12 Jan
04
 

   I left Derry on Monday morning after seeing the old city walls and the murals on both the Catholic and Protestant sides. Driving west I went through a national park that looked remarkably like the Desert Road in New Zealand (photos to come). There was snow on the peaks but it wasn't coming very far down, so I carried on across to the coast and went south towards Glengesh.

Celtic Pillar
A Celtic Pillar
Coming through the pass was fun, leading up to it were some great bumpy roads and going at the speed I was I think I managed to take off at least twice. The radio was silent though. I had forgotten just how good Radio 1 is until I picked it up in Northern Ireland. No ads, no silly local news, and lots of good music.

Malin Beg
Malin Beg
   After the glen I found my way to Malin Beg, a nice big sandy beach, and the sun was out too :-), then on to the main highlight of the day.
Slieve League
A rainbow at Slieve League
Slieve League is the site for the highest marine cliffs in Europe, and while I was there it rained (not surprisingly) and gave off a brilliant rainbow that went back under itself, cool.

   I stayed the night in a car park on the edge of Lough Sheelin and spent the morning in great panic as I raced back to Dublin to catch my flight. Major road works and having to fill the tank up before returning the car stressed me out, but I reached the plane in plenty of time. The plane itself wasn't exactly a great sight that morning. It said Islandsflug on the side and the last three rows of seats were not to be used! That's what you get for a 1p flight.


best wishes from
   Craig
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Wintery Ireland

Craig
Ireland
January 11, 2004

   Well Jenny and I pretty well covered the southern part of Ireland in the last week. We took off to Galway

Galway
Colourful Galway
a little later than expected due to an argument with the evil car-rental company Sixt who expected me to pay another 276 Euro on arrival (after the 120 already laid out) despite my receipt that said there was nothing else to pay. But that's not for rental sir, that's a surcharge because of your age. It boggles my mind how they think that a surcharge for renting a car isn't part of the cost which were all paid. Madness. We ended up swapping to Budget which got us a much better deal and only added 34 Euro to their all inclusive quote. Galway was nice and quaint with a good example of small roads and brightly coloured shopfronts. I was glad for a rest after the only real driving I have done in 7 months (save for driving Lorraine's car in Brighton). That night we stayed in Doolin and visited the famous Gus O'Connor's Pub where we listened to some traditional local music (video 6.1Mb). On Tuesday we saw the very impressive Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs Of Moher
The Cliffs Of Moher
, The Burren and a
Passage Tomb
Poulnabrone Passage Tomb
passage grave. The cliffs were my favourite part of it, totally awe-inspiring, and as you'd expected I took two boat loads of photos which I will sort through later. That night was at Barron's Bunker Bar and hostel, somewhere near Ballyduff. Seeing as there was no-one else in the main hostel the owners gave us a room in their house and the full run of their kitchen :-)

   Wednesday was the Dingle Peninsula.
O'Connor's Pass
O'Connor's Pass
Between sheets of rain and really nice rainbows we crossed O'Connor's pass to descend on Dingle from the north. Then we did a loop around the area (involving a long drive down a muddy track where I'd never take a car owned by someone that I liked) and climbed a small hill to view the incredible coastline from higher up. It really was just as I expected the west coast of Ireland to be and I loved it.
Western Point
The most westerly point
After watching the foamy sea on the most westerly point we could find (and missing sunset because of the clouds, we returned to base.

   The next day we drove the Ring of Kerry and dropped by Valencia Island to see the Skellig Rocks. It was rainy at times but mostly it showed southern Ireland in a wonderful light. After driving through Kilarney National Park (with more great views) we raced over to Blarney to kiss a rock.
The Blarney Stone
Me kissing the Blarney Stone
Both Jenny and I did it. There was only one other group up there and only the dad didn't lean backwards over the wall. He said he had done it before on a school trip and he had a bad back now. hmmm. We very nearly stayed in a bad hostel that night, but we decided to face the owner and tell him we wanted to leave (though we had cooked dinner there already). He didn't even get out of his chair and waved us cheerily on our way. We finally found the excellent Midleton Hostel, which was totally brilliant in every way, including having no other guests at all. Travelling in winter is good. The weather does suck a bit, but everything still works and the countryside is still very green.

Kells Priory
Kells Priory
   Seeing as we were getting close to Dublin with a day to spare a lot of Friday was taken up doing the scenic route to Kilkenny. I don't know what a priory is for, but Kells Priory seems big and must have been pretty important in it's day. The ruins are lots of fun to climb around and over, and it has have a big enclosed field for the inmates (monks?) to play rugby. Also impressive but basically ignored is the huge old mill on the river next to the priory. A substantial building in any country, but quite massive for the Irish countryside.

