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Tourist bonanza

Everything is hunky dory

sunny

Stornoway black pudding is on the menu for breakfast this morning - it's pretty darn good, but I think I'm siding with Steve and saying the Cockburn's variety is a wee bit better... But maybe it was just that the chef wasn't as good!
We hand the apartment keys to the builders who are about to start some serious renovations, and off we go.
Into the Republic of Ireland - but there is no sign to mark the border, which is a bit disappointing. There are other clues though - we're now dealing with speed signs in kilometres per hour, prices are in euros and the give way signs say 'yield'. We stop for a cuppa in Clones - well, Simon has a tea, but they don't do hot chocolate. We also have some mediocre scones, but it's pretty cold and dark in there so I'm happy to keep moving.
Athlone is the lunch stop - doesn't seem like a town particularly worth exploring, but maybe we were in the wrong part. Highlight of Athlone would have to have been having crisps called Hunky Dorys, yum! Worst thing about the shopping centre in Athlone is that the toilets are not working, boo. Made it to Athenry, but thankfully there was a service station so I didn't have to resort to using the Fields of Athenry (sure Nicole will have a chuckle about that one!). The streets there are very confusing, but eventually we make it out again and find the road to Galway. Checked into our four star hotel (which we managed to get for only €35 per night, score!) and worked out what to do next.
Went for a Bulmer's at Tig Coili, listened to the live music for a wee bit before going across the road to the King's Head for some dinner. I had Irish Stew - not bad, but not life changing, and Simon had a huuuuuuuuge seafood platter. This was definitely not the place for locals - American accents everywhere. We left when we got invaded by about 20 German tourists. Pfft, tourists!
Met up with Andy back at Tig Coili, heard a bit more music and got a few tips on what to see and do in Galway and Dublin. I reckon the music is actually better at the Mac's on a Wednesday night, to be perfectly honest! But I suppose the Guinness is better here...

Posted by Buccas 12:14 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Titanic

"she was alright when she left here..."

all seasons in one day

Titanic time! We walk to the Titanic museum nice and early, and get plenty of silly photos while waiting for it to open (I'm sure you're all very surprised by that). The friendliness of the Irish continues, and even the self-service machine is helpful AND efficient. Wow.
The museum is really interesting and well-presented, even has a cool little ride showing how they built it and then a video tour of the inside of the Titanic. It doesn't go into too much detail about the sinking part though, just has all the mayday calls that were made and the responses from other ships. Naturally, I finish up a bit quicker than Simon and Lollop so I have time to check out the gift shop and get a hot chocolate too...
Lunch is at Muriel's, a quirky cafe with underpants hanging from the ceiling. The food is divine, the customer service faultless. And the photos in the toilets are rather unexpected!
After being fed and watered, we go off on a quest for some souvenirs featuring the phrase "she was alright when she left here" (referring, of course, to the Titanic). We also found some shirts proudly proclaiming "Titanic - built by Irishmen, sunk by an Englishman". Really subtle!
The afternoon is taken up by a black cab tour with Paul, who gives us a really informative and unbiased tour of the murals, the peace wall, the cages over backyards, and the strongly Catholic and Protestant areas of Belfast. It seems very contradictory to have such violence and animosity in a town where the people are so very friendly and welcoming. Poor Lol is not dressed for the Irish weather, and Paul can't even look at her without laughing at the way she is shivering. He says it's the first time he's laughed so much during one of his tours...
After that we take Lol to the airport and farewell her. Dinner is at McHugh's - and gets washed down with a pint of Guinness, naturally. Ah Belfast... it's been fun.

Posted by Buccas 03:43 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

Fiddle de dee po-Taytos

Segway part 2

all seasons in one day

We started the day with a taxi ride out to the airport to pick up our hire car - the chatty taxi driver gave us permission to stay in the country because we seemed to have brought the sunshine with us!
The airport marked the beginnings of the Tayto phenomenon - I mean, I knew the Irish loved their spuds, but calling their crisps Taytos was better than I'd expected. Smoky bacon flavour - mmm...
The Hertz man couldn't have been more helpful, a rather stark contrast to grumpy Avis lady at the start of the trip. He gave us a decent map, highlighted good spots to visit, and smiled as well. Makes a big difference.
Back at the apartment, the topic of Segway comes up. Turns out Lollop has never been, and in fact had been denied the opportunity of segwaying by another so-called 'friend'. That means it's time for action - Segway action! In true Lollop style, she has completely inappropriate footwear for this activity... So she ends up looking like me - my awesome red shoes (which are only 3 sizes too big) and my marvellous alphabet jacket. Ready to rock and roll!
At the start of the Segway experience, Lollop is oooo-ing and clucking like a broody chook. We all get a bit of practice steering and reversing and then it's off on our adventure. Into an open paddock, skidding round corners, navigating our way through a maze, and doing some serious off roading with plenty of ducking, weaving and mud. LOTS of mud. And the biggest hill I have ever segwayed on! Thankfully none of us fall off - although it's probably because we're all taking it a bit more carefully on account of the mud. We finish up with a timed slalom course - Simon came in with 28.4 seconds, I got 27.6 seconds and Lollop... well she didn't fall off!! We even got medals to celebrate our achievements :)
Time for a quick wander around the animal farm, then it's back to the apartment to resume normal attire. Fish and chips for lunch at Whiteabbey overlooking the sea, and then back on the coastal road that is remniscent of the Great Ocean Road. About this time the Irish weather kicks in and it becomes overcast and then wet.
We eventually arrive at the Giant's Causeway - the weather is REALLY Irish now. The rocks stand bravely, being battered by the wind and the rain. We are not quite as brave, but we do as much exploring as we can before the rain and cold gets too much. There are plenty of good photo opportunities here, and we utilise the foliage and cuisine settings on our cameras!
On the way home, we stop off at the Diamond Bar in Ballycastle. Yet another excessively friendly Irishman - and if I had a pound for every time he said 'wee', I wouldn't have to go back to work! Dinner is soup and a shared pint of Guinness, and dessert is a Bailey's coffee. Mmm....
We take the inland road home (much quicker!), have some Wuster sauce Taytos and then it's time for bed.

