14 Must Know Tips for Visiting Ireland

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The stunning countryside and rich history of this gorgeous Emerald Isle has helped Ireland become a “must go” place for most first time travelers.  That being said the fall is a great time to visit Ireland as the crowds are starting to thin out and the weather is a bit cooler.  If you are planning a trip this fall to Ireland, congrats you are going to have a great time!  From the literary and pub scene in Dublin to the music and foodie scene in Galway there is something for everyone! If you are looking for some down to earth, no punches pulled tips for your trip, then you have come to the right place.

  1. Don’t underestimate the road distances in Ireland!  While Google Maps might say its only 40 km up the road, that road is going to be a narrow, twisting back road that is going to take a lot longer to travel than the estimated time.  Give yourself plenty of time to get to each location.  You will need it.
  2. On that same note, if you are planning on driving in Ireland, please drive on the left side of the road.  Thank you.
  3. While the Cliffs of Moher are awesome and iconic, there are other cliffs that aren’t as well know and equally as stunning (if not a little more) like the Sliabh Liag Cliffs which are Ireland’s highest sea cliffs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. The adapter you will need if the one for the U.K., not the EU.  Or you can just bring a universal adapter like this one.
  5. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro and Northern Ireland uses the British Pound.  If you are planning on visiting both, (and why wouldn’t you?) you will need both forms of currency.  Never fear if you forget that, because ATMs are widely available and easily accessible except on the Aran Islands.
  6. When you are in the pub, buy drinks in rounds.  Yes it’s a little strange the first time, however you will be seen as rude if you order a drink just for yourself so enjoy making new friends and buy a round.  It will be reciprocated!
  7. Dublin is an awesome city, however there is MUCH more to Ireland than just this city.  Plan to spend at least a few days in Dublin, then go explore the rest of Ireland and see the other cities and towns. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. For a more peaceful and quiet day trip, head to the Aran Islands.  These beautiful islands are located to the west and you can get there via the Doolin ferry
  9. Free camping is not allowed.  This really bummed me out because you guys know how much I love finding free camping, however be forewarned if you do here, you might have the police showing up.
  10. Dress in layers…even in the summer.  Anytime of year, layers are a good idea, just grab a day bag that you can shove the layers into as it gets warmer in the afternoon.
  11. Ireland is not exactly a budget destination.  It’s not the most expensive, by any means, but expect to spend around 60€ – 150€ a day for two people not including accommodations.
  12. To help offset the costs, check the hostels.  There are really nice hostels located in Dublin and Galway that relatively inexpensive.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  13. The Doolin Cave is awesome!  However there are a LOT of stairs and no elevator.  This is not for the faint of heart, however I highly recommend this if you are in good enough health for the stairs.  If you are not, skip this.
  14. Don’t forget your hiking shoes if you are an outdoor enthusiast.  Ireland is full of beautiful trails, so bring the shoes and be prepared for the view of a lifetime, especially if you are hiking near the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

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Mini Review – Queijo Vaquinha – Terceira

Welcome to mini review Monday!  Today’s mini review is for a cheese shop on the island of Terceira called Queijo Vaquinha.  This cheese shop is located in Cinco Ribeiras on the southwest side of the island and features truly delicious Azorean cheese.  We sampled the cheese and fell in love with our “cheese sandwich” which we went back for quite a few times while we were visiting.

Stats

Address: Canada do Pilar 5, 9700-321,Cinco Ribeiras – Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal

Phone Number: 295 907 138

Website: http://queijovaquinha.pt/

Hours of operation: Monday – Sunday 1000 – 2200 (10am – 10pm)

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When you walk in the front door you are greeted with a sample table, so you are able to try the cheeses before you order, and let me forewarn you, they are delicious.  Immediately beyond the sample table is the bar area where you order.  Now here is the kicker.  Don’t be shy!  Order a lot and take some to go too.  Two cheese sandwiches and two coffees cost us a grand total of 3,60€.  Yep that’s it.  So order away.   For a bit more of a reference, a beer there is 1€, and a soda is 1,10€.

