We’ve Finished our RTW, so What Were Our Favorite…. Drinking Experiences?!

We’ve finished our RTW trip. We get a lot of questions about our favorite things on the trip. We’ve decided to start a new series called “So, What Was Our Favorite…” We visited 29 countries on our RTW: Egypt (just 1 day), South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe (just 1 day), Namibia, Germany (just 1 day), Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Ireland, USA, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia (just Bali), Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, and Nepal.

As many of you know, we are not really big partiers- but we definitely like a good drink/drinking experience. As we traveled around the world, we tried as much of the local alcohol as we could, but there were a few “drinking experiences” that really stood out. These were times that we remembered best for being somewhat alcohol centered, however, we think you’ll notice that often it wasn’t just the alcohol that made the experience so memorable.

This edition looks at our top 10 favorite “drinking experiences” around the world. These are not in order from best to worst. They are just our top 10 favorite in the order in which we visited them.

Chobe Safari Lodge, Kasane, Botswana

For three nights on our self-drive safari, we stayed at Chobe Safari Lodge in Botswana. The campsite itself was a little substandard. But the benefit was that we were less than 100 feet from a bar overlooking the river, where we spent multiple afternoons drinking beers and watching elephants graze. The sunsets were gorgeous and we enjoyed some local beer. The beers themselves weren’t wonderful, mostly pretty boring lagers, but the setting and sights were awesome!

Groot Constantia Wine Estate, Cape Town, South Africa

We visited here during our city sight-seeing tour in Cape Town, and we wish we could have spent the whole day there! It is the oldest wine estate in South Africa. It was started in the late 1600s by members of the Dutch East India Company. It took awhile but it then began to compete with all the fine wines in Europe and has continued to make excellent wine since then. We took the cellar tour and participated in a delicious wine tasting. We then wandered the vineyard and explored the historical buildings. The location was lovely and historic and we felt like we had a nice connection because we had just read James Michener’s Covenant which was about the history of the Cape and we had learned about a similar winery in the story. Definitely an enjoyable day!

Valley of Beautiful Women, Eger, Hungary

Just over the hill, about a 25 min walk from the Old Town of Eger, is the Valley of Beautiful Women. We’re not sure why the name, especially because we saw almost no one in our time in the valley. It was a miserably rainy day. But, the bad weather didn’t deter us from our reason for visiting Eger: the ~ 50 wine cellars all right next to each other, clustered in the valley. Tastes are free and glasses were as reasonable as 100 forint (about $0.50)! We really enjoyed striking up a conversation with a bored Hungarian working in the first cellar. We chatted about wine, Hungary, language, and her life. We also enjoyed trying the Eger special wine: Egri Bikaver or Bull’s Blood. The wine gets its name because in 1552, the people of Eger withstood a siege by the Ottoman Empire for a month. 2000 men from Eger against 100,000. They held! The king Istvan Dobo helped his troops by giving them wine which stained their beards red. This lead to rumors through the Turkish army that the men of Eger were so strong and vicious because they were drinking the blood of bulls! Every cellar has their own variant of this famous Eger wine. They also will fill up a plastic bottle of wine for cheap prices. We filled our 1 liter nalgene bottle of our favorite wine for only 500 forint (a little over $2.00!!) There are many cellars to try, but the rain and the alcohol caused us to only get to 3. We wish we lived close by cause we would go back regularly!

Buza Bar, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Buza means hole in the old Dubrovnik dialect. That’s just what this bar was – a hole in the wall. Literally, you walk through a hole in the city walls of Dubrovnik. The bar was quite crowded, but it was still an absolutely beautiful view out over the ocean. We had a few drinks there at sunset, enjoying our last evening in Croatia. Gorgeous!

Literary Pub Crawl, Dublin, Ireland

This was a new adventure for us! Dublin has a very rich literary history- writers such as WB Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and and James Joyce made Dublin their home. Neither of us knew much about any of these authors, nor had read anything by them. But, Della thought that maybe this would be the perfect way to learn more about them, especially as we were in Dublin… and it couldn’t hurt that beer was involved. We really enjoyed the pub crawl! We went to 4 different pubs throughout the evening. At each one, we enjoyed our guides. They made sure to tell us stories either about the history of Dublin or about one of the many authors that contributed to that history. They also sprinkled in several small performances, either scenes from different plays or books, or from letters from the authors. It was an entertaining way to spend an evening exploring Dublin’s past and Dublin’s beer!

