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Further Afield's Journal


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Nollaig na MBan, also known as Women's Little Christmas, a unique non-religious tradition. Historically, Irish women gathered on January 6 to enjoy a break from household chores while men stayed home and took on the cooking and cleaning of the home. Women would gather together in their homes and relax in each other's company while some may head to the pubs, places that usually catered to men.

Christmas fun doesn't need to end on December 25th. It comes to a close on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, a major Christian celebration. Historically the Feast of epiphany observed three significant events in Christianity: the birth of Jesus, God's appearance when at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana. When the Georgian calendar was adopted, Jesus' birthday became December 25. The Nativity was no longer celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany. Instead, January 6th marked the day three Magi, also known as the three wise men or three kings that visited baby Jesus. While Christians in the Eastern World still celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6, the period between December 25th and January 6th is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas. Spain refers to the Epiphany as Three King's Day, England references this as Twelfth Night and Ireland commemorates the day as 'Little Christmas' or 'Women's Christmas.

The tradition of Women's Little Christmas has been handed down orally from generation to generation. While gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning, children may also give tokens to their mothers and grandmothers on Little Christmas. Today's Women's Little Christmas is a day to get together and celebrate their lives and achievements and to honour sisters and friends in the community of women. It's not necessarily a day to escape work. 

Little Christmas marks the end of a busy Christmas season for the Irish. Christmas decorations are taken down on this day. (It's considered bad luck to take down before January 6). Sprigs of holly used as decorations are tossed into the fireplace to burn and commemorate the official end of Christmas. A reflection of Ireland's culture and tradition. The day is celebrated not only for religious reasons, but also for the strength and sisterhood of women. You don't have to be Irish or live in Ireland to celebrate Women's Little Christmas. A festive way to say goodbye to the holidays and enjoy a women-centred event. 




Stories Written Into the Lands


Discover Ireland's North and South


Ireland Small Towns and Hidden Corners - Signature Tour












Christmas Markets in Europe

Entry By: 
Joe Fahy

When one thinks of Christmas markets, your mind thinks of Europe. Pretty little stalls filled with decorations, handmade figurines and local produce. Sounds of sleigh bells and choir singers fill the night air. Europeans are the masters of creating this holiday festive phenomena.

Rekindle the enchantment of your childhood memories.

The Story begins back in the 1300's. Wintermarkete (winter markets) began to spring up all over Europe when storekeepers got permission to extend their store space out onto the market square. This occurred in early winter so townspeople and country dwellers alike could stock up suppliers to last through the cold winter months. Over time, local families started setting up stalls to sell handmade toys, trinkets, wooden carvings, glassware and many hand-made candies. These were often bought as gifts to give away at Christmas. For centuries, Christmas markets have cheered weary villagers and brightened long winter nights.

Vienna in Austria is credited with having been the first area to hold a Christmas market followed by the German cities of Munich, Berlin and Dresden. The hospitality section then started to promote the markets as Christmas markets, opening up new destinations and extending the tourism season. 

Christmas markets combine the charm of tradition with the excitement of an open-air marketplace. Fragrant, tantalizing aromas of gingerbread, Gebrannte Mandelln (candied toasted almonds) and traditional food like Zwetschgenmannle (figures made of decorated dried plums) and sizzling bratwurst will have your mouth watering. Our favourite beverages include Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) and Eierpunsch (an egg-based warm alcoholic drink). A great way to warm up the spirits as you browse the stall lined streets. 

Further Afield Travel and Tours Christmas Markets of Poland to Germany 2022 Small Group Tour will be released Wednesday December 15th.  Group size is small so contact Further Afield Travel and Tours if you are interested. 

River Cruising Through Germany

Avalon Waterways Envision
Entry By: 
Joe Fahy

What a beautiful way to see the villages, towns and countryside of Europe. One’s mind and eyes are opened by travel. Variety is the spice of life and the different ways to visit countries are numerous. 

Day 1. This cruise begins in Basel, Switzerland. Boarding is at 3pm, all guests must be on board by 5pm. After our introduction and familiarization we enjoy an exceptional dinner with evening entertainment.

