Malabar Headland National Park

If you are looking for an awesome way to spend your day off in Sydney then this is the place to visit. Many people have done the Bondi to Coogee walk but have you done the Coogee to Malabar walk via Maroubra? If that’s too long, you can catch the bus to Maroubra and walk from there to Malabar. The beginning of the National Park is only a 10 minute walk from Maroubra beach.

Maroubra Beach
Entering the Malabar Headland National Park

Malabar Headland National Park boasts dramatic coastal views and walks between Maroubra and Malabar beaches, in the east of Sydney. Follow the path within the National Park. There are many steps, areas of bushland and at times rocky terrain so my advice is to wear comfortable footwear. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Malabar Beach along the western section of the walk. The views on the route are incredible. The beach itself is quite small but has lots of character and is a really beautiful spot. From the beach you then follow the path along the eastern section of the park. This can be closed at times so be sure to check the opening times at https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/malabar-headland-national-park. The views on the return leg to Maroubra are stunning and you can often see whales here migrating from May to November on their annual migration route.

Honestly, this is one park you will want to check out. I had no idea it was there, a real hidden gem in the eastern suburbs that’s right on your Sydney doorstep.

All the best,

W πŸ™‚

Travel during Covid

As you may or may not be aware, I havent written a blog post in quite some time. I mainly write about my travels and positive experiences in Australia, however, 2020 has been a very strange year so far. Australia had a rough ride at the end of 2019 and entering 2020 with the insane bush fires that were reported all over the world. This coupled with drought was very catastrophic for most of the country. Even here in Sydney the amount of smoke was crazy and pretty scary as you worry about your physical health with regards to breathing and being outdoors ( it was, at one stage, the worst air pollution in the world). You could feel it with every breath, even sitting in your home and sleeping at night. So dear help those who were living in the middle of it all and the poor animals who lost their lives.

This was then followed by severe flooding, which crazily enough, initially made putting the fires out even harder. So when the fires, finally, after many months began to be contained and controlled, people here believed the worst to be over. Enter the coronovirus.

This needs no explaining, as every country in the world and every person is being affected in some way or another. Thankfully, Australia has been doing really well up to this point and long may it continue. I have just been grateful to still have a job and maintain some sort of normality. I think the fact that we can’t travel is the least of anyone’s worries. Everyone just wants to be healthy, both physically and mentally, ensure safety of our loved ones and come out of this covid situation being able to have a new way of normal life.

As we begin to ease out of lockdown here, we begin to live our lives in a new era of social distancing and strict infection control measures. We may not be able to travel internationally here, however, I am extremely grateful that we are now in a situation where we can travel locally and soon to be inter state. For us, it provides the opportunity to see more of Australia, as will be for most people here and in turn will help the economy and the tourist industry. Therefore, I will be continuing to write about day trips to make in and around Sydney for now, with the hope to expand to places more further afield in Australia. We were meant to be travelling home to Ireland this month but that will have to be placed on hold for the time being unfortunately.

Stay tuned and keep safe everyone.

W πŸ™‚

10 reasons to have a cruise vacation.

Hey guys and gals and welcome to 2020. This is my 3rd year of blogging about travel and lifestyle and what better way to start the year than with a cruise blog. I really want to share with you all my 1st time experience of a cruise holiday that we just completed there last month and show you all why it is the most perfect holiday. A cruise holiday is something I have always wanted to try but was always slightly unsure and skeptical of. Hopefully I can eliminate any of the doubts that you yourself may also have and maybe consider a cruise in the future (if you haven’t already done so). We chose the Royal Caribbean: Voyager of the Seas. It has an amazing reputation, was within our budget, was travelling over Christmas (the time period that we wanted) and it was sailing to the South Pacific!!!! The islands that the cruise would be stopping at were on our bucket list. We were very fortunate that we could hop on the cruise at Circular Quay, just down the road from where we live.

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1 – Not too pricey

By today’s standards, a cruise holiday can be super afforable. I used to think you had to be rich to travel by cruise ship but thankfully there are many different options that cater to everyones budget.  Tip – if you enjoy a beverage, take out the drinks package, you won’t regret it. It’s so nice not to worry about money when you are onboard and it’s really reasonably priced.

