Category Archives: sometimes adventure

Traveling Junebug: Life in Chile- Part One

Life’s about following what makes you happy. I certainly try to apply this and plan trips abroad as regularly as possible. Next year, I’ve got two trips planned already and my list won’t stop there. Watch this space or my Instagram (@junemvc) for further adventures.

In the meantime though, did you know I lived in Santiago, Chile for 11 months in 2013 and did quite a bit of traveling within the country? The beautiful capital city is also super cool and there’s so much to do at night or during the day. These include visiting the sights of the city, soaking in the sun, enjoying the shops and lounging in coffee shops.

Firstly, here’s a few things to note about Santiago.

*It’s rather expensive! For a South American city, you’re going to pay quite a bit more than others for everything so be prepared. This includes basics like cups of coffee that would be say, 2 euro compared to Argentina where they’re about half that. Having said that, it’s relatively easy to figure out cheaper places and it’s definitely worth it for the city you get to live (or travel) in.

*Public transport is excellent and reliable. The metro is super safe and runs throughout the city. If based in the likes of Bella Vista (super central), you’ll end up walking a bit as it’s central and you can get to where you need to. The travel card to buy (like an Oyster card or Leap card) is Tarjeta Bip. It’s about 5,000 pesos and you top it up when required. It can be used on the buses too which is useful.

* They use Chilean pesos. Instead of saying 5,000, they might say 5 luca. This is common slang there so keep this in mind for your interactions.

*The city is very safe however you need to have your wits about you in the centre. Like any city, wandering around late at night isn’t advised! Be sure of where you’re going, what the best transport methods are for each area and of course, be aware of typical costs especially as a tourist.

* There are dogs everywhere in Santiago. They’re cute and lovely but be warned as I didn’t expect this before I went there. Sadly, due to the massive number of apartment blocks and lack of space, puppies often become too large as they grow and end up being chucked on the street. They often travel in packs and can be heard at night protecting their territories.

Things to do in the city:

 *Bella Vista is the main place people go out (particularly for tourists). You’ll find loads of cool restaurants, bars, clubs and take-aways there.

*If you want to meet more people, there are loads of couch-surfing meet-ups that take place weekly. I met friends from all over the world and it’s an opportunity to speak Spanish to a range of Hispanics. Moreover, if you’re feeling lonely of a Sunday afternoon (or any other time), you can reach out via the app and meet a bunch of people who simply want to hang out or to show you around their city!

*There are theatres all over the city. I made the mistake of leaving my discovery of them until the end when I went to a salsa show. I definitely recommend trying to go to a show as it’s an opportunity to experience the local culture through Theatre. The one I went to was the theatre GAM.

*I’d highly recommend the city walking tour. It’s free and it’s tours for tips. There are some options of routes you can do including one to the big markets which you NEED to visit and have a delicious meal there. Mercado Centrale (mainly fish markets and restaurants) and La Vega (where you can buy fruit and veggies super cheap).

*Sights I recommend are Cerro San Cristobal, Santa Lucia and Bellas Artes to see the street art and culture.

Trips to take:

*Valparaiso, Vina and Concón need to be top of the list (anywhere along the coast, really). They’re amazing, you can get delicious food (mainly empanadas with seafood) and you can take stunning pictures. You can also do water sports but you need to check if they’re happening in the winter versus the Summer. We did Kayaking and surfing which was easy and accessible.

*Skiing is popular in the winter however I didn’t end up going. Again, if traveling alone, with couch-surfers you can easily arrange a trip.

*To the South. I went to Pucon where I hiked a volcano, sled down it and got a serious work-out. It’s so beautiful and like visiting another country. You can get overnight buses from Santiago which is what I did. It was comfortable and the journey was super smooth.

*To the North. San Pedro de Atacama is AMAZING and worth a look. I went there after I travelled from Bolivia so got a bus. You can fly from Santiago to a couple of airports in the North.

Want to learn more? Keep posted for a range of further travel posts! Requests are always welcome. I’m here to help and advise via this blog. Hit me up with your thoughts.

Cat Lounge Galore: Playing With Kittens On Sundays

I grew up on a farm in County Kerry where pets were plentiful. If I didn’t have a cat running to my lap, I’d open the cupboard and one would pop out. We’d rescue them and take them from neighbours in dire need as we couldn’t stand the thought of them being alone.

Fast forward to 2017 and I still love cats but don’t have any in Dublin due to my rental agreement. At times, I steal my neighbours cats for a cuddle (they love it, I swear) however aside from being weird, that has its own legal limitations. You can therefore imagine my excitement when the Cat Lounge opened in Dublin in October 2017. Facebook was inundated with tags in articles regarding the brand new establishment and it was all anyone was talking about. Two weeks later, I got the credit card out to book a visit with a friend.

Booking the day before seemed to work for the Cat Lounge. It was a bank holiday Sunday and I was concerned that it’d be booked up. Getting a 6pm appointment meant that it was one of the final slots which ran the risk of tired kittens from a busy day. Thankfully, we got lots of playtime. Earlier booking is advised though.

It costs 15 euro in total which I consider fair value. This allows for 1.5 hours altogether and you can help yourself to hot drinks. We shared our time slot with 8 other people along with the hostess and needless to say – they were cat lovers too. Being in the room with serious animal fans had its pros and cons. Of course, there was lovely energy in the room and pure enjoyment. On the other hand, we were all excited to cuddle each kitten and not everyone can do that at the same time. This is perhaps why an hour and a half is given – to give everyone a chance.

As we floated around the one room facility petting kittens and absorbing the atmosphere on a cold October evening, we were told of the stories regarding the kittens. They were all rescued from a local vet and were going to be put to sleep before they were rescued by Georgina – Cat Lounge owner. With two separate litters, they can be easily differentiated by their collar or lack thereof. Each has a fitting name and it’s obvious they receive so much care and love from visitors and minders. When they reach six months, they are re-homed thus making room for more rescue kittens and helping with the overflow of cats in Ireland. It’s like a foster care, you see. Everyone wins – especially the kittens.

When I researched the Cat Lounge, I wanted to ensure I was supporting something positive and ethical and found nothing but positive reviews and explanations. Each kitten has been cared for by a vet, been vaccinated and before being re-homed, will be neutered or spayed. They’re kept warm, fed well and the rules in the Cat Lounge ensures they are left to their own devices. Rules include not forcing a kitten onto your lap and no flash photography.

If I were to narrow my experience down to a couple of tips, it would be these:

*Book for earlier in the day so the kittens are less sleepy. Cats do indeed love to sleep however this might mean that they’re a bit more energetic.

*When entering the lounge, I noticed that lots of cats tend to gather near the radiator and the couches in the back corners. That’s where there is a huge radiator and food.

*The kittens tend to love the lasers above all other toys so responded more to these. There are loads of other toys too to play with by the way.

*Be aware that payment is made on the website with a credit/debit card and not on the day. This means that you don’t need to bring cash with you. It does mean that your place is secured.

*Visit Token for food before or after. You can get an array of snacks, burgers and drinks plus play some games.

Cat Lounge is in Smithfield, Dublin City. It’s super easy to get to (On the red Luas line) and within ten minutes walk from O’connell Street!

If you go along, be sure to share your thoughts.

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!