, ,

Top 10 Hip London Pubs


London is rife with traditional as well as modern pubs and bars, from the scenes of Soho to Jack the Ripper’s favorite haunts, make sure to check out the hippest places to drink across the pond!

Blind Pig

Prohibition meets modern class at this New York style Soho drink stop. Located quietly and quaintly above Social Eating House, make your way there during the day for a relaxed vibe (although reservations, any time of day, are advised!), or pop in at night to take in the ambiance. Their unique cheekiness can be seen in their décor as well as their menu. Find the brass door-knocker appropriately shaped into a blindfolded pig, and settle into a leather banquette with a Bulleit Rye or a Vitamin C Vesper – just to make your habit seem healthy for a drink or two!

Address:

58 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR

The Ten Bells in Whitechapel

A personal favorite, the Ten Bells sits as an antiquity – and for good reason. Conjure up the spirit of Jack the Ripper with a few spirits of your own, known for one of the locations where he met his ill-fated victims. The friendly staff and tasty Pimms cocktails mix well with the location, directly across from the lively Old Spitalfields Market. Take your drink outside and watch the city walk by, and make some new friends in the process.

Address:

84 Commercial St, Spitalfields, London E1 6LY

Bradley’s Spanish Bar on Oxford St

When not in Spain, let Bradley’s bring the Spanish vibe to you! This low-key pub is perfect for a rainy day when only a glass of wine and a song from the jukebox will do. Drinks are well priced and the atmosphere is enhanced by the local customers who spill out into the streets for good cocktails and conversation. Visit Bradley’s for classic music, a glass of Spanish wine, and a laid-back atmosphere as the sun sets.

Address:

44 Hanway St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1UT

The White Hart Pub

Another Ripper reference sits quietly on White Chapel High Street, just east of central London, with excellent food and a laid-back atmosphere that appeals to locals and tourists alike. Conveniently located across the street from the Aldgate East tube stop, the White Hart is an ideal spot to grab a quiet drink and have a long conversation with your friends, or anyone else who happens to pop in!

Address:

89 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7RA

Coach & Horses in Soho

Another one of London’s old-school pubs in Soho, Coach & Horses is a great place to toss back a pint where the stained glass windows and well-worn carpet create a story onto themselves. Take a Wednesday or Saturday night to visit this classic pub for their piano sing-along and get into the spirit (and the spirits!) with the crowd, known for their classic cockney renditions as well as a more modern play list. Grab a Fuller’s or a Hopspur and join in!

Address:

29 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 5DH, UK

Cross Keys in Covent Garden

Put the keys up and grab a cab to the Cross Keys for a low-key afternoon pint. A traditionally British pub, relax and lift a glass outside while the greenery and glow of the sunset light up the night. As one of the quaint antiquities that defines classic London tap rooms, its all about that homey feel you search for at the end of the day. Try a pint from Brodie’s, a classic local London brewery. Have a bite or two while you’re there as well; the Doorstep Sandwich is a local favorite.

Address:

31 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9BA

Doodle Bar in Bermondsey

Bring your inner kid and grab a stick of chalk at this unique spot in Bermondsey, where you can write on the walls while hoisting your favorite pint. In addition to the whimsical vibe, food trucks frequent the establishment for late night revelers looking to eat as well as imbibe. Originally started as a hard-to-find pop-up pub, the Doodle Bar has evolved into a hip and chill every-day spot for the locals. Try their signature beer, an aptly named Doodle’s Pale Ale. Get to the bar in the evening for a chiller vibe, before the larger crowds grab a spot and start chalking it up!

Address:

60 Druid St, London SE1 2EZ, UK

The Elephant & Castle (in Elephant & Castle)

This pub puts the the hip in what’s happening and not necessarily the hipster. A trendy spot that’s been courted by the city after a rough and tumble history, the Elephant stands as a testament to how the past can bring the future into the forefront. It’s not only craft beer that lines their bar; Heineken and Amstel mingle nicely with local IPA’s and great crowds.

Address:

119 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN

Harp in Covent Garden

No need to go to church on Sunday, just visit the Harp for a communion with stained-glass windows and a bit of the spirit. A great spot for beer-o-philes and pub aficionados alike, Harp is a small bar with a lot of traditional flare. Another favorite among locals, it’s rightfully been named pub of the year. Take a mill around Harp when you find yourself in central London and toss back a pint of any one of their rotating brews.

Address:

47 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HS

Royal Oak in The Borough

The Royal Oak is where history meets a modern tavern. Voted one of the best places to drink a beer, this pub espouses Chaucer’s spirit with it’s homey feel and warm yet up-to-date character. A nice mix of the old school and the moving tone of London, venture in and ask for a Cask Mild and enjoy your evening, you won’t be disappointed.

Address:

44 Tabard Street, Borough, London, SE1

Bonus Bar – Phoenix Artist Club in Covent Garden

Another one of our personal favorites for a late night plug, the Phoenix Artist Club serves up a very unique (and, of course, artsy) vibe. From the congenial bartenders, to the thespian memorabilia and the secluded back room where some of the most famous theatre greats frequented (and still do), it’s like stepping back in time – while present in the ethereal, low-lighted moment. The caveat to this establishment is that you have to be a member, available for about 70 Pounds per year. That is, unless you have a ticket stub from any one of the unforgettable London theatres. We chose Phantom of the Opera for our last visit in the West End and topped it off with the Phoenix… well worth the price of admission in every sense of the word!

Address:

1 Phoenix St, London WC2H 8BU

London is the quintessential and classic city for some of the best pubs in the world, make sure to venture out and find your favorite!

 

, , ,

Travel Barcelona – Art to All Night


The beauty of Barcelona is bejeweled and multi-faceted. Between the vast array of art museums and Gaudi architecture, to the streets that lead you to early morning coffee shops with bocadillos waiting for customers at five o’clock in the morning, to those early afternoon corner bistros with the Estrella Damm beer you’ve been craving (Limon flavored, of course!) this city winds its way around your mind in myriad ways.

Estrella – Damm that’s good beer!

For our stay in this eclectic and diverse city, we chose the Barcelona House, an artsy and friendly hotel sitting neatly in the bustling downtown area of the city, just steps away from the main street of La Rambla, leading to the center of the action. The convenient locale of this hotel and the open-very-late staff were thankfully accommodating. The rooms were modern, clean and comfortable, and our quarters overlooked a residential building that simply added to the charm of the place.

A comfortable and cozy room at the Barcelona House Hotel.

After retiring our backpacks in for the night, still hungry from the flight and looking to explore, we ventured down the main thoroughfare after the sun had set and found ourselves at the El Cercle restaurant, serving excellent wine and a great view of the city’s shopping center from the top deck.

Great view for a romantic meal in downtown Barcelona.

Despite the cold of Spain’s late autumn, we settled in at the best vantage point while the nightlife in Barcelona walked by down below. And, perhaps because of the chilly night, we were quite happily the only guests at the top of the eatery. The food was amazing and the service, despite the weather, was impeccable.  Personally, I’m a big fan of anchovies, and while maybe not a great choice while you find yourself elsewhere and land-locked, the fresh fish here was presented with amazing flavor and quite memorable.  (We tried them many places, always delicious in Barcelona!)

In this diverse city there are many centrally-located and beautiful shops and boutiques that are frequented by a mass of visitors and Barcelonans alike. This city is one of both old and new, the new being displayed in it’s rows of high-end shops, featuring the upscale wares of all kinds in the famous Passeig de Gracia.

Day-Tour Around the City

To make the most of a Barcelona trip at a reasonable price, we headed downtown to utilize Barcelona’s Hop On Hop Off bus tour, offering both a blue and red line to see the sights at your leisure without breaking the bank. For about $30 per person you can traverse the city all day. You’ll be taken to the most popular and memorable areas of the city, including the Joan Miro museum, where you can peruse his famous modern artworks in the clean-lined building so befitting of his craft.

Outside of the Joan Muro Museum, as no pictures were allowed inside!

Although you aren’t allowed to photograph inside the museum itself, walk through to the second level, an outside pavilion where you’ll see a crisp, stark rooftop with his colorful sculptures, where pictures are encouraged and the view is remarkable. While inside, however, don’t miss the unique mercury fountain, a sculpture commissioned for the World’s Fair in 1937 – an art piece actually flowing in repetition with mercury itself – a must see behind the glass as you enter the main gallery.

Beneath the steps of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

In addition to the art along your bus tour, you can view the art of Gaudi in the structures that line the streets, a testament to the artist himself, and a view into the traditional history of the city itself. Ethereal and encrusted in tiles and glass, Gaudi history is truly one of the city’s birthrights, not to be missed. As a student of art in my early university years, these buildings hold a certain provenance of Barcelona for me. Not excessive and tasteless (as the word in mistranslation has come to be known as a colloquialism), but they stand moving and bright, an inspired set of architecture in a flat world.

Ground level view of a Gaudi masterpiece!

Restaurants and Markets

The city of Barcelona is highly walkable, and once we departed from our day trip on the bus, we found ourselves happily meandering along the streets, searching for a dinner (and drink!) spot. Our favorite turned out to be Rosa Negra, a colorful and vibrant Spanish restaurant on the Via Laietana, serving the best tacos and mojitos we’d had in Barcelona (or, any city), and in addition to the food and drink, the décor is something to behold. Make sure to ask for their hot sauce, if that’s your flavor, it’s not to be missed! Without question, Rosa Negra is the best food we had in Barcelona.

One of the best meals we’ve had anywhere – Rosa Negra!

 

If you find yourself in the famous area of the Sagrada Familia, make your way to the En Diagonal Bar, a tasty and Mediterranean themed eatery with a wonderful outdoor dining patio. Just a four to five minute walk down Carrer de Sardenya from the famous church, this quaint spot offers traditional tapas, chorizo, and excellent sangria. Stop in for a bite after touring this part of the city and you won’t be disappointed!

A beautiful view of the Mercado de la Boqueria – such fresh produce!

After you find your favorite eatery, of which there are many to choose from, make sure to check out the Mercado de La Boqueria. This indoor market is an impressive expanse, offering local food to chefs as well as home cooks and tourists alike. As one of the liveliest places we’ve experienced in the city, this market is a welcoming and walkable place for anyone in the vicinity. Take your time and mill about the vegetable and fruit displays, as well as the fresh seafood. Even if you’re not going to break out a kitchen set in your hotel, this market is brimming with flavors you can take home with you in memory.

Juice area at Mercado de la Boqueria.

Historical Landmarks

The Sagrada Familia is in itself an impressive and unbelievable work of art as well as history. Apart from the Catholicism of this church, the colorful Gaudi architecture swirls around every corner and window – perhaps the most breathtaking pieces of the structure altogether. Tickets are currently available for 29 euros per person and is worth the experience no matter if you’re an art major or a simply a fan of the great history of this city.

The Labor of Love that is the Sagrada de Familia.

The Casa Amatller is another one of Barcelona’s beauties. While the tours may be short, you are free to photograph along the way. This astounding Gothic structure envisioned by Gaudi the 1880’s has endeared itself as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. Surprisingly, this unique location was once a residential building in the heart of the city, and has since been rightly converted to a museum and library. If you’re visiting during the day, leave the Estrella Damm pint for later and stop into the local cafe, the Faborit, for a cup of their delicious hot chocolate!

Amazing view of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo – a Barcelona treasure!

Continue through the tour of Gaudi’s masterpieces at the Casa Batllo. This impressive building boasts a façade of balconies that well resemble giant bones and skulls, which juxtapose the well-lit, jovial and colorful windows that adorn the outside. The lines of this structure are mesmerizing as well as a marvel of architecture which runs through the blood of Barcelona.

Visit Salvador Dali in a Day

This is the excursion for art lovers, and especially those in love with the work of Salvador Dali. Leave from Barcelona in the early morning and head to the original Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, designed by the consult of Dali himself, before heading to the Dali home in Cadaques (called the Port Lligat Museum House).

Which do you see – Lincoln or Gala?

The museum is truly stunning, offering a glimpse into the mind of one of the most flamboyant and brilliant artists of modern history. The museum truly lives up to the wishes of Dali, who said, “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” Come, see and dream.

Dali’s Round Room, at his home in Port Lligat, is perfectly designed to create an echo for only those in the center of the room!

The Dali home in Cadaques is a masterpiece of artwork itself, having been built for Gala Dali (Salvador’s wife), and the location where the couple lived for more than 50 years before Gala’s death in 1982.

Always remember to look UP!

There are a variety of Dali-inspired trips to the region for all budget levels, and all include the beautiful drive through the eastern Spanish terrain.

Take in the Nightlife in Barcelona

Once the sun sets, its time to party in Barcelona! There are endless choices of venues, from traditional Latin music to the soulful sounds of blues bands, take a night and experience the best of the bustling after-hours excitement!

