Sent by Angela Kilgallen
Based in Letterkenny
I have always been passionate about travel. I create bespoke travel itineraries for your dream holiday, and help you discover exciting destinations and new experiences without the stress of organising it yourself. You can have peace of mind knowing that I will take care of everything, each step of the way, with 24-hour backup provided to deal with any emergency that may arise while abroad.
As well as tailor making a holiday for you, I can arrange cruises, group trips, small group adventures, family holidays and celebration trips. You can see from my travel blogs that I have travelled the globe extensively myself, cruising the Mediterranean, the Norwegian Fjords, and the Galapagos islands, as well as river cruising on the Danube and the Rhine.
My own family holidays were spent in the camping parks of France, Italy, Spain, and Holland, and I have visited many states in the USA including New York, California, Las Vegas, Florida, and Hawaii. In January 2022 we travelled as a family to Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and perfect for anyone interested in wildlife and nature.
Canada is one of my favourite destinations and last year I took the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Banff in the Rocky Mountains. I recommend hiring a car while you are in Canada as we found it was a great way to see places like Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, and Jasper at your leisure.
I am also particularly interested in Asia and have travelled to Malaysia, Thailand’s Golden Triangle, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
No matter what you book with me, your holiday will be financially protected as Travel Counsellors are licensed and bonded in Ireland by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
Let me save you time and take the stress out of planning your next holiday, just get in touch and we can talk at a time that suits you.
Travel with peace of mind.
Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:
Luxury tented camps and interaction with elephants
Highlights of my trip to the Galapagos Islands. The video was made by the onboard photographer who followed us on our explorations.
Rocky Mountaineer - luxury train journey I took through the Canadian Rockies
Highlights of Jordan from my small group adventure trip.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
07 November 2022
Last September we visited Vietnam, beginning our wonderful adventure in Hanoi with a private 5-night tour visiting the breath-taking scenery of Puluong and Ninh Binh, before joining our group of 10 fellow travellers to further explore Vietnam for the next 7 nights. The first stop on our private trip was Puluong in Northern Vietnam. This is a stunning mountainous destination, and it is still under the mass market radar for now. The awe-inspiring landscapes, and quaint villages will appeal to nature lovers and hikers. If you want an authentic experience with fabulous food and dramatic mountain scenery Puluong is the place to be. From Puluong we continued to Ninh Binh which is also known as Halong Bay on land and spent a few nights in Tam Coc a popular tourist destination and part of the scenic Trang An complex recognised by UNESCO. The best way to discover the fabulous scenery of this area is by boat, preferably in the morning to avoid the heat of the sun. While you are there, I also recommend visiting the Bai Dinh Pagoda Buddhist complex with its spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. When we returned to Hanoi, we met our group and guide at our lovely hotel centrally located in the old quarter. French and Chinese influences were evident in the architecture and the food in Hanoi, and when you are there, you must try the famous Hanoi egg coffee which tastes a bit like crème brulee, and the famous Pho. Our group was made up of 3 couples and 6 female solo travellers, ranging in age from 30 to 66. Travelling in a small group is a great way for solo travellers to see the world safely. For many years Halong Bay was high on my bucket-list and when I finally got to visit this amazing destination with the group on our second night it certainly lived up to expectations. Halong Bay is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone karsts. It is also popular with scuba divers, rock climbers and hikers. After spending the day exploring caves, swimming, and kayaking we enjoyed dinner on the top deck of our private junk boat where we spent the night. After a Tai Chi lesson at sunrise, we left this beautiful archipelago and travelled back to Hanoi in our private minibus. A short flight took us to Hoi An, one of the highlights of the trip. It is known for its well-preserved ancient town with its mix of architectural styles, and the colourful lanterns seen everywhere. Hoi An is also known for its tailors. This is the place to go for that tailor-made suit or dress. Another short flight took us to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it is still known by the locals. It is apparent that Saigon has been influenced by the West by the amount of American coffee shops and restaurants seen around the city. While in Saigon we took a tour of the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels - a vast interlinking network of underground tunnels that formed the centre of operations for Vietnamese guerrilla soldiers during the Vietnam War. Many of our group then continued their trip into Cambodia which I will talk about in my next blog. The Vietnamese people are so friendly and welcoming, and the food is incredible. The scenery was spectacular and perfect for outdoor activities, and for those interested in culture there is plenty to be seen. I highly recommend visiting this wonderful country. We visited Vietnam in September during the rainy season in central and southern Vietnam. This did not affect our trip at all because if it rained it tended to be in the late afternoon after we returned from sightseeing, or in the evening time. The “rainy season” also has the advantage of being less expensive and less crowded with tourists. Generally, the dry season is from November to April. If you are interested in planning a trip like this, I can put together a tailor-made itinerary to suit your interests and budget or I can arrange for you to travel as part of a small group tour. Please get in touch if you would like to know more. .
