We became”pen pals” with an Austrian couple after cruising with them a while back. In one of many e-mail exchanges, we told them we would be visiting Vienna which prompted them to send us a list of things to do while there. High on the list was a hot dog stand behind the State Opera House. Being too intriguing to pass up, as soon as we got into the center of Vienna, with cell phone in hand to navigate, we headed off in search of Bitzingers, the famous hotdog stand.
Arriving shortly after noon there was a line already formed. The customer directly in front of us was a member of the Polizei, the Austrian police. He provided inspiration for our selection choice as the proprietor was filling a carry away bag with a large number of different varieties of hot dogs/sausages/toppings.
Being unable to read the German menu, when it was our turn we very simply asked for two hot dogs, one plain and one with mustard. The preparation process involves having an end sliced, at an angle from what can best be described as a small baguette. The baguette is than pushed down on a stainless spike to make a hole for the hotdog. A squirt of mustard goes into the hole followed by a really good hotdog and than wrapped by a square of foil.
Simple, fast and remarkably tasty. Sometimes following the advice of locals is the best bet. Later while walking around Vienna we passed a couple of other Bitzingers stands, so this isn’t a one-off operation. However, most new visitors to this city are drown to the city center with its palaces, museums, cathedrals and blocks of shops and cafes so knowing the downtown location of Bitzingers could come in handy. It is right behind the State Opera House which is an easy landmark to navigate towards. Also within a few blocks of the Opera House quick a search on your phone with Google Maps should provide a precise directions.
The Turks and Caicos are a group of small islands stretching out into the Atlantic on the southeast edge of the Bahamas chain. They are part of the British West Indies and a British Territory. Most cruise lines have over the years developed “private islands” where their ships usually anchor for a day of beach activities for their passengers. Grand Turk is a twofer. It has good docking facilities right in the middle of great expanses of beautiful beach.
Where the Ship Docks
Grand Turk is equipped with a modern new dock right next to a nice shopping village with all the usual outlets. A short walk down the pier are also restrooms, food venues and and tour options.
The official currency of these islands is the U.S. Dollar and credit cards are usually accepted.
This is a small island and there are a few taxis that offer an opportunity to tour the island. There is also a tour “tram” that travels around the island for about $30.
Grand Turk is a very small island and the real attractions are the beaches and water sports. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to characterize virtually the entire island as a beach with the highest point being only about twenty feet above sea level. There are a number of snorkeling and scuba diving options as well as other water sports.
The salt ponds around the island provided a living in the past harvesting salt for export but are now more valuable as home to a number of birds with the most famous being the endangered pink flamingo. There are tours that provide an opportunity to visit ponds for bird watching with one being the Tram.
Our first visit to Ireland was this past spring. Most people rave about this lush, green island and we now understand why. I’m not sure if it’s the sense of place, the history or the Irish people but we will surely be back again. This trip we spent eight days traveling around Ireland with an agenda that included Cobh, Waterford, East Dunmore, Cork (including Blarney), Dublin and Belfast.
The Emerald Isle is divided into two parts; the Republic of Ireland in the south (actually about eighty percent of the island) with Northern Ireland in the northeast, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is an independent nation and a member of the EU and uses the Euro. Northern Ireland because of Brexit uses the English Pound. It seems that Brexit created a new riff between the two Irelands and could create new tension going forward. Most of the towns and cities are located along the east coast with high cliffs facing out into the Atlantic on the west coast.
Cobh, The Seaport of Cork
Before visiting Cobh we inquired about the weather. The response was “it’s a beautiful day here with just a light rain and a high of 46°”. Welcome to the Emerald Isle.
Because of the rainy weather we spent the first day in Cobh, which is the seaport that serves Cork. It’s a picturesque town with many streets that seem to be running up hills at about forty-five degrees. The principle business seems to be celebrating the fact that the Titanic made its last port of call here. There’s the Titanic Pub, the Titanic Museum and gift shop and memorials to many of the one hundred and thirty passengers that boarded the Titanic here just before it steamed into the Atlantic and history. One pub claimed that several Titanic passengers had their last pint ashore in their pub before sailing (that would be one hundred six years ago) and who can refute that?
