AK Monthly Recap: June 2014

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Kate in Dubrovnik

What a crazy, whirlwind month! After spending the spring in the UK and Ireland, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to have a “real” summer — but then came Croatia with its warmth and sunshine. It was exactly what I needed.

Destinations Visited

Killarney, Portmagee, Skellig Michael, Dublin, and Newgrange, Ireland

Belfast, Portrush, and Antrim, Northern Ireland

London, England

Zagreb, Samobor, Plešivica, Zadar, Paklenica National Park, Šibenik, Krka National Park, Split, Trogir, Trsteno, and Dubrovnik, Croatia

Zadar

Favorite Destinations

Zadar, Croatia — This is my place. A stunningly beautiful yet low-key city, with plenty of tourist amenities but not strictly for tourists. Zadar is chilled out, and it’s home to fantastic sunsets.

Dubrovnik, Croatia — I was disappointed by Dubrovnik the first time around, but my second visit sealed the deal — I loved it. The secret? Getting out of the Old City, exploring the surrounding area (including kayaking around it and taking the cable car to the top of the city), and only venturing into the Old City late in the day, when the crowds are gone. Beautiful, blissful, and I am in love with every photo I took.

Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland — Gorgeous coastline, geological marvels, sweet beach towns, craggy chasms — there is so much to see on this coast and I had no idea! I need to return.

Dubrovnik Cable Car

Highlights

So many highlights.

Getting to explore Croatia for a week with three smart, innovative travel bloggers was incredible. Croatia itself was beautiful and glorious and perfect — but on top of that, we spend our long car rides and nights at wine bars planning, strategizing, and bouncing ideas off each other. It was superb — the intellectual equivalent of going to a spa for a week.

Getting to see Skellig Michael, an absolutely mind-boggling place, was one of the most jaw-dropping adventures I’ve had in a long time. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, I urge you to plan your trip around Skellig Michael. There is no place like it, and it will blow your mind.

I picked up six new World Heritage Sites this month and got to have a week of summertime temperatures (including brutally hot weather in Šibenik and Dubrovnik) — that’s definitely a win as far as I’m concerned!

Also, a friend taught me how to play Texas Hold’em and I joined a game with some poker buddies…and I was actually pretty good at it until I bet everything I had on a pair of sevens!

Giant's Causeway

Challenges

Work-life balance. Always a challenge. After being back in a new apartment for about six weeks (but being away on trips for half the time), I haven’t yet hacked how to balance my work time and non-work time.

It’s especially tough when my trips have been so busy that when I get home I don’t want to leave the house; additionally, there’s having having a partner who works shifts and has an unpredictable schedule, making your own schedule less structured. And the very nature of being an entrepreneur means that you never stop thinking about work. Ever. It’s not easy; I’m working on it.

The biggest travel mistake I made this month was not allowing enough time for Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast. I only allotted one day and it was downpouring, so I waited until the afternoon, when it was supposed to be less rainy. The causeway was fine to see in the rain, but there is SO much to see on the coast and I had to skip most of it because I started too late and the bus wasn’t running past 6:30 PM.

Don’t make the mistake I made — leave plenty of time for the Causeway Coast!

Sugar Skulls in Balham

Most Popular Post

I’m Off to Road Trip Through Croatia! — I was surprised that a trip preview post did so well — people really love Croatia!

Other Posts

This Summer: Quirky Festival-Hopping in Europe — A preview of the Must Love Festivals campaign, which will take me to five festivals in five countries.

The Miracle Church of Mosta, Malta — This church in Malta actually stopped bombs during World War II.

San Blas Bay: A Hidden Beach in Malta — This beach is hard to get to, but worth the trip.

Why I’m Loyal to Intercontinental — Truth: I love Intercontinental, I love their hotels, and I loved my latest stay at their Berlin property.

The UNESCO Hunt: 72-81 — My latest 10 World Heritage Sites, from the Philippines and Macau to America, Germany, Malta and Ireland.

Win Two Tickets to Brazil! — Anyone want to fly to Rio? The contest is still active. US residents only.