Day 2. As we sleep to the rhythmic, soothing, drifting of water lapping to the movement of our ship, we wake to we find ourselves moored in Breisach, Germany. 
A choice of breakfast, suitable to all tastes.The options for today are the Black Forest or a vineyard tour. We went to the Black Forest. A drive of about an hour that took us through some wonderful countryside. Farms and old villages. Our guide was more than capable of full filling our enquiring minds. Our destination was to an old setting of what farm houses and farmyards were like 400 years ago. Churches and schools, examples of horticulture, butter making, bread making and styles of clothing and dress. It’s a full day trip with lunch included.
Day 3. Strasbourg, in France. A guided bus trip takes us into the heart of the city. A city that is headquarters of the Council of Europe and also The European Court of Human Rights. The experience of a guided tour in such a city is an eye opener. The formation of The European Economic Community and the introduction of the Euro. Free time in the afternoon allowed us to stroll the city, visit stores, cafes or visit the massive cathedral with the amazing clock. The cruise ship has a shuttle bus laid on for the return to the ship. 7pm is dinner. Prior to this each evening, from 6pm to 7pm is happy hour, with the ship’s cruise director giving us an update on the following days program. 
Day 4. Rudesheim, Germany. A day of choice. Take a hike to the Niederwald Monument as we wander through the picturesque vineyards. A Cable-Car Ride to this Monument saves to leg work. There’s also a Mechanical Music Museum that’s worth a visit. Cruising through the Rhine Gorge in the afternoon with its countless Castles, we are regaled with stories of some romantic shenanigans that seem to good too be true. In the village of Boppard we enjoy a cup of German coffee, sweetened by a sample of German liquor. 
Day 5. Frankfurt. An industrial city with an air of culture influenced by its financial headquarters. A sightseeing tour with a visit to the Einhard Basilica. Free time for you to have a therapeutic shopping experience. Today we cruise early. The number of locks that we go through is enlightening, a wonder of engineering from yesteryears considering the equipment, tools and instruments that were at their disposal.
Day 6. You know that when you are on a holiday or vacation, one has to refuel your energy. That’s what we did today. Choose a book from the library, stretch out on the Sky Deck. There’s tea or coffee and cookies available all day on board. With Avalon, modern ships have floor-ceiling windows with beds facing the views, if the weather is unsuitable outside take the book indoors.
Day 7. Wurzburg. The Pearl of the Romantic Road. Towering fortresses, the Bishops Residence. A Rothenburg excursion to the fairy-tale wonderland that has inspired artists through the ages. As the trip nears the end, this night is the gala dinner. Performers come in, all staff and crew are there to say their goodbyes and thank everyone for our efforts to make their work easier and more enjoyable. 
Day 8. Bamberg. The City of the Seven Hills. Each of the hills crowned by a church in dedication to a particular family of distinction in an area. Climbing and walking the city with its seven hills is not for the faint hearted. However, the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral is certainly worth the walk. The old town with houses dating back to the mid-sixteen hundreds have to be witnessed. Timber framed structures, filled with a type of concrete filler are a builder's paradise. At foundation, there is at least 2 feet or 24 inches of a space yet as close as 8 inches at wall plate level. Stopping at the old market place for a coffee or drink or maybe wander into the little trinket stores, all having a character of their own. Returning to the ship in time for a final dinner. Packing for the morning.
Day 9. It’s day nine and after breakfast we disembark in Nuremberg saying farewell to a splendid cruise. The airport awaits 30 minutes away for those taking flights home are further afield. Others stay on board for Amsterdam perhaps. A fond memory lingers with us of a time well spent.
Always included.
Complimentary regional wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner.
Onboard meals.
Included sightseeing expert local guides.
Complimentary bicycles for use on shore.
Onboard entertainment.
Complimentary Wi-Fi 

Recipes From Around the World

Entry By: 
Sandy Lidka

Autumn Panzanella

The first panzanella salad was an invention of necessity in the 16th century, enabling Italian cooks to make use of stale bread as well as garden vegetables. Our unusual autumn variation brings together the vibrant colours and flavours of a fall garden, and can even serve as a hearty vegetarian lunch. 

Recipe has been provided by Viking Cruise Line.



  • 2 T (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 roasted garlic cloves, mashed
  • 3 C (216 g) ciabatta bread, cut into 1-in (2-mm) cubes
  • Kosher salt to taste



  • 2 T (31 g) Dijon mustard
  • ¼ C (59 ml) white balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ¾ C (177 ml) canola oil
  • 10 sage leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste



  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 1 C (140 g) butternut squash, peeled and finely diced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ½ C (70 g) parsnip, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 15-oz (425-g) can gigante or other large white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ C (18 g) green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 C (80 g) loosely packed mesclun mix or arugula
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste



  • 2 oz (57 g) ricotta salata, shaved


Croutons: Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Place a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and mashed garlic, stirring to combine. Add bread; season with salt. Stir occasionally until bread is golden on several sides, about 3 minutes. Place skillet in oven and bake, stirring once or twice, until bread is golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven; transfer to paper towels to cool.

Vinaigrette: Place mustard, vinegar and a few pinches of kosher salt into the work bowl of a blender. With motor running on medium, slowly drizzle in half the canola oil. Add sage leaves, turn up speed to high and drizzle in remainder of oil. When all oil has been incorporated, vinaigrette should be pale yellow-green and thick enough to coat a spoon. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Salad: Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add a thin film of olive oil. When hot, toss in butternut squash and a few pinches of kosher salt. Cook until golden brown along edges, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. When squash is tender, transfer to paper towels; cool to room temperature. Repeat process with parsnips. When ready to serve, place croutons, squash, parsnips, beans, green onions and greens in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette to taste; toss; season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates and garnish with ricotta salata before serving.

Serving Suggestion
This salad makes a superb starter for any meal, or add grilled chicken to make the dish a meal in itself.

  • Prep time: 22 minutes.
  • Cook time: 25 minutes.
  • Makes 6 servings.

Dromoland Castle Interview

Entry By: 
Sandy Lidka

Join Further Afield Travel and Tours as we speak with Mark Nolan, Managing Director of Dromoland Castle. Learn how the castle has managed through covid times and what the castle staff had been up to during the lockdown. The doors are open and once more more people are travelling. 

Link to Video: