Fairy Travels

Discover Baku: Your Ultimate October Getaway

Discover Baku: Your Ultimate October Getaway

Baku street scene

Pic Credit: Pixabay

When I tell people we have booked to go to Baku in October, they look at me so curiously! Some couldn’t locate it on a map and others  are so curious why Baku and why  October.  I thought in the lead up to our trip id share some learnings and some tips and advice from my research.  October is the perfect time to visit Baku, the vibrant capital of Azerbaijan. With its mix of ancient history and modern marvels, Baku offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience.  Over the next while we will hear more about Baku as Baku is gearing up for the prestigious COP29 conference, set to take place this November. As a key international event addressing climate change, COP29 will bring together world leaders, experts, and activists to discuss and implement critical environmental policies.  Events like this of such importance will really shine a light on Baku and all it has to offer.

Perfect Weather

October in Baku is a delight for visitors. The summer heat has mellowed, and the winter chill is still far away. Expect mild temperatures averaging between 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F), making it ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions.

Rich History and Culture

Baku is a city where the past and present coexist harmoniously. The UNESCO-listed Old City (Icherisheher) is a maze of narrow alleys, historic buildings, and ancient landmarks. Don’t miss the Maiden Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, which offer a glimpse into Baku’s rich history.

Architectural Marvels

Baku street scene

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Baku’s skyline is a testament to its rapid modernization. The Flame Towers, a trio of skyscrapers designed to resemble flames, light up the night sky and offer a striking contrast to the historical sites. The Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, is another must-see. Its flowing, futuristic design is a masterpiece of modern architecture.

Culinary Delights

Azerbaijani cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavours influenced by its position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. October is harvest season, so you’ll find fresh, local produce in abundance. Don’t miss the chance to try plov (a traditional rice dish), kebabs, and fresh pomegranate juice. Baku’s bustling markets and cosy restaurants offer a feast for your senses.

Stunning Nature

Just a short drive from the city, you’ll find Gobustan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its ancient rock carvings and mud volcanoes. The park offers a fascinating glimpse into prehistoric life and stunning natural landscapes. October’s pleasant weather makes it the perfect time for a day trip.

 

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Fairy Travels

48 Hours in Zurich: A Family-Friendly Adventure

48 Hours in Zurich: A Family-Friendly Adventure

Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, offers a perfect blend of culture, history, and family-friendly activities. Staying at the Novotel Zurich City West, you’re ideally positioned to explore the city’s diverse attractions. Enhance your experience with the Zurich Card, which provides numerous benefits such as free public transport, discounts on admissions, and more. Here’s a detailed guide to making the most of your 48 hours in Zurich with your family.

Getting there

We flew direct with Swiss Air from Dublin to Zurich. It was our first time flying Swiss Air and we were all seriously impressed, on time, spotless plane, great legroom and the complimentary bottled water and Swiss Chocolate were a lovely touch. The airport is located very close to the city so we used our Zurich Card to avail of the train to our hotel which took 9 minutes and a further 10 minutes walk. The transport system is very easy to navigate and the free transport included with the Zurich Card is a huge bonus. We have used them in many cities and its not often transport from the airport is included.

Where we stayed 

Outside view of Novotel Zurich City West

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

The Novotel Zurich City West is a modern, family-friendly hotel located in the trendy Zurich-West district, an area known for its vibrant culture and dynamic business environment. Conveniently situated near public transportation, the hotel provides easy access to the city centre and major attractions such as the Bahnhofstrasse shopping street, Lake Zurich, and the FIFA World Football Museum. The hotel boasts a range of facilities designed for both comfort and convenience, including spacious rooms equipped with modern amenities, an on-site restaurant serving international cuisine, a fitness centre, an indoor pool, and dedicated play areas for children. With its blend of comfort, excellent service, and strategic location, Novotel Zurich City West is an ideal choice for both business travellers and families. We had a family room with a sofa bed and a double which was perfect for our needs.

