The Best Laid Schemes: Money Matters While Traveling

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It is with chagrin that I write this. It has been a few months since my Ireland and Scotland trip. And what I came back to certainly wasn’t fun. Last year I wrote about being careful while traveling, especially where money and safety is concerned. I had two incidents happen to me while traveling, even though I was vigilant and had planned well in advance, was always on guard. One of the big drawbacks of traveling alone, you don’t have a mate to watch your back. You spend a great deal of time watching every corner, when really you want to be watching the sights. How do you tour and enjoy sights while not being targeted is the big question. And even when you plan, you can still get swiped.

In my last article I wrote about how to carry your money, do money belts really work, how hard was it to travel with cash or money. This most recent trip I had gathered up and taken some cash from the UK and Ireland, Pounds and Euros. I kept a certain amount for both on or locked in safes in places I stayed. I only carried small amounts of cash and guarded my concealed chip card fiercely. I still had incidents. I didn’t want to have to access ATMS or anything that would be compromised unless I needed to. Best laid schemes and all.

Cash

Cash is always good to have, especially when you have a desire to not collect chip card fees. It is also a bit of a burden while traveling. You can keep large amounts of cash, but it’s not usually a good idea. Even with a lockable case, or if you are lucky, a hotel room with a safe, you shouldn’t have large amounts on your person as you are making yourself a target. So, I had to decide what the cash budget for a day would be, try to keep that very low, conceal it, stuff a fiver or a tenner in the key pocket of the Levis for cash items, the rest was prepaid travel card. I didn’t want to have to access foreign exchanges too often, there were always fees involved. Card use depended on using for food at restaurants mainly, and I tried to keep that down because fees may be charged again. They may seem minimal, but usage fees can total over £ 50.00 by the end of your trip, and if you are limited to currency because your card company won’t do two or more currencies to your card, you will get exchange fees. So budget £ 5-8.00 for a day if using one for the extra fees.

For the most part, money belts do work, especially if you get a low profile one that you can sling low and hide in jeans it’s not quite as obvious. Cloth money belt may be more desirable due to heat and moisture, but one with internal pockets.

I carried my cash from town to town and through airports using a money belt. Problem was they made me take it off and put in the bins during boarding. This was extremely nerve wracking as it was out of sight and I had to keep chasing down the bin and keep track of everything else as well. The money belt worked otherwise for the most part, I found it was better while traveling on trains. So, even though the belt was made to not trigger alarms at the airport, they still found it. Concealed card holders usually make it through if there is not a metal snap. Better to wait and get the cash there after you arrive.

Backpacks

Most of the cities you will tour are filled with students, and backpacks are the norm. You also want to be able to meet and greet locals and get a feel for a place. You should be able to just talk to anyone, right? But you always have to think the most affable could be sizing you up. Pickpockets have been in the trade for over a thousand years. And they have gotten more sophisticated than you think, think super spy.

If you are touring and doing serious backpacking with a kit and this is your mode for travel as well, you will probably want to take a smaller low profile version along for town day excursions. Back packs are magnets for a lift or slash. If you are touring and need to do several hours away from hotel or other lodging, purses and such are not a good thing. Too easy to slash and grab. You can buy modified purse/backpacks with reinforced straps, but the best thing to do is buy very small back packs with low profile or lockable zippers. While some thieves will still slash a bag, many are subtle and will unzip while standing next to you and you are distracted by the sights or your companions. Be wary of who is next to or near you.

I purchased a very low profile, small backpack that really sat against my body. It had hidden, recessed zippers and a compartment for my iPad. However, with careful planning I still was almost a victim. While in Dublin in large crowds, apparently someone went for my iPad. The recessed zippers hadn’t mattered. I had barely noticed the jostle and almost forgot it all together until two young girls came up and said that my pack was open and looked like a grab had happened. I checked everything and luckily the would be thief had not made off with the iPad, or any other valuable item like the passport. The girls said it happened a lot in the area. So, whenever possible, practice looking tragically hip while guarding your backpack, especially in the Temple Bar area.

Cash Card

I went with a cash card again on this trip. However, I did bring my ATM card as a backup if it got stolen. Big mistake. I had been really vigilant about getting cash. I was trying not to use the chip travel card to get cash, wasn’t sure how safe it would be. If I needed cash I went directly to accredited money exchangers after checking Yelp for reviews, and in some UK Post Offices you can use their exchange. I figured if you got a receipt and if they are a chain, you have some recompense if there is a problem. However, depending on remote locations, sometimes the card wouldn’t work for buying meals and such, being WiFi processing dependent. I was doing really well with managing the money, and really thought I had done okay until I got back to the US and found my checking account had been cleared out. The bank got me the records and after contacting Scotland Police by email, I began looking at a trail of how my account was cleared out. It appears the one time I got desperate for cash on a tour, I used a small stand alone ATM at a petrol station. Bad idea. A card skimmer had been attached and as I looked at records, I followed a parallel track to my travels, going through the Highlands and into Edinburgh, the same days I was there for Fringe Festival. Lesson learned, don’t bring anything attached to your bank account and use it to access funds.

Credit Cards

When traveling we often use our credit cards, they usually can be replaced when lost or stolen while traveling if your card is supported internationally. Just be prepared for the the foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank about their rates of exchange before you go. Always plan in your budget for the fees that will hit you when you return. Depending on your countries of travel, you may want to have a card that is with one of the major card companies, Visa or Master Card. Virgin Money is still only available in UK, Europe and Australia.However, the interest rates are terrible. Use credit card sparingly and use the prepaid card for food and expenses.