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If you choose to eat there, tables are provided along with a very comfortable atmosphere and decor, as well as a porch area with tables if you choose to enjoy the weather instead.  This is a place for the locals as well as tourists, so head there expecting to see the local cops or families hanging out.  You can also take it to go, which is what we did the first time, and had a picnic at one of the many beautiful pull offs located on the island.

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There are a few types of cheese, not as many as you expect being a cheese shop, but enough flavors to satisfy almost anyone’s taste and the cheese is handmade by the owner, his wife and sister in law daily.  Terceira island and traditional tie for first place in my opinion and the spicy cheese comes in at a close second.

Conclusion

Would we eat there again? Most definitely and we plan on it in December when we return to the island.  It is a little out of the way, so if you don’t have a car rental, you might want to consider a tour group that stops by for lunch or a bus to get there, but it’s really easy to find from the main road.

Mini review – Free Campsite Uwharrie National Forest Yates Place Campground

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Welcome to mini review Monday!  Today’s mini review is for a free campsite in the Uwharrie National Forest which is located towards the middle of North Carolina.  This campsite is only an hour and a half southwest of Raleigh and offers a very private camping experience that is 7 minutes from Troy’s town center.  This campground offers hiking, lots and lots of hiking and is uniquely situated in the middle of four major cities in North Carolina.  This campground would make an excellent base camp for those looking to explore the center of North Carolina on a small budget.

Stats

GPS: 35.364606,-79.989031

Water: No drinking water available

Stay Limit: 14 days

RV Appropriate: Yes

Trash Receptacles: Yes

Cell Reception: None

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Pros:

  • Close to town.  This is the first free campsite we stayed at that wasn’t in the middle of nowhere.  There is a Family Dollar and a Dollar General within 8 minutes of the campground as well as a Walmart that is about 17 minutes up the road.
  • Vault toilet is well maintained.  This pretty much speaks for itself.  Having a toilet that doesn’t have the bugs everywhere and is actually CLEAN is always a great thing to discover!
  • Trash receptacles are provided.  This means there is NO excuse for leaving the campground a mess.  This is a beautiful place, keep it that way and throw away your trash.
  • Picnic table and “grill” provided.  All campsites have these available as well as a hand made rock fire pit on the popular sites.
  • Road coming into the campground is hard packed gravel with no potholes.  This makes it really easy for vehicles pulling campers and motorhomes to enter.
  • While tent sites do have enough space for a small camper, there is a big pull off right before the campground that bigger motorhomes and RV’s could fit in.
  • Quite a few sites, there were at least 8 sites with more available by hiking in.  And if all these campsites are taken there is two other campgrounds located right up the road (though I am not sure if they are free campgrounds).
  • Variety of campsite choices.  There are at least 3 campsites in the sun for the colder days, and the rest are shaded for the warmer days.
  • Open year around.  While most we have been to are seasonal, this campground is always open.
  • Awesome hiking trails with some great views located right in the campground.
  • Centrally located.  In around two hours (or less) you could be in Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Fayetteville or Asheboro.

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Cons

  • Day trippers.  Traffic during the day, if you stay on a weekend, is pretty bad.  There are gorgeous trails at the far end of the campground, so there is a quite a few people coming and going during the day.  At night though the people go away, it’s just a major annoyance if you are here for the quiet of the forest.
  • Campsites are super close together with no foliage between them.  There is one campsite to the right as you come in that is secluded, but the rest of the campsites are on top of each other.  Now there was only one other person camping while we were there (in the secluded spot) so this wasn’t an issue, but if you are there on a busy weekend, don’t expect privacy.
  • Grass is not cut around campsites.  There are campsites in the sun, however the grass around these campsites was not cut.  While this normally wouldn’t bother me, in North Carolina this is where the ticks hide.
  • No water available.  This is more the norm for free campsites, but it’s still a slight hassle not having it available.

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Conclusion

So would we stay here again?  Yes!  We already plan to head over for a weekend of hiking and camping once the kids come back from their summer vacation!  Great location and our type of fun…definitely a winner.  If you would like to see my review of the campsite on YouTube, click here.

Mini review – Free Campsite Jefferson National Forest – The Pines Campground

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Welcome back to mini review Monday! Today’s mini review is for a free campsite in the Jefferson National Forest which is located in Virginia. This campground offers hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing and jeep trails nearby. Being very secluded, the nearest store is quite a hike so make sure you come prepared.

