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Day Trips from Dublin

Before I arrived in Dublin several family members, including those in Ireland, encouraged me to visit Newgrange. I knew very little about this Megalithic Burial site and didn’t think I’d have time in my schedule. I was wrong. I only had a few days to explore Dublin, but considering much of the city is within one-hour walking distance, I covered a lot of ground each day. I am happy I squeezed in the half-day trip to Newgrange. I soon discovered Dublin is a great starting point for several scenic adventures.

Newgrange/Knowth/Dowth

Entrance to Newgrange Burial Chamber

Entrance to Newgrange Burial Chamber

Less than an hour drive from Dublin, in County Meath, lies the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne). In the Boyne Valley you’ll discover the fascinating Megalithic Burial Mounds of Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. Newgrange is the oldest, built around 3200 BC. A narrow inner passage leads to a small burial chamber. The structure is quite remarkable, built over 5000 years ago, the roof has never leaked. Knowth was built shortly after Newgrange and offers two passages ending with burial chambers. Access to these World Heritage sites is by guided tour. The burial mounds at Dowth are not part of the tour, but can be reached through a short drive or walk. It is estimated that a work force of 300 would have taken 200 years to build these mounds.

You can book tours on the Newgrange website, with Mary Gibbons Tours or take a shuttle bus with Over the Top Tours. Newgrange is open year-round with its biggest day being December 21st, the Winter solstice. On that day, the artificial lights in Newgrange will turn off as the natural sunlight (if it’s sunny) shines directly through a window over the front entrance, and into the burial chamber, lighting up the entire chamber for one hour. Visitors enter a lottery to witness this natural phenomena, which takes place at 9am.

Wicklow Mountains/ Glendalough

If you’re looking for an adventure, consider a day trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough. Wicklow is often considered the “Garden of Ireland.” The areas are most popular for the Sally Gap, Glenmacnass Waterfall, and filming locations of Braveheart, PS I Love You, and Excalibur. You’ll also see Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara, and Man of War Pub, one of Ireland’s oldest pubs where you can pull your own pint and see how Irish coffee is made. You can book a tour through Discover Wicklow or Over the Top Tours.

Cliffs of Moher

Stunning Views from the Cliffs of Moher

Stunning Views from the Cliffs of Moher

Located along the west coast of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher overlook the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliffs offer some of the most incredible views in Ireland. Although not a quick trip by any means from Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher are worth the day trip. Depending on whether you drive alone or take a tour (recommended), the drive is about 3 hours each way. Paddywaggon Tours will take you to Limerick, the Cliffs, Doolin Village (traditional music capital), and Bunratty Castle. You can also check out Viator Tours or Cliffs of Moher Tours.

Exploring Paris Through its Parks

When you think of Paris, France, things like baguettes, pastries, and the Eiffel Tower come to mind. On a recent trip I chose to experience less touristy parts of the iconic city. I soon discovered some of the city’s best-kept secrets actually lie hidden in its parks. If you want to go where the locals go or spend a little time in nature, then visit one of the many parks and gardens. Not unlike a Parisian café, parks offer a place to relax, have a drink, meet people, take in a beautiful view, and find some free WiFi. With 19 arrondissements, there are countless parks throughout the city. Here are a few to consider.

Buttes-Chaumont

A Waterfall in Paris?

A Waterfall in Paris?

Take a road less traveled in Paris and venture into the 19th arrondissement. Upon entering Buttes-Chaumont you’ll discover something special. After climbing a steep hill you’ll soon see man-made bluffs, bridges, a lake, and a 30-foot waterfall. Don’t expect to run into many tourists, it’s generally locals who frequent this park. You will find plenty of young kids running around as well as families out for their evening stroll. If you wander far enough, you’ll also discover a Roman-style temple offering beautiful panoramic views of the Paris skyline and the Sacre Coeur.

Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau borders the chic 8th and 17th arrondissements of Paris. The park was built by Phillippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, in the 18th century. During the spring and summer, the park is full of color as flowers and trees are in bloom. Monceau is a perfect place for a picnic and is considered city’s most romantic park.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Don't Miss an Unforgettable View of Paris

Don't Miss an Unforgettable View of Paris

It’s impossible to discuss Paris without mentioning its most famous park. Perfectly situated between the 5th and 6th addrrondissements, le Jardin du Luxembourg attracts every type of visitor. Whether you just grabbed a croissant from the local boulangerie, are taking a break from studies at la Sorbonne, or going for a brisk morning run, the park is always brimming with guests. Established by Italian monarch Marie de Medicis in the mid-17th century, the garden and its Florentine-style palace provide a perfect atmosphere to escape the city. Ponies and puppet shows entertain children while parents relax in the iron chairs.

