Christmas in Ireland is Very Different From America

[ad_1] Living here in San Diego, California, for the last twenty-five years and visiting Ireland quite often, gives me, I suppose, a unique perspective on the merits and otherwise of each country. I come home to my mother and father (93 and 95 years old respectively and both, remarkably, in wonderful health) at least twice … Continue reading “Christmas in Ireland is Very Different From America”


Living here in San Diego, California, for the last twenty-five years and visiting Ireland quite often, gives me, I suppose, a unique perspective on the merits and otherwise of each country.

I come home to my mother and father (93 and 95 years old respectively and both, remarkably, in wonderful health) at least twice a year. I try to make the All-Ireland football final in September and if at all possible Christmas.

There is nothing like an Irish Christmas.

In many of those years, I have not been able to make it home for the Christmas and it breaks my heart when I cannot get away from San Diego for the warmth of an Irish Christmas.

San Diego is a beautiful city with a wonderful climate and a great lifestyle. I love living and working here, but man, when it comes to Christmas they don’t have a clue how to celebrate it.

Christmas is one day- Christmas Day- and that is it. You quit work on Christmas Eve and you resume on St. Stephens Day. If you blink in America, Christmas is gone. Life goes on as though it was just another Sunday. Americans put up a lot of gaudy lighting on their homes for Christmas and then pay no attention to the season at all.

In fairness to Americans, their real holiday is Thanksgiving, which occurs on the last Thursday of November each year. Usually the country shuts up shop on the Friday as well, thus providing the opportunity of a decent break. Thanksgiving is a lovely time as it is very family oriented. People travel from all over to be with their families during Thanksgiving and it is the closest thing to what I perceive as Christmas in Ireland.

Nothing however, beats the feeling of stepping off a plane at Dublin Airport a week or so before Christmas and breathing in the atmosphere that prevails.

There is a buzz and aura of happiness and joy about everything that you wish you could bottle and keep for the rest of the year to stimulate you in the down times.

I am from a village called Collon in County Louth about 45 minutes north of Dublin. In Collon, they know how to celebrate Christmas. The festivities kick off on the 22nd and go on through to about the 6th January. Try telling that to some American grey-suited corporate executive and he would have a seizure! Two weeks to celebrate Christmas is something that cannot be comprehended over here. They barely take two weeks holidays for the entire year. It is a case of all work and no-play in the good old United States.

In Ireland we get our priorities right. Christmas is a glorious cocktail of family and friends, laughter and love, drinking sessions and music, horseracing, shopping and any excuse for a party.

It is a time when goodwill really does exist in a tangible way. It is two weeks of craic. It is two weeks where we suspend reality and put the daily grind of work and all the associated problems of the year on hold. We may be in the middle of an economic crisis, but by God, it is not going to interfere with our Christmas or New Year enjoyment.

This year, I cannot make it home for Christmas. I have my lovely family here of course and I will enjoy the season with them. But, on a wider scale, Christmas here is a bit like trying to have a party in an operating theatre; there is no warmth or depth to it. It is cold and clinical – just another day.

I will truly miss the Christmas in Collon. No amount of spurious replication over here will substitute.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all you lucky people who are enjoying it! Mick Ward


The Convenience Of Booking Cheap Summer Holidays Online


In the past, booking your cheap summer holidays to anywhere in the world,would require you to visit your local travel agent in the high street, choose a selection of brochures and carry them home to browse through page after page of exotic locations with sunny poolside photographs, enticing you to book the holiday of your dreams within those glossy pages.

Since the recent convenience of being able to search and browse the various internet search engines, consumers now have a much wider choice when deciding to booking their cheap summer holidays in their own country or when travelling abroad.

Finding a suitable holiday or travel service to cater for every consumers needs and personal budgets, has over the last few years become really fast and easy with thousands of cheap holidays and services available to view with a simple click of mouse.

Consumers will now find that all the top and lesser known travel agents have an online presence, and every category of holiday and travel service is catered for such as flights, accommodation, car hire, airport transfers, travel insurance and a whole list of other services for booking cheap summer holidays online.

With these types of travel services now available on the internet, any consumer has the ability to customize their own cheap summer holidays, picking and choosing which services they would like to use with their choice of holiday destination, without having to just accept the travel services contained in a travel agents holiday package.

Anyone who books holidays is always looking for the cheapest and best summer holiday bargain, and holiday consumers will find several dedicated holiday comparison websites that have full access to the major travel agents databases, so are able to offer the latest up to the minute pricing on a wide range of holidays and travel services.

Consumers get help to find the cheapest flights, holiday accommodation, car hire, airport transfers and many other travel services which are offered by the top travel agents online. Taking the time to use this type of website service can truly reveal some great last minute deals when booking cheap summer holidays, and is highly recommended for a starting point when booking holidays online.

Many travel agents and travel services are now in direct competition with each other thanks to the wide choice of the internet, and many of the holiday websites online offer some great discounts and discount codes throughout the year, so holiday consumers should always search the internet to find the best cheap summer holidays.

The overall ease and wide range of choice when booking cheap summer holidays online, has in the last ten years resulted in thousands of holiday consumers becoming more and more confident with booking various holiday and travel services online.

With hundreds and hundreds of holiday services setting up websites online every year and thousands of holiday consumers now becoming more and more internet savvy, this trend of searching online for booking cheap summer holidays and travel services is set to grow and grow.


Tourists Traps During Caribbean Holidays


The Caribbean is basically an area comprising the Caribbean Sea, its accompanying islands and the surrounding coastal areas. Located in the east of Central America, this region encompasses more than seven thousand islands, islets, cays and reefs.

Some of the islands there, with a flat landscape and non-volcanic in origin, include Antigua, Barbados, Bonaire and Saint Croix. The other islands, possessing a terrain of gigantic mountain ranges, include Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Caribbean islands are ideal places for spending vacations because of the beautiful beaches, amazing food, rich architectural landmarks, famous museums and the hospitable attitude of the locals. The numerous stunning beaches in the Caribbean provide excellent opportunities for adventure loving people, such as scuba diving, yachting, jet skiing, etc.

However, people opting to visit the Caribbean islands for holidays ought to be aware of the tourist traps there. Tourists travelling through ships need to know that on most of the ships a bonus gratuity of 15% is already added when a drink is ordered. Most of the people visiting there for the first time do not know this fact and tend to tip the bartender as well.

Most of the ships are also known to charge for a bottle of soda, so it is advised that a soda card be bought on the day of embarking for the remaining days on cruise to avoid extra costs. Holidays on the Caribbean islands can be quite expensive so, it’s better to save on the little expenditures that one can easily avoid. Money can be saved for the better part of the trip like hiring transport to travel between the different islands, and indulging in fine scrumptious cuisine.

Another big tourist trap is in the ports of the Caribbean island Jamaica. As soon as one gets off the ship, the locals there, carrying armloads of duty free products, surround you and push you to buy their products. These persistent sellers give Jamaica a bad reputation, as most of the products they sell are smoked, which is sad because it gives this gorgeous island a bad reputation. It is best to just decline their offers politely yet, in a firm manner and walk on.

Other Tourist traps in the Caribbean islands are the hurricanes; Saint Lucia and Martinique are the most hurricane hit islands. Though seldom occurring, these hurricanes, like The Dean, are quite fierce and damage property and pose a safety risk to the people on foot. It is better to consult an authentic weather forecast schedule before planning a visit to the Caribbean islands.

Like anywhere else on this planet, the Caribbean islands have their share of crime. Tourists are warned against pickpocketers and hitchhikers who pose to get an innocent ride but may actually be thugs, scheming of robbing you blind. People of the Caribbean islands may either be extremely nice and hospitable, or just the opposite. It is suggested that tourists should either give a respectful treatment to them if they need any help, or just mind their own business and walk away.


Travel Tips for All Types of Transportation


It can be tough to find a vacation that meets your expectations. Getting good vacation tips and accurate information about possible destinations can make the difference between having a great vacation and being disappointed.

Before you start scheduling destinations and hotels, you may want to think about what kind of vacation you and your group want to have. While many people enjoy site seeing vacation tips for high profile locations like Washington D.C., many others seek a more rustic vacation, such as camping by the Grand Canyon or going whitewater rafting. Scouting out destinations with appealing activities often yields a more pleasurable vacation experience than simply going to a generic tourist hotspot that can mean getting sucked in by all of the usual tourist traps.

