Friday, May 19, 2006

Operatic Bookends     (Gonzo Writeup)

How to finish a glorious trip. Go see Phantom of the Opera...
I'm back in Halifax after catching a quick flight to London on Ryan Air, then 2 nights and a day in the big city, followed by the flight back across the Atlantic to good old Halifax, a place I love.

I started the trip in Dublin with a museum and an opera. Finished the trip in London with a museum (Tate Britain) and 'The Phantom'. Filled the middle with walking and beer. The first night in London coincided with the UEFA Champion's League final between Barcelona and Arsenal. I had been following the series for a few months and with the English papers, so was quite keen to see this in London. If Ireland is full of Polish people, London is full of Spanish people.

Spent the evening in a local pub with about 1/4 of the crowd being Spanish (and hoping for Barcelona), the rest Arsenal fans. Sort of glad Barcelona won, as the Spanish crowd was realy quite emotional. My hostel was full of Spanish folks and I got to talk with quite a few of them (plus a Hungarian, Croat, German, South African and Pole)

The RyanAir flight from Shannon to London Gatwick went fine. On time, cheap and worth doing again. Stayed in a hostel that didn't take people over 50. (Huh?) Good thing I'm only....42

Time to let this stuff soak in a bit, sort of the pictures and do a proper writeup to post on the Gonzo page

Cheers. Bruce

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Connemora - Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey in Connemora...skipped the castle and went for a hill walk

Last day out in Ireland. I'm off to Shannon and a RyanAir flight to London tomorrow. Spent the day in Connemora and got in a beautiful, rain-filled hike up in the hills amongst all the sheep and goats. Had to endure my first ever tour bus to get there, but the scenery and hike made it all worthwhile.

Spent yesterday touring the bookstores and antique shops of Galway. Lucked into a nice hour with a string quartet and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Even got in a full laundry by sitting around in my rain gear, and got my daily does of Trad music in a bar.

Sunday was also quiet. Got the ferry back from Aran Islands and read the Sunday papers, then went on a tour of music bars, seeing a jazz/blues band, then a dixie band then the Trad band. Talking to tourists from everywhere (France, Belgium, US, Germany) as well as all the kids at the hostel. Staying in a funky one where people also stay in town and work for the hostel or as a clerk (Japan, Korea, Aussies, New Zealand plus all of the above)

Going to try and see Phantom in London on the way back.

My RyanAir flight to London costs 2.99 Euros (about $4.50 CDN) Taxes in, it bit me for 15 Euros. Too much fun.

Likely last post, definitely from Ireland. Going out for the last Guinness in a few minutes, going to see some Irish dancing

Cheers! Bruce

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dun Aengus - Success!

Dun Aengus fort.... another trip highlight

When I started looking into going to Ireland, this fort on the Aran Islands off the West coast was the 'peach'. Whatever I was doing, I was going to Dun Aengus. The whole concept off a semi-circular ring fort as the last place to stand, with the ocean 300 feet below. If they breach the walls, you can die quickly by sword, or perhaps choose the slightly longer option.

I'm finished with the walking, seen the sites I had to get to and am spending today shopping for souvenirs. Am not going to make it up north. Would involve too much travelling. Going to tool around Galway for a day or two (Connemara), then make my way to London. Still haven't decided on RyanAir, the train or the bus. Would like to take the train. Will decide tomorrow.

It's Sunday (my day off ) and will read the papers, drink some tea and collect my thoughts.

Bruce: See you next week, we'll compare notes...see who drank the most beer. Tried a few other Irish beers, but Guinness is just so good...

Cheers! Bruce

Friday, May 12, 2006

Skellig Michael...priceless

Thanks for the comments. Reminds me I don't actually live here...not yet anyway.

Wow! Had the most amazing day yesterday. Finished with the long walks and now the speed is picking up a bit. Was walking into Waterville and decided 3 days was enough of the Kerry Way. Hitched a ride and it took me to Cahersiveen, the Sive Hostel, a full laundry, pub and brew and the booking for a day trip to the Skelling Islands off the coast. All happened so fast, I am still spinning.

