Category Archives: sometimes adventure

Buns And Basil Salad: A Morning With Rachel Allen

As a child, I can remember Darina Allen visiting my home during food festivals in County Kerry. I’d shy away in the kitchen while Darina chatted to my mother about local produce and farming. I recognised her as a TV star of the shows I had been glued to. Darina would travel from Ballymaloe to events and festivals to share her passion of food and cooking tips. Her love and pride for Ballymaloe and its graduates was obvious to me, even as an eight year old.

In August of this year, I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Allen. Also renowned for being a top chef in Ireland, Rachel is a graduate of Ballymaloe and a savvy business woman. Thankfully as a 31 year, I didn’t shy away on this occasion.

Organised by AIL events and hosted at Bord Bia headquarters, it seemed the perfect location for the event. As I sipped on a massive coffee and mingled with the other attendees, I prepared for the hunger pangs that would sneak in as Rachel embarked on a two hour cooking extravaganza. The down to earth approach of making traditional buns served with cream and simple but perfect salads with fresh ingredients from Ballymaloe made my mouth water throughout.

The party piece (literally) was a chest of sandwiches. A fresh loaf of bread was transformed into a unique manner of serving sandwiches. Rachel sliced out the centre, made at least six sandwiches and then popped them back inside as a presentation option. Describing it perfectly, Rachel described how Myrtle Allen would never show up to a party without a chest of sandwiches, back in the day.

Rachel not only made an impact because of her charming manner and of course, her expertise. Her techniques of preparing such simple dishes and adding a romance to them sparked an excitement in me. We can make sandwiches and bring them to a party or, we can make a chest of sandwiches. Similarly, we can pull out the baking trays and make cupcakes or we can make traditional buns in all their perfect glory.

The kitchen doesn’t have to be fancied up or even constantly used. It can become a place where we go back to tradition and make a green salad with juicy tomatoes straight from the garden. Likewise, it can be a place to make something tasty for a friend we’re visiting. It can be as quick and simple as we like or it can be a bigger project. In any event, it’s about the food we enjoy and who we share it with.

Finishing up the event, we heard of Rachel’s collaboration with O’Brien’s Sandwich bars. A range of salads comprising chicken caesar, beet and a powerhouse option (full of energy creating super foods) have been especially selected as part of the signature range. On my last trip to O’Briens, I tried the chicken caesar and I felt rather full and satisfied.

As if juicy tomatoes and buns weren’t amazing enough, we were introduced to snacks from Coolhull Farm. The producers of cheesecakes, ice-cream and a range of desserts can be found in Wexford and providing tasty snacks across the Island of Ireland.

For me, being around food lovers makes me love food even more. There’s always a new recipe to try or an ingredient that can be experimented with. Be sure to share any suggestions or tips you might have!

Inside And Out: Exploring The Algarve On A Budget

I’m not a travel blogger. I don’t usually write in depth pieces about the best Michelin star restaurants, fancy hotels or the best trains to take when it comes to a budget trip. I do however reflect on the importance of travel (like travel alone to The Algarve) and managing yourself when traveling. I love the idea of being prepared when it comes to food and drinks, always. Got a food intolerance? Then, I got you or at least, part of you.

Since a recent trip to The Algarve, I’ve had several requests for a write-up on my trip and how to do it cheaply and cheerfully.

At the end of July, I decided to head to the Algarve. I hadn’t seen sun in god knows how long and the idea of spending hours melting on a beach certainly wasn’t too much to handle. I booked five nights in Portugal, flying to the Algarve and having zero itinerary. Having been to Praia da Rocha over six years ago, I had a rough idea of the coastline. Spending several weeks in Lisbon as a freelancer also had me prepared for the basics of Portuguese and perfect coffee.

Booking something last minute and going alone meant the budget was super tight. It was necessary to consider what I wanted most from my impromptu adventure. I knew that choosing luxury meant more money while having a tight budget equaled compromising on what I consider pure comfort.

I opted for the lower budget trip and learned a lot along the way.

Ryanair offered the cheapest flights (Dublin to Faro). Booking six days in advance would mean more pricey flights and I managed to get them for 158€ return. That meant that I needed to fly on a Monday morning at 7am and return on Saturday morning at 8am. As I had the option of flexibility, I went for that option. It also meant having 4x full days and another 1/2 day to play around with. Taxis to and from the airport meant that this bumped the price up altogether 158€+45€ (because of my location) so it’s worth considering this factor before booking an early morning flight. From Lucan for example, the airport don’t go before 6am. Moreover, if you decide to stay in Portimao (as I did) then it won’t work staying there the night before an early morning flight if you’re relying on public transport. Instead, you can opt to stay in Faro which is ten minutes from the airport.

