Mar 28, 2013

Dublin in two days!



                                                                                                   



A trip to the Emerald Isle isn't complete without spending a couple days with the Dubs in Dublin. IRELAND'S biggest city is one of the most popular cities in Western Europe. This is where you'll find warm hearted people, cozy pubs, pedestrian friendly streets, interesting sights, and some of the best written literature by Dubliners.

Lodging options in Dublin range from expensive hotels to budget hostels and finding a place to rest the weary soul is as easy as counting to ten. Dublin has a bountiful supply of bed & breakfasts and spending a night or two at one of them will provide you with a restful sleep and a delicious authentic Irish breakfast. Check out my recommendations for lodging on the bottom page.

On Day 1 a walk along the Liffey River is a fun way to zig zag through various Dublin neighborhoods and absorb the sights. When I was walking along the Liffey River a few years ago I heard screams of "Help, Help, Help." A man had fallen into the river and was slowly drowning. A helpful man in a business suit jumped into the river to rescue the poor drowning soul and together the two of them safely got out of the water with the help of a floating device. As the two gentlemen made their way onto the riverbank crowds of people cheered with excitement and shortly afterwards an ambulance arrived with paramedics. I was very touched to witness a random act of kindness by an individual who saved the life of a drowning man. This was definitely a day known for the luck of the Irish.

After walking along the Liffey River head to Trinity College (one of the oldest in Europe) and visit the library that contains "The Book of Kells." Afterwards stroll down Grafton Street known for its high end shopping. Later make a stop to the National Museum and continue to Merrion Square to see Oscar Wilde's statue. End your day of sightseeing at the Dublin Writers Museum and discovery the great literary figures of Dublin www.writersmuseum.com.  Dracula, Gullivers Travels, The Importance of Being Ernest & Waiting for Godot are just a few of the literary classics to come out of Dublin. In the evening treat yourself to a Celtic meal of fish & chips, Irish chowder, and smoked salmon.

After breakfast on Day 2 in Dublin head straight to St James Gate and spend the morning at the Guinness Storehouse.. The Irish are very proud of their Guinness beer and there isn't a pub in Dublin or Ireland for that matter that doesn't sell Guinness beer on tap. What can you expect on a tour of the Guinness Storehouse? Well...a walk through a 1904 building that gives you a first hand brew making process of Guinness beer. The storehouse is a stunning place and after the tour visitors are escorted to the Gravity Bar and given a sample of Guinness beer. I must say that my glass of Guinness beer the day I visited the storehouse was the best glass of beer I ever consumed in my lifetime. The perk to taking a tour is a free glass of the freshest made Guinness you'll get in all of Ireland and this fabulous beer is made with only a few ingredients; barley, hops, yeast, and water.

When you've had your fill of beer crossover the other side of Dublin to the Dublin Castle. This beautiful castle is gorgeous inside and outside. Highlights of Dublin Castle consist of the Chapel Room, Powder Tower, and the State Apartments. Website www.dublincastle.ie  The Queen of Tarts tea cafe & shop is a glorious place to sip tea and have a light lunch. Next, spend a couple of hours walking along Abbey Street, Henry Street, and O'Connell Street. Complete your two days in Dublin with a Riverdance concert, www.riverdance.com


Adrianna's Recommendations:

WALKING TOURS:

Dublin Walking Tours www.dublintours.net
SANDEMANs New Europe Dublin (free walking tours) www.newdublintours.com

PARKS:

St Stephen's (A relaxing park in the heart of Dublin)

LODGING:

Budget Hostels:

Isaacs Hostel, Frenchmans Lane, Dublin IRELAND
Kinlay House Hostel, Lord Edward Street, Dublin, IRELAND
Paddy's Palace, Beresford Street, Dublin, IRELAND

Bed & Breakfast (Irish Style)

Abberley House, Upper Saint Columbas Road, Dublin, IRELAND
Clifden Guesthouse Bed & Breakfast, Gardiner Place, Dublin IRELAND
Oaklodge Bed & Breakfast, Pembroke Park (Ballsbridge), Dublin, IRELAND

TEA CAFE & SHOP

Queen of Tarts, Cork Hill Dame Street, Dublin, IRELAND
The perfect place for a pot of tea and yummy desserts


Mar 22, 2013

Irish Isle; Ireland

                                                                                                          

Ireland is known the world over for its castles, cliffs, dramatic landscapes, enchanting sea,  friendly people, Irish folk music, and pubs. This is the country where cycling and walking are a joy and where cows can be found grazing the verdant grass in every region. It's in Ireland where folks gather at the local pub and drink pints of beer while listening to live musicians and where Irish soda bread dabbed with pure Irish butter is real comfort food.

WIth Saint Patrick's Day being a big celebration in March the color of green seems to appear in all kinds of places across the globe along with Guinness beer and Irish cheese. A lot of wonderful things come from Ireland and that's why thousands of people flock to this small country (an island) to experience a country that still remains a bit remote in places and yet progresses with each day to keep up with the high tech 21st century, So between the family run farms in the serene countryside to the bustling streets of Dublin where life moves relatively fast there's a little of something for everyone who wants to visit the emerald island known as IRELAND.

I've had the fortune of making two trips to Ireland. The first trip was a mini vacation and the second trip was a three month volunteer stint where I worked six days a week on an eco-friendly organic farm called SUNRISE FARM in County Clare, Ireland. Thanks to a site called WWOOF which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms I was able to contact the caretaker of Sunrise Farm who invited me to volunteer on her farm in exchange for room and board. The next step was to find an affordable flight to Dublin and off I was to Ireland in September.

My first day in Ireland was spent in Dublin where I checked into a hostel. It was a very simple place but the staff was super friendly and they even gave me a free ticket for a Dublin walking tour. It didn't take me long to learn my way around Dublin after that terrific tour.

The following day I had a complimentary breakfast of butter toast, and tea at the hostel before embarking on my journey to Sunrise Farm in County Clare. The bus ride rewarded me with scenes of the lovely Irish countryside with stops in small cities and towns before finally arriving at my destination. Little did I know when I met Did (the caretaker who runs the farm) just how hard I'd be working the next few months but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunrise Farm grows and produces some of the best fruits and vegetables in all of Ireland. I learned so much about composting, crop rotation, and planting while serving as a volunteer. The benefit to working from mid September to early November  was that I got to share the farm with only a few volunteers. We had to work harder but the perk was having a whole room to myself just off the kitchen of the newly restored cozy Irish house and generous portions of delicious pure food everyday.





                                            Sunrise Farm in County Clare

I did everything from cooking to wood chopping on Sunrise Farm. Twice a week I helped out in the Sunrise Bakery and Kitchen where Didi (the caretaker) and I prepared dishes to sell at the weekly farmers market in Killaloe on the Shannon River. We often used the local ingredients from Sunrise Farm in our baking and cooking; such as apples, beets, carrots, chard, kale, potatoes and salad. Each Sunday we would make our way to Killaloe Farmers Market and set our table with the other vendors. It was a lot of fun to sell our goods and meet with other local Irish people who sold items from handmade soaps to fruit jams.

Although there were no cows, horses, pigs, or sheep on Sunrise Farm there were plenty of sweet cats and two dogs named Diamond and Grace who became my best friends. Sunrise Farm was and still is a vegetarian farm and volunteers don't consume any meat products during their time on the farm.

The beauty of the land surrounding Sunrise Farm is something I cherished every moment. I loved my daily walks along the country roads with the dogs and cycling to the nearby lake for a quick cold swim. We had a small meditation room on the property where we meditated in silence and later chanted some spiritual songs. We also offered open yoga classes a few times a week for people wanting to practice yoga. Everyone took turns with cooking and washing dishes for our staff meals which were always so creative and tasty. The best part was sitting in the cozy kitchen near the wood burning stove and relaxing a bit. There was a larger dining room in the house if we had extra volunteers or  guests who wanted to come for a meal.

The Sunrise Farm is going to be a healing center in the near future so more volunteers will be needed to run this extraordinary place which in my opinion is one of the best farms in all of Ireland.

Please join me for my next post as I focus on all the great places to visit while in IRELAND and share some recipes from beautiful SUNRISE FARM. In the meantime I'm going to nibble on some biscuits and sip some Irish tea as I brainstorm on my next post which will focus on Dingle Peninsula, Dublin, Killarney National Park, Ring of Kerry and more......

See you soon!


Irish Soda Bread with Butter; PURE IRISH



Mar 17, 2013

Incredible India (Northern India)



With so much to see in INDIA it can takes weeks/months to explore all the wonders that incredible INDIA has to offer. Some people prefer to race through INDIA stopping a day here and a day there to see this and that while others prefer to take a more meditative approach and really soak in one region at a time exploring at a slow pace.

After exploring southern INDIA head North towards Mumbai. Mumbai is the borderline city between North and South India and sits on the southern tip of INDIA. Mumbai is a mix of rich moguls, colonial relics, poverty, fashion, ancient bazaars, and glistening skyscrapers. While in Mumbai shop the ancient bazaars and view some of the best temple carvings in all of India on Elephant Island. Just 9 km northeast of the Gateway of India in the Mumbai Harbor, Elephant Island attracts visitors to the main Shiva temple a latticework of courtyards, halls, pillars, shrines and a triple-headed sculpture of Shiva. The temples on Elephant Island were created between AD 450 and 750.

