Ireland – Last Days

6 September 2008

Well, Sunday morning was a very frustrating – Julia was spiritually recharging at Mass while I was driving around looking for a launderette – all closed on Sunday in Ireland, or an internet cafe – some open on Sunday. I was getting lost in the car so decided to go back to the cathedral and wait for Julia. She came out of mass calm, blessed and beautiful; I was anything but. We found an internet café, got a good connection for my laptop and then I was able to catch up on the backlog.

 

We then parked the car and went for a good look around the Spanish Arch, museum and old area of Galway. We had a very nice dinner in Artisan and our waitress was a girl from Australia. We walked back to the car and drove back to the Inishmore B&B.

 

Monday

 

We got up early, had breakfast, paid the bill and off to the launderette. By now I was on my last pair of clean “smalls” and I was wearing the shirt for the second day. I didn’t regret packing all the available smalls. We dropped the laundry and was told it would be an hour and a half. We went back to the internet café and talked to the girls on Skype which was really good. We went for a nice coffee and then picked up the laundry and set off across Ireland for Kinsale, a small picturesque fishing village in County Cork. We had booked the hotel in Kinsale on the internet and didn’t note the address. It was called Blindgate House so in the spirit of “Dorrie can do anything” entered Blindgate, Kinsale into Dorrie and sure enough, she was on to it.

 

We stopped at Cork and had a quick walk around. It seems a prosperous town with plenty of construction and reconstruction going on in the shopping area. Many shops had notices in the window advertising for full time staff. As with other towns further north there appeared to b many young people from Eastern Europe working and holidaying there.

 

Dorrie took us straight to the hotel which was modern and very nice. It had free wifi and very few other guests. The toilet seat was broken and despite my best efforts it was still broken when we left. The hostess was very hospitable and suggested a number of good eating places in town. Almost all offer fresh seafood plus the usual fare.  We walked down the hill to the harbour and centre of Kinsale.  We found Jim Edwards Restaurant Bar and I had a pint of Guiness while we looked at the menu.  It seemed quite expensive and then a local sitting alongside us pointed out the there was also a bar menu which we soon checked out. Smaller selection, similar food, half the price. We ordered half a dozen raw Kinsale oysters each and I had the cod and Julia had the salmon.  The oysters were still attached to their shell and were very very nearly as good as Bluff oysters. The fish was good too. We went to Max’s wine bar for dessert. Well Julia had dessert, crème Brulee, I had a glass of a muscdele which a rose colour and was like drinking raisins – it was gorgeous. We walked back up to the hotel, did email and had an early night.

 

Tuesday

 

Got up early, went for a walk around Kinsale. The weather was very changeable, so one minute the sun was shining, the next it was raining. We saw the centre of the small town, built around the head of a deep inlet. Fish were plentiful in the harbour and the schools churned the water as they fed.  We went back up the hill to Blindgate House, showered, breakfasted and set off for Dublin. There is a new motorway up through the centre and that is the way Dorrie chose. We stopped in a cute little town called Cahir for lunch at an excellent restaurant opposite a very cute castle and river. Back on to the motorway and straight to the Airport hotel at Dublin. Just as we arrived there was an almighty downpour and in our hurry to get in we left the back door of the rental open! We found it when we went back to the car to return it. My camera had been on the back seat under Juli’s coat and it was all still there although the seat was wet. We returned the car, said farewell to Dorrie and the nice man from Enterprise Car Rentals took us into town. 

 

We wet straight to a pub and had a pint of Guiness each and then walked to the St Stephen’s Green and Ely Street where the restaurant at the top of Julia’s list was. It was as good as its review and we enjoyed the wine and food. The locals eating but mostly drinking there were animated and friendly. One recommended that before we leave Dublin we just had to have a beer at Doheny and Nesbit, a beautifully maintained old pub, just over the road from the wine bar. We got a taxi back to the hotel and had fascinating discussion about an emigrants lot on Dublin.

