Category Archives: Ireland

Go Local: 9 Cool Destinations


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY scout offbeat, immersive experiences in cool destinations around the globe  

Can you really say you’ve been to Zurich if you haven’t grabbed a piadina (Italian flatbread), walked up the narrow Tritlli-gasse and visited Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dadaism? Is a trip to Singapore complete without the fiery taste of Singapore chili crab on your lips, slaked with a cool Tiger or Singapore Sling as you go bar hopping from Clarke Quay to Ann Siang Hill? And is Melbourne the same unless you’ve zipped in trams and trawled CBD’s graffiti-lined bylanes to pay your respect at AC/DC Lane? Beyond the touristy clichés, each city comes with its unique set of quintessential experiences and traditions. We hung out with locals on our globetrotting travels to unearth some cool haunts…


Heidelberg (Germany)
A pretty medieval university town on the Neckar river, Heidelberg is undoubtedly the seat of German Romanticism. Picture-postcard alleys, Gothic architecture and cobbled pathways lead to a maze of museums and galleries. Hike up or take a funicular to Heidelberg Castle rising above the roofs of the Old Town, a survivor of wars, fires and lightning. Walk through sprawling gardens to a scenic lookout and visit the Apothecary Museum and wine cellar with the largest wooden barrel in the world!

Change trains at Molkenkur to ride in wooden boxcars of Germany’s oldest funicular railway up the local mountain Königstuhl (568 m) for a fantastic view of the Rhine plain. The main street Haupstrasse, one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe, is lined with churches, shops, restaurants and cafes. The boutique Hip Hotel is the perfect base; each of its 27 themed rooms are different and styled after cities – Havana has bat wing doors, Cuban cigar wrappers on the ceiling and a Che Guevara pic on the semi-plastered brick wall.


Stroll through Germany’s oldest University with the historic Studentenkarzer (students’ prison) where errant pupils were interned. More a shrine than a detention centre, it bears the scrawls of entire generations. The city’s signature treat Heidelberger Studentenkuss (Student Kiss) is a chocolate invented at Café Konditorei Knosel. Grab a meal at Zum Goldenen Hecht or Palmbräu Gasse and hang out at cool bars on Untergasse like Weinloch (Wine Hole), Betreutes Trinken (literally, Supervised Drinking), Destille and Pop – visited by Santana in the 70’s.

Take a leisurely cruise on the Neckar aboard the solar-powered boat Neckarsonne. In the evening, cross the Old Bridge lined with buskers and tourists to Schlangenweg (Serpentine Path) that zig-zags up to the famous ‘Philosopher’s Walk’. For centuries, this scenic walkway overseeing a magical view of Heidelberg has inspired poets, authors and artists from Goethe to Mark Twain.

Insider Tip: At the old Karl Theodor Bridge is a bronze sculpture of Heidelberg’s Bruckenaffe (bridge monkey); the original one in 15th century held up a mirror as a warning to passersby. With fingers shaped like a horned hand and a hollow head where visitors pop in for a pic, the monkey is a good luck charm. Rubbing the mirror will bring money; rubbing the little bronze mice will bless you with kids and rubbing his fingers means you will return to Heidelberg!

Getting there: Fly Emirates via Dubai to Frankfurt, from where Heidelberg is a 1 hr drive away
Where to Stay: Hip Hotel
Contact: Heidelberg walks with Dino Quass, Tour Guide Dirk Slawetzki

For more info,

Cathedral of St Sava IMG_0823

Belgrade (Serbia)
The Serbian capital is a charming city packed with history. Seen from across the river, Belgrade’s stone fortress shimmers white, hence the name ‘Beo grad’ (White City). Pose against Pobednik, the Victor statue but don’t miss the ornate Ružica (‘Little Rose’) Church with an ornate chandelier made up of bullets! At the Kalemegdan ground outside the fortress, buy a 1993-era inflationary currency note from Olga the octogenarian vendor.

The abandoned trenches, once inhabited by gypsies; is today’s hip Bohemian quarter of Skadarlija with cool kafanas (coffee houses/taverns), breweries and restaurants like Dva Jelena (Two Deer), where musicians belt out starogradska (Old Town Music) on trumpets and accordions. Walk down Knez Mihailova, described as ‘the most beautiful pedestrian zone in southeast Europe’. Drop by at Hotel Moskva for its trademark šnit (cake) and gulp water like a local from Delijska ćesma, an ornate public well.

Prince Mihailo monument IMG_8866_Anurag Mallick

At the beautiful Republic Square, sit on the steps of the bronze equestrian statue of national hero Prince Mihailo Obrenović, who liberated Serbia from Turkish rule in 1867. Visit the Cathedral of St Sava, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and The House of Flowers, the mausoleum of former Yugoslav statesman Josip Broz Tito.

Catch the live science experiment every evening at the Nikolai Tesla Museum and pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art – the first contemporary art museum in Europe. Belgrade’s nightlife is best experienced at clubs and splavs (party barges) moored by the riverside. The longest stretch of the Danube is in Serbia and the perfect ending to a boat cruise is a quayside dinner at the old suburb of Zemun.

Insider Tip: Have a coffee or a shot of rakija (fruit brandy) at the oldest kafana in Belgrade – ‘?’ or Znak pitanja (Question Mark). Story goes that in 1892 the management wished to change the name to Kod Saborne crkve (By the Saborna Church) but it was opposed by the Serbian Orthodox church. The owner temporarily put a question mark on the door, which became its identity and remains so till date!

Getting there: Fly via Moscow or Istanbul to Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade.
Where to Stay: Metropol Palace Ph +381 11 3333100
Hotel Moskva Ph +381 113642069
Contact: Novi Sad/Belgrade Tour with Luka Relic Ph +381 65 9890305, Offroad Serbia tour with Balkan Adriatic Ph +381 11 3625036

For more info, visit

IMG_2546 (1)

Kigali (Rwanda)
A direct flight from Mumbai by Rwand Air makes Kigali a truly convenient getaway. Drive past the town’s key landmark the Kigali Convention Centre as you explore the undulating Rwandan capital. Zip around in local bike taxis (Goa style) to sights like Kandt House Museum and the somber Kigali Genocide Memorial. Try ‘Question Coffee’ from a women’s co-operative and relish a Rwandan meal of ugali (cassava porridge) and goat curry at Tamu Tamu.

Kigali Marriott Hotel in the central diplomatic enclave of Kiyovu is the best address in town. Get a Dead Sea mud therapy at the spa and try out international and local cuisine at Soko and fried sambaza (fish) from Lake Kivu at Iriba Bar. Book a city tour with Go Kigali – their little boutique at the hotel stocks handmade products from all over Africa. Start your exploration with Mount Kigali for a panoramic view before trawling milk bars, bakeries and cafes.


At Kimironko market, learn how to eat tree tomato like a local as you marvel at multi-coloured beans of every size and hue. Shop for agasake (hand-woven peace baskets) and traditional Rwandan handicrafts at Ikaze boutique. The suburb of Nyamirambo, established by Belgian colonists in the 1920s for Swahili traders, is the city’s Muslim Quarter. Masjid al-Fatah, or the Green Mosque, is the oldest in town while Gaddafi Mosque is home to the Islamic Centre.

With a busy nightlife and hip hangouts, Nyamirambo is today hailed as Kigali’s coolest neighbourhood. Catch Kigali’s nightlife at Fuchsia, Riders, Coco Bean, Envy, K Club and Bougainvilla. Rwanda is a small country and it’s easy to get around to Lake Kivu, gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park, tracking Colobus, Golden and mountain monkeys at Nyungwe National Park and spotting the Big 5 at Akagera National Park.


Insider Tip: Drop by at Kigali’s iconic hotel, Hôtel des Mille Collines, named after the Belgian nickname for Rwanda during colonial rule – ‘Pays des Mille Collines’ (Land of a Thousand Hills). It became famous during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when 1,268 people were sheltered here by its manager Paul Rusesabagina, a story made into the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’.

Getting there: National carrier Rwand Air flies direct from Mumbai to Kigali (7 hrs) four times a week (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat).
Where to Stay: Kigali Marriott Hotel
Kigali Serena Hotel
Hôtel des Milles Collines
Ubumwe Grande Hotel
Contact: Wildlife Tours Rwanda, Go Kigali Tours $60/person 9:30am-1pm, 2-6pm Ph +250 788316607

For more info,


Belfast (Ireland)
Boney M wrote a song about it, Van Morrison found lyrical inspiration here and it is the famous birthplace of The Titanic. Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland sparkles with wit and wisdom, political street art and numerous interesting trails. Get a primer on the city’s past as ‘Linenopolis’ and a ship-building centre at the Titanic Belfast museum and catch the exhibition at Belfast City Hall, which narrates the story of its people, culture and heritage. The historic Linenhall Library, founded in 1788, has a phenomenal collection of priceless books including a rare treasure of books on C Scott Lewis.

To the east of the city, follow the footsteps of CS Lewis to places that inspired his fantasy world of ‘Narnia’. Stop by at Queen’s University where Nobel Prize Winner Seamus Heaney studied and Belfast Hills where Jonathan Swift found inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels. In 2017, Northern Ireland celebrated Swift’s 350th birth anniversary. Grab a pint o’ Guinness at John Hewitt, the pub named after local poet and catch a bite at Mourne Seafood Bar and Muddlers Club.


Every Saturday, St Georges Market is abuzz with local foods, crafts, art and live music while the Sunday Brunch at Bert’s Jazz Bar promises live jazz. Have a ‘craic (Irish for ‘a good time’) at Whites Tavern, the oldest in Belfast, Kelly’s Cellars and the old-world The Crown Liquor Saloon. Lovers of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre can head out to County Down chasing tales of the Bronte sisters Charlotte and Emily and make a pitstop at FE McWilliams Gallery for scones, cakes, Irish coffee and ongoing exhibitions.

Go on a guided tour of the Seamus Heaney HomePlace around Heaney Country, where the poet and Nobel Laureate grew up. Guide Eugene Kielt conducts bespoke literary tours and runs Laurel Villa in Magherafelt, a boutique homestay themed around Heaney and other Ulster poets like Patrick Kavanagh, Michael Longley, Louis MacNeice with poetry reading evenings. Continue on the literary trail to Armagh Library, which houses the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels dated October 1726, carrying amendments in Swift’s own handwriting!

Insider Tip: Mystic of the East, the Van Morrison Trail, dedicated to one of Belfast’s most famous sons, revisits the locations made famous by his songs – from Cyprus Avenue, On Hyndford Street to Orangefield. A special phone app activates a QR code that plays bits of his songs at each locale!

Getting there: Fly to London and catch an Aer Lingus flight to Belfast.
Where to Stay: Bullitt Belfast Ph +44 28 9590 0600
Fitzwilliam Hotel Ph +44 28 9044 2080
Europa Hotel Ph +44 28 9027 1066
Contact: Ken McElroy Ph +44 7801541600

For more info,,,


Flores (Indonesia)
When the Portuguese landed in a nook of the Lesser Sunda Islands in eastern Indonesia a few centuries ago, they were amazed by the flowering Delonix regia (Flame trees) and profusion of corals in the crystal clear waters. They named the cluster of islands Cabo de Flores (Cape of Flowers). Even today, these forests and dive sites continue to fascinate offbeat travellers who fly in from Bali to the adventure hub of Labuan Bajo in West Manggarai district.

Head to Batu Cermin or Mirror Rock, a cave system 4 km from town with stalactite formations and cool down with a chilled Bintang while catching the sunset over the harbour at Paradise Café. Visit the local fish market and enjoy an elaborate seafood spread at Treetop restaurant amid funky artwork and signs like ‘Reality is an illusion caused by lack of alcohol.’


Go on a boat trip to Komodo Island to watch perpetually drooling venomous Komodo dragons up close and pick up shell handicrafts near the jetty. Go snorkelling at the unique Pink Beach (caused by red algae on white sand) or head on hikes to crater lakes in the region. Grab some local coffee and palm sugar, prepared by locals the traditional way. Flores also hosts a 661km gruelling cycle race called Tour de Flores.

Insider Tip: Drive 20km on the Trans-Flores Highway to Ruteng to witness the Caci dance, a ritual whip fight that’s a fascinating cultural tradition of the Manggarai people. Donning leather masks and armed with rattan whips and bamboo shields, the blood shed by the male warriors was considered an offering for a better harvest!

Getting there: Fly to Bali and onward to Labuan Bajo, from where boat trips are available to Komodo Island and Pink Beach.
Where to Stay: Ayana Komodo Resort, Luwansa Beach Resort, The Jayakarta Suites Komodo Flores

For more info,


Lalibela (Ethiopia)
As a seat of the Orthodox Christian faith, Ethiopia draws pilgrims and travellers from all over the world. After Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim army of Saladin in 1187, Ethiopian king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela decided to build a holy city symbolic of Jerusalem. Following the theme, the local river is called Jordan and the hill Mount of Olives. It took 23 years to carve these rock-cut churches into the hillside, aided by divine help – angels are believed to have toiled at night to complete twice the day’s work done by men!

The city was called Lalibela in honour of the saint-king and UNESCO recognised it as a world heritage site in 1978. Walk on pink volcanic rock through cavernous tunnels to a complex of churches. A cloth-draped pillar in the Church of Golgotha is marked as the Tomb of King Lalibela. Continue in the north western group to Bet Medhane Alem, the largest monolithic church in the world, connected to Bet Maryam, possibly the oldest of the churches.


