Examiner.com shut down

No more Examiner.com for me. :-(

No more Examiner.com for me. :-(

I have just learned that Examiner.com has been shut down. I have been a contributor on that media outlet since 2009, providing a lot of information related to travel from Denver to Ireland, which is my specialty as a travel agent. Since I will no longer be able to post on that venue, please check here for news and information on travel to Ireland and related issues. I will endeavor to keep this blog up -to-date and useful to those who have depended on me for travel-related information.

Please subscribe using the Register/Login link in the upper right hand corner to be notified when a new article is posted. Thanks as always for your support.

Free Online Course about the 1916 Easter Rising!

Learn More about the 1916 Easter Rising

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How much do you know about one of the most pivotal events in recent Irish history? Its repercussions ripple throughout Irish society even today, and affect Irish Americans as well. Keep reading to find out how you can learn more.

The Easter Rising

ImageI am really excited about this, and I hope you will be too. I have created some online videos to give people a better understanding of the background and events of The Rising. Do you know why the Irish flag is orange, white, and green? Do you know why this attempt to throw off British rule succeeded (partially) when others had failed? Do you know how close the Rising came to failing? I’ll answer all these questions and more, in this free video course.
But wait (as they say on TV), there’s more. I’m also working on a special Commemoration of the Rising. It will be unique, enjoyable, and a Once in a Hundred Years type of opportunity. More on that in the videos.
For now, please click here and enjoy the free videos with more information about the Rising. And keep an eye out for messages when I release future installments of this series.
Click here to see the videos.

Please leave any comments or questions below. Thanks!

Top Ten Mistakes to Avoid when Traveling to Ireland

Just read a list of mistakes not to make on your trip to Ireland. Most of them were stupid, so I thought I’d create my own.

When I was in college, we read a book called The Ugly American. There are reasons why Americans are not universally loved in other countries. My high school Spanish teacher once told us he was glad he could speak Spanish without an American accent so he wouldn’t be associated with the other Americans he encountered in Spain. We Americans have many endearing qualities. We also do stupid obnoxious things when traveling. Forewarned is forearmed, so here are ten things you should never do when traveling, especially to Ireland.

1. Don’t come unprepared.

Check out Rick Steves' guidebooks. Updated every year, just the essentials, and step by step when you need it.

Check out Rick Steves’ guidebooks. Updated every year, just the essentials, and step by step when you need it.

Good guidebooks are essential. Rick Steves offers my favorites.  You can also use those from Fodor, Frommer. Michelin, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Let’s Go, DK Eyewitness Backroads Ireland, and more. Check them out in your local library and decide which one(s) you like best, then purchase one or two favorites. If your guidebook covers much more than places you plan to visit, tear out the relevant sections and leave the rest at home.

While you’re at it, check some internet forums for up-to-date, often locally sourced information. Many people are intimidated when they do a web search and find out how much information is out there, so limit yourself to a few good sites. I like TripAdvisor, but there are others out there too. Local councils and visitor’s bureaus often have excellent information, so search for those with the local place names you want to visit.

Do your research before you come, check and verify it with as many sources as possible, and carry the information you need as you travel for constant reference. That way, you’ll be ready for anything, expected or not.

2. Travel as a local as much as possible, rather than as a tourist.

The front door is more expensive, less personal, and insulates you from the real Ireland. Go through the back door.

The front door is more expensive, less personal, and insulates you from the real Ireland. Go through the back door.

I call this traveling through the “back door.” Where I grew up, in the hinterlands of eastern Colorado, only strangers knocked or rang at the front door. Friends come through the back door. That’s so true in Ireland. A big tour company will show you great scenery through the window of the coach, as you follow all the other coaches to attractions and shopping areas that give the driver a commission on sales. Get away from those, find the locals, and learn how they live and what they value. Your trip will be so much better. The next suggestion is an excellent way to make this happen.

3. Don’t neglect the pubs.

A real Irish pub is a treasure.

A real Irish pub is a treasure.

