Category Archives: Ireland

Stags Only: The best bachelor holidays

Standard

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

indonesia-snorkelling-at-pink-beach-img_3112

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!

dubai-downtown-dubai

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).

dubai-wildlife-drive

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, www.visitdubai.com

hong-kong-chinese-lantern-decorations-img_6211

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.

hong-kong-nightlife-img_7094

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 www.macaotourism.gov.mo

germany-dining-in-cellars-being-served-by-bier-madchen-img_1219

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.

germany-beer-on-tap-img_0976

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 www.germany.travel

mauritius-chamarel-viewpoint-img_2108 

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.

mauritius-boat-ride-for-snorkelling-img_2371

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 www.tourism-mauritius.mu

dublin-bar-hopping-img_6137

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.

dublin-temple-bar-lap-dance-poster-boys-img_6150

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 www.ireland.com

australia-graffiti-lined-street-in-melbournes-cbd-img_6138

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!

australia-four-pillars-gin-distillery-yarra-valley-img_6073

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, www.visitmelbourne.com

indonesia-labuan-bajo-harbour-img_2855

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.

indonesia-yacht-cruise-in-flores-img_3102

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 www.indonesia.travel

oman-desert-nights-camp-6

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 www.omantourism.gov.om

1382536130_smokey_01

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 www.holland.com

montreal-bachelor-party

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 www.connectedmontreal.com

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

For more info, visit www.canada.travel

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

Advertisements

Irish Loop: The Ring of Kerry

Standard

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

FACT FILE

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. www.railtoursireland.com www.irishrail.ie

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
Stay
Killarney International
Kenmare Place, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland Tel: +353-(0) 64-6631816 http://www.killarneyinternational.com

Foleys Townhouse Guesthouse
24 High Street, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland Tel: +353-(0) 64-6631217 http://www.foleystownhouse.com

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 http://www.discoverireland.com

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. http://www.outlooktraveller.com/trips/the-scenic-ring-of-kerry-tour-of-ireland-1007367

Seventh Heaven: 7 Amazing Honeymoon Vacations

Standard

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 www.poland.travel

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 www.seychellessecrets.com

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 http://kaanabelize.com/

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 www.seadream.com

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 www.ireland.com or www.discoveringireland.com

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 www.interlaken.ch or www.myswitzerland.com. www.victoria-jungfrau.ch/en/meta/home

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 www.belmond.com/luxury-hotels

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

Standard

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

Image

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!

Image

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’!

Image

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.

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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’.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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

Standard

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. 

Image

Poland 
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.

Image

Ireland   
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.

Image

Oman 
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.

Image
Alligator Snapping Turtle, River Safari © Singapore Tourism Board

Singapore
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.

Image 
© Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel

Turkey
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.

Image 
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?

Image
Holi in Berlin © German National Tourist Office 

Germany
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.

Image
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.

Image
Private pool © Song Saa Island, Cambodia

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!

Image
Canada by VIA Rail © Canadian Tourism Commission

Canada 
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!

Image

Thailand
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.

Image
Daranshi Oreum, Jeju © Korea Tourism Organization 

Korea
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!

Image
Zell am See © Austrian National Tourist Office

Austria
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.

Image
Felicite and Sisters Island © Raymond Sahuquet

Seychelles
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

Standard

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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

Standard

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

Image

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:

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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!

Image 

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.

Image 

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.

Image 

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.