12 December 2022
Our small group tour of Cambodia was an extension of our small group tour of Vietnam. This type of guided trip is a great way to immerse yourself in a destination and have a more authentic experience which allows you to catch a glimpse of everyday life. We arrived in Phnom Penh - Cambodia’s lively capital – after a short flight from Saigon. There were plenty of activities on offer and we explored the city centre on a cycle tour, learned how silk is made from start to finish and took a relaxing boat trip on the Mekong River with magnificent views of the Royal Palace. Less relaxing was the visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum one of the more notorious prisons in Cambodia, and the killing fields just outside the city. Our private minibus took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and we admired the wonderful scenery along the way watching the water buffalo working away in the rice paddy fields in the lush countryside. Most houses were made of wood and raised up on stilts mainly in rural locations. One of the stops on this journey to Siem Reap took us to an insect market where crispy insects were being sold. Cambodians regularly snack on crispy cockroach, tarantula, crickets, and other insects. Needless to say, I didn’t try any. I was surprised to find the food in Cambodia to be spicier than that in Vietnam. All of the restaurants we visited were of high quality and serving delicious food. One of the specialities of Cambodia is fish Amok – fish in a curry sauce steamed in a banana leaf. We spent the next 3 nights in Siem Reap which is famous for the Angkor Archaeological Park just outside the town, which contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire. This UNESCO protected monument includes the temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple and Ta Phrom which appeared in the film Tomb Raider. Several varieties of monkeys can be seen swinging from the trees in the temple complex or on the ground begging for food. Watching the sun rise over the temple at Angkor Wat was an unforgettable experience and a highlight of the tour. Siem Reap is also known for Pub Street - popular with back-packers and anyone looking for lively nightlife. It is a good place to stop for a drink after a day exploring the temples or to do some shopping in the evening at the night markets. Cambodia is still relatively unspoilt especially in the more rural locations. The people are friendly, and the food is wonderful, but for me the most important reason to visit is for the spectacular Angkor Wat temple complex. If you are interested in taking a trip like this, please get in touch. For solo travellers small group touring is an ideal way to see the world safely. I can also tailor-make a private tour to suit your interests and budget.
14 January 2022
Costa Rica – Pura Vida Bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica offers adventure, relaxation, exploration and all things Pura Vida. It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world with a wealth of flora, fauna and a focus on sustainability. There is something for everyone in Costa Rica. The abundant biodiversity makes it ideal for those interested in bird watching and wildlife, and the many different activities on offer make it ideal for adventure seekers. Take a zipline through the cloud forests in Monteverde, go white river rafting on the Sarapiqui or Pacuare rivers, or cross the hanging bridges with views of the treetop canopy at Arenal rainforest. After all that adventure, relax in the volcanic hot springs at Arenal and for a perfect trip combine with a beach stay on the Caribbean or Pacific Coast. One term we became familiar with in Costa Rica was Pura Vida! It means no worries, no fuss, no stress. Costa Ricans (Ticos) use this term to say hello, goodbye, everything’s great, or to say everything’s cool. The main language is Spanish but English is widely spoken. Our accommodation was mainly in eco-lodges where sustainability was important evidenced by the solar powered water heating and the water stations where you could refill your water bottle, avoiding the use of single use plastic bottles. We saw many species of birds and animals without having to leave the grounds of our lodge including toucans, macaws, sloths, monkeys, agoutis and coatis. Our first experience of the tropical rainforest was on our first night when we arrived at Selva Verde lodge and were greeted by a cacophony of sounds from the inhabitants of the rainforest, as howler monkeys and birds screeched and called to each other. Our lodge was nestled into lush vegetation with bananas hanging from the banana plants in easy reach. We travelled by private transfer from lodge to lodge - to Puerto Viejo de Limon on the Caribbean coast, to La Fortuna and Arenal, to Monteverde whose scenery is reminiscent of Switzerland, and finally to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast. Included in our tour were visits to coffee and chocolate plantations to see how they are grown and processed, and a night walk through a forest in Monteverde where we saw tree frogs, sloths, armadillos and other animals who come out at night. We soared across the cloud forest on ziplines in Monteverde and rafted on level 2/3 white water rapids on the Sarapiqui river. This diverse country is smaller than Ireland but there is so much to see and do. We travelled the end of December, beginning of January 2022 during the dry season which is between December and April. The tour was arranged with our ground specialists in Costa Rica who used their local knowledge to personalize our trip. If you’d like to know more about this type of trip or would like help planning your own trip, please get in touch.
29 October 2021
INCREDIBLE ICELAND For many people Iceland is a bucket list destination and it’s easy to see why. During my recent 3 night trip to Reykjavik I had the opportunity to experience some of the most popular excursions and activities on offer. We stayed in the heart of the city in walking distance to the harbour, the shopping area and the great restaurants and bars nearby. On arrival at Keflavik airport we were transferred by coach to Reykjavik and spent the afternoon exploring our surroundings before enjoying dinner in a cosy traditional Icelandic restaurant – Hressingarskalinn. That evening was spent hunting the Northern Lights on a cruise which departed from the nearby harbour. There is no guarantee of seeing the lights as they are a natural phenomenon but if you miss them on the first night you will be given a voucher to try again for the next 2 nights. Unfortunately, we did not get to witness this incredible phenomenon on our trip and received another voucher to be used within 2 years if we return to Iceland. Our second day, was spent relaxing in the mineral rich geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon approximately 50 minutes away by coach transfer. We had a comfort ticket which included entrance fee, silica mud mask and 1 drink in the lagoon pool bar. The premium ticket costs a little extra but also includes slippers, a bathrobe and extra masks. If I visit again I would choose this option as the bathrobe would be useful during the chilly walk from the changing rooms to the pool. On our final day, we toured the Golden Circle by super jeep. First stop was Pingvellir National Park, one of Iceland’s most significant historical sites and home of the country’s first parliament. We were given some time to walk through the park to admire its spectacular scenery. Iceland is divided by the mid-Atlantic Rift, some of it is on the North American tectonic plate while some is on the Eurasian plate. The edges of both plates can be seen clearly in Pingvellir. It was so amazing to think we were actually walking between two continental plates. From Pingvellir, we headed inland towards the highly active Geysir hot spring area with its boiling mud pits and sprouting hot springs. We watched as Little Geysir erupted high into the air. From there we continued to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most powerful waterfalls fed by the Langjokull glacier. The highlight of the day was racing across Langjokull glacier on snowmobiles while taking in the snow-covered landscape surrounding us. Our trip came to an end the following morning and we were transferred by coach back to Keflavik airport. Iceland has so much to offer as a destination. Think about visiting in Spring / Summer as this is a great time to hire a car and explore the impressive scenery of southern Iceland visiting Vik, the black sand beaches and more. Many visitors come to Iceland to view the Northern Lights which are best viewed between October and first week in April, but there is no guarantee that you will see them. So, I recommend that you also take into consideration the other activities that you want to do as well as seeing the lights in order to avoid disappointment My trip was arranged with our ground specialist in Iceland. Arrival and departure airport transfers were included along with excursions, transportation to excursions and 4* hotel B&B. If you are interested in visiting this incredible country, I can tailor-make a trip to suit your interests and budget. Please get in touch if Iceland is on your wish list.
