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New mobile app for solo & adventure travellers.

New projects never stop here at LikePlace-towers...

Today we launched a new web-app for solo & adventure travellers called The aim of the app is simple ... to help solo travellers link up with other like-minded people while on vacation.

It's free to join and really easy to use.

Wandermates has already been featured on the Ryan Tubridy show on 2FM - Ireland's top youth station (listen back) - and is being used by travellers in Ireland & beyond.

So, why this app ... 

Well, last year I travelled solo to Kalymnos in Greece on a rock climbing holiday. Yet, despite meeting some great people I had a lot of problems finding a belay partner when on my own.

I thought to myself - "I am certain there are other climbers here who want to meet - but we can't seem to hook-up. If I create an App that can be accessed by smartphone that lots of people know about, strangers who want to climb can use it to meet."

Anyway, enough talk - let's have a look ... 

Watch the video below for a quick overview the app or go straight to to start meeting other single travellers.

Please, feel free to tell me about ANY enhancements that would make it better - or any problems you find with it.

Co.Louth voted BEST county in Ireland in 2012! (Co.Laois was the worst.)

Every December we release a Zeitgeist of the best & worst places in Ireland. Previous winners have included Co.Donegal and Co.Galway.

Looking back on 2012 we now know that the BEST county in Ireland this year was Co.Louth with an overall score of 4.0-out-of-5.

Co.Laois was the WORST, with just 3.5-out-of-5.

Read all results in our 2012 ZeitGeist.

Why Louth?

In just about every category we measured, Co.Louth comes out on top. This includes Law-&-Order, Environment & Cost-of-Living. However, the biggest difference is on Local Services (shopping, entertainment, etc.)

For example, here’s a sample of what people said about Carlingford:

"Where the mountains come down to the sea – a beautiful little village. In a depressed country, this place stands out as a beacon of hope.” 

What about Laois?

Is it really so bad? Well, just read this report about Portlaoise! "I don't know anyone of my generation who did not leave. Those who stayed are happy as pigs in the proverbial ...."

Uh oh!

Local property price information now included on all pages.

Are you a bit of a curtain twitcher?
Want to know what the neighbours sold their house for?

A link to local sales data obtained from the new Property Price Index is now included on all pages. See an example of the link on the page for Westport and what the results look like here.

Note: Because the official government website is so awful, we link to an alternative site with the same information but a better interface.

DONEGAL tips it over MAYO.

As well as winning the All Ireland, Co.Donegal also tips it on BEST county to live in.
See more at

Why are there no fountains in Dublin City?

The past 6 months have been good for me.

I have been on a long holiday (I prefer to call it a sabbatical) travelling around southern and central Europe. Because I am not under any pressure of time, I have been able to remain longer in places that a normal holiday would not allow. For example, I stayed up to 3 weeks each in Athens, Zagreb and Budapest.

Inevitably, I got into comparing these capitals against my home place and unhappily have had to reaffirm a long held view of mine; that Dublin – although great in some ways - is generally quite an incoherent and dishevelled place, sorely lacking in the features that make for a genuinely compelling city.

What, no fountains?

Take just one example that occurred to me on my travels - why are there no fountains in Dublin city? The very few I know of are trapped on inaccessible traffic islands, locked away in parks after dark or enclosed behind security fences in exclusive developments.

Is Dublin unique among cities in that is not suited to fountains? I doubt it.

(Sure the Floozie in the Jacuzzi was a bit of a disaster, but that was due to poor choice of location and inappropriate design.)

Rather, I think it is just an example of our city's paucity of vision (& perhaps paucity of means) - a paucity that is reflected not just in our ‘fountain-deficit’ but in a generally dull and uninspired urban experience.

I don’t mean this to be a nasty or hysterical diatribe against my native town or against Dublin City Council, who do a lot of good work. It is just that in comparison to similarly-sized cities, our capital demonstrates a definite poverty in the elements that make for a great city.

Let’s take some more examples

Dublin is essentially a Georgian/Victorian town dominated by brick, wrought iron work, rust-coloured granite and grey limestone. In addition, it is accented by intrusions of imported white-limestone and marble. A unity of style could readily be fashioned from these elements and used as a basis for civic development; whether in street planning, street furniture, signage, etc.