The Mojito Club in the neighborhood of L’Eixample, Barcelona offers fresh and festive Latin music with salsa dancing and great drinks as well. Locals and tourists alike flood the dance floors to move with the beat until 5am – if you can make it till nearly dawn! Offering dance lessons for individuals as well as couples and groups, start out learning a few steps and then grab a mojito and join the crowd.

A Barcelona club night

For a more modern music scene, hit up Razzmatazz in Poblenou, offering five individual rooms as venues for tastes of every kind. The music here mixes up the crowd well with international DJ’s spinning everything from electronica to rock to hip-hop… also until 5am! Check out The Loft area for a more techno crowd, one of the hot spots of the club. In addition to the weekend parties, Razzmatazz brings in live acts during the week for a mellower vibe, depending on your flavor!

DJ’s Hands at the Carpe Diem.

The beautiful Barcelona beach area offers another option – a spot that goes from day to night seamlessly at Carpe Diem Lounge Club (colloquially known as CDLC), located right on the Mediterranean in Port Olympic. Offering a calming and serene experience during the day, with food and custom drinks, the night turns CDLC into a lively, fresh atmosphere with lots of energy. Dress well and rub shoulders with some jet-setters here, while sipping a fragrant cocktail by the sea!

Beautiful expanse over a stunning Barcelona!

Barcelona is a vibrant, 24-hours-a-day delight for all the senses, from the quaint coffee shops offering frosty glasses of Estrella Damm and sardines to the world-class art and bustling nightlife, get lost on every corner and fill your moments with experiences that will last a lifetime!

, , , ,

Review: Lisbon’s Miraparque Hotel


Lisbon is a subtle, stunning city along the Atlantic coast of Portugal in which you can find many wonderful surprises. When choosing a hotel is this gem of a city, you want something that is going to provide access to the best food, music and drinks the city has to offer. You want a location that will enable you to experience all that Lisbon has to offer. You will want, if you can find it, one of the cheapest hotels in Lisbon, and also one of the most perfectly centered.

What you want is the Miraparque Hotel.

Located within a few hundred yards of the central Marques de Pombal Square, a roundabout area that serves as both a business district and thriving tourism area, the Miraparque stands as one of the best located hotels in which we’ve stayed in Europe.

Quaint and affordable, the Miraparque sits just up-hill from the Square as is aptly named for its location alongside the popular Parque Eduardo VII in the city center.

Upon entry, the Miraparque Hotel has a slightly dated, older feel, however obviously clean. The front desk staff was accommodating, helping us to find information on the local tours and hop-on, hop-off bus that departed at the park across the street.

After some time waiting for our room to be prepared, we were allowed inside (still prior to our planned check-out time) and were greeted by one of the more spacious European, budget hotel rooms in which we’ve stayed. The room was vast, with a courtyard-facing window that, while not scenic, allowed for a nice breeze to sweep across the room.

The hotel offered the standard amenities, from a small, pleasant hotel bar to a fitting hotel breakfast buffet that was prepared in time each morning about 6:00am. The breakfast offered standard European breakfast far, with simple, cured meats, popular cheeses, scrambled eggs and various fruits and cereals. In addition, the coffee was hot and fresh, served with local milk used as creamer. Typically before our morning breakfast, we would enjoy a quick workout in the hotel’s roof-top gymnasium.

The hotel bar could serve 6-8 people, but was an excellent place to have a drink or two before heading out for a night on the town. We were pleased with the results on a few classics such as the Negroni, and with their Sangria being homemade.

The biggest advantage to the Miraparque was, quite simply, the location and the price. It is another in a long line of boutique hotels in which we’ve stayed where we were able to find an excellent location in a popular city for under 100USD per night. Convenience was key about our stay here, and provided us to have memorable, late nights on the town without having the fear of wondering how we would be able to make our way back beyond the time when the Metro was running.

From the Miraparque, you are within a short walk to countless bars, restaurants, markets, and museums. Not only this, but within minutes you can be ocean-side and enjoying the wonderful vistas along Portugal’s Atlantic coast.

While not flashy or stunning, the Miraparque is a perfectly comfortable hotel that is secure, clean and most of all, overwhelmingly close to so much of what Lisbon offers. If you are like us, and judge a hotel based on what you get in return for the cost, you’ll make the Miraparque your home on your next stop in Lisbon.

Our verdict: Recommend.

Contact:

Website 

Address: Av.Sidónio Pais,12
1050-214 Lisboa Lisbon
Portugal

Phone : +351 213 524 286

 

, , , ,

Review: Amsterdam’s A-Train Hotel


No matter where we travel, we look for the same three things in the hotel where we stay – location, affordability and security. We’re far from high-brow, mind you, as what we’re really seeking is a trust-worthy location that allows us to enjoy the area in which we’re traveling. Sometimes, however, we get surprised by the small, boutique establishments where we call home during our short visits. Somehow, we find hidden gems.

The A-Train Hotel was one such gem, and its undoubtedly one of the best hotel deals in Amsterdam

Located on the Prins Hendrikkade, a prime location facing Amsterdam Centraal Station, the A-Train is a warm, beguiling place. While seemingly blending in with the shops and restaurants along the main thoroughfare where bicyclers, tourists and revelers of the day and night wandered, the A-Train enraptures you upon entry. The small entry gives way to a shotgun-style lobby with old, stained wood supporting a mammoth collection of travel memorabilia – true to the thematic title the A-Train bears. The entire hotel has a great feel as a type of old train car, itself,

The reception was warm, with multi-lingual host staff manning the entry desk and a secure front entry that made us feel both at home and secure. The tiny elevator, adored with more early 20th-century travel collectibles, opened to a well-lit hallway where we found our room adjacent to the opening of the doors. The rooms? Small, in a general sense, but none-the-less cozy and comfortable. The room had a feeling of crisp cleanliness, and we were surprised to see a widely outward-opening window which gave us a bird’s-eye view of the warm rooftops of the neighborhood that lay behind the primary street on which we were staying. This only added to the feel of “home”.

Our view from the room- quaint and idyllic.

First, let me say that the location was splendid. Not only were we within steps of the Centraal Station, but in front of the station was the primary canal that separated Amsterdam by north and south bank. Here, you could rent canal passes, sunset cruises and hop-on, hop-off canal boats that made for easy access to the greatest sites around the city.