Having sworn off hostels circa my Chilean days, it was a big leap for me to book one. The Aloha hostel in Portimao didn’t disappoint. At 25€ per night, I slept in an all female dorm right in the town centre and with the nicest owner I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. At just over a year old, Aloha hostel had nearly 10/10 on Booking.com. The decor is perfect and it’s super clean. I was also fortunate enough to meet a mix of fellow solo travellers from all over the world.

With all the reviews online, don’t be fooled. Portimao is beautiful and I believe, just as beautiful as the rest of the Portuguese coast. It has a perfect seafront, stunning bridge view and an authentic feel to it. Arriving there on the first day, I sat in the main square taking in the views and inhaling a glass of vino verde. The seafood is tasty and most importantly (whether on a budget or not), it is super cheap. To offer a comparison, I got a lunch one day for 8€. That comprised of a coca cola, massive salad and roast potatoes. The following day, I had lunch along the seafront in Praia da Rocha and it cost 12€ for just a salad! Choose wisely and bring snacks to the commercial beaches should you choose to head there.

The bus from Portimao to neighbouring towns and beaches is just 2€! It’s five minutes on a bus to Praia da Rocha which I highly recommend for the nightlife. Meanwhile, the trains to Albufeira, Faro, Lagos and other neighbouring Algarve cities is 6€. When heading back to Faro for my last night, I opted for the train for the sheer comfort and ease. The train station is super central and easy to find. On that note, I was given the heads up not to stay too close as it’s much safer and a higher standard of accommodation in the town centre.

Heading the first week of August, it was the middle of a heatwave in The Algarve. The day I left, it was 35 degrees! This was great for tanning however if you’re not used to the heat, a September or October trip will still be 23+ degrees. It will also work out cheaper as it won’t be peak season.

Any other tips and tricks about The Algarve? Fancy reading more travel posts from me? Be sure to share your thoughts.

Table For One: The Joy Of Travel Alone

As I sat on a boat headed out to the caves along the Algarve, a polite and intrigued man smiled awkwardly. Possibly confused and definitely wind swept by the salty breeze blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean, he plucked up the courage to ask me what seemed like a dreaded question. For most, “Who are you travelling with?” seems like a normal query however at times, like when answered with an “Oh, just myself” type answer can leave a strange silence. Expecting a further explanation by this stranger, I highlighted that in fact, traveling alone had its rewards and that I had made friends. Reflecting on my response later, I laughed about it with the other solo travellers in my hostel who had experienced similar.

Self-reflection and sheer convenience are just a couple of reasons to travel alone. I could also imagine that watching ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ would be spur on a one woman (or man) escapade. For me, it’s the fact that I get to spend lots of time alone. I’m an introvert at heart and although, I love people and feel confident, I get my energy from spending time alone. This means that I recharge my batteries by listening to music, blogging and travel (to name a few). Upon observation over my thirty one years, I can recommend at least some alone time for everyone- at home or abroad.

For those wannabe loners, listen up! it doesn’t have to be a challenge to plan a lone-trip and it certainly doesn’t need to be expensive. To get started on the trip of a lifetime (or short-time), the internet and stores are full of the resources you need.

All of the main booking applications such as Ryanair.com, Booking.com and Hostelworld.com allow for solo bookings (crazy, I know). They are also full of cheap offers so that you don’t need to carry heavy prices without someone to share them with. Moreover, they make it easy to navigate, should you feel overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go when I booked Portugal this month. All I knew was that I needed sunshine and a beach. Hey presto, I used my one vote to choose flying to Faro for less than 170 euro (booked one week in advance). To avoid being a total loner for my trip, I went for a hostel – costing 25 euro per night. Winning, right?

If you’ve got a bigger budget and you’d prefer luxury then AirBnB have amazing offers everywhere. You can have the space and location choices just like hostels but without loads of bodies in your space. Just be sure that you’re choosing accommodation in a central location so that total isolation doesn’t happen. I said alone time is good for you but you’re going to want to meet humans at some stage.

Being alone means reaching far outside your comfort zone. Bobbing along beautiful beaches and perfect cities is fun alone however after some time, it might be time to consider reaching out. Hostels are the perfect way to connect at any time of the year and you can meet friends for life. Couch surfing is also useful. I started using this site back in 2013 when I was in Chile. Not knowing many people and actually not wanting to sleep on any couches, I browsed the local Couchsurfing page for fun activities. Thankfully, I saw that an American girl had just arrived and wanted to explore. To this day, we’re still close friends and we had a ball together in South America and more recently, in Ireland. Likewise, I spent one night drinking Sangria with new friends I met via Couch surfing hangouts in Portimao.

Got some tips and tricks when it comes to traveling solo? Post them in the comments below or across social media.