20 November 2021
in September 2021, I achieved a long- held dream of visiting the amazing Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. These islands inspired Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution partly from his observance of the finches on different islands. There are strict laws put in place to protect the region’s landscape and wildlife for future generations. The islands are best seen on a cruise – and there’s no better way to explore them than on a 6* Silverseas cruise. My ship was called Silver Origin, a ship purpose built for cruising in the Galapagos Islands and one of the most environmentally conscious ships ever built. With only capacity for 100 guests, it is the height of experiential luxury travel in the Galapagos. I must point out that this cruise was not a typical cruise. It was an expedition cruise which is more about the experience ashore, the wildlife encountered, snorkelling, exploration and adventure. Although it was an expedition cruise the level of luxury onboard was unparalleled – from the luxurious state rooms with mini-bars refilled daily to the fire pit at the back of the ship where you could sip a cocktail watching the sun go down. Silverseas thought of everything including the reef-safe sun-cream which was provided in every state room along with the wet suits and snorkelling equipment. Our adventure began when we landed in San Cristobal Island after a 2- hour flight from Quito in Ecuador. It was so exciting catching the first glimpse of the islands as the plane made its approach. We were transferred to the ship by rubber dingy boats – zodiacs, as the ship never docks. It uses dynamic positioning so there is no anchor to damage the delicate eco-system of the seabed. Throughout the following week we explored the various islands and learned about the wildlife that inhabited them. We were able to get up close as the wildlife there have no fear of people. Curious baby seals wanted to come closer to us, but the expedition leaders made sure we kept our distance. Blue Footed Boobies nested with their chicks only feet away from us without any fear, and marine iguanas blocked our path as they made their way across the lava field. Our day started early in the Galapagos. Breakfast was usually around 6.30AM before a hike on one of the islands or a zodiac tour around the coast. Everyday you could choose to take a hike on an island, a zodiac coastal tour, snorkel in the sea and off the beach, or go sea kayaking. There were also alternatives for those who wanted to take it easy including a ceviche cooking demonstration an Ecuadorian wine tasting, and every evening the onboard naturalists also gave interesting lectures about the flora and fauna in the Galapagos, and the measures taken to protect it. The islands and the surrounding sea are rich in wildlife, and even if you don’t want to snorkel it is still possible to see manta rays, sun fish, penguins, seals and turtles from the zodiacs. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Santa Cruz Island to see the giant tortoises. This island is one of the few islands that is inhabited by people. While we were there, we visited a coffee plantation for a coffee and chocolate tasting. The proceeds of this plantation are used to fund the care of the giant tortoises. Every island we visited had something different to offer, from the wildlife to the beautiful beaches to the lava fields. As a destination the Galapagos Islands are perfect for anybody interested in wildlife, who loves adventure and going off the beaten track. Taking a cruise with Silverseas is a great way to do this while traveling in comfort and luxury. When you book a Galapagos cruise with Silversea two nights pre-cruise accommodation in Quito is included along with an old city evening tour. Also included is the internal flight from Quito to San Cristobal in the Galapagos islands, all transfers, and a day room with lunch in a hotel before your flight home. The whole experience was seamless and stress-free, with every detail looked after by the wonderful Silverseas staff and crew. The Galapagos Islands are truly a trip of a lifetime and a destination I feel privileged to have visited. If you would like more information about these amazing islands or would like help planning your trip, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
15 March 2020
Earlier this month I travelled to Jordan to visit one of the destinations high on my bucket-list - Petra! I decided to take this trip solo and travel with a small group. This is a great way to travel as you have company and the security of travelling in a group. I started my trip a day earlier when I availed of Turkish Airline’s free 1-night stopover in Istanbul on my way to Jordan. This is a city everyone should visit. Although I only had a short time there I managed to see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and tried out some Turkish delight. The first stop on our trip was Amman the capital of Jordan. Our group met up on the first evening over dinner in a traditional restaurant to discuss the itinerary for the week. There were 10 of us like-minded travellers ranging in age from 30 to 70. Amman is a modern city full of ancient ruins. On top of Jabal al-Qala’a hill, the historic Citadel includes the pillars of the Roman Temple of Hercules, and from this vantage point you can see the 2nd century roman theatre built into the opposite hillside. Downtown Amman where we were staying is full of stores selling spices, teas, gold and artisanal products, and coffee shops and restaurants. It was also walking distance to the historic part of town. The next day after breakfast in a local bakery – sesame seed rolls filled with eggs baked under wood chips for several hours – we left for the Dead Sea. There are many resorts along the shores of the Dead Sea and we stopped at one to experience the buoyant salty seawater. It was difficult to keep standing in the water and even more difficult to stand up after floating. The water felt oily and left skin feeling good. We also availed of the swimming pools in the resort and sunbathed as we looked across to Israel on the other side of the Dead Sea. The sea is shrinking at such a rate that means it could disappear by 2050, so don’t