Halloween in New Orleans

Last year we visited New Orleans at Halloween time and it was AMAZING!!! I’m a big fan of the day anyway and Americans go all out!! We had been in Salem the year before and Cilian had previously been in New York for Halloween so we had a good idea of what to expect but NOLA is a completely different beast! Halloween fell on a Monday last year and when we asked a waitress the previous Wednesday about what night we should dress up to go out she replied ” mmm..Thursday or Friday..definitely Saturday or Sunday..and of course, Monday”.

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She wasn’t wrong to be honest, we only dressed up one night but every night we were out, pretty much everyone around us was in costume. I’ve said it before but it’s so true- NOLA is a party city. It’s a seriously fun place and you’re guaranteed a good night out there.

Prior to all that though was the Halloween parade that took place on our first night there, which was so much fun and was the perfect introduction to the city:

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Where else are you going to see a giant Dracula on the back of a tractor?!

Of course, most of the houses are decorated too, people’s gardens get the creepy treatment and it’s well worth taking a look out the window of your streetcar as you head further out of the city.

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For nights out, you can pretty much go anywhere but you’ll find that Bourbon Street is just one big street party and is so much fun!

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We had great craic chatting to people about their costumes plus I got to pose with Labyrinth era David Bowie, so win-win!

We also did a bit of Halloween shopping, perfect place for it!

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The atmosphere in New Orleans at Halloween was electric, you could visit the city at any time and enjoy it but it seemed particularly special at Halloween!

Chloe & Cilian

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What & Where To Eat in New Orleans

Think New Orleans and you’ll probably think “Gumbo” but there’s so much more to try food-wise. There’s amazing restaurants, food festivals and some pretty great cocktails.

Pêche

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Pêche is a seafood grill, in the warehouse district, on Magazine street. It has a few sister restaurants, another of which we tried. Both were excellent! A lot of the fish is cooked over a coal grill but there’s also a raw deli for oysters etc and they serve local brews and delicious cocktails. It was pretty busy for lunch and we waited a little while for a table but it was well worth it! We shared the Smothered Catfish, Fried Brussel Sprouts with Chilli Vinegar (I swore I was going to try and make this when we got home but you need a specific type of vinegar, which I still haven’t looked for!) and a Pecan and Parmesan salad. We then had to try the Key Lime Pie and Salted Caramel Cake. I had a very cooling Gintilly Shakedown; Hendrick’s Gin, Cucumber, Ginger, Lemon and Cava. Nom.

Cochon

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This is one of Peche’s sister restaurants, it’s on Tchoupitoulas street. Couchon leans on the cajun, southern side of things so it’s quite meaty, and a lot of it is cooked in a wood fired oven. Here we tried Ham Hock, Gulf fish and the most amazing trio of ice cream sandwiches and an upside down pineapple cake with dulce de leche ice cream for dessert.

Willa Jean

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Willa Jean is a restaurant/bakery focusing on Southern recipes with fresh, local ingredients. We stopped here for brunch after attending a game in the Superdome, which is only a few blocks away. This is also an option for breakfast if you’re more of an early bird. We had bbq shrimp toast; burrata, sourdough, bbq sauce and ham hock fried rice with a fried egg. The breads all looked amazing but we had to walk away as we were already way too full!

Maïs Arepas

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This is a Columbian restaurant that was directly across from our Airbnb, we gave it a go one evening and I’ve honestly been thinking about it ever since. Here we had Pataconcitos; a trilogy of smashed green plantains with different toppings; skirt steak chicken breast and jumbo shrimp. Abborajados; sweet plantain fritters filled with mozzarella and Arepas Marinera; grilled jumbo shrimp, citrus slaw, avocado and salsa rosada in a corn bread pita. All so good. We were there midweek and there were no tables free so we sat at the bar. I’d advise booking in advance.

PoBoy Festival

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The PoBoy Fest is on in Oak Street and you can catch it this October, on the 22nd. You’ll find a wide range of both food and art stalls. PoBoy’s are soft rolls, usually filled with jumbo shrimp, but the fillings can vary. It’s a New Orleans traditional food and you kind of have to try one before you leave. There’s also dessert stands, like crepes, which I bought a very hot chocolate filled crepe from and after being warned by the guy selling it to me, I got to use the now classic line “this isn’t my first crepe rodeo, sonny”. Anyway, I also bought a beautiful necklace from one of the jewellery stands. Loads to see and eat here.

