I love this photo … it is so spooky! It is a bit of a famous road as the trees were planted 200 years ago and now the high branches cross the road. I am sure it looks very different in summer, but we thought it looked pretty cool in winter.
It is a spectacular rock formation at the very top of Northern Ireland. There is a very impressive interpretive centre there and we managed to arrive in time for a tour. We were the only guests at the time and even though it was interesting the guy drove us a bit nuts. We were with him for 45 minutes and as we were pushing it to get to Belfast and see as much as we could along the way it was all a bit much. I am sure that kids would love his wild giant stories but we thought it a bit demeaning. Nevertheless, as you can see from the photos it was very spectacular.
With the help of Peter Holden … a sailing friend of ours and a lovely fellow that I have known since he was one year old, we managed to find a park fairly close to the centre of Belfast. We raced in and had a look at the Christmas Market before jumping back into the van and following Peter as he headed home. Then we raced off to a restaurant where we met his lovely wife Edel and their three gorgeous little boys.
As you can imagine going out for dinner with an 8, 6 and 4 year old it was all very hectic but we had lots of fun and great food.
When they had put the boys to bed we had a few drinks with Peter and Edel in their lovely home before heading to sleep in the van. The next morning we came in for breakfast and helped get the three boys ready for school. They really are great kids and I laughed a lot because they were so excited about jumping in the van.
We headed off to meet another sailing friend of Johns about an hour away but unfortunately I got really sick, so John went off for brunch and I went back to bed. I was actually so sick by the time John got back we headed to the nearest hospital. They ran some tests and couldn’t find anything too disturbing … so after 6 hours we headed back home. Way later than we had planned. The next day John headed off to London and as the doctor had said I am pretty sure I had some sort of nasty virus as I was sick in the stomach and had a raging headache for a week. I still managed to do a lot but it wasn’t a fun week. Thankfully a couple of days after John got back I was fully recovered. Unfortunately, he came back with the flu so I avoided him like the plague and didn’t manage to get that.
I did manage to get into Dublin for a day and visited The National Gallery, Trinity College and the Book of Kells and a visit to the Dublin Castle. I enjoyed all of them but wouldn’t really rate any of them very highly.
John and I have both awarded the Republic of Ireland “The Friendlist European Nation” Award. The people really are the friendliest and most helpful people that I have ever come across and from what we have seen of the countryside it is a truly beautiful country that I look forward to seeing more of. As for Dublin itself I am afraid I only awarded it a 2 out of 10. It really isn’t that appealing as a city and to navigate it is a nightmare as about 2 out of every 10 streets actually has a street sign. However, Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast from the brief time that we had there … about 1 hour, did look like a nice city that I would like to see more of.
When John came back from London and once I was feeling better, I made him take me down to Kilkenny for the night and we both really enjoyed doing the guided tour of Kilkenny Castle. The town is also very pretty and of course looked great with all of the Christmas decorations up. On our way home we went to a big upmarket craft market at the Dublin Royal something or other, society. The next door neighbours had dropped in free tickets and we both really enjoyed it. We bought a couple of presents and a great new hot plate for the rambo which now means we have enough space to bbq for 4 – 6 people so our search for a small bbq is over.
On Tuesday evening Suzie and Shay arrived home from England after Suzie having had a foot operation. I cooked them dinner and we had a nice night together. They really are lovely people and the housesit was fantastic. We loved Ireland, felt really comfortable in their lovely home and Jack was a delight to look after. We joined the local gym which was a half hour walk along a lovely beach, so both managed to get a bit fit and I lost a little bit of weight which was a bonus. If all housesits could be like that one, it would be perfect.
We had breakfast with them the next morning and then headed off to Dublin to catch the ferry to Holyhead, Wales. On route we received a text message saying that the ferry had been cancelled due to strong winds but they had booked us on the 9 pm ferry.
So we rocked up at the terminal and chatted to the guy at the gate who was lovely and gave us free meal tickets for the crossing. He told us where to park the van and that a bus left from the terminal for Dublin. So we parked the van and were getting ready and next thing he came over in his car and said that the bus was waiting for us and he would drive us over!. That is a perfect example of why we love the Irish! What a great fellow.
So off we went into Dublin … about half an hour on the bus. It was very windy and cold so we decided to go to the Guinness factory and do the tour. So we hopped on another bus, found the factory and did the tour, followed by a couple of pints at the end of the tour. When we got out we met a lovely lady at the bus stop who told us how to get back into the city and we all jumped on the bus only to find that all of the buses were being detoured around the centre of the city as there was a giant protest going on about the fact that the government are about to start taxing them for water. The lady came up and helped us and told us what was happening … another example of their friendliness. So …. we jumped off the bus and I ran to a taxi with his light on and we jumped in. We were in a deadlock of traffic for a while but the nice little Indian fellow managed to get us to the terminal in plenty of time. And guess what … the ferry was delayed for another two hours.
We finally got on board and had dinner at about 10.45 pm. I was tired and knew that I had to go to sleep or I would be terribly sick. So I found a couch and basically slept the whole three hour journey. The only time I woke up was when the captain announced that he had tried to get in the harbour at Holyhead but had to come back out again as it was too dangerous and that he would have another go in half an hour. Now, this was a very big ship we are talking about here. Luckily I was still dopey and went back to sleep for another hour and a half while when he managed to get us into port. So all in all I had a good crossing. John stayed awake the whole time. We drove a couple of kms until we found a supermarket and went to sleep there from 4 am until 8.30 am. The van rocked a lot with the wind but I did get some sleep.
This morning we headed slightly north to visit the parents of Tom Alexander who John sailed with in Italy last year at the Etchell Worlds. We met David and Jessamine in Italy, so we called in and had a delicious brunch with them. They are a great couple and live in a beautiful part of the world in a huge manor house.
When we left them we drove through Snowdonia and it was extremely picturesque with a sprinkling of snow on the tops of the very rugged mountains. After a while we realised that we had driven on this road with Matilda and her gap year friend Robyn, when Till was doing a gap year in England.
Tonight we pulled up at a supermarket (surprise, surprise) to camp for the night and John fell asleep while I was in the shower at 6.30 pm. I know what that will mean … he will wake up at about 4 am and we will start driving again! Yuk!
We have about a three hour drive to get to Westbury where we are leaving the van over Christmas. From there we will train it up to London.
So I am up to date! Tomorrow London to stay with Till for the weekend and Daisy and Joe arrive Monday and Jack and Sarah Tuesday. I am so excited!!!!