ireland

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BY CAILIN BURKE

1044483_10152003468289196_2128690760_nThis week we’re changing it up a lot and starting our Feature Friday- Traveler Series with Kate Lyons! Instead of focusing on an artist or designer, the last Friday of each month we’ll share some tips and stories from people who have traveled everywhere. As both Tara and I love to travel, we wanted to bring more travel inspiration to Castle Foundations. Hopefully reading about other’s epic adventures will get you to save some money and go out and travel too! If you’ve already got the travel bug, then we have some advice that can help you plan your next trip as well. This week’s feature, Kate Lyons, has done extensive traveling throughout Europe and seeks to spend the rest of her life continuing to see more places and continents. Her most recent trip gave her the chance to trek through London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Malta, Venice, Nice and Galway for six weeks.

During her time there she not only got to see some of the world’s most famous sights, but didn’t have to break the bank to do so. Currently she has her own blog to document her travel experiences and give others tips about how to travel affordably. She also has a lot of advice for anyone who wants to go on a similar trip so keep reading and check out hopelesswanderer1.wordpress.com to hear more about her travels!

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Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: What made you decide you wanted to travel?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: I’ve always had the desire to see more of the world for as long as I can remember, probably from watching movies and shows as a kid. I told myself that I would do a big trip around Europe when I was in college. So when I finally got to college it was almost like I didn’t have a choice in the matter, like I was fulfilling some kind of prophecy I had made for myself. Even with all the factors saying it wasn’t a good idea, this was just something I had to do, even if financially it didn’t seem to make sense. And now, I’m so glad I did it. I don’t regret a single dollar I spent. I will make that money back eventually. Those experiences were invaluable.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: Out of all of the countries and cities you’ve visited which was your favorite?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: My favorites were London and Malta for two very different reasons. From the first full day in London, I felt like I could see myself living there. It’s so easy to get around and it’s really not all that different from a city here in America so it would be an easy adjustment. There’s just so much to do there, I couldn’t imagine ever being bored of it.

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Malta, on the other hand, I loved in an entirely different way. It’s so beautiful and relaxing. I don’t think I could ever live there, not until I’m retired at least, because I don’t think I would get any work done. It’s so hot and sunny I would just want to relax by the Mediterranean all day every day. I traveled with my boyfriend Frankie and since his family lives there we had an apartment to ourselves and ate every meal for free at his aunt and uncle’s seaside restaurant. His family welcomed us with open arms and showed us everything the island had to offer. It was so different after a month of traveling alone, and everything we could have asked for.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: What, if anything, do you wish you had done differently?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: We did this trip with the mentality of being on a very strict budget. In almost every circumstance, if it cost money and wasn’t necessary, like food or travel expenses, we didn’t do it. We only spent $3,000 each for six weeks, which was a lot less than we anticipated and it was great to come back with more money than we expected. Looking back, we both agree that we wish we had done a few things that at the time we said were out of our budget. In hindsight, we should have sprung for one nice, real Italian dinner in Rome or taken the 40 Euro bus ride to see the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: How does one go about planning a trip like this?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: We planned everything meticulously. We did hours and hours of research. First we decided where we wanted to go and found some big things to do in each city and used that to decide how long we wanted to spend there. Then we searched for tickets to and from each city and plugged in different dates to find the best prices. That’s how we determined the order we would go to them in. We did find out that it’s cheaper to fly into Ireland than any other part of Western Europe. Even if Ireland isn’t somewhere you want to go,  you can fly to other countries from there.