 

We had to be up at 4 in the morning and so got to bed as early as we could after packing and organizing.

 

Wednesday- a long day!

 

We were first at reception and into the shuttle at 4.30! It very soon filled up and off to the airport for our first flight of the day to Heathrow, followed by the flight to Munich. As we were leaving the plane at Munich we talked to a group of kiwis on a work related trip they offered to take us into the business class lounge which was very nice. Thank you Mathew of Brother Industries. Make sure you next printer is a Brother!

 

On boarding the plane, I first have us in the wrong seats and then on moving to the correct seats 2 rows back find that my seat is double booked with an American girl who had specified a window seat. After much discussion we agree to move to the front seats in the cabin which have more leg room but no view. Later in the flight my entertainment system packs up and does not work so I let them know that I was not happy, at being moved and then my screen not working. The cabin attendant appologised profusely, rebooted the screen without success and then bought us a glass of champagne, chocolates and toilets sets from 1st class.

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Saturday – Ballinacourty

We slept in again and just made it down to breakfast – a very nice breakfast cooked by Marie, the hostess. We told her that we were going looking for relatives and of course she knew exactly where Ballinacourty was as her grandmother had lived there when Marie was growing up in Galway and she went there for summer holidays. She thought it was like going to Australia, it was far away and a wonderful place. She did not know any of the names we had and rang her mother who also did not know the names. She drew us a wee map and off we went.  Despite it not being on any maps I entered Ballinacourty into Dorrie and bingo! And the directions matched Marie’s map. Through Oranmore on the Limerick road, turn right at Clarinbridge, go on and go on, turn left just before the road becomes a lane and goes up a hill, turn left at the T intersection and that is Ballinacourty. We stopped at the cemetery on the top of the ridge and looked around.  We then drove down to the end of the road and stopped before it becomes a tractor track around the edge of Galway Bay.

We are now standing beside the car looking over the gravel beach, the tide is out and the view is stunning. Paddocks are all marked by stone walls, the grass is lush, and the air is fresh. An old Massey Fergusson tractor and dog come around the high tide track and stops to chat. In a matter of a few seconds we establish that we have found one of the rellies – Sonny (Martin) Costello! He is a bit overcome when he learns Julia is a relative and invites us in to meet Nancy (Ann) and have a cup of tea. Nancy is on the phone but soon joins us and we enjoy a 2 hour visit, cups of tea, home made bread, slices of meat and warm and fond memories of Father Tom, Father Ted, Bob, Ted, Nola, and more. Nancy has excellent recall and Sonny laughs as he recalls father Tom surprising Nancy and another female rellie rooting potatoes in the field, taking a photograph of them in a rather unflattering situation. He also laughed recalling playing cards with Father Tom when Sonny had the better of him said “you have no respect for a priest!”

They had family matters to attend to and so we exchanged addresses, took a photograph of them with Julia and went on our way. We intended to go to the Cliffs of Moher and set off in that direction. We came Kinvara, the most picturesque little seaside village I have ever seen. There was no wind, high cloud, a castle, old sailing boats and a café that made really good coffee. I took a lot of photographs, mainly the biscuit tin and screen saver variety, but it was very delightful.

We carried on south over The Burren, an amazing limestone, barren set of hills, more photographs and great views and came to the Cliffs of Moher. This is popular attraction and even in poor weather, 5 o’clock in the evening people are arriving. The cliffs are spectacular and the viewing facilities are very good.

Back in the car, back over The Burren, back to Kinvara for a pint of Guiness, pizza for dinner and back to Galway. We have decided to stay an extra night here and that is ok with the B&B.

Sunday – Galway

Mass, laundry, internet.

Galway – Friday

1 September 2008

Friday – Galway.

