A Travellerspoint blog

The carnival is over...

sunny 27 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

I’m sitting here, defying jetlag, and reflecting on the year that was. I’m thinking about how nice it is to be able to plug my electrical appliances in without needing to find the relevant adaptor, and enjoying the strangely therapeutic act of hanging washing outside on a clothesline. Simple things.
The past year has involved staying in 52 Airbnbs, a couple of hotels, 9 housesits, 1 campervan as well as making ourselves at home with various friends, friends of friends, and friends’ families. We’ve flown with 11 different airlines, crossed the water with 3 ferry companies, hired 11 cars and ridden numerous buses and trains and trams. We’ve used 9 separate currencies and have been surrounded by 14 different languages – achieving various levels of proficiency in these. But after all that, what have we actually learned?

I could waffle on for hours about holidaying on a nink budget, how to stay friends with your spouse in confined spaces and discuss the pros and cons of the various public transport systems available around the world, but for your sake I’ve summed up our adventures as briefly as possible.

TEN THINGS I HAVE LEARNED WHILE BEING A NINK

1. Malta knows how to make a good milkshake.

2. German public transport is not as efficient as they’ll have you believe.

3. It is possible to have a conversation comparing house prices and wages without sharing a common language.

4. Belinda really, really, really hates people with walking poles and cruise passengers.

5. If you drop your camera, it will break.

6. There are a lot of good people in the world. Ignore the media, get out and find them.

7. Whatever it is, there WILL be a museum dedicated to it. Probably in Vienna.

8. You cannot buy vegetables in Salzburg on a Sunday.

9. No matter how impressive a man-made structure is, nature will always show you something more remarkable.

… and, most importantly…

10. There is no such thing as too much peanut butter.

You’re welcome. Thanks for coming along for the ride – I’m off to enjoy my last ten days of ninking before the dinking has to resume.
Ninks, over and out.

-A

Posted by Buccas 21:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Abracadabra

