Monday, May 28, 2007

More Irish Travels

Yesterday we travelled up to the Ulster American Folk Village - a great collection of old houses and then on to Belleek where there is a beautiful pottery.

In the afternoon we drove on to Killybeggs and after finding accommodatin, drove out to the highest sea cliffs in Europe. The scenery was absolutely spectacular. On the drive back we passed turf cutting for fuel and wonderful country scenery.

Bushmills, Giants Causeway and Rope Bridges

After the beauty of the Antrim coast and the glens of Antrim we continued along the north coast of Ireland. AMong the highlights was the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge out to a windswept island and the famous Giants Causewaydestroyed by the Scottish giant Finn running back steps to Scotland when he saw the Irish giant dressed as a baby in a cradle.

We visited the distillery at Bushmills...only with our organisation we arrived at 9.30 am just after a full Irish breakfast - not the time to be tasting whiskey. We bought supplies for a cold night on the sea near Iceland.

The Dunluce Castle was hauntingly beautiful. Then on to Londonderry with its famous walled city where we visited the cathedral and the Tower Museum. We finished with a walk around the town walls.

Irish Modern Art

In Belfast we visited the Lagan waterfront near where the Titanic was built. We found an exhibition 'Eye of the Docks' so decided to take in another exhibition.

The art was displayed in a dank passageway and chambers under the Lagan Weir. Real bottom of the harbour stuff. We climbed downstairs into the eerie cavern below the river to view the 'spectacular multimedia installation'........ actually weird changing images displayed in spaces inferior to a torture chamber.

The prize went to a large musty chamber with a vast series of 'donkey coats' suspended from the ceiling. For th unitiated. donkey coats are the felt and leather jackets worn by Irish waterside workers unloading the ships.

We re emerged into the Belfast sun not having seen another soul but pleased to have escaped being sold into slavery.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Beautiful Belfast

We spent yesterday exploring Belfast, visiting a number of beautiful old churches, especially St George and St Anne's Cathedral. We visited the Crowne Pub with its wonderful individual booths where you can order a pint of Guinness and a dozen oysters with a silent message.

In the afternoon we went out to Belfast Castle and Cave Hill Country Park. The castle was morelike an old mansion and was being prepared for a wedding that night.

Back at Carrickfergus, we visited the old Norman Castle dating from the 10th century. This was wonderful as it is located right on the coast and is still in its original condition.

We continue our trip up the Antrim coast.

Belfast Sex research

Irish researchers, based in Queens University in Belfast have made a major breakthrough in parthenogenesis. They discovered that female sharks can reproduce without having sex.

Who else but an Irishman would research the ability of the female of the species to reproduce without mating?

Police Escort Out of Belfast

Yes we were escorted out of Belfast by the police!

We travelled up from Dublin by train, an interesting trip mainly along the coast. When we arrive, we dropped off our luggage at the car hire and spent the afternoon walking round Belfast.

The City Hall was most impressive with its beautiful dome and its wonderful marble staircase. We went on a conducted tour and walked on the beautiful silk and wool carpets and even sat in the mayoral chair.

Then it was time to drive up to Carrickfergus for the night. In the first 5 minutes we were lost! After another 10 minutes had to resort to police assistance. The officer looked us over and decided we were a priority case and escorted us out of town. No he did not say don't come back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vote Costello for Labor

We have arrived in Dublin at election time. The election poster that really impressed us was "Vote Costello for Labor". We escaped the Australian frenzy only to hit the UK with Blair's departure and the campaign for deputy PM. Now elections in Ireland.

The wild Irish Sea was like a mill pond. We travelled in the "Ulysses" the world's largest car carrying ferry but we could have made it on a surf ski.

Today we took a local light rail to visit the National Museum of Ireland. A wonderful display of decorative art and history in a 17 century building. After lunch we visited Dublin Castle, the City Hall and Christchurch Cathedral.

One of the quirky things on display in the cathedral is a mummified cat and a rat. Apparently the cat chased the rat into an organ pipe in the 1860s and neither made it back out!

Also on display is the tomb of Strongbow. Some of you will think of Strongbow as cider but indeed he was an Anglo Norman knight who died in 1076.

Tomorrow we are off by train to Belfast.

To Be Sure to be Sean

I've been Sean, I've been shorn.

I left Australia in need of a haircut..... but life was just too hectic. So, where should I have a haircut?

I considered London but would have to have taken out a bank loan. Should I go for the Nordic look? I might have ended up like Vic the Viking. My Aussie Russian friend, Michael, advised me to keep away from Russian clip joints and my short Aussie arms would not reach the bottom of my Scottish pockets.

So Ireland it was. The deed has been done. Now you will have to wait until somewhere we can download a photograph so you can see which Irish pop star I resemble. You may speculate in advance!!!

I may never return to Fred the Barber. The Irish barber was a female with long red hair and a stunning figure. She did a good job for a very modest 5 euros.

It is a shame it is a 24 hour flight to get another haircut.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Monopoly Trail

After a week exploring London, it feels a bit like we have been on a life size Monopoly Board.

From the Strand to Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall to Regent St, Bond St to Oxford St, Mayfair to Park Lane - we have walked down them all.