Celtillar
Glendalough
   On Saturday we went to Glendalough. It's highly recommened by The Lonely Planet, and both of us. To start with there is a really old church and round tower, the only surviving double-arched entry to a monastry and some grave stones. All the stones I can remember had IHS on them (perhaps the Irish equivalent of RIP?) but one particularly stuck in my mind. Walter Byrne (Lorraine, is this another spelling of Burn?) born in 1644 and died 1750! What a legend. With none of the preparations that the signs wanted us to take we set off on a 9km hike over the mountain. It started with a quick ascent next to a water fall before going onto a wooden path winding up in between the pine trees, which gave me plenty of time to wax lyrical about Rotorua's Luge and the time Mark, Peter and I got wedged in at the top :-). Some people along the path we really over prepared for it, we looked totally casual as we strolled over the bleak hillside in the same outfit you'd wear to a shopping mall (plus gloves and my new hat). Before long it was time for Jenny to be dropped off at Dublin airport. Ryanair is cheap but they have the nasty habit of letting you bring lots of luggage into the country, and then charging you lots of money to take it home. Alone, I drove north and crossed into Northern Ireland without noticing it. I stayed the night a picnic spot in the Mourne Mountains. The car is a Fiat Punto by the way so there is nowhere near enough room for doing that on a regular basis. During the night another car turned up and parked on the other side, and a cat ran across the bonnet. I guess these things added to the bad dreams I had about being set upon by local youths intent on stealing the car. Anyway....

   I woke early (lots of times) and saw sunrise over the Irish sea. I drove straight through Belfast and cruised the coast all the way to The Giants Causeway. Before getting there though, I passed through the Glens Of Antrim and a snow storm! Yay!
Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
The causeway was much smaller than I thought, even after Bronwyn had said it would be. I stayed a while and took lots of pictures (to be uploaded as soon as I can get online in England I hope). I am now in Londonderry (aka Derry) and tomorrow I'll be checking out what makes Donegal one of Lorraine's favourite Irish spots.



best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (5 replies so far)



Dublin Days

Craig
Ireland
January 04, 2004

   I've been in Dublin for a few days now and apart from the distillery tours I think I have seen all there is to see. On Friday Jen and I arrived at the airport knowing that we needed the correct change for the bus (thanks to Bronwyn) but the change machine wasn't really right outside the front entrance as the strange tourist info clerk thought it was (strange because he seemed quite happy to beckon forth the people from the back of the queue rather than the front). At the change machine a not so useful bus official told us that we didn't need the correct change, so when we got on board the bus driver thought we were crazy and insisted that no driver ever gives change 'just like in England', which is completely wrong because all bus drivers in England do give change. So we got off, got some smaller coins and got on the next Number 41, whereupon the new driver happily accepted notes from the next couple to get on board and gave them change. Argh!

   Apart from that it's been a lovely time here. It has rained a bit but mostly it is just cold. The hostel is pretty much deserted and the castle, the cathedrals and Trinity College have not been swamped by tourists. The busiest place has been Henry Street, the main shopping area, which we need to traverse every time we go food shopping.

   On Friday night we had a drink in The Temple Bar (the pub), named after The Temple Bar (the district) which is Dublins cultural heart. It certainly was a nice pub and had a semi outdoors area too. On Saturday we tried out The Left Bank pub and then Fitzgerald's, the latter of which promised live music. We didn't know until he started that it wasn't traditional Irish stuff but Robbie Williams and U2.

   Today we did a lot of walking, along the Grafton Street shops and through St Steven's Park. We had a lot of time to waste before the museums opened in the afternoon. I wasn't expecting much from them since they were free but was pleasantly surprised. The National Museum had a great display of really old gold trinkets and stuff, some dating back to 1500 BC with amazingly detailed craftsmanship. The National Gallery contained a Caravaggio as featured in Ordinary Decent Criminal, that I had expected to see in Museo del Prado. Tomorrow we pick up the car and head to Galway.



best wishes from
   Craig
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Northern Ireland

