December 14, 2017

Discovering Ireland!

Last month I wrote a post about my European travel dreams for this year. I still haven’t made any plans yet but as I go over my European dreams I’ve been asking myself, what is it that draws me to Ireland?

In no particular order, here are 6 reasons Ireland is calling me!

Dramatic Landscape
Ireland is known for her spectacular scenery, varied landscapes, cliffs tumbling to the sea, seascapes, lakes, and many shades of green. I want to experience the translucent lakes of Killarney, see the masted boats in Kinsale harbor and picture perfect towns like Inistioge and Adare. In the southwest, the Beara and Iveragh Peninsulas are full of wild and gorgeous scenery while the Dingle peninsula is known for its harsh but beautiful land and seascapes. Ireland is also home to many prehistoric sights including the eerie megalithic tombs, ancient huts and rock formations found in the Burren. And then there is the excavation at Ceide Fields which is home to settlements older than the pyramids!

Cliffs of Moher Clare County Ireland

Cliffs of Moher by Shannon Development

Pubs, Music, Beer, Whiskey & Tea
Ireland seems to be synonymous with Guinness but besides this traditional beer, I’d also like to enjoy many of the ales the country is known for. Even though I’m not a whiskey fan, a tour and taste of this locally distilled beverage will make it on my itinerary! One of the things Ireland is most famous for are its pubs and it’s the pubs that are probably on the top of my list. I want to experience traditional Irish music and have conversations with local folks, which will be the best souvenir! Afternoons of tea and dinners of traditional Irish food will top off my culinary discoveries.

Jameson Distillery Dublin Ireland

Jameson Distillery by the Jameson Distillery

Lodging options
Ireland is known for its hospitality and one way to experience this is through the many different styles of lodging. From farmhouses, cottages, country houses to Bed & Breakfast’s and elegant castles there is a vast array of choices and I want to experience many different types including a Castle! Dromoland, Ashford and Adare Manor are some of the more famous in this category but there are other Castle hotels, such as Ballynahinch Castle, that are not as well-known.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel Galway Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel by Manor House Hotels

History, Castles, Cathedrals and Fortresses
Anywhere I travel, one of my joys is learning about the local history. To say Ireland has a vast and varied history is an understatement. Ireland’s history dates back to 8000 BC and has seen invasions of Vikings, English, Normans and others. The tumultuous history includes wars for independence and other rebellions which have all left their mark on the country but have also made it what it is today. The remnants can been see in the many castles, fortresses and cathedrals dotting the land. “The gift of gab” will be mine after visiting Blarney Castle and its very famous stone. There are Bronze Age forts, monastic sites dating to early Christianity, Viking walls and Georgian estates strewn across the land. Waiting is Charles Fort, which has stood since Norman times, James Fort, Bunratty Castle, Kylemore Abbey, medieval Trim castle and the well preserved Cahir Castle.

Kylemore Abbey Connemara Ireland

Kylemore Abbey by Chris Hill 2006

Outdoor Activities
Normally I prefer sailing in fair weather but would make an exception to sail the waters near Ireland. Sailing is such a peaceful endeavor and when it comes with amazing views, I just don’t think I could pass up spending some time on the seas. With all the wonderful landscape I’ll find in Ireland, hiking seems like the perfect way to see and experience parts most people miss. I grew up fly fishing and wouldn’t miss a chance to drop a line in one of the pretty rivers traversing Ireland.

Killarney Lakes Kerry Ireland

Killarney Lakes by Tourism Ireland

People
When I visit Ireland, I want to take the time to really experience Ireland and a big part of this will be its people. I have long heard about the wonderful people in Ireland, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing said about the Irish! The Irish are known to be friendly, relaxed, funny and kind. A fellow travel blogger, Jeremy Branham said in an article on Irish Central “. . . the Irish people are the friendliest I’ve ever met.”