Large card companies will have the best infrastructure to wire money or replace card overnight in some countries. Travel cards that you preload can be advantageous, but will also accrue per use fees, and if you return and still have money on them, you may get charged monthly fees as well. Close out your cards when you return unless you plan to travel within a year. Contact your card holder for details. I went with Travelex again and for the most part they worked, but the cards were not the latest processing cards and some of the newer chip readers had trouble with them. If you bring your card, make sure you know about any emergency limits. If you have a medical issue in another country, your personal insurance will not cover most expenses. You should buy travel insurance for your trip, make sure that there are allowances for transport fees (ambulance) included. Your credit card will help get you in the door of a medical facility, and you will have to work with the travel insurance later. Pay as you go cards may not be accepted at Casualty rooms.

Travel Cards

I had a Travelex card which is a UK card. Coming from the US, I was told I could only purchase one currency. While in the UK and EU countries, there are cards that allow you multiple currencies on the card. Research this before you go as new card services are popping up, exchange rates will always accrue.

American Express is not accepted by most merchants, if any in the UK and Ireland.

Piece of Mind

There are no guarantees in travel. For the most part, if you have companions you can look out for one another. If you are the single traveler, you have to be even more prepared to be a target. Think about what you really need to do, and do you really need more money in cash. I didn’t want all my eggs in one basket. Even though the travel card was supposed to be the best option, I was concerned about if it got stolen, and considerations about tracking and stopping the old card going to get me refunded funds or were they truly lost. The company claimed it would refund me, but I had my doubts. So, when shopping for your travel cards, research well in advance and talk to them about all their policies. Look at their online interface and see if you think you will be able to access while abroad, or if they have an app for your smart phone. Research through articles and see which cards are performing the best, and in which countries. I found the online web interface really difficult to get to with Travelex. Their app was easy for daily monitoring and topping up.

Hotel Safes

You can shop for accommodations that have a room safe. While you are looking for accommodations on a travel website, contact the accommodation and see if they have room safes. These usually rely on a code that you set yourself, however there are a few locking types which means you have another key to keep track of. In days of old when you traveled, you could rely on a main hotel safe for passports, etc. Try to avoid them. You have no guarantee that the employees won’t skim your funds or access your passport.

UK and EU Travel Cards Information and Articles

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/travel-money-options-cash-cards-and-travellers-cheques#using-pre-paid-cards-abroad

http://www.wisebread.com/travel-and-money-using-prepaid-travel-cards

UK Residents http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/travel-money-card.html

https://www.what-prepaid-card.co.uk

Cards

Travelex

Check if you can have multiple currencies https://www.travelex.com/travel-money-card

Visa Prepaids from Visa Partners https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/card-finder/prepaid-finder-page.html

Virgin https://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/travel-prepaid-card/index.jsp

The Gregory: Belfast Accommodations

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The Gregory Bed and Breakfast, Belfast Northern Ireland

30 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6DX, United Kingdom ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ £ £ £ Moderate

One of the best, most comfortable accommodations I had on this last trip was The Gregory in Belfast. I had a quick 48 hour stay and needed a safe place to stay and be able to walk or bus from where I was. I found a place in a great neighborhood by the university, and plenty of local entertainment, including The Cuckoo club around the corner, owned by a GOT alum (Nairn). IMG_0706

I was going on a great tour for one of my days on the trip, a Game of Thrones Tour that would encompass one whole day. I needed a safe, quiet space to rest from travel and get plenty of sleep the night before. This was just the place. Large, spacious room, good flooring and carpet. The decor was not too loud, fairly neutral. The bathroom was very good, plenty of room to turn around in. The heaters were great, yeah summer in Northern Ireland. The bed was very comfortable, one of the few I didn’t have to use the duvet as padding for. The meals in the restaurant were okay for breakfast, accommodating for early departures if you order the breakfast.

IMG_0707.jpgThe shower was well kept and the at the source heater worked well with a good flow. My room faced the back, with a side window that looked on a nice red brick next to the hotel with a good garden space. The restaurant was very accommodating in the am for early departure on tour.

Local food was very good, being by Queen’s University there were plenty of restaurants to choose from and since school was out for the summer, seating was quick. Remember student restaurants equals great foodie fun and portions. Not all are equal so check the local apps and Yelp.com for reviews. I ate at Molly’s Yard with a huge curry chips I could never finish.IMG_0708

Great price for the comfort, private and crashable after a day long tour. Would definitely stay again.

If you have more time, take the Art Walk Tours of the political murals and community murals in Belfast. Great insight to the wonderful city and it’s history.

Links

https://irishtourtickets.com/game-of-thrones-tour-from-belfast/

Belfast Blast: 48 Hours in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Glasgow Westend Summer 2017 Musings

ashtonI have just spent a few rare, mostly sunny days in Glasgow’s West End. What’s not to like about this festive and eclectic area in Glasgow. Situated right next to University of Glasgow, as in all great university towns, a great area hub of several very diverse communities on all sides of the university, each with it’s own flavor.

