TGIF Travels: Free Holiday Fun at St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse in North Florida.

St. Augustine Lighthouse in North Florida.

Enjoy a delightful evening for the whole family December 7 from 7-9 pm during Luminary Nights at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  Experience a night of spectacular Christmas lights, holiday decorations and fun activities.

Festivities include children’s activities, holiday crafts and yuletide refreshments. Listen to live music with a string quartet and watch a tree aglow with white lights inside the Lighthouse tower.

A Christmas tree adorned with nautical ornaments donated from people around the country is displayed in the Lighthouse Keeper’s House. Climb the lighthouse and see a breathtaking view of St. Augustine Nights of Lights.

For more information, check out http://www.visitstaugustine.com

http://www.elainemarieartist.com

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TGIF Travels: How to make a group tour work for you

The Eiffel Towel

We stopped by the Eiffel Tower but I ventured out on my own to visit the Louvre.

I’m not one for following crowds or conforming to popular opinion. So it was with a little consternation that I booked a group tour.

Group tours can be pricey but what’s more costly and disappointing is not getting the experience you personally hoped for. I’ve been on group tours to France and Ireland.

When I traveled in France, I failed to do research and missed seeing some of the sights that I was personally interested in. Here are the lessons I’ve learned on my group tour of Ireland:

Mountain view of Ireland.

A view from Tory Island

 

1. Plan ahead. Before the group tour in Ireland, I voiced my interests and objectives with the tour guide before paying my fee. I’ve learned you have more leverage before a transaction than after.

2. Talk openly. Open communication before a tour is one of the keys to having a successful self group tour. The tour in Ireland was primarily for lighthouse enthusiasts not lighthouse artists like me. So I inquired about how many lighthouses I would be able to draw. The tour guide was not immediately forthcoming. I think he was concerned about promising something he couldn’t deliver because of bad weather. Once I assured him I was aware that weather could alter things he gave me a tentative lists of lighthouses.

 

3. Get support from fellow travelers. I made friends with others on the tour and looked for opportunities to be helpful. It got to the point where the other travelers teased me about getting my sketches started before we approached the lighthouse. And by the end of the tour the driver was sketching lighthouses too!

Painting of Chaine Memorial Lighthouse

We stopped 5 mins at Chaine Lighthouse.

 

4. Express appreciation and be cooperative. Show gratitude for the tour guide’s flexibility. I knew the tour wasn’t all about me so I thanked the tour guide often for accommodating my wishes. The tour guide delivered more than he promised and I kept my word about brief sketches.

5. Be kind but firm when sticking to your agenda. I missed the final dinner but enjoyed the spectacular sunset at Blackhead lighthouse instead. Don’t forget courtesy goes a long way when cross purposes arise. After the final dinner, I stopped sketching and went on the moonlight tour.

I’ve learned the hard way to voice objectives in advance, research the tour as if I am traveling alone, reaffirm my objectives along the way and stick to my personal agenda. But it was well worth the effort and the money spent.

For exciting photos of my Ireland Lighthouse trip, visit http://www.elainemarieartist.com.

 

TGIF Travels: Discovering Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way

I visited Limerick  before exploring the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

 

Limerick, Ireland, gets a bad rap on safety from a few travel books. An Irishman at JFK Airport even told me it was a rough town! I was somewhat anxious when I arrived at Limerick but the George Limerick Hotel front desk clerk allayed my fears. I was happy I didn’t have to don a money belt and watch out for pick pockets like I did in Paris.

 

I felt pretty safe as I walked the city. True—it’s not a quaint Irish town but it still has much to offer. In 2014 it won a Culture award.

King John's Castle

King John’s Castle on the Shannon River.

Every restaurant I dined at had great food, low prices, and good service. Great customer service must be an Irish trait. I grabbed some food for my Ireland Lighthouse road trip at Dunnes and was happy the prices were reasonable there too!

Limerick was a great place to start my trip to Ireland.

I learned about the history of the Irish people at the Hunt Museum’s exhibit “A Terrible Beauty” and the invasion of the Vikings and British at King John’s Castle.

These visits help give me valuable insight into the culture and the history behind the formation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Downtown Limerick.

Downtown Limerick.

 

Not sure I would recommend Limerick as the only destination for an international trip but it was a wonderful place to stay for two days.

The city is clean, shopping is great, restaurants plentiful and affordable, the locals are kind and there are lots of sights to see. It’s not that far from the Shannon Airport and a great place to stay during a layover or start a visit of Ireland.