There are plenty of parks to discover. Check out this site for a more exhaustive list.

More Holiday Food for the Winter

Christmas Pudding Aflame

Christmas Pudding Aflame

Thanksgiving is behind us and the winter holidays are fast approaching.  I’m particularly looking forward to the traditional foods we see during the holidays and I’m willing to put up with the increased traffic and rushing masses in exchange for gastrointestinal bliss.  Study abroad students are in the enviable position of being able to experience the holidays overseas.  To our readers out there: try everything!  The Gulliver staff would eat themselves silly were they in your shoes.  Here are some delicious holiday (okay, mostly Christmas) treats from around the globe.

Christmas Pudding:
Also known as plum pudding, Christmas pudding is traditionally served on Christmas Day in England, but these days it can be found in many other countries, especially English speaking ones.  It’s a steamed pudding, made with dried fruits, nuts, and suet.  Before serving, it’s often doused in brandy and fired.  This is one of my personal favorites – I love eating Christmas pudding with hard sauce, a creamed sauce made with butter, sugar, vanilla, rum, and other flavorings.  If you have access to a pudding, definitely give it a try.

Aebleskiver ... I'm salivating already.

Aebleskiver ... I'm salivating already.

Aebleskiver:
This Danish holiday dish sounds spectacular.  If you can find these traditional Danish spherical pancakes, you’re in for a treat.  I haven’t tried them before, but this year I’ll be on a mission to rectify that mistake.  They are described as being a cross between an American pancake and a popover, which can only end in greatness.  It can be served with mulled wine, a warm, spiced wine that also sounds delicious.

Buche de Noel:

The Buche is served in most francophone countries during Christmas season and is made to look like a log ready for the fireplace.  It’s usually made using a sponge cake that’s frosted, rolled into a log, and frosted again.  Chocolate is the main frosting flavor though there are other flavors to choose from.

Christstollen:
Stollen is a German loaf-shaped fruitcake that’s usually eaten during Christmastime.  Stollen is by far my favorite of the holiday cakes and I never make it through the holidays without one.  Though called a cake, it looks like a loaf of bread with raisins, almonds, and spices inside.  Every year, Dresden hosts a Stollenfest, so if you’re thinking of visiting after checking out this week’s Newsletter, maybe this winter is the perfect time.

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Keeping a Low Budget Airline Cheap

Good deals are hard to come by when traveling abroad. Flying from Paris to Dublin? Before you look at regular priced fares consider a budget airline like Ryan Air or EasyJet. Last week I bought a flight for €3. I rubbed my eyes several times before realizing it wasn’t a dream. But, alas, there were several catches. Obviously a €3 flight is a great discovery in Europe… and it’s a steal, if you play your cards right.

Boarding Pass

Baggage Restrictions are Set in Stone

Baggage Restrictions are Set in Stone

In the world of E-tickets, everyone prints their boarding pass ahead of time. On Ryan Air you can check in anywhere from 4 hours up to 15 days before your flight. Check in as soon as you can and print your ticket. It’s required. If you show up at the airport without a boarding pass you can kiss your cheap flight goodbye. You will be charged. Save money, time, and print that pass as early as possible.

Arrive Early

Budget airlines advise arriving two hours early, but in all honesty, it’s not a recommendation, it’s a requirement. Checking baggage and going through security and customs could take upwards to two hours depending on the time of day and crowd. Boarding often begins an hour before takeoff and cuts off a half hour before takeoff. Sprinting to the airport at the last minute will probably cost you an arm and a leg… and your flight.

Baggage

When a budget airline gives you a baggage limit – leave extra room. Say goodbye to the generous 50-pound limit allowed in the US. You’ll need to keep your luggage below 25 pounds. These international airlines are low cost, but easily make up the difference in baggage fees. Ryan Air allows up to 15 kilograms for checked luggage and 10 kilograms for one carry-on item. There’s no leniency. I did not weight my bag before the flight and it cost me an additional €70 euro. Don’t sneak a second carry-on. Even a point and shoot camera hiding in your pocket will render grimaces. If you think you’re checked bag weighs more than 15 kilograms (33 pounds), you’re probably right. Check another bag before you go to the airport! If you arrive at the check-in counter and your bag is any size over 15 kg, you’ll dish out €20 per extra kilogram- or surrender your flight. Although checking a second bag looks expensive when booking your flight, you’ll pay twice as much if you make changes at the airport. You’ll enjoy your trip a lot more if you don’t try to get around these baggage restrictions.