Red Mountain Winery, Inle Lake, Myanmar/Burma

On our first full day in Inle, we rented bikes and headed out of town toward a winery! The Red Mountain Winery is about 5 miles outside of Nyuang Shwe (the main town for Inle which we were staying in). It was a glorious day and we really enjoyed the ride. It was quite a push up the hill to get to the winery, but it was so worth it. You can get a taste of 4 wines for about $2. The wine was OK though not fabulous. We each found one we liked well enough to enjoy a glass of while we nibbled on an appetizer and took in the view. We waited around for the free tour and ended up being the only 2 on it for a little while. It was a short tour and we learned how the winery is quite new, imports most of its plants from France, and has mostly broken machines so they do things like label by hand. The glorious views and lovely day make this a fantastic place for a drink!

A Riverside Bar, Vang Vieng, Laos

Many people talk about the joys of tubing down the river and stopping for crazy party drinking at the riverside bars in Vang Vieng. We weren’t really into that, but on our last day in town, we headed down to the river where there were a few small riverside huts and a small bar with music playing. It was past the crazy, tubing part of the river so it was really quite calm. It also helped that we hung out there during sunset. It definitely felt like spending a day at the beach (without the icky sand and salt!) We had nice shade and shelter from the sun in our bungalow. We took turns going for a quick dip – the water was pretty cold – and relaxed and read our books while sharing a Beerlao. The bar also had some speakers playing Western pop music, many of which we recognized and had fun singing along to. We also enjoyed watching the huge air balloons floating above us as the sun sank down to the horizon.

Beachfront Restaurants, Ko Lanta, Thailand

We had a short time on the beach during our trip to Thailand. (Short was just the right amount of time for us!) We stayed near Khlong Nin beach, which was quiet and restful. There were lots of beachfront restaurants where you could sit and enjoy a drink. We ate many lunches, using the restaurants as sun blocks while we enjoyed our beer and looking out on the beach. Many of the beachfront restaurants offered happy hour deals on beer, which was great since the beach faces west. We took advantage and made sure to find a good seat to watch the sun fade below the horizon.

Sampling Fresh Beer, Hoi An, Vietnam

In Hoi An we had our first chance to sample “fresh beer,” a classic beverage that is unique to the country. The beer is called fresh because it has just recently been brewed and is served without preservatives. It has less alcohol than normal beer and less carbonation, but is very cheap. We paid only 3000 dong (about 15 cents) per glass! It was also extremely hot during our time in Hoi An. Stopping in at a restaurant or stand to enjoy a cheap, quick, and refreshing fresh beer was a great way to cool down and rest out of the heat!

Wine in Our Own Lodging, Anywhere Around the World

In several countries (though most notably: Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, and Hong Kong), the most affordable option for drinks was to buy a bottle of wine (or retsina) and take it home for an evening in. There were many a bottle that we enjoyed while lounging on a balcony of our hotel or in the sunroom of an airbnb that bring back some wonderful memories. There is something special about spending time together, remembering the new and exciting experiences of the day, planning our next moves, and relaxing – with no stress of job (or calories). It’s a freedom we will try to remember often as we restarted our jobs this last week.

 

 

 

Monthly Recap: Month 6

Month 6 brought a lot of changes! We traveled half way around the world to visit home for the holidays. It was wonderful to spend the time with family and friends. Though, we weren’t sure we were ready for all the snow.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 2 (Turkey, Ireland, and the USA)

Beds Slept In: 6

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 0  Total on RTW: 34

We traveled by 6 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 0 long distance buses.

Top Moments:

~ We really enjoyed spending time with our families during the holidays. We had assumed we would be figuring out how to get festive on our own somewhere in Asia, but after a change in plans, we had the opportunity to spend some time at home. Lucky us!