Aesthetic unity of this type can be seen in cities to which Irish people flock for weekends-away. Edinburgh, for example, employs extensive use of its dark stone in street features and Bath insists on local honey-coloured limestone in all building work.

As a European capital, Dublin could be expected to have such a vision - but it does not. The varied design of street furniture such as public benches, paving, street signs, bollards, bins & street lamps, suggests that each renewal project is planned by a separate committee with no guidance and no templates to work from.

Dublin looks as if Woodies have had a closing down sale of street furniture and we bought the lot - no matter what it looked like and regardless of its suitability.

Consider the plaques for streetnames. Some are made of metal, some of plastic, some of a mix of both. The blue colour is very pale on many and very dark on others. Worst of all, many such signs are completely unreadable because Dublin City Council (DCC) elected to use stick-on letters that peel off over the course of a few years.

Maybe these signs were cheap. But, it was a poor choice with a predictable outcome and ultimately a false economy.

And it is not only bizarrely mixed designs for street furniture & signage that reveals our fragmented vision, but also Dublin’s lack of ‘discoverability’.

Nothing left to explore

By ‘discoverability’ I mean the sense of delight that comes from exploring and finding the unexpected in a landscape, whether natural or man-made. Think of what happens when you are on holiday and discover an exciting or curious local custom for the first time.

For instance, in Edinburgh where passers-by spit at the Toolbooth Prison stone, in London where the public debates freely at Hyde Park Corner or in Zagreb where citizens erect plaques at the city gate in thanks to local saints.

In comparison, Dublin is terribly poor in 'discoverability' - not only because it there is little to explore, but because DCC seems intent on eradicating any “unauthorised interactions” with our city-scape.


Did you see the news report a few months ago about couples attaching padlocks to Ha'penny bridge as a symbol of their love? These inoffensive and almost invisible momentoes created instants of delight for pedestrians crossing the Liffey.

What harm you might ask? “It could damage our bridge” says DDC. OK, but instead of installing an alternative cable or chain for couples to attach their locks to, better to just stamp out the trend by removing them all.

What a typical bureaucrats reaction to imagination!

Or what about the Phil Lynott statue outside Bruxelles. For a year or so, music fans inserted plectrums into the brass guitar strings in homage to the master, until constant removal led to it being discontinued. So rather than encourage a musical pilgrimage by making it easy to insert plectrums, better to just remove the hassle.

Or think of the Smithfield Horse Market. DCC suggests it is too difficult to police and control animal welfare there. Instead of investing in an innovative policing and animal welfare plan in order to conserve a genuinely unique city feature, better to use these as excuses to close it down.

Which brings me back to my fountains

Why are there no fountains in the centre of Dublin to which I can bring my nephew at any time of the day or night? Are they too much hassle to bother with? Is DCC afraid 4 year olds may throw coins in them, thus requiring some troublesome cleaning?

The only fountains I can think of are in College Green (cut off by swathes of traffic), one in the Irish Life centre (cut off by a deep moat), two in Stephen's Green (closed at 4.30pm in winter) and one near to Heuston station (at the side of a hideously busy road.)

(Curiously enough, I recall a street-embedded fountain that was installed in South King St about two years ago. I even saw it turned-on soon after. But it has not been operated since.)

Or perhaps the lack of fountains is due to a fear of destruction or vandalism?

OK, it must be admitted that the Irish people are unusually destructive when it comes to public spaces, as extensive littering and vandalism testify. But that simply suggests a design constraint ... make things that are durable and robust. Surely the success of the bike scheme shows that it can be done. Design with destruction in mind and it may survive.

Does it matter anyway?

And yet, for all my whining, does it really matter?

I mean, who cares if we don’t have any fountains, or if our street furniture doesn’t match, or if the sign for “Cul de Sac” on one road follows the UK standard and the next the French standard? Maybe I am being unfair? Perhaps I should judge our city on its delivery of less visible services like Social Housing, Drainage, etc.

