From Ireland With Love | The Hungry Monk Cafe

If you ever get to visit the beautiful village of Cong in Co. Mayo, Ireland, you should definitely pop in to the Hungry Monk cafe for some gastronomical delights. The cafe is owned and run by husband and wife duo Aisling and Jon, two of the nicest people I have ever met. To me the Hungry Monk is more of a bistro than a cafe, the food they serve isn’t your run of the mill cafe food and the prices are not over the top. Aisling and Jon pride themselves on using fresh, locally sourced produce, which I love to see and the way they present the food, it’s almost too good to eat!


I was really lucky to work just around the corner from the Hungry Monk and I became a regular over the past few years, popping in for ‘the usual’ hot chocolate and latte. Their menu is mainly meat based with one or two items meat free. The last meal I had there was a mouthwatering ‘crustini’ with spiced tomatoes, cheese and green pesto, and a side salad. I’m not a fan of tomatoes but they were just delicious spiced. Aisling always likes to put her own twist on things and it works every time.



Of course you can’t do lunch without dessert. Every morning you’ll find fresh scones, plain, fruit or lemon and poppy seed; buttery croissants; cupcakes; cheesecake, etc. Of course I’ve sampled my fair share of their scrumptious pastries and desserts. Check out the banana and walnut cupcake and this berry cheesecake.



Aisling and Jon do a wonderful job running the cafe and the girls, Louise, Thirza and Amy bend over backwards to give excellent customer service. If you have any dietary requirements, Aisling, Jon and the girls would only be too happy to assist you in whatever you may need. The cafe opens Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm from March until November. So if you’re ever in Cong during the summer season, pop in, say hi and sample some of their delicious food.

Hungry Monk is situated on Abbey Street, Cong, Co. Mayo. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Marteen x

If you're ever in the west of Ireland, check out this wonderful cafe in Cong, Co. Mayo!

Feeling Homesick

I know it’s probably too early to make judgements and such when I’ve only been here a week and when I’m only in one little section of the country but I’d like to share my thoughts. Where I am in Victoria is just beautiful. There’s a harbour with all the boats and whale watching tours and First Nations artist along the causeway. The city is a little spread out but downtown is easy to get around. Victoria even has a China Town! But…it’s not home.

So I guess I’m homesick. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s only natural to be homesick and that it will subside. I should be excited but all I’ve felt is fear and dread. But that’s not a reflection on Canada. I hate the thought of not seeing my family and friends for two years and while I mentioned in my last post that emigrating isn’t like what it used to be with instant contact, it’s not the same though. I hate the thought of missing two Christmases. Even though I’m not in the least bit religious I love Christmas.

I was crying down the phone to my parents earlier in the week. I thought this was what I wanted. I thought I had to move abroad because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do. I thought I had to move abroad to learn about myself. Now I’m not so sure. This is a wonderful opportunity and I keep berating myself for feeling like this. I keep thinking why did I leave my job. Who leaves a job that they love for crying out loud?! A job that would allow you to travel a bit during the winter anyway.

I know you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy and that I shouldn’t give in so easily. Sometimes you think you want something and you have to experience it to realise that maybe you don’t. So I’ve actually found a temporary job for 6 weeks. This will give me to time to see how I feel. This was the whole point in coming out here to give it a try. In the mean time there’s lots of exploring to do! I’ll see how it goes ☺

Marteen x

I'm not long in Canada and I'm feeling homesick.



I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane…

The day has finally arrived. My move to Canada is here. As you’re reading this I’m already in the air and probably half way across the Atlantic. I’ve had a few doubts; I still have doubts but a wise person said to me recently that I need this adventure and not to falter so close to the finish line, I’d only regret it if I did. You know what? He’s right. I still can’t believe that I’m actually doing this.

So I said all my goodbyes this past month. I was dreading that part. I was so touched by my aunt’s and her partner’s efforts to throw me a surprise going away party, full of karaoke, lasers and the obligatory calling to the door of the police. Yes the police did call to my aunt’s house – awkward! But we didn’t let that stop us having fun. It’s been an emotional week saying my final goodbye to my closest friends and a job that I absolutely LOVE.

