Monday 30 March 2015

Memories March: Safari & Feeding Giraffes

My most vivid memory from this experience has to be Pia posing for a photo holding the lettuce we would be feeding to the giraffe then, the giraffe leaning over her and gobbling it up. I really don't want this post to be too long seeming as these Memories March posts have been the longest uploads I have ever written. I'm trying not to be so boring so, (I'm sure I'm repeating myself here) I will try to keep it really short.

I can't really remember where about we did this but I do know it was in America, possibly Busch Gardens. We were in the back of the truck getting a tour of some of the animals there. We had lettuce in the front to feed the giraffes with. It was really cool because it felt like we were the ones in the cage and the giraffes were the ones looking at us. We had photos taken by a professional photographer and we got to view them at the end, I lost them though. Dammit. I do have some we took but there aren't nearly as good. I guess that's all your getting for now! View them below.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Memories March: Harry Potter

I wasn't too sure what to title this post. It is about both of my Harry Potter experiences combined, in Florida and in London. I think I will split it into two parts similar to how I sectioned my post about Sea World and Discovery Cove (click HERE). The first part will be about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando Florida and the Warna Bros Harry Potter Studios in London. My visits to the studios in London are a lot more recent so no doubt I will have greater recollection of that one. I love the Harry Potter books so much and was so grateful to be able to see all of this. 

Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour
This was focused mainly on how the films were made and the development of the props and costumes. You walk through each section looking at everything. You can get stamps for your own Harry Potter passport as you go through and there are hidden snitches to find. The film shown to you at the beginning of the tour gives you background information on the story and things, you got through the great hall and someone explains all about it. After that you can go through the rest of the displays at your own pace, it does take a while because everything is so interesting. When I went with my school, we were able to do a costumes workshop that wasn't available if you were to come individually. We were talked through what fabrics were used for which costume and even got to make some designs of own. Wand waving lessons were also available. There were outdoor and indoor areas and lots of photo opportunities. I think you could also buy butter bear. When I went with my family I got to ride a broomstick, the photo can still be seen on my twitter page. The exit left you in the gift shop which was full of all sorts of magical things.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The purpose of this place was more to replicate Hogsmeade where as in London there was Diagon Alley. It was a lot like a theme park with three rides (that I can remember). There was a Hippogriff ride which was like a slow roller coaster. On the Dragon Challenge ride there were two circuits: one for a Chinese Fireball dragon and one for the Hungarian Horntail dragon, the two roller coasters would race each other to finish. The other ride I can remember was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You would enter through the castle and the portraits on the wall would talk to you, explaining what was going on. I'm not sure if I remember this right but I think it was about Harry, Ron and Hermione wanted to avoid a History of Magic lessons with their invisibility cloak. The ride itself wasn't particularly fast but it was fun. You meet Hagrid who says "Have any of yer seen my dragon?" whilst holding empty chains. You even come face to face with Aragog who sprays water at you through his pincers. It's at that stage you have your photo taken, I can remember Pia looking terrified. 

Pia went into Olivander's. The queue was so long and she said it wasn't that great. In Fred and George's shop Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, I was tempted to buy some Extendable Ears but it would have taken up all of my spending money for the whole holiday. We also tried pumpkin juice. The packaging of it was so cool, I still have the little pumpkin that was attached to the lid. I'm pretty sure it was the water bottle I took to school for a while.

Friday 27 March 2015

Memories March: Snowboarding in the Alps

On the scale of things, this holiday was actually pretty recent. We left for the Alps on boxing day 2013 and stayed for new years eve and later. I remember writing down my new years resolutions for 2014 sitting in a hotel bathroom somewhere near to the french end of the Euro Tunnel. It took us a while to drive from our house to  Alps and as we neared the site, the roads got really, really steep with sharp turns and I was a little nervous that we would all topple over the edge. Because you obviously can't drive up a mountain head-on, we were driving left, then right, then left etc. with our heads swiveling around to try and get glimpses of the view between the branches of trees.

