Wednesday, 27 June 2001

To cheer ourselves up we decided to go on a trip round the south of Ireland with Tir na nOg backpacker tours. We set off from Dublin on Thursday morning in a 22-seater bus with 6 other people plus a really funky and spunky Irish tour guide who talked pretty much the whole trip about just about anything from potato fields to how his mother and father met!

First stop was the Rock of Dunamase, a ruin of a castle dating back to the 12th Century where you can climb among the ruins and get a great view of the patchwork fields surrounding. We then had lunch in the town of Abbeyleix at an establishment that served as a grocery, bar and undertaker! The lunch menu there consisted of ham, cheese or ham and cheese toasted sandwiches. We all also tried Guiness with blackcurrant. Drove past lots of potato fields and grazing cows as we headed towards Cork for the night. We stopped at the Rock of Cashel and went on a tour (just another castle really). In Cork we had some dinner and a few drinks and went to bed.

Up early the next morning to beat the busloads of middle aged Americans to Blarney castle. Before I got to Blarney I thought the whole kissing the blarney stone was a stupid idea and the thought of another castle didn’t really excite me. But when we arrived I saw the magnificent castle and beautiful grounds and changed my mind, heading up the spiral staircase to the stone for a snog! The story is that a mute guy that lived in the castle saved a witch from drowning in the river and to reward him she conjured up a magical stone that would, when kissed, gives the kisser the gift of eloquence. The catch is that in order to kiss the stone you have to lie on your back and slide back over about a meter gap, bend over backwards peering down the 15 meter drop and kiss the stone! After all that I am still waiting for the eloquence to kick in! I have heard stories of locals pissing on the stone but we saw the attendant wiping it down with disinfectant so it can’ t be that dirty!

Well after falling for the blarney debarcle I decided to try my luck with all the other silly Irish magic. I walked down the fairy stairs backward with my eyes closed and then back up to make a wish. I looked for fairies and leprechauns in the witch’s kitchen and druid circle. I drank the water at the Torc waterfall to give me good teeth and splashed water in my eyes for better eyesight in the Burren. Well none of these have worked yet, but I remain hopeful (actually my eyes felt bad after the eye water!)

Probably the highlight of the tour was seeing the cliffs of Moher, 700 foot high sheer cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The best way to see them was to lie on your stomach at the edge and peer down to the water below. Hundreds of sea birds have made their nests on the rocks and the only sound apart from the sound of waves crashing is the birds screeching and squawking. A very tranquil and amazing place.

We spent that night in Doolin, a tiny place of no more than 200 locals which is a Mecca for trad music enthusiasts. Before hitting the pub we had dinner prepared for us by our resident French chef, Michelle…delicious! The pub was absolutely packed when we arrived and we found out they were having a trad music festival to celebrate the owners of the pub being there for 25 years. Tourists and locals mingle to the sound of fiddlers and singers and even a man playing the spoons. One of the highlights would have to be the real life Irish Johnny Cash who took a liking to Sue!

The next morning we drove to Galway via the rocky burren and some awesome sea views. In Galway we said goodbye to the tour group except for Michelle as we had decided to spend a night in Galway and then go out to the Aran islands. After trudging around the streets for ages we finally found a hostel with beds. The Lets Go describes it as “bohemian”, “the cheapest in town” – as you can imagine it was not the Hilton! We were in the male dormitory, which had 12 beds and it looked like quite a few permanent lodgers most of which were hanging out in the kitchen, their lips and ears heavy with big chunks of metal and arms black with tattoos.

After our big night in Doolin we did not have the energy to see much of Galway but we did catch a brilliant street performer before we headed to bed. He attracted a massive crowd for what was a pretty standard juggling and unicycle act. He was really funny and when a drunk guy from the audience decided to join in, coped with it really well. One classic line was when the drunk guy called out “you aren’t anything as great as Michael Collins” he replied without missing a beat: “Michael Collins rode a unicycle?”

The next day we set off for Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran islands. The Aran islands are home to small fishing and farming communities that still live very traditional lifestyles and speak Gaelic as their everyday language. We headed for our hostel that we had booked in Galway, we were greeted by a seedy looking man laid out on a couch, unshaven and surrounded by bottles of alcohol and cigerette butts. All over the wall were postcards and sketches, even one of him naked…blurck. Why do we always seem to pick the most bohemian places?!

We headed back into town to hire some bikes. I was a bit nervous about this as I had not been on a bike for a while but after a few refresher gears lessons from Michelle (all boys can do it instinctively) I decided that I actually quite like this bike business. The scenery was spectacular, mile after mile of dry stone walls and green fields scattered with rocks and the occasional cow or sheep. We rode to the ancient (as in 2000 BC) Celtic fort – Dun Aonghasa which is perched on a massive hill. We also stopped a little beach for a paddle and rode to the far southern tip of the island to some cool rock platforms.