2 – Amazing food

People often worry about the food. Will you have enough to eat? Will you be tired of eating at the same places every night? I can honestly say the food was fantastic. You can either eat in the restaurant with table service for your 3 main meals or you can head to the buffet style cantina. You can mix and match these, breakfast at the buffet and dinner in the restaurant. We loved both but definitely preferred the restaurant for dinner. The menu was extensive and was changed daily so you were always able to try something different. There are of course other restaurants on board but you would pay extra for those.

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3 – You are NEVER bored!

There is never a dull moment on board when travelling at sea. The entertainment staff do an amazing job at creating fun things for everyone to partake in. You can choose to attend as many things as you want or you can choose not to and lay by the pool. The entertainments staff are crazily good at what they do and how they entertain you. There are quizzes all the time, karaoke, the hugely popular bingo and there’s even an ice rink, complete with an ice show spectecular.

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Cocktails by the pool. We were there on school holidays, so lots of kids. Fortunately they do have an adults only pool too.

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There is a theatre onboard. They have different shows: comedy nights, musicals, game shows etc and there are 2 sittings. A great way to spend a couple of hours in the evening.

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The staff will leave you an itinerary every evening for the next days activities. The ship also provides an app for your phone that gives you every activity as it’s happening, the perfect way to plan your day and night.

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Napkin folding classes – surprisingly fun and popular.

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The promenade of the ship was home to many activities. You can shop here in the many boutique shops and there is a cool wee traditional style pub. You can grab a coffee along here and there are always snacks on the go for that in between meals period. Perfect if you need a slice of pizza after a night out! From the bridge the entertainments crew will provide entertainment aslo including the very popular zumba. Music is also played here on certain nights if you fancy a dance, it feels like you’re at a really cool street party!!

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Christmas carols in the promenade.

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One of our many strolls around the ship.

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Ocean views at the gym.

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Representing my gym onboard.

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Drinks with a view.

4 – Day trips

We stopped at 4 different islands within Vanauatu and New Caledonia. All 4 of them were stunning. I loved the fact that I was able to brush up on my French language as this is widely spoken here, especially in New Cal and it really goes a long way when you make the effort to speak it.

Noumea

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Mystery Island

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MarΓ©

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Lifou

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5 – People you meet

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Perfect holiday with my partner in crime.

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Beautiful people.

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Such a pleasure meeting the big man.

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Great memories with even greater people.

6 – The Staff

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The stunning cruise director! Loved Michelle, amazing at what she does.

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Loved these guys, amazing staff.

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Big love for Wilbert.

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Our housekeepers were fab! They knew how to make us laugh.

7 – The bars

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The Viking – perfect viewing spot.

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Views (nice to see the pool being cleaned).

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Drinks were unreal at The Tavern.

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Our new fave, brandy and baileys.

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Our most favourite bar – Schooner Bar.

8 – Sunsets

These were just stunning.

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9 – An easy holiday

Everything about this holiday was seamless. Boarding the ship was extremely easy and we were in our room within half an hour.

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Ready for sail away from Sydney, took no time at all to board, see our room, get a drink and head to the party!

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Hopping on and off the cruise to the islands was very straightforward and quick. The tender boats would take you over to the islands when the cruise couldn’t get closer for docking.

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There’s plenty of quiet spots around the cruise if you want some down time.

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I LOVED that you could always get hold of a cup of tea after a night out, perfect before bed. Your room is only a small walk away from any of the bars, making it super easy to get home.

10 – The atmosphere/ambiance

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We really wanted that Christmas vibe and boy did we get it. This cruise was super Christmassy.

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We loved that you could dress casually but also have the opportunity to dress smart on occasion.

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Such a chilled out vibe, being in the middle of the ocean is really special.

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Christmas vibes.

 To conclude, that is my 10 reasons you may want to consider a cruise holiday. As it was my first cruise, I don’t have much experience. However, we found Royal Caribbean to be amazing in every way possible and would absolutely holiday with them again in the future.

Thanks everyone for reading.

W πŸ™‚

 

12 months and 12 photos (2019)

Hi everybody!!! It has been a while. I haven’t written a blog in about 4 months, sorry for that. To be honest, I haven’t had much to say or write about as there has been no travelling for the past few months (except Melbourne twice but does that even count?!). I have been attempting to lay low and save my pennies/cents for the big year that is to come in 2020. A fellow blogger has been carrying out 12 months and 12 photos and I loved this idea. It’s a great way for me to create a blog and keep me in the game. It’s the first time I saw another blog post and thought, yes, I want to do that. So thanks to Tanja from @theredphoneboxtravels for the inspo. I have picked my 12 photos (not an easy task by the way, if you have a few things going on each month) and added a little caption to each one. I hope you find them of interest πŸ™‚

January – Taveuni

Taveuni
The holiday of all holidays. We won a trip back to Fiji and we decided to visit the garden island of Fiji that is Taveuni. An absolutely amazing place with the best people. We made memories there that will last a lifetime.