I loved this so much, I think snowboarding is my favourite sport. The location consisted of the houses and little apartments people stayed in, a town with shops, rental and equipment hire, a super market, reception and finally, cable cars that went up the the snowboarding and skiing area. Our place was conveniently next to the cable cars. All of the apartments looked really similar, with sliding glass door that lead out to a little porch and a waist high garden of snow (no exaggeration), so when me, my sisters and Sadie Dog all went out to build snowmen and sledge Sadie would wait outside the wrong door to be let in. Such fun, us lot racing down the hill and Sadie galloping along behind us, her ears flapping behind her. It was cute because she had her special doggy coat. 

Where the cable cars lead to was the beginners slope, slopes are rated in colours based on difficulty. There was a restaurant where they served chips and hot chocolate. I think it saved my life. The ski-lift is called a 'ski'-lift for a reason; it is a hell of a lot harder on a snowboard. The lift sort of ran along the edge of a huge drop, I nearly fell off the mountain twice! Whilst me and Iona were going up on the ski lift, all of a sudden it became really foggy. I couldn't see my feet and I thought my eyes had gone funny. Luckily when we got to the top, there was a brass band playing near the restaurant. We sort of shuffled towards it wary of any skiers that may come pelting towards us. 

We had lessons together as a family. We'd done Snowboarding before and we told him that. Only thing is, it had been a while. Our instructor had a french accent and he sort of got us altogether ans said "okay! just follow me down!". He got about half-way down the slope before seeing us all sort of tumbling down the hill on our backsides, he turned around, looked at us all and merely said "Oh", before promptly hopping back up the hill both feet still secured on his board. For the rest of our lessons every time we started he'd say "Allez! Let's go!" and we would all set off.

As Pia makes it tradition to go to hospital in every country we visit, she broke her arm. We have this joke that Pia goes on tour of all the hospitals. This is how it happened: Me, Pia, Iona were preparing to go down the slope. Iona went first promising to wait a the bottom and we could get the ski-lift together. Me and Pia went next. Quite a while down the slope Pia landed badly with her arm twisted weirdly under her board. I then have to disconnect both of us from our snowboards, carry both of them back up to the beginning , leave Pia there for a second, snowboard back down again, greet a worried looking Iona and take her up with me on the ski-lift. It was so eventful. Pia got back from hospital  late that night with a suspicious, home made looking cast that looked a bit like it was made from papier-mâché. Our instuctor signed it the next day. 

Iona the snowboarding queen
Videos of this holiday can be seen on my Instagram (@keatingmary_)

Thursday 26 March 2015

Memories March: New York

Wow. This is a hard one to begin. As all the Memories March's so far have been really, really long, I will try my best to keep this one really short. I don't want to bore anyone! When our taxi pulled up outside the hotel we were going to be staying in, we all sort of looked sideways at each other. There were posters peeling of the walls and scaffolding up the sides of the grimy looking building. It basically looked like we had pitched up outside some kind of drug den. But it was okay, we had stayed in worse places on our adventures and, after all, this was New York! It was going to be worth it anyway! As it transpired, the inside of our room was actually really nice. It had its own style. It was a fairly big room, painted pale purple with a wooden, four poster bed in the middle. There were no curtains hanging from it, it just contributed to the over all funky looking theme it had going on. 

I think it was on the first day that we had an explore. We crossed Brooklyn bridge on that day. I recall spending a lot of time in whole foods and meeting a lot of very friendly people. Everyone was so talkative which made us feel really welcome. At some point we went on a boat past the Statue of Liberty, went up a building called Top of the Rock where, you were able to get a great view of Central Park and the Empire State Building all in one. We also became very familiar with the shops, especially Macy's. This may appear a really strange thing to remember but, in Victoria's Secret in the changing rooms, every two minuets a lady would knock on the door, making you jump, and ask "Everything Okay Ma'am?". You'd have to answer with your head stuck half in and half out of the outfit you were trying to try on. 

Times Square wasn't as brightly lit as the movies make out but, then again, I was only able to see it in day time. There was a big screen though that was really cool. It was like a camera you could see yourself and the rest of the zoomed out view of the square on, and every five minuets it would zoom in on some people and they'd wave at the screen. It was so much fun. I wanted to stay longer so that we could have a go at waving. We got to see where twin towers once stood and look inside a memorial church place opposite the site. I didn't really understand as well at the time what it was all about.

New York was a really special place, unfortunately I bought a really embarrassing deer hat there (I thought I looked great at the time) so I can't really include so many photos of me, or at least I can't without cringing. Typically me, to go to the coolest place in the world and humiliate myself.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Memories March: Our House was a Zoo

Obviously it wasn't a proper zoo but, it was close enough. Maybe it was more like a farm. I have so many happy memories of it being summer and all these animals were roaming free around our garden. I think it gave me the best child hood ever to have owned chickens and ducks, a turkey and peacocks. It was especially amazing on Pia's party every summer. We don't really do this anymore but, it was so good. As Pia's birthday was in December when it is way too cold out, we'd celebrate it in the summer. We would have a barbecue and all our friends and parents of friends would come round; it would be a big garden party. The turkey I mentioned earlier would sit on the feet of the people around the table, convinced it too was a human. He was referred to either as Billy-no-mates or Billy-Christmas. Just like to point out we didn't actually eat our own pet for Christmas dinner! 

The cutest thing ever was when we looked after the smaller lambs from nearby farms, runts I think they were called. We had lambs two years running. On the first year we had a white one called Evie Baa. When we went away for a weekend, our next door neighbours (Caitlin, Ciaron and Connall) looked after her. They had a house rabbit and the lamb and the rabbit were good friends and slept side by side. They were the sweetest pair. The second year we had three and kind of adopted one each. My lamb had black wool and was called Zac, Pia's had white wool with little black woolly feet, it was called Ruby and Iona's lamb was entirely white coloured and was called Rainbow. Too cute! They would all live in the shed outdoors even though we treated them more like dogs than farm animals. We fed them milk out of  tiny baby bottles and when friends came over we would make obstacle courses and races for them. I am trying to convince my mum to let me look after another lamb soon. I think we missed spring-time this year but there's always next year!

Peacocks resided in the tree above the shed. I can't remember if we owned peacocks at the same time as we had lambs though, it could have been at separate times. The peacocks were beautiful. I still have the feathers that dropped out of their tails in my room. I honestly had the greatest time when I was little, I mean, who has peacocks in their back garden? I just wish I had more photos to include. I'll add to this post if I find more. We owned chickens and ducks many years running although unfortunately not anymore. Pia even had an up and running business selling chicken and duck eggs to to the parents at primary school! I can remember one duck had an injured leg and it couldn't keep up with the others, instead it made friends with the big white rabbit that we kept in the same area. They would sit behind the feed store all day together. One time a duck from the pond near to our house followed us home. It was clear that it was not wild and had been abandoned there so, we kept it. I used to have to climb into the chicken pen to put them all in their little house for the night. Me and my mum went out every night in our dressing gowns and wellies to go and do it. There was big excitement one morning when we discovered a little mouse trapped inside the feed store. All of my sisters spend a good thirty minuets looking at it and we were all late for school. Sometimes the chickens would be allowed to roam free around the garden. You can imagine it now: Pia's party with family and friends over and chickens, ducks, peacocks, a turkey and lambs on the loose -  not to mention the inflatable pool and little bouncy castle we had up. Such fun times.

Another thing that made us late for school was definitely worth it. We had been keeping chicken eggs in an incubator for a while and one morning they started to hatch. We were running in and out of the room between eggs hatching to find stray socks and get dressed. It was incredible watching baby chicks hatch out of their shell. At our primary school which we were currently attending, a friend (and farmer) that we knew let the youngest class look after baby chicks so they could learn about growing or something. The school didn't know but when those chicks were going to be collected, they would be going to our house for us to look after. We had to keep it a secret. And then there was the time we kept baby ducklings in the bathroom. Yet another cute thing. We kept them in a cardboard box with curved edges. Cute as they were, they stank so badly that they had to be cleaned out twice a day. Every now and again we would put them in the bath tub where they'd swim. 

