Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Top 5 European Countries for 2014

As Lonely Planet have released their Top 10 Countries for 2014 list, I thought it would be about the right time for me to do the same. But as I do not have the knowledge of as many global destinations as Lonely Planet (or the manpower to research them) I will limit my list to Europe and keep it to five destinations. Trying to choose just five countries for this list is an extremely difficult task as you can imagine! This list is based on my own personal views and if you have any other suggestions please write them in the comment section below.

#5. Spain

Not the picture you expected was it? Yes you can ski in Spain...on snow!
Far from being a sunshine only destination, Spain has much more to offer visitors. Ski and Snowboard holidays are becoming increasingly popular during the winter months, particularly in the north and eastern parts of the country. There are also hiking trips, city breaks...and yes of course the beachside resorts!

You can also ski on the water, just bring shorts not a jacket
How could I possibly mention Spain without including the summer sunshine, the reason why thousands flock here each year. Although this kind of tourism en masse is not the most luxurious or relaxing, it is affordable.

#4. France

Photo :
Regularly number one for international arrivals, France has pretty much everything you could want from a tourism perspective. From the bright lights and romance of Paris, to the mind-numbingly beautiful landscape of Provence and the alluring beaches of the south. France never fails to disappoint. If you do visit, you should try to get out of the cities and experience the splendour of the quiet countryside.

#3. Greece

Often overlooked in recent times due to the volatile political and economical climate, Greece is still a paradise in Europe. With its sapphire blue seas and spectacular sunsets, this beautiful country still has everything to offer its visitors. Aside from the millennia of history and famous mythology, there are scenic villas, secluded beaches and a night-life to thrill!

#2. Norway

Photo: National Geographic
Norway would make the list for its beauty alone, but it is also becoming a wonderful place for more adventurous holidays. Obviously mountaineers will find plenty challenges here scaling the peaks overlooking the many magnificent fjords, but there is also activities for stargazers, families and newly-wed couples looking for a romantic getaway (a cruise beneath the northern lights anyone?).

#1. Scotland

I have gone along with Lonely Planet here who named Scotland their top European destination. Scotland is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it is also in for an extremely eventful year. Glasgow is set to hold the commonwealth games and there are a myriad of festivals and events taking place around the country next year. Throw in the highland games and the Edinburgh comedy festival and you are in for a real treat.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Top 25 cities in the world

Last week, the Condé Nast Traveler Magazine released their "Top 25 cities in the world" poll, as voted for by their readers.

There are some interesting results there and it is well worth looking through to see if your favourite city has made it! To see the poll click here. I was surprised by some cities on this list, for example Budapest did not impress me in the slightest, and personally I would have expected Prague to be much higher, but who am I to argue with the majority verdict? Have a look for yourself and let me know in the comments section what you think.

Prague definitely wins the foggiest/creepiest category

I have been lucky enough to visit a number of the list.
Read : The Ghosts of Krakow and Romantic Prague

Also Read : 5 Things you shouldn't do in a big city, if you're from a small town

Thursday, 17 October 2013

5 things you shouldn't do in a big city, if you're from a small town.

Since moving to Madrid I have noticed a few differences between living here and living back home in Killorglin. There are certain things you do in a small town that you just shouldn't when you move to a big city.

#1 Crossing the road

Back home in Killorglin, if I want to cross the road I needn't go to a pedestrian crossing to do it. I can just walk half way across, salute the drivers as they slow down and then cross the rest of the way, simple. But I wouldn't dare try it here (even if you do go to a pedestrian crossing, drivers are still likely to attempt vehicular manslaughter) where this is more likely to happen!

#2 Asking names of relatives

A fairly common practice in most small towns in Ireland (probably in the bigger ones too). You meet someone new and question the family tree in an attempt to make a connection.

Isn't your Grandfather related to yer man who used to own the glass hammer shop?
Yes he's be a 5th cousin of my uncles wifes friends neighbour!

But doing it here comes across a wee bit stalkerish so is probably best to just stick to getting to know the person before getting the in-depth family details.

#3 Blaming a tractor for you being late

It's happened to all us country folk! You overslept but you can still just about make it to work on time, but, oh no there's Jackie out with the tractor on the one stretch of road that's only wide enough for one car, and of course his field is right down at the other end of it.

He even has the nerve to be happy about it! Dammit Jackie!
Unfortunately that excuse won't cut it in the big city and if you try to use it you can probably start packing your bags there and then.

I swear boss, hundreds of tractors, I couldn't get past!

#4 Having a conversation with the Cashier

In a small town where a) you know the cashier personally and b) there isn't a big que behind you, this is quite acceptable and even encouraged. However, in a big city there is likely to be a big que and you won't know the person behind the counter so it's probably best to just buy your stuff and go. 

I can only force this smile for so long, please leave
(Source :

#5 Greeting everyone in the street

Okay, there are a couple of reasons you shouldn't do this. Firstly, logistically speaking, in Madrid you walk past hundreds (thousands even) of people each day so it would be physically exhausting. 
Secondly,  in a small town there is a chance (a likelihood really) that the people you greet either know you or your family, even if you don't know them. In a big city, they won't, don't worry about offending anyone. 

Oh hi, who the hell are you?
And lastly, it looks weird, people will stare at you, assume you're insane and call the guys with the white coats and the big needle to cart you off to the nuthouse. They are used to just talking to their own friends, not being acosted by an over-eager stranger with a funny accent.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Erasmus Diary Entry 3

So far almost everything I  have written about my Erasmus experience has been positive, and rightly so. But it would be wrong if I did not mention the bad points which these past couple of weeks have highlighted to me personally.
First and foremost there is the homesickness which, I am sure, has hit almost everyone who has emigrated or done the Erasmus at some point or another. There have been times at which I have been tempted to book the next flight back home and call it quits. For me it is very small things that trigger it, like not being able to get a decent cup of tea or seeing everyone on Facebook discussing Love/Hate and wishing I could be part of it. Over time you get over these small things but, of course, there will always be that part of you yearning for the friends and relatives back home. But of course that is to be expected is it not?

Not one store sells Barrys tea, my life is over!

While the homesickness get better over time, the financial strife is a constant. even if you have saved all summer, got a bank loan or whatever else, there is the constant pressure to watch what you are spending. When you are in a foreign country, the safety net of your parents is not as prominent. Obviously each individual will be in a different state financially but I'm speaking generally here of course. It is a terrifying thing to find yourself in the middle of a big city with no family around and only a few euros in your wallet. But if you are any good at all at budgeting I'm sure you would do just fine, unfortunately I am horrible with money and have found myself nearly running short on many occasions. But, on the other hand, it is a good learning experience.