Saturday Musings: Belfast Walks and Foodie Havens

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Belfast spring is picking up nicely. There have been some lucky weather days of late, almost California climes. That means sunbathing in the parks and the hunt for food. Not to mention the lovely walks getting there. Get your suncream on. Take that vitamin D.

Morning Start

Coffee and tea, breakfast goodies sound the thing. Belfastians are chomping on the bit and out in it today. Did you take some Vitamin D this am? What are some of the best places for a great breakfast in this town? Harlem has the atmosphere for me. No matter what town I travel to, a breckie place like this just makes me want to slide into the booth and salivate. Gluten free offerings, too.

However, if you are on the move and want to just get out in the fine weather, the Market Stalls and pop-ups in St. Georges’ look to be the treat for eating and hanging about. Great shops to look in when done as well.

Afternoon of Dreams

Now, how about those walks? Great entertainment and healthy for families as well. Just walking the neighborhoods is great fun, but combine that with a park walk and you get it all in. Self Guided Belfast tours are listed here, and you can use some City walks apps as well, check your Android or Apple Apps for travel apps featuring Belfast. Do not forget the Belfast Art Walks, many of the tours and paths intersect so you can fill your day, but don’t forget to nap on a green somewhere, bring a blanket or rug. And just like in any city you visit this spring, shop the farmer’s markets for your picnic fare.

Are you out and about in Belfast today? Let us know your finds. Fill your Instagram account today.

Places

Harlem Bistro on Bedford Street

http://harlembelfast.co.uk

Best Breakfasts in Belfast

http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/18-brilliant-breakfasts-in-belfast-8547716

Self Guided Tour

http://visitbelfast.com/home/search-keywords/Self-guided%20tours/151

Free Useful Apps Ireland

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/articles/apps-for-ireland/

Mural Tours

https://www.virtualbelfastmuraltour.com/map-of-belfast-murals.htm

Best Parks in Belfast

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/telebest/activity-leisure/tele-recommends-northern-irelands-best-public-parks-30344585.html

Eat Belfast Guide

http://visitbelfast.com/assets/gallery/generic/FINALVBEatBelfastGuide.pdf

Farmer’s Markets Belfast

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/telebest/food-drink/tele-recommends-northern-irelands-best-farmers-markets-30402148.html

Other Posts

Street Art Glasgow Interview

Art Walks: Spring in the UK and Ireland


Photo © 2012 William Murphy

 

Saturday Musings: Dublin Out and About Spring What’s On

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I love watching people. When I go to a city I love to sit in a cafe and just people watch. I also like to do and explore. I have always been a wanderer of the odd and strange. I like neighborhoods and their communities. I can’t wait to get back into a place like Dublin and get a feel for things. Tough when you are not a local, or a Dub. You can try to scratch the surface of a city, but not necessarily get a truer feeling for it with online guides. So, the answer is, always read up on the local What’s On, and I always look for the independent and non mainstream.

When you land in a city and need to get a feel for it, neighborhoods are the best bet I feel. Catching up with a local feel even if you aren’t a local to this city is more holistic. Starting with a cup of coffee in the morning, and finding the right cafe is key. While Dublin and many other Euro cities have Starbucks imports, just like at home here in the PDX the fine crafted local coffee and beer brews are the thing. You are supporting small businesses which mean local families. Plus you can really talk to artisan baristas about what they are doing.

Clement and Pekoe sounds like the treat for me, and will I check out Petit Cafe as I really like the small homey ones, since that’s so up my alley for sleepy wake up mornings. What will you adventure with in coffee in Dublin? Let me know your favorite coffee spaces.

Article The Top 10 Independent Coffee Shops in Town
https://lovindublin.com/food/the-top-10-independent-coffee-shops-in-town

Lunch or having your tea in the afternoon after walking the town? I spend hours roaming area and trying to get to as much as I can that is alternative or just unique to an area. I find that restaurants can be hit or miss, but pop ups can be fun because someone new is coming in with a new foodie sensations to try. In Dublin the places for Pop Up culture are Granby Park, Temple Bar area, Dawson Street area, Henry Street and Merchant Quay areas. Pop-Ups happen as they are much easier to start up than a brick and mortar type restaurant or shop. They still have their challenges as any merchant will tell you, but the Pop-Up can offer you a great affordable experience to your shopping experience, and talking to the people running these fabulous treats will give you great cultural insight to the area. Chat up a Poppie.