February – Belfast comes to Melbourne

Belfast comes to Melbs
2 of our really good friends Brian and Rachael came to Melbourne. I didn’t want to miss them so I flew over to spend the weekend with them and had the best craic!

March – Meet my parents in Thailand

Thailand
I had the oppotunity to visit my parents when they were in Thailand celebrating their anniversary. I couldn’t miss this, maybe my only ever chance to have a holiday with just the 2 of them all to myself. A really chilled out holiday with memories I will always cherish.

April – 10 years later

10 years later
We love our Sydney walks and for me, my photo opportunities! We sat here to have a photo taken and realised we had sat here 10 years ago also. We have lived in Sydney in 2009 for 1 year and had made it our dream and mission to return. I like this photo as it highlights how far we have came and what is achievable if you want something bad enough.

May – Home

Home
We love our trips back to Northern Ireland. This was our 2nd trip home since leaving for Australia. We had an amazing time as always, plus we attended 2 very special weddings. The landscape in Northern Ireland is stunning, it definitely needs to be seen if visiting Ireland.

June – A time of reflection

Reflection
This is the Chinese Garden of Friendship. The perfect spot for reflection and gathering your thoughts. I was really happy to have been shown this place.

July – Quality time

Quality time
July was a month of spending time with the other half and taking in the beauty of Sydney. Lots of nice walks and this day we were whale watching, a really unbelievable experience!

August – Leura

Leura
This is my birthday month!! I really wanted to head away for a couple of days. We decided on Leura, in the Blue Mountains. I would highly recommend this to everyone. It is a really quaint little town with a lot of character. The Leura Cascades are impressive and amazing walks in the heart of the Blue Mountains.

September – A personal journey

Personal journey
I have been going to the gym for about 2 years now. I am loving it and acheiving results that I am super happy with. This was the month I hit a personal milestone as I had hit the 10kg mark. Thats a 10kg increase in weight (muscle mass). I was delighted. May the journey continue.

October – Wedding dress shopping

Wedding dress
Never thought in a million years I would be doing this but it was an incredible experience. To be there for my best friend on such a huge occassion in her life was a true honour. We had the best weekend and not a bridezilla in sight!!

Novemeber – My cousin

My cousin
My cousin has been in Sydney for a year and we have loved it. To have a family member here is amazing, to share old memories and make new ones is incredible. We were sad to say goodbye as she heads off on her travels and then home but we have had the best year and again made the best memories.

December – Christmas time

Christmas
One of my favourite months of the year. This year we are spending it together, just the 2 of us. We are heading away on what will be our only holiday as a couple since 2014. Keep an eye on my socials for photos to follow. Merry Christmas everyone!!! See you all next year πŸ™‚

L E U R A

Leura is a small town situated in the Blue Mountains. We wanted to see somewhere different within the mountains as we have been a good few times now and luckily there is still always something new to see. Blackheath, Katoomba and Leura are the 3 main towns and so we had already visited the other 2 towns. It was my birthday at the start of the month, so we thought it would be fun to have a weekend away, a mini vacation. We wanted somewhere that we could travel to by train, so we could save the hassle of hiring a car like we normally would do. Leura has its own train station and is less than 2 hours to get to from Sydney. Perfect spot because you are within the Blue Mountain region, great for stunning scenery and long walks ☺️. I had heard Leura has lovely cascades with picnic areas, so for me, that’s what I really wanted to see. I also wanted to simply see the mountains and feel a million miles away from the normal daily routine.

We used booking.com to book a lovely cottage in Leura, a 5 minute walk from the train station. The cottage was The Priest’s Cottage at St Raphael (no priests were spotted) and it was really special. Extremely cosy with its own little electric fire and it even had electric blankets that was a really nice touch. It was freezing at night when we were there but luckily you wouldn’t have known staying in this cottage. It was very easy to find and so close to the town. A really quaint little place that was pretty spacious and had all the amenities you would hope to find. Outdoor seating area too that would be great in the summer.