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It’s warm and happening here in the West End and Hillhead area of Glasgow. A rare, two warm sunny-ish days are indeed happening. I probably cursed us by wearing my sleeveless shirt for a while, sans jacket. Highly indulgent of me, I know. Feel the sunburn happening. Just walking the Byres Road area in the afternoon and the beach chairs are out near the  Hillhead Bookclub, an eclectically intense eatery that even has a clothing jumble sale on weekends upstairs. Great  vegan offerings along side traditional food. Had a sweet potato cake that was spicy indeed, and the plates are large portioned.  Just look for the dapper sea horse mural and you have found the spot.

Kelvinside and Botanic Gardens

This area boasts the enchanting Glasgow Botanic Gardens. In the summer you can see Bard in The Botanic, the local Shakespeare in the parks production. Places to eat and venues like the Oran Mor and Webster Theatre offer entertainment as well as good food and bar facilities.

Hillhead

Besides having a lot of student housing areas, with more being built as of this writing, this part of town has a vast array of restaurants that appeals to many cultural flavors and pricing is influenced by the student population. Therefore, great bargains can be had food wise here, and like most Uni areas, volume comes with the plate in many cases. Check out the other patrons plates to see if you can dine al fresco or if each plate can feed two to three people. There is also a lot of shopping to be done in the area at several brand name

DeCourcys

 as well as boutique stores. And don’t pass up the Oxfam and other local charity shops, you may just find a fun, hip article for a good cause.

West End

Just south of Kelvingrove Park is the area that is the eclectic and hipster area of West End and features Sauchiehall Street, Fitzroy Place, and Argyle street. There are a great number of bars and high end restaurants in the area, and plenty of places to do whisky tasting like the Ben Nevis. Other real notables are Ox and Finch, Mother India, The socialHidden Lane Tearoom, and Cubatas Tapas Bar, and the recently voted best place bar in West End, J. Sharpe Dispensary or The Drugstore Social . This was a great retreat one day from lang walks and the need to feed at lunch with a great glass of wine. The area features a few small boutiques for shopping fun. I recently ate at Ox and Finch, a small plates Tapas style eatery off Sauchiehall Street, after trying to have a sit in there for a few weeks. This restaurant is so popular you may have to book a few days in advance via their website like I did. It was worth the wait. The sommelier was very knowledgeable about both food and wine pairings, and helped with a Gluten Free adaptation of meals. The atmosphere was relaxing and a wonderful West End experience. Also after a good feed at the local, walking the Kelvin riverside walkways are a pleasant way to make room for a later whiskey tasting.

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Kelvinbridge

Two favorite places near where I was staying and just a convenient hop across the Western Road were Inn Deep at the Kelvinbridge, featuring a very twisty stairs down through the main door, or a bridge staircase down to the Kelvin walkway, which by the way is a must river adventure. This foodie enclave features dog friendly spaces, riverside seating you will have to fight for or make friends over. Music tends towards the 70s and even some American Funk. But beware of being blasted with Fleetwood Mac and other golden oldies you may find yourself singing along to. Great hand cut fries, too.

Another dog friendly spot, and people too, is the The Belle on the Western Road. Quiet some nights, raucous talk the next. Good selection of drink options. 

 

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Whiskey

Yes, national drink and all, most bars, pubs, and taverns will carry a very good selection of regional whiskey. If you have mostly had American or only a few Scottish varieties, you may want to go to a whiskey bar or even go on a whiskey walking tour where you can hit up a few specializing places. If you are in the West End, Ben Nevis Pub is a connoisseur spot but gets packed of an evening. If you don’t like a huge crowd and want to talk to the barkeep, try a late afternoon visit.

Hint: Kitchens can close early in Scotland, so if you are used to tavern food up until midnight, that may not be the thing in some parts of town. Sundays mean earlier closures for most restaurants.

© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

Glasgow Art Walk July 2017

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I had been looking forward to revisiting the Glasgow Mural walk for some time and was not disappointed. This walk features a great many murals all over the city with many of them being situated in the City Centre and outlying areas. There is a map you can download and print out, as well as just keeping your eyes peeled as there are many other murals that just keep popping up and unless you are a local, would not be aware of them and where they are situated. Check in out of the way spaces like under the bridges and lots.

These colorful depictions of life and interpretation have become such a part of the landscape, it’s hard to notice that some are suffering the sad realisation that wind and elements are taking their toll. To my relief I had not seen any of the murals suffering from deliberately being altered, although some other tagging and art seemed to be butting up against some of them. Street art is highly respected by fellow artists, and street art has a huge fan base. Indeed, as in other great mural and street art works from around the world, the sides of buildings are slowing giving away and altering some of the murals. Some artists see this as part of the landscape, that the art itself will have to show time. Good news is more are being created, including some new ones dedicated to the comic Sir Billy Connolly.

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Start with the City Centre and follow the circuit. You will see a great many parts of the city and get a good healthy urban hike. Don’t forget to stop off at some great restaurants and pubs along the way. Wear sturdy walking shoes. Happy hunting.

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Download the brochure here:
https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19649&p=0

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© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

Get Ready to Pack: The Reality of Living Out of a Suitcase

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When you are flying domestic or traveling via car or bus, you usually just dump a bunch of clothing, what you think you will need while gone for a few days, into a case. You may have some sense of how you pack, but it’s a ,”Hey, I am going for a few days” mentality.  At least this is what I have experienced in talking with other people from the US, not much thought goes into what we cram into the case. This is  probably why we get held up at airports, the not thinking about carry on restrictions and what we cram in a case, liquids in too large amounts. If you are going overseas, you need to pack less and more useful clothing, toiletries, devices, and pack definitely more efficiently.

How Are You Traveling?

