Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Have a Pint at the Galway Races

Adrenalin-pumping action, heart-stopping finishes and breath-taking fashion; you are at the Galway Races. Situated on the outskirts of Galway city, in the West of Ireland, the Galway Racecourse is the place to be.

The Galway Races holds a very special place in the heart of many race-goers from across the globe, and indeed in the hearts of Galwegians themselves. It has been the subject of many a famous song and poem. The Galway Races has had a long and exciting history, stretching back to 1869 when the first racing festival was held at Ballybrit. It was a two day event with a staggering 40,000 people in attendance. In over one hundred years of racing at Ballybrit, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength.

The Galway Races is certainly a festival for everyone. The Festival runs for seven consecutive days at Galway Racecourse starting from the last Monday in July each year.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fly Back in Time at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Foynes, a small town and major port in County Limerick, Ireland, is noteworthy for having been, in the early years of aviation, the last port of call on the eastern shore of the Atlantic for flying boats, a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. Surveying flights for flying boat operations were made by Charles Lindbergh in 1933 and a terminal was begun in 1935. The first transatlantic proving flights were operated on July 5, 1937 with service from Foynes with successful transits of twelve and fifteen-and-a-quarter hours respectively. One of Foynes' main claims to fame is the invention of Irish Coffee. This came about, it is said, in order to alleviate the suffering of cold and wet passengers during its aviation days in the 1930s and early 40s.

All of this changed following the construction and opening in 1942 of Shannon Airport. Foynes flying-boat station closed in 1946 and Foynes Flying Boat Museum leased a portion of the building in 1988. The Foynes Flying Boat Museum is dedicated to recalling that historic time from 1939 to 1945, when Foynes, Ireland, became the center of the aviation world. Foynes Flying boat Museum houses the world's only full scale replica of the Pan Am Boeing 314 flying boat "Yankee Clipper". You can travel back in time and see for yourself what it was like to be a passenger in one of these wonderful flying boats.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Kylemore Abbey, County Galway, Ireland

Experience the character and atmosphere of a former castle and enjoy the breathtaking views from the large picture windows which capture and frame the majestic landscape. Prior to becoming an Abbey, it was built as a Castle and private home for Mitchell Henry, a wealthy politician from Manchester, England. The first stone was laid in 1867. With 100 men employed every day, construction was completed in 4 years. The castle covered approximately 40,000 sq ft with over 70 rooms. Today visitors are invited to enter the Abbey where four rooms have been sympathetically restored.

Kylemore became an Abbey in 1920, and is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The Community of Nuns, who have resided here for 189 years, have a long history stretching back almost 340 years, hailing from Ypres, Belgium.

Visitors to Kylemore are welcome to enjoy the 6-acre walled Victorian garden and the Gothic Church. The Gothic Church was designed to be a ‘cathedral in miniature’ and the interior is said to have been suggested by the beautiful Chapel of St Stephens at Westminster. Built by Mitchell Henry, the Gothic Church was built in memory of his beloved wife Margaret Henry who died only four years after the castle was constructed.

Kylemore Abbey is located in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dublin Pubs

What could be more Irish than a pint at a Dublin pub? Dublin is full of pubs and picking the best is down to taste and expectations. Traditional Dublin pubs are full of atmosphere and character. Here is a short list of popular pubs in Dublin.


The Grand Central is a former bank. Renovated to classic proportions, The Grand Central features four central columns set around a central dome of beautifully restored 1920 architecture. Though partly destroyed in the 1916 rising, it still houses the original safes that were still being used up until recently in its former role as a bank. Today you can still enjoy some of the original features, high domed ceilings and hand crafted stone, but now complimented with plush leather seats and dramatic chandeliers. Superb food served all day.

10/11 O’Connell St., Dublin 1
T: 01 8728658


The Quays, in the heart of Temple Bar is one of Dublin’s liveliest pubs with a great mix of locals and tourists. Live Irish Traditional Music everyday makes the pub a magnet for those looking for a bit of craic. A full restaurant on the 1st floor with a superb menu.

Originally a grain store and more recently a warehouse for Dublin Woollen Mills, the Quays Bar has become a congenial watering hole for tourists from all over the world. Stone floors, old timber benches, old bits of machines from woollen mills and factories, old furniture, books and an amazing collection of bric-a-brac all evoke memories of times gone by. Unique surrounds only topped by the atmosphere, which despite the Old World Style, is young, vibrant and buzzing.

Good drink, good food and good service all contribute to ensure that the customer – so often taken from granted in the modern world – is totally immersed in the craic, washing around in the tide of traditional music which is part of the staple diet in The Quays.

