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December 11, 2018

Christmas Around The World


As the holidays quickly approach, people from all over the world are preparing to celebrate Christmas. We are taking a look at the different traditions from around the world which make celebrating this special day so unique.

Ireland: In Ireland, the Christmas décor, including Ireland’s Christmas Markets, comes in full swing December 8th, and celebrations last until January 6th.  To celebrate the holiday, the Irish are known to hang up mistletoe in their houses, as the ancient Celts had believed that mistletoe had secret healing powers. More recently, the people of Ireland have also begun to add a Christmas tree to their list of holiday décor. Other ways to celebrate Christmas in Ireland include making “The Winter Warmer”, a hot whiskey to stay warm during the colder months, participating in a “Christmas swim”, and lighting candles in your windows during Christmas Eve.

Italy: Like Ireland, Italy begins their Christmas celebrations on December 8th and continues the festivities until January 6th. If visiting Italy during the holidays, you will find bagpipe playing shepherds performing tunes in piazzas, normally dressed in traditional sheepskin and wool cloaks. In Rome, crowds will gather in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s evening mass on Christmas Eve. He will then appear at the basilica’s balcony on Christmas to give his blessing. At midnight on Christmas Eve, you will be sure to hear the ringing of church bells and if staying in Rome, you will also hear the cannons being fired from Castel Sant’Angelo, in celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Scotland: Christmas is a holiday that was once banned in Scotland, from 1640 – 1958 due to religious conflict, which means that Scottish Christmas traditions are relatively new. Some of these newfound traditions include the baking of Yule bread, a delicious treat made with caraway seeds which resembles a rope arranged into a circle. Other Scottish traditions are superstitious, many of which revolve around fire. The most famous practice is the burning of the Cailleach, also known as the Hag of Winter who brought the cold and darkness, in hopes of banishing cold, darkness, and hardships in the future.

Wherever you decide to celebrate the holiday season, we wish you a time of happiness, prosperity, and good health.

Buon Natale. Nollaig Shona Duit. Ablythe Yuletide. Merry Christmas.


 

November 19, 2018

Must-See Attractions in Dublin

Dublin is known for being a cultural hub in Ireland, with its many museums, historical sites, and literary attractions. Tourists are able to immerse themselves in the Irish culture while learning of the country’s background. This is an ideal location for those who deem themselves a literary or history buff, with many must-see attractions. If you find yourself having a spare day or two in Dublin, here are some places that we think are worth visiting:

St. Patrick’s Cathedral: As the largest cathedral and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s has been at the heart of Dublin and Ireland’s history and culture for over 800 years. Since Saint Patrick baptized Christian converts nearby over 1500 years ago, this holy site has been a place of spiritual encounter for countless generations. Visit and experience our history, our place in the life of the city, and our tradition of worship.

Guinness Storehouse: Located in the heart of the St. James's Gate Brewery, the Guinness Storehouse® is Ireland's most popular tourist attraction. It's the home of the Black Stuff, the heart of Dublin and an unforgettable start to your Irish adventure. The journey begins at the bottom of the world's largest pint glass and continues up through seven floors filled with interactive experiences that fuse our long brewing heritage with Ireland's rich history. At the top, you'll be rewarded with a pint of perfection in our world-famous rooftop Gravity Bar.

St. Stephen’s Green: If you find yourself needing a break from the fast-paced atmosphere of a city, venture over to St. Stephen’s green, a public park in Dublin, with a Victorian layout. St. Stephen’s Green is a great place to mix with the locals and rest your legs.

Ha’penny Bridge: Venture over the Ha’penny Bridge, famously known as the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey. While this bridge is known by several names, the name “Ha’penny Bridge” refers to the toll that pedestrians used to pay (a halfpenny) in order to cross.

EPIC Museum: EPIC tells the moving and unforgettable stories of those who left the island of Ireland, and how they influenced and shaped the world. EPIC embraces the past and the future with 1,500 years of Irish history and culture housed in its atmospheric vaults. Watch characters from the past tell one-of-a-kind tales of adventure and perseverance, conflict and discovery, belief and community.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells: Trinity College was created in 1592 by a royal charter, at a time when universities were being established throughout Western Europe. The 690-page Book of Kells is the centerpiece of the “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition which attracts over 500,000 visitors to Trinity College every year. Written around 800 AD, the Book of Kells contains a richly decorated copy of the four gospels in a Latin text, written on vellum (prepared calfskin). The script is embellished by the elaboration of keywords and phrases and by an endlessly inventive range of decorated initials and interlinear drawings.

 

November 1, 2018

Leisure Passes

Did you know that Celtic Tours partners with the Leisure Pass Group to bring you top attractions and hop on hop off bus tours in cities such as Dublin, London, and Rome!

Dublin Pass: The Dublin Pass is a sightseeing city card which allows visitors to experience everything Dublin has to offer while saving both time & money. The Dublin Pass includes free entry to over 30 top attractions, monuments, and museums, as well as a wide range of additional discounts and dining offers.

What’s included?
  • Entry to over 30 of Dublin’s most popular attractions, sights, and landmarks – such as Guinness Storehouse, Teelings Whisky, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, EPIC Ireland, Irish Rock ‘n Roll Museum, Jameson Distillery, & more!
  • “Hop-on-Hop-off” bus tour to discover Dublin’s top attractions and landmarks with a 24hr ticket
  • Discounts and exclusive offers at 20 extra venues, only available to Dublin Pass holders (such as a free gift at Carrol’s Irish Gifts with a €25 purchase, or a free whiskey glass at the Celtic Whiskey Shop!)
  • Fast-Track entry at selected Dublin attractions, allowing you to skip queue lines
  • Guidebook to help plan your sightseeing adventure and guide you around the city!

