February 21, 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 Dreaming in 2013

Now that the pages of the calendar have slipped into a new year, it’s the time of year to reflect back and dream forward (and start back to the gym!).  I’m not going to rehash the places I visited in Europe during 2012 but just need to say, if you’ve not been to Germany you must put it on your list for this year.  Make sure to cover the touristy areas such as Munich, Ludwig’s Castles and the Rhine River but also leave time to explore the country’s lesser known jewels as this is where Germany shines!

Make sure you visit those small Bavarian villages, be amazed by the wines Germany offers, taste beer  fresh from the keg, follow Luther’s footsteps into Erfurt and beyond, travel along the many scenic routes like the Romantic Road, explore the beaches of the Baltic and North Sea for a taste of sea side Germany and don’t forget the diamonds in the rough that were once part of East Germany.

But now that we’re a few days into January, I’m dreaming of my travels in 2013. I have not made any travel plans yet but I am dreaming of where I’d most like to go and have narrowed down my list to these 5 areas.

Canoeing Dordogne River France

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

Dordogne Valley France

Small villages, rivers, canoes, hot air balloons, wine and prehistoric history all combine to make the Dordogne Valley call to me. I could see myself spending time driving from village to village enjoying the lovely markets, wines and cuisine along the way.  Adding in days lazing in a canoe along the Dordogne river or visiting the national parks and gardens.  There are many castles and churches to be visited  too!

Adare Manor Ireland

Adare Manor Ireland by Jerzy Strzelecki

Ireland

When I think of Ireland I see green rolling hills, smiling people, lochs, fog, turbulent oceans, pubs, beer and music…  and castles waiting to tuck me in at night! Along with general sight seeing, I’d most like to enjoy evenings in those famous Irish pubs drinking the local brew while humming to wonderful Irish music.  I’m not a huge whiskey fan but I would enjoy touring a whiskey factory and sampling this distilled wonder.  I’ve always thought I’d probably like whiskey if I was drinking it in Ireland J Besides this, I’d love to drive around the country gazing at the scenery and learning about her history while spending of my nights in some of the many bed and breakfasts that dot the countryside (when I’m not staying in a castle, of course!).

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic by Bobak Ha'Eri

Czech Republic

I’ll admit it, pictures and movies talk to me!  So as I was watching “The Last Holiday” before Christmas I was reminded of how much I’d love to visit Karlovy Vary and even stay at the Hotel Pupp! But that would just be a start to my visit of the Czech Republic.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without visiting Prague but I really want to visit the areas outside the capital city.  Plzen for its beer would definitely be on the itinerary along with the castles, forests, gorges, mountains, caves, architecture and history that Bohemia and Moravia are known for!

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy by Alesvp

Sud Tirol Italy

I’m a mountain girl and those gorgeous and jagged peaks of the Dolomites have beckoned me for years. I would love to stand in an amazing green meadow surrounded by the soaring mountains.  Of course, I’d also love to sample the local wine, enjoy the cuisine, learn about the history and legends and visit the small villages that sit so cozily at the foot of the Dolomite’s.  There will also be time for a little hiking which would only make the trip complete.

Berchtesgaden Germany

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

Germany

You didn’t think I could make a potential travel list without including spots in Germany did you 🙂 There really is so much of this country I haven’t been to but I think I’d really love to travel along the Alpine Road into Prien visiting Chiemsee, Berchtesgaden and any number of small lovely villages along the way.  Or maybe I should finally break down and visit those lovely Christmas markets!

Boy this is going to be a tough decision!

 

What are you European travel dreams for 2013?

Irish Blessings to You on St Patrick’s Day!

I have not had the pleasure of visiting the land of Eire, Ireland!

Why I haven’t made it yet? I have no excuse other than I just have not allocated the time or money which honestly seems lame.  Every time I see beautiful pictures of Ireland it rekindles my desire to explore the country known for its beauty, history, music, pubs and people!

West Cork Coast Road, Ireland

West Cork Coast Road, Ireland by pallotron, on Flickr

St. Patrick’s Day is this weekend which means it is time to celebrate all that is Irish!

