Why I can’t wait to go to the Belfast Christmas Market

merry christmas garlicThe lights went on across Ireland several weekends ago signalling the start of the festive season. Is it just me or does Christmas seems to be coming earlier every year? Every night I arrive home to more and more seasonal lights adorning my neighbour’s houses. And then there’s me. No lights. Not even a tree. Although it is only the first day of December, I feel as though I am very behind at Christmas even though the best of the season is still before us all.

With the fate of my Christmas tree hanging in the balance due to some Christmas Day travel this year, one thing remains absolutely certain: it’s time for my annual pilgrimage to the Continental Christmas Market in Belfast.

belfast christmas market

This market has set the Christmas Markets standard for me. Every year the green in front of gorgeous city hall plays host to a quaint village of wooden huts. Each selling a different and exciting treat or curiosity. Although it doesn’t change much year after year this market is consistently beautifully presented and complete with all the seasonal vibe you’re looking for. As you can imagine, I was super excited to hear that this year it has expanded to include 20 additional stalls outside the front of the market. The seasonal fervour must be building!

A trip to the market is not cheap – never cheap. Sometimes it is just best to do a calculated slow loop, looking at everything and then pick up a snack. Snack? I hear myself saying. The tasty treats on offer accounts for about 90% of the reason I am so excited for this year’s market. Check out the Progressive Dinner Menu at the end of this post!

As if I hadn’t said enough already, here is why we cannot wait for the Belfast Christmas Market!

Tiny pancakes

Tiny pancakes are an Ennis Family tradition dating back to 2012. The only time we have not had Belfast Christmas Market tiny pancakes has been when we were living between Manila and Auckland. But I spent a lot of time thinking about them in their absence.

Tiny pancakes have a name – pofitjes. They are of dutch origin and they are to die for. Served piled high on a paper plate, dusted with icing sugar and coated in at least two of your choice of toppings. Good job we took a picture – they didn’t last long!

tiny pancakes belfast christmas market

Predatory meats

You can find almost the entire tri-nations in burger form. I’m serious. Kangaroo. Impala. The world meats you can get here are notorious. Wouldn’t you love to say you’ve eaten an Alligator? That would soar you right to the top of the food chain! Aside from burgers, there are plenty of other things to eat. Huge sausages (as opposed to tiny pancakes) seem to be really popular every year. They come in ‘eat me now’ and ‘take me home’ varieties. My mouth is watering…

sausages christmas market stall belfast

So many kinds of fudge

Are you picking up on my food theme? Basically, Tiernan follows me stall to stall as I drool. That’s our entire market experience. There are several stalls offering fudge and nougat in all the flavours imaginable. They’re even better than the Berty Bott’s Every Flavour Beans from Harry Potter because they have only the good flavours – but ALL the flavours.

fudge belfast christmas market

I also saw a stall selling giant chocolate kisses. The bullet shaped delights boast a similar plethora of flavours. I can’t believe I managed to walk away out of there alive.

Beard care

When I am stuck for gift ideas I always end up going to the quirky. Bird feeders have been an attraction for me in past years. They make a mean bird feeder in Belfast. Sometimes it’s worth delving deeper into the market to find something unique. Ceramic garlic grating dishes, figures made or metal, or the gift I got for Tiernan – BEARD BALM. Although the photo I took was of the Beard Oil…

beard oil belfast beard company

For all those bearded men out there The Belfast Beard Company has a stall dedicated to caring for the beard. They even sell beard baubles – now too cool to be hipster. All of their scents are named after some extremely Belfast phrase. We chose a balm scent called craic. Delicious.

So much soap

When you’re a Belfast Christmas Market regular you really start to pick up on the trends. You know there is going to be a soap stall. Normally Belfast Soap Company (see a theme) but they sadly closed their doors earlier in the year. I’m not sure who the replacement will be, but there will definitely be soap at this year’s market.

lavendar belfast christmas market

I love a bit of soap, myself, but am not a big user of the traditional bar. It’s the smell of them that I like. Is that weird? The relaxing power of lavender, my friends, it’s a real thing!

