October 19, 2009 at 4:55 pm (Travel)

We were greeted in Ireland to rain.  Typical!   After picking up our hire car we drove down to Kilkenny for the night.  Kate A was our designated driver, since I can’t drive a manual and she managed extremely well on the first day.  Roundabouts were problematic… traffic lights on roundabouts are simply wrong and I particularly enjoyed our trip around the cathedral on the narrowest road either of us have ever experienced.

Luckily, the next day the sun decided to show its face and we made full use of it exploring the medieval town.  Kilkenny Castle was lovely, especially the long room with a beautiful carved roof modelled on the underside of a Viking ship.  St Canice’s cathedral and the Black Abby were also beautiful buildings, both with amazing stain glass windows.  We also visited Kells Priory.  These monastery ruins are simply out in a paddock and you can wander through them, exploring here and there, guessing what was what.  We loved it because we were basically the only people there and there was absolutely no information about the structure.

Next stop was the Rock of Cashel, Swiss Cottage and down to Cork.  We enjoyed the traditional Irish countryside but Cork was a driver’s nightmare.  OMG one way streets galore in peak traffic with a dodgy map.  No idea how Kate kept her cool, I was stressing out and I was simply in the passenger seat.  By the time we found a hostel we had both decided we disliked the city and elected keep moving the following day.

At Blarney castle we braved the rain and kissed the Blarney Stone.  The castle is not really that exciting to be honest, but it’s a tourist must.  🙂  A big drive found us in Tralee, a trip around the Dingle Peninsular planned for the next day.  We particularly liked the big porcelain Mary who looked over our hostel room.  Only in Ireland…

The Dingle Peninsula was absolutely spectacular and this was one of my favourite days of the whole trip.  We started by driving over Connor Pass, which was simply breathtaking.  36. Connor PassDingle town was cute, but quite touristy.  The sun decided to shine and we had the most amazing views as we drove the loop.  Think beautiful green pastures meeting the blue ocean with sheep dotted throughout.  Simply stunning!42. Kate on the Peninsular

After another night of Mary watching over us we headed up to the Cliffs of Moher.  Following the coast we drove through the edge of the Burren.  This landscape is something else, rocky and somehow quite eerie.  It literally looked like I would imagine the moon too.  Rocky platforms stretching as far as the eye can see with amazing cliff lines.  We weren’t expecting the change at all.  The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most famous natural features.  The cliffs are a sheer drop into the sea and tourists are often blown off them.  Unfortunately for my brothers this didn’t occur.

We witnessed a beautiful sunset, stayed the night in Doolin (very small fishing village 8km north of the cliffs) and set off the next day without much of a plan.  Our random drive found us in the Connemara region, which was once again awe-inspiring and a landscape that neither of us were expecting.  The placid, mirror-like lakes and mist that settled in around the lonely valleys and mountains were simply spectacular, a photographers dream… of course my camera decided to run out of battery at this point!  I think the landscape was extra special because neither of us were expecting it.  We had simply driven out there with no idea of plan.

Our day finished with a visit to Kylemore Abbey.  This has to be one of the loveliest situated Abbey’s in the whole world.  Set on the foreshore of a lake with a mountain beside it, literally in the middle of nowhere the Abbey is still in use by nuns.

The next day we drove right across the country to Slane, as we couldn’t find much to do or see and every tourist information place was conveniently closed.  Very glad we did though because the next day we day tripped around the Boyne Valley.

Firstly we visited Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange).  This extensive Neolithic necropolis is a thousand years older than Stonehenge and predates the pyramids by six centuries!!!  NewgrangeIt looked like a space ship, but quite amazing when you consider that not a drop of water has fallen inside Newgrange since its completion.  Some of the stone used in the structure were carted from seventy kilometres away, others from sixty kilometres in the other direction!  Apparently they tried to rebuild the structure in Scotland using modern technologies and the best engineers and had to give up.  Crazy!  The craziest part though, is that the structure was built so that during the winter solstice the sun shines into the passage and illuminates the chamber for a grand total of seventeen minutes.  How they managed to build to the precise specifications in order for this to occur is beyond me, let alone building the structure using only stone and dirt!

Next was a trip to Black Rock.  Kate A lives in Black Rock, Melbourne so it seemed appropriate to visit her suburbs namesake.  She now has a collection of Black Rock photos.  Kates in Black RockLastly we visited two of the best preserved crosses in Ireland.  Celtic crosses are famous for the circle around the cross, and we sure did see a lot of them during our travels.  The two at M were quite spectacular, being five and seven metres tall respectively.  They were both richly carved with stories from the bible and it is believed that they were used to teach the bible stories.

