JUNE 2016 – WE GO OUR SEPERATE WAYS FOR JUNE (OZ & UK) AND MEET UP IN LONDON FOR A MONTH OF EUROPE.
We hope this instalment to our Blog finds you all well and enjoying October!
After 3 weeks in Australia for Pen, and a flight to the UK and family for Ian, we met up in London on 27th June to see a bit more of Ians’ homeland, much of Ireland and Amsterdam, for about 5 weeks.
The Wiggie was parked securely at Jocotepec, Jalisco Mexico, waiting for our return at the beginning of August.
Airbnb (an internet Bed & Breakfast booking service) was really good on this little side trip in London,
around the UK, Ireland and Amsterdam, we had some really great and interesting stays and one real dodgy B&B in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
We walked London for a week, used the “Tube” and rail system extensively. The Queen was at home in Buckingham Palace, so we were able to wave in her general direction, along with the thousands of other tourists outside the Palace. High Season!
Our stay in London was in the middle of the Turkish community in Harringay which was very colourful, eclectic and ethnic, lots of Turkish food and bakers shops, restaurants and barbers. Besides doing all of the tourist places around Central London we had a day at beautiful Kew Gardens, the kitchen garden section was a delight and the Palm/Cactus pavilions were stunning.
Leaving London we hired a car and headed North on the M1 Motorway for Leicestershire, Ians home county which he left 40 years ago for his new life in Australia. Visited many of Ians family and had some glorious walks through the Charnwood Forest area of this beautiful County. Memorable was a visit to Leicester Cathedral and the new Museum dedicated to King Richard III, whose body was discovered in the Car Park of the Cathedral 2 years previous. He was buried there following his death at the Battle Of Bosworth during the English Civil War.
A trip to England is never complete for us without a trip to the Cotswolds (on this occasion no rain!). The villages around this area of England are just “Picture Perfect”, taken somewhat for granted by the Brits, tourist buses line the streets leading to Village Tourist “Hot Spots”. Every where you travel in England you have to pay for Car Parking. Not cheap! We did a lot of “Park & Ride”. Park on the outskirts of a City and use Public Transport to town and City Central areas.
We toured the West Country before heading North to the Peak District with its own charming villages, including Matlock, Buxton, Bakewell and a visit to Chatsworth House Farm Shop. Chatsworth House is the ancestral home of the Duke of Devonshire.
Next we headed to Yorkshire and toured very “Olde Worlde” York City and its famous York Minster Cathedral. The North Yorkshire Moors and quaint Coastal Villages Staithes and Robin Hood Bay were stunning. The seaside towns of Scarborough and Whitby were in full Holiday mode with thousands of English families enjoying their annual holidays. Fish & Chip shops, ice cream Parlours were frantically busy. Beach Ride Donkeys (a very English Tradition) were patiently waiting for the next child to hop aboard for the 50 yards up and back along the beach. The dialects in this part of England were thick and broad, people sitting on beach chairs in coats and sweaters shielding themselves from the North Sea winds were very amusing to us!
We headed West through the Yorkshire Dales, (first time for either of us in this part of England) which is now one of our favourite places. The village of Wensleydale in the heart of the Dales has a cheese shop and we urge all to travel the Dales a spend an hour or two amongst the cheeses, just mind blowing.
Driving West and reluctantly leaving the Dales we joined the M6 Motorway and headed South, our destination being Liverpool where in 3 days time we would catch the ferry for Belfast. Liverpool was a big surprise to us, its City Centre being transformed into Pedestrian Malls full of Restaurants, hotels and Pubs. The Liver building dominates the water front and has 2 Phoenix atop its towers one looking out to sea and the other over the City. Locals reckon the Phoenix looking out to sea is waiting for its seafaring men to return while the other is looking to see whether the Pubs are open! A visit to the Cavern Club where the Beatles played during the 60’s was a must and also photo for Pen next to John Lennons’ statue. We didn’t visit The “Beatles Museum” as Ian reckons he’s probably got just as many Beatles Original albums as they would have!! The (awesome) Liverpool Museum sits along the banks of the River Mersey and tells of the rich Heritage of this fascinating Lancastrian City.
We dropped our hire car off at Lime Street Station (left behind Ians prescription sunglasses and our SPOT messenger gizmo), and headed for the Ferry that would take us past the Isle of Man, across the Irish Sea (calm as the proverbial Mill Pond, most unusual we were told) to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Were we would spend the next 3 weeks touring this fabulous verdant Island. Our AirBnB in Belfast was a funny experience, a lovely B&B and just as lovely Hostess, Yvonne. She and Ian sat on her house steps one night both smoking huge Cuban Cigars (which Ian had with him from our Cuba trip), drinking red wine, whiskey and he can’t remember what else! Both getting completely “Molly Monk”.
We travelled this beautiful Island anti clockwise, our next destination after Belfast was “Giants Causeway” an amazing volcanic formation of thousands of identical hexhagonally shaped interlocking standing pillars of Basalt rock.
Our next AirBnB was in Londonderry (Derry). This was our “Dodgy” one. An excuse to get a bit of money we concluded! Interesting location though, right in the centre of the notorious “Bogside”, which was central to the Northern Irelands “Troubles”. The Band U2’s iconic song “Bloody Sunday” was written after the tragedy that happened just around the corner from our AirBnB. But as in all of our journeys to date we felt safe. We were told by a Southern Irishmen we met later that neither he or any one else from his part of Ireland wouldn’t, for fear for their lives, dare venture into Derry, ever, “Troubles” over or not!!
Pouring rain when leaving Derry, (lots of Irish rain days, it’s why the Country is so beautifully green) we headed to the West Coast, to the little village of Killinor, 30 minutes inland from the lovely coastal City of Galway. Also home of Ians’ cousin Lesley where we had a fabulous few days with her and had a great tour guide during our stay, with the added bonus of meeting locals at the best village Pub, (read.. served the best Guinness) ;-). FYI, “What constitutes a good pint of Guinness?” Answer is that each sup will leave a froth ring down the glass and the optimum number of rings shall be 7.
On the road again, south to Doolin and a ferry to Innisoir, one of the Aran Island. A beautiful windswept rocky Island 8 miles off the Coast, we almost felt like we could touch Newfoundland. 12 months ago we stood on the further most Eastern Coast of North America knowing that across the Atlantic lay Ireland. And here we were thinking the reverse. Our little ferry boat took us under the majestic Cliffs of Mohar, sheer rock face rising some 300 mtrs. Wind and sea battered this coastline and some island are home to the largest breeding colonies of Puffin, Guilliemots and Kittiwakes in Europe. Leaving County Clare we continued South Towards Dingle and Kerry and drove the very touristy “Rings”, ancient Stone beehive buildings still cling to cliff tops, and pretty white cottages nestle on mountain sides.
Blarney Castle was a blast. Kissing the Blarney Stone (ensures eloquent speech) mandatory, leaning backwards and kissing the stone while being held by a “Minder” meant Specs off, hats off, pockets empty or gravity would help your belongings find the ground some 25 mtrs below the Stone! Blarney Castle cameras catch your kissing moment. Purchase your digital memory on the way out, no thanks. The gardens surrounding the Castle were beautiful and immaculate. The little village of Blarney is also home to Ireland largest Wool Mill. The original Mill now a huge retail outlet, Hotel and restaurant for the tourist hordes.
Now fully bestowed with the “gift of the gab”, Dubliners beware!
Ireland is very much part of the European Union and Dublin is evident of its Open Borders policy, many accents serve behind bars, cafes and restaurants. But as in much of Ireland Celtic Music is never far away, Pubs (which there are many) have live music streaming out of doorways as soon as the tourist “hit” the streets. Trinity College (Protestant only in this very Catholic country for a couple centuries) is home to the “fabled” and extremely ornate “Book of Kells”. We joined the inevitable queues! On exit from the Kells exhibition was entry to the stunning and imposing library lined with rows of 200,000 books and “guarded” by a sculptural row of philosopher busts.
Our AirBnB in Dublin, Clayton Hotel was an old Castle now transformed. On a wide street of Embassy Buildings we were flanked by the heavily walled and gated American and British Embassies.
Goodbye Dublin! We’ll leave you to the all year weekend crush of Hen Party’s and Bucks Nights, groups of which fly in to revel for a “final soirée” in the “Old Towns” pubs and clubs.
Onto Newgrange, a Stone Age monument in the Boyne Valley. County Meath. It’s the Jewel in the Crown of Irelands heritage. Constructed 5,200 years ago is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. 85 mtrs in diameter it houses a 20mtr passageway which leads to an inner chamber constructed exactly that the winter solstice sun would shine on a single rock, precisely at 9am on the day of the solstice. The rock was stolen years ago!! So now, today, if the rain stops, the clouds clear. The sun will shine into the finely engineered chamber onto a rockless spot! And, if you are lucky enough to have a ticket drawn at random, you will be one of very few to witness the event.
North to County Monaghan for a 2 night stop in pretty Monaghan village, meals in an excellent (albeit the only) local cafe/restaurant. We walked through quaint villages close to the Ulster Border. This area was a violent hotspot during the “Troubles”. Wall plaques remind where village pubs were bombed and many innocent lives lost.
Onto Belfast for our final night, our first AirBnB hostess Yvonne was fully booked. Perhaps a good thing in hindsight!
To be sure, to be sure “sur”. Oireland is full of friendly Oirish people a is wonderful country. Tis.
An Irish blessing…
May you alway walk in sunshine.
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.
We had another glorious and calm ferry crossing back to Liverpool. Picked up lost glasses from hire car company, ( SPOT Gizmo was never to be seen again). Train from Liverpool Lime Street station to Manchester Airport then onwards to Amsterdam.
Our UK, Ireland journey was fabulous. Waistline took a hammering! Pork Pies, fish and chips, butties, burgers and beer. Full English and Irish Breakfasts.