leave it too long before visiting. Our private minibus took us to Petra after leaving the Dead Sea, and in the evening, we were invited to a special dinner of Mansaf cooked by a local family in their home. We spent the whole of the following day in the site at Petra and clocked up 25000 steps. There is so much to see apart from the Treasury and Siq which are the main places people want to see. I climbed the 850 steps to discover the Monastery, Petra’s largest monument dating from 1st century BC. Horses and donkeys can be hired to help with the climb, but I don’t advise it as they didn’t appear to have been well treated. I would have liked to have gone back to Petra that evening to take part in the candle-lit walk through the Siq to The Treasury, but the climb took its toll on my legs. The next morning, we drove to Little Petra, only 5km from Petra. It had far fewer tourists than Petra and our group were able to explore in comfort. It is said to have been Petra’s suburb and is thought to have served as a stop for the caravans on the Silk Road before they reached Petra. We had a shepherd’s breakfast at the nearby Bedouin camp and chatted to the Bedouins’ who made their living in this area. We carried on to Wadi Rum which was an unexpected highlight of the trip. There we changed to 4x4 jeeps, the only way to travel through the dramatic desert landscape. We spent the night in a tented camp and enjoyed a special dish cooked Bedouin style buried in the ground. Wadi Rum is famous for its spectacular sunsets and from our vantage point on the rocks we watched as the rays disappeared. Many movies were filmed in this location such as Star Wars, The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia. Our last night in Jordan was spent at a cooking class in Amman. I left Jordan with great memories and a desire to return. I met some lovely people on the trip and everybody in our group got on with each other. I highly recommend taking a small group trip particularly if you are a solo traveller as you have the security a group brings, and you also have company if you want it. Small group tours are a cost-effective way to travel especially if you want to go off the beaten track. Please get in touch if you would like more information on small group travel or solo travel.
26 May 2020
Dubrovnik – Croatia Last September my husband and I took a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas. This cruise is one of the most popular in Ireland and it was easy to see why - the itinerary was fantastic. We departed from Venice and visited Dubrovnik, Kotor, Olympia and Santorini. One of my favourite ports was Dubrovnik in Croatia. This is a city on the Adriatic Sea known for its distinctive old town surrounded by massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. Dubrovnik’s old town is known as one of the world’s finest and best preserved medieval cities in the world. The pedestrianized Stradun or main street runs through the city and is lined with many shops and restaurants. There are many narrow avenues and lanes weaving their way through the city. It is worth taking the time to venture down these old streets and discover the romantic charms of the old city. What to see and do: There is so much to see and do in this beautiful city but we only had a day in port and these are some of the things we did. We walked along the old town walls - A great way to experience the city is to see it from the medieval walls. You can take a guided tour of the walls or just explore by yourself after buying a ticket. From this vantage point on the walls you can see buildings in various styles of architecture – baroque, gothic and renaissance We took a cable car ride to the top of Srd Mountain and enjoyed the wonderful panoramic views of Old Town Dubrovnik and Lokrum Island. Many of the amazing photos you see of Dubrovnik are taken from the top of Srd Mountain. The restaurant beside the cable car station is a popular place to watch the sun go down. While you are up on the mountain don’t miss a visit to the Homeland War Museum documenting the course of the Homeland War from 1991-1995. It contains many documents and videos from this time. For Game of Thrones fans – Dubrovnik is Kings Landing. Many famous scenes were filmed in this ancient city, and it is possible to take a walking tour to visit the places where these scenes took place. We didn’t have time for a tour that day but we did get to see where some of the scenes were filmed. We had a drink at a hidden Buza Bar (hole-in-the-wall) in a unique location on the rocks outside the old city walls. The Buza bar is accessed through a hole in the old walls and you would easily walk past it without noticing the sign. It has a limited menu serving beer, wine and snacks but the main attraction is the fabulous view out to sea. Many come back later in the evening to witness the glorious sunset while sipping a cool beer. Because of the popularity of Buza 1 Bar another bar was opened called Buza 11. It has a smaller terrace located higher above the sea so from this bar it is more difficult to jump into the sea for a swim. I recommend visiting either bar when you next visit Dubrovnik. Food and wine Croatia makes some great wines. Plavac Mali is the primary red grape grown across the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. It is known for producing full bodied wines high in alcohol and tannins and is best appreciated with food. As a wine enthusiast I took the opportunity to taste this wine at lunch in the old town. It was delicious and worth trying when you get to visit Dubrovnik. Malvasia is one of the main white wines of the area and is also high in alcohol and rich and sweet in taste. Dubrovnik has many different types of restaurants, so you will find one to suit your tastes. Typical local dishes include seafood and black risotto, and you should also try the local olives. Just be aware that you may receive the whole fish (head and tail) if you order fish. We ate at a restaurant up the steps off the Stradun. We found that the restaurants higher up were less expensive than those on the Stradun. September is a great time of the year to visit Dubrovnik when it's less crowded and the temperature is cooler. What better way to do so than on a cruise!
