Friday, July 6, 2012

About beautiful Donaghadee

What better place for the 32 singers from St. John's Newfoundland under the direction of Ms. Maria Conkey than to present the first concert of their 2012 Performance Tour at a fellow coastal town. First Donaghadee Presbyterian Church, located in beautiful Donaghadee which is about 30 minutes outside of Belfast on Northern Ireland's stunning coast is the locality. Donaghadee is a growing town on the north coast of County Down, six miles from the historic town of Bangor and approximately 20 miles east of Belfast.
With a population of about 8,000 inhabitants, Donaghadee is the closest point to Scotland, so close in fact, that the Scottish coast is visible to the naked eye on clear days. The town offers a rich history, having been one of the main ports of entry to the island of Ireland until the 19th Century. Aside from the historical buildings reflecting its rich heritage, the town has a picturesque seafront, a wide range of cafes and restaurants.

St. John's Choir performing at First Presbyterian Church in Donaghadee on Saturday 7th of July at 7:30 pm

A musical celebration of friendship between Northern Ireland and Newfoundland
Concert Time: Saturday 7th July at 7.30 pm at the first Presbyterian Church of Donghadee

 “Island to Island” is the musical theme as well as the motto for the 2012 Performance Tour of the St. John’s Choir from St. John’s (SJC), Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. SJC is a true adult community choir whose members represent a broad section of St. John’s and its surrounding communities. Thesingers range in age from early twenties to seniors and are from all walks of life. Founded over 25 years ago, the St. John’s Choir is now being lead by Ms. Maria Conkey. SJC sings in four part harmony and has a large and varied repertoire of songs ranging from Broadway show tunes to Classical pieces, gospel to Newfoundland folk songs; spirituals to popular music.

The love of singing and a desire to bring music to the community at home and now to audiences across Ireland are the threads that hold the choir together.

Welcome to the Emerald Isle

All of us at Incantato Tours would like to welcome the 49 travelers from the St. John's Choir to Ireland. While the weather forecast is for pouring rain today and tomorrow, we sure hope that is not the case. Our friend Alan from Donaghadee emailed the following this morning:"BRING YOUR UMBRELLA!Last month was the wettest June on record (150 years) in UK & Ireland.We are expecting between 40-80mm rain today/tomorrow in one day, which is about average for the whole month of July!" Despite these not so good weather news, we hope you have a pleasant arrival and enjoy the bus ride from Dublin to Belfast and have a first good day on your 2012 Performance Tour "Island to Island".

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The St. John's Choir 2012 Performance Tour Card

Wishing everyone a safe journey to Ireland

Dear Travelers from the St. John's Choir. We wish you a wonderful and smooth journey to the Emerald Isle. Your Incantato Tour Manager Mrs. Amanda Walsh will be welcoming you at Dublin airport and I personally look forward to seeing and hearing you at the first concert in Donaghadee on Saturday evening. Auf Wiedersehen, Sandra!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum, Dublin

The Story of a proud Irish Emigrant Ship
Built to commemorate and honor Irish Famine emigrants and to celebrate Ireland's close ties with the U.S. and Canada, the Jeanie Johnston is docked at Custom House Quay in Dublin’s city center. It is an accurate replica of the original ship which sailed between Tralee in County Kerry and North America between 1847 and 1855. A step aboard the JeanieJohnston is a step towards understanding the daunting experience of the millions of people who crossed the Atlantic seeking survival and hope in the “New World” of North America. It is to experience the fear of the unknown ahead, the flight from poverty and famine, the pain of separation from family, and the challenge of a 3,000 mile voyage braving gales and harsh seas.
The original Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847 on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada. Its architect was the Scottish-born shipbuilder and master craftsman John Munn. The Jeanie Johnston made her maiden voyage on 24th April 1848 from Blennerville, Co. Kerry to Quebec with 193 passengers on board. Over the next seven years the ship made 16 voyages to North America carrying over 2,500 emigrants safely to the New World. Many such ships, also called famine ships, were disease-ridden: the deaths at sea of large numbers of passengers caused them to also be referred to as coffin ships. Despite the seven week journey in very cramped and difficult conditions, no life was ever lost on board the Jeanie Johnston - a remarkable achievement which is generally attributed to the ship's captain, Castletownshend-born James Attridge and the experienced Ship's Doctor, Dr. Richard Blennerhassett.

