Archive for the 'road-trip' Category



Postcards from far away part 2

Last post was on the ferry right?

Lost of driving to Edinburgh. Lots of sleeping done by the boys in between choosing songs.

We have a fairly standard system in place. Everyone chooses 3 songs in the ‘on the go’ play list on the iPod. 3 songs. No more no less.

Generally no repeats in the same day allowed. Spuddy always tries to get as much as possible by choosing obscure U2, 10 minute b-sides.

Passes the time at least and keeps the bitching to a minimum.

Edinburgh is a simply lovely city. On only my second time there I love the place. Good buildings. Good parks. It has a bug hill in the middle and a castle with a few of the sea. What more could one ask for.

Cities like Edinburgh make me want to live in a city.

Good restaurants with pretty waitresses and nice parks and a functioning (though debatable) public transport system.

We went to the royal college of surgeons museum to look at brutal dental instruments and stare at obscure bits of pathology before penicillin and CT scanners and the germ theory. Fascinating stuff. Highly recommended.

Met up with young Miss Quinn who kindly fed us and provided us with profiteroles and a walk along the beach.

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Stayed the night with the Orrs in their wonderful almost Dickensian house with the great old grandfather clock and the mice (who failed to make an appearance).

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The hospitality was of course exquisite. I am always amazed by the way people will go out of their way to provide for us bums in the midst of busyness and jobs and all that. Rest assured it was much assured.

Bed was taken to with great gusto.

Today was originally intended to be a day in the hills helping Dave bag another Munro. Unfortunately the Scottish weather had other ideas and made us give up at Crianlarich and sit in the restaurant trying to come up with a plan B.

Plan B was drive back down the road to Perth to go to the cinema and watch gran turino. There were limited options.

Going to matinees always makes the day feel much later than it really is.

Found ourselves a B&B and a decent Italian restaurant to fill the bellies. Poor sparky had been struggling all day with a good old man-flu but managed to have a good go at a steak and crawl off to bed.

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Dave made his way back to Edinburgh and me and spud headed out to see what Perth had to offer.

Turned out that was a pub ran by a guy from Newry. All very pleasant really

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So far road trip has been most productive and positively social having managed to catch up and put the world to rights with two very good friends who I don’t see nearly enough of.

However there has been a distinct lack of reading with the feet up and a very definite lack of sunshine. The former at least is soon to be corrected.

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Postcards from far away part 1

(As this is now the third time I’ve had to write this it will be understandably brief. The other two drafts have been lost into the ether. The joys of mobile blogging)

We got an early boat to Scotland for road trip. Me, sparky and spuddy. Everyone very tired.

Looking forward to it. More to follow.

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Swallowed in the sea


Getting from one place to the other in the quickest possible time is not nearly as much fun as going the really roundabout way. I’m shocked that I’ve been living here for 26 years and still there remains parts of this country I’ve never seen. My parents were good and I’ve been dragged over most of it in a touring caravan as a child at one point or another. But still the discoveries are all the more fun when you make them for yourself.

Having Saturday night free (I like Saturday nights free to sit in by myself and read books – another blog in itself) and no obligations till the following night I packed the Volvo with all the essentials (tunes, coffee, book, guitar, mac, camera, series 1 of Spaced) and headed for the north coast on a mini road trip.

Happiness is a car, some tunes, some decent weather and a full tank. Though a full tank in the Volvo will cost you the same as a return flight to NZ, and will only get you as far as Tescos and back once a week but hey who’s counting?. The joy of the Volvo being that when the oil runs out I’ll just park it in a field, put an awning on it and live in it for the rest of my days.

The weather is key. Simple glorious blue skies are nice but beaten hands down by sunny skies with intermittent rain or hail showers and with a gale force wind to drive the clouds like wild horses across the sky. This gives the sky the best cloud formations short of James and the Giant Peach. Time of day makes a difference too, coastal road trips are much more fun (and make for better photos) if you get to squint into the sun at some point, and the shadows it makes are immense.