The Creole Creamery

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We stopped here after going to an old time vintage cinema one evening. There was an actual queue out the door of this place and we had heard how good it was so we had to stop in! They have a big selection of ice cream and in some really amazing variety of flavours. Cause we didn’t know wha to get, we went for the ice cream sampler. 6 mini scoops for $6. They were ridiculously large scoops so I can’t imagine what the large scoop looks like. We went for; Red Velvet Cake, Chocwork Orange, Pumpkin Praline, Goronzola and Walnut (not a fan), and I think..Butterscotch and Salted Almond but I can’t remember the last two! It was really good and a fun way to try lots of new flavours.

The Columns St Charles; Brunch

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We booked in here for brunch on our first proper day in New Orleans. We got a streetcar out to it, and as it was a really sunny day there were no free tables on the veranda so we sat inside for our meal but went out for drinks in the sunshine afterwards. There was a jazz band playing the entire time with a beautiful breeze blowing throughout the house. We had a balsamic vinegar strawberry salad, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo to start, then Old Charleston Shrimp and Grits and Roasted duck Breast with raspberry Chipotle Sauce. Creme Brullee and Strawberry Pin Wheels for dessert and a mimosa! Compared to everywhere else we ate, the food here was not our favourite but the experience was fantastic.

Pat O’ Briens; Hurricane

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This is one of the most well known cocktails in New Orleans. Pat O’Briens is a crazy busy bar/club with a big cocktail shaped fountain. Hurricanes are rum, orange, cherry and the mysterious “Pat O’ Briens Hurricane mix”, which you can buy everywhere, including the airport. This was good, as cocktails go and definitely had a holiday vibe to it!

Port of Call; Monsoon

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Another cocktail and this one is LETHAL. We picked these up on Halloween in go cups and drank them on the street into town. We were very quickly hammered. I still don’t know what’s in this and the website has left me none the wiser. I do know that as we walked along the street, several people shouted at us to be careful as “those drinks are crazy, man!” etc. Port of Call actually serves food too in case you were wondering…

The Ruby Slipper; Breakfast

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I feel like we had a proper New Orleans breakfast here. The staff were really friendly and we were served really quickly. We had grits, biscuits, eggs, bacon etc. Although I wanted everything on that sandwich board outside, I felt I’d better get something more filling before a day of cemetery walking.

Cafe du Monde

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This is where you need to go for Beignets. Delicious warm, icing sugar dusted doughnuts. Served with coffee, you will devour these completely. So good.

 

SO much good food and great places to eat and drink. Let us know if you’ve tried any of these or if there’s anywhere really good we missed!

Chloe & Cilian.

New Orleans; 10 Things to Do

Cilian will be doing a post about getting to New Orleans, getting around, where to stay and general tips for your time there. This post is to cover the classic tourist things to do. There will be another separate post on where and what to eat. Finally, there will be a post on New Orleans at Halloween, which I could probably talk about forever!

This was honestly the trip of a lifetime. New Orleans (pronounced Orlans, no-one there draws it out to sound like Or-leens. Top tip right there! For the purpose of this post , I’ll be using the abbreviation NOLA though, it’s just easier. New Orleans, Louisiana) is such a fun city but one that is also steeped in history, so there’s something for everyone.

Here’s a list, in no particular order about what you should put on your NOLA to-do list:

1. Do a self-guided tour of the Garden District

This is considered one of the more uptown areas in NOLA. It’s a good idea to set aside an afternoon or morning and take your time to stroll through this area, checking out all the beautiful old houses, including the Anne Rice house.

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There’s lots to see here and given how historical it is, you’ll feel mightily cultured! It’s probably easiest to get here via a streetcar (more on them later) but it kind of depends where you’re coming from. THIS website has a free PDF you can download to your phone to use as your guide and they list all the houses of note you should be looking out for.

2. Walk through the French Quarter, Royal St and Jackson Square.

These are kind of the obvious places people think of when they think New Orleans. The French quarter is the oldest section in the city and there’s lots of beautiful old buildings, balcony’s, shops, art gallery’s and restaurants in these areas.

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Royal St in particular has an abundance of antique and jewellery shops, if that’s your thing, while Jackson Square is where you’ll find Café de Monde, which is no.3…

3. Go for Beignets and Coffee in Café du Monde

This is a famous spot for producing the best beignets in the city! If that’s new to you, you’re not alone. Beignets are like doughnuts with the hole or filling, warm and fresh, covered in powdered sugar and served with a milky coffee. Very satisfying!

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It can be hard to get a seat here cause of how busy it is but things usually move along quickly enough, Try and get a seat near the railings so you can people watch.

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After that we strolled down to the French market where you can drink openly (with I.D), while you stroll around and look at all the stalls; food, knick-knacks, clothes, souvenirs etc. This isn’t a must-do but it’s right there so no harm in having a look.

4. Take in some Jazz

We got tickets for a jazz show in Preservation Hall– a no frills, no chairs venue where people literally queue up all the way down the street to get in and stand for an hour to listen to a group of incredible musicians play together.

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This is the real deal, if you love jazz and want to hear, see and feel it, live, in all its glory then this is the place for you. Check out the gift shop on the way out, we have a Preservation Hall Jazz Band cd in the car now! While we were there, we also went to a Jazz in the Park event (various musical acs, food and drink. It was class!), but that’s only on at certain times of the year.

5. Go for a drink on Bourbon Street

Bourbon St is actually in the French Quarter, so you’ll be there anyway but it’s really worth going here at night, when it’s party time. Obviously, we were there at Halloween so literally every night we were out was party time and it seemed like everyone was in costume, constantly. Bourbon St. was definitely the place to be.

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A lot of people will say it’s messy and tacky and full of drunks. People say that about Temple Bar too, but visitors to Dublin still enjoy going there and the same can definitely be said for Bourbon Street. Honestly, you may just want to walk through it instead of hanging around for too long (and to avoid being hit by falling strings of beads- yeah, that actually happens) but either way, it’s a bit of craic!

6. Take a Streetcar

You can’t go to NOLA and not get a streetcar. More than likely, you’ll be getting one to get around anyway but let’s just say you’re situated in the centre and have no intention of going anywhere, hop on a streetcar anyway.

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They’re famous for a reason, apart from the Tennessee Williams connotations, they’re the city’s original tram cars so there’s a serious vintage feel to them and many people feel they’re the heart of New Orleans. If you do need them to get around, get yourself a Jazzy Pass, It’s a 1-5 day pass you buy and display on your phone. Super handy, no need for jangling around change in your pocket.

7. Head out of the city and do a Swamp Tour

We booked into the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour. We rented a car and drove out to the pick up point but there’s also coach buses that do trips from the city centre out. We took a swamp tour, rather than an airboat tour, lasting an hour and 45 mins.

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There was enough room for everyone on board and it was very safe! We were brought right out into the bayou, where we saw lots of alligators, plantation and other wildlife. This is really worthwhile to do as it’s such a unique experience.

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Oh, and you get to hold a baby alligator! Fun! There’s lots of other companies you can go with , including ones that do joint swamp and plantation tours, but we did them separately. Speaking of which..

8. Do a Plantation Tour. 

Again, this is outside of the city but it’s not too far of a drive from where the swamp tours are so its worth doing both in the same day. We went to the Laura Plantation Tour, which was so interesting (and obviously very grim) but there’s also the Oak Alley Plantation, which is the one you always see used in films.

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9. Do a tour of the St. Louis No.1 Cemetery

This is one of the most visited cemeteries in the US. We spent a full morning sweltering away in the St. Louis cemetery, our tour Guide was excellent and it was such an interesting thing to do. She showed us all of the famous vaults and talked through so much of the history of NOLA.

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You have to book ahead for these tours as they have a strict limit for how many people can enter the cemetery. Bring water, wear a hat and sunscreen cause you will need it!

10. Visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

This isn’t a major must-see, but we always try and get to an art gallery wherever we go and this one was fantastic.

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The Ogden Museum has a wide and varied collection of mostly modern Southern art. There’s exhibitions and different events on there throughout the year so it’s worth checking out the website HERE for more info.

We also checked out the PoBoy Festival, the Sculpture Garden and the WW2 Museum, all well worth checking out if you’re going, and more on those in future posts!

Chloe & Cilian.

Iceland: The Golden Circle!

We did this route coming from the west and stayed in a hotel near Gullfoss but these three sights are often visited on a day trip from Reykjavík. While Reykjavík is a lovely small city we would definitely recommend trying to see some of Iceland’s incredible countryside if you are able to at all. This circle (or triangle) consists of three main stops, Þingvellir ,  and Gullfoss.

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Þingvellir (Thingvellir) was our first stop – a national park which lies on an intercontinental tectonic plate where the national assembly, or Althing, met for 800 years from 930AD. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and we had a lovely stroll down along the rift, overlooking the plains of the grass covered lava fields. We spent a couple of hours here, there are lots of walking paths and the views are stunning.

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Next stop was the Geysir fields of Haukadalur, where the  impressive Strokkur came to the boil every 5-10mins.

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A short trip down the road is the very impressive Gullfoss (foss are waterfalls), where we were able to walk along the boardwalk overlooking the falls but the lower section was closed off due to weather. The power of the water was palpable and the view spectacular. There is a big tourist café and shop by the carpark if you need to stop to get refreshments or random souvenirs!

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Let us know if you’ve traversed the Golden Circle or if you have any questions about our trip!

 

Cilian and Chloe

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon located about 200km east of Vik. It is a stunning landscape; the glacier is melting into the lake, which is at sea level so the ice drifts out to the ocean and then is washed back on to the black sand beaches!

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It really was a beautiful place. There are boat trips that go out on the lake but we were too early in the season and they hadn’t started yet.

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IMG_0327The road from Vik is the main ring road and was in good condition. The drive brings you through the desolate lava fields of Eldhaun, a remnant of the enormous volcanic eruption in the 18th century. There are lots of other places to visit off the main road (such as hiking in Skaftafell) but we ended up spending so much time in Jökulsárlón that we didn’t stray off the main route though there were still some nice stops!

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This was one of the most incredible places that we saw in Iceland and was worth the day round trip from Vik and is a must see if continuing your journey east!

 

Cilian and Chloe

Iceland: Itinerary

One of our favourite trips of the last few years was our  week  in Iceland in April 2016. It is a stunningly beautiful county, with an interesting history and everyone was warm and friendly. We did get very lucky with the weather – it was cold but clear skies on all but one of the days – that day the rain and cloud cover was so heavy that the stunning vistas we had enjoyed from the car for the previous few days were entirely obscured. This is our general outline of the trip with a  few more posts to follow.

Flights: We flew from Dublin direct to Keflavik Airport, which is about 40 mins drive  south of Reykjavík, with WOW. They charge for large carry on as well as hold luggage and we got one of each bringing our total to €660 or €330 each. The flight was only 2 and a half hours and we were met by our car hire company at arrivals.

Car Hire: We booked with Greenmotion through rentalcars.com at a cost of €382 for the and our pick up was straightforward, their lot only being a short drive away. Our first, and one of only two negative experiences of the trip, occurred with the negotiation of the excess fees, which was both stressful and unexpectedly pricey. They required a deposit of ISK290,000 – about €2,500! We also didn’t upgrade our excess cover (partly because a chunk of the money we had planned to use was now tied up in the car deposit). This meant that we couldn’t leave the car at the airport with the keys in (the lot wasn’t open for our early morning flight), so we had to get the car back the evening before we left. The deposit is mentioned on the Greenmotion website in fairness but wasn’t in the rentalcars confirmation.

There was also a lot of emphasis on the possibility of damage to the car due to Iceland’s extreme weather conditions. It really is an incredibly windy place and there is a chance of volcanic ash windstorms which can cause damage to the body work – I have rented cars all over the world and this was the first time I felt nervous leaving with a rental car!

Greenmotion advised us to check http://en.vedur.is – the national weather service updated regularly – which was incredibly useful and reassuring – as we said we had great weather when we were there and the bad day was wet and cloudy but no doomsday ash! I dropped the car, unscathed thankfully, to the Greenmotion Reykjavík office on the Saturday. I did have to wait for a while as an unfortunate Chinese man was trying to sort out the issue with his car that had been damaged during his trip. One of the car doors had been caught in a gust of wind – the door had bent back on itself and one of the windows had smashed resulting in few thousand euro worth of damage. I felt very sorry for this poor guy and it showed that their scaremongering wasn’t entirely about getting us to pay for extra insurance!

The guy behind the counter was very pleasant and dropped me back towards my hotel which went some way to assuaging the general unpleasantness of the initial rental experience. He told me that every kid in Iceland learns to always hold the car door when it’s opening and closing as the wind is so powerful and gusty.

So if you’re going to rent a car make sure you’ve read all the small print! I’m not sure if the excess is worth it if you’re appropriately cautious but always hold the car door!

