Come along with me and share the excitement as I explore the world researching freelance articles. These blog posts offer short chunks of travel that you can digest quickly. You'll have some fun, make discoveries, and pick up great ideas and information for your own vacations. Think of me as your canary in the coal mine. For even more travel inspiration, visit my BERKELEY AND BEYOND website at http://www.berkeleyandbeyond.com.
You’ve seen the post-Hurricane Sandy photos of the roller coaster sitting in the ocean. That’s not here. Though Atlantic City is an island, with an ocean on one side and a bay on the other, Sandy didn’t flatten it, and the city has been ready for fun-seekers and gamblers ever since things dried out.
Atlantic City began in the mid-1800s when a few entrepreneurs imagined the seaside location as a health spa and resort town. A 600-room hotel built here was at that time the nation’s largest. The first city to have gambling outside of Nevada, it features 12 casinos in close proximity--providing for a pulsating nightlife and an easy casino-hopping experience. Nine casinos front the Boardwalk, putting the Atlantic Ocean and a magnificent beach at your doorstep. Three more are positioned about 5 minutes away in the Marina District.
It is the city that inspired the most popular board game ever—Monopoly—which uses the city’s street names, and it is where the Rat Pack first got together. And you’ve probably seen it on episodes of “Seinfeld” and “Sex and the City.”
Some Atlantic City firsts include:
●Boardwalk, which opened in 1870.
●salt water taffy, which originated in 1883 on the Boardwalk after a storm flooded a candy store.
●rolling chairs, which debuted here in1887.
And this year the Miss America pageant returned to town.
Fiji’s national drink is
yaqona (pronounced yan-gon-na), or “kava” as it is known in other Pacific Islands.In Fiji they also often refer to it by the
nickname “grog.”Made from the root of
the pepper tree, which grows only in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, yaquona is bitter
and potent. I’ve heard yaqona described
best as tasting like “peppery puddle water.”It is non-alcoholic but has mild narcotic properties when taken over a
prolonged period and in large quantities, and the United States F.D.A. warns of
a possible link between kava and liver failure.
Fijians consider it the drink
of the Lord and start drinking it at around age 21.In Fiji, the root is a form of currency.Traditionally, when visiting a village a guest brings a gift of kava
roots to the chief as a sign of respect.Sometimes villagers, visitors, and the chief sit on the bure floor while
the chief conducts a blessing ceremony, and sometimes the roots are then pounded
into a drink that is then distributed in one large bowl from which everyone
drinks in a welcome ceremony indicating goodwill and hospitality.Pounding drums sometimes also accompany the
ceremony.On my visit to Fiji, I
encountered this ceremony numerous times in many different ways—even in a
demonstration at a resort shopping center!
This is the etiquette of
●Don’t sip it.
●When the bowl is presented
to you, cup your hands and clap them together once.
●Accept the bowl and say,
“Bula!,” or “Vinaka” (thanks).
●If it is a large bowl meant
for a group, drink one gulp down fast.If it is a small bowl for one person, drink it all down fast.
●Clap three more times and
●Return the bowl to the same
●Women sit with legs to the side
only.No one should point their feet at
a chief or the kava bowl.
Take the southern road N86 out of Dingle town east to the R561, and you’ll pass by Inch Strand. Back-dropped by the Slieve Mish Mountains, this beautiful 4-mile stretch of sandy beach attracts surfers--a van on the sand provides lessons and rents boards--and cars can drive on the packed-sand beach (not advised if you have a rental car).
There are more than 2,000 archaeological sites on the Dingle peninsula. It is basically an open-air museum dotted with monuments in various stages of decomposition. Many people think this route is better and easier than the Ring of Kerry, and you won’t see many tour buses on this less-traveled road. It is 30 miles, and though it is a two-way road, most people drive it clockwise. Allow about three hours. Rick Steves describes the loop drive in detail:. I wish I had printed it out.
●VENTRY/Ceann Tra In between Dingle Town and Slea Head.
●beehive huts Also called ring forts, these structures are the most numerous and widespread field monuments in Ireland. Several groups are found here. Made of stone without mortar by seventh-century monks, they kept the occupants dry and are thought to have housed just one family until around 1200 A.D. It is believed that many of these mysterious huts survived only because superstition said they were "fairy forts." Entering one surrounds you in a dank coziness. The first signposted site we came to was up a steep hill and had a E2/person charge. Homemade signs made me suspicious that it was a scam, but I was told elsewhere later that the farmers do sometimes charge to visit these sites on their property. My advice is to wait until you come to the second beehive huts site, where apparently admission is always free.
