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Ireland’s most popular county, Kerry is a place of stunning natural beauty and a perfect glimpse into the history of Ireland, its people, and its culture. Although it covers only a small territory, Kerry packs up an outstanding diversity of scenery. Even a short visit will have you entranced by the beauty of the green grasslands, rugged cliffs, charming coves, sandy beaches, and mountain passes. Three days is just enough, however, to experience the best of Kerry and its wealth of natural, cultural, and historical attractions. Driving by heritage sites, ancient castles, and old Christian churches, with spectacular views in all directions will make your trip memorable.

Things to see in County Kerry: Tralee

Blennerville Windmill Tralee

Tralee is the county town of Kerry and is a great introduction to the area’s massive touristic potential. The city boasts beautiful historic buildings and many great hotels, restaurants, and pubs. A visit to the Kerry County Museum will take you through thousands of years in the history of Kerry and Ireland. A show at Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, is also a unique experience which you can only have here. The town is known for the Rose of Tralee International Festival so you could plan your visit around it.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most scenic driving routes in the world, and if you want to enjoy amazing views of natural wonders and stop by castles, chapels, charming villages, and parks, there is hardly a more convenient way to do it. The 180 km circular road is easy to follow, and the wide range of sights and landmarks can easily fill a day or two. This panoramic drive also takes you through the beautiful towns Kenmare, Waterville, and Killorglin, which are some of the most interesting spots in Kerry.

Killarney Lakes and National Park

Killarney Lakes and National Park are probably the main attractions that bring visitors to Kerry. Depending on the season, Killarney offers an abundance of walking and hiking opportunities. Hiring a boat for a tour on the lakes is a charming way to explore the beauty of the place. If you want to have a good perspective of the mystical landscape of Kerry, some of the highlights found here are the Muckross Lake, Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, and Ross Castle. The entire area is suffused with cultural and historical sights, which adds more qualities to the impressive nature. From Killarney town centre, visitors can take a hop-on-hop-off tour bus to explore various areas of the Killarney National Park. Around the lakes, there are many top class golf courses, and visitors find here everything they need for a pleasant stay, from accommodation to restaurants.

If you don’t feel up for walking when visiting Killarney National Park, you can hire a horse-drawn carriage (jaunting car) so you can explore the area in a more relaxed manner.

Carrauntoohil

Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain and since it is located in Kerry, it is the best place for some spectacular views of the county and the surrounding areas. While a hiking trip to the top is more for the experienced rather than amateurs, there are local guides who organize daily trekking tours. At the top of Carrauntoohil, a fascinating view opens up over other glacial peaks, revealing the unique geology of Kerry. Even if you won’t have time to reach the top, a short hiking trip can take you through gorgeous woodlands and you will still get a chance to see fog-shrouded mountains, beautiful ridges and peaks, and pass by glacial lakes or old Celtic ruins.

The Dingle Peninsula

Stretching from Tralee to Slea Head, the Dingle Peninsula is home to Dingle Town and other famous landmarks, such as the Gallarus Castle and Oratory. The area is worth exploring because it is easy to find here the best of all that Kerry has to offer, from heritage trails to aquatic adventures, religious sites, or fine dining opportunities. Dingle Town is also worth a few hours, since it is a charming place with an artistic vibe, where hearing traditional music in the pubs is common, and locals are very welcoming and laid-back. The Dingle peninsula is also a great place for watersports, such as surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, and kite surfing, and the beaches are also stunning, especially sandy Inch.

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael or Great Skellig is an island in the Atlantic, part of County Kerry. The otherworldly scenery of the island and the range of natural wonders are an excellent reason to visit it. An abandoned Christian stone monastery from the 6th to 8th –century adds to the charm of the place, but Skellig Michael has plenty of other historical sites and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From April to August, the island is inhabited by thousands of Atlantic Puffins so if you plan your visit then, you can see the world’s cutest birds in their natural habitat.

Where to stay in County Kerry The Lake Hotel Killarney

Situated on a lake, The Lake Hotel Killarney is only minutes away from Killarney Park, and the picturesque location will make your stay memorable. The hotel has a great restaurant and a beautiful lounge & bar area. A full-service spa can be found onsite as well. The 131 rooms are gorgeously decorated and guests will notice many thoughtful touches aimed at their ultimate comfort.

Manor West Hotel & Leisure Club

Manor West Hotel & Leisure Club is a family-run hotel with luxurious, spacious rooms. Guests can enjoy spa treatments, along with a pool, sauna, steam room, and gym. Located within 20 minutes from Kerry Airport, the hotel is in a vibrant area, right next to the Manor West Retail Park. The facilities are all excellent.

Cahernane House Hotel

Located on a private estate at the edge of Killarney’s National Park, this beautiful boutique hotel was built in 1877 and has a long history of success. The manor home is surrounded by lush greenery and offers 12 charming rooms with original features. The remaining 24 rooms in the other wing of the hotel are also beautifully decorated.

Dingle Bay Hotel

Situated right in the heart of Dingle by the pier, Dingle Bay Hotel is a family-owned venture that welcomes guests with modern and spacious rooms. At the restaurant, they can serve a delicious Irish breakfast made of local ingredients and a great selection of local tasty delicacies for lunch and dinner. The hotel also features a chic bar with regular live entertainment.