sunny 26 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

Flight status: successful. Good ol’ Emirates managed to get us from Dublin to Dubai without too much fuss. I had experimented with ordering a vegetarian meal for the flight, thinking it would avoid the fish-always-seems-to-be-the-entrée situation, and rather enjoyed being served my ‘special meal’ before anyone else. You can just imagine how smug I was feeling when I saw that the ‘normal’ entrée was salmon and potato salad. You can just imagine how betrayed I was feeling when I lifted the lid of MY entrée and discovered a salad containing raw tomato… Gah. The curse of the raw tomato always strikes when you least expect it.
We arrived in the Dubai airport and promptly joined the biggest queue to enter a country that I have ever experienced – and at this stage of the trip, I have queued for country entry quite a lot. Slowly but surely we made it to the front of the line, and were let in to the UAE without too much hassle. No sign of Irish friendliness though…
We got ourselves some dirham, and then we got ourselves a taxi to our hotel, where we were able to leave our suitcases until check in time. We wandered the Bur Dubai neighbourhood, which is the older area of the city, and found plenty of places to buy mobile phones, cameras, printers, fake watches and handbags, and plenty of people keen to sell such items to us.
Eventually the hour of check in arrived, and we responded by going to sleep. Don’t judge us – we’d been awake for over 24 hours, and it was considerably hotter than it had been in Ireland. You would have slept too, I guarantee it.
Feeling more refreshed, we headed out to explore the less technological aspects of our neighbourhood. We started with the Dubai Museum, an absolute bargain at 3 dirhams entry (about $1.20). It proved to be a good overview of the city we had found ourselves in, and was the first (and possibly the last) museum I’ve visited to have a floor covered in sand. The other tourists seemed to come in waves (probably coinciding with bus tours), and as usual, the people watching was good. Damn good. I’ll set the scene – American mother with her 10 year old son, wearing white linen.
“What are those things people wear over their faces here?”
“It’s a mask, Mom.”
“No, no, they’ve got a special name, it’s called a scimitar, yeah, that’s it, a scimitar.”
I don’t know about you, but a scimitar is the last thing I want near my face. It continued…
“Can we get a falcon here, Mom?”
“No but you can get a falcon in Australia if you learn how to raise it and read a book about it first.”
Wow. Just wow. Some days this blog just writes itself…
After that enlightening experience, we found ourselves a spot of dinner which was well accompanied by karak tea which I’m fairly sure contained more sugar than an entire doughnut shop. Tasty, though.
Sleep was next on the agenda – we had our alarms set for very bright and very early, and even set the alarms on BOTH of our phones (to be sure, to be sure) in order to be up and ready for our desert tour that was departing from the city at 5.30am. Alas, alack, the sleep did not come until nearly 3am when the nightclub underneath our hotel finally shut its doors. And then it was not our alarms that woke us, but our room phone.
At 5.37am.
It was our tour guide, wondering if we were coming.
After swearing a little bit and looking at our phones in total confusion, we were told that we might still be able to make the tour if we jumped in a taxi to a petrol station en route to the desert. But we would have to leave NOW. So we did. I got dressed in such a hurry, it’s a wonder that the relevant items of clothing actually made it onto the correct body parts. But somehow they did, and then the taxi arrived, and then he stressed us out by going around the roundabout and saying he didn’t know where we were going, and then he destressed us by getting us to the petrol station in time to meet up with the rest of our crew and we were soooooooooooooooooooo relieved to have made it that we didn’t even notice Kush the Kestrel sitting on the console of the Jeep for the first ten minutes.