Driving in Iceland: We were in a Hyundai i40 and it drove just fine. Driving is on the right side of the road. There is a main ringroad which encircles the entire island and we never ventured too far from that. Some of the inland roads were still unpassable when we were there and there are plenty of 4 wheel drive only areas but we stuck to the main arteries and the driving was mostly pleasant. There is a huge tourism industry but we went in a relatively quiet month and at times had the roads to ourselves. There are lots of speed cameras about and these were well marked. The landscapes were otherworldly and by driving ourselves we got to see a huge amount in a short space of time.

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Accommodation: We booked everything through booking.com.

Fossatun Country Hotel: We stayed one night in this lovely chalet style accommodation for €85 which included breakfast. The rooms were warm and clean and overlooked a beautiful river. There was a hot tub which we enjoyed under the stars. There was a lovely dining room and the hosts served a very pleasant dinner as they played their collection of vinyl records!

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Hotel Gullfoss: One night with breakfast cost us €118 and though half the hotel was under construction our room was clean, warm and the restaurant was nice.

Grand Guesthouse Gardakot: Our room here was lovely and cosy and there was a gorgeous living area with cooking facilities (which we only used the fridge to keep a few beers cold!). A delicious breakfast was served around a big communal table where we met the other guests. Two nights cost €290 so it was one of the pricier options but was only a short drive to Vik.

Skuggi Hotel: This is a modern hotel with stylish bar and lobby area. It was very central and cost us €287 for two nights.

Money: Everything was expensive in Iceland, even by Irish standards. We found a nice pizza joint in Vik which we ate in twice and as the hotels were isolated we ate in their restaurants a few times. 100 Icelandic Krona is about €0.85.

Language: Being a large, fair, bearded Irishman with probable Viking ancestry a lot of the locals approached Cilian in Icelandic but after brief bewilderment everyone spoke perfect English!

Itinerary:

Day 1: After getting our car we drove north, straight past Rejkavik and on to Borgames which is about a 90min drive. We visited the Settlement Centre which had an interesting exhibition on the Sagas that make up so much of Icelandic history. We went to Hraunfossar Waterfalls, where the water seeps out of the rocks, and then spent the night at Fossatun Country Hotel where we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in the distance on our first night!

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Day 2: We left Fossatun and headed East to see the Golden Triangle of Thingvillier, Geysir and Gullfoss. This is often done as a day trip tour from Rejkavik and they really are spectacular. We will post soon about this well worn but well worth tourist trail.

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Day 3: Vik was our destination and we enjoyed the waterfalls of Selijalandsfoss and Skogafoss and the Skogar museum along the way. We stayed for two nights in Grand Guesthouse Gardakot which was lovely.

IMG_0213Day 4: This was a day of a long drive to Jokulsarlon and back to Vik – it was absolutely worth the drive through the desolate yet stunning lava fields and we have a post here about it.

Day 5: We drove from Vik to Rejkavik and this was the day of absolutely awful weather so we didn’t see much en route. It was still raining when we got to the Blue Lagoon but that didn’t stop us having a wonderful relaxing time – despire somebody taking Cilian’s pair of shoes and leaving him with one that was way too small!

Day 6: The sun came out again and we walked all over Rekjavik and we will have a post on it here soon!

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Day 7: Very early morning flight – there was a shuttle bus service from our hotel which got us there just in time after a truly wonderful trip!

 

Let us know if you’re planning a trip – we really couldn’t recommend it more highly as a place to go with some truly unique landscapes and lovely people!

 

Cilian and Chloe

Monart; A Luxury Irish Hotel & Spa Break

We’ve stayed in a lot of high quality and beautiful hotels throughout Ireland over the years but for some reason we had never made it to Monart. That is, until my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

If ever there was place for celebrations, it’s Monart. Set on its own enclosed grounds in the lush Wexford countryside, you’re buzzed in at the gates and met at the door, where your bags are taken and the car whisked away and parked for you. That’s a good start right there!

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At the front is the old stone house- this isn’t used for accommodation but instead houses a selection of sitting rooms and the library.

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Connecting the old house with the new is a glass corridor and then an airy and open foyer where we were checked in with a plate of blondies (like brownies but with white chocolate) to greet us.

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The hotel has lots of very cool touches around the place, including the big tree staircase (above) and this metal horse sculpture:

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And then to our room itself, which was spacious, comfortable and luxurious:

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That bed is bigger than our actual bedroom at home.

