Monday, January 2, 2017

Glenveagh National Park

executive summary by Darmansjah

The Park is now open daily from 9am to 5pm throughout the winter

(Services will close Christmas week)

Please note guided tours of the castle are not available on the 4th and 26th of November to facilitate staff training.

Free facilities: Car Park, Visitor Centre, Audio Visual, Nature Centre & Castle Gardens and Trails.

(check out the new walking trail from Visitor Centre to castle)

Castle Tea Rooms Open 11am - 4.30pm everyday

Gift shop at the Castle Tea Room

Visitor Centre 076 1002551

Bookings 076 1002556/37

Glenveagh (from Irish Gleann Bheatha, meaning "glen of the birches") is the second largest national park in Ireland. The park covers 170 square kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh (Loch Ghleann Bheatha), 20 km from Gweedore in County Donegal. The network of mainly informal gardens displays a multitude of exotic and delicate plants from as far afield as Chile, Madeira and Tasmania, all sheltered by windbreaks of pine trees and ornamental rhododendrons.

The estate was established by John Adair, who became infamous for evicting 244 of his tenants and clearing the land so they would not spoil his view of the landscape. The gardens and castle were presented to the Irish nation in 1981 by Henry P. McIlhenny of Philadelphia who had purchased the estate in 1937.

The park is home to the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and the formerly extinct golden eagle were reintroduced into the park in 2000.

Glenveagh National Park:

Some 16,540 hectares (40,873 acres) of mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a herd of red deer. A Scottish style castle is surrounded by one of the finest gardens in Ireland, which contrast with the rugged surroundings. The Visitor Centre houses exhibitions and an audio-visual show.
The Visitor Centre is accessible for visitors with disabilities.

Glenveagh Castle:

Built in the years 1870 - 1873, the castle consists of a four storey rectangular keep. Access to the interior is by tour only. Morning and afternoon teas are served in the castle tearooms all season. The ground floor of the castle is partially accessible for visitors with disabilities.

Location: 24km north-west of Letterkenny. Kilmacrennan / Termon to Dunlewy Road or Churchill to Dunlewy Road).

Guided Tours: Access to the Castle by guided tour only. (Videos/cameras not permitted on tour).
Max. No: 20
Duration: 45 mins.
Audio Visual Presentation: "Glenveagh"
Seating: 90
Duration: Various files to choose from ranging from 8 mins to 14 mins in length.
Languages: English, Irish, French, German and Italian.

Leaflet/Guide Booklet: English, Irish, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bucharest, Rumania

Executive summary by darmansjah

Best For Architecture – The infamous Palace of Parliament was built in 1984 by order of President Ceausescu, Romania’s former dictator. Its 12 storeys and 1,100 rooms cover 330,000 sq metres. The opulent rooms can be viewed by guided tour only, which must be booked a day in advance (00 40 21 311 3611; B-dul Natiunile Unite; 10am-3.30pm; US$5.50).

Best For Culture – Bucharest’s hear – often  called the Lipscani quarter after one of its main street – is the centerpiece of efforts to revitalize the city’s historic core. At its western end, Str Lipscani crosses Calea Victoriei, one of Bucharest’s oldest streets, built in 1692.

Best For History – In 1941, 800,000 Jewish people lived in Romania, but around half were killed in the war. Housed in the beautiful Tailors’ synagogue, the Museum of Jewish History highlights Jewish contributions to the country (00 40 21 311 0870; Mamulari 3; 9am-1pm sun-wed and Fri, 4pm Thu; donation).

Best For Day TripsLake Snagov is a weekend retreat for city residents. A monastery said to be the resting place of Vald Tepes, the prince who inspired Dracula, sits on an island in the lake. Tours from Bucharest finish at the monatery (; US$225 for two people minimum).

Best For Art – The National Museum of Art houses Romanian icons and carved altars from pre-communist era churches. The European wing features Rubens, Rodin and Monet (00 40 21 313 3030;; Calea Victoriei 49-53; 10am-6pm Wed-Sun Oct-Apr, 11am-7pm Wed-sun May-Sep; us$5).

Why Go – On the Wallachian plains, between the Carpathian Mountains and the banks of the Dambovita River, Bucharest was once a grand neo-classical City. Much damaged in WWII, it now combines a mismatch of architectural eras, from President Ceausescu’s 19970s, communist era housing blocks to medieval churches.

