County Donegal, Ireland Road Trip Route

Many travellers will fly into Dublin and start their Ireland Road Trip from there. Driving from Dublin to County Donegal is literally driving across Ireland. Here’s some things to remember from a traveller who has driven in Ireland. Irish roads are narrow and often wet from rain. You are driving on the left side of the road and driving from the right front seat. There is a bit of a learning curve for most. You’ll need a GPS to not get lost, find small roads and maneuver through roundabouts. But Ireland and Donegal is well worth the trip!

County Donegal is remote even by Irish standards. There are parts of Donegal that are further north than Northern Ireland, as the Inoshowen Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic. A journey across Donegal with a car rental in Ireland and into Northern Ireland is one of the most serene and idyllic Ireland road trips you can take.

A good starting point for your journey is the Slieve League. These are the tallest sea cliffs in the country, as they stand marginally higher than their more famous brethren; the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs, however, are not overrun by tourists due to their remote location and the lack of traffic makes any time of year a good time to visit Ireland and journey to this iconic destination. From the Slieve League, head north to the village of Glencolumbkille. This gorgeous village was settled over five thousand years ago, with remains of the original inhabitants that can still be seen in the stone tombs they left behind. Irish is still spoken here by most people.

COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND ROAD TRIP ROUTE

Glengesh From Glencolumbkille, head west from the coast and into Glengesh Pass. This pass was formed by glaciers, with the road through it following a path between dramatic green peaks. Glengesh Pass delivers you into the village of Ardara. Ardara plays host to several festivals throughout the year and is in close proximity to the Kilclooney dolmen. A dolmen is a megalithic tomb and the Kilclooney dolmen is one of the most impressive in Europe.Next, head southwest to the small village of Pettigoe. Pettigoe sits just south of Lough Derg. Lough Derg is a small lake and is notable for the island it holds. Station Island is a famous pilgrimage site as it is the home of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, the monastery where St. Patrick was said to have done penance.

COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND ROAD TRIP ROUTE

After visiting the monastery, cross the border into Northern Ireland and head north to Derry. Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and offers a good opportunity to reconnect with civilization before you get on the road again. The road west from Derry will take you to Ballycastle. The coastline in and around Ballycastle was given the designation of ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty‘ by the government group Natural England and is the perfect place to finish your adventure. At this point, you will have journeyed over 150 miles and seen some of the very best Ireland has to offer.

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Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

Amsterdam is known for many things, but one thing you may not think of when dreaming of this Dutch city is Museums. Few people realize that Amsterdam is actually home to over 50 museums, many of which are very interesting and thought provoking. Some of them are strange. Here is a list of some of the interesting ones you might want to check out the next time (or first time) you travel to Amsterdam.


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This is a special museum located on one of the most beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. It explores the history of the canal district (a world heritage site) with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. A very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is often used as a symbol of the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with locals and tourists alike. If you love botany, history, or tulips in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II is now a museum and is one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam. See how hard it was and view the original diary on display while at this location. Book a rental car at Schiphol Airport and take the 20 minute drive to the historic museum. This is a must do but get there early because the lines can be long.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
A hands on museum, NEMO is very popular among children. Science and technology are the themes here, so it’s a must visit if you’re with kids on vacation. Get a Museumkaart or I Amsterdam City Card for free admission. Ask about discounted group rates!

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a collection and learn about some of the oldest cruelest torture methods of the past. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. The fact that most of what’s on display are actual artifacts is particularly disturbing.

Museum of Bags and Purses 
To me, being surrounded by this many handbags and purses seems like a scene from the previous museum!

National Maritime Museum
The museum is dedicated to maritime history and contains many artefacts associated with shipping and sailing. The collection contains, paintings, scale models, weapons and world maps. Moored directly outside the museum is a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies.

Van Gogh Museum
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, explore the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work. A must-see for any traveling virtuoso, see his work and learn about his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
This is the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. It showcases national treasurers and artifacts from over 800 years of Dutch history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

There are of course more museums, including the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Houseboat Museum and more. They make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?