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Cilian had remembered to bring Champagne as part of our birthday celebrations and that was there to greet us, along with these fellas, that hung out on our decking, regularly popping up whenever we got back to the room. Very cute.

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We spent a lot of both days at the spa (there’s strictly no photos there so you’ll have to imagine that part), using the pool, the various heated rooms/sauna etc, before getting back massages, which were really good!

Everywhere is set up for complete relaxation- nooks and crannies to chill out in with herbal tea and fresh fruit. The main hotel and spa are wifi free- if you want the internet you have to go into the old stone building for it. It’s quite freeing not having internet access actually. We mostly left our phones in our rooms , except for when I wanted to take photos of food, etc:

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The food in the main restaurant is absolutely stunning. We ate there one night, as part of our package and ate in the bar the other night, which was also exceptionally good. As if we weren’t full enough, we also had afternoon tea:

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And of course, cocktails!!

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We also did lots of walking on the grounds, which are beautiful and there’s lots of relaxing flowing water sounds- this place really is a retreat from the outside world. It’s expected that you wear your robes everywhere (except for dinner), so you can genuinely just lounge around in pure comfort during your stay.

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We got lucky and found a two night midweek special, including one nights dinner and two spa treatments with full access to the pool and spa. That offer doesn’t seem to still be available but there’s other options HERE if you’re interested in checking in and checking out mentally for a couple of days!

We loved our stay in Monart; great food, a relaxing spa, beautiful grounds, a technological detox and luxurious rooms for lounging in.

Have you stayed in Monart? What’s your favourite Irish hotel destination? To the comments!

Chloe & Cilian

 

 

10 Foods You Need To Try In Crete

Food in Crete is slightly different to what you’ll find on mainland Greece. This is, I’d imagine purely a regional differences thing and what harm?! There’s still all the classic Greek meals with a Cretan twist- more delicious food to try.

  1. Greek/Cretan Salad

So this is an obvious one because Greek salads are renowned but the real deal is even better than you think! Your standard Greek salad will have fresh salad-suitable veggies; tomatoes, cucumber, red onions and peppers. Often there’ll be olives in there too and lastly, a big slab of creamy feta cheese on top. Over that, olive oil and some herbs. There tends not to be lettuce of any variety in this version (so it’s quite different to what we’d have at home).

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The Cretan version, appears to be a “chuck everything in the fridge in” type of thing. There’s everything from potatoes, croutons, capers, eggs, onions and avocados alongside the usual Greek salad base in these (not all at the same time, mind- in different restaurants versions there can be anything!) After we tried it once, we had to get it again and again. It’s delicious.

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2. Moussaka

This is also an obvious one, cause it’s probably the second meal you think of when you think ‘Greek food’. A traditional Greek dish, that has similarities to lasagna, Moussaka is alternate layers of minced beef or lamb in a tomato based sauce, aubergine and a creamy béchamel sauce, topped with cheese. It’s usually served in individual baked containers with bread or salad on the side. A word of warning with this one- it’s super filling! If you aren’t that hungry, share this and a Cretan salad between two of you and you’ll be happy out!

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3. Fresh Seafood

Practically everywhere we looked in Crete, there was fishing boats, so it was high on our food list to try lots of fresh fish. A couple of places had prawns on the menu, but when we asked we were told they were frozen. If you ask for what the fresh fish is, you can get a good idea of what’s on offer.

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4. Anything Aubergine related.

I’ve mentioned Moussaka already and as aubergine is a common vegetable in Crete, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding them in lots of other dishes too. These three specifically were very good; Imam is a stuffed aubergine dish with tomatoes, onions and a local cheese, usually feta. This is then baked and the aubergine becomes soft and melt-in-your-mouth. Melitzanosalata is the middle photo, it’s an aubergine dip with garlic, lemon juice, red onion and pepper. We were served it with capers and crusty brown bread. It’s incredibly moreish. Lastly there is another baked aubergine, tomato and feta dish with another local cheese over the top. I can’t recall the name of this one but it’s pure comfort food. You need to try all three! If you see the word “aubergine” on a Cretan menu, get whatever it is. Trust.

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5. Dakos or Greek Bruschetta

This is basically is the Greek version of everyone’s favourite Italian bread & tomato starter. With this, the norm is crisp, twice-baked bread slices, topped with fresh tomatoes, olives, red onions, occasionally cucumber, mixed with red wine vinegar and olive oil and finished off with lots of crumbled feta. Yum.

