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Page 9
TRAVEL
inside: catherine murphy’s ski report ● holiday snaps
turn to next page, travel
by isabel conway
T
HE King of Prussia has
the upper hand so I sur-
render gracefully. With
no husband around to
march me assertively
out of danger and an
extra visa card in my handbag for
ransom there is no going back.
Like a bewildered rabbit caught in the
headlights I have valiantly (well, maybe not
that courageously) broken cover, only to
find myself in fresh danger, scurrying around
‘Victoria’s Secret’ assaulting her aisles and
rummaging her rails, mesmerised by those
huge Sale signs and up to 70% mark downs
inside.
Too late, I come to my senses back out on
the sleek and shiny marbled indoor boule-
vards after snapping up armfuls of ‘cheap as
chips’ candy-coloured undies of indetermi-
nate size and a handkerchief posing as a
nightie that may just fit after three months
of starvation.
Yet it could have been worse. Shopaholics,
so stuffed with shopping chromosomes that
their DNA must come in designer carrier
bags, are everywhere bowed down under the
weight of their purchases on the King of
Prussia’s retail battle grounds.
Here in the verdant Pennsylvania country-
side, a short drive out of Philadelphia and a
stone’s throw from ‘Valley Forge’ – a historic
spot dating back to the late 1700s where a
royal pretender from Europe turned the tide
towards American independence, trans-
forming an undisciplined ragbag of revolu-
tionaries into the winning side – stands an
unlikely namesake.
The King of Prussia (www.kingofprussia.
com) near a small town of the same name in
the greater Philadelphia region of Pennsyl-
vania just happens to be the second largest
shopping mall in the US. Size matters in
A monument
to spending:
The King of Prussia
shopping mall,
Pennsylvania
Wondermall!
Four-hundred shops, 40 restaurants and, yippee, I’ve only got here
early before the madness of America’s big retail day, Black Friday
Page 10
travel@dailymail.ie
You must have a buyi
strategy.. and stick to
Philadelphia: The city (main picture) and,
below, Liberty Bell, Isabel with ‘Benjamin
Franklin’, Valley Forge and a statue of
General Anthony Wayne
FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
America, be they skyscrapers who do
what it says on the box, that colossal
cupcake, an iceberg of an ice cream or
supersized shopping mall. America’s
love affair with shopping, seen as a
pleasure, a social event and a recrea-
tion rather than a chore, draws in tens
of millions of shopping tourists, do-
mestic and foreign, irresistibly drawn
to the ultimate in shopping conven-
ience and choice, the Mega Mall.
The King of Prussia’s size is stagger-
ing. I only manage to cover a tiny por-
tion of its 2.7 million square feet of ter-
ritory boasting over 40 restaurants,
more than 400 shops including seven
department stores, and luxury retail-
ers like Tiffany, Hermes, Louis Vuitton
Gucci and Versace. Such top end
names are grouped well away from the
likes of H & M and Irish retailer
Primark both doing great business I
notice during my recent visit.
You may think the King of Prussia –
its vital statistics stretch far into the
horizon with enormous parking lots
well capable of displacing your car for
eternity – is already corpulent enough.
Not so. The mall, receiving about 20
million visitors annually has just had
eight major expansions. Any day now a
further 12 restaurants and umpteen
new high-end shops will be added.
Unlike some of its mega mall
competitors, entering the theme world
scenario and replete with multi cine-
mas, bowling alleys etc., the King of
Prussia eschews all the entertainment
spin-off. Shopping is the hook and
nothing except eating on site distracts
from that.
The nation’s largest shopping palace
gargantuan Mall of America in Bloom-
ington Minnesota on the other hand
has just added 27 theme park rides to
draw in compulsive thrill seekers with
the compulsive shoppers.
Just imagine… shop till you drop and
your loved ones waving down from the
longest indoor zip line in the country
after checking out an aquarium, fea-
turing thousands of sea creatures.
Only in America folks!