St. John's Choir Ireland Tour - Flight Schedule

This is the current flight schedule for the travelers with air tickets through Incantato Tours. We will keep monitoring those flights and alert you of any changes by Air Canada. We wish you a safe and relaxing journey to the emerald isle.
Departure for Europe:
Thursday, July 5, 2012 Air Canada AC 697 leaves St. John's (YYT) at 6:00 pm
arrives in Toronto (YYZ) at 7:56 pm
Air Canada AC 894 leaves Toronto (YYZ) at 9:45 pm
arrives in Dublin (DUB) at 9:15 am on Friday, July 6, 2012

Return to Newfoundland:
Sunday, July 15, 2012 Air Canada AC 895 leaves Dublin (DUB) at 10:45 am
arrives in Toronto (YYZ) at 1:05 pm
Air Canada AC 122 leaves Toronto (YYZ) at 2:55 pm
arrives in St. John's (YYT) at 7:20 pm


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Famine Memorial in Dublin

Because it is slightly off the beaten path, only few come across the Famine Memorial, a touching sculpture by the renowned Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie. The memorial is easy to find as it is just a few blocks seaward from the O’Connell Bridge along the quays on the northern side of the Liffey river.
The Canadian connection with the site is marked by a large plaque recognizing a donation on behalf of the people of Canada, which was a haven for thousands of those who emigrated because of the Famine. There is a counterpart of the sculpture in the Ireland Park at Toronto’s Eirann Quay. Five figures collectively entitled “The Arrival” honor the 38,000 Irish immigrants who fled during the Famine of 1847 and arrived in Toronto that summer. “The Arrival” is the work of the same sculptor as the Famine Memorial.
The Memorial is the story of a destitute people overcoming unimaginable hardship and suffering. The Canadian counterpart speaks to the kindness and generosity of the Canadian people. It serves as a reminder of the trauma of famine, which still exists in many parts of the world today and the consequences of the rest of the world’s failure to respond to it. 

The Irish and their food

When asked about Irish food, almost every response will include two things – Irish Stew and Corned Beef with Cabbage. And almost every visitor to Ireland is surprised to find that neither is featured all that commonly on restaurant menus!
In fact, corned beef is not traditionally Irish at all – but Bacon and Cabbage is. This is also true for Irish stew, which has been recognized as the national dish for at least two centuries. A poem from the early 1800s praised Irish stew for satisfying the hunger of anyone who ate it:
Then hurrah for an Irish Stew 
That will stick to your belly like glue.
That isn’t to say that such dishes are no longer eaten, they are, but they are homely dishes, served to family, rather than ones which would be chosen on an evening out. And so their appearance on a restaurant menu is a rarity.
Most traditional Irish foods use simple, basic and fresh ingredients. Many have been given a modern twist by a new generation of chefs or incorporated into dishes that better suit the tastes of a more widely travelled population.

Irish traditional cuisine is a peasant cuisine and food in a poor household is never wasted. There is nothing that illustrates this so well as the pig. Few ordinary Irish households in the past would have eaten beef – this was a food for the rich – but many kept a pig and it is said that they ate every part of it except for the grunt. Crubeens or pig trotters, tripe (pigs stomach) and drisheen (a blood sausage) were all popular dishes and are still eaten in parts of the country, notably Cork.
Irish people are still extremely fond of their fried breakfast, which always includes pork sausages, bacon rashers and black pudding (another type of blood sausage). In addition to that, breakfast is rather elaborate and typically includes orange juice, porridge, cereals, eggs, the traditional soda brown bread, toast, as well as tea.
When talking about Irish food, it is impossible to go without mentioning the potato. They are eaten boiled, mashed, fried, chipped and baked, mixed with cabbage or scallions to make colcannon or champ, made into potato cakes and used to top pies and thicken soups or stews. It’s common to find potatoes cooked two ways on the same dinner plate. It’s not all about dinner either. The food that Irish people miss most when they are overseas is Tayto, an Irish brand of potato crisps. Irish people are very fussy about their potatoes. Typically a supermarket will stock at least 5 or 6 different varieties, often many more, with the varieties changing depending on the season and each suited to a particular method of cooking.
Of all foods, the humble spud is certainly the most traditional. The Irish may not be dependent on them in the way they were in the past but there are a lot of Irish people for whom a dinner without potatoes is not a dinner at all.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home away from home: Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin

Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin features 392 classic guest rooms, equipped with an en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, tea/coffee making facilities, TV, air conditioning and WiFi internet access.
Addtionally, the hotel features the Dubliner Pub and Raglan's Restaurant, which offers a selection of seasonal favorites. The hotel itself is located whiting walking distance of Dublin's center, as well as a walk away from the city's coastline. You will be able to enjoy this last home away from home from Thursday, July 12th through Sunday, July 15th.

