Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland’s Lively Capital City

Dubliners are never short of an excuse for a party – but, March 17 each year the city erupts into an all-out celebration of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint.  A Welsh-speaking Scott, Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland back in the 15th century. Legend has it he also raided the island nation of its snake population. Whatever the truth shrouded in the mouth of the man, his first day marks a must do on the Irish calendar, and it’s an excellent time to visit the capital.

Spring in Valencia, Spain

A quintessential Spanish city, Valencia has loads to offer the traveller, with idyllic year-round temperatures, a charming old town to explore, thumping nightlife, culture in spades, delicious local specialities and the sizzling beaches of the Mediterranean. Now is a good time to head to this beautiful city. It now only takes 90 minutes to reach Valencia from Madrid thanks to the new AVE high-speed train. 

Serengeti, Tanzania: Where the Wild Things Are

The baby wildebeest is lying in the long grass, lurching around like an infant learning to walk as it strains to get back on its feet. It would be cute, if only it wasn't struggling so much - but then the lioness, her mouth dripping with blood, digs her fangs back into the baby's throat, and the flailing ends; the wildebeest has succumbed and the queen of the jungle is ready to enjoy her fresh kill.

Learn to Dive on the Cheap in Dahab, Egypt

"Diving is so much fun, you'll love it", my friends said. As I vomited in the water and fought back tears on the first day of my four-day Open Water Diver course in Dahab I began plotting my revenge against these so-called friends.  At first, the course seemed like torture. This was my holiday, after all, and I had paid a substantial sum of money to spend part of it studying a textbook called the PADI Open Water Diver Manual, and the other part subjecting myself to complicated skills work in the ocean, such as learning to pivot on my fins.

Drive the Southwest Peninsula, Ireland

As I roll along a narrow country road behind yet another country road being yet another tractor in no hurry, I take the chance to poke to my head out of the car window. Sprawling paddocks dip into a huge body of water and the grass is an impossible shade of green, like it has been touched up in Photoshop. Sheep turn their heads and walk towards me as if they are the welcoming party for the wild west of Ireland - it seems Irish hospitality knows no bounds.

Experience Cryotherapy at AquaCity - Poprad, Slovakia

The notion of spending two minutes in a box-sized room chilled to an inconceivable -121C, all in the name of a health kick, sounds like something from a sci-fi novel.  And when I hear that this so-called 'wonder treatment' - used by athletes to boost performance - is known as 'cryotherapy', my mind fills with wrapped images of dead bodies put in the freezer. Fortunately, cryonics (freezing the dead) is very different to cryotherapy, which I'm about to try at AquaCity, a water park and spa centre at the foot of the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia.

Culture Club Tallinn, Estonia

The arrival of budget airline flights and its buzzing nightlife scene have given Tallinn a bit of a reputation as a stag and hen party zone in a recent years, but look beyond the drinks specials and you'll find more to this min-Prague, which has had the badge of a 'European Capital of Culture'.

Speed Demons of Verbier, Switzerland

Looking towards the north face of the Bec de Rosses, a fabled mountain in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, I ask a friend whether the extreme skiers and boarders zoom down the left - or right-hand side of the mountains. "Neither," she replies, "they go down the middle".

'Simply not possible' is the first term that springs to mind. How anyone could navigate a slope that's so steep and so strewn with jagged rocks and cliffs, that it looks more suited to rock climbing than skiing or boarding, is beyond me.

Kyoto - The Heart of Japan

There it was again. A streak of colour and a scurry in the tiny alleyway up ahead. I crept forward, treading lightly past wooden facades and unmarked doors, careful not to knock the red lanterns that cast an atmospheric glow across the cobbled path. A sharp turn to the left, and there she is: a geisha.  A quick glance over her shoulder, her white made-up face contrasting with the elaborate design of her kimono - and she's gone.

While we all know that geishas' inherent beauty, grace and charm have been admired for centuries, the same could be said of Kyoto. Like waiting for a glimpse of a shy nocturnal creature, you can wait all day for the city to reveal its secrets, and just as you're about to give up in favour of fast food and a night at karaoke, Kyoto's discrete world will reveal itself.

Celebrate the New Year Twice, Visit Gwaun Valley, West Wales

By the second week of the New Year it's a fair bet that any after-effects of New Year's Eve partying will have worn off - unless you're in the Gwaun Valley in West Wales, where you'll just be gearing up for the New Year celebrations in mid-January.

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