Month: May 2011

Zip Lining – A Tree Top Canopy Adventure in South Africa

I really couldn’t go to Storms River Village in South Africa without trying the Tree Top Canopy Tour in the Tsitsikamma Forest.  It seems to be one of the main activities in the area and best of all, you don’t need any skills to take part!  We booked it well in advance and were staying in the village the night before.  It was only then that I began to think maybe we had made a mistake and that there might be a scary morning in store for us.  Should we chicken out? We decided to go but there were butterflies in the tummy when we arrived at the office of the tour company the next morning.  There were three other people there who would join us on the tour.  There were three guides allocated to us also, one of whom was recording the event and we were going to purchase a dvd afterwards.  We were given a briefing of what was to follow and shown the equipment etc, then we signed on the dotted line and went to get …

Sirocco’s, Tullamore, Co Offaly – Top class Italian Restaurant

Sirocco’s is an Italian restaurant located on Patrick St, Tullamore, Co Offaly.  The restaurant has recently won Best Restaurant Offaly 2011 and Best Customer Service Offaly 2011 in the Restaurant Awards of Ireland – accolades it also won in 2010.  I remember it from years ago in its former guise of Senor Rico’s and was looking forward to dining there again last weekend. The restaurant is small but inviting.  It was busy when we arrived and we had to wait a few minutes for our table but there was a little bar area where we could sit and browse the menu and order drinks.  Having ordered the wine, a carafe of the house Sauvignon Blanc for me and a half bottle of Shiraz for my friend (both priced around the e13 to e14 mark), we settled back to review the menu before being led to our table. The menu is extensive with about 15 each of starters, pasta dishes, pizzas and meat/fish dishes. For starters, my friend chose the Calamari Fritti (Deep fried squid rings with lemon & tartare dip) …

Need lunch on the run in Galway? Try The Gourmet Tart Company

The Gourmet Tart Company, (www.gourmettartcompany.com) operates from 4 outlets in Galway –  Lower Abbeygate St, Henry St, Galway Shopping Centre and Salthill.  I work in the city and more often than not just need a takeaway sandwich or similar for lunch.  The Gourmet Tart Company is perfect.  Whilst it may be better known for its wonderful cakes, breads and pastries; it also has a wonderful deli counter for fresh sandwiches, rolls or wraps at lunchtime.  It also serves soup, pre-packed (but freshly made that day) sandwiches, mini quiches and take away salads in addition to fresh coffee, soft drinks, juices, water and crisps.  You can currently get a fresh pre-packed sandwich, a bottle of water or juice and a packet of crisps for e5 which is a very pocket friendly deal. Sandwich, roll and wrap prices are very reasonable and you can choose from one of their set sandwiches to have made up or design your own.  All the fillings are fresh that day and include meats (ham, chicken, turkey, beef etc), chicken mixes (cajun, pesto etc), tuna, …

My visit to the Magic of Bubbles Festival 2010, Franschhoek, South Africa

Life through a glass of Bubbles! Franschhoek (French Corner) is a gorgeous foodie village set in the heart of the Western Cape winelands and easily accessible from Cape Town.  It is known as The Gourmet Capital of South Africa and is home to many wonderful restaurants (including Le Quartier Francais, recently awarded 36th place in the Worlds Top 50 restaurants).  The village is also surrounded by some fantastic vineyards which dot the spectacular mountains around the village. The Franschhoek Magic of Bubbles 2010 fell on the first weekend in December with the Sunday coinciding with our departure back to cold Ireland.  What better way could there be to spend our last day than sipping bubbles in the warm sunshine of beautiful Franschhoek? The South African produced sparkling wine is called MCC – Methode Cap Classique.  The quality is generally very good indeed; on a par with most champagnes and, I would say, better than the majority of the prosecco and cava that is available on the Irish market. In South Africa, a bottle of good MCC will retail from the equivalent of about e10 making it an …

A weekend at The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin

A friend and I decided it was time for a treat so we settled on a weekend at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.  I made the booking online, two nights bed and breakfast and requested a twin room.  The website makes it clear that any “preferences” cannot be guaranteed and confirmation should be sought directly with the hotel.  After making the booking I emailed the hotel to request confirmation that we would be allocated a twin room.  I received no response to this email so rang the hotel instead.  I spoke with a nice gentleman who checked availability for the nights we were to stay and who confirmed to me that he had allocated us the required room. We arrived at reception and were told that although we had indicated a preference for a twin room that there were none available and that we would have had to have rang in advance to “guarantee” one of these rooms.  Apparently there was no log of my call and the man on reception gave the impression he …

A (dangerous) walk with Cheetahs!