The two most important social centers in Ireland are the pub and the church, in that order. While the church is essential to Irish culture, the pub is where it is really experienced. That’s confusing and contradictory to Americans, who often don’t know the difference between a pub and a bar. A pub may HAVE a bar, but it’s far more a place to socialize, meet people (not in the “pick up” sense of many American bars) and truly experience the life of a local. For this reason, I don’t ask which pub someone recommends, I ask which one they go to after work. I have an entire article with more details on this. Checi it out here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=74

4. Don’t travel in the peak season.

Travel "off peak" and experience a more relaxed Ireland.

Travel “off peak” and experience a more relaxed Ireland.

OK, so this one may not be avoidable, depending on when you have your time off. But if you can, visit Ireland during what is called the “shoulder” season. High season in Ireland is the summer, from June through August. Mid-September through October, and April through mid-May are times when far fewer people travel, so you’ll avoid crowds, find the locals less stressed, and even save money on airfares. You can travel the low season (winter) if you want, but the weather is not as friendly and many attractions are closed. Not bad if you spend much of your time in pubs (see above) and stay away from the tourist traps. This can be especially good if you like walking in the rain, but bring a good woolly jumper and a plastic mack. More info here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=160 and here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=80

5. Don’t miss Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is technically a part of Great Britain, but there's still a lot of "Irish" to be experienced there.

Northern Ireland is technically a part of Great Britain, but there’s still a lot of “Irish” to be experienced there.

Americans have heard the stories of The Troubles, and violence in Northern Ireland. But first, those times are largely behind us, and second, the violence was only between those who had grown up with the enmity between them; they never mess with tourists. Seriously, there was once a time when bombs went off and people were gunned down, but such things are a seriously rare occurrence these days, and they only target known enemies, never tourists. There’s no such thing as 100%, but I’ve never heard of Americans or other tourists being involved in such incidents these days.

On the other hand, Northern Ireland has some of the most outstanding scenery anywhere in the world, you can visit such places as the shipyards where the Titanic was built, and the pubs are as friendly as any you’ll find in the Republic, as long as you don’t try to talk politics. The Irish in the North are proud of their British heritage (well, most of them), but they’re still Irish to the core, and proud of that as well. And as an American, you can travel both sides of the controversy, from the walls of Derry, to the Shankhill road and bogside, to the Orange lodge and Church of Ireland facilities. Travel is a way to open your eyes to realities you’ve never known or experienced at home and the North of Ireland is an outstanding place for that. Ask questions and keep your mouth shut, you’ll learn more. Plus, you’ve never experienced the glory of a real Irish breakfast or full English breakfast until you’ve had an Ulster Fry.

6. Don’t miss out on the music.

Find a good local session and experience what Irish music is really all about.

Find a good local session and experience what Irish music is really all about.

Irish traditional music (or TRAD, as aficionados call it) reaches the soul more thoroughly and effectively than almost any other type of music, whether you’re Irish or not. I have played, sung, listened to, and experienced TRAD music in many different venues, and I never cease to marvel at the emotional impact it has on those who experience it. I have played and sung with Germans, Scandanavians, Europeans, Americans, and those of many different backgrounds; all of whom have chosen this style of music because of the way it attracts. It’s astounding.

As you follow this advice, and I really hope you do, read points 2 and 3 again. There are many places where they play only for the tourists. They can be interesting, but the real music of the people happens mostly in pubs and homes. Find a small local pub, not just a tourist trap like Temple Bar in Dublin. (Though Trinity College students actually lead an interesting TRAD music pub crawl out of the Oliver St. John Gogarty Pub. It’s a good compromise if you have limited time.)

For the real experience, find small town or out of the way pubs, where the locals gather just to enjoy the music and each other’s company. For instance, instead of the Temple Bar when you’re in Dublin, visit nearby Howth. Check out Doolin and Ennis, rather than the more touristy Galway. As with the pubs, ask locals where they gather, where they like the music, rather than where they recommend to tourists.

7. Don’t limit yourself to the bigger towns.

A small town can show you the real Irish spirit in a way that's harder to find in the city.

