The Crypts Travelgram

Paddywagon Giants Causeway Tour



Ever since I read the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Giants Causeway as a little girl it has always been an item on my Bucket List and I could not have picked a better tour company to go with.

Our day started early at 7.20am with our pick up at the Discover Ireland Office on O'Connell Street. Our bus driver was called 'Val' and believe me when I say this guy should be on stage Live at the Apollo. He was absolutely hilarious. From the minute our journey started Val was full of informative information, hilarious stories and he made all of us on the bus feel like one big happy family.

Our first stop was The Dark Hedges which we all know as Kings Road from the hit TV show Game of Thrones. This was a great photo opportunity being on a real life TV set. Interestingly enough these hedges were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th Century to impress guests upon arrival to their house.




As we traveled along the Causeway Coast Val explained that the piece of land we could spy across the sea was infact the coastline of Scotland, a mere 13 miles away. This is infact one of the most visited destinations in Europe.

Next up was Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. The scenery here is spectacular. If you wish to cross the rope bridge there is a small fee which goes towards to the up keep of the bridge. Unfortunately the bridge was closed for maintenance so we did not get to cross it but thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and tea rooms.




Next stop was the main attraction, The Giants Causeway. A truly impressive site of perfectly shaped hexagonal columns. There is a visitors centre at the Causeway which is included in your tour price. You can then take a leisurely walk to the Causeway or avail of the bus available to bring you to and from the visitor center which is only one pound. The walk down to the Causeway was spectacular with amazing scenery and when we reached the Causeway it was truly amazing and I could not believe I was finally seeing it!!! 





After the Causeway we had another photo stop at Dunluce Castle which has such a tragic history. The castle hangs over the edge of a cliff and in the 1600's part of the castle fell into the sea killing some of its servants. The spirits of these servants are said to haunt the castle. A perfect little story to bring back for The Crypt.

On our way back to Dublin we had a one hour stop in Belfast City. This was amazing because lucky for us it was the first night of the Christmas Markets. With beautiful lights and that festive feeling, this rounded off our day trip perfectly.

We were back in Dublin by 8.30pm after one of the most enjoyable tours ever. At 7.20 that morning we got on the bus a group of strangers and left a group of friends. Paddywagon Tours are the 2018  winners of The Fleet Bus and Coach Awards and one can see why. With a very comfortable coach, superb Tour Guide and extremely punctual itinerary, I will certainly be going on another Paddywagon Tour in 2018.



5/5



'A Taste of Tranquility'


The Rose of Innisfree Boat Tour is a family run business which has been operating for over 20 years. This tour is a must for those with a passion for the works of W.B. Yeats but even if literature is not your thing you will still enjoy the tour with its breath taking scenery.


The boat has two sailings daily at 12.30pm and 3.30pm (weather permitting) and is also available for private bookings and parties. The Skipper George truly brings the poetry and history of the lake alive with recitals and beautiful music. There is a bar available on the boat as well as tea/coffee and scones and whether you want to sit inside or out, comfortable seating is available. 






Peace and tranquility are two words that come to mind for this trip. I was so relaxed and engrossed in all George had to share. This tour is a must for anyone visiting Sligo and is very reasonably priced. For further details or to make a booking simply click on the link below. 

The Rose of Innisfree Tour 
Full marks at 5/5





Westport House Winter Wonderland 2016




On Saturday for The Crypts Travelgram I went along to review Westport Houses Winter Wonderland and what a magical experience it was. Firstly I have to mention it is very important that you book your time on their website to avoid disappointment because they are extremely busy .



So what can you expect from this wonderful festive experience. Well when you arrive at Westport House they have a fabulous Christmas Carnival with a massive big wheel for all the family to enjoy before entering the house.  With a variety of rides and games the children absolutely loved it. 

You will have a specific time for your tour in Winter Wonderland so when you present your tickets you are treated to a free juice for the children and tea coffee or mulled wine for the adults. You will be called when your tour time arrives and a truly holly jolly Christmas treat is in store.

While we were waiting for our time slot we visited the Christmas Wishing Tree where children can make a wish and hang it on the tree and for every wish hung Westport House are donating 1euro to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice which I think is a wonderful gesture.



At the start of the tour you enter a room with Mrs Clause. The atmosphere in this room is so warm and relaxed. Mrs Clause is sat beside a lovely open fire and all the kids sit on the floor on cushions in front of her. She tells them stories and sings songs with help from Squeaky the Elf. She was fantastic with the kids and they all had the chance to have their photo taken with her.