Mumbai is the epicenter of India's film industry known as Bollywood. This winning formula of masala entertainment captures audiences with all-singing, all-dancing, bad guys against the good guys and romantic love story lines. Bollywood stars are adored by Indian moviegoers and are known as famous celebrities. Those seeking a chance at fame can work as extras in a Bollywood film with one of  India's movie studios. Bollywood Tourism offers Bollywood tours which include viewing of a live filming of a Bollywood movie.

Bollywood isn't the only star attraction in Mumbai, other places worth a visit are  1) Colaba, 2) Gateway of India, 3) Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, 4) Kala Ghoda, 5) Malabar Hill and 6) Marine Drive & Chowpatty Beach just to name a few. Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the most populated city in India and one of the most exciting cities to visit in India.

Mumbai:

Population: 16.4 million
Area: 440 square km
Best times to visit: October to November

Don't miss out on the array of bars, restaurants, and shopping in Mumbai!


When in India one simply can't miss the Himalayan Mountains. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas is the intriguing town of Dharmasala.. Known for its large Tibetan community which centers around the activities of the Dalai Lama, Dharmasala is a great place for trekking and walking. Some trails to consider walking are 1) Bhagsu, 2) Dal Lake, and 3) Triund,

Once you land in this unique community you might be tempted to stay a month. Not only is Dharmasala beautiful but there's a lot going on here besides hiking. You can engage in cooking and yoga classes or offer time to volunteer. There's always a demand for volunteers who can offer their time to take care of children in a day care, teach English in a classroom, or spend time helping the monks.

It doesn't take long to learn your way around Dharmasala. If your living space doesn't offer kitchen facilities there's plenty of places to have a bite to eat ; Carpe Diem, Chocolate Log, Dolma & Dorjee, Flourishing Flora, Himalaya Restaurant, and Zomsa Cafe are a handful of choice spots.

If you'd like to experience a spiritual journey while in India, Dharmasala is the place to be. After kissing Dharmasala goodbye do a once around North India tour through Calcutta, Rajasthan and The Golden Triangle. Spend time in Agra, Delhi, Jaipur and immerse in the Indian lifestyle.

Whether you spend a month or a year, visit the north or the south or both the north and south of India a trip thorough incredible INDIA will leave you with unforgettable memories.


A recipe for India's national drink (Masala Chai)


                                                  Masala Chai

4 whole cloves, 2 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup milk                                                                  
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons back tea

Crush cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks. Add ginger. Pour 3 cups of water into a saucepan and boil. Remove pan from heat and cover and steep five minutes. Add milk and sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea. Cover and let steep 3 minutes.
Stir the chai then strain into a warmed teapot or directly into tea cups.





Mar 12, 2013

Incredible India (Interesting Facts)


Before and after receiving my yoga teacher's training I felt very connected to the culture and life of INDIA. I'm very drawn to the people of INDIA as well as to their spirituality. I plan on doing more charity work in INDIA in the future. There's a lot of incredible facts about INDIA I'd like to share:

India takes up a lot of space on the continent of Asia. It touches Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, and Pakistan on the northern side. Over on the southern side of India is the nearby small island country of Sri Lanka.

India's most important river is the 1,500 mile long Ganges River. It starts in the Himalayas and goes across the plains of Northern India eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Many Indians bath in the Ganges River to wash their bodies and cleanse their spirits.

India's oldest group of people are the Adivasi. They still follow their own customs.

India's main languages are English and Hindi.

India became independent as two states in 1947; mainly Hindi in the south and mainly Muslin in the north.

India makes more movies than any other country in the world. The Indian movie industry is referred to as Bollywood.

Killing a cow in India is not allowed and against the law. Many Indian people from the past and present have counted on cows for butter and milk.

In India everyone takes off his or her footwear before entering a home mainly because shoes are thought to be unclean due to the dirty streets.

India is the birthplace of chess, the original word for chess is (chaturanga) in Sanskirt meaning "four members of an army."

India is the world's largest tea producer.

India is one of the largest exporters of computer software products.

India used sugar before any other country.

The first bathroom in the world was built in India over 4500 years ago.

India is the birthplace of yoga.


India is the kind of country that's worth at least one visit in a lifetime. One can easily be humbled by the amount of poverty and yet India has its share of millionaires.

India is known for a wonderful refreshing drink called the Mango Lassi.



                                 M A N G O   L A S S I

Blend 1 cup of plain yogurt with 1/2 cup milk and 1 cup of chopped mango.
(Mango should be peeled and the stone removed).

Add 4 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cardamon powder and blend a few more seconds.

Pour lassi into tall glasses and sprinkle some cardamon on top.



I (Adrianna) once worked at an Indian restaurant in New York City and the mango lassi was the most requested drink on the menu. You'll definately enjoy a glass or two of mango lassi anytime of day and it will make you think of INDIA.


Mar 10, 2013

Incredible India (Southern India)




I  N  C  R  E  D  I  B  L  E       I  N  D  I  A





                          
If you're looking to experience an old third world country known for delicious cuisine, holy temples, enormous elephants, high mountain peaks, swaying palms on coastal waters, roaming cows, tea plantations, yoga ashrams, and world class film making INDIA is the place to go.

INDIA'S landscape is quite diverse and large that's why is best to divide time between South India and North India. Whether traveling by car, plane, or train INDIA is an exotic country filled with history and natural wonders. 

Southern India has a lot to offer and there's no better place to begin a journey through India then in Kerala and its backwaters. With the Arabian Sea to the west and Western Ghats to the east plus a network of 44 rivers, Kerala is surrounded by water practically everywhere. Kerala is blessed with a nice climate, a long shoreline, beautiful beaches, exotic wildlife, and tropical forests.

Kerala is a state located in the south-west region of India on the Malabar coast.

Kerala's regions consist of Malabar, Central Kerala, Central Travancore, Northern Travancore, and Southern Travancore. There's also a series of cities all known for something special;

A) Kochi is the Queen of the Arabian Sea
B) Thrissur is the Cultural Capital
C) Alapuzha is the Venice of the East
D) Thiruvanthapuram is the Capital City

Kerala's backwaters are a maze of lagoons criss-crossed with rivers, shallow pools, and canals separated by the sea by a narrow strip. There's no better way to explore Kerala's backwater's than taking a cruise. Individual houseboats can be rented by the day & night for about $80.00 to $150.00 depending on the amount of passengers. There's also a number of reputable cruise lines such as Coco Houseboats, Lakes & Lagoons, and Spice Coast Cruises. Alleppey Tourism Development Corporation offers a very reasonable ferry ride on some of Kerala's backwaters.

The beaches of Kerala are a crown jewel and one of the main attractions of Kerala. Some of the most popular beaches are Alappuzha, Kappud, Varkala and Kovalam. If you want a beach break the Blue Mountains of Western Ghats are another grand place to de-stress.

Kerala is home to Ayurveda; an ancient medical science developed in India thousands of years ago.

The ayurvedic system is a holistic approach to health which consists of massage, meditation, yoga, a healthy pure diet and various herbs that improve everything from skin to heart. Many visitors come to Kerala for ayurvedic healing.

Kerala is known for one of the best breakfasts in the world and foods such as dosas, pidiyam, idli, and paal-appam are part of a daily breakfast diet. Tea is the favored beverage of Southern India and cups of tea appear in most households.

Lodging options in Kerala range from cozy home stays to classy beach resorts. 
Resposibletravel.com is a good site to check out for lodging in Kerala.
G Adventures is an excellent tour company offering trips throughout India. If you want to focus on the Kerala area consider G Adventures Beach & Backwaters and Best of Southern India tour.
Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Neyyar Dam Kerala is an outstanding yoga ashram that offers yoga vacations and yoga teachers training courses.
Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort in Thiruvananthar is the oldest Ayurvedic resort in India and the place to go for a healthy and relaxing vacation.

Feel, taste, smell and immerse in the wonders of  Kerala in Southern India for a week before heading further north to explore more of incredible INDIA.

Om Om  Om


South Indian Dosas

1/2 cup raw rice
1/4 cup grated coconut
1/4 cup steamed rice
Salt and Oil to taste

Grind the raw rice, coconut, and cooked rice into a smooth batter along with 1/2 cup water. Add salt and more water for a thin watery batter.

Heat a small non stick pan and sprinkle some water on it. (It should steam immediately)

Grease the pan lightly with vegetable oil. Pour a ladleful of batter from a little height so you can get plenty of holes. Cook 2-3 minutes using a little oil. Fold it into half and then into a quarter to form a triangular shape. Be sure that dose is not over crisp. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve doses hot with a favorite chutney.


Coconut Chutney

1/2 cup coconut, grated
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp yellow lentil
2 dry red chillies
5-6 curry leaves
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Grind the coconut into fine paste in a food processor. In a small pan heat the oil, when the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, yellow lentil, dry red chillies, and curry leaves. Add the coconut paste and a bit of salt for taste.

Serve the coconut chutney with doses and a pot of tea.







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