A monument to a local celebrity is on the pier in front of the visitors center. It is of Annie Moore who is confirmed as the first Irish immigrant to the United States that arrived at Ellis Island. The statue shows her and two younger brothers on the pier as if they are ready to set off on their new life in America.
The city also has the gorgeous St. Colman’s Cathedral which was started in 1867 but not finished for almost fifty years. The cathedral tower contains the largest carillon in Europe with forty-nine bells. The bells strike on the hour and at fifteen minute intervals and plays a longer program for Sunday Mass and on special events.
Cobh is the end of a train line with easy access to Cork for only a couple of Euros with trains leaving about every twenty minutes. The trip takes less than a half hour with continuing service on to Blarney just a few minutes farther away.
All in all it was a great first Irish day and I realized that to make English a really beautiful language it needs to be spoken with an Irish accent.
East Dunmore, A Seaside Village
This Irish fishing village isn’t far from Waterford and is a quant seaside resort town with a number of bed and breakfasts and upscale hotels. We visited on a Saturday and there seemed to be a surprising number of people in town and at the beach considering there was still a chill in the air. We spent the day walking the coastal trail and visiting the galleries and craft shops.
A Day Trip Out of Belfast
The Giants Causeway
Up on the North coast of Northern Ireland is a geological World Heritage Site named The Giants Causeway. It was created when volcanic magma cooled on the surface millions of years ago and looks much like someone constructed it. It is composed of thousands of basalt hexagonal columns standing in clusters at various heights along the edge of the sea.
When we got to the site the weather was a balmy 42° and clouds were gathering quickly. From the visitors center down to the shore is a good steep walk and while there is a shuttle bus, on a busy day the wait in line for the ride is probably longer than the walk – so off we hiked. Once we got to the bottom it started a light rain with wind blowing at 40 or 50 mph. The temperature also seemed to plummet and when climbing back up I swear there was sleet stinging my face. At one point the wind got inside my hood and it seemed it lifted me off my feet.
Once we reached the top we sought refuge in the bar of the Causeway Inn. It was a cozy place and much less congested than the other options. We all had coffee and scones and spent a long time thawing out. Sitting next to us was an Irish family and we got to talking. Asking if they had hiked down yet they replied “No, we live here. We’re staying here keeping cozy while our guests freeze their noses off.” I couldn’t agree more. While it is an amazing place and we would recommend a visit, if we had the option of waiting for a warm and sunny day?!
One of the biggest issues to a planned itinerary with a limited amount of time is you don’t get to change much and you are stuck with the weather that fate deals you.
Ruins of Dunluce Castle near The Giants Causeway
It would also seem that this area is also used in a number of Game of Thrones episodes. We are beginning to think that we are either just lucky to keep running into GOT sights or perhaps they film just about everywhere?
A couple of weeks ago we planned a trip thru the Blue Ridge and Smokey mountains of North Carolina and made reservations at the Broad River Inn Chimney Rock. Chimney Rock and nearby Lake Lure are somewhat isolated and have virtually no major chain hotels, so you have to pick from small local accommodations.
We made our selection based on a few reviews and what a great choice. The reviewers didn’t give the Broad River Inn enough credit. It seems the owner and family are new to this property and they are putting in a lot of effort to fix up the place and make guests feel welcome.
Our room was beautifully decorated, our bed was very comfortable and the owners placed a chilled bottle of wine in our room along with some chocolates and snacks.
They include with the room a cooked-to-order breakfast and a daily speciality coffee from their attached coffee shop. Not to overstate anything the breakfast was incredible. Eggs, bacon or sausage and cinnamon monkey bread was our choice the first morning along with a yogurt parfait. The next morning – cinnamon bun french toast. The breakfast was almost worth the cost of the room.
Chimney Rock is a small tourist town nestled down in Hickory Nut Gorge with the attraction being the namesake rock formation standing on a cliff above the town. The buildings on the main street seem to alternate between small restaurants and souvenir shops. The Broad River Inn also runs an attractive miniature golf course along the edge of Broad River and you will find a good day of hiking and exploring at Chimney Rock Park.
The town of Chimney Rock runs into the end of Lake Lure which features its own collection of accommodations, restaurants, boating and a nice sand beach. While out of the way this area has enough to do to keep a family entertained for a few days. Broad River Inn Chimney Rock is also a good anchor for touring the wider areas growing selection of good wineries.