Flyboarding in Malta, Or, The Day I Became Iron Man — One of the coolest adventure sports I’ve ever done!

Introducing Limerick: Ireland’s City of Culture — Limerick had a tough reputation to fight — so they invested in the arts.

Croatia Coast

News and Announcements

I’m pleased to announce that I will be a keynote speaker at the 2015 Women in Travel Summit in Boston, Massachusetts!

The summit takes place from March 27-29 at the Revere Hotel in the Theater District in Boston and it’s aimed at female travel bloggers, travel writers, and travel entrepreneurs.

I’m thrilled to be giving my first keynote ever, and to have it be at such a great conference. The fact that it’s in my home city of Boston is the icing on the cake.

You can find out more about the conference here, and I hope to see you there!

As always, I’m giving away $25 off your first Airbnb stay if you sign up for the site through this link.

Dubrovnik Sunset

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Sometimes you take a photo and and know it will do well. Sunsets are always huge — but a colorful sunset over Dubrovnik with lens flare and islands in the distance? MASSIVE. This photo got 337 likes and is my new most liked photo of all time.

You can always follow me on Instagram for live updates from wherever I am at the moment.

Skellig Michael

What I Read This Month

The Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes — This dark fantasy novel, written by my lovely and talented cousin Colleen, tells the backstory of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. What happened in her life to set her on a path of beheading everyone who displeased her? This is a dark, bloody version of Wonderland, and it’s the first in a trilogy — I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult — I can’t tell if Jodi Picoult books are more hate-reads or guilty pleasures, but I have to devour one every now and then. Nineteen Minutes, while as formulaic as the others (Small-town New Hampshire! Moral ambiguity! Cop-or-fireman falls in love with a 40-something lawyer-or-doctor and gives a soliloquy on how much he loves her curves!) is one of her better ones and examines the circumstances that led to a school shooting.

Elly in Love by Colleen Oakes — The sequel to Colleen’s first book, Elly in Bloom, Elly in Love picks up right after the finale — another romance starring a sweet but klutzy florist in St. Louis. The book is a strong sequel to the first book, went in a lot of directions I didn’t expect, and I devoured it in two days! Also, Elly in Bloom is now only 99 cents on the Kindle.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Image: Mark Gregory

Coming Up in July 2014

Finally, Slovenia! I’ve wanted to visit this country for a better part of a decade and finally it’s time! I leave on July 2 to visit for five days — two days in Ljubljana at the Ana Desetnica Street Theatre Festival for the Must Love Festivals campaign, followed by a three-day road trip with my friend Peter of Travel Unmasked.

After Slovenia, I’ll have two weeks at home in London before I head out to Finland — also for the first time ever! I’ll be landing in Helsinki, attending the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in rural central Finland, then I’m extending the trip to explore more of the country on my own.

Any suggestions for Slovenia or Finland? Let me know!

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52 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: June 2014”

  1. I actually used to live in Finland and have a soft spot for this country. If you have an extra day visit Tampere, it’s really pretty and I’m always impressed how they’ve managed to turn old factories into cool spots. When you’re there be sure to check the viewing tower in Pyynikki – it offers great view over the city and surrounding lakes!

  2. Looks like you’ve had an amazing summer! All of your photography looks beautiful, your pictures of Ireland really make me want to go back and explore it more for myself. If you ever get a chance to go back, I recommend County Mayo- it’s so beautiful 🙂

  3. I hope you get to revisit Causeway Coast soon – I was there last August, and like you, it totally blew me away! Also, I had to laugh at your description of Jodi Picoult’s books. They are so readable, yet so, so repetitive.

  4. How exciting to hear you are going to Finland! And you are going to LOVE Slovenia, it’s amazing how a tiny country like that is packed with beauty..! The Julian Alps were a part I missed on my trip, I really wish I get to go back there one day because they look stunning.