27 November 2019
Last September I got to experience Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas on a cruise from Venice to Greece and Croatia. This Vision-class ship holds a maximum of 2400 passengers, and was refurbished in 2016. Being mid-sized it doesn't have all the attractions of the mega-sized ships, so no robot waiters, zip lines, flow riders or central parks. It still has a lot to offer with great service, wonderful food and great entertainment. The passenger makeup onboard covers all age ranges from young families, to honeymoon couples to the retired. One of the best things about being on Rhapsody was its great itinerary. After departing from Venice, we visited Dubrovnik in Croatia, Kotor in Montenegro, Santorini in Greece, Katakolon (Olympia) in Greece and back to Venice. The temperature was in the 30’s in Greece and Croatia even though we sailed in September and many afternoons were spent by the pool after returning from shore excursions. There is plenty to do onboard to keep you entertained – live bands, theatre shows, night club, open air disco on deck, movies under the stars, quizzes and more - and all of this is included in your cruise fare. I would recommend booking a drinks package for your cruise. It includes hot drinks, water, fresh juices, cocktails and other alcoholic drinks. I find that this is most cost-effective, otherwise you could be left with a large drinks bill to clear at the end of the cruise. We spent the night in Venice before our trip, so we could see more of this unique city. In many cases people arrive in a city for a cruise without getting to see it at all. I recommend spending a night before or after a cruise in the port city so you can visit it as you would the other ports on your cruise itinerary. Please get in touch if you would like more information on cruising or would like to plan a cruise.
25 July 2019
Last December I boarded the U in Budapest to begin a 4-night trip along the river Danube. The U is a floating boutique hotel traveling along with you with the added benefit that you only have to unpack once. The ensuite cabins are smaller than an ocean cruise ship’s but the beds are very comfortable and everything you need is there. Due to its size a river cruise ship can usually dock in the centre of a city or town so there is less time wasted getting to and from a destination, giving you more time to explore. We began by exploring the Budapest Christmas Market which was less than 10 minutes’ walk from the ship. The huge Christmas tree and colourful lights hanging from the trees, along with the stalls selling traditional crafts and delicious goodies created a very festive atmosphere. We kept ourselves warm with some hot glühwein as we strolled around the marketplace. That evening a guided pub crawl through the city’s world-renowned ruin bars was arranged as we stayed overnight in port. We had time the next day to explore Budapest before departing that evening for Bratislava. The food onboard was delicious. Breakfast or brunch was served as a buffet and 2 options were offered at dinner or sometimes a buffet. Complimentary tea, coffee and snacks were also available during the day. The staff onboard the U were so friendly and helpful. On our first night on the ship it was my birthday and they surprised me with a birthday cake at dinner. After breakfast the next morning we walked from the ship to the centre of Bratislava on a guided walking tour to the Christmas markets. After checking out the market stalls we stopped for a coffee in the famous Konditorei Kormuth café. The walls on this historic café are covered with beautiful murals and the cakes and deserts are mouth-wateringly delicious. We returned to the ship and continued on our way cruising to Vienna that evening. After dinner onboard we took the Vienna Metro into the city centre to visit more Christmas Markets. Of the 3 markets we visited these were my favourite. The lights and decorations were beautiful, and the atmosphere was buzzing. Many of the items we saw on stalls in Budapest were also in Vienna but at higher prices so the Christmas market in Budapest is more budget friendly. We also got an opportunity the next morning to revisit the markets as we did not depart Vienna till later in the afternoon. I had coffee and Sacher torte in the famous Sacher Hotel opposite the Vienna State Opera. The hotel has even been used as a set for Mission Impossible as well as other movies. This part of Europe has amazing historical cafes steeped in history and elegantly decorated. I recommend Café Gerbeaud in Budapest, Konditorei Kormuth in Bratislava and the Sacher Hotel Café in Vienna. A Christmas market river cruise is great for anybody wanting to experience the magic of the festive season, visiting Christmas markets, exploring towns steeped in history and trying festive treats at the market stalls and in the famous café houses of Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. A river cruise with U is not merely a river cruise. It’s a full on, activity packed, culturally immersive, social and active travel experience. Life onboard is more casual and relaxed than on other river cruises with daily activities and excursions to choose from and the opportunity to experience the local nightlife when staying overnight in port. If you would like to experience the magic of the Christmas markets on a river cruise or experience a river cruise at any other time of year get in touch and I will help you make it happen.
29 May 2019
I spent a wonderful week on board Uniworld's SS Antoinette in April 2019 on the Castles along the Rhine river cruise. Uniworld offers a luxury boutique river cruise experience and each of their ships is rich in character with its own distinctive theme and colour palette, original art and sumptuous furnishings and antiques. Our stylishly decorated room had a French balcony – the top half of the floor to ceiling window could be lowered electronically. The cabin was spacious with plenty of storage, 2 seats and a small table, and a marble ensuite. Treats such chocolates in the room were restocked daily and when we came back from dinner we would find a little gift waiting for us. We also received a stainless-steel water bottle for carrying water on excursions. Single use plastics are banned by this company as they are committed to help protect the environment. We began our cruise standing on the top deck with the other passengers as we sailed away sipping our complimentary champagne, and complimentary brandy coffee was also served on deck when we cruised by the castles along the Rhine. There were plenty of loungers on the deck for everybody to relax and enjoy the views as we sailed along the river. All meals were served in the restaurant with open seating, and this enabled us to meet many of the other passengers onboard. We stopped at several picturesque fairy-tale villages along the Rhine from Germany to Alsace in France. The half-timbered houses of Strasbourg, Colmar, Kaysersberg and Riquewihr were particularly beautiful. Riquewihr is said to have been the inspiration for Belle’s village for the animators of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Walking tours or cycling were available at most stops and if we could not reach a town or village on foot a coach was provided. We took advantage of the complimentary bikes on board and cycled along the river near Germersheim stopping off at a riverside bar for a drink. In Cologne we took a walking tour of the city and visited the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. After a walking tour in Koblenz we took a cable car across the river which afforded magnificent views of the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine. We strolled through medieval Rudesheim before travelling by coach to Schloss Volrads to enjoy a Riesling wine tasting. It is not necessary to go on every excursion if you don't want to, it is also possible to stay on board the ship or take a cycle along the river. This cruise will appeal to those who love romantic picturesque villages, castles and cathedrals and beautiful scenery. A river cruise offers the convenience and luxury of an ocean cruise with the in-depth experience of a land tour and more personal freedom than a purely land tour and you only have to unpack once. You can watch towns and villages glide by as you sit on deck sipping a glass of wine with so much more comfort than on a coach tour. Uniworld river cruises are the most all-inclusive of river cruises. Practically everything is included, airport transfers, accommodation, all meals, all drinks, excursions and gratuities. Once you are onboard there is nothing else to pay. We travelled in April flying into Amsterdam and departing from Basel in Switzerland. If this sounds like your dream holiday or if you in need of some destination inspiration contact me to start planning your next adventure.