When to Go – the city suffers cold winters and stifling summers. Visit in May and June, and catch the Fete de la Musique, a free music festival to celebrate the summer solstice. Or go in autumn, when the climate cools.

How to Go – Henri Coanda is the city’s main international airport. From Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, fly thre with Lufthansa (, Qatar Airways ( or Turkish Airlines (  A shuttle train serves Henri Coanda (US$2.40), taxis are from US$16

Bistro Vilacrosse is a café-cum-restaurant, with sepia photographs, wooden floors and gingham tablecloths. The service is friendly and quick. The food’s good too, and includes wine-soakes Transylvania pork fillet on a bed of fries and cabbage (00 40 21 315 4562; Pasajul Macca/Vilacrosse; lunch and dinner; mains from US$3).

Fine clay-oven-baked pies-thin and crispy, with fresh ingredients – are served at Casa Veche. Enjoy them in a trellised courtyard or the wood-beamed dining room (00 40 21 312 5816;; Str George Enescu 15-17; lunch and dinner; mains from US$6).

Despite a touristy atmoshphere, with peasant-girl waitresses and Roma song and dance, beer house Caru’cu Bere draws a strong local crowd. The interior dazzles with its stained-glass windows and the food is a treat, especially the mixed sausage paltter (00 40 21 313 7560;; str Stavropoleos 3-5; lunch and dinner; mains from US$6).

The cuisine at St George tends toward the heavy, with lots of stews and pork dishes, but you can wash it all down with hard to-find wines. Dine out on the terrace in fine weather (00 40 21 317 1087; Str Franceza 44; lunch and dinner; mains from US48).

Balthazar is one of the city’s most upmarket restaurants, filling the ground floor and courtyard of a superbly maintained old villa. Locals and business lunchers come for the Thai/French blend and seafood (00 40 21 212 1460;; Str Dumbrava Ros, ie-2; lunch and dinner; mains from US$14).

Getting Around – Bucharest is served by buses, trams and trolleybuses. Buy tickets at RATB kosks, marked ‘casa de bilete’ (30p for a single trip; the metro has four lines and tickets are sold at station kiosks (US$0.50). only use cabs with meters.

Hotel Amzei is a tastefully refurbished villa just off Calea Victoriei. The spacious reception has a refined feel and the rooms have the same understated elegance, with faux period furnishings, marble bathrooms and warm ochre colours (00 40 21 313 9400;; Str Piata Amzei 8; from US$135).

Stylish beyond its three stars, the Rembrandt Hotel faces the landmark National Bank in the historic centre. Built in 1925, it has a characterful atmosphere. The rooms have been tastefully modernized, with wooden floors, contemporary furniture and white linen. Book in advance as the few tourist-class rooms go quickly (00 40 21 313 9315;; Str Smardan 11; from US$145).

Hotel Capsa served as a bohemian hangout through the 1930s. its room have period features such as wood paneling, high ceilings and large French windows. The furnishings are in keeping: heavy mahogany, with fleur-de-lys print bedspreads and curtains (00 40 21 313 4038; Calea Victoriei 36; from US$175).
Vila Arte is a superb, art-stuffed boutique hotel. The ottoman room is in updated Turkish style, with deep-red bedspreads, fabrics and oriental carpets. The service is top-notch (00 40 21 2210 1035;; Str Vasile lascar 78; from US$190).

The queen of Bucharest hotels, the Athenee Palace Hilton is testament to a century-past infatuation with Paris. Like its grand, marble-pillared entrance, the hotel’s 272 rooms are dressed to impress, albeit less characterful than the public rooms. In summer, cocktails are served on the terrace (00 40 21 303 3777;; Str Episcopiei 1-3; from US$190).

Contemporomania – forum users rate MNAC – the National Museum of contemporary Art. Located at the back of the Palace of Parliament, the museum’s four floors feature eclectic European artists’ installations and video art, often showing provocative, challenging works. There’s also a top-floor open-air café (; Calea 13 Septembrie; Wed-sun 10am-6pm; US$1.60).

Village in The City – forum users also rate the National Village Museum. On the hores of Herastrau Lake, this is a terrific open-air collection of several dozen homestead, churches, mills and windmills relocated from rural Romania. Opened in 1936, it is one of Europe oldest open-air museums and a must-see for children. Get here from the centre by taking bus 131 or 331 from B-dul General Magheru or Piata Romana to the Muzeul Satului stop (, in Romanian; Muzeul national al Satului; daily US$2.40).

