The Long Way Home

I was in Tubbercurry on Friday and instead of taking the normal main road home I decided to take a bit of a detour. I headed up towards Lough Easkey – this is one of my favourite places in Sligo. If you haven’t been there yet it’s well worth a visit.

Take the road out of Tubbercurry heading to Ballina and you’ll see a sign for Lough Easkey on the right. It’s a bit of a long drive with narrow roads – not for the faint hearted in places but so worth it.

You will drive alongside the Owenaher River which has a stunning waterfall. I parked at the top and hopped over the wall, well I say hopped – I clambered….I won’t mention my wet backside – whoops I just did. I sat of the rocks and watched the water rushing. The smell of coconut from the gorse bushes made me feel like I was in an exotic country. I’m always blown away by the beauty we have here in Sligo. My photos really don’t do it justice.

Back in the car on the next stop was Masshill. This is an outdoor place of worship and well worth a visit. There’s also an old school house dating back to 1910. I met up with the farmer and he let me go and look at it as it’s on his land. He told me his mother used to go to the school and that it was only open for a short amount of time. It’s these stories I’d love to explore more of, finding out the local tales behind the places. I just found one of the Duchas site about treasure being at Masshill – I wonder if it’s still there….

As I carried on driving I saw chickens crossing the road – no idea why they crossed 😉

There were turf bogs and ruins as I drove into what felt like the wilderness but really is just around 8 miles from the nearest town.

I saw the Ox Mountain Adventure Camp which you can also stay in. Imagine being out in this part of the world? Talk about getting away from it all.

There were also sheep all over the place, one of them tried to hitch a lift!  When I got to Lough Easkey I made friends with one of the locals, it’s unusual for the sheep to come up to you but this one did. As I walked back to the car I was being followed….maybe I look like a sheep!

What a journey home – just magic. I might take the long way home more often.

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A big week for exhibitions

My exhibition opened at St. John’s Community Hospital, Sligo yesterday. It’s a permanent photography exhibition and I was thrilled to be asked to be involved.

Some of my work involves documenting art workshops at day centres for older people. I’ve seen how positive these workshops are and what a difference they make to the people. It’s not just about art, it’s about starting conversations, reminiscing, friendship and there’s even the odd song.

I’ve seen people come to life when they discuss ideas with the artist and I’ve seen the joy in their faces when they see their work framed and displayed. These are just some of the reasons why the Bealtaine Festival is dear to my heart.

So for my Art Wall exhibition I re-explored County Sligo capturing images that would open up conversations and resonate with the residents and staff of St. John’s. The favourite photos have been printed, the exhibition was curated by Catherine Fanning  and they are now on display in the hospital. I found it so exciting to see which ones were chosen and listening to people discussing them.

So that was the first bit of excitement. The second bit was that some of my photos are hanging in The Hamilton Gallery, Sligo! I never thought I’d see the day! Once again this is thanks to Catherine. I documented the Pathway project that artists Catherine Fanning and Brigitta Viradi collaborated on with the residents of Nazareth House. Catherine has come up with a new body of work inspired by Pathway and this is currently in The Hamilton Gallery – along with some of my photos from Pathway. Catherine’s exhibition is on until the 2nd June so do call in and if you get a chance.

Art Wall – Exhibition Opening

I’m delighted to have been asked to be part of Bealtaine Festival Sligo this year. It’s a festival that is very dear to my heart and over the years I’ve loved listening to the stories of the people involved. I’d love to see some of you tomorrow at St. John’s Hospital 3.30pm.

The photographic ‘Art Wall’ exhibition is a collaboration between photographer Val Robus , Sligo Arts Service and St John’s Hospital. Over a number of months Val Robus has photographed an wide and varied range of views across Sligo’s towns and villages. These images have been catalogued for the residents of St John’s Hospital to view and select from. The photos that resonated most with the residents were printed and curated by artist Catherine Fanning for permanent exhibition in St John’s hospital.
The Exhibition opens May 2nd Wednesday 3.30 pm St John’s . All welcome

Krakow – the best and worst of the rest

You can read about Auschwitz here and the Salt Mines here. If you are interested in visiting the area I would recommend it, here are some things that might help.

