Connemara is Calling: Western Ireland Escapes

Connemara is majestic, desolate, devastatingly beautiful. It surprised me, skeptical as I was about the allure of the Irish countryside (I take it all back). There’s something about a whitewashed cottage with a fire burning in the grate in winter. This one (below), at splendidly isolated Killary Harbour, had no TV, no WiFi, no central heating – just a […]

via A Connemara Road Trip & a Cosy Cottage — Different Shores – Childfree LIVING

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

 

Search Me? New Travel Restrictions, Customs Searches, and Your Mobile Phone

4256212586_cc546a47d1_bMany of us have felt the stress of new travel restrictions, or should I say, those coming from several muslim countries, and even if you are not Muslim. However, the mindset should be that these countries have a heavy Muslim population, but they are not all Muslim. Now, some restrictions are being applied to your mobile devices and electronics that are not allowed in the cabin of the plane now. It used to be that you could take your laptop or tablet with you on the plane on all airlines as long as you obeyed airline modes rules. We like to keep our electronics with us, they are fragile things. No one wants to trust such devices to the checked luggage area. Theft just starts the top of that list. Now you may not have a choice if you fit a profile, and maybe in the future it will apply to all flights entering the US.

The latest hassle is people traveling into the US from certain airports may be subject to cell phone confiscation. This rings bells for many travelers as privacy issues are being put to the test, and many of us enjoy our civil liberties. Now, TSA has been known to profile and check phones this over the last few years at random. Now it may be a constant. How will airports handle such a restriction and not mention the fact that of what it will take to handle cell phones and unloading information and checking feeds for political viewpoints at the airport on top of all the luggage inspection that may be going on. You thought 2-3 hours in customs was bad, just wait. Plan for longer plane transfers as well.

If you are traveling this spring and coming from these airports, expect additional delays. Your laptop should be in your checked luggage and may be being scanned for before coming into the US. If you have any travel flights that even go through these airports and continue on to another outside the US, you still may get tagged. Everything is electronic now, they know your flights.

Restricted Airports As of April 2017

Airports: Jordan Queen Alia, Egypt Cairo, Turkey Istanbul Ataturk, Saudi Arabia King Abdulaziz and Khalid, Kuwait International, Qatar Doha Intl, Morocco Mohammed, Dubai Intl, Abu Dabi Intl

What Can You Do?

So, pack your laptop in your check in bag if going through or coming from these airports if you are entering the US. Wrap it well, you can get protective coverings for your electronics. These restrictions have seen a serious decrease in tourism in the US thus far, with many more people cancelling plans to visit the US in general. The recent restrictions on visas and exclusion of tourists from certain nations has resulted in a backlash at the US tourism industry.

Articles

10 Airports

Wired Magazine

Cell Phones Detained at the Border


Photo by Paul Heaberlin

Travel and Transport Strikes: Irish and UK Strike Actions

2481070295_9f838571bb_bSome travelers just have the luck, eh? Last summer in 2016 I had to work around rail strike actions in Scotland. ScotRail was pretty good about finding solutions for when an action took place last July and I got stranded briefly in Oban, ended up on luxury coach instead. Interesting change in plans that was. Saw Loch Lomond on a luxury coach I didn’t pay extra for. Oh, and the Clockwork Orange tube in Glasgow was being worked on as well, so I just lucked out on missing that fun underground and picking random neighborhoods to pop up into. I will be back this summer and remedy that. 

Bus and Train Strikes in Ireland and UK This Spring

This season, I plan on the loop to Ireland being a serious treat. However, it looks like the mass transit concerns of Ireland have been threatening a strike action for the last few weeks. You wonder why the concern? Well listen up. Ireland and the UK have union actions that may not just involve the union that has the call to strike out. Sisterhood and solidarity abound in this region and that means that other related unions may wish to go out on strike action for in support. So if the bus lines of Ireland strike, it is possible that railways will be affected. In the US we have seen a heavy decline in unions in the last decade. A call to action happens less frequently, and with our heavy use of cars here in the United States, transit strikes can be avoided more readily than in the UK and Ireland, where car ownership is a very costly affair and frankly better transit services than the US exist so a great many use it. Add to the fact you are in the tourist and festival season, and you can expect delays. The Irish bust company, Bus Éireann, is in it’s fifth day of strikes. Dublin bus is threatening to follow suit and so is Irish Rail.