To cut a long story short, the desert tour was totes amazeballs. There were twelve of us, split between three Jeeps driven by South African falconers who took us to a conservation area in time to see the sunrise over the desert. Noice. We wandered across the sand dunes, saw some baby wild desert eagle owls nesting on the ground, spotted gerbil tracks and generally attempted to flatten the batteries of our cameras. We got to see Tesla the peregrine falcon, Cersei the desert eagle owl and Rogue the kestrel in action. And we were able to see them up very close indeed – let’s just say that Cersei needs to work on her conversational skills…
Birding complete, it was time for tree planting. The ghaf tree is the national tree of the UAE, and we were able to plant and name our own tree in the conservation reserve. Hopefully Nink will grow to be a very healthy, desert-loving ghaf in the years to come!
After all that hard work, we settled down on a carpet in the desert beside the sheikh’s manmade lake. It all felt very Aladdin-esque, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a genie appear… Instead of a genie, it was brunch that appeared – definitely a good alternative. After availing ourselves of the labneh, olives, sesame seed buns, hummus, boiled eggs, pomegranate syrup, za’atar and all sorts of other goodness, we had crostolo. A fruit and pastry dessert. Yes folks, we did it. We ate dessert in the desert. Life goal achieved.
Feeling content, we drove back into town, and bid our new friends farewell. We caught the metro in to the Dubai Mall for a wilderness experience of a different kind. It was huge. And I mean huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge. How many malls have you been to where there is a waterfall? And an indoor theme park? And an ice skating rink? And an aquarium that you can see into from three different floors? And goodness knows what else was there that we didn’t find because we were just wandering aimlessly…
Outside the mall, we saw where the Dubai Fountain would be if we had timed our visit differently, and admired the Burj Khalifa from outside. The sparkling water, the towering skyline, the overt displays of wealth – all quite the contrast from our desert experience.
We metro-ed back to the hotel to chill for a little bit, and then the next tour began. We arrived at the designated meeting point about half an hour early (to make up for the morning debacle) and embarked on an epic food marathon. We started with The Best Ever Falafel, followed it up with a pastry that made pastizzi seem boring and flavourless, continued with a chicken and onion dish of Palestinian amazingness, and then headed into the kitchen to watch the chefs make knafeh. For those of you unfamiliar with the joy of knafeh, it is made with noodles, cheese and sugar syrup and is a very very tasty dessert. Get on the bandwagon.
We moved on and enjoyed some baklava and coffee, before arriving at an Emirati restaurant where we sat on the floor to eat lentil soup. We were instructed in the fine art of eating goat stew and dried fish with our hands, and Simon impressed the tour guide (and the other participants) with his appetite. Elsie, our new Singaporean friend, lost my friendship by complaining about the jetlag and the ’long flight’, but then gained Simon’s friendship by pulling goat off the bone and making sure Simon had enough food.
On the way to our last stop, we chatted with Leah and Deb, the couple from England, and compared the Italian and Indian attitudes to food. The night finished with saffron icecream and more noodles, and then we were given little snack packs of slices and chocolates to take home – just in case we were still hungry!
We waddled towards the nearest metro with Daria, who had been on the two tours with us. She was a psych nurse from Belarus, working in Geneva, stopping in Dubai on her way to visit her parents in Seychelles. Unfortunately, we missed the last train on the red line – but there was one more train running on the green line, in 15 minutes. The green line metro station was a 16 minute walk away. So we ran. I’m not known as a runner at the best of times, but after a four hour food bonanza I was particularly unhappy about the running situation. Somehow, we managed to get there with at least 30 seconds to spare, and got ourselves back to our hotel to roll into bed. Sleep, glorious sleep.
The final day of ninking started with a late check out, and a relaxed lunch. From there we ventured to the textile souk, where Simon was practically mobbed by the very enthusiastic traders. “Johnny my friend, come into my shop, my friend you try, my friend, my best friend, perfect for you!” We pulled the old “non parlo inglese, parlo italiano” trick on one, who responded with “Apri la porta! Mi piace spaghetti!” which at least distracted him from plying his wares on us.
