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12 MIN READ TIME

Rainbow Travel

We are just back from a month long trip with the kids to Florida and everyone is asking how our holiday was. And it was great. It really was. But let’s get one thing clear - it wasn’t a holiday. As anyone who has travelled with small children can attest to - there are many ways you could describe packing up a young family and bringing them to a different country. And the word ‘holiday’ is not one of them!

The lead up to our adventure abroad was pretty hectic to say the least. In the month before we left, I had the pleasure of launching the ‘Equality For Children’ campaign, of which I am the CEO. Putting this into perspective, the evening before we left, I was in the Department of Health in a meeting with Simon Harris.

Although I’d been incredibly busy, I thought I was prepared. I had researched the hell out of this trip. We were packed to within an inch of our lives, ready for the ten hour plane trip. Snacks, toys, change of clothes, fully charged iPad and all the other things you need for international travel with kids.

So there we were. Rocking up to Dublin Airport, smug smile on my face. I am an expert traveller, I’ve got this! Perhaps you can see where this story is heading?

We check in and the Aer Lingus staff member’s face falls. She sees our excited anticipation and doesn’t want to ruin it. But alas she must. She hesitantly tells me “Your passport is out of date”. What? No it couldn’t be?

Here I must mention that I have dual nationality. I was born in America, so I have a USA passport as well as my Irish citizenship. Usually when travelling to the States I will travel in on my US passport and then come home on my Irish one. Of course I had checked all of our Irish passports but I hadn’t thought about the American one.

We are informed at that point that it is now a federal offence to travel into the States on anything other than your US passport if you are an American citizen. You aren’t eligible for an ESTA if you possess an American passport, even if expired. Catch 22.

So we had this dilemma at Dublin airport. Do we all stay behind in Ireland to get an emergency American passport for me? The baby had to stay with me because I’m breastfeeding, but there was no reason why Audrey and Ava couldn’t go ahead without me. We had about ten minutes to make this decision. We decided there was no reason for us all to miss the flight, so Audrey and Ava went ahead. And that’s how I found myself sobbing in departures in Dublin airport at the total screw up on my part- and the prospect of my little family being torn in half.

Thankfully my father in law was able to come and pick us up and bring us home. The thought of a taxi ride and having to interact with anyone at that point was too much. So there am in the back of his car, trying not to cry... and it dawns on me - Audrey is not legally allowed to travel out of the country with Ava.

I am constantly speaking about the many difficulties that our families face when it comes to things like travel and getting passports for our children, and now here we were in really horrible situation. Adding insult to injury, there is a chance that my wife may not be allowed to travel with our child. It hadn’t even crossed my mind until a little bit later that there might be an issue. Why would it? Audrey is Ava’s mom. She is her parent, just as much as I am. We are equals. This not something that should be a problem. Yet because of current Irish laws, I am the only legal parent to our children. Both of the girls have my surname and so a customs official would have been well within their remit to question them.

I felt sick to my stomach that I was being put in this position of uncertainty yet again. Yet another moment of feeling as though my family are different and being penalised because of it. And let me tell you- I didn’t breathe until I heard they had cleared customs. It really hit home for me how much our daily lives are impacted because of the lack of protections for our children. And it only strengthened my resolve to keep fighting for full equality for all of our children and families.

On to the rest of the trip. After all that drama, I managed to get an emergency passport and we got a flight to Orlando two days later. I was so relieved to be reunited with my girls and get on to enjoying the rest of our time together. Speaking from experience, it’s not a place you want to be visiting in the height of summer. It was early November, the locals might think it’s chilly, but the mid 20’s are exactly what you want. The other lovely thing about visiting at this time of year is that you are getting the lead up to two of the biggest holidays- Thanksgiving and Christmas. The decorations are absolutely out of this world.

Orlando, the home of Disney, is hands down one of the most LGBT+ friendly places you could ever visit. Everybody and anybody is welcome. After all- it’s the happiest place on earth.

Tickets to the parks aren’t cheap. Yes they are worth it, but when you have kids who are so young, it makes sense to look for cheaper and sometimes free activities. And there are many lesser known destinations that don’t come with the same price tag as the main theme parks. One of which is Disney Springs.

The atmosphere there is fantastic and it felt like being in Disney, but slightly less hectic and with less pressure. We arrived just in time for the ‘Christmas Tree Trail’- a free exhibition featuring trees, each decorated as a different Disney movie. It was magical!

One of our favourite family nights of the whole trip was at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. It’s a massive bowling alley with an extensive restaurant and bar. We can’t wait to go back next year when hopefully Arya will be old enough to join in the fun and bowl with us!

Another great family evening was at Wine Bar George. We were a bit apprehensive about dining here as it seemed quite fancy- and when bringing two kids along you are always a bit wary of ‘fancy’. However we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome both as a same-sex couple and as parents of young kids.

We took a trip to Aquatica, which is a water park run by SeaWorld., on a day that was overcast and we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The kids' area was amazingreally well thought out and easily accessible for toddlers. The entire place is centred around families and so the facilities were excellent.

Another really fun place to visit is the Orlando International Premium Outlets- though please don’t blame me for your spending when you visit here!

All in all, I’d highly recommend a visit to Orlando for you and your LGBT+ family. It’s a place where we felt entirely welcomed and comfortable at all times.

Happy adventures.

For lots more LGBT+ family travel and tips, be sure to follow Ranae on Instagram - @ranaevonmeding.