Breakfast was included each day and really was a great selection. The staff at this hotel are really a huge asset to the hotel, from the moment we checked in we felt special and well looked after. A shout out to our lovely host at breakfast, I wish I got his name but you were so kind to us. Also the young waiter who served us each evening and for “Burger Thursday” thank you for your kindness, the kids are still talking about how well you looked after them.

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Fairy Travels

Exploring Ibiza Beyond the Party Scene: Why It’s Perfect for Family Vacations

When I tell most people we are heading to Ibiza, the first question is “with kids?” I suspect when a lot of people hear “Ibiza,” images of pulsating nightlife, beach parties, and electronic music festivals often come to mind. However, there’s more to this picturesque Balearic Island than its reputation as a party hotspot. Ibiza offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to families seeking unforgettable breaks especially being a little over 2 hours from Dublin with frequent Ryanair flights. I have done a lot of research on this wonderful island and here are compelling reasons why I think Ibiza is an excellent destination for a family getaway:

    • Ibiza view from the sky Pic Credit: Pixabay

    Breathtaking Beaches: Ibiza boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean. From tranquil coves with crystal-clear waters to long stretches of golden sand, there’s a beach for every family’s preference. Parents can relax under the sun while kids build sandcastles or splash in the gentle waves.

  • Rich Cultural Heritage: Beyond its beachfronts, Ibiza is steeped in history and culture. Families can explore UNESCO-listed Dalt Vila, the island’s historic old town, where ancient fortifications overlook panoramic views of the sea. Wander through cobblestone streets lined with charming boutiques and cafés, offering a glimpse into Ibiza’s rich heritage.
  • Family-Friendly Activities: Ibiza offers a plethora of activities suitable for all ages. Families can embark on boat trips to neighbouring islands, where kids can snorkel in pristine waters teeming with marine life. Adventure parks and water sports centres provide thrilling experiences, from zip-lining through lush forests to paddle boarding along the coast.

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Fairy Travels

Navigating New York City with New York CityPASS

Navigating New York City with New York CityPASS

New York City, also affectionately known as “the city the never sleeps“, “the Big Applethe concrete jungle where dreams are made of“, whichever name you use,  once you set foot in this memorising city you will be captivated, it offers a plethora of iconic attractions that beckon travellers from around the globe. However, exploring the Big Apple’s wonders can quickly turn into a costly affair, especially for families looking to experience the best the city has to offer. Fear not, for there exists a savvy solution to maximize savings while indulging in unforgettable adventures: the New York CityPASS.

So what is New York CityPASS

The New York CityPass, is a digital pass that can save you up to 40% on 5 of New York’s top attractions. Included in the pass is both of:

  1. Empire State Building Observatory; and
  2. American Museum of Natural History

Plus get admission to 3 more attractions of your choice. No need to choose upon purchase you can decide closer to your trip or even while there depending on availability.

  1. Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  2. Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  3. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  4. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  5. Intrepid Museum
  6. Guggenheim Museum

Once you purchase your New York CityPASS, you simply download the app and from there your tickets are all stored and you can make the reservations.  We were there in the end of January which is off season so nowhere was particularly busy however we did reserve our slots in advance just to be safe. For context it wasn’t our first visit but it was the kids first trip so lots of the New Yorks icons were on the bucket list to visit.

Cost of New York CityPASS

An adult ticket costs €134.47 and a child (aged 6-17) ticket costs €114.98. Couple of things to note:

  • tickets are valid for a year from the date of purchase
  • tickets can be use for 9 consecutive days including the fist and last day
  • You can only visit each attraction once except for Empire State Building where you can visit again at night if your first visit was during the day and only same day.
  • Note that cost increases apply from 29 February 2024 where the cost of an adult ticket will increase to €146 and a child’s ticket €124

What did we think of New York CityPass

The important part! So what did we think, how did we find using New York CityPASS, did we save money and would we recommend!! I do have full blog posts in progress on our itinerary however below, I will run through how we used our New York CityPASS and what we really thought. I will be comparing the cost like for like so booking the same time as we did with the pass and showing the cost.