Will you be on large domestic to international flights? What are their current restrictions on weight and size? You can find most weight and size charts online, but they can still be a bit confusing. You should keep in mind that you may be able to really cram a case full of your belongings, but you have to lug that around for a few weeks and also the planes, trains and automobiles you may use have limited space. When traveling in a train, its a free for all on luggage racks and space behind the seats. You need to monitor your cases and know where they are on public transit. If you can get reserved seating, try to get a seat near or facing the racks to keep an eye on your gear. Check with the airlines, all airlines you are traveling with. This includes the smaller flights you may take in between islands or countries. Don’t rely on what it says on the online travel site you may use to  book, contact the actual carrier or railway.

Start Packing Trial Run

Some people are born packers. Some have been in the military and really know how to pack. Others travel a great deal for their jobs and have learned over time the best way to pack a case and survive TSA. You should rehearse with your cases a few days ahead. Now you may think that you have this down, but it’s better to have the trial run and edit than do so 4 hours before flight.

Start by lining up your clothing and thinking about weight. When you are at home, things go in drawers and closets, weigh is distributed. It’s amazing how much we don’t think of clothing as having weight unless it’s work boots. It adds up quickly, and you will pay for extra weight. Not all airlines let you check the cargo baggage free. Many charge per bag.

Methods

Rolling is something I have learned to do. It also means you can cram more things in in the case, and keeps wrinkles down. That doesn’t mean you should keep cramming. Again, weight is very restricted on overseas flights. I find rolling works well because you can keep some wrinkles out of clothing and even when you start accumulating dirty items, you can have one side clean and the other dirty. You will need to do laundry somehow, many wash in the sink, but some dense items that really doesn’t work well for. Plan to loose a few hours to finding a launderette for wash and dry. Some small items just need a rinse, and packing them just takes a quick fold. You may want to take a picture of when you successfully get the cases packed the way you want, just as a reference for the re-pack. Pack a bag for laundry run.

What to Pack

Lists can be found online about this topic. My experience has taught me this:

Several pairs of jeans, trousers. 4 if you can fit it. Easy to move around in, have pockets. Now my experience has taught me get real levis or non-fashion jeans. That’s right ladies, your hip and trendies have no real pockets. Totally useless for travel. You may want to bring one pair for an occasion. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to do what I have done in the past, get to the army surplus and get some real camos or other army pants that have pockets. Otherwise get to the outdoor store and get cargo pants. Works really well for train travel. Zip off kind make cargo shorts.

Tee shirts. Get plenty of teeshirts that can work as layers. Try to have a weeks worth with you. Sadly you will need to wash things, otherwise you have to lug too much with you. Keep  in mind that many UK and European cities do  not have a laundry set up that you are used to in America. Most of it is service wash and that can take a few days to get back, which won’t work.

One nice set of clothing that packs tight. Unless you are going for a wedding or some other really big affair, one outfit that can go to the theatre or very nice dinner.

Lightweight rain jacket if traveling spring/summer. Heavier weight worn if traveling fall/winter. Don’t bring large umbrella, or brelly. I would advise just buying one there and leaving it if you need. Here in PDX we mostly jacket hood if we have to, and it rains torrents. Think mobile.

Devices. You need a phone and an international plan. Tablet maybe. With new restrictions on the horizon you may want to rethink this. I have to take something because I  blog. Make sure you have your power converter. This trip I am relying on the phone for pictures and will be testing some camera phone lenses out. Cameras can be a hassle when traveling, one more thing to keep track of. But if you are a picture fiend, then finding a travel worthy camera is a sound investment.

Money belt. Yes, you will be a tourist target. Try not to be one. You are allowed one small personal bag on most flights. When out on the street, these bags can get slashed and grabbed very easy. Consider money belts for when you really need to have the money with you. Leaving money stashed in hotel rooms is not really safe unless there is a room safe. Backpacks and or travel bag purses should be on the smallish side and reenforced and antitheft built. If you are going the travel backpack route, I suggest you flatten and pack it in your cases and use when you arrive. If they make you check it, it can get damaged on conveyer belts, or just go missing in the system.

Toiletries

I try to buy most of these when I get to the country I am visiting. This works well if it’s a Western country or one that has a large metropolis. Otherwise, you need to pack your shampoos and such in regulation size containers. Double bag in clear zip lock bags and place in clear organizers. Things get jostled about and even with careful planning, can make a mess before you get there are cause inspection problems. Some things you will need to have like medications need to be packed with you in your. Carry on. Just  bring enough in your budget to get to the apothecary when you get there.

More

The Savvy Backpacker – Great article on all aspects for consideration while traveling. Including traveling using underground.

https://thesavvybackpacker.com/europe-packing-list/

http://toeuropeandbeyond.com/europe-travel-packing-list/

Video


Photo © Jan Voigtmann

Icon Factory Dublin Interview With Aga Szot

 

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(c) Icon Factory Ltd / Icon Walk Ltd 

All major cities have art museums. A large metropolis like Dublin is no exception, it has quite a few. But great art I find is always down at street level. Great nonprofit experiences like Dublin’s The Icon Walk/The Icon Factory represent great art. It’s art  that is alive and kinetic, even if it is a few static pieces. Color and subject can make it vibe. I love my mural walks and planned to tour this one next month. In preparation for my trip I contacted Aga Szot at The Icon Factory for a interview to share with you. I am hoping you can come take a stroll with us in Dublin on this fine walking experience. Stay tuned as I will visit and review the experience for you.