Staycation Time

In need of a relaxing time out away from the stresses of modern living? No need to hop on a plane when Ireland has so much to offer. Marlon Jimenez-Compton set off for beautiful Sligo to see what the West had to offer.

Heading off for our break away to the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa in Sligo, (a county I have never visited before) all could picture in my head was the Atlantic ocean. An ocean that is as blue and beautiful as the sky itself. So I knew something majestic was waiting for us even before we got there.

When we arrived, we were greeted at the reception by friendly smiles which not only made us feel welcome but also at home. When we were directed to our room, it was more spacious and comfier than we expected. I opened the curtains and there were two very green mountains - a picturesque spectacle of nature. I was amazed and enthralled by the view of Sligo Bay.

Meanwhile John, my husband, was making sure all the room’s amenities were in the right place and ready to function; from the high-speed wifito the TV, the heating to the hot water. And yes, everything was working to perfection! I think it's clear that as a couple, our definitions of comfort are diametrically opposed. I love smiles and nature as part of a great great service. John loves smiles and technical commodities as part of his, so it is fair to say that the Radisson Blu Sligo had something for both of us!

We didn’t want to leave the comfort of our room just yet, so we ordered brunch to be delivered. We ate and talked while contemplating the view - which made our brunch even more delicious.

I went to the spa - which is adjacent to the fitness centre - and what a fantastic place. It's the perfect spot to unwind; with an indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. The spa offers top-rated treatments, massages, facials and relaxation therapies. I booked a full body massage which was such a soothing experience. I felt so relaxed afterwards. When I left the spa it felt like I was walking in the clouds.

It is worth mentioning that the Hotel offers a wide range of outdoor activities which include kayaking, surfing and hill walking. An added bonus of taking one of these activities is that you will be surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Rosses Point.

When the evening arrived, I was still wrapped up in a balmy feeling from the massage. However, I was ready to dress up and go to the restaurant for a well-deserved dinner for two. Considering what I had enjoyed and experienced so far, I of course had high expectations, and so did John, who couldn’t wait to treat his palate with his favourite – medium-cooked steak.

The Classiebawn Restaurant more than met our expectations. It was a real treat. From the service to the actual food and the wine. Delicious, succulent and just gorgeous. I had fish, sea bass to be exact, it was so fresh that it felt it swam to my plate straight from the ocean.John also loved his steak!

When dinner was over, we were offered, courtesy of the house, an Irish coffee. To finish the night, we went to the Waves Bar for a few drinks before going to bed after a superb evening full of pampering.

The next day, on our way back to Dublin, we were reminiscing about all we had experienced. All we can say is that the whole thing was just fantastic. So yes, we both highly recommend it. I would love to go back and enjoy it all over again from the moment we were welcomed by smiles. Smiles as big and Blu as the Atlantic Ocean.

To book your stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa visit www.radissonhotelsligo.ie or call +353 71 914 0008.

How many times have you thought to yourself: “I would love to go away for a couple of days and not do anything, just relax”? Well, in the case of Stefano Pappalardo, the answer is - A LOT.

A thing I often think is that I’d love to see more of Ireland, I've been living in this beautiful country for almost 15 years but there are still so many places I haven’t visited.

So when myself and Aaron, my fiancé, went to Knockranny House Hotel in Westport for a weekend of pampering, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to tick both boxes - relaxation and seeing the country.

At first sight, the four-star hotel was equally charming and impressive, but it’s even bigger and more stunning inside.

Our room was definitely the biggest hotel room we both have ever stayed in. It included a gigantic, extremely comfortable bed, a lovely cosy lounge area and a spacious bathroom with a jacuzzi bathtub, where we unwound with a bottle of bubbly just before going to bed, in readiness for the day of pampering which awaited us.

After breakfast, Aaron made his way to the pool and sauna while I went to the Spa where I got to try the Yang Sheng treatment and, oh my, what a fantastic experience!

The two-hour treatment started with a detoxifying bamboo massage, which I had never tried before, and was followed by a super relaxing facial. I left the spa feeling refreshed, pampered and ready to enjoy an afternoon exploring Westport.

I had heard so much about Westport and after spending a few hours there, I can understand where its fame comes from. What a gorgeous, picturesque town. I immediately fell in love with its small charming streets and the variety of quirky shops and boutiques. We then made our way to the beautiful Westport House, which is located in a parkland setting with a lake, terraces and garden views overlooking Clew Bay.

That evening, we had the pleasure to dine at the stunning La Fougère Restaurant back in Knockranny House Hotel. Everything was absolutely exquisite, with my personal favourites being the goats cheese parfait starter and the pheasant breast. At this stage, we were already pretty full but we still managed to make room for dessert (trust me, you will too).

Despite being on the verge of a food coma, we decided to go for a drink at the Brehon Bar where we got to enjoy a cocktail (okay, two) before we headed back to our room.

The next day, after another scrumptious breakfast, we went shopping and had a cheeky drink before heading back to Dublin.

We really wish we could have stayed longer as this was such a fantastic weekend. From the moment we arrived up to checking out, we felt so welcomed by the wonderful staff. As we got on the train we both agreed we’ll be coming back to visit Westport and we’ll gladly be staying at Knockranny House Hotel again.

To book your stay at Knockranny House Hotel visit www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie/ or call +353 98 28600

This article appears in the 361 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 361 Issue of GCN