We have caught trains at Kings Cross and tomorrow will leave London from Euston Station. We have passed Go several times but never collected the 200 pounds and unfortunately we have not been sent to gaol.

Tomorrow we head for Dublin.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Foot in Both Worlds

Yesterday was a red letter day. The sun was shining - lucky for us as we planned to go to Greenwich. We went by boat, a fabulous 60 minute trip. Most of the reconisable London landmarks can be seen from the river - Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St Pauls Cathredral and the Tower Bridge which we sailed under.

As it had been raining all week it did not occur to us to pack sunglasses, hats or sunscreen. We had packed spray jackets and umbrellas. We sat on the top deck and revelled in the warm sunshine but wished we were better prepared.

Greenwich is quite compact so we spent the day walking round the sights. We visited the Royal Observatory and posed standing on the Prime Meridian, one foot in the eastern hemishpere and one foot in the western hemisphere.

We visited the National Maritime Museum with its emphasis on Lord Nelson and the days when Britain ruled the waves as well as the Queens House built in the time of James 1 and buildings from the old Royal Naval College.

The Cutty Sark is closed for renovations till 2009 so we did not wait.

We returned by boat for a second look at all the sights.

Make a Joyful Noise

45 minutes by superfast train from Kings Cross station and we were in Cambridge, home of the famous Kings College choir.

Cambridge is the complete university town where we happily spent the afternoon exploring.

We visited the Fitzwilliam Museum, an imptessive gallery with works by well known artists along with furniture, pottery and antiquities.

We walked down to the Cam River, famous for its punting but we couldn't work out how to punt and hold an umbrella at the same time.

Our main goal was to hear the choir sing in their own chapel. it is one of the most beautiful churches we have ever visited with soaring stained glass windows and magnificent ceilings.

The singing at the choral service was superb - all unaccompanied and perfectly in pitch.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is it Art or Renovation?

Many times during our visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery we found ourselves pondering the difference between Art and Rubble. The 160 bricks stacked in 2 layers could have been placed there ready for maintenance but the rope around it indicated art..... or had Workcover cordoned it off? Rob felt he could have a new career as an artist because he is good at stacking bricks! Hanging above us was a square fibreglass mould and there were metal bars arranged artistically.

May is Museum and Galleries month in London. We have taken thisto heart and visited lots. Highlights include the Turner collection at the Tate Britain, the Impressionists at the National Gallery, the glass gallery at the Victoria and Albert and the Egyptian artefacts at the British Museum.

The Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum with its quirky teapots and odd exhibits is not a major tourist attraction but it was fun.

We have fallen into a routine of sightseeing each morning and afternoon with lunch and dinner back at our apartment in a beautiful old building in Westminster.

It has rained every day but we take it in our stride.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Recovering in Singapore

After a few hectic days, our trip has finally commenced.

As soon as we were in the plane, it was a different feel. We celebrated with a Singapore Sling and a Gin Fizz, followed by a Brandy and Dry/ Gin and Tonic.

Robert watched "The Good Shepherd" while I slept and after lunch we both watched "Music and Lyrics". It was a great flight with wonderful service from the cabin crew.

We were in the hotel by 6 pm and in the pool by 6.30 pm. The hotel is in a great position overlooking the Singapore River at Robinson Quay and just a short stroll away from Clarke Quay with its outdoor restaurants.

We spent Saturday shopping and sightseeing. We walked around Chinatown and hit the shops and arcades of Orchard Rd. I am sorry to admit that I bought 2 pairs of shoes. I did however bring 1 less pair than I intended in anticipation.

Arrived back to the hotel exhausted but our feet felt better after a swim.

At the moment we are in the departure lounge at Singapore airport on Sunday morning en route to London. We did achieve our objective in Singapore - to feel relaxed and ready for a great holiday.

Happy birthday Amanda for yesterday and happy mothers day to all the mums out there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Leaving tomorrow - itinerary

The 24 hour countdown has begun. The bags are almost packed and the frig is almost empty. We fly out in the morning.

Itinerary Outline

Much of our itinerary is flexible but a rough outline is as follows:

11 - 12 May Singapore
13 May Fly to London
13 - 20 May London
21 May Train and ferry to Dublin
23 May Train to Belfast
24 - 31 May Travel around Northern Ireland by car
1 June Ferry and train to Glasgow
2 - 10 June Northern Scotland by car
11 June Ferry to the Orkneys
11 - 14 June In the Orkneys
14 June Ferry to the Shetlands
15 June Car to the islands of Yell and Unst
16 - 17 June Shetlands / Lerwick
17 June Ferry to the Faroe Islands
18 June Ferry to Bergen, Norway
19 - 25 June Norway
26 June Train to Oslo
27 June - 2 July Sweden
3 - 8 July Denmark
9 - 13 July Sweden
14 - 23 July Finland
24 - 25 July Estonia
26 - 31 July St Petersburg, Russia
1 August Train to Moscow
2 - 6 August Moscow
7 August Fly to Singapore
8 August Singapore
9 August Fly Singapore to Sydney

We will post the highlights of our trip when we get the opportunity so watch this space.