The unusual cruciform Bete Georgis, dedicated to St George, was cut top down into the rock. Rent a white and blue bajaji (our Indian Bajaj auto) to get around, but watch out for pesky flies and over-friendly kids pestering you to buy ‘books or football’. Bargain for various styles of Ethiopian crosses, silver jewelry and sacred relics.

Try the staple injera (spongy flatbread), tej (honey wine) and Ethiopian fare at Kana, Hotel Lalibela and Seven Olives Hotel besides local music and dance at Torpido Tejbet. Tour company ETT can craft an Ethiopian itinerary from Lalibela to Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar, Addis Ababa and trips to Danakil Depression, Simien Mountains and Omo Valley.

Insider Tip: Perched on a clifftop with architecture right out of Burning Man (described as ‘Gaudi meets Mad Max’), Ben Abeba dishes out the most experimental food in Ethiopia. Run by Scottish lady Susan and her partner Habtamu, ‘Ben’ means mountain in Gaelic and ‘Abeba’ is Amharic for flower. They even offer blankets on the outdoor terraces when it gets chilly.

Getting there: Fly Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa and take a connecting flight to Lalibela.
Where to Stay: Lalibela Hotel
Contact: Ethio Travel & Tours (ETT) Ph +251 911213177, 929214110, 940373737


Tel Aviv-Yafo (Israel)
There’s a saying in Israel, “While Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays”. There are many exciting ways to explore the vibrant seaside city – a SEGO Segway tour along the Sea Shore Promenade to the port and local farmer’s market, an architecture tour through the White City with its unique Bauhaus architecture, a street art tour in Florentin to find the best graffiti, a food tour through Tel Aviv’s only Arabic style shuk (market) at Carmel or a night tour of Rothschild Boulevard to hipster clubs like Kuli Alma and Sputnik.

Walk down Nahalat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall with its Arts and Crafts Bazaar and explore reinterpreted spaces like Manshiya, a reconstructed old train station and Neve Tzedek. A heritage walk through the cobbled bylanes of Tel Aviv’s twin town Jaffa is ideal as you explore quaint cafes, the mosque and Ilana Goor Museum. Feast on mansaf (ground beef with rice) and majadra (wild rice) at Pua restaurant, which sources furniture from the Jaffa Flea Market – every item here is for sale! Check out the local craft beer at Beer Bazaar and Israel’s first microbrewery The Dancing Camel. Tel Aviv even boasts a pop-up hotel in a lifeguard hut on Frishman Beach!


Insider Tip: Spot the early 20th century shutter stoppers called menchalach (Hebrew for ‘little human figures’) in areas like Neve Tzedek. Meant to stop windows from banging, it had a man’s head when put up and a woman’s face in its downward position. Local lore says it carried a secret code; a woman with a lover put up the man’s face if someone was home and the woman’s face if she was free and ready for action!

Getting there: Israel’s national carrier El-Al flies from Mumbai to Tel Aviv thrice a week (8 hrs) while Air India flies thrice a week from Delhi. Turkish Airlines flies via Istanbul and Ethiopian Air via Addis Ababa (12 hrs).
Where to Stay: Carlton Hotel Ph +972 3 5201818, Poli House/Brown Hotels
Contact: Ofer Moghadam Tours Ph +972 587833799, SEGO Segway Tours Ph +972 528551932

For more info,

DSC03034 The painted houses of Nyhavn, a fairytale setting by day or twilight

Copenhagen (Denmark)
There’s good reason why Copenhagen is rated one of the happiest cities in the world. It’s a land of bicycles, bodegas, chic design, parks, floating cafes, fairytales and a dollop of good ol’ hygge, the Danish concept of cosy comfort. The journey from trading in amber, gold, silver, furs and slaves to becoming a leading manufacturing nation and welfare state, Denmark has ample reason to gloat, but doesn’t. Locals love a cool dip in Amager Strandpark beach, kayak polo by the harbourfront and several recreational baths like Islands Brygge, a winter bathing hotspot and one of the cleanest harbors in the world.

Get on a GoBoat for an eco-friendly ride from Islands Brygge drifting down canals past some of the oldest specimens of Danish architecture – Christiansborg Castle, Holmens Church and Børson, the Old Stock Exchange with its dragon spires. Take a canal tour around Christianshavn and Nyhavn port or join locals and tourists dining at its amazing restaurants, quaffing away at old bodegas, listening to jazz. Walk around the marvelous bridges and canals bordered by vibrantly painted homes and hotels.

DSC03058-Ornate entry of City Hall

The historic Tivoli Gardens in the city centre is the second oldest amusement park in the world and inspired Walt Disney’s Disneyland. Don’t miss the Hans Christian Andersen-inspired dark ride called The Flying Trunk. Take an HC Andersen heritage walk with raconteur Richard Karpen and unravel the city’s hidden stories in everyday landmarks. Hop across to the 150-year-old Nytorv restaurant, the city’s popular hangout specializing in Danish cuisine and try delicious smørrebrød and Danish Schnapps or akvavit, a sweet alcoholic drink flavoured with herbs and spices ‘designed to make men feel strong and women feel weak’!

If you’re up for something edgy, don’t miss the offbeat trail around the graffiti-rich freetown of Christiania, locally called ‘staden’ is full of art galleries, music venues, restaurants and quirky homes. Pedal down Nørrebro and Christianshavn in the world’s bicycle capital with Cycling Copenhagen or in an iconic vintage Christiana bike, tackle the canals with Kayak Republic or take a walking food trail in the hip Vesterbro district. Savour a community Danish dinner at Absalon, an old church reimagined into a public space or try the unique family-style specially curated long-table meal at Gro Spiseri, set behind the OsterGRO rooftop farm in the heart of town. For retail therapy or window shopping, Strøget, one of Europe’s longest car-free pedestrian streets, is the place to be.

Insider Tip: If you’re done with the Little Mermaid, look up high above Richs building at the corner of Vesterbrogade to a gilded sculpture of the rotating Weather Girls – one astride a bicycle and the other holding an umbrella and walking her dog. It sums up the typical scene in Copenhagen – omnipresent bicycles and rain! Locals swear that these are the only two women in Copenhagen one can trust.

Getting there: Fly to Copenhagen via Dubai, Frankfurt or London (12 hrs).
Where to Stay: Avenue Hotel Ph 0045 35373111
Hotel Danmark Ph 0045 33114806

For more info,


Lima (Peru)
Peru is hailed as “the next great global foodie destination”, ranking among the Top 5 cuisines in the world. Capital Lima is also considered ‘the gastronomic capital of the Americas’ and hosts Mistura, the annual food festival in Oct-Nov that draws gourmands from across the world. Imagine a country with 3800 variety of potatoes, 300 kinds of chilli and over 55 types of corn and beans. But there’s more to Lima than beans!

As the erstwhile bastion of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro, Lima has a lot of history. Head to the pretty Spanish colonial quarter where museums and churches, promenades and palaces beg to be explored around the famous UNESCO Heritage Site Plaza San Martin and the old town square Plaza de Armas. Walk around the upmarket Milaflores, known for its casinos, nightlife, shopping and its Gaudi-inspired Parque del Amor. In the Bohemian district of Barranco discover extraordinary street art, architecture and quaint landmarks like Peunte de los Suspires (The Bridge of Sighs).


Dine at the archaeological complex of Huaca Pucllana overlooking the magnificent 15-acre pre-Inca ruins. At Maido, Chef Mitsuharu Tsumara’s speciality Nikkei cuisine fuses Peruvian with Japanese flavours, first created by Japanese immigrants who arrived in the 1900s to work on sugarcane farms. Try the legendary local brew Pisco Sour, street food like picarones (Peruvian donuts), churros filled with manjar blanco (vanilla cream) and cancha (corn) in all its forms – tamaleto chicha, fried corn to ceviche.

Insider’s tip: Museo Larco is a privately owned museum of Pre-Columbian Art set in an 18th century viceroyal building in Pueblo Libre district. Founded by art collector Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1926, it has a unique gallery housing the world’s largest and most fascinating collection of erotic ceramics, pottery and everyday objects illustrating various sexual acts! The adjacent creeper-riddled Museo Larco Café serves superb Peruvian delicacies.

Getting there: Fly via Paris, Amsterdam, London or Madrid to Peru’s capital Lima. Jorge Chavez Airport is 12km west in the suburbs, in the port city of El Callao.
Where to Stay: La Hacienda Milaflores

For more information visit

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 30 August, 2019 as the cover story in the Getaway Issue ‘The Road Less Travelled’ in Indulge, the Friday supplement of The New Indian Express newspaper.  

Galway Girl: An Irish Jaunt


PRIYA GANAPATHY takes a Railtours Ireland trip down the Wild Atlantic Way to Galway via Limerick, Bunratty Castle and the Cliffs of Moher, the most popular day trip from Dublin

IMG_0182 2

One would think that a Van Morrison music tour and a weeklong Literary trail in and around Belfast should have satisfied my hunger for Irish art and culture. Yet, I was chugging to Dublin for an excursion to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. My Dubliner cabbie Thomas Brennan chatted me up, “The interesting thing about Ireland is that there are no snakes, no earthquakes, no gales, no mountains, no wildlife to speak of. It’s not too hot, not too cold. So we’re all moderate people – products of our environment. Which is why Dublin is a nice place to be.”

By 6am I was ready for Dublin Hueston Station where my Railtours Ireland guide, Andy Geraghty promised to be “in a bright yellow jacket doing star jumps on the platform!” Being a combination of rail and road, the tour would take me past coastal towns, castles and cliffs along the Atlantic, wrapping up in gorgeous Galway, the cultural epicenter of Ireland. The town shot to fame with Ed Sheeran’s cheery hit Galway Girl, though people swear that Steve Earle’s original track in the film P.S. I Love You was far more Irish and way better.


We changed trains at Limerick Junction in County Tipperary and disembarked at Limerick’s Colbert Station, learning that the Republic of Ireland’s railway stations were renamed in 1966 after rebels, who gave their life for Irish Independence. I was curious whether Limerick gave the literary ‘funny little poem’ its name or vice versa. “Not sure” replied Andy. “But I can recite one for you.”

“There was a man from Nantucket, who kept all his money in a pocket. His daughter Nan ran away with a Man, and as for the pocket, Nan took it.” In 16th and 17th century, Limerick was considered the most beautiful city in Ireland because the best-looking girls were from here. Few know that the city is also famous for its ham! Originally an old industrial town, Limerick seemed like a smaller version of Belfast.


Our next halt was Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare. The pretty guide Elizabeth glammed up in period costume explained the 15th century castle’s history in the Main Guard, a vaulted hall. Its Minstrel’s Gallery is still used for Bunratty Medieval Castle Banquets every night where visitors are served medieval meals and plied with large glasses of Ireland’s infamous drink, mead!

I was fascinated by the tapestries, the spy-holes and special Ladies Window in the Great Hall, once out of bounds for women and a stunning carved oak dowry cupboard from Germany. Gracing the walls were gargantuan prehistoric antler trophies spanning up to three meters that belonged to Giant Irish Deer, one of the largest deer that ever walked our planet, but extinct for ten thousand years. They were retrieved from the oxygen deficient boglands, which ensured their fine state of preservation.


On the fringes of Bunratty, an outlying castle served as a vantage. “Any approaching enemy would be signaled by lighting a fire on its roof. So when one arrived at Bunratty, the friendly O’Briens would greet you with a red carpet. They’d pour burning oil on you, throw excrement mixed with lime, or chop your head off, the usual ‘warm welcome’ the O’Briens gave everyone,” Andy quipped wickedly.

The journey was filled with delightful anecdotes on Irish history and culture, their love for superstitions and folklore. We heard stories about the Fairy Tree that stalled the motorway construction and Rag Trees and Holy Wells with therapeutic powers and the origin of the world famous Irish Coffee. This wizardly concoction of whiskey, coffee and cream created by chef Joe Sheridan in 1937 at Foyens near Shannon beats all the fancy coffees of today!


Though Doolin’s candy pink coloured thatched houses and stores on Fisher Street looked good enough to eat, we stepped into Gus O’Conners, a little pub for a quick lunch of Seafood Chowder. A quick hop into a small chocolate shop run by Mary and Noreen who make artisan homemade chocolate and fudge and Wilde Irish chocolate and we were off. Apparently, Doolin is a mecca for Irish music.

En route we were treated to views of the Aran Islands. The farthest one was Inis Mor (big island) with Inis Meain (middle island) and Inis Oirr (small island) nearby. Depending on the weather, the islands are accessed by ferryboats or small sea planes nicknamed “vomit comets”. The islands are renowned for their gorgeous woolen weaves or Aran sweaters, hand-knitted by the island women.


A 10-minute drive from Doolin were the majestic Cliffs of Moher, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and the top sight in the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s most famous tour along the west coast. We were warned about how it could be “very rainy, windy and biting cold or so misty you can’t see past your nose”. They sometimes closed the Cliffs for safety reasons. We got lucky with great sunshine, clear blue skies and strong winds that promised big waves.

Named after the Moher Castle that once stood here, the cliffs stretch for 8km. Hags Head is perched on the left at 120m while O’Brien’s Tower on the right is the highest point at 214m. The cliffs unfold in a jagged line into the horizon and the setting’s raw beauty leaves visitors spellbound, who take an adventurous Cliff Walk or a Fossil Trail.