To our right, within 50 feet of the entry way, was the more than 400-year-old Cafe Karpershoek – an Amsterdam landmark that opened in 1606. Beyond that was a number of excellent restaurants, pubs, coffee-shops, and the primary walkway that led approximately ten minutes to the Red Light District. Lastly, we stocked our room on numerous occasions with the groceries and beer sold at the Albert Heijn market, which was directly next door. We used this ideal proximity not only for groceries, but also to get cash, ask for directions and even for aspirin to help us get over our first Amsterdam hangover!

You simply couldn’t get a better location.

The affordability of the A-Train can’t be overstated. We actually booked our trip through Tripmasters, a site we have used myriad times to explore the world, and A-Train was one of their favored locations. If you are booking independently, the A-Train can be had for less than 100USD per night. The hotel next door? More than twice that amount. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not paying double for 30 extra square feet in my hotel room. When all was said and done, we paid about 65USD per night through Tripmasters for our room at A-Train, which really is one bar-tab more than the cost of a hostel. I’ll take the security, privacy and coziness over the bunk-beds, thank you.

The room was comfortable, clean, and cozy.

Lastly, our room included a morning breakfast that was more than simply continental fair. Fresh, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and a litany of fruits, breads and juices were available each morning upon arrival – even when we had to leave at 6:00am for our early trip back to the airport! The coffee was strong and hot, the food was delicious, and it had us well on our way toward exploring the city.

In all, you simply can’t do any better for the price you pay than to stay at the A-Train. Along with Venice’s Hotel Vecellio, it’s among the happiest we’ve been with a hotel selection in the entirety of our travel experiences.

Our verdict: Highly recommend.

Contact

Website 

Address: Prins Hendrikkade 23, 1012 TM Amsterdam, Netherlands

Phone : +31 20 624 1942

, , , , , , ,

5 Free Things To Do In Munich


Munich is a rare city that one could say is, in fact, uniquely its own. The history, each the good, bad, and notoriously dreadful, are all uniquely her. The site of the nationalistic uprising that resulted in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Munich has grown from its treacherous past and is today an impeccably serene, peaceful and idyllic place. From Bavarian architecture and face-sized pints of Weissbier to its understanding and growth from its war-torn history, Munich is utterly unmistakable from any other.

What few know and understand about Munich is that it’s also a great budget travel city, and one in which you’ll find yourself often dumbfounded by brilliance simply by standing, walking or looking up. Here, we’ve covered five great, free ways to make the most of the Old Bavarian capital.

Free Walking Tour

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in Munich is the Free Walking Tour, offered by a handful of independent crews that work by donation throughout the city center. Mostly beginning in front of the Marienplatz, the city’s main square since 1158, you’ll have the opportunity to tour Munich by foot and learn about the deep, rich history of the city.

The one we chose was Sandeman’s, which convened in the city center in front of the Marienplatz. It’s best to check ahead for availability and space, especially weather pending, but actually setting up to attend the tour is quite easy. The tour guides are fantastically knowledgeable about Munich, and will share with you the epic details behind locations such as Marienplatz (and the Glockenspiel that adorns its tower), Englischer Garter, Munich Residenz, Altes Rathaus and the five famous Munchen breweries including the ubiquitous Hofbrauhaus, which dates back to 1589! Other spots include Odeonsplatz, the site of numerous early Nazi speeches and beside the area where Hitler was allegedly shot during the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Truly, Munich comes alive on this tour that brings all stories to the forefront – both the known and the unknown of the city.

Make sure to have a camera handy, as the walking tour offers much of what you expected to see in Munich, a few surprises, and plenty of scenic beauty around this beautiful city center. The free walking tours are a must see, even if you’re only looking for something to fill up one day in Munich.

The Gardens at Nymphenburg Park

Nymphenburg Palace is a place of unspeakable beauty, finished in 1675 and once home to such luminaries as King Ludwig II, who was born there in 1845. While the palace itself is a for-pay attraction, the gardens outside are stunning and free to walk about.

Nearly 500 acres in size, the Gardens at Nymphenburg are bejeweled by stunning fountains such as The Grand Cascade, impeccably manicured hedgerows and beautiful lakes that can be viewed year-round. The grounds retain much of the old Bavarian feel, as they’ve remained largely unchanged beyond a few minor additions and alterations made in the latter 19th century. There are numerous attractions on the grounds, including the Royal Bathing House known as Badenburg and Pagodenburg, a royal teahouse built in beautiful, traditional 19th century majesty.

While there are entrance fees to enter Nymphenburg much of the year, off-times of the year where entry can be had for free – especially if bundled with the palace.

Stroll the Englischer Garten

A popular site on the walking tour, the Englischer Garten shocks one at its mere size – which is larger than both London’s Hyde Park and New York’s Central Park.

Englischer Garten surprises, as it’s both fantastical and diverse – including a Japanese Teahouse given to the City of Munich by Japan during the 1972 Summer Olympics as well as the popular Eisbach, a standing wave artificially produced in a stream and serves as a popular spot for surfers who long for the ocean.

Most commonly, Englischer Garten is a wonderful place to relax. Revelers can be seen soaking in the sun in summer months, either resting on a bench to read a book or decompressing on a blanket with perhaps a few sandwiches in hand. It is this that makes the garden an ideal place to sit, renew the soul and simply watch the city pass you by.

Hofbrauhaus

The already-mentioned Hofbrauhaus is central to Munich’s history, as the site of the city’s most famous brewery since 1589.

Forcibly restored since sustaining extensive bombing damage during the raids of World War II, Hofbrauhaus maintains its original character including vaulted, masterfully-painted ceilings and authentic Bavarian music played live alongside the gigantic steins of liquid courage. Yet, you don’t need to have a pint of the good stuff to enjoy Hofbrauhaus, as its halls and historic upstairs dining area are all must-see attractions that are free and open to tourists year-round.

If you do want to shell out a few Euros while on site, Hofbrauhaus is an essential place to experience one of those over-sized beers along with your first helping of schnitzel! Tracy and I sat for hours, sitting the beautiful, golden lager and listening to a traditional polka band play in the lower hall of Hofbrauhaus, a massively stunning work of art that also boasts excellent acoustics for such a performance.

Olympic Park

Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, still is operational, beautiful, and open to the public. During the summer months, Olympiapark serves the city with a series of free concerts on its beautiful grounds. The stadium still hosts numerous annual events, such as Holiday on Ice and the Six-Day-Run, both of which are widely attended and fantastic for tourists.