Dan Weckerly of Valley Forge Tour-
ism & Convention Board (www.coun-
trysidePHL.com) is in a minority – he’s
a man who actually likes shopping and
whose blogs about The King of Prussia
read like a labour of love. Dan is my
ideal shopping companion except I
lost him long before my foray into Vic-
toria’s Secret.
Later we drive over the hilly terrain of
Valley Forge National Historical Park.
It was here that General George Wash-
ington forged his continental army into
a 20,000 strong fighting force helped by
Baron Friedrich von Steuben (The
King of Prussia) a brilliant warfare
strategist who certainly knew every-
thing about delivering the goods.
PaST this interesting his-
tory lesson with side
trips earlier through
beautiful Chester Coun-
ty’s Brandywine Valley
District, including some interesting
wine tasting at Chaddsford Winery
and lunch at the glorious nationally
renowned Gardens it is just a shopa-
holic’s jump and a skip over to Phila-
delphia Premium Outlets, long
renowned for deep discounts on top
brands.
Zero sales tax on clothing and foot-
wear in Pennsylvania already guaran-
tees lots of bargains apart from daily
markdowns and though I am a bit of a
sceptic it is indeed true.
At the Tommy Hilfiger outlet a top
quality man’s polo shirt in the sea-
son’s favourite shade was marked
down from $65 to $32, jeans for myself
were a snip at $20 because they were
‘oh so last season’ while a pair of cur-
rent favourite Van plimsolls were a
virtual giveaway for $35 at the brand
outlet store.
To be successful in outlet shopping
you have to have a buying strategy and
stick to it, Dan advises. On Black Fri-
day (late November after Thanksgiv-
ing) US retail goes sale crazy, he adds,
so it’s a great time to visit.
Back in Philadelphia, before venturing
underground into an old-fashioned
Speakeasy (under Vespers an Irish
owned terrific supper club (www.vesper-
philly.com) I have time to check out
more tax-free shopping around delight-
ful Rittenhouse Row, home to exclusive
boutiques and big brand name stores.
By now, as a precaution, I have left the
credit cards locked away. But the sight
of Nordstrom Rack is enough to inspire
an Olympic like spurt through the splen-
did landmark City Hall walkway to
retrieve them at my Loews hotel.
Don’t think that Philadelphia and
the easily accessed tranquil and leafy
countryside on her doorstep is just a
shopping opportunity.
American history comes alive in this
first capital city of America, home to
the National Constitution, Liberty Bell
and iconic names from Ben Franklin to
Betsy Ross (seamstress to the first flag)
Philly is friendly, easy to navigate on
foot or by hop on hop off bus (see www.
discoverPHL.com/tours) crammed with
cultural stuff and thriving inner city
food and nightlife highlights.
thephiladelphiashoppingstory
How to get there: Direct flights daily from Dublin to
Philadelphia with American Airlines. (www.america-
nairlines.com). We found a sample pirce from ¤671
return. Isabel travelled courtesy of Philadelphia
Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.discover PHL.com)
and the Countryside of Philadelphia Brandywine Valley
& Valley Forge www.countrysidePHL.com
Stay: Philadelphia The Loews 1200 Market Street (www.
loewshotels.com/philadelphia-hotel from $209 a night
(¤109) Recommended: top breakfast menu at award-
winning High Street on Market (308 Market Street www.
highstreetonmarket.com )
Eat: lunch at City Tavern (www.www.citytavern.com)
in the historic quarter dating from 1773. You may meet
TV celeb chef owner Walter Staib, Top atmosphere and
the odd ghost! For one of the city’s best (calorific
bombshell) cheesesteaks try Cleavers at 108, 18th street.
For ice cream Gran Caffe L’Aquila on 1716 Chestnut Street
(www.grancaffelaquila) is double wow! See www.discov-
erPHL.com and www.countrysidePHL.com.
Page 15
ing
o it!
by jim murty
Holiday snaps
Yeezus!Breakfasting
withKimyeatBallyfin
K
IM Kardashian
a n d Ka n y e
West are the
last couple you
would expect
to be sat down
next to when you come
down for breakfast in
a Midlands hotel, but then
o f c o u r s e B a l l y f i n
Demesne, Co. Laois isn’t
any old hotel, it’s only the
best hotel in the world.
But that’s the company Emma
Byrne, once of this parish who
moved to Condé Nast, keeps.
Kim and Kanye, as you’ll re-
member were honeymooning in
the Irish heartland back in 2014.
Now not everybody shares Kim
and Kanye’s taste in fashion and
music but you have to admire
their taste of hotel.
Condé Nast flagged up Ballyfin’s
four-poster canopy beds, gilded
mirrors, richly textured wallpaper
and 614 acres of secluded private
gardens, but particularly liked the
butler who rowed you out on the
IT has always been on my bucket
list to see a fight at Madison
Square Garden since watching Ali-
Frazier I and II as a nipper. Ahead of
Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez,
GoHop.ie has three nights half board
at the 3* Howard Johnson Inn, New
York, Nov.11-14. Ring (01) 2412389. This
doesn’t include tickets for the fight.
t
here’s a defi-
nite feelgood
factor around
skiing this year
with more peo-
ple either taking
a winter holiday or plan-
ning a return to the Alps
after a recessional gap.
Parts of the Alps have already
had up to 50cm of fresh snow this
month (a good omen for the rest
of the winter I hope) and skiing is
in full swing on some Austrian,
Swiss and French glaciers.
So as we look ahead to the sea-
son and monitor the erratic
weather, I want you to think of
me as a ski provocateur, filling
your head full of decadent ski
holiday ideas and luring you to
the mountains.
I’ll also be your snow stalker,
sniffing out the best places and
times to ski in the Alps.
Which brings me nicely on to
the beguiling subject of the
‘secret season’.
Irish skiers and snowboarders
have traditionally gone on pack-
age holidays from late Decem-
ber through to late March or if
travelling independently, up to
Easter, but with weather pat-
terns increasingly influencing
where and when we ski, the
Snowsports industry has begun
to debate how it can change our
notion of ‘the season’.
In particular, the last few win-
ters have had slow starts but in
late April, some resorts are still
getting plenty of snow after all
the lifts have shut down. Is the
season getting later?
At the recent Listex Ski Indus-
try forum in the UK, influencers
discussed pushing the message
‘why stop skiing after Easter?’,
‘sell the experience not the
snow’ and talked about encour-
aging holidaymakers to enjoy
the secret season.
At this week’s Alps Conference
in Innsbruck, industry ex-
perts discussing the future of
skiing presented research on
the Christmas-Easter shift
and how the industry needs
to develop under climate
change conditions.
In Ireland, the changing
season is affecting when we
stock up on new ski gear. A
spokesperson from retailer
Great Outdoors tells me that
they now buy in ski gear up
to six weeks later than in
previous years and don’t take
it off the shelves until mid or
late April.
So what to do? Whether
travelling early or late in the
season, I go high – to resorts
like Zermatt in Switzerland,
and Val Thorens, Les Deux
Alpes or Tignes in France –
all high altitude resorts with
great snow records and long
seasons.
However, it’s really impor-
tant to remember that ski re-
gions like the beautiful Dolo-
mites in Italy and the Ski Welt
in Austria (just voted one of
the top ten resorts in the
world) have incredibly effi-
cient snow-making facilities.
No matter where you go in
the Alps, you will always get
skiing.
See you on the slopes
Catherine xx
Aim high for the best snow
catherine Murphy
SKI REPORT
I STILL have fond memories of a wonderful stay at
Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney, Co. Dublin with
the indomitable Mrs M. We spent an afternoon with
storyteller extraordinaire Biddy McLaughlin at nearby
Biddy’s Cottage, Dalkey. I’m sure she’d have some spooky
tales ready for you by the hearth. Fitzpatrick Castle offers
three nights from €510, two
adults, two children, with full
Irish breakfast each morning
and dinner one evening. Also
included is a family pass for
Dublin Zoo or entrance to
Wicklow Historic Gaol. Call
(01) 230 5400. Log onto www.
fitzpatrickcastle.com. Call
Biddy’s Cottage on (0353) 86
4117844.