Ballyseede Castle Hotel

If your budget allows it, Ballyseede Castle Hotel could be the most authentic and romantic place to stay in Kerry. Set in a 16th-century castle, with 30 acres of forest and lawns, the hotel is located a few kilometres away from Tralee town. The rooms have individual, classy designs with plenty of amenities. The hotel also includes a library bar and a chandelier-lit restaurant, besides several elegant lounges.

The Royal Hotel Valentia

With stunning views over Valentia Harbour, The Royal Hotel Valentia is more budget-friendly than the name would suggest, although it is indeed refined and elegant. The rooms are bright and spacious, and numerous facilities are included. Some rooms have harbour views. There is also an elegant restaurant for guests.

The Fairview Hotel

A four-star hotel right in Killarney town centre, the Fairview Hotel is perfectly located if you want to be near the train station or near the main shopping district. Regular rooms feature hardwood floors and stylish touches while the upgraded rooms may feature a fireplace or a 4-poster bed. The restaurant’s menu is excellent, and the lounge area includes a cosy fireplace.

Do you need more convincing? Here are 12 reasons to visit County Kerry

The post How to spend 3 days in Kerry, Ireland appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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Ireland’s most popular county, Kerry is a place of stunning natural beauty and a perfect glimpse into the history of Ireland, its people, and its culture. Although it covers only a small territory, Kerry packs up an outstanding diversity of scenery. Even a short visit will have you entranced by the beauty of the green grasslands, rugged cliffs, charming coves, sandy beaches, and mountain passes. Three days is just enough, however, to experience the best of Kerry and its wealth of natural, cultural, and historical attractions. Driving by heritage sites, ancient castles, and old Christian churches, with spectacular views in all directions will make your trip memorable.

Things to see in County Kerry: Tralee

Blennerville Windmill Tralee

Tralee is the county town of Kerry and is a great introduction to the area’s massive touristic potential. The city boasts beautiful historic buildings and many great hotels, restaurants, and pubs. A visit to the Kerry County Museum will take you through thousands of years in the history of Kerry and Ireland. A show at Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, is also a unique experience which you can only have here. The town is known for the Rose of Tralee International Festival so you could plan your visit around it.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most scenic driving routes in the world, and if you want to enjoy amazing views of natural wonders and stop by castles, chapels, charming villages, and parks, there is hardly a more convenient way to do it. The 180 km circular road is easy to follow, and the wide range of sights and landmarks can easily fill a day or two. This panoramic drive also takes you through the beautiful towns Kenmare, Waterville, and Killorglin, which are some of the most interesting spots in Kerry.

Killarney Lakes and National Park

Killarney Lakes and National Park are probably the main attractions that bring visitors to Kerry. Depending on the season, Killarney offers an abundance of walking and hiking opportunities. Hiring a boat for a tour on the lakes is a charming way to explore the beauty of the place. If you want to have a good perspective of the mystical landscape of Kerry, some of the highlights found here are the Muckross Lake, Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, and Ross Castle. The entire area is suffused with cultural and historical sights, which adds more qualities to the impressive nature. From Killarney town centre, visitors can take a hop-on-hop-off tour bus to explore various areas of the Killarney National Park. Around the lakes, there are many top class golf courses, and visitors find here everything they need for a pleasant stay, from accommodation to restaurants.

If you don’t feel up for walking when visiting Killarney National Park, you can hire a horse-drawn carriage (jaunting car) so you can explore the area in a more relaxed manner.

Carrauntoohil

Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain and since it is located in Kerry, it is the best place for some spectacular views of the county and the surrounding areas. While a hiking trip to the top is more for the experienced rather than amateurs, there are local guides who organize daily trekking tours. At the top of Carrauntoohil, a fascinating view opens up over other glacial peaks, revealing the unique geology of Kerry. Even if you won’t have time to reach the top, a short hiking trip can take you through gorgeous woodlands and you will still get a chance to see fog-shrouded mountains, beautiful ridges and peaks, and pass by glacial lakes or old Celtic ruins.

The Dingle Peninsula

Stretching from Tralee to Slea Head, the Dingle Peninsula is home to Dingle Town and other famous landmarks, such as the Gallarus Castle and Oratory. The area is worth exploring because it is easy to find here the best of all that Kerry has to offer, from heritage trails to aquatic adventures, religious sites, or fine dining opportunities. Dingle Town is also worth a few hours, since it is a charming place with an artistic vibe, where hearing traditional music in the pubs is common, and locals are very welcoming and laid-back. The Dingle peninsula is also a great place for watersports, such as surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, and kite surfing, and the beaches are also stunning, especially sandy Inch.

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael or Great Skellig is an island in the Atlantic, part of County Kerry. The otherworldly scenery of the island and the range of natural wonders are an excellent reason to visit it. An abandoned Christian stone monastery from the 6th to 8th –century adds to the charm of the place, but Skellig Michael has plenty of other historical sites and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From April to August, the island is inhabited by thousands of Atlantic Puffins so if you plan your visit then, you can see the world’s cutest birds in their natural habitat.

Where to stay in County Kerry The Lake Hotel Killarney

Situated on a lake, The Lake Hotel Killarney is only minutes away from Killarney Park, and the picturesque location will make your stay memorable. The hotel has a great restaurant and a beautiful lounge & bar area. A full-service spa can be found onsite as well. The 131 rooms are gorgeously decorated and guests will notice many thoughtful touches aimed at their ultimate comfort.

Manor West Hotel & Leisure Club

Manor West Hotel & Leisure Club is a family-run hotel with luxurious, spacious rooms. Guests can enjoy spa treatments, along with a pool, sauna, steam room, and gym. Located within 20 minutes from Kerry Airport, the hotel is in a vibrant area, right next to the Manor West Retail Park. The facilities are all excellent.

Cahernane House Hotel

Located on a private estate at the edge of Killarney’s National Park, this beautiful boutique hotel was built in 1877 and has a long history of success. The manor home is surrounded by lush greenery and offers 12 charming rooms with original features. The remaining 24 rooms in the other wing of the hotel are also beautifully decorated.

Dingle Bay Hotel

Situated right in the heart of Dingle by the pier, Dingle Bay Hotel is a family-owned venture that welcomes guests with modern and spacious rooms. At the restaurant, they can serve a delicious Irish breakfast made of local ingredients and a great selection of local tasty delicacies for lunch and dinner. The hotel also features a chic bar with regular live entertainment.

Ballyseede Castle Hotel

If your budget allows it, Ballyseede Castle Hotel could be the most authentic and romantic place to stay in Kerry. Set in a 16th-century castle, with 30 acres of forest and lawns, the hotel is located a few kilometres away from Tralee town. The rooms have individual, classy designs with plenty of amenities. The hotel also includes a library bar and a chandelier-lit restaurant, besides several elegant lounges.

The Royal Hotel Valentia

With stunning views over Valentia Harbour, The Royal Hotel Valentia is more budget-friendly than the name would suggest, although it is indeed refined and elegant. The rooms are bright and spacious, and numerous facilities are included. Some rooms have harbour views. There is also an elegant restaurant for guests.

The Fairview Hotel

A four-star hotel right in Killarney town centre, the Fairview Hotel is perfectly located if you want to be near the train station or near the main shopping district. Regular rooms feature hardwood floors and stylish touches while the upgraded rooms may feature a fireplace or a 4-poster bed. The restaurant’s menu is excellent, and the lounge area includes a cosy fireplace.

Do you need more convincing? Here are 12 reasons to visit County Kerry

The post How to spend 3 days in Kerry, Ireland appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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Planning a trip to Ireland and not sure which regions to visit? Don’t despair, I’ve shared reasons to visit the south eastern county of Wexford and the east central county of Dublin and now here are reasons to visit the south western county of Kerry:

1. Kerry is one of the best places for stargazing in Europe because some areas of the county have no light pollution whatsoever. The local authorities have even set up a Dark Sky Reserve, stretching from Kells Bay to Caherdaniel, which marks the best stargazing spots. On moonless nights, the Milky Way is clearly visible.

2. In Killarney National Park, visitors can find the beautiful Muckross Abbey, a 15th-century Franciscan friary, with a history going back to the 6th-century and the early days of Christianity in Ireland.

3. Besides Christian sites, there are plenty of ancient monuments in Kerry, a testament of the region’s Celtic heritage. The most spectacular are the stone circles in Uragh. Many other stone ring ruins can be found throughout the county, along with Iron Age forts and hamlets.

4. Kerry is one of the counties that the superb Wild Atlantic Way travels through. This is the longest coastal route in the world, and surely one of the most scenic. Traversing Kerry from north to south or vice-versa on the Wild Atlantic Way takes you by numerous attractions, such as historic abbeys and castles, remote beaches, and charming towns, climbing up to the highest asphalted mountain passes in Ireland.

5. Kerry hosts a number of interesting festivals each year. The town of Listowel celebrated every year Writers’ Week, the longest running literature festival in Ireland. Tralee has the Rose Festival. The most unique festival, however, is the Puck Fair, in Killorglin. A Pagan festival with a history of 3000 years, Puck Fair takes place every August.

6. A visit to the Bally Carbery Castle ruins is the best way to immerse yourself in the glorious past of the region. Nearby, you can find Cahergall Fort and Leacanabuaile Fort. The perfectly preserved historic ruins are lit by torches at night, and the atmosphere is truly magic and can feel easily like a journey through time.

7. Kerry Geopark is a unique landscape of immense geological, historical, and archaeological value.

8. Conor Pass is the highest mountain pass in Ireland and offers wide views of the dramatic scenery of Kerry.

Brandon Mountain Range and Bay Area, Dingle Peninsula near Tralee in Co. Kerry.

9. Waterville is a small coastal village in Kerry, which was a favourite spot of actor Charlie Chaplin. A statue dedicated to his memory can be found in the village, and there is also an annual festival celebrating his life and career.

10. Ten of the highest peaks in Ireland are located in Kerry, the county is a top hiking destination and outdoor activities are a big thing among locals and visitors alike. Watersports, hill walking, and mountain climbing are the most popular activities in the region.

11. A great local experience in Kerry is to get acquainted with one of the county’s national sports and watch a Gaelic football match. Football is a major local obsession and is a great topic of conversation if you want to befriend some locals.