The way you travel will depend on the type of trip you are going to take. For instance, if you are trying to get a far distance as soon as possible, then a plane flight is most likely your best option. Sometimes it is more fun to make a road trip out of it and take a car or RV as your transportation. This method allows you to make many stops along the way and see various sites that you would have otherwise not seen. Some vacationers even like to take the train. I prefer planes and RVs because you are in control of where you go in an RV, and a plane is just down right fast. A train ride, on the other hand, is nice if you just want to sit back and watch the country side pass you by. Keeping the kids entertained on a long trip can often be a full time job. With a little bit of planning a coloring book, DVD player, or fun music can help pass the time.

The busiest times to travel are during the holidays. Not just Christmas and Thanksgiving, but all holidays see an increase in vacation travel. This makes sense since the majority of people get more vacation time around the holidays. A smart traveler will avoid busy travel days during the holidays. Not to say you should stay home for Christmas, but get a plane flight for off days instead of Christmas eve. You can also find better rates on travel and hotel packages if you are a little flexible with your scheduling. There is also nothing that can ruin a vacation more is sitting in traffic. Avoid such stresses and travel during the night or on days that you know will be less crowded.

Regardless of where you go or how you get there, a few vacation tips can go a long way. By planning ahead you can make your travel experience much more laid back and relaxed than if you are surprised by heavy traffic or the high costs of entertainment at certain destinations.


Trekking Holidays – Tips for Choosing The Right One


Trekking holidays have always been popular. In the past they were the domain of either the professional trekker who scaled the heights of K2 or Everest, or people who enjoyed walking as a hobby and walked locally in places such as Ben Nevis or Snowdon. Today the idea of trekking holidays and guided trekking holidays has become popular with many different types of people, from the very young to the very old, and there are lots of different types of holidays to be enjoyed by all.

But what if it’s your first time how do you go about choosing the right trekking holiday for you? Here are a few tips which will hopefully put your on the right track (no pun intended).

Where would you like to go, do you want to stay in your home country, or would you like to travel to somewhere different?

If you stay at home there are no passport or flight expenses, you may be able to drive or take public transport to your starting point, and most things will be familiar to you. On the other hand, if you travel abroad you will experience different scenery, customs, food, and maybe better weather!

When you’ve decided where you might like to go, or at least narrowed it down, decide whether you want to trek alone, with friends or perhaps a group of people that you don’t know.

There are benefits to all these and it depends on what sort of person you are. If you are travelling alone for the first time it’s probably best to join a group with a guide.

It’s easy to get lost, and with a guide you will no doubt see things which you may miss if you travel alone, on the other hand a group may restrict you if you have a particular interest such as photography or ornithology. If this is the case choose more specialist company who deal with these kinds of more tailored trekking holidays.

Do you have fixed holidays for your job, or are you flexible?

If you are   travelling  abroad on your trekking  holiday  some regions have optimum times for visiting, for example you wouldn’t want to be trekking in the Alps in December, unless you were skiing of course!

Many European destinations are excellent in May and June because the weather is warm, its not too hot for walking, and the flora and fauna is also at its best. If you are in the UK then July and August can be good because until then the weather can be unpredictable and very wet and windy.

Lastly choose your travel company or type of accommodation.

If you’ve decided to join a group trekking holiday then ask around for recommendations and check out reviews on the internet. There are lots of companies out there if you’re not sure then contact them direct, they will tell you what sort of people your fellow travelling companions are likely to be, give you an idea of how much walking and how many rest days there are, and what sort of nationalities your companions will be.

They will also be able to give recommendations as to which trips to choose. If you have decided to go it alone or with a friend independently, check out what sort of accommodation is available locally along your route, if there isn’t much choice you could always take a tent!

Theses are just a few considerations for choosing your first trekking holiday, and although they are by no means a definitive list of questions to ask yourself, it’s a good place to start.


Skiing Holiday With Teenagers?


Have your Little Skiers grown up now? Hotel kids club to young for them? Are you now too boring (or too slow) for them to be happy skiing with you all week? Well, with a little preparation you can have the skiing holiday you want AND keep them happy.