A small town can show you the real Irish spirit in a way that’s harder to find in the city.

As above, remember that bigger places, such as Dublin, see a lot more tourists, so they become jaded and offer what they think you might like, more than something you really should experience. Find time to get out into the country side, the small communities that are the heart of Ireland. Stay in a local B&B (instead of a hotel) and ask the landlady some probing questions about her favorite ways to spend some quality time. I know of a couple who own a B&B in Dingle who also do archaeological tours of the peninsula. That kind of discovery can make an already enjoyable trip into the experience of a lifetime.

In the UK and Ireland, every neighborhood in the big cities has its own local pub, where neighbors and friends gather regularly. That’s even more true of smaller towns, where the controversies of the day may be forgotten for the moment over a few pints. That’s when you start to experience the music and the stories that make the Irish people famous.

8. Learn about the history of the country.

The history of Ireland stretches back ten thousand years and more. Learn about it and you'll have a much more enjoyable trip.

The history of Ireland stretches back ten thousand years and more. Learn about it and you’ll have a much more enjoyable trip.

The Irish are said to have a long memory. The famine of 1845 is a recent event. This past April we commemorated the anniversary of Brian Boru rising to become High King of Ireland in 1014 AD. I mentioned archaeological tours above. There are passage tombs a Bru Na Boinne that are older than the oldest pyramids of Egypt. The story of Ireland goes back ten thousand years or more. Don’t miss that when you go.

When we took the loop road around the Dingle penninsula, we saw clochan (stone huts) that are still tight against the rain hundreds of years after they were built, and the Gallarus Oratory, built along similar lines and just as solid as it ever has been. We saw standing stones so old that nobody knows why they were set up, and pillar incised with Ogham, one of the oldest forms of writing known to man.

I have a friend who says that every stone next to every road and field in Ireland has a story. You’ll find that the locals know those stories and will be glad to tell them to you, especially if you buy them a pint. Speaking of which, don’t forget that in Ireland, the custom is that you buy a round for you and your friends, and they return the favor, unlike America, where everyone is responsible for his own drink. So if someone buys you a pint, don’t neglect to return the favor.

9. Don’t miss out on local sporting events.

Hurling is an essential part of Irish culture, and actually predates soccer and rugby.

Hurling is an essential part of Irish culture, and actually predates soccer and rugby.

Hurling is the national sport of Ireland, and its cousin GAA football is played in every county and townland you’re likely to visit. You may not be able to find an event in Croke Park, but you’ll certainly see somebody playing one of those sports, or perhaps soccer, rugby or Australian rules football in any local community. I spent some of the most enjoyable hours in Kilronan (the only town in the Aran Islands) with some locals, watching a football (soccer) match between Dublin and Westmeath. It’s a great way to really get to know people.

10. Don’t try out your Irish accent.

Leave the Lucky Charms at home and you won't be an ugly American.

Leave the Lucky Charms at home and you won’t be an ugly American.

There are many other possible mistakes you could make on your trip, but I saved this until last because so many Americans just don’t understand how stupid it sounds when you great them with “Top O’ The Morning” or some other cliché you learned from the Lucky Charms leprechaun. If an Irish man or woman came to America and talked like a cowboy from a 1930’s western movie, you would look on them the same way as the Irish look on an American who comes to Ireland and says, “Sure and begorrah, ’tis a grand country you have here.”

There are many other suggestions I could make to enhance your trip to Ireland, but these are some of the top reasons many Americans don’t have the trip they really dreamed of. I hope this is helpful. Please make other suggestions in the comments.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

