5 Things to do at Lake Garda

Lake Garda has been the most beautiful, relaxing and magical place I’ve ever been to so far on my journey’s.  Lake Garda is a spectacular lake located in Northern Italy, created during the Quaternary Ice Ages (1.5 million years ago).

When visiting Italy (in September), I stayed at Riva Del Garda located at the top of Lake Garda. It is surrounded by imposing mountains and sparkling blue water, and is known for its medieval towers, Renaissance churches, and narrow cobblestone streets.

What I loved most about Lake Garda was its picturesque villages, medieval castles and lakeside promenades that created a unique magical experience for me. So here are 5 things that I recommend you should try on your trip to Lake Garda:

Lake 1

1.     Visit the Santa Barbara Church

The Santa Barbara Church is located up in the high mountains beside Riva Del Garda (the top of Lake Garda). The small Chapel to Saint Barbara was built in 1935 by the miners who worked on the conduits of the Ponale power plant. Its panoramic views are breath taking. It took me around 3 hours or so to go up and down to visit the church. Unfortunately we picked a day were the rain poured from the skies while we trekked up, but it made the adventure all the more memorable and exciting.

However, one think to note, when you first see it, it is so tiny from the town (almost like a dot) that you would think it is impossible to get to, and when you are walking it can be a little dangerous at times. But when you reach the top it really is a gift to the eyes and a feeling you’ll never forget!

Lake 2

2.     Visit the picturesque villages

On my stay I visited two beautiful villages beside Riva Del Garda by boat called; Malcesine and Limone.

The picturesque Malcesine, framed for its medieval Scaligero Castle is magnificent. The charming village is surrounded by breath taking landscapes and embellished by architectural treasures. It has cobbled lanes and a breathtaking castle, crammed between the blue lake waters and the massive mountain ridge behind (Monte Baldo). If I were to get married abroad I think I would choose this castle in Malcesine because of its fairytale beauty.

There are pretty little squares, cafes and restaurants, and shops selling ice-cream, handbags, shoes, limoncello (a local drink) and clothes. The main harbour is typical of Lake Garda: small, attractive, filled with boats and lined with cafes. A short distance away is the old port, the Porto Vecchio, a quieter spot with good lake views, curious sculptures and more restaurants. There is also a cable-car running up to Monte Baldo which is highly popular and gets very busy as the day goes on. The trip in the cable car will take you 1,800 metres above sea level, with spectacular views. It is perfect for capturing an incredible view and for cyclists, walkers and paragliders.

Lake 3

Limone, is another small village backed by lemon groves, with waterside cafes and cobbled streets lined with shops.

The heart of the old town is the little harbour, the Porto Vecchio (‘Old Port’). It is a very small town and when I went (in September) it was packed with tourists. However it is a peaceful and relaxing place to stop by and have a coffee or an ice-cream, to admire the lake views. Its narrow streets are lined with tourist shops along the shore and up the slopes behind. While you’re here you can also tour an old lemon grove, the Limonaia del Castèl or visit the small Chiesa di San Rocco church close to the old port.

One thing I might add is to avoid buying touristy items here, as you can get them much cheaper in the city. I made the mistake of buying a Venetian mask here and found them cheaper in Verona. Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the Carnival (Carnival of Venice), to hide the wearer’s identity and social status.

3.     Go cycling – hire a bike

There are so many bikes shops and so many people on bikes! Take advantage of your health and the weather and hire a bike out for the morning to enjoy a scenic cycle. We went mountain biking on Sentiero della Ponale beside Riva del Garda, and the views were amazing.

Although, there are so many routes to choose from ranging from beginners to advanced, you can go up into the mountains or around the lakes. Seeing Lake Garda by bike couldn’t be easier!

Lake 5

4.     Paddle on Lake Garda

While my trip was on a budget, we took out a little paddling boat with a slide called a Pedalos to enjoy the lakes natural beauty. The clear and calm waters of the lake make it easy to unwind. Plus there were a lot of people also out kayaking , canoeing and on stand up paddle boards. Or you could always hire out a boat for the day and adventure down to the South side of the lake.

