Happy Birthday

May is a busy month for birthdays. A big HB to my wee nephew Ashton who turns 2 today and also to my hubbie (who is not 2) as of yesterday.
Hubbie and I enjoyed a lovely meal out at Brassiere Blanc in Cabot Cirus. Here’s a wee sample of our French fine dining. Thanks Raymond.

To be sure, to be sure – tis Ireland at last

As it would be, no volcanic ash cloud was going to keep me from my lifelong dream of getting to Ireland. Having just returned from France and the ash cloud continuing to cancel flights it truly looked like our trip would be a no-go. Forecasts were not favourable so we decided to can the trip. Our fellow Aussie traveler based in London also thought this was the best call so that was it. Trip over before it had even begun. So much for a long weekend away with my two Aussie girlfriends.

However, never under-estimate a woman who is determined to get to her dream country even if she can’t control the volcano! I woke up on the morning of the flight at 5.30am, did a quick check on my IPhone for the latest Met Office and Ryan Air flight updates. Woo hoo – flights were on. I tossed and turned for a bit wondering if my remaining travel partner from Australia would be keen to go. So I gave it a shot. I quietly tapped on her door and poked my head in. “Hey, would you think it would be totally crazy if we went to Ireland today? The flights are on!”, “No, let’s go!” came the reply.

Next it was a flurry of throwing things into a bag, calling for a taxi and hitting the road. Quick as you please thanks driver! While in the taxi this is when we had time to think about what clothes we had brought with us and whether they were even clean (after having just returned from Lille late the night before). Oh well, you can buy underwear anywhere right.

Three hours later we were in Dublin, Ireland, checking into the hostel that we had canceled a couple of days before hoping that they still had some spare beds. Score! They did.

We spent the next 4 days walking around Dublin, taking a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren and a train to Kilkenny for the day. You could call it an Ireland “taster”.

I finally got to have my first ever Guinness in a real Irish pub. The Palace Bar had the right old school pub Irish charm to me so it was the perfect place to sample my first Guinness. Can I just say that the creaminess that comes from a freshly poured dark one is superb. As a very strong tasting beer it has come to grow on me (or maybe it is my waistline). Next on the list was an Irish stew. Found a lush stew to mark this off the list however I can’t remember the name of the pub. Great stew but not a memorable pub. Next, what would a trip to Ireland be without some good Irish music. Tick. Try the Celt Pub on Talbot Street. They had a great three piece in here on violin, whistle and guitar. The atmosphere was incredible. Finally, the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Awesome to finally see but in reality the Trinity College library is what blew me away! 250,000 books and manuscripts that all smelt lushly booky in the most amazing room ever! Oh the stories they would tell.

The day trip from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher was a 12 hour Paddy Wagon Tour. The Cliffs were great and we had a good period of time here to explore. I was surprised though that a vast majority of the cliffs are on private land so you can’t actually do the walk along them. Well, you can but having passed all the warning signs that they use to block your way I am pretty sure you should forget any insurance should you get blown off the edge. Believe me with the gales blowing around there this is a distinct possibility. I did ponder ignoring the signs for a moment (I could imagine Steve already wandering off past them) but my “goody to shoes” mindset kicked in. The Burren was excellent with its barren landscape mingled with the delicate wild grasses and flowers that grow where ever they can find soil. The Paddy Wagon tour was fine but I wouldn’t have rated it as top notch. You get a bus ride, Irish music, commentary and a goodbye at the end. I haven’t done any bus tours before so I have nothing to compare it to. It is an easy way to get around without any hassle I suppose. Just hope you get other like minded, quiet spoken, nice smelling tourists with you on the bus seeing as you share the same space for 12 hours.

In all, were my expectations of Ireland met? To be honest, I had high expectations to begin with. Dublin I am sure we didn’t spend enough time in to discover all its charms? It did make me feel like I should always be on “point” there due to the number of drunken men hanging about. Although there was a large police presence most of the time which feels a wee bit safer it also makes you realise that there are obviously quite a few issues that arise to need their presence. Temple Bar area was OK but obviously just full of tourists. If you want a real bar experience pick something further out of town where you know the locals go. We loved Madigans Bar on Talbot Street. The interior is spectacular and the bar men are efficient and friendly.

The image I came away with did differ from my expectations. Ireland was:
Flatter than I imagined
Not as green as I envisaged
Sunnier than expected (I am sure this was just good fortune and possibly why it was not as green)
Locals were friendly and filled with stories just as I expected (they were fab!)
Filled with more pubs than I expected (apparently there are 1000 in Dublin alone)

I think my desire to see the countryside of Ireland has been quenched at this stage. If I was to visit again I think it would be via a rental car to get into the more remote areas and see if I can dig out a few fairies from somewhere.

Lille, France

Currently in Lille eating pastries, coffee, chocolate and bread. After 3 weeks without running this could be detrimental to my health!

Also saw John Butler Trio at the Zenith on Saturday night. They were fantastic. I was so looking forward to seeing them and they met all expectations. Amazing musicians!