Travelling – day 271 (J)

I spent the morning uploading photos on to the blog and publishing up to where we both had something written for that day. I am uber impressed that I have managed to stay ahead of Katherine. Pat on the back for myself.

We went for breakfast down at Heidi’s, again, and I had the posh breakfast roll. Still a manageable size and not too messy, even my parents began commenting on the number of food photos I take for the blog. Sure, do they want photos of us all looking upset for the day?IMG_8363Up the N22 to the airport and we spent ages driving around the car park looking for a space. I personally think it’s deliberate so as to rack up time in the short stay parking and get more money out of ya. Cheating gits the lot of ’em! My point was further emphasised when we got a juice and sat down for a bit and the geezer at the till put through the most expensive juice three times. Grumpy security staff didn’t make the parting any easier and I barely kept it together.

I have never paid for allocated seating on a RyanAir flight and I doubt I ever will. Thus, it was kinda cool to have seat 1A allocated to me. The leg room is incredible and there’s nobody in front bouncing a chair back and forth every 2seconds. However, there was a slight engineering problem that required a technician to come from the hotel and fix something in the cockpit and being in the front row looking out the plane, one could see all the staff in fluorescent yellow bibs running around and talking over the walkie-talkies. Not what ya wanted to see on any flight, especially when you’re about to blubber your eyes out.IMG_8367Departing 30mins after the scheduled departure time (what is it with me and delayed flights lately), I tried to occupy my mind with word games on the phone. No good, a few secretive cries looking out the window; watching the coastline fade away as we passed out further over wave-crested blue seas, gradually ascending over a blanket of clouds and I felt a bit better afterwards.IMG_8369First off the plane – WOOHOO!! – I was zooming through the arrivals hall, bypassing passport control altogether and strolling through the terminal till I found the escalators down to the train. And away it went, darting in to Liverpool Street and the train even had wifi. SCORE!! Being ever so efficient (and clever) I walked up the street to Moorgate station to get the Northern Line, rather than getting the Central at the station which would have been manic.

A typical sardine can tube line experience in the infamous Northern, I got out at Balham and waited for a train that would pass through Wallington. On the train I remember thinking, if I had to describe it, “it would have been quicker to crawl uphill over broken glass with my hands and feet bound.” It was painfully slow, aggravating the need to pee and I was charged the extortionate price for getting on a train so soon after zone 1, thus qualifying for a transfer under TFL rules. Grrr!!!

Clare was there for a massive hug and catch up, cooked an amazing home-made sausage roll with a fresh salad (no more yellow food in the house) and Martin came back from his bike ride for us all to sit down, chill out and watch Marco Polo on Netflix before bed.

Monday 4th July 2016

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Travelling & Kerry – day 270 (J)

All good things must come to an end. But, before we hit the road we went for a walk, where I ended up having a stand-off with a protective ewe and frightening a herd of cows. The sun was out and the hills were bright green, streams shimmering silver down the slopes from all the mist and rain yesterday. The sky was a clear blue with a splattering of white clouds and the sea had calmed down to a gentle roll, with a few yachts visible on the horizon enjoying the good weather.  We headed over to Tralee, not via the Conor Pass, but through Annascaul and past the South Pole Inn and former home of legendary Antarctic explorer Tom Creen. The rolling countryside was alive and cars (probably all tourists) were pulling over to take photos and bike riders were stopping to turn on GoPro cameras. The months of travelling (so far) have been amazing, but nothing really compares to County Kerry. Breaking up the journey with a coffee at Gloria Jean’s we motored on back towards Cobh. We got caught in a bit of traffic coming through Killarney as it was the Munster Football final – Kerry vs. Tipperary. You wouldn’t have know who won the game looking at the faces of the crowd returning to cars – FYI, it was Kerry. I’m not a fan of the Gaelic football myself, but of hurling, the fastest ball game in the world, second fastest sport after ice hockey. Listening to the radio commentary on a hurling game is exhausting, with the names of players changing so quickly and the verbs all referring to speed. We got home and everyone was exhausted. We put on a pizza and baked potatoes for dinner and sat down to watch ‘UP’. I love this film and have watched it half a dozen times. But, I still shed a tear (or a few) in three sections: the start where Ellie passes away, the scene with the Adventure Book & “go have another adventure”, and when Carl presents ‘The Ellie Badge’. Of course emotions were already simmering at boiling point, being the night before I say goodbye to my parents and start jetting off again. An emotional wreck before bed!