I love cats. My last trip (Nov 2010) to South Africa included a 4 night stay along the Garden Route – 1 night in Storms River and 3 in Plettenberg Bay, a thoroughly beautiful section of the Garden Route.  When I discovered a wildcat sanctuary close to Plettenberg Bay, Tenikwa, I knew I had to visit and booked a Sunrise Walk with Cheetahs for myself and my friend.  I was really looking forward to this activity as one of the highlights of an overall 16 day trip to South Africa. We arrived early on a beautiful sunny morning and after a cup of tea were led out to walk the cheetahs.  There were two guides, two cheetahs and a group of about 7 tourists in all. The male cheetah, Chester, appeared a bit agitated from the outset and took a paw swipe at one of the guides early on, but this was laughed off by them with a gentle chastise. The female cheetah was much more placid and we enjoyed walking her (on a lead) and …

Vie de Chateaux, Naas

I love Vie de Chateaux in Naas so I am not one bit surprised that it recently scooped the “Best Restaurant in Kildare”award at the regional finals of the Restaurant Association of Ireland awards 2011.  Vie de Chateaux (www.viedechateaux.ie) describes itself as a Wine Bar and Grill, a rather understated description for a very accomplished French restaurant.  The restaurant is located at The Harbour, Naas and is on ground level so it is easily accessible. My last visit was a few weeks ago and it was another triumph.  There are two menus for dinner; a Menu Bistro and a Menu Gourmet.  The Menu Bistro costs e29 and the Menu Gourmet costs e36 and for that you get a starter, main course and dessert.  You can however mix and match or just have one or two courses if you prefer.  It is a French Restaurant and be warned they use lots of garlic and the smell of garlic permeates the restaurant. We chose a very well priced bottle of Sancerre from the wine list (e33) and it was wonderful.  Foodwise, …

The Silk Purse, Union Quay, Cork

I love eating out, it may be my very favourite pastime!  Everytime I have a trip booked, one of the first things I do is check out the local restaurant scene – mostly via the internet.  In many cases, I will already have heard about restaurants and have a list of ones I want to try.  It was strange therefore that I didn’t have many on that list in Cork and after a quick internet browse settled on The Silk Purse on Union Quay for a saturday night dinner.  The Silk Purse is located above the An Cruibin Pub. I had visited their website and was attracted by the quirkiness of it, the handwritten menus and the promise of seasonal local produce.  It was on this basis I suggested to my friend that we eat there – and consequently felt somewhat responsible for the success or otherwise of the visit. The Silk Purse is accessed via a stairs inside the pub and you pass the entrance to the kitchen on the way up to the restaurant.  …

A weekend in Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork

Over the years, I have overnighted in many places and stayed in every type of accommodation imaginable from an open hut in Botswana, to a tent in the Okavango Delta to horrible and nice B & B’s and Hotels of all grades and quality.  I also read a lot of other people’s experiences and have therefore my own list of places I would love to stay.  Hayfield Manor in Cork City featured on this list (www.hayfieldmanor.ie). An opportunity to stay there arose two weekends ago and I jumped at it and boy am I so glad that I did.  A friend and myself booked in for a two night stay with one evening meal in their very elegant Orchids Restaurant and we also booked a treatment each in their Beautique Spa. From the moment we arrived, we were hooked.  I arrived first, travelling from Galway, and felt very welcome from the moment I walked though the door.  No waiting to check in, was offered some lovely chocolates and bookings for dinner and treatments were swiftly confirmed.  …