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Fairy Travels

A Rocking Dining Experience at Hard Rock Cafe Times Square

A Rocking Dining Experience at Hard Rock Cafe Times Square

Inside Hard Rock Cafe Times Square

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

Nestled amidst the bustling streets of Times Square, Hard Rock Cafe stands as an iconic haven for music enthusiasts and food aficionados alike. During our recent visit to the Big Apple, my family and I decided to embark on a culinary adventure at this legendary establishment, eager to indulge in its renowned fare. The kids were super excited to visit  and from the moment we stepped foot into Hard Rock Cafe Times Square, we were greeted by an electrifying ambiance that pulsated with the rhythm of rock ‘n’ roll. The walls adorned with memorabilia from music legends past and present set the stage for an electrifying experience.  If a quiet no noise, chilled experience is your thing this isn’t really for you however if a bustling energetic memorable experience is in your plan do read on to see how we got on!

If you have seen any videos or pictures of Times Square you will see the bright lights of the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square in the background.  Upon entering Hard Rock Cafe New York, our kids’ eyes widened with wonder as they took in the eclectic decor and vibrant atmosphere. From the moment we stepped through the doors adorned with classic rock memorabilia, it was evident that this was no ordinary dining experience—it was a journey through music history. In the words of my youngest “i feel like a celebrity

What we went for at the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square 

The menu really is vast, I really don’t think anybody would not find something on the menu that they would like, from burgers to fish, to wings to nachos, sharing plates, starters, mains, deserts. Something for every palate and dietary requirement, I did see a dedicated gluten free menu too. There is also a kids menu with the usual reliable kids choices included the new Messi inspired range.

Opting for a classic choice, we all ordered various iterations of the cafe’s signature burgers. From the Legendary Burger to the Hickory-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich. My football fanatics were mega enthusiastic to see the the Messi burgers on the kids menu and unaspiringly both went for a Messi Burger.  The blurb notes that the burgers are inspired by Messi’s own favourites so this was a mega draw for my football fanatics. For desert we both went for cheesecake and the kids went for ice cream selection. In reality we probably could have shared a cheese cake the portions are huge but this New York as we were all in!!

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Fairy Travels

FREE AND AFFORDABLE THINGS TO DO IN NYC THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

FREE AND AFFORDABLE THINGS TO DO IN NYC THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

New york skyline

Pic Credit: Pixabay

With Aer Lingus advertising a sale to NYC my timelines has neve been busier with people asking question and seeking advice on city breaks to this incredible city. We have been lucky to have been many times but this year in fact this month marks our first trip with the kids and the excitement is immense already.  One comment that keeps popping up in a Facebook travel group I admin is whether it is possible to do New York on budget or how can money be saved (for shopping!!).  New York City Tourism have pulled together a really useful guide on free yes and discounted attractions over the coming weeks. If you do think of anymore or even tips please add the to the comments below.

Free Annual Celebrations:(note dates as some are of course seasonal)

  • The iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is on view through January 13. The 80-foot Norway spruce is covered in 50,000 multicolored LED lights.
  • The lighting of the world’s largest menorahs takes place at sundown on each night of Hanukkah at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and Grand Army Plaza in Midtown. The celebrations also feature live music, latkes and children’s gifts.

Festive Lights:

  • Each year, residents of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood light up their homes with over-the-top Christmas decor. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and take in the decorations with festive music in the background.
  • The Dumbo Improvement District is presenting a series of holiday events and activities, including animations projected on the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). The projections are on view through December 31, from 4–10pm daily.
  • Shine Bright illuminates Hudson Yards with 2 million twinkling lights in this free celebration. The display includes 725 evergreen trees and 16-foot-tall lights in the shape of hot air balloons.
  • Wander through The Shops at Columbus Circle and enjoy Holiday Under the Stars, which features twelve 14-foot stars hanging from the ceiling.

