Kathleen Rellihan

Kathleen Rellihan is a digital producer, writer and editor for TravelChannel.com. A Washington, DC, resident, Kathleen's love for adventure travel has inspired her to go dog sledding in Quebec, search for the northern lights in Iceland, learn to surf in Costa Rica and give elephants a bath in Thailand. Kathleen’s next adventure is volunteering as an English teacher in Haiti. Follow Kathleen on Twitter @k_rellihan.

Posts by Kathleen Rellihan

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The Obamas arrived in Ireland on Monday, and while the president attended the G8 summit in Belfast, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were able to fit in a 2-day whirlwind tour of Dublin, exploring their Irish roots.

“There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” says the web-hit Irish folk song that went viral back in November 2008.  The president’s great-great-grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall, and Ireland celebrates this connection by always extending a warm Irish welcome to the president and his family.

Michelle Obama and daughters learned more about their Irish ancestry with a special tour of Trinity College, where they viewed archives documenting their family’s Irish origins and saw the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illustrated gospel manuscript.

Other highlights of the first family’s trip included a private tour of Glendalough, one of the most famous monastic ruins in Ireland, and a special Riverdance performance at the Gaity Theatre, where Michelle Obama addressed an excited audience.

And talk about a power lunch … the first lady dined on fish and chips in Dublin with the “first rock star of Ireland,” U2 frontman and world humanitarian Bono.

This wasn’t Obamas’ first visit to Ireland. Back in 2001, the president visited his ancestral hometown Moneygall searching for his “missing apostrophe.” On this visit, the president met his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, now known as “Henry the Eighth.”

 

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This past weekend marked another royal wedding: the nuptials of Princess Madeleine of Sweden and American financier Christopher O’Neill. The much-buzzed-about royal wedding took place at the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Stockholm, followed by a reception at Drottingholm Palace, where the Princess was born.

Princess Madeline met her husband-to-be while living in New York, and Mr. O’Neill has declined a royal title so he can keep his US citizenship and continue his banking career.

Well-wishers lined the cobblestoned streets in Stockholm on Saturday as the royal couple traveled in a horse-drawn carriage through Gamia Stan, the medieval old town. The newly wed couple then set sail from Stockholm Harbor on a royal barge to Drottingham Palace for a lavish reception, with royals and celebrities from all over the world in attendance.

A royal wedding isn’t the only reason Stockholm is on our radar this month. Weather-wise this Scandinavian gem shines in June … quite literally. On June 21, thousands of tourists will flock to Sweden to see the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon when the sun shines for a full 24 hours around the summer solstice.

If you’re more of royal watcher than a sun gazer, there’s another big event to look forward to this summer: the much-anticipated arrival of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s baby. Kate’s 8-month baby bump is getting bigger and bigger every day, as seen at the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation last week. The royal baby is due mid-July and the world is abuzz with speculation, rumors and bets: Will the royal heir be a boy or a girl? And what will be the baby’s name and title?

Our bets are on Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s middle name. What do you think?

 

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French bombshell Brigitte Bardot wears a bikini in a boat near Saint-Tropez, France, in 1968. (Photography by Robert Cohen/RDA/Getty Images)

This weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and with that comes the unofficial start to bathing suit season. Whether that gives you cause for excitement or dred, it’s the time of the year to bare it all. To kick off the start of bathing suit season, we took a look back at how this article of clothing (in more recent times, a very itty-bitty, teeny-weeny article of clothing) has caused such a stir throughout history.

The first modern-day bikini debuted in 1946. (Photography by Keystone/Getty Images)

If the swimsuit has caused such a stir, then the bikini has caused a cannon-ball-sized splash. The first bikini debuted at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool in Paris in 1946. The bikini’s designer, Louis Reard, a French automobile engineer, named the 2-piece sensation after the Bikini Atoll where the US had recently conducted nuclear tests. The model, a 19 year-old dancer, forever changed swimsuit history that summer day by donning the original bikini, made from 30 inches of newsprint fabric.

Over 65 years after the original bikini debuted, another important swimsuit moment occurred this year: The Sports Illustrated 50th Swimsuit issue. Every year fans eagerly anticipate SI’s swimsuit issue to see what bikini babe will grace the cover, and this year was no exception. Travel Channel was there as SI combed all 7 continents, crisscrossing the globe from Easter Island to Africa to find the most exotic and sexiest shoot locations. This year’s anniversary issue also included another first — the first fashion shoot on ice-covered Antarctica. Who would have thought the snow-covered beaches of Antarctica would be steamy enough to grace the anniversary’s iconic cover? We imagine model Kate Upton’s physique had something to do with heating up the icy cover shot, too.