Stats

GPS: 37.605,-80.075829

Water: Drinking water is available

Stay limit: 21 days posted at campsite however website says 14 days

RV Appropriate: YES small ones

Trash Receptacles: YES

Cell Reception: None

Open Season: April 1 – December 7

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Pros

  • Double campsites are available. There are 3 double campsites available at this campground making camping here with more than one tent, or with a small RV a very pleasant experience.
  • Enough campsites to go around. There are 7 single sites and 3 double sites along with an awesome picnic area.
  • Space, lots and lots of space. Does this mean you won’t see the other people? No, but it does mean it’s a lot quieter at night, especially if you do one of the two double campsites located down a small hill from the rest. We never heard anyone else, and the only time we saw other people is when we walked through the campground and as cars were leaving (our campsite was right by the exit).
  • Paved roads. All roads leading into the campground were paved.
  • More than one vault toilet provided. There is one at the bottom of the hill for the double campsites and the picnic area and one at the top of the hill for the single sites. The one at the bottom by us was not usable in my opinion, however I heard the ones at the top were nicer.
  • Plenty to do, or nothing to do. You pick. This campground has lots to do to keep kids entertained for hours, however there is also nothing to do if you need a moment to sit back relax and enjoy nature.

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Cons

  • As previously mentioned this campground isn’t really close to any stores so come prepared and know if you forget anything, it’s going to take awhile to get it.
  • The vault toilets leave a lot to be desired. They do have two sets of toilets which is awesome, but they could use some (ok a lot) of help
  • Bugs! Now, before you say it’s nature there is always bugs, let me just say we tent camp a lot. We are about 96% of the time tent camping in woods, so we are used to bugs. Having said that, this was nats (small ant size flying bugs). They were so bad we couldn’t even have a conversation during the day because they were swarming around us and would get into our mouths. Surprisingly, the mosquitoes and every other NORMAL forest bug was at a minimum, and if you walked out of the campground to the creek area or trails, there weren’t any nats.
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Water available however it was shut down when we were there.

Conclusion

So would we stay here again? Yes ish. The scenery was gorgeous and the seclusion was very welcomed in our case, however the bugs made it uncomfortable for us. So we would definitely stay here again…in the colder months.

Mini review – Free Campsite Daniel Boone National Forest Turkey Foot campground

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Welcome to mini review Monday!  Today’s mini review is for a free campsite in the Daniel Boone National Forest which is located towards the middle of Kentucky.  This campground offers hiking, fishing, swimming (in the creek), and places to go four wheeling.  Vault toilets are also provided, however bringing your own bathroom tissue is strongly advised.

Stats

GPS: 37.466717.-83.915375

Water: No drinking water available

Stay Limit: None posted however the stay limit for National Forests are usually 14 days

RV Appropriate: No

Trash Receptacles: No – Pack out ALL trash

Cell Reception: None

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Pros

  • First of all these campsites are HUGE!  We easily fit our 7 person tent and our 4 person tent in the campsite with room to spare.  So spread out and get comfortable…there’s plenty of room for it.
  • This place has a GORGEOUS creek running through the area that have areas for swimming, wading, exploring and anything else you want to try.  The water is almost blue as you can see in the photo at the top of this post and clear so you can see everywhere you are stepping.
  • Secluded…meaning in the middle of nowhere with a decent amount of space between you and the next campsite.
  • Plenty of outdoor activities.  Besides sleeping under the stars, there is hiking trails near by, fishing and four wheeling trails.
  • Vault toilets that are somewhat clean.  Yes this is considered a pro.  We have camped at places that I refuse to use the toilets because they were just that unsanitary…however these were not bad.
  • Quite a few campsites.  This has at least 9 campsites that I counted so there is plenty of room for everyone.  When we stayed, it was considered “crowded” by the local standards however there were still at least 3 empty sites.
  • Picnic table and fire ring provided for each campsite.  Needless to say this always makes the camping experience more enjoyable.

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Cons

  • Let’s talk about the road leading into the camping area.  First of all there is this bridge that you see above.  If it has rained recently, the bridge will be flooded.  As you can see water already flows OVER the bridge, just be safe and heed the warning signs on the way in.  Next the road is gravel…with lots of potholes.  We drove a Ford Expedition on it and had little problems, however smaller vehicles or trailers might have some issues.
  • Campsite placement is also high on this list.  There is a beautiful stream within walking distance from the campsites and you can hear the stream at night, however the area closest to the stream is for day use only, no camping allowed.
  • No drinking water.  We have been to some free camping sites that have drinking water, however this is not one of them.
  • Trash left behind.  Please pack out all your trash, as trash receptacles aren’t provided.  We got in late at night and set up camp.  I walked out of the tent in the morning to see that our campsite was covered with cigarette butts, and beer cans.  We cleaned up the area for the next person, but please be considerate and just know the person before you probably wasn’t.

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Conclusion

So would we stay here again?  Absolutely!!  In fact we discussed heading back without the kids for a weekend away from it all.  We just need to remember to bring more water and an extra trash bag or two for the trash that was left behind, but it honestly is currently one of my favorite free campsites we have found.  If you would like to see my review of the campsite on YouTube, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

The only 10 things you need to start tent camping tomorrow

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Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to start tent camping.  There are a lot of people I know that want to try camping, or their kids want to try camping and the number one reason they don’t is “we don’t have the gear”.  The reality is, you really don’t need a ton of stuff to try out tent camping, in fact there is a good chance you already have quite a few of the necessities laying around your house.

So if this is you, you have come to the right place.  I have put together a list of the 10 things you need to start tent camping tomorrow.  These are the basics, till you decide if it’s right for you.

First Aid Kit

You never really want to go into the woods without a first aid kit.  This doesn’t have to be a fancy one, but you want something that has the stuff to clean, treat and cover a wound, along with some pain killers and tweezers.  I make my own first aid kits depending on where we are going or how long we will be gone, but there are plenty of good premade ones out there.

“Cleaning” Supplies

We usually designate one bag in the car to contain all of the “cleaning” supplies so everyone knows where they are.  This bag (bin or box) should contain baby wipes, paper towels, trash bags, a towel of some sort, and toilet paper.  I am sure you can guess the uses of these items, just don’t forget the trash bags.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  There is nothing worse than pulling into a free campsite and seeing cigarette buds, bottles and trash thrown about.  Help keep the places clean by packing out ALL of your non burnable trash.

Lights

This doesn’t have to be fancy, a flashlight will do, but have some sort of a light.  There are fancy head lanterns, or camping lanterns, but honestly as long as you have some sort of light and it has batteries, you are good.  Just remember, you will probably be where there aren’t any lights, and it’s summertime so starting a fire is not always practical in the 90 degree heat, so have something that will offer you enough light that you can see the ground and not trip over fallen branches.

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This is the tent my 14 year old uses and sets up in 5 minutes on his own.

Tent

This is probably something you don’t already have, but don’t worry.  You can buy small tents or even a 4 person tent for under $80.  Make sure it’s one you feel comfortable setting up.

Something to Sleep on

Now you have the tent, let’s be honest.  You don’t really want to sleep on the hard ground do you?  There are numerous options here, from air mattresses to a self inflating sleeping pad, or even just a plain old foam camping pad.  Anyway you choose, just remember you want to be comfortable.  Getting a horrible night’s sleep is not a good way to really try out tent camping.  Give it a fair shot.  Get something to sleep on.

Sleeping Bagish

I added the “ish” to the end, because this is not really necessary especially in the summer.  We use an air mattress, and we never take a sleeping bag in the summer, only sheets.  Remember to check the weather and pack at least a lightweight blanket and/or sheets but if you have a sleeping bag that will work too.  The opposite of this is making sure in the winter time you have the appropriate sleeping bag.  Don’t get one rated for 50 degrees and then expect it to keep you warm when it’s freezing outside.

Something to eat with

Cooking utensils will not be included in this “get you camping tomorrow guide” because let’s be honest, you don’t need to cook.  Breakfast can easily be a granola bar and banana, lunch a tuna or chicken sandwich and dinner tortilla chips with a jar of queso and can of chili combined.  Is this the healthiest?  No, but it’s still food you don’t have to cook.  Having said that, after you open the can of tuna or chicken how do you get it out of the can?  This is where those utensils come in.  There are so many types of utensils you can use, but for our first trip out, I just grabbed spoons out of our utensil draw and used them.

Knife

This doesn’t have to be a fancy knife.  A simple pocket knife will do for the first time.  Once you decide you love camping, investing in a camping knife is a great idea but till then, something to open packets of food and slice slivers off a huge log so you can start a fire easier is all you really need.

 

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Firestarters

On the off chance you want a fire, (seriously who doesn’t want to cook smores for their first time out tent camping?) firestarters are a necessity.  Please don’t go buy a $4 fire starter, that’s crazy.  Nacho cheese Doritos work just fine.  We always buy a bag of the single serving chip variety packs before we go and save the Doritos for the firestarters and let the kids eat the rest for a snack.  This bag is the same price as the firestarter logs and provides snacks and fire… a much better deal in my opinion.

Appropriate Clothes

“Why does this even need to be mentioned?” you ask.  Well because you really need to think about it before you pack clothes.  Are you heading towards the forest?  Pack pants.  Yes even in the summertime because there is poison ivy and I am sure you will want to walk through the woods without rubbing against that.  Are you heading into the mountains?  Pack a lightweight jacket.  Yes even in the summertime.  Night time in the mountains can get down in the 60’s and if you are not doing a fire you might get cold.  Just remember to really think about your location.  You can always take off layers, but you can’t add the layers you don’t pack.

That’s it!  Now go enjoy those beautiful summer nights under the stars, and let me know when you decide if tent camping is right for you.

 

7 Unwritten and written tent camping rules to remember

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Summer is definitely the time to get away from it all and go tent camping. While getting away from it all sounds great, chances are, unless you are camping during the week, you are still going to have quite a few people around you. Those people are wanting to get away from it all too and enjoy their holiday. To make sure everyone, including you, enjoys their holiday these are a few unwritten rules to follow out of respect for your fellow campers. These unwritten rules are especially important for free camping, so if that interests you, keep reading.

Don’t walk through campsites that aren’t yours

Whether you are free camping (ahhhh that’s the life, right?) or paying to be there, people make the campsite their own personal space for the duration of their stay. Add this to the fact that if they have dogs this could set them off causing excess barking and a lot of headache for the person, so just don’t do it. It’ll make everyone’s stay nicer and possibly quieter.

Quiet hours…just do it

If you are paying for a campground there are usually quiet hours posted at the office and by the bathhouses, however if you are free camping, normal quiet hours are usually from 10 pm to 6 am and should be respected even if you think no one is camping around you. Remember, your voice carries in the still of the night.

Clean up after yourself

Don’t leave your campsite wrecked for the next person. While most parks have trash bins somewhere for you to throw away garbage, and has people check the site before new campers arrive, free camping does not have that luxury. No one will clean up after you if you don’t, so make sure you do. You want it to be free the next time you travel through, right?

Do not leave fires going for any reason

If no one from your party will be watching the fire, put it out. A good rule to follow is the ashes and coals should be cold before you leave it. Most tent camping (paid for or not) is in some sort of wooded area. Protect the trees and other campers. Don’t leave hot coals when you leave.

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Leash your pets

This is for the safety of your dog and for the other people camping around you. No one likes the yappy little dog running after them while they are going for a walk (I especially don’t since my dogs are ALWAYS leashed), but also there are allergies and phobias to worry about as well. Whether you are hiking or camping always leash your pets.

Same song second verse … Clean up after your pets

Stepping in a pile of poop…doesn’t that sounds like a great way to wake up in the morning? Imagine heading to the bathhouse before you have your coffee, your eyes barely open. Then you feel the squishy beneath your feet. Not a pleasant morning in the slightest. Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Clean up after your pets.

Make it like you were never there

Make sure whatever you did to the campsite, you undo before you leave. Did you move the picnic table? Put it back. Did you gather stumps for foot rests, move them away from the campsite. Did you dig a hole to steady the dog’s water bowl that they keep spilling? Fill in the hole. This makes it easy for the next person to customize the site without having to undo everything you did to start with.