Travel Tip: What to pack?

For most people, packing is the most difficult part. The solution for many is to just pack as much as you possibly can into your suitcase and backpack, but as a colleague explains it: "You'll be thanking me later when you don't break your back from having to carry everything on your own. Don't do it!" Her advice: "Pack as lightly as you can. The best way to get it all to fit nicely into your suitcase is to fold it nicely and then roll it tightly. It can all fit into your bag like a puzzle." Keep in mind, however, that many cathedrals have a dress code and will not allow you to walk in if you are wearing tank tops or shorts. A scarf is a good solution to this code. And shorts should always go to your knees (both for Ladies and Gents). Incantato also plans a farewell dinner for the tour groups, so bring something comfortable and dressy. Here are a few things that we think are essential to have to be comfortable with what the weather brings and with the weight of your bag - remember, we allow only one checked bag per person and a small carry-on such as a bag pack or small duffel. Yes Ladies, you may have a small purse in addition, gents a camera case is fine too, but again, you will be the one carrying it all from the bus to the hotel and vice versa, so better test if you can move all your travel belongings without needing to make two trips or help from someone else. A sample packing list (just a suggestion!) 

  • Rain jacket, maybe with fleece insert 
  • Umbrella 
  • An adapter plug/converter (if bringing electronic devices) 
  • Camera and batteries or charger with adapter 
  • At least two pair of jeans/pants, ladies may want to bring a couple skirts or   dresses too 
  • a sweater or two 
  • Plenty of shirts, including a polo or two and at least two dress shirts (Europeans dress much more formal than Americans) 
  • Plenty of undergarments and socks for daily changes 
  • A watch, make-up and jewelry if applicable (carry on any valuables) 
  • Choir music and attire 
  • Don't forget shoes, we recommend a maximum of three pairs (tennis shoes,     good everyday shoes, dress shoes). Bring nice concert shoes, but make sure that you will be able to walk long distances in them. Europeans do not wear flip flops other than to the pool or at the beach. 
  • Put all liquids that are in your carry-on into a zip-lock bag. And remember the 311 rules: 
  • All scissors, fingernail clippers, etc. are better packed in your check-in luggage along with liquids over 3 ounzes. Bring enough contact lense solution and prescription medication that you may need for the whole duration of the trip. If you forget anything there are plenty of shops where you can by shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
  • carry emergency phone numbers in your wallet
  • and last but not least, but very important: your passport! It is always a good idea to make copies of your passport and leave one at home and carry the other one with you separately from the original. 

Travel Tip: Money matters

Dear Travelers, Money is a delicate subject. The best way to use your money is to have a debit card; this allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. The fee differs between banks. Be sure to call your bank before your departure to tell them where you are going and for how long so they won't freeze your account. The debit cards given by the bank has the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard, however, Visa is the most widely accepted worldwide. If you bring cash, you can exchange it but you will lose more money as they charge for their services. Most places in Europe won't accept traveler's checks anymore. Also, be prepared to pay for water and a fee for restroom use (between 30 to 70 Euro cent). Last not least, there are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why most Europeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.
We suggest you have some spending money available and our recommendation is around 20 Dollar per day for the meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards, some souvenirs. It is not imperative that you have this amount of money. There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
  • Most restaurants have menus outside so you can check their price range.
  • Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and better prices.
  • Bring your own water bottle. Most places have safe tap water to fill up with.
  • Buy food from the "convenient" stores. You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal.
  • Shop around for souvenirs; many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices.

Last not least, remember that your Incantato Tour Manager is with you pretty much 24/7. The guide is there to help you make the right choices.