So whether you’re ready for bikini season or not, dive back into history with us as we look at Swimsuits Through the Years.

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Is your bike collecting more dust than dirt these days? Now is the perfect time to take it for a spin since it’s National Bike Month. From the best cities for cycling to bike-friendly hotels, here are ways to get your wheels rolling this month.

See a City By Bike

Avid cyclist and adventure traveler Ryan Van Duzer shares with us his top 10 US cities for cycling, from Boulder, CO, to Austin, TX.  With 300 days of sunshine and a picturesque mountain backdrop, biking in Boulder is at the top of Van Duzer’s list. You won’t be able to tell if that Rocky Mountain high is from the altitude or the endorphin rush after a ride here. Quirky Austin makes Van Duzer’s list for its unique Bike Zoo, where you can see a pedal-powered 80-foot rattlesnake, and the 6-mile-long Lance Armstrong bikeway, which opened in 2009 and runs through this Texas capital city. (You can see the rest of his picks here.)

Stay at a Bike-Friendly Hotel

Kimpton Hotels is celebrating National Bike Month with its national “Bike Like a Local” program. Travelers staying in Kimpton Hotels in cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New York can take advantage of complimentary bike rentals and bike promotions during May.

If you’re a cycling history buff, pedal back into Alexandria, Virginia’s history with the Civil War Bike Tour package at Monaco Alexandria. This Kimpton Hotel is offering complimentary bikes for guests to explore the Alexandria Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail. Take in the history while getting a workout stopping at historic sites throughout Alexandria like Fort Ward and Alexandria National Cemetery.

At the Hotel Palomar in Phoenix, guests can explore Downtown Phoenix’s must-see spots on the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Guests can also pick up the hotel’s pocket-sized maps of Phoenix, themed for “foodies, artsy types, style lovers and mental flossers.” Each themed map highlights the best spots in the city to eat and drink and what to see and do  — all with a bike rack conveniently nearby.

Borrow a Bike for Few Hours

Don’t have a bike? That’s no excuse! Bike-sharing programs are popping up all over the county — from Washington, DC to Long Beach, CA. The much-anticipated bike share program in NYC opened for registration just last month, and had over 5,000 people sign up within 30 hours. On Memorial Day, the NYC bike share program officially opens, making it country’s largest bike share program with over 6,000 bikes and 330 stations. Another popular bike share program is Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare, which has over 1,800 bikes at over 200 stations across the metropolitan area. Whether you are a tourist or a local, borrowing a bike in these bustling cities helps you avoid traffic frustrations and parking meltdowns … and burn calories while you’re at it.

 

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In honor of The Great Gatsby film release, step back into the opulent Jazz Age with a visit to New York’s iconic landmark hotel, The Plaza. This historic hotel is celebrating Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited film adaptation of The Great Gatsby with a collection of Gatsby-inspired experiences. The setting for one of the book’s most climatic scenes, The Plaza was also a well-known haunt of the author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda — so much so that it has been said Ernest Hemingway once advised Fitzgerald to give his “liver to Princeton and his heart to The Plaza.”

If you’re truly gaga for Gatsby, for a mere $2,795 you can spend a night in the Fitzgerald Suite that pays homage to its famous patron. Designed by one of the film’s set designers and co-producers, this 700-square-foot suite is filled with period-inspired pieces and artifacts from the film’s production, like Tom Buchanan’s sporting trophies lining the walls. Make yourself a gin martini or mint julep from the suite’s built-in bar and escape into the 1920s with Fitzgerald’s complete collection of works, all at hand in the room’s library.

If your budget is less than Gatsby-esque, you can still get into the spirit at The Plaza.  The Palm Court’s “Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages” tips a hat to the Jazz Age with 1920s-inspired plates like Pate de Fruit with Gin Rickey Sugar. The Todd English Food Hall honors Gatsby with “prohibited” cocktails like “Silver Peppered Stars,” made with Hendrick’s Gin, house-made orange bitters and French vermouth.  The hotel’s iconic Champagne Bar is transformed into a Moët Pop-Up Bar, offering a special cocktail called the “Moët Imperial Gatsby,” with green chartreuse and a sugar cube. And you can dance off all that gin and champagne with the live jazz bands at The Rose Club’s “Gatsby Hour” on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

After you’ve partied like Gatsby, recover from the previous evening’s celebrations (hello, roaring headache) with a “Caudalie Grape Gatsby” custom treatment at The Plaza’s Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa. Daisy would approve.

