Ireland

Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

sicily

Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

dublin

The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Staying in a hotel is exciting in and of itself; there’s something deliciously indulgent about staying in a room that’s totally different from your one at home… and it doesn’t hurt that it gets cleaned for you. But while the sole purpose of many hotels is nonetheless the crash pad amid sight-seeing and exploring new destinations, others are destinations unto themselves — that deserve some time on your sight-seeing agenda. From our many travels around the globe, we’ve picked out a dozen of the most beautiful hotels ever — all of which are housed in stunning historic castles or palaces. The following twelve spots are, quite literally, fit for a king.

1. Hotel Alhambra Palace, Granada

alhambra-001

The 126-room Hotel Alhambra Palace merits the adjective “grand” — the impressive building is more than a century old and, originally commissioned by King Alfonso XIII, once housed a hospital during the Spanish Civil War. A hotel since 1942, this property is a short quarter-mile away from the Alhambra (the palace and fortress complex dating back to the 11th century) up a steep hill. The lobby has keyhole archways and geometric textiles based on Moorish patterns, and the hotel exudes historic charm throughout.

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Worried about a Game of Thrones style invasion on your next trip? Roving hordes? Zombie armies? We totally feel you. Travel can be a bit scary, and if you’re the type that likes to feel extra secure when you get away, you might appreciate the idea of staying in a hotel that’s, well, fortified. These five hotels are actually in ancient fortresses, so if you find yourself needing to fend off rebel invaders on your next romantic retreat, you’ll at least have all the battlements, arrowslits, and watch towers your heart could desire right at hand. Hey, you never know…

Castello di Petroia, Umbria, Italy

Castello di PetroiaThe gorgeous Castello di Petroia dates all the way back to the 11th century; with a picturesque setting in the Umbrian countryside, it was at one time a medieval fortress. Back then this region consisted of vying independent city-states, and the fortress was the birthplace of the Duke of Urbino. Today, this 800-acre wooded estate is a charming and undeniably romantic retreat, with a seasonal pool and candlelit gourmet restaurant. The castle is comprised of three buildings: the Major Castellare, the main building with medieval halls and a library; the smaller Minor Castellare, where the castle’s guardian’s once lived; and the 66-foot Tower, which has a three-tiered guest room. The 13 individually-decorated rooms have historic flourishes such as stone arches, wood beams, and frescoed ceilings. Read More »

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Like the rest of the world, our office is abuzz with talk of Wes Anderson’s newest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel. And sure, it may be mostly water cooler chatter, but we consider it research too — after all, it is about a grand hotel… one that may have seen some grander times. But even in its heyday, the Grand Budapest Hotel just can’t stack up to some of the gorgeous historic hotels that we’ve stayed in — from Irish castles to stately Southern mansions. Check out a dozen stunning stays that are far grander than the Grand Budapest Hotel (with the requisite storied history, to boot).

1. Ca’Sagredo Hotel, Venice

Ca'Sagredo

Originally built in the 15th century by the Morosini family, this beautiful palazzo — right on the Grand Canal — was purchased by the Sagredos (a family of noble blood) in the 1700s, which is how the hotel got its name. Besides luxurious rooms and a lovely terrace, the Ca’Sagredo Hotel features original frescoes and sculptures from the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Okay, as hotel experts we love traveling; we really, really love it. But even for us, saying goodbye to our side of the bed, our cups in the kitchen, our own personal brand of snack food stashed in the fridge, and all those other things that make our abode “homey” can be bittersweet. Thankfully, many hotels are stepping up their game when it comes to providing guests with their creature comforts of choice. From in-room kitchens to roaring fireplaces, these hotels come equipped with tons of great amenities to make you feel like you never walked out your front door — and with these amenities come all the fun perks inherent of a vacation. So fear not the unknown, these homey hotels are awaiting your stay with open arms and familiar treats.

1. Villa D’ Citta, Chicago 

villa d citta

The six-room Villa D’ Citta is a cozy, romantic bed-and-breakfast located in the residential neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Its homey features are all charming: an outdoor whirlpool and sun deck, a brick courtyard with a barbecue, and a large communal kitchen. The bright, luxurious rooms have big flat-screen TVs and hardwood floors, and some come complete with fireplaces.

Homiest Feature: The communal kitchen comes fully stocked with all of the snacks you can imagine, and the outdoor patio features a barbecue grill perfect for warm summer nights.  Read More »

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A nice beach can make a vacation, and there really doesn’t have to be much more to it than soft sand, clean water, and plenty of space to spread a towel. But a truly special beach is harder to come by; it has to have that little something extra that makes it — and your vacation — one-of-a-kind. Here are seven beaches around the world that wowed us.

Bioluminescent Bay; Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico

w retreat and spa

A national natural landmark, Bioluminescent Bay (also know, much less prettily, as Mosquito Bay) glows a breathtaking neon blue. A tiny micro-organism that sparkles when disturbed gives the bay its beautiful luminescence, and many tours take kayakers and divers out at night to watch the waters glow.

Where to Stay: W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island

This hotel has the modern, funky feel of the W brand with a tropical twist — it’s right on it’s own private beach, the lobby and rooms feature bright colors and concrete floors, and the infinity pool overlooking the ocean has a pool bar serving up poolside drinks and meals.

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Many people will spend the holidays at home or visiting family, but for some, it has become tradition to spend the time on vacation. Just because you’re staying in a hotel doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on holiday cheer; in fact, these amazing holiday hotels around the globe go above and beyond to spread the holiday spirit. Think: welcome mugs of hot chocolate, elaborate Christmas decorations, visits from Santa, carol singing, and more. Feeling Christmas-y yet?

New York Palace, New York City

The New York Palace, New York CityThe New York Palace is one of the best hotels for enjoying Christmas in New York City. It offers a prime location right next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (which has Christmas masses) and about a block away from the giant tree and famous skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It also has guards in toy-soldier-style uniforms next to the stunning outdoor Christmas tree (they are happy to pose for photos!) and a Nutcracker brunch at Villard Michel Richard. Read More »

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Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

There’s a lot to love about Ireland. The lush green landscape, the charming small-town pubs (serving up plenty of Guinness, of course), the sheep that can be found roaming the hills, and the narrow winding roads. And now that St. Patty’s Day is nearly here, we’re dreaming about all things Irish — specifically, about all of our favorite things to see on the Emerald Isle, from the Ring of Kerry to Kylemore Abbey to the Giant’s Causeway. These 10 attractions are must-sees for any lover of Ireland — even if you’re only able to visit them through your computer screen.

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For outdoorsy types, a tiny basement fitness center at the hotel just isn’t going to cut it. For them, a great vacation is all about getting outdoors — and being in a stunning natural setting to boot. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic resorts around the world offering a range of activities right on-site, from horseback riding to water sports to fishing to stargazing. Check out our faves.

Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch was designed with Mother Nature in mind: All the modules for the property’s 48 exquisite private lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The 157-acre property offers abundant outdoor activities, including hiking (there are a number of trails on-site), outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, and a fabulous fitness center. After all that exercise, there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging at one of the wine tasting seminars (this is Napa, after all). Read More »

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