Ross Castle on the shore of Lough Leane, Killarney, Co.Kerry

12. An intriguing legend surrounds Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. The castle was built in the 15th-century by O’Donoghue Mor, and many believe that on the first morning of May every seven years, the ghost of O’Donoghue rises from the nearby lake on a white horse and circles the castle. If someone catches a glimpse of the ghost, they can be assured of good luck in life.

Are you for a accommodation in Kerry?

A list of the best Hotels in County, Kerry

The post 12 Reasons to visit County Kerry in Ireland appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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No doubt, London is a top destination for foodies. The range of excellent restaurants, from the most expensive to the most budget-friendly, and the expansive international cuisine are hard to match. If you’re looking for some interesting options to make sure you’ll have an unforgettable, delicious taste of London and experiment some of the multicultural richness of the British capital, these are our top recommendations for the best places to eat.

Xi’an Impression

Almost hidden away on a little side street opposite of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Xi’an Impression is a small restaurant, but the minimalist design makes it seem bright and spacious, and you’ll feel instantly welcomed. Excellent Chinese dishes are available at friendly prices. Vegetarians can find a great range of choices as well. Chinese noodles come in a variety of forms and flavours, and this is the best place to explore new combinations of exotic ingredients.

Koya Soho

Koya Soho is one of Londoners’ favourite Japanese restaurant. Once a best-kept secret, the restaurant has attracted a lot of attention lately. The place is small, but clients can comfortably sit on a stool and watch the chefs do their magic in the kitchen behind the counter. The main attraction is the authentic Japanese breakfast, which can comprise traditional grilled fish with miso soup and rice. The restaurant offers both traditional dishes and original recipes.

Santa Maria Pizzeria

In a multicultural city like London, it is easy to find the best of everything. If you’re in the mood for some top-notch Neapolitan pizza, Santa Maria Pizzeria is a great choice. The wood-fired oven spreads delicious, aromatic flavours, and the pizza comes out with a blistered crust and a yummy interior. There is a wide range of toppings available.

Wild Food Cafe

Located in charming and colourful Neal’s Yard, Wild Food Café is as a plant-based organic eatery, where food comes in original and playful combinations of flavours and ingredients from all over the world. The ingredients come from small organic farms or are foraged from natural environments. The menu changes seasonally.

The Golden Chippy

Fish and Chips is the most popular British staple food, so if you are in London, make sure to stop by The Golden Chippy for some of the best Fish and Chips in the city and a truly local experience. Located in Greenwich, this establishment has a small seating area, but it is very welcoming, and the food is excellent with amazing flavours. The fish is always fresh and the chips are crispy outside but soft inside. The prices are also very good, especially since the portions are quite large. The Fish and Chips come with green salad.

Amrutha Lounge

Yes Offering an authentic mix of Indian, Sri Lankan, and Thai food, Amrutha Lounge is a small, cosy restaurant with innovative dishes that cater mostly to vegans but which are loved by everyone. Popular classics are also on the menu. The food is prepared from scratch with great attention to details to ensure the maximum quality. The place was voted one of the most popular restaurants in London, yet it is incredibly affordable.

The Ledbury

The Ledbury is truly one of the best restaurants in London and almost on a league of its own, yet the prices match the quality. If budget is no issue, this is a Michelin-starred restaurant where both the food and the ambience are spectacular. Everything is at the highest standards, and the French-inspired cuisine is described as culinary perfection. The food presentation and the wine selection can satisfy even the most sophisticated palate.

 

The post Unusual restaurants in London appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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The capital of Georgia and one of the oldest urban settlements in the world, Tbilisi is definitely among the most interesting places in the Caucasus and has yet to receive the attention it deserves. Relatively undiscovered as a travel destination, Tbilisi welcomes its visitors with a wealth of culture and history. Spectacular panoramas, hiking opportunities, delicious cuisine, and unique architecture make Tbilisi a special place. With its mix of European modernity, Soviet relics, and Asian touches, the city has a lot of character.

Explore the Old Town

If Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in the world, the Old Town, Tbilisi’s historic district, is a testament to that. Although the city was destroyed and rebuilt many times, the Old Town has been, thankfully, preserved intact. Wandering through the labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, visitors can admire the historic old Georgian houses with charming courtyards. Painted in vibrant colors, all houses include stunning wooden balconies and staircases. The Old Town is also where you can find most of the local art shops, wine houses, bars, and small guesthouses.

Take the Funicular to the Mtatsminda Park

Tbilisi is nestled in a valley, run through by the Mtkvari River and backed by mountains and rolling hills. Since the Mtatsminda Park is situated on the highest hill surrounding Tbilisi, it offers the most amazing views of the city and the surrounding areas. Both locals and visitors love to gather here in the evening, where several small bars and traditional Georgian restaurants await them with affordable drinks and tasty local cuisine. Mtatsminda also includes a small amusement park and a Paris wheel. A modern funicular takes visitors to Mount Mtatsminda, but the park can also be reached by bus 124.

Browse Soviet Memorabilia at the Flea Market

Georgia was part of the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1991, which means that the Soviet influence is still pervasive in the country. One of the best spots to explore the history of Soviet Georgia is the Dry Bridge Flea Market near Dedaena Park. Locals who lived most of their lives under the Soviet regime come here with a staggering range of artifacts for sale. Browsing the items will reveal precious antiques, propaganda books and posters, household items, handmade jewelry, old vinyl records, or war medals. The place is filled to the brim with strange and unique treasures so if you want a souvenir, peruse the assortments and take your pick. Even if you find the diversity of items too overwhelming, the Flea Market is truly a history lesson worth exploring. The market also includes a section for local artists.

Go on a Wine Tasting Tour

Georgia has a thousand-year-old wine-making tradition, using traditional methods that involve huge clay vessels, some examples of which can be admired at the National Museum of Georgia. Naturally, there are many great local wine cellars in Tbilisi, where not only that you can learn more about the Georgian tradition of wine-making, but you can also taste many excellent regional varieties of wine. Depending on the region of origin, Georgian wines can be very different from each other. For the best selections of local wines, visit the many wine tasting spots in Tbilisi, and you will also get a taste of local life. A wine tasting tour is also a great opportunity to experience the hospitability and friendliness of the locals.

Take the Cable Car to the Mother Georgia Statue

Located on Sololaki Mountain, a high hill overlooking Tbilisi, the Mother Georgia Statue is outside of the city, but still within easy reach. A symbol of Georgian character, the statue was built in 1958 to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of Tbilisi. With a sword in one hand and a bowl of wine in the other, Mother Georgia expresses the hospitable and valiant nature of Georgians. To get to the statue, visitors can take the extremely cheap cable car from Rike Park. It is possible to walk as there is a marked path up the hill. At the top, there is also a 4th-century ancient fortress, Narikala, but the main attraction is the stunning panorama of Tbilisi and the valley. The cable car journey is also lovely and offers striking views of the Old Town and other districts of Tbilisi.

The post Things to Do in Tbilisi appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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Although Tbilisi is an amazing introduction to Georgia, there is a lot more to see in this beautiful country, especially if you’re interested in gorgeous mountainous landscape, medieval villages, complex cave towns, and ancient monasteries perched on rolling hills. Since Georgia is a small country, the distances are fairly reasonable so it is easy to take day trips from Tbilisi to numerous interesting spots.

Mtskheta

Now only a small town, Mtskheta was once the capital of Georgia and played an important role in the history of the country. Unsurprisingly, the town still preserves a sort of charming distinction and has monuments and attractions of great cultural and historic value, which make it a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main attraction is the stunning Svetitskhoveli Orthodox Cathedral from 11th-century, where visitors can admire beautiful interior frescoes. Since a stroll around the town will not take much of your time, you can also check out the 4th-century Samtavro Monastery, outside of Mtskheta, and the Jvari Monastery, which towers across the town. To get to Mtshketa, you can take a marshrutka (a normal minivan that locals use as their primary means of transport) from Tbilisi’s Didube Station for Mtskheta. The vans leave every 10 to 15 minutes and the ride is really short.

Gori

Located in western Georgia, Gori is mostly known among those interested in dark history for being the birthplace of infamous Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The town itself is very quaint, although dominated by Soviet-era style apartment buildings. There are, however, plenty of culturally significant places, including the Gori Fortress Citadel, which offers nice views of the city, and the St. George’s Church of Gorijvari. A truly unique experience is a visit to the Stalin Museum. History fans will be intrigued to discover that the legend of Stalin still overshadows this pretty town, and many attractions and landmarks bear his name. On Stalin Avenue, visitors can also find cozy coffee shops and traditional Georgian restaurants.

Marshrutkas leave regularly from Tbilisi’s Didube Station for Gori. The journey takes less than an hour. There are also shared taxis available, which depart from the same place. Additionally, passenger train travels regularly between Tbilisi and Gori.

Uplistsikhe Cave Town

With origins in the Iron Age, Uplistsikhe is an ancient cave town comprised of many chambers and grottoes carved into the rock above the River Mtkvari. The caves once formed a fully functioning and complex urban settlement with proper living quarters which at some point housed 20,000 people. The landscape is truly fascinating and visitors are free to explore the maze of caves and grottoes. The site also includes a 9th to 10th- century church. Since Uplistsikhe is just 14 km away from Gori, many choose to visit both on the same day trip.

The best way to visit Uplistiskhe is to take the train or local bus from Gori. The bus stop is on Stalin Avenue. There is no direct train from Tbilisi, so you have to change in Gori.

David Gareja Monastery Complex

A visit to the David Gareja Monastery Complex will take you through the most stunning scenery in Georgia. Built by Assyrian priests in the 6th-century, this Orthodox monastic complex is located right on the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan. The barren desert landscape is balanced by steep mountains and rocky hills. After a challenging ascent to the biggest monastery, visitors find a huge site of hundreds of rooms and small chapels, all carved into rock. Some of the chapels are decorated with beautiful ancient frescoes, and prayer rooms abound. The views of Azerbaijan are spectacular and there are many marked hiking trails around the complex.

David Gareji is only an hour away from Tbilisi and there are several ways to reach it, including shared taxis, marshrutkas, and even a shuttle bus.

The post Best Day Trips from Tbilisi appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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Amsterdam is an eclectic city which attracts different types of visitors but manages to cater wonderfully to every taste. Whether you intend to spend your days in the exquisite fine art museums or to explore the nightlife of Europe’s most tolerant city, Amsterdam will not disappoint you. Finding the right accommodation is the first step in ensuring that you’ll make the most of your trip. Thankfully, Amsterdam has a wide range of excellent hotels to choose from.