Lake 6

5. Visit a Wine Vinery

On my trip I visited a beautiful vinery in the mountains called Villa Calicantus. We had dinner there as part of a tour group, and of course I was eating their delicious pasta. After dinner, went out to the vineyard for a wine (which was more like a few rounds of shots – because I tried them all), and listened to music amd talked. A very beautiful place!

Lake 7

To sum up, Lake Garda is one of the most romantic locations of natural beauty, and is a MUST to go on to your bucket list for travelling (preferably with your partner).

 

Shannon Doyle is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @shannond_761 / Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-doyle-28b827109 

Stateside Summers

Stateside Summers

Every summer, there is a reoccurring theme that happens on our Facebook timelines. Groups of 18/19 year old Ibiza-goers checking in at the Lagan Bar at Belfast International Airport with a caption along the lines of ‘are you even on holidays if you don’t check in at the Lagan?’

For me, I opted out of the tradition and the alcohol infused headache as I can barely cope with a hangover on a Sunday morning, never mind one that lasts for a week or more. Instead, I chose to spend my summers of 2015 and 2017 in the States, and not one ounce of me regrets it.

So, if you are the same as me and are thinking of doing something else with your summer, here is a little about my experience.

In 2015, I got my first J1 visa and worked at a summer camp in upstate New York called Camp Hilltop. I was hired at Hilltop to be a lifeguard (despite the fact that I wasn’t qualified and hadn’t dipped as much as a toe in a swimming pool in 5 years) but luckily I was fully trained on my first week and spent the most of my day in a swimsuit topping up my tan and watching American kids scream at each other.

One question I’m always asked is about my typical day at camp, a question I always find difficult to answer. There really is no typical day at camp because every day brings something new. I could have been lifeguarding and teaching Gaelic in the morning, building rockets or making tie-dye t-shirts in the afternoon, and dressed as an absolute horror in the evening. (Hoping the picture doesn’t scare you too much!)

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The best way to describe camp is that it really is its own little world and it’s a world you will learn to love, to be yourself and to meet people from all different backgrounds. When you leave that world, the real world doesn’t seem as fun anymore.

As accommodation and food is all taken care of at camp, it leaves you with quite a bit of saving for travels. After camp, myself and a few others decided to spend a few days in New York and Boston before flying to Las Vegas, driving to LA, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.

Loren

When I finished placement in 2017, heading to the States again for the summer was a definite, the decision was to return to camp or try something new. I opted for something new – working in a Mexican restaurant in Boston.

I had originally been hired as a waitress in a Sports bar at the Boston Seaport, but instead the managers landed me in the job of a ‘host’ – where I made $12 an hour and no tips (some could call it slavery). Shortly after, I found myself a new job in a Mexican restaurant as the only Irish, non-Spanish speaking person. I had to learn how to pronounce and recite the entire Spanish menu, greet customers with an ‘Hola!’ and prepare fresh guacamole tableside – you could say the craic was great, and the money was even better!

Living away from home, even if just for a few months, is an incredible learning experience. One of the most important lessons for me was to value your money. I saw first hand how tough it is to earn it, so I was very reluctant to spend it as easy as I usually would have in Zara when my student loan comes in. I’d be lying if I said it was all smooth sailing, it really wasn’t, but I can’t help but feel a sense of pride looking back on everything I have accomplished.

After saving every cent that we made, myself and my boyfriend decided to finish out the summer with a road-trip to Philadelphia, line dancing in the Honkytonks in Nashville and snorkelling in the Bahamas.

So if you are thinking of heading off on a J1 visa, this is my advice to you:

  1. Don’t think you are missing out on party holidays; there is plenty of time for that. You are only applicable for a J1 when you are a student, make the most of it (especially before Trump scraps it).
  2. Whether you choose Camp America, working in a restaurant or playing for a GAA team, research the state you want to go to, the location of your J1 can have a huge impact on your experience.
  3. For Camp based J1’s, you can definitely go by yourself. If none of your friends want to go, it’s fine; you will meet people from all over the world who will become friends for life.
  4. ENJOY IT! If you are ever having a bad day, remember that in a few weeks/months time you will be back in university sitting in lectures or studying for exams wishing you could be back in the states, I know I do!

As cheesy as it may sound, the summer is short but the experience, memories and friendships last a lifetime. If I haven’t yet persuaded you to consider doing a J1, have a look at my video from this summer!

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward