Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley, Australia

Hunter_Valley_wine_tasting

Ahhh wine tasting.

My favourite hobby on a Friday night.

Thus 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 times 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 possible, 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.

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 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!

 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.

 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. 

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St Patrick’s Day Abroad

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

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Loving Travel, Loving Life

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

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Diversity is the spice of life

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

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Have a degree? Go teach abroad!

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!

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