These monks built a remote site back in the 600's. Yes, folks, twas a long time ago. Carved this monestary out of the cliffs. The little island is home to 20,000 gannets. Spectacular ride out and hike up the cliffside. The steps used to be closed to tourists, but are now open. Definitely a trip of a lifetime. Ranks up there with climbing Masada in Israel.

Now I'm in Galway after a long bus trip. Have booked a bus/ferry/B&B combo for the large Aran Island tomorrow (all hostels is the weekend...oh well). That's where Dun Angeus is (the picture that starts off this blog)

Whew! Skellig Michael. An astounding experience


Thursday, May 11, 2006

I've seen a lot of Dung

Killarney Races...definitely a trip highlight.

When you tramp about Ireland for a few weeks and walk in an out of little towns and villages, you are going to cross a lot of little farms and deal with sheep, cows, goats, horses and dogs. I have stepped in a lot of dung the past week.

Thursday saw me hitch-hike to Wicklow, bus to Arklow for lunch (The Streets of Arklow...Van Morrison), bus to Waterford to pick up and ship something for me Mum, then onto Cork. I love Cork. Spent the next day walking out to Blarney and back. Scoffed a bit of the Castle for me 'bro and really enjoyed lunch in the village square. Cork in a working class sort of small city and the outskirts and really tight. hilly and closely packed. The downtown was really dense and fun to browse.

Saturday, it was another bus to Killarney and the Sugan Hostel, the best yet. 24 people packed in a space 1/2 the size of my house, mixed dorms and lots of interaction with the Germans, Americans and French. Of course, Polish people as well.
Killarney is a beautiful spot. I did a 16 km hike out to the big Torc waterfall, then stayed the next day Sunday as a day of rest. Read the English news all morning and worked on the betting sheets for the Killarney Horse Racing in the afternoon. A glorious day and actually was up a Euro at the end, betting with the bookies instead of the Tote.

Monday was back on the track again, this time a 100 km walk on the Kerry Way, from Killarney to Kenmare to Sneme to Waterville. The walking was magic, coming out of Killarney, into Kenmare. The hike to Sneem was the first real, warm, sunny day of the trip and I enjoyed it immensely. A glorious day topped off with a stay in a B&B and an astounding meal. The village has 2 town squares connected by a bridge, surrounded by the ocean and the low mountains of Kerry. The best town yet.

Wednesday was the best hike day of the trip from Sneme to Waterville (and back on the bus line!) T-shirt weather, big, high views and cool/warm spring air. A stunning day and one to remember forever. Walking into town (5 mi instead of the 3 km the book says), I hitched a ride to Cahersiveen, where I am now. Got another laundry done and huge pork roast meal for 8 Euros. That and a Guinness after 30 kms on a hot day...priceless.

Haven't been online much. The places I'm staying are so small that the village might have a payphone, no bank, no ATM, no internet cafe.

I'm done walking. Will be here for a day, then off to Galway and the Aran Islands. Who knows after that.

My sense of time is toast, Between the travelling, the solitary walking and the Irish sense of time, life is a nice, slow blur. I am keeping decent notes. My average day is a very healthy breakfast of tea, yogurt, bread, cheese, juice and banana, followed by 7-8 hours of walking with a lunch of bread, cheese, water and a chocolate bar. Dinner is grocery store prepared salads and stuff in town, or the pub (BIG meals) if I've been walking all day. Have a Guinness with dinner and usually one later on.

It's a dream life, I'm busy, but not pushed in any manner. I'm eating and drinking well. Meeting lots of traveller's and about the same number of local people. They are more than friendly. I love it here. Don't want to come back. Could easily spend 2 months here without breaking a sweat.

Cheers for now. Bruce

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Glendalough - Heaven

Upper Lake at Glendalough (not me, a picture I scammed, no access for camera)

The Opera in Dublin was wonderful. The theatre was gorgeous, the voices strong and the staging very imaginative. Would see it again in a heartbeat.

Walked out of Dublin on Monday morning, first great view back of the city was a real treat. Made it to a funky hostel in Knockree and put in 24 kms for the day. Of course, I had to walk into the little town to get my 'pint'. A mere 6 kms (each way!). As Anne from Galway tells me, to enjoy Ireland, you can't be a tourist, you just have to 'be'. After 80+ kms of walking, I'm still a tourist, but a slow one..

The hiking is grand, the views (in the spots of sunshine) are exactly what I was looking for. The hostels are funky and full, banks non-existent since Dublin, the pubs are everywhere. I've had a few pints from locals and have spent a lot of time talking to locals or fellow hikers and travellers. Very cool way to spend the day.

Stayed in a very nice, cheap B&B in Roundwood (no hostel for 10+ kms on either side). Got into a mild discussion about Belfast with Tom Collins from the Ulster area (won't do that again...)

I'm here in Glendalough and have really enjoyed the entire day. Walk, eat, chat, sleep. Life is simple, life is good.

Today, I'm stepping off the trail to get a bus to Waterford, spend a day, then on to Ring of Kerry for more walking.

Cheers! Bruce

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dublin - Yikes!

Belfast Opera (going to Dublin Opera tonite)

Made it to London OK. The ears didn't like the descent into St John's or London, but the going to 30,000 feet and back a few times seemed to clear out the canals pretty good.

Nice coming into Dublin Harbour by ferry on a sunny Saturday morning. Got a nice hostel and made it over to the Guinness Brewery. Snuck in to a guided tour and scoffed a free pint, my first of the trip. Spent the evening in the Temple Bar area. Amazing place, tons of people, especially large groups of very exhuberant women, dressed in costumes for 'hen' parties.

Ireland is chock full of Eastern European and especially Polish people.

Gotta go. Off to the theatre this evening, and onto Wicklow Way hike tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Murphy Air - Cleared for Take-off!

Murphys don't just drink beer, some of us make the stuff too!

After a nice chat with my doctor about the worst-case scenario with my ears (blocked with fluid for five weeks), I have been given the go-ahead to fly to London, England and start my little walking tour of Ireland.

The excitement of my researching, planning and packing the past month has been tempered by the fact that I might have to cancel the trip (and then use the money for real bills). My ears are still not happy, and they will cause me some grief, but I'll be in Ireland, a place rife with Murphys.

I'm off Thursday nite. Hope to update this blog 5-6 times over the next few weeks. I'm taking a digital camera and will be taking lots of photos. I am going to try and have at least one Irish-brewed beer everyday.

Cheers! Bruce

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Eyes on the Prize

Dun Aengus on the Aran Island of Inish-More off the west coast

I was lucky enough to do a bunch of travelling when I was younger. Once we had kids, the travelling was restricted to the Halifax-Montreal-New York loop and the in-laws. As the kids got older, the Gonzos started doing all sorts of hiking and paddling trips and I saw a lot of Quebec, Maine and New Hampshire.

Now the kids have moved out, the tax rebates have gotten bigger, the basement apartment is rented out, the health is still OK and the feet have gotten itchy.

I am off to Ireland in late April.

The basic idea is to carry a small pack (15-18 lbs) with a light sleeping bag, rain gear and a change of clothes. I'll be staying in hostels all the way. I plan to do a lot of walking, including a 80+ km walk out of Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains and a big chunk of the Ring Of Kerry. As well, I expect to get out to the Aran Islands, then hopefully up to Belfast. I fly in and out of London

I will be arriving in Dublin by ferry on Saturday, April 28, spending the day touring about, hopefully with a trip to the Guinness Brewery. Sunday afternoon is a trip to the zoo, one of the oldest in Europe. Sunday evening, I have tickets to the Dublin Opera (Rossini's Cinderella) which is a 52nd birthday present from my Mom.