London Pass: The London Pass is the ultimate sightseeing package that has been tailor-made for those looking to explore the city. The London Pass gives holders the ability to make the most out of their trip, with visits to top sights and attractions; saving both time and money.

What’s included?
  • Entry to over 80 attractions, tours, and museums, including Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and more!
  • “Hop-on-Hop-off” bus tour to discover London’s top attractions and landmarks with a 24hr ticket
  • Fast-Track entry at selected London attractions, allowing you to skip queue lines
  • Open Late – Ascend to London’s highest building, at The View from The Shard
  • Instant mobile ticket option allows you to access the London Pass from your Smartphone device
  • 160+ page guidebook packed with helpful tips, info, and maps
  • Over 20 exclusive special offers available to London Pass customers

Rome Pass – Omnia Multi-Pass: The Omnia Vatican & Rome card is a sightseeing package which gives holders free entry to top attractions in the city, and allows you to make the most out of your time, with skip the line access for some of Rome’s top attractions!

What’s included?
  • Entry to the Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel – plus free WIFI downloadable audio guide for St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Entry to your choice of 2 out of 6 of Rome’s top attractions, including the Coliseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museums, Borghese Gallery, and National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Fast-Track entry to St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, & The Coliseum
  • “Hop-on-Hop-off” bus tour to discover Rome’s top attractions and landmarks with a 72hr ticket
  • Travel card for unlimited access to Rome’s public transport system
  • A detailed guidebook to help plan the perfect trip
  • Discounted entry to an additional 30+ sights, attractions, and museums in Rome

The Leisure Pass is an affordable option which allows you to add value to your next city stay in Dublin, London, or Rome. Contact your local travel agent to book your Leisure Pass today!
 

October 15, 2018


Traveling with Technology 

Technology can help alleviate some of the frustrations that people tend to experience while traveling. This blog covers a few ways that you can use technology to avoid a stressful situation.

Email yourself a scan of your passport: Scanning a copy of your passport will provide you with key information such as your passport number, issue date, and expiration date in case your passport has been lost or stolen.

Use Google Maps offline: Google Maps can get you out of a jam if you’re lost or trying to find a place, but it doesn’t help you if you’re traveling out of country and trying to avoid roaming charges from your cellular provider. The fix is to save Google Maps directions offline so you can access the info without using data. Here’s how to do it. (Hint: do this before you go offline).

How to save Google Maps directions offline
  • On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app.
  • Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
  • Search for a place, like Palm Springs, Madrid, you get the idea.
  • At the bottom of the page, tap the name or address of the place (in the white bar).
  • If you search for a “place” like a restaurant, tap More.
  • Select Download.
Check your flight’s entertainment options before boarding, and make sure you have any necessary apps: Make sure that you check your flight’s entertainment options prior to boarding, so you can download any apps necessary to have in-flight entertainment.

Store power cords in a small case – such as an old sunglasses case: Storing cords in one place, such as an old sunglasses case, will help alleviate the stress of trying to find them mid-flight!

Bring a converter: European countries use different outlets then what we have in the U.S. Make sure to have the correct adapter with you when traveling, so you are able to charge your phone. Going to multiple countries? Not every country in Europe requires the same converter, so ensure that you are prepared for each country you will be visiting.
 

October 5, 2018


Haunted Tales of the Emerald Isle

October is a time full of fun festivities, delicious treats, and scary stories as we gear up to celebrate Halloween. Did you know that this frighteningly fun holiday originated in Ireland? Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. Halloween has since evolved with fun festivities and games. Even though this holiday is celebrated by many, Ireland is home to some of the biggest Halloween festivities in the world. 
 

The Best Halloween Destination in the World

Derry, voted the "Best Halloween Destination in the World" in 2015, earned its title through their expansive offering of festivities including; fireworks, musical performances, haunted trails and more. Learn of the haunted tales of the walled city, which is said to have ghosts roaming throughout. One haunting tale includes the story of the White Horse Hotel, which is rumored to be haunted by a mail stagecoach and ghostly driver. Legends say that these ghosts pull up to the hotel, only to mysteriously disappear. Another area within Derry which has been said to be haunted includes London Street, a popular area for pubs, stores, and ghosts. There have been several reports of strange noises, ghost sightings, and unexplainable occurrences. These are just a few of the many ghostly sightings within Derry.

The Most Haunted Pub in Ireland

If you are looking for a place to enjoy some good drinks, food, and history, perhaps visit Grace Neills, which is said to be the most haunted pub in Ireland. Grace Neills was established in 1611, making it one of the oldest pubs in Donaghadee. Over time this establishment has been visited by smugglers, pirates, sailors, and of course ghosts! Members of staff have reported mysterious occurrences of glass and books moving around on their own, lights randomly flickering on and off, and slow footsteps being heard from above. While these random occurrences are sure to leave any customer feeling spooked, there have also been ghost sightings within and around the pub. There have been reported sightings of a Victorian lady lurking about in the darker recesses of the premises, and people have claimed to have felt an invisible presence pass through them, in the vicinity of the pub's staircase.
 

Kilmainham Gaol

It's no surprise that this jail is one of the most haunted places within Dublin. Reports of ghostly activity have been recorded since the 1960s. Flickering lights, the sound of mysterious footsteps, and workers being knocked over by random gusts of wind, are some of the many stories told by workers. Interested in checking out the supposedly haunted site yourself? You are able to visit the Gaol today, but keep in mind, strange things tend to happen here.