Yet, in truth I feel that an authority that could allow developments like Priory Hall to proceed has forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

In short, we must assume that Dublin will continue to muddle on as an average city. A place that has a few great things about it, but remains generally shallow in experience and confused in appearance.

And of course what holds for Dublin, holds for the country in general. And that’s too bad.

sLOVEnia ... I do!

Have been in SLOVENIA for a while & the contrasts with Ireland are just so stark I gotta point them out...
  • No litter anywhere
  • No discarded debris on road verges
  • No long-finished houses surrounded by rubble & unpaved driveways
  • No southfork-like mansions
What a great country!

(From our man in Athens) ... A city & democracy up on stilts.

Athens is a city on stilts.

Walk anywhere around the centre of town and you'll find buildings propped up on concrete piles over cavernous underground spaces.

The reason? Whenever anyone puts a shovel in the ground to build something, an ancient site or lost temple is found.

Architects are then required to shuffle things around to ensure the archaeology can be protected, whilst also keeping the new building standing. The easiest way to do this it seems is to prop everything up on massive stilts, beneath which the exposed sites can be seen.

This technique is elegantly displayed at the new Acropolis Museum, around the Monastiraki metro station - and also in Greek democracy.

Last night's election result revealed just how many facets of representation the Greek public demands - from centrists, leftists, rightists and communists to neo-nazis.

Of course there is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, I like it. What is a representative democracy if not a means for the little guy to have his say as well the big guy? (Of course, the price is that we have to allow neo-nazis their say - but usually they do themselves no favours.)

This makes for a great & diverse legislature, but makes forming an executive a little more difficult.

In the next few days we'll see how the stilts of democracy here can be shuffled and rearranged to arrive at something that can support itself - and let light shine onto the exposed masses too.

(From our man in Athens) ... Syriza's "Castles in the sky"?

I spent the last week north of Athens at a magical place called Meteora. (See my video below for some clips.)

Famous throughout the Orthodox world, Meteora is home to "Castles in the Sky" - ancient monasteries built atop precipitous peaks of grey rock, each 150 to 200 meters high.

These fortress-like towers are so tall and so easily defensible that they have been home to Christian retreats since the earliest times. Until quite recently many were only accessible via ladders or narrow tunnels hacked through the living rock, however today they draw tourists and pilgrims from all over the Europe & beyond.

Each monastery is beautifully maintained with smooth new roads leading to wide car-parks where the monks’ BMWs and Daihatsu jeeps are kept. Inside the fortress walls, the churches and other buildings drip with the accumulated wealth of centuries, including dozens of stunning Byzantine artifacts.

At sunset, looking up from the valley these religious fortresses appeared even more magnificent and unreal.

A compelling contrast to the reality of life for ordinary Greeks below. 

As electioneering progressed over the past weeks, I got the sense of a similar sort of (possibly) unreal vision being promoted to voters by Syriza ... Reject the memorandum and revise the austerity measures - but retain the Euro and keep external funding. 

That is quite a compelling vision. In fact, it is so stunning it is almost impossible to reject. But the big question is can such a promise come true, or is Alexis Tsipras building castles in the sky?

Whilst in Meteora I spoke to the owner of the hotel I was staying in (the excellent Aoelic Star). 

He summarised what I have been hearing from many others - contempt for the traditional parties of Pasok and New Democracy as well as a suspicion about the promises of Syriza. But alongside suspicion also a resignation that they may offer the only way out.

The argument goes that everything else has been tried and look where it has led them? Maybe it is time to give Syriza a go. Surely it can’t do any worse. And besides Tsipras insists that the Germans will cave in, won’t they?

The TV ad campaigns wrapped up last night.

The only one that featured a party leader was that of Syriza, presumably because much of its image relies on Tsipras charisma. In an ad that appeared rather homemade, he talked directly to the electorate. I could not understand what he said but his message was clear.

I can save you. I will reject the bailout but keep the euro. Believe me. The Germans will not let us pull the trigger. 

And that's where the Greek people's conundrum lies. Is this vision a reality or an illusion? What will happen when he looks into the steely eyes of Angela in Berlin to tell her his new plan - and then asks for some more money to keep paying salaries and pensions.

Will she climb the peak with him? Or throw him off the top? 

(From our man in Athens) ... Casablanca syndrome & rising tension.

You might know the great flashback sequence in Casablanca where Rick, Ilsa and Sam are together in a cafe in Paris.

The atmosphere is festive. Champagne corks pop. Sam plays the piano. It is as if nothing bad is really going to happen.

War? What war? Maybe it is all just a cruel trick? 

But soon we hear the first rounds of the approaching artillery. "That’s the new German 77s," explains Rick, "and judging by the sound only 35 miles away". Suddenly it is real. Time to pack some bags and rush for the last train out of the city.

Now, let’s come back to the present day in Athens. 

Last Friday I met a great guy named Georgios thru a new tourism scheme called This is my Athens. It allows travellers like me to explore lesser known places & hidden sights with a city insider.

Well, our 2 hour stroll turned into an all-night bender as we first watched Greece vs. Poland in an Exarchia cafe, visited an Anarchists roof-top bar nearby and finished up by dancing to fantastic traditional music till the early hours.

Everywhere we went people were having a great time. Lots of laughter accompanied by the crack-&-fsst of beer cans being opened.

Crisis? What crisis? 

I said as much to Georgios. He agreed. Everything seems so normal. No panic, no worried looks, no packed suitcases.

But, it is not that people are carefree or reckless. It is just that the endgame is still so unknown. Will Syriza come to office & tear up the Memorandum? Will the fascists maintain their vote? Will the centrists cobble together a grand coalition? Only after the results of the election are revealed next Monday, will fate determine what really lies ahead.

Until then life goes on pretty much as normal.

Well, normal that is except for the tension I sense growing day-by-day in the run up to Sunday's poll, as news reports continue to reveal the price of political uncertainty.

Supplies of important medicines are being cutoff, major foreign suppliers are withdrawing from Greece and tourist numbers remain low. In addition, newspaper editorials are becoming more stark & frantic as opinion makers ram home their messages ahead of the coming vote.

In any event, we are coming close to the endgame. 

The boom of the approaching guns is starting to be heard.
How will the people react? We will know on Monday 19th.

(From our man in Athens) Evzones Economics ... crash, bang, whallop!

Anyone who has been to Athens will be familiar with the Evzones - the honour guards who stand at the grave of the Unknown Soldier on Syntagma Sq. They are best known for their traditional costume including some rather silly looking bobbled shoes.

Yet, you might want to suppress that snigger. 

Made of 3kgs of wood apiece and studded with 60 steel hobnails each, those shoes were used as a backup weapon during the Greek War of Independence and would regularly bash in a stray Ottoman skull.

So, woe betide you if you are stupid enough to get in the way of an Evzone during the changing of the guard. Rules permit them to kick their way thru any obstacle to ensure a path is kept clear. I have seen them at a steady march – and they are not for turning.

Which brings me to my cue.

Yesterday, I chatted with a student activist at a stand set up by Syriza (the coalition of the radical left) to explain their manifesto to the public.

You will be familiar with Syriza due to their charismatic 37 year old leader - Alexis Tsipras – and to the fact that they came 2nd in the recent elections and look set to win the rerun on June 17th.

The student I spoke to gave a clear outline of the Syriza agenda if elected, which may be summed up in Evzone-like terms:

Syriza will crash thru German, ECB & IMF objections & reverse the previous government’s bailout agreement in order to clear a path (as they see it) to recovery ... whilst bashing in a few bankers' skulls along the way.

Their gamble is that even though this means they will no longer be entitled to ECB/IMF funding, the rest of Europe (read Germany) has more to lose by letting Greece fail – so the funds will keep coming.

The key word here is “gamble”.

The activist I spoke to admitted it is a risk, but one that it is wholeheartedly believed will pay off.

When I asked what happens if Merkel decides “To hell with it, you are on your own”, the clarity of Syriza’s thinking seems to muddy somewhat. They perceive it as such a low risk, that a Plan B is not really needed - other than some ideas about diverting saved debt payments to public wages & pensions, etc.


Well, it is easy to be hard on Greece from far away. Not so easy up close. Greeks freely acknowledge their mistakes and can see that whatever happens, many hard years lie ahead.

Agree with it or not, Syriza’s come-what-may approach is admirable for its boldness.

But keep this is mind, today as I watched the Evzones parade past the famous Benaki museum on their way to barracks, the last guard slipped & stumbled on the polished concrete. He was sent crashing to the ground and he had to be helped up by the assistant who goes with them everywhere.

So, for all our sakes’, I wish Syriza a steady & secure stride should they find themselves in office come June 18th.

I wrote a story. It's short, free & about GIANTS!!

I wrote a story for my nephew at Christmas.
My brother and friends liked it and said I should share it around.

OK, says I - so here it is.
It's short and has giants in it!! 

Click here to download "Dorn & the Giants"  (pdf 290Kb)
(It's best suited for kids aged 6-10 years old for reading aloud.)

Just for fun - Beckett with botox.

This poster is up in Hodges Figgis in Dublin & I always admired the famous gragginess of Beckett's features. Then I thought - what if he'd had a bit of "treatment", would he still be as enigmatic? So I decided to give it a go, just for fun...

(With apologies to the artist.)

A graph correlating Public Sympathy as a factor of Time for individuals of "High Perceived Wealth".

"Being Successful Online" at Kerry Fashion Weekend.

Thanks to Orla n' crew for a great few days at Kerry Fashion Weekend 2012. It's surprising to me how much I enjoy these events (& not just for the swimwear).

It is genuinely interesting & fun to see such great work from the Irish creative sector. Melanie Morris, editor of IMAGE magazine was also there and had some great insights and anecdotes. A great speaker.

If you were at today's Business in Fashion event & suffered thru my rambling talk, feel free to contact me for the freebie I mentioned. Today's presentation is shown below.

Irish Times challenges the might of (the fools!!)

The Grand Old Lady etc. etc. has launched a competition to find the best place to live in Ireland. (I'm not linking to it as they don't need the traffic.)

I guess I am wondering about their approach.
I like the comprehensive manner of it & their expert panel. (I wish I had their resources.)

But surely everyone who enters an opinion to this competition must by nature be very passionate about where they live. So what about dissenting voices? Sure – all the entrants think [enter name of town] is a great place with great facilities, but is that representative of the community in general?

At least this site allows people to say why their hometown is NOT a good place to live.
Of course, that is open to abuse too - but not much on my watch!

The best (& worst) thing about Ireland in 2012 is Irish women!

"What are the BEST & WORST things about Ireland in 2012?"

That's the question we asked our voluntary LikePlace Mayors to answer for St.PATRICK's DAY.
How is austerity affecting their attitude to our country?
Despite everything, are there things that can still make them smile?

LikePlace Mayors are people who have volunteered on to answer questions about the areas in which they live.

The funniest answer to our question was from Patrick, LikePlace Mayor of Glennamucklagh, Co.Cork…
“Irish women are best thing about Ireland as they are pretty."
"But the worst thing is that they argue too much & just don't know when to let up.”

On the serious side, anger dominated most of the negative responses, i.e. anger at banks, the economy, etc.
See what they had to say.

Here's something new ... all pins for all places on a map.

Looks kinda nice. Explore it here.

Castlepollard, Fore Abbey & Children of Lír.

I took a drive around Westmeath recently seeing places related to the myth of the Children of Lír. Fore Abbey in particular was a revelation.

A beautiful location, a stunning abbey and overlooked by a rocky crag. Nearby is Lough Derravaragh where the Children of Lír spent the first of their 300 years.

Rate Fore on

A "normal" day in Temple Bar - what with the black leprechaun 'n all.

Trad music, donkeys, sheep, tourists ... and a black leprechaun (of course).

Cold New Year surfing at Strandhill, Co.Sligo

The water is cold but the surf is great. I am not much of a surfer but I have a body and love the surge from the even waves at Strandhill.

A nice little village too overlooked by the impressive lump of Queen Maedbh's Knocknaree.

Rate Strandhill in Co.Sligo.

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