Oh, and of course moving on to the lovely afternoon brew of the well crafted amber liquid will snag your taste buds too. Dublin has started exploding with craft beer in the last few years. Dublin has beer a plenty, and besides it’s most famous exports, has the crafty artisan variety plenty. Look for Porterhouse Brewing, Trouble Brewing with it’s Pumpkin, and Eight Degrees.

Not a beer drinker. I must confess that being a Cali Expat, I grew up on wine. Wine can be hit and miss in the isles I have found, great imports mostly from France and Italy, you can find some really good wines. In my recent travels I did find that some South American Sauvignon Blanc seemed to be popular. Sometimes you can find a good German Rhine at some wine merchant’s. For some of the best wine bars, try Ely Bar & Brasserie or La Caverna. Or check out the wine merchants in town to snag a bottle for an evening picnic since it’s light until 10 pm or later in the summer.

Now, what’s really going on this next month here, well Drop Dead has a Burlesque show Sunday the 30th, looks like some great Ska music going down on May 5 With Selector and The Beat for an after party. For some great shows, go to The Grand Social.

Calendar for May
http://www.dublintown.ie/whats-on-events/may-listing-at-the-grand-social/

Check Out What’s On
http://www.dublintown.ie/whats-on/

15 Top Craft Beer Bars in Dublin
https://foursquare.com/top-places/dublin/best-places-craft-beer

Top Wine Bars
http://thetaste.ie/wp/13-great-wine-bars-to-visit-in-dublin-this-christmas/

10 Dublin Pop-Ups
https://theculturetrip.com/europe/ireland/articles/10-dublin-pop-ups-to-check-out-in-2017/

Are you a resident Dub or travelled there recently, share your foodie finds with us.

Binge on the Fringe: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Survival

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On the last tour in Scotland I couldn’t get anywhere near Fringe Festival, the month long Arts fest that has been going strong for 70 years. All accommodations were booked up that I could afford. My trip to Edinburgh ended up being the week before and after talking to a few residents, realized I would need to book about an year in advance for best lodgings. This is of course if you want to deal with a large European city that has its population swell about three-fold in four weeks. Had to think about that. I lived in San Francisco where this came close to happening every summer. When you live in a large tourist destination, it’s your least favorite time of year. Some stay, some go on their own vacations.

It’s the 70th year, so the festival is gearing up even bigger. This festival is insane. I picked up the program last year and spent an hour or two combing all the acts and theatre performances. It’s packed and overwhelming with something for everyone. I decided I would have to try to make it this year. Now, how do you navigate one of the largest festivals in Europe for your first time and if you only have three days to spare? Research, of course.

Step 1 Book Accommodations Way Ahead
As I said before, last year I just couldn’t get reasonable rooms. Everyone I talked to said book early. Edinburgh is the most expensive of the cities in Scotland I found to spend time in as far as accommodations go. So shopping early is a great choice. You can always adjust later. Other festivals in the UK also require early bookings, and don’t count on camping accommodations as those will have been snagged up, unless you have some traveling companions in the know. You can however book in adjacent towns and ride in on the train, which runs extra trains during August.

Step 2 Enroll on Fringe Website
Most festivals have a website and you should join early. You will get updates to performances as new lineups happen. I am checking in as I heard many popular shows sell out quick. I am not be familiar with many of the performers, but I am only in the city for three days and have to cram. And some US performers do make it to the marathon. I see there is a Fringe society planning group for your visit. Ooo, I have pals.

Looks like I may have to book my train run early ish as well. ScotRail has festival trains for the month, but they may be a bit packed, so better book the to the festival run at least a month out. What a contrast is will be from the tranquility of Skye where I will be coming from.

Did I say marathon? Yes, for the performers and the patrons. Many a US comic has lamented that they survived the Fringe Fest. It’s a month of shows and you may have 2-3 a day to do, and your venues can be spread out. Search for some comedy on Netflicks with Fringe Fest in the title and see what I mean. Get a perspective from a comic, and of course YouTube.

