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Published: June 28th 2011
And so back to the Republic for a further dose of scenery before we leave Ireland. We drove down to Kilkenny, via a very rainy and cold Bru na Boinne. This neolithic bunch of tombs is 500 years older than the pyramids, and it wasn’t the first time that we were reminded just how old civilization is on this island.
Our Kilkenny hosts were Vicky and Patrick. They were very hospitable; we felt almost like part of the family after Patrick gave us Saturday breakfast with an account of his Friday night on the piss, then Vicky gave Sharon just about her entire life story, everything from a young marriage to the five children to the fun and foibles of running a B & B. We also got (and from a lot of people we spoke to, not only from Vicky and Patrick) a picture of people unhappy with a depressed economy and increasing austerity, wondering how it all happened when things were so rosy a few years back. We were asked many times what the employment situation was in Australia.
We also discovered that Kilkenny is Ireland’s capital for hens and stag parties. Not merely like in Australia,
where the girls don their little black dresses and give the betrothed one a veil to wear. Here they all dress in identical outfits (this by itself provides some interesting sights considering that all women aren’t identical in shape). We saw French maids. We saw sailors. We saw a huge crowd of girls all wearing flashing antlers. We saw one poor stag in an Elvis suit. The Saturday night vibe in the town was very friendly, although we lucked out on the live music – one pub we chose was full of rusted-on locals and a guitarist singing John Denver covers.
From Wexford we drove south to the Hook Head lighthouse, rather old as the monks first lit a warning fire on the headland around the year 500. Even the lighthouse structure itself dates back to the 11th century. We are still amazed at these historic sites, right on the tourist bus trail, but at the end of the narrowest roughest roads imaginable. Then again though, it’s also amazing to think of the monks constantly carrying sacks of coal up the 170 steps to the signal fire to keep the lighthouse going.
The Waterford Crystal Centre was a
Crossing from Rosslare to Fishguard
destination in our satnav, so it was an easy drive down to have a look at the now-empty building in the Waterford suburbs that was the site of the old factory. The new one took a bit more finding, but when we got there it was fun to have a look at a lot of expensive, fragile and impractical glassware.
Finally the time came to leave Ireland and the bus dropped us off at the grubbiest ferry terminal we have ever been inside. Seats filthy, garbage bins not emptied. People waiting for the ferry all dressed like Onslow from “Keeping Up Appearances”. Geoffrey Hughes his name is – has anybody ever stopped to think how much he has advanced the cause of elastic-waisted pants?
After a coffee and a stale cake each we boarded the Stena Europe for another smooth crossing to Wales, where we met Sharon’s sister and bro-in-law Jeanette and Chris. We spent the first night catching up with Chris’s sister Judith and his mother Lily after about 4 years. It was a really pleasant night thanks to Judith’s hospitality and the contents of a few selected bottles.
We spent three days in Newquay, quite
a surfing destination on the south coast of Cornwall. The town has a great surf vibe and some very nice looking (but, of course, cold) beaches to go along with it, as well as the typical English seaside pubs, clubs and amusement arcades.
From Newquay we travelled to a lot of great destinations in the south west.
Lynton and Lynmouth are two picturesque towns, one at the top of the hill and one on the sea at the bottom of the hill, connected by a water-powered funicular railway built in Victorian times. Clovelly is another very picturesque harbour surrounded by a steeply sloped and cobblestoned town, as is Padstow (although the town is not over-endowed with parking so we didn’t stop). St Ives and Mousehole are similarly pretty.
Tiny Port Isaac, on the north coast of Cornwall, is the location for the television series Doc Martin, and we were lucky to see some filming going on while we were there. In fact we’ve had a bit of a location thing happening, having also been to Avoca (Ballykissangel) and Inistioge (Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends).
St Michael’s Mount, a medieval monastery and castle in Mount Bay
Causeway in the rain,just uncovered by the falling tide
near Penzance was another highlight; the castle was interesting, the views of castle and gardens great and the walk back in light rain over a causeway just uncovered by the receding tide a bit surreal.
Finally we had ticked all the boxes – Cornish Pastie, Cornish Cream Tea, Cornish Mackerel and a whole bunch of Cornish beers with names too stupid to repeat but like “Old Spotted Lung” or something, so it was time to take our leave of a very attractive south west England and, in fact, Europe as a whole.
On our last night in Newquay Chris and I took the garbage downstairs. We also had a look for the button to open the garage door from the inside. We (well, I, actually) pushed every button in sight, including, apparently, the fire alarm. I’m sure the people in the other 52 units in the block weren’t too put out when they were all evacuated down the stairs at 10 o’clock at night. Like a typical Australian I kept quiet rather than accept their gratitude for brightening up their dull night.
The following day, leaving rather quietly, we trekked back to London via Plymouth (we all
visited the Plymouth Hoe, but please look it up before you assume the worst), Torquay and Bournemouth. Of these places Bournemouth was to us the most typical English seaside resort. Where else would you see people wandering the beachfront in shorts and tee shirts right alongside people in overcoats? And the pier, the fairy floss, the carousel and the famous (Chris assures us) Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips?
So from here we head to New York City for a few days then finally to home. Unforgettable Ireland is now behind us, as is a fun catch-up with family with some beautiful Cornish scenery thrown in. Last chapter in this trip coming soon.
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