some cool locals who had a pool in their back garden. We didn’t save much money, we were covered in scratches and mossie bites  each day and survived on cheap noodles and goon, but despite this, my month fruit picking was an experience I will never forget and would trade for nothing!

Fruit pickers on STRIKE!

Janet, Katie, Vera and Noemi all cleaned up

Nom nom...yummy roadside ice-creams

Guinness, Trucks and Antique cups

2 Feb

Mid January I decided to get out of Sydney and head down south to Melbourne. After one failied attempt at securing a ride share with some couchsurfers (sadly the car broke down 2 hours outside Sydney) I decided to splash out on a train ticket and a 13 hour journey. As luck would have it, it turned out to be the hottest day in 100 years, with temperatures soaring to over 40’c and remaining that hot until after midnight!! Such heat I had not felt since Africa a few years before. I was picked up from the train station by my hosts and very good friends through couchsurfing, Suz and Dave, who showed me endless hospitality and helped me settle down in Melbourne.

Suz 'Hostess with the Mostest' Cleary

Within days of arriving I landed myself 2 jobs. One in an Irish Bar and hostel in the cool area of Carlton near Melbourne University and another as a Chugger…aka charity mugger walking the streets on the prowl for people to sign up to various charities. A horrendously hard job in which I lasted one day and was happy to turn my back on!

 The job in The Corkman Irish bar, on the other hand, was awesome fun.  I got to pour my first pint of Guinness (the first of many…!) and was shown the ropes in how to run a bar, restaurant and hostel simultaneously. Every Thursday they had traditional Irish music sessions, with all the locals singing songS ‘as gailege’ and playing bodrans and tin whistles. Always a great night at The Corkman.  Unfortunately I was  not quite talented enough to perform the afore  mentioned tasks of running a busy bar, restaurant and hostel at one time so was politely let go after only 3 weeks working there. Disaster!!

Pouring perfect pints

Back onto the Gumtree website to search for a new job. Within a few hours I had been contacted by a family living in rural Victoria to come nanny for them. Success!! The family picked me up the next day and brought me back to their home. They ran a business drilling water around NSW and Victoria which appeared to be VERY successful. The Dad was a monster truck fanatic who recently purchased a T908 Kenworth ‘show truck’ for the bargain price of 400,000 dollars. The grandmother was horse fanatic and filled me in on how she had recently purchased the 1892 Melbourne Cup at auction (for the outrageous price of 180,000) which had been won by the horse trained by her great great grandfather.

The family were lovely if not a little noisy. Ok with 4 kids it’s a LOT noisy!! Driving 4 hyper active kids, including a 7 month old crying baby, to school on a road I was not familiar with was in my eyes a total nightmare. The days were long starting at 6.30am and ending after all kids were in bed and because we were so rural the chances of making friends was very limited. Despite my love of working with children, spending 7 hours a day playing thomas the tank engine was an absolute bore. I decided after a week that this was not the place for me and hopped on the train back to Melbourne where another adventure began…

The familys pride and joy, their Kenworth T908

1892 Melbourne Cup

The 4 beautiful kids

Pirates of the Pacific!

2 Jan
Everyone knows that spending New Years Eve in Sydney will be nothing short of spectacular. Everyone can picture the endless bursts of light as the fireworks explode over the picture perfect Sydney harbour, celebrating into the wee hours in some classy club with classy people or at some party on Bondi Beach making strangers your friends and calling alcohol you nemisis, (well the next morning anyway)!

I decided to do something a little different. 

I splurged a whole weeks wages on a New Years Eve Pirate themed cruise of Sydney Harbour, which was being organized by The Globe. The (outrageous) price included a dinner on board and ALL YOU CAN DRINK all night long. Happy days. Getting ready was as much fun as the cruise inself. Candace, another Canadian I befriended, and I spent the afternoon getting ready. I had to ‘leg it’ to the fancy dressshop in Bondi Junction to look for a hook, an eyemask and maybe some funky fishnet tights only to came across about half of the hostel looking for similar accessories! In the end I bought most of my outfit in a nearby charity shop and dollar store, which turned out to be a lot more original and a LOT cheaper!

The cruise was due to set sail at 6.30pm so the gang from the hostel, about 30 of us in full Pirate costumes, made our way down to Darling Harbour, with beers in hand. The strange looks we got from people were priceless. In fact I’m pretty sure the guys may have scared a kid or two. When we eventually made it to the Harbour our cruise was nowhere to be seen. We did come across an awesome tall ship which we charged towards.

“Arrgh me mateys! Lets commandeer this ship!!” one of the lads roared as we all shouted “Arrrr” back at him.

The guests on board the $1000 a ticket luxurious vessel observed us with curiousity and we returned there amused gazes with fierce looks! How dare they sit there, looking all pretty on sipping expensive champagne on OUR ship! We eventually found our boat which was a far cry from the mighty Pirate Ship we failed to board, but which we loved all the same for its copious amounts of free alcohol. We spent the evening mingling on deck, dancing down below to all the latest hits and had front row seats to the most spectacular, mesmesiring, fantastic fireworks display I have ever witnessed.

We sailed out of Darling Harbour as the sun was setting on 2009 and sailed back in, a liitle drunker but a lot happier in 2010.

 A great decade, a great year and a great night.

Arrr me mateys group shot

A shadow of my former self

Pirate chat

Sailing into the Harbour

Sunset cruise

Acting like ruthless pirates!

Smile! You're in Syndey!

Fireworks at midnight

Happy 2010 from Sydney


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