Often novice cruisers never give much thought to the details of ports they will be visiting. Even experienced cruisers are often so involved with the overall planning of a trip they overlook those important port details.
On our next cruise are there any tender ports? Are there ports that don’t allow walking out? Are there facilities on the pier? Is a port wheelchair accessible? Often cruise ships are not that free with information on upcoming ports of call and it would be helpful if you knew ahead of time if there are going to be challenges.
We’ve begun going thru our trip notes to build a section devoted just to port information and highlights. We hope you find it useful.
Also, If you would like to contribute please email us at TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com
Old Quebec City is on a number of fall cruise itineraries. Starting in New York or Boston these cruises visit a number of New England and Canadian Maritime ports, go up the St. Lawrence Seaway, usually with fall leaves in full glory, and spend a day or two in Quebec City. The old city is full of historic sites, art galleries, good restaurants and beautiful scenery.
Where the Ships Dock – There is a modern cruise ship terminal on the riverfront along with a good length of docking space right in front of the Old Quebec neighborhood.
Transportation – Since Old Quebec is not that large an area and cruise ships will usually dock right in town, walking is the usual way to see the sights. The town does have a geography that rises steeply from the river so be prepared for a little climb. The city does have an alternative to the steepest climb though. The Old Quebec Funicular is a funicular railway in Old Quebec. It links the Haute-Ville to the Basse-Ville, climbing at a 45-degree angle, it covers a total distance of 64 meters.
Taxis – There are a number of taxi companies and generally they do not cruise for fares. They usually are available at the cruise ships or you call and they will send a car:
Taxi Coop Québec 418-525-5191
Taxi Coop Sainte-Foy-Sillery 418-653-7777
Taxi Laurier 418-651-2727
Uber – As of this writing you can make use of Uber from the cell phone app.
Rentals Cars – Readily available and a practical way to visit areas farther out from downtown.
Public Transit (local buses) – Réseau de transport de la capitale (RTC) serves Québec City. The Parcours 11 route serves Upper Town and the Old Port area and the ferry terminal.
Ferry – The ferry links Québec City and Lévis and runs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It sails on the hour and half-hour during the day and every hour at night.
Money – Quebec uses the Canadian Dollar currently worth about 76¢ U.S. Also, do not count being able to use U.S. Dollars but credit cards are welcome.
Notre Dame des Victoires Church – a small Roman Catholic stone church in the Lower Town of Quebec City. Construction was started in 1687 on the site of Champlain’s habitation and was completed in 1723
The Historic Petit Champlain District – a neighbourhood in Quebec City, Canada. It is located in the district of Vieux-Québec–Cap-Blanc–colline Parlementaire in the borough La Cité-Limoilou – located near Place Royale. Its main street is the Rue du Petit-Champlain at the foot of Cap Diamant. It is the oldest commercial district in North America
The Port, Marina and City Market Area
The Musée de la Civilisation. – A modern Museum of Civilization located near the port.
Once an out-of-the-way island, Grenada is gaining in popularity as a cruise ship port of call. The capital of St. George is considered by many as one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque towns wrapping around a half-moon shaped harbor. Called the spice island it is also a great place to shop for nutmeg and other spices.
Where the Ship Docks – St. George has a well equipped cruise pier and terminal located below Fort St. George and attached to the Esplanade shopping mall.
Transportation – Getting around the island usually requires a taxi, water taxi or renting a car. Rental cars are available in St. George but you will need to pay about EC$30 for a temporary drivers license.
Taxis – Taxi fares are reasonably inexpensive with a trip around town costing less than EC$11 or US$4 or out to Grand Anse Beach for EC$27 or US$10.
Money – Grenada is part of a group of islands that form a common market and use the Eastern Caribbean Dollar with EC$2.67 equal to one US Dollar. US Dollars and credit cards are normally accepted.
Beaches – Grenada has an abundance of great beaches but the most popular is Grand Anse Beach not far from St. George.
The Rain Forest – This island is blessed with some of the richest rain forests in the Caribbean offering a number of nature trails and waterfalls to visit.
Spices – Known as the spice island you can find dozens of opportunities to buy spices at really remarkable prices. If you have the time take a tour of a plantation. One of the most popular spices grown here is nutmeg.