Moher flagstones were a prized item in the 19th century and were specially shipped to London to pave building fronts and floors of the Royal Mint. If I hadn’t hogged in Doolin, I swear the gusts of wind could’ve flipped me over the cliff. My hysterical laughter mingled with other visitors’ who were equally astonished by the wild winds.

We staggered drunkenly, negotiating our way along the boundary for better views. Interestingly, the Audio Visual Interpretation Centre with a coffee shop, restaurant and souvenir shop is buried in the hill to avoid ruining the aesthetics of the spectacular landscape.


The Burren, literally ‘a great rock’ in Irish, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park that stretches for 250 sq km. Photographers, botanists and researchers flock to capture images of its unusual cracked karst glacial landscape that comes alive in spring with Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants growing together in the furrows.

Near Black Head Lighthouse the panoramic arc of a full rainbow across the blue waters of Galway Bay welcomed us. In a land that believed in leprechauns, it was the closest I came to finding my pot of gold.


Galway was once a walled city and the Vikings had set up trading posts wherever they could navigate their boats. The swift-flowing River Corrib was harnessed hydroelectricity years ago ensuring that Galway had electricity long before London! Maroon and white flags fluttering from city’s buildings hailed a recent win in hurling, a 3000 year-old game unique to Ireland touted as one of the fastest field games in the world!

A few hours is woefully short to experience the energy of this University town. I knew I had to return. The vibe is so youthful and electric with lively Irish music everywhere. I hung around the legendary Eyre Square before strolling down Shop Street to see St Nicholas Church and the Lynch Window where James Lynch, a former Magistrate had hanged his own son Walter for murdering a sailor; coining the word ‘lynch’ before rambling around old world buildings housing pubs, cafes, art galleries, theatre companies, boutiques and shops selling Claddagh rings.


At Salt Hill, a popular seaside resort near Galway’s city centre, the lovely promenade offered a brilliant sea view. I could have stayed and danced with strangers to Galway Girl but I made a wild dash to the station for my train back to Dublin. Bing Crosby’s soulful 1947 Irish classic Galway Bay, echoed in my ears:

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland, then may be at the closing of your day. You will sit and watch the moonrise over Claddagh and see the sun go down on Galway Bay…. But if there is going to be a life hereafter and somehow I am sure there’s going to be. I will ask my God to let me make my heaven In that dear old land across the Irish Sea.’


Fact File

Getting there
Jet Airways flies to Dublin via Abu Dhabi

Spencer Hotel
Excise Walk, IFSC, Dublin 1
Ph +353 1 433 8800

Railtours Ireland
Ph 1-877-451-4783

Lynk Taxis

For more info,,,

Author: Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of JetWings magazine.

Stags Only: The best bachelor holidays


Planning a bachelor party with the boys? Skip Las Vegas and Bangkok and try these holiday ideas from ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY.


So you’re getting hitched and your wild lifestyle is threatened by an Extinction Level Event (read marriage). Mad drunken parties with the boys, binge eating, dirty weekends, scanning dance floors and bars for fun, checking out the ‘scene’, ah the joys of bachelorhood… All this might seem history to the groom apparent, however, your friends couldn’t care less. They just want you to ride into the sunset of marital fidelity with all guns blazing. The idea is to go out and have fun. Here’s how to make it a bachelor party to remember… or forget!


Get high in Dubai
What better way to celebrate with your mates than getting high together? And what better place than the world’s tallest building and the loftiest observation deck? Just short of a kilometer (828 m, 160 stories) At The Top in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is as high as it gets. Make it special with a signature taster menu (caviar, truffles, foie gras) at the stylish SKY lounge and Atmosphere restaurant at level 148, manned by top chef Jerome Lagarde.

But there’s no reason you can’t get higher! Feel the adrenaline rush as you skydive from 13,000 ft over Palm Jumeirah or get on a hot air balloon, chopper, gyrocoptor or a Sea Wings seaplane for an aerial tour. Dubai is the place for bad boys to have a good time, with dune-bashing, belly-dancing and adventures like Ski Dubai (Middle East’s first indoor ski resort) and iFLY Dubai (indoor sky diving and wind tunnel experience).


Easy rentals make it easy to zip around in your dream luxe car or set sail on the Persian Gulf in a luxurious yacht with Jacuzzi, barbeques and champagne. Pimp it up with model hostesses, resident DJ and bouncers. And if you don’t mind getting wet, strap on a hydrojet equipment and get set for shred sleds, jet packs and jet blades.

Stay in style at Palm Jumeirah at Anantara Resorts as you go party-hopping at Sanctuary in Atlantis nearby, Zero Gravity, White Dubai, Trilogy, Rattlesnake, Ku-Bu, Cyclone or Ibiza club Blue Marlin, a weekend-only beach bar. With Dubai’s diverse expat mix, it’s like attending the UN’s sorority bash.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi

For more info,


Get lucky in Hong Kong
For King Kong fun, head straight to Hong Kong. Terrific street food, night markets, rooftop bars, a vibrant ‘scene’ and the world’s largest permanent light and sound show Symphony of Lights; what’s not to like? The central party district of Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and SoHo buzz with bars and clubs like Magnum, Volar, Play, Dragon-i, Ce La Vi, the world’s highest bar Ozone at Ritz Carlton and Aqua Spirit rooftop bar overlooking Victoria Harbour.

To up the ante, take the hour-long ferry to Macau, a mecca for boys who like to party hard. Like HK, a Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Portuguese presence in Macau over four centuries gives it an exotic appeal – from its food, culture to architecture. Having the world’s highest population density (20,497 people per sq km), two islands south of the mainland Coloane and Taipa were joined in a massive land reclamation project to form the Co-tai Strip, a 5.2 sq km gambling haven.


In 2007, it turned the tables on Las Vegas as the world leader in gambling revenue. Most of the 30 million visitors to Macau are drawn by 24-hour gambling at the 33 casinos and integrated resorts – Venetian Resort, City of Dreams, Sands Cotai, Galaxy Macau Resort and Wynn Palace, which opened this year. Event planners like Ludih can help you organize the ultimate stag bash with stretch limos, VIP access at clubs and private parties in luxury hotel suites.

Jet Airways flies to Hong Kong

For more info, visit


Go beer guzzling in Germany
Beer by the tankards or ‘ein mass’ (one measure in a large mug), pigging out on red meat (sausages to steaks) and busty bier mädchen (beer maidens) dressed in dirndls (Alpine peasant costume) and tight-fitting bodices that make Hooters seem like a church choir; Germany is custom-built for a boys’ week out. Beer Bike Tours combine two of the best German specialties – beer and engineering – plonk with your pals on stools around a small bar and quaff beer while pedaling your beermobile. It’s a good way to burn off what you’ll put on.

Drive from north to south Germany on the Deutsch Fachwerke Strasse (Half-Timbered House Road), checking out local brews at the 1200 breweries between Bremen and Munich. Pop in at Munich’s famous beer hall Hofbräuhaus and the Bier & Oktoberfest Museum. Or head straight to Berlin, legendary for its hedonistic club scene and endless party hours. There’s hardly a block in Berlin without a bar though the top spots are in the hipster district of Kreuzberg.


Check out Berlin’s oldest biergarten Prater or rent a raft and float down the Spree River. Go dancing at the open-air Club der Visionaire off the Spree or Matrix in an abandoned train station – almost every club in Berlin is built in an abandoned something! Split up into smaller groups to get into clubs like Sysiphos or the infamous techno haven Berghain.

The German love for kink is apparent in strip clubs like Golden Dolls or CP Club and adult entertainment venues like Artimis and Kit Kat Club. For a mad time, visit during the 16-day long Oktoberfest (mid-September to first Sunday in October)! Don’t forget to take home a stein (no, not a stain but a stoneware mug) as a memento.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, from where its codeshare partners Etihad and KLM have several connections to Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin.

For more info, visit


Rum tasting in Mauritius
If you were considering Mauritius for your destination wedding or honeymoon, your bachelor party might be a good way to scope it out. Sensuous Sega dancers and fire-eaters by the beach, endless rum tasting sessions at rhumeries like Chateau de Labourdonnais, Chamarel, L’Aventure du Sucre and Saint Aubin and riding out to reefs for diving or snorkeling with the boys; Mauritius is not your average lazy tropical paradise.

There’s a lot for the adventure enthusiast – SeaKart, UnderSea Walk, Sub Scooter and Submarine tours with Blue Safari (the only sub operation in the Indian Ocean), the world’s third longest zipline and Quad Biking at La Vallée des Couleurs and Casela Nature Park. And if you’re into golf, there are over a dozen world class courses.


With all the action packed in a relatively small island nation (65km long, 45km wide) and plush beachside resorts like Shanti Maurice, Sofitel Imperial and Radisson Blu Azuri, no adventure is far away. Dine on the best of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine and wash it down with rum macerated with tropical fruits and spices.

Jet Airways flies twice a week from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to Mauritius

For more info, visit


Bar hopping in Dublin
Few cities have the pulse and vibe of Dublin where the pub, the poet and the pint are seemingly inseparable. The Irish are a friendly lot and it’s easy to strike up a conversation, make new friends and party like a local. Start your pilgrimage with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and their St James Gate Brewery where they teach you everything from how to pour the perfect pint o’ Guinness and how to drink one!

For a traditional Dublin pub experience with a live band, Irish music and food, The Merry Ploughboy Irish music pub is a must do. Wowing audiences since 1989, they even have a pick-up and drop facility from town. Go on a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl with quirky book-themed tours in the footsteps of famous authors through Dublin’s cobbled streets. Professional actors double up as guides performing from the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.


Sounds too dense? Hit the Temple Bar area to wet your whistle at Kitty O’Shea’s, The Hole in the Wall and The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub that opened in 1198. Not into beer? Take the scenic Giant’s Causeway Coastal route and head for an Irish whiskey experience at The Old Jameson Distillery (reopening after a makeover in March 2017).

Jet Airways flies to London, from where you can fly to Dublin or Belfast.

For more info, visit


Go Down Under in style in Australia
If you’re all set to change your FB status from Single to Married (or It’s Complicated), go down under in style by celebrating Down Under. Base yourself in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and you’re just a hop, skip and jump from all the entertainment – bars, restaurants, gentleman’s clubs and a variety of shows. Plus, in CBD, the trams are free!

Stay at Citadines on Bourke Street or check into luxe tents at St. Jerome’s with scenic views and bespoke brewery tours run by the Temple Brewing Co. For whiskey tastings, there’s The Humble Tumbler, Bar 1806 and Whisky & Alement. Australia is the perfect place for XXXX fun and we don’t mean Castlemaine!


Take the fun out to sea with a stripper cruise or have a poker party with topless barmaids and nude waitresses. Drive out of town with your mates to Philip Island for surfing and to watch penguins, seals and wallabies in the wild. The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Moto GP in October also has a 720m go-karting track. Continue the party on the Great Ocean Road past the Twelve Apostles to Sydney if you have more time… and stamina!

Jet Airways flies to Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Qantas flies to Melbourne and Sydney

For more info,


Island hopping in Indonesia
Imagine this. The moment you land in Bali, you and your Wolf Pack is whisked from the airport to your private pool villa in Semenyak where party girls welcome you with chilled Bintangs. Your pool party has its own DJ, with VIP access to top clubs at night and cruising on a luxury yacht with your bevy of beauties. Yes, in Bali, everything is possible.

If you don’t want to depend on an event planner, DIY, but don’t DUI. Choose a regular hotel in the main tourist hub of Kuta so you’re never far from action. Catch the sunset at beach shacks like Ku De Ta, Potato Head, Cocoon or Mozaic, then go late night clubbing at Sky Garden in Legian. The next day, recover with Balinese massages and foot reflexology. In the posher precinct Semenyak, you can have your own pool villa with party spots like Bounty, Mirror and Koh close by.


Fly out to Labuan Bajo in Flores, where you can go diving and deep sea fishing or head out on a boat trip to Komodo Island to watch giant reptiles. With getaways like Sulawesi, Lombok and nearly 18,000 islands (of which 8844 are named and 922 permanently inhabited), you are indeed spoilt for choice.

Jet Airways flies to Bangkok and Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Garuda Indonesia flies to Bali

For more info, visit


Glamping in Oman
Oman may not seem like the most obvious choice for a bachelor party, but if you’re looking for good clean fun, the Desert Nation has quite a few surprises. Smoke sheeshas on the sands like a Bedouin, swim in wadis with barbecue parties at Wadi Bani Khalid, trek in the Al Hajar mountains or go dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding with your buddies at Sharqiya Sands.

But perish the thoughts of basic ‘Abdullah and the Camel’ sort of tents, Desert Nights Camp will spoil you silly with glamping (glamour-camping). Tents fit for sultans dressed up with plush rugs and drapes, the nomadic strains of the darbouka (stringed instrument) and oud (percussion) and the tantalizing aroma of barbecued meat, Oman is as sensory as its aromatic frankincense. Fly from Muscat to Khasab for 4X4 drives across rugged terrain and luxury dhow cruises with dolphin spotting and snorkeling at Telegraph Island.

Jet Airways flies to Muscat

For more info, visit


Explore the coffee shops of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has all the ingredients to threaten your marriage, so go at your own peril. A lot of the stuff illegal elsewhere is legit here. Much as the city likes to shrug the tag, over half a million tourists are drawn by visions of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Amsterdam’s legendary coffee shops, currently trimmed down to 220, come with elaborate menus offering everything from Moroccan Ice to Malana Cream for a Cheech & Chong stoner holiday.

