My time in Slovakia – Winter Spa Weekend

The most memorable moment of our time in Slovakia? “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” Intrigued? I thought so.

We were going to Slovakia for a spa holiday. Our Slovakian friend was visiting home for the weekend and asked us to join him. I never turn down the opportunity to visit a new country and I never say no to a spa! Since Roman times, spas have been recognized for their relaxation benefits and healing properties, a natural way for your mental and physical health to rejuvenate. We all work in customer service (a known head-wreck) and are on our feet all day, so our time in Slovakia was much needed.

Snow Covered Slovakia

The air was clean and crisp. The cold brightened my cheeks while the sun made my eyes squint and warmed my back. A sunny welcome in snow-covered Bratislava was the perfect way to start our two-day getaway.

We got the early fight from Dublin on Sunday morning after an exceptionally late night at work. Two hours after my head hit the pillow my alarm went off and I awoke to a Canadian dream – the smell of maple bacon wafting through the apartment. Breakfast sandwiches are always a good way to start a trip.

The flight was two hours and we settled in for another three-hour drive. Thankfully we got the music working in our cramped rental car and were able to enjoy the beautiful journey, climbing the Slovak mountains with ’80s throwbacks as our soundtrack.

There was six of us in total. Myself and my boyfriend Steve, an Irish couple Sorcha and Dan, our Slovakian pal Marik, and an Irish fella Jack. We found the Grand Hotel Permon at the end of an icy road set in the alpine village of Podbanské. Waking up to the view of the majestic Kriváň Mountain dominating the landscape and standing out amongst the peaks of the High Tatras was an amazing site.

Our time in Slovakia – The Spa

Slovakian Spa
Hotel Permon Spa Paradise, Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

The spa itself was substantial, a maze of 33 different saunas/baths. We all planned to meet in the leisure centre at a certain hour and went our separate ways. After getting towels, wraps, and a bracelet key, Steve and I wandered into the spa with no idea where to go or what to do. Sadly the friendly woman at reception didn’t speak English so we weren’t able to understand any instructions she might’ve given us. Eventually, we figured out how to work the lockers, found the change rooms, and entered the pool area.

Lovely place, but it seemed to be missing a few facilities. There was a massive pool, one hot tub, and a small sauna. We went for a dip and argued amongst ourselves about where to find the rest of the attractions. I noticed a lot of people were only wearing the purple cloth wrap that was given out at reception, and they seemed to be disappearing down a mysterious staircase. We had a look and interpreted the signs. Staircase, fob key entrance, changing cubicle at the top, and no swimwear signs.

Au Naturel…

A little nervous, we knew what we had to do. We ditched our swimsuits, wrapped up in the purple cloth, and entered the promised land. Steve and I had been to a spa in Amsterdam where most facilities did not allow swimwear, but this was a little different. In Amsterdam, we knew no-one. This time in Slovakia, we were there with colleagues. Yikes.

Down the stairs there was a whole other world. Very dark lighting and the illusion of being underground, there was an abundance of saunas, aromatherapy rooms, tropical showers, and steam baths to choose from. I was in heaven. We came across a beautiful indoor “cave” pool, a dark space with star lights all across the ceiling. The perfect place for a leisurely swim.

“There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!”

There were a few hilarious moments on the trip. Sorcha and Dan didn’t realize until they were in the outdoor jacuzzi that swimwear wasn’t allowed. Dan thought he was being subtle and said to Sorcha, “Quick, take off your swimsuit!” He then proceeded to shimmy out of his shorts and ditch them over the ledge. Later in the evening we all got out of the hot tub and politely tried to cover up as quickly as possible, only to find our wraps had all completely frozen into tiny shapes. That was awkward.

Then there was the time Marik and Jack (also oblivious to the “No Swimwear” policy) wandered outside, stood on the porch and admired all the snow-covered facilities: a massive sauna, salt cave, jacuzzi, huge steam bath, and more. Suddenly Jack exclaimed: “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” That man was Dan. Everyone needed a few treatments to relax after the shock of that visual.

The infamous hot tub… Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

Spa Etiquette

All joking aside, in the end the no swimwear policy wasn’t scary. Why the policy? The primary reason is hygiene. The point of using a sauna is to sweat out toxins from the body and clothing can block pores, trap sweat and carry bacteria. Everyone’s in the same boat and are too busy relaxing to notice others around them in an equally meditative state.

Our time in Slovakia - lava stone massage

Our time in Slovakia: The Numbers

Ryanair flight from Dublin to Bratislava: €71 return

Accommodation: We got a special all-inclusive package with Hotel Permon. Entrance to the spa, buffet dinner and breakfast, accommodation, €100pp/night.

Treatments:
Foot and leg massage (25 min) €14
Lava stone massage (45 min) €26
Whole body lymph drainage (90 min) €50
Full price list found here.

Thinking about visiting a European spa? Don’t be a Dan! Stay tuned for my top tips on spa etiquette.

Our time in Slovakia - spa weekend

Are you interested in 24 hour holidays? Check out 24 hour holiday: Top Five Ways to Spend Time in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Part two: Crossing off the Irish Counties – Clare and Sligo

An hour and a half later we were wandering around Bunratty Castle and Heritage Park. We climbed narrow staircases, posed on thrones, and toured the replica old village.

From Bunratty we made our through the narrow, winding roads of County Clare. We stayed in a little village called Ennistymon. The Falls Hotel, perched on a hill with glorious steps leading up to it, had waterfalls and a stream out back and donkeys roaming around the front. We checked in and immediately made our way to the leisure centre. The outdoor jacuzzi was my favourite – surrounded by crisp air, tree branches, and a waterfall. As it lashed rain that night we crossed our fingers and prayed for sunshine for the following day.

The next morning we prepared for the day by overeating at the breakfast buffet – we needed our energy for hiking! As we drove to the Cliffs of Moher the sun broke through the clouds and decided to stay awhile.

Cliffs of Moher

Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point the Cliffs of Moher stretch for 8 kilometres (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years. (www.cliffsofmoher.ie)

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It was a view that I can’t imagine you would ever tire of. The grande vastness and sickening height made me feel minuscule, while simultaneously filling me with awe at how great our world is and an overwhelming sensation of gratefulness and respect. It is a profound privilege to experience the worlds wonders.

You may knows the Cliffs from Harry Potter or The Princess Bride. The Cliffs of Insanity is an accurate description! I made sure to stay far from the fence free edge and had to clasp on to my neighbour and look away while Steve kept inching closer and closer to “insanity”.

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The Cliffs of Insanity!

With all that fear and bewilderment we worked up an appetite so we headed back to the car park, looked up directions, and put the car in drive. Suddenly some German people started waving at us frantically and yelled at us to stop. “Your tire, it’s flat!” We all climbed out of the car and sure enough the tire is as flat as can be, can’t get any flatter. One tour bus driver hung around and gave us a few helpful hints while the lads changed the tire. The boys got the coat offs, busted out the jack, and  proceeded to change the tire in the middle of the car park. At least it wasn’t raining!

Afterwards we carried on to Doolin, the village famously know for the birthplace of Irish music. We had some tasty fish and image_7chips and the most perfect pint of Guinness I’ve ever had. We also found a man who specializes in tire repairs. It seemed that punctured tires is an incredibly common occurrence in Clare. We came back to Doolin that night to take in some trad music. There were six musicians, all ages, sitting in a booth jamming away. No singing, just the traditional Irish instruments.

The next day we dropped Steve off at the train station and carried on to Sligo. We planned a pit stop in Galway city where we got stuck in major traffic then finally had a quick stroll around. It was interesteing seeing the scenery change from Clare to Sligo, even noticing the differences in the old stone fences. Sligo town is surrounded by lovely mountains (or hills, as we’d call them in Canada). That night we met up with an old friend, Jimmy, who brought us for dinner and then later hosted us at his perfect little bar, Lillies. The following day we met Jimmy and he showed us around the town and gave us a bit of a history lesson. We managed to find the Anglican church that my great, great grandparents were married in.