Kylemoore Abbey Ireland

Ireland Kylemore Abbey by pavillon sully, on Flickr

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I’m sharing two Irish Blessings that depict the reasons I want to visit Ireland.

Ireland
It’s the one place on earth
That Heaven has kissed
With melody, mirth
And meadow and mist. 

Slieve League, Donegal, Ireland

Slieve League, Donegal, Ireland by josullivan.59, on Flickr

Hills as green as emeralds
Cover the countryside
Lakes as blue as sapphires-
And Ireland’s special pride
And rivers that shine like silver
Make Ireland look so fair-
But the friendliness of her people
Is the richest treasure there.


Have you visited Ireland?  What was your favorite part?

If not, what would you most like to see?

 

 

Strange Games and Unique Festivals in Europe

We all enjoy festivals and outdoor events, especially during the summer, so I did a little digging and found some strange sporting games and unique festivals held in Europe that just might interest you.  Most are held during the summer but some are held at other times during the year.

Mobile Phone Throwing began as an international “sport” in 2000 with the World Championships being held each year in Savonlinna, Finland.  During the event, contestants can participate in up to 4 categories: distance throwing, freestyle choreography, team and a junior event for those under 12.  Guess we know what happens to all our old cell phones!

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships by husin.sani, on Flickr

Imagine if you will, an Irishman goes with a few mates to a pub during lunch to discuss a new motor sport idea.  A few pints and hours later Lawn Mower Racing is born!  Beginning in England during 1973 the sport is now world wide with many events held during summer months including a World Championship.  That’s why men need to stay away from the pubs!

Lawnmower Races

Lawnmower Races by Fir0002

The Flour Festival in Viana do Bolo, a town in the Ourense region of Galicia in Spain, takes place each February during the Lent/Carnival season.  Yes, they actually throw flour, in fact, no clean face is safe including those of tourists!  Don’t wear your best clothes.

If you want to go to Hell then you might just want to go between September 1 and 4 when the Hell Blues Festival takes place in Hell, Norway.  Ok so this isn’t a strange festival but I thought some of you might want to go to Hell 🙂  They also accept volunteers to help with the festival, which allows one free entrance for every 8 hours of work!

Irish Road Bowling has been around since the 17th century and is now governed by the Irish Road Bowling Association.  Literally played on a road, 2 players throw an iron ball down the road with the one going the furthest crowned winner!  With terms like Bullet, Road Shower, Bowl of Odds, Butt, Faugh a Ballach and Kitter-Paw, how could it not be an exciting sporting event?

Road Bowling

Road Bowling by fergie_lancealot, on Flickr

Dragon Boat Racing has been taking place for at least 2000 years.  There are many festivals throughout the world but in Europe you can enjoy races in Lubeck (Germany), Budapest or, the largest, in Malmo Sweden.  The human powered boats are long and usually decorated with a dragon head and tail.  The crew is about 22 people including a drummer who controls the beat of the rowing.  The brightly colored boats are quite a sight as they glide over the water!

Dragon Boat Racing Budapest Hungary

Dragon Boat Racing Budapest Hungary

Splashdiving events are held throughout Europe and, from what I’ve seen, would be a fun event to attend!  Splashdiving or “Freestyle Bombing” was developed in Germany and the goal is to make as big a splash and as much noise when hitting the water as you possibly can.  This means you want a lot of skin smacking the water, ouch!  There are 12 sanctioned jumps each with a different degree of difficulty.  To see Splashdiving in action, watch this short UTube video:

Wife Carrying World Championships are held in Sonkajarvi Finland where the event was introduced in 1992.  As the name indicates, this “sport” is made up of the male competitor carrying his female teammate through an obstacle course.  The winner is the fastest and the prize is their “wife’s” weight in beer!  While there are other Wife Carrying Contests only in Finland do you win the beer.  After the events are completed stick around for awards, karaoke, dances and other festivities.

World Wife Carrying Championship

World “Wife Carry” Championships by jurvetson, on Flickr"

There you have it, some weird and strange games and festivals.