We moved on then to the next room where the children got to decorate gingerbread men, colour pictures and have their face painted. Once again they were assisted by elves who were great fun. 









Following on from here we went to the room with Santa Clause who was fast asleep so we all had to wake him up and the kids got such a kick out of this. He knew special secrets about each child and called their names off the nice list to bring them up for a present and again there was a photo op this time taken professionally and these pictures were available to purchase afterwards. Santa was brilliant and gave very good presents to the kids. It was all just so magical.






The final stop on the tour was my favourite, We all got to make our own Yule Logs, elves are there again to assist the children and not only are they great fun to make but they are also a fantastic keep sake from the day.








I have reviewed a few places on my website to visit this Christmas but I have to say Westport Houses Winter Wonderland was my favourite. It is extremely well organised and if this experience doesn’t get you in the festive spirit I don’t know what will……full marks here of 5/5 and don’t forget to pre-book your visit on their website




 

Galway Skates and Elf Town Christmas 2016

The holiday season is upon us and Galway City is full of festive cheer and numerous family events to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. For this months travelgram I visited Galway Skates and Elf Town and truly had the most magical day.









Galway Skates opened on November 19th at Leisureland in Salthill. The 600sq.m. ice-rink is enclosed in a marquee so you can skate whatever the weather and the rink will remain open  until January 8th. 


Upon arrival we collected our skates at the skate dock and I was quite nervous because I had never been skating before so I was delighted to see they had little penguin buddies on the ice that you could hold onto to keep your balance. This was a God send and even though I looked like an old lady with a zimmerframe I wouldn't have made it around the ice without it lol. You can imagine my face when my 10 year old daughter who has only been skating once before took off with the penguin across the ice with zero fear. So if you have not been skating before don't worry there are aids there to help you.





The staff at Galway Skates were super friendly and made us feel so welcome and a special mention to the staff on the rink itself who are there to help if you run into any difficulty. This also gives peace of mind to parents but saying that any child that I seen fall on the ice just laughed it off and got straight back up. Including my little elf!





There is plenty of seating for those of you who just wish to watch and a first aid corner should anyone need assistance. I must mention also the great music being played as you skate, the disco lights and the awesome atmosphere. I highly recommend visiting Galway Skates, the ample parking makes it highly accessible and you will create some great memories with the family. 

5/5 Snowballs




Adults: €15
Children (under 12): €13
Students (with proof): €13
Unwaged (with proof): €10
Groups (10 or more skaters): €10
Family (any four family members): €48
Family Plus (any five family members): €60
For Group Bookings and Private Hire prices please e-mail info@galwayskates.com.
To purchase tickets please call to the ticket desk in the Ice Marquee at Leisureland during opening times.
For more see www.galwayskates.com


After the super fun we had at Galway Skates we visited Elf Town which is situated in the old Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street. This was just so magical from start to finish. 


The experience is delivered through theatrical storytelling with various characters including cheeky Elves, a Snow Princess, Mrs Claus and of course Santa himself. The journey through Elf Town takes just over an hour.









Each child is given an Elf Hat and Passport and they must collect four stamps for the passport as they travel through the town thus becoming part of the story themselves. The actors were fantastic and so good with the children. Various activities throughout included a visit to the Elves toy workshop, postal station and mission control, decorating ginger bread men with Mrs Clause, throwing snow balls, colouring and there are some brilliant photo ops.











At the end of the journey through Elf Town the children get to meet Santa. This part of the experience was so well organised. Instead of standing in a que for ages you enter a room where you can get tea/coffee and snacks and there are games for the children. An Elf takes your ticket number and you get called when its your turn so both children and adults are entertained during the wait. Santa was fantastic and all the children felt this was the real Santa because he knew secrets about them that no one else could know. Your child receives a present and you can either take a photo yourself or have it done professionally.






Elf Town is a must see in Galway in the build up to Christmas. They truly captured the magic of the season in their event. Pre-booking is essential as many time slots are sold out.


Child (Under 2 Years) - €4.95




Child (Under 12 Years) - €19.95




Adult / Carer (Over 12 Years) - €9.95




Family (2 Adults & 2 Children) - €54.80




Family (2 Adults & 3 Children) - €74.50




Family (2 Adults & 4 Children) - €89.40



5/5 Elves

Click this Link to Book






And of course we could not leave Galway without having a spin on the big wheel which is part of the Christmas Market on Eyre Square. I recommend doing this when it gets dark because the lights of the market and the city are spectacular.




Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!!!!