Come realize the power of art to help create a clean and safe Environment for all. Please visit their website and donate if you can to help keep this great experience going for all.

How did your museum get it’s start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

Since its establishment The Icon Walk/The Icon Factory has become a highly rated tourists destination in international tour guides, rating higher than Dublin Castle & The Photographic Archive, and has received an endorsement by the UNESCO City of Literature office as an important site for the celebration of Irish literary talent and culture. We have been featured in many national newspapers, tourguides including the front page of the Arts and Culture page of the New York Times.

When we moved into Aston Place in 2010, the surrounding lane ways were in a sorry state, filthy and run down. It was an illegal dumping ground, a harbour for drug-taking,often used as a public toilet and a festering den of petty-criminality. We couldn’t believe that a half mile of lanes in the heart of Dublin’s business and tourist district would be allowed to fall into such a state of dilapidation. In 2010 we began work on the Icon Walk, a series of panels showcasing key Irish cultural icons also The Icon Factory Gallery when we show emerging artists work on a regular base. Once an area to be avoided, the lanes are now a mostly safe, vibrant destination for walking tours and average citizens, also more and more artists are taking part in exhibitions.

Our maintaining the area and preventing its reverting to its previous conditions is reflected by both increasing foot and online traffic. Google has reached out to us to inform us that 10,000 people a month see and search information about our project, check our activities and find us.

All our events are free created to encourage cultural activities for adults and children are fully booked every year. Aga’s Szot studio is one and unique life painting studio experimental installation in Dublin.

There are clear benefits in the increased number of artists, internship and volunteers taking part in the project. Every year the numbers of visitors increases daily, over 200% in 5 years, fourfold increase in tour groups. The Art Festival footfall increased 300% per day over previous years according to our visitor book. Our project encourages locals to care about the area their work.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

We now find ourselves playing the leading role in creating cultural & educational experience in Temple Bar including public art installations, art events and activities, keeping area safe and clean, making people feel respected and the area safe without as much as even one Euro of public money.

We were able to provide space to artist for their exhibitions, creations of new artworks for The Icon Walk, and create a Summer Cultural Festival in the lanes during which we opened the new sections to the public.

To this date we held exhibitions by over 50 artists over seven years. In many cases these have been the first exhibition by the artist. Unlike most galleries we do not charge for exhibition space. All we ask is for one image from the artist that we can use in our merchandise to help ‘keep the lights on’. We give facilities to artists to print and sell their works. We give advice and encouragement to the artist in planning their exhibition. We ensure that the money raised from sales goes back to the artist. In this regard we have become a hub for local talent.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

The Icon Project is registered charity and fully based on volunteers. If the Icon Factory could survive on goodwill alone, then the future of the project would be secured for many years to come. We have had thousands of visitors through our doors over the past few years, all expressing admiration and enthusiasm for what we have accomplished but reluctant to give funds.

The Icon project fully depend on funding and every year our big challenge is to get funding for a basic running costs. Despite the previous  years supports Icon Factory received no funding for 2017.

After several years depending on once off funding we now recognise that the Icon Project needs a regular funding base and this is most challenging part for us.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

We have a  good few short documentaries made about our project which you can check on the links below:

Is there a committee that decides to feature something or a finding that becomes available and you build around that? Or does the planning involve a specific structure?

Board members of registered charities are involved in application process for the exhibition. Artist are asked to provide their portfolio and cover letter. After positive application process artists meet with the members to discuss process of setting up the exhibition and work on the featured Icon which will be donated to The Icon Walk project.  

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

This year our exhibition season is planned on a monthly base case no funding crisis.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

All artists locals and international are welcome to apply for the exhibition at the gallery including different art disciplines starting from classical art, drawing, paintings, sculpturing, photography, installations and conceptual work.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

At the moment The Icon Project is reviewing its financial situation and no further exhibitions are planned till the end of September.

The Icon Factory is located in the Temple Bar District of Dublin.

Location

The Icon Factory

Aston Place

Temple bar

Dublin 2

Ireland

iconfactorydublin@gmail.com

Opening Hours

Mon – Sun 11.00am – 6.00pm

For more information:

http://iconfactorydublin.ie/newsite/the-icon-walk/

https://www.facebook.com/TheIconFactory

Videos on Vimeo

Bob Geldof, Sinéad O’Connor and others https://vimeo.com/user33528482

More:

Art Walks: Spring in the UK and Ireland

Science Gallery Dublin

 

 

When Your Travel Budget Takes a Hit, Retrench

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Glasgow Street Art – Free things to do

You have been planning for 11 months a travel that will make up for what little you were able to explore the last time you went to the most spectacular country experience you could have imagined. When you attempted to master the travel experience of that country, you came back with the realization that you barely scratched the surface of its locals and people. You vowed to make it back and explore more than before, and take on an adjacent country to boot. And you were going to go for longer on the same budget because you learned a few travel budget things the last time. Speed forward a few months and you are prepping for the new trip becoming a reality. Tickets and bookings happened for great budgetary prices during the holidays. You have been setting aside a bit per month to buy currency. Then the shocker hits you. A disaster happens, like taxes. You have already invested so much, if you back out now you are at a loss. Can you still go on this amazing trip?

Such a wall of shock hit me this week. I spent 24 hours on one of the most stressful decisions all year: Call it a loss and stay in the US, miserable, or cut the daily travel budget in half and still have a wee bit of debt, but a wealth of experience. On day 2 I decided to go ahead and challenge my already challenged tight budget.

