Monthly Archives: March 2017

Know More About A Taste of Ireland

For a few weeks each year, I live in a little stone farmhouse in West Cork, Ireland. My view is of rock-fenced fields stretching down to the distant Atlantic Ocean.

As much as I love the scenery, what draws me here each September is the Taste of West Cork Food Festival. It’s a 10-day celebration of the local bounty in Ireland’s southwest corner — the Wild Atlantic Way, as it is known — a rich farming area where the people are fiercely proud of their seafood, meat and other products. (The dairy is “the best in the world,” one local says, adding, “This isn’t just hyperbole. This is fact!”)

The festival, which runs this year from Sept. 8 to 17, is increasingly known as a must-do for foodies, yet it’s also an opportunity for any visitor to dive into local culture in a unique (and tasty) way. Events are spread out through eight islands and 33 towns and villages. They include walking tours and street fairs in the charming towns; boat trips for seafood meals on nearby islands; and cooking lessons and food tastings combined with biking, music, history and hiking. You can get your hands dirty, too: In an event called the West Cork Cast, Catch and Cook Experience, you’ll fish for pollack, cod and mackerel, then learn to fillet and prepare your catch before — the best part — savoring it. I once did a kayak tour where we picked and ate different kinds of seaweed; another time, I went to a “wild fermentation” workshop and learned how to cultivate starters for sauerkrauts and sourdough breads.

You can, of course, just eat. You’ll have endless opportunities to indulge in area specialties, including mussels and langoustines; a fantastic range of white fish (cod, hake, haddock, halibut); pork; beef from grass-fed cattle; and lamb. Then there are the puffy scones piled with jam and big dollops of scrumptious clotted cream that are served at almost every stop. The only requirement for this fun festival? An appetite.

Best Apps for Traveling

| Tollsmart: Calculates toll costs across all tunnels, bridges and toll roads on your route anywhere in the United States and Canada; for motorcycles, RVs and cars. $2.99 per month.

iExit: A must-download for interstate driving, this app will tell you what you’ll find at each upcoming exit — restaurants, gas stations, hotels — so you can plan your pit stops, rather than wing it (and end up at yet another Applebee’s). Free.

Flush Toilet Finder: Useful on a road trip as well as when you reach your destination, this app pinpoints any public bathroom in your vicinity and has more than 190,000 restrooms around the world in its database. Free.

Glympse: This app allows you to share your location with fellow travelers, which can be handy if you’re driving caravan-style or have family or friends eager for your arrival. You can select contacts and give them permission to view your location for a set amount of time. Free.

GasBuddy: Use this not only to locate the closest gas stations, with customer reviews, but to find out the gas prices at each. It’s billed as “the world’s largest community-based fuel app,” with 60 million downloads worldwide. Free.

HotelTonight: Use this hugely popular app to search for last-minute hotel deals while you’re on the road or still at home (you can search as early as a week ahead). Hotels want heads in beds, so they’re willing to slash rates rather than leave a room empty. Free.

Roadtrippers: A handy route-planning app, it enables you to mark your beginning and end points, then figure out how you want to noodle around in between. You can search for all the places to eat and stay, as well as top-rated attractions along the way, and note them on your personalized map. Free.

See also: Road trips throughout America

Waze: This app is super useful for both commuters and vacationers, allowing drivers to steer clear of traffic tie-ups. It aggregates user-generated traffic and road-condition information to identify the fastest route, and it sends alerts about accidents or other snags down the road. Free.

RepairPal: Use this one at home as well as on the road if car trouble hits. You plug in the make of your car and the problem (or your best guess), and the app provides you with area mechanics and an estimate for repair. Free.

Podcast Addict (Android) and Podcasts (Apple): The hours can fly by when you’re listening to a wonderful story, and there are plenty these days in the form of podcasts — about sports, politics, true crime, even old-school-style dramas (see our slideshow of recommendations). These apps connect you to thousands of options, as well as to your favorite radio shows. Free.

Know More About

Journeying by rail to explore parts of the United States brings you views you won’t see any other way. From snow-covered peaks to valleys, vineyards and the Pacific Ocean, there are so many sights to observe along the West Coast. Now, Amtrak is making it easier and cheaper to explore the region by welcoming passengers aboard with $97 fares for its Coast Starlight route from Seattle to Los Angeles and vice versa. The 35-hour trip takes you through Portland, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay area and Santa Barbara.

The low fare, under Amtrak’s saver option, will get you an upper or lower seat in coach, and you can check two bags for free. The ticket is nonrefundable. The train also has sleeper cabins, but the price is significantly higher.

While it may not always be the quickest way to travel, the train has its benefits. Besides being the most scenic mode of transport, it’s usually less stressful than air travel, and you avoid aggravating traffic. Plus, depending on the route, it can be educational. Case in point: For the Coast Starlight journey from Seattle to Los Angeles, Amtrak has partnered with the National Park Service to provide information during the trip about the natural and cultural heritage of different areas.

Whether you want to plan a West Coast train ride or a trip to somewhere else, now might be the right time to book. AARP previously reported on 12 U.S. train trips you should take in the fall. Also check out this list of 12 breathtaking train trips from around the world.