11-12 Temple Bar, Dublin 1
T: 01 6713922


Established in the 1700’s, last renovated in 1895 and was the first pub in Dublin to change from gas lighting to electricity. A favorite haunt for those in the literary world including Joyce and Kavanagh over the years, you truly capture a sense of the hidden Ireland when you accidentally stumble upon The Stag’s Head. Finding it is akin to discovering a rare treasure as it is concealed through a narrow passageway off Dame Street, although access can also be gained through Exchequer Street or Georges Street. When you enter inside this feeling of discovered booty is greatly intensified as a virtual paradise of culture and old world values confronts you. This is probably Dublin’s best preserved Victorian pub - and everything here is of authentic Victorian origin. Take time to look around and savour the sumptuously carved Victorian mahogany fittings, the mosaic marble tiled floors and granite tabletops. Everywhere before you is ornate stained glass and lamp fittings, all embossed with the stamp of the Stag’s Head.

1 Dame Court, Dublin 1
T: 01 6793687


Off Dublin’s premier Grafton Street. This is one of the finest Victorian pubs in Dublin. Unchanged since the 19th century, it is a buzzing vibrant pub with a fantastic atmosphere and a special place in the heart of Dubliners.

The bar is decorated in the style of an old Dublin pub, with stylish wood fittings, a very narrow bar and an intimate snug at the front and a bigger snug at the back. When the owner John Kehoe died a few years ago, the bar was sold for 2.3 million punts. The new owners opened up the musty interior upstairs where Kehoe used to live, with a bar and a little parlour with comfortable seating.

The atmosphere in Kehoe's is always convivial and friendly with a chatty clientele who are not hindered by loud bar music. Their pint of Guinness is one of the best in the city and there is a full range of beers at the bar. Get there early on a weekend night, as it tends to get very busy. Best experienced on a quieter weeknight, when the relaxed and easy ambience is a refreshing contrast to the more hectic pubs around the city centre. Guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience, Kehoes is well worth a look.

9 South Anne, Dublin 2
T: 01 6778312

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Celtic Classic College Football

Be a part of the excitement! In 1996 Notre Dame and Navy faced off in Dublin, Ireland. Over 12,000 Notre Dame fans traveled from the US to be a part of the game. James Clarity, of the NY Times wrote, “If St. Patrick had made a miraculous appearance in Croke Park today, he could hardly have received more clamorous support than the Notre Dame football team did. Notre Dame thrashed Navy, 54-27, before 38,651 constantly roaring fans who, if they did not understand the rules of the American game, knew that their adopted Fighting Irish were winning what had been billed as the Shamrock Classic.” Read more of this article.

The Notre Dame-Navy series has been played annually since 1927, making it one of the longest uninterrupted intersectional series in college football. Famed rivalries do not come any better than this! In 2012, they are scheduled to rematch in Croke Park. Why not turn this exciting game into the vacation of a lifetime? Now is the time to reserve your guaranteed space!

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Croke Park: Dublin

Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland has been at the heart of Irish sporting life for over 100 years. Dubliner’s commonly refer to it as “Croker”. Croke Park is the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Since 1884, the site has been primarily used by the GAA to host Gaelic games (such as the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and Senior Hurling Championship) and music concerts by major international acts. The stadium also hosted the famed 1996 Notre Dame vs Navy college football game and is the proposed setting for the 2012 Notre Dame vs Navy rematch. With its capacity to seat 82,300 people, it is the third largest stadium in Europe.

The Croke Park Stadium Tour offers an indepth look at the history of this modern sporting arena. Stadium tours take place on a daily basis throughout the year. Please note that while they are working on introducing a match day tour, currently the Stadium Tour is not offered on match days.

Visitors may also want to visit the GAA Museum at Croke Park. The GAA Museum was established to recognise and celebrate the GAA’s enormous contribution to Irish sporting, cultural and social life. The museum details the history of the GAA at home and abroad through its’ vast collection of artifacts such as hurleys, jerseys, trophies, programs, etc.

Located in the midst of everything Dublin, Croke Park is a short 15 minute walk from the main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Aran Islands, Ireland

The rugged and barren landscapes of the Aran Islands, dotted with thatched roof stone cottages, Early Christian churches and ancient stone forts offer one of the best glimpses of the traditional Irish way of life. The everyday language of the Islanders is Gaelic, and their songs and stories illustrate and preserve much of Ireland’s folklore and culture.

Three islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer, make up the legendary Aran Islands off the west coast of Galway. The rugged landscape made it tough for the islanders. However, they adapted themselves to the raw climatic conditions, developing a survival system of total self-sufficiency. Their methods included mixing layers of sand and seaweed on top of rocks to create fertile soil, a technique used to grow potatoes and other vegetables. The same seaweed method also provided grazing grass within stone-wall enclosures for cattle and sheep, which in turn provided wool and yarn to make hand-knitted goods for which they are famous for. The islanders also constructed unique boats made of laths and tarred canvas for fishing.

Many Irish saints had some connection with Aran: St. Brendan was blessed for his voyage there; Jarlath of Tuam, Finnian of Clonard, and St. Columba called it the "Sun of the West." Writers and artists alike have also been inspired by the landscape. Playwright JM Synge commemorates the island’s sturdy fisherfolk is “Riders to the Sea” and “The Aran Islands”. The life of this traditional Irish community has also been portrayed in the film “Man of Aran”.

Whether exploring the depths of the traditional Irish life, intrigued by early Christian structures, studying ancient stone fortresses or just looking for a bit of inspiration by the beautiful landscape; the Aran Islands are the perfect way to compliment your Irish vacation.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. It is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites and has been described as the greatest of all churches in Christendom. St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage.

In Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.

St. Peter's is also an extraordinary museum and it is impossible to estimate the priceless worth of the infinite works of art that can be found here. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Many prestigious architects and artists of the time were involved with the construction of St. Peter's, but it was first Donato Bramante and then Michelangelo who created the revolutionary plant of the new construction. Bramante built the immense central body in the form of a Greek cross held up by four gigantic pillars. Michelangelo was the designer of the 'cuppolone', and he was also responsible for the simple, yet majestic exterior with its gigantic columns crowned by a very evident horizontal fascia. In the end, it was Carlo Maderno who lengthened the central nave of the church and erected the monumental fa├žade. An imposing construction that was as big as a football field and as high as a thirteen-story building, crowned with the colossal statues of Jesus, Giovanni Battista and the apostles.

Be left breathless with the brilliance of St. Peter’s Basilica, visit to learn more

Wine Tasting in Chianti

Tuscany is known for its legendary cities, picturesque towns, and its world-renowned wines; all part of its stunning landscapes. Experience the heart of Tuscany with wine tasting tours in Chianti.

Chianti is a region in central Tuscany where the famed Chianti and Chianti Classico wines are produced. Chianti wine is a red wine, historically associated with a squat bottle, enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco. Chianti Classico wines are characterized in their youth by their predominantly floral and cinnamon spicy bouquet. As the wine ages, aromas of tobacco and leather can emerge. Chiantis tend to have medium-high acidity and medium tannins. The acidity in the wines make them very flexible with food and wine pairings.

The black rooster emblem that appears on the neck labels of many Chianti Classico is the symbol of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, a foundation of producers in the Chianti Classico region. The foundation was founded with the aim of promoting the wines of the region, improving quality and preventing wine fraud.

Wine tasting in Chianti is a little different than in the US. As most wineries are small, you should call ahead to make an appointment to do a tour. We recommend doing three or less tours in a day because wine tasting in Italy generally takes a couple of hours. You can also find wines to taste, buy and drink at an Enoteca. An enoteca is an establishment where you can sample wines from a wide variety of local wine estates. One of the largest in the Chianti Classico area is Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti, where you can sample over 140 wines, cheese, salame, grappa and olive oil. There is also a wine museum.

A wine tasting tour is Chianti is the perfect way to compliment your Tuscan stay. For more information on Celtic Tour’s Italy tours, please visit our website.

Tuscan Cuisine

Each region in Italy has its own unique cuisine, and Tuscany is a good starting point for exploring the best in Italian food. Tuscan cuisine is appreciated world-round for its fine natural and favorful ingredients. A look at the Tuscan countryside reveals some of the key ingredients in local cooking: olive groves with their silvery sheen, fairytale forests of chestnut trees, hillsides blanketed in grape vines, angelic sheep lolling among ruins, fragrant rosemary and sage bushes lining gardens. Tuscan cooking is simple and seasonal, without the heavy sauces found in other regions.

Traditionally, meals in Italy usually contain 3 or 4 courses. Meals are seen as a time to spend with family and friends, thus daily meals can be longer than in other cultures. Lunch, or Pranzo, is considered the most important meal of the day. During lunch hours (typically 12 noon to 2:00) schoolchildren are allowed to go home and most shops close for a pausa, which is characteristic of that easygoing Italian way of life that visitors find so alluring and desirable.

What better way to learn more about traditional Tuscan cuisine, then to take a cooking class at an historical Tuscan Villa, located in the heart of Chianti. Together with the Villa Casagrande’s Chef Paola Eoncini, you will prepare typical Tuscan dishes and other specialties as well as decadent sweets and Tuscan cakes. Learn more by visiting Celtic Tours website.

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