We enjoyed the relative peace of watching the happenings at the Creek, and sipped on iced coffee and iced saffron karak tea while watching the comings and goings of the abras (the water taxis). We lashed out and caught an abra across the Creek for 1 dirham each, and braced ourselves for the spice souk. We discovered more of “Johnny’s” friends, but managed to make it through the market without buying anything from the sacks of spices and nuts on offer. The smells were fantastic, and I didn’t mind the aggressive selling tactics too much because they targeted Simon and left me fairly well alone. It was a good chance for Simon to practise the Art of Saying No.
Out of the souks, we had our first public toilet experience in Dubai. At first glance, I thought maybe I had misread the sign and had walked into something other than a toilet cubicle, but I quickly worked out what to do where. Ah, the joys of travel…
We splashed out and hired an abra to ourselves for an hour long trip up and down the Creek, which was the most perfectly relaxing way to spend the afternoon. We tried (unsuccessfully) to understand the rules of the waterways, and tried (very successfully) to enjoy the sunshine and the gentle breeze. The skyline of the city could be seen in the distance, with Burj Khalifa and the other city buildings looking like cardboard cutouts.
After abra-ing, we sat on some park benches and snacked on our sweets from the food tour, and I really appreciated the opportunity to sit somewhere in the shade without having to buy anything for the privilege. Being able to just sit in a public place to eat and watch the world go by without being rained on or getting sunburned was a rare treat that we experienced less often than I would have liked during the year, and the fact that this one had a scenic backdrop was an added bonus.
Our final act of tourism was going to be the Coffee Museum. We had a vague address for this, and vague opening hours, but we set off on our quest. It took us into an old part of the city, and we eventually found the place tucked in amongst a philately museum, an architecture heritage museum, one of many mosques in the area, and various other buildings with official sounding titles. Alas, alack, it was closed when we arrived, but we had enjoyed our walk anyway.
We headed back to the Creek for a cold beverage and falafel wrap, and watched the sun set over the water. Tough gig. We reflected on the differences between Dubai and Dublin – we found that Dubai had fewer homeless people (we had seen a grand total of zero people begging on our travels) and the streets were much easier to navigate for pedestrians, as the pedestrian crossing lights actually went green more frequently than once every two hours. I guess in Dublin they assume you won’t be sober enough to adhere to the road rules anyway…
Back to the hotel to collect our luggage, into a taxi and we weaved through the traffic to the airport, tooting all the way. Someone famous appeared to be in the airport, as the Emirates staff all rushed to get photos, but we didn’t recognise the man in question. Simon and I had one final argument over who our favourite sheikh was, and then checked into our final flight for the trip.
We did some duty free shopping, made all the more ‘free’ by using our Skywards points to pay for grog instead of money. Amazing. We boarded the flight, and felt at home immediately – surrounded by Aussie accents. The Qantas safety video had me chuckling to myself – gotta love a safety briefing that features a window cleaner in Sydney demonstrating how to do up your seatbelt, and the Bangarra Dance Company doing the brace position with grace, and fire twirlers at Mindil market to reinforce the no smoking rule. Oh, Straya…
The next 14 hours were not unpleasant. We had sat next to a friendly French couple, and behind a woman and her three impeccably behaved children. I managed to eat an entirely fish-free meal, and recharged my Australian music batteries. Oh how I had missed Australian music!
We arrived in Melbourne, collected our luggage and our free duty free purchases, dodged the Channel 7 Border Security filming process and found Di and Sam waiting for us on the other side of the customs desk. Triumph!
The holiday officially ended in much the same way as it had started – cups of tea, and Di’s patty cakes. Gotta love being home…

