Category Archives: sometimes adventure

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!

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.