Archive for December, 2007
A very good friend of mine just mentioned to me that she may be going to the UK this summer and next. My first thought was, “You have to go to Dublin!” This will be my first in a series of posts about the UK (and Dublin, Ireland) for her. I hope they will help or inspire you as well!
There are basically two options for getting to Dublin from the UK: the ferry or flying. Aer Lingus offers amazingly cheap flights (from £5 one way!) from London. RyanAir has flights from £.99 one way between London and Dublin; they fly out of a number of other UK cities as well. To take the ferry, you’ll have to get yourself to Holyhead, Liverpool, or Douglas. On the Stena Line, the fair is from £14. When I went to Dublin back in 2000, we took the ferry from Holyhead. This was before all these cheap flights became so readily available. Plus riding the train to Holyhead gave us a great opportunity to see Wales and experience the BritRail system. I’d take one of this discount flights now to save time, especially since I’ve already had the experience.
Where to Stay
When I went with a couple of my college classmates, we stayed at a hostel. It was a bit odd to have a bunk in a room with about 10 other people, but boy was it cheap! GoIreland seems like a good place to begin looking for accommodations. I think I’d stay in Dublin City Centre to be close to the nightlife, but Dublin is so small that anywhere in the city will likely be satisfactory.
What to See and Do
Dublin Castle: This “castle” (it looks more like a really fancy government building to me!) is right in the middle of historic Dublin. It was completed by 1230, but has had a fair amount of reconstruction done. It was the center for the English colonial administration during colonial rule and managed to survive both the War of Independence and the Civil War. It’s a great spot to get some exposure to Ireland’s history.
Trinity College: Everyone should visit Trinity College – mainly to see the Book of Kells at the library. The Book is an illuminated manuscript written around 800 AD. It contains the four gospels with beautiful artwork. It has its own interesting history. Another of my favorite items at the library is the harp, dating from the 15th century. When I visited, the harp was on the country’s currency (they’ve now adopted the Euro). Star Wars fans will enjoy seeing the long room as well – the Jedi Archives shown in Episode II is very obviously a replica of the library. I’d rate the library as THE top place to go in Dublin.
Kilmainham Gaol: Although bleak and depressing, this site is unbelievably popular - with good reason. The Gaol was first built in 1796 and operated as a jail until 1924. The most interesting part to me was learning about the 1916 Easter Rising. In my opinion, this is another must-see when visiting Dublin.
Guiness Storehouse: This brewery claims to be Ireland’s No. 1 international visitor attraction. I’d believe that! I had a great time visiting there, learning about the brewing process and the history of Guiness, even though I didn’t care for beer at the time.
For kids: Dublinia & the Medieval Viking World or the Viking Adventure. I think we went to the latter when I was there, but it seems like they ought to be somewhat similar. It was VERY corny, but a fun way to learn about Viking history.
Nightlife: One of my fondest memories of Dublin is spending the evening at a pub in Temple Bar. There was live music, and we were surrounded by locals and a few tourists. Everyone was friendly and having a great time. When I think of Ireland, I always think of friendly, jovial people.
“When I’m lonely or feeling dejected I play this and it never fails/I pretend like I’m in Ireland with Enya and the whales.” -”Ireland” (Legally Blonde the Musical) I hope you get to go to Dublin – and I hope I get to return someday too.
I’m a day late on this one, but the topic is certainly appropriate right now – be patient when travelling for the holidays. If you’re driving further than across town, make sure you have at least a quarter tank of gas at all times, be patient, and be very very careful. As we drove home last night, we ended up behind a very obviously inebriated driver. The driver very nearly caused at least one accident, and the police were slow to respond (if they ever did – we lost the car after about 10 minutes and never did see the police).
If you’re flying during the holiday season, make sure to allow plenty of extra time at the airport in case of long lines – and check your flight status before you leave for the airport. Be prepared for flight delays and be prepared to lose your luggage. If I’m not on my way home and I’m not traveling with just a carry-on, I like to carry at least a change of clothes in my carry-on. It’s also important to keep any medications you need with you instead of checking them.
Hope your travels are safe and without delay!
*Travel Tip Tuesday
Yes, I’m STILL obsessing over the Northern Lights. I swear this is my last post about them for a while. So I already talked about going to see them in Iceland and Norway. I would hope that getting to Alaska or Canada would be cheaper than those options, and, of course, it’s a great excuse to visit the northern part of North America.
I found a neat 4 day/3 night tour in the Yukon Territory from Fresh Tracks Canada. A lot of the activities will require the winter clothing rental package (assuming you don’t have your own ultra-warm winter boots and insulated headgear) – dogsledding, snowshoeing, snomobiling, and ice fishing. Visiting the hot springs sounds like my idea of fun when it’s that cold, but I’d be interested in the dogsledding too. And this tour has a Northern Lights viewing each night! That’s very good. At only $595/780 (double/single), the price may be right.
Can’t get out of the country? Bring other countries to your fridge! Last week I was shopping at a nearby Super Target and found a variety of beers available by the bottle ($1.50 each). They had boxes to carry 4, so I chose 4 I hadn’t had before from 4 different countries.
To give you some background, my fav beer is Stella Artois. I also like most Caribbean beers (unfortunately, I can only find Carib here in the mainland), Dos Equis, Corona, and Yuengling. My cheap go-to beer is (don’t laugh) Rolling Rock. Oh, I like some other beers too – I’m just mentioning ones that I regularly buy. I don’t know how to describe flavors/scents or even types of beers, but I’m learning.