Sunday 3rd July 2016

Dingle Area – day 269 (J)

They say that a day not spent in Kerry is a day wasted. I’d kind of agree with them. Of the 5 peninsulas of the South West coast of Ireland I think it’s by far the nicest and it has always held a special place in my heart. Lacking the forest areas of the Iveragh peninsula, An Corca Dhuibhna makes up for it with hills, beaches, good pubs, lively music, excellent restaurants, incredible views, and a host of other reasons to satisfy the most adventurous or worldly travelled individuals. 

So when we surfaced we said we’d tackle a life long challenge- to summit Cnoc Bréanainn (Mount Brandon). The mountain is perpetually covered in clouds and mist and one has to grin and bear it and hope for a bit of luck to reach the top. My dad has turned back twice, quite sensibly, but today we had a good feeling about it and lo and behold, we made it. Following the white marker posts up the hill, passing the 14 stations of the cross we made it up despite the blistering cold, howling wind and frequent moment of ‘oh shit, where’s the next marker gone!’ We only had a downpour of rain about 15mins away from the car park at the end of the hike and with only one slip soon into the descent it was a relatively easy climb and quite enjoyable. We were even rewarded with some stunning views over to An Fear Marbh (The Dead Man) and An Thrí Deirfúir (The Three Sisters – although funnily enough, the three headlands are named Binn Hanraí, An Bhinn Mheánach and Binn Diarmada – translating as Henry, Middle and Dermot, all masculine).   A quick change of shoes and socks out of the wet stuff, we headed in to Dingle before shops and cafes closed. Mam and Dad went wandering around visiting gift shops while I headed straight to Strawberry Beds opposite the church on Green Street. Nuala Moore runs and owns the shop and I haven’t seen her for almost 8years when she came to Cork to bring her dog to the veterinary hospital for a cataract operation. The golden lab, Hayley, lived another 4years as a working dog bringing comfort and companionship to the sick and residents of the hospital. 

Nuala and I met at my PADI IDC, down in Waterworld, Castlegregory. She aided Sandra Fitzgibbon in my Instructor Development Course and it goes without saying that I passed my Instructor Examination. Anyway, met up with Nuala and she showed me all her medals and trophies from this year alone, competing in Ice Swimming championships all over the world. She was also showing me photos of a Skype phone call she had that morning to officers in the Russian navy, discussing hypothermia. My parents turned up and we all watched a few videos she made as part of the relay swim of the Bering Strait swim a few years ago between Russia and Alaska. Plus, it was 10years ago to the day that she was part of the relay team that swam around Ireland. An inspirational woman, it was great to see her if only briefly.  I remember when I used to come down to Dingle and help with the Food Festival – as part of my MSc – which is apparently now a massive event. Over the years it has grown and the shops, cafes and restaurants selling food and quality products has rocketed. Can’t complain, the coffee and gluten free cake around the corner were amazing. The service in the supermarket however has diminished and I had to complain to the girl at the till at them trying to cheat me out of twice the price of the product and not refunding my money. But, we got it sorted, ordered a Chinese and headed back to enjoy it with a Ginger beer and a weird Lemon beer I got at Lidl. With such a stretch to the evenings at this time of year we took Griz out again and went to An Trá and did a bit of rock pool exploring. Drove around for a bit, taking loads of photos, before finally heading homeward. Enjoying a nice warm shower, I crashed on to the bed, enjoyed the changing hues of the clouds at 23:00, wrote some blog and finally passed out. Saturday 2nd July 2016

Travelling & Kerry – day 268 (J)

It has been a day of radio and photos. 