Official Christmas Market Progressive Dinner

The best way, in my humble opinion (heh), to get the most out of this market is to do a progressive dinner. Start with some sides or snacks then make your way around the market in search of the next course. Here are some of our top suggestions:

Sides: Consider some pommes frites from one of the sausage dealers, some sweet potato fries, or even a small serving of muscles.

Mains: Of course there is pizza and those huge European sausages in bread. But what you really need is one of those strange meats in a burger. Maybe a bit of paella (which doesn’t exactly go at all – but who cares, right?). Definitely bring some friends. Buy options and share a bit of each.

Wash it down: the mulled wine stall will be back. You can also find gourmet hot chocolate to inspire you on towards dessert. Did you know the market has two pubs? Because it does. Lavery’s has a traditional Irish pop-up pub right across the footpath from a continental style beer hall.

Dessert: Everyone struggles at this part. There are too many options! Crepes with almost any topping imaginable, churros with Nutella or my favourite, TINY PANCAKES (get in me).

To take home: Get a bag of that fudge or wrap up a chocolate kiss to take home for later!

Where would you say are the world’s best Christmas Markets? Tip me off in the comments. Also please let me know how you’ve liked this inaugural post of Celt & Kiwi!

Belfast Christmas Market will run until 6pm on Thursday 22nd December 2016. For full hours, see the Belfast City Council Website.

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My Travel Bucket List for 2017

On the way to IKEA on Monday I threatened Tiernan with the prospect of planning our holidays for next year. I usually have a fair idea by now of what travel the following year will hold. Until recently I haven’t managed to think any further than December; when we depart on our 8 week holiday to New Zealand. Whoop!

Tonight, after writing my 1700 words for NaNoWriMo and after watching an episode of The Crown (which is OMG), I sat quietly for a bit and thought about the things I would like to do next year. There are a great many places I would like to go in general (salute). But this is the list of what I think I could manage next year… maybe.

So, here is my trip wishlist for 2017. Some are planned, some are pre-planned and some are just all-things-going-well hopes. I decided to do something different and split them into my top five long hauls and top five city breaks.

Top Five Long Hauls for 2017

1. New Zealand

I’m putting this one in because it’s the only one I know is definitely going to happen! We’re going on an extended holiday to finally do all those backyard things I never did when I lived in New Zealand. It’s going to include many instances of camping, hiking and even an overnight kayak. Unless you already live in New Zealand, be prepared for some serious trip envy!

2. Norway

This would be a Northern Lights adventure sometime around November. Tiernan and I have wanted to do a trip like this for some time. We considered Iceland or the north of Canada but Norway seems like the place to go. It would be a real investment in an experience, though. So we shall see if that comes to pass.

3. New York City to Orlando, USA Roadtrip

Another big dream that will probably end up smaller – if we manage to do it at all. This trip may end up being and NYC city break. Although I would also settle for a trip to the US deep south. My fantasy is a months-long road trip around the whole of the States. Realistically, it will probably get chopped up into legs to be tackled one at a time.

4. Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

Ok, maybe this is reaching a little too far. I don’t think this one will happen next year, but it would be cool if it did! I actually saw this in my Facebook ads feed (because Google is watching me). Fortunately my ads are really we geared towards me – so Gorilla trekking is on the list!

5. Petra, Jordan

A real bucket list destination! Everyone has to see this wonder once, right? The only thing putting me off is that it must be on everyone else’s bucket list, too. And therefore crawling with tourists. So maybe not…

Top Five City Breaks for 2017

1. Bruges

Bruges is the storybook town I have always wanted to see in person. Probably the most bucket-listy thing on my bucket-list. This is one town that had been on the list for a very long time. Perhaps it’s time to tick it off?

2. Prague

I mean, of course.

3. Athens

Ever since my camera broke at Delphi, I have wanted to go back to Athens on a nice day and spend it photographing ruins. Although I have been there before the memories are so hazy and unsupported by photos that I may as well have stayed home!

4. Copenhagen

You know, I can’t remember why Tiernan and I said we would go here. After out France-Italy road trip in 2013, I began planning one through Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. It never eventuated, but I clearly remember us both wanting to go to Copenhagen. So maybe 2017 is the year?

