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A Day in the Life of a Baton Twirler

Baton twirling has evolved and changed, from marching with bands in parades, to what it is now . . . a competitive sport.

Competitions are prepared months in advance, hours of training boiling down to a two-minute routine. Countless mornings practicing that all comes down to one shot on the dance floor.

Baton twirling is a combination of many different genres of dance. The grace of ballroom, the strength and flexibility of gymnastics and the discipline of ballet.

Competition mornings start with a six o’clock wake up call, even though the butterflies in your stomach have kept you up all night. I start with some light stretching,force myself to eat a breakfast despite my nervous stomach. And this feeling stays with you through out the entire day, till you fall into bed at eight o’clock that night. And then you get ready to do it all over again!

That’s right, some of our competitions can last up to four days, each with early starts and late finishes.

A lot of people may look at this and think, it’s only dance. But it’s changed and become so much more than that. It’s a sport, and we are athletes. Just the same for soccer players and basketball players, we train and we trained hard.

People may look at us and only see our polished appearance and sparkly costumes, but underneath all that there is the bruised toes in our pointed shoes, the busted lips behind our lipstick and the tears behind the smile. . . and you still love it!

Everything sport takes hours of dedication and devotion, and when it comes to dance, there’s no difference.

Baton twirling has taught me so much in my thirteen years, and I’m talking about more than dancing.

Baton twirling has taught me self-confidence, the meaning of team work and the importance of sportsmanship. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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Image: LifeByLeah

Love Leah

Irish Music is Making a Comeback!

Traditional Irish music has always been a big part in Irish culture. Music is as old as the history itself, and in Ireland, we have a rich heritage and pride when it comes to our music. The history of Irish music is a long and interesting story, so whether you love some traditional music, dancing along with Riverdance, or you can’t get enough of Ed Sheeran’s new Irish style, take a moment to discover a new world of sound!

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Image: It’s The Dubliners

Music is always changing, always evolving and that’s what makes it always interesting! And whether you’re heading to a concert, relaxing in a pub or just walking around our beautiful towns, you will always find music in Ireland.

Irish has been a key apart in Irish history since the middle ages, and as Ireland began to change so it our culture.

During the 17,00’s, Irish musicians traveled around the country spreading news through music. In these time, music wasn’t written down meaning they had to remember every song by memory! The played instruments like the fiddle, uilleann pipes, and bodhràn.

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Image: Pinterest

As time went on, Irish musicians organised festivals to promote Irish culture. In 1792, there was the first ever Irish Harp Festival held in Belfast.

Ceili bands then formed around the 19,00’s. With a minimum of a ten group band, Ceili bands used to play in church halls and town gathers to play music while others danced.

The Dubliners, The Chieftains and Planxty are just some of the icon names in Irish music who have been upholding the traditions of Irish culture. Now, as we bring ourselves back to the 21st century, Irish bands have moved into pop genres. The Coronas, Picture This and Hometown are the new famous names on the Irish music scene, and with the likes of worldwide superstar, Ed Sheeran giving a new twist to Galway Girl, it’s safe to say that Irish music will continue to be a big part of Irish culture.

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Image: Buzz.ie 

Love Leah

Discover : Galway! The Very Best Galway has to Offer

I’ve always loved to travel and see the world. I used to dream of far off, unique places that I’ve never been.

But then, one day somebody pointed out to me that I haven’t even fully experienced Ireland! People can get so tied up in seeing the world that it can be easy to overlook what’s in your own back yard.

So, this easter weekend, I packed my little pink suitcase and headed to a part of Ireland I’ve never been . . . Galway!

Galway has so much to offer! Between the Galway museum, the picturesque scenery, the quaint row of shops and pubs, Galway is overflowing with Irish customs and culture!

With so much to see and so much to do, I’ve put together a little list of the best places to go to make the most out of your Galway experience!

Image: LifeByLeah

First things first, Galway is a beautiful city, so take your time and see the sites! Whether it’s the beautiful coastline, the stunning landscapes or the winding rows of small shops, pubs and restaurants, there is something around every corner!  My bigest tip for enjoying Galway city is to take a deep breathe and take it all in!

 

Image: LifeByLeah

Galway city has it’s very own museum with sections on the history of Galway, 1916 history, GAA history, art and science! You could easily spend an afternoon here, getting caught up in all the history and culture.

Image: LifeByLeah

If you find yourself down in Galway, I would strongly suggest checking out the Galway Aquarium! Full of blue tangs, star fish and mini sharks, this is a stop you won’t want to miss!

Image: LifeByLeah

 

Have you ever been to Galway? Where is top on your must-visit places? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Leah

Think Pink! Benefit Cosmetics Holds an all Pink Charity Shop for Two Very Worthy Causes.

Charity shops go in and out of fashion just as much as the clothes they sell. Whether you like to call it vintage or second-hand, thrift shopping can be amazing… if you know where to go!

Shopping in charity and thrift shops is like looking for buried treasure, you don’t know exactly where it is but you just have to keep digging and hope for the best!

Dublin city is jam-packed with hidden retail gems and they can disappear just as quickly as they popped up. So, when you hear of an amazing offer, it’s best to jump at the chance! And that’s exactly what I did.

Image: LifeByLeah

Benefit Cosmetics Ireland held their annual charity fundraiser this weekend, and what a fundraiser it was! The beauty brand held a weekend long pop-up charity shop to #raiseabrow for two amazing Irish charities, Look Good Feel Better and Daisyhouse. Look Good Feel Better gives support to women going through the phyiscal changes from cancer treatmeant. Daisyhouse Housing Associaition helps give temporary homes to homeless women in Ireland.

It’s pretty clear to see that this charity shop, is a charity shop like no other. With the decor, the lights and the classic Kylie Minogue songs, this is a shopping experience, I’ll never forget.

The #BoldIsBeautiful campaign was held at No 53 South William Street, and trust me, it was hard to miss! With pink everything and the legendary Mark Benefit greeting you at the door, this little pink house belonged more at Disneyland than beside the grey brick buildings of Dublin!

Image: LifeByLeah

It goes without saying that everything in this shop was pink. From a packet of TicTacs to clothes to makeup brushes to fluffy flamingos (yes, really), everything was all shades of PINK!

Charity shops are a great way to help out worthy causes and find something special for you too! When you shop at a charity shop, not only are you giving new life to a piece of fashion, you are helping others along the way!

Image: LifeByLeah

After all, one girls trash is another girls treasure!

What’s the best bargin you’ve ever got in a charity shop? The best gem you’ve ever found? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Leah

 

The Top 5 Apps You Should Be Using!

We are living in an online world. A world where our opinions can reach people half way around the globe, where we can edit our lives so we only show our best parts and where we can filter everything in life till its La Vie En Rose.

Social media is an amazing thing! It lets us do so much from following the latest news stories to sharing pictures with your friends to even blogging about your lil life…

Nowadays, in this connected world, you can find an app for anything. And I mean absolutely ANYTHING! Have you heard of Laundrie? The helpful dry cleaning, washing and ironing app helps you find laundry services on demand in Dublin.

I told you. You can get an app for everything. Some, however, are really useful in everyday life.

So, here is a helpful guide of some student friendly apps that I’ve researched and review just for you!

  1. First up on my list is the app, UNIDAYS. Every student needs to know about UNIDAYS. This is the top student friendly app, regardless of gender! This app gives incredible discounts in a wide range of stores for third level students. Price – Free
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    Image: UNIDAYS

     

  2. Next on our handy app guide is MyTaxi/Dublin Bus Real Time. There isn’t a day where I don’t use one of these apps! The Dublin Bus Real Time app is perfect for those early morning classes, so you aren’t stranded waiting at the bus stop, giving you those extra mintues in bed. Price – Free! . . . you still need to pay bus fair though.