That last paragraph just triggered loads of other things I thought I had forgotten. I think we may have also raised some chicks in a big box in the study. I remember me and my sisters naming them, not quite sure which were female and male. As they grew up, it turned out we had called the manly cockerel of the lot 'Lilly-Rose-Petal'. I don't know for sure but, the peacocks we owned we may actually have had since chicks and been looked after by a broody hen. I can't really remember. One time an adult peacock escaped into the nearby high school field. The head teacher had to get some of the boys to catch and return it. I currently attend that school now and I'm not sure if I'm glad that, that head teacher left... 

I think that's just about all! Sorry, I thought this post would end up being a short one. 

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Memories March: Sea World & Discovery Cove

Since I promised on Twitter that I would make up for the time that I haven't been able to blog, I have uploaded again today. I probably will do every day until the end of this month, just so I can try and squeeze in some extra posts that you'd otherwise miss out on. Today I decided to blog about two adventures: Sea World and Discovery Cove. This post will be split into two sections to say a little bit about each thing that happened. Don't expect all of my 'Memories March' posts to be as long as they have been so far; I doubt I will be able to keep it up much longer.

Sea World

Like Discovery Cove, this was located somewhere in America. I am aware that 'amazing' is probably an over used word on this site but, trust me, sometimes there is no over way to describe some of the experiences I write about. Sea World was amazing. As ever, to see any of the pictures in more detail just click on it and it will enlarge.

The shows put on at Sea World were so much fun to watch. There we shows where Shamu, the killer whale, would jump out of the water and splash the crowd, there was a Seal Show on a set up pirate ship and seals acted out some of the characters and there was a bird show where tropical birds would fly out over the crowds. It was great! Sea World had roller coasters that were so fun, it was at Sea World where I persuaded Pia to go on her first roller coaster ever. The best part was the sting rays swimming in circles in a shallow pool. You could stroke their backs as they went by or buy some stingray food and feed it to them. You'd hold your hand out under the water and a stingray would come along and nibble it off. If you ordered a kids dessert in one of the restaurants, you got it in a little plastic Shamu bowl which I am pretty sure I still have. Whilst there we also got the opportunity to stroke and meet penguins and sharks and saw a Polar Bear. Someone take me back!

Discovery Cove
Surprisingly, I don't have that many memories of Discovery Cove, a lot of them are triggered by the (millions of) photos below, and all of them are good. It was such a good place. Funky-looking birds just roamed free, there were stingrays swimming in the same swimming pool as you and a sand beach as well. I think I even got to hold a bird! I don't recall this but, Pia said I was scared of it which you can definitely see in the picture. At this place Pia swam with a dolphin and there's a sweet picture of her kissing a dolphin. I haven't included it because I can't find it (but if I do I promise I'll update this). The water slide was a bit like a pathway of water you could follow under bridges with animals at the sides and through water falls. There was also one where you could glide through on a rubber ring. It was so much fun! We had to wear dolphin-friendly sun cream.


update: I feel after reading a few of your comments on google+ that I need to point out that I believe that sometimes it is best for dolphins to belong in the wild. I am not going to lie; I did think that Sea World and Discovery Cove were really fun experiences. However once, when I was in Croatia, I saw a dolphin jumping through the waves really close to me and it truly was the most incredibly thing ever. I know I write about all of the great times we have on here but, I don't think any moment compared with my amazement at that point. I can remember the way I felt so vividly. It was a brief experience but it was so close I could touch it and everyone ran along the beach as it swam.  

If you would like to help the dolphins in captivity and to find out more information, go to:
It is so easy for you to help, just add your name to the petition.