A blessed St. Patrick’s Day to all. St. Patrick is known as the patron Saint of Ireland, an island that honors many saints and heroes. It’s part of our heritage and accounts for many of the reasons so many of us travel to the Emerald Isle. If you do so, or celebrate closer to home, here are some hints and tips for a happier celebration. One of my favorite things to do is celebrate with music, and that’s even easier on St. Patrick’s Day than usual. Nearly every bar and especially Irish pubs, will book bands in for the entertainment of their punters. Check your local or browse the internet for “sessions” or performances in your area. Many people celebrate with family gatherings, especially featuring corned beef and cabbage, but that’s more popular in America than in Ireland, where beef is at a premium. The Irish are more likely to serve bacon (real Irish shoulder bacon, not the smoky American kind) and cabbage with colcannon, stew, soda bread, and of course, Irish whiskey and Guinness.(See below for hints on how to enjoy these last bits responsibly.) If you do the corned beef and cabbage, use a sauce made of sour cream, prepared mustard and horseradish. It makes the corned beef delicious and the boiled cabbage palatable.

(more below)

Here's some great information about St. Patrick's Day and his celebrations, from  http://www.thedunloe.com/

Here’s some great information about St. Patrick’s Day and his celebrations, from http://www.thedunloe.com/

One thing that’s easy to do on a day that features so much green beer (if you’re in the wrong places) or Guinness (if you’re in the better places) is to overdo the alcohol. Pacing your drinking over the weekend (if you choose to drink at all, of course) will leave you in much better shape to make the most of everything that’s on offer. Making plans for the next morning is a great way to encourage yourself to drink less and to drink more slowly on a night out. And with a bank holiday and some hopefully decent weather on the horizon, this is the perfect time to get out and about — whether your plans revolve around fitness, cultural events, or just a cheeky brunch with your mates! With St Patrick’s Day events happening all over the country, there’s no excuse for you not to have something to do. In Ireland, we tend to drink too much and too fast on any single occasion — even if we drink less often than people in other European countries. If you do go for a few drinks on St Patrick’s Day, there are a few simple ways to help make sure that you don’t overdo it:

  • Eat. And we mean more than a bag of crisps between drinks. This is a feast day after all so eat a decent meal before you start drinking.
  • Round, Round, Baby… Not everyone drinks at the same pace so it’s OK to skip a round or not have a drink at all. Try and limit rounds to 2 or 3 friends, or just avoid them altogether.
  • Time. With the Festival taking place over a long weekend it’s easy for one drink with mates to turn into many more. On Paddy’s Day, in particular, give yourself good reason not to spend the whole day drinking various green drinks — plan to go to a parade, event or dinner with family and friends. With events like Paddy’s Day Unlocked taking place this year, there are plenty of alternative options.
  • Morning After. Even if you feel fine the morning after you may still be over the legal driving limit. Your body gets rid of roughly one standard drink – that’s half a pint, or a small glass of wine, or a pub measure of spirits – per hour. If you feel you may still have alcohol in your system on Sunday or on Monday morning, don’t drive and make alternative transport arrangements.

Enjoy, learn a bit about St. Patrick, and above all, enjoy yourself! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

How to deal with flight delays and cancellations

A trip to Ireland is a special treat for most people, maybe even once in a lifetime. We don’t like to think about the idea of things going wrong, but they can and do. How you deal with that reality can make the difference between saving your holiday or having it ruined.

Bad winter storms seem to get all the attention when it comes to disrupting flight schedules but summer thunderstorms can be just as bad. Bottom line: There are things you can do to help yourself when weather affects your trip, but some of this calls for advance preparation.

Before You Fly

Booking refundable vs. non-refundable tickets: It would seem like a no-brainer to book a refundable ticket, especially since airline change fees have zoomed to as much as $200. However, refundable tickets are much more expensive than non-refundable airfare so most us don’t even consider them. Plus, when bad weather cancels flights, most airline waive change fees in advance. Weigh your own needs carefully before booking.

Be sure airlines have your contact information: When you book a flight, you will normally be asked to provide a phone or email address (or both). Go ahead and provide this information, so the airline can contact you about delays or cancelations before you hear about it on the news.

Day of the Flight

If your flight is delayed: Some delays are temporary in nature; a mechanical problem or a passing thunderstorm. If this is the case, go to the airport anyway because if the delay is shorter than anticipated (the mechanical problem is fixed quickly, or the storm is less severe than first thought), the plane could leave earlier and if you’re not on it, you’re out of luck. If you look out the window and see 10 inches of snow and it’s clear no planes are going anywhere for a while, proceed to the next section.