5. Valencia

My friend Brigette’s idea. Would be neat to get to go for Las Fallas fire festival! At the very least it will be a chance to eat paella. Mmm…

Where are you off to next year? Or where would you like to go?

Goodbye Halloween! It’s the end of the year already?

I cannot believe how fast this year is going! It’s really gotten away from me. Somehow Halloween has been and gone. Only a couple of local munchkins knocked on our door this year. So I still have a full back of dairy milk chocolates in the cupboard if anyone wants to come over…

Next thing you know Santa Radio will be blaring, I’ll have Fairytale of New York on repeat and I’ll be finding out just how much Ed will hate our Christmas Tree (I’m predicting – a lot).

But back to Halloween. The Halloween Break is not a holiday in the North as it is in the South, but with the wedding season still upon me (personally), I got to avail of some further days off that happened to coincide with the haunting season.

Tiernan and I were invited to a Halloween wedding! The dress code was black and the attention to detail, unbelievable. If you’re going to do a Halloween wedding you have to go all out, right?

img_7497

Heres a picture of us in our black. Taken by our friend Ash!

So the cat went back to the cat hotel (for the second time this month) and I drove down to the same hotel Tiernan and I had our Irish wedding in. This wedding was a lot bigger than our so it wasn’t in the Old House but in the massive ballroom at the other end of the complex.

I collected Tiernan in Dublin and we headed for Naas, arriving just after lunch the day before the wedding. I had the great idea to book a spa treatment at the hotel with the idea of spending the day relaxing before checking into the hotel. An hour of hydrotherapy – which basically means warm water and being pummelled by jets and – was followed by the longest massage I have ever had! An hour and a half of exfoliating (the lady told me I had really smooth skin and I was like “thanks, you did it”), rubbing me with bamboo and oils and I know not what else. I think I even fell asleep at one point. It was the best. Meanwhile, Tiernan went to the bar and started on pints.

At half four I slunk out of the spa very reluctantly and Tiernan and I went to check in. We had to queue for ages before getting to the desk. Then, when we said our names, the lady said there was no booking for us. They took a lot of responsibility, checking other names and stuff, but then I realized. I had originally booked the hotel for the nights of Halloween – the 30th and the 31st. I had forgotten to change it to the 29th and 30th (for some reason the couple weren’t able to have the wedding on the 31st). With another wedding that day there were no last minute rooms available and we had to slink back to Dublin for the night.

Tiernan managed to console me with a huge steak for Cafe 31 in Cabinteely (a favourite restaurant of ours) and a long Pokemon hunt on Dun Laoghaire pier. But it was not a hotel stay. It was OK in the end, though. We simply went back the next day, pre-dressed in out black best, and checked in then. We always have a wedding drama story and this one was a cracker.

That is all the weddings and special holidays completed until after Christmas now. I feel a little sad. Perhaps I can look forward to the Christmas Dinner for work (that I still haven’t put my dues in for – what’s the bet I’ll miss my space on that, too?). AND next week we are going to buy a sofa that turns into a bed and then all the major items of furniture will be complete. Swiftly to be followed by that house video. I feel like that’s a major milestone for me. A furnished house.

Anything coming up for you guys before Christmas?

Response: 7 Reasons Why Enjoy Living in Ireland

7 reasons cover

I’m sick of not knowing what to write about. I feel I have done nothing but write for the last two weeks, but not one of those nasty paper squiggles has turned itself into a blog post. For the land of faeries, the writing faerie sure isn’t pulling its weight. And it’s driving me mental. My holidays are nearly over, I have barely stirred outside for two weeks, and I haven’t achieved a single thing on my project ‘to-do’ list (I’m looking at you, wedding photo album). Hopefully, that makes those readers who think my Instagram feed is heaps inspirational feel better about themselves 😀

So this evening, despite being in the middle of another project, I decided I’d had enough of this blog sitting around all sans post and went to get some response post inspiration from Anne over at, Nearly Irish.  She really is such a source of joy for me and always has some delightful, expat-themed posts that make me think ‘Yup, that’s me.’

Earlier in the week, Anne posted about her 7 Reasons Why I Enjoy Living in Ireland. As usual, a bit of banter has grown up in the comment section, but I thought to myself, ‘Hey, why not do a response post.’ Wow, that’s two reflexive thoughts already!