22 May 2019
I have just returned from the most amazing trip to Canada visiting Banff, Jasper and Vancouver. The highlight of the trip was the 2 days my husband and I spent onboard the Rocky Mountaineer travelling from Vancouver to Banff with Gold Leaf Service. This luxury train only travels by day to make the most of the spectacular views of scenery and wildlife, and you spend the night in a hotel. From the moment I stepped onboard service was impeccable. The friendly crew kept us entertained with stories and pointed out wildlife and places of interest during the trip. We were lucky enough to see 5 bears including a mother and cubs, and a grizzly bear along the tracks. A tasty breakfast and lunch was served on the train each day and alcoholic drinks were available throughout the trip. Our very comfortable allocated seats were on the upper level of the train, but meals were served downstairs in the dining room with open seating. This gave us a chance to get chatting with many of the different travellers onboard from Canada, USA, England and various Asian countries. During the trip we were free to move around to take photos and chat with other passengers, and there was an open-air vestibule below which made it easier to take photos or get some fresh air. The scenery in the Canadian Rockies is stunning and the wildlife plentiful. We saw bears, elk, deer, bald eagles, mountain goats and many other animals. My favourite of course was the bears. The photos I took don’t do justice to the amazing vistas I saw - it must be experienced first-hand. This train journey is a must for your bucket list! Our journey’s end was in Banff where our 2 sons joined us, and where we spent a few nights. We hired a car to tour around and visited the picturesque Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park and took the Banff gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Driving along the scenic Icefields Parkway to Jasper we were fortunate to come across more bears wandering along the roadside. At the Columbia Icefields, Jasper we crossed the Athabasca Glacier in an Ice Explorer truck with wheels almost as tall as I am - the ice on the glacier is up to 1000 feet thick. We continued to the Jasper Sky Bridge and walked along a glass cliff-edge walkway extended out over the valley. It’s not for the faint hearted! Eventually we made our way back to Vancouver and returned the rented car. It is an easy city to get around and a car is not necessary. Canada Place is at the heart of the city and is from where the cruise ships to Alaska leave and is also close to the float plane terminal. Vancouver is a great city for those who like the great outdoors. Within a short radius you can ski, hike, cycle in Stanley Park, sail or climb a mountain. One of the more memorable excursions we took was a whale watching tour with Prince of Whales tours. We took the boat as far as Vancouver Island and came across a pod of orcas with a one-year old baby who was very playful. We also watched the Sea Lions who covered a large rock near the island. I would also recommend visiting Grouse Mountain by cable car to see the orphaned grizzlies who live at the top and taking a walk along the Capilano suspension rope bridge and tree top walkways. Vancouver has great food markets such as the Granville Island market where you can buy from the local traders and sit and eat in a central seated area. For those who love shopping there are many international brands available and for foodies there are plenty of options. Canada has so much to offer as a tourist destination and the Rockies are a particular draw. I have no hesitation in recommending the Rocky Mountaineer and spending time in Vancouver and Banff or Jasper. It was truly a memorable trip for me and one I hope you may experience too, give me a call if you want me to help you put this amazing trip together, I have plenty more hints and tips for you!
14 April 2019
Last September I spent 3 days travelling the Alsace wine route with my 2 sisters on our annual wine tasting trip. We visited some of the most picturesque fairy-tale villages along this route in our quest to find the best Rieslings of the region. We based ourselves in Colmar in Alsace, in the popular Petite Venise part of town. This old district, with its half-timbered houses and facades decorated with old forged iron shop signs, was so romantic. The colourful half-timbered houses on the Poissonnerie quayside and the small flower-covered bridges spanning the Lauch river added to the charm of the place. A boat tour of the canal is also a lovely way to discover the pretty banks of the Petite Venise. The Hostellerie Le Marechal Hotel is one of the most iconic listed buildings in Colmar and we enjoyed dining in its gourmet restaurant A L’Echevin on our first night. The next morning we took a small group tour of the villages with visits to the vineyards for wine tasting starting in Herrlisheim. It was a very personal tour as there were only 5 of us and we had ample opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the wine making process. The owner was very generous allowing us to taste many of the wines she produced including some fine Grand Cru Rieslings. Next stop was the picturesque medieval town of Turckheim known for its fine wines. After a tasting session we adjourned to a local restaurant with our fellow wine tasting companions for lunch accompanied by the obligatory grand cru Riesling. Riquewihr our last stop is one of the most popular and beautiful of the villages in Alsace and because of this it can get very crowded during the summer. It is a well preserved medieval village hidden among vineyards and the Vosges mountains with cobbled streets dotted with half-timbered winemakers shops and tasting rooms. It is easy to see why Disney’s animators chose Riquewihr for inspiration for Belle's hometown in Beauty and the Beast. It is truly like walking into a fairytale. Among the great restaurants we visited was a typically Alsatian restaurant called a 'winstub'. They are full of character with rustic décor low ceilings and checked tablecloths. Traditional and regional specialities such as sauerkraut, baekeoffe and kougelhopf are served along with local wines. I highly recommend eating in a winstub when you visit Alsace. To get to Alsace we flew to Paris as there are no direct flights to this region, and boarded the train to Colmar which took about 2 and a half hours. The train station is in walking distance to the centre of the town so we could easily walk to our accommodation. Visit Alsace if you love food, wine and picturesque fairy-tale villages.