Completely shattered from so little sleep, it was hilarious to see Katherine & Tracey getting drunk on Pina Coladas and waiting for Domino’s pizza dinner just as I was about to leave for the journey west. No tinterweb for a few days, perhaps she was drinking herself into a coma until Sunday when I returned from the land that time forgot. 

After getting diesel for the car, we switched over to RTE Radio 1, where an interview started with a girl who had been off travelling and is currently working on some 5* train/hotel holiday packages until jetting off to Nepal at the end of the season and continuing her adventures. Mam was saying how I should ring in to the station and tell them of our journey to date and I was doing quite well ignoring her. Next caller put us to shame: herself and the hubby had been travelling for 10years and only settled down in Ireland for a family and were about to set off again with them now they were old enough. I don’t know if this lady had a blog or not, but the first girl did, something called ‘Flight of the Flibberty Gibberty’ and her name is Ciara Flynn. Need to look her up for the craic!

The next few segments on the radio were different aspects of Brexit and politicians arguing back and forth over topics. Boris Johnson’s dad Stanley was interviewed from Greece and was interesting to listen to, if taken with a pinch of salt. There was a joke made either before or after this segment how Boris had led 17million people up a hill and then left them with a compass and told them to find their own way home. We stopped in An Cruiscín Lán (the full jug – Gaeilge/Irish) for breakfast and a break to the journey. The river behind the cafe was flowing pretty fast, if not as deeply as it sometimes does and the heavens opened as we went in for grub. Ladies and gentlemen… I give you… ‘The Breakfast Roll’! Ranging in size from a small bread roll to a demi baguette (full baguette if you’re sharing and cooking at home), it is filled with a range of fried goods and can include: sausage, rasher, black and/or white pudding, egg (fried, omelette or scrambled), hash brown, beans, mushrooms and sauces if one chooses – ketchup and/or HP brown sauce. Generally it is a mess to eat, with the tin foil wrapper or cling film holding the contents in place and one of the many oils, fats or sauces dribbling down hands or face. What’s more is, you normally have this heart attack food item in the car as they serve the best ones from a garage when on a road trip. On this occasion a more demure and manageable size was served and I loved it. Washed down with a nice coffee. Why has this not caught on to more corners of the globe? They have Irish pubs everywhere, why not Breakfast Rolls??? Back to the journey at hand, we were leaving the Gaeltacht area into The Kingdom (County Kerry) and the topic had changed ever so slightly to issues between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and how the Brexit could in effect trigger old agreements between the parties about dissolving borders and such. It was all a little too confusing and worrying for myself, with some of the largest implications explained by my Dad, much more knowledgeable about pretty much everything. Frightening times lie ahead and it’s scary in one sense about to go back travelling with things looking so uncertain in the UK. We’ll have to wait and see. Plus, Grizzly was getting bored of all this interview talk and wanted us to change station.  So arriving in Kerry myself and my Dad went for a spin with the dog. Heading towards Ballyferriter and Sybil Point the posters and memorabilia were increasing and quite amusing. See, we were getting closer to where Star Wars VIII had some scenes filmed and the whole area was cashing in on the fact. The most surprising was seeing a billboard in the church yard.  The set they had built was all removed and the clean-up crew were hard at work restoring the landscape to its original state. This involved removing paint from rocks on the cliff face. Apparently!? The gallery we visited afterwards had signs saying ‘In A Gallery, Not Far Away’ using the recognisable font and scrolling text across the stars to catch tourists attention. It worked and we visited the small establishment and admired the artists paintings and decorative work. It was only round the corner from a beach and Grizzly finally got what he came for… a run on the trá (beach).  Back to the main village of the area we stopped to get an ice cream. There was a compulsory photo taken next to the shop as there was a sign showing the Death Star imagery in the shape of a coffee cup and the slogan ‘Dúisigh an Fórsa’, which I think is a literal translation of ‘Awaken the Force!’ This could be a play on the idea of coffee waking you up as well as referencing SW-VII. All very clever and enjoyable.  Back to collect Mam from her snooze, she was hard at work finishing off more of the Leaving Cert Honours Maths paper. She had most of it done in the car coming down and I think it was what tired her out in the first place causing her to need a break. Hmmmm!!! Back in to Dingle we picked up some burgers and fish and chips and enjoyed them in the car – they apparently go cold really quickly, but I think it’s an excuse to just eat them straight away as they tasted amazing.  Chilling out for the evening, what do you think I did? I introduced my parents to Candy Crush Soda Saga. It was slow going at the start trying to show the different moves and the two of them explaining to each other why they would make a move and which one to go with next. Mam got seriously in to it and got as far as level 16 before calling it a night. I’m not sure if I should download it on her phone for her or pretend it can’t be done. It could be disastrous. Friday 1st July 2016

