Tag Archives: birthday tradition

No Ranting As I Talk About the End Of Our Trip To Ireland

No ranting this time, i promise. Actually, following the same pattern as the trip itself, there’s nothing really to rant about, as our trip seemed to get that little bit better every day as the week wore on.

Despite my misgivings about Irish bouldering, i really did enjoy it and going back for those three days did make every one that fraction better than it’s predecessor. And i do really want to go back.

To be frank, that might not have been the case were it not for our penultimate day. With Rosie now struggling to sleep as long and being increasingly sicky, it had crossed my mind to cut it short, especially considering the weather forecast but the end of the trip was getting closer so i didn’t really mention it. I’m very glad i didn’t.

We had a look on some of the maps and realised that we were at the eastern base of the Wicklow mountains proper and that really, we should head West a bit to check out what was over there. It certainly looked more promising and turns out, it really was.

We did a big loop around the park in the end, heading over the mountain road from Glendalough over to Hollywood, checking out some of the awesome views back down to where we’d come. After dropping down again, we drove through some sleepy villages with not a lot there to Blessington to stop and grab a cup of tea and a cake.

It took a little wandering before we found somewhere (sigh) but the bookshop-come-cafe we did find, The Blessington Book Store, was really nice and obviously servicing the local kids with their school books for the next year. It was really nice to see this, with parents and kids heading to the shop and placing their order. Certainly much nicer than them sitting at home and ordering on Amazon! And the cafe certainly deserved supporting, it was a lovely little place.

Photo credit: Emily Slater

A lakeside walk took us along the shores of the Poulaphouca Reservoir (i think) on a glorious day that put smiles on everyone’s faces. This was a well kept and fantastic, pushchair friendly walk along the edge of the water and through the woods that summed up the trip wonderfully: slow to start but just kept getting better as it went along. When we eventually left, the drive over Sally Gap and a stop at the Lough Tay Viewing Point emphasised this even more.

Our last day, we rose early, packed at quickly as i possibly could while Em looked after Rosie, said our goodbye’s to the wonderful host Jim and hit the road – leaving ten minutes before the weather closed in! One thing we must say is the weather was certainly very kind to us that week; with poor forecasts and good weather every day.

A planned walk on the way back to Dublin was cancelled as we’d be swimming through mist and turned into a ten minute stop to let the dog out. Now partially drenched, i jumped back in and we headed to the capital for a wander round before our late night ferry home.

The day in Dublin captured our whole trip exactly. We thought we’d read up enough on where to go and what to do. We really hadn’t and as we made our way into the city, it soon became apparent that while Dublin has plenty of places to park, none of them are suitable with tall vehicles. With the roof box on, it was futile.

Round and round the city we drove, becoming increasingly frustrated and snarky with each other, starting to think we’d never find what we were looking for. Eventually, we plumped for somewhere we’d discounted right at the start, got the baby out of the car and went to look for the outdoor shop i’d been craving all week, a place called Basecamp.

It turned out to be pretty average, for what i was looking for anyway. It would’ve been quite good had we been hiking and backpacking but for a rock climber, it left a bit to be desired. I’m conscious that the last time i railed on something i didn’t like at the time, i offended the author and wrote a retraction but i think i’m justified in saying this really wasn’t a climbing shop when they only had three climbing shoes on display… Sadly the guys working there weren’t that chatty either. Nevertheless, i bought an icebreaker top and we headed back to the car.

With time to kill and dinner to find, we headed out of the city centre. A google search for “best burger in Dublin” coupled with some kind local info from Ryan meant we headed South East of the city towards a place called Merion Square and what a lovely little park! Easy parking, a lovely little walk and a fed and happy baby, we had a great little wander, taking in the statue to Oscar Wilde and enjoying one of Dublin’s quieter hotspots.

With Rosie fed, it was our turn and with me keen for a burger, we found a place called Jo Burger. It felt like we were suddenly in the Shoreditch of Dublin – a totally different vibe to earlier in the day. The burger was awesome, thoroughly recommended in a child friendly place that seemed to have people of all ages and walks of life – even if we did manage to find the only pub in Ireland that didn’t serve Guinness…

Our finale had started slow, with a few niggles but had just got better and better, just like the whole week. All in all, it was an awesome week and while sailing across the Irish Sea on the way home, we were able to look back at it and smile at Rosie’s first foreign foray. Unspectacular and largely uneventful, it was perfect for us to get used to being away with our little one and despite the lack of distinct memories, will forever be remembered, not only as the latest birthday trip but the first for our new addition to the family.

Milestones: The Birthday Tradition

This is part five of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

The Birthday Tradition

The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone
The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone

In Spain, in September 2009, with Steffi and good friend Stu Goodfellow, we met two Italians. Now, if you’ve been on a climbing trip abroad, and met people, i would wager you’ve championed your home climbing areas while listen to others try and encourage you to visit theirs. It’s one of the nicest aspects to travelling like this. In this case, Super Paolo and his girlfriend Stef were from the North Eastern corner of Italy, and an area called Val Daone.

They convinced us (it wasn’t hard) to plan a trip to see them. The next question was when. Now, i can’t for the life of me remember how we came to the decision, and i think it took a lot of faffing with dates but somewhere down the line, we arranged to go for my 26th birthday, much to the dismay of my mother. (“But you won’t have anything to open on your birthday!” she remarked. My reply: “I’ll open the door of my tent to see a beautiful Alpine valley…”)

In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29
In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29

What began is a tradition that i have managed to keep going for the following six years and counting: to spend my birthday in a different country every year. To date, the list of birthday destinations reads Italy, Canada, France, Austria, Spain and Switzerland, with next year’s trip to Finland already in the pipeline.

It is now the highlight of my year and while everything else is very flexible, this summer fortnight is not. Finding places with suitable conditions in June is proving harder and harder, especially as flying to the Southern hemisphere where it’s mid-winter is currently out thanks to costs. I’m also running out of emergency i’ve-got-no-money-this-summer options, although Ireland still remains, as do a couple of others. Sooner or later, it’ll become “…in a foreign country” instead but for now, the tradition continues good and strong, with at least next year all good to go.

Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward
Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward