Archive | December 2012

I Heart My City: Rachel’s Dublin

After university, New Zealander Rachel Farndon tried out the 9-to-5 world and decided it wasn’t enough. So she sold everything she owned and bought a one-way ticket to Ireland. She’s been seeing the sights — from County Kerry to Dublin — for a year now (and chronicling her exploits on her personal blog), with no plans to leave. Take a look at Dublin through the eyes of a woman who says she “can’t possibly praise it higher without looking ridiculous!”

Dublin is My City 

See the swans at St. Stephen’s Green. (Photograph by Rachel Farndon)

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is on a stroll through central Dublin, along the River Liffey and up Grafton Street to St. Stephen’s Green.
When I crave adrenaline I always go to Croke Park, Dublin’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Stadium to catch a game of hurling, the fastest field sport in the world. You can also get a roof top tour — if you’re brave enough!
To escape my flatmate practicing the piano I head to Grafton Street to check out the street performers.
If I want to see one of the finest collections of manuscripts, books, and papyri from the earliest periods of human history I go to the Chester Beatty Library. The bequest of Sir Arthur Chester Beatty is the most remarkable testament to a lifetime of study and travel I can imagine.
For complete quiet, I can hide away in the Phoenix Park. It’s easy to get lost in the largest inner city park in Europe. It is even larger than New York’s Central Park as well as being home to over 500 free roaming deer!
If you come to my city, get your picture taken with a pint of Guinness in your hand in Temple Bar. Even better, at the Temple Bar in Temple Bar.

Get your picture taken at Temple Bar. (Photograph by Heather Rai, Flickr)

If you have to order one thing off the menu from any pub in town it has to be the Beef and Guinness Casserole, which is thicker and creamier than Irish stew. Don’t worry if you don’t like Guinness; you’ll like this.
The Georges Street Arcade is my one-stop shop for great chic, hip, and opportunity shopping.
Locals know to skip the Guinness Storehouse and check out the Jameson Distillery instead. Of course, if you have time, go to both. The Storehouse is always crowded and full of tourists, so you’re better off visiting any pub if you want to enjoy your drink!
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I pack a picnic and head to any of Dublin’s parks. Dublin has 2,000 hectares of green space!
For a huge splurge I go to Kilkenny stores for the best of Irish design.
Photo ops in my city include Temple Bar, the O’Connell Street Bridge and Daniel O’Connell statue, the Spire, and the Samuel Beckett Bridge. The best vantage points are from any of the seventeen bridges across the River Liffey.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Bono. Enough said.

The ultra-modern Samuel Beckett Bridge. (Photograph by Musical Photo Man, Flickr)

The most random thing about my city is that it has its own language! In Dublinese, ‘your man’ can mean that guy over there, the bartender, your friend who is a man — in fact any man can be your man whether he’s yours or not!
My city has the most charismatic men with some of the cheesiest pick-up lines.
My city has the most confident women. A mid-winter night on the town explains why!
In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking in the Wicklow Mountains forty minutes south of the city centre. Try walking the Wicklow Way to Glendalough, around the Upper Lake and through the woods.
My city’s best museum is (the archaeology section of) the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street. Here you will find bog bodies and Viking weapons — and can feast your eyes on Celtic gold.

Killiney Hill, on the outskirts of Dublin. (Photograph by William Murphy, Flickr)

My favorite jogging/walking route is over Killiney Hill in South Dublin, which looks north towards the city and south across to County Wicklow, then down the hill and along the very pebbly Killiney Beach. I guarantee that it will give your calves an unbelievable work out.
For a night of dancing, go to Irish House Party for dinner and live Irish dancing. You won’t find the locals here, unless they’re performing, but everyone should witness this once. Or, for live music, check out Whelan’s. There is always something happening here — from international artists to local bands.
Charlies 5 is the spot for late-night eats, where greasy Chinese and Thai food is available in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t do this too often or your arteries will start to scream! You’re probably better off visiting Tesco.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the events page on (they also have a smartphone app).
You can tell a lot about my city from spending half an hour on O’Connell Street. The bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising are still visible in the pillars of the General Post Office, and street vendors try to sell their wares. This is a street where the people with a purpose walk quickly and those without one will be there all day.

The General Post Office still shows scars from the Easter Rising. (Photograph by FarelGab, Flickr)

You can tell if someone is from my city if they have a low-pitched Irish accent that you can’t quite understand and you’re not sure if they want to fight or are only joking.
In the spring you should get photos in a field of daffodils and dodge the rain.
In the summer you should hit the beach in Bray or Killiney while dodging the rain.
In the fall you should kick up the falling leaves in the Phoenix Park and dodge the rain.
In the winter you should sled down Killiney Hill in a kayak. Probably in the rain.
A hidden gem in my city is the Dun Laoghaire market, which is held on Sunday mornings at the People’s Park. It’s a great place to pick up some delicious home cooked food, fresh produce, and crafts.
For a great breakfast joint try Harry’s Café Bar in Dun Laoghaire. So delicious. And you can follow up your food with a walk along the pier.
Don’t miss the Temple Bar TradFest in January. Now in it’s 8th year, the tradfest is one of the biggest and best Irish music and culture celebrations in Ireland.

Ruins on the Hill of Slane in County Meath. (Photograph by Angelo Failla, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the seaside towns of Bray and Howth, and the prehistoric monuments of the Boyne Valley.
The best way to see my city is on foot. After the introduction of the one-way system, it’s the easiest to visit all of inner city Dublin’s hotspots. Don’t let the rain put you off: grab an umbrella, rug up, and go!
If my city were a pet it would be a silly dog who doesn’t realize he is too big for that gap and tries anyway.
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in the countryside of County Kerry.
The best book about my city is Dubliners by James Joyce for something traditional and Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes for modern chick lit.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”The Ballad of Ronnie Drew” because it’s about an iconic Dubliner. The story of the song itself is a bit of a shambles, but it has been well executed by the collective efforts of a mass of well-known Irish musicians.

An absolute must in Dublin! (Photograph by Rachel Farndon)

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Dublin Zoo. They are well planned and there is lot to see. It also helps that the zoo is in largest inner city park in Europe. There no better place to burn off all their steam!
A real, proper, authentic pint of Guinness could only happen in my city. Tóg go bog é (relax and take your time) and don’t drink the foam!
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it is a vibrant city finding its footing after the global financial crisis. There is still plenty going on and the resilience of the Irish has come through making their songs and stories more powerful than ever. – I Heart My City: Rachel’s Dublin


The Radar: Travel Lately

The Radar — the best of the travel blogosphere (don’t you hate that word?) — is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every Wednesday.

Looking for a scare this Halloween? Check out nine haunted hotels in the U.S. that fit the bill, including the one that provided inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. Red rum. [Peter Greenberg]
Did you know that Wales is about the same size as Massachusetts? Though small, this family-friendly country offers up adventures for just about everyone. Find out how. [Europe Up Close]
We’ve talked about an obvious one, Easter Island (and how to shoot the Milky Way there), recently on the blog, but what are some other remote places that are worth the trek? Check out this list. [Gadling]
The “prairie” can often be synonymous with “boring.” But not if you look closer, or look differently. Here are 25 reasons (and gorgeous photographs) why the Canadian prairie is worth seeing. [Matador]
Food lovers rejoice! Finally, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese cuisine — from blowfish sashimi to fugu sake to a full-on kaiseki. The pictures alone will have you salivating. [Uncornered Market]

  – The Radar: Travel Lately

The Best of Intelligent Travel

We publish new travel stories all the time on the Intelligent Travel blog, but there are a few that really got your attention this year.
In case you missed them, here are the 12 most popular blog posts of 2012:

Find out how to shoot the Milky Way like a pro. (Photograph by Massimo Bassano)

The 10 Rules of Packing
By far our most popular post this year, Aric S. Queen, a.k.a. the Good Traveler, shares his tried and true tips for traveling light.
How to Shoot the Milky Way…On Easter Island
Ford Cochran takes Nat Geo photographer Jim Richardson‘s secret formula for taking photos of the Milky Way like a pro out for a spin.
Joshua Tree, Retrofied
National Geographic photo editor Monica Corcoran changes her mind about Hipstamatic on a tour through California’s iconic desert.
Norway’s Best-Kept Secret: Puffin Dogs

Who could resist this face? (Photograph by Edward Readicker-Henderson)

National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Edward Readicker-Henderson gives us yet another reason to love Norway.
Going Greek: Why Now Is a Good Time to Visit
Personal finance guru Odysseas Papadimitriou gives us the inside scoop on why it’s the perfect time to pay a visit to his homeland.
Oh, the Places Nat Geo Goes

Nat Geo staffer Emily Shenk traveled to Egypt just as the Arab Spring was beginning. (Photograph by Sarah Polger)

When you work at National Geographic, the first question people ask you is if you get to travel. Check out our photo gallery to see where we’ve been and what it’s taught us along the way.
Gear Tips for Tech-Savvy Travelers
Rolling Stone contributor Oscar Raymundo reveals (and reviews) gadgets that will keep the modern traveler organized, on the go, and having fun.

One of Jetsonorama’s favorites among his installations. (Photograph by Aaron Lavinsky)

Where Are America’s Best European Villages?
Traveler‘s resident consumer travel expert and Family Time blogger Christopher Elliott debates the pros and cons of faux European towns across the U.S.
Travel Photo Tips from the Masters
Intelligent Travel editor Leslie Trew Magraw reports back from the front lines of one of National Geographic Traveler‘s photography workshops with tips from Jim Richardson and Traveler Senior Photo Editor Dan Westergren.
Painting the Painted Desert
Kayla Frost paints a stunning portrait of street artist Chip Thomas (a.k.a. Jetsonorama) and the epic project he describes as his “love letter to the Navajo Nation.”

Surfers Paradise in Queensland. (Photograph by Warren Keelan, My Shot)

What Makes Australia’s Gold Coast Golden?
Intelligent Travel’s Urban Insider, Annie Fitzsimmons, let’s us in on why the Gold Coast is the No. 1 vacation destination for those gorgeous, gregarious Aussies.
Picture Yourself in a National Park!
When we launched our award-winning National Parks by National Geographic app last spring, we asked you to share your take on America’s Best Idea. And, boy, did you ever. – The Best of Intelligent Travel

Behind the Lens: Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

Husband-and-wife photography powerhouse Cotton Coulson and Sisse Brimberg have been shooting for the National Geographic Society for years. Recently they traveled to St. Petersburg to photograph the city for a recent Traveler feature. (Check out an extended gallery from the story here.) One of the magazine’s photo editors, Krista Rossow, caught up with the pair to get the behind-the-lens scoop.
Krista Rossow: Have you visited St. Petersburg before and, if so, what kind of changes have you noticed in the city?

A wedding party celebrates outside of the Peterhof Palace. (Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson)

Cotton Coulson and Sisse Brimberg: We have both worked in St. Petersburg many times, going back to the Soviet era. The changes have been enormous. Today, the citizens of St. Petersburg are open, friendly, confident, and smiling. The colors are brighter and the buildings are cleaner.
It was the Imperial City of Russia and now it has been restored to its glory.
KR: Here at Traveler we love interesting photos of real people doing everyday things — something you both do beautifully. Does it help that you photograph as a team? And do you have any advice for folks who want to get better at photographing people?

Models at a Stas Lopatkin show during Fashion Week. (Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson)

CC & SB: We really love engaging with people, and working together helps us break down barriers quickly. Sometimes one of us does the interview while the other takes photos.
When we are shooting candid shots of people on the streets, we don’t stand out as much as if we were working alone. People trust us more quickly, and have fewer concerns about what we’re doing.
Our simplest advice for photographing people is to force yourself to get close and make eye contact. Many new photographers rely on their zoom lens too much, so there’s a sense of distance from the subject.
If you’re using a wide-angle lens, try to get the environment in the shot to help tell the story about where and how they live.
KR: What was your most memorable meal while you were in St. Petersburg? Did you discover any restaurants you’d recommend?

One that got away. (Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson)

CC & SB: We found a great small restaurant called Teplo, close to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and ended up eating there almost every night. Russian cuisine, home-made borscht, mushrooms from the forest, and Russian dumplings. Light and no grease, very unlike the Chicken Kiev we used to eat every night during the Soviet era. Not to mention the owner was one of the most interesting people we met.
KR: What are your favorite photos that didn’t make it into the magazine?
CC & SB: There is a shot of a woman hurrying home to avoid the rain. It was taken in the blue hour [late in the day], and she is wearing a bright orange scarf. Everyone is blurry but her. – Behind the Lens: Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

What Are Your Rules for Packing?

Andrew Evans spends more than half the year in far off places (right now, he’s circling the globe with National Geographic Expeditions on their Around the World by Private Jet trip), and has learned a few rules to pack by along the way.
Here are his top five recommendations for how to travel smart in the digital age:
1. Buy it there: Your favorite hair gel isn’t worth the hassle at the airport.
2. Color code: Electrical tape matches up gadgets with cords and chargers.
3. Think beyond the roll-aboard: Go with a soft duffel bag on safari, a garment bag for formal dress, or one shared suitcase for a couple.
4. Take two (pairs of shoes): Wear the heavier ones on the plane.
5. Live recyclable: Donate old clothing and books after using them.
What Are Your Rules for Packing?

The Place: Albania Steps Into the Spotlight

Albania’s first hundred years proved rocky (quick recap: two world wars, a Communist dictator, civil unrest).
But this November, as the country celebrates a century of independence from the Ottoman Empire, the now-stable Balkan country is primed for its global tourism debut.

Downtown Tirana. (Photograph by Dritan Duraj, My Shot)

Across the Strait of Otranto east of Italy’s boot heal, Albania offers a rewind of the classic Mediterranean holiday.
The Ionian Sea laps at its sun-baked southern coast, where rolling hills covered in olive groves meet a “crystal clear” sea, says Dorina Zhupa, who lives in the cosmopolitan capital, Tirana, and recommends tiny beaches Pasqyrat and Livadhi.

What remains of defense walls at Butrint. (Photograph by Groundhopping Merseburg, Flickr)

Beyond the coast is a landscape rich in history, including the city of Butrint, a World Heritage site that Roman poet Virgil called a “Troy in miniature.”
Hikers retreat north to the Prokletije (a.k.a. “Accursed”) Mountains, the highest section of the Dinaric Alps for secluded trails in Thethi National Park.
Thethi village testifies to a rough-and-tumble past — its stone tower was once a refuge from blood feuders — but these days its rustic guesthouses exude the famous Albanian hospitality.
The Place: Albania Steps Into the Spotlight

Food Fridays: Tampa’s Cuban Supreme

Sweet ham from Spain, mojo-marinated pork from Cuba, Genoa salami from Italy, Swiss cheese and dill pickles from central European and Jewish immigrants, layered inside crunchy bread and then pressed and toasted, make what is called a Cuban, but it’s more than just a sandwich.
“These ingredients represent the heritage and diversity of Tampa,” says Yvonne Yolie Capin, a city council member who, last April, officially declared the Cuban the Florida city’s signature sandwich.

A trolley in Ybor City, birthplace of the Cuban. (Photograph by Donald Bromberg, My Shot)

The Cuban’s birthplace is Ybor City, a neighborhood northeast of downtown once dominated by a thriving cigar industry. Cuban immigrants arrived in the early 1900s to work in the factories, bringing with them their favorite midday snack — bread stuffed with sliced meat called a mixto. Local grocers and cafes renamed and sold the lunchtime staple.
Family-owned Columbia Restaurant makes Cubans from a 1915 recipe. Food truck newcomer and third-generation Tampan Michelle Faedo takes her roots on the road with Michelle Faedo’s On the Go, a mobile kitchen creating Cubans so delicious they recently won “Best Traditional Cuban” in a statewide contest. She credits quality ingredients, including the essential Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery, where she recalls shopping with her grandmother. “I serve the food I ate when I was young; it’s authentic and represents my city.”
Food Fridays: Tampa’s Cuban Supreme