WEEKEND Travel’s Eoin Murphy
tells me he’ll woo his wife Melanie
one day with a trip to Rome... but
combine it with the rugby. Good luck
with that! GTI is putting on Italy v
Ireland February 10-12 from €599pp
dep. Dublin, stay at 4* World Hotel
Ripa, B&B. They even advise to take in
the sites. Colossal! Ring (01) 843 4734.
lake and ‘the sumptuous lunch at
the picnic.’
Condé Nast sure likes our ho-
tels and who can blame them?
They ranked Waterford Castle in
seventh, with The Lodge at Ash-
ford Castle coming in ninth.
Overnight rates at the 5-star
Ballyfin start from €560 per
room, midweek. The top suites
though can set you back €1,700
per night during peak times. Call
(05787) 55866, visit ballyfin.com.
And just last week Thatcher’s
Rest, Bettystown, Co. Meath was
voted Best Beach Holiday Home
in Europe. Your diarist can vouch
for Bettystown’s charms, it being
a family favourite when I was
young. Three nights costs €1,260.
See www.cottages-ireland.com.
Contact (041) 982 8104.
YES, Halloween is just around the cor-
ner and the ghouls will be out around
Philly, but then that’s the case the
whole year round as American history
literally comes to life.
Fort Mifllin Battlefield is the oldest Rev-
olutionary War battlefield in America,
a chilling site widely considered the
most haunted in the US.
Still as intact as it stood when hostilities
ended in 1865.
The spirits of the colonial soldiers are
still alleged to stalk the grounds as well
as a woman whose ghostly shrieks have
been so loud that the police are said to
have been called out. Visit http://www.
fortmifflin.us/.
In the City of Freedom, alas, the prison-
ers will, as they must, be locked up. But
if you’re a ghost I guess you can walk
through walls.
And that’s what the Eastern State Peni-
tentiary offers with its Terror Behind
the Walls tour.
This is a sprawling abandoned prison,
the real bad asses are kept elsewhere.
Visitors are guided through the pris-
on’s 13 dimly-lit dilapidated rooms, with
terrifyingly-dressed performers and a
spooky story-teller for company. The
effects, make-up and costumes add
tension to the frightening notion that,
since the 11-acre prison was abandoned
in 1971, ghost sightings in the building
have only grown. Visit https
://www.easternstate. org/halloween/
visit/schedule-prices.
JIM MURTY
the spirit of philly

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Irish Daily Mail, Oct 2016

  • 1. Page 9 TRAVEL inside: catherine murphy’s ski report ● holiday snaps turn to next page, travel by isabel conway T HE King of Prussia has the upper hand so I sur- render gracefully. With no husband around to march me assertively out of danger and an extra visa card in my handbag for ransom there is no going back. Like a bewildered rabbit caught in the headlights I have valiantly (well, maybe not that courageously) broken cover, only to find myself in fresh danger, scurrying around ‘Victoria’s Secret’ assaulting her aisles and rummaging her rails, mesmerised by those huge Sale signs and up to 70% mark downs inside. Too late, I come to my senses back out on the sleek and shiny marbled indoor boule- vards after snapping up armfuls of ‘cheap as chips’ candy-coloured undies of indetermi- nate size and a handkerchief posing as a nightie that may just fit after three months of starvation. Yet it could have been worse. Shopaholics, so stuffed with shopping chromosomes that their DNA must come in designer carrier bags, are everywhere bowed down under the weight of their purchases on the King of Prussia’s retail battle grounds. Here in the verdant Pennsylvania country- side, a short drive out of Philadelphia and a stone’s throw from ‘Valley Forge’ – a historic spot dating back to the late 1700s where a royal pretender from Europe turned the tide towards American independence, trans- forming an undisciplined ragbag of revolu- tionaries into the winning side – stands an unlikely namesake. The King of Prussia (www.kingofprussia. com) near a small town of the same name in the greater Philadelphia region of Pennsyl- vania just happens to be the second largest shopping mall in the US. Size matters in A monument to spending: The King of Prussia shopping mall, Pennsylvania Wondermall! Four-hundred shops, 40 restaurants and, yippee, I’ve only got here early before the madness of America’s big retail day, Black Friday
  • 2. Page 10 travel@dailymail.ie You must have a buyi strategy.. and stick to Philadelphia: The city (main picture) and, below, Liberty Bell, Isabel with ‘Benjamin Franklin’, Valley Forge and a statue of General Anthony Wayne FROM PREVIOUS PAGE America, be they skyscrapers who do what it says on the box, that colossal cupcake, an iceberg of an ice cream or supersized shopping mall. America’s love affair with shopping, seen as a pleasure, a social event and a recrea- tion rather than a chore, draws in tens of millions of shopping tourists, do- mestic and foreign, irresistibly drawn to the ultimate in shopping conven- ience and choice, the Mega Mall. The King of Prussia’s size is stagger- ing. I only manage to cover a tiny por- tion of its 2.7 million square feet of ter- ritory boasting over 40 restaurants, more than 400 shops including seven department stores, and luxury retail- ers like Tiffany, Hermes, Louis Vuitton Gucci and Versace. Such top end names are grouped well away from the likes of H & M and Irish retailer Primark both doing great business I notice during my recent visit. You may think the King of Prussia – its vital statistics stretch far into the horizon with enormous parking lots well capable of displacing your car for eternity – is already corpulent enough. Not so. The mall, receiving about 20 million visitors annually has just had eight major expansions. Any day now a further 12 restaurants and umpteen new high-end shops will be added. Unlike some of its mega mall competitors, entering the theme world scenario and replete with multi cine- mas, bowling alleys etc., the King of Prussia eschews all the entertainment spin-off. Shopping is the hook and nothing except eating on site distracts from that. The nation’s largest shopping palace gargantuan Mall of America in Bloom- ington Minnesota on the other hand has just added 27 theme park rides to draw in compulsive thrill seekers with the compulsive shoppers. Just imagine… shop till you drop and your loved ones waving down from the longest indoor zip line in the country after checking out an aquarium, fea- turing thousands of sea creatures. Only in America folks! Dan Weckerly of Valley Forge Tour- ism & Convention Board (www.coun- trysidePHL.com) is in a minority – he’s a man who actually likes shopping and whose blogs about The King of Prussia read like a labour of love. Dan is my ideal shopping companion except I lost him long before my foray into Vic- toria’s Secret. Later we drive over the hilly terrain of Valley Forge National Historical Park. It was here that General George Wash- ington forged his continental army into a 20,000 strong fighting force helped by Baron Friedrich von Steuben (The King of Prussia) a brilliant warfare strategist who certainly knew every- thing about delivering the goods. PaST this interesting his- tory lesson with side trips earlier through beautiful Chester Coun- ty’s Brandywine Valley District, including some interesting wine tasting at Chaddsford Winery and lunch at the glorious nationally renowned Gardens it is just a shopa- holic’s jump and a skip over to Phila- delphia Premium Outlets, long renowned for deep discounts on top brands. Zero sales tax on clothing and foot- wear in Pennsylvania already guaran- tees lots of bargains apart from daily markdowns and though I am a bit of a sceptic it is indeed true. At the Tommy Hilfiger outlet a top quality man’s polo shirt in the sea- son’s favourite shade was marked down from $65 to $32, jeans for myself were a snip at $20 because they were ‘oh so last season’ while a pair of cur- rent favourite Van plimsolls were a virtual giveaway for $35 at the brand outlet store. To be successful in outlet shopping you have to have a buying strategy and stick to it, Dan advises. On Black Fri- day (late November after Thanksgiv- ing) US retail goes sale crazy, he adds, so it’s a great time to visit. Back in Philadelphia, before venturing underground into an old-fashioned Speakeasy (under Vespers an Irish owned terrific supper club (www.vesper- philly.com) I have time to check out more tax-free shopping around delight- ful Rittenhouse Row, home to exclusive boutiques and big brand name stores. By now, as a precaution, I have left the credit cards locked away. But the sight of Nordstrom Rack is enough to inspire an Olympic like spurt through the splen- did landmark City Hall walkway to retrieve them at my Loews hotel. Don’t think that Philadelphia and the easily accessed tranquil and leafy countryside on her doorstep is just a shopping opportunity. American history comes alive in this first capital city of America, home to the National Constitution, Liberty Bell and iconic names from Ben Franklin to Betsy Ross (seamstress to the first flag) Philly is friendly, easy to navigate on foot or by hop on hop off bus (see www. discoverPHL.com/tours) crammed with cultural stuff and thriving inner city food and nightlife highlights. thephiladelphiashoppingstory How to get there: Direct flights daily from Dublin to Philadelphia with American Airlines. (www.america- nairlines.com). We found a sample pirce from ¤671 return. Isabel travelled courtesy of Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.discover PHL.com) and the Countryside of Philadelphia Brandywine Valley & Valley Forge www.countrysidePHL.com Stay: Philadelphia The Loews 1200 Market Street (www. loewshotels.com/philadelphia-hotel from $209 a night (¤109) Recommended: top breakfast menu at award- winning High Street on Market (308 Market Street www. highstreetonmarket.com ) Eat: lunch at City Tavern (www.www.citytavern.com) in the historic quarter dating from 1773. You may meet TV celeb chef owner Walter Staib, Top atmosphere and the odd ghost! For one of the city’s best (calorific bombshell) cheesesteaks try Cleavers at 108, 18th street. For ice cream Gran Caffe L’Aquila on 1716 Chestnut Street (www.grancaffelaquila) is double wow! See www.discov- erPHL.com and www.countrysidePHL.com.
  • 3. Page 15 ing o it! by jim murty Holiday snaps Yeezus!Breakfasting withKimyeatBallyfin K IM Kardashian a n d Ka n y e West are the last couple you would expect to be sat down next to when you come down for breakfast in a Midlands hotel, but then o f c o u r s e B a l l y f i n Demesne, Co. Laois isn’t any old hotel, it’s only the best hotel in the world. But that’s the company Emma Byrne, once of this parish who moved to Condé Nast, keeps. Kim and Kanye, as you’ll re- member were honeymooning in the Irish heartland back in 2014. Now not everybody shares Kim and Kanye’s taste in fashion and music but you have to admire their taste of hotel. Condé Nast flagged up Ballyfin’s four-poster canopy beds, gilded mirrors, richly textured wallpaper and 614 acres of secluded private gardens, but particularly liked the butler who rowed you out on the IT has always been on my bucket list to see a fight at Madison Square Garden since watching Ali- Frazier I and II as a nipper. Ahead of Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez, GoHop.ie has three nights half board at the 3* Howard Johnson Inn, New York, Nov.11-14. Ring (01) 2412389. This doesn’t include tickets for the fight. t here’s a defi- nite feelgood factor around skiing this year with more peo- ple either taking a winter holiday or plan- ning a return to the Alps after a recessional gap. Parts of the Alps have already had up to 50cm of fresh snow this month (a good omen for the rest of the winter I hope) and skiing is in full swing on some Austrian, Swiss and French glaciers. So as we look ahead to the sea- son and monitor the erratic weather, I want you to think of me as a ski provocateur, filling your head full of decadent ski holiday ideas and luring you to the mountains. I’ll also be your snow stalker, sniffing out the best places and times to ski in the Alps. Which brings me nicely on to the beguiling subject of the ‘secret season’. Irish skiers and snowboarders have traditionally gone on pack- age holidays from late Decem- ber through to late March or if travelling independently, up to Easter, but with weather pat- terns increasingly influencing where and when we ski, the Snowsports industry has begun to debate how it can change our notion of ‘the season’. In particular, the last few win- ters have had slow starts but in late April, some resorts are still getting plenty of snow after all the lifts have shut down. Is the season getting later? At the recent Listex Ski Indus- try forum in the UK, influencers discussed pushing the message ‘why stop skiing after Easter?’, ‘sell the experience not the snow’ and talked about encour- aging holidaymakers to enjoy the secret season. At this week’s Alps Conference in Innsbruck, industry ex- perts discussing the future of skiing presented research on the Christmas-Easter shift and how the industry needs to develop under climate change conditions. In Ireland, the changing season is affecting when we stock up on new ski gear. A spokesperson from retailer Great Outdoors tells me that they now buy in ski gear up to six weeks later than in previous years and don’t take it off the shelves until mid or late April. So what to do? Whether travelling early or late in the season, I go high – to resorts like Zermatt in Switzerland, and Val Thorens, Les Deux Alpes or Tignes in France – all high altitude resorts with great snow records and long seasons. However, it’s really impor- tant to remember that ski re- gions like the beautiful Dolo- mites in Italy and the Ski Welt in Austria (just voted one of the top ten resorts in the world) have incredibly effi- cient snow-making facilities. No matter where you go in the Alps, you will always get skiing. See you on the slopes Catherine xx Aim high for the best snow catherine Murphy SKI REPORT I STILL have fond memories of a wonderful stay at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney, Co. Dublin with the indomitable Mrs M. We spent an afternoon with storyteller extraordinaire Biddy McLaughlin at nearby Biddy’s Cottage, Dalkey. I’m sure she’d have some spooky tales ready for you by the hearth. Fitzpatrick Castle offers three nights from €510, two adults, two children, with full Irish breakfast each morning and dinner one evening. Also included is a family pass for Dublin Zoo or entrance to Wicklow Historic Gaol. Call (01) 230 5400. Log onto www. fitzpatrickcastle.com. Call Biddy’s Cottage on (0353) 86 4117844. WEEKEND Travel’s Eoin Murphy tells me he’ll woo his wife Melanie one day with a trip to Rome... but combine it with the rugby. Good luck with that! GTI is putting on Italy v Ireland February 10-12 from €599pp dep. Dublin, stay at 4* World Hotel Ripa, B&B. They even advise to take in the sites. Colossal! Ring (01) 843 4734. lake and ‘the sumptuous lunch at the picnic.’ Condé Nast sure likes our ho- tels and who can blame them? They ranked Waterford Castle in seventh, with The Lodge at Ash- ford Castle coming in ninth. Overnight rates at the 5-star Ballyfin start from €560 per room, midweek. The top suites though can set you back €1,700 per night during peak times. Call (05787) 55866, visit ballyfin.com. And just last week Thatcher’s Rest, Bettystown, Co. Meath was voted Best Beach Holiday Home in Europe. Your diarist can vouch for Bettystown’s charms, it being a family favourite when I was young. Three nights costs €1,260. See www.cottages-ireland.com. Contact (041) 982 8104. YES, Halloween is just around the cor- ner and the ghouls will be out around Philly, but then that’s the case the whole year round as American history literally comes to life. Fort Mifllin Battlefield is the oldest Rev- olutionary War battlefield in America, a chilling site widely considered the most haunted in the US. Still as intact as it stood when hostilities ended in 1865. The spirits of the colonial soldiers are still alleged to stalk the grounds as well as a woman whose ghostly shrieks have been so loud that the police are said to have been called out. Visit http://www. fortmifflin.us/. In the City of Freedom, alas, the prison- ers will, as they must, be locked up. But if you’re a ghost I guess you can walk through walls. And that’s what the Eastern State Peni- tentiary offers with its Terror Behind the Walls tour. This is a sprawling abandoned prison, the real bad asses are kept elsewhere. Visitors are guided through the pris- on’s 13 dimly-lit dilapidated rooms, with terrifyingly-dressed performers and a spooky story-teller for company. The effects, make-up and costumes add tension to the frightening notion that, since the 11-acre prison was abandoned in 1971, ghost sightings in the building have only grown. Visit https ://www.easternstate. org/halloween/ visit/schedule-prices. JIM MURTY the spirit of philly