Breitner House

Breitner House is an elegant boutique hotel, right in the heart of Amsterdam. Lavishly decorated, the hotel is an architectural gem and served as a residence for the famous 19th-century Dutch artist George Breitner. Always associated with cultural and artistic refinement, the hotel maintains an impressive level of aesthetic splendor with some refreshing modern touches. Two sumptuous suites are available for guests.

Check for availability and rates at the Breitner House

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

Sofitel Legend The Grand has a long and intriguing history. In the 15th- century, the place functioned as a convent, then it became a royal residence. In the 20th-century, it served as the City Hall of Amsterdam. The outstanding elegance of the place attests to its fascinating heritage and the Grand Hotel is now one of the most luxurious hotels in Amsterdam. Situated in a perfect location in the center, the hotel includes 52 splendid suites, a Michelin-stared restaurant, a bar, and a wonderful courtyard.

Check for availability and rates HERE

Hotel Estheréa

The charming Hotel Estherea is a large, yet incredibly welcoming place, where visitors will find everything from first-class hospitality to charming design and extensive facilities. Set in a 17th-century townhouse on Amsterdam’s oldest canal, the hotel has gradually achieved an outstanding reputation. The extravagant decor features elegant chandeliers, mahogany paneling, quirky wallpapers, and elegant fabrics. The facilities and service are excellent.

Check for availability and rates HERE.

The Conservatorium

The Conservatorium is a luxurious hotel, situated in the cultural heart of Amsterdam, the Museum Square. The 19th-century building housed a conservatorium before being transformed into a hotel in 2008. The blend of historic heritage and contemporary elegance is especially visible in the unique layout of the place. The design of the rooms features calming, neutral colors and minimalist furniture, with varying layouts. The hotel also houses a wellness center. Guests can choose between multiple bars and restaurants, where the service is outstanding.

Check for availability and rates HERE

Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam

Grand Hotel Amrâth occupies a stunning historic building which is listed as a top example of radical expressionist design coming from the Amsterdam School of architecture. Besides its excellent location right next to the city’s Central Station and its impressive architecture, this five-star hotel offers beautiful views over Amsterdam’s waterfront. Rooms are very spacious and have a welcoming feel. The vintage design will remind you of the historic legacy of the hotel.

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Planning a trip to Amsterdam? Start HERE

Set around a ring of picturesque canals, Amsterdam has a magnetic aura that attracts millions of visitors. The city is renowned for its tolerant culture and hedonistic streak and it is probably one of the most eclectic locations in the world, offering something for anyone, from lovers of fine art to cycling enthusiasts. The elegant architecture and the laid-back atmosphere combine with a unique bustling nightlife and a cosmopolitan attitude. Amsterdam’s contrasting features only add to its immense appeal and here are the top things to do in the city.

Visit the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a massive Dutch national art and history museum and the most popular cultural institution in the Netherlands. The collections include thousands of works of art and historical artifacts that showcase the richness of the Dutch culture. Here you can find the works of famous Dutch artists, including Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Vincent Van Gogh, among many others. Thousands of masterpieces make this place an art’s lover paradise. As one of the world’s finest art museums, Rijksmuseum also houses events, open-air exhibitions, and markets on a daily basis.

Take a Canal Cruise

The canal ring in Amsterdam creates a unique urban setting and due to its importance in the development of the city, it is now part of UNESCO’s list of protected heritage sites. Created in the 17th-century, the network of canals with their charming bridges gives a magical feel to the city, both during the day and at night when the bridges are brightly lit. Taking a boat tour on the canals is a great, relaxing way to experience the most enchanting aspects of Amsterdam. The hardest part will be to choose a type of cruise because the options are plenty, from romantic night time cruises with dinner to guided sightseeing tours and hop-on-hop-off canal buses.

Relax in Vondelpark

The largest park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark attracts over 10 million visitors a year. Until recently, it was the only public park in the world where one could legally barbecue and smoke joints. This makes it a vibrant social place and also a refreshing escape, especially on sunny days, when locals like to retreat amid the lush greenery, enjoying the ample cycle paths, winding footpaths, quaint bridges, and charming cafes. In the spring and summer, many come to the park to have a picnic, soak up sunlight and relax. The vast green open spaces offer plenty of opportunities for all kinds of activities, from drinking to cycling. A popular free open-air theater operates in the summer months.

Visit the Anne Frank Museum

The Anne Frank House is a 17th-century canal house where 14-year old Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years during World War II. Now a historical museum and educational center, the place offers a permanent exhibition on Anne’s life and also features other exhibitions on related historical themes. The cramped secret annex where the family hid is open to visitors as well. Although this is a somber experience, the Anne Frank Museum is definitely worth a visit as it is an essential part of the worlds’ historical legacy. Visitors can see Anne’s bedroom and have a look at her actual diary.

Take a Bike Tour

Bicycles are a big part of Dutch culture. Not only that the Dutch love cycling but for them, cycling is the primary means of transport in the city. The number of bikes in Amsterdam is astounding, which means that if you want to experience the best of the city and fit in among the locals, a bike tour is an ideal way to do that. There are many different tours available, some including unique visits or demonstrations of typical local experiences. Renting a bike is extremely easy and the number of bike lanes will allow you to roam the city freely.