American Folk Park - Bluegrass Festival Omagh Ireland

American Folk Park - Bluegrass Festival by Geray Sweeney

For a small country, Ireland seems to have more of everything. Each turn of the road displays more green, more history, more soul, more beer and I want to experience it all!

Why would you go to Ireland?

All images are courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

European Lodging – The Choice is Yours

George Bernard Shaw said “The great advantage of a hotel is that it’s a great refuge from home life”. This too true statement is indicative of why the choice of hotel when traveling is so difficult and important!

Luckily Europe has many different lodging options which will add to the enjoyment of your escape! Here are a few that I’ve been lucky enough to have stayed at.Alpenrose Hotel Mittenwald Germany

Hotels can be wonderful traditional guest houses like Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Hotel Alpenrose in Mittenwald Germany. Make sure you know whether they have elevators and are prepared for stairs if they don’t! Also make sure you know whether there is a bar or restaurant on the first floor. This may mean it may be a bit noisier than expected.View Schloss Hotel Rheinfels Germany

They can be Luxury class beauties set on the shores of an equally beautiful lake as with Palace Hotel on Lake Lucerne and Suisse Majestic Montreux Switzerland or seaside in the Hotel du Palais Biarritz France or even have amazing views of rivers like the Schloss Hotel Rheinfels in St. Goar Germany. I don’t have the opportunity to stay in luxury hotels often since the price is not usually in my budget but can say I’ve enjoyed staying in luxury accommodations even if I wonder if they are really me.

Gasthof Fraundorfer Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany

Gasthof Fraundorfer by Q-BEE, on Flickr

There are 4 star large basic properties conveniently located for train travel such as the Intercity Hotel in Mainz and Hotel Excelsior Erfurt Germany. Not usually my first choice but I really did enjoy how close they were to the train station and the city centers of both were easily reached.

Green hotels like Hotel Victoria Freiburg Germany which boasts they are the “most eco friendly hotel in the world” and they just might be! All electricity and heat come from renewable sources like solar, wind and wood pellet heating. The thermal solar panels on the roof and the natural materials used throughout hotel make for a wonderful experience and the Victoria is also convenient to both the train station and city center!BarockHotel am Dom Bamberg Germany

Historic architectural treasures in perfect locations – Old Town city centers – but not completely convenient for train travel BarockHotel am Dom Bamberg Germany and Kasererbraeu Salzburg Austria. The beautiful building housing the Barockhotel dates back to 1520 while the Kasererbraeu is from 1342 and was once a monastery and brewery before becoming protected by UNESCO!

Hotels I’m glad I read the online reviews of so I wasn’t completely frightened by the entrance, Panorama Central in Budapest. A wonderful oasis once you got inside but honestly a little unsettling getting to! Moral to this story, READ online reviews!

Known for its history and spa, Schwarzer Bock Wiesbaden. I’ve been lucky to stay here two times and can say this is one of my favorite hotels. Dating back to 1486, the Schwarzer Bock is a classic beauty- luxurious and yet very comfortable. And in a wonderful location!

Hotel I fell in love with because there was a heat wave and it was air conditioned refrigerated, Grauer Baer Innsbruck! I would stay at this property again because it was very convenient to Old Town and train station.

While my preferred type of lodgings are guest houses and architectural and historic beauties, in some way, all of the hotels I’ve stayed in have added to my enjoyment and experience I had in their cities and villages.

What do you look for when choosing a hotel for your trip?

London Bridge through the Ages

The London Bridge has been at the heart of the English capital for its entire history, playing a vital role in linking the north and south banks of the River Thames. There has not only been one London Bridge, however.  The name has referred to a number of very different structures over the ages.

Origins

London as a major metropolis came into being after the Roman invasion in AD 43. Although trade along the Thames was by then well established, it was the invaders who first bridged it, probably with a pontoon bridge of the sort used by troops. The first permanent, substantial London Bridge appeared a little over a decade later, but this wooden edifice was destroyed during the revolt led by Boudica in AD 60. Once the rebellion had been put down, the London Bridge was rebuilt.  This cross-river link helped to confirm London as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia.