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The church in Sligo

Back in Dublin we prepared for a night out in search of live music. We started at The Odeon then wandered further in to town and turned up empty. We decided to swing by Sweeney’s to say hi to Steve. Appearance wise Sweeney’s is a bit of a dive music venue, but it’s incredibly popular and always full of every demographic you can imagine. Dad was instantly a legend for these people. Drunk lads would stumble up to him and make a fuss about his hat. One guy kept complimenting how well dad pulled it off. Another guy kept walking past him, then say something to his friend, then stare at him. This went on until he worked up the courage to ask my dad if he could wear his hat to pose for a picture. My dad said to him very seriously that he couldn’t run off with it, to which he adamantly reassured over and over that he would never, EVER, do such a thing. The moment he had the hat on his head his face lit up and he looked like the happiest person in the world. The guy and his friends then insisted on taking a picture with my dad, going on about how he was the sickest geezer ever. That’s pretty much the gist of my night out “clubbing” with my legend of a father.

Traveling provides perspective and a refreshing change in routine life. We had some hilarious moments along the way and the journey seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.

image
A quick stop in Galway
image_8
A perfect pint in Doolin
image_7
Sligo
image_5
Siblings…

image_5

image_2

 

image_6

 

 

image_5

image_4
That’s a wrap.

Part two: Crossing off the Counties – Clare and Sligo

An hour and a half later we were wandering around Bunratty Castle and Heritage Park. We climbed narrow staircases, posed on thrones, and toured the replica old village.

From Bunratty we made our through the narrow, winding roads of County Clare. We stayed in a little village called Ennistymon. The Falls Hotel, perched on a hill with glorious steps leading up to it, had waterfalls and a stream out back and donkeys roaming around the front. We checked in and immediately made our way to the leisure centre. The outdoor jacuzzi was my favourite – surrounded by crisp air, tree branches, and a waterfall. As it lashed rain that night we crossed our fingers and prayed for sunshine for the following day.

The next morning we prepared for the day by overeating at the breakfast buffet – we needed our energy for hiking! As we drove to the Cliffs of Moher the sun broke through the clouds and decided to stay awhile.

Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point the Cliffs of Moher stretch for 8 kilometres (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years. (www.cliffsofmoher.ie)

image_5

It was a view that I can’t imagine you would ever tire of. The grande vastness and sickening height made me feel minuscule, while simultaneously filling me with awe at how great our world is and an overwhelming sensation of gratefulness and respect. It is a profound privilege to experience the worlds wonders.

You may knows the Cliffs from Harry Potter or The Princess Bride. The Cliffs of Insanity is an accurate description! I made sure to stay far from the fence free edge and had to clasp on to my neighbour and look away while Steve kept inching closer and closer to “insanity”.

image_1
The Cliffs of Insanity!

With all that fear and bewilderment we worked up an appetite so we headed back to the car park, looked up directions, and put the car in drive. Suddenly some German people started waving at us frantically and yelled at us to stop. “Your tire, it’s flat!” We all climbed out of the car and sure enough the tire is as flat as can be, can’t get any flatter. One tour bus driver hung around and gave us a few helpful hints while the lads changed the tire. The boys got the coat offs, busted out the jack, and  proceeded to change the tire in the middle of the car park. At least it wasn’t raining!

Afterwards we carried on to Doolin, the village famously know for the birthplace of Irish music. We had some tasty fish and image_7chips and the most perfect pint of Guinness I’ve ever had. We also found a man who specializes in tire repairs. It seemed that punctured tires is an incredibly common occurrence in Clare. We came back to Doolin that night to take in some trad music. There were six musicians, all ages, sitting in a booth jamming away. No singing, just the traditional Irish instruments.

The next day we dropped Steve off at the train station and carried on to Sligo. We planned a pit stop in Galway city where we got stuck in major traffic then finally had a quick stroll around. It was interesteing seeing the scenery change from Clare to Sligo, even noticing the differences in the old stone fences. Sligo town is surrounded by lovely mountains (or hills, as we’d call them in Canada). That night we met up with an old friend, Jimmy, who brought us for dinner and then later hosted us at his perfect little bar, Lillies. The following day we met Jimmy and he showed us around the town and gave us a bit of a history lesson. We managed to find the Anglican church that my great, great grandparents were married in.

image_3
The church in Sligo

Back in Dublin we prepared for a night out in search of live music. We started at The Odeon then wandered further in to town and turned up empty. We decided to swing by Sweeney’s to say hi to Steve. Appearance wise Sweeney’s is a bit of a dive music venue, but it’s incredibly popular and always full of every demographic you can imagine. Dad was instantly a legend for these people. Drunk lads would stumble up to him and make a fuss about his hat. One guy kept complimenting how well dad pulled it off. Another guy kept walking past him, then say something to his friend, then stare at him. This went on until he worked up the courage to ask my dad if he could wear his hat to pose for a picture. My dad said to him very seriously that he couldn’t run off with it, to which he adamantly reassured over and over that he would never, EVER, do such a thing. The moment he had the hat on his head his face lit up and he looked like the happiest person in the world. The guy and his friends then insisted on taking a picture with my dad, going on about how he was the sickest geezer ever. That’s pretty much the gist of my night out “clubbing” with my legend of a father.

Traveling provides perspective and a refreshing change in routine life. We had some hilarious moments along the way and the journey seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.

image
A quick stop in Galway
image_8
A perfect pint in Doolin
image_7
Bunratty folk park
image_7
Sligo
image_5
Siblings…

image_5

image_2

 

image_6

 

 

image_5

image_4
That’s a wrap.

Best Parks in Dublin

Green leaves, pink blossoms, and flowering vines dancing across stone hedges. It’s time to visit the best parks in Dublin.

It’s been a very long winter. I spent so much time feeling cold that my only wish was for summer to arrive so I could finally warm up. I forgot about spring, the season that spoils us with beautiful growth and teases us with anticipation for great things.

The city is lit up in colour with flowers blooming in gardens, pots and trees. I also love the rogue wild flowers scattered across the grass where they shouldn’t be. I need to give myself extra time to walk everywhere because I always get distracted and smell the flowers. My latest addition to the soundtrack of my life is “Flowers in your hair” by the Lumineers since I’m constantly sticking flowers into my curls while humming the tune.

One of my favourite pass times is hanging out in a park, drinking coffee while sitting on a bench or journaling with my back against a tree. Here’s an inside scoop on the parks I frequent in Dublin.

Stephens Green

Yes, given its location right next to Grafton street it’s almost always bustling, but it’s still a park worth visiting. There are ducks and swans swimming in the pond, plenty of flower beds, benches, and a beautiful small bridge. There are also a few trees that have a PERFECT cove for you to nestle into. I love to grab a hot chocolate from Butler’s on Grafton Street and then relax in the park for a few minutes.

Best Parks in Dublin
Stephens Green

St Kevins Park

There’s a beautiful park just off of Long Lane, hidden away from the chaotic bars on Camden Street. It’s much quieter and smaller than Stephen’s Green, which makes it a great place to read a book. At this time of year the pink blossom trees are in their full glory and there are tulips and other flowers for you to enjoy.  On the small side but I think it’s one of the best parks in Dublin.

Best Parks in Dublin

Palmerston Park

Yesterday I discovered my new favourite park while getting lost looking for a gym that I’m sure doesn’t exist. As soon as I walked in I fell in love with it. It made me want a picnic immediately. It’s quiet, has great trees, and is full of tranquility. It is the perfect place to have a peaceful picnic while the day drifts away.

Best Parks in Dublin

 

Iveagh Gardens

A stones throw from Stephens Green, this big city centre park is much less touristy. A great spot to have a picnic or just chill while you’re on your break from work, this park is a locals delight. It’s also the location of many city festivals such as Taste of Dublin and summer concerts. Easily one of the best parks in Dublin.

Best Parks in Dublin

Spring puts joy in my heart, a lightness in my step, and flowers in my hair. It’s a good season.

