Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

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5 Great October Holiday Deals from Ireland

5 Great October Holiday Deals from Ireland

5 great last minute October getaway deals – out of Ireland

I figure it is only fair to acknowledge that some of you (and sometimes me, too!) like to travel out of Ireland for October Bank Holiday & Midterm breaks. I was given the scoop on 5 good October holiday deals on expedia.ie; from family fun in Barcelona, to rugby in London, to Vegas baby!

Explore Secret Brussels with Wondrous Wanders

Explore Secret Brussels with Wondrous Wanders

Which tempt you? Maybe the Dominican Hotel on the 15th century abbey site in Brussels? I know someone who does fantastic Brussels walking tours; Wondrous Wanders— do check them out! **UPDATE: Wendy from Wondrous Wanders just told me the Dominican Hotel is one of her favorites! Ace recommendation!**

Leave the Halloween ghouls and ghosts behind and grab yourself a great last minute deal

After a disappointing summer some travellers may be looking to sneak in one last holiday before winter weather takes hold. With that in mind, Expedia.ie has curated some great deals for getaways during the October bank holiday and mid-term break for those who want to escape the Halloween trick-or-treaters at home or who are in search of some ghouls and ghosts abroad.

Las Vegas has become an increasingly popular destination for Irish travellers with bookings to the city from Dublin through Expeida.ie up  100% year on year.* Sin City takes Halloween very seriously, with themed parties in many of the bars on the strip, haunted house tours and the annual Las Vegas Halloween Parade.

Return flights for two and a six night stay in the 4-star Palms Casino Resort start from €821 per person sharing, including taxes and fees, an average saving of €115 altogether when booking flight and hotel together through Expedia.ie. Fly from Dublin Airport to Las Vegas via Newark airport on Tuesday 27th October, returning on Monday 2nd November 2015.

Chase the sun and discover Barcelona with the family. Those looking for a family getaway closer to home should consider spending the bank holiday in Barcelona. The city offers many family friendly tours including a day trip to Port Aventura, a tour of FC Barcelona and a child-friendly medieval tour of the Gothic Quarter.

Return flights for two adults and two children with a stay in the 3½ star 2-bedroom Sweet Inn Apartments for three nights from €461 per person sharing, an average saving of €138 altogether when flights and hotel are booked together. Fly from Dublin direct to Barcelona on Friday 23rd of October returning on Monday 26th of October 2015.

Soak up the atmosphere of the Rugby semi- finals in London. Despite the high attendance of Irish fans at the rugby matches this month, there are still flight and hotel deals to London for the Bank Holiday, which coincides with the semi-final games, if you’re hoping to soak up the atmosphere in London. The city also offers plenty of ‘spooktacular’ tours for travellers looking to get into the Halloween spirit, including a Grim Reaper Walking Tour around 15th century East End Streets, a Ghosts of the City evening walking tour and of course tours of the Harry Potter sets at the Warner Brothers Studios.

Return flights for two and a three night stay in the 4-star Re London Shoreditch from just €374 per person sharing, an average saving of €61 per person, when flying from Dublin direct to London Heathrow on Friday 23rd of October returning on Monday 26th of October.

Looking for a bank holiday with a difference? From former prisons to converted monasteries,  Expedia.ie has a range of hotels with a twist for those looking for a spooky getaway. The Lloyd Hotel and Culture Embassy in Amsterdam is the first 1 to 5 star design hotel in the world, and in its previous life was used as a shelter for Jewish refugees before World War II, as an adult prison, and later became a juvenile detention centre before becoming a hotel in 2001, a seriously spooky setting to spend All Hallow’s Eve. A 3-Star room for two people for two nights starts at €193 per person sharing, an average saving of €70 altogether from the 30th of October to the 1st of November 2015 when booking through Expedia.ie.

The Dominican hotel situated on the site of a fifteenth century abbey in Brussels is another eerie hotel which could give you chills, if you’re looking for a place to haunt on Halloween night, with vaulted ceilings and sweeping archways sure to set the mood. Two nights for two people sharing from only €135 per person, an average saving of €30 when booking through Expedia.ie

 

Happy travelling this October!


This July, break out your hairspray & return to the glory days of the 80’s- Spandau Ballet are playing at the fabulous Eden Project on the 9th!

YHA has great value accommodation for this gig, and I’m a huge fan of staying with them, so I’m passing on this info to you. Be sure to share photos if you go!! 😀
Spandau Ballet are coming to the Eden Project!

Spandau Ballet are coming to the Eden Project!

John Keeble, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp will play at the Eden Project as part of their Soulboys of the Western World tour, described by The Times as “Setting the gold standard in arena soul-boy rock”.

Spandau Ballet have sold more than 25 million records and had multi-platinum albums and 23 hit singles across the world since they began as a group of friends with dreams of stardom back in the late 1970s. It wouldn’t be long before they established themselves asa one of the super-groups of the 80s.

After two decades apart, the band reformed in 2009 and embarked on a sell-out tour.

 

Location: Eden Project, Date: 9th July 2015

Overnight stay:YHA Eden Project – we have on-site accommodation available for the gig including camping from just £12.50 per person, bell tents from £120 per night for up to six people, and our Snoozebox rooms from £89 per night.
Booking details: Visit Eden Project to book tickets. To book on-site accommodation, visitYHA Eden Project. More information about the other Eden Sessions can be found here.


mr.magregor's garden painting

Mr. Magregor’s Garden

An Irish Art Gallery – The Doorway Gallery – is popping up in London!

London is one of the best big cities in the world when it comes to seeing art, much of it cutting edge. But sometimes, especially in the buzz of a 24 hour city, you crave a bit of comfort and a escape away from the harder edges of urban life. Some of the Irish art coming over to London for a special pop-up gallery the week of 26 Oct – 2 November will give you that romantic softness you may crave, as well as other styles to enjoy.

Why not call by, and perhaps Meet the Artist on the Opening 28 October? 

I’ll be travelling to London myself and staying at my favorite affordable accommodation in The City – sadly I arrive 3 November, just a day too late for this show! But do stay tuned to my social media accounts, as I’ll be sharing London photos & travel tips from my trip. And for more info on The Doorway Gallery’s pop-up gallery in London, please see below:

The Doorway Gallery comes to London for one week!

October 26th – November 2nd  

The Chart Gallery,62 Old Church St, London SW3 6DP

 

The Whispering Room painting

The Whispering Room

The Doorway Gallery is resident to a beautiful Georgian building, located in the busy arts quarter of Dublin city centre. The gallery is spaciously spread out over two floors, filled with a broad variety of amazing creations. We are an affordable and affable Gallery, representing established Irish artists.The Doorway Gallery will exhibit in a unique pop-up gallery at The Chart Gallery, 62 Old Church Street, London SW3 6DP,  for one week only.

Immerse yourself in the best of Irish art, and take the opportunity to meet the Artist and see how they create. The Gallery launches with a bang, kicking off with a live demonstration from well-known Irish artist , Roisin O’Farrell.  Be there for the opening night of October 28th, between 6 and 9pm.

We will be exhibiting Christy Keeney’s latest work, as well as those by, Cormac O’Leary, Lucy Doyle, Roisin O’Farrell, Kate Beagan, Chris Wilson, Ken Browne, Heidi Wickham, Padraig McCaul, and many more.

Take the time to enjoy this unique experience, to find out for yourself what The Doorway Gallery has to offer. We are certain your visit won’t be a wasted one.

Gallery Hours: 10 – 7pm

Opening Launch: Tuesday 28th October

Time: 6-8pm

Address: The Chart Gallery, 62 Old Church Street, London SW3 6DP

More information: www.thedoorwaygallery.com


The love ’em or hate ’em (lots of people love!) paintings by Lowry are on exhibit at Tate Britain until 20 October 2013, and it looks to be a very interesting show. I haven’t been, * wistful sigh* but if I was in London it would be top of my list. Have a look:
[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/HJ_gTI_xOkQ” title=”Lowry%20at%20Tate%20Britain”]

 

Tickets for the Lowry exhibit are  £16.50 (without donation £15.00) &  Concession £14.50 (without donation £13.10) The majority of Tate Britain is free, though, so do have a browse of their website.I imagine the Lowry is going to be quite busy, so I’d reccommend buying your ticket ahead of time or you may not get the time you want. It’s quite nice to take the ‘Tate Boat’ along the Thames from Tate Britain to Tate Modern. It is a quick way to get between the two, and of course the views are fantastic- you’ll pass by many London landmarks. Enjoy!


Looking at The Shard from across the Thames on my solo travel London

Solo Travel to London!