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    Image: TravelHub
  3. Next we have the popular money-saving app, Pennies. Pennies helps you stay on top of your spending and helps you create a weeking budget. As they say in their app, “it’s fiscal responsibility made fun!” Price – €2.99

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    Image: Pennies
  4. When it comes to music, you have a wide range of apps to chose from! Spotify, iMusic or Music Player are just some of the top in the app store. Spotify Price – Free or Spotify Premium package – €9.99

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    Image: EDMChicago
  5. Last but by on means least is the mindful meditation app, Sway. This health app helps you practice mindfulness in your everyday life, helping you find your focus and calm. Price – €2.99

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    Image: iTunes

So, what are you waiting for . . . get downloading!

What’s your favourite app? Are you going to try one of myy five? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Leah

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast!

Anyone who knows me at all will tell you, I love Disney. I mean, I really love Disney. Obsessed could be a better word. The point is, I have been watching Disney movies ever since I was a young girl, so when Disney announced all these incredible live-action remakes, it was like I was that six-year-old girl all over again!

The story of Beauty and the Beast is an all time classic, and whenever someone takes on that daunting task of remaking a classic it will always be a challenge. Whether they are remaking The Jungle Book, Snow White or Cinderella it can be some pretty big (and sometimes glass) shoes to fill.

So, this weekend I dusted up on my French and headed down to the cinema to say Bonjour! to the latest Disney remake… And what a remake it was.

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Image: Hypable

The classic tale follows the story of an innovative, beautiful, brave young woman named Belle. Belle, played by Emma Watson, is considered to be years ahead of her time and doesn’t quite fit in the small countryside of France. Just when Belle wishes for adventure, her life changes dramatically and she soon finds herself living in an enchanted castle with a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens, for a captor! But, it’s here the real story begins, as both Belle and the Beast start to realise appearances aren’t always what they seem.

If you loved the Disney film, then I promise you will love this wonderful remake! Bill Condon, the director of Beauty and The Beast, took the ‘tale as old as time’ and was able to make it his own while still staying true to the original storyline. With minor changes, Condon brought forward a new version of Belle, making her a perfect 21st century role model for everyone.

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Image: Youtube

With a few new characters, a few new songs,  a rare insight into the Beasts childhood and an answer as to what ever happened to Belle’s mother, this is a movie you won’t want to miss. With magical appearances from Josh Gad, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci and many more!

Oh, and just incase you were wondering…The ballroom scene. Perfection.

But if my words weren’t enough to convince you to see it, just watch the trailer and you’ll fall in love the a tale as old as time all over again!

So please, Be My Guest and check out a truly enchanting movie!

Love Leah

 

The Top Music Acts You Have To See Live!

Everybody is different, and everybody’s taste in music is different too. Personally, when it comes to music, I love a little bit of everything. When I studied music in school, I was so interested in all the different styles and artists the music industry had to offer, and there is nothing better than relaxing at home with just you and your playlist!

With downloadable music right at our finger tips, it’s now easier than ever to appreciate the very best in the charts but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can ever compare to the thrill of a live performance!

So, here are just some of the hundreds and hundreds of sing stars you simply must see live on stage before you kick the bucket.

  1. Well, I think it’s only right to give my number one spot to a number one artist… Adele! Adele is one of those amazing performers that doesn’t need all that extra sparkle for them to truly shine. She can belt out a power ballad like no other and stand alone on stage, focusing truly on the music. With her powerful voice and emotional songs and witting on-stage banter, Adele is definitely a musical must see! Adele is to take to the stage this summer in Wembley, London.
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Image: Hotel Actual

 

2. Next up, is the Queen herself, Beyoncé! Beyoncé is a force of nature on stage and she gives every performance 110%. Like Adele, Queen B can own a stage with just her vocals but she also knows her way around a dance floor and like to proves that at every concert! So, whether you are a loyal member to the B Hive or just like to dance along to Single Ladies, Beyoncé should be on everyone’s bucket list. (Video by LifeByLeah)

 

3. Another singing star to add to our list is, of course, Lady Gaga. Gaga has proven time and time again that she is a big believer in being yourself and she spread that message through her music. A concert with the Mother of all Monsters is never the same, so, I would highly recommend throwing on some glitter and diamonds and line up for tickets as soon as possible. Gaga is currently doing a number of live shows in a few countries including France, Germany, and several places in America.