Medieval times

When the Roman legions departed from Britain, around AD 410, the engineering skills required to maintain the London Bridge went with them and the bridge gradually decayed until late Saxon times. During this period and the first century of Norman rule, the London Bridge was rebuilt several times after destruction resulting both from military action and natural causes, such as the tornado of 1091. The final structure from this period, originally ordered by Henry II, was finished in 1209. This timber bridge survived for 600 years and, at its height during the Tudor period, boasted 200 shops along its 800-foot length.

London Bridge at night London England

London Bridge Illuminated by burge5000

The 19th century bridge

By the 19th century, it was clear that the ancient bridge was inadequate for the much larger London of the Industrial Revolution. In 1831, the new five-arched stone bridge was opened and the medieval bridge was then demolished. Although the new London Bridge had more capacity than the one it replaced, as the city continued to grow, it in turn became overcrowded. By the turn of the 20th century, the London Bridge was the single worst point of congestion in the entire capital.  In fact, the sheer weight of vehicles crossing it every day lead to the foundation beginning to sink.

London Bridge today

Despite its flaws, it took until the second half of the 20th century for this London Bridge to be replaced. Famously, it was purchased by an American businessman, who had it shipped in pieces to the US and reassembled in Arizona. The replacement bridge, the one that stands today, was opened by the Queen in 1973. This is a straightforward concrete box girder bridge, which does not have the elegance of some of its predecessors but is able to stand up to the high demands of 21st-century traffic.

The many visitors who stay in London Bridge hotels today may well pass over the bridge regularly without ever realizing the two millennia of history behind this Thames crossing!

 

Have you crossed the London Bridge without realizing its history?

 

This article was brought to you by Mercure hotels.

Unique Lodging Is It For You?

Lodging comes in all sizes and shapes.  When traveling, there are a lot of options available in the European lodging market.  We can camp, stay in a trailer, hotel or a bed and breakfast.  These categories can even be broken down further from ranging hostel to 5 star lodging.

But if a standard room or suite just won’t do, what are your options?  Rest assured,

The choices in the unique category include yurts, jumbo jets, lighthouses, castles, tepees, chateaux, tree houses or even a jail!

But that’s not all, here are 5 very special and unique types of lodging in Europe that may answer your dreams or inspire a trip.

La Balade des Gnomes, Belgium

Trojan Horse Suite at La Balade des Gnomes in Belgium

Trojan Horse Suite from La Balade des Gnomes

Set in a very quiet setting and offering 10 different and unique rooms, La Balade des Gnomes may fill all of your fanciful dreams.  You may opt to sleep in a moon buggy, Troll forest which includes a gold fish infested stream, a boat that is floating in a swimming pool or wine cellar.  Inspired by fairy tales, all of the rooms are decorated in a style that uses motifs and colors from around the world. But what caught my eye was a very unique offering known as the Trojan Horse suite.

Fort Clonque, United Kingdom

For Clonque United Kingdom Unique European Lodging

Fort Clonque by FlickrDelusions, on Flickr

Owned by the Landmark Trust, Fort Clonque is a unique lodging set on an island in the middle of the English Channel where the views are spectacular and storms are something to experience!  The rooms are in a 19th century fortification that has seen more than its share of history.  The fort is reached via a causeway and once you cross the drawbridge entrance you feel as if you have crossed into another time.  Spread throughout the fort, your room may be in an old war room or the German Casement, which was a Nazi gun turret!

Cappadocia Cave Resort, Turkey

One of the more stunning lodging options is the Cappadocia Cave Resort.  Set in one of the most beautiful settings, this hotel not only offers unique lodging but the opportunity to explore a region that is teeming with UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Built into the side of the mountain, the rooms combine actual cave walls with lovely warm wood and other natural stone creating a breathtaking view inside and out.