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Mamma Musings

Embracing the Chill: A Guide to Ski Clothes Shopping

Embracing the Chill: A Guide to Ski Clothes Shopping

As winter approaches and the mountains beckon with promises of pristine slopes, après ski and family time,  it’s time to delve into the world of ski clothes shopping from ski jackets, ski pants to thermal ski boot insoles, the child wearing ski clothes right gear can make or break your alpine adventure and I say that with the benefit of experience going on ski holidays with our kids and without. My kids have skied across the Arctic Circle, how cool is that?! They have even skied under the Northern Lights, incredible memories.

From my own experience , using the correct ski will ensure you stay warm, dry, and stylish on the slopes. While the plethora of options may seem overwhelming, a little research in this area can turn the process into an enjoyable and rewarding experience. To help you in this regard, I have compiled some tips from personal and practical experience to help you and your families get the most from your ski holiday. Trust me when you get the basics right like us you will be hooked on it! As a family we now gravitate more towards winter holidays than beach/ sun trips.

Ski clothes from jackets to ski boot inserts – practical shopping tips

When it comes to purchasing ski clothes, it’s crucial to strike a balance between functionality and style. Invest in a high-quality waterproof and breathable jacket to shield yourself from the elements. Look for features such as adjustable cuffs, ventilation zippers, and a reliable hood to tailor your comfort to the prevailing weather conditions and shield you from the wind.

Layering is key in the unpredictable mountain climate. Opt for moisture-wicking base layers to keep sweat at bay, insulating mid-layers for warmth, and a durable outer layer to shield against wind and snow. Mix and match colors and patterns to express your personal style while staying practical.

Ski pants should offer a comfortable fit with ample mobility. Insulated options provide extra warmth for colder days, while adjustable waistbands ensure a snug fit. Don’t forget about waterproof gloves, a cozy hat, and, of course, stylish goggles to protect your eyes from wind and glare.

One often overlooked aspect of ski gear is the importance of ski boot insoles. Your feet are your connection to the skis, and having the right insoles can make a significant difference in your comfort and performance on the slopes. Customizable insoles provide added support and stability, reducing fatigue and preventing discomfort. Look for options that offer shock absorption and moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day.

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Fairy Travels

Experience the Magic: Best European Christmas Markets to Visit in 2023

Experience the Magic: Best European Christmas Markets to Visit in 2023

The festive season in Europe is synonymous with twinkling lights, the sweet scent of mulled wine, and the joyful laughter of families and friends. European Christmas markets offer a unique and enchanting experience that draws travellers from around the world. If you’re planning a winter getaway, here are some of the best European Christmas markets to visit in 2023, complete with opening dates and average temperatures to help make up your mind. Keep eye for flight sales

Strasbourg, France

  • Opening Date: November 25, 2023, to December 31, 2023
  • Average Temperature: 2°C to 7°C (36°F to 45°F)
  • Best Airport: Strasbourg Airport (SXB)
  • Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is one of the oldest and most charming Christmas markets in Europe. Explore the historic district of La Petite France and delight in traditional Alsatian treats and exquisite handcrafted ornaments.

Vienna, Austria

  • Opening Date: November 18, 2023, to December 26, 2023
  • Average Temperature: -1°C to 4°C (30°F to 39°F)
  • Best Airport: Vienna International Airport (VIE)
  • The Vienna Christmas Market at Rathausplatz is a fairy tale come to life. Sip on aromatic glühwein, shop for unique gifts, and enjoy the melodious sounds of choirs and musicians.

Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Opening Date: November 18, 2023, to December 31, 2023
  • Average Temperature: 2°C to 6°C (36°F to 43°F)
  • Best Airport: Copenhagen Airport (CPH)
  • Tivoli Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland during Christmas. With its dazzling lights and thrilling rides, it’s a great family-friendly destination.

Prague, Czech Republic

  • Opening Date: December 2, 2023, to January 6, 2024
  • Average Temperature: -2°C to 2°C (28°F to 36°F)
  • Best Airport: Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG
  • The Prague Christmas Market in the Old Town Square is a visual feast. Sample Trdelník (a sweet pastry), shop for handmade crafts, and admire the illuminated Gothic architecture.