If your flight is canceled: In this case, you have several options.

Option 1 – Do nothing: If you do nothing, the airline will almost always book you on another flight; however, it may be days later, and if you don’t want that, you must contact your airline.

Option 2 – Rebook your flight: In order to get on the next available flight out, you must act quickly because everyone else will be trying to catch the next plane out, too. The key is getting in contact with the airline and the key to doing that is multi-tasking:

  • Get in line. If you’re at the airport, find a gate/desk agent and get in line.
  • Get on the phone. Call the airline while you wait in line; you may get a quicker response. [Suggestion from a reader: If all lines are busy, try calling the airline’s international number, but use Skype or a similar type program to keep costs down]
  • Get on Twitter. Airlines monitor social media carefully and this could get you the quickest response of all
  • Get online. If you can look up alternate flights you can help speed the process with the airline rep. And consider looking at flights to hubs outside the bad weather zone – even if it’s not your final destination – because you might more easily find a flight with available seats to your city from a storm-free airport.

Option 3 – Cancel your flight: Before canceling, confirm with your airline what if any penalty you’ll have to pay. Most will waive change fees but refunds are unusual; you are more likely to be given a voucher good for travel within the next 12 months.

Top ten reasons to visit Ireland

As if you needed more reasons, here are ten really good ones.

1. Ireland named top tourist destination by Global Traveler Magazine!
Ireland has been named the best tourism destination for the second year in a row by the US Global Traveler magazine. 22,000 readers took part in the poll. It is the 10th year of the awards which recognize the most outstanding destinations, airlines and hotels.

2. We’ve got Monuments older than the Pyramids of Egypt!
No really, it’s true! The passage tombs at Newgrange were built around 3200BC making them about 1000 years older than the pyramids of Egypt. You can visit the tombs today and walk right into the centre where every year on the winter solstice a beam of light illuminates the passage. However this is only one of our great monuments, there are many more to be found. Learn more:

3. We’ve got a Traditional Music Culture second to none!
Irish traditional music has survived more strongly against the forces of mass media than the folk music of most other European countries. Now this is something that we are very proud of! So much so, that this year, there are some great traditional music tours that are different from what you might have found in the past.

4. In 2014, you can follow your team to Ireland!

Sporting Events are always a good reason to visit Ireland

Sporting Events are always a good reason to visit Ireland

Of course, travelers to Ireland love to watch hurling, gaelic football, rugby, soccer, and Aussie rules football, but Americans can also see their own teams this year. If you support Penn State or UCF, 2014 is the year to come to Ireland! On the 30th of August the two teams play against each other in Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium.

5. In 2014 you can Knit your way around Ireland!
Knitting tours include knitting workshops, demonstrations with authentic craftspeople and wonderful sightseeing.

6. 2014 is the Millennium Anniversary of the death of Brian Boru
Brian Boru was a Great Leader and a fearless warrior which was proven from his many battle achievements throughout his life. He was crowned High King of Ireland at the Rock of Cashel in the year 990. Boru fought the Vikings constantly throughout his life until they were defeated at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

7. Castles, Castles, Castles! Need we say more?From derelict ruins in daisy strewn meadows, to majestic masterpieces restored to their former glory. Ireland has hundreds of Castles for your clients to enjoy! Castles to explore, castles to admire and castles to stay in….

8. In 2014 your clients can learn more about our unique religious heritage
In 2014 there will be a number of Catholic Pilgrimage tours. You don’t need to be with a church or faith group to join a Pilgrimage tour of Ireland. The tours take in Ireland’s most historic Pilgrimage sites from Glendalough in the East, Our Ladies Island in the South-East, Knock Shrine in Mayo and Clonmacnoise in the midlands.