Princely Home for a day trip that’s easily combined with Lake Snagov, forum users recommend the Mogosoaia Palace, nine miles northwest of Bucharest. It was built by Constantin Brancoveanu, Prince of Wallachia (one of the forerunners of modern Romania) in around 1700, in a style mixing Ottoman and Venetian elements. Most of the contents went in the communist era but the grounds are splendid (; closed Mon; US$1.60).

Learn about the revolution with Peter Siani-Davies’ book The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 or Corneliu Porumboiu’s lighthearted 2006 movie 12.08; East of Bucharest. For planning, visit

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Executive summry By Hilarius D.G  from national geography magazine, original words by Andrew Nelson
THE subterranean dank, which no sun has ever warmed, smells like yeast. Its chilly air pinches my neck. A weak light coming from the opening above makes a pool around the ladder I’ve climbed down, but beyond is pitch black. I tap a flashlight app on my phone, and a vaulted ceiling flickers into view. Is it a Maya temple? An Egyptian tomb? No. I’m in a 19th-century lagering tunnel 45 feet beneath the sidewalks of Cincinnati, Ohio. Victorian breweries fermented and cooled beer in this catacomb. Located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the chambers were reopened by American Legacy Tours, a bunch of local guys who like nothing better than to poke into the city’s dusty history. And talk beer.
“We had more than 36 breweries in Cincinnati at one time,” my guide, Brad Hill, tells me. “A hatchet-toting Carry nation barreled into town [in 1901] to stop the depravity. She took one look at the tippling-more than 140 saloons on Vine Street-and turned tail and fled,” he says. “Prohibition closed them, and the tunnels were forgotten.” I feel like Harrison Ford discovering the Lost Temple of Suds.
Indy meets Cincy. Actually, here it’s all about “the indies.” As much of America decamped for the suburbs or the coasts, artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs rebuilt entire Cincinnati neighborhoods alongside impassioned longtime. When I began hearing about it down in my own adopted renaissance town, New Orleans, I had to see the transformation for myself.
AS SIP BOURBON with a few such pioneers at Japp’s , a former wig store on Main Street, the discussion rangers from the where about of Pappy Van Winkle, the famously elusive bourbon from neighboring Kentucky, to the details of the incongruous bar in front of us, made from cabinets that once housed hair destined to crown the heads of robber baron heiresses.
“What’s changed? Whcy Cincy now?” I ask
“A shift in consciousness,” suggest Peggy Shannon, a former New Yorker. Her start-up, Queen City Cookies, provides a coveted treat for locals as well as a taste of the city’s new prospects. “I’ve lived in a lot of high-energy places, and here the excitement’s beginning to percolate.”
I watch her spout enthusiasm for her new home, and Cincinnati strikes me as a drum major for a parade of heartland towns-from Milwaukee to Indianapolis-now marching to a different beat. Their heritage (rich) and their living costs (relatively cheap) have attracted interest, especially from millennials saddled with job expectation (lower) and college debt (higher). But Cincinnati stands out. Shannon thinks she know why.
“We offer world-class art, extraordinary architecture, and a get-things-done attitude,” she says. “Cincinnati’s reputation has gone from musty to must-see.”
Certainly, one addition not to miss is 21c Museum Hotel, a ten-story hostelry on Walnut Street. A landmark building that nuzzles Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center, 21c is packed wit hso much modern art guests could be forgiven for thinking they were sleeping in the museum itself.
“We are a museum first and a hotel second,” says collection manager Eli Meiners, who tours me around the first two floors, open 24/7 for anyone off the street who wants to look at artists such as Do-Ho Suh and Astrid Krogh. Installations, many by Cincinnatians, occupyevery guest floor and change regularly. On mine, the elevator opens upon a life-size sculpture of the singer Madonna heeling her go-go boot through a Picasso. My room is sleek-all lines-except for a four-foot-tall polyurethane penguin as yellow as French’s mustard. In the bathroom, hotel designers commissioned local Rookwood Pottery to create a witty series of white tiles brandishing body parts-lips, noses, breasts, belly buttons. I feel a little as if I’, part of the spectacle.