Posted by Buccas 20:39 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

And I'll play the wild rover no never no more

(at least not for another year)

semi-overcast 8 °C
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Friday started as all good Fridays should – with a quick to Iceland to buy milk, followed by the consumption of cereal from a mug with a plastic spoon. We are nothing if not classy.
We headed to the bus station, and Simon used up our final Caffe Nero free coffee voucher in a fairly amusing exchange with the Slovakian waitress. It went something like this:
S: “I’ll have a large latte, please.”
W: “Did you say ginger beer?”
S: “Large latte…”
W: “Ginger beer?”
S: “Laaaaattttteeee…”
W: “Are you Australian? I can never understand Australian accents…”
Somehow he got the the coffee though, and then we bussed our way down to Dublin. The bus driver was as Irish as could be, and when he saw our luggage he did a double take. “What, are you guys travelling for a year or something?” Yes, good sir, indeed we are.
A few hours later we arrived in Dublin and found our way to our hotel after dodging a lot of dog poo. The local welcoming committee of gulls made their presence felt, and then we headed into Temple Bar the pub in Temple Bar the area to catch up with Gus, Vikki, Elaine and John. Because what better way to finish our holiday than a weekend in Ireland with our Scottish friends, the Welshes? The TradFest was on in Temple Bar for the weekend so every bar had live music – winner. We enjoyed a coddle together for lunch, which could best be described as being a combination of bangers and mash, and potato and leek soup. Sooooooooooo Irish. Went down well with a pint of Guinness, or Orchard Thieves cider, our new beverage of choice.
Our afternoon adventure involved finding our way to an escape room, and then finding our way out of said escape room. It was hilarious – and without giving anything away, the remote control car was a definite highlight. As was playing Operation…
We had dinner and a few more pints, made sure we had heard Whiskey in the Jar and Wild Rover five times and then headed to a bar that was embracing the TradFest spirit by playing traditional 80s classics. You can never have too much Blondie in your life…
On our way home, we were struck by the high prevalence of very visible homelessness in the city. The most amazing thing, though, was the very visible presence of support. I’ve never seen such a prominent and well organised soup kitchen before – and people raising money to support it. We walked past countless people sitting in doorways asking for money, and all of them had someone sitting and chatting to them. Kudos to you, Dublin.
Saturday was a slow start for Team Buccas – while the Welsh crew headed out for cooked breakfast, we had the incredibly classy Cereal In A Mug, but this time with a stainless steel teaspoon. What an upgrade! We met up at Dublinia (Dublin’s answer to Jorvik, complete with mannequin on the toilet) and we learned all about Viking and Medieval Dublin. We earned ourselves some cake by walking up the stairs in the tower, but had slightly more difficulty actually finding a cake shop. There was a lot of to and fro-ing in the quest for cannoli, but in the end settled for cakes at the closest shop we could find. From there, Simon and I embarked on a Northside walking tour and learned more about the 1916 Easter Rising, as well as being enlightened as to the origins of Bono’s name and all the rhyming nicknames for ‘The Spire’. Thus informed, we met up with the Welsh crew again at a craft brewery – not THE craft brewery, but A craft brewery – and after sampling the local liquid delicacies, headed to TGI Friday’s for a less traditional Irish meal, but a delicious one nonetheless. And then we managed to squeeze into Gogarty’s pub, along with a thousand of our closest friends for some awesome tunes and songs performed by a man with an eye-pad. Another rendition of Whiskey in the Jar – of course – but also some of the best whistle playing I’ve heard in a long time. Eventually the heat and the squishiness got to us and we bailed out, and we made the obligatory stop at Abra Kebabra before crossing the Ha’penny Bridge and heading home.
Sunday… ah Sunday. We all made it for cooked breakfast this morning (some of us indulged in some liquid breakfast too!), and there was even time for a wee cocktail before we headed off to a museum to do some learning about Stuff and Things. Sounds intellectual, eh? Well, yes, but remember – we were in Ireland, so it was an Irish Whiskey Museum. Huzzah! It was actually a really informative tour about the history of whiskey making in Ireland and we did genuinely learn things as well as genuinely being able to taste whiskey. Best of both worlds.
After that, the cannoli quest continued. But this time with more purpose – we knew where we were going. Unfortunately, the cannoli shop did not have seats. And since Dublin had finally decided to rain on us, we wanted to eat in. They promised us that their sister shop across the Liffey would have a) pistachio cannoli and b) seats, so off we traipsed. You can imagine our disappointment then when the sister shop and neither of the two things we so desired! Nevermind… the chocolate café down the road proved to be a reasonable alternative (even if Simon did have to run back across the river to get his pistachio cannoli).
We finished our jaunt in a nice relaxed bar with fairly lights, and a waitress who seemed to find Gus fairly ‘informative’. Baby Guinnesses all round. And all too soon, that was it. Time to return to the hotel, collect our belongings and say our farewells to the Welsh crew, to Dublin, and to Europe. Eek.