Step 3 Research, Who to See, or How to See Them
Okay, so here is the thing. There are thousands of shows and performers. Many of them trying to make it, new to it, feeling it out. It’s a festival, that means experimentation. You may find some names you are familiar with, but it’s not going to be a headliner affair like you may be used to in your home town. So, how to pick things to go to and not strike out. Go with an open mind. I know I like impromptu theatre. So, I can probably be highly amused regardless. How to do this on a limited budget? Look for free and discount shows. Go during the day. Wait for reviews. Get the App for the Fringe. Sounds like a lot of ways to get overloaded. Most of what I have read has said to wait to find deals when you get there. Keep an eye out for the daily reviews of shows. Talk to a more experienced attendee near you. I plan on interviewing people while there to get their take on the festival.

Step 4 Make Sure Your Accommodation is Really Booked.
Your accommodation should always be booked well ahead in any place you stay, but I have had weird things crop up while traveling overseas and had rooms get overbooked, and computer glitches happen. Confirm you have a booking. If you would like to go but all things are booked up, you can find accommodations in bordering towns and take the train in. Extra transit is provided during this month.

Step 5 Enjoy
With all the craziness of any festival like this, sometimes you need to pull out and decompress. Edinburgh has so many great little spots, courtyards, district areas that you can take a few streets to the left or right and find a smaller space to eat some great Pop-Up restaurant food and just let go for a bit. Making a decision on whether to cram every minute with theatre, dance, music, and all other arts can be and exhausting stimulus. That fear that you may have to choose between 3 things is a bit much for us. Remember, spontaneity can be living in the moment and just breathing.

Prepare for weather. My summer experiences in Edinburgh were that they were very close to San Francisco/Portland weather. Changeable within a day, check your weather app. Bring light rain gear, also suncream and your brelly. Hopefully the performance you are seeing is in shelter.

DOWNLOAD THE APP. As we get closer to August, the festival puts out an App that is very useful for booking and getting up to the minute information. You also have a feature where you can check shows via your location to see what is about to start near your location. You can also purchase tickets via the app. Keep an eye out for this App appearing in July in the Android and Apple Apps stores.

Reading
http://thatbackpacker.com/2016/08/22/a-first-timers-guide-to-the-edinburgh-fringe-festival/
https://www.edfringe.com
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/edinburgh-fringe-2016-10-top-tips-for-survival/

Video
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNf8Pt5tOw

Best of the Online Travel Guides: So Many Choices

33550586520_efb665b672An update and furthering of reviews online booking platforms as you gear up for the spring and summer travel seasons.

There are so many travel guides online it’s overwhelming. There are so many places to book your stay, and they may all list at several booking sites. Many of these sites come with travel guides included, but they may be very limited. Tourism is a huge industry and everyone wants their piece. How do you claw through it all and find one that really works for you? You have to glance through a few and check out the features. Then you have to decide if the choices you are being given are relevant. It’s travel in the digital age, we rely too heavily on the apps and web resources. Did you get your hard copy map yet? I must confess that I use my cell phone a great deal, take along a battery pack as the data usage will suck it up.

I have booked my itinerary with Booking.Com this year because I can access it with the app and change things. Last year I used Expedia and well, wasn’t too happy with some of the results. You get better with practice. I have found that since I had made so many plans and had to readjust my booked places due to one property being sold (that was a fun alert I can tell you). So far any of the features such as contacting the property owners has been pretty useful. There are several sites like this, last year I used TripAdvisor.com mainly, but found some things a bit chunky, and well the reviews are skewed to the hotels viewpoint. If you want to get real with the location you are going to, you need to find more real travel sites. You can start with local tourism sites and dig for information on the neighborhoods.

The Basic Travel Bonanza Sites

Domestic Sites to US and Canada, but covers world travel. I did a lot of comparisons with these in the fall of 2016 while planning 2017 travels. Not lot to offer, you can have them all up and search for the same flight or bookings and get a gamut all over the map pricing thing that will drive you nuts. Be patient, open a few browser windows and compare. Not all sites offer flights, some are accommodation and tours only.

Kayak.com

Expedia.com

Orbitz.com

Trivago.com

Travelocity.com

Hipmunk.com

lonelyplanet.com

European

Oyster.com

Gogobot.com

Skyscanner.com Used this one to get cheap flights between Ireland and UK to continent flights. Pretty good information.

Coolcamping.com

Rometorio.com

Thehotelguru.com

Thefestivalcalendar.co.uk

i-escape.com

Alternative Tours and Guides

Atlas Obscura

http://www.atlasobscura.com/

This site is filled with fun alternative travel destinations and weird facts. I love it. It’s a great place to get information on places like the Mummies of Dublin, which are really bog bodies at the National Museum of Ireland. Great articles and musings on fun and obscure things in many countries with an interface that is not to overpowering.

Indie Guides

http://indie-guides.com/en/

For the alternative traveller, this site has great views on going abroad or even next door. If you have traveled a city that is not among their guides, hit them up to help create a section of your idea of the best for alternative tourism in the city you love.

The Alternative Travel Guide

https://www.thealternativetravelguide.com/

Fun blog with travels abroad and in out of the way places. Very eclectic travel articles.

Extreme Tourism

I would like to travel the path less known, but I am not a huge adventurer. I would need to do even more physical training than I am already doing to get ready for this next trip. Next year, I hope to do more hiking and climbing training so I could climb a mountain. I have begun to prep towards that, and I have already given myself an injury. Great work. Of course, I mean I got tendonitis on the last trip, you’d think I would learn. If you are thinking about doing some serious tourism like ecotourism or grabbing a Munro ( a Mountain of more than 3000 Feet in Scotland) trail, you should start training well ahead of time. But these kinds of tours exist and there are sites dedicated to them.

Nerve Rush

http://www.nerverush.com/extreme-tourism/

This site is not for the faint of heart traveller. It’s a community of extreme travel junkies. Join their list for postings and articles that may become very addictive to you, and way you go.

Sites by Cities

Cities I will be going to (again) and testing these sites out:

Belfast

http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/seven-quirky-things-around-belfast-9168147

http://wanderluce.com/11-alternative-things-to-do-in-belfast/

http://secretbelfast.co.uk/

Dublin

https://dublinunderground.net/an-alternative-guide-to-dublin/

http://gottakeepmovin.com/alternative-dublin-city-guide/

http://almostginger.com/2016/04/08/alternative-guide-48-hours-dublin/

http://www.eattravelraverepeat.com/travel/alternative-guide-dublin

Galway

https://galwayundergroundguide.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/local-alternative-underground/

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/ireland/galway/

Glasgow

https://www.skiddle.com/gigs/Glasgow/ Because it’s about the music here

https://www.thecrazytourist.com/top-25-things-to-do-in-glasgow/

Edinburgh

http://www.lovefromscotland.co.uk/Weird-things-to-do-edinburgh

http://www.grumpycamel.com/12-things-to-do-in-edinburgh

London

http://curious-london.co.uk/bucketlist/

http://www.eatinglondontours.co.uk/blog/unique-things-to-do-in-london/

Like the old time hard copy guide books, read these reviews in the Guardian.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/aug/09/best-quirky-guidebooks-world-print

 

Free or Close To it Travel Budget Things UK and Ireland: Tours and Just-Do-Its

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Yeah, traveling is very expensive. Get to the fair city of your choice and the € £ amounts just go up. So how do you budget to get the most out of your budget? Food is always going to get you if you do the restaurant thing, and well that’s why foodies travel, and high priced tours for cities and surrounding areas might get you empty pockets quick using all your daily spending cash in 2 hours. Not so good. So food and entertainment for next to nothing, that’s the ticket.

Walking and Transit

Walking every city you go to and/or using public transit will help keep the budget down. Visit travel websites and check out any free tours listed there, then maybe the ratings check out is good. Not everyone has your tastes. I try to find articles by locals who actually go on the tour, to get their feedback. I also find the hotel map approach works well. Take that free map and fold it in quarters. Find out what is free to do in each city and area and make a list. If there is an attraction that will suck up some money, pick one per day and the rest must be free. This way you don’t feel like you have paid huge sums for plan flight but can’t afford to do anything. Check for the local “mommie” lists online, the free things to take kids to. Some of these are just as fun for adults, we are all ages 10 to 13 really.

Tours, to Tour or Not to Tour

Some cities you tour may have people who give tours on a pay-what-you-like basis. This is usually someone who is local and may even donate some proceeds to charity. This also means it’s not a grand tour bus, public transit. But wouldn’t it be great to see how people there really enjoy their city? It may be a no frills tour, but think about how much you may really see. If you would like to travel outside of the city and can’t afford the high car rentals, a tour to castles and historical sites may be the best bargain, but again look for reviews. Remember, if you can find a smaller more personal tour situation, it may be worth the extra £ 20.00 as the larger tour companies are over crowded and well, there are a lot of people.

Now, I tend to be lone wolf on my travels. I really don’t like being glommed on as a tourist with it being quite obvious that I am one. Try as you might, locals will spot you for miles. I find locals won’t bother with you if you scream of tourist. But small, local tours are not huge, with like 50 people in tow where people can see you coming for a mile, and really you are out with people just hanging out. Also, if you like keeping up with being fit, try a bike tour.

Children in Tow, Make them Lead the Way

Got kids traveling with you? Teach them how to budget, put them in charge of researching all the free things they can do in the city you are visiting. Kids will fidget  and complain or just plain sulk if they don’t have things to get them busy. Put them in charge. Of course this means monitoring and having final say, but challenging them to find out how much they can see in an area and things that would actually interest them can be a great activity and how cheap it is is a great life lesson. ,Are there any kid led tours? Hey, that’s better than a lemonade stand for fundraising.

Foodies

Food will be everywhere. But how do you find something to make you happy. Check out the local vendors via Yelp or online foodie articles. But still, what may make someone else salivate may bore your taste buds. Street food is usually the best for variety, but not all travelers can stomach deep fried haggis. We may want to eat it but the body says “no”. So, what do you do? Some places you may stay, if you plan for a few days, may have kitchenette or at least a hot pot and microwave. You can fake a fridge with ice if you have to. The B&Bs however want you to eat with them, so if you have the huge full breakfast in the am, you can nosh the rest as street food. Ratings online are fairly good, some people give you real commentary that is more helpful than food critic columns. It’s spring, so check for food festivals as well.

Food tours will help you find good real food the locals eat, not the touristy pubs or traps. There are hidden gems and food cart setups in most well traveled cities, you just need to know where to look. You can also ask about other local things to do that won’t be on a brochure.

Meet UP

Yeah, you know the Meet Up app where you can find locals doing things that you may like to do? People all over the world join up. If you like table top gaming and want to meet locals in a fun and safe setting, and maybe experience the local cuisine at the same time, it may be a great treat for you.

Comic Cons

Like  being a con-ee? Like comics? There are comic conventions around the globe, there was one in Dubai this last week. Check out the county you plan to visit and see if they have a comic convention coming up and maybe book part of you stay around one. I did last year, went to Glasgow Comic Con and had a fabulous time, met the people behind the Scottish Saltire Comics, and many other great indie comic people. Great tips on local places to eat and see came from here. Also traveled back with a great many comics I lugged all over the place 😉

Here’s a list to start, these sites are about free or budget tours:

http://www.freetour.com

Belfast

http://tasteandtour.co.uk/our-tours

http://www.belfastcitybiketours.com/

http://visitbelfast.com/home/search-keywords/Self-guided%20tours/151

Dublin

https://deliciousdublintours.com/

http://www.dublinfreewalkingtour.ie/

http://www.dublincitybiketours.com/

Edinburgh ( I went on the Ghost Tour, fun)

http://edinburghfreetour.com/

http://freeghosttour.com/

http://www.edinburghbiketours.co.uk/

Glasgow ( I have been to these, worth the walk)

http://www.glasgownecropolis.org/tours-events/

http://www.thegovanstones.org.uk/index.html

http://glasgowbiketours.co.uk/

Galway

http://www.galwaytours.ie/en/galway-city-free-walking-tours.html