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Our trip to Chicago feels like it was such a long time ago, but I didn’t want to leave out posting about the architectural boat tour that we took, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

Chicago has many options for architectural boat tours, and since we really wanted a combination of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, we went with Mercury Cruises, which turned out to be a great choice.

First of all, it’s location was lovely, right on the River Walk, where I loved spending time.

Chicago Riverwalk

The boat was beautiful, and we got seats right on the bow so that we could see everything. The boat also had a comfortable interior where we went when it got a little windy. Inside was a bar that served local beer, which was a really nice touch.

Lake Michigan boat tour

Going through the locks from the Chicago River into Lake Michigan was a fun experience, and once out of the river, we were really on our way.

Chicago boat tour

Lake Michigan boat tour

Navy Pier

I can’t get over Lake Michigan’s vastness; it really feels like the ocean and with the windy day we had, there were some nice swells.

boat Lake Michigan Even though we had an overcast day, the sights were absolutely beautiful. Seeing the skyline from the lake was really special, and our Captain had all sorts of interesting historical tips to share with us.

Lake Michigan

Chicago architectural boat tour

Boating on the river was equally as beautiful and interesting. The skyscrapers really lived up to their name, and we saw Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Building, Museum Campus, Trump Tower, Marina City, and others. Chicago’s history is so interesting and rich, and I would love to do another boat tour as well as a land tour so that I can learn more.

Chicago skyline

 

Trump building Chicago

(The Trump Tower was as obnoxious as the person behind the name.)

There’s so much to do in Chicago, but when we were planning our trip everyone told us to do an architectural tour. They were all right!

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Tags: architecture, boats, Chicago, tours, Travel, travel blog, vacation

If you’ve read this little blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love to be able to visit our family in Ireland every year. Even though it’s my husband’s home and not technically mine, I get homesick for Ireland, and I always count the days until we return. March is just around the corner!

On one of our trips to Ireland, we started out in the North and visited Belfast and Derry and stayed on the Antrim Coast to take in Giants Causeway and Bushmill’s Distillery. It was one of our favorite trips and had us craving more of the quiet, stunning scenery of the North, as well as the good times that are to be had.

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{Our view from the Bayview Hotel}

When I received an email regarding a guest post on the Antrim Coast, I immediately said yes. There is a lot of do and see in Northern Ireland, including the fairly new Titanic Museum, which some of our family drove all the way from Galway to see.

If you have a trip to Ireland planned, I would highly recommend a day or more in the North. It’s easy to get around the island of Ireland, and this is certainly a beautiful part of it. The below guest post might help as a guide, if you happen to be planning a trip to the Antrim Coast. Many thanks to Rhys Davies from Belfast Tours Company for getting in touch and sharing the below post.

The Antrim Coast – A Marvel of Scenic Beauty

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You can’t visit Northern Island and not check out the Antrim Coast. It is a beautiful scenic route which over the decades has established itself as one of the most iconic coastal drives in Europe. The Antrim Coast is a hot tourist spot and many people specifically visit this place to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Creating it wasn’t easy nor cheap. In fact the proposed plan was largely viewed with scepticism and disbelief at first. This was the 1830s. Technology available today wasn’t even conceived at that time. Yet the plan called for a 30 plus mile road to be built by manual labour on the towering sea cliffs in order to reach the then unreachable Antrim Glens. Not many would have thought such a project would see a successful conclusion but Scottish Engineer William Bald did. He had a vision he was determined to make a reality. And in just 10 under years, starting from 1832, he made sure the road was finally completed and ready for use. It remains to this day a marvel of human innovation and it attests to the strength of the human spirit. There were no mechanical objects used during construction. It was all done by hand by manual labour; unimaginable in today’s world.

The Antrim Coast Road is also referred to as the A2. It runs from Larne to the Giant’s Causeway. People can expect to see a series of a seaside village on the way. It also touches the rocky headlands of Garron Point and Glenarm. While tourists like the entire road trip, they rate the journey from the Black Arch at Larne to the Red Arch at Cushendall, the most scenic and beautiful. One tourist referred to it as “25 miles of Heaven”.

What stands out about the Antrim Coast Road is its ability to connect different tourist hotspots all the while being surrounded by a magical and peaceful environment. Castle Glenarm is a favourite tourist hotspot. The Giant’s Causeway is another one.

Any trip to the Antrim coast should kick start with Carrickfergus Castle, moving on to seaside resort of Whitehead where visitors can see the great tower and all the popular sites in Larne. After that, take the road North by the sea and enjoy the twists and turns as well as the gusty winds and ice blue ocean along the way. You will find many picturesque villages along the way, ideal for taking pictures and enjoying the view.

The Antrim Coast is just one of the many cool places that awaits tourists on their vacation trip. Northern Ireland has a lot to offer adventurers and visitors alike. Its majestic castles and beautiful everglades leave even the most seasoned tourists in awe. Those who are visiting the first time are really in for a treat.

Sign up for a Belfast tour and not only will you get to experience the scenic beauty of the Antrim Glens but many other cool hot spots in Belfast and surrounding areas.

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Tags: Antrim coast, Ireland, Northern Ireland, tours, Travel

Oh happy day! It’s Friday! This has been a week, hasn’t it? It’s been incredibly busy with work, but also with some family fun, dinners out, and time outdoors. When it hit 50, it felt like summer. I for one am completely over this wintry weather and ready for running in shorts and boating season. I suppose we do have some nice, summery evening light though, don’t we? I am anticipating working for most of the weekend, but looking forward to doing so in cozy pajamas, keeping warm and enjoying the quiet of home. I am craving quiet.

Today’s guest post from  Sarah from Dark Rome Tours, is pretty timely, considering the world’s  focus on Rome this week. It covers some lesser-known wine regions of Italy. I only wish I had this post before our last trip to Rome.   While in Italy, I tried to drink wines from the region we were in on each stop, but I knew nothing about the wine region surrounding Rome.

Luckily, we have Sarah to shed some light on these wines.

Rome and the Lazio area are not exactly known for being the greatest in terms of Italian wines, but they do have a particular brilliance with white wines and possibly their most famous wine: Frascati. It is so famous in fact that you can find Frascati Wine Tours consistently. But what other vineyards and wineries could you come across in the capital city area?

vineyards in Italy
The Castelli Romani

Slightly south of Rome you can find the collection of vineyards that often are called the Castelli Romani due to that being the type of wine grape they grow in that area. Many of these wines come with some interesting hints of tastes thanks to the volcanic lakes that surface in the same area and the ways these grapes are often used for their wine. Many of the vineyards in this area do produce the Frascati wine, but a select few also provide other forms of dry and sweet white wines like from the grapes Puntinata and Trebbiano.

The Orvieto Zone

Heading north of Rome you can find the Orvieto area, which provides another selection of white wines, which are not actually Frascati. In fact this area had become famous with its vineyards for some wines named after the zone. The Orvieto Abboccato and the Dolce are probably the most known wines, but they are also produced in such small quantities that if you manage to get some bottles whisked away from the Roman area, you are probably among the few to do so.

Most of the wines they produce are dry with a lack on the sweet, and utilize Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes commonly; however they have some of the most beautiful golden-yellow colors. Surprisingly this area also manages to produce a few red wines that are blended with some of their white grapes.

Italian Wine Tours

The Castle of Marino

Yet another neighbor to the Frascati wines, the hilltop castle town of Marino happens to produce a wine of the town’s name, which utilizes grapes of the Frascati but in a different manner. Due to the other types of crops grown in Marino, this white wine manages to pull in flavors similar to artichokes. It also happens to benefit from the volcanic soil of the area, since it is technically near or sometimes considered in the Castelli Romani.

The greatest spectacle for this town happens to be their grape festival, which has supposedly produced a white wine fountain in the center of town during the festival. It can be one of the most interesting and exciting spots to check out. The Marino wine also happens to hold a slightly sweeter yet also more dry texture than the Frascati, and many people prefer it better due to a greater intensity of flavours that can be found in it.

The Cesanese Comune

The Cesanese wine is probably the most famous actual red wine of the Lazio region. This red wine is also quite sweet due to it generally being blended with a mix of the sweet white wines from the Lazio region. This wine happens to be one of the best to have with most normal Roman foods, due to it going well as a pairing to anything with tomatoes in it. This is why the Cesanese wine has managed to obtain the name around Roman locals for being the ‘King of Wines’. The Cesanese is actually grown in a couple of different places across Italy, but usually produced in the Lazio area, and best done there because of the soil and sweet wine grape combinations added to it.

The berries of the Cesanese in the Lazio area happen to come at a rather large size, almost akin to normal edible grapes. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that this Red wine actually manages to maintain a fruity yet spicy smell and taste.

Do not fret if you don’t manage to find a wine suited to your tastes in the Roman area, because they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast amount of Italian wines available. If you don’t enjoy the wines you find from a simple wine tasting of the region, then you can always move further into the areas of Italy that are more known for having some wonderful choices for the most exquisite wines.

Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and travel junkie by nature, she regularly travels to Italy for both business and to experience some of the Rome tours where she mostly spends her time in search of the perfect gelato.

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Tags: guest post, Italy, tours, Travel, wine, wine tours

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