Outside the stadium itself is Olympiaberg, another great free attraction and a high hillside that serves picnickers as well as blanket-toting music lovers who would rather hear the sounds of Olympiaparks major concerts from afar – and without cost. These free attractions are where Munich begins, but certainly not where it ends. Full of mystery, beauty and historical significance, it’s a city that presents boundless opportunities to delve deeper.

What are your favorite free things to do in Munich?

 

, ,

Review: Cliffs of Moher Day-Trip


Ireland is a beautiful and aptly green landscape of peaceful fields as well as bustling downtowns and classic structures everywhere you look. On our last trip into Dublin, we took a day trip across the country to see the famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

As a relatively small group tour, it was a pleasant excursion to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin in a large air-conditioned passenger van. The trip is a meandering one, full of pastures and farmlands, family farms and the kind of green I can honestly say I’ve never seen along a landscape in the U.S. Bright and calm, after a four hour journey with a stop in between, we arrived at the Cliffs! The guide, organized and quiet on the ride there (which allowed us to take a quick nap), instructed us to meet back at the appointed time, after which we were free to explore.

Quick tip: Take a backpack or bag with water, drinks, and snacks as you make your way to the Cliffs! We brought along some bottles of iced tea, cheese sticks and crackers to satiate us along the way.

Upon exiting the tour van, we felt the brisk winds kick in, which was quite refreshing! The cliffs themselves stood out in front of us in the sunlight, and are immediately stunning. It’s easy to see why the Cliffs of Moher were chosen as a filming location for numerous films, such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After a long trip, we were hungry, and found our way to the restaurant in the main visitor’s area.

Prior to taking in the scenery up close, we entered the quaint (and faintly Hobbit-like) dome built into the earth which houses the visitor center as well as a cafeteria with quick bites and hot food. After the long ride we partook in the Guinness steak dish with mashed potatoes, quite good, and a large portion! While in the center, we walked through the Exhibition, a fun and interpretive area in the lower part of the center that shows visitors the nature of the Cliffs with exhibits and displays. The dome itself is set up to highlight the four elements of the Cliffs: Ocean, Rock, Nature and Man.

Taking in a moment at the signpost which marks the entrance to the Cliffs of Moher.

Soaring above the sea at 702 feet (at the highest point) the Cliffs go on for five miles against the coast of the Atlantic. As we approached the mountainous range we found a bordered pathway, lined with waist-high slabs of slate that create a rustic and historical fence line just behind the edge of the cliffs for safe passage as you take in the view from the skyrocketing wonder. For the more adventurous, take a step over the slate and walk along a path facing the edge of the cliffs themselves with no safety features!

Although discouraged from doing so (and not quite sure if it’s technically “allowed”!), we decided to take the challenge and meander along the un-fenced border. With the winds whipping around us it was a bit trepidacious, but also exhilarating and a once in a lifetime experience!

The epic vista shows the eras of erosion that over time created the massive, rocky sea-lined pillars that only the environment could create. The human intrigue of the Cliffs only makes sense in person – we have never felt so small yet so inspired standing atop the green grass with certain infinity below. As we stepped along the border, little yellow flowers popped out along the grass; a beautiful juxtaposition between the deep dive of the danger at the edge and the nature that created them.

The view from the cliffs is honestly one that made us silent and contemplative while we moved slowly along. “Breathtaking” is a word most likely designated for this experience along the coast of Ireland. As you traverse the coast, you’ll be greeted by a spray or two of upwards waterfalls, inexplicably blowing up and then raining down from the sea itself, a seeming impossibility! The misty upwards/downwards waterfall hits you twice – once as you go up the Cliffs and once as you make your way to the castle.

Along the walkway, sea spray showers.

Quick tip: In addition to the winds, the Cliffs of Moher have upward spraying, misty water spouts from the sea, so bring along a scarf or hat, and enjoy the experience up close!

After walking along the precarious open face of the Cliffs, we ventured around to O’Brien’s castle, a small structure that for two euros you can ascend the winding spiral staircase to the top. From there, the view is striking! Built in 1835 by landlord Cornelius O’Brien as a way to watch the visitors that came to see the cliffs, the weather was beautiful and clear enough to see the southern tip of Clare, and even as far as the mountains of Kerry. To the west we viewed the three Aran Islands, where we were informed by the friendly tower concierge, the 1,200 or so residents speak almost exclusively Irish Gaelic (in addition to English)! These islands are also home of the famous Aran sweater, which gained worldwide popularity during the mid-twentieth century.

One way to get even more up close and personal with the cliffs and their history, book a guided tour! These small group tours are ideal for anyone interested in geology and geography, conducted by trained local rangers. The cost is about 45 Euros per group, and they advise to book at least a week in advance!

Beautiful O’Brien Castle with our friends posing!

After our walk along the cliffs and a visit to the O’Brien castle, we visited the visitor center once again, this time to get souvenirs! The staff at the center is accommodating and helpful, and it’s no surprise that everywhere you visit here has that traditional Irish friendliness and charm. Pick up a key chain, a magnet, or some fudge (like we did!) and watch the sun start to wane against the sky of the ancient scenery.

The return trip didn’t lack in beautiful scenery.

The road back from the Cliffs of Moher was just as breathtaking and contemplative – vast expanses of green fields and towns that roll along at a peaceful pace. Though we could’ve slept as we meandered along the quiet roads, the experience itself kept my memory – and vision – going for the rest of the journey. Arriving back in Dublin from the cliffs, we felt refreshed, inspired, and in love with Ireland even more!

 

 

, , ,

A Day-Trip with Dali


While visiting new cities, taking a day trip is a great way to maximize your experience. During our recent trip to Barcelona, we found such an opportunity to take a small group day trip to the Salvador Dali Theater and Museum in Girona, as well as his beautifully and personally designed house in Port Lligat, along the enchanting northeast coast of Spain. As a student of art, and a lifelong fan of Dali, I was exuberant for this excursion, and it did not disappoint!

Starting out at the tour office in downtown Barcelona, just a few blocks walk from our hotel, we met up with the other eight or so fellow tourists. Everyone in our group was English-speaking, so the guide introduced herself in our native language and explained the details and timeline of the tour. She was extremely friendly and answered any questions we had before departing, as well as throughout the day!

Around every corner – another masterpiece.

The drive itself takes you around beautiful coastal areas while the experienced tour guide narrates along the way, telling the history of the areas you’re traversing as well as interesting and unique facts about Dali himself. We were quite impressed with her knowledge of the artist as well as his museum and home.

