Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A Weekend In Belfast: What to see, eat and do

Recently I took a trip up North to Belfast for the first time in 20+ years. The first time I visited I was only a baba and all I can remember is the Disney shop and my Pocahontas bag as my purchase. This time however I wanted to make sure I would remember more than that and get to learn about the history of the city.

How to get there

Myself and my mam travelled to Belfast via Dublin coach. We got a fantastic deal online at €10 return each and we were up there in the comfort of the non stop bus in just over two hours. I would highly recommend travelling with Dublin coach and making use of their amazing online deals while you can! The train would have been so much more expensive, so we were delighted to find this deal. You can book the fantastic deal on their website here 

Where to stay 

My mum chose the Europa hotel as it was where we stayed on my first visit to Belfast twenty years previous and she had great memories of the place. Upon arriving we discovered we had been upgraded to an executive suite and they had a lovely welcome plate waiting for us. This was one of the best welcomes to a hotel I've ever experienced and it was such a nice touch! 


The beds were so comfortable, rooms had a great view of the city and they had bathrobes and slippers also which is a nice touch. They also had the cutest little rubber duckie by the bath which was a lovely quirky touch. 

Breakfast was great each morning - you could order omelettes or opt for a full "english" or even try Bushmills whiskey on your porridge... which you can see on my Instagram account here

What to do 

We were on a highly planned itinerary (thanks Mam!) this meant that we got to make the most out of our weekend in Belfast and felt like we were away for much longer due to the amount we saw and did.

Once we had settled our bags in our room and had a quick change we hopped into the Black Taxi tours cab which picked us up from right outside our hotel. You can organise them yourselves or have the hotel organise it for a tiny extra charge which we were happy to pay. 

If you are visiting Belfast I highly recommend that you book one of these tours. They are so worth it and you get to see so much of the city and have the cities history and the Troubles explained to you. We were brought to the Shankill and the Falls areas which would still be quite divided today which is evident as you drive through them. We got to hop out and see all the murals up close while the taxi driver explained a bit more to us about the areas. 


Our driver brought us to the Peace wall also which is dividing these two areas for longer than the Berlin Wall has been standing. That fact shocked me and surprised me to hear how the gates between these two communities have to be locked at a certain time each night as there is still trouble feared between them. 


We got to sign the peace wall and read some of the quotes and words left by various world leaders on it.


That night we also decided to take in a show at the Lyric Theatre. We got to see the show The Ladykillers and I would highly recommend it. It is an all female cast and is very funny - however it is a little on the long side at three hours! Have a look at what's on here on their website

On our walk back from the theatre we passed Queens University which is well worth a look around; it looks like Hogwarts!

We also of course felt like we had to go and do the Titanic experience. I actually WOULDN'T recommend it. I don't think it was worth the ticket price.What you are better off doing is going to the boat that is on the outside across the road and doing the self-guided tour inside there. It's a lot less expensive, not as busy and crowded and it still gives you the same information. 

Where to eat 

Both nights we chose Italian restaurants as funnily enough they were the two restaurants recommended to us. Coppi and Fratelli's were both delicious restaurants to eat in with quick service and friendly staff so definitely give either of the a go if you are in the city and fancy Italian food. 

I ordered the smoked chicken tortellin in Coppi which was absolutely gorgeous and had a pizza in Fratellis. The standout in Fratelli's was the desserts. You could pick a selection of miniature desserts in order to try them all! To have a look for more pictures of the food check out my Instagram account

Where to shop 

Being the absolutely unapologetic shopaholics that we are shopping was most certainly on our agenda. 

We decided to start off by visiting St.Georges Market which was within walking distance from our hotel and was a great start to the day. It houses so many quirky vendors of both food, accessories, crafts. The below was an example of different books made into clutches! Loved this idea, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan. 

It really is worth a visit and we spent a few hours wandering around listening to the live music, looking at all the different crafts on sale and having some delicious poffertje (mini pancakes covered in nutella) to eat. I'd also recommend trying a Belfast belly buster while you are there... they looked insane. 

Then we decided to hit the shopping centres - all the makeup stores were on my hitlist - MAC, Kiko, Kat Von D etc and we spent a lot of time in their Debenhams and House of Fraser. I also managed to track down the entire range of The Ordinary - the new skincare brand taking the beauty world by storm. It is such good value and high quality so I bought some of everything! I will be doing my next blog post on my Belfast beauty and skincare haul so keep your eyes peeled. 

We had a fantastic time in Belfast and would highly recommend it for a weekend away for somewhere different. It's a city full of history and  culture; I'm glad we got to experience it and the amazing food, shopping and show! 


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

My Laser Eye Surgery Experience With Optilase

Its been three weeks since I went in for my LASIK eye surgery with Optilase and a little less than that since I've had 20/20 vision.

For someone who has been wearing glasses since they were about 11 years old (granted, not as much as she should have!) having perfect vision now is indescribable. It's just so EASY. I can go to the cinema on a whim, I can get in my car and drive without having to look for my glasses, I can walk around town and read signs I never would have noticed before... it really has been life changing.

Another biggie is the fact that I no longer walk past people I know on the street or in a nightclub with them thinking I'm blanking them when in fact I just didn't see them! My prescription is definitely not the worst but at -2/2.5 I definitely should have been wearing my glasses 90% of the time. 

Free consultation

I went for my initial consultation which was quite in depth only a short while before I opted for the surgery. The clinic I chose was Ely Place, as it is in Dublin city centre it was the handiest for me to get to. One of the main reasons I chose to go with Optilase is because your consultation is completely FREE with no obligation to book surgery. This makes a big difference as I had looked around a few places which were charging upwards of €200 for a consultation fee.

The consultation took about an hour and I was told my eyes could be quite blurry and sensitive to light afterwards as they were going to use dilation drops in my eyes. What they didn't tell me was that my pupils would look absolutely huge for a couple of hours after as if I was off my head on pills... but that's another story. 

So for anyone who wears glasses will know all about your standard eye tests procedures. This was quite similar however they did make use of a few different machines that I had never come across before.All of them essentially test that your eyes are healthy enough for the surgery and they also test the thickness of your corneas which can decide what kind of surgery you can go for. Once they had confirmed that I was eligible for surgery I had to pick which type I would go for, the PRK or the LASIK. 

I went for the LASIK surgery. It has a 24 hour recovery time, so the next day I could see perfectly and was able to drive, etc. The other type of surgery is called PRK. This is a longer recovery time of 5 days and you will really need to just stay at home and do nothing pretty much in this time with someone to help around the house I was told. Eighty percent of people are eligible for LASIK and the other 20% have to go for PRK. If you are eligible for LASIK you can also choose to go for PRK, but if you are eligible for PRK that is the only one you can go for. 

The cost difference was about 300 euro or so more expensive for LASIK but I think for 24 hour recovery time it is well worth it. 

You can read more about the surgery and what is involved here

On the day of Surgery

On the day of surgery I was told not to drink caffeine, to make sure someone was available to pick me up and to bring dark sunglasses and painkillers with me. 

The actual surgery itself only takes 15 minutes - its amazing how such a short procedure can literally completely perfect your eyesight and change your life. Even though the surgery takes such a short time you are told that you can expect to be there for three hours. 

I opted to take the Valium before the procedure which is a mild sedative so in this case I had to have someone I know pick me up as legally I don't think they can allow you to take a taxi. 

I'm glad I took the Valium as I was quite nervous but it helped relax my body before the surgery. Once the Valium kicked in I was taken into the surgery and the nurses prepped my eyes with lots of numbing drops. This is brilliant as you literally cannot feel a thing during the surgery itself. The only thing I felt was some discomfort and pressure on my eyes because you do have to stay still and they do have some sort of machinery keeping your eyes open and your head in one position for the duration. There was a bright light ahead of me on the machine that I just focused on (I guess it was the laser) while the other work was done and it was finished in no time at all. 

They do recommend that you don't talk during the surgery as your eyes tend to move a lot as you talk so I'm glad I did ask this just before they started!

Post Surgery

Once the surgery is done you are brought back into a little room to lie down for a bit so they can observe you I suppose. At this point I literally could not open my eyes and they started to feel very sore and gritty. I took some painkillers then and the receptionist called my friend who was coming to collect me.

The drive home my eyes felt very very stingy and I got my friend to pull into the petrol station so I could get more painkillers as I was afraid it would get worse. I also fell asleep briefly in the car as a reaction to the Valium so I guess this is why they want you to go home with someone you know! 

The best way I can describe the pain is like sand is in your eyes or lots of shampoo and you can't touch your eyes or wash it out. Luckily this pain was only temporary and lasted about 5 hours I would say. 

I literally just wanted to get out of public and brightness and home into my bed. The nurses advised the best thing to do would be to sleep anyway. I slept for 4-5 hours and when I woke up my eyes were not hurting at all anymore, I just had a slight headache so I took some more painkillers. 

The first day and week are filled with two different types of antibiotic drops 6 or some times a day as well as lubricating eye drops as often as necessary. I applied these drops two hours apart so I could try keep to a schedule. 

The nurses also gave me an eye mask to wear at night time to sleep to ensure I didn't touch or scratch my eyes. 

The other thing you need to know is - NO EYE MAKEUP for up to two weeks. This one I struggled with as I feel so so bare sans mascara!

The next day my mam called me into the room, I was at the door and she was on the other side of the room and asked me to read something written on a book - I was so confused, I was like eh why, all it says is.... and I read it and she looked at me and said, "You would never have been able to read that before!" 

The very next day I went for a checkup and they told me my right eye was 20/20 vision and my left was almost there. A week later she told me that my vision had improved to better than 20/20 vision in both eyes. I am absolutely over the moon! I have my monthly checkup next at the end of this month. 

Another thing I would really recommend about Optilase is their aftercare. You are scheduled in for so many checkups afterwards and any queries you voice are answered very quickly. I would highly recommend them and the laser eye surgery - it really has given me so much more confidence. 

If you have any other questions about who is eligible for surgery or anything else please let me know and I'll do my best to answer them. I can't recommend them enough and am so happy I did this for myself. 

*Just as a disclaimer, I paid for this surgery 100% every penny myself. I'm just writing this post to try answer any queries other people might have about laser eye surgery. If you're interested in opting for laser eye surgery let me know as they have a referral process which would entitle me to €100 back and yourself to €100 if you opt for the surgery.*

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