There’s no better example of Amsterdam’s drug tolerance than Bulldog Leidseplein, formerly a police station, decorated with criminal artifacts! Scour the top forty listed in the local Mellow Pages: A Smoker’s Guide to Amsterdam and pop by at the award-winning Green House, The Grasshopper or Barney’s for a hit. The Cannabis Cup in November used to be a great time to visit until the recent clampdown. Another mandatory pitstop is Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen, where you’ll learn a new meaning to the term ‘window shopping’. For those racked by guilt, look out for the “Pimp Free Zone” sticker.

Jet Airways flies to Amsterdam

For more info, visit


Get unreal in Montreal

With its trendy bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, every sort of club, Montreal is not called Sin City of the North for nothing. Get party girls to go clubbing with you, visit lap dance bars, try naked sushi or get your freak on at Kamasutra Club and Club Supersexe. St Laurent is a buzzing entertainment quarter while Crescent Street has great bars like Mad Hatter and Churchill’s, which has daily happy hours.

Montreal has a certain French flair and many time their bachelor parties in time for the cold winter sports season (thus justifying the need for warmth) or events like the jazz festival. Looking for an all-expense paid pre-arranged tour? Connect with

Jet Airways flies to London Heathrow from where its codeshare partner Air Canada flies to Montreal, Toronto and other destinations

For more info, visit

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared in the October 2016 issue of JetWings International magazine.

Irish Loop: The Ring of Kerry


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY discover that a day-trip along the circular Ring of Kerry is a great way to experience the natural beauty and mordant wit of Ireland Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7143_opt

‘And now a famous song you folks must have heard about the place’, crackled the sonorous voice of our driver-cum-guide Tim as he pointed to the vast expanse of blue outside the bus window. There was momentary silence on the PA system and then he goes ‘Dingle Bay, Dingle Bay, Dingle all the Way…’

One of the most scenic circular routes in the world, the 106-mile long Ring of Kerry tour is as much a showcase of Irish humour as sparkling lakes, scenic highlands and rugged coastline. Be it bus drivers, cruise skippers, nature guides like Con Moriarty or jarvies operating jaunting cars (horse drawn carts), locals pride themselves in their knowledge and like to tell it with swagger, as if each one of them had locked lips with the Blarney stone. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7249_opt

The train journey from Dublin to Killarney via Mallow seemed like some old forgotten memory. A scenic racecourse, church steeples, old aquaducts and grazing sheep whizzed by, as we reached Killarney by dusk. Our base for the Ring of Kerry adventure, Killarney was Ireland’s tidiest town in 2011, with cobbled paths and neat rows of bars, restaurants and shops selling Irish souvenirs. It was at Foleys Townhouse, originally a 19th Century coaching inn that we first heard ‘Dingle Bay’ bandied about as a term to authenticate its fresh catch.

Tourism in Killarney was not new. The scenic region got a royal stamp of endorsement after Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861 and in the late 1800s writer Bram Stoker visited Killarney. It’s believed that the vampire chronicles of Dracula were inspired by his late night wanderings around Ross Castle and stories of hermit John Drake who slept in a coffin in Muckross Abbey. Interestingly, Gaelic for bad blood is ‘droch fola’. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7103_opt

Stories of our midnight mayhem could have filled a book and we barely made it for the early morning start to the Ring of Kerry tour. Our first stop was Kerry Bog Village Museum at Glenbeigh, winner of the Agri Heritage Award. Recreating a typical 18th century village during the Great Irish Famine (1845-52), the various period cottages beautifully illustrated traditional architecture. The Turfcutter’s Dwelling had river reed as thatch, bog scraw for insulating the ceiling and uneven flag stone floors.

The stone-built Old Forge was dimlit for the blacksmith to discern the temperature and colour of the horseshoes on the cobbled floor. The Stable Dwelling came with a hen house, butter churns and raised back door for sweeping away animal droppings. The Thatcher’s Dwelling had spacious interiors and a first floor, but the most fascinating structure was the humble Labourer’s Cottage with mud floors and small windows. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7174_opt

In the old days, as per Irish taxation laws people paid more for having large windows, as having more light was seen as a luxury. So in this era, houses had unusually small windows and half doors, as light was allowed from the top half of the door when needed, which wasn’t taxable. It was this intriguing practice that gave rise to the phrase ‘daylight robbery’. The museum also had on showcase a Romany Caravan used by the traveling people of Ireland and rare native breeds like Kerry Bog Pony and the Irish Wolfhound, the world’s tallest dogs. Used to hunt wolves, elk and boar since Roman times, Irish wolfhounds had been procured by Roman consul Quintus Aurelius in 391 AD to fight in the Coloseum of Rome!

Adjacent, The Red Fox Inn run by the warm Mulvihill family was the perfect place for a ‘3P stop’ (pee, photo, puff), as our tour guide Virginia Moriarty quipped. If you thought a caffeine shot was rejuvenating, wait till you spike it with some Irish whiskey and cream. After alarmingly large portions of Irish coffee, we were back on the road to Cahersiveen, driving past vestiges of the old railroad and ruins of stone cottages from the great famine. In the distance, the jagged pinnacles of Skellig Islands jutted out of the Atlantic Ocean like croutons in a bowl of soup. Little Skellig hosted 66,000 gannets, the world’s second largest colony of these seabirds while the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael held medieval monastic ruins.

Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7095_opt

The Ring of Kerry provided an amazing insight into Ireland’s ancient history. From wedge tombs of the Neolithic period, stone circles of the Bronze Age, beehive huts and Ogham stone inscriptions of the Iron Age, 4000-year-old copper mines of Ross Island to churches, castles and abbeys, it had it all. A cluster of islets were nicknamed ‘The Bull, the Cow and the Calf’ and Henry pointed out a bizarre house built like a boat at the water’s edge, described by locals as ‘the ship that never went to sea waiting for the high tide’!

Beyond Beenarourke Pass at Coomakista, we halted at the Lady Madonna Statue for Sailors Lost at Sea. All along we spotted quaint seafood restaurants like Smugglers Inn and Sheilin, but dropped anchor at Scariff Inn, which offered the ‘most scenic view in Ireland.’ We dined on legendary lamb stew, seafood chowder and other Irish fare with views overlooking the bay. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7277_opt

Before long, we rolled into the seaside resort town of Waterville, a favourite holiday spot for Charlie Chaplin and his family, who first visited in 1959 and liked it so much, he returned every year for a decade. Not far from Butler Arms Hotel where he stayed, a statue commemorates his visits with a plaque ‘For a man who made the movies speak in the heart of millions Charlie spent many a year in our midst as a welcome and humble guest and friend to many.’

His image was created by sculptor Alan Ryan Hall and funded by Chaplin’s daughter Josephine. As a tribute, Waterville hosts the annual Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival in August. Following Chaplin’s footsteps, the town attracted other celebrities like Shirley Maclaine, Catherine Zeta Jones and Tiger Woods. Scenic coastal hikes from Waterville to Cahersiveen and Caherdaniel form part of the wonderful 200 km walking trail The Kerry Way. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7289_opt

Tim explained the origin behind Irish town names. Places like Kildare and Kilkenny denote church (Kil means Church of), Ballyn implies ‘Town Of’ while Caher suggests ‘Fort of’, usually a stone fort located inland. Dun refers to a fort by the sea while List refers to a fort built between 400 BC and 100 AD. ‘Forget that, you can tell the weather by the position of sheep on the mountain side.’ Before the guffaws could die down, he patiently elaborated ‘If they are grazing at the top, it means the weather will be good because they’ll need time to come down. So if they are at the foot of the mountain, it means the weather might be dodgy.’

We realized why sheep are synonymous with Irish countryside as we cruised towards picturesque Sneem, which formed a swirling knot in the Ring, where the river Sneem joined Kenmare Bay. A statue of Steve ‘Crusher’ Casey, five times World Heavyweight Champion in wrestling between 1938-47 adorned the town square. A short walk led to the scenic bridge and a quaint bar fronted by boulder with a short eulogy: ‘Those days in our hearts we will cherish, Contented although we were poor, And the songs that were sung, In the days we were young, On the stone outside Dan Murphy’s Door.’ Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7329_opt

We repeatedly tested the advertising tagline ‘Guinness is good for you’ before continuing on the Ring, which contoured the ever-changing landscape. We passed Moll’s Gap, Gap of Dunloe, Macgillicuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain with the majestic peak Corran Tuathail (3414 ft), Lough Leane, the biggest of the three lakes of Killarney and Ladies View, named after a lady-in-waiting of the Queen who gushed ‘This is the finest view in all the realm.’ The drive back to Killarney through forests of oak and yew was a breeze.

The 26,000-acre Killarney National Park was criss-crossed by several walking paths like Old Boathouse Trail and Arthur Young Trail. But all we could walk was a few paces to Hannigan’s Bar for a pint and an evening of live Irish music. It all seemed oddly familiar, like a face you’ve seen before. Maudlin, we joined in the chorus to Molly Malone, Danny Boy and It’s a long way to Tipperary and realized that the songs we grew up with were actually classic Irish ballads! The guy at the bar summed it up well ‘God bless the wives of Ireland, All their men are half mad, All their wars are merry, And all their songs are sad!’

Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7306_opt


Getting there
Fly to Dublin and take an Aer Lingus connection to Kerry Airport (55 min). Alternately, take a train from Dublin’s Heuston station to Mallow (2¼ hr) every hour for the onward journey (5-8 pm) and every half hour for the return (5:30-7:30pm). At Mallow, take a change to Killarney (1 hr). There’s a 5:05 pm direct train from Heuston to Killarney (75 Euro return trip).

Good to Know
The 179 km circular loop road (N70, N71 and R562) starts from Killarney in County Kerry, south-western Ireland, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. As the narrow roads make it difficult for tour coaches to pass, buses run in an anti-clockwise direction, traveling via Killorglin.

Local tours
Railtours Ireland organizes rail and coach tours from Dublin’s Heuston station to Killarney via Mallow (Mon-Sat). Choose from other great tours to Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, Cork, Connemara, Galway Bay, Blarney Castle, Giant’s Causeway, etc.

Killarney Lake Tours – MV Pride of the Lakes waterbus and Lily of Killarney Watercoach offers daily sailings from Ross Castle (10:30am-5pm) to Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula. Their Gap of Dunloe Tour combines travel by bus, pony carriages and boat via the Lakes of Killarney.

The Kerry Way is an established 200km walking path that roughly follows the scenic driving route, while a signposted Ring of Kerry cycling path uses older quieter roads. There are numerous variations to the route like St. Finian’s Bay and Valentia Island, which the official driving ring skips. Ring of Kerry Ireland-Anurag Mallick IMG_7102_opt
Killarney International
Kenmare Place, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland Tel: +353-(0) 64-6631816

Foleys Townhouse Guesthouse
24 High Street, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland Tel: +353-(0) 64-6631217

See Peat bogs, prehistoric ruins, Killarney National park, Kerry Bog Village Museum, Skellig Experience, Muckross House and day trip to Gap of Dunloe. To plan your Ireland tour, visit

Must Try Irish coffee at Red Fox Inn, Seafood chowder at Scariff Inn, Irish meal at Foleys Townhouse in Killarney, Pint of Guinness at a bar

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine.

Seventh Heaven: 7 Amazing Honeymoon Vacations


Andean vow renewals, secret beaches, thermal geysers to romantic escapades by Mayan ruins, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY choose an eclectic list of honeymoon destinations that are truly off the beaten track

Seychelles_Photo courtesy - Fregate Island Private

Couples take seven marriage vows, walk seven rounds around the sacred fire and promise to be with each other for seven lives. So what’s a wedding without a celebration of togetherness that makes you feel you’re in seventh heaven? Here are seven secret hideaways for a dream honeymoon…  

Poland_Zakopane's typical wooden architecture IMG_2280

Romantic baths in thermal geysers of the Tatra Mountains (Poland)
Get on a flight to the charming old Polish capital of Krakow and drive 80km south to the tiny village of Bukowina Tatrzańska near the Slovakia border. Thermal geysers have been used for their restorative powers across the entire Carpathian range for centuries. But the geothermal health complex at Bukovina Hotel is the largest of its kind in Poland. Thermal waters rich in sulphur, calcium, chloride and sodium are channeled from fissures as deep as 2400-2700 m. Rejuvenate yourself in 20 indoor and outdoor swimming pools equipped with hydro-massage, choice of eight saunas including Roman, Finnish, Highlander, Floral and Infrared, besides spa and wellness treatments. With thermal waters ranging from 30 to 38°C, it is possible to use the outdoor pools in winter as well! Just 14 km away, Poland’s winter capital Zakopane is an adventure sports hub with Nordic hikes, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping and skating. For a more leisurely experience, take a ride in decorated horse-pulled sleighs called kuligs or a romantic stroll down the popular Krupówki Street lined with stores, restaurants, carnival rides and performers. Shop for unique Zakopane souvenirs, such as the ciupaga (shepherd’s axe), highlander hat or oscypek (mountain cheese). Enjoy a Polish meal at Bakowo Zohylina Wyznio with highlander music, Polish vodka and a celebration of local Goral culture through traditional dances, music, costume, cuisine and stunning wooden architecture.