Cobh – day 267 (J)

Everyone who lives/grew up in Cobh at some point has had to visit the Heritage Centre, probably as a school trip. It chronicles the life and fate of the Irish people through the famine and emigration. I can’t tell you if it’s changed much over the years, but apparently it’s a bit more animatronic. And of course it’s inundated with stragglers who come off the cruise liners and don’t want to get on a coach to visit other sites in Ireland. But, no trip home to Ireland is complete without a scone and a cup o’ tea at the Heritage Centre. Mam used to spend most of the summer down here selling jewellery to tourists, mostly off the liners. They seemed to have dwindled in numbers and the ones that do turn up don’t buy anything except the cheap stuff in the gift shop. Ah well, their loss. Blissfully quiet on this occasion, the scones were still hot but the latte came straight up from hell and took ages to cool down. Again, loads of catching up on complete nonsense that we’ve missed over the past few months.  After enjoying the Disney film yesterday we said we’d throw on another one – this time ‘Robin Hood’. Not as old, being released around ’73, the colour was still captivating, the voices were striking and memorable (legendary Peter Ustinov as Prince George) and the songs and ditties had a catchy quality like all of the classics. I worked away on the blogs and beauty clinic websites for a few hours and before I knew it the day was chewed up. Mam went out and continued being creative! Thus, it was brilliant news that Ritchie was still able to come collect me from Cobh and bring me down to Cloyne for dinner and a catch up. He’s now working as an EMT and has proper hours and rotas and can plan holidays and weekends away. Now, he’ll admit it himself, he used to be the type of guy that would be late for his own funeral and he was always rushing around to get from own job to the next as a self-employed carpenter. Things are finally looking up for him and I couldn’t be happier – he deserves it. And of course the last time I was down in Cloyne I was babysitting their 2yr old so they could have a night out. He’s now 8, incredibly sporty and doing well in school and he hadn’t a clue who I was. (Insert sad face and play small violin music). So, sitting down for some rice and curry we picked up as if we just left off and chatted for hours. Karen managed to get back from Port Laois on a business trip by 22:20 and suddenly the wine was pouring, the gossiping was in full flow and the hours melted away in to the morning – just like old times. With both of them working on Friday I was incredibly lucky to be able to meet up with them and was luckier that Ritchie didn’t just let me walk home, being the perfect gent and driving me. Exhausted, I still Skype’d Katherine to tell her how amazing the evening was. Thursday 30th June 2016

Cobh – day 266 (J)

I have heard stories of the infamous white chocolate and raspberry tart out at Fota House – nestled in the hundreds of acres of Fota Island, behind the Wildlife Park and next to the golf course. Not needing the excuse or lure of cake and coffee, rather the chance of seeing red squirrels, we (Mam & I) headed out with the Griz-meister. We parked up and wandered down the back road towards the train station. The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind what it was doing and this was reflected in the mood of the two tigers, laying in the grass at the back of their paddocks, occasionally looking up, swishing their tails and then going back to sleep. They weren’t half as big as the one we saw in the Sunderbans but still pretty cool. Fota House is beautiful. A Victorian era mansion (which I’ve never gone into myself), the gardens have fantastic memories. Ponds, manicured lawns, rose gardens (not a fan of roses themselves, but the colours and scents are nice), flowers and fern gardens, massive trees and a green house. We used to run around the gardens as kids, pass out with exhaustion, have a picnic and watch the squirrels go zooming about the place. No such luck today seeing the fluffy rodents and we didn’t go past the big pond, but the rest of the place was incredible and the gardeners were hard at work in the brief bit of sunshine to get as much done as possible. At home we watched a Disney Classic and favourite of ours… The Sword In The Stone. We couldn’t quite believe that it was released in 1963. The colours were brilliant and the plot was simple and enjoyable. 53 years old and we enjoyed it far more, and it captivated us far more, than some of the new releases in high definition and crystal clear sound. 