In the Spring of 2012 I first visited London. What a fantastic city! If you love the arts, enjoy history, and just generally like exploring new places & ideas, you will find lots to make you happy in London. There are even gorgeous gardens!

London is special for me, because it was the first place I traveled to after suffering for years with a very painful, chronic, injury. And I went solo. This was a little daunting, as I hadn’t been travelling at all for many years, and it was about 15 years since I had done solo travel. I was a bit worried about safety, and finding my way around.

 

Invaluable sites for London visitors

Before I went did plenty of research online, talked with friends who had been, studied the tube map & Google Streetview to familiarize myself with the places I was going. I also made constant use of the journey planner at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ These things helped me feel confident about not getting too lost, and checking the times listed on the journey planner meant I had an idea how long I might have to wait at a bus or tube stop at night after going out. They could help you, too. I’ve also found a brilliant app for my smartphone. I swear by it- it is even better than the tfl journey planner:  CityMapper . Try it!

 

Do a Bit of Re-Con

Of course nothing as the same as being there, seeing it with your own eyes. For me it was helpful to not have anything planned on the 1st afternoon; just walking around and orienting myself. I knew there was a concert I wanted to see, & might have to walk home from at night, so I did the route first during the day to judge journey time and see if it felt safe. On the walk I found that I could take a bus for the vast majority of the route, which eased my mind. Perhaps all this pre-prep it seems silly, but I’d never been to such a big city before & I wasn’t sure what to expect. Plus, hubby back home felt better about my solo travel safety, too! Google Streetview is also a big help in visually knowing what to expect.

London Tube

Keeping Updated Helps!

I made good use of Twitter beforehand and during mt visit,  following London accounts to keep updated on travel/tube disruptions & weather as well as London accounts that interested me. Twitter is fantastic as it keeps you updated in real-time, which is invaluable when there are transport disruptions & you need to know ASAP. If you make a specific Twitter list, a quick check will tell you what you need without have to sort through unrelated tweets in your main Twitter stream.

Stay In A Great Location 

I tend to stay in the City, at St Paul’s YHA. Because I’m a culture vulture on a budget & (ideally) visit London often, in order to do that I have to stay inexpensively. St Paul’s is perfectly located for me, near loads of Tube & train stations (Blackfriars, for example makes it easy to get to Gatwick airport) AND it is in the heart of a cultural quartet which I visit often- Tate Modern, Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

The #4 bus stops just up from the hostel and will bring you easily to Southbank at one end, & Sadler’s Wells Theatre at the other (and beyond.) The hostel is near plenty more, too- for example, Somerset House, the London Museum, and you could throw a stone & hit St Paul’s Cathedral, it is that close. The tourist office is just round the corner,too. Many places are within walking distance.

The YHA St Paul’s isn’t fancy, and the building dates from the 1800s, but for location & value in London it is hard to beat. The area is much quieter than other parts of London, especially at night (except for the bells- bring earplugs— but MUCH better than the wailing sirens you often hear elsewhere.) The hostel has private rooms, and gender specific dorms of 6 beds each.

TIPS:
If you aren’t great at climbing, ask for a bottom bunk, as there are no ladders.

Also there is only 1 (!) electrical outlet in  many of the dorm rooms so bring an extension lead if you can. Makes sharing charging time so much easier.

The rooms have a sink, but toilets & showers are shared. I’ve been 6 times and have always found everything very clean.

Breakfast buffet is £5. There’s plenty on offer, but I’m not keen on the quality of the meat products- I’m used to lovely Irish sausage & rashers I guess 🙂 & the coffee is not great.

There is a Marks & Spencer food shop full of ready to eat, tasty food across the street from the Cathedral & hostel. An inexpensive way to keep fed 🙂

 

Tip: #WeGoSolo

Another great tip for solo women travelers is to check out #WeGoSolo Twitter chat Wednesdays at 4pm GMT– women who (sometimes or often) travel solo and love to share tips, ideas, and stories with other women traveling solo or considering solo travel. Mariellen from BreatheDreamGo started the #WeGoSolo Twitter chat & it is growing by leaps & bounds. You can read more about how it started, & follow her blog- she is an expert on India in particular.

 

Here are a few of the other women in the #WeGoSolo community:

Andrea Rees, Founder of The heART of a Woman Project, a mobile photography intitive to empower women impacted by poverty & create a sustainable income through photographic art sales. Current Project: South Africa #thoawsa

Sharon of Dream Travel Magazine, an online travel magazine.