The Dali Theatre and Museum

After about a two hour ride, we arrived at the astounding Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Girona. Opened in 1974, it naturally houses the largest collection of his works. Adorned with large sculptures of eggs atop the parapets, and pink-hued walls covered with loaves of bread, it is surrealism personified. Take a minute to admire the uniqueness of the external façade; it is just the beginning of the amazing artwork sprung from Dali’s imagination.

Upon entering the museum, our first experience was quite mesmerizing. A 1941 Cadillac, complete with a non-sentient passenger, has been transformed into a rainstorm – on the inside. A quirky coin-operated attraction, Dali’s vision for this piece was a comment on how he could never seem to get a cab when it was raining! From there you’re free to roam the museum itself, and upon entering, you’ll find yourself in the presence of one of his most famous works, “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea”. Although, at first glance, what you’ll most likely see is the bust of Abraham Lincoln instead of his much beloved wife, Gala.

Dali’s surrealistic impression of his muse – Gala.

Quick note: You’ll see Dali’s wife Gala represented frequently within his works. She was his muse, and lived in the house that he built on the coast in Cadaques, where she died in 1982.

Dali used any medium, even Cadillacs, to express his genius.

Make sure to meander through every corridor and hallway in the museum, every wall conveys Dali’s genius and, perhaps, eccentricities. Another famous piece is the Mae West room, where a couch and other objects turn into her face once you ascend the short staircase at the back of the room to view it from its intended perspective!

This unique museum houses not only his largest collection, but some of his most prolific works, including Soft self-portrait with grilled bacon (1941), Poetry of America—the Cosmic Athletes (1943), Galarina (1944–45), Basket of Bread (1945), Leda Atomica (1949), Galatea of the Spheres (1952) and Crist de la Tramuntana (1968). In addition to the main gallery, the structure dedicates a room to Dali’s unique optical illusions and anamorphic art, as well as his final complete painting, The Swallow’s Tail, created in 1983.

At the center of Cadaques, at Dali’s Statue.

As we walked through the winding hallways there was history at every turn. From early sketches to sculptures, it was hard not to feel a sort of drunkenness in the midst of his genius, every viewpoint was just one more indelible impression to take home with us.

Quick note: Make sure to look up as you make your way through the different areas of the museum, not all the art is hung on the walls!

Which do you see – Lincoln or Gala?

In addition to Dali’s paintings, the most recognizable of his works, we visited the adjoining gallery of jewelry designed by his artistry. Glittering and thought-provoking, this small gallery lets you view these priceless pieces up close behind glass. Truly not to be missed!

After we took our time to take in all that the museum has to offer, we ventured outside to grab a bite to eat at the small café across the street where we got a couple small sandwiches from a welcoming owner. After relaxing outside, it was time to keep going… on to Cadaques!

Always remember to look UP!

Dali House in Port Lligat, Cadaques

A short drive from the museum is the quaint coastal city of Cadaques, where you can see a cheeky statue of Dali (a great photo op!) and find delicious food while you dine right next to the shoreline. Located on the Costa Brava on the Mediterranean Sea, the town is quiet with a serene and classic stretch of white-walled shops and restaurants against a mountainous backdrop.

Walking down the winding roads to the water, the view is breathtaking from the rocky shore, and despite the chilly weather, we buttoned up our coats and happily sat outside to enjoy our lunch.  After a few glasses of wine, some sardines on toast, and meeting a friendly local cat, we made our way back up the misty streets and rejoined the group for the short ride to Dali’s house.

Meeting a new friend in Cadaques.

Salvador Dali’s house and museum in Port Lligat was designed by the master himself, a labyrinth of passageways and rooms so unique we were astounded at every turn. Built on the water in a remote fisherman’s village, it stood as Salvador and Gala’s main residence until 1982. Purchased in 1930, Salvador and Gala began building onto their initial space until it reached two stories and six connecting cottage spaces where they showcased their surrealistic tastes. He was especially drawn to the light and the landscape of this beautiful location, as well as it’s distance from the busy city streets.

Upon arriving at the small road that leads to the house, we came upon the calming and serene view of the port to the left of the path. The house itself is stark white, a striking contrast against the grey skies that day, while also quite minimalistic at first glance… on the outside!

The entry of his home brings you to the beginning of the whimsical experience ahead – a large bear figure holding a lamp in a sitting area. Though this initial living space, as well as other areas, are roped off to the public, most of the house is open for exploration where you can take as many photos as you like! We were free to roam the whole of the house, including the impressive pool area at the rear, where the famous sitting area showcases a reinvented Mae West lips couch surrounded by Pirelli Tire placards.

Dali’s interesting perspective was everywhere – even the pool!

One of the most fascinating rooms within the Dali house was the round room, another living space designed as a domed circle, and while appearing cozy and colorful with couches and pillows surrounding the sphere, we made sure to stand in the center for its best feature. While in the middle of this circular space, start speaking out loud… you’ll hear your own voice echo against the walls! It’s a quirky and slightly mind-bending experience. As soon as you move to the periphery, that echo effect disappears. Quite astounding (and fun)!

Dali’s echo room – a beautiful sitting area in the center of the home.

The main bedroom features two separate and colorful beds, decorated in pink linens and small overhead canopies, its window facing the calming port waters. We could imagine the view each morning as they rose to see the calming view. As you meander, you’ll find yourself winding through the small halls and staircases, one of which leads down to a room where his paint and other supplies are shelved. Near this deeply historical display is his actual art studio, complete with a wall-mounted mechanism that allowed his canvases to be lifted and lowered into the floor as he painted. The guide informed us that, still sitting in this space, his last incomplete work hangs from the lift. As with almost all windows in the Dali house, his studio faced the shore of the port to capture the best light.

A peek into Dali’s equipment storage – left as it was the day he died.

After meeting back up with the guide, who continued to narrate our experience with the history of the dwelling, she enhanced our visit by discussing interesting features and unique anecdotes about the owners, both Salvador and Gala.

Moving past the impressive and eclectic interior, we made our way out to the pool area to take a walk around the water feature as well as the additional pieces and spaces he’d created. At the rear of the pool is a covered sitting area full of plush and colorful cushions. It was all we could do not to sit down and relax for the rest of the day!

As an art enthusiast, I had one request at the end of the day – that I would have the time to sit on the shore of the port and sketch out a picture from what would’ve been Dali’s point of view. I’d brought paper, but at the time the bus from Portlligat to Barcelona was no longer parked at the entry, and not being able to access my sketch pad I was quite dismayed!