Utter Inn, Sweden

Utter Inn Sweden and Underwater hotel

Before being set on the lake

The Utter Inn is an underwater hotel located in Lake Mälaren near Stockholm, Sweden.  At first glance, the hotel seems to be another typical Swedish red house on a diving platform floating in the lake but looks are so deceiving!  Once in the house, open the hatch and descend the metal steps to enter your room. There awaits glorious windows offering underwater viewing on all sides!

Sala Silvermine Suite, Sweden

The bedroom of Sala Silvermine Suite in Sweden

The bedroom of Sala Silvermine Suite by Pappilabild

Sala Silvermine Suite Sweden

Sala Silvermine Suite by Pappilabild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sala Silvermine offers an underground suite that is accessed by going down the mine shaft.  Upon arrival you will be escorted down the mine shaft and given a tour of the festivity hall and the other nooks and crannies existing on the same level, which by the way is 500 feet below ground! Once in the mine, you will find your room glowing from the chandelier and candles used to illuminate your bed chamber.

Would you stay in an alternative type hotel?

Sleeping like a King in Austria

Castles were built for a reason and that was not to save damsels in distress or protect citizens from fire breathing dragons as poetry, fairy tales or Disney wants us to believe.

No, castles were built as military defense.  They were not designed for comfort and were actually very dirty and smelly.  In fact, during medieval times King’s very seldom lived in their castles.

But this all changed once medieval times ended.  Returning to Europe from the Crusades, knights brought with them better military techniques making castles obsolete.  At this time, comfort became more important than security and castles were abandoned.

Now nobility turned their sights towards building magnificent and large manor houses and chateaux that resembled castles many with towers and ramparts.  The palaces that replaced castles were residences reflecting the architectural style of the times.

Today many of these Castles and Palaces have been turned into hotels allowing visitors a chance to sleep as Kings or nobility did many years ago but in more comfort and warmth.  The towers and dungeons that witnessed so much history are now home to dining rooms and bedrooms fit indeed for a King.

Let’s take a look at a few of these Castle hotels in wonderful Austria.

Hotel Schloss Durnstein

Schloss Durnstein Danube River Austria

Courtesy of Schloss Durnstein

Sitting high above the village looking down on the beautiful Danube sits this enchanting hotel. The historic castle, where Richard the Lion-Hearted was held, is now in ruins but the Renaissance style castle we see today was built in 1630 by one of the oldest families of Austria.  Today the lovely hotel Schloss Durnstein is full of antiques, gorgeous chandeliers and fine art.  The outside terrace is a place you could lounge forever sipping local Austrian wine or enjoying delicious food all while watching the Danube flow towards Vienna!  If you wish, there is a tunnel that takes you down to the Danube where you can enjoy a walk along the river.

Schloss Matzen

Schloss Matzen Austria

© Schloss Matzen

This castle holds a magical spot high in the Alps of the Tyrol region.  Records date this land back to Roman time but the first tower of today’s castle was built in 1167.  The informal Schloss Matzen still holds its medieval charm and is full of gothic cloisters, marble doorways, high beamed ceilings and decorative wrought iron hinges.  Most of the rooms have thick stone walls, high ceilings and are decorated with antiques.   There is even one with a marble fire place and an unbeatable view of the valley on three sides!  The property can be explored on your own or by guided tours available.  The Roman watchtower, Baroque chapel, knights’ dining hall and 2 dungeons can be toured and there are old manuscripts and rare books in the library to be perused.

Hotel Schloss Monchstein

Hotel Schloss Monchstein Salzburg Austria

© Hotel Schloss Mönchstein, Salzburg

Watching over beautiful Salzburg is the Hotel Schloss Monchstein.  Originally built by the archbishops of Salzburg as a guest house, today the Monchstein is definitely a place for the famous and beautiful.  The grounds of the hotel are as beautiful as the rooms.  You can stroll paths through a park-like area full of flowers and singing birds.  This is a perfect place to end a day of sightseeing and enjoy the magnificent view.  The elegant guest rooms have been graced by Czarina Katherina of Russia and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  The Monchstein is a great place to wander even if you don’t stay here!