First thing you do on a holiday/mini break, check in and check out your surroundings. We took a walk to the town and had a look around. The main street is really quaint with lots of cafes and really cool shops. Our favourite findings were the vintage shops (particularly The Leura Emporium Vintage Collectables) and the really cool Teddy Sinclair’s Man Cave. This shop was awesome, you could spend all day in it. It smells amazing as you walk in with all the leather wallets, bags, coats, jackets etc and it has lots of men’s accessories from shaving utensils to travel bags, jewellery, watches and gifts.

Flemish Flavours

This is the best spot, in my opinion, for a beer and some food. This bar/restaurant is situated in a heritage listed mansion overlooking Leura. The outdoor space and gardens are stunning. This is a really cool spot to try out some Belgian beers and gourmet food. The beers were delicious and the atmosphere here is quirky and cosy. Be sure to check this place out this month as the restaurant/bar will be leaving the premises here for new pastures.

Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum

If you love tea as much as I do then this is the place for you. You can pay $5.50 in to see the museum or you can be admitted for free in the condition that you purchase a cup of tea after. The museum has the largest collection of private tea ware in the world and boasts more than 5,500 teapots from all over the world and from different eras. The staff here are super friendly and helpful and the atmosphere and surroundings create the perfect place to have a cup of tea, where you can choose from an array of different varieties.

Leura Cascades

I was super excited to see these!! I was just looking forward to heading out for a walk into unknown territory and seeing something a little different. We walked to the cascades, it takes about 30 minutes from Leura itself. We brought a picnic as we’d heard there are lovely spots to sit and have lunch, plus there are no cafes or shops nearby so best be prepared. The cascades themselves are stunning. Not overly big but tucked away amongst the trees and rocks to create a special ambiance. The walking trail is pretty easy to navigate with some steep stairways if you want to head upwards and see the views overlooking the Blue Mountains. Definitely worth the trek up as the views are spectacular. As soon as you see the mountains it’s a truly breathtaking moment. You really feel the vastness of the area and at one with mother nature. There are lots of areas worthy of having a picnic, with some picnic benches also provided. You can walk as far as Katoomba from here but we decided against it. All in all the walk takes about an hour and a half.

We did, however, head to Katoomba later that day as it’s only 5 minutes from Leura on the train. We always feel we have to see the infamous 3 sisters. Although we’ve now seen them multiple times, they still manage to make us feel in awe.

Two places to check out for dinner:

1- Miss Lilian Tea House

This is authentic Asian casual dining. If you want something tasty but not overly fancy or overpriced, this place is the ticket. Food was delicious and the decor is pretty funky with a stress on birdcages. It’s in Katoomba but a bit of a walk to so we travelled by taxi here. Definitely worth the fare πŸ˜‰

2- Leura Garage

This award winning restaurant and bar has been on my list for a while as I have always heard good things about it. Using all local ingredients and wines, it was really amazing and didn’t disappoint. It is really handy, basically across the road from the train station. It is always busy so be sure to book ahead.

So that’s my mini weekend guide to Leura. Hopefully some of you find it helpful. This little town is most definitely worth seeing and is often a looked over little gem of a find. Next time your in the Blue Mountains be sure to check it out.

Thanks for reading,

W 😊

Northern Ireland: An alternative guide – part 2 βœŒπŸ½

Hi everyone! As most of you are aware, we have just been home again for a few weeks to see family and friends and of course to attend 2 amazing weddings. Fortunately for us, we were also able to see some new venues and features in Northern Ireland and increase our appreciation for our home country. Keep reading to see if you have visited any of these places and if not, maybe they can be on your bucket list πŸ˜‰.

Grand Central Hotel Belfast – The Observatory

This is a new hotel recently erected in Belfast and is the second tallest building in the whole of Ireland (second to the Obel Tower, also in Belfast). However, it does boast to have the tallest bar in Ireland. The observatory is on the 23rd floor and has the most amazing view of Belfast. It really is spectacular. You will be taken in the elevator by a concierge and taken to a seating area available. Luckily, we had arrived before most others so we could choose where to sit. You can also take a walk around to see the city from every view possible. The seating areas are stunning and very comfortable. The service is lovely, friendly and welcoming staff. The drinks are pricey, for example Β£15 for a cocktail and Β£8 for a pint but to be honest, you get what you pay for. The view is outstanding and I suppose it’s not something you would do every day. It’s a really amazing experience for a special occasion and definitely worth a trip if you are visiting Belfast.