Retrench
It’s an old term from the UK, meaning to get back into the battle. Recover from a loss. My brain had to wrap around how to get a daily budget for food and maybe the occasional fun thing to do paid for after taking a hit to an otherwise already tight travel budget.

Fundraising on funding sites won’t attract sympathy from anyone unless you’re traveling to do a scientific study, so how do you do it. It’s spring, it’s time for a garage sale. You need to clear it out anyway, look for items you can sell in a garage sale and or on eBay. You may be able to get a few days of meals out of it.

Accommodations
Hopefully you were smart and shopped at AirBNB or other sites and found the best rated spaces for your very limited budget to begin with. Think if you can about the type of place you are staying in. Part of a vacation is that you want to spoil yourself a bit if you can. Well, if you plan really well and read reviews, real time, real people reviews, you may find some great bangs for your travel buck. One thing to consider, if you are in a location for more than one night, find one with service or kitchen facilities in the room. Even a small fridge will do. You can pick up a few items of food or a bottle of wine, mix up a picnic lunch and save some money. If you save a bit, and some days you have a bit left over, you have money for a little splurge later. If you are lucky enough to travel and have patience with travel partners, room and other costs can be combined, and you can stretch your more. Just plan for some “me” time on your trip so you don’t get into a horn lock with your travel mates.

Food
Decide how you can save daily expenses in a city. Cities are very expensive to live in, but if you have been a university student in a large metropolitan city like where you are visiting (Dublin), you can find the best places to eat for a tight budget. Think like a starving student. Chose where you stay to help with your budget. Is the place you are staying only accessible to high-end restaurants, and can you walk or bus it to where you can get groceries if you have a refrigerator at your disposal. Granted, one of the great things about travel is fantastic food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive restaurant in town that has the best. Again, think like a student. Amend look for pop up restaurants, great variety and smaller overhead can help your budget.

Travel
In the city, try to walk as much as you can. It’s the best way to experience it after all. I have been in training for the last two years with travel in mind, I sometimes walk 12 miles or more a day when I am visiting a city. Walking is free, but make sure you invest in good shoes before you leave. Cabs are very expensive, plus there’s the tip you should give. I usually only do them coming from an airport and getting to one if the bus is too difficult. Bus systems in most cities may seem an alien experience to you, but can save you loads of money and you can talk to locals. By keeping your transit to walking and buses, you can save money for a splurge on a tour maybe. Start by booking any train travel about a month out. Many trips can be purchased in advance and be really cheap with your fees being prepaid. If you wait too long, the prices double and treble. Most rain travel is accessible by internet booking now and you can set up an account with the train line that you can access later. Make sure you know where you can pick up your tickets, as not all railway stations have machines.

Entertainment
This year I am going for the festival experience. This means a plethora of overwhelming amounts of theatre and arts venues, and way too many choices. Shop ahead online before you go if you have a particular artist you want to see, or surprise yourself and load one of the festival apps with GPS. Venues with tickets still available will show, and if you are lucky, some days of the festival like Monday or Tuesday are cheap seats days. There are many free performances and street performers are pay as you like.

Set Your Daily Budget
The reality is if you only have so much money to take with you, budget the cash divided by days. Logical right. There are articles and books on doing cities and places on x $ per day. Many things can and will add up to an expensive day. Taxi rides to and from to the airport if public transit is a no go. Food. Food doesn’t have to be extreme. There are plenty of great priced places and great articles out there on top food choices on a budget. Don’t forget farmers markets, many towns have them and you are supporting locals v. Corporate farms. If you can get the breakfast at the inn deal, sometimes they are a bit tasteless.  Then you only have to worry about dinner. If you are very conservative and keep your big splurges down, you can save from your budget for a great treat at the end. Remember, really experiencing a place is all in the wandering. I keep a list of free things to do in each city on my phone. And warning, going to the pub is much more costly in Europe than in the US or Canada. So if you can get that kitchenette, it’s cheaper to buy bottles and stay in.

So, the budget vacation doesn’t have to be boring. True travel adventures don’t need to be costly if you plan ahead and think about real value. Avoiding high costs like car hires unless you have 4 people minimum will help keep your budget under wraps. Public transit and walking everywhere save money for food and the occasional theatre ticket. It can be done, besides, it’s what the locals do.


© 2017 photo by Alison McEwan

Suit Case Limits on European Flights: Check All Airlines Restrictions

downloadAfter months of keeping an eye out for suit case deals, reading articles and comparison charts by brand, a decision had to be made. I am flying in about a month and needed to get the reality check purchase made. Restrictions on size being the main criteria, small European flights are indeed small, like flying match sticks, and have no overhead room. So, how do you get that in that small but useful cabin bag size working for you and What features do you really need?

When I first started considering the small plane flights, I remembered one of my hops last year and how I barely made the size restrictions on that last leg of my Transatlantic  flight, and the fear and expense of having to track two bags in the hold. There’s nothing like getting to your dream vacation spot and your luggage takes days to catch up to you. I was using borrowed travel cases and learned so much about baggage “hate” that trip. This year I decided I had to budget for new cases and invest in sizes that fit the minimum or under in dimensions for the overhead bins in the cabins, and that they had to work for the smaller planes. After doing research on the internet, I decided I had better call the airlines for Aer Lingus restrictions on my tiny flight and was glad I did. The online references really weren’t clear, going mostly by weight. The case size was restricted to a 18 inch tall bag (length) and I had to research how to get the carry on under a good budget and afford the purchase of a second larger case. In my initial research, I found that if I bought cases according to maximum measurements, I was averaging a huge sum of money for specific sizes. I am sorry, I know there are people who love the designer thing, and some that are professional travelers, but most of us can’t spend $500.00 or more on luggage. That covers quite a few nights in a hotel. But what about buying cheap cases that may bust in the hold? How can you meet a tight budget and have cases that survive the trip? Check out reviews online and hope for the best. After some research and looking at some reviews, I made a choice that fit my budget and the size restrictions. I also went in with the mindset that if the cases made it through two Transatlantic trips, meaning two vacations, it would be a good investment. Why get a expensive set of luggage when size restrictions could change in the future?

Your carry on bag should contain all toiletries you will need immediately upon landing, and at the very least 2 changes of clothing. If your baggage is delayed you have something to work with while you wait for the cases to catch up with you.

Measurements for Consideration

55cm x 40cm x 24cm Cabin for Transatlantic, 18 inch tall for smaller planes.

90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) Checked Luggage size

Contact your airlines for intercontinental flights sizes before you board. The restrictions can vary per airline, but many airlines buy the same planes. The above is an average.

Luggage Restrictions for European Fights 2017

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Criterion

Hard-sided meeting European cabin luggage restrictions 18 inches tall, 4 wheels not 2, for smaller intercontinental and island hopping flights.

Wheeled, preferably spinner second case under 62 inch restrictions

Small travel backpack/day pack with iPad pouch and place to hide passport, etc.

Spend amount less than the price of one very expensive piece of luggage. Buy a set of2 for the price of one American Tourister.

Purchase Made: inUSA brand, Model: San Francisco, spinners( 4) on both cases, self locking TSA lock combo included (we’ll see about that).

imagesI finally made a choice after reviewing several cases on Amazon. I also chose a situation where shipping was free, since I was finding many of the cases were costing a great deal in shipping fees, thus adding to the price. My considerations were meeting the size restrictions and including spinner wheels height extension. After years of standard cases and lugging a case that was too bulky across Scotland last year, I decided it was time to scale down and streamline, bring less clothing and do more washing. Not something you want to have to do on your trip, but planning your trip to include space and time to do laundry unfortunately has to be done. I planned for laundry in Glasgow and Dublin Stops, with research on Yelp for reliable machines.

Other Considerations: TILE brand luggage and pets GPS tags, DYNOTAG permanent luggage tags. Osprey light daypack, featuring space for camel pack or laptop, tablet, and padding space, hiding space for passport.

Research Your Cases

http://www.luggageontour.com

http://nymag.com/strategist/article/the-best-rolling-luggage-according-to-frequent-fliers.html

 

 

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Travel Apps Round Up 2 and Clearing Space for Snaps

ayrshire-antique-county-map-parishes-ayr-kilmarnock-scotland-lizars-1885-2-207660-p

Room for Your New Travel Snaps

Grab your smartphone and hang on. You are going on your trip in a month or less and getting extremely excited about everything your will do. You plan on taking snaps everywhere and wonder about the fact you already have a zillion photos on your phone. You have you hard copy itinerary and have booked on a travel app you are sort of liking but not sure is really your thing. There is so much to see and do, and you will get a hundred brochures on sites when you hit the hotel. Overload awaits you. Not if you start planning and clearing out the old, and setting the stage for the new.

Clear out the last years photos from your phone. Sounds easy right? It actually is, but we tend to hang on to every picture of our cats doing weird things, and foodie shots. If you are on iPhone and have iCloud account, you should back up your photos to the cloud regularly and there is a feature that lets you do that. So, check that you have uploaded and backed up your camera rolls then clear off your phone. But with all the sharing, images keep popping up on all devices and can be annoying. You need to do a two-step process with iPhone:

How to Set Up iCloud Phone Library and Optimize Storage

Then take the extra step to get the photos off your iPhone after you have verified that the photos have been backed  up in drive.

Clearing iPhone Photos

So if you are an Android or Google Phone type, you will need to check out these ideas to help save and clear your stash of snaps. Many of us use Google drive and this should be easy but you will need to take a few enabled steps.

Clearing Photos and Images on Android Using Google Drive

Travel Apps

Now that you have freed up some space on your phone, and checked what apps you can get rid of because you don’t really use them, you can now start looking at some travel apps. There are many websites that help with booking, but there are some apps that make travel more fun and organized if you try them out and get used to the interface before hand.

Google Trips v Tripit

I have just started using this little gem. If you have a Gmail account, any of your booking confirmations that come in can be automatically added for your trips. I just started my trip planner for July and started manually putting my flight info in. It would be handy if Justfly.com did an export to the app directly. You can access off line as well through your Google account in case the phone is not available, like at at hotel lobby.Google Trips

I can manage my hotel and accommodations on Booking.com easily enough, and export confirmations to my Wallet app so I can just walk in and show it as confirmation. Sometimes it’s good to have a mobile app that has a very user friendly interface. You may have to try a few to see which one has the ease of use that works for you before you hop your plane.

Tripit is a similar program but you can send your itineraries from any email to it and it will add automatically, Google defaults to Gmail of course. It’s a bit more involved, has a few more features. I say try both out for bit before your trip and see which you prefer.