So what do you do if you are planning a trip and need to use bus/train/ferries and want to book in advance due to heavy travel from tourists? You should still plan on booking via computer or app a few weeks out to guarantee seats. There are usually some walk on pay-as-you go seats, but this can be really hampered if you are going during festival week. If your train you have booked and paid in advance for, and a strike action takes place, you can either get a refund or there will be provided alternatives. Read the local papers and check the website frequently of the railways and bus lines. Latest news will be posted. Need to check into a hotel later than usual, most of the time you can just call. This becomes a bit dicey if you have rented on AirBNB or other sublet/service apartments, since you usually have to arrange pickup of a key.

You can always look at it as experiencing real life along with the people whose culture you are visiting. Really in the great scheme of things, these are trivial compared to some other more exotic locations where transport can be really interesting at best. If it happens in the UK or Ireland, there is always a watering hole around to hang out in and commiserate with others.

Articles

Ireland

Irish Rail May Join Action

Bus Talks

UK

UK Rail Strikes this year 2017

Rail Strikes this Weekend


Connolly Station Photography by William Murphy at Flicr

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

Art Walks: Spring in the UK and Ireland

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Mural on the Clutha Pub, Bridgegate Street, Glasgow Scotland Summer 2016 J. Canning

I have always enjoyed a good street art walk. Murals and sidewalk art have become extensive, massive canvases to showcase local artists and get up close and personal with art. This summer I will be hitting more mural walks. I was reading one of the people I follow on Twitter, Travels With a Kilt Blog, and a recent article caught my eye. It’s a great art walk in Glasgow and I will be following it this summer and adding some of my own discoveries.

Got one of those super saver early flight arrivals like I always get? It’s one of the best things to do when you just get to a city, especially if you are walking off the jet lag. Get a taste for the city you are exploring, grab coffee or tea on the way, walk a few hours, then have a meal. Great way to meet people.

Since I won’t be going until summer this year, I thought I would link you up with this article so if you happen to be going to Glasgow this spring, you should read this:

Glasgow’s Street Art Article

Planning on going to a city or two this spring summer that may have street art? Seek it out and take your own shots of this amazing public art form. Share them on Instagram or try a street art app that you can share with the world.

Just a tip: You will find many official street art tours. They cost money. You can find maps for free online and also some walking tours with local historians, a bit less money. If you have a budget, small tours with locals can be a blast as you can meet with others traveling and have great convo. But sometimes creating your own tour is great on the budget, look for Street Art Tour Maps online. There are apps online and phone apps for tours as well. Remember this will eat up your power and many places are charging money now in cafes to recharge your phone.

Links

Apps for Street Art Worldwide Directory http://geostreetart.com/

For great walks and place in Scotland to take your snaps, check out http://www.photowalkscotland.com/

More at these cities:

Edinburgh 

http://www.walkingheads.net/pride-of-place-street-art-in-leith/

Glasgow 

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/visitor-itineraries/city-centre-mural-trail

http://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/glasgow-mural-trail

Ireland

Belfast 

http://free-belfast-tours.com/tours/the-free-original-belfast-alternative-tour/

http://www.seedheadarts.com/street-art-walking-tour/

http://www.belfastartmap.com/places/belfast/public-art/street-art-north-street/

Dublin 

https://www.joe.ie/life-style/spend-a-day-taking-in-some-brilliant-dublin-street-art-377646

http://www.dailyedge.ie/best-irish-street-art-1627974-Aug2014/

Galway

https://www.facebook.com/galwaystreetart/

https://oddballtours.com/tours/

UK

http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/walking-tours/london-graffiti-and-street-art-tour/

https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/the-street-art-walk

Coming to the PNW, Portland PDX?

http://www.pdxstreetart.org/