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Image: GIPHY

 

4. Now, it wouldn’t be a real music blog post without the incredible, Ed Sheeran. If Sheeran’s voice wasn’t enough to make you want to go, well then just take a look at literary any interview he has done and you’ll fall in love with him all over again! Not only will his handsome looks leave you a little breathless, his poetic lyrics are sure to leave you an emotional mess the whole night. Sheeran just released his third album, Divide, and is about to start his next world tour!

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Image: Daily Mail

 

5. And last, but by no means least, we have Taylor Swift. Whether you love her or want to write a break up song about her, you can’t deny it… the girl knows how to write a song. And some catchy ones at that! Swift really cares so much about her fans and always gives a killer show, so throw on some red lipstick, grab your girl squad and just dance like you’re 22!

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Image: GIPHY

 

There are so many greats acts to see live! What was the best concert you’ve been to? And who’s next on your list? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Leah

 

Uplifting Our Country: A closer look at the work Uplift do.

Uplift is an independent Irish organisation run by a small team of volunteers and trained justice campaigners, fighting and seeking for a more equal Ireland. Uplift works tirelessly to protect and improve the rights of people from all ways of life, and to create a better and equal society for all. I spoke with Uplift’s Campaigning Coordinator, Emily Duffy, to learn more about all the changes Uplift have made to our country and the campaigns they are still continuing to work on now.

“Uplift was set by Siobhan O’Donaghue, a community worker who had been campaigning for years on the rights of undocumented people in Ireland,” Emily Duffy tells me. “It began in December 2014 to address the ‘democracy gap’ in Ireland — to give people in Ireland the skills and tools to hold decision makers to account and make their voices heard.”

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Image: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Uplift.

Uplift work to promote social justice, to defend fairness and fight unfair treatment, protect our rights, preserve the planet and to deepen democracy.

Duffy says, “The aim of Uplift is to empower communities and individuals who believe in the values of equality, deep democracy, environmental sustainability and social justice to connect with each other.”

Uplift’s campaigning motto is ‘People Powered Change’. Duffy explains the meaning behind this.

“The idea is that together — we are more powerful than if we act alone.”

So, we provide tools like Petitions and ways to email your chosen campaign target and some tips and trainings on what makes a good campaign. Then we let the community lead on what they think the best campaigns and tactics are. We have over 130,000 people part of the Uplift community now — taking action on issues related to our share progressive values.”

Uplift have been in motion, campaigning for change since 2014. Over the years, Uplift have helped many different causes, but just what were they each for?

“We’ve helped lots!” says Duffy. “We have a tool called MyUplift which allows other movements to use our tools and we row in with support around digital campaigning and contacting the decision maker. We’ve worked with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Home Sweet Home, The Irish Housing Network, Single Parents Acting for the Rights of their Kids (S.P.A.R.K), Friends of the Earth and Right 2 Water.

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Image: MyUplift

“We’re also partnered more formally with Barnardo’s, Mental Health Reform, and many types of Trade Unions,” adds Duffy.

It’s clear to see that Uplift are responsible for so many successful campaigns and changes in Ireland’s needed issues. However, there is still so much left to do and so many groups in need of their help.

“Right now, we are working on getting Vulture Funds out of the Irish property market, Supertrawlers, CETA which is a toxic trade deal that would endanger our environmental and food protection laws as well as workers’ rights.” says Duffy to me. “Our focus on campaigns changes week by week, depending on whether there’s a big moment, and what our members want to do.”