For more travel ideas across Poland, visit

Seychelles_Photo courtesy - North Island Resort

Private beaches, secret coves and isles of love (Seychelles/Maldives)
Located 1,000 miles away from any major landmass in the middle of the Indian Ocean but reachable by a 4-hour flight from Mumbai, Seychelles opens a hidden world of tiny islets, secluded coves and private island resorts surrounded by endemic flora and fauna which bestow an air of unprecedented privacy and romance. Dive or snorkel hand in hand in crystal blue waters, stroll through tropical forests to spot iridescent birds or go on nature trails over the islands’ granite mountains. Head to remote hideaways like Desroches Island Resort, 230km southwest of Seychelles’ largest island Mahé, voted among the world’s best remote island resorts. Enjoy sailing trips, romantic cruises, spectacular fishing, indulgent spa treatments, exploratory island cycle rides and breathtaking sunsets. Laze in private pool villas nestled along the coastline at Fregate Island Private, a 3 sq km ecological sanctuary where the only other guests are 2,000 free-roaming Giant Aldabra Tortoises and 100 species of birds. Or choose from great hotels on the main isles – Constance Ephelia or Northolme on Mahé, Constance Lemuria and Raffles on Praslin or Le Domaine de l’Orangeraie at La Digue. And, honeymoons needn’t cost the moon. Find romance on a budget with distinct Seychellois flair, thanks to Seychelles Tourism Board’s packaging of the finest small hotels, chalets and guesthouses into one brand – Seychelles Secrets! For a quicker escape, Maldives is just a short hop from Kochi. A private seaplane sweeps you up from Malé Airport to Viceroy Maldives Resort at Shaviyani Atoll in the unchartered north where 60 villas encircle a lagoon resembling the hull of an inverted Maldivian dhoni (fishing boat). A 15-min luxury speedboat ride from Malé takes you to Taj Exotica, an exclusive, romantic island resort set in one of the largest lagoons in Maldives while Vivanta by Taj – Coral Reef at Hembadhu Island in North Mal Atoll has numerous dive sites, a private reef and a shipwreck!

For a romantic holiday that doesn’t break the bank, visit

Ka'ana Belize-16

Luxury and adventure among Mayan ruins (Belize)
Horse rides to Mayan ruins, hikes through tropical rainforests, champagne picnics by the river and ancient cuisines and massages handed down across a thousand years; Belize has all the ingredients of an exotic honeymoon vacation. Located on the eastern coast of Central America, it served as a British colony between 1862 and 1973 known as British Honduras. Caracol, easily one of the most impressive Mayan sites in Central America, has as many as 35,000 buildings dominated by the spectacular Caana or Sky Palace. Inspired by it, the small luxury resort of Ka’ana at San Ignacio in Western Belize is the ideal spot for a romantic tryst. Stay in a private pool villa, with gardens, plunge pools and your own personal houseman. Laze over breakfast in bed with chaya (Belizean super food), eggs and fried jacks. Learn the secrets of Mayan cuisine from a traditional cook and prepare ancient recipes on a fogon (brick and mud stove) – tortillas, tamales, caldo and dukunu, a corn dish similar to polenta. Get a Mayan Abdominal Massage at Ka’ana Spa and ride on horseback to the majestic Mayan site of Xunantunich accompanied by an archaeologist. For exotic adventures, hike through the jungle, cross three rivers and swim into the hourglass-shaped entrance of Actun Tunichil Muknal, a sacred cave in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, where ancient sacrificial ceremonies took place. Or drive through rugged terrain to a private 400-acre reserve where you zipline through the subtropical jungle, a suspended bridge and a hydraulic elevator that whisks you 50 feet above the canopy.

To book your Belize holiday, visit

SeaDream Yacht with Marina Sports

Luxury yachting in the British Virgin Islands (Caribbean)
While a cruise ship is great for a luxurious holiday, for a honeymoon you might prefer the privacy of a yacht. SeaDream’s ultra-luxury twin mega-yachts SeaDream I and II operate 5 to 20-night sailings in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Amazon River and the British Virgin Islands of the Caribbean between November and April. Its compact size allows you to sail into exotic ports and unexplored harbours beyond the reach of larger cruises. Stop by at idyllic islands like Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Nevis, Norman Island and Virgin Gorda, famous for The Baths, a geological wonder. Soak up French flavours at St. Barts, Tobago Cays in the Grenadines or Gustavia with its stunning beaches, resorts, restaurants and adventures. Plan a boutique yachting experience of 6, 7 or 10 days, with just over a hundred guests for company. All-inclusive fares include an impeccable wine cellar, ‘Cuisine A La Minute’ and an open bar with unlimited Sushi, and enough to do on the yacht besides offshore activities like mountain biking, helicopter rides and swimming with dolphins.

For more cruise itineraries, visit

Ireland_Antrim Coast IMG_5265-Anurag Mallick

Coastal Drives, Castles & Fairytales in the Emerald Isle (Ireland)
A landscape of lakes, glens, sandy beaches, rolling hills and winding roads around a patchwork of emerald green countryside; the romantic scenery of Ireland is the stuff legends are made of. Little wonder that the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ chose Northern Ireland as its filming location. (There’s even a 3-day medieval tour retracing plot points and key scenes!) Treat yourself to a fairytale castle or enjoy seclusion in a quiet country cottage. There’s no better place to start than Dublin, a city founded by Vikings a thousand years ago. Today, a vibrant city buzzing with art, culture and music, here you can go on Viking tours, Literary trails and pub walks. For a long drive, go north to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and begin your road trip up the Antrim Coast. The 155-mile Causeway Coastal Route, one of the most scenic road journeys in the world, takes you past Larne, gateway to the Glens of Antrim and Glenarm Castle, one of Ireland’s oldest estates. Stop at Ballycastle, a seaside resort and walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge suspended across a 20-metre chasm. Drive to Armoy to see a road lined by a drooping canopy of trees called The Dark Hedges. Continue to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site with thousands of hexagonal basalt columns lashed by the sea. The audio tour captures its legends with typical Irish wit and charm. The ruins of Dunluce Castle nearby, is a scenic spot. Head inland to Bushmills, Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery for a tipple and end your tour at Londonderry (Derry, for short), the only walled city in Europe.

For more tourist trails, visit or

Switzerland_Paragliding from Jungfrau

Take a train, ski or paraglide from the Top of Europe (Switzerland)
If you are feeling on top of the world and want a destination to match your mood, fly to Zürich and take a quick train to Interlaken. As the name suggests, it is ‘the area between the two lakes, named after the towns of Thun and Brienz. Check into the exclusive Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa overlooking the large central meadow of Höhematte for an unhindered view of the majestic Mount Jungfrau (the Virgin), soaring 13,842 ft. With casinos, restaurants and souvenir shops, the main street Höheweg is quite literally the tourist highway. Enjoy a horse carriage ride, explore Interlaken on foot or take a guided e-bike tour to a local Swiss farm to try local cheese and bread. If you’re into skiing, take the amazing century-old narrow gauge Alpine railway to Kleine Scheidegg or ride past stations like Wilderswil and Schynige Platte to Grindelwald. After a typical lunch of rostis and fondue, walk to the cable car station for a ride to First (7,170 ft) for a great view of the Bernese Alps. Zoom down at 80 km per hour on the exhilarating First Flyer and take the cable car from Schreckfeld to Grindelwald for the train to Interlaken. But for the ultimate high, escape to Jungfraujoch, the very Top of Europe at 3,454 m for a guided tour of the snowy attractions – Alpine Sensation, Ice Palast, Plateau and the Sphinx Observatory, at 3,571 m, the highest structure in Europe. Perched on snowy crags against a dramatic backdrop of peaks and glaciers, the domed astronomical station has served as a lair for super villains and mad scientists in several films from Bond to Krrish 3. After the customary selfie at the fluttering Swiss flag, drop by at Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven, opened by Swiss tennis star and Lindt ambassador Roger Federer. He even played a tennis match on the Aletsch Glacier overlooking the Sphinx! Savour a romantic meal at the Restaurant Crystal, touted as the highest in Europe. And if weather permits, paraglide from Jungfrau all the way down to Interlaken! On your way out, visit St. Beatus Caves at Beatushöhlen, Switzerland’s first and only underground cave museum around a maze of stalactites, stalagmites, lakes and waterfalls. Stop for lunch at the Castle Oberhofen and continue to Thun for a guided city walk, before flying out of Zürich.

For more Alpine trails, visit or

Peru_Andean ceremony at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge MPS-WED-04

Vow renewal ceremony at Machu Pichu (Peru)
Fly to Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, where Pre-Colombian architecture and dramatic Inca wall art on the streets will enchant any visitor. Stay at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio as you visit the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, the formidable fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the amphitheatre, the Inca baths and other impressive sites like the Plaza de Armas or Square of the Warrior. From Cusco, board the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train and rumble through the dramatic landscape of Sacred Valley before arriving at Machu Pichu. Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, just steps away from the citadel, is the only hotel adjacent to the Lost City of the Incas. Enjoy an earthy dinner at the in-house Tampu Restaurant and wake up early to have privileged access to the site at sunrise. You could enjoy your honeymoon or make this dramatic backdrop your wedding venue or renew your marriage vows in the ancient Andean tradition with live Andean music and an authentic Shamanic ritual to strengthen the bond of love.

For more exotic vacations around the world, visit

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of Select Magazine for Spenta Publications.

10 Things you didn’t know about Ireland


From Dublin’s colourful doors, Belfast’s famous inventions, Ireland’s infamous monuments, blending blunders, the Dracula connection to the origins of popular phrases, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY dig out a treasure of Irish secrets


1. Why Dublin has colourful doors
The Emerald Isle may have inspired Johnny Cash to pen the song ‘40 shades of green’ (though the term itself is an older one), but what’s the reason behind Dublin’s colourful doors? Pink, red, green, blue, brown, yellow, white… the traditional Georgian doors at Merrion Square come in myriad shades. But there was a time when all doors in Dublin used to be black. Legend has it that local menfolk would go on all-night drinking binges and often land up the next morning with the excuse that they were so drunk they couldn’t find the door as it was hard to tell them apart! So the clever wives started painting their doors in different colours… and it has remained so, ever since!


2. Bite me! The Dracula was Irish?
Dublin-born Irish writer Bram Stoker found inspiration for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula from several sources. Hungarian writer and traveler Ármin Vámbéry acted as Stoker’s consultant on Transylvania with dark stories from the Carpathian mountains. Though the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, the Impaler may be an influence, there is an Ireland connection, too. Old legends talk of Abhartach, an Irish vampire king in 5th-6th century who rose from his grave to drink the blood of his subjects. In the late 1800s Bram Stoker visited Killarney in the Ring of Kerry. It’s believed the vampire chronicles of Dracula were further shaped by his late night wanderings around Ross Castle and stories of hermit John Drake who slept in a coffin in Muckross Abbey. Stoker also visited the crypts of St Michan’s church in Dublin. Interestingly, Gaelic for bad blood is ‘droch fola’. While in Killarney, don’t miss the theatrical Original Ghost Tour of Killarney – ‘a trip to die for’!


3. In Ireland even monuments have nicknames
Notorious for their sharp wit and love for rhyme, the Irish have a penchant for irreverent nicknames given to their statues and monuments. The Spire of Dublin, a 398 ft needle-like monument that replaced Nelson’s Pillar, was dubbed Spike in the Dyke, Stiletto in the Ghetto, The Binge Syringe and other unceremonious tags alluding to its shiny stainless steel form. Legendary fishmonger Molly Malone’s statue is dubbed Tart with the Cart or Flirt in the Skirt. The statue of two women on a park bench with shopping bags near Ha’Penny Bridge is disparagingly called Hags with Bags. The statue of the river Liffey personified as Anna Livia, is the Floozy in the Jacuzzi or Bitch in the Ditch. Even famous Irish authors are not spared. Oscar Wilde’s statue is called The Queer with the Leer and The Fag on the Crag while James Joyce is The Prick with the Stick! In Belfast, when the Albert Clock Tower inclined due to a sinking base, locals deemed it better than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, because ‘not only do we have the inclination, we also have the time!’ The Chandon Steeple in suburban Cork is known as the ‘Four-faced Liar’ since its accuracy is questionable.


4. How a blending blunder created the world’s most popular drink
Guinness folklore contends that Arthur Guinness did not invent stout; he merely perfected it. Though all stouts are made from barley, hops, yeast and water, what distinguishes Guinness from other beers in the secret 5th ingredient – the brewing technique. However the actual reason behind Guinness’s success was not a master blender, but a blunder! The key ingredient Irish ground barley, used in the ratio of 80% unmalted, 10% malted and 10% roasted, was heated too much, resulting in a dark ruby red brew. The rest, as they say, is distillery. Spring water from the Wicklow Mountains, low in minerals like magnesium and calcium, is used so Guinness in Dublin is likely to taste better than anywhere else. The nitrogen head on top of the pint acts as a barrier, sealing the beer’s taste and temperature. Learn to pour the perfect pint and drink using the five senses at the Guinness storehouse and also check out Arthur Guinesss’ 9000-year-old lease for the brewery site at St James Gate and the Director’s Safe with a sample of the original starter yeast!


5. There are no snakes in Ireland
As per legend Ireland’s patron saint St Patrick was on a 40-day fast atop a hill when he was attacked by snakes, so he chased them into the sea. However it’s more a metaphor for him driving out pagan religions and the introduction of Christianity in 4th century. He used the shamrock or three-leaf clover to explain the Divine Trinity of The God, The Father and The Holy Spirit. Despite the myth, there have been no snakes in Ireland from the post-glacial period! Rathlin Island, the northernmost and only inhabited island in Northern Ireland was at the centre of a land dispute with Scotland. After all, it was here in a cave that Robert the Bruce hid after his defeat by the English in 1306 and was inspired by the persistent spider that scaled the roof after several unsuccessful attempts. In a 1617 lawsusit in the Court of King James I, it was claimed that since there were no snakes on Rathlin, it had to be Irish. As the story goes, a snake was released onto the island but did not survive in the marshy wilds and Rathlin remained Irish. Incidentally, this is where Marconi made his first radio broadcast.


6. Built in Belfast
Besides the doomed Titanic, 3500 other ships (like HMS Belfast in London, SS Canberra and INS Vikrant in Mumbai), were also made in Belfast. There was a local joke that you could tell which shipping company’s vessel was being built by the colour of the doors in East Belfast. Union Castle was lavender while P&O was white! Though Harland & Wolff was famous as a shipping company, it made almost anything – including walkways for Heathrow Airport and the Churchill Tank. At the Lagan Legacy barge retrace the story of Belfast’s maritime and industrial past in an exhibition called ‘The Greatest Story Never Told.’ The submarine, ejector seat, pneumatic pump and wind turbine were all Irish inventions as Ireland soon became the largest manufacturer of ropes, lemonade shakers, lawn mowers, flax machinery and shirts. The ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean DMC-12 cars were also made in the Belfast suburb of Dunmurry.


7. What the Irish gave English
Ireland’s contribution to the English language is pretty varied. A Dublin pub owner allegedly invented the word ‘Quiz’ as a challenge to introduce a new term overnight. During the Irish Land War Captain Charles Boycott, a land agent wanted to evict tenants and was met with organized isolation by workers, hence the word ‘boycott’. The term ‘going beyond the pale’ dates back to 14th century when parts of Ireland that were under English rule were marked by a pale (fence). To venture outside this boundary meant leaving behind all the rules of English society. ‘Birthday bumps’ too originated in Ireland from an old practice of giving knocks on the head for luck. Belfast’s spinning industry gave rise to several terms like flaxen-haired, toe rag and spinster. Women often sat outdoors and had to keep the flax damp with their mouth, so were weather-beaten and had sores on their mouth. Many were left unmarried and continued spinning, from where the term spinster is derived. In the old days, as per Irish taxation laws people paid more for having large windows, as having more light was seen as a luxury. So houses had unusually small windows and half doors, as light was allowed from the top half of the door when needed, which wasn’t taxable. It was this intriguing practice that gave rise to the phrase ‘daylight robbery’.


8. Why a door at St Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin has a hole
In 1492 two Irish families, the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare were involved in a bloody feud. The Butlers sought refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin but the FitzGeralds followed them and asked them to come out and make peace. Fearing for their safety, the Butlers refused. As a token of good faith Gerald FitzGerald cut a hole in the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. The Butlers honoured his noble intention, shook hands through the door and the two families were reconciled. FitzGerald had nothing to lose except his hand, which gave rise to the phrase ‘to chance your arm’. The famous Door of Reconciliation is still on display in the Cathedral’s north wing.


9. Snug in a Snug
From Ireland’s highest pub Ponderosa overlooking the Mourne mountains to Crown’s Bar in Belfast, described as ‘the most beautiful bar in the world’, Ireland has several unique and historic pubs. Groucho’s in County Armagh has a well inside the pub and a tunnel that leads to Richhill Castle, the most haunted house in Ulster. Dublin alone has over 800 pubs including one of Ireland’s oldest The Brazen Head (1198). Some pubs have a ‘snug’, a cosy nook next to the bar or entrance, where women could have a pint in relative peace and isolation. Pubs were largely mens’ only turf with loud, aggressive and boisterous patrons. People raised a hue and cry about women’s safety, but such apprehensions were unfounded. As the saying goes ‘An Irishman can crawl over eight naked ladies to get to a pint.’ Have a craic in a snug at O’Neills, Palace Bar, Kehoes and Toners in Dublin or Belfast’s oldest tavern Whites (1630) and Kelly’s Cellars, the oldest licensed pub.


10. Strange places
While nearby Wales may have the longest place name in the world – the 58-letter Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Ireland doesn’t lag too far behind. At 41 characters, Sliabh Phlochóige agus Leadhb Reannach Thuaidh, literally ‘Plughoge and Leabrannagh Mountain North’ is a townland in County Donegal. Ireland’s longest one-word place name is the 22-letters long Muckanaghederdauhaulia (literally ‘Pig-marsh between two saltwaters’). The Irish go to great lengths to display their fondness for verbosity, be it a stone or a river. There are nearly 50 places in Ireland with 20+ names. Most seem as if they were the result of a two-year old left unattended at the computer keyboard. Try asking for directions to Bullaunancheathrairaluinn, Sruffaunoughterluggatoora or Sruffaungolinluggatavhin. Our advice, stick to Cork…

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy.

Travel in Style: Around the World in 2014


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY pick out 14 exciting destinations and new ways to explore the world in 2014 

River safaris, luxurious cruises, coastal drives, seaplane ride to private island resorts, salt mine tours, sightseeing on the run, Vinotherapy holidays, wildlife watching tours and spectacular festivals; the new year promises many new experiences for the global traveller. 


Besides Auschwitz, Sobibor and Oskar Schindler’s factory in the old capital of Krakow, Poland has a lot more to show than its war wounds. Listen to legends of dragons, mermaids and fairytale castles as you discover the legacy of composer Frederic Chopin. Visit the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw where his heart is enshrined or take the Royal Route from the reconstructed Old Town to Łazienki Park lined with palaces for a meal at the Belvedere. Try hot chocolate at Wedel’s Chocolate Lounge or warm your cockles with a glass of mulled wine, Polish mead and smoked Oscypek (mountain sheep cheese) served with cranberry sauce. But for something truly spectacular, head to Wieliczka’s Kopalnia Soli, the world’s oldest salt mine still in operation and perhaps the oldest corporation! Marvel at its jaw-dropping saline architecture with altars, statues and chandeliers carved out of rock salt by mine workers, ending the tour with dinner in an underground chamber. Head south to the winter capital of Zakopane for a funicular train to the top of Mount Gubalowka for snowmobile rides against the stunning backdrop of the Tatra mountains. At the unique Bukovina Hotel, bathe in therapeutic thermal pools channeled from 2400m deep geysers! With ICE Krakow, a new convention centre slated to open in 2014, Poland makes for a great destination for holidayers and corporate groups alike.


After clocking a million visitors at Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland takes its maritime legacy a notch up with the renovated SS Nomadic, the feeder ship used by first-class passengers to board the Titanic. Get a dose of adrenalin at SKYTrek, a new outdoor high ropes activity centre near Belfast and head out to the Coastal Causeway Route. The 120-mile drive along the North Antrim Coast ranks among the world’s top road trips. Stop over for English tea and scones at the Londonderry Arms Hotel, once owned by Winston Churchill and try Irish cuisine at Bushmills Inn. En route visit Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge over a deep chasm and Dunluce Castle, a medieval structure dramatically perched on a cliff. At Giant’s Causeway marvel at the hexagonal basalt columns formed 60 million years ago, when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water. Enriching the scenic walk are excellent audio guides explaining Irish folktales behind the distinctive formations like the Camel, the Wishing Chair and the Harp. The recently opened £18 million visitor centre has a great interactive exhibition and souvenir shop. The Causeway Crossing Marathon in May, Adventure Travel World Summit at Killarney in October and Giants Causeway Coast Sportive cycling tour in November make it a great year to visit Ireland.


Just a 2½ hr drive from Dubai and an hour’s flight from Muscat, Mussandam is emerging as Oman’s hottest destination. With a rich sea-faring tradition, Oman’s northern-most governorate overlooks the strategic Strait of Hormuz, with Portuguese-built forts-cum-museums at Khasab and Bukha. Go dolphin sighting on a dhow cruise in the fjords of Mussandam (described as the Norway of Arabia) and watch amazing marine life while snorkelling at Telegraph Island, named after an undersea telegraph system set up by the British in 1854. Head on an off-road drive to Jebel Harim (Mountain of Women), named after local women who flocked to the hill to escape pirates when their husbands were away fishing. Hunt for fossils and petroglyphs high in the mountain caused by the collision of the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. Enjoy Arabic platters and fresh catch from the sea at Golden Tulips hotel and pick up Omani halwa and dates at the new Lulu Hypermarket.

Alligator Snapping Turtle, River Safari © Singapore Tourism Board

Embark on a journey of discovery at the brand new River Safari, Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park in Singapore. Explore eight freshwater habitats with over 5,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals representing 300 species. Meet rare giants such as the giant river otter, giant salamander and the Mekong giant catfish. From the mighty Mississippi to the majestic Yangtze, stroll through freshwater galleries and walk-through exhibits. Watch giant pandas at the lush Giant Panda Forest, Southeast Asia’s largest panda exhibit and witness the annual flooding of the Amazon jungle at the Amazon Flooded Forest, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. Located between Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, it has all the makings of a wild holiday.

© Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel

With films like Skyfall, Ek Tha Tiger and Race 2 shot in Istanbul and the sea resort of Antalya, Turkey has captured the imagination of the Indian traveler. Roam around the iconic Blue Mosque, spice-scented bazaars and narrow streets around the Golden Horn, gaze at the soaring dome of Hagia Sophia, soak yourself in a hammam (Turkish bath), drop by at the upscale boutiques of Nisantasi or visit the Dolmabahce Palace with opulent chandeliers and rooms built for Ottoman sultans. Go on the perfect romantic holiday or opt for a stylish wedding at the Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel. Travel Shop Turkey’s new Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours offer a new way to discover the country beyond Istanbul – boutique cave hotels in the underground city of Cappadoccia, the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Trojan Horse of Troy, one of the Seven Churches of St John at Pergamon, the ancient city of Ephesus, the calcium pools of Pamukkale and the beautiful scenery of the Mediterranean coast.

Run Cape Town © South African Tourism

South Africa
Ever done Sightseeing on the Run? Run Cape Town offers Running Tours of the city through its streets, with Western Cape Tourist Guide Philippa sharing anecdotes and history of major sights. With a backdrop of Table Mountain, an incredible coastline and great weather, Cape Town is the perfect city to discover on foot. The Historic City Centre tour can be adapted to routes of 5km, 8km or 12km (1 hr 40 min) with new running tours at Darling, Lions Head and Gugulethu. Stellenbosch Wine Festival from 24 Jan–2 Feb 2014 promises tasting programs from over 75 wineries in the beautiful surroundings of Die Braak. But don’t just sip your wine; try vinotherapy, South Africa’s hot new trend with treatments inspired by merlot, chardonnay and pinotage. Librisa Spa at Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town offers a special head-to-toe Vine Secret Vintage Experience. Or perhaps Your Highness may prefer Constantia Uitsig’s signature treatment Les Aromes Du Vin?

Holi in Berlin © German National Tourist Office 

With special focus on its 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Germany is celebrating the ‘Royal Heritage Route’ in 2014 to mark the 300th anniversary of Hanover’s succession to the thrones of UK and Ireland. The year also marks the 300th birth anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s illustrious second son CPE Bach, about whom Mozart remarked to a Viennese patron “Bach is the father. We are the children!” The six ‘Bach cities’ of Weimar, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Berlin, Potsdam and Hamburg where the composer lived and worked are planning year-long celebrations. With concerts, exhibitions, conferences and festivals celebrating his life and work, it’s Bachanalia of another kind! Germany’s exciting electronic scene is abuzz with clubs and nightspots in Berlin. Let your hair down with thousands of revelers during Holi at Olympic Park. Events like the Berlinale International Film Festival in Feb, the Long Night of Museums in March and Long of Night of Opera and Theatre in April promise a lot of action for any visitor.

Magical sunsets © Royal Caribbean Cruises

Royal Caribbean Cruises
From dramatic landscapes of the Arctic to South America’s beaches, rainforests and tango salons; ancient temples, open-air markets and cuisine of the Far East to culinary trails in Australia and New Zealand, Royal Caribbean Cruises is a great way to explore the globe. Get aboard the largest and most innovative cruise ships in the world including Allure of the Seas in the Caribbean and Asia’s largest cruise Mariner of the Seas that sails from Singapore. The 7-Night Argentina & Uruguay Cruise aboard the Splendour of the Seas has several fixed departures in Jan-April. On-board amenities include surf simulators, ice skating rinks, zip line, sports courts, casinos, aqua sports and Broadway-style entertainment. Tirun Travel Marketing, India’s premier cruise counselors in 2013, offer exclusive holidays and exotic Spa at Sea packages. Choose from Elemis Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage, rasul organic mud baths on Royal Caribbean International or award-winning AquaSpa treatments aboard Celebrity Cruises.

Private pool © Song Saa Island, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia’s fastest growing city, serves as the gateway to the world famous Angkor temples and ruins of a string of Khmer capitals between the 9th to 15th centuries. But there’s more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat, the world’s largest single religious monument, the massive stone faces of Bayon at Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm’s Buddhist temples entwined by roots. The once inaccessible Koh Ker has been recently de-mined and reachable by a new toll road. But for something truly offbeat, visit Song Saa, the first and only private island resort in Cambodia. Arrive in style by a private seaplane from Siem Reap (1hr 15min) or Phnom Penh (1 hr). Luxuriate in Jungle, Overwater and Ocean-view villas built from sustainable materials with private pools as you indulge in the Sanctuary spa. Try watersports, nature walks and excursions to 20 deserted islands nearby like The Sweethearts that spans two islands connected by a footbridge over a marine reserve. The best part, there’s wi-fi all over the island!