Visit the Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most influential painters in the history of art and probably the most famous Dutch artist. The museum dedicated to his life and works is housed in a modernist building near the Rijksmuseum, right in the cultural heart of Amsterdam. The museum traces Van Gogh’s personal life and artistic career, showcasing both famous masterpieces and less known pieces. The collection is comprised of hundreds of works of art and hundreds of personal letters that Van Gogh sent to family and friends. The displays tell the story of Van Gogh’s evolution as an artist from the early amateur stage to the incredibly bold and expressive works known worldwide. The museum also includes paintings by Van Gogh’s contemporaries, such as Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

The post Best Things to Do in Amsterdam appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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With an abundance of museums, art galleries, chic restaurants, charming pubs, hip neighborhoods, and plenty of world renown landmarks, London can be intimidating, especially to a first time visitor. Adding that London is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, there is an overwhelming range of options to explore when it comes to food, shopping, and entertainment. Although the city is packed with sights, many major museums, galleries, parks, and open markets are in Central London. Venturing in other neighborhoods as well is a must, but whatever you do in London, you will surely get a taste of the city’s unique character.

Explore Millenia of History at the British Museum

Founded in 1753, the British Museum is one of the world’s oldest museums and a top cultural institution in the United Kingdom. It houses some of the most valuable artifacts in human history, including the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, massive Assyrian sculptures, Parthenon sculptures, and many more ancient works of art. In fact, its collection of antiquities is so vast that it covers millenia of human history. And it’s free to visit.

Have Lunch in Eclectic Camden

Camden is a vibrant neighborhood in north London, popular for its cultural diversity and alternative atmosphere, and where a popular market takes place every day, attracting locals and visitors alike. The place is filled with bookshops, vintage clothing stores, vegan bakeries, cafes, and stalls selling everything from art to handmade jewelry. Take a stroll through Camden Market to discover the impressive range of street food options, including Indian, Turkish, Chinese, and countless others, and have lunch on the picturesque Regent’s Canal.

Are you planning your trip to London? Here’s a list of the best hotels!

Visit Westminster

The most gorgeous architecture of the city can be found in Westminster, the political powerhouse of London. The Palace of Westminster is home to the Houses of Parliament and the iconic Big Ben. A neo-gothic, incredibly-detailed structure of towers, arches, and buttresses, with 1,000 rooms and many courtyards, the palace cannot leave you indifferent. In the same area, you can also find Westminster Abbey, a place of great cultural significance for the British, with equally stunning architecture. This is where many important cultural and political figures in the history of the UK were buried, and where many royal weddings took place.

Take a Thames Cruise

Besides being the longest river in England, the Thames is a really important part of London’s development and history. Traveling along the Thames is a wonderful way to get to know the city and understand its true vastness. Even better, the cruises usually pass by important landmarks, such as the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster, Tower Bridge, and London Bridge. All sights are lit up at night, so night cruises are a great choice for a romantic dinner.

See the City from Above with London Eye

The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel built in celebration of the new millennium, which now affords visitors stunning views of London. For a complete experience, interactive tablets allow you to identify key sights in the skyline. Each rotation takes 30 minutes and is fairly slow, giving you the opportunity to have a thorough look and recognize your favorite parts of the city. Visitors can share a pod with others or take on a private pod. The wheel is lit up at night when it becomes a colorful, distinctive element on London’s skyline.

Witness the Changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace

The Buckingham Palace has been the residence of the British Royal Family since 1837. Although it features hundreds of room, only some areas are open to visitors. Still, you can get a good glimpse of the royal life. What really attracts visitors, however, is the famous Changing of the Guard. The ceremony lasts for 45 minutes, but the dates and times differ, so it’s better to check in advance if you want to witness this historic tradition.

Stroll around Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is the equivalent of New York’s Times Square, and you will easily recognize it because it is the busiest and most dazzling square in London, where bright lights, billboards, and huge screens tell you that this is one of the main commercial and social hubs of the city. Both locals and visitors meet near the Statue of Eros in the center because Piccadily Circus is a great starting point for those who want to see London’s biggest shops, nightclubs, theaters, and quirky museums. Within a short walk, visitors can reach other important areas of London, such as Soho, Chinatown, or Trafalgar Square.

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, with its 12.000 tins, jars, posters, toys and artifacts, will let you retrace the history of the United Kingdom (and not only) since 1800 to nowadays, and it’s one of those quirky places to visit in London that not many people know – not even the locals.

The post Quirky things to do in London appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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Many of us like to scour around online before committing to booking a hotel for our trips away. According to TripAdvisor’s Path to Purchase report in 2017: 

• 33% of people around the world visit travel sites 
• 74% of hotel purchasers check TripAdvisor 

With so many of us reading and checking online reviews, the question must be asked: just how important are star ratings in the modern world of hospitality? Do people still value them, or are they deemed less important than the words of a (purportedly) real guest experience? 

In this article, we’ll explore the star standard for the hotel industry to find out if guests can still glean worthwhile information from it. 