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After we bought all our tickets we looked for places to stay. We compared prices, locations, and all kinds of of factors between different places in various areas of each town. Then we bought all of our bus and train tickets from the airports to our hostels. We didn’t leave much room for spontaneity, which might sound like it takes the fun out of things, but we met a few people who were figuring it out as they went along. They seemed much more stressed out and ended up spending hundreds of dollars more than we did.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: Tell us a little about your housing/living situation while there?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: We stayed in almost all hostels with the exceptions of Paris, where we stayed in a inexpensive hotel, and in Malta, where we stayed in Frankie’s dad’s flat. For the most part we couldn’t have been happier with the places we stayed. We had a lot of reservations about staying in hostels from all the horror movies out there, but we never felt unsafe. When we were choosing where to stay online, in a lot of cases we chose a cheap price and a good location over cleanliness and level of service, so we didn’t have very high expectations. But in all but a few (like Venice, where there was a pretty bad bug problem) we had great experiences. We met a lot of great people and made some memories with them that we’ll never forget.

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 Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24How did you travel from place to place?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: We took planes everywhere. Fourteen in six weeks. It turned out to be the cheapest option after buses and we didn’t want to spend entire days sitting on a bus. Planes got us to a different country in about an hour and for only around 30 to 40 Euros.

 Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24What were the best foods you ate while there?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: We did everything on the cheap so nothing we ate was too gourmet, but we did try to eat one meal that the city is known for everywhere we went. In London we went to a pub for fish and chips and shepherd’s pie; in Amsterdam we got pannekoeken, or Dutch pancakes, for breakfast; in Paris we bought baguettes and brie and salami and ate them under the Eiffel Tower. In Rome and Venice we were always able to get affordable pizza and pasta, but it was never fantastic. We ate our fair share of gelato and drank a lot of wine pretty much everywhere we went.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: What advice would you give to people who want to try backpacking?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: Just go for it. Don’t let anything stop you. You can find a way to do it. Even if you don’t have anyone to go with – we met plenty of people who were traveling solo and they actually met more people and probably had a more social experience than we did.

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 Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24What’s next on your travel bucket list?

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: What isn’t? I’m dying to go to Eastern Asia. For a while I was focused on Thailand but I’ve heard that I might like Vietnam even more. But it will be a while before I can afford that plane ticket.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 01.34.24: Tell us a little about the blog you keep to document your travel experiences.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 19.00.27: I started the blog as a way to show people that it is possible to do a trip like this without spending as much as you might think you have to. We learned a lot when we were planning this trip and I don’t want all that knowledge to go to waste. I write about our experiences in each city and what we learned both in preparing to leave and once we were there. Blogs like this really helped us when we were looking for things to do, so I want to help other people in the same way. I think this is an experience everyone should have if they want to!

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In the Spirit of St. Patrick’s Day

BY CAILIN BURKE

Since St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, Tara and I’s favorite Parisian bakery started selling Chocolate Guinness macarons and there’s no way we could pass that up! We are half Irish after all. So today we picked up our friend Jenny (who is also Irish!) and drove a 30 minute distance to get these delicious macarons from TC Bakery. We got a few of them and also got Chocolate Caramel ones which are our absolute favorite.

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Now we’ve tried macarons from Laduree and Pierre Herme in Paris and I have to say that TC Bakery is just as good as both of them. It’s great to be able to get macarons that taste like they’re from Paris, but instead are from a little town in New York.

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We then went to Jenny’s house and had them with tea, because for some reason they taste so much better that way. To stay true to our St. Patrick’s Day theme, we had Irish Breakfast Tea and talked about Ireland all afternoon long, since Jenny is going to Ireland this summer and Tara and I had a lot of tips from when we went last year.

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All in all it was a very Irish-filled day and the Chocolate Guinness macarons were decorated with green sprinkles to have even more Irish spirit. Besides the amazing texture that macarons have, these had a tiny Guinness taste that wasn’t overwhelming and went so well with the chocolate.

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Although Tara and I have had many strange macaron flavors like Liquorice, Olive Oil and Vanilla, the tea flavored Marie Antoinette macaron, and the strangest one of all, Cognac, I’ve never heard of a place that has had Chocolate Guinness macarons! That’s why it was necessary that we try them and add them to our long list of interesting flavors. I’m glad they tasted more chocolatey than Guinnessy though, because I’ll never forget how strange and weird I thought that Cognac macaron was. Although you may be skeptical, if you want to treat yourself this St. Patrick’s Day don’t hesitate to combine Ireland’s favorite beer with chocolate because it ended up being a pretty great combo!