Mary Gibbons Newgrange and Hill of Tara Tour




At 5000 years old this neolithic passage tomb is older than Stonehenge, older than The Pyramids and has always been high up on my bucket list so it was essential for Newgrange in The Boyne Valley County Meath to be a feature in The Crypt's Travelgram. I came across Newgrangetours.com online and when I seen the tour also incorporated The Hill of Tara, the ancient Royal site of The High Kings of Ireland, I knew this was the tour for me. 





Mary Gibbons who facilitates the tour is the sister of Michael Gibbons, one of Ireland's leading field archaeologists. Upon boarding the bus I was delighted to be gifted with Michael's book 'Connemara: Visions of Lar Chonnacht.' The text is by Michael with beautiful paintings by Reingard Gahan taking you on a unique tour through the wild and beautiful Connemara. Mary is an extremely friendly lady who you immediately feel you have known for ages. 





The Tour has 5 pick up points including the Mespil Hotel (Mespil Road), Doubletree Hotel (Donnybrook) The Merrion Hotel, Shelbourne Hotel (St Stephens Green) and outside The AIB Bank on Upper O'Connell Street, making the tour easily accessible to people. Both the bus and all entrance fees are included in the price of the tour. 





From the moment the bus starts it's journey Mary educates all her guests on the fascinating history of all the sites on the route. So you don't just get the history of Newgrange and Tara, you learn all about Ireland through the ages, from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron age, The Vikings to English Rule. Mary has a true gift for story telling and her very witty personality had everyone on the bus laughing. I learned so much on this bus journey and found it extremely enjoyable.





Our first stop was The Hill of Tara. This is truly a magical experience. To think of all the High Kings who were inaugurated on this spot and the rituals and ceremonies that took place there. But it was also poignant to imagine this was the spot that 400 rebels died in the rebellion of 1798. The views are spectacular and on a clear day you can see 23 of the 32 counties of Ireland from Tara and of course it has superb ceremonial monuments including The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny which stands about 1 meter in height and is considered by some to be a fertility symbol. Legend states that upon a Kings inauguration the stone would roar its approval of a worthy King.





Following Tara we went to the visitor centre of Bru na Boinne which is situated around the wide bend in the River Boyne. The Centre is stunning with a souvenir shop and a spacious tea room with a great selection on their menu to choose from. A great advantage of Mary's tour is she has an allocated time slot to go into Newgrange so there is no delay being stuck in long ques giving you time for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat. The centre also had a fantastic exhibition that describes the society that created the Neolithic Tombs, their homes, dress, food, tools and weapons. 








When our allocated time arrived we were brought by bus up to Newgrange where we were met by a tour guide who gives you the full history of the site. Our tour guide, like Mary, had a very witty personality and made the history lesson so enjoyable.




To stand inside Newgrange is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. It is mind blowing to think how this tomb was constructed and in all the years it has been there, not one drop of water has entered the tomb and considering the rain we get in Ireland that is impressive. What is also impressive is the beautiful megalithic art on the stones which to this day we still do not know the significance of. As I am sure you all know the passage and chamber in Newgrange is illuminated by the sun on the Winter Solstice and all guests have the opportunity to enter a lotto to be in with a chance to experience it.





When we came to the end of the tour Mary took the time to speak to each and every one of her guests to see if they enjoyed their day and hear their stories. 


So if you are thinking about going to The Hill of Tara and Newgrange I cannot recommend Mary Gibbons' Newgrange Tours highly enough. A truly enjoyable, fun, magical experience and I give it 5/5










The Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam




Vincent Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in 1853. Vincent liked to draw as a child but worked many jobs before becoming a full time artist at the age of 27. He worked as a teacher in London, a minister, he also worked in a book shop, an art gallery and as a missionary. He started out sketching pictures using charcoal sticks and pencils eventually moving on to oil paints. Earlier in his career Vincent used a lot of dark colours which can be seen in his most famous earlier painting 'The Potato Eaters' that featured a peasant family eating potatoes for dinner.


Vincent was very much unappreciated in his time on this earth. His brother Theo was his biggest supporter and would give him money and try to sell his paintings but unfortunately no one would by them. He told Vincent about the new style of painting in Paris called Imressionism (a style of painting that captures a feeling or experience in a moment). Vincent decided he would move to Paris to learn from these painters and became very influenced by artists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro. He now began to use brighter colours in his paintings and loved to paint subjects from the countryside and streets and cafes of Paris. He also loved drawing portraits and when he did not have a model to draw he would practice by painting self portraits resulting in over 20 of these paintings.