Nuremberg, Germany

  • Opening Date: November 25, 2023, to December 24, 2023
  • Average Temperature: -1°C to 4°C (30°F to 39°F)
  • Best Airport: Nuremberg Airport (NUE)
  • The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is famed for its gingerbread cookies and intricate wooden toys. Immerse yourself in the heart of Bavarian Christmas traditions.

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Features

Chasing the Northern Lights: Where to Witness the Aurora Borealis

Chasing the Northern Lights: Where to Witness the Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are one of Mother Nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles. These dancing lights in the night sky are caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. There has been a lot in the media here in Ireland with the Northern Lights seen as far away as Dublin and even Dingle in Kerry! That is a very rate occurrence. I have always been so interested in seeing the Northern Lights ever since I was a kid they fascinated me.   I caught my fist glimpse of this amazing natural occurrence  in Iceland in 2018 and have been hooked ever since, we were extremely fortunate in being able to see them for 4 out of our 5 nights in Tromso in 2021. If you’re eager to witness this breath-taking phenomenon, here are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights.

1. Tromsø, Norway: The Arctic Gateway

Tromsø, often called the “Gateway to the Arctic,” is one of the prime locations to witness the Northern Lights. Situated in the Arctic Circle, Tromsø offers not only a high likelihood of aurora sightings but also a charming Arctic ambiance. Explore the city by day and embark on guided Northern Lights tours by night for the best chances of catching this natural light show.

What a show…seeing the Northern Lights on our first night in Tromso

2. Abisko, Sweden: A Stargazer’s Paradise

Located in Swedish Lapland, Abisko National Park is renowned for its clear skies and minimal light pollution. The combination of these factors makes it an excellent place to observe the Northern Lights. The Abisko Sky Station offers a unique viewing experience atop Mount Nuolja, with chairlift access and expert guides.

3. Fairbanks, Alaska: Northern Lights in the Last Frontier

Alaska’s Fairbanks is another top destination for Aurora enthusiasts. Its northern location and dry climate create ideal conditions for Northern Lights sightings. Head to spots like Murphy Dome or Chena Hot Springs for a front-row seat to the spectacle.

4. Reykjavik, Iceland: Aurora Over the Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, serves as a convenient base for Northern Lights adventures. Venture into the countryside to escape light pollution, and keep an eye on the aurora forecast. The Thingvellir National Park and Vik’s black sand beaches are popular spots for aurora hunting.

How Do the Northern Lights Occur?

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Fairy Travels

Smooth Sailing Adventures: 7 Irresistible Reasons to Cruise with Kids

Smooth Sailing Adventures: 7 Irresistible Reasons to Cruise with Kids

cruise with kids

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Are you ready to embark on a family holiday that combines relaxation, adventure, and entertainment? Look no further than a cruise tailored to families with kids! While cruising may conjure images of romantic getaways and tropical sunsets,  or a holiday more suited to retirees, do not be fooled it’s also an excellent option for families seeking a fun-filled, hassle-free getaway. Buckle up (or should we say, anchor down?) as we explore the seven irresistible reasons why going on a cruise with kids should be on your family’s travel radar for your next getaway.

A Floating Playground: Cruise ships are like floating cities designed with kids in mind. From water parks and rock-climbing walls to mini-golf and sports courts, your little adventurers will be spoiled for choice when it comes to activities. Let them expend their boundless energy while you relax knowing they’re in a safe environment.

cruise with kids

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Say goodbye to “I’m bored” complaints! On a cruise, boredom is banished thanks to the endless entertainment options. From Broadway-style shows and movie theaters to themed parties and interactive game zones, your kids will be enchanted throughout the voyage.

Adventure for All Ages: Whether you’re sailing the Caribbean or exploring the Mediterranean, cruises offer a range of age-appropriate shore excursions. Snorkeling in vibrant coral reefs, exploring ancient ruins, or zip-lining through lush rainforests – the opportunities for family adventure are endless.

Educational Fun: Who says vacations can’t be educational? Many cruise lines offer kids’ clubs with educational programs that blend learning and play. From science experiments to cooking classes and workshops on marine life, your kids will expand their horizons without even realizing it.

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