Clare Laming, a Belfast girl with a passion for travel and food.

There are many others, too! Join us all in the Twitter chat next Wednesday. You don’t always have to be a solo traveler to join in- many of us are married & just travel solo sometimes. Only criteria is that you are a woman. Sorry, guys  🙂

Here are a few photos from past visits:
London; Serpentine pavillion, Art @ Saatchi Gallery, the view from Southbank, & Chelsea Physic Garden corepsis
Morning sun, the Thames, London
Chelsea Physic Garden is a historic & beautiful garden in London
If YOU’VE London tips, or questions, please tweet me– I’d love to hear from you!

If you are visiting this Spring and have limited time, here are my top picks of some of the amazing, but temporary, cultural exhibits on in London museums & galleries.

(There are also some hot Boyz… but tis cultural, I promise!)


Image from guardian.co.uk

1. Ice Age Art at the British Museum.

On until 26 May 2013, this is ”an exhibition 40,000 years in the making.”

You will be wowed by the beauty and skill of the ancient carvings and sculptures of animals & people.

 It was wonderful to see in person so many of the ancient sculptures of (and by?) women that I’d read about back in Uni (in my ‘ancient history’!) The premise of the show, ‘Arrival of The Modern Mind,’ sees a few modern works shown alongside the Ice Age pieces, but for me -& most viewers there- the modern works were not what drew us in and caused us to linger, appreciate and imagine.

Ice Age Art could definitely interest older children, but be aware that the displays are at a height where smaller children would have to be lifted to see the pieces.

Entry to Ice Age Art costs £10, and the exhibit was busy when I went on a Friday afternoon. Tickets are timed, though; the idea is that it will not get too crowded. You can buy tickets at the museum, or online. Online could be handier to assure you can get in at the time you’d like. The British Museum is the most popular attraction on in London, so if you’d like to avoid the biggest crowds, try early mornings or the Friday Late opening.

Click here for more on the exhibit & tickets. 

Discuss.

2. Dancing Around Duchamp, Barbican

This art show and series of events runs until 9 June, and is a fascinating, playful, tapestry of Marcel Duchamp and artists he influenced. It is a feast for the eyes and ears, plus if you go to the exhibit on Thursdays 6.30-8.30 pm or weekends 12- 5 pm you will also be able to see dance performances in the art gallery. (Excepting Thu 21 Mar and Thu 25 Apr.)The exhibition tickets are £10 online (timed entry) and £12 in person; the gallery dance performances mentioned are included in those days’ tickets.

There’s lots that will be of interest if you enjoy less traditional art, so click here for more on the exhibit and events.

I went to several other exhibits on in London, and some were very good, and others I found rather ‘meh’- including a quite lauded one! I think these were the tops.

 Note: the Pompeii exhibit at British Museum looks tempting, but wasn’t on during my visit. I’ll let you know my thoughts on that in June.

I’ll leave you with a bit of dance- if you can go see the Ballet Boyz as they tour this year– DO! I saw them  in London at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and if you enjoy beauty, strength, dance, and/or the male body 🙂 you shouldn’t miss them!

Watch a short video of the Ballet Boyz here. Check their tour dates here.


What exhibits do YOU recommend in London this Spring? Tell us in the comment section, or tweet me @vibranttravels. Thanks!


Pompeii and Herculaneum at British Museum

One exhibit that is getting loads of thumbs up is Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum. When I went to buy a ticket online a week before my trip, I was dismayed that ALL the days of my visit were sold out! But, by snooping around on their Twitter feed I found out that each day 500 tickets go on sale at the (in-person) ticket desk at 9a.m. (also 100 for Ice Age, tho’ this is it’s last week.)

If you need a certain time, be sure to be there by about 8.30 and queue  – the tickets are sold by timed entry, & the early times sell out first. Also do check the British Museum website when planning your trip/visit, as sometimes the special exhibits are closed due to school groups.

I’m writing this at one of the little cafes in the museum’s Great Court-they open at 9am, so you can have a little something before the museum actually opens all the exhibits at 10am. I didn’t have coffee so can’t report on the quality, sorry. I’m also writing this before my timed entry to Pompeii- am using my Note2 with the WordPress app; so apologies for any typos & such I miss on the go 🙂