Posted by Buccas 03:32 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

Haste ye back

A sensational saga of the seas.

sunny 10 °C

Good morning world - time to get up and catch a fairly small boat to Northern Ireland! We all got breakfasted and hit the road nice and early, so that we could have a meandering drive down to Campbeltown, where the RIB would take us across the seas... Managed a quick stop off at the beach - freezing cold!! Saw a wee puppy who was doing his bit to keep the place clean; he'd found a plastic bottle somewhere and was proudly carrying it back home. More lovely scenery, and more lovely towns whose names I cannot spell and then we were in Campbeltown. Found the boat, excellent. But where was the captain? Nowhere to be seen. Then the lady from the visitor information centre comes bustling down the road, phone in hand - "it's for you, about the boat". Turns out the boat has been cancelled today, and we didn't know about it - apparently they had tried to call our mobile, but instead of dialling the plus sign, dialled a 0 instead. Duh. Apparently they also emailed us, but that email is yet to arrive. Grr. So we have two options - get another ferry from another location, or get the rib tomorrow morning. Right. A few phone calls later, and we've got a new plan - off to Cairnryan to catch the 19.30 ferry to Belfast. Whoo!
So since it's a five hour drive, the old car games come out. Turns out 'aye spy' (the Scottish version of 'I spy') is harder than I'd thought, but we're all pretty good at the bag packing game, and the famous person game. Elaine and Simon aren't keen on my spelling game, and John is Offical Adjudicator for the proceedings. Not a bad way to spend a day, but not entirely what any of us had planned!
Arrive in Cairnryan, and we are hurriedly checked in to get away from some irate young men...which means a hurried goodbye to our temporary parents. Couldn't have asked for better hosts - if they were on TripAdvisor I'd give them five stars! Thank you so much xoxo
Bit of a wait in the ferry terminal, but it gives us time for something to eat and drink, and checking emails and the like. Huzzah for free wifi! And then we're finally on the boat, and heading across to Northern Ireland. It's actually a bit rockier than I expected, and I'm going to use that as my excuse for losing three games straight of Monpoly Deal to Simon. Absolutely annihilated, boo.
Anyway, we eventually made it to Belfast and to our apartment for the next three nights. It's pretty swish, so I think we'll cope quite nicely staying here. Just awaiting a call from Lollop and our Irish weekend posse will be complete!

Posted by Buccas 15:42 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Rain!

Just Bute-e-ful...

rain

Well I hardly slept a wink last night - all the noise from the traffic kept me up... NOT! Definitely the quietest night's sleep we've had for awhile.
Started the day with a hearty Scottish breakfast, including Cockburn's black pudding - Steve, you are right it is delicious, and it was much better than the random no name brand we had in Stirling.
Now unfortunately the rain had arrived this morning, and seemed intent on sticking around for the day. But it takes more than a drop of rain to stop us from exploring - it was just another beautiful Portland summer day, really!
Into Oban for a bit of a look-see, and then to the Falls of Lora, which were not falling particularly well this morning (despite lots of encouragement from John). Checked out Dunstaffnage Castle, and went up to The Folly. Pretty spectacular views from up there, and it would've been even more magnificent with a wee bit of sunshine. We saw standing stones, cairns, marinas, ruins, hills, mountains, rivers and even crossed the Atlantic - talk about adventure! Also managed to find the time to buy a few light globes in there too.
Home for some toasted cheese, and freshly made scones... I am really going to need to do some serious exercise when I get home! And of course after a wee beverage, it was time for more food. Haggis, neeps and tatties - yum, yum, yum! Even had some vegetarian haggis, just to see what all the fuss was about. For the record, veggie haggis contains lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, oats and whatnot. Quite tasty, and a good option if you're not a fan of what goes into 'real' haggis. Also had haggis legs (aka asparagus) to go with it, which I am led to believe is a slightly less traditional Scottish food. Sticky toffee pudding for dessert too, mmm...
Fully fed, we wandered to the Horseshoe Inn, and after the big walk a Crabbie's ginger beer was required to quench the thirst. Had a lovely night with the Bridgend crew, and gave Jackie and Paul tips on what to pack and what to see when they come to Oz next year. Although it's a wonder they are still coming since Lesley recommended a book that possibly should have been called '100 reasons not to come to Australia'!! We also got some fairly terrifying responses when people heard we were catching the rib across to Ireland, which didn't entirely fill me with confidence. Most importantly, I learnt that the past tense of 'jump' is 'jamp'. Isn't that right Steve? With this new knowledge in my brain, and haggis in my belly, I will sleep very soundly tonight.

Posted by Buccas 09:57 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

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