Northern Ireland

Is all the talk of summer and beaches…bumming you out? Does the entire concept of humidity make you want to cry? If you see one more Instagram photo of “hot-dog legs” are you going to lose it? Good news! You’re not crazy or a heartless, sun-hating scrooge — and you’re not alone. The dogs days of summer are truly upon us, and sometimes it’s all too easy to dream of snowbanks and icicles (which will be a nightmare once we’re in the thick of winter — but then, of course, we’ll dream of sizzling sidewalks and sun galore). So if you’re already missing winter, here’s where you can travel right now where it’s 50 degrees or cooler. And, of course, we’ve found the coziest hotels nearby where you can properly embrace sweater weather by curling up in front of a fireplace that will chase the (all-too-welcome) chill away.

1. Melbourne, Australia 

melbourne

The Southern Hemisphere is where winter’s at, and one of our favorite destinations down under is none other than Melbourne, Australia. Known as Australia’s culture capital, this city situated on Port Phillip Bay is packed with Victorian buildings, museums, galleries, large parks, and gardens. The tree-lined streets and green spaces create a clean, eco-friendly vibe, which is probably part of the reason Melbourne has consistently been dubbed as one of the world’s most livable cities. During the winter months, locals enjoy ice skating, curling, and banishing the chill at the nearby Peninsula Hot Springs.

Stay: Hotel Lindrum

This modern boutique is located just a short walk from sights such as Federation Square and Melbourne Park. It lacks a fitness center and spa, but the features it does have are done well: The restaurant serves a nice breakfast buffet, and the cozy bar features a fireplace and a billiards table. Rooms feature sleek lines, dark wood accents, high-style light fixtures, and contemporary artwork, which combine to create a chic vibe. Read More »

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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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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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Ackee and saltfish, Jamaica

Ackee and saltfish in Jamaica

If you’re a foodie, cuisine plays an important role in your vacation. We can relate. Luckily, we’ve gotten to sample a lot of great food while off investigating hotels across the globe, and we’ve particularly enjoyed discovering various destination’s specialties, from smoked salmon in Norway to macarons in France. There’s a lot of food out there, to be sure, but these seven local dishes ranked among our favorites.

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Ballynahinch Castle Hotel

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel

People tend to go a little crazy on St. Paddy’s day; most of us are familiar with the crowded parades, green rivers, and drunken revelry. And it’s understandable why so many get excited about their love for Ireland, which is deservedly famous for its dramatic green cliffs, roaring peat fires, lively pubs, and welcoming locals. Ranging from historic castles to modern boutiques, these nine hotels are packed with Irish charm and may help inspire your next trip — or at least help get you in the St. Paddy’s spirit.

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Pubs along Dublin's Temple Bar beckon visitors with their traditional bites and brews.

Ireland: The land of meat and potatoes. Hearty dishes like lamb stew and fish and chips may be what the Emerald Isle is known for, but that’s just the tip of its culinary iceberg. In the last decade especially, Ireland has had a culinary resurgence. Reconnecting with indigenous ingredients in thoughtful and exciting new ways, Irish chefs have re-established the island nation as a force to be reckoned with on the gastronomic stage. During our recent trip to Ireland, we got in touch with our Irish roots and enjoyed some truly delectable dishes. From shots of Jameson to shots of oysters, we got up to our ears in Irish cuisine — and now you can too. Prepare your palates, it’s time to dig into Ireland. Sláinte! 

 

Ok, So It’s Still A Lot About The Potato

At the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, visitors can enjoy beef and Guinness stew with a hearty serving of mashed potatoes.

Ireland may have grown up a lot in the last decade when it comes to cooking, but that doesn’t mean that the potato is just going to disappear over the Cliffs of Moher. The versatile root vegetable has been a staple of Irish cooking since the 1500s, served alongside meat stews, in casseroles and soups, and all by its lonesome in simple but nonetheless exquisite dishes. Champ (an Irish take on mashed potatoes) and Dublin coddle (a hearty dish with bacon, sausage, and onions) are both staples.

But one of the most delicious ways to eat a potato is in a boxty. These traditional potato pancakes, delicious in their own right, are elevated to a whole other level when stuffed with either fish, meat, or vegetables. Legend has it that this well-loved dish will even help you snag a brogue-wielding fella, for as the Irish say, “Boxty on the griddle / Boxty in the pan, / If you can’t make boxty, /You’ll never get a man.” Read More »

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When it comes to cozy winter charm — roaring fires, hot (and strong!) drinks, and snug nooks — it’s hard to top Ireland. Though winter is the off season for the Emerald Isle, it can be a magical time to visit (as anyone who has heard the song Christmas in Killarney can probably understand). Plus, hotels can be dirt cheap this time of year. So sure, it’ll be near-freezing cold, but fortunately these hotel features will warm you right up on your Irish holiday.

Toasty Feature: The Peat-Burning Fireplace

The Bushmills Inn in Antrim keeps peat fires roaring in colder months.

The Bushmills Inn in Antrim keeps peat fires roaring in colder months.

Peat is as Irish as it gets — this bog turf has been burned as fuel for centuries in Ireland, and gives off a distinct smell that some people love.

Find It At: Bushmills Inn, Northern Ireland

The quaint Bushmills Inn in Antrim is quintessentially Irish in every respect: There are fireplaces burning peat or wood throughout the property, a fantastic restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine, Irish music performed certain nights at the Gas Bar, which is lit by traditional gaslight, and 41 cozy, cottage-style rooms. The inn has a rich history dating back to 1608, when a coach house and stables stood here, and the actual main inn building dates to the 1820s; the historic character has been carefully and thoughtfully preserved throughout.

Read More »

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