Posted by Buccas 11:29 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

I go, you go, we all go to Sligo

semi-overcast 6 °C
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We spent our Monday morning wandering the streets of Donegal town, and found this a fairly delightful thing to do. It is a conveniently small town, rather surprisingly so – especially since it is the town after which the whole county is named. The main shops were arranged around an area called ‘The Diamond’, which was suspiciously triangular in shape, and then bits and pieces jutted off at all angles. We went from the castle to the pier, through the abbey graveyard and ended up lost in a ginormous tweed shop. After all that excitement, we settled in for potato and leek soup (getting into the Irish spirit of things) before hitting the road.
The highlight of the journey was a road sign that warned “Caution: chapel 250m ahead.” Now, I’ve seen some weird and wonderful signs in my time, and I’ve been warned against all manner of things, but I have NEVER before in my life been cautioned about the upcoming presence of a place of worship. Needless to say, we proceeded with extreme caution and managed to make it safely past the obstacle. You can never be too careful, eh?
We crossed into county Sligo and checked into our final Airbnb of the trip, in Ballintogher. I confess, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful – my enthusiasm for touristing was hindered by the acquisition of a severe case of the snuffles, and going into Sligo for food supplies was the extent of the excitement. Honey and lemon drinks all round.
On Tuesday morning, both now officially victims of The Common Cold, we took ourselves off on a ramble through the Sligo countryside. We took in the lakeside views of Slishwood – surely a made up name! – and then went on to Dooney Rock, a paradise for dog walkers, tree identifiers and dinosaur country enthusiasts. We went well prepared with food, water, walking boots and rain protection, because we had read the route description for Slishwood that stated it was a “strenuous” hike of 4.5km. We weren’t worried about the distance, but figured that it must be steep and cover difficult terrain to warrant such a label. At the end of the 4.5km, we had not even raised a sweat. And as for Dooney Rock being “moderate”… to be fair, there was one set of stairs, but even so… Now, either our fitness levels have increased to such a level that we are completely unstressed by all by the most extreme of walks – or (and this is the more likely explanation) the Irish have a very generous grading system on their walks. I guess the main focus of physical exertion here is on bicep curls (pint in hand, of course), and their idea of a “strenuous” walk is one which does not lead to a pub. Ah, cultural differences… isn’t that what travel is all about?
The next day we opted for an “easy” walk at the base of Benbulben, Sligo’s iconic mountain. For an “easy” route, there was a rather steep hill involved!! It took us through an interesting and unexpected mangrove forest, and then out into a pine plantation – and into the wind. Oh the wind! Stopped me in my tracks – literally. Lucky I’m not a slightly built young lady or I would have been blown off to the beach in the distance… The dry weather held out and let us complete our walk in relative peace, before we went home for the Standard Issue Nink Lunch – peanut butter sandwiches.
We headed to the Arigna Mining Experience in the afternoon, which boasted one of the finest (and windiest) viewpoints I’ve seen. It was a clear day, and you could see for miles – except that you had to see it all very quickly because it wasn’t actually that pleasant standing out there in the wind for an extended period of time.
Once inside, we watched a mildly (unintentionally) hilarious video about the mine from 1990, and then had a tour of the mine with Seamus. Because Ireland. Unfortunately, Seamus seemed less enthused about being there than Simon was. To be fair, that’s not all that hard, but he certainly lacked the excessive friendliness and jovial nature of his fellow countrymen. I must say, I would’ve found it difficult to be friendly and jovial if I had worked in those conditions…
Home for dinner, and then a wee walk down to the local (Moran’s – no relation to the underworld figures of Melbourne, apparently) to celebrate Burns Night. We had a lovely chat to the owners, and earned brownie points by ordering good scotch to drink by the fire.
We checked out the next morning, and drove through the most hilarious Irish roadworks to get to Enniskillen. Essentially just a man waving at cars… felt like we could’ve been in Australia, really. We found a free park in Enniskillen, had a free coffee at Caffe Nero and strolled the streets for free. Ninklife.
Feeling suitably refreshed, we continued on the road back to Belfast, checked ourselves into our hotel and headed out to the airport to return Spud to his rightful owners. The bus took us back into the centre, and we promptly headed up to admire the view at the top of the Victoria shopping centre. Then the moment of truth arrived. Same Happy. Was it open or was it not? I am pleased to report that it was OPEN! Huzzah! So in we went, and enjoyed some amazing char siu noodles and some average Hainan chicken (karma for going without Pat, Belinda and Emma) and then wandered home via a pub with live trad music. The musicians were playing plenty of Scottish tunes (which they had obviously mastered for Burns night and were intent on getting some mileage out of them) but didn’t know any Aussie songs. But really, what could be more Australian than drinking beer with my Italian husband in an Irish pub listening to Scottish music after eating Chinese food? Straya.

Posted by Buccas 02:56 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Carrigans, Carrigart and Carrick