ON A STROLL ABOUT TOWN, Cincinnati show more tricks up its sleeve. Downtown proves dense, walkable, and handsome-filled with skyscrapers of many eras, from the marble and terra-cotta PNC building, opened in 1913, to the postmodern assemblages of the Proctor & Gamble headquarters. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is here, a testament to the city’s crucial role in the Civil War era. And then there’s the dazzling art deco Union Terminal, shaped like a band shell, that was the city’s train station when it opened in 1933. It now acts as a cultural roundhouse, with six institutions including the Museum, and the Duke Energy Children’s Museum.
Stacked like library books on an arc of hills, 19th-century town houses form neighborhoods such as Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, and Over-the-Rhine. Walking down to the Ohio River, I find myself at the city’s newest attraction: 45-acre Smale Riverfront Park, squeezed between the Reds and Bengals stadiums. It’s pats of the gazillion-dollar effort, called “the Banks,” to reinvent Cincy’s neglected waterfront.
Nick Dewald is waiting for me at Moerlein Lager House, a modern beer hall and garden across the street from the park. In their free time Nick and his wife, Lindsay, head up City Flea, a curated market that functions as an analog Etsy-bringing a hundred of the city’s makers together with buyers every month. After lunch we go to the park, admiring the fountains and fresh plantings. We rocks on metal swings as park benches, facing the river and the blue Roebling suspension bridge, the proof of concept for its more famous progeny, the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m sitting on Ohio’s front porch.
“Our historic industries were about making things, and that’s returning,” Dewald explains, citing Losantiville, a group of industrial and furniture designers taking inspiration from Cincinnati’s old traditions of wood carving and manufacturing. “And there’s beer!” he adds.
In addition to the rebirth of craft beer like that of Bavarian brew-master Christian Moerlein, Dewald tells me, there’s a host of new labels-Mount Carmel, Rivertown, and Rhinegeist, anupstart in the brewery district north of downtown.
“You have to check it out,” he says. So I do.
Like so much of this industrial town, the brewery district is filled with mechanical trappings from an earlier time. Pulleys and joists. Brick warehouse. Wood beams. Glazed tile. In Cincy, things whir, creak, and trundle. They don’t swoosh or ping. As workmen jackhammer some concrete, Rhinegeist owner Bryant Goulding greets me. He shows me where the tasting room is being readied in a cavernous space with skylights.
“There’s no way this could happen in California-it’s too expensive,” says the former San Franciscan, who moved here to open Rhinegeist. “But Cincinnati makes dreams come true.”
I wish him luck and return downtown, trading industry for glamour-the Netherladn Plaza hotel, now a Hilton, in the 49-story Carew Tower. Wandering across the slick marble of the lobby, I nearby break my neck taking in the French art deco: foliated bronze light fixtures, a ram’s head fountain, and gilded ceiling murals of leaping gazelles and bow-lipped shepherdesses. It’s a concrete sonnet to the jazz age and the best inspiration for a gin martini since Jay Gatsby.
Later I join throngs of people gathered at Fountain Square in front of the “Genius of Water,” a nine-foot-tall goddess who crowns the 1871 Tyler Davidson fountain. As night falls she becomes the muse to a rock band in the plaza, electric guitars drowning out the plash of falling water. Everyone lingers as if not wanting the music to end.
“Used to be downtown closed at 8 p.m.,” says the Rev. Herschel Willis, a few blocks away at Piatt Park. The smoker at his Fins, Feathers and Bar-B-Q restaurant is sending plumes of tangy woodsmoke curling past the bronzed pate of Ohio son President James A. Garfield. “Now that’s time the movers and shakers come out.”
Nowhere is the clamber upward more evident than in Over-the-Rhine, a formerly down-on-its-luck neighborhood about the size of New Orleans’ French Quarter, believed to contain the country’s largest collection of 19th-century Italianate buildings-943.
“Over-the-Rhine was home to thousands of German immigrants who came to the boomtown of Cincinnati in the early 19th century,” explains real estate agent Seth Maney, who writes as blog called OTR Matters. I’m munching on a rather un-Teutonic meal of pork buns and octopus salad with Maney and others at Kaze, a Japanese restaurants on Vine Street. Nearby are intriguing shops like Switch, a lighting store, and Article, a men’s shop that hawks small-batch Noble Denim jeans made in Cincinnati.
“They brought their taste for hard work, architecture, and craftsmanship,” Maney continues, “but somehow we forgot OTR and its lessons. Its name tarnished.”
Perhaps tenacity saved Over-the-Rhine. Even as scars from race riots in 2001 were slow to heal, some residents stayed put. The old German community refused to abandon its heritage-in fact, priest still conduct a weekly Mass in German at Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. And now, finally, residents and newcomers like Maney and his friends seem to be staging a revival.
a weekly Mass in German at Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. And now, finally, residents and newcomers like Maney and his friends seem to be staging a revival.
I HAD HEARD SIMILAR optimism expressed earlier at Senate, another OTR restaurant. “Two and a hald years ago it was scary to come down Vine Street,” Patrick Stroupe had told me over the rattle of his cocktail shaker mixing a drink. “Now it’s a amazing assortment of restaurants and stores, with more on the way. This is town full of good ideas.”
Many of those come from the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, known locally as 3CDC and the source of some $300 million of public and private investments in the neighborhood. The favorite project so far, most everyone agrees, is the remake of Washington Park, an eight-acre green space. The morning I visit, retirees Robert and Glenise Maxwell are basking in the sun on a bench facing the redone tile-roofed bandstand where German oompah bands used to play and, more recently, heroin deals went down.
“That’s over now,” says Robert as he pushes back his red baseball cap to scratch his gray hair. The couple, married for 48 years, are longtime residents who have seen their neighborhood down and now see it up. Children run past, screaming with delight as hidden jets of water spurt to life beneath their feet.
The Music Hall, a vast castle of bricks and turrets, fronts its northwest side like a curtain waiting to rise on the community’s second act. “It was built with nearly four million bricks,” says architect Haviland Argo, as we eat alfresco at the Anchor, on the park’s periphery. “Inside, the Springer Auditorium has some of the world’s best acoustics for a musical setting, though maybe the most interesting noises come from the ghosts purported to haunt the place. The land it stands on was once a cemetery.”
I’m pleased to devour the gossip-and my trout. This city has always enjoyed its food: Famous for their chili (beans optional), Cincinnati spoon down two million pounds of it annually, including 850,000 pounds of shredded cheese. Downtown, a beehive-topped waitress at Hathaway’s Dinner sets made up with an order of eggs and goetta (a kind of scrapple). At top-rated restaurants such as Boca, Abigail Street, and Local 127 on Vine, chefs draw on deep traditions while kicking things up a notch. Local 127 pays tribute to the city’s 19th-century reign as a pork-packing center: The “Porkopolis” plate heaps with ribs and sausage, and ode to the whole hog as well as an old city nickname.
THIS TOWN GAVE America iconic brands such as Tide and Ivory soap, so it  seems a fitting home for the American Sign Museum, a 1907 factory building in Camp Washington with 600-plus signs.
A 20-foot-tall genie straddles the entrance. Inside, it’s a flashing, buzzing, amping display of lettering exploding in neon and wattage. A McDonald’s sign blinks from the era of 15-cent burgers. A revolving satellite from Anaheim, California, orbits yellow neon Howard Johnson’s and a glowing rostr of other motel names. The museum even has its own “Mona Lisa”-a wall-size housewife pushing Bubble Up soda-as well as a time line of the history of 3-D lettering.
In find another sign of the times when I turn a corner. In front of a wall of barn timber advertising Mail Puch Tobacco, men and women sit in pairs as if speed dating .small-shop owners from the Northside neighborhood are networking with graphic designers and sign fabricators. They’re looking to create public faces for their enterprises that will be colorful and practical while reflecting the free-spirited community, from Take the Cake bakery to Shake it Records.
“We want to train the next generation of sing makers,” says museum founder Tod Swormstedt. “And help [the Northside] in the process.
LATE THAT EVENING, I’m back in Over-the-Rhine when I encounter a knot of people in a parking lot. There’s an sudden puff of flame. Startled, I draw back. Is it the circus? “Night Owl Market, bro,” says a happy, if overly lubricated, young man.
Twenty something friends Sally Yoon and Nadia Laabs started this conglomeration of food trucks and artisan booths on Main Street. Not far from Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest-running produce hall (it opened in 1855), the event is held monthly from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. and harnesses the energy of a rising downtown. Merrymakers come on foot and bike.
Tonight a cluster of revelers are dancing to a meringue band, while others are trying to swivel hoops around their hips.
After the past few days of having my assumptions confounded, midnight hula-hoopers and fire twirlers scarcely faze me. As I watch the mirthful crowd, anything seems possible. A microbrewery. An art hotel. A restored neighborhood. For now, I think I’ll give the hula hoop w whirl.