So I got to Ballymena and turned right for Cushendall (one of these places yo see on Angie‘s map on Newsline 6.30 and makes you wonder who lives there), and end up on a windy wee rising road through such places as Martinstown. (a Kiwi name if ever i heard one. Incidentally for the Kiwi’s reading – both of you – there’s a place in NI called Carnalridge.)

All this of course reminds me of NZ (which reminded me of Ireland in the first place). The Antrim plateau has always been sold to me as somewhere bleak and barren and miserable and somehow I took that in a negative way. The road down to Cushendall and beyond is now one of my new favorite places.

I parked in the car park to get out and take photos of the beach and the cliffs and received sympathetic stares from the locals in the pub overlooking the harbour. The standard ‘blooming tourists’ type look. it of course being inappropriate for Irish people to be amazed by their own scenery.

The Antrim coast road is in no way a closely guarded secret, indeed it’s well renowned as one of our better tourist spots. It’s just that somehow I’ve never made it here.

The Torr head road is sensibly singed that it is unsuitable for coaches and buses. Though having driven it I’m pretty sure it’s unsuitable for cars as well, the lanes apparently having been marked out as a cycle path and certinly not wide enough to take a car. But I’m glad it’s still there all the same. I ended up doing  my usual and stopping the car every 5 minutes to get out and take photos and then realise 2 minutes up the road that there’s a much nicer photo to be had. I have now tested every remote car park along the way and driven down every dead end track.

I was confused for a while in how Rathlin Island looked so big and indeed appeared to have mountains further down the coast, till I realised that it was actually the Mull of Kintyre and Scotland beyond.

Beaches and oceans get me every time. As they say in Chile – winner.


One Horse Town

wales08.jpgOn the road again. It has been at least 3 months. I need little road trips to make up for the lack of flying, and general lack of NZ in my life, I’m not sure it takes my mind off things. Probably makes it worse, but then why not live a little eh?…

This is a farewell trip, farewell to wales. Farewell to the valleys. Farewell to Ruabon… where I hear you ask?

Ruabon is a village just south of Wrexham, just over the border in wales. To be honest it seems pretty English, except the signs are in a funny language as well as English, which is I suppose at least like home. I’m not sure what I’d expect to find in a welsh village, but I always expected more of male voice choirs and ex-stereophonics drinking in old men’s pubs. Maybe that’s unfair.

I have two friends from home (uni mates) who work here. To be honest I forget how they ended up here in the first place but I imagine it was pretty random. We’ve made the odd trip over on previous occasions to halve average age in the pub and go to Alton Towers.

But it’s all coming to an end. Both Nicci and Skaters are coming home to jobs in the homeland. They’ve enjoyed wales but its time is done.

So 15 (yes 15 – it’s a good turn out the organising committee are most chuffed) of us by road and boat and air have made it to Ruabon to watch Ireland disintegrate in front of an equally dreadful england team and celebrate as wales play out of their skins against the Frenchies.

So now we sit, packed into the living room listening to Fred’s cheesiest iPod playlist and watching Big G put his all into singing along with total eclipse of the heart, complete with 80s power ballad moves.

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.

Day 5 – Country Roads

One of the nice things about road-trips is that you’ve no real plans for what to do, and if you’re me nothing really else in your diary to keep you busy. As a result you drive where you please, till you run out of ideas or get sick of your companions, or the Volvo breathes its last.

I’d phoned home to speak to Dad and find out how his first outpatient appointment had gone and I suppose that brought a lot of stuff back to me. Talk of chemo and weight and cancer remembering the past 3 months. And I suppose that was road-trip over for me. In my head anyway. I realized I’d not really thought of Dad for 4 days (which was the kind of the point of road-trip) but that 4 days was long enough and I waned to be at home again (which was kind of the point of me not being in NZ).

I’d been away for a year and now I was getting homesick after 4 days. Weird huh?

But we still had the whole day ahead of us and we decided to switch coasts and take a drive through the Wicklow mountains. If only cause the N6/M50/M1 sequence just wasn’t scenic enough.