23 November 2018
I was lucky to be one of a group of six to go on a familiarization trip to St Johns in Newfoundland last September. We left Dublin airport bright and early around 6 in the morning with West Jet Airlines. Our host and tour leader met us at St Johns airport and our adventure began. We took a tour of the highlights of St John’s, with McCarthy’s Party Tours. We started with Signal Hill, a historic site that was the reception point of the first transatlantic wireless signal from Marconi in 1901. From this vantage point there are spectacular views over the sea and St John’s. Next on the list was Cape Spear Lighthouse, Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse. This site is as far east as you can get on the continent - straight across the Atlantic is County Clare. This location is perfect for whale watching in season – middle of May to September. After lunch we visited a quaint fishing village called Quidi Vidi and after strolling around the village we ended up in the Quidi Vidi Brewery - Newfoundland’s largest craft brewery and finished the day with a cold iceberg beer. Exhausted we returned to our hotel for dinner – The Sheraton Hotel was our kind host for the trip. It is in a central location and was perfect for us. We all remarked on how comfortable the beds were. The hotel staff could not have done more for us, always helpful and friendly. Day 2 day started with a trip to the Irish Loop situated on the Avalon Peninsula named for its Irish history spanning 400 years. Newfoundland has a real affinity with Ireland as so many of its citizens are of Irish descent. It was strange to hear people speaking in Wexford and Waterford accents even though they had never visited Ireland, and hearing Irish traditional music playing in pubs. One of the stops on the loop was at Ferryland where we had a Lighthouse Picnic – a Canadian signature experience. On the walk to the lighthouse we were surrounded by the sea on both sides of the path. We took in the magnificent scenery and listened to the sound of the seabirds as we enjoyed our delicious picnic. The Newman wine vaults was our next stop. It tells the story of a 300-year connection between wine produced in Portugal, aged in the cool climate of Newfoundland and sipped by England’s aristocracy for generations. Our final stop was The Rooms – Newfoundland’s largest public cultural space. It is the place where history, heritage and the arts all come together. St Johns has many scenic spots such as Conception Bay where we walked along the beach. We had tea and scones in a local heritage house while being told stories of local folklore and the fairies. After visiting the picturesque town of Brigus we went partridge berry picking at Jugglers Cove and later the hotel chef made jam for us from the berries. The afternoon was finished with a traditional Newfoundland music session accompanied by toutons – a local scone-like treat. One of the unusual percussion instruments they used was the ugly stick - a broom handle with a mop head, a boot and various rings along the stick. Our final day was spent on a fishing trip which departed from Quidi Vidi village. The friendly crew helped us to reel in our cod as it was surprisingly heavy. Amazingly we all managed to catch at least one fish. On our return to the harbour our catch was cooked in front of us – you couldn’t eat fresher! The afternoon was spent in a very Irish style pub listening to traditional Irish music before leaving for the airport for the late flight home. St John’s is ideal for those who love the outdoors as it has over 300km of walking trails. The summer months are the time to come to see the whales and the icebergs that come down from Greenland.
25 March 2019
In May 2017 my husband and I took a 7-night cruise through the Norwegian fjords with Royal Caribbean - another tick off the bucket list! We departed from Cophenhagen and sailed overnight to Stavanger and took a boat tour down the Lysefjorden where the famous Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen is located. This is a steep cliff which towers an impressive 604 metres above the Lysefjorden and is one of Norway’s most visited attractions. It is a challenging 4/5 hour hike to climb to the top where you can take the obligatory selfie, but on that occasion we did not rise to the challenge. Bergen was our next port of call and we visited the colourful old harbour district of Bryggen and took the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen to see the views over the town. Bergen is also famous for its fish market where you can buy fish and have it cooked in front of you. We arrived in Alesund on a beautiful sunny day that happened to be Norway Day. All of the local people were dressed in traditional dress and there was an air of festivity throughout the day with parades and market stalls. Art Nouveau is the style in which most of the town was rebuilt after a fire in 1904. We climbed the 418 steps from the town centre to Mount Aksla to see panoramic views over the town centre, the surrounding archipelago and the fjords. Geiranger Fjord has to be one of the most beautiful fjords in the world and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The night before we arrived in Geiranger the captain let us know that we would be arriving about 5 in the morning. I got up early as the ship moved slowly through the fjord and witnessed the stunning landscape and waterfalls. After breakfast we took a bus tour high up in the mountains above the fjord stopping at the spectacular viewpoints at Eagles Bend and Flydalsjuvet. We were unable to complete our journey to the top of Dalsnibba Mountain due to an avalanche warning in the area. Snow was piled high on the sides of the road and the lake was frozen while down below it was summer. A cruise has to be the most cost-effective way of seeing Norway. To do the same trip by land would cost much more due to the high cost of living there. We had accommodation, food, drink and transport and entertainment included in the price and only had to unpack once. The ship was small enough to be able to dock right in the centre of the towns we visited, and we could sightsee in the morning, have lunch on the ship and disembark again for more sightseeing. If you appreciate unspoilt spectacular scenery then a cruise to Norway is for you!