I flew from Dublin into Krakow. I booked the executive lounge at Dublin airport and to be honest it was worth every cent. My flight was around 5pm and if I hadn’t booked the lounge I’d have missed lunch and dinner. In the lounge you are away from the crowds, there’s as much food as you want including cheese and crackers, hummus, soup, sandwiches, wraps, salad, cakes, biscuits and a variety of drinks including alcohol. There are plenty of plugs so not only do you recharge your own battery you can recharge your phone too. I’d loved that there was a shower complete with towels, shampoo etc…just a shame there wasn’t a hairdryer. Anyway – the flight was around 3 hours, fairly uneventful.

I was travelling on my own and I have had experience of wandering around in a strange country and not knowing where I was going – this was pre-anxiety days so I booked an airport taxi with Krakow Direct. The driver was waiting in the airport for me and took me straight to my hotel which was twenty minutes away.

I stayed in the Pergamin Old Town Apartments and would have no problem staying there again. It was a huge room – it even had an upstairs! It was spotlessly clean, there was a kettle, fridge with mini bar and it was as cheap as chips. It was opposite the Planty Park, about a 3 minute walk from the old town square/castle etc. and about 15 minutes from the train/bus station and shopping centre. Only one UK channel on the TV (BBC news) but I wasn’t in the room much. There was WiFi and air conditioning but I couldn’t work the air conditioning so I was melting. Three downsides:
1. It was right by a tram line – I didn’t mind this though as I found it relaxing.
2. Don’t expect a warm welcome or even a smile because you won’t get one.
3. They don’t take credit cards – but there is an ATM just beside the door.
I had breakfast one of the days, it had all kinds of things and you can eat as much as you like, it was fairly pricey compared to food in the city but I didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day.

I booked a tour of Auschwitz with Krakow Direct. Our driver Michael was fantastic, very friendly and helpful and I wish he’d been our guide for the museum. You can make your own way to the museum and it’s free to get in but I found it all too confusing so went with the tour. Auschwitz is over an hour away from Krakow and I’d recommend you just did that trip on a day and not try to combine anything else – you’ll be tired and overwhelmed.

I didn’t eat out much, I was quite apprehensive about that part of the trip so I tended to bring a sandwich back to the room. I did love the Cat Cafe though, the people working there were so lovely and friendly – and they smiled! Who can resist a Catpawcino?

I had a lovely dinner in Bar Italiano which is just alongside St. Mary’s in the old town. The people were friendly and the calezone was bigger than my head and delicious! One day I had lunch in the shopping centre, they had a food hall so there was a lot of choice, I went for a Polish buffet – the food was lovely – the lady serving wasn’t friendly though. For a treat I went to Bubble Waffle, I saw this place on the internet so I had to go and check it out, it was very nice.

I went to the underground museum but to be honest I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. This was probably due to the fact I went after Auschwitz and I was just walking around in a daze. That’s why I’d suggest taking a day for Auschwitz and doing something lighthearted afterwards.

The old town area is beautiful, there were horse drawn carriages and the place was buzzing. Check out the Wawel Castle, although I didn’t go inside it the grounds are stunning.

Walk down by the river and you’ll see the fire breathing dragon. Take a walk in the park by the dragon and visit the most faithful dog in the world statue.

I walked quite a way along the river because I wanted to see the ‘lovers lock bridge’, I loved the statues along the bridge too – it’s very striking. I’d checked out the Jewish Quarter and saw the places where Shindler’s List was filmed, I also saw the Ghetto Chairs Memorial.

There are lots of free walking tours available which would be a great idea if you had the time. Wear comfortable shoes because if you are anything like me you’ll walk for miles. Bring a rain coat because when it rains it rains….but bring sun cream and sun glasses too because when the rain stopped it was 24 degrees. Expect crowds, I preferred getting up early and exploring without the crowds.

I found my trip fascinating and moving. The one downside which in all honesty would put me off going to Krakow again was the airport. I found it very confusing of where I was meant to go and the security were quite aggressive and rude – I was barked at to remove my camera from the bag and other people had their cases rummaged through. It made me quite anxious and kind of dampened the whole experience.

Anyway if you decide to go I hope you enjoy it, you’ll certainly come back with a different outlook on life.

 

A Super Saturday

Today was a lovely day – even though I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night. I was wired last night, what with the road traffic accident, we weren’t involved and everyone was fine, but it was quite worrying all the same seeing the lorry on its side.

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