Two major highlights:

library-5493.jpg1) Glendalough – I have vague memories of this as a kid. Why my parents were walking me through ancient graveyards at the age of 6 is beyond me, no doubt some educational/cultural value… It is kind of a cool place and it scares the willies out of you thinking about sitting out a bunch of Viking raiders up a stone tower in Medieval Ireland – even if St Patrick had already got rid of the snakes…

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2) The general scenery – Ireland does bleakness very well. The vast open expanse of the peat covered hills, topped with cloud and mist. Nice to see from a car at speed. The other bonus was autumn. If it wasn’t for the rain and cold it would probably go down as my favourite season.

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By the time we reach the south end of the M50 it’s dark and rush hour’s just starting and dual carriageway takes us all the way home (along the new bit of the A1 I’ve never been on before, making me miss my last chance for cheap fuel) in the mighty Volvo 850 which, fittingly has covered just under 850 miles in the last 5 days. Good times.

Long live the road trip.

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Day 4 – No fear of falling

To finish off last night.

There was a brief jacuzzi. Though it was just me and Sparky wearing swimming caps (one of those swimming pools) and while it was indeed bubble-tastic it had a bit of a municipal swimming pool feel to it.

We ended the night in the local chinese served by someone we came to affectionately know as smiler. It wasn’t her fault, it just took her a while to warm to us, and a few rounds of ‘hum an appropriate tune when she comes past’. Sparks led with smile like you mean it and I followed with cheer up sleepy jean.

As always it turned out she was a lovely wee lady, who by the end of the meal was asking us where we were from and what we were doing in Clifden. In an even more random set of circumstamces she also had a second job cleaning in the hotel we were staying when we met her the next morning.

We cleared out of Clifden quick smart, the weather still being half reasonable. We had a lovely drive, hugging the coast round to Galway. Made all the better for some random jazz and some early Pete Wilson stuff Jonny had sequestered about his ipod. Journeys are all the more memorable for a cohesive album than just the ipod on random.

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My lasting memory of Connemara is rocks. Lots and lost of rocks. As if the staple crop were not library-5435.jpgpotatoes but stones. Sewn in spring as pebbles and nurtured with copious amounts of wind and pissy weather until they’re ready to harvest in late autumn, fully matured into Ireland’s finest rocks. Plucked from their native dirt and transported a yard and a half to the middle of their current field to take part in a whole new wall of loosely aligned rocks to further subdivide their birth place.

The fields didn’t even have sheep in them. Sheep will eat any type of chlorophyll containing substance but simply draw the line at having to digest and metabolise rocks.

Back to Galway. We ended up in a Jury’s Inn by lunchtime. Getting a much larger room than last night for a third of the price. Most impressed. Right on the Spanish Arch too.

library-5455.jpgTo fill the afternoon we headed to the south side of the bay, through Lisdoonvarna (the home of Europe’s biggest singles/dating event – man I wish we’d got a photo outside that sign) to the cliffs of Moher.

The cliffs are an impressive set of sheer drops overlooking the barren Arran (do you like what I’ve done there…) islands. I didn’t know they even existed till about two years ago.

They charge a modest 8 euro for the parking priviledge and then you’re free to explore and let your small children run wild beside a 300 foot drop. To be fair they have put up a fairly substantial barrier and keep you well back from the edge.

Until you reach the limits of state owned land there’s nothing but a rather large sign telling you inlibrary-5474.jpg three languages (English, French, German and astoundingly not Irish) not to pass go and not to collect 200 as this here land is private land and careful now you just might die.

This advice was thankfully being dutifully ignored in at least 10 different languages (including Irish this time) as one and all hopped the fence to climb a narrow mud path skirting the cliffs to see whether the grass is indeed always greener on the other side.

The wind was fierce to say the least and there was always the awkward question of etiquette when allowing someone coming the other direction to pass. Do you keep your nerves intact by forcing them to pass on the cliff side or risk a hasty death in order to get a smile and a thank you out of the pretty girl comng towards you. After my performance today, I’m pretty sure I’ll be around for a while yet…

On the way back we had one more box to tick (such a hypocrite…). Sparks and the Office had found directions to the house used in Father Ted last year and had done a brief road trip to Galway (and ended up sleeping in the car) last year and got a great photo outside the most famous parochial house in the world.

library-5480.jpgI’d managed to find the same directions, with such helpful hints as turn right at the red phone box. To be honest if Sparks hadn’t already been there we would have turned back, the road becoming more like that corridor in Alice in wonderland that becomes narrower and smaller the further you go along it.

Yet after 5 minutes up an upmarked road (which had been suspiciously recently resurfaced) where the trees and bushes almost met in the middle, the road opened out to reveal a rock strewn ridge in the background with the famous house in the foreground. The toyota corolla parked outside didn’t really fit and the statue of our lady was missing but otherwise you were right there in Ted land.

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Round off the evening with a simply fantastic meal in an Italian restaurant just down the street (from the hotel not Ted‘s house), with lost of pasta type things I couldn’t even pronounce. I had raw beef for starters. Winner.

And so now I’ve abandoned the boys with their Potters (numbers 6 and 7) and sit in the bar on my own on my second run through In Rainbows quietly judging the punters around me. Maybe I could be back in NZ after all.

Day 3 – Harbortown

Having sorted out the brief temporal disturbance, and realizing that we’d almost missed breakfast, we sat down to a feed of sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, eggs and lashings (yes Enid Blyton is alive and well…) of tea and coffee. Our fry in seems to be lacking in potato bread and soda bread, that which makes for the famed Ulster fry. Though I’m not sure I want to make breakfast into a political statement by asking for some. I did wear my Ireland rugby top, though I admit that of all our sports tops that’s the least likely to be politically offensive, unlike the Man United top, which although politically neutral generates a whole new brand of sectarian hatred in everyone’s hearts.

The drive to Westport was wet and bumpy and almost resulted in a serious car accident when some Muppet pulled out in front of the office.

We kept getting stuck in queues of traffic outside chapels in small towns, as legions of the faithful piled out from mass into the narrow streets to escape the rain.

Just as we approached the doo lough pass the skies began to clear giving us a vista over the hills of Connemara, transporting us from the cloudy damp west coast or Irelandglen.jpg to somewhere just outside Glencoe. If this is somewhere in Ireland you haven’t visited then make a point of visiting it.

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The view did bring about a brief period of giddiness and some minor nudity (note – arses have been [poorly] altered to disguise identity) among the lads but this passed before it was drawn to the attention of the local Gardai (all one of them).

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From there the road followed the river out to where it entered Kilary harbour, the only fjord in Ireland (said in a Father Ted “I hear t’is the largest launduret department in Ireland…” stylee). This is another place you need to see.

At the head of the harbour are the Aasleagh falls. Again worth seeing. In fact it’s all good and I’ll leave the Bord Failte stuff to … Well.. Bord Failte I suppose.

I have this unforgettable places to see before you die book. Which is a bit of morbid and strange title but anyhow… And Kilary harbour is in there, along with the Giant’s Causeway. So I suppose that’s two done. The idea of box-ticking travelling now repels me – even though it didn’t only 2 years ago. Funny how you don’t notice things change in you.

library-5388.jpgWe stopped briefly at Kylemore abbey – a big kick ass 19th century mansion place that was taken over (though not in the military sense) by a bunch of nuns from Ypres who lost their convent (in the military sense) in France during WW2 and were given refuge in Ireland. To be fair they could have done worse, ending up in a mansion running an exclusive boarding school. Vows of poverty eh? Who needs em?

library-5301.jpgAnd so eventually we come to Clifden, a nice wee village that’s seen the benefit of some N6 Euros from Dublin, and now sports a spanking new hotel complex with a mini shopping arcade below.

We get the last room in the place. And while more pricey than a room above a pub in Newport it does give us access to a jacuzzi.

Of note this has been a bit of a soft, southern shandy drinking road trip for Nelly. Yes I do like sleeping in my car, yes I do enjoy not washing for several days in a row and eating cold noodles off a trangia. But I suppose road trip is more about the collective than the individual. And the collective isn’t up for the back of the Volvo (in any sense!!!) or cold noodles or not washing. And well to argue would just be rude wouldn’t it. Yes, rude, wouldn’t dare… Oh yes could you fluff another pillow for my back please… Ahhh…


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