Taxes and Fees

Spend Your Money on More Important Things

Spend Your Money on More Important Things

If you’re flexible with your travel dates and times, you’ll most likely find a fare without any taxes or fees. Take advantage. There’s no catch. Just remember to follow the baggage restrictions.

Bottom Line- Low cost airlines are great. You just need to be ready before you get to the airport. If you’re considering buying another French wine… consider this, that wine will weigh a fourth of your required check-in weight.

Exploring London on a Budget

“London” and “budget” don’t typically go together. But fear not! It can be done. Contrary to popular belief, London offers a good amount for those on a tight budget. From theater performances to museums, lodging and transport. Most of these conveniences are not hard to find.

Theater Discounts

Find Cheap Tickets to Any Show

Find Cheap Tickets to Any Show

Going to the theater doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Explore the ticket booths around Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Leicester Square. Want to see a show in the West End? Check out Tkts booths. This half price ticket booth is officially operated by the Society of London Theatre. Royal Court Theatre Company in Sloane Square (Chelsea) offers reduced priced standing room only tickets an hour before each performance. You can also visit the The London Theatre Company to check out discounts and special rates. If you’re going by yourself, catch a major deal by arriving at the theater house 90 minutes before the performance. When people return tickets, the ticket office resells them at bargain rates.

Museums

They’re free! No catch. London is one of the few cities that opens its museums to the public at no cost. Get lost for hours at the Science Museum, the National Gallery, Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum, and the Greenwich Royal Observatory. There’s a museum for every taste. Some museums do ask for a voluntary donation to help preserve the collections. Here is a full list of London Museums.

Lodging

Looking for a cheap stay? Hostels are the way to go. As in most European cities, hostels offer great discounts for visitors staying more than one day. Check out St. Christopher’s Village near London Bridge. Often recognized as a top hostel, St. Christopher’s offers three locations near London Bridge depending on your interests. There is also Astor Museum Inn. Astor Museum is conveniently located near the British Museum, Covent Garden and Oxford Street. Of course, a hostel might not suit you- especially if you’re traveling with family. In that case, research hotels in advance- and consider traveling in the off season.

More Than Just a Museum

More Than Just a Museum

Getting Around

The London Underground is one of the best public transportation systems in the world.  Buying the Oyster card greatly reduces your cost per ride on the tube and buses. If you don’t want to hop on the tube, London is a perfect city for walking. Check out these walking guides. New London Tours provides free guided walking tours, which last 2-2 1/2 hours and give a humorous and historical look at prominent sites. Take a stroll along the River Thames or relax in a beautiful park. Once you start exploring the city, it’s hard to stop.

Getting Around While Abroad

You’ve just arrived in a new country and can’t wait to explore the city.  One problem, how do you get to town? When I arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport this morning, the first thing I worried about (besides the exchange rate) was how to get across town. My fears quickly subsided when I discovered London’s convenient Underground Metro system. Normally I try to save a few bucks and walk everywhere. Not only is it good exercise, but it’s a great way to acclimate oneself to a new city. There are some places, however, where it’s worth your while to hop on public transportation. Not only will it cut down your travel time, but some stations have a pretty interesting history.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin offers one of the most efficient public transportation systems. Whether you stay a day, a week, or a month it’s easy to take a city bus, the metro (U-Bahn) or the commuter rail system (S-Bahn). Staying a few days? Consider buying a 7 day transit pass. Or the 24 hour or 48 hour Welcome Card. Two-zone passes are required to travel between the Berlin city centre and either Tegel or Schonefelt Airport.

London, England

London's Underground: A Comfortable Way to Travel

London's Underground: A Comfortable Way to Travel

Face it, London is big. You can walk your heart out, but you’ll never cover the entire city. If you really want to get a taste for the different districts, hop on the Underground Tube. It will take you anywhere. For starters, it’s the cheapest way to get from Heathrow Airport to most destinations around London. Your best bet: purchase an Oyster card (at metro stations or grocery stores) for about three pounds and then add money to it. Each time you take the Underground or local buses swiping the Oyster card will automatically deduct money for the ride. During off peak hours (between 9:30am and 430pm) you’ll save nearly 50% off regular cash paying rates.

