Want the gift of gab? Visit Blarney Castle in Ireland.

Does Daylight Savings Time still have you rubbing the sleep out of your eyes?  Well don’t fret!  That means spring is just around the corner (March 20th!), making it one season closer to that oh so sweet summer.  Do I hear vacation time? Yes please!  Do YOU know where you’re going yet?  I know where I want to be.  With St. Patrick’s Day coming up on Thursday, I can’t help but conjure up images of Irish hospitality, sweeping green landscapes, and medieval castles that come with a dose of luck and charm – that’s right, Ireland is calling my name.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do in my lifetime is kiss the Blarney Stone.  More than 400,000 visitors go to Ireland a year for a chance to trek up Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone, one of the many destinations that Contiki visits on our Scotland & Ireland, Great Britain & Ireland, and Ireland regional trips.  Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle would grant you the “gift of eloquence” – the art of expression through words – because, let’s face it:  who wouldn’t want the ability to talk their way out of anything?

Don’t just take it from me – one of our very own took the trip to Ireland just this past year!  Here’s a snapshot of Jennifer C., Quality Assurance Specialist for Contiki, and her take on the smooching with a landmark:

“For all the germ-a-phobes who hate the idea of kissing a stone that has been kissed for centuries, look at it this way: the point of kissing the stone is to get the “gift of gab,” so if that many people have kissed it before you…you’ll know how to “gab” with anyone!  To get to Blarney Stone, I had to climb to the very top of the castle through a winding staircase, which took about 15 minutes.  Once I reached the top, I was instructed to lie down on my back, with my head and back hanging off the edge of the tall castle.  (Side note: this experience is not for those with a fear of heights!)  There is a bar to hold on to so you don’t feel like you’re about to fall off.  I was told to bend backwards since the stone is actually not right there – it’s on the outside of the castle, which requires some bending and twisting and turning on your part.  They don’t tell you this in the tour books, do they!  Fortunately, there is always a Blarney Castle worker there to look out for your safety and help guide you down (though in my case, the cute, frail, elderly Irishman didn’t necessarily make me feel like he’d be able to hold me if I fell!)  Anyway, think I kissed the right stone – there were so many and I was so nervous that I just kissed one and pulled myself back to safety.  I have a feeling others did the same!  Nonetheless, it was a remarkable view, seeing the outside of the castle while upside down and feeling the cool Irish breeze.  Seriously!  And to think of how many people have done the same thing before you…there’s no question I got the gift of gab =) Would I do this again?  Certainly!  Maybe this time I’ll know for sure that I kissed the right stone!”

Thinking about going to Ireland now?  Don’t forget to romance the stone and give it a big smooch when you’re there!  Happy travels!

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If you’re ready to book your trip to get whisked away to Ireland this summer, you can travel with a friend and take advantage of Contiki’s awesome $900 air promo deal, which ends tomorrow (Tuesday, March 15)!

Call us at 1-800-CONTIKI (266-8454) for details and additional savings!

Traveling this summer? Grab a good read.

Are the only books you read of the textbook variety?  Many people read much more (or maybe even only) during their vacations, because let’s face it – those international flights or long car/bus/train rides are absolutely brutal without something to keep you perked up like a cup of joe.  Sure, you can pack an Mp3 player, your Nintendo DS, or any other gadget to help you pass the time, but I can’t travel anywhere without having a few good books with me.  I once became so immersed in a book on a 4-hour bus ride through Vietnam that I finished it in one sitting!

Today’s Daily Post posed this question:  “Name a book that changed your life.”  Pshaw, easy, right?  Not so.  I could spout out the classics that they require us to read in high school:  The Great Gatsby.  The Outsiders.  Catcher in the Rye.  Fahrenheit 451.  Tale of Two Cities. How do I answer this question? There are so many to choose from.

Then at last one dawned on me (cue lightning bolts!):

Laurie Notaro’s “The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy life.”  It’s laugh-out-loud silly – a series of short, hilarious stories from a comic writer who is based in Arizona.  It’s not “classic literature” by any means, but it taught me not to take life too seriously and that there is always a funny story out there.  It was light, engaging, and perfect for taking with me on my trips.  I ended up reading another one of Notaro’s novels on a 6-hour train ride in Southeast Asia – a great way to combat boredom when shuffling songs on my iPod didn’t cut it anymore.

So, if you think you are ready for your summer vacation and you’re looking to pack a few extra things for your trip, consider throwing in some casual and fun summer reads.  Of course, pepper in those fashion or tech magazines like Vogue or PC Gamer, or even a guidebook of the location you plan to visit for insight on places to visit during your free time.  Whatever you choose, you’ll be glad you brought it!

Have your own recommendations for Contiki travelers out there?  Feel free to share!

We’re Jumping In!

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a long-time follower, Contiki is always looking for new experiences to keep the conversation going!  So this week – to start things off – we are jumping in to be part of this awesome challenge called the “PostAWeek 2011”, and it will  definitely be a fun opportunity to share our Contiki spirit with all of you.

We’ll use The Daily Post and the community of other bloggers to help us along the way, including asking for help when we need it and encouraging others when we can.  We are also working on a new look for our blog and we’re really excited!

If you’re already a frequent visitor of Contiki’s blog, we hope you’ll encourage us with comments and likes, and good will along the way!

Also, don’t forget to join us with Contiki’s “Get On the Bus” Contest.  Win the Trip of a Lifetime for you and four of your friends!