Bronwyn
Ireland
December 01, 2003

I did a second tour last week that went into Northern Ireland. It was really interesting seeing some of Irelands most beautiful landscapes as well as it's most fragile political environment. Somehow I managed to choose the time when they were having elections to travel around. The day we left Derry they had bombs at the polling booths and we realised how fragile it is up there. We initally travelled to Donegal which is the North West bit of the island but is still in the Republic (euro's). Donegal was really beautiful and we went to the pub that night. The locals don't turn up until about 11pm as they are farmers and have things to do. We even met a priest at the pub, the next day the whole bus was arguing as to whether he really was a priest but I guess we will never know. The next day we travelled to Derry. Mick the tour guide thought it would be nice to go to the beach, we agreed right up until the point it started hailing and we all got covered in ice. Derry (or Londonderry) was the first real chance we had to appreciate the differences between North and South. There are loads of differences but not as extreme as when we arrived in Belfast. We had spent the day in stunning scenery at the giants causeway, however when you see the huge walls put in place to seperate Unionists and Loyalists it all begins to hit home. This is a country that wars with it's neighbours and there is camera surveilance on every corner. The cab driver (we did a black cab tour) said not to worry about the ones you can see, its the ones you can't you have to worry about. We even went to a pub where they monitor everyone who goes in, it was 1 corner down from the hostel.

Aside from the flu all is well and tomorrow I go back to London. I have been in Kells in the Republic where the Book of Kells was completed and stayed at a hostel with a really nice old couple running it. I was trying to get over the flu but I still have it :( Next plans are to go to Wales!



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
Wish you were here?     (1 replies so far)



  23 Nov
03
 

Killarney is an interesting place. A girl on the tour had to get a bouncer to remove a 'friend' of mine who despite some efforts on the boys from the tour's part, would not leave me alone. I think I have invited a busload of people to stay with me when I get back to NZ, I have no idea whether they will but I met heaps of cool people. After we were in Killarney we headed to Kilkenny. I got my photos and I am really happy with them but now I have to label them. Tomorrow I am going on another tour which takes me north. There are about 10 people from the last tour coming including the loudest Australian I have ever met. The weirdest thing on the next tour will be a different tour guide. John (the tour guide we had) was a real laugh and he was happy to make fun of himself as well as us. He studied Drama and German at University, spoke 5 languages, and came out with us each night, I think he will be tough to beat.


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  20 Nov
03
 

The tour rocks and I am having a great time. Aboard the Shamrocker are roughly 35 people. 1 is irish (the tour guide), 2 are kiwis (me and Brad from Hamilton), 2 from USA, 2 from Canada (or canadia if you are irish) and the rest are australian (including the bus driver). Where have I been (Bex and Lorraine I will tell you more details later), I have been to Galway, Westport, Tara Hill, Knock, Doolin, and a whole lot of places I can't spell without my book here. I have met a whole bus load of Australians and everyone is really nice. Lots of pubs and tonight we are in Killarney where the ratio is 3 guys to every girl! Lots more to write but no time all I can say is definately visit Ireland!!!


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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So much to do so much to say

Bronwyn
Ireland
November 16, 2003

On Thursday I arrived in Dublin. It was raining and I spent over an hour on a bus in rush hour before I got to the hostel. The hostel is huge and I met two english girls who arrived that day (at midday) and started drinking (peaked at 2pm), they were in bed by 7pm. Everyone seems to drink a lot in Dublin. In my room the first night there were two american guys who live in Glasgow (named M.... and N...., I can't remember their actual names), the drunk english girls, an Australian and I. The american boys stayed and I got to know them quite well (except the whole name thing). The australian guy is called Russell. He is a bus driver for Busabout (like Kiwi Experience) in europe and he has been driving for 8 months. He is doing the tour I am. When the english girls left David moved in who is from Minnesota, USA. David has an MBA in marketing and works as a buyer for Target Corp (apparently an upmarket Walmart type chain). The reason David came to Dublin was to pout, he was meant to be getting married but it didn't work out. Russell, David and I went out last night to celebrate not being married. We had too much to drink. I started talking to a 70 year old irish lady we made some new friends and then went back to the dorm. I have seen a number of Irish pubs and Molly Malones and O'Neills (the blue pub) do resemble them.

I have seen some sights too. I have crossed the Liffey a number of times, saw O'Connell monument (the biggest spike in the world, I swear), Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia (an exhibition on medieval Dublin), Dublin Castle, City Hall, St Patricks Cathedral (largest church in Ireland), the national museum of history and anthropology (cool viking and egyptian stuff), the general post office (it's a bigger deal than you think), Molly Malone, the two hags, St Stephens Green and walked around Trinity College. Dublin is cool and I still have heaps to see like the guiness brewery. I woke up this morning to church bells, it would have been better if they didn't ring for an hour but it was nice. I start my tour tomorrow and I head to Westport. I have 6 days down south and then 4 up north. I can't wait, Russell just did the 4 day one and he said it rocked even though everyone on the bus got a stomach bug.



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
Wish you were here?     (4 replies so far)




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