 

Which one would you most like to attend?

Independence Day Celebrations across Europe

Yesterday the United States celebrated the 235th anniversary of its Independence.  It is a day to spend with friends and family commemorating the time when our forefathers declared we would be free of British rule.  We celebrate by having BBQ’s, enjoying local parades, watching fireworks, proudly waving our red, white and blue flags and eating apple pie.

I began to wonder how European countries celebrate their independence.

I randomly selected the following six countries to research how they celebrate their independence or not.

Belgium celebrates its Independence Day on July 21.  This National Day is in recognition of the day in 1830 when they declared their independence from the Dutch.  During the Belgian revolution, on July 21, the 1st Belgian King was inaugurated, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg who was a German!  There is a grand celebration in Brussels where everything is dressed in black, yellow and red flags.  After dark, enjoy wonderful fireworks erupting over the Royal Palace.

Belgium Independence

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Gustaf Wappers

Germany celebrates its Day of Unity on October 3 in celebration of the reunification of East and West Germany.  The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 but the treaty reunifying Germany wasn’t signed until October 3, 1990.  There are many festivals and celebrations held locally across the country.

Ireland doesn’t celebrate an Independence Day because the whole of Ireland is not united.  Instead they honor the Easter Uprising which began on April 24, 1916 and was the day Ireland declared their independence from Britain.  For a better understanding of the events surrounding the Easter Uprising, watch the movie Michael Collins.

Birth of the Irish Republic

Birth of the Irish Republic

August 1 is Swiss National Day and it commemorates Switzerland’s First Federal Charter of 1291.  This day is celebrated locally across the nation with parades, fireworks and by displaying the Swiss flag.  It is during this celebration that the Rhine Falls are festively lit up.

On June 25, 1991 Croatia declared it’s independence from Yugoslavia vowing to fight for this independence and keep its borders intact.  At the end of the brutal war, that is what was achieved.   To celebrate this day, Croatia celebrates Statehood Day each June 25 with some parades, speeches and lit candles honoring those who died fighting for Croatian freedom.

July 14 is the day France celebrates Bastille Day or La Fete Nationale (The National Celebration) commemorating the storming of the Bastille on this day in 1789.  This was one of the biggest events that occurred during the French Revolution and is seen as the beginning of the end of the constitutional monarchy which then led to the First Republic.  Bastille Day is celebrated across the country but Paris has the biggest celebration which includes a large Military parade down the Champs Elysees with jet flyovers, fireworks, music, and balls across the town.  I’m sure if you look, you will be able to find a Bastille Day celebration somewhere near you!

Storming of the Bastille Paris France

Storming of the Bastille © Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

 

Have been to another country during their Independence Day celebration?

What was it like?

3 Weird or Unusual Sights in the Land of Eire!

Since today is actually St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d keep with the Irish theme.

I ‘m sure we can all agree, Ireland is a tremendously beautiful land and it is relatively easy to find many things to do during a visit to the Emerald Isle.

Innishmor Head Ireland Coastline

Innishmor Head by slettvet, on Flickr

So I thought I’d focus on a few of the lesser known and eerie or creepy places you might want to visit.  Below are 3 of the weird or unusual sights to be seen in the land of Eire!

St. Michan’s Church, Dublin

St. Michan’s is one of Dublin’s most unusual sights and definitely not for the faint of heart.  Deep beneath the church lays a vault that is home to coffins containing the famous mummies of St. Michan.  Yes, I did say mummies.  Somehow these bodies have become mummified!  As your tiptoeing down the stairs toward the vault, make sure you’re ready for the creepy, unusual and weird!  The first thing you’ll notice is that the coffins seem to be in a disheveled mess with arms and legs sticking up.  Upon closer inspection you will see bodies covered by stretched, wrinkled skin.  St. Michan’s Church is definitely worth a look and will send shivers down your body!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

St. Michan’s Church Dublin Ireland

St. Michan’s Church Dublin by infomatique, on Flickr

Haunted Leap Castle

This castle has a really creepy history!  Leap Castle was built in the late 15th century and was the family home to the Chieftain of the area, the O’Carroll’s.  But they had a secret that was buried in the walls of the castle.  There is a hidden dungeon off what is known as the Bloody Chapel that was the site of much pain, misery and death.  Lucky prisoners were pushed in the room, fell through the floor onto a spike and died instantly.  The unlucky ones were left in the room, forgotten, to starve.  Fast forward to around 1900, workmen were hired to clean out the hidden dungeon and found piles of skeletons.  It is said it took 3 full cart loads to remove all the bones!  Due to its bloody history, Leap Castle has always been thought to be haunted.  Don’t believe in ghosts?  New owners purchased the castle during the 1990’s.  During renovations two unusual accidents occurred sidelining the owner for over a year!  Coincidence or ghosts?  You decide.

Haunted Leap Castle Ireland

Haunted Leap Castle by Ziegenheit at en.wikipedia

Kilmainham Gaol

Ireland has a very colorful and sordid history.  If you are looking for an interesting view of Irish history, Gaols (prisons) offer a very different perspective.  The Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin is one place that had a front seat to the tragic history of Ireland.  Built in 1786, the gaol has housed many of the most notorious characters involved in Ireland’s fight for independence.  It was here that Britain imprisoned many involved with the Easter Rising during 1916.  Some names you may have heard before include Padraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas Clarke.  The Irish Gaols are known to have extremely horrible conditions.  During the 128 years it was open, children as young as 7 were imprisoned, cells held up to 5 prisoners (men, women and children combined), and they only had one candle that needed to last 2 weeks.  Women often slept on the floor covered with straw while men “enjoyed” beds.   Even though the building still exudes an eerie shadow, the prison now houses a museum and offers insightful tours of the prison buildings.

Kilmainham Gaol Dublin Ireland

Kilmainham Gaol by guido612, on Flickr

 

 

Do any of these sights interest you?  Do you like unusual and eerie sights?

What are they and what is interesting about them?

St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Proverbs Towards the Path To Wisdom

Well it’s that time of year again!  Time to break out the green and celebrate that great Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.  This is the holiday that has us get very philosophical as we eat our corned beef and cabbage washed down with a pint (or 2 or 3 or . . .) of Guinness.

So before we jump in with both feet, I thought I’d share some interesting St. Patrick’s Day facts and end with Irish Proverbs that will help enlighten us all and lead along that ever winding path to wisdom!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! by *~Dawn~* Busy Bee ~ on Flickr

Happy St. Patrick's Day! by *~Dawn~* Busy Bee ~ on Flickr

  • St. Patrick’s day is a religious holiday honoring the patron Saint of Ireland.
  • Originally this day was a Catholic holiday and later became an official “feast day” during the early 17th century and now it is a celebration of Irish Culture (aka Guinness, Whiskey, Irish Car Bombs etc).
  • Original color connected to St. Patrick’s Day was blue.
  • It is believed that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans.
  • First ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston on March 18, 1737.
  • The St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City is the largest in the US and one of the largest in the world.

Now as you put back your beverage of choice to celebrate this auspicious holiday ponder some of these wise Irish proverbs:

May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

What butter and whiskey will not cure there’s no cure for.

When flowers bloom, I hope you’ll not sneeze, and may you always have someone to squeeze.

When we get drunk, we fall asleep.  When we commit no sin, we got to heaven.  So, let’s all get drunk and go to heaven!

As you ramble through life, whatever be your goal; Keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.

Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbor. It makes you shoot at your landlord, and it makes you miss him.

But the greatest love — the love above all loves,
Even greater than that of a mother…
Is the tender, passionate, undying love,
Of one beer drunken slob for another.

In heaven there is no beer…That’s why we drink ours here.

Dance as if no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, and live everyday as if it were your last.


 

Luck of Irish by Nick.Fisher, on Flickr

Luck of Irish by Nick.Fisher, on Flickr

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

What is your favorite proverb or adage?  Share it with us all. . .