Schloss Kapfenstein

Schloss Kapfenstein Austria

Schloss Kapfenstein by Steindy

Built in 1065 as a mountain fortress to fend of armies coming from the east, this castle sits overlooking the Styrian wine country and as far as Hungary and Slovenia.  Schloss Kapfenstein is a family owned establishment that is a comfortable place to stay while discovering this tranquil and unspoiled part of Austria.  Truly a family endeavor, this charming castle offers beautiful rooms, and exquisite food that is served with award winning wines produced from their own vineyards.

There you have it, four of the many castle hotels in Austria.  Wouldn’t it be nice to treat ourselves and sleep as royalty?

 

Which one would you like to lay your head in?

Brittany France – Sleeping in a Chateau

Thanks to “I’ll Never Be French” by Mark Greenside, Brittany has been on my mind these days.

Quite simply, Brittany is stunning.  This area southwest of Paris quite literally offers something for every person.  There are beaches, medieval villages, sailing, art, ceramic centers, prehistoric remains, castles, bicycling, botanical garden, Celtic history, cathedrals, walking, fishing . . . This landscape should not be missed and what could be better than spending your nights in lodging that offers a distinct ambiance?

Brittany France by cb_agulto, on Flickr

Brittany France by cb_agulto, on Flickr

There are quite a few great Chateaux turned B & B in Brittany each offering you the opportunity to lay your head for the night just like the nobility of yore!  The Chateau B & B’s are usually in rural areas near interesting tourist sites.  Your hosts offer guests insider tips on the museums and villages you simply must not miss as well as arrange horseback riding or golf or dinner reservations.  Or if you decide, you could just wander the land surrounding your Chateau.  It is really up to you.

Of the many choices you have for Chateau B & B’s, here are 3 to whet your appetite!

 

Chateau Le Guilguiffin Brittany France

Chateau Le Guilguiffin

Le Guilguiffin

Situated near Quimpers, the castle at Le Guilguiffin dates back to the 18th century and is classified as an historical monument. Tradition reigns here as the public rooms and bedrooms are tastefully decorated in a style befitting a building of this stature including antiques.   There are 4 rooms and 2 suites.  The property also offers the Gardeners House which is 2 stories, sleeps 5 and includes a fireplace, oozes charm and has a local flavor.  Guernevez cottage is another more rustic option that is a bit smaller – only 2 bedrooms. Another bonus, dogs are welcome!

Le Guilguiffin Room Brittany France

Courtesy of Le Guilguiffin

Room at Le Guilguiffin Brittany France

Courtesy of Le Guilguiffin

 

Chateau de Talhouet

This chateau dates back to the 16th century and is full of all the charm you’d expect while in Brittany.  As a special enticement, this B & B is near the glorious medieval village of Rochefort-en-Terre.  Set in its own private woods and gardens, Chateau de Talhouet has 8 rooms that are tastefully decorated in a comfortable but elegant fashion some include a fireplace but all have great views of the countryside, woods or garden.  There is a spectacular Grand salon and a Billiards salon where you may find yourself relaxing after a days sightseeing.

Coast line Brittany France

Coast line Brittany France by www.FranceHouseHunt.com, on Flickr

Chateau de La Ballue

This 17th century castle is known for its gardens but is also home to rolling hills, forests and the wild coastal landscape of Brittany.  Near the border of Normandy, Chateau de La Ballue’s gardens are done in the style of the 16th century and include a fernery, water trap, open air theater, maze and Temple of Diana among other treats.  This small B & B has 4 rooms and suite that are lovingly decorated in the style of the period and include antiques.  All rooms have canopy beds.  Famous guests of Chateau de La Ballue include Balzac, Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand.