25 March 2019
Last December my husband and I visited Myanmar (Burma) for our 30th wedding anniversary – a country on our bucket list. We visited Yangon (Rangoon), the temples of Bagan and Inle Lake, all very different from each other. Yangon is a large city and the gateway to Myanmar. Its main attraction is the Shwedagon Pagoda complex, a sacred and impressive Buddhist site. It consists of hundreds of colourful temples and stupas and is partially covered with gold plates and the top is encrusted with thousands of diamonds and precious stones. Truly a sight worth seeing. A short internal flight took us from Yangon to Bagan one of the world's greatest archaeological sites, said to rival Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with less visitors (For now!) Most are well preserved or have been restored by Unesco. Many people like to visit the temple area at sunrise or sunset when the temples take on an ethereal beauty. We took a balloon ride at sunrise floating over the plains and the temples before landing and drinking a welcoming glass of champagne. Another very short flight took us on to Inle Lake – a vast serene lake fringed by marshes and floating gardens, where people live in stilt-house villages and everybody gets around by boat. We spent 2 glorious nights there in a stilted villa by the water. We visited the local markets which move from village to village and watched the leg rowing Intha fishermen as they drove their flat bottom boats by standing on the stern with one leg and using the other leg with the oar to row. The food in Myanmar was surprisingly delicious. I would recommend the Tea leaf salad or the butter fish from Inle Lake. We had a guide in every place we visited and this really added to the experience, as I feel you would miss out on a lot without a guides knowledge. They took us to local restaurants and tea shops where we met the friendly local people, and they were also a fountain of information on the history and culture of Myanmar. I found the people friendly and taking a genuine interest in us, never having met Irish people before and not knowing where Ireland was. There is something for everyone in Myanmar as every place is so different from the next. If Myanmar is on your bucket list go now before the hoards of tourists take over! I can arrange the perfect tailor-made holiday experience for you.
25 March 2019
Do you like to take the road less travelled? Visit Bhutan – land of Gross National Happiness This mountainous Kingdom is nestled in the Himalayas at over 7000 feet. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom known for its monasteries, fortresses – or dzongs – and dramatic landscapes. They range from subtropical plains where bananas are grown to steep mountains and valleys. The most famous monastery is the Paro Taktsang monastery or “Tigers Nest” which clings to the cliffs above the forested Paro Valley. This is one of the main highlights of visiting Bhutan. I climbed to the Tigers Nest last November with my husband, a fairly tough climb taking about 5 hours to complete from start to finish, but if I can do it so can you! We started out at about 7.30 in the morning to avoid the heat and crowds - the views as we climbed were amazing. If you want to avoid climbing all the way, horses can be hired to take you to the halfway point. We were accompanied by our guide who provided us with snacks and ginger tea which is supposed to guard against altitude sickness. Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens happiness levels not the GDP. It believes that wellbeing should take preference over material growth and that the environment should be protected - growing organic crops and not cutting down trees. Bhutan even has negative carbon emissions. Visiting Bhutan is like going back in time. It is virtually untouched by the western world. They only have television since 1999 and many Bhutanese wear national dress.To retain it’s culture and protect it’s environment Bhutan limits visitor numbers, and also requires visitors to spend a minimum amount per day. This prepaid amount covers accommodation, transport, meals and permits for visits and excursions so there is no need to carry cash. The Bhutanese people are polite and friendly and genuinely interested in you. Their favourite food is chillies which they have for every meal, with pink rice. I would recommend this peaceful destination to anybody who likes to go off the beaten track, who likes hiking or trekking and appreciates the beauty of nature.
25 March 2019
As part of a trip to Asia last December my husband and I visited Chiang Rai in Thailand. We stayed there in a fabulous hotel and from our balcony we could see 3 countries – Thailand, Burma and Laos. This is known as the Golden Triangle where the 3 countries meet separated by the Mekong river.It is possible to get close to these countries by taking a long tail boat ride along the river. Our resort had an on-site elephant camp designed as a traditional mahout village. We had the opportunity to feed an elephant bananas at breakfast and take a walk with them in the jungle with their mahouts. We got to bath the elephants and even got to meet a 2 month old baby elephant! Elephants can be very playful as shown in the photograph where one is squirting my husband with water! Many of these elephants were rescued and brought to the camp where they are looked after and now don’t have to work. We took a 3 night package at this hotel and this included an activity every day such as walking with the elephants, a Thai cookery lesson, a spa treatment or a long tail boat ride. We tried the cookery lesson and the food actually turned out as it should and we have the photos to prove it! Before the lesson we met the chef at 7 in the morning to go to the local market to buy fresh produce. She introduced us to strange and wonderful foods I’ve never seen before and then cooked us breakfast on a charcoal cooker in a covered part of the garden used to grow vegetables for the hotel. Very different! We met some very interesting people in our hotel from all over the world and for many the elephants were the draw to this place. This part of Thailand seems relatively unspoilt with its stunning scenery and great ethnic variety which has given birth to a unique culture formed by different clans who retain their individual village structures. This is Thailand as I imagined it - far away from full moon parties!
Co Donegal 25/07/2019