We had a great drive through Ardagh where we stopped and posted postcards, Athlone which is on both sides of the Shannon River and a beautiful town and where we had a cup of tea, and then on to Galway. We had an address of a B&B we liked the look of. It was to the west of Galway and so we entered the details into Dorrie. Well, she took us on a merry drive through bog country, up hill and then down again exactly to where we wanted to go. It appears she did not know about the more direct route through the popular seaside towns. However, the B&B stopped being a B&B a couple of years ago and so the search was on again. We drove into Galway via Siddal and Salthill and found a lovely place in Galway, about 10 minutes walk from the town centre.

After sorting out the formalities and getting cleaned up we walked into town. Galway has a bustling pedestrian area of bars, restaurants, “tourist shops”, etc. The bars and restaurants spill out on to the road and people having a good time are plentiful. We booked a table at an Italian restaurant and then had a Guiness at a very quaint old pub. My pasta was good, Julia’s was not which was disappointing. We walked and explored some more and then headed back to the B&B.

Hill Of Tara and Newgrange

1 September 2008

Thursday – Hill of Tara and Newgrange

Called the rental car company and they offered to come and pick us up from the B&B! Great, and then on Julia’s recommendation we hired a satellite navigator for the car. We have nicknamed her Dorrie although she does not sound like a Dorrie when giving directions.  We have been really impressed with the unit and it has saved us although did on one occasion lead us on a wild roundabout ride.

We had planned to head northwest but had no accommodation booked, so that is what we did. I had read about the Hill of Tara, the home of the High Kings until the 11th century, and it was sort of on our way. I had also read about the passage tomb at Newgrange which was not far out of our way. We found the Hill of Tara had a good look over it.  It is not a high hill but has a great 360 degree view over the area. The earth works are marked and still clearly visible. Christian statues and stones have been added over the years. We then headed for Newgrange and with a little help from Dorrie got there just in time to book for the 3.15 tour to the tomb. 40 visitors at a time are bused to the tomb to keep it orderly and to ensure that you get 10 minutes inside the tomb with the guide and the presentation. We had lunch and did the information centre until it was time to head for the bus. You have to walk across a bridge over the Boyne River to get to the bus. The Boyne valley is famous for a battle that took place on 1 July 1690.

The Newgrange passage tomb is one of three in the area, has been restored and is open to guided tours.  It is an amazing construction and you should read about it on the web, or get a book from the library. Very little is really known about the carvings, and why it is as it is as there are no records, there was no written language. The accuracy of its construction to produce a narrow beam of light into the end chamber on the morning of the shortest day is incredible, especially 3200 years ago!

It was now about 5.30 and we had no place to stay. The best option seemed to be Cavan, about half an hour to the northwest. We passed through Kells, where the book was first kept, and arrived at Cavan a bit stressed as be had passed a few B&Bs and didn’t like the look of any of them. On the outskirts of Cavan we came across the Cavan Crystal Hotel and decided to check it out. It was perfect and we managed to justify the considerable expense to ourselves. We had the most amazing meal in the restaurant, a sauna and spa in the morning and went on our way many Euros lighter!

Dublin

1 September 2008

We slept in a bit and got off to a slow start. After breakfast packed our cases again, said our good-byes and off to the station and Heathrow to fly to Dublin.

Dublin

The flight to Dublin was over very quickly. We did not have a window seat so read or slept. We queued to get the bus into town and when getting on the bus and paying tried to pay with Swiss Francs! We had no Euros. The bus controller joked that we could change the Francs to Euros in the terminal or find out when the next flight to Zurich was.  I said it would be easier just to change the money and did. We got off the bus at the bus station and walked around several corners to get to our B&B – more a guest house. It didn’t look much but it had a big bedroom, a good shower and free internet. And it was in the centre of Dublin.