Canada by VIA Rail © Canadian Tourism Commission

North America’s oldest tourist attraction, the legendary Maid of the Mist retires in 2014 after 165 years of service. Replaced by a Frisco-based company, the Hornblower will take tourists to Niagara from the Canadian docks past the base of the American Falls into the basin of the magnificent Canadian Horseshoe Falls. For a different perspective, take a Heli-Tour or ‘Journey beyond the Falls’ in a lift. However, as the second largest country in the world, Canada offers much more. Traverse the country on a budget with great deals and circuits from VIA Rail and try the recently launched Canadian Signature Experiences. Relive Canada’s railway building heritage and castles at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. View wild polar bears at Churchill by all-terrain Tundra Buggy or saddle up for the Calgary Stampede, billed as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’. Go dog-sledding, glamping in forests, culinary boot camps or Aurora tours to view the Northern Lights, which will be at their best in 2014. If Toronto’s CN Tower Sky Walk seems too urban, go for a Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver. And if all this seems too much, just chill with some Inniskillin Ice Wine!


Beyond the known haunts of Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Bangkok’s 426 bejeweled temples, the famed City of Angels now offers a range of immersive experiences. Learn to prepare and feast on a full course of delicious traditional Thai fare at Amita Thai Cooking Classes run by Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon. Set in a cherry wooden cottage and organic garden by a canal, the sprightly cooking expert gives you a hands-on approach to a range of dishes. Get a good workout with a round Thailand’s famous martial art – MuayThai Kickboxing classes at S.Vorapin Boxing Gym. Soothe your tired muscles as you learn the intricacies of authentic Thai massage – traditional Wat Po or relaxing hot stone massages at RarinJinda Wellness Spa. Immerse yourself in the luxury of Siam Kempinski Hotel, a stone’s throw from Siam Center’s buzzing malls (MBK, Platinum and Pratunam). Shop till you drop at Asiatique Riverfront and dine at Baan Khanitha or Supatra River House, a ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River to gorge on exotic Thai fare. A short drive to Kanchanaburi lets you pay tribute to those who lost their lives building the Death Railway to Burma during WWII at historic sites like the Bridge on the River Kwai, the War Cemetery, Jeath War Museum and Hellfire Pass Memorial as you unwind in swanky tents at Hintok River Camp, a former Japanese military base.

Daranshi Oreum, Jeju © Korea Tourism Organization 

Psy’s global success after Gangnam Style has elevated not just K-Pop but Korea Tourism into instant international stardom. In a witty Wiki Korea campaign, Psy introduces concepts like Gi (universal energy) and Heung (inner joy), besides tourism icons like Korea’s famous dish samgyeopsal (pork belly), Myeongdong Cosme Road and Jeju Olle Trail. The largest volcanic island in Korea, Jeju recently won the Global Geopark certificate and ranks among the New7Wonders of Nature. Visit its famous sites like Hallasan National Park, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and Manjanggul Cave, the world’s longest lava tube recognized as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. A high-speed train connects Korea’s capital to its largest port city Busan, which hosts famous international fireworks and film festivals. But with historic sites like Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces and the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village, Korea’s surely got Seoul!

Zell am See © Austrian National Tourist Office

Stunning mountainscapes, green pastures, lakes and ice; the alpine beauty of Austria’s Zell am See and Kaprun circuit is breathtaking. Besides the country’s highest mountain Grossglockner and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, Austria boasts 267 peaks over 3000m, nearly 342 glaciers and mighty waterfalls like the 1,247 ft high Krimml Waterfalls, the tallest in the country. The newly opened waterfall center Wondrous Worlds of Water offers interactive experiences with an aquatic theme. Experience the world’s biggest ice caves at Eisriesenwelt or visit the 900-year-old castle of Burg Hohenwerfen, with a falconry centre, weaponry and museum. At Saalbach, a 20 min hike along the highest treetop path in Europe takes one to the end of the valley in Hinterglemm. Combined with the Golden Gate Bridge and a newly introduced high rope course, it’s an unparalleled alpine experience. Visit the baroque city of Salzburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a fortress, cathedral and church steeples.

Felicite and Sisters Island © Raymond Sahuquet

Thrumming with the strains of Creole music, Seychelles is a tropical paradise with 115 unique islands. Hop by plane or ferry between the 16 islands that provide stay options. Victoria, the world’s smallest capital, is so tiny you can explore it on foot while the largest island Mahé alone has 65 beaches! Nearly a fifth of Mahé’s landmass constitutes the Morne Seychellois National Park, named after the country’s highest peak. Enjoy dramatic views from Mission Lodge and Tea Factory as you learn the secret behind Seychelles tea – the cool crisp air of Mount Morne Blanc. Praslin, Seychelles’ second largest island once had such dense vegetation that explorers mistook it for the original Garden of Eden! Explore Craft Villages, Takamaka Bay Rum Distillery or go birdwatching for the Seychelles Black Parrot, one of the rarest in the world, besides the best fishing, snorkeling and sailing!

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 5 January 2014 in  Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald.  

Londonderry: If stones could speak


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY visit the medieval walled town of Londonderry in Northern Ireland to understand why it is UK’s first City of Culture 2013


If stones could speak, what stories they would tell. Their voices would echo across the walls and cobbled streets of Londonderry… One of the longest inhabited places in Ireland, the best example of a walled city in Europe, home to Ireland’s most haunted church, a staging post for the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II, a city that inspired hymns and songs – from Amazing Grace to U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. And if Parle confectionery is to be believed ‘a wonderful town famous for a rich caramel and milk candy’, Londonderry is steeped in so much history; you encounter one at every footstep.

We had driven from Belfast via the Antrim Coast into Beech Hill Country House, a beautiful 32-acre estate near the river Faughan. The country home was right out of a picture postcard – broadleaf woodland of oak and beech, an artesian wheel by a stream and clusters of hydrangea in the deepest shades of magenta and purple. A plaque outside the door bearing the US Marines motto Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) commemorated the arrival of the First Provisional Marine Battalion that billeted on these grounds between May 1942-August 1944.


The History Room documented Londonderry’s tryst with the Second World War – the navy station at Ebrington barracks, the decisive battles of County Donegal, sinking of the Bismarck and surrender of German submarines. We were ushered into our regal room with chandeliers and a four-poster. The hunt for a bottle of mineral water and an indignant visit to the front desk was met with a cheery reply, ‘Our ground water comes from a natural spring. You can drink it straight from the tap’.

The next morning we devoured a traditional Irish breakfast of soda bread, fried eggs, bacon rashers and sausages with black and white pudding. We ought to have done one of the hikes, colour-coded yellow, green and blue denoting the level of difficulty, but all the food seemed to have had made us colourblind! So we skipped the Skipton, O’Cahan, Nicholson, Marine and Donnelly Trails and headed into town.


Almost all local tales hark back to ‘doire’ or derry, a sacred oak grove atop a hill, where Irish Saint Columba set up a monastery in 546 AD. While Europe entered the Dark Ages, this community became a beacon of light and learning. Soon a settlement grew around it with a stronghold, cathedral and port. The prefix London was added in 1613 to acknowledge the support of the City Guild of London Companies, who helped build a new city on the Foyle in return for land on a new plantation in Ulster owned by King James I.

It is said the city was once an island in the form of a bent bow; the bog being the string and the river the bow. We disembarked at Peace Bridge, which linked the Waterside to the city, though local gossip believed it was a shortcut built by a bishop to meet his mistress! We walked along streets covered in graffiti and entered the walled city. With over 100 historic monuments, murals, churches and cathedrals, Derry’s Heritage trail is a walker’s delight.


Stretching over 1.5km, the city walls were built out of schist between 1613 and 1618 by The Honourable, The Irish Society. Originally there were only eight bastions and four gates – Bishop Gate, Shipquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Ferryquay Gate, which was closed by the Apprentice Boys of Derry in December 1688 against the Jacobite army. Lining the Grand Parade were 14 sycamore trees, one for each of the 13 Apprentice Boys and their lookout on Ferryquay Gate.

Caught in the struggle for the English throne between James II and William II, 18th April 1689 marked the start of a 105-day siege, the longest in British history. Nearly 2000 residents, a 7000-strong garrison and 15,000 refugees were packed within the city walls. Horses killed in battle were dragged into the city and salted. By the end of June, people were reduced to eating dogs, cats, rats and mice! Despite famine, Derry’s walls were never breached and it earned the nickname Maiden City.


We came to a 13th century Augustinian abbey, which served as the first church for the Plantation settlers until St Columb’s Cathedral was completed in 1633. Thereafter St Augustine’s became known as Little Chapel or the Wee Church on the Walls. ‘It’s as haunted as it’s pretty’, remarked our guide wryly.

Reports abound of a lady dressed in white 18th century costume walking down from the chapel graveyard, crossing a wooden bridge over Magazine Street and disappearing into Bridge House! We turned our heels and hastened towards St Columb’s, the first post-Reformation church to be erected in the British Isles.


The foundation stone in the porch bears the famous inscription, ‘If stones could speak then London’s prayers should sound who built this church and city from the ground.’ Also on display was a shell fired during the 1689 siege carrying the terms of surrender, which landed in the churchyard. We noticed the odd placement of the tombstones; not vertical to the ground, but arranged lying down. ‘Oh that was during the Troubles so that the bullets wouldn’t destroy them’, quipped our guide nonchalantly.

Legend has it that after surviving shipwreck and a hunting accident, John Newton prayed twice a day at the cathedral to repent for his slave trading days. While his ship Greyhound was being repaired in the Foyle, he supposedly found inspiration for the hymn Amazing Grace here in Derry.


Three new gates were added since the 18th century – New Gate, Castle Gate and Magazine Gate, the city’s newest gate named after the gunpowder store. At Hangman’s Bastion a man nearly killed himself when he became entangled in the rope he was using to escape. The nearby Coward’s Bastion was the safest place in the city, hence the name. At Double Bastion sat Roaring Meg, the most famous of the city’s cannons. Weighing 1794 kg, it took six men to fire it. Incidentally, Derry has the largest collection of cannons in Europe.

After the Potato Famines in the 1840s, the Bogside became the first community outside the walls, home to poor Catholic families from the country who worked in the city as weavers, sailors and dockers. Over the next two centuries the city prospered, as industries like shirt making and whiskey distilling flourished while the port became a centre of international trade.


Visible from Derry’s walls were the Bogside Murals painted on the gable walls of Rossville Street and Lecky Road. Bloody Sunday Commemoration Mural opposite Bogside Inn remembers the death of 14 people on 30 January 1972 or Bloody Sunday. The Death Of Innocence Mural portrays Annette McGavigan, a 14-year-old girl who became the first child victim of the troubles in Derry and the hundredth victim in Northern Ireland. Annette in her green schoolgirl uniform stands against debris from a bomb explosion, a rifle muzzle buried in the ground and a butterfly in the corner, which was coloured in 2006 to represent the change from violence to peace.

Ulster History Circle had marked houses of eminent writers like Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), philosopher and Dean of Derry 1724-34 and Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) who was inspired by the Creggan Hills to write the hymn ‘There is a green hill far away’. Strolling past statues of Temperance, Erin and Vulcan looking down from St Columb’s Hall we reached the Diamond.


Located in the heart of the walled city, one can see all four original gates from here. The black figures of the War Memorial denote the Navy, Army and the winged Angel of Victory representing the Royal Air Force. At Custom House we ordered roast stuffed Irish quail, crispy pork belly with squash sauce and salt ‘n chilli squid. In light of Derry’s frugal past, it was an unapologetic lavish meal, but we had earned it.

This year, the city’s walls celebrate 400 years and a series of events showcase it as UK’s first City of Culture. Little wonder Lonely Planet ranks it among the Top 10 places to visit in 2013. After surviving two sieges that lasted over 100 days, two world wars, famine and decades of civil strife that destroyed a third of the buildings within the walls, the spirit of Derry and its proud people was undefeated. As local expert Martin McCrossan’s award-winning city tour sums it up ‘Rain, sleet or snow, our walking tour will go!’

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 14 July 2013 in the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald.

10 Things to do in Ireland


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY visit the Emerald Isle and pick their top 10 experiences  


Low misty hills, lush countryside dotted with barns and sheep, coasts draped in bluebells, fuchsia and wild garlic; in Ireland you do see forty shades of green. In this scenic land of castles and abbeys, you can kiss the Blarney stone, write a ditty in Limerick, hop islands at Galway or go location hunting in Dublin, where parts of Ek Tha Tiger were filmed. Quaff a pint at an Irish pub, amble down Liffey Board Walk on Ormond Quay, explore Dublin’s main shopping avenue Grafton Street or go graffiti spotting. From vibrant street art to political graffiti about Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, get a crash course on Irish history by reading the writing on the walls. Here are our top picks:


1. Titanic Belfast
Of the 3500 ships built in Belfast, perhaps the most popular is the Titanic. At the Harland & Wolff shipbuilding yard in the Titanic Quarter, visit the experiential museum shaped like the hulls of the trio of identical ships – Olympic (The Beloved), Titanic (The Damned) and Brittanic (The Forgotten). Retrace the ship-building process, records of survivors, heroic tales, costumes from James Cameron’s movie, info panels and old video footage, ending with a surreal walkthrough of relics scattered on the ocean floor.


2. Guinness Storehouse
Discover how a brewing blunder resulted in Ireland’s most famous export. Visit Guinness Storehouse in Dublin to know everything about the dark-coloured stout. The 125 ft edifice was the first skyscraper in Ireland. Its Chicago School architecture incorporates a giant glass in the hollow of the atrium that can hypothetically hold 14.3 million pints. The centerpiece is a copy of the 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness – just £45 per year for 4 acres land! Besides the manufacturing process, learn to pour at the Perfect Pint bar and how to drink using the five senses. The Brewery Bar showcases Irish cuisine using Guinness while the Gravity Bar offers excellent views of the city.


3. Giant’s Causeway
Tranquil bays, glacier-cut valleys, headlands with ladder farming, seagulls resting on rocky islets and a scenic road weaving through viaducts and Wishing Tunnels; the Causeway Route along Antrim Coast is one of the Top 5 Road Trips in the world. Stop for tea and scones at the lovely Londonderry Arms Hotel or enjoy a meal by a roaring peat fire at Bushmills Inn. At Giant’s Causeway, take a self-guided audio tour from the Visitor Experience Centre to fully appreciate the UNESCO World Heritage site. Listen to Irish legends behind the hexagonal basalt columns and key sights – the Camel, Giant’s Boot, Wishing Chair and the Organ! Nearby, visit the Carrick-e-Rede rope bridge and the awe-inspiring Dunluce Castle on a cliff, which served as the backdrop for Jackie Chan’s Medallion and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.


4. Londonderry
UK City of Culture 2013, Derry or Londonderry is a town that wears many laurels. Named after a sacred oak grove, it is Ireland’s longest inhabited city with a 6th century Celtic monastery. One of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe, it remains Ireland’s only one whose walls were never breached. Built between 1613-1619 as defences for early settlers from England and Scotland, its historic walls withstood the 105-day Siege of Derry in 1689, the longest siege in British history, earning it the nickname Maiden City. Start a walking tour from the Peace Bridge through the many gates and turrets lined with cannons. Say a prayer at St Columb’s cathedral and view the brick houses and political graffiti in the Bogside. From the War Memorial in the Diamond, undulating roads lead to pubs, eateries, shops and monuments.


5. Ring of Kerry
Counted among Ireland’s most popular tourist trails, the Ring of Kerry is a scenic 106-mile (179 km) circular trip across the Iveragh Peninsula. Journey past ruins of famine houses and railroad relics, passes and peat bogs, stone forts, great lakes and Ireland’s highest mountain Macgillicuddy Reeks. Admire coastal views from Lady Madonna’s Statue for Sailors Lost at Sea at Coomakista and quaint towns like Killarney, Cahersiveen, Waterville and Sneem. Be it a Derros Coach tour, horse drawn cart ride to the Gap of Dunloe, nature walks along The Kerry Way, boat rides on Lough Neagh or hikes through Killarney National Park, each experience is unique.


6. Trinity College Dublin
Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett; many literary giants have walked the cobbled squares of Ireland’s oldest university. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College is spread over 47 lavish acres. In the Old Library, ancient texts and rare volumes line the parchment-scented Long Room. Besides the Book of Durrow and Book of Howth, the library’s prized possessions include the Book of Kells, a beautifully illustrated book on vellum (calf skin) and the Brian Boru harp, one of three surviving medieval Gaelic harps; Ireland’s national symbol.


7. Stay in exclusive hotels
In Ireland, you don’t stay in a hotel, you relive a part of history. Built in 1824, Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel was the unofficial hub of military activity during World War I and in 1922, Michael Collins drafted the Irish Constitution in Room 112. During WWII, US Marines established a base in Londonderry and camped at the Beech Hill estate while officers resided in the country house. Their names, initials and dates are carved on ‘The Marines Tree’ found deep in the woods. The Europa in Belfast, described as ‘the world’s most bombed hotel’ was where Bill Clinton stayed in 1995. The Londonderry Arms Hotel was once owned by Winston Churchill, while the sprawling Carton House boasts a Chinese Boudoir adorned by Chinese paintings and Indian wallpaper for its regal guest Queen Victoria!


8. Sample Irish cuisine
Based on farm-fresh agro produce and diverse seafood, Irish cuisine is slow cooked to impart greater flavour. With a strong baking tradition, bread is raised without yeast and cooked on grilles using soda bicarb to make soda bread, potato bread and rustic wholemeal breads. Try signature dishes like lamb stew, oyster fry and seafood chowder at iconic restaurants dotting the island nation from Dublin to Dingle Bay. At Scarriff Inn enjoy ‘the best view in Ireland’, sample seafood platters at the floating restaurant Belfast Barge, smoked salmon and pan-fried Haddock at Bushmill’s Inn, roast stuffed Irish Quail at James South Street Bar & Grill, crispy pork belly at Londonderry’s Custom House or steaks at Nick’s Warehouse. Wash it down with Irish coffee, local ales, choicest whiskeys and wines or good ol’ Guinness.


9. Stomp and dance to Irish music
In a land that gave the world U2, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, Thin Lizzy and The Cranberries, there’s music everywhere. Catch buskers at Dublin’s Temple Bar area or visit the crowded avenue opposite St Park’s Green where Bono found his voice. Watch Merry Ploughboys perform at a pub run and owned by them at Rathfamham. Strains of the Eirrean Harp, Uilleann Pipes, bodhran and Irish dancing complete the evening. To catch traditional music, pub-hop from Ireland’s oldest pub The Brazen Head (1198) in Dublin to Belfast’s oldest tavern Whites (1630) and everything in between – Kelly’s Cellars (1720), Crown Bar (1849) or Fibber Macgee (1895). Sing along to classics like Molly Malone and Danny Boy or get a CD of Dubliners, The Pogues or Planxty to savour the typical Irish accent in the tunes.


10. Pick up classic Ireland souvenirs
From Celtic Art and jewellery to Irish symbols like shamrocks, leprechauns and sheep available in every conceivable form, take home a piece of Ireland with you. Browse through the many souvenir stores or retail chains like Carroll’s for posters and coasters of Dublin’s colourful doors, Irish authors, famous pubs or official merchandize of The Titanic, Guinness, Bushmills Distillery and Giant’s Causeway. Better still, get a t-shirt with some Irish attitude and slogans like Cead Mile Failte (Welcome to Ireland), Pog Mo Thoin (Kiss my Hiney) or Craic Addict!

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 20 April 2013 in the Sunday magazine of The Hindu.

Titanic Belfast: Timeless travel


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY visit Titanic Belfast in Northern Ireland, birthplace of the world’s most famous ship and marvel at the attention to detail in this experiential museum


The edifice sat in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter like an alien spacecraft disguised as a metallic striated butterfly from a sci-fi movie. It wasn’t until we were directly below the imposing building that we realized it looked like the hull of a ship. ‘Three ships actually,’ said Alex McGeevy, Media Relations Executive, as he whisked us to Level 6 of Titanic Belfast. 

Overlooking the waters of Belfast Lough at the mouth of the River Lagan, Alex pointed out two giant outlines on the slipway where the Titanic and her sister ship Olympic were built side by side at the historic Harland & Wolff ship building yard. Few know that the Titanic was one of three identical ships built for White Star Line – The Beloved (Olympic), The Damned (Titanic) and The Forgotten (Brittanic). 


As Northern Ireland’s largest ever tourism project, the £97m Titanic Belfast is a unique public-private partnership conceived over 10 years by Eric Kuhne of Civic Arts, London. His design philosophy was to “restore the storytelling quality of architecture.” And it manages to stay true to its mission. Laden with symbolism, the experiential museum was unlike any other we had visited.

Besides the similarity to the ship’s bows, the iconic building was 90 ft, the exact height of the ship from keel to hull. Like the Titanic, it took 3 years to build. The wooden benches akin to dots and dashes represented the Titanic’s distress signal in Morse code! A patchwork of tiles fanning around them displayed the largest map of northern hemisphere in Europe. Metal strips outlined the journey, an ‘x’ marked the place where the ship sank while a dotted line indicated the intended journey to New York.


Similar to the ship’s nine decks (A-G), the nine galleries across 4 floors allowed visitors to travel through time to Edwardian ‘Boomtown Belfast’. The first gallery documented the city’s evolution as Linenopolis, the largest linen producer in the world. Shadows of figures in period costumes flitted about black and white archival shots of the old town and an audio feed added the ambience. The Shipyard told the stories of the workers who built her, recreating the industrial crash and clang of the world’s largest shipyard.

A lift transported us to another level, mirroring the 226 ft high crane (the highest at its time) used by workers. A Dark Ride Track gave us a simulated walkthrough of the shipyard. A voice-over reported there were 254 accidents during the construction; most fell off the scaffolding due to imbalance triggered by the constant din. Despite the risks, there were only 8 deaths on the job, which locals referred to as “he’s away to the other yard”!


As the Titanic was launched from the slipway on 31st May 1911, nearly 100,000 people paid a shilling each to witness the historic launch. The ship took 62 seconds to slide down the ways (wooden platforms) into the water amidst huge cheering. Women waved their handkerchiefs and workmen flung their caps in the air. Press reports mentioned that ‘She took to the water as though she were eager for the baptism.’

For the next 10 months, the ship was fitted out at the 900ft long Thomson Dock & Pump House in all the finery of a floating palace and a five star hotel. The first class lounge resembled the palace of Versailles, the cooling room of the Turkish Bath looked like a Sultan’s palace while the ‘gents only’ Smoking Room was like a posh Gentleman’s Club in London, furnished with stained glass windows and leather chairs.


The first class suites spelt luxury with wood paneled walls, carpeted floors and period furniture. A carelessly thrown hat, discarded garments on the door hook… the recreated sets looked so real, as if someone would walk in to sip a cup of tea on a Queen Anne chair. The ship had the world’s first on-board pool, squash courts and gymnasium, but it was the grand staircase capped by a glass dome and a massive chandelier that stole the show.

We were ushered into a large hall of Titanic Belfast where the famous staircase had been recreated. This was the city’s largest conference space – a 1,000-capacity hall ideal for banquets. In a blink we could recapture the big screen romance of Rose descending the regal stairway as a smitten Jack waited at the foot of to kiss her hand. It was our luck that in another section costumes of Kate Winslet, Leo Di Caprio and crew uniforms from James Cameron’s 1997 film were on display! Props like the steering wheel and engine order telegraph from Fox Studios marked the film’s recent release on BluRay/3D.


The final touches were added to the ship at Southampton Dock and a decadent supply of provisions was loaded. After ports of call at Cherbourg and Queenstown for passengers and mail, the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage that would immortalize ‘Transatlantic luxury travel’.

On Sunday 14 April 1912, at 11:40pm, a weird scraping sound announced the lethal brush with the iceberg and Titanic’s glory turned into tragedy. The final exchange of messages between the two sister ships and tales of courage were poignant moments in the Titanic’s final moments, before she sank to the depths of the sea. From the Sinking and the Aftermath to the Myths & Legends surrounding the ship, the final galleries lent a sombre mood to the museum, almost dissecting the anatomy of pain.

On a lower level, the Immersive Theatre explored Titanic’s final resting place, discovered by Dr Robert Ballard in 1985. Haunting underwater images glided along the glass floor below our feet in an eerie walkthrough that mapped out the wreck and relics scattered on the ocean floor!


Stories of millionaires to menial workers, whose destinies were strangely entwined, had been documented. Detailed lists (by nationality) of those who perished and those who were saved included a family of 4 Indians who had miraculously survived. Though some blame the rivets or the airtight compartments, many believe the ship was ill-fated as there was no bottle broken on the hull or proper christening done. After all, it was named after the Titans, a race of giants who fought against the Greek gods led by Zeus – and lost!

We stepped out of the dark hall into the bright foyer. As if released from a spell, visitors dashed to the Titanic shop to pick up signature collectibles. Since it opened on 31 March 2012 to mark the centenary year, Titanic Belfast has clocked over half a million visitors with its unique experience blending history, art and technology. With plans to develop the H&W drawing office and Pump House, Belfast is slowly reclaiming the legacy of the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. Welcome aboard for a journey that will never be forgotten.



Titanic Belfast
Ph +44 (0) 28 9076 6300

Northern Ireland Tourist Board


Europa Hotel
Infamous as the world’s most bombed hotel during Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, Europa would have had more notoriety in store had Bill Clinton not stayed with Hillary here in 1995. Nice rooms, good breakfast and a fabulous location on Great Victoria Street near Grand Opera House.
Ph +44 28 9027 1066

Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast 
A boutique hotel with a stylish contemporary look and centrally located on Great Victoria Street
Ph +44 28 9044 2080



Galley Cafe at Lagan Legacy
A floating cafe aboard MV Confiance serving fresh Seafood Platters by the waterfront with Belfast’s maritime history wonderfully captured in ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ at the basement museum
Ph 028 9023 5973

Nick’s Warehouse
Originally a Bushmills Whiskey warehouse in 1832, the charming cobbled street eatery has no frills exposed brick interiors but great food – chorizo, beef burgers, sandwiches, soda bread, Warehouse salad with great local beers and wines. 
Ph +44 28 9043 9690

The Bar + Grill at James Street South
A buzzing restaurant with modern interiors and great service. Try their delicious char grilled rump steaks, seafood chowder, scallops, crab starters and cocktails. 
Ph 028 90434310

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 16 Dec 2012 in the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.