sunny 4 °C
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Our final morning in Carrigans was a misty one, but we defied the fog and decided to make for Grianan of Aileach, a hillfort that was supposed to afford fabulous 360 degree views on a clear day. It was only 15 minutes down the road, so we figured that if we got there and couldn’t see anything, it would be no great loss. What we hadn’t banked on was The Great Jacket Loss of 2017. For when we went to climb to the aforementioned hillfort, Simon discovered that his waterproof jacket was nowhere to be found in the car. So unless Spud had started eating our belongings, that meant that he had left the jacket behind in our Carrigans apartment. And the hosts of said apartment had been about to leave for the day. Hmm. We shot them a message, and had to resign ourselves to peering out into the misty horizons while waiting for a reply.
Nothing.
We came up with the grand plan of going into the nearby castle/visitor info centre/interactive experience thingamy. It was only 3 euros, and included a cup of tea, and would entertain us at least until we heard back from our hosts.
Nope. Closed for repairs.
Right, stuff it. We headed north along the Wild Atlantic Way, which would have been lovely and charming on a bright sunny day, but on a foggy day with a missing jacket and a temperature of about 4 degrees it was hard to get excited about. We did get excited about a text confirming that Simon’s jacket was still in the apartment, but we couldn’t reply as we were in a mysterious no man’s land without phone reception or free wifi. We tootled back to Carrigans – and then got the message that our hosts wouldn’t be back from their shopping adventure until nearly 4pm. Right. Now, the advantage of us staying in Carrigans was that it was lovely and quiet. This rather quickly became the disadvantage of staying in Carrigans, as there was nothing in the village except a post office, a small grocery shop and a pub. The obvious choice was the pub – it had heating, it had seats, it had wifi, and it had beer.
We entered and got suspicious looks from the locals at first, but once we had ordered a pint they decided we were okay and we spent the next hour or so with Billy who was dying of cancer and knocked back the pints as if each might be his last, and some others who didn’t give us their names but were entertaining company nonetheless. The barmaid was a Trump supporter… enough said. Anyway, by the time our hosts returned to town, we had Billy offering to adopt us so that we could get a permanent visa to stay in Ireland and the fun of the crossword was just getting started. We had been warned that we were leaving it a bit late to be going so far north – apparently Carrigart was a “long drive” and the roads would be hard to navigate in the dark.
Approximately one hour later, armed with Simon’s jacket, our “long drive” was complete and the sun hadn’t quite set yet. Pff. Come to Australia and then tell me what a long drive is. Our new hosts (and their cocker spaniels) were very welcoming and talked for about 3 hours before letting us go off and find dinner. They had talked up the village pub and its woodfired pizza facilities, so you can imagine how heartbroken I was when we arrived to discover that pizza was not on offer that night – nor was any other food, for that matter. Onto the next village, and on the third try, we finally found a pub selling food. This, you see, is the downside of travelling in the off-season – places shutdown over January because there are no tourists. Anyway – this place was open, and we had a two course meal for €12.50 instead of a one course meal for €14.00. Gotta love the ol’ weekend special. There was another group in the pub celebrating someone’s 40th birthday – and I use the term ‘celebrating’ very loosely… essentially, there was a table of women sitting around looking morose and occasionally checking their phones. If that is what turning 40 looks like, I’ll skip straight to 50, thanks.
The next morning we were greeted with the most beautiful views from our bedroom window – and tractors. Tractors everywhere. Lovely. We headed north to Fanad Head (at Paul’s suggestion) and enjoyed the fact that the sun was out, but it didn’t carry a lot of warmth with it. We mosied around the Wild Atlantic Way official viewing points up north before making our way down to Glenveagh National Park. From the carpark, it was a very pleasant 4km walk to the Glenveagh Castle and, more importantly, the Glenveagh Tea Rooms, where every man and his dog (literally) were enjoying some refreshments. We supped, and then took the steep route uphill for views and hilarious photo opportunities. I think it’s a reflection of our fitness and stupidity levels that it took us longer to take photos jumping off the rock atop the hill than it did to actually climb up the hill. Go team.
The Wild Atlantic Way took us still further south to Mountcharles, and then we popped over to Donegal for dinner with a Slovakian waiter. Because Ireland.
Somehow, we scored The Best Possible Weather to head to the Slieve League cliffs for the day. Allegedly some of the highest marine cliffs in Europe, we walked upwards in full sunshine and zero wind. And once you got moving, you hardly noticed that it was about three degrees. Sunglasses required for the second day in a row – not bad for an Irish winter! Everyone we passed on the cliffs commented on how fabulous the weather was, until we came across a young lad walking with his father and the young lad launched into a sales pitch for his family’s chip shop in Carrick. BEST chipper in Carrick, apparently. What a legend. We found a nice smooth rock in the sun to sit on while we dined on Orkney oatcakes and cheese (what pb sandwich lovers eat when they’re not eating pb sandwiches) and generally felt smug about life. Views for days – and not a drop of rain or a breath of wind. Not exactly what we had expected from an Irish winter, but we were not complaining.
Once we’d had our fill of cliffs, we popped over to see the beach at Silver Strand and watched the sun go down over the waves. Still no rain – but definitely no desire to be swimming. Definitely views to be appreciated from the relative warmth of the shore.
As it so happened, Carrick was on the direct route back to Mountcharles – so would you believe it, we stopped in at the Cottage Chipper and had some excellent fish and chips (or chicken and chips if your name is Alison) before going home for a cup of tea. What a splendid day!

Posted by Buccas 13:32 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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