Gathering momentum

The beach at Santa Barbara PHOTOGRAPH: THINKSTOCK

The beach at Santa Barbara PHOTOGRAPH: THINKSTOCK

 

ASK JOAN:Your travel questions answered

* Could you please advise when would be the best time to buy flights to Barbados? We are a family of five. We will have to travel in 2014, before
mid-March and probably during midterm. – GC Dublin.

Airlines normally put flights into the system from about 300-330 days before travel, so you could begin looking at prices from the end of March for next year. As Barbados is so popular with the British, you may find that fares from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the best. December to March is high season in the Caribbean. Both airlines run sales from time to time, and BA always sells fares right into the next year. Sign up for the email newsletter on both websites and you will receive advance notice of the sales coming up.

BA and VA fly from London Gatwick to Barbados. If you see a good price, book it immediately and try to book the fare from Dublin, that way you will not have to pay the high UK passenger tax. Check out liat.comfor flights between Caribbean islands. You can find accommodation details on dominica.dm.

* I live in London and buy The Irish Times at the weekends. I am very interested in the Gathering and would love to come home to
Ireland for a visit. However, I have few contacts there now and am looking for a holiday that would include some of my interests – circle dancing, walking and a study/learning experience, perhaps in a college, with visits to art galleries, etc. I would like to meet people and
come away hopefully having made friends and having learned lots about modern Ireland – I left over 30 years ago. – CM, London

The Gathering Ireland is gaining momentum and you’ll find hundreds of events all through the year on thegatheringireland.com.

For your interests you may like to look at circledanceireland.com, which is based in Co Sligo, where there are workshops year-round.

Across the country lots of walking festivals take place, many over weekends. You could combine a walking event with the circle dancing (see the walking section of discoverireland.ie).

Also on discoverireland.ieare links to local cultural festivals, and going to one of these might be a good way to meet other Irish people. I am thinking of the Merriman Festival in Co Clare, that discusses current affairs and issues. The Cúirt festival in Galway is an international literary event with lots of local input, and Listowel Writers Week is bags of fun.

There are hundreds of festivals around the country – it’s just a matter of exploring which one might suit your interests.

* My wife and I are travelling to Sacramento in June and have our itinerary organised with one exception: we are looking for a beach stay for a week, with plenty of sunshine. Could you suggest somewhere sunny and warm? Information on accommodation would be appreciated. – PT, Dublin

The central coast of California has a great selection of beach towns and resorts. At the higher end of the scale is Santa Barbara, with a lovely Mediterranean feel. It is an old town with one of the original Mission churches and the Santa Barbara Art Museum, as well as great places for eating out.

A variety of accommodation is on offer from boutique hotels like Harbor View Inn ( harborviewinnsb.com) to the newest Orient Express Hotel, the El Encanto, opening in March ( orient-express.com). Value accommodation is available at the Inn by the Harbor ( innbytheharbor.com) and the Best Western Beachside Inn ( bestwestern.com). Alternatively Pismo Beach is more like a traditional seaside resort with a big, long pier. It is a smaller resort and more laidback. It is a good spot for wine-tasting, too.

For accommodation you could look at the Cottage Inn by the Sea for the great views and the sound of the sea ( cottage-inn.com). Or have a look on vrbo.comfor a self-catering holiday rental. I recommend stopping off to see Hearst Castle, viewing Bixby Creek Bridge at Big Sur and maybe a side trip into Paso Robles.

Send your queries to jscales@irishtimes.com

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