Best Parks in Dublin
Even the vines climbing sidewalk hedges deserve some attention.

Best Parks in Dublin

Interested in Dublin? Check out my post on How to Become a Dublin Local in Under a Week

blossoms and benches

Green leaves, pink blossoms, and flowering vines dancing across stone hedges. Dublin, spring looks good on you.

It’s been a very long winter. I spent so much time feeling cold that my only wish was for summer to arrive so I could finally warm up. I forgot about spring, the season that spoils us with beautiful growth and teases us with anticipation for great things.

The city is lit up in colour with flowers blooming in gardens, pots and trees. I also love the rogue wild flowers scattered across the grass where they shouldn’t be. I need to give myself extra time to walk everywhere because I always get distracted and smell the flowers. My latest addition to the soundtrack of my life is “Flowers in your hair” by the Lumineers since I’m constantly sticking flowers into my curls while humming the tune.

One of my favourite pass times is hanging out in a park, drinking coffee while sitting on a bench or journaling with my back against a tree. Here’s an inside scoop on the parks I frequent in Dublin:

Stephens Green

IMG_1556
Stephens Green

Yes, given its location right next to Grafton street it’s almost always bustling, but it’s still a park worth visiting. There are ducks and swans swimming in the pond, plenty of flower beds, benches, and a beautiful small bridge. There are also a few trees that have a PERFECT cove for you to nestle into. I love to grab a soya cap from Butler’s on Grafton Street and then relax in the park for a few minutes.

Mystery park on Long Lane

There’s a beautiful park just off of Long Lane, close to Camden Street, but I’m not sure what it’s called. It’s much quieter and smaller than Stephen’s Green, which makes it a great place to read a book. At this time of year the pink blossom trees are in their full glory and there are tulips and other flowers for you to enjoy.

Palmerston Park

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Yesterday I discovered my new favourite park while getting lost looking for a gym that I’m sure doesn’t exist. As soon as I walked in I fell in love with it. It made me want a picnic immediately. It’s quiet, has great trees, and is full of tranquility. It is the perfect place to have a peaceful picnic while the day drifts away.

Spring puts joy in my heart, a lightness in my step, and flowers in my hair. It’s a good season.

IMG_2361
Even the vines climbing sidewalk hedges deserve some attention.

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How’s Howth?

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Welcome to Howth.

Howth, a suburb of Dublin, is an idealistic fisherman’s town at the north of Dublin Bay. I’ve never been to Newfoundland but I imagine it would look similar.

Howth lighthouse.
Howth lighthouse.

I'll take one in every colour, please.
I’ll take one in every colour, please.

There are old fishing boats in the harbour, multi-coloured house fronts along the esplanade, and houses atop hills over looking the sea. The smell of fish lingers in the air and there’s shop after shop selling all sorts of seafood.

Howth is only a train ride away from the Dublin city center and there are always lots of times to choose from. It’s a half hour trip and costs about six euro for a return ticket.

It’s a small, sleepy town with just the right amount of shops and cafes. If you feel like grabbing a quick bite and sitting by the sea, there are several places that offer fish and chips for takeaway. If you have a a little more time, there are restaurants with beautiful seafood dishes where you can stop in for some tapas and a bottle of wine. The first time I went to Howth it started to rain so my friend and I went to a small restaurant and sat on a bench by the window and watched the rain meet the sea. I had an incredible seafood paella and enjoyed every warm moment before heading back out to walk to the lighthouse. Sometimes on my day off I take the train to Howth to just grab a coffee, go for a walk, and pick up some fresh cod to make for dinner. Bliss, I know.

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Seafood paella by the seaside

Even if the forecast calls for sunshine it can rain at the drop of a coin so I always go prepared — rain coat, toque, and umbrella. Rain or shine, Howth is beautiful and well worth the visit.

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It’s fun to grab some fish and chips and sit by the water when the sun’s out.
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This little birdy hung out with me while I ate my fish and chips 🙂
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Fisherman’s boat, sans fisherman.
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This is me in Howth.