After hearing of my disappointment, our genial and compensating tour guide surprised me by hunting down a blank piece of paper and a pen so that I could complete my mission to sketch where the great artist sketched. Sitting along the stone above the calm waters while I drew the scene before me is one of my most cherished memories of travel.

Sketching the view from Dali’s perspective.

If art moves you, if history intrigues you, take the time to visit this area of Spain and experience Dali in person. Though his work is seen throughout the world, there is nothing like actually seeing his collection in a museum he designed.

There is an indescribable feeling when walking the halls where he lived for more than 40 years, to see the studio where he crafted his timeless art, and to sit on the shore where the light inspired him. Watching the landscape disappear out of site as we made our way back to Barcelona was closure to a lifetime of admiration that I will never forget.

, , ,

7 Thing You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day


Today is the big day. If you’re Irish, claim Irish descendancy or are just looking for a good reason to get drunk, you know what March 17th is. You count down to it. You plan for it. You celebrate it, plan off work for it. And guess what? It’s here.

St. Patrick’s Day.

What is St. Patrick’s Day, and who is St. Patrick? Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on the traditional death date of Saint Patrick in 461 AD, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Made an official holiday by the Catholic Church in the early 17th century, the celebration honors the 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop, who baptized thousands of people in Ireland and ordained the earliest Catholic priests in the country.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? What makes this a day of indulgence with green beer, shamrocks and parades of such augmented measure as to scale entire cities? Here are seven things you probably don’t know about St. Patrick and the day that bears his name!

Shamrocks

Historical legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for St Patrick’s Day.

It is also commonly thought that the Shamrock could be a mixed Celtic reference, as many of their symbolic deities came in threes, which often was representative of the cyclical nature of being – live, death and afterlife.

Driving the Snakes from Ireland

Legend has it that St. Patrick was personally responsible for driving all of the snakes (yes, literally snakes) from Ireland, an event coming after which he was attacked by snakes upon a 40-day fast on a hilltop.

The true story is much more symbolic, however, as “snakes” is likely representative of the Pagan people and Celts that St. Patrick was responsible for converting to Christianity – thus, driving the “snakes” out of Ireland.

Blarney Stone

The St. Patrick’s Day legend of the Blarney Stone, a block of limestone built into Blarney Castle, is one wrought with confusion. The most prevailing story of the Blarney Stone involves Clíodhna, a banshee/goddess figure who Cormac Laidir MacCarthy appealed to while involved in a lawsuit.

Reportedly Clíodhna told MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court. He did so, and with great eloquence and a little deceit, plead his case and won. It is because of this that the Blarney Stone is said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending”. In fact, the word blarney has come to meaning flattering or deceiving in speech, a blatant derivation from MacCarthy’s success.

What’s interesting to note about the tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone is that it is, in fact, in a very precarious position within the castle. The act of actually kissing the stone isn’t easily done,  as it is incurred with some risk by scaling to the top of the castle and bending over backwards along the castle’s parapet.

St. Patrick’s Blue

Despite the well-known Kelly Green color associated with St. Patrick’s Day, history points quite convincingly to the fact that the original color of his sainthood was a light blue. Once the familiar clover became the recognizable symbol of nationalism in the late 1700’s, in the wake of the Irish Rebellion, the color merged to it’s now traditional green. Seen everywhere from the dyed waters of the Chicago river to the isles of Ireland itself, this color is now the hue of the fun and festive worldwide celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day is a Celebration… of his Death!

As a member of the Catholic faith, St. Patrick was revered as the primary Saint of Ireland, and is credited with introducing Christianity to the country. Ironically, this holiday tends to celebrate his life on March 17th, and the life of the revelers in his name no matter which religion our fellow party goers subscribe to. Of all the St. Paddy’s Day traditions, the fact that St. Patrick’s Day honors his death as much as his life surprises many.

Lost to time, St. Patrick’s legacy actually started with his origins in Roman Britain (modern England), not Ireland, where he was captured and enslaved to watch over his captor’s animals. He later escaped after six years of servitude to his home in England, just to later return to Northern Ireland.

The Bars Were Closed

Due to the overwhelming Catholic population in the early 1900’s, the holiday, while recognized, could not be celebrated with the now familiar jaunty revelry in local pubs. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that you could find partakers cheering the Saint over a pint during Lent, which happens to fall during the celebration of the Irish Saint. While they tried to stave off the celebrations as best they could, in 1961 the Irish government came to their senses, and the breweries rejoiced, as they repealed their version of March 17th prohibition and let the locals imbibe to their delight!

St. Patrick’s Day Parades – An American Tradition

St. Patrick himself might be surprised by this one! The inaugural “parade” to celebrate his day was actually held in none other than New York City, not Ireland. In 1762, with soldiers of Irish origin serving in the army across the pond, many marched through the streets to show their loyalties. Since then, the rest of the country has happily joined in, and that act of Irish patriotism became what we know today across so many U.S. cities – the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In fact, Chicago celebrates the day by dying the entire  Chicago River in St. Patrick’s green!

Whatever you know or don’t know about St. Patrick’s Day, make sure to enjoy with friends, a cold pint and a cheers to Ireland!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

, , , ,

Review: Ibis London City Hotel – Shoreditch


London is a city with endless possibilities for discovery and entertainment, as well as art and history. With tourism continuing to rise significantly over recent years you’ll also have endless choices for hotels!

On our most recent trip across the pond we stayed at the Ibis London City hotel, a funky and accommodating place near the Whitechapel area of the city. A few steps away from the Aldgate East tube stop, we found everything we needed within walking distance, as well as by short underground trips around London. Just fifteen minutes on foot to the Tower Bridge and the famous River Thames, you’ll find its location convenient no matter what your plans for the city.

Convenient lobby bar with great, full service.

Upon entering the lobby, the décor is strikingly modern and colorful, rife with reds, blues, artistic geometric dividers and warm brick walls. Combined with comfortable chairs and beautifully lit sitting areas, we utilized this space quite a bit in the mornings before we headed out to our destinations, as well as in the evenings to relax and have a drink before retiring. In addition to the casual and inviting conversation areas, the Ibis is home to Fogg’s, a full service bar right in the lobby with friendly and attentive service. After a long ride from Heathrow into the heart of the city, that was our first stop, even before checking in!