It is evident that Uplift are a worthy organisation, that handle so many different types of causes in Ireland, so I had to ask, what makes Uplift different from other organisations?

“Uplift is the only multi-issue, digital campaign platform in Ireland,” Duffy explains. “We take action very quickly when it comes to issues and we don’t plan our campaigns months in advance. We also make decisions based on our membership and let our members lead the direction of the things we campaign on. Our members can mobilise and make decisions together quickly — and I think that’s what makes us unique. “

Duffy then goes on to explain to me what it was about Uplift that made her know this was the organisation she wanted to be a part of. “I come from a community work background — but I was always drawn to campaigning for structural change and I learned that there’s a big cross over between the two — especially in America where ‘community organising’ focuses less on the day to day symptoms of problems, but works to unite communities to build political power so they can change the causes of their problems,” Duffy tells me. “Uplift, to me, fits that model and as time moves forward we’ll be focusing more and more on putting these tools in the hands of communities who need them the most, so that they can be empowered to hols their decision makers to account.”

Emily Duffy, Uplift
Image: Emily Duffy, Campaign Coordinator of Uplift.

As an independent organisation, that relies heavily on volunteers and donations, funding can be essential to a group like Uplift.

“We are currently 40% member funded, and we aim to be 100% by this time next year,” Duffy says. “Our average donation is €8 per month. At this moment, the rest we get from other organisations like us — such as Campact from Germany or 38 Degrees in the UK who cover some of our operational costs. We also have received grants from The Community Foundation of Ireland.”

Uplift have already done so much in regards to fulfilling their aim of bettering society and giving a voice to the unheard. But, there is still so much to do and there is even something you could do to help too.

“Public involvement is central to everything we do. Uplift is by the public for the public and without members — and thousands of people taking action every day — we wouldn’t exist.”

The Best Dressed Celebrities – The Oscar Edition!

This week, starlets from across the world, gathered together to celebrate the best films this past year had to offer at the 89th Academy Awards – AKA the biggest night in Hollywood… and what a night it was!  And like everything else celebrities do, they did it in style, of course! Jimmy Kimmel hosted the prestigious movie award show, while our favourite film stars cleaned up for those all important red carpet close-ups.

All other award shows have been all leading towards this final moment, and while I couldn’t possibly pick my favourite film, I can sure pick my favourite looks.

Image: Oscar 2017

Kicking off our outstanding Oscar styles, is none other than the award-winning actress, Emma Stone! Stone was breath-taking in this Givenchy Haute Couture gown. Stone walked away with the Oscar for Best Actress for her leading role in La La Land.

This award season, Emma Stone has been a consistent favourite in my books, and what a better way to end her La La Land journey then dressing like a golden Oscar herself!

Image: Oscar 2017

And while everyone else was busy talking about the big #OscarMistake, I couldn’t stop talking about Hailee Steinfeld. The actress/singer was there presenting the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, but she stole the show in this dreamy-romantic Ralph and Russo gown. Sheer perfection!

Image: Oscar 2017

Another red-carpet favourite of mine, was the gorgeous Emma Roberts in vintage Armani Prive. The Hollywood star stunned on the red-carpet, proving that less is always more! Not only is this monochrome dress a modern take on a timeless classic, Roberts was also showing her support for the Red Carpet Green Dress organisation that works towards proving fashion that’s environmentally friendly as well!

Image: Oscar 2017

Karlie Kloss looked effortlessly flawless (as usual) in this simply amazing Stella McCartney gown. Kloss styled the simple gown with some red lipstick and diamond choker for the extra cool girl effect… And she nailed it!

Image: Oscar 2017

And finally, to end my award season favourites is the Irish star, Ruth Negga. This was Negga’s first Oscar nomination for her moving performance as leading actress in Loving. The Irish actress was showing her support for the ACLU by wearing a blue ribbon against her red Valentino gown. Though she lost out on the Oscar to Emma Stone, I have a feeling that this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of Ruth Negga!