    As for Finland, as a born and raised Finn (and later turned expat) I would recommend Turku as well. It’s a beautiful medieval town and the old capital of Finland. It also has a cool castle. As you probably know, Finland is known for the many many lakes and islands and the Turku archipelago is amazing -You should not miss that! You can do island hopping there too, maybe rent a bike an explore the rugged small islands on a handlebar level?

  5. Work/life balance when you’re an entrepreneur is always such a challenge. I find it hard to stop working at times, simply because I enjoy it so much. But it’s definitely advisable to try and find the balance…burn out isn’t fun either!

  6. Wow! Super month! Is Nineteen Minutes similar to Eleven Minutes? 🙂 Croatia was surely your highlight this month. I’m looking forward to reading about Zadar now.

  7. I loved Slovenia. Both Lake Bled and the Julian Alps are gorgeous. The bluest river I’ve ever seen was in Slovenia.
    You can add the Fortress of Suomenlinna to your UNESCO list while you’re in Helsinki. It’s an easy and quick ferry ride from the Market Square – which, by the way, is where I sat and had one of the most delicious salmon dinners ever for about 5 Euro.
    Enjoy!

  8. 1. I LOVE that picture of that street in Zadar at sunset.
    2. Do you need someone to like… carry your notes and stuff at the Women in Travel Summit? Because I’m totally your girl.
    3. I went through a huge Jodi Picoult phase once — the long court “scenes” got a little old, and I still maintain that _My Sister’s Keeper_ was her best.

  9. What a fabulous month for you! Croatia is on my list of dream places to visit – I will get there someday! You are going to absolutely love Slovenia – I keep reading so many amazing blog posts about Slovenia and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Hope you have a blast!

  10. I’m actually vacationing in the Julian Alps area right now because we (me, my husband, our dog) love it so much! Bled is amazing and there is a surprisingly good tex-mex place called Chilli’s. Their fajitas are the best I’ve had in years, but that may be because we haven’t been to the States in a while. We just went paragliding with 3glav Adventures (based in Bled) and they were awesome. Don’t miss the seaside town of Piran, and the Skocjan caves are also worth a visit! But most importantly, make sure you have a grapefruit or red orange Union radler – they are perfect on a hot summer day.

    1. I missed Piran (sadly), but I did get to Bled, the Skocjan Caves, and I had a grapefruit Radler! Really nice! And now I’m kicking myself on missing Chilli’s — good Mexican food outside North America is something I will always travel for!

  11. What an exciting month you had. No wonder that you have issues balancing work and travel. I already have problems with a way less intense travel schedule 🙂

    So, I am not the only one who loves Croatia. I visited the first time over 30 years ago and since then returned a few times. It was instant love with Dubrovnik – actually the whole coast.

  12. Hope you’ll like our home country. If you’re there on a friday, you should consider going on Odprta kuhinja (in translation: Open kitchen). There are food stalls in the market place (close to Prešeren square), It’s open the whole day until 8pm.
    Have fun!

  13. Wow, I wish I could attend the Women in Travel Summit and hear you speak! What a crazy month for you – that instagram picture sure is stunning though, no wonder it’s most liked 🙂

  14. Thanks for the book nods, my lovely, inspirational cousin. Your Instagram feed is my daily escape, and I savor the pictures like a delicate bite of some exotic food from another land. 🙂 Also, I think you are pretty much wonderful.

  15. It’s funny – I hadn’t heard of Croatia much as a vacation destination until I moved to Korea. It’s so popular here (maybe because of a drama?)! Most of my students want to honeymoon in Croatia. And with good cause, too, as it looks beautiful!

  16. You had a lot of fun in June, and July looks equally awesome.
    the thing you mentioned about Dubrovnik and not liking it the first time is so true, it actually disappoints you a little bit, but then you step out and realise that there is so much more to see and do.

    Happy Travels

  17. I just got back from Ireland a couple of weeks ago and I only went to Dublin and Glendalough. I really wanted to go to the Giant Causeway but I woke up to late for my tour (It was my birthday!) Going to try and visit there and Cliffs of Moher when I go back

  18. I really liked Split in Croatia. Sadly, when I went there it was on a whirlwind press trip and we never made it as far as Dubrovnik. Am I the only person who went to Croatia and didn’t get to Dubrovnik? I love the idea of kayaking there, though. Next time I’ll head back on my own and will go slooooowwwwly. Lovely photos by the way.