Travel Tip: Electricity in Ireland

The electrical supply in Ireland is 230v 50hz. The plugs and sockets are different from the USA involving a three-pronged formation, the same as those used in the United Kingdom. If your appliances operate on a different current (such as those from North America) you will need a power converter and plug adapter.
A plug adaptor does not change the electricity supplied to the appliance, only allows it to be plugged into a different type of wall socket. If the appliance you are using supports dual voltage and dual frequency then a plate/tag will be located on the item stating "120/240v, 50/60Hz".
Most laptop computer and battery chargers are dual voltage, so all you will need to use them with a different supply is a plug adaptor.
Power converters step down the voltage from 240v to 120v, allowing equipment which is not dual voltage to operate at the voltage for which it was designed. Converters do not alter the frequency at which electicity is delivered and should be used a maximum of 1-2 hours at a time.
Converters can be purchased at travel stores, some discount stores, office supply stores, and electronics stores. Make sure that you select a converter that will accommodate the wattage of the appliances you wish to operate. Some laptop computers, electric razors and hair dryers have built-in power converters. However, an adapter plug will be required. Adapters and converters may be found at Walmart and Radio Shack etc.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Home away from home: Killarney Towers Hotel, Killarney

As a four-star hotel, Killarney Towers hotel features rooms offering an in-room safe, hair dryer, air conditioning, tea/coffee making facilities, direct dial phone, wireless inernet, as well as a private bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath.

Additionally, a sauna, steamroom, whirlpool, 15 meter swimming pool and a newly refurbished gym are available to hotel guests. The hotel also features the in-house Innisfallen Restaurant, which features world-wide, as well as local cuisine. And last but not least, there are two music pubs on-site and your choir will be performing in one of them! Look forward to these exciting events while you are staying in the Killarney Towers Hotel from Tuesday, July 10th through Thursday, July 12th.

Home away from home: Dooley's Hotel, Waterford

Located in the heart of the city on the Quay of Waterford, Dooley's hotel is not only close to the city's attractions, but also overlooks the waterfront. You will be able to enjoy this view from Sunday, July 8th through Tuesday, July 10th.
Dooley's hotel features 113 standard guest rooms fully equipped with en suit bathrooms, tea and coffee making facilities, direct dial telephone, hairdryer, TV and WiFi. 
The hotel also features two in-house restaurants. The New Ship Restaurant offers foods with an Irish and European flare, while the Dry Dock Bar offers an array of hit and cold dishes and snacks throughout the day. 

Home away from home: Park Inn, Belfast

The Park Inn Belfast is located near the city center and close to some of the city's historical attractions. Besides a 24-hour staff at the reception desk, the hotel features 145 rooms, all equipped with complimentary toiletries, hair dryer, flat-screen TVs, in-room safe, as well as a full private bath and individual climate control. Internet access is also available throughout the hotel.

Additionally, there is also an in-house restaurant with a terrace, as well as an on-site gym that offers weight-training and cardiovascular equipment in addition to a steam room and sauna. 
For a more detailed impression of your hotel in Belfast, where you will be staying from Friday, July 6th through Sunday, July 8th, be sure to explore their photo gallery

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lunchtime concert at St. Patrick's Cathedral is confirmed for Saturday, July 14 at noon

What better way to end the St. John's Choir 2012 Performance Tour, then to the lunch time recital at the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, the largest church in Ireland, on Saturday, July 14 at noon.
Built in honour of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it Saint Patrick baptized converts on his visit to Dublin. A church was built on this site in 1191 and in 1991 they celebrated 800 years of worship. The present building dates from 1220 and during the years it had been extended again and again.
The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican). The basis of the present building was built between 1191 and 1270, though little now remains of the earliest work beyond the Baptistry. Much of the work was overseen by Henry of London, a friend of the King of England and signatory of the Magna Carta, who wa
s also involved in the construction of Dublin's city walls and Dublin Castle. The tower (Minot's Tower) and west nave were rebuilt between 1362 and 1370, following a fire. In 1560, one of Dublin's first public clocks was erected in "St. Patrick's Steeple".
Throughout its long history the cathedral has contributed much to Irish life, and one key aspect of this relates to the writer and satirist Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels, who was Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745. Swift took a great interest in the building, its services and music and in what would now be called social welfare, funding an almshouse for poor women and Saint Patrick's Hospital.
The Choir School, which had been founded in 1432, supplied many of its members to take part in the very first performance of Handel's Messiah in 1742. It continues and although originally all-male, now also admits girls; a Cathedral Girls' Choir was founded in 2000 and sings once or twice a week. The Organ of St. Patrick's Cathedral is one of the largest in Ireland with over 4,000 pipes. Parts of it date from a Renatus Harris instrument of 1695. It was restored in the 1890s and in 1963.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This is the new logo from Tourism Ireland, the agency responsible for marketing Ireland as a travel destination. 
Whether you are looking for Things to See and Do in Ireland, or would just like a quick overview of the landscapes Ireland has to offer, Tourism Ireland's website can offer plenty of travel information in preparation for a visit.