Maybe I’m just procrastinating, but here we go – Rachel’s 7 Reasons Why I Enjoy Living in Ireland.

1. Being in Europe
Many antipodean migrants will say that one of the things they love about living in the UK and Ireland is being so close to so many diverse and interesting places. Australia is (still) 3 hours away from New Zealand and we’re so similar to each other (aside from some bizarre slang) that it never really felt like going anywhere to me. It just felt like visiting another town only the folk there talk funny. That said, despite being outrageously close to all these countries, I’ve scarcely visited any. Maybe next year.

2. The Isolation
Oh, the irony! So close to all these places and the thing I think of enjoying is the isolation! I don’t mind spending extended periods of time in my own company. Living in Ireland is pretty poetic for me, tucked up in a lough-side town, writing stuff, painting stuff and pretending I’m a great philosopher.

3. Work
As much as I want to be able to fund myself as a creative someday (unlikely) I have the great joy of working in a place that is amazing with people who are super cool and caring. I could spew paragraphs from my expounding plank about how nice it is to work in an environment where, although mental, your buddies will be there to work through it with you. Fair to say, if I didn’t have this job, we would not be living in the Province.

mount stewart

4. Old Stuff
This is a fairly terrible headline for such an awesome topic, but I love the depth and breadth of Irish history. It kind of tacks on weirdly to point 3 since I work in a place that is quintessentially ‘old stuff’ at its finest. Jesting aside. I remember sitting in a post-grad anthropology lecture and learning about the bog bodies I only got to visit in person by coming to Ireland. Seeing them, in all their mangled glory, really helped me connect that those words and graphics on a slide were someone. And that their life and experience has helped build the modern world. One peat bog at a time. For better or worse.

5. Adventures
I mentioned I hadn’t gotten across to Europe that much, but I do love the adventures I do have in Ireland. That’s not to say I couldn’t have adventures back in New Zealand (a short walk to Mordor, say), but there is inspiration around every corner here. I mean, hello…

dingle ireland

6. Going for pints!
Personally, I don’t drink, but I do like going to the pub for a coke and some chips while Tiernan has a pint. This is a tradition that we took back with us to New Zealand. Tiernan ended up getting a job at our local back in Auckland. Whereas I didn’t really go out for quiet drinks when I lived there myself. Just some pints and a match on the tv, maybe some trad or some local artist playing and every variety of chip one can imagine. In fact… I’m going RIGHT NOW!

7. This Sunset

Ed the Cat’s Baby Album

We’re at the pet stage. We’ve reached that point.

A few months ago I posted about how I found a kitten at work and took it home. That cat is Ed and he is one of a crisis of feral cats in Ireland. But this post is not about that. This post is where I share his limited baby photos from the last four months.

When I brought Ed home in June he was about 6 weeks old. Really too small to leave his mother and siblings but circumstances meant the kittens needed to be removed as quickly as we could catch them. So getting Ed was not like buying a kitten or even getting one that had been fostered. We had a baby feral cat who was too scared to come out from his covers except to eat.

baby ed kitten

To keep him safe and calm, we made him a nest inside of a puppy cage. Ed lived in the corner of the sitting room so he could get used to us coming and going.

It was a couple of weeks before he started sleeping on top of his blankets. Fortunately, at the same time, we moved to our new home. This home was super kitten friendly and entirely devoid of furniture. We started to see more of Ed.

ed chair kitten

Taming Ed was quite difficult. We had a couple of really scratchy, bitey, spitty months and I wasn’t sure if he would ever be a good boy! I had to really grow a pair while he was small to encourage him to be handleable. With treats to hand I spent a small amount of time everyday training him to associate hands with nice things.