We got settled and then set out to see Dublin. We walked up Talbot Street and headed towards the Dublin Spire in O’Connell Street. The Dublin Spire was a millennium project, is the tallest structure in central Dublin and is affectionately known as the ‘stiletto in the ghetto’. I did not think the area was a ghetto but I did notice a lot of foreigners in the area. Like other EU countries Ireland has a lot of East European young people working in the hospitality industry and I suppose other industries and studying. We turned left into O’Connell Street, which incidentally is even wider than the main street of Invercargill, and over the River Liffey. We passed Trinity College, walked down to Temple Bar, around the tourist pedestrian area, I got my hair and beard trimmed at a rather fancy barber shop by a young Eastern European girl, and had a light meal at Leon, a nice restaurant. On our way back we called in at The Bank on College Green, a nice pub in a building that was once a bank, just like the Dome in Edinburgh. The Dublin version also has a very nice ceiling and decore. We had our first of many Guinesses in Ireland there and were not disappointed. I am surprised that people get drunk on Guiness – it is only 2.8% alcohol and it takes longer to pour properly than it does to drink it!

Wednesday

We had a good sleep, a good cooked breakfast, talked to the family, booked a rental car and late in the morning set off to Trinity College and the Book of Kells. I enjoyed the guided tour of the college by the young student – plenty of wit, and in Ireland there is plenty to laugh at. The presentation and display of the Book of Kells and other manuscripts is impressive and well done. The explanation and enlargements make the experience really interesting.

We then walked to the Guiness Brewery, found that the tours are open until 7PM and so carried on to the Dublin Gallery of Modern Art in what was once a hospital. It is quite small but very good and had a great exhibition by a Spanish artist who had spent time in Afica. He had drawings, paintings and sculpture. There was an interesting photographic exhibition, and generally worth the visit.

Back over the wee river and back to the St James Brewery (Guiness) and on with the tour.  Julia didn’t much care for going into the displays (7 floors of it) in detail, she just wanted the complimentary pint at the end. She did enjoy the tasting room where you got a wee taste and a video on how the tasting and testing is done. At last the top floor, which is a circular glass room with the bar in the middle, and you get your pint, and you get to see the 360 degree view of Dublin. The weather was not so good but we could see the sea in the east and the closest hills. We got a good view over the city.

We then walked back towards the centre of town but had to go past the Bank on College Green, but didn’t pass it; we went and enjoyed another pint o’ Guiness.

We looked at many food joints of all description and found Waggamamas where we had dinner. It was my first taste of Waggamamas and I enjoyed it. Julia had been in Sydney, or maybe Melbourne and knew what she was getting. We will now have to test the one in Wellington to see how it compares.

We walked back over the Liffey, down the river bank, left up Lower Gardiner Street and to our B&B. We talked to Emily and found out that she was happy with the way her mock exams had gone and that she was going out with her friends that night and that her friends were staying the night.  That gives her just less than 2 weeks to have the house put back together again.

London

1 September 2008

London

Getting to Edinburgh airport proved to be more difficult than we thought. We got on the motorway and to the off-ramp but were in the wrong lane and couldn’t get across in time to get on the right road. We rescued the situation but used up about 15-20 minutes that we didn’t have. When we got to the airport we missed the turn off to the rental return place and had to go around again wasting another 5 minutes. It all added up to us arriving at the ticket counter to find they had filled the plane! We were given 2 options, they could ask the passengers to volunteer to give up their seats and they would pay them 100 pounds each or they would put us on the next flight and pay us $100 each. As we were a bit frazzled by this stage we opted to get the next flight and take their money. The next flight was at 3PM so we had a couple of hours to relax and have some lunch.

The flight was good and we got excellent views over London as we approached Heathrow. Getting on to the underground was a breeze and we followed Honor’s instructions, changing at Earl’s Court, District Line to Southfields, cross the road, down the street and we were there.

Honor, Robert, Lucy and Anna were very welcoming. We had met Honor when she came to NZ during the summer, accompanying her mother. Honor made us a very welcome cup of tea and then we had to dash. 

We had arranged to have dinner with Amanda and David at their apartment and so we had to get into Waterloo where David would pick us up. Robert took us to Wimbledon overground station and we went passed the tennis complex – it is huge and they are building a new stadium.