So, another award season has come to an end! Who was your fashion favourites? Let me know in the comments below…

Love Leah

Food For Thought -Excite your taste buds with the best Dublin has to offer!

The world we are living in is a growing mixing-pot of culture and lifestyle. In today’s modern world, with the connective benefits of the internet, we find ourselves exploring and experiencing other cultures from across the globe in our very own backyard!

Dublin is now a cosmopolitan city, home to a vast range of nationalities and cultures. This is reflected in the ever-growing number of authentic restaurants and cafes throughout the city. However, while all pallets are catered for the modern Ireland has moved on from confining itself to traditional Irish fare and it’s the Irish that frequent the, once considered, exotic and varied establishments…

With an estimated 199 different nationalities living in Ireland, according the 2011 census, Ireland offers different traditions and costumes into our own cultural, and what is at the heart of every culture and lifestyle? Well, food of course!

Thanks to the growing and diverse lifestyles in Ireland, we find ourselves able to discover these wonderful cultures through the many international food restaurants right in Dublin’s City.

So, take this time to travel to the corners, and kitchens, of the world… without needing your passport.

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Image: www.camile.ie

A must-visit restaurant on any food lover’s guide is the extremely popular, Thai restaurant, Camile. Voted the best Thai food restaurant in Ireland, 2016, making Camile an absolute must for lovers of spice. This new exciting restaurant has twelve restaurant locations across Dublin. Camile offers their clients different options in which is bound to appeal to all the different eating experiences. These options are a sit-down dining service, a take-away and a delivery service. So there no excuse not to experience Camile. Their menu includes a wide variety of dishes including Ramen Noodle Soup, Crispy Chilli Chicken and Chu Chee Curry. As well as appealing to their adult client they also have a Camile 4 Kids menu, making it a sure family favourite. When I mean the whole family, it includes your 4-legged members, in Camile, they offer a novel approach to been all inclusive. Camile offer doggy treats speciality, so no one is left out.

And finally, Camile use locally grown Irish vegetables, Irish beef, pork and free ranged Irish eggs. Thai food using Irish products a win win deal for everyone. Camile’s menu is also suitable for vegans, vegetarians and celiac patrons.

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Image: Yalwa

Next up on our list of exotic restaurants is a traditional African restaurant, 3Sixty5. This restaurant is located right in the heart of Dublin, just off Henry Street. 3Sixty5 is a unique restaurant offering a variety of food from various parts of Africa including Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana to name just a few. Not only do they offer the traditional style of eating experiences, sit-down or take-away service, they do however have within their two storey establishment four private dining rooms which are designed for large dinner parties, family gatherings or intimate dining experiences. All dishes are based on traditional African cuisine, including these dishes from Nigeria. Ikokore which is a savoury dish that consists of yams, and Nkwobi which is a beef delicacy cooked in palm-oil spices. So, if you’re from the beautiful African continent or an adventurous foodie this restaurant is a must for you.

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Image: Yelp

And finally, we will travel to Mexico, and without even leaving Dublin. Our travels will take us to El Grito Mexican Kitchen. Situated in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar surrounded by expensive and lavish restaurants this authentic simple take-way establishment with its small counter space offers wide variety of Mexican food. This cheap and cheerful food establishment is very reasonable in price however its portions are more than generous in size. Burrito, Torta, Guacamole is part of the staple Mexican fare but their speciality is the Taco, which like all the dishes, is cooked fresh to order. None of the food served was any way over spiced but if it’s a HOT and spicy that you require then you can add any of the extra sauces available to suit your taste.

It’s clear to see that Dublin city has so much to offer for every type of food lover out there, and this article is just the tip of a very big iceberg. So, the next time you’re in the mood for something new and exciting to tickle your taste buds, don’t reach for your passport but your leap card instead!

Love Leah