Why Travel?

BY CAILIN BURKE

I have the travel bug so badly that for some reason I think everyone else wants to travel as much as I do. However, some people don’t want to spend the money or would rather spend their money on something else, while others have never even thought about it. Most people say you should travel to “expand your horizons,” “learn about yourself,” or “immerse yourself in another culture,” but there are many more reasons that you should consider traveling… some less typical than others.

1) You can try some amazing food. You may not like to travel, but you probably like to eat… right? Some foods you’d never be able to try in your own country, and in other countries your favorite foods might taste even better! When I went to Nice, France for example, I had a beignet filled with Nutella and it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life. Also, I discovered that Nutella in England tastes better than the Nutella in the US. Plus, you know you want to try the pizza in Italy… and pasta… and gelato.

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2) You can see some of your favorite things. Maybe museums, architecture, or famous landmarks aren’t particularly interesting to you, but there are other things you can see in a different country! If you’re a Harry Potter fan than you NEED to go on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in England. Or if you’re a huge Beatles fan, there’s nothing cooler than going to Abbey Road to mimick their album cover. Doing this is actually known as pop-culture tourism where you purposely go to locations found in movies, literature, or any form of entertainment.

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3) You’ll really bond with the people you’re with. Traveling with your friends or family will definitely bring you closer. You’ll have new inside jokes, something to always talk about, and times where you can say, “Remember when…?”

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4) If you have a hobby or activity you like doing, chances are in another country it’s better. A skiier? Go skiing in the Swiss Alps. An art lover? Go to Paris and visit the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay to see some of the world’s most famous pieces. Hiking? What’s a local mountain compared to hiking Machu Picchu? Love cute animals? Walk down the streets of Cinque Terre and you’ll see cats everywhere. Not a cat person? You could pet a koala in Australia, see sloths and monkeys in Costa Rica, or see a lion on an African safari. Music lover? Discover underground bands in London.

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5) You get some great pictures for Facebook or Instagram out of it. Chances are you like having a really cool profile pic or an artsy Instagram. Go to a different country and there will be endless opportunities to take incredible pictures. You’ll probably get a ton of likes too!

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6) You can step in the same footsteps as your idols. It’s always fun to live out something your favorite actress did in your favorite show or movie. Walk down the streets of Paris with macarons like Blair and Serena did in Gossip Girl! Or go to Rome and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain (in hopes that Paolo will arrive) like in the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Even better, pretend you’re Kate Middleton on her wedding day and walk through Westminster Abbey.

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7) You can see a part of history. There’s nothing like revisiting history exactly where it happened. You could see what’s left of the Berlin Wall in Germany, Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, or imagine gladiators fighting in the Colosseum.

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8) You can let your guard down. You may not want to go somewhere that’s new and uncomfortable, but think about it this way… no one there knows you! So do some things you would be too embarrassed to do in front of your acquaintances. Sing in a karaoke bar, have a silly photo shoot near a landmark, or even doze in a public area.  You may get some funny looks, but chances are you’ll never see those people again.

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9) You can buy some unique trinkets. Want a cool bag? Go to South America and get one that’s crocheted by local artisans. If you want something more fancy, go to Italy and shop at a leather market. Some things you can only buy in certain places. My favorite souvenir is my Loch Ness Monster stuffed animal. Saying you got a “Nessie” at the real Loch Ness is so much cooler than saying you got it off of eBay.

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10) You’ll have great stories (and memories!) to last a lifetime. Needless to say, traveling gives you tons of great memories to reflect back on, but it also gives you a lot of stories. Traveling is the perfect conversation starter and can help you relate to others. If you meet someone new and you’ve both been to London, there you go! You’ll have tons of things to talk about and stories to share back and forth. You’ll also have a bunch of cool things to share with your friends when you get home!

Even if you’re scared to go somewhere unfamiliar or didn’t think you were interested, there are a lot of great things about traveling that you may not have even thought about!