In the evening the 3 of us headed out to look for some Craic, which of course being Ireland, we found. The first bar we went into we found a local family playing pool. The father was trying to raise his 3 sons of about 7, 14 and 16 to be pool sharks as they took each other on. Michelle challenged the oldest boy for the table but lost miserably. It was great to meet some locals though. We headed to another bar called Joe Watties. There was some musicians there, one of which was the bar owner watched attentively by his tiny rat-like dog. He had a magnificent voice and even sang And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda especially for us after we went and sat at the table with them. One of the ladies in the bar then got up and started doing traditional Irish dancing including a dance involving a broom – cleaning made fun!

Back in Dubs now, back to the job hunting. I wish Ireland would stop being so damn interesting and fun as the more I see the more frustrating it is not to be able to say that I will be staying awhile.


Monday, 18 June 2001

Another week of hassling agents ahead, but I’m feeling lucky this week! Last week I actually had an interview. Don’t get too excited though, it was with a freight management software company and it sounded like the kind of role where they throw you some specs and lock the door (and slightly dim the lights for the perfect programming environment) so I am kinda hoping that it didn’t go to well.

In more interesting news we have just had a great weekend filled with cultural experiences. On Saturday we went to the National Gallery to get cultured. That evening we went to an Irish BBQ. It was held on the roof of an apartment block. We showed up and they were trying to put the brand new Barbie together as they waited for the hostess to return from looking for a gas bottle. The BBQ was abandoned when she returned empty handed and everyone retired from the freezing cold rooftop to the cosy comfortable flat! Had a great time regardless, ending the night with everyone’s best renditions of New York New York!

Sunday morning was a bit rough but we managed to get out of bed and to the pre match drinks for the Dublin Vs Offley Gealic Football semi final. Fagens pub was a sea of light and dark blue jerseys of the Dublin team with a smattering of Offley supporters in their green and yellow, laying low. The pub had a carvery with meals consisting of meat and up to 4 types of potato – mashed, fried, chips, and in a cream sauce. The Irish really do love their spuds!

On to the game at Croke park. We had tickets for Hill 16, which, like the pub was totally overrun by the blue of Dublin. The crowd chanted “come on you boys in blue” and sang along to the marching bands Molly Malone creating a great atmosphere. The hill (consisting of concrete steps) is called Hill 16 after the 1916 easter uprising and the original stand was built from the rubble of the GPO that was destroyed by the English.

Gealic football is very much like AFL, very free flowing with not to many rules, even less rules than AFL in fact, and a soccer style ball. The game was extremely exciting with the two teams keeping within 1 or 2 points, Dublin winning 15 to 13 ( I think, Dublin won anyway and it was close) The crowd went ballistic, as did I, I am a converted fan!.

After the game it was back to Fagens for some celebratory drinks. Some of us then headed into town to see some Irish folk music at a pub called Hughes. You don’t have to try very hard in Dublin to find good craic, it just seems to happen. The music started off low key with a piper and a flautist but as the night wore on more musicians showed up and joined in. The music was great, “Diddly Diddly” music, I would call it, that you can’t help but tap your feet to.

Sue and I have decided to go on a holiday this Thursday and have booked a 3 night Southern tour on a backpacker bus. Back to the agent hassling till then.


Monday, 11 June 2001

With Lester and Kieran watching the cricket in Wales this weekend we have the place to ourselves! Due to a lack of friends to invite over for a party we have had to make do with each others company and enjoy sleeping in separate bedrooms for the first time in about 6 weeks!

On Saturday we went to check out Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Lair) a suburb of Dublin where all the ferries come in. There is a nice harbour there with lots of sailboats and a nice view. Went to see Bridget Jones Diary in the afternoon and spent the evening dreaming of Darcy!

Making an effort this morning to get out of bed earlier (we really need to get our own place when we start factoring sleeping in our own beds into our itinarary) we went to Howth yesterday. About the same distance from the city as Dun Laoghaire, but to the north. Howth is a little town on a peninsula and the eastern tip is all nature reserve and walking tracks. After lunch at the harbour we walked along craggy cliffs covered in green green grass and pink and purple flowers. On the rocks below were thousands of sea birds including colonies of some huge black birds (someone out there must be able to tell me what they could have been) There were also seals frolicking in the ocean just off shore. The walk took us to a lighthouse then we followed 2 Irish girls who assured us the almost non-existant path would take us back to a train station. 3 hours, lots of stinging nettles, a few wrong turns and some spectacular scenery later we reached Sutton station.

In other news, the shopping queens have discovered the wonder that is Marks and Spencers food hall…mmm. Friday: M&S chicken with tomato, and grilled peppers Saturday: M&S Soup pack Sunday: M&S Stirfry veges.

Watched the weather report last night, it read something like..."Mostly cloudy with possible sunshine and also a possibility of rain. May be windy later in the day". So it will be cloudy, sunny, rainy and windy this week!


Friday, 8 June 2001

Still no job or flat news, except that all our initial options have fallen through. After 3 days looking we are both now convinced we can't get a job! ;-) We have even started looking into options of temping or even getting a testing job!