Moscow, Russia

Need to get somewhere on time? Take the Moscow Metro. Considered the most “precise” subway in the world, the Moscow Metro is a marvel of efficiency, speed, and beauty. 8.2 million passengers pass through the metro daily, making it the second busiest rapid transit system in the world. An added bonus, each subway station features ornate socialist realist architecture worthy of being featured in a museum.

Paris, France

Even the Paris Metro is a Work of Art

The Paris Metro is a Work of Art

Paris is known for it’s artistic influence, love, beauty, baguettes… and metro stations. The Paris Métro is the second oldest subway system in the world, and offers the best city coverage. Each station is only about 500 meters apart. You’ll save if you buy metro tickets in bulk. Some of the Métro stations are worth a visit in their own right. For starters, the Métro’s Art Nouveau entrances are iconic symbols of Paris. Abbesses station (Montmartre) features murals alongside its spiral staircase leading to one of the two original Art Nouveau entrances. The Louvre Museum stop has marble walls lined with exhibits and replicas of art, with glass cases containing various sculptures. The Varenne stop displays exhibits from the nearby Rodin Museum (including a replica of The Thinker). Can’t get to where you want to go via Métro? Just take a bike!

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo’s public transportation system is massive. The transit system combines a light rail, ferry, bus, and the famous, and privately owned, subway lines of Tokyo. Needless to say, if you want to get anywhere in Tokyo, you can do it via public transport. You might just have to shuffle from line to line, to do so. If you’re staying for a couple days and want to see touristy sights, check out the Tokyo value tickets.

Deck the Halls with International Christmas Markets!

Now that Halloween is over it’s time to look forward to the next celebration.  Although Thanksgiving is a couple weeks away, most people already have Christmas on their minds. In Europe, instead of a turkey feast at the end of November, cities transform into Christmas Markets. This festive tradition originated in Austria and Germany and now takes place all over the world. What better way to enjoy the holiday spirit than seeing a city decorated with Christmas lights, warm cider, and other fun treats! Here are a few of the best.

Austria

Vienna has dazzled visitors with its holiday markets since 1294. From Schönbrunn Palace to City Hall, the city hosts more than 25 markets. Lose yourself to the aromas of candied fruits, cotton candy and other delicacies like Christmas punch and roasted chestnuts.  Also special to Vienna, pony rides, express Christmas trains, and fairytale displays.  The best part is that this wonderland is free to explore – unless of course you indulge in some holiday treats.  Vienna’s not the only Christmas market around, you can also check out Innsbruck, Graz, and Salzburg.

Brussels Winter Wonderland

Brussels Winter Wonderland

Belgium

How do warm cider, Belgian waffles, and ice-skating sound? Not too bad, huh? Belgium’s capital city has got you covered. Each winter Brussel’s Place Sainte Catherine transforms into a winter wonderland. Vendors set up dozens of stalls offering holiday toys, clothing, trains, and of course Belgian waffles and fries. The ice-skating rink brings out the child in everyone! From November 27th until early January, Brussels will display a dazzling array of festive lights and one of the biggest Christmas trees you’ll ever see. Live music keeps you entertained for hours as you wait for Pere Noel to stop by. A small word of caution- bundle up or you’ll freeze! Traveling around Belgium? You’ll find other great Christmas Markets in Antwerp, Brugge, and Ghent.

France

A Christmas in France is like no other. Christmas markets, known as marché de noel, highlight most French cities during late November and December. In addition to festive lights and holiday treats, you’ll find great deals on delicious wine, liquor, and the traditional Stollen holiday bread. Easily take the Eurostar to Paris or Lille for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Other popular Christmas markets around France include Lyon, Strasbourg, Tours, and Mulhouse.

Bavarian Christmas Markets are Priceless

Bavarian Christmas Markets are Priceless

Germany

Forget about the cold and explore the Rhine and Moselle valleys, which provide an idyllic setting for a romantic Christmas Market break. At these trendy Christmas Markets, the aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread will grab your senses, while locally produced wine and beer will capture your taste buds. You’re in for a treat no matter where you go. Berlin alone boasts more than 50 grand markets. The Christmas markets in Trier, Koblenz and Mainz are notably famous and quite large. If you’re looking for a small town atmosphere check out Bernkastel-Kues, Cochem, Rüdesheim, Worms, Speyer and Ahrweiler.


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