My recommendation for today is to bring the right camera for what you want and what you’re doing. When you’re going on a trip, you need to consider what types of photography you want, how much weight you’re willing to carry for that photography, how willing you are to learn how to use the functions of a new camera, and how much you’re willing to pay. For our next big trip (Venice and Greece!), I want to have two types of cameras – a serious camera for taking pictures of the fantastic land and cityscapes we’ll see and a compact camera for snagging quick shots of my friends and family around the ship (we’re cruising).
I bought the Olympus Stylus 720 about a year and a half ago. This camera is shockproof (withstand a 5 ft drop), waterproof (10 ft for up to an hour), and has digital image stabilization (I call this the shaky hand mode). The zoom is fairly awful (3x optical, 5x digital), but it does have 7.1 megapixels. It also has a movie mode that is fun for the occasional 2 minute video. I bought it because our old digi cam just wasn’t producing the kind of pictures I wanted. I picked this particular camera with my next trip – a week in Puerto Rico – in mind. We had a blast snorkeling with it. If you enjoy active vacations and like the idea of taking your camera underwater without having to buy an expensive underwater housing, I highly recommend this camera. It’s also handy as my everyday camera; because it’s so compact, I keep it in my handbag most of the time.
For Christmas/my birthday, we selected the Nikon D40X, a digital SLR with 10.2 MP. We have a really nice film SLR, but I’m a spoiled brat. I can’t stand carrying around film or not knowing whether the picture I just shot was what I wanted. This was a tough choice for me to make – I was very interested in the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, but I’m cheap. The Nikon was $100 less with the standard lens, and Best Buy had a sale – $100 off if we bought another lens. I couldn’t resist, so we have the standard 18-55mm lens as well as the 55-200mm zoom lens. Based on my research, the Canon has more functionality and the Nikon is easier to use. I’m not particularly camera-savvy, so I think the Nikon will be the perfect starter camera for me. We’re going to take a class or do a lot of reading so we can learn how to properly use all the features.
There’s a gap in our camera ownership. We don’t have a compact point-and-shoot that has a good zoom. If that’s what you’d prefer, I recommend checking out the reviews and search function at DPReview. I think I might like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 if I were in the market for this type of camera.
My bff Elizabeth has a fancy ultra-high resolution Nikon Coolpix with an amazing zoom. This line of cameras combines a lot of the best features of other types of cameras – amazing zoom, small (but definitely not compact), great resolution. It’s a fixed-lens DSLR – more compact than full DSLRs but without the option to swap out lenses. I think this is another great (but expensive!) option for people to consider. And, honestly, if E loves it, I’m sure I’d love it too. She has great taste.
*TTT = Travel Tip Tuesday
My bff Elizabeth has just started a honeymoon series on Elizabeth Anne Designs. The first destination is Paris. One of my trips to Paris was with her, and I definitely recommend checking out her tips. I’ll take credit for introducing her to Musee Marmottan Monet and Le Sainte-Chappelle. I’ll only contradict her with regard to eating in Montmartre - the “great restaurants” are not great for eating! This area is definitely for the tourists! Every time I’ve eaten there, I’ve found it to be overpriced and not very impressive… but probably still worth it for the views and ambiance.
Pic of Notre Dame de Paris from Wiki
Pic from Fjord Travel
You guessed it – I’m still obsessing over the Northern Lights. A friend of mine is planning to take a trip to Northern Norway to catch the Northern Lights when they next peak (late 2011 – early 2012). This sounds like a great idea to me!
Although southern Norway sometimes sees the lights, you’re most likely to catch the them in the northern part of Norway. What else can you see there? The North Cape, the northernmost spot on mainland Europe, is a sea cliff over 1000 feet above sea level. You might also visit Svartisen, Norway’s second largest glacier (over 142 sq miles); Saltstraumen, the strongest whirlpool in the world; Seven Sisters, beautiful mountains; or the Bird Mountains, a great place for bird watching. The best place to watch for the lights are the mountain plains of Finnmark.
I was talking to a friend of a friend earlier this week about Iceland, and she recommended that I check out Iceland Air whenever I’m ready to book my trip. They have “cheap” airfare to Iceland from Baltimore, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York (JFK), and Orlando. They also have some packages that might be good deals.
This same savvy planner also mentioned that Iceland is not as cold as one might think. Although it seldom reaches 75°F in the summer, it also doesn’t get as cold as Washington. Snow is not the common in the southern parts of the country. The average temp in January is about 31°F.
Pic from CruiseAtlantic.
I am usually awful at this, but I highly recommend packing light. My favorite packing experience was when I went to New York in August with just a small backpack. I had a couple of changes of clothes, toiletries, and my notes on my plans for the weekend along with my confirmation numbers. I felt so light! I didn’t have to wait for my luggage or worry that it didn’t make it, and it was so easy to just take the bus into Manhattan.
Accepting that packing light is the way to go is the first step. The second step is how to do it. There are so many tricks! Pack just a carry-on if at all possible; pack clothing that can be worn multiple times, that goes with multiple other items (it’s easiest if you go brown OR black themed so you only need one handbag!), and that is fairly anti-wrinkle; get travel sized toiletries (I keep a toiletries bag packed all the time so I don’t even have to think about it); keep shoes to a minimum; wear any bulky items onto the plane; etc. Rick Steves recommends, “Pack for the best scenario and simply buy yourself out of any jams.”
Don’t forget to leave room for souvenirs though. I like to pack an extra bag if I’m going somewhere I know I’ll want to bring back more than postcards.
P.S. If you can sit on your luggage like this and it’s not your biggest bag, you’re probably not packing light!
*Travel Tip Tuesday
Today I’m particularly interested in Iceland. According to an annual UN report published last month, Iceland is the world’s best place to live (based on life expectancy, education levels, and real per capita income). With its dedication to using renewable energy, the country seems so different from the US – and an amazing place to visit.