9. We’ve got a landscape like no other!
You’ve heard the phrase ’40 shades of Green right? We do have our fair share of green! But that’s not all…. In Ireland you will find glimmering lakes, unspoilt beaches and winding rivers. We have spectacular waterfalls, a rocky landscape that looks a bit like the moon (pictured) and majestic mountains offering amazing views. Did you know that the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland inspired C.S. Lewis to write Narnia?

10. We are a pretty friendly bunch!
As the Obamas and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth can testify, Irish people are still considered to be among the friendliest in the world. A major survey by US tourist magazine Conde Nast Traveller has placed Kilkenny, Cork, and Dublin in its top 20 most welcoming city destinations on the planet!

Contact your local travel agent and book your Ireland tour today!

Boston Food

OK, so a lot of Boston food is the same as you’d find anywhere. BUT (and that’s a big but), some of it is unique and wonderful, and that’s what I was searching for. Being from Colorado, one thing I don’t experience very often is good seafood, but you get plenty of that in Boston, often right off the boat. It’s on a harbor after all.

Boston Cream Pie (it's actually cake) was invented at the Parker House Hotel in 1856. We got to try it at the source.

Boston Cream Pie (it’s actually cake) was invented at the Parker House Hotel in 1856. We got to try it at the source.

We tried some special foods as well, such as Boston Cream Pie, at the restaurant where it was invented (marvelous, of course) and lobster roll in a place that is famous for having the best in Boston.

The Union Oyster House claims it's the oldest restaurant in America. To me, eating their delicious lobster roll and crab cakes was even more important.

The Union Oyster House claims it’s the oldest restaurant in America. To me, eating their delicious lobster roll and crab cakes was even more important.

The Union Oyster House wouldn’t even sell me a lobster roll to carry across the street to the Bell-in-Hand pub, because they claimed it’s not as delicious if you don’t eat it fresh on the premises. All I know is, it was definitely worth the wait.

Maybe I should have mentioned The Bell In Hand in the beer post, but it also has a great history, and they say it’s the oldest tavern in America. They did have some good beer there, but the atmosphere was also a great part of the experience. Friendly staff, nice views of the historic street scene, all in a building that’s been there since Jimmy Wilson, the Boston town crier, started the place in 1795.

The Bell in Hand Tavern was started by town crier Jimmy Wilson in 1795 and became famous for his gregarious hospitality.

The Bell in Hand Tavern was started by town crier Jimmy Wilson in 1795 and became famous for his gregarious hospitality.

This is the kind of place I really like to visit on a trip; the kind of place you just can’t find in other places. I love to experience what makes a particular place unique and special. That’s part of the magic of travel.

The food history in Boston is as fascinating as its Revolutionary ties.

Exploring Boston Beer

The Black Rose Irish Pub had excellent food, good music, and wonderful company. It was one of the highlights of the trip

The Black Rose Irish Pub had excellent food, good music, and wonderful company. It was one of the highlights of the trip

If you have read my blog before, you know that I believe the pubs are the heart of Ireland. That’s also true of towns like Boston, where there’s a significant Irish population. In the pubs, you find the working people, the locals, those who are not here for only a few days. Meeting those people is part of the magic of exploring a new area.

 

Fire Chief Ale, a good red ale, though not exclusive to Boston.

Fire Chief Ale, a good red ale, though not exclusive to Boston.

Beer is certainly part of the pub experience, and I always try to find local beers wherever I go. The same was true in Boston, but I was a bit disappointed at the lack of local craft beer. I have finally learned to ask for beer I can’t get anywhere else, but there doesn’t seem to be too much of that in Boston. There were a few exceptions, such as this Fire Chief Ale. Had a few good pints of Guinness at the Irish pubs, but you can get that anywhere these days. Still, never disappointed in a good pint. :-)

Not really a "craft brewery" but Samuel Adams makes some really nice beer, and we got to tour their pilot brewery in Boston.

Not really a “craft brewery” but Samuel Adams makes some really nice beer, and we got to tour their pilot brewery in Boston.

One of the highlights of the beer scene in Boston is Samuel Adams, and if you ask for a local beer, that will often be your answer. It’s actually quite good, for a mass produced beer. We learned the reasons whey when touring their pilot brewery, where they turn out small batches of some of the more distinctive beers, or experiment with new flavors. The tour guide was very happy his job included drinking beer and sharing that wonderful experience with us.

A fine pint, our last day in Boston, enjoyed at the Black Rose.

A fine pint, our last day in Boston, enjoyed at the Black Rose.

Not everybody appreciates the magic of beer, but to me, it’s one of those special parts of life to be enjoyed and shared with others. My favorites are those beers that are special to the locals, made with local ingredients, and infused with local pride. It’s one of those magic ways of getting to know the people and the culture better, and isn’t that what travel is all about?

Back door to Boston

Mass transit in Boston is great. We discovered that you can buy a pass that is good not only on the buses and subway, but also on the Inner Harbor Ferry. Almost like a sea tour, at no extra cost.

Mass transit in Boston is great. We discovered that you can buy a pass that is good not only on the buses and subway, but also on the Inner Harbor Ferry. Almost like a sea tour, at no extra cost.

Discovered a new favorite place. Usually, I prefer countryside and rural areas, but in Boston, I found a city I could really get into. Coming from Colorado as I do, I’m not accustomed to the depth of history you find in a place like Boston. Plus, there’s a pride of place, a belonging, and attachment to the land like we don’t see so much in the West.

We were in town for Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, the World Championships of Irish Dance. They are usually held in Ireland, but once in a while in America, and this was our chance.

My darling daughter: An evil Faerie? And she did a good job too.

My darling daughter: An evil Faerie? And she did a good job too.

Our daughter competes in Irish dance, and she has recently risen to the ranks where she can go to Regional and National competitions. This time, she was part of a dance drama team that was competing in Worlds. The drama was called “The Faeries of Trickery” and she was one of the evil faeries who fooled a local boy and played evil tricks on a young girl and her family. It was great fun, well-danced and very dramatic. They took fifth place overall.

Though the trip had a purpose, we also spent a few extra days exploring Boston. Met many charming people, experienced some nice Irish pubs, ate Italian pastry, saw the church were Paul Revere saw the signal for the coming British invasion, toured the oldest commissioned U.S. warship still afloat, and so much more.

I’m always excited about the opportunity to share the magic of Ireland with people. It’s why I’m in the travel business. This time I’m sharing the magic of Boston. Of course, a lot of that magic is Irish too. :-)

Keep an eye on these pages as I share more about this very wonderful trip.

New travel widget shows attractions on the way

My Discover Ireland tells you what to expect along the way

My Discover Ireland tells you what to expect along the way.

Just got word of a new web site that has some interesting features. Say you’re in Belfast for breakfast and plan to be in Dublin for supper. That’s only a couple of hours driving time, so you want to stop at some sights on the way. My Discover Ireland will help you do that.

This web site has a nice graphic interface, is very customizable, and will show you what attractions lay along your route. The sample search from Belfast to Dublin reveals a couple of dozen choices for your journey.

Their database has a lot of small locations, as well as major ones, you you can get as detailed as you like. You can zoom in and out, change your starting and ending points, and even add your chosen attractions to the itinerary. It will show you the distance in both kilometers and miles, driving time, and fuel costs for the trip. You can select or deselect the categories for your attractions, viewing cultural destinations, museums, historic sites, outdoors, and general attractions. Too much detail? Zoom in, or deselect some categories. Too little? Add some back in.

I discovered you need to be specific about your starting point and destination For instance, even though Derry shows on the map where it belongs, putting it in as a starting point showed it some place in Limerick. Apparently, there’s a tiny little town there called Derry. If you put Londonderry, UK, it finds the right place.

I put in Wicklow, Ireland, and instead of the town, it placed my destination several miles east. Apparently, you have to specify Wicklow Town to get that instead of the mountains, but Wicklow Town doesn’t come up in the autofill suggestions.

So I wouldn’t navigate by this, at least not yet, but it gives some marvelous information on what you’ll find along the way. Check out My Discover Ireland for your next trip.