Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Ardgillan Castle

Thursday, May 16th, 2024 | Photos, Travel

Westport

Monday, April 22nd, 2024 | Travel

We went to Westport last weekend. It wasn’t the stunning success we hoped for.

The idea was to get there in plenty of time and have some exploring time on Friday. But it took 5.5 hours to drive across the country meaning we were not there until late and was late to bed.

In the morning I did the marathon and recorded my first run DNF. I wasn’t in a great state by the time I got back I had a shower, changed and went down to collect my bag. But then we got hit by another rain storm and got soaked again.

We went to the beach on Sunday but it was freezing. Then we headed over to Croagh Patrick for a little walk in the foothills but when we got there the car park didn’t accept card or mobile payments so we couldn’t pay. And then the rain started again and properly lashed it down.

There were some highlights, though: Westport itself is a nice place with plenty of bars and restaurants and we had some good meals in The Wyatt, Servd and Woodfire.

Belfast

Thursday, August 31st, 2023 | Travel

Last weekend I took my first trip to Belfast. It was a flying visit so I didn’t get time to see the sights. But they do have a lovely city hall. And a Greggs:

Pubs were good, too. We dropped by The Crown, Trademarket and Town Square.

Waterford

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023 | Travel

We recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Waterford. It reminds me of York a little with its viking connection and its city walls. But with the added advantage of being on the coast with some beautiful beaches nearby.

Despite a packed schedule, we managed three trips to the beach. One to Tramore, which is somewhat exposed but has a long stretch of sand and seaside amusements. The photo above is from Dunmore East which offers a protected cove and a lovely few cafes and restaurants nearby.

House hunting in Dublin

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 | Travel

We’ve been trying to relocate to Dublin but finding a two-bed property to rent in Dublin is literally impossible. I’m grateful to everyone who has offered advice on the subject but the housing crisis there is now so acute that strategies that worked a few years ago are no longer effective. So, for any future travellers, I wanted to document our experience.

Daft

The biggest website in the Irish property market is Daft. There are others (we tried them) but everyone uses Daft. It allows you to browse letting listings and apply via the Daft website. The problem is that nobody responds to these messages.

The reason is that they get so many. For each listing that is posted 1,000 people apply for it. Not my words, the words of a staff member at Brock Delappe. So they just pick 10 people at random to offer a viewing. You cannot game the system or put the right magic words in the box because they literally pick at random and you have a 1% chance of getting a viewing (let alone getting the place itself).

Dublin has rent control, a system they call the Rent Pressure Zones which prevents landlords from raising their rent more than 2% a year. This seems like a good thing. But has several unintended consequences. The first is that demand increases much greater than this but because the market is restricted on how much it can increase prices it cannot find the correct level. So, you end up with 1,000 people applying for each available house because the house, in a capitalist free market, is worth much more than this. The second problem is that if you do get the house, the landlord is going to treat you like dirt because you’re easily replaceable by 999 other tenants: and there are many horror stories on Reddit and Facebook to illustrate this. And there will be problems because there is no incentive to make a property more attractive, or even fix the basics, when the price is suppressed below market value.

Common strategies involve setting up property alerts so you get a push notification whenever a new ad is posted and having pre-written text you can submit straightaway. We did not find this improved the ods.

After applying for hundreds of properties, we ended up with two viewings. Both were unfurnished which seems harder to shift in Dublin. Unfortunately, both went cold, possibly when they found out I was self-employed. The law in Ireland says they cannot ask for more than two months’ rent upfront, so even though I have a year’s rent sat in a bank account, it is no help.

Calling estate agents

If nobody is replying, the next step is to call them, right?

Except they won’t take your calls. They all say that they will refuse to take your calls but I wasn’t to be put off so easily. I called plenty of them. But they all told me to go back to Daft. When I told them nobody replied on Daft, they said tough luck and hung up. And those were the estate agents that actually answered the phone.

Relocation consultants

There are companies that specialise in helping people relocate to another country. You pay them a bunch of cash and they help you with temporary accommodation, finding a long-term property, orienting you in Dublin, moving your stuff, etc.

I called four of them (which was all of them that I could find) and none of them would return my messages.

Ask the university

If you’re enrolling at Trinity Collehe Dublin, maybe they could help. TCD explicitly don’t help with private accommodation: they said come to our halls or nothing. I ignored these warnings and contacted them anyway but nobody emailed me back. They also setup an International Postgrads group and I did ask around in there but it was just other students in a similar situation and one person who suggested a relocation consultant which I discussed above.

Trinity College Student Union also has an Accommodation Service so I contacted them. However, they said that as I had a family they couldn’t help.

Facebook groups

In addition to property sites, many Facebook groups such as “renting in Dublin” have sprung up to fill the gap. These are mostly full of nieve people like us posting about how they are moving to Dublin next month and need some housing.

The next tranch of people in there are scammes. We were contacted Sevills (not Savills) who said they had a new way of renting: simply pay two month’s rent upfront and move into the property without a viewing. If we didn’t like it, we could leave within the first seven days using their money-back guarantee. They sent a video of a host who remains mute throughout the video giving us a tour of the apartment.

If you’re thinking “that’s obviously a scam”, you don’t know the Dublin property market as well as you think. In this case, we concluded it was a scam. But a refusal to do viewings and sending a video instead is sometimes done by legitimate estate agents who can’t even be bothered to do a group viewing. And property developers like Vesta do offer a move-in without a viewing money-back guarantee. Most property developers don’t even publish a phone number; it’s email-only if you want to get in contact.

The third tranch of Facebook users is people with weird requests. These range from the relatively normal for capital cities: it’s a room in a shared house but you’ll be sharing the bedroom with someone else (or occasionally the offer is one half of a double bed), to the bizarre: the whole house is yours but you need to vacate for one weekend a month so that the landlord can spend some time at home.

Luxury developments

A number of build-to-rent companies have cropped up in Dublin. The idea is that they build a large block of flats that they manage themselves, furnish it to a high standard and flog it off for large amounts of rent despite it being nowhere near Dublin city centre. There are two ways to categorise these. The first is those asking for over €3,000 per month for a two-bed. These are closer to the city centre but outside of our budget.

Then there are those asking for under €3,000 a month, usually around the €2,500 mark. These are often outside of Dublin itself (but still technically in County Dublin). There is so much demand for these that they all go before they are finished building. So, if you want one, you have to commit to taking it and then moving in a few months later when they have finished building it. If you want to wait until the building is done, it is too late.

Temporary accommodation

If you are lucky enough to get a viewing via Daft, you better be ready to go. We were offered the chance to go to an open house but were only given an hour’s notice to get to the other side of Dublin. So, you best be here and be ready.

That is tricky, though. Temporary accommodation is difficult and expensive to find. This is true at all times but particularly difficult at the moment because a lot of it is filled with Ukrainian refugees. They clearly need it more than I do so fair enough. But it does make the problem trickier.

You can get cheaper prices if you do not book anything in advance: i.e. just take whatever is left that day. But if you don’t have a permanent base you can offload you stuff into and you are constantly having to check out at 10 and check in at 4, it is difficult to make plans, go through Daft listings, and generally get organised.

Conclusion

It’s been 18 years since Dlyan Moran filmed his comedy show You know it’s a sign of a country thriving and a city being very successful when you can’t afford to live there anymore. People say “yes, I have a very easy commute; I live in the Aron Islands. No problem. Yeah, we live in a tree. It’s only €400,000.”

Since then, things have become way worse.

Dublin

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 | Travel

I was recently offered a PhD by Trinity College Dublin so last month we quit our jobs, put our stuff into storage and moved to Ireland. It did not go well. Dublin is expierancing a massive housing crisis and there is nowhere to live. I will blog about that later, for now, here are some of the highlights.

The crossing over to Ireland was relatively pain-free. I have heard horror stories about trying to get into France but thanks to the Common Travel Area, things are still pretty chill in the Irish sea. Importing goods may be another matter. It was even easier on the way back: we just drove off the ferry and into Wales.

A lot of the coastline around the Dublin Bay is very picturesque. Especially Sandy Cove in Dún Laoghaire. We stopped by James Joyce’s tower (the location of the opening scene in Ulysses) where the museum curator was shocked to discovered I had actually read Joyce’s novels.

We had to be conscious of budget so there wasn’t much fine dining. But we did check out both Abra Kababra and Supermac’s, both of which were surprisingly good.

Transport around Dublin is a mixed bag. There is a lot of traffic and pedestrians have to wait for ages at pelican crossings. There are commuter trains, but the real public transport to be had is by living on the DART (an electrified light rail that runs along the coast) or one of the two Luas lines (the tram system).

Stonehenge

Monday, September 13th, 2021 | Travel

In Yorkshire, the rocks are much bigger and you can climb on them. Also, it doesn’t cost you £47 to look at them.

I have visited Stonehenge before but never with Elina so worked it into our travels. I can confirm it looks pretty similar to how it did 12 years ago. Venla thought the gift shop was pretty good.

At least I got to play the Spinal Tap song on the way there.

Lake District: A review

Sunday, October 11th, 2020 | Travel

Last month, I completed EpicMan Windermere triathlon and as COVID had cancelled all of our holiday plans, we decided to make a long weekend of it and spend some time in the Lake District.

It was my first time spending any time there because I live in Yorkshire and so why would I need to go to other places?

The roads are not great for driving or cycling. One of the nice things about Yorkshire is that the roads tend to be pretty wide and once you get off the main roads, quiet. Perfect for cycling. Driving around the Lake District was unpleasant because the roads are super-narrow and there is little visibility. Add cars everywhere to that and it doesn’t feel like a great place for cycling (even if you really love hills).

That said, we were around the south end of Windermere, so maybe that is just a traffic hotspot. But the triathlon bike course took us away from Windermere and the traffic did not get any quieter for at least the first half.

It’s a pretty hilly, which makes it great for walking up and down hills, but less good if you like the flat.

We went to Bowness and that was unpleasant. It was like a run-down seaside arcade with nobody wearing masks indoors. We stopped at an outside cafe and had fish and chips. Which is awful. I’m not even sure they had a fryer it was so bad, but I’m not sure how you could get fish so dry and stale in a microwave. And it was cash only. Even in a rundown seaside town in Yorkshire, you would get good fish and chips. This was almost inedible.

Kendall was lovely. Everyone was wearing masks in Asda.

The scenery around Windermere was very pretty.

Conclusion

The Lake District is a beautiful area of the country and has some good walks. But it is not a patch on Yorkshire.

Weymouth

Sunday, September 29th, 2019 | Friends, Travel

It has been a few years since our last group trip. Venla did come to Anglesey, but only in utero. As such, we were long overdue for a getaway. I fancied doing IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth, so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to combine the two.

Our accommodation was a The Bakehouse, ideally situated near the pavilion with the beach one hundred metres away on one side and the quay even closer on the other.

The weather was sunny for the first few days, and we hit the beach several times. We walked up to Nothe Fort and explored the museum.

Saturday included Weymouth parkrun, and a BBQ and Sunday was taken up by IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. The second half of the week was rather wetter. It rained throughout the race.
As a result, on Sunday, we headed to the Sealife Centre. This seemed like a nice, dry, inside activity. But not in Weymouth. Most of their exhibits were outside, including the penguins, seals and Venla’s personal favourite: the scary duck. We were rather glad to get home and dry.

Most of all, though, we just hung out. It was a great opportunity to spend a week with friends.

Finland trip 2018

Sunday, July 29th, 2018 | Travel

Not content with simply having a picnic, we also jetted off to the country itself earlier this month to attend the wedding of Elina’s brother, Henry.

It was Venla’s first time on a plane, and her first trip to Finland. She was mostly fine on the flight (a toddler is going to get bored anywhere after three hours) and very much enjoyed spending the week with Elina’s mum.

We did the usual stuff: swimming in the lakes, swimming in the sea, pottering around both of the shops in Laitila and, of course, eating plenty of ice cream. Nothing beats tar flavour. Apparently. I stuck with suklaa.

The wedding was nice. A brief ceremony in the village chapel and a party at a lakeside summer house, including copious quantities of big being served.

It also gave Venla a chance to meet her cousins.

I did, as usual, get eaten alive by biting insects, though. I think they lie dormant waiting for me to make my semi-annual pilgrimage.