~ During our layover in Dublin on our way home for the holidays, we got a chance to go on a Literary Pub Crawl. It was a great evening filled with laughs, history, and great beer.

Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We left Turkey very early in the month on our way home. We had a short two hour layover in London on our way to Dublin. It was enough time to grab a quick bite to eat… and a great beer! We were so excited to drink a beer with some flavor!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added and Packing Update:

We were excited to have the opportunity to really re-evaluate the contents of our packs. While we weren’t unhappy with what we had, we hope to adjust some of the clothes, replace things that are worn or stained, and unload some weight. We plan to write a whole blog post about this, so stay tuned!

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Eric has read Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

Eric and Della have BOTH read nothing this month.

Oiy… bad month for reading…

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3,Monthly Recap 4, Monthly Recap 5

Budget: Ireland

This is one of our Budget series of posts to give you an idea of how much we spent traveling around the world. Here we will look at Ireland. Check our posts to see what kind of activities we did and where we stayed!

In Ireland we used the euro. We converted to US dollars using the current conversion rates at the time of our visit. It was approximately 1 euro to 1.24 dollars – down since our visits to other euro countries!

Total Spent (3 days): $596.65

Accommodation: $185

We stayed in a private room in someone’s townhouse through Airbnb. This was the cheapest option but still quite pricey!

Activities: $165.29

We did more activities in our few days here than we normally would have since we felt like there was a lot we wanted to see! This included the Hop-On Hop-Off bus, the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainhaim Gaol, Book of Kells and our two walking tours.

Alcohol: $57.10

Since we were back in an area with lots of interesting tasting beers, we took advantage and bought many pints of beer. This total came from pints of beer bought in various pubs, plus one hot brandy. Beer, while easy to find, was quite expensive; expect to pay at least 5 euros for a pint!

Food: $121.33

We knew that food would be expensive, so we tried to only eat out once a day. We bought some sandwich supplies and fruit for inexpensive breakfasts and lunches.

Miscellaneous: $29.08

We bought a couple of Christmas gifts to bring home

Transportation: $38.85

This cost only includes our fares on the local Dublin buses, which was the easiest way for us to get from our accommodations to the Dublin city center. In general, we were unimpressed with the Dublin bus system, because the fares seemed high and you had to pay with exact change in coins (no pre-purchase available).

This divides out to $198.88/day which is DOUBLE our $100/day budget!! However, we knew going into our visit that we would go over, since we wanted to do a lot of things in a short amount of time. (This, by the way, illustrates why we didn’t plan to spend a lot of time in western Europe during our trip.)

This is what was so darn expensive!

This is what was so darn expensive!

Dublin, Ireland

As we mentioned in a previous post, we decided to come home to the USA for the holidays. We searched for airline tickets and saw that we were likely going to have a layover in Dublin! We had never visited Ireland before, so we made it a couple day layover and spent 3 nights in delightful Dublin!

Where We Stayed

We struggled to find an affordable accommodations in Dublin. The hostels were mostly booked, which surprised us after experiencing so much walking dead tourism in Turkey. We eventually settled on a private room in someone’s apartment in through Airbnb (after experiencing our very first rejection on that site… what?!). We had a nice room with great working heat, which was important for December in Dublin. Our host was friendly enough, but it was a bit weird having to share a bathroom with a complete stranger. We definitely prefer having an entire apartment to ourselves.

What We Did

We managed to pack an amazing amount of stuff (and expense) into our two days.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus – There are many buses of this sort in Dublin, at least 3 different companies that we saw. We ended up choosing the one that was cheapest and had the most informative website. We were quite happy with the Green Bus! The tickets we purchased were good for two days and they had two different routes. We ended up using them both days and did both routes! We haven’t done a lot of these buses, though we did use them in Johannesburg and Cape Town, because we typically prefer to walk or use public transit. Dublin is a walk-able town, but given that we were there in the winter and it was very cold, this bus was the perfect option. We used it to reach the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol as well as to view Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Phoenix Park. Our second day, we used it to view some of the newer areas of Dublin, called the Docklands, though we didn’t get off at any of the stops. The live commentary provided on this second tour was quite funny as well!

