I have just arrived back from a very relaxing 3 and a half week’s break around Europe with my wife. This was much needed, especially since I had spent 10 days previous on a business trip to the US (including an awful connection through Chicago O’Hare, but that’s another story).
We started our trip in a rather unorthodox way, by first heading to Dublin (even though we were flying out of Cork), to attend concerts by Michael Bublé in the 3Arena, and then see Metallica at Slane Castle the next day. I was a bit uneasy about the first one, but my wife likes him and that’s all a part of it I guess. I actually ended up enjoying the concert, he’s definitely a born entertainer, cheese aside.
The next day we headed to Slane Castle to see the gods of metal. We had VIP tickets so getting in was a bit easier, and we had a private bar and food area which was great. There was also a large bar marquee which came in very handy when the inevitable rain started to come down about 5pm. Nevertheless, it was an epic concert and I’m so glad we made the always arduous journey to and from Slane to see them. Although I think it may be a few years again before I attend Slane, and the headline act would want to be someone I really want to see (think the Stone Roses reforming again or the Second Coming of Kurt Cobain).
We arrived back to Cork two days after Slane, and a well needed rest day in between. On Tuesday we caught a flight to Amsterdam, this was our first city in a multi-stop trip over 3 weeks that looked like this:
Amsterdam is definitely one of my most favorite cities in the world. I say that having been there upwards of 10 times now. I know what you are thinking, cannabis and sex tourism, but I assure you that that opinion is the ignorant view of those who have never traveled to this city, or who have only seen the city center. I generally stay in the South West of the city which is quiet, non-touristy, and only a 15-minute tram ride from the city center. It’s also near great attractions like the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, both of which I highly recommend. Better yet, it’s near one of Amsterdam’s most famous parks – the Vondelpark (named after the ‘dutch Shakespeare’ Joost van den Vondel).
While in Amsterdam, we also took a day trip to Eindhoven, which takes about an hour to get to by train from Amsterdam Central. While we were only there for a few hours, it seemed like a nice city, quite industrial, but certainly not lacking charm in its compact city-center.
- Louis Bar Cafe de Dam – a great little bar just off Dam Square. We spend an afternoon here chatting, drinking, and watching the world go by.
- Beer Temple – this is a really nice establishment specializing in American craft beers, with over 30 on tap and 100 bottled beers. I recommend trying the ‘California Lager’, and ‘Enter Night’. Try a cheese board also!
- O’Reilly’s Irish Bar – I’m a sucker for visiting Irish bars wherever I am in the world. O’Reilly’s is very near the aforementioned Beer Temple, and well worth a visit. Try the mini sliders if you’re peckish.
After Amsterdam, we were bound for Berlin, Germany. My wife & I decided to take the train to see a bit of the Dutch country, and also because when we were students neither of us could afford the common inter-railing trip around Europe summer holiday prevalent with a lot of students – we worked through each summer instead. The train from Amsterdam central to the main station in Berlin takes about 6 hours. We got first class tickets and it was very comfortable. Berlin was on my list to visit for many years, being an avid reader of German history. We stayed near Alexanderplatx in ‘Mitte’ which is basically very near the center of Berlin (if you can in fact say that Berlin has a center). A surprise for me in Berlin was the smell of sewage which seemed to be present in many of the places we went. Nothing is more off-putting than that particular smell if you find a restaurant that looks good, which happened to us a few times. This being our first time in Berlin, we done all the touristy things – Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Tier Garten, and the Berlin Wall being the main ones. We also took a very good tour (thanks to my wife for allowing this ;-)) called ‘Final Days of WW2 in Berlin’. This was a great tour, and ended near the site of where Hitler’s bunker and Reich Chancellery had been. Great for a WW2 nerd like myself.
- Berliner Fernsehturm – this is a 368m tower that includes a revolving restaurant, offering panoramic views of Berlin. We ate here and it was one of the best meals of our trip. I recommend booking beforehand as there can be large lines.
After 4 days in Berlin, it was on to Munich, again by train which takes about 4 hours. We had visited Munich previously, and decided to return for a few days on our way to our final destination in Portugal. Munich, as Berlin, is a city steeped in WW2 history, and we once again returned to the Hofbrauhaus for a few beers.
- Hofbräuhaus München – you can’t visit Munich without having a beer here. Try some traditional Bavarian food and a pretzel also.
- Münchner Stubn – an excellent restaurant with great beers and very friendly staff. Try the Wiener Schnitzel.
3 days later, we were on a flight out of Munich bound for Faro, and our final destination of Vilamoura where we were to spend the last 9 days in the sun. Vilamoura, located on the Algarve and only about 20 minutes from Faro is a man-made resort with a large marina filled with shops, bars, and eateries. There are some great hotels in the area also. We had been to Vilamoura in 2015 and liked it so much we decided to return to end this trip in the most relaxing way possible. Our hotel was a few minutes walk from both the beach and the marina, and was stocked with all the necessary amenities to ensure our quest to relax was ultimately successful.
- Prime Steakhouse –
it can be difficult to chose a place to eat on the Marina, there is so much choice. However, you can’t go wrong with Prime. This is an excellent steakhouse with great cocktails, and very friendly staff. Try the Tuna Pate.