This was a really good decision because I was getting sad about how fast he was growing! And that he was unphotographable (due to being hidden under blankets). I wanted to take some photos of Eddie and me for scale. My brother Jack got behind the lens and we managed to keep Ed from wriggling just long enough to get a couple of good ones. Next week will hopefully be the week for the reshoot!

ed kitten and rachel in ireland

ed kitten and rachel in ireland

Inevitably we had to start acquiring furniture. Getting a sofa didn’t help the training process because Ed decided that (after napping on it) he would rip it to shreds. We had some intensive scratching redirection to go through. The sofa now has cat scratcher corners which has solved that problem – even if the corners are already totalled. Thank goodness for cheap IKEA furniture.

ed kitten sofa

He also went through a phase of wanting to be fruit.

ed fruit bowl cat

But the softly, softly approach seems to have worked out. Some time during the Olympics, Ed decided he quite liked being a lap cat!

ed olympics kitten

Nowadays Ed doesn’t claw me at all (although he loves the taste of Tiernan). Everyday when I come home from work he is sitting in the window, watching the world. Then he spends the rest of the evening lounging about behind me on the sofa, watching whatever I am watching on TV – at the moment it’s Gilmore Girls.

ed sofa cat

And the Stockholm Syndrome is complete!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the album – I’ll try to stay in touch! I am going to do a video counterpart next week. I wanted to do it in a now kind of way but I’m sick. I has the cold. And not the sexy, husky kind. The tears, the porridge and the no one is putting a camera within five feet of me kind of cold.

Rachel x

When I share photos of the Edster on Instagram, look for the hastag #EddieandMe I love Instagram. I love looking at other people’s travel photos mostly. They make me so mad and happy at the same time (which Tiernan would say is a normal day for me).

Tiernan’s Two Minute Ireland and Rachel’s Shame!

Hello, everyone!

Tiernan has picked up the slack for me this month! The last few months at work have been really busy. It’s been a great summer and the event schedule has been mad.  The discipline to come home from work and do something other than watch Gilmore Girls has complete escaped me.

Fortunately, Tiernan has been around Ireland with groups and has filmed some short and sweet, but interesting little videos for our YouTube channel – just to tide you over while I recollect my marbles!

My personal fave is today’s video of King John’s Castle in Limerick.

Tiernan has made three little insights into the life of a tour guide in Ireland. Hopefully a good indication of more to come? Huh, Tiernan? Head over to YouTube to check those out. But only if, you know, you want to.

What’s to come? 

I am determined not to stop writing stuff and filming stuff altogether.

For October we have:

  • Our Kitten Update to follow on from the June post
  • A new house tour video
  • More from Killarney
  • A trip to Waterford
  • Plenty of things to do in County Down
  • and… maybe… a little brother Jack update if we can work out A. how to film it and B. I ask him to do it.

Apologies and much love. I’m off to eat ice cream out of the tub!

Rachel x

Belfast Cost of Living Update

*** THIS POST HAS BEEN MOVED! Head over to Celt & Kiwi to read it in full***


For a while we were operating out of two houses; aptly known as the ‘Belfast House’ and ‘My House’. We have finally and completely moved out of Belfast, into a smaller house in a small town, and no one thinks we own a townhouse and a country estate anymore.

After two years in Belfast, I have now put my little brother on a plane back to New Zealand and am able to wrap up our time with one of my favourite post-types – a Living Cost Wrap Up! The Philippines (Makati) version has proved popular and I have been waiting with bated breath to revisit the numbers!

I love sharing these costs with prospective travellers. It’s hard to know what moving to a new city and country is going to cost you, so I decided to share my actual cost of living with the internet in hopes of helping other prospective migrants plan! This is probably going to be a window into my soul for the people in the North who know me. Don’t judge me by my junk food!

I would like to think we are average kind of folk, Tiernan, Jack and I. Not too extravagant, but not really frugal either. We like to eat, we like to use the internet (of course), and we rely on our phones (well, two of us do). Could you do this cheaper? Probably. Would we have done it? Nup.

Be aware, these prices are correct as of Sept 2016 and I since they represent my real living cost from 2014-2016, they will not get updated later on.

Let’s dive in!

Rent

Rent (monthly spend): £525
We lived in a two-bedroom, two-reception room mid terrace house in BT9. Approximately 30 minutes walk out of Belfast City Centre, on the Metro 9 bus route, and in the midst of the upper Lisburn Road shops.

Looking for the rest? This post has been moved to our new website – Celt & Kiwi. Head there now!