Guinness Storehouse – Our first stop on our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour was the Guinness Storehouse. We were expecting that this would be a bit like a brewery tour, but it turned out to be more of a museum. It described how to make beer but also spent a good amount of time on the history of Guinness. The Storehouse is 7 stories tall and in the shape of a Guinness glass – making it the tallest Guinness glass in the world. We enjoyed the museum displays, the explanation of how to correctly taste a Guinness, the class on how to poor our own perfect pint of Guinness, and finally sipping our Guinness at the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor with a 360 degree view of Dublin! The cost was quite high (18€ per person, OR 16.50€ if you book ahead online), but we did enjoy ourselves.

Kilmainham Gaol – Our second stop on the bus tour was the historic jail, Kilmainham Gaol. It opened as a prison in 1796 and didn’t close until 1924. Throughout its history, it held many criminals who had committed crimes ranging from small misdemeanors up to murders. However, it is most well-known for holding Irish revolutionaries who were fighting for independence from British rule. The most famous were those who planned and participated in the Easter Rising of 1916. General public opinion was actually against the Rising after it happened because of how much damage it did to Dublin, but when the leaders of the Rising were executed by the British at Kilmainham, many people began to support the Rising and helped push the country toward their larger violent rebellion, and eventual independence.

When you visit the jail, you will be required to take an organized tour through the site. The tours are filled on a first come first served basis, so we ended up having to wait about an hour and half to get on a tour. If you have the option to stop by in the morning, pick your tour, and then return later, that would be most convenient. However, if you end up having to wait, they do have a pretty interesting museum of the history of the jail that you can wander around in.

National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – This was our third stop on our bus tour, though we ended up having to walk from the beginning of the bus tour on O’Connell St. The bus would have taken us there as it went round again, but we were going to have to wait for about 15 min. By this point we had only about an hour left before the museum closed, so instead of waiting, we took off walking! Most of the sites in Dublin are quite close to each other and we made it fairly quickly. The museum was large (and free!) and we truly wish that we had more time to explore it. The treasures that it is famous for are the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch. We managed to see the Tara Brooch, but our real interests were in finding the “bog bodies.” A friend that we had met in Greece had told us that the Dublin museum had a really interesting exhibit which showed several bodies that are thousands of years old that have been amazingly preserved in Ireland’s bogs. It was fascinating to read what the archaeologists were able to deduce about the death of each of this people. Things like skin, hair, and clothing were still preserved.

Literary Pub Crawl This was a new adventure for us! Dublin has a very rich literary history- writers such as WB Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and and James Joyce made Dublin their home. Neither of us knew much about any of these authors, nor had read anything by them. But, Della thought that maybe this would be the perfect way to learn more about them, especially as we were in Dublin… and it couldn’t hurt that beer was involved. We really enjoyed the pub crawl! We went to 4 different pubs throughout the evening. At each one, we enjoyed our guides. They made sure to tell us stories either about the history of Dublin or about one of the many authors that contributed to that history. They also sprinkled in several small performances, either scenes from different plays or books, or from letters from the authors. One of Della’s favorites was a performance of a letter that was written by Oscar Wilde about his visit to Leadville, CO. We also enjoyed the beer and were excited that we won the trivia contest at the end of the evening!

The Old Library and the Book of Kells – The hisotirc Trinity College is located in Dublin. One of the interesting things to see on campus is their old library. The Long Room is a beautiful wooden room; the walls lined with two stories of old books. It definitely made us feel as if we were exploring Hogwarts or something! The library also houses the Book of Kells which is an ancient manuscript of 4 Gospels. It is impressive because it is intricately decorated and has been around since about 800 AD. We thought the Book of Kells was a bit overrated, but we really enjoyed the Long Room!

