Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland

Almost everyone we spoke to about what to do during our visit to Dublin recommended us taking a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison in Dublin that has been converted into a prison museum. It has been used as a set for many movies including In the Name of the Father and Michael Collins as well as many others. The tour was very interesting and provided a lot of detail about the prison and prisoners, especially the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. The prison held almost every leader of the Irish revolutionary groups until it was shut down in 1924 by the Irish Free State.

Prison Exterior
Irish Flag in the Prison Courtyard
Prison Cells

We almost weren’t able to take the tour of the prison as we didn’t purchase tickets in advance and the tours sell out several days, if not weeks, ahead of time. Since the tours were sold out, the hotel recommended that we go to the prison about an hour before the first tour time and there would be a chance that we could get last minute tickets. We weren’t the only people who didn’t have tickets and the staff did their best to accommodate everyone who waited in the cold, wet morning air. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.

Prison Chapel
Entering the Prison
Kilmainham Gaol – Prison in Dublin

The tour starts off by taking you through the oldest part of the prison, which dates back to 1796. This is where many of the leaders of the uprising were held by the British, who ran the prison. One of the things that was interesting was that they didn’t segregate the prisoners, so men, women, and even children were all locked in cells that held up to 5 people. Also, there was no lighting or heating in the prison, so the prisoners were given a single candle per cell for light and a little warmth. One of the highlights of the tour is when you enter the more modern section of the prison with its large common area. Everyone on the tour has the opportunity to enter one of the cells and get a closer look at the cramped conditions.

Old Cell Door
Looking into the Cell at the Tiny Window
Prison Cells and Poor Conditions

Originally, there were many hangings outside of the prison, although later the leaders of the rebellions were executed by firing squad inside of the prison square. It seems odd at first that a site of such suffering and oppression could become a popular tourist attraction. Understanding the sense of national pride that the people of Ireland have for all of the leaders who fought for independence and were imprisoned and lost their lives in the prison, makes the experience of touring the prison much more impressive.

Courtyard with Cross Marking Execution Spot
Plaque for Those Executed
Tiny Cell

We thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to visit the prison and were certainly glad that we did, but we’re not sure that Kilmainham Gaol is the top tourist attraction in Dublin. It is definitely something that anyone who visits Dublin should take the time to see, but we would recommend reading some information on the history of the prison and the various uprisings prior to taking the tour as it will enhance your experience.

Looking Up from the Common Area
Prison Building
Above the Prison Door

Chocolate Museum in Köln (Cologne), Germany

When we visited Köln last November, we decided to take a tour of the Schokoladen Museum (Chocolate Museum). The museum is situated right on the Rhine river in the Rheinau Harbour next to old town and not far from the cathedral. The three story building is shaped like a large ship with floor to ceiling windows providing wonderful views of the river and city. Lindt is the official chocolatier of the museum and the highlight of the tour is tasting and buying the freshly made chocolate. There is even an opportunity to create a personalized chocolate bar with nut and candy toppings and fillings chosen by you.

Candy Bar Station
Candy Bar Tree and View of the Rhine River
Working Factory

The self-guided tour takes you through the history of chocolate making with displays that contain the machines and molds that were used in the 1800’s to the modern era. The museum itself is a working chocolate factory where you can watch the process from beginning to end. There are a variety of spectacular chocolate creations to admire throughout the museum.

Chocolate Angel
Old Chocolate Press
Making Chocolate
Topping and Filling Choices

Obviously, it is great place to visit with children with all of the moving objects, chocolate displays, and sweets to eat, but it is fun for adults as well. A small botanical garden with cocoa trees and a replica of an old-time chocolate store add the museum’s charm. There is also a restaurant on-site where you can sit and enjoy a nice meal while watching the boats that make their way along the river.

Whimsical Creations
Botanical Garden
Chocolate Store
Entrance Sign

All of the information provided in the museum is in both English as well as German, making it friendly for tourists as well as locals. If you have a couple of hours and want to do something indoors, the Chocolate Museum is certainly a worthwhile destination. You may just have to keep your sweet-tooth in check, otherwise you might end up leaving with a month’s supply of chocolate delights.

Chocolate Creations
Sweet Delights


Historic Manitou Springs

As you head west out of Colorado Springs towards Pike’s Peak, you pass the popular tourist town of Manitou Springs. Despite the fact that it is where the cog railway is located and one of our favorite trails, Barr trail, that takes you to the top of Pike’s Peak, we haven’t given the quaint town a lot of thought until now. Perhaps the thought of leaving for several months has opened our eyes to more of what is around is us every day. This weekend we decided to head to Manitou Springs, wonder the streets, and window shop at some of the shops selling various collectables for the tourists.

Curiosity Shop
Curiosity Shop
Downtown Shops
Downtown Shops
Stream that Runs through Town
Stream that Runs through Town
At the Base of the Mountain
At the Base of the Mountain

The Pike’s Peak Marathon took place the day after our visit, which is where runners ascend Pike’s Peak using Barr trail to complete the 24 mile round trip. We hiked to the top of Pike’s Peak several years ago and it was one of the hardest things we have ever done, so we can only imagine running it, those athletes are in incredible shape. The town was extremely busy as it always is, but even more so with everyone in town for the annual event which draws runners from around the world.

We Were Exhausted When We Reached the Summit
We Were Exhausted When We Reached the Summit
Historic Building
Historic Building
Arcade and Shops
Arcade and Shops
More Shops
More Shops

There are plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from, especially if you want to take home some Colorado memorabilia. The buildings themselves are all historic buildings from the turn of the century and will definitely give you the feel of the old west. As we walked the streets, we passed by the Old Tyme Photography shop where we had our family photo taken about 10 years ago. There was plenty to be nostalgic about as we wandered through the town and went to the shops that we’ve visited many times in the past.

Photography Shop
Photography Shop
Old Time Family Photo
Old Time Family Photo
Landmark Building
Landmark Building
Church in Center of Town
Church in Center of Town

If you visit the Colorado Springs area, visiting Manitou Springs is definitely a worthwhile venture. There are also plenty of bed and breakfasts in town if you want to make it your home base while visiting. One of our favorite hotels and restaurants is the Cliff House, which was also the place that we stayed when we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. It is very much a tourist location, but it has enough festivals and events to keep the interest of locals all year round.

Cliff House
Cliff House
Bed and Breakfast
Bed and Breakfast
Shop with Signs
Shop with Signs