For more Gatsby-inspired extravagance, check out our Travel Like The Great Gatsby slideshow and relive the Jazz Age decadence … without the hangover.

Grab the girls and hit the road for a spring getaway. Get inspired with our fun picks for trips that include all your favorite things: music, nature, yoga, sunshine, culture, wine … and of course, your best buds.

1.  Groove at a music festival.

Missed Coachella? Don’t worry; the music festival season is just getting started. From Jazz Fest in New Orleans to the Sasquatch Festival in Washington State, there’s a music fest this spring for every kind of music lover.

2.  Savor spring outdoors. 

Are you and your BFFs in desperate need of a little outdoor adventure … or at least craving more than a glimpse of nature outside your office window? Get the endorphins flowing by hiking at a national park or trying stand up paddle boarding by the beach.   

3.  Go “om” with your BFFs.

Need a recharge? Down dog by day and dance under the stars at night at Wanderlust:  a music-meets-yoga-meets-outdoors festival. Or check out Jennifer Aniston’s yoga teacher’s best places to go “om” for more yoga getaways.

4.  Soak up some Vitamin D. 

Escape to sunny Florida for a girls-only weekend. We’ve found some sun-soaked spots perfect for a carefree weekend in Palm Beach (and not the ones your grandma would recommend, either). And for an unabashedly beachy moment before summer gets here, enjoy an umbrella-topped cocktail at one of South Florida’s best beach bars.

5.  Channel your inner Southern belle.

Soak up the lowcountry (and low-stress) culture of Charleston, a city that’s on everyone’s radar this spring. Stroll through garden plantations sipping on a sweet tea cocktail, dish over shrimp and grits or add a little Southern style to your wardrobe with the offbeat shopping on King Street.

6.  Sip and swirl with the girls.

What better way to bond with your best buds than on a wine tour weekend? Sip and swirl your way through Napa Valley and Sonoma or check out a wine festival. And don’t want to hear any whining about being a DD? Hop aboard the Napa Valley wine train and all the girls can have a glass.

Check out more ideas for Girl Getaways.

Every dream wedding needs a dream honeymoon to follow. After the Big Day has come and gone, where will you start your happily-ever-after? Every couple’s idea of a perfect honeymoon is different — some dream of lounging on a private stretch of sand, some dream of exploring a foreign city hand-in-hand. From a secluded island getaway to a romantic city escape, here are some unforgettable honeymoon spots.

Your Own Private Paradise in the Maldives

Start your happily-ever-after basking in the beauty of this romantic archipelago with crystal-clear water and pristine white beaches. You’ll find that many of the tiny islands have been converted into luxury resorts with private overwater bungalows. For a honeymoon that includes equal parts paradise and pampering, stay at Komandoo Maldives Island Resort.  In this adults-only resort, you’ll be in a world of your own with the ocean on your doorstep. For perhaps the most romantic meal of your life, enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach with just your and your new hubbie or wife. Watch the sunset while you dine on a meal chef-tailored just for you.

Say Aloha to Romance in Hawaii

Hawaii has always been a popular honeymoon destination … and for good reason. It may still be in the US, but with its beautiful beaches, active volcanoes and lush rainforests, it seems a world away. And with 8 major islands, there’s something for every type of couple — from the beach bums to the adventurers.  For the couples who want to enjoy secluded beaches and adventure activities, Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort offers it all.  The only resort on Oahu’s famed North Shore, Turtle Bay offers a secluded location far from Waikiki’s crowds with breathtaking ocean views and 5 miles of pristine beaches. There’s no shortage of outdoor adventures on this 880-acre paradise: Go horseback riding, snorkeling, standup paddle boarding or hiking. Plus, the North Shore is one of the best surf spots in the world — so perhaps you can learn to hang 10 as a couple on the islands where surfing was invented.

