Tag Archives: Ireland

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

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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, www.ireland.com, www.tourismni.com, www.discovernorthernireland.com

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

The Writing’s on the Wall: Street Art Tours


Move over London, New York and Berlin, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY explore the new urban trend of street art tours at cool quarters around the globe


In India, a man standing near a wall means only two things. He’s either sticking a poster (despite the ‘Stick No Bills’ sign) or perhaps creating ‘public nuisance’, ignoring messages like ‘Jo peshab kar raha hai wo gadha hai’ (The one urinating is an ass). Even printed tiles of gods are not enough to dissuade non-believers, who often gouge out their divine eyes before going about their business without the guilt of ‘being seen’. But elsewhere, the idea of spraying on a gritty urban wall is a lot more beautiful and aesthetic.

For the longest time, graffiti was a form of social protest and expression, done on the sly, cocking a snoot at authorities. The aerosol can became the new weapon of choice as street gangs emanating from the hip hop culture marked their territories. Street art became synonymous with dissent, as staid subways and derelict public spaces were reclaimed as hipster haunts. Today, street art has transcended into a powerful form of cultural expression that mixes socio-political commentary, folklore and mythology, vitriol and humour, personalities and quirky art. Yet, there’s a fine line of illegality between graffiti and street art as the latter is often commissioned.


At 18, legendary British graffiti artist Banksy had a life-changing moment. While spray-painting a train with his Bristol gang, the British Transport Police landed up and everyone ran helter-skelter. His mates made it to the car but Banksy had to hide under a dumper truck. As he lay there, engine oil leaking all over him, he figured he had to shorten his painting time to beat the law or give it up completely. The stenciled plate under the fuel tank was the inspiration behind his signature style! He says, “All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people.”

Banksy’s first prominent wall mural was The Mild Mild West in 1997 depicting a teddy bear lobbing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police. He turned the idea on its head when he showed a masked street protestor lobbing a bouquet instead of a bomb. Today, his art sells for millions and can be found everywhere from Paris, Barcelona, Vienna to the Gaza Strip. Street Art Tours are the latest city trend, a showcase of cutting edge art and the seamy urban underbelly of offbeat and parallel sub-cultures. Beyond the usual haunts like Brick Lane in London, New York and Berlin, there are other exciting destinations for your graffiti tour.

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Israel has a buzzing local street art scene, which got a shot in the arm in the early 2000s thanks to Banksy’s visit to Israel and Palestine. While graffiti is illegal in Israel, it’s everywhere in Tel Aviv. The local municipality turns a blind eye to it, especially in Florentin in the south of town. We trawled the street art hotspots of Elifelet Street, HaMehoga Street, 3361 Street and Hanagarim Street. Much of the graffiti is painted on doors and gates of various establishments, better explored in the afternoon, when the shutters are down and artworks can be seen fully. Local graffiti artist Doiz offers 3hr street art tours in Florentin on Tuesdays.

While most graffiti artists remain anonymous, their signatures or themes are recognizable. Tel Aviv artist Sened is known for kufsonim (mini-boxes) or abstract cube characters developed from ready-made stencils. Know Hope’s works have a little pigeon as a visual cue, ID (Imaginary Duck) has tiny duck figures while DEDE’s art features black and white squirrels, cats and Band-Aids, symbolizing both wounds and healing. Michal Rubin who signs her works as MR does colourful animal figures that look like stained glass paintings.

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Broken Fingaz Crew, Israel’s best-known graffiti collective have taken their pop-art murals beyond the clubs of Haifa to Europe, North America and Asia. Since 2013, the walls of the 7th floor of Tel Aviv’s central bus station have been spray-painted by more than 160 street artists from Israel and across the globe. All over the city, you can find ‘035’ sprayed on walls and garage doors by former soldiers of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) emblazoning their army unit number!

In Singapore, the local street art scene first emerged in the old Arab quarter of Kampong Glam in the hipster Haji Lane, Victoria Street and Aliwal Street. Tourists flock to the colourful bylanes for selfies. At the Art Precinct of Bugis-Bras Basah, a low wall next to Peranakan Museum on Armenian Street is emblazoned with art commissioned by the National Heritage Board to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

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Nearby, an independent arts enclave The Substation has funky graffiti all over. Bras Basah Complex features ‘Rainbows’, part of a larger street art initiative called ‘50 Bridges’ by the Australian Commission of Singapore. It celebrated Singapore’s 50th year of independence with 50 pieces of street art across the island. Wherever you go – sidewalks, subways or pedestrian pathways at Clarke Quay – there’s art at every footstep.

Though graffiti is banned in Dubai, the modern Arab nation is a little more indulgent when it comes to street art. As part of ‘Dubai Walls’, the first outdoor urban art show in the United Arab Emirates, world famous street artists were invited in 2016 to create street art at the posh retail promenade City Walk. There’s Nick Walker’s iconic ‘I love DXB’, Belgian artist ROA known for his animal depictions, ICY and Sot, Iranian refugee stencil artists currently based in Brooklyn and Japanese artist AIKO. The spectacular wall etching of a bedouin by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto or ‘Vhils’ is part of his series ‘Scratching the Surface’!


UK-based artist Stuart Pantoll aka Slinkachu, infamous for ‘abandoning miniatures since 2006’ had set up scenes across City Walk using toy figurines as part of his ‘Little People Project’. In ‘Under the Stars’ burnt matchsticks doubled up as firewood while a spilt glass of milkshake created ‘Oasis.’ On closer inspection, ‘Shifting Sands’, a pile of sand near a mop features a caravan of camels while a lady in a hijab carries shopping bags with a trail of actual designer tags!

Down Under, Melbourne teems with graffiti. After someone put up a framed artwork and stuck it to the wall in 2007 at Presgrave Street off Howery Place, the alley became a bit of an artists’ shrine. Walkers are bemused by the strange arrangements, curious collections of plastic dolls, installations of rats with parachutes, 3D graffiti to a miniature Mona Lisa with three plastic soldiers pointing guns at her. Melbourne has its own Banksy – except he’s called Kranky! In 2008, Union Lane, a tiny alley between David Jones and the Book Building was given to local street artists as a graffiti mentoring project. Every alley in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) is suffused with art.

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A small bylane running off Flinders Lane between Exhibition Street and Russell Street holds another gem. The stuffy sounding Corporation Lane was officially renamed after Australian rock band AC/DC on 1 October 2004 by a unanimous vote of the Melbourne City Council. Melbourne’s Lord Mayor John So launched ACDC Lane with the words, “As the song says, there is a highway to hell, but this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock.”

Bagpipers played ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ whose video was filmed one lane away at Swanston Street. The trademark lightning bolt or slash between ‘AC’ and ‘DC’ in the band’s name went against the naming policy of the Office of the Registrar of Geographic Names, so the punctuation was omitted. A month later, local artist Knifeyard painted the lightning bolt above and below the street sign!

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Even in rainy and windy Copenhagen where the sky and mood may scream grey, you will find explosions of colour on street walls and homes. They even have a legal wall for graffiti artists! Districts like Nørrebro, once gloomy and gritty haunts are now hipster areas with an eclectic multi-national air besides the bohemian art-infused district of Christiania.

Celebrating Nørrebro’s cultural diversty is Superkillen, an award-winning urban design park. The Red Square swoops up into a skateboarding ramp while the Black Square incorporates unusual objects – an octopus shaped slide from Japan, benches from Brazil, litterbins from the UK and random advertising signs of Chinese beauty salons and Russian hotels. The red mural of Chilean president Salvador Allende, by famous street artist Shepard Fairey stands out.

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They say if the walls of a city could talk, Belfast would narrate the most colourful stories. Tracing the Belfast Murals could turn your visit into a guided tour of the most significant moments in Northern Ireland’s history and culture – the Potato Famine, the Industrial Revolution and sinking of the Titanic. During the Troubles, thousands of landless Irish who were mainly Catholic flocked in who were building the mills and factory workers houses, settled here in what is called The Falls Road today and the area around The Diamond. Political paintings bore faces and flags representing the Irish Republican tradition. This area of Belfast became quite polarized with one side being nearly all-Catholic and pro-Irish, while the other more Protestant and pro-British.

Crossing over to the other side, we saw pro-British depictions on Shankill Road with the Peace Lines separating the two. An International Wall depicted uprisings across the world. At the Peace Wall hundreds of messages on love and peace were splattered and scrawled – ‘Together we are better’, ‘And she whispered words of wisdom’ from the Beatles song “Let it Be” and ‘I hope to come back when there are no walls to write on.’ One German visitor wrote “Where I come from in Berlin, peace walls mean division”.

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Another fabulous area in Belfast for street art is the Cathedral Quarter. We walked down ‘radical streets’ towards The Muddlers Club, a pub and restaurant that’s virtually an institution, named after the Belfast members of society who met here in secrecy to conspire against British rule 200 years ago! Interestingly, this part of Belfast also provides a perfect contrast to the Troubles Murals and presents an alternative narrative.

All along we came across stunning artworks, contemporary styles and genres, personalities ranging from musicians to sport stars and literary geniuses to cartoons and optical illusions. Take a guided 2-hour Street Art Tour around this area and you will not be disappointed. However, a grand redevelopment plan of the Cathedral Quarter threatens these artworks, which has the local community up in arms.

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In Lima, Peru, the streets of bohemian Barranco, an art district is a treasure trove of urban art. Birdman, a riveting piece by Jonathan Rivera ‘Jade’ was the winning entry for Las Paredes Hablan or ‘The Walls Speak’ contest organized by the municipality on the theme ‘Barranco: History, Culture, Tradition’. It’s home to Lima’s best artists, writers, photographers and musicians.

Imagine their shock when in 2015, the Mayor of Lima, Castaneda Lossio decided to cover all of Lima’s street art with yellow paint as it was his political colour. Sixty murals were destroyed and the angry artistic community decided to revolt. They formed a collective and organized ‘muraliza el barrio’ a street art festival claiming ‘They erased one, we will paint a thousand’. The rebellion has just begun…

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Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as the cover story on 4 Feb, 2018 in Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.

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.

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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!’

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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
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


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 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.

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013: Great Places to Party


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY list out the season’s hotspots and their favourite new year getaways 


Amidst New Year resolutions and social engagements, if you still haven’t figured out where to let your hair down for the year-end, don’t fret. Having been to full moon parties, 5-star bashes and quiet escapes, here’s a lowdown of our best party spots – from winter festivals and cultural carnivals to frenzy on the beach and solitude in the hills.


So when was the last time you spent a new year at Hampi? At sunrise, marvel at the Tungabhadra slithering through mist-covered boulders from your aerial perch at Anjanadri. Have some banana lassi and pancakes at Mango Tree restaurant or lose yourself in the maze of cafes at the backpacking haven of Virupapuragadda. To immerse yourself in local culture, take a coracle ride across the river to The Kishkindha Trust at Anegundi, Hampi’s oldest quarter. Learn about shorba (banana fibre) handicrafts, appreciate the vernacular architecture of quaint homestays run by TKT or enjoy classical concerts by the river. Boulders Resort nearby has integrated boulders into its architecture with a beautiful stone pool and walkways along the river bed sculpted by water.


Many tourists tend to couple a visit to Hampi with Goa, though this connection is not new. The Vijayanagar Empire enjoyed trade links with Portugal via Goa, so travellers are merely retracing a historic trade route. If you’re a fan of electronic dance music, head to Candolim for Sunburn (27-29 Dec), which has emerged as the premier EDM platform in India. Having recently broken all records, outselling the online sale of even IPL tickets, this year’s edition features big names such as BT (Brian Transeau), Paul Van Dyk, Richard Durand and Roger Sanchez, besides top artists from the country. If Sunburn’s 3-day, 9k price tag is going to burn a hole in your pocket, try Palolem in the south or Morjim and Arambol to the north, besides old faithfuls like Curlies, Hilltop Anjuna, Shiva Valley and Primrose Vagator.


Partying at New Years in Goa has its pitfalls – the crowds, traffic snarls, over-priced rates and bumping into acquaintances as if it was a mini Mumbai or Bangalore! For a less commercial trip with fewer people, try Gokarna, whose bouquet of beaches like Kudle, Om, Paradise and Half Moon wear a rustic and earthy charm. Ambient dub reggae beats blare from beachside speakers while someone plays a djembe or Diabolo. It was a New Year party many full moons ago that led to a phone call a month later saying ‘Hi, this is Willem. I’m in Bangalore. You told me I could stay with you. We had met at Namaste Café at Gokarna… (No recollection) We were in front of the speaker and had trouble talking (Bingo)!’ If mud huts and teepees in the forest are not your thing, opt for more creature comforts at SwaSwara. CGH Earth’s swanky resort near Om Beach is a great place to unwind with yoga in the attic, meditation in the Blue Room and gourmet cuisine.


Further down the west coast, Kerala is excellent for a quiet escape. New 5-star properties like Taj Bekal, The Lalit and Neeleshwar Hermitage have firmly placed Kasaragod, the state’s northernmost district on the tourist map. With only 35 rooms, The Lalit is exclusivity personified with Balinese décor and a range of rejuvenative programs at its trademark Rejuve Spa. Go kayaking and canoeing in the Nombili river or opt for a houseboat cruise at Valiyaparamba, easily Kerala’s most pristine backwater stretch. If Alappuzha’s kettuvallam circuit is too commercial for your liking, choose CGH’s Spice Coast Tours, which has its own private jetty and transfer to Coconut Lagoon after a cruise on Vembanad lake. At the Cochin Carnival (Dec 22-Jan 1) catch colourful pageantry and traditional art forms, besides dirt bike races, beach volleyball and fireworks display at Fort Kochi.


The fun is not relegated to India’s West Coast alone… there’s a lot happening on the East Coast as well. Get a music education at the month-long Madras Music season in Dec-Jan at Chennai with over 1500 performances of Indian classical music, dance and allied arts. Soak in the majestic ambience of the newly opened ITC Grand Chola, the world’s largest LEED-certified green hotel and the third largest hotel in India. Enjoy a quiet walk along the beach or indulge in the luxurious oasis of Fisherman’s Cove on East Coast Road.


Just beyond the Madras Crocodile Bank, welcome the new year through a celebration of dance. The famous Mamallapuram Dance Festival (Dec 29-Jan 1) is set against Arjuna’s Penance, the world’s largest bas relief. The Mayan Doomsday might have come and gone but Krishna’s Butter Ball promises to roll down at the end of the world, as per Hindu belief. Party at Butterball Café, Moonraker Restaurant on Ottavadai Street or pamper yourself at Radisson Blu Temple Bay Resort, marveling at the Shore Temple from an early morning catamaran ride.


If you can’t go to Paris in a hurry, you can still rekindle romance in true French style in Pondicherry (Puducherry). With its profusion of French heritage hotels, cafes and bakeries serving French and Creole cuisine, designer boutiques and beach getaways like Serenity and Paradise, the place leaves you spoilt for choice. Boogie all night at the Ska Bar cum Disco at Ocean Spray or go on a long romantic walk along the Promenade. A stay at any of the Aurobindo ashrams is spiritual and peaceful while a short drive to The Dune offers a plush holiday experience with gourmet seafood and Wat-Su (water shiatsu) aqua treatments.


There’s no state that understands the need for a lavish holiday like Rajasthan, throwing in a burst of colour and culture. Come winter, you can choose from Shilpgram Art and Craft Fair near Udaipur (23 Dec-Jan 1), Mount Abu Winter Festival (29-31 Dec) and Desert Festival at Jaisalmer in February. Be it Deogarh Mahal, Pal Haveli, Nachna Haveli or Neemrana’s string of palace and fort hotels, the numerous havelis and heritage hotels let you usher the new year with royalty and style. Sumptuous meals, bonfire nights with folk singers and dancers performing under the stars… you couldn’t ask for a livelier setting.


Neighbouring Gujarat too doesn’t fall behind in churning up a festive spirit. The Rann Utsav (15 Dec-31 Jan) offers a spectacular array of cultural events and an exhibition of the state’s vibrant art and crafts like Ajrakh hand block prints and Kutch patchwork with mirror embroidery. Stay in tented camps or mud huts adorned with wall paintings. The best time to see winter migratories, watch birds by the thousands at Narayan Sarovar or chase khur (Asiatic Wild Ass) at the Wild Ass Sanctuary.


We remember an unforgettable new year in Corbett National Park where we sat around a campfire exchanging wildlife stories. There was no music except the continuous symphony of cicadas and the occasional warning call of furtive barking deer. You can get a similar experience closer home at Mudumalai, Bandipur or Kabini, which have several wildlife resorts to pick from. If you’re looking for a back to nature theme, Coorg, Wayanad and Nilgiris are also scenic places to drop the pace. 


If you are looking for a convenient international destination to party, you could ring in the New Year with new buys at great discounts, competitions, prizes, fireworks and entertainment at the month-long Dubai Shopping Festival (3 Jan-3 Feb). As far as new year festivities go, celebrate the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong (4-17 Feb) in the Year of the Snake with night parades, dragon dances and fireworks over Victoria Harbour. For an affordable exciting vacation nothing beats Thailand; fly to Bangkok to experience its vibrant nightlife and see why it was an apt setting for The Hangover 2. Or travel onward to the beaches of Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi.


However, if your idea of fun is an endless night of pub crawl, let the Irish teach you how. Be it the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast or the Temple Bar area of Dublin, the alehouses and taverns of Ireland can give the pubs of London a complex. Dublin’s New Year Eve Festival heralds the start of The Gathering Ireland 2013, a year-long celebration of all things Irish. Learn how to pour the perfect pint at the Guinness Storehouse. Do a Literary Pub Crawl in the footsteps of James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Or take a leaf from Irish author Brendan Behan’s book who moved to Toronto because he saw a coaster in a pub that said ‘Drink Canada dry!’ Happy partying…

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 23 December 2012 as a cover story in Sunday Herald, the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.