We arrived earlier than the typical check-in time, as many travelers do, but the staff at the front desk was accommodating and helpful, finding the first available room for us to check into after such a long day. Available 24-hours a day, you’ll never find yourself without assistance if need be! One early morning I found myself needing a pair of scissors, of all things, and they gladly lent me a pair. Next to the concierge desk they also have free Wi-Fi stations where you can search for things to do around London, send an email, or just check Facebook.

The rooms at Ibis are clean, comfortable and conveniently located in Whitechapel.

The room itself was quite modern, clean, and cozy. As with many of our hotel experiences in Europe, the room’s design and efficiency were outstanding, with enough space to comfortably unpack, relax, take a shower and watch TV after a long day. Electrical outlets are conveniently placed next to the nightstands so you’re able to charge your phones and browse your computers while reclining. The bed was comfortable and we slept quite well after each day of city-wide excursions. We rarely spend more time in the room than while we’re asleep when traveling, and the Ibis’ welcoming décor and warmth definitely exceeded our expectations.

The hotel offers a generous spread for breakfast for a nominal fee (I believe we paid around ten Pounds), where you can find everything from eggs, bacon and sausage, to yogurt, cereal and fruit (in addition to many other options!). To find a quick bite when the Ibis’ restaurant isn’t available, simply walk next door to the conveniently located Tesco Express where we visited quite often whenever we needed snacks, toiletries, water (and, of course, beer!) or a quick sandwich to tide us over on a tube ride.

The fun and festive Spitalfields Market, walking distance of the Ibis London City.

The Ibis is located an easy walk away from the lively Whitechapel area, home of the expansive and bustling Old Spitalfields Market (one of our favorite places to visit in the area) as well as the infamous and legendary scenes of Jack the Ripper’s mysterious reign of terror in London. While in the area, make sure to check out the historical Ten Bells pub, directly across the street from the Spitalfields Market, our staple watering hole when in this area of London – and also one of the places where Jack the Ripper is rumored to have found some of his victims! For a quick drink – and an additional Ripper experience – check out the White Hart Pub, where we started a few of our daily journeys with a pints and delicious potato soup!

Stay at the Ibis, and have a few drinks with friends at the Ten Bells – where the Ripper roamed!

Our experience at the Ibis London City was welcoming, convenient and comfortable. With around the clock concierge we found it easy to come and go as we pleased, and with an on-site bar we found it easy to imbibe as we pleased as well! The location is excellent, the rooms inviting, and the staff accommodating.

Our verdict: Highly recommended

Contact

Website 

Address: 5 Commercial Street E1 6BF – London, UK

Phone : (+44) 207/4228400

 

 

,

An Ode to Dublin


We recently came back to the States from two weeks in three cities abroad- London, Amsterdam and Dublin. While there are travel blogs to chronicle our time in London and Amsterdam, both of which we loved, Dublin stands out for us.

In the United States, Ireland comes with a brand of stereotypes that are mostly positive depending on your level of alcohol consumption. The Guinness, the Luck o’ the Irish, the Celtic music, the fables and famous authors all aid in the creation of the Irish legend, but Ireland (and especially Dublin) is so much more. Sure, the Irish are drinkers. They’re also Thinkers. Laughers. Lovers. Story-tellers, geniuses and most of all, friends. We can say this now with absolute certainty, and allow me to tell you why.

Travel is for us, as it is for you, a form of release… an escape from the daily doldrums of the work/eat/sleep cycle. When you choose a place to visit, you hope you get something out of it in the form of good times, memories and a few pictures you can take back as proof that you’ve seen something unique. Every once in a while, instead of going somewhere, instead of thinking that you go into the destination, the destination goes into you. Ireland, and especially Dublin, was this.

For four days we had the pleasure of enjoying this truly magical place and experience points of interest in Dublin. While we spent a good majority of our time in Dublin, we also took the day trip from Dublin to the west coast of Ireland to the Cliffs of Moher. Words don’t do justice. Words cannot do justice. You simply have to go.

One has the feeling on every stretch of Irish soil that yes, this, is God’s country if there ever was one. For us, Ireland was immediately moving. Yes, Guinness tastes different and is miles from that indifferently-poured piss-water we have here in the States. Yes, everything is green and you can buy a four-leaf clover sticker every 20 feet or so. If that’s what you go to Ireland for, then my friend you have missed out dearly.

Dublin is a wonderful city to spend time with the one you love.

Never has a city, and more importantly the people of a city, moved us. Grown into us. Became us, and we became them. Dublin has a way of being romantic for couples in a way that, perhaps, no other place does. The Irish are a fan of conversation, as its something to be savored. In general, we failed to meet one person that didn’t have at least a decent sense of humor. Laughter is everywhere, given and taken freely like some comedic Utopia. The Irish really are hilarious, clever, generous and lovely, lovely people.

What’s more than just these bastions of good manners is the rolling landscape in which they live. Leaving from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher, we were greeted by four hours of beautiful, lush greenery, dutifully kept farmlands and modest (if not beautiful) homes that no doubt carry history of their own. I found myself jealous of these people, whoever they are, to be privileged to live in such a land with so much damn charm. If only the entire world were such as this…

When the day trip from Dublin reaches the Cliffs of Moher, one has the feeling that this is where the world began somehow. As the ocean spray somehow magically climbed the more-than 700 foot cliffs and soaked my black wind-breaker, I couldn’t help but forget to chronicle the experience the way we do in the 21st century by breaking out my iPhone or some other damnable device. The best camera I could have, the only I wanted for a few moments anyway, were my eyes. Remember this on your travels… pictures are great, but there is no lens that is the substitution for the human eye and the memory that the senses bring. Remember to stop and soak in the pure majesty of such places, as I couldn’t help doing so throughout our time in Ireland. If there is one real Ireland travel tip we can give you it’s that – really let yourself take it in.

Standing outside of Darkey Kelley’s in downtown Dublin before bed on our final evening, having a moment to hear the midnight bells chime hit me. The midnight chill sent waves from my neck straight to my heartstrings and played them like a violin. Ireland is so many things you think it is, but so many things you have no idea. It’s actually charming (no pun intended), and the depth of feeling we had about it was surprising – even shocking.

Travel opens you up for these kind of experiences, and that’s ideally what you pay for – to be moved. If you have Ireland anywhere on your bucket list, and that’s the type of experience you’re looking for, move it up the list. Move it to the top. Travel from the United States to Dublin is as cheap as it’s been in years, and currently couples can get packages through sites such as TravelZoo with direct flights from Atlanta to Dublin for as little as $500 per person. It’s beyond a recommendation, it’s a necessity.

You simply have to go.