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6. Lamb

I don’t eat lamb but Cilian does, so he was in his element in Crete, where there tends to be lots of lamb, chicken and seafood on the menu. It seems mostly to be cooked classically in olive oil and herbs in a clay dish called Kleftiko, except for the second photo where it was baked in a parcel with potatoes and other vegetables.

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7. Meze

This is similar to tapas or antipasti and you can order all of these individually as starters also. In there you can see the afore mentioned Dakos and Melitzonsalata, alongside stuffed vine leaves (stuffed with rice, garlic and herbs), hummus, tzatziki, the two pastries are Kalitsounia– one is filled with spinach (although these can be any green vegetable), while the other is filled with cheese.

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8. Greek Desserts/Breakfasts

I’m putting these together because the breakfast I’m about to tell you about is basically a a dessert. Don’t give out to me, Greek peeps! I am of course, referring to Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. Don’t even bother recreating this at home, you won’t find yoghurt, honey or even walnuts that are comparable to what you’ll get in Crete. Coupled with a a strong coffee, it’s the best way to start the day.

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Dessert wise, we never actually ordered any from a menu, it seems to be the case that every restaurant serves you something sweet along with a lethal shot of raki after your main meal, completey gratuitously. This was a seriously lovely touch and it meant we got to try lots of really good Cretan treats. Our favourites were this crepe sandwich; filled with a soft sweet cheese and honey. My god, this was good. Buttery and crisp and sweet. So, so good. The Greek delight (rose and citrus flavoured) was also delicious.

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9. Chicken Souvlaki

Not to be confused with Gyros, another popular meat item (that’s more street food, like a kebab), souvlaki is any meat with vegetables (often peppers), on a skewer, grilled. These are quite simple really, but with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a salad (ignore the few sneaky chips), it tastes healthy and filling.

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10. Greek Wine

Although we drank a lot of Raki (similar to Italian Grappa and just as lethal) after every meal, we really enjoyed the Cretan wine that was available. Our waiter explained that because of its high altitude vines and grapes grown alongside herbs, this particular wine has a pleasingly unique taste. This obviously differs from region to region but any we did try were really good.

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Although there’s plenty more we could talk about here, that’s our top 10 for Cretan foods you must try! If we’ve forgotten anything you think is a glaring omission, please do let us know in the comments!

Chloe & Cilian.

A Week In Crete! Next Stop; Rethymno

You can read about our stay in Chania HERE, how we got to and from each of our destinations and the general plans that we recommend you make for this sort of trip HERE. For now though, I need to tell you all about Rethymno, a tale of two towns! (Dickens must be rolling around in his grave right about now).

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The two towns I’m referring to are the Old and New Town. We stayed in the new area of Rethymno, on the seafront. While it was lovely waking up to the sound of the sea every morning and the breeze through our patio door at night certainly cooled our room, the general vicinity didn’t have a huge amount of atmosphere. We half put this down to the fact that again, we were a little early for the Summer season but aside from that, it felt like even when busy, it would have been very touristy and perhaps, lacking in a bit of soul (because of this, all the photos we’re featuring here are of the old town).

The beach itself is lovely and there’s a fine amount of loungers out every day for your eh, lounging pleasure, plus the promenade is a really pleasant walk. We ate in a nearby Thai restaurant for lunch one day and repeatedly drooled over a Haagen Das only ice cream bar (we never actually ventured in, I feared we wouldn’t be able to leave if we had) but other than that, we very much focused our time on the Old Town, which is a maze of cobbled streets, orange blossom trees, quirky shops and packed restaurants.

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Just before we hit the start of the old town, still on the beachfront, you’ll find some very trendy (we’re in our early to mid 30’s, please don’t mock us for the use of the word “trendy”) bars with loud dance music, fancy decor and a lot of youths (ditto the word “youths” for no mocking, please). We avoided those as it’s not really our scene. Instead, we explored the narrow streets of the Old Town and sought out good food and wine. We did this later one evening so much of the shops were closed, but came back a bit earlier in the afternoon the following day to do more than window shop.

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We ate in great restaurants both nights, check out 1600 Raki Baraki for a traditional Cretan meal, in lovely surroundings:

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Annoyingly, I can’t recall the name of the other place but to be honest, everywhere looked good and there are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor for many great place to eat in Rethymno.