In 1888 he moved to Arles, France. During his time here he painted hundreds of paintings, sometimes he spent so much time painting he would forget to eat which affected his health. He continued to use brighter colours and would sometimes put the paint on the canvas directly from the tubes which meant the paintings would take weeks to dry because the paint was so thick. In 1889 Van Gogh's mental state was deteriorating so he signed himself into a mental hospital. It was during this time that he painted one of his most famous pieces, Starry Night.




We all know the infamous story that he cut off his ear which is 100% true. He used a razor blade and then wrapped it in a cloth and gave it to a woman as a present.

By 1890 his mental health had gotten worse and sadly on July 29th of that year he died from a self inflicted bullet wound to the chest.

It is so sad that he dedicated is life to his art which went unappreciated and now this man is considered one of the worlds most influential artists with his paintings selling for millions and he never lived to see it.





During my trip to Amsterdam I visited The Van Gogh Museum which contains the worlds largest collection of works by Van Gogh. Upon arrival I realised how lucky I was to be on a press visit because the ques to get in were extremely long which is a testament to the appreciation of his works.

The museum itself has a stunning glass entrance hall with everything clearly sign posted for you to find your way around with easy access for wheelchairs to all floors.

I first visited the exhibition, Easy Virtue, Prostitution in French Art. which brings you on a journey learning about prostitution through paintings of women soliciting on streets, wealthy courtesans and brothels. This was an excellent exhibition drawing empathy for these women and the lifestyles which many were forced to live often resulting in death from syphilis. The collection includes paintings from Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso and  many more. 

Walking through the Van Gogh Collection you learn all about the history of the man and his works so even if you are not well up on Vincent Van Gogh, your journey through the exhibition will teach you all you need to know. I particularly loved the collection of his Japanese inspired pieces.

The Van Gogh Musuem is a must visit in Amsterdam, to witness these master pieces was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it. 

I rate this tourist attraction 4/5



Amsterdam Dungeon



Amsterdam Dungeon is an interactive experience telling the dark history of Amsterdam through horror theater. As you walk through the dungeon you witness short performances by actors which include tales of medievil torture, the plague, Rembrandt workshop with human corpse vivisection and witch trials. All of this is accompanied by flashing lights, smells, sounds and for most of your journey you are in the dark. 




The Dungeon was one of the highlights of my trip to Amsterdam. From the very start you experience what it must have been like for slaves and prisoners hundreds of years ago as you are packed into a small dark cell with other visitors while you wait your turn for the tour. My advice though is to make sure you have a drink with you for your wait as it can get quite warm in the cell.




Part of the excitement on the tour is being in the dark. You don't know what to expect. Lights can go off and when they turn on again one of the actors is right in your face giving you the ultimate jump scare. The actors where amazing and their interaction with the crowd was hilarious. My favourite incident was in the torture room as one of the male visitors was put in the torture chair and the actresses interaction with him had everyone laughing out loud. 

The special effects throughout the tour were fantastic and when you enter the maze of mirrors you get completely disorientated and have to find your way out.




I don't want to go into too much detail of what is in each room because it will ruin it for you. I went in not knowing what to expect so this gave me a thrilling experience. Amsterdam Dungeon is a must see for anyone who visits Holland. My only negative point is when you are leaving you have the opportunity to buy pictures of yourself on the tour which I thought were a bit too expensive but other than that I have no complaints. I give this tourist attraction 4/5



A massive thank you to Chiel for my press tour of the Dungeon.




The Crypt's TravelGram Titanic Belfast





I remember when I was around 8 years old, my Dad bought me a collection of Disney books, one of which was an encyclopedia. Within its pages was the story of the great unsinkable ship, TITANIC. I was completely taken by the tragic story of this luxurious ship who on her maiden voyage sank after hitting on iceberg on the night of April 14th through to the morning of April 15th 1912 resulting in the death of 1503 passengers and crew.

Then in my teens when the movie Titanic was released it became a movie I watched over and over again, not just because of the love story between Jack and Rose but the story of all those people who set sail with hopes and dreams of a new life only to loose their life on that starlit moonless night.




So of course to start off my new segment on the radio show called The Crypt's Travelgram where I visit and review unique locations and attractions throughout Ireland, Titanic Belfast had to be my first port of call.

Have a listen to the link below for my review of this amazing attaction with PR and Communications Executive from Titanic Belfast Sarah Hamilton-Cardy. Titanic Belfast was an item on my Bucket List and it surpassed all my expectations. Both myself and my ten year old little girl had the time of our lives and I cannot recommend this interactive experience highly enough. 5/5 just click play below to hear all about it.




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