●SLEA HEAD/Ceann Sueibhe This is the closest point in Europe to America. When the weather is good, you’ll have stunning views of the rugged coastline and of the Blasket Islands located 6 miles off the coast.
●Slea Head Cafe You can enjoy a warm-up at this tea house.
●DUNQUIN/Dun Chpoin Stop for a brownie and latte at this pottery cafe and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Blaskett Islands.
●Reasc Monastery This spot is hidden but worth the effort to find it.
●Dunbeg Fort Visitor Center At the base of Mt. Eagle.. One of Ireland's most famous prehistoric sites, this fort dates to 400 BC and was occupied in the 8th century.
●Stonehouse Cafe This cafe operates within an authentic Irish stone house. You can sit outside and enjoy the view of Dingle Bay, maybe with an open-face crabmeat brown-bread sandwich.
●Scanlons Pet Farm 5 miles west of Dingle, Barr na Nard, Baile an Lochaigh, near the end of the Slea Head Drive. Visitors can see and pet farmyard animals. There is a playground for the children, and a nature walk to Feothanach river. A picnic area is located beside the river.
●BALLYFERRITER ●Louis Mulcahy shop This rambling pottery shop is the perfect spot to select some gifts and souvenirs. Do allow time for lunch or tea in the cafe, where you can enjoy some delicious food and sample the wares before you buy.
●Gallarus Oratory This Christian church highlight comes just before you reach the crest of the hill and start back down to Dingle. Built circa 800 A.D., it resembles an overturned boat and is probably the finest example of a watertight dry-stone building in Western Europe and it is the only one still standing.
The Lantern Townhouse B&B Main Street, downtown, + 353-66-9151088. 4 stories; 10 rooms. E30-50/person. Breakfast + E5. No pets. No smoking. Parking free on street. Centrally located on the town's main upper street, this B&B is just a few steps from restaurants, pubs, and shops. During my stay, the cheery desk clerk provided excellent suggestions for restaurants and for pubs with traditional Irish music. Breakfast offers a choice of either a Belgian waffle with fresh fruit or eggs scrambled with smoked local salmon on toast, plus a buffet of cereals, pastries and breads, local Irish cheeses (I still wish I’d eaten more of the scrumptious apricot chees), and more. Decor is simple but pleasant, with knotty-pine night stands and matching armoire and dresser. Rooms in front face the active and interesting but sometimes noisy main street; rooms in back face a quiet garden and have a beautiful view of the hills.
Ashes Bar & Restaurant Main Street, +353 (0)66 9150989. L-D daily. We enjoyed a fine three-course Early Bird fresh fish dinner in this cozy little spot. Some guest rooms are available upstairs.
Murphys Ice Cream This award-winning ice cream is served up in a bright little shop that provides the perfect spirit lift on a rainy day. The best local ingredients are used--including the wonderful rich milk from the rare, indigenous Kerry cow—and they make their own chocolate chips. Flavors include Dingle sea salt and Guinness, both of which I tasted, but I ultimately decided on my favorite--butterscotch.
O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub The Mall, +353 (0)66 9152853. Painted brilliant blue with red trim and touted as the newest old pub in Dingle, this cozy spot presents traditional Irish music nightly. It promises no television, no juke box, and no pool table--just great music. A turf fire warms things up, and a backbeer garden cools things down. It even has free Wi-Fi (but you won’t want it). We met a couple of Australian women here and had a good chin wag with them as they downed their Dingle gin and tonics and we sipped on Guinness. No food is served.
DINGLE town is at the southern end of the Dingle Peninsula set facing the harbor. The most westerly town in Europe, its restaurants offer tasty food and its cozy pubs present traditional Irish music. The main street runs along the harbor (Strand Street), and another higher main street runs up above behind it (Main Street); several smaller side streets join them. Buildings are painted in an array of colors--the area is popular with artists--and wandering around browsing the shops and peeking into the pubs is a great way to pass the time. Don’t leave the area without driving the Slea Head Drive, also known as the Ring of Dingle. As it circles the southern peninsula, it passes many of the antiquities that are scattered across the area and provides spectacular views. Peak season is August, when the Dingle Races draw crowds from throughout the area to watch the horses run every other weekend.
Things to Do St. James’ Church Main St., 087 2849656. Folk concerts are sometimes scheduled in this charming small church that seats just 100. An ancient cemetery adjoins.
Commodum Art and Design Main Street, +353 66-9151380. Interesting locally made woolens and art pieces fill this clean-lined shop. I was partial to the knitted flock of sheep inhabiting the window display. Hand-knitted right here in the shop from natural Aran wool, you can buy a lamb or slightly larger sheep or a whole flock.