After spending a great few days in Dublin we were ready to head out into the Irish countryside. I love nothing more than setting out on a road trip to see more of a country, although sometimes stressful I’ll opt for a road trip whenever I can.
Our first intended location was the town of Kilkenny which is a couple of hours outside of Dublin. The driving was pretty uneventful but I’ve read that many visitors who are used to driving on the right hand side of the road find left hand driving daunting. For someone who has grown up driving on the left but spent many hours driving on the right I can understand why. The left does seem to be a bit more complicated but you should get the hang of it pretty quickly…oh until you get to a roundabout that is!
Kilkenny is on the banks of the River Nore and has some key attractions, St Canice’s Cathedral and the unmissable Kilkenny Castle. The town itself is easy to get around so once you’ve parked up you can spend the rest of the day wandering round on foot.
After an action packed first day in Dublin our second day was a little more sedate, plus it was Stuart’s birthday so an excuse for some celebrating!
Our morning began much like many mornings in Ireland, with an Irish breakfast. We wanted to head back to Tang but it was shut, today we were lucky enough to get a table at Beanhive.
The breakfast was tasty and the weather blissful. After we filled up on food and coffee we began our walk towards the river.
On the way we stopped at The Whisky Museum which is right across the road from Trinity College. Interestingly you cannot serve alcohol before 12:30pm in Ireland – imagine that! No champagne with brunch!!!!
As a lover of maximising my time in a destination we opted to fly from London to Dublin late Friday night to be ready to begin our week long Irish trip on Saturday morning. That plan worked perfectly apart from the fact our hotel (as gorgeous as it was) basically became a night club on a Friday and Saturday night.
We woke a little tired but ready to get going. Of course, first up was some food as exploring on an empty stomach is never a good idea. TripAdvisors number one place for breakfast was a small place called The Beanhive which was a short walk from our hotel through St Stephen’s Green. When we arrived it was packed, luckily for us just across the road was a place called Tang.
It was a very instagram friendly place with wooden benches outside and an open kitchen inside. We opted for two different versions of avocado on toast. One with toast and one with a sweet potato rosti. They were both excellent and we were a very disappointed the next day when we returned to find it shut!
Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the home of the European Union, consists of a historic centre and a range of additional regions around the edge.
Home to around 172,000 people it’s pretty small as capital cities go which definitely has its advantages as you can get a good feel for the city in a short space of time.
Of course you cannot do everything Brussels has to offer in 36 hours but you can tick a few good items off the list!
For the purpose of full disclosure I will say that Brussels wasn’t my favourite European break. Unfairly for Brussels we visited on one very very cold February weekend where a freak storm had travelled in from the East as basically froze most of Western Europe.
We did however travel in on the Eurostar which is perhaps my favourite way to travel. Big comfy seats, good views and a pretty quick travel time. Winning!
Due to the cold we didn’t do as much as I would have liked but here are my top things to do in 36 hours – especially if it is cold!
The Grand Place
I don’t think any trip to Brussels could be complete without visiting the Grand Place. With buildings dating back to the 17th century it quite often gets piped as one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe.
The square itself is surrounded by guildhalls from carpenters to boatbuilders to brewers. The two larger buildings are the town hall and the King’s House which now contains a museum.
We did a lot in 2017 and boy can I feel it now. It’s probably the first year I haven’t got frustrated about where we are going next or have time for the wanderlust bug to really hit as there was always something around the corner. Which I appreciate makes us very very lucky!! I’ve still got some content to come around our amazing safari in Tanzania as well!
It’s been hard to narrow down our favourites of this year but after much deliberation I’ve managed it!
2017 Top Experiences:
Seeing Northern Lights – This was one of the most spectacular things we did this year, the aurora is incredible. We prayed and hoped that we would get to witness them, especially after our failed attempt in Iceland. Standing out in the cold was well worth it!
One thing I really loved about Stuttgart was it’s accessibleness. You could get anywhere really easily, either by walking or the S & U bahns. It meant we could easily get out to Ludwigsburg within half an hour and back into town in no amount of time. I love German transport and Stuttgart really makes the most of it.
One of the draws of heading to Stuttgart, other than the beer festival, was a squash festival. As in, pumpkins. Yup, you read that right, a pumpkin festival. The annual event is held at the Palace of Ludwigsburg and this years theme was Romans.
Every year wooden structures are built and are then adorned with hundreds of pumpkins. All different shapes, sizes and colours. There were also large pumpkins and a showcase of lots of different squashes.
Other than a work out at Wasen our weekend in Stuttgart was filled with a museum, a squash festival and a walk around the town.
First up was the Mercedes Benz Museum. Stuttgart is home to two car giants, Mercedes and Porsche, both have museums in the city but we opted for Mercedes as it was closer to the beer festival site.
Carl Benz’s first car built in 1886 is what the museum is celebrating with more than 160 vehicles on display. They range from some of the oldest built cars to new futuristic ones. There was a good supply of buses, trucks, cars and F1 cars to keep everyone happy.
When the world thinks of beer festivals they think of the obvious choice Oktoberfest…but if you’re after a slightly less crazy but equally awesome option head a little further south to Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart is the home of Cannstatter Volksfest, or Wasen. A large beer fuelled festival that runs at the same time as Oktoberfest.
I’d say that Wasen has a slightly more family feel to the event, less stag do’s and more work parties. We saw everyone from teenagers to pensioners in the traditional clothing, stein in hand. The event is HUGE, with at least 7 beer tents seating approximately 5000 people per tent (based on some slightly tipsy calculations) and a fun fair to boot.
For the French part of our weekend adventure we caught an Easy Bus from Geneva airport to Morzine in the French alps for a couple of days of fresh mountain air.
The drive was about an hour and a half with lots of twisty roads up into the mountains which made for some good window watching.
Morzine is a small village that revolves around skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. It’s a cute place but does feel like it was a home base for many native english speakers. I don’t have a problem with that, especially as we were a party of 3 english people, but I like my adventures to include at least some of the local lingo.