  19. So many people raving about Croatia lately, I just have to get there!
    Always love these monthly recaps, by the way. They always give us a bit more info on what’s happening “between the lines” as well:)

  20. It’s really nice to hear about Croatia. Didn’t know that there’s a place as beautiful as that.

    Good June 2014 Recap Kate!

    That’s really inspiring.

    Cheers to that!

    Ferna

  21. I’m a Finn looking forward to hear what you think of my home country. Since you’re only staying for a week and spending part of that in Kuhmo, I guess you won’t need long lists of things to do. So, for essential summer Finland I would suggest a simple recipe: sauna (heated with wood, not electricity) in good company and swimming in a lake (or sea, but as I come from central Finland I would say a lake). Afterwards a good meal (preferably by the lake and traditionally grilling sausages on sticks on a campfire) and watching the sun set behind the trees on the opposite shore. Beware of mosquitoes, though.

    It is said that Finns are forest people, and at least for me it is true, so I would also recommend visiting a forest and eating some fresh berries straight from the bush. Blueberries (vaccinium myrtillus, so much better than the american Vaccinium corymbosum often sold in supermarkets) are my favorite berries and ripening just now. Picking and eating berries (and mushrooms) in the forests is allowed for anyone, as long as you don’t go too close to other peoples houses.

    My recommendations are probably very typical for a Finn, and probably you will want to see towns as well, but the summer cottages and lakesides and forests are where a very large part of us locals are during our summer holidays.

    In Helsinki I suggest you visit Suomenlinna, as someone already recommended, and take your swimsuit with you as well as a picnic, since there are sunny shores with great views and places to swim as well. In my opinion the best picnic spots are on the southernmost part of the Suomenlinna islands (Kustaanmiekka, part “A” of Suomenlinna), on the western shore where you can watch the sun set in the evening. There are many ferries operating between Market Square (Kauppatori) and Suomenlinna, and the cheapest is the HSL ferry (http://aikataulut.reittiopas.fi/linjat/en/hLautta_Kauppatori.html) which is part of the public transport system of the Helsinki area and accepts the same tickets as all the buses and trams. The HSL ferries are quite big compared to the pricier ones and called Suomenlinna and Suomenlinna II.

    One warning to end this too long comment, though you probably know this already, Finland is expensive compared to most other countries. But the nature is beautiful and free to look at and visit.

    And one more tip: the tap water in Finland is very drinkable, in fact it has been scientifically proven to be of better quality than any bottled water. One way of looking less like a tourist is not to buy water but to fill your own bottle at the hotel in the morning.

    Oh no, I can’t make myself stop writing. But one more very finnish thing is the black sweet called salmiakki. It is salty and sweet and to be honest quite many foreigners don’t like it since it’s so different from anything they’ve ever tasted. Many Finns love it, however, and I think you should give it a try. Fazer is a finnish sweets brand (great chocolate!) and their salmiakki in a small diamond-checkered black and white box is a very basic salmiakki, without any extra twists.

    Journey planner for the public transport in Helsinki region: http://www.reittiopas.fi/en/

    Welcome to Finland, I hope you have a great time!

  22. Great summer and great photos! You have me dying to return to Ireland, I never made it to the Causeway Coast. Congrats on speaking at the Summit! I live in Boston so will hopefully be able to make it to hear you speak!

  23. How exciting that you are coming to my home country (Finland) 🙂

    One thing that isn’t actually a tip about Finland is that you could consider visiting the capital of Estonia if you are planning on going to Helsinki. There are ferry rides every day going Helsinki-Tallinn and a round trip costs as little as 20 euros. It’s leave in the morning, come back in the evening and the travel is just 2 hours. And Tallinn has a beautiful medieval old city to explore. (It’s also a part of Finnish culture to go on a day trip to Estonia to buy cheap alcohol…)

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