Duolingo

Traveling to France or another tongue you do not speak? Try an app for translation on the fly. Gone are the days of flipping through a translation book, plonk in you language and ask it to translate. There are short lessons in this app that will help you a bit with the language basics. For more in depth in a language, search for that particular language app at the app store. Try it free to see if the interface works for you.

Citimapper

Free alternative to Google Maps with transit mapping included. Works in most major cities. Warning, data hog.

XE Currency

Check all the currency exchange rates at a glance. Smartphone app and web site conversion. This has been a go to standard for years. Currency converter. You can check their rates, look at world currency values up to date by the minute.

Easy Currency Converter

Great little app, available on Android. Includes bitcoin.

My Currency Converter

iPhone app, very clean and easy to view, use design. I always go with easy of use, otherwise it’s smash the app time on the phone.

Travelex Money App

Need to top up your Travelex money card while traveling in Europe, you can do it through this app. What I don’t like is it default loads to try to get you to drop $1k on it immediately as they do make money off you. But being able to slip the currency in on the phone when getting money from your bank while abroad may have even high fees is a good idea.

Usage Hint: Data suck is high in these cities, download travel map apps that allow for offline use when necessary, WiFi doesn’t follow you around, you have to find it. Good WiFi finder app is a must. Live GPS will kill your data space.

More

 

Hopper

Yelp

Skyscanner

Spotted by Locals

GoEuro

WiFi Finder

Atlas Obscura

UseIt Europe

Local Apps

Check out the city you are going to for their local tourist apps as well, usually on the city website or local tourist board site. Some of them have great walking tours and information about smaller museums and sites that you would otherwise have to dig through Trip Advisor for. Don’t forget the What’s On sections of most online newspapers. There will be links to all local attractions and advertising for apps.GL_ipad

Local Apps Ireland

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/articles/apps-for-ireland/

Belfast

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/visit-belfast/id405725557?mt=8

Galway

https://galway-app.droidinformer.org/

http://townapps.ie/project/galway/

http://www.loveconnemara.com/french/things-to-do-t46565

Scotland

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/visiting/getting-around

http://everyedinburgh.com/8-essential-edinburgh-apps-you-need-to-download/

http://www.travelinescotland.com/apps

Glasgow App Developers with local apps http://appdeveloperscotland.co.uk/

Articles

http://budgettraveller.org/20-best-free-travel-apps-travelling-around-uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/jan/02/10-best-travel-apps-free-paid-for

https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-travel-apps/2/

https://www.danflyingsolo.com/best-apps-for-travelling-2017/

 

Suit Case Limits on European Flights: Check All Airlines Restrictions

downloadAfter months of keeping an eye out for suit case deals, reading articles and comparison charts by brand, a decision had to be made. Flying in about a month and needed to get the reality check. Those small European flights are indeed small, like flying match sticks, and have no overhead room. So, how do you get that in cabin bag size working for you and planning to shop.

When I first started considering the small plane flights, I remembered one of my hops last year and how I barely made the big time size restrictions on that last leg of my trans Atlantic flight and fear of having to track two bags in the hold. I was using borrowed travel cases and learned so much about baggage hate that trip. This year I decided I had to budget for new cases and invest in sizes that fit the minimum or under in dimensions, and that they had to work for the smaller planes. After doing research on the internet, I decided I had better call the airlines for Aer Lingus restrictions on my tiny flight and was glad I did. The case size was restricted to a 18 inch tall bag (length) and I had to research how to get the carryon under a good budget and the second larger case. In my initial research, I found that if I bought cases according to maximum measurements, I was averaging a huge sum of money for specific sizes. I am sorry, I know there are people who love the designer thing, and some that are professional travelers, but most of us can’t see spending as much art a three night stay in hotel on cases. But what about buying cheap cases that may bust in the hold. What and how can you meet a tight budget and have cases that survive the trip? Check out reviews online and hope for the best.

55cm x 40cm x 24cm Cabin for Transatlantic, 18 inch tall for smaller planes.

90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) Checked Luggage size

Contact your airlines for intercontinental flights sizes

Luggage Restrictions for European Fights 2017

download-1

Criterion

Hard-sided meeting European cabin luggage restrictions 18 inches tall, 4 wheels not 2

Wheeled, preferably spinner second case under 62 inch restrictions

Small travel backpack/day pack with iPad pouch and place to hide passport, etc.

Spend amount less than the price of one very expensive piece of luggage. Buy a set of2 for the price of one American Tourister.

Purchase Made: inUSA brand, Model: San Francisco, spinners( 4) on both cases, self locking TSA lock combo included (we’ll see about that).

imagesI finally made a choice after reviewing several cases on Amazon. I also chose a situation where shipping was free, since I was finding many of the cases were costing a great deal in shipping fees, thus adding to the price. My considerations were meeting the size restrictions and have I got spinner wheels. After years of standard cases and lugging a way to bog case across Scotland last year, I decided it was time to scale down and streamline, bring less clothing and do more washing. Not something you want to have to do, but planning your trip to include space an time to do laundry unfortunately has to be done for us non jet-setters. Planned for laundry in Glasgow and Dublin Stops, with research on Yelp.

Other Considerations: TILE brand luggage and pets GPS tags, DYNOTAG permanent luggage tags. Osprey light daypack, featuring space for camel pack or laptop, tablet, and padding space, hide that passport.

Research Your Cases

http://www.luggageontour.com

http://nymag.com/strategist/article/the-best-rolling-luggage-according-to-frequent-fliers.html

 

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