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If you’re not after a big meal, there’s lots of crepes, gelaterias and bars to tempt you in also. We both loved the Old town of Rethymno. If we were staying there agin, I think we’d still stay on the seafront because the walk to and from the Old Town was actually lovely. Plus, where we were located provided us with a good base to take road trips to the nearby ruins of Knossos (we’ll come back to that later on, there’s too many photos for one blog post!), so it worked out quite well for us. Our next and last stop is Plakias, which is probably our favourite of the three!

Have you visited Crete? Anything else you would recommend to do in Rethymno?

Chloe & Cilian.

A Week In Crete! First Stop; Chania.

This was our most recent holiday so it’s probably the best place to start. In April of this year we took a week off for our first trip to Greece (note; we still have never been to the mainland and Crete itself is supposedly a different kettle of fish altogether). These posts will be a bit more in depth about the places we stayed in Crete, following on from the itinerary post we wrote HERE. We felt this would be more helpful as generally in most relationships, there’s a holiday planner (Cilian) and a holiday fun person (Chloe). Guess who wrote this paragraph?!

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We flew into Chania airport, to the North of the island. Chania itself is quite a nice town so we had arranged to stay there for two nights. We hired a rental car from the airport and drove about 30 minutes to arrive to what was a bustling nighttime scene.

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We were booked into the Favela Boutique Hotel and were greeted by the lovely owner, Georgia, along with a four poster bed, a little balcony and a welcoming plate of bread, olives and Tsipouro (super strong Cretan alcohol. Get used to it, by the end of your holiday your blood-Tsipouro levels will be sky high).

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We were tired but hungry and headed out in search of food. That particular evening the restaurant that had been recommended to us was fully booked, so we wandered, taking the atmosphere in, while eating big old slices of take away pizza, which were delish, if not particularly Cretan in nature.

The following day, we headed straight to the famed Venetian harbour to explore in the sunshine. It is really beautiful around here, and probably what you picture when you think “Greek harbour”; really sunny, bright green/blue water, fishing vessels and rows of restaurants, enticing you in with the promise of good food and wine.

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We walked right around the full stretch of the harbour and back again, past the Maritime museum, which was unfortunately closed (it would reopen for the start of the tourism season, even though it was already quite busy around).

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From there, we walked through the narrow streets to the shopping centre of the town. This was mostly window shopping because it was a Sunday, everywhere was closed for the day (fear not, I took mental notes and we returned the next day so I could scope out prices). This was a great little walkabout as there was lots of colourful shopfronts, gelato stops and cats lazing in the heat.

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At that stage we were hungry and allowed ourselves to be talked into sitting out on a terrace for big glasses of beer and some food. We decided on a Greek salad and Souvlaki (skewered chicken. We’ll have a separate post on Cretan food, with WAY more detail) which were delicious and a nice way to while away the afternoon.

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On the way back to our hotel we popped into a tacky souvenir shop for our obligatory Christmas tree decoration (we get one everywhere we go so our tree will eventually be overrun with them!) and then back for a little siesta. Cilian was less up for a nap than I was and so he popped down to the Archeology Museum, handily located on our street. This was a couple of euros in and was a small exhibit but with impressive artefacts.

We headed out again that evening, in time for the most beautiful sunset ever, before sitting down for a really good seafood meal by the water.

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We tried a Cretan produced wine also, which was really good and stopped off on the way home for more gelato (pistachio & nocciolato. Delish). After that, we could just about manage to climb the hotel stairs and fall asleep.

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The following day we had a last stroll around in the morning after having breakfast. I had a mission to find reasonably priced Korres beauty products (you can read about that on my beauty/lifestyle blog HERE) and we found a pharmacy that had most of the range for 20% off. Score. We also had a look in a supermarket where we got some olive oil and sweets for people back home.

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We headed out from the main hub of the town to spend a couple of hours on the nearby Notis beach; reading, swimming, eating Haribo and generally relaxing.

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And that was that for Chania. We really enjoyed our stay there. If we were to make one complaint, it would be the difficulty in finding parking and the somewhat erratic driving around us, which took a bit of getting used to.

If you haven’t yet, have a read of our previous post on our Crete itinerary; how to get there, get around, where to stay and how much it costs. You can find all of that info HERE.

Next stop, Rethymnon which will be our next post!

If you’ve been to Crete and want to add any travel tips or you too prefer archeological museums to napping (it’s a niche group), hit us up in the comment section!

Say hello, we’d love to hear from you!

Chloe & Cilian.

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