Of course it hasn’t helped that I watched Brooklyn last weekend. It broke my heart to see Eilis, amazingly portrayed by Soairse Ronan, having to leave Ireland for work and how homesick she was in America. There’s a strong history of emigration here in Ireland since the time of The Famine. I began thinking of the millions of Irish people who left these shores for a better life in America or England. All their hopes and dreams were tied up in one country.

They left because they had to, no prospect of work. Some would never see their families again, just letters to keep in contact. My own grandmother left at the age of 17 to England, although she left to chase after a boyfriend, but she still left. And she returned to Ireland many years later. She was terribly upset at the thought of me leaving and would constantly say to me that I might change my mind and not go. I reminded her how she went England and she exclaimed that it was different times. Yes it is different times, thankfully.

Gone are the days of people leaving and never coming back to visit family. Gone are the days where your only means of contact are letters that would take weeks to arrive. Air travel has come on in leaps and bounds with more routes and cheaper flights. We have so many options to keep in contact with our loved ones, and it’s instant. So while I used the word goodbye, it isn’t really goodbye. I will be keeping in contact with my loved ones through Viber, Facebook, and Skype. I’ll also be coming home, my cousin will be getting married in 2018 and she has asked me to sing for her wedding. There is no way I’m missing that.

So it’s not goodbye, just farewell for now ☺ Have you moved to a different country? How did you cope leaving your friends and family?

Marteen x

The day has come that I'm moving to Canada. Read my reflection of this milestone in my life.

Farewell Quiet Man

Well it’s the end of an era. Monday is my last day working in The Quiet Man Museum. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be finishing up and moving to Canada. I don’t know where the last three summers went to; time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve certainly had a blast tour guiding.


For those of you who don’t know the film, The Quiet Man was made in 1951, directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne and Maureen O’ Hara. The film tells the story of John Wayne’s character coming home to buy his ancestral home and falling in love with Maureen O’ Hara’s character in the process.


This quaint, romantic film was shot around the small village of Cong in Co. Mayo, Ireland. Little did the cast and crew know that they would be making one of the best all time films and that sixty-five years later it would have a cult following. It’s a film I’ve fallen in love with.


I’ve met some wonderful people and made some good friends along the way. Mateli Lopez (who has the biggest crush on John Wayne; she actually sends her husband out of the room if John Wayne is on TV so she can be on her own 😲) and Toss from Co. Cork (who threatened to send his wife to some slimming classes!) spring to mind. Mateli and I are Facebook friends now. All are Quiet Man Crazies in my eyes!


My most memorable moment was a proposal last summer. And no it wasn’t me who was proposed to. I gave a tour to two lovely couples. We arrived at the last stop of the tour where I like to re-enact one of the scenes from the film. I picked the younger couple to kiss and the gentleman from the mature couple to be the matchmaker.


I explained to them what was happening in the scene, made the matchmaker say his lines and told the young couple that I wanted to see the biggest kiss in cinema history. Next thing I know the young gentleman is down on one knee asking his girlfriend to marry him, she’s in hysterics and the mature couple and I are looking on in excitement and anticipation for her answer.

Thankfully she said yes. I had no idea that he had planned to propose to his girlfriend. He told me afterwards that he was going to pop the question inside the museum. In my opinion the way it turned out was much better. It couldn’t have been more perfect and I was so glad to have been apart of that special moment in their lives. That’s why I have no pictures of the moment.

I’m going to miss Gerry and Margaret, two of the nicest people I’ve ever worked for; Mary who worked in the gift shop with me, we had some laughs; all the CIE bus drivers/tour guides; the view from the museum entrance and of course Aisling, Jon, Louise and Thirza from the Hungry Monk, they do the best food and hot chocolate in town.


Marteen x

Reflecting on my time working in The Quiet Man museum.


My Canadian Wanderlust List

I can’t believe that it’s now two weeks until my move to Canada. It seems like only yesterday I was applying for the visa. Canada is such a big country to explore, that I hope to make the most of my time living there while honouring my values of slow and responsible travel and return (or not 😉) with some awesome stories and wonderful memories ☺

  • Visit the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.
  • View the Northern Lights at Yellowknife.
  • Explore the Canadian Rockies by train.
  • Visit Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
  • Visit Vancouver.
  • Hike the West Coast Trail.
  • Go whale watching around Vancouver Island.
  • Explore Victoria.
  • Explore Horne Lake Caves.
  • Learn to snowboard in Whistler.
  • Go on polar bear safari in Manitoba.
  • Visit Niagara Falls.
  • Visit Quebec.
  • Attend the Montreal Jazz Festival.
  • Visit Prince Edward Island National Park.
  • Spot icebergs in Newfoundland.

I’m so looking forward to this experience and crossing off what’s on the list. Although I understand that sometimes things don’t always go to plan but it’s nice to have a rough guide of what you’d like to experience in a new country. Do you live in Canada? Have you been to Canada before? What would you recommend as a must experience activity while in Canada?

Marteen x

Click to find out what's on my wanderlust list for Canada! If you have any recommendations of what to see and do there, let me know.

From Ireland With Love | Clare Island

Clare Island is 6 km off the west coast of Co. Mayo. Once the home of Gráinne Mhaol, the island boasts a rich cultural heritage that the islanders are extremely proud of. Whether you’re the adventurous type or want to switch off from it all, Clare Island has something for everyone.


My Day On Clare Island

I was looking forward to visiting the island as it was on my wanderlust list. Visiting Clare Island with my mother was a chance for us to spend some quality time together before leaving for Canada. We took the ferry over, which was an experience in and of itself. I felt quite dizzy crossing over and felt sick on the way back. It was like having constant butterflies with your head spinning. Thankfully I recovered quickly. I’m definitely a landlubber.

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Arriving on the island was magical. The first sight you see from the harbour is Gráinne Mhaol’s Castle. Gráinne Mhaol was chieftan of the Ó Máille clann during the 16th century. She was well-educated and was thought of by contemporaries as being exceptionally formidable and competent. Her castle is fine a example of a tower house.


The history nerd in me just couldn’t wait to have a closer look and explore. I tried to imagine what it must have been like back then. While walking around the island what struck me was the quietness. All you could hear were the birds singing, the sheep bleating and the sound of the ocean. There wasn’t even a gift shop in sight.


If I’m completely honest I was fully expecting the island to be thronged with visitors and tourists. But I was pleasantly surprised and delighted that it wasn’t a tourist trap. Apart from the few modern houses dotted around the rolling landscape and the telephone and electricity poles, the island is practically unspoiled. It’s like stepping back in time. The locals were so friendly, giving us a wave and a hello as we passed.


After browsing through the heritage centre and taking a leisurely stroll to the 12th century abbey, we were feeling peckish. 40 minutes later and we were entering the Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant. I tried the falafel burger with homemade chips (they left the potato skins on, yum!) and my mother had good old fish and chips. The service was second to none and the view of the ocean from our table was stunning.


We had an hour kill before taking the boat back, so we decided to head to the beach. There we just sat and chatted about the day we had. The beach was empty and the air smelled of salt. Looking out to sea the boats were bobbing in the waves waiting to set sail and the seagulls were screeching overhead.


How To Get There

There are many ferries to choose from to get you to the island. My recommendation would be O’ Malley Ferries. You can take the ferry from Roonagh Pier, which is 7.3 km outside of the village of Louisburgh. Tickets can be bought at their offices on the pier but if you book through their website you get a 10% discount. The crossing only takes 10 minutes. They claim it to be the fastest crossing.


What To See


What To Do


Where To Eat


I didn’t get a chance to explore the whole island. To walk the full loop of the island takes about 19 km. I would recommend a weekend on the island to experience everything it has to offer. And there is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Have you ever been to Clare Island? Let me know what you think of the island.

Marteen x

Join me on an adventure around the beautiful Clare Island off the west coast of Ireland

From Ireland With Love | Cliffs Of Moher Photo Essay

The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland are unique landscapes that everyone should experience at least once. The changeable weather shouldn’t stop you, just come prepared.

Have you been to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren? If so what did you think? Check back for my review of the tour with Galway Tour Company.

Marteen x

Join me on a tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren with my Cliffs of Moher Photo Essay