The AA’s UK hotel star rating system

The basics:

The AA’s star system has a basic level of entry requirements that must be fulfilled regardless of star level. These include: 

  • Public liability insurance 
  • Fire risk assessment 
  • Food safety/hygiene compliance 
  • Health and safety compliance 
  • Planning compliance 
  • Licensing compliance 
  • Hotel Proprietors Act compliance 
  • Data Protection Act/GDPR compliance 
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 compliance 
  • Equality Act 2010 compliance 
  • Safety and security minimum requirements

This includes staff to be on site and on call 24-hours a day, printed instructions for emergencies in the night and for evacuation procedures in every bedroom. Symbols, diagrams, and multilingual emergency notices in every bedroom. Registered guests should have access to the hotel at all times, with the hotel entrance illuminated in the dark and identifiable. Lighting in all public areas, stairways, and landings.Telephone access 24-hours a day.A key or card for guests to lock bedroom doors inside and out, and security fittings on windows. 

In addition to the above, hotels looking to enter the AA star system need to abide by a minimum level of maintenance, such as fixtures, electrical and gas equipment in the building being clean and fit for purpose. There’s also a minimum requirement for cleanliness, with the AA stating that there must be ‘a high standard of cleanliness maintained throughout the property’ regardless of star level — cleanliness is not expected to vary between star level. 

The differences between levels 

From here, the differences between star levels becomes more apparent in the AA’s Common Quality Standards. For example, where a one-star hotel is required to offer an iron and ironing board, a five-star hotel is expected to offer 24-hour return laundry service. A one-star hotel can verbally explain the breakfast menu, where a two-star hotel must have a clean, well-presented menu provided for breakfast items. But then for dinner provisions, both one and two-star hotels (as well as three and four) all need to serve dinner at a specific time advertised, communicate if no dinner is provided, and can provide a self-service buffet. The only difference in dinner requirements is for five-star hotels, which need to provide all courses, served to guests at their table. 

There’s a huge level of detail for the requirements of each level outlined in the full document, which can be accessed here. But just how relevant is it in this digital age? 

The problem with stars

The problem keeps coming back to the fact there’s no global star standard. Other countries run their own systems, with some having multiple different boards with their own star systems. Some hotels might even give themselves their own ‘unofficial’ star rating. Then, there’s the matter of tour operators running their own star rating system, which can make four-star hotels look like five-star hotels to unsuspecting bookers

Even within the UK, a hotel may have an AA two-star rating, but a tour operator may advertise it as three-stars based on their own rating system. 

The rise in trusting reviews

It’s hardly surprising then that more and more people are turning to review websites before booking a room. Plus, it seems there is an increasing level of trust in those online review and ratings. 

Back in 2009, C. Cox et al noted that while 95% of internet users at the time relied on online research as part of their travel information search process, few were actively trusting them as a primary means of gauging a hotel’s quality. This was deemed to be because ‘[it] is not always easy to identify and access the profile of people who post information on blogs and other social networking sites, [so] the reader cannot easily gauge the credibility of the information provided’ (pg. 749). 

Fast-forward nine years, and we’ve become very trusting of what we see online, with a reported 84% of people placing online reviews on the same level of trust as a recommendation from a friend. As mentioned at the start of this article, one of the main ways potential guests scout out hotels is to look on TripAdvisor, meaning they are placing a lot of value in the ratings there compared to the star-rating of a hotel. 

The risk of ratings and reviews

But even that isn’t wholly without flaws. It is as relevant now as it was in 2009; we simply do not know much about the person who rates or reviews a hotel on TripAdvisor and the like. In fact, there’s even a ‘fake review’ market present in the digital world that is said to be able to get around the detection processes in place. So much so that one man managed to get a restaurant that doesn’t exist rated as the top restaurant in London

A history of stars 

It used to be that a hotel’s star rating was the go-to check for travellers looking to book a room. The star system used to be quite simple and, without the digital word of mouth, really the only information guests had to go on. 

Now, the star system is as varied and unsettled as they come, with hotels claiming everything from five to ten stars instead of the traditional rating. Plus, many have noted that a four-star hotel in Madrid might not feel the same as a four-star Harrogate Hotel.

This is down to the fact that there is no global star rating system

The star-rating system for the UK was introduced in 1912 by the AA as a means of classifying hotel standards. Back then, the maximum number of stars was three. It wasn’t until 2006 that the AA developed the Common Quality Standards with the help of a number of UK tourist boards, which increased the maximum rating to five stars. Plus, in 1956, the AA introduced an additional Rosette Award scheme to ‘assess the quality of food served in restaurants and hotels’. 

Which holds more value? 

So long as you know to look out specifically for AA stars, the star rating system is useful for knowing the minimum you will receive from a hotel. By checking the minimum requirements set out by the AA, you can see the standards the hotel had to achieve to be granted not only entry to the star system at all, but the star level they have achieved. For example, the AA has rated The Majestic Hotel as a four-star hotel. You can take this and check their Common Quality Standard to find out that this means the hotel must provide such things as televisions with a screen larger than 24 inches, and a high degree of spaciousness within the rooms. This forms a good foundation for what to expect of a hotel. From there, a look at guest reviews can help to cement an idea of the experience, but with caution for the above-mentioned flaws for the online review process. 

All in all, it seems a certain degree of balance is required when considering ratings, reviews, and stars. Approached the right way, they can provide a keen insight into your potential booking. Just remember to check which stars are being shown! 

Disclaimer: This is post is sponsored by Cairn Collection.

The post Ratings to Consider Before Booking a Hotel appeared first on My Life from a Bag | Travel & Lifestyle Blog.

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