Old World Charm Meets Modern Luxury in Portugal

Portugal has recently topped the list as a popular honeymoon destination.  Brimming with Old World charm and traditions, Portugal is the perfect European escape for newlyweds who crave culture.  You can’t spend your entire honeymoon sightseeing — most couples want to relax after the wedding is over. For a mix of modern luxury and historic charm, honeymoon at the The Yeatman hotel, a luxurious wine-spa hotel located on the banks of the River Douro in Porto. After a day of port wine tasting (this is where port comes from, after all) and taking in the classic architecture of one of the oldest European cities, you can relax in hotel’s infinity pool, in-suite Jacuzzi or on your private terrace.  With a glass of world-class port wine, of course.

For more inspiration for planning your dream honeymoon, check out our picks for the Top Honeymoon Hotspots and 2013’s Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations.

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Where do the sexiest people live? Who better to ask than Travel Channel’s very own globe-trotting travel writers and bloggers? We sought out these world travelers for their picks of the destinations with the sexiest people … sexy because of their sense of style, love of life, dancing moves or incredibly fit bods. The responses had a definitive trend: Seems as if many of the most bodacious beings hail from Latin America.

We knew Brazil would be a likely contender. Travel writer and host Ernest White II, aka Fly Brother, who called Sao Paulo, Brazil, home for over 6 years,  praises this “multihued hottie factory.” “Without a doubt,” says White, “the sexiest people in the world can be found in that renowned epicenter of bulbous backsides, Brazil. The über-toned beach bodies and striking coal-to-cream complexion scheme speak to Brazil’s virtually endless coastline and its centuries-old history of intermixing and immigration.”

Of course, Italy wasn’t a surprise pick, either. This people in this Mediterranean haven practically exude “sexy” in nearly everything that they do,  says travel writer Valerie Conners, who’s enjoyed several stretches of living, working and traveling across Italy. “Whether they’re — against all odds — making red-linen pants look seductive, casually sipping an espresso while perusing La Repubblica newspaper or being freakishly dexterous by simultaneously chattering on a cell phone, smoking a cigarette and eating a gelato while wearing a micro-mini skirt and careening through Rome’s streets on a Vespa (yup, it’s happened) — I gotta hand it to them, Italianos are dead sexy,” she says.

Scandinavia is known for its awe-inspiring natural beauty, and that includes its people. Travel writer Terry Ward, who divides her time between Florida and Nassau, Bahamas, swoons over Swedes: “Slim, tall and impeccably dressed, the people of Stockholm are more diverse than the blond-haired, blue-eyed stereotype would lead you to believe … and while Swedes aren’t exactly the outgoing-with-strangers types, they do love to practice their English with native speakers — use it to your advantage to make friends.”

Who else made the list? See the rest of our Sexiest People picks here.

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This weekend Thailand celebrated its New Year, know as Songkran, with the world’s biggest water fight. Songkran is an annual Buddhist holiday that traditionally calls for Thais to visit elders and temples on the first day of the year. The days leading up to the New Year are less serious and filled with epic water battles across the country. For the 3 days leading up to the New Year, there isn’t a dry spot in Thailand, as the “Land of Smiles” fills its water guns and buckets and takes to the streets for the celebratory dousing of passersby. This festival is based on a renewal and cleansing tradition stemming from the water blessing in temples for the New Year. Each year this all-out water fight only gets bigger — and wetter– in Thailand.

Last year, I unintentionally planned a vacation to Thailand during Songkran. As a tourist, I didn’t know what to expect. I prepared myself with a waterproof camera case, a poncho (that proved useless) and the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mindset — I bought a water gun in a Thai market for protection. As most tourists who find themselves in Thailand during Songkran can probably attest, I felt lucky to be here to witness something so unique and at the heart of the country’s culture: a veritable national party.

Thailand, a country already so well-known for its hospitality, welcomes droves of tourists during Songkran to join in its annual water fight. So take it as a compliment if you get soaked with a water gun here. It means they like you.

During the 3 days of Songkran, I was lucky enough to see 3 different cities celebrate it.  The first day of Songkran, I was in Pai, a small mountain town in the north of Thailand. Pai has become a favorite among expats and tourists looking for a nature reprieve from Thailand’s congested bigger cities. The small town of Pai is centered around one main street and everyone in the town seemed to be on it during Songkan — either in a truck filled with young mischievous water-throwers with trashcan-size buckets full of water or lined up on the streets for a prime spot to watch the action. And as I would learn repeatedly throughout Songkan, the ultimate target for drenching during the festival is always the tourist. My introduction to Songkran in Pai began when I was ambushed by a group of young monks armed with super soakers (see photo).

Photography by Stephanie Price

Next stop on the Songrkan tour was Chiang Mai, my absolute favorite city in Thailand, less touristy and globalized than Bangkok, but still with plenty to see, do and taste. As our bus from Pai pulled up to the gates of Chiang Mai, I quickly realized that Pai was just a trickle of water fights compared with this city’s all-out water war. There was no shortage of water in Chiang Mai either, as the fuel for this 3-day water fight here mostly comes from the river that runs through the city. By the second city, my travel companions and I had amped up our ammunition; water guns just weren’t as effective — or as fun — as entire buckets filled with water.

 

Photography by Stephanie Price

Our last stop on the Songran tour was Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital city. This was also the last night of the celebrations before people throughout the country would flock to temples for a more serious (and drier) day with family — but not before one last big splash. So we found ourselves in the epicenter of the country’s water festival, on the biggest night, in Thailand’s biggest city. Think New Year’s Eve in Times Square, but instead of noisemakers, everyone’s armed with water guns. Our hotel was smack dab in the middle of the action on Khao San Road, a 0.5-mile-long strip full of bars, restaurants, hotels, stores and heaps of tourists mostly of the young budget-traveler type.

As I learned firsthand, staying dry as you walk through Khao San Road is the least of your problems during Songkran. I could barely walk through this street because it was so crowded with Songkran revelers. While Thais are generally known to be laid-back people  – often, you can even escape the water splashing if you just shake your head or hand — we found no such luck here. No matter how much we pleaded, we couldn’t escape getting soaked in Bangkok. The water battle on Khao San Road was unlike anything I could have imagined. Few would ever take a camera out here to document the craziness for risk of it getting ruined. Luckily, neither did I.

On the early morning of the New Year, after a final night of water mayhem, we were due to fly home. We woke up and breathed a sigh of relief that finally the crowds on Khao San Road had gone home and we could skip the bathing suit under our clothes and poncho for the trip to the airport. So we packed into a tuk-tuk (Thailand’s rickshaw) with all of our luggage (cabs were nowhere to be found on this national holiday) and headed to the airport. But to our utter surprise, we received one final drenching at a stoplight from a truck that still had a bucket of water in the back from the night before.

Soaked and carrying our wet bags, we arrived at the airport laughing, knowing there was no better way to leave Thailand than with one big splash.

 

Courtesy of LEGOLand Hotel

Think you can make an impressive LEGO home? Try building a hotel made of LEGOs. Now that the Ice Hotel has melted, take a spring fling with the family to America’s first LEGOLAND Hotel that just opened this month. Located right at the main entrance of LEGOLAND California Resort, guests can stay and play a LEGO’s throw away from the park’s attractions designed for the young and the young at heart.

Now, we should mention that the entire hotel isn’t made of LEGOs (this is earthquake-plagued California, after all), but the iconic plastic-building block is imaginatively integrated throughout this kiddie hotel heaven. Children and parents alike will be wowed by this novel hotel: approximately 3,422 LEGO models have been built throughout the hotel out of more than 3 million LEGO bricks (don’t worry, parents, you won’t have to clean up any of this). Everything comes to life here with 7 large-scale LEGO models that are animated, like a bubble-blowing LEGO dragon taking a bath on the patio that speaks to children passing by.

Guests can choose between 3 themed-rooms modeled after the most popular LEGOLAND areas: Pirate, Kingdom and Adventure. There’s plenty of room for the entire family, with 2 separate sleeping areas — a queen-size bed for grown-ups, and a separate area for up to 3 little ones, complete with a bunk bed, pull-out trundle bed and their very own TV. And each room has LEGO blocks ready for you to build your own architectural wonders.

Designed with imagination in every detail, the hotel’s fun features include secret whoopee cushions, disco-themed elevators, treasure trails and exploding toy boxes.  Dining is even kid-focused at LEGOLAND Hotel. Bricks Family Restaurant serves a breakfast and dinner buffet with a station specifically designed for kids at a height they can reach, while the Skyline Café features a LEGO city skyline with 35 kid-pleasing scenes.

With a fun place to rest and exclusive early-morning access to select rides and attractions at the park, families will be on a 24-hour fun-filled ride. While this is the only LEGOLAND where you can spend a night, there are LEGOLAND theme parks all over the world — from Florida to Germany to Malaysia. And while the parks will amaze any age, they are designed specifically for children 2 to 12.

 

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