Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Guinness Storehouse

What visit to Dublin with my beer loving Kiwi husband would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. The Storehouse was a Fermentation Plant from 1904 to 2008 and is now a Visitor centre with a great combination of history, the process of making a perfect pint of Guinness and pop culture.


You start on the ground floor where a copy of the original lease signed by Arthur Guinness on 31 December 1759 is set in the centre. You can pick up a free audio guide and then go on to discover the four natural ingredients, barley, hops, yeast and water that, when combined form Stout!

Master Brewer

Of course you need the fifth ingredient, a master brewer named Arthur Guinness to make the magic of Guinness.

The safe, holding the secret recipe

You are guided through the levels. learning all about the brewing process along the way. Barley is malted, roasted, milled, mixed with hot water and mashed. The filtered liquid is then boiled with hops, yeast added and fermentation begins. It is then clarified, matured and packaged. I never knew there was so much science involved in making beer!


Have a taste of Guinness before moving onto the the floor devoted to advertising. From the first official advert in 1929 to the present day and including the history of the Guinness Book of Records.

The Harp, which is the Guinness emblem, was registered as the Guinness trademark in 1876. The harp is also the official National Emblem of the Republic of Ireland. To distinguish between the two, the Guinness harp appears with the straight edge to the left, the government harp with the straight edge to the right.

The Downhill Harp, dating back to 1702

A combination of video, audio, pictures and artefacts guide you through the exhibits. It is very well laid out and you can wander through at your own pace. We may have lingered a little in the tasting area, where the staff were happy to have a laugh with us and provide a second generous taste. 

Guinness, Nectar of the Gods

The highlight was the 7th floor Gravity Bar where you got a 'free' pint of Guinness and 360 degree views over Dublin

Wicklow Mountains

A view to the Wicklow Mountains which is the source of the pure water that goes into the making of Guinness.

Wicklow Mountains

Seventeen other landmarks are pointed out, including St Patrick's Cathedral.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Even the birthplace of Bram Stoker, the renowned author of 'Dracula', was fitting then, that we visited on Halloween!


Mmmmm...Nectar of the God's...nothing quite like a fresh pint of Guinness poured in it's home town of Dublin!


Guinness Storehouse
St James Gate
Dublin 8
Co Dublin, Ireland

Adult ticket €16.50, including pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar, available at the door, cheaper online and discounted with Hop on Hop Off tourist bus. Restaurants on 5th Floor. See website for details.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Tythe Barn at Christmas

Over in the lovely village of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire.....


Just past the Church and the duck pond....


You will find that the 15th century Tythe Barn has been turned into a Christmas wonderland!

Tythe Barn

Filled to the brim with beautiful Christmas decorations.


Lots of cute little Robins...yes I bought one!


Some quirky little owls.


Lots of unusual stocking fillers.

Tythe Barn

Well worth a visit to soak up the Christmas atmosphere, get some lovely decorations and a present or two. They have some beautiful, locally sourced gifts. Including candles, jams, woolly gloves and jewellery. Rug is a barn so it's a bit chilly!

The Tythe Barn, Manor Farm, Church End, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8AH

Open Wednesday to Saturday 9.30am to 5pm November 7 through to December 22

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Dalkey Castle, Dublin County

Time to take a glimpse into the past and visit Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. Dalkey, or Goat Castle was built in the late 15th Century and is actually a fortified town house. A visit today takes you back in time with the Living History tours. On arrival at the Heritage Centre you watch a short but informative video on the history of the area. Goods were offloaded from ships in the Dalkey sound and transported to Dublin by land. Dalkey Castle was used as storage depots and a residence for merchants.

Dalkey Castle

After the film you are whisked back to the medieval times by actors who portray maids, merchants and tradesman who work at the castle. A very educational and entertaining performance by all the actors who never once went out of character. They describe their daily lives in Dalkey and the customs of the time. Woe betide you were an uninvited guest and succumbed to the murder hole above the door, where you would be either pelted with rocks or doused in boiling urine. Glad times have changed!

Dalkey Castle

St Begnet's Church

10th Century St Begnet's Church and graveyard provided a fabulous backdrop for a history lesson.

Dalkey castle, guide

The guide inside the castle demonstrated medieval medicine and dentistry, my tweenager wasn't too keen on being subjected to bloodletting but played along for our entertainment. Descriptions of the food and menus of the bygone era weren't too appealing to our small group. The Teenager was keen to try the bow and arrow, though not so much as to shoot a hedgehog, albeit imaginary, for dinner! The Actors really do " bring life to history by bringing history to life".

Dalkey Castle

A fabulous performance and a great history lesson, you get a delightful view of the town from the battlements at the top and the Heritage Centre provides more information on local history, including a Writer's Gallery, Scale models of transport systems ....and some stocks recreate some medieval punishment...or a photo op!


Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre,
Castle Street
County Dublin

Adults €7, Concession €6, Child €5 and a Family €20 with the Living History included.

News case you were rushing off to buy tickets....Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre is undergoing an upgrade and will be closed from 31 October 2012 until January 2013...sure it will be bigger, better and worth the wait!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ireland's Killiney Hill Park

We took advantage of the half term break and headed over to Ireland to stay with friends who have repatriated home, after 4 years in Australia. Wonderful to catch up, discuss the dramas of relocation and shipping agents over a glass or two of wine and/or award winning home brew and spend time discovering the beauty of Ireland. It's not called the Emerald Isle for nothing! 

Killiney Hill Park

On our first morning we went for a walk in the lovely Killiney Hill Park. Once part of the estate of Killiney Castle, it is now a public park. Beautiful walkways with a carpet of freshly fallen autumn leaves. It has magnificent views over Dublin Bay and the Wicklow mountains with the highest point 170m above sea level.

Killiney Hill Park

The girls all had a great time running through the paths and climbing the moss covered trees. Perfect place to enjoy the views, stroll through the woods and take in the natural landscape.

Killiney Hill Park

The Dalkey Quarry created a stark contrast with sheer cliffs enclosing green parkland, it's very popular with rock climbers.

Killiney Hill Park

Killiney Hill Park

Such a wonderful outlook of the sea, the coast and the land from every part of the park. It's fun spotting castles in the distance.

Killiney Hill Park

A wonderful introduction to the beautiful country of Ireland. A bird's eye view of the city, the ocean and the mountains, all from a vantage point, spectacular in it's own right.

Killiney Hill Park

There is parking, Tea Rooms, lots of perfect spots for a picnic, fabulous fenced children's play area, walking paths and woodland trails to explore. Dogs are welcome. Did I mention the views!!!

Killiney Hill Park, Killiney Hill Road, County Dublin. Main Entrance via Car Park at Burton Road. Pedestrian Entrances: Ardburgh Road, Killiney Hill Road, Torca Road, Victoria Road/Killiney Hill Junction.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Guiding the way 3

The third book that has helped our family, particularly me, with the transition from four years in China to England came to us unexpectedly. We arrived home from an outing at the same time a parcel was being delivered. My family asked what I had ordered and wouldn't believe me when I said I wasn't expecting anything. I unwrapped my parcel and discovered a note from my English friend "Hope this keeps you amused and gives you an idea of what makes us Poms so special xx" with the book, 'Watching the English, the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour' by Kate Fox.

The English culture is quite different to the Australian culture and despite my own English heritage I was finding it hard to integrate. You can take the girl out of Australia but you can't take Australia out of the girl. On reading my new 'bible' I realised I just didn't know the rules of behaviour here. Kate Fox, Social Anthropologist, explains and enlightens 'The Rules' in a witty, funny and enjoyable read. As I devoured each chapter, light bulbs went off in my mind, behaviours which appeared odd at the time suddenly made sense. All aspects of 'Englishness' are covered, from the weather, queuing, class rules, rules of the road and rules of the home.

The Weather

I often had new neighbours 'happen' to walk by or come out when I was getting in or out of our car. On one occasion, my lovely neighbour stopped and asked how we were settling in. I told her that we were very happy that the girls had secured a place each in our preferred school. She told me that another neighbour has children about the same age who go to the same school, so I said I may knock on her door, introduce myself and ask for any advise on the school uniforms and transport. I was politely told that it was not appropriate to just knock on someone's door. How relieved was I to later read that "a person in his or her front garden is socially available and neighbours who would never dream of knocking on your front door may stop for a chat. Some people will wait patiently for days or weeks, waiting to spot their neighbour, and discuss an issue, rather than commit the intrusion of actually ringing the doorbell" Phew, glad I avoided that Faux pas... and it explained why I was often stopped in my neighbours are far too polite to knock!

Social Rules

I inadvertently passed the 'Nightmare' rule which states that "when talking about your house-move, it must always be described as traumatic, fraught with difficulty and disruption, even if in fact the process was completed smoothly and without noticeable stress" This of course was because our move was indeed a nightmare, moving country, visa dramas, lots of damage during shipping and moving our possessions into a house 1/3 the size of the previous house.

Part of the traumatic, disruptive move

Love how the English embrace the queue. If two people walk into a shop, they will form a queue without even thinking. In China, the idea of a queue is mostly a fairytale, if a queue is formed and you leave small gap in between yourself and the person in front, someone will fill that space and not budge. It is survival of the fittest and I learnt to elbow my in like the locals. It is refreshing to be in the midst of instinctive queuers, takes the stress out of shopping for everything from groceries to train tickets.

Chaotic Chinese 'Queue'

I learnt to elbow my way to the front and get a shot!

The "Class Rules" are explained and how people are judged by the words they say, the clothes they wear and the type of pet they have. Luckily, so my Kiwi husband says, Kiwis and Aussies are exempt from the Class structure... I think we come under "The Eccentricity Clause". I just have to remember to call a 'serviette' a 'napkin' and the 'toilet' a 'loo'...or maybe not!

This insightful book has helped me understand the ways of the English, the manners that have evolved from living on a crowded island and the "Rules of Englishness" that are sometimes obvious but more often very subtle. A must read for any newcomer to these shores, my copy is already well thumbed.

Friday, 9 November 2012


It is well known in our little village that 'The Australians' have moved in. We are a bit of a novelty in a village where most people have been in residence for many years. I'm sure there were a few neighbours looking on and laughing one morning as I discovered our car covered in frost when I went to take the girls to the school bus. In Australia I had to scrape ice off my windscreen...oh...about about 20 years...and I could just use the palm of my hand. In Shanghai I relied on taxis, my feet or public transport, so no ice scraping required.

This is our other car...a black one...was too embarrassed to go onto the street and take photos of the red car!!!

I went out and discovered the car, totally should be red, covered in frost. I tried to wipe it off...with my hand. Wow, it was pretty thick, my hand is not going to work. I remember my husband has an ice scraper in his car...but's not there...I can't ask him...he is in Japan! I try the wipers with the washer, no help. I run inside and get a jug of water...from the tap...I'm not silly enough to use hot water...and it's not yet cold enough for it to freeze on contact. I can only get a small round 'window'. Cursing as we have a 4x4 and I'm only 5'2" so I'm getting cold and wet trying to reach the windscreen. Finally make a bigger 'window' after numerous trips to refill water jug. My hands frozen and now blue.

Thick Ice!

Time ticking for school bus...we jump in and I drive about one car length...can't see...not safe. Grab some cardboard which turns to mush and doesn't budge an ice crystal. Nothing to do but to send the girls running for the bus. I sheepishly lock the car and walk 20 paces to my front door, leaving the car by the side of the road. I'm sure all my neighbours are peeking through curtains watching me do my walk of shame, laughing at the Aussie's ridiculous attempt at ice removal. What I wouldn't have done for a tea drinking, nose hair plucking, ear wax picking, crazy Shanghai taxi driver right then!

My saviours!
Now I have these...ready and waiting for the next frosty morning!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

London Town

It's hard to believe that we have been living in England since July and this was my first trip into London on the train! Well, there are many new places to discover in and around our little village. I had to go to the Chinese Embassy in London to get a visa to visit China. I need a Shanghai fix and a catch up with some friends, before they too move on! Perfect excuse for a day trip!

Was a quick 45 minute trip into London, then I jumped on the tube to go and meet my friend. My train was packed and I thought I may have to bring in my Chinese learned tactics of 'elbows out and barge through' to get off at my stop. Thankfully the British have train etiquette sorted and I got off easily!

Can feel the history steeping from the old buildings and nice to see some interesting architecture in the new ones too!

Was a beautiful, sunny day and it was lovely to meet my friend, go for a stroll, soak up the history, fast pace and vibe of the city before heading to Jamie's Italian on Threadneedle Street for lunch. My friend had the King Prawn Linguine with chilli, which was delicious and I had the Crab and Scallop Risotto which was lovely and creamy, the crab and scallops were beautifully fresh, lots of flavour and texture. Very nice meal with great company. Diverse menu with something for everyone. Reasonable prices, great atmosphere and set in a lovely heritage listed building it's definitely worth a visit.

King Prawn and Chilli Linguine

Crab and Scallop Risotto

Jamie's Italian Threadneedle Street

We then had a lovely walk to the Chinese Visa office to lodge my visa application. Was quite bizarre to see the flag of China fluttering above the traditional red London phone box.

 Visa application lodged, we headed over to Oxford street to soak up some more London atmosphere.

Christmas Decorations are going up

Love the Carnaby Street take on Christmas decos

Beautiful old building, home of Liberty of London

Was nice to see to see, at a flower shop, the pair of Chinese Lions, guarding the entrance. These Shishi (stone lions) are all over China, guarding entrances to temples, shops, restaurants, hotels and even homes. They are always in pairs, a male and a female. The male on the right and the female on the left as you enter the building.

Female Lion

The female always has a cub under her left front paw, representing the cycle of life. She protects the people in the building.

Male Lion

The male has his right front paw on a ball, representing the earth. He protects the structure.

 The shop even had some very beautiful flowers!

On arrival back at my village station, I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the fields. A lovely ending to a wonderful day. I must get into London more many adventures to be had in such a fabulous city!

Jamies Italian
Ground Floor
38 Threadneedle Street
Tel: 0203 005 9445