To take our minds off the real things in life we did the tourist thing yesterday taking the Dubin tour hop on/off bus thingo. We got off at St Patricks cathedral where we were treated to a rehearsal of a choral group.

Then we went to the Guiness Factory...a 7 story homage to the black fluid. They have just finished a new "Powerhouse Museum" style building with everything about the company and the drink from making to transportation and the advertising campaign. On one of the floors was a display of how Guiness is made and at the end you turn a corner into a dark room with alien style lights illuminating a giant pint of guiness...a guiness shrine if you like...very amuzing. The advertisments were cool too, they had every TV advert from the 50's till today. And at the end, the best bit, a pint of guiness direct from the source whilst overlooking the whole of dublin from a rooftop bar.

Yesterday night we went on the Literary pub crawl. 3 actors guide you through the streets of Dublin and perform excerts from Irish plays and literature. They did pieces from Waiting for Goddot and one of Oscar Wildes letters as well as a few others and we went to some awesome pubs.

Some awesome news yesterday that I am sure Dad will be very jealous of...I'm going to see Billy COnnelly live! Can't wait!

Blogger Observations (I will try and put some in every blog as there are heaps of funny things around)
A sign on the Guiness factory roof reads "Warning these roofs COULD be dangerous"
Some Irish Ads:
Ahoy Mister Beaver (selling toothpaste)
Don't look now but I think we are being swallowed (2 pints of guiness talking to each other)
A family sitting around the dinner table: Daughter: "Can you pass the butter Dad", Grandmother: "He's not your father, we don't know who your father is" (can't remember what this is for)


Wednesday, 6 June 2001

Been almost a week now since we touched down in Dublin. Have started looking for jobs and flats making small progress with both. We are waiting on word from a friend of Lesters about a flat in Blackrock, which is a southern suburb of Dublin situated conveniently on the train line. Today we met two recruitment people both said that we should be able to get a job but it is not as good as it was and we might have to be patient…hmm.

On Friday last week we went to the monthly drinks at the Australian embassy. Met lots of Aussies and a few Irish taking advantage of the VERY cheap drinks. Also been drinking in Temple Bar and a local.

Last weekend was a long weekend here so the 4 of us (Kieran, Lester, Sue and I) hired a car and headed to Wexford County. We saw a castle, an abbey, a lighthouse, a beach and lots of grassy fields with cows and sheep. On the Sunday night we saw a local covers band and then had a boogey. The dancefloor reminded us of a high school dance as they were playing slow music and all the couples were slow dancing and all the singles standing at the edges…bizarre! Eventually they played some OK music and we had a dance though.

On the way home to the B and B we met some locals who told us that the place we were staying was haunted! We thought they were just trying to scare the shit out of us (didn’t work, we had all had too much to drink to allow a few ghosts to scare us!) but as it turns out the people that ran the place had seen ghosts and they had even had it confirmed by a ghost specialist person.


Friday, 1 June 2001

I'm in Dublin! Flew in yesterday and had a guiness at the airport (following Lesters strict instructions!) It's true the Guiness is better here. Dublin is everything (so far) that I had hoped for. It isn't huge and dirty like most other European cities and everyone is incredibly friendly, so friendly that if you have to allow extra time to do everything as everyone wants to chat! I am told that it takes all day to check in the the guarda for my work permit as they have a chat with everyone in the line.

Lester and Kieran are living in style in Ballsbridge, really close to the centre of Dublin and close to shops and Temple Bar. It is extremely hard to find accomodation in Dublin but our search starts tonight as we are going to have a look at a place with another girl from Melbourne. We went to a bar in Temple Bar last night for a few pints with some of Lesters friends. I think Lester and Kieran have our drinking week planned out too, with pub tonight, Australian embassy drinks tomorrow night and then a trip to Gallway, where I am sure there are heaps of pubs. Next week we start job hunting in ernest so we can afford it all!

A wrap-up of our trip from my diary:

Turkey was fantastic, the most diverse and interesting country that I have seen. The people are surprisingly friendly and sharing. It is in Turkey that I best got to know locals with our Okey game and experiences in the Otogar in Aydin and meeting the crew of the Mermaid. The country is full of natural beauty and rich in history. Also it is easy for tourists without the rip-offs and opportunism of places like Egypt.

Greece was also an interesting place to visit – very relaxing too. The islands in non-peak season were the highlight – I won’t forget the amazing view sailing into Santorini. Also unforgettable was the night at Pirates Jazz club when we bonded with locals and danced home through the whitewashed cobbled streets. Athens is surprisingly a beautiful city teeming with history and alive with the fun social and family oriented Greeks. A shame we did not see more.

Egypt – For all the troubles we had a I feel privileged to have seen what we did. All the temples and pyramids we saw were fantastic – so well preserved – a history of a civilization etched in stone. It was amazing to be sailing up the Nile, a body of water that sustains the existence of such an important country in the development of life as we know it. Who knows what the world would be like without it! Despite the stressful time we had I must make a point to return, this time wiser and preferably with a male.


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