1. Consider a little Freestyle training before you hit the slopes….

Salomon Freestyle Grom Camps are the perfect place to get your budding freestyle addicts some training. These are held all over the UK in indoor snow slopes and outdoor dry ski slopes, all through the year. There is no age limit and the youngest was 5yrs old! They cater for all standards of skiers, even if they have never jumped before (as long as they can ski in a controlled manner). They will be coached by professional skiers and it is a perfect opportunity for them to mix with experienced freestylers.

2. Look for resorts with dedicated teen tuition

Teens do not want to be mixed in with younger kids or adults that have started learning late in life, but it is often difficult to get around this. Many teens fall into a middle ground where they still need ski school for the technical training and to ensure they are skiing in a controlled manner but you could balance it out with one or two private lessons after ski school.

ESF offer one hour lessons (or more) in either Freeride (lessons concentrate on skiing or snowboarding outside the marked and prepared pistes) or Freestyle (combines the basics of snowsports with those of acrobatics and involves completing a series of aerial tricks on a snowboard or skis). Visit their website for more details and how to contact them for advice.

Some resorts are starting to offer week-long lessons or dedicated camps and clinics. But these tend to be more in   America , your  travel  agent can be a great help here as many resorts are moving toward this type of lesson and so are constantly changing what is available.

3. Check your resort has a terrain park

These are must for them to try out new skills and just have a laugh, even for parents that aren’t interested in trying any tricks out, they are great places to watch them in action. They will be happy to hang out there most the time!

Resorts with Terrain Parks worth considering:



La Plagne’s Teenager Zone

Alpe H’uez


Les Deux Alpes, (one of the best parks in Europe suitable for beginners to pro freestylers)

Les Arcs


Zell am See



Val di Fassa

Madonna di Campiglio



Buttermilk, Aspen

Copper Mountain

Jackson Hole

4. Choose central accommodation

As with younger children, it is worth trying to secure accommodation close to the slopes rather than relying on ski buses. This will allow a greater amount of freedom & independence. But these do book up early so try to get an early-bird package with discounts to offset the increased cost of close accommodation.

5. Consider GOING in half-term

Parents (us included) try to go skiing outside of the holidays, mainly for the cost but also for the quieter slopes. With pre-teens and teens this is harder as schools are less accommodating but the upside is that during the school holidays resorts often have more activities geared to that age and ski school lessons often have more of that age group present. As Sarah from Crystal said ” Skiing in school holidays don’t have to mean crowded slopes and queues for lifts. Consider a larger resort with a few gondolas going up to a large ski area and you should be fine”.


Using Exeter Airport For Business & Holiday Travel


Exeter Airport lies within easy reach of Devon in the south west of the United Kingdom. Although small when compared to some of the other airports in the UK, it still provides locals in the area a wide choice of cheap flights to popular destinations. The airport is also extremely popular with people who use it for both business and for holidays.

Exeter is easy to access from the south western counties of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset. These locations are very popular spots in the south west area, which attract many tourists and those that want to leave for a holiday.

Flights from Exeter Airport

Exeter flights can see you travelling to Spain, the Canary Islands, Greece and Turkey. This opens up a large array of options for those that are seeking to travel afar. There are often package deals that can be offered to those that want to travel from Exeter. This can save a ton of money, as well as still have the funds that are needed to travel to the said locations.

Often times, many people that are looking to go on a holiday are doing so with their friends and family, so they are seeking to save money on a package deal. There are various package deals that can be used in order to save money. By searching online and entering the airport code, EXT, people from not only the Devon area can find great deals.

Location of Exeter Airport

Exeter is conveniently located only 5 miles from the city of Exeter, so it makes this airport extremely easy to locate. For those that are going on a holiday and don’t want to take their vehicles, they can travel on one of the rail or coach links. Several car parking and hotels are also available around the Exeter airport, should there be a need to stay near the airport for any amount of time before or after the holiday.

Using Exeter Airport to get to a holiday destination is not only affordable, but the closest airport in many of the smaller cities that are around the airport. This offers an opportunity for many people to come and see what is on offer in the south western area of the United Kingdom.