Sick of living under British rule, and tired of being asked to support their British oppressors in WWI, a faction of Irish citizens planned to take action in Dublin on the Easter weekend of 1916. 100 years later, the world remembers the Easter Rising, and Dublin still bears the scars.
Though many rebels got cold feet and one leader actually called off the Rising on 23rd April 1916, the remaining fighters dug trenches and took strongholds as arranged on 24th April, in the name of the Free Irish Republic. Their proclamation was issued from the General Post Office, which became their command hub from Easter Monday and was left gutted by the end of the fighting on 29th April.
Dublin is mostly a walkable city and, though you can navigate it easily, there are always extra things to be seen from the road and from the experts. When I visited last week for a short break with my parents, I knew a bus tour would be on our agenda, but we wanted to get the best value for our Euro.
I chose Dublin Sightseeing’s Freedom Pass as it seemed like good value for money: €33 (or £24) provides three days’ unlimited hop-on hop-off bus travel on two sightseeing routes, plus public bus travel (the blue and yellow buses you see everywhere), a free Pat Liddy walking tour and free entry to the Little Museum of Dublin, alongside a range of attraction discounts. Not bad for the equivalent of €11 (£8) per day. But would it be useful in reality?
“Ah – it seems you’ve found a bit of old sewage pipe,” says Fiona. Perhaps not what you want to hear when you’re seeking buried treasure along the Thames foreshore. Luckily this doesn’t come after hours of searching – Fiona, an inter-tidal archaeologist, is talking to an amateur mudlark, who laughs and heads off to continue scouring the shoreline for more unknown treasures (or unsavoury bits of piping) during the last few minutes of a Thames Beachcombing Walk. This is their idea of fun on a Saturday morning, and it’s contagious, so I’ve come to find out more.
Some people have a thing against organised tour holidays. They think there’s no adventure involved, that it’s all about strict plans and blithely following the leader, with no room for fun or independence; I’m going to prove it’s far from the truth. My three group tour experiences were very different, but they all helped me to get more from the country I was visiting, and they were anything but dull.
First I headed to Berlin, Dresden and Colditz with Riviera Travel, a British company that mainly has middle-aged and mature customers – I went with my mum and I was the only one of the entire group not to have either a husband, a pension plan or the symptoms of the menopause. However, I learned loads and had plenty of free time to explore, even making it to Sachsenhausen for the afternoon.
‘Happy 100th anniversary of the Constitutional Act granting votes for women in Denmark!’ is a bit of a mouthful, but it might come in handy today, as the Danes are celebrating 100 years of equal voting rights. Cue three days of celebrations (and a day off today, the lucky things). The big anniversary, with its female-friendly leanings, encouraged Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to call a general election on 18th June, so things are pretty hectic in Copenhagen right now.
To get in the political mood and find out what all the fuss was about, I took a guided tour of the Folketinget (Parliament) in English, and got to see weird and wonderful paintings, all the Constitutional Acts and the all-important Chamber itself, where the politicians debate. Set in Slotsholmen, a small island in the city centre, the Folketinget is part of a wing in Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Palace. It’s a great place to learn about Danish culture and how their laws developed, as you’ll see from my tour notes.
Keeping up to date with travel trends can be a tricky business, but putting reps from most of the world’s countries in one big London exhibition space definitely cuts out the middleman. This week I headed to World Travel Market, a huge trade event at the ExCel Centre, and squeezed in amongst 50,000 professionals, press and government ministers to find out the latest industry insight. Here are my main takeaways for the year…
Being a tour guide in Prague is a risky business
At a city tourism seminar, the CEO of walking tour company SANDEMANs New Europe spoke out about the difficulties and dangers of operating in Prague. “There’s a lot of street violence,” Chris Sandeman told the audience. “Other companies have even beaten up our staff and put them in hospital.” Chris explained that all tours in Prague 1 (the most historic zone) can only start at two specific locations to comply with city and government guidelines. It’s not hard to imagine how this must heighten tension between different groups competing for their livelihoods.
The mid-point of this trip was all about the altitude and the brilliant views that came along with it. As with the previous days, we veered between exploring urban streets and quiet backwaters, topped off by some time on the water. Here’s the abbreviated version of what we got up to (and for Part 1, click here).
Day 6 – Arequipa to Puno
It felt as though we left Arequipa and the Hotel Asturias a little too soon, and I would have liked to spend more time getting to know the city. However, we were back on the road again and heading for Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca – this time a six hour journey. With frequent stops for coca tea and vicuña spotting, we eased ourselves into the higher altitude, albeit nursing headaches, nausea and dizziness between us.
For the morbidly curious (that’d be me), the words ‘death’ and ‘tour’ in the same sentence are like music to the ears; throw in the word ‘debauchery’ and I’m easy like Sunday morning. So, when the kind people at Insider London offered me the chance to experience one of their quirky tours, this option immediately jumped out from the list.
As it happened, I couldn’t have made a better choice, because Death and Debauchery is the ultimate experience for anyone with an anatomical fixation, an interest in social history or a desire to know about the grimier side of life in one of the world’s most famous cities.
The other night I fulfilled one of my long-term travel goals: to take a Ripper tour around Whitechapel and see where the shocking murders of 1888 took place. I’m not a fan of horror in the entertaining sense (stick me in front of a slasher film and I will develop psychosomatic symptoms of distress within a few minutes), but the case of Jack the Ripper is terrifyingly real and gives an insight into the harshness of East End London life.
Maybe it’s because he was never caught, and because there are so many theories surrounding his true identity, I’m left with plenty to mull over, and a tour seemed like the ideal opportunity to match the history with the streets themselves.
Forget taking those embarrassing Segway tours, or sweating your way through the queues to the Vatican Museums: if there’s one way to really see Rome, it’s by Vespa. Not only does it make you think of the classic scenes in Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn is shown around the city by a very dashing Gregory Peck, but it also lets you see the streets as today’s Romans do, often choosing this as their mode of transport over the packed buses and the Metro.
I booked a Vespa tour with Scooteroma as the company seemed personal, friendly and a bit quirky, with good reviews from customers. Run by Annie Ojile Nerone and her husband Giovanni, they offer a range of options (including longer trips and Tuscany excursions), but I went for the three hour Motorino tour.