Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff/index
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
http://www.chicagohs.org/
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
http://www.museoderonda.es/
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
https://www.sagamuseum.is/
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
https://www.ddr-museum.de/en
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
http://beermuseum.cz/
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
https://www.moma.org/
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
http://www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
http://castelsantangelo.beniculturali.it/
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
https://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).

 

And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

Around The World In 15 Tea Shops

When one spends 4 months travelling the world with the majority of that time spent in beautiful (but freezing cold) winter cities, one must drink a hell of a lot of tea to keep warm!

While it might not be hard to find somewhere to get yourself a cup of tea (or coffee, for that matter) – hello, Starbucks – a true tea shop is a thing of beauty. It’s always a lot more calm and pleasant than a chain hurry-up-and-caffeinate-me outlet, the customers are much happier to slow down/stop completely, and in winter especially, there’s no where better to cosy up for a timeout from the cold. For me, personally, the tea shop signifies a retreat and sanctuary; I’m an anxiety-afflicted introvert, and I like nothing more than tucking myself away into a corner with a pot of tea and a book or my journal. So having travelled non-stop for 4 months, the tea shop stops were like a signal for my mind to calm down and decompress.

Needless to say, there were many tea shops visited while we were away, but some stood out more than others; here’s a little compendium of my favourites 🙂 Oh, and not all of them are your traditional sit down and order shops – I’ve listed a few where you can buy the tea without sitting down to drink a pot first.

1. Clement & Pekoe, Dublin, Ireland

50 South William St, Dublin
http://clementandpekoe.com/
Visit: Creaky old wooden floor boards, lovely helpful staff who are more than happy to recommend a brew, delicious scones with jam, and that general warm, cosy, homely feel you want from your Irish tea shops!
Variety: 50+ teas to choose from.
Try: Assam ‘Corramore’ – a 2nd flush Assam that makes for an indulgent morning cuppa.

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2. Twinings, London, UK
216 The Strand, London
https://www.twinings.co.uk/about-twinings/flagship-store-london-216-strand
Visit: London’s oldest tea shop and Twinings flag shop store, the narrow walls are lined with bag and loose leaf teas from the Twinings range. You can purchase boxes of tea, or just single tea bags if you want to sample a few flavours. And as a bonus, there’s a teeny tiny ‘museum’ at the back of the store!
Varieties: just about everything Twinings makes… which is a LOT of variety!
Try: The salted caramel green tea… wow…

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3. Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House, Tokyo, Japan
Inside the Hama-rikyu Gardens, Tokyo
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/hama-rikyu/outline.html
Visit: This beautiful tea house sits overlooking the water in the middle of the gardens, and they offer a simple tea ceremony; you can have your matcha with or without a typical Japanese sweet, and you can buy some to take home with you.
Varieties: Just matcha.
Try: What you’re given!

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4. Fortnum & Mason, London, UK

181 Piccadilly, London
Visit: When in London… I couldn’t leave without taking high tea, and the Fortnum & Mason Tea Salon was perfect. Their tea salon menu is quite extensive, and most of their teas are available to purchase after you’ve stuffed yourself full of finger sandwiches and scones. Excellent quality tea, and exceptional service.
Variety: 50+ teas.
Try: I loved the Royal Blend for a good, rich black tea – yup, took a bag of that home, too.
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5. Alice’s Tea Cup, New York City, USA
Chapter I: 102 West 73rd Street, NYC | Chapter II: 156 East 64th Street, NYC | Chapter III: 220 East 81st Street, NYC
https://alicesteacup.com/
Visit: An Alice in Wonderland themed cafe, they have the a deliciously extravagant variety of sweets served up by the friendliest staff to go with the brilliant tea collection. And you can buy after you’ve tried, by weight.
Varieties: 50+ to choose from.
Try: Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea, a blend of Indian black and Japanese green teas with rose petals and berries.

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6. Le Valentin, Paris, France
30 Passage Jouffroy, Paris
http://www.restaurantparis9.fr
Visit: Tucked away in one of the city’s undercover walking streets, this little bakery is one of the best places to do tea in Paris. The selection of cakes kind of necessitates more than one visit, as does the tea list. And if you’re not sure what to pair with your cake, just ask one of the lovely staff for a recommendation.
Varieties: I can’t find a menu online for a definitive number, but there were a few dozen from what I remember.
Try: A classic Earl Grey pairs up pretty well with a lot of the sweets.

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7. Ippodo Tea, Tokyo, Japan 

Kokusai Bldg. 1F 3-1-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
Visit: The Tokyo store has the added bonus of  tea room on site, so you can sample some of the teas before you shop. It’s all quite a hands-on experience, where you’ll be taught the intricacies of brewing the tea youve chosen, so you’ll know exactly what to do at home.
Varieties: 30+ green teas.
Try: Mantoku Gyukuro green tea.

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8. Sir Harly’s Tea Shop, Vienna, Austria
Mariahilfer Str. 45, Vienna
https://www.harly-tea.at/shop/
Visit: We actually didn’t get the chance to visit the tea house itself, because we found them set up at one of the Christmas market we went to! They had a pretty impressive range for a market stall, though, so I imagine there’d have been even more to choose from in store. You can order online, though, which is nifty!
Varieties: Around 200 teas.
Try: I went with the Bourbon Orange Christmas Tea, because it reminded me so much of the mulled wine we drank at the markets!

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9. The Spice & Tea Exchange, New Orleans, USA
521 St. Louis Ave, New Orleans
https://www.spiceandtea.com
Visit: This isn’t unique to New Orleans – there actually heaps of stores scattered around the United States. It just so happens this is where I first found them! Along with tea, they also have a heap of different herbs, salts, spices, salts, seasonings and oils – it’s a gourmand’s heaven. The New Orleans store itself is cosy and welcoming, with very knowledgeable staff for when you just can’t choose.
Varieties: 50+ teas.
Try: Coconut oolong.

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10. McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, New York City, USA

109 Christopher St, New York
Visit: This is one of the most perfect little tea shops you’ll ever find. Hidden in plain sight, it’s like stepping back in time. It’s organised chaos as you navigate through cardboard boxes on the floor and dozens of glass jars on the benches. And the smell is absolutely extraordinary! And if, like me, it all gets too much and too overwhelming, help is on hand to help you pick the perfect leaves.
Varieties: Hundreds!
Try: I love the Golden Assam Khongea Estate for a rich black tea.

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11. Da Rosa, Paris, France
62, Rue de Seine, Paris

Visit: We found this place utterly by chance, when one afternoon in Saint Germain, we were getting tired and needed a rest stop. We turned down a street and saw this place, and it looked too warm and cosy to pass up on a frosty winter’s day! Mr José Da Rosa’s establishment is a gourmet grocer/bar/tea house where he offers teas of his own creation (after being certified as a tea master). And if tea isn’t your thing, there’s always beer and wine!
Varieties: A dozen or so (for now).
Try: No.13 mint & green tea.

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12. Wall & Keogh, Dublin, Ireland
45 Richmond St. South Portobello
Visit: This was the sort of place that would be my regular if I lived in the area – a gorgeous little nook downstairs has space to get comfy and read, write, drink and catch up withy friends. Upstairs hosts a tiny café so you can be fed as well as watered, and the staff were some of the nicest and most knowledgeable I’ve ever come across.
Variety: 150+ blends
Try: I took some coconut milk mate and some milk oolong – both phenomenal!

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And, because this wasn’t the first big trip we’ve taken that involved many litres of tea, here are a few more tea shops worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

How To Day Trip From Dublin to Giant’s Causeway (without a tour guide)

Fun fact: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I remember watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and being absolutely stunned at the cave Harry and Dumbledore battled it out with one of the horcruxs in. Everything about the setting (other than the magical zombies) was stunning. I also remember a few days finding an article online with a list of places around the world that were “Harry Potter inspired locations,” and Giant’s Causeway was on that list. The more images I looked at, the more I knew I needed to see if for myself some day.

When we added Dublin to our itinerary, we decided to add a day trip out to Giant’s Causeway. It was going to be a long trip, but if I was that close, I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity. And the selling point to husband was the Old Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery close by. We vetoed the overpriced, big group, organised 15 hour day trips we saw online and decided to just hire a car and do it ourselves.

The more I looked into it and trying to find other stuff in the area (so I could justify hiring a car and spending the day driving all the way there and back), the more my inner nerd got excited – turns out there’s a few Game of Thrones filming locations on the way, too!

Long story short: some rotten weather meant we had to adjust our plans a little and miss a few stops, and Giant’s Causeway actually wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but we still had an awesome day and would definitely recommend the DIY route over the group tour. Here’s how to do it…

 

OUR PLAN:
Collect the car and start driving north, then make our way around to see:
– Castle Ward
– The Dark Hedges
– Old Bushmill’s Distillery
– Dunluce Castle
– Giant’s Causeway
– Dunseverick Castle
– Ballintoy Harbour

WHAT WE ACTUALLY ENDED UP DOING
– The car hire places in the city didn’t open until a bit later in the morning, and we wanted to get started early, so we caught a bus from city (we stayed near Dublin Cathedral and there was a pick up point just around the corner) to airport to collect car. This was going to be cheaper than a taxi, and cost us €7 each – just have correct change ready to pay for your tickets!

– We picked up the car at 7.30am and got started without any issues – navigating was pretty easy, thankfully!

– First stop was Castle Ward, the site of some of Game of Thrones’ Winterfell scenes. A beautiful 18th Century mansion sits on the enormous grounds, which were something else when we visited – autumn leaves + castle grounds = magic. We only saw two other people on our way in, both groundskeepers. And the lovely lady working in the bookshop. Otherwise, we were the only visitors. It may have been because it was low season there was no one there to take our admission fee (£8.60 per person), and we didn’t actually go into the mansion, but instead we wondered around and enjoyed the gorgeous grounds in peace. Great idea heading there first!

 

The Dark Hedges was our next stop, which starred in Game of Thrones as the King’s Road. I guess we were lucky that the weather played it’s part – it was grey and overcast and a little somber when we arrived, so it looked even more dramatic and foreboding (even though they’d recently been pruned and the branches remaining were losing their leaves because we were there in November). What you don’t realise from the photos is that it actually is a road. Lots of people walk it. And plenty of cars will drive up and down in while you’re trying to take your lovely photo. There’s nothing else around it, either, so if you’re just going to get the shot, you’re probably going to be a little frustrated! We took a few snaps in between groups, but honestly, it was just really cool to walk to walk through these giants planted back in the 18th Century and look out over the fields alongside them!

 

– By the time we got to Dunluce Castle, the weather was really starting to take a turn. The wind was enough to almost knock me over while I stood near the cliff edges to take some photos, and the water below was furious. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it; absolutely, viciously, furious. But it was stunning – even when you can barely stay on your feet, looking at this ruined castle up on the cliffs is a pretty incredible experience. Because the weather was getting so nasty, we didn’t stay long – we physically couldn’t, the wind was so strong! We were also getting pretty hungry, so we moved on to our next stop to wait the wind out a bit…

 

– … at the Old Bushmills Distillery. Irish whiskey is meant to be some of the best in the world, and husband is a whiskey man, so off we went! We didn’t really want to spend the time doing the tour (we’d just done the Jameson Distillery tour the day before and it set the bar far too high!), so we thought we’d just have a bite to eat and maybe try a few of their whiskeys. Lunch at the café was a great, quick bite, but husband decided that sampling would be a waste of time and money; he’d already tried one of their whiskeys, and there was only one other he wanted to try; he ordered that after lunch, and was suitably impressed. By then, it was starting to get a bit later in the afternoon, so we jumped back in the car.

 

Giant’s Causeway was to be our final stop of the day. And despite the horrible weather (it was starting to rain at this point, on top of the torrential winds), it was super busy.

To be honest, it wasn’t the wonderful experience I imagined it would be, for a few reasons:
* The Giant’s Causeway itself is a natural phenomenon. You’d think that would make it available to the public. You’d be wrong. The National Trust let you know once you’re already there that you can visit it for free, but you have to pay for parking. Given there’s no where else to park in the general vicinity, the extortionists are making a bundle from car parking.
* There were tour bus-sized hoards of people there, who were clearly there for no other reason than to take photos for social media accounts. To the point that I had a middle aged woman try to shove me out of her photo. Yup. All of this natural beauty and magic has been reduced to the perfect Instagram shot, and that took a LOT of the experience away for me. We’d come all that way and been forced to pay our parking, so I made my way out onto the stepping stones to check it all out a bit more, but that feeling of “wow, how incredible” just wasn’t there.

Given that experience, I’m actually not sure I’d recommend visiting too strongly, but the rest of the stuff we saw was fantastic! By the time we finished up at Giant’s Causeway, the rain and wind were both getting heavier, and we were conscious of having to drive back in such crappy conditions in the dark, so we decided to cut our loses and make our way back to the airport to drop off the car by 7.30pm. I guess Dunseverick Castle and Ballintoy Harbour will still be there for our next visit!

 

CAR HIRE TIPS
– We used Dan Dooleys and they were fantastic to deal with from start to finish! On the day, we went to their airport office, fixed up the paperwork, and  used their shuttle to take us to parking lot (which is the same location the car was returned to).

– There is an Applegreens about 10km from airport where you can stop to fill up fuel.

– In terms of fuel cost, we had a hybrid SEAT Ibiza, we drove 600km and it cost around €50 to re-fill the tank.

– We picked up our car at 7.30am, and returned it at 7.30pm – the 12 hours hire, including Excess Waiver Insurance and an extra driver cost just under €100.

– I’d highly recommend getting a small car for the narrow Irish roads!

– We went in November, and it gets dark early at that time of year, so you’ll need to be prepared to drive in the dark.

– Pack snacks and water! You’ll be travelling mostly on expressways, so there are not many stops unless you want to turn off.

– Have money ready for the toll booth – they weren’t expensive, but the booth attendants will like you a whole lot more if you have some change on you!