Mam went off to do some bead work; still busy doing jewellery and clay pieces. Apparently, the beadwork shop is still online, (wildexpressionbeads.etsy.com), while the other is temporarily offline, being too busy teaching grinds and what not to do enough pieces to meet demand. While she was off being creative, I set to preparing a roast dinner so we could all chill out for the evening.  Wednesday 29th June 2016

Cobh – day 265 (J)

Months of travelling, nights with little sleep and roughing it on buses and trains and I am still struggling to relax, kick back and just snooze. So, I was up at the crack of dawn and waited downstairs for hours for others to surface. But, when I was graced with their presence we headed off for breakfast down at Heidi’s. A nice little cafe in what I remembered as being a shop down the road from my primary school. And what does one order for breakfast… a mini fry! Trying desperately to top up the grease and fat levels in my veins in such a short frame of time, breakfast was perfect and we chatted nonsense for ages.  Killed a few hours watching Wimbledon (I have yet to see our flat when they do the aerial shot of the area) and copying tv series to take with us travelling. Myself and Mam took the Grizzly monster for a walk to the black railings (a viewpoint with imaginative nomenclature due to it’s black railings). The steel works factory on Haulbowline has been gone for almost a decade, maybe more, but I hadn’t seen how much of the scrapyard at the end of the island they had reclaimed for the naval base.  We had a beautiful Chinese for dinner, while watching Dad’s Army DVD (Father’s Day present). Followed by homemade flan with custard and peaches. Bliss! Tuesday 28th June 2016

Travelling & Ireland – day 264 (J)

Tip-toeing around the flat I managed to leave without banging anything or tripping on stuff in the dark. I was like a ninja and stealth mode was working for such an early start. It thankfully didn’t start drizzling until I got to the bus stop, with the agonising countdown of 16mins in the cold waiting for the 157. The Northern Line, constantly busy no matter if it’s the first or last service of the day, had seats and got me to Moorgate on time. There was no info on the boards at Liverpool station for Stansted airport, so I asked and got directed to an empty train with plenty of time to stop fretting and relax.  The staff at the airport were in great form, shouting loudly to the massive queues and keeping spirits up in the slow march to the security gates. For the first time in a long time, the sensor beeped as I passed through, although I have no idea what could have set it off. So my hands and waist were swabbed and my shoes sent through an additional x-ray scanner. The wifi at the airport however didn’t work, so I couldn’t avail of my free Harris+Hoole coffee and joined the masses in front of the jumbo screens waiting for a gate number to appear. The mad dash to check-in was indicative of a RyanAir flight where nobody wants their bag to be taken away and put in the hold. Such a stupid system – they should all just properly enforce the one bag rule and they’d all fit in the overhead lockers.  The uneventful flight was quickly over, I passed some stunning aerial photographs of Cork’s coastline on my way to passport control and I was able to show my new passport. The Garda on duty just kind of waved me through and I was greeted by my Mam in Cork Airport. My Dad was outside in the drop off lane, keeping the engine running like a get away driver. And we went as far as the electrical store down the road to have brunch in their restaurant. Clearly the mischief gene runs in the family as they were totally up for messing with some of the items we passed in store.  Homeward bound we chilled out for a few hours, did the usual small gift thing and watched some Wimbledon tennis on tv. The early start was catching up with me when we plonked ourselves done for dinner. Yet another, ‘I Miss’ moment when we had Irish Stew and soda bread for dinner. A nice few hours chilling out and chatting.  Monday 27th June 2016