We said goodbye to our car and travelled into Dublin.  It was sad to say goodbye to the car after the wonderful memories it had given us and the amount of Jaffa cakes and fudge we consumed in it. Kate the trusty driver with our car Particular favourite memories include:

  • My inability to navigate us anywhere without making some random mistake.  Seriously, it is not my fault that the road signs would point somewhere and then decide to point to the closer town.  (Or when they pointed to towns not even on my map)  Nor, when all the towns on the signs were in Gaelic and I only had English names on my map
  • Kate A’s attempt to buy a nice Irish CD… not very successful but absolutely hilarious.
  • My incorrect pronunciation of nearly everywhere we went, in particular the ‘Blanket Islands’.  (Actually ‘Blasket Islands’)

Dublin is not a particularly pretty city.  We visited Trinity College and the Book of Kells.  Everyone we spoke to were amazed that it was so quiet when we went.  Apparently it’s normally full of Italian tourists and you have to push and shove to see it at all.  The Long Room felt like a slice out of Harry Potter… books lining the walls with those ladders and all extremely old.  In fact, Trinity College is entitled to a free copy of every book published in the United Kingdom!  This accumulates to approximately one kilometre of book space each year.  (There are wings of the library all over Dublin)  We found the Chester Beatty Library even more spectacular.  Chester Beatty was a collector of old manuscripts and the collection has over 20, 000 of them, not to mention all the other random things he had.  We were just blown away with the quality and quantity of it (and to think, only one percent of it was on show!)  We saw a manuscript dating from 150AD and I was particularly interested in a beautiful illuminated copy of the ‘City of God’, as I have a copy of the novel at home.

We also visited the rather boring Guinness Factory.  (Luckily we had managed to score free tickets because the fourteen Euro entry fee would not have been anywhere worth it)  The highlight, apart from the pint of Guinness at the end) was seeing Vince Vaughn.  His entourage were doing a tour of the brewery at about the same time we were and we got caught behind the group.  I said hello in passing and he waved.  Very exciting.  He must have been following us, because we saw him again the next day at the Johnnie Fox’s pub.  The pub is sooo cute, full of all these random things to read and look at.

In Dublin we stayed with Callum, an old friend of mine and it was great to have a normal shower and be out of the hostels.  (Thanks Callum, Liam, Lisa and Katie for having us!)  Kates and CallumI must say that Kate and I were not our usual drinking selves on this trip.  No massive nights, can you believe it?  It was very sad to say good bye to her, but I know our paths will cross again soon enough in Europe.  We definitely made a good travelling team and I wish her all the best for the next stage of her European adventure.  As for me… I start work in a week.  So the next chapter of my trip is starting too.


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Safe Arrival

October 19, 2009 at 4:16 pm (Germany)

After being inspired by Kate A’s fantastic travel blog, I have decided to give it a go for my trip as well.  This way you can keep up with my travels if you feel like it and no boring long emails from me.  🙂

Bear and I arrived safely in Germany after a long plane trip, including a very unexciting six hour stopover in Abu Dhabi.  We were picked up at Frankfurt Airport by the family I stayed with when I was supervising the McKinnon student exchange earlier this year.  It was fantastic to see them and Rabea (host sister) had even made me a ‘Welcome to Germany’ poster, which I am planning on putting up in my room in Pfungstadt.

The next eleven days were spent with my family in Gisselberg, just outside of Marburg.  Lots of Phase 10 was played, lots of sleeping, internet… nothing too exciting.  I spent one day on excursion with Angela’s (host mum) year 10 class to a high ropes course, which was fun.  Another day was spent at the school where the McKinnon exchange took place.  It was good to see some English classes before I get thrown off the deep end.  😉

My family took me for a day trip to Kassel to visit the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe.Schloss Wilhelmshöhe  The count sold the childen of his subjects to the American army as cannon food in order to pay for the building of his palace and water fountain.  The fountain is absolutely ridiculous.  It’s huge!Part of the waterfall  It takes an hour for the water to travel from the beginning of the fountain to the end.  Quite amazing and the man made natural waterfall bits were quite beautiful.

I was ultra excited for the Kate A reunion, literally jumping up down as the train approached the station.  Was so good to see her and to catch up with all her travel stories!  (I hope my travels are as exciting as hers, she really has done and seen some amazing things) and I think we basically chatted non-stop on the first night.  I loved showing her Marburg and it was really nice to share a little bit of my life in Germany with someone.  We were taken to Schloss Braunfels and a crystal cave by the family.

Next on the agenda is a twelve day trip to Ireland.  Kate and I have hired a car and are looking forward to exploring the countryside and of course, spending lots of time together.


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