Free Walking Tour – We were quite excited to be back in the lands of Free Walking Tours! It is always nicer to do the walking tours on your first day in a new place because they give such nice overviews of history as well as a lay of the land. We did this on our second day, due to scheduling issues, so we had seen a few of the sites and heard a bit of the history already, but we still enjoyed the tour immensely. We had a very good, animated tour guide, who made the tour quite fun. We started near the Dublin Castle where we heard about how the most exciting recent visitor was the Queen of England who hadn’t visited the country since Independence. There was a lot of fear about how the visit would go, but apparently it went really well! We then traveled to Christ Church Cathedral which is one of Dublin’s most iconic structures. It was built about 1000 AD by the Viking King who made a pilgrimage to Rome and then decided to convert to Christianity. Our guide told us a very sad story that right around the cathedral was a Viking city. The ruins were found in the early 1900s after the local government had purchased the land and planned to build government buildings in the area. The ruins they uncovered were apparently some of the best preserved Viking ruins in the world. Archaeologists fought to have the ruins preserved, but after a long court battle, the contractors and local government won and the ruins were destroyed and built over. Ultimately, only one building was constructed and now the local government has stated that it regrets that the ruins were destroyed. What a sad story! We then moved into the Temple Bar area where we heard about the history of arts in Dublin. They are very proud of being the home of U2 (which we now feel like we have a connection to based on the stories we heard about them in Sarajevo). Finally we headed to Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green where we heard more about the Potato Famine and some of the current politics. Our guide also invited the group to join him for a meal in one of the pubs after the tour. We, and a few others, took him up on the offer and we enjoyed chatting with him about his life and some other information about Dublin. We found the tradition of the 12 Pubs of Christmas pretty interesting!

Where We Ate

Our first night in Dublin we were pretty tired from the long plane rides, so we took the easy way out and just got Chinese takeout from a place within a quick walk from our apartment.

On our second day, we had our first meal at a “real” Irish pub. We arrived early for the Literary Pub Crawl, so we just ate at the pub that the tour was starting from, called The Duke. Eric had an Irish stew with lamb, potatoes and carrots, and Della had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).

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As we mentioned before, after the Free Walking Tour we went with our guide to get a late lunch at a pub. We were pleasantly surprised that the pub we were led to was one of the same ones we had been to on the Literary Pub Crawl the previous night. The tour had special prices for some of the items, so we took advantage. This time Della got an Irish stew, and Eric got a “collar of bacon” which was basically slices of ham cut from a carving table.

 

The outside of O'Neill's, taken on the Literary Pub Crawl

The outside of O’Neill’s, taken on the Literary Pub Crawl

Final Thoughts

We really enjoyed Dublin and wish we could have spent more time there. We also wish we could have explored more of Ireland. However, we experienced a lot of sticker shock about how expensive it was!

How We Returned Home From Istanbul For $352.60

Once we decided to shake up our itinerary and head home for the holidays, we had to figure out how to actually get there. Luckily we hadn’t yet booked any onward flights from Europe, so we switched our focus from finding tickets from Turkey to Asia to finding tickets from Turkey to the U.S.

We had more miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program, so we were focusing on awards using the Oneworld Alliance. There was nothing direct back to the US, so we started searching what our layover options in Europe would be. The easiest options routed us through London, but these seemed to have higher fees.

We then saw that one place were you could get a direct flight to the US with not too bad fees was from Dublin, Ireland. We were intrigued about the possibility of seeing a little bit of Ireland, so we arranged our flights to have a three-day layover in Dublin.

This meant that we actually booked two different award flights. The first flight used British Airways Avios to get us from Istanbul to Dublin (with a layover in London). These flights cost us a total of $110 in fees.

Enjoying a flavorful beer in the London airport... exciting after a few months of uninspiring brews!

Enjoying a flavorful beer in the London airport… exciting after a few months of uninspiring brews!

Flying British Airways into Dublin

Flying British Airways into Dublin

The second flight was then to get from Dublin to Dallas, with a layover in Philadelphia. We used AAdvantage miles to book this, but it was actually a combination of a US Airways flight from Ireland and then and American Airlines flight from Philadephia. These flights cost us a total of $242.60 in fees.

Enjoying a Yuengling beer and a cheesesteak in the Philly airport. Brought back good memories of the years we lived in Delaware!

Enjoying a Yuengling beer and a cheesesteak in the Philly airport. Brought back good memories of the years we lived in Delaware!

In the end, the fees to fly directly from Istanbul back to Dallas would have been less, but we thought it was worth it to have a chance to spend a few days in a new country!