David picked us up and whisked us to Canary Wharf and his very nice apartment. Amanda, Paula and Simon were already there and it was great to see them again. Amanda had cooked a beautiful meal and we enjoyed the familiar and friendly banter. London’s loss will be Wellington’s gain and I imagine Paula and Simon will miss them when they leave. We ended the evening with a game of cricket – nothing was broken!

Sunday

Up early, lovely breakfast, underground to Victoria Station, train to Chichester to met by Rosemary and Chris. Seemed a bit odd for them to be meeting us, going to their Chichester apartment and having coffee with them there. It was great to catch up. Into a cab to Pagham to the Kemps where we met the in-laws again, Tom, Katie, Duncan and of course little Eliza (3 weeks). I think I got 2 holds and Julia might have had 3. It was really good re-acquainting with the Kemps and their wider family after 2 years when we attended Tom and Katies wedding. All too soon we were back to Chichester and on the train back to London.

 

Monday

We had arranged to meet our friend Susanne at South Kensington tube at 9.30. Susanne is a nurse who is back working in London for her second time. She loves London and her job at the Royal Brompton. She took us around Chelsea, Hyde Park where we saw the new NZ War Memorial, through narrow, pretty, expensive mews. It was a lovely morning and Susanne went off home to get ready for work.

Julia and I then got on the tube to Covent Garden where we were to meet Julia’s niece Sharon who has been working there for about 10 years. She is gorgeous and we love her. We had lunch in a open air restaurant in Covent Garden and talked and talked. We then walked through the very touristy area, saw and heard the opera buskers who were good and then Sharon lead Julia astray and took her shopping. She is very easily lead. Julia now has a couple of new items of clothing!

We said our good-byes and we were on the tube back to Southfield. I really wanted to get to spend time with Robert and Honor as they were so kind but also because I would like to get to know them better. Honor cooked a lovely meal and her niece Anna also arrived for dinner. We had a lovely evening and I hope I have convinced them to come to NZ for a holiday soon.

Edinburgh

26 August 2008

Friday 22 Aug.

I drove Julia to the conference and then called the rental company and extended the hire and changed the drop off to Edinburgh Airport for the following day.  No worries. Went back to the Holly House typed up my diary, selected some photos taken the previous day and then got the underground in to Buchanan St and then to Starbucks.  Got a coffee and a pan au chocolat and used the free internet to update the online stuff.

Bock on the underground to Ibrox, picked Julia up and we set out for Edinburgh at about 12.30. We took a wrong turn off the motorway and took a while to get into Edinbrgh but we found a great park just off the Royal Mile so were really close to where we wanted to be. We went to David Bann vegetarian restaurant in St Mary’s Street for a very nice lunch (Thanks Nicola) . We then walked up the Royal mile to the castle. There were a huge number of people as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on and it is really humming. We were handed fliers for all sorts of comedy shows, concerts, etc. There was street theatre everywhere as the actors advertised their shows, trying to get noticed.

We got to the castle at about 4.30 and so had an hour and a half to look over it – not enough time to do it justice but we paid and went in. It is very impressive and very well done. The history of the castle is fascinating and I would like to read more about Scottish history.

At about 6 we left the castle and headed over to George St and found the Dome, a bar and restaurant with the most amazing domed ceiling. I think it was originally a bank (again thanks Nicola) . We bought a drink and got talking to an English couple who were waiting for relatives. It was very nice and before we left I got a photo of the dome and one of Julia under a rather impressive chandelier. We walked back to the car and managed to navigate our way out although we did drive down the full length of Princes Street which is only for buses and taxis. The combination of Julia driving me navigating is still the best option. Good street maps are essential but when you encounter road works and diversions it really stuffs the best laid plans!

We stopped near Argyle Street and wanted to check another restaurant – The Goat. The toilets were poor and the menu did not look that good so take that one off the list. We found a nice looking Greek restaurant close by and enjoyed the meal and house wine. We talked to the owner who was from Crete and South Africa and followed the tri-nations. We also had a good chat with one of the waitresses who was greek. The locals appear very friendly.