Glass of Thrones

I was fortunate enough to be at home at the same time as the Game of Thrones final season. As many of you know, the majority of filming for this amazing show, is in Belfast!!! To celebrate this milestone of the 8th and final season, 6 stained glass windows were erected around the city centre, 1 for each episode. You can walk from Belfast City Hall to Titanic Studios to witness these Glass of Thrones installations, displaying scenes from seasons one to eight of the show. Each window represents the trials and tribulations of a different house, and at the final window you can get a selfie on the Iron Throne. For a map of where to find these, click here. I personally loved seeing a new window being unveiled each week. They are exceptional and if you’re a fan of the show, this is a must see. It’s also a good way to explore Titanic Quarter.

Belfast street art

This was completely accidental but it is amazing to walk through the streets of Belfast and see new street art popping up everywhere. It shows that we are a city to be reckoned with in the culture stakes and we are ever progressing. I did want to find the infamous Belfast mural as I had seen this all over Instagram. Having lived in Belfast for over a decade, I had to see it. You should definitely take a walk through the city to find these art pieces. You can find these mostly in the Gaeltacht Quarter and Cathedral Quarter. Bear in mind these are nothing to do with the peace murals. These would be representative of a more forward thinking and inclusive Belfast IMO.

Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort

Now this is a place that I have been dying to try. So when my sister said she wanted us to go, I was delighted 😁. The spa treatment here is unreal, even better than I had imagined. It had a huuuuge area with lots of facilities. Leave your clothes in a locker (changing facilities are even impressive) and don a Galgorm dressing gown/robe/house coat (whatever you call it in NI). When I entered the spa area I was overwhelmed. It’s like what you would see in a movie. People walking around in the robes, pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms everywhere, indoor and outdoor. There are chill out areas with relaxing chairs and loungers and even an ice room. I was honestly so impressed. We even had the chance to have a Celtic sauna treatment that was fantastic. It was unbelievably hot in the nicest possible way and you receive a nice cold mocktail afterwards. We had lunch here too and you are invited to eat in your robes. A very surreal experience but you will really feel like it’s a special occasion. I cannot recommend this enough peeps. We even went on a cold and wet day but it didn’t faze us at all. Ps. The photos do not so this justice at all.

City of Derry Jazz Festival

The biggest jazz festival in Northern Ireland is held in the amazing Derry ~ Londonderry City. If you don’t know Derry that well, a bit like myself, then this is the perfect chance to explore the city and see it in all its cultural glory. The festival has been happening yearly since 2001 and it is 1 of the leading Irish music events of the year. There are street performers, food stalls and live music performing in all the bars in the city. As the bars are all in close proximity, you can easily hop from 1 bar to another to experience as many live acts as possible. The lineup is HUGE, far too many artists to mention but you can check out the website here. Details are already up for next years event in 2020 🎷 🎢 . Oh and while you’re in Derry, you have to check out the Derry Girls mural, I’m sure you’ve seen the show on Netflix! Hilarious…and the paining of the girls is outstanding.

Portballintrae Causeway Loop

Ok so in my opinion I have saved the best until last. This walk was one of my highlights at home, especially because I was able to do this with my parents. Everybody knows about the Giant’s Causeway but instead of heading straight there and spending a fortune on parking, you can complete a small enough walk from Portballintrae to the causeway and see the breathtaking views the north coast of Ireland has to offer, the best coastline in Ireland IMO, yet often overlooked when people think of the Irish coast. Not only will you see coastline but you also see beaches, rock formations, cliffs, sand dunes, a really old railway line and the most quaint little railway station you have ever seen, bridges, rivers and countryside. It has to be every walkers dream to see all these things!! The walk over the 3 quarter mile bridge is short but it is pretty stunning to walk over the Bush River – apparently so dark as the river runs through Bushmills where they make the whiskey πŸ˜‹ πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ. I’m not very good at directions but you can find them here. This is a walk you will want to experience and you will finish at the Giants Causeway. I still love coming here even though I’ve seen it many times but when Northern Ireland has a blue sky, this part of the world is fantastic.

Thanks everyone for reading. It’s lovely to showcase Northern Ireland. It has a lot to offer and every time I return home, there is something new to discover. Be sure to check it out if ever visiting Ireland or the UK.

W 😊