Chateau de La Ballue Brittany France

Chateau de La Ballue

So there you have it, 3 outstanding Chateau B & B’s for your enjoyment.  Whether you come to Brittany for the scenery, history or its culinary delights this spirited region offers a great reward to all that explore its boundaries.

 

What do you think about staying in a Chateau B & B?

Is a Yurt Lodging?

What is a Yurt?

According to the dictionary, a yurt is “a tentlike dwelling of the Mongol and Turkic peoples of central Asia, consisting of a cylindrical wall of poles in a lattice arrangement with a conical roof of poles, both covered by felt or skins.”

Yurts are the traditional homes of Nomads in Central Asia.  The traditional construction consists of a circular wooden latticed frame covered with felt.  These homes worked especially well for the Nomads since they were designed to be dismantled and then carried by camel or yak to be built again at their next destination.  Yurts were repaired as needed and were passed down, father to son, to the next generation.

Today Yurts are still used by herders in the steppes of Central Asia but have also been adopted and used in other areas of the world as shelters for Nordic skiers, housing and school rooms.  Yurts are also available as an alternative to traditional hotels during our travels.

Modern Yurts offer European travelers the feel of a tent but with more of the comforts of home.  In fact, some of them are down right luxurious!

Mongolian Yurt Hoopoe Yurt Hotel Andalucia Spain

Mongolian Yurt courtesy of Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

Hoopoe Yurt Hotel – Andalucía Spain
“Camp in Style . . . allowing you to get back to nature without forgoing the usual luxuries you would wish for on your holiday.”

Afghani Yurt Hoopoe Yurt Hotel Andalucia Spain

Afghani Yurt courtesy of Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

The Hoopoe Yurt Hotel is a complex of 5 yurts set on 3 hectare acres of olive groves and Cork Oak trees.  The grounds offer amazing views of the Grazalema Mountains and the wilds of Southern Spain along with many hammocks and a chlorine-free swimming pool!  The entire complex is run on solar power.

Poolside Hoopoe Yurt Hotel Andalucia Spain

Poolside courtesy of Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

All of the yurts are individually decorated and include antique Mongolian furniture and antique linens from around the world.  Each yurt has a private bathroom next door complete with a hot shower and “ecological loo”.

Jaipur Yurt Hoopoe Yurt Hotel Andalucia Spain

Jaipur Yurt courtesy of Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

Each yurt has its own name affiliated with the area it came from.  You can choose from the Afghani yurt, Mongolian yurt, Jaipur yurt, Safari yurt, or Maimani yurt.  Each of these offers great views, seclusion and is decorated in traditional motifs.

Your Meal is Served Hoopoe Yurt Hotel Andalucia Spain

Your Meal is Served courtesy of Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

Canvas Chic – Ardeche France
This complex is a small campground located near the Ardeche river and gorge in the Rhone-Alpes region of southern France.  The area is known for its outdoors activities, prehistoric caves and stunning scenery.

Pont d'Arc Ardeche France

Pont d'Arc by Nolleos, on Flickr

The grounds of CanvasChic hold 11 yurts and 20 tent sights.  The yurts are all handcrafted from oak and ash and are covered in canvas.  There is a definite “rustic” feel to the lodgings but they are still very nice accommodations – they just have a campier feel to them!

CanvasChic Yurt Rhone-Alps France

CanvasChic Yurt courtesy of CanvasChic

There are shared showers and toilets as well as access to a shared kitchen complete with refrigerator, stoves and utensils.  If you don’t want to cook, there is a café and bar onsite.

One thing to note, they offer a 10% “zero emissions” discount if you arrive on foot or bike!

 

Are you looking for alternative style lodging for your next trip to Europe?

Would one of these options be something you would stay in?

Tell me about it . . . why or why not?

 

 

 

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