October 19, 2005

Spanish Seduction

It's about a month since I returned from my Spain, and for lots of reasons I never really got around to entering anything in my blogs about how the trip went. It's 4:30p.m. and it looks like my boss has skipped off early for today, affording me some stolen minutes to do this. ;)
Way back at the start of the summer I spotted some ridiculously cheap flights from Shannon to Girona in the Northeast of Spain, so I didnt think too long or hard about them and booked before they were scooped up! In the weeks and months that followed, I didnt think very much about the holiday - it was just a break I felt I needed from the tedium of my job and I didn't feel like planning very much for it.
I had been to Spain once before - just outside Alicante - and it didnt leave much of an impression in my mind that time. Not my kind of holiday, I suppose - the south coast of Spain (the little I saw of it) was a bit depressing really. This time around, I was expecting something more, but I was surprised at how much I fell in love with the places I visited!
Our first port of call was Montserrat. After landing in Girona, Brian and I hired a car (a Seat Ibiza, which was pretty comfy and economical) and hit the road. We had NO PLAN, which was kind of funny. We vascillated between Barcelona, Valencia and Zaragoza, eventually opting for Montserrat. The drive up the mountains was spectacular, and would have been even more so had the weather been better. Big black clouds were threatening by the time we arrived at the monastery town. While the surrounding landscape was breathtaking and the monastery very worthwhile, Montserrat itself was a little disappointing in some ways. It was completely geared towards tourists and you felt it in your pocket! We visited the monastery which was very beautiful and peaceful, took a ride to the mountain top on the cable car, and planned a trek to some of the caves and hermitages but about 10 mins into the trek, big fat drops of rain started to fall. Seconds later the sky opened and we had to scurry back to the cable car. :( We pretty quickly abandoned our plan of camping in Montserrat that night.
As we drove through the night to Madrid, the rain poured down relentlessly. The motorway was full of trucks (I've never seen so many!) which made it even harder to drive. At about 4 in the morning, we pulled into a deserted lay-by just outside Madrid and had a doze for a few hours.
Next morning, I awoke to the sound of a car purring. In a sleepy stupor I unzipped my sleeping bag and rubbed some of the condensation from the winow. I woke up pretty quickly when I realised there were two Spanish police at the driver's window. Yikes! Once they realized we had just pulled in for some sleep, they grinned at us, waved that it was okay and pulled off. :) Hehe...
What can I say about Madrid! I love the city - it is so alive. We ended up spending double the amount of time we had initially thought we would there. We scouted out a great little pension right in the centre on Calle Major. The owner was lovely, even though he didnt have a word of English, nor we Spanish...but we got by with a smattering of French. LOL! We dumped our bags, had a shower, and headed back out for some tapas and a cerveza. I wish Ireland had more of a similar attitude to food and drink as many of the Europeans do. Having a little drink with some food is so much better than having a four course meal late in the evening, then going out and binge drinking until closing time. I could get used to tapas! We tried lots of different types over the 4 days in Madrid - all delicious!!
There was so much to see and do in the city, and while we probably just scratched the surface, we managed to fit in a lot in 4 days. I probably enjoyed the Reina Sofia the best, even though I wasnt feeling very well the same day. We spent a few hours looking at Salvador Dalis, Picassos, Miros and lots more. Later on, we lazed oujtside in the sun and watched a group of percussionists who were excellent and drew a huge crowd!
One on of the nights there, we met up with a girl that I know from a travel website on-line called Steff. We spent a few hours going to the bars in La Latina, and we really enjoyed it. La Latina is definitely the most vibrant, arty area of the city - lots of great shops and bars.
I was sorry to leave Madrid, and i think I could have happily blown off the rest of the holiday to stay there. We both wanted to go South to Cordoba, Seville and Grandada, but it was an overly ambitious plan considered we had to get back to Barcelona the following week, so we agreed on Valencia next. This city was much different to Madrid - it reminded me just a little of Bologna with its old historic quarter. We hadnt booked ahead and we spent a lot of time that day just trying to find somewhere to stay. After much searching, we found a hostal near the center with one slightly psychotic and one super-friendly owner. LOL!
We spent two days in Valenica (or was it 3?) - the centre itself was quite a cosy size and we saw most of what we wanted to see quite easily. The highlight was the Aquarium - definitely worth taking in!! The Barrio Carmen was, I thought, the nicest area of the city - much like La Latina in Madrid. We found a great pizzeria on Calle des Venerables which served excellent pizza and really cheap house wine. Full of locals too!
Leaving Valencia and the heat, we drove up the coast to Tarragona, where we stopped to recharge our batteries. Tarragona is a gorgeous little town, and I'd love to go back. We only stayed a couple of hours - just long enough for me to do some shopping. ;)
The drive through the Catalyunian countryside was beautiful - it was much more verdant than the burnt red landscapes of Castille. We passed lots of inviting looking vineyards, and I just kept wishing that we had more time to take it all in, but we had to press on to Barcelona. Driving into Barcelona is far from a piece of cake, and I was lucky that Brian had done it before. We took a couple of wrong turns, and ended up getting caught for some time in a traffic jam on the main motorway into the city. When we finally got to our pension, Pension Dali, off Las Ramblas, we were both wrecked.
Las Ramblas is lovely, but it's like anything that you've built up in your head..a little anti-climatic. I couldnt really see what all the fuss was about. We found a great restaurant that night where we really relaxed over some fajitas and a bottle of wine. We took a wander around the city to get a feel for what it was like at night, but ended up back in bed before too long. Next day, we took the Metro to see the Sagrada Familia. We debated going in as both our budgets were over-stretched at this stage, but in the end we did, and boy was I glad. The Sagrada Familia is one of the most amazing sights in Spain, and I was raging that I didnt have my camera with me.
Obviously, it takes too long to write about everything we did, and this is already too long for anyone to still be reading it , but suffice to say that we made the very most of our 10 days in the country. My lasting memory of Spain is long, lazy evenings drinking or eating outside in the warm air, a very laid back atmosphere, and great shopping! The curse of the backpacker is that she cant feed her shopping addiction!
But I'll be back....

October 7, 2005

Writers Block in Madrid

I had a episode of writer's block while in Spain. I brought along my journal fully intending to document all the sights and sounds at the end of each day...but when I sat down to write anything, I found that I was a bit...well....stuck.
During one particularly acute episode in Madrid, all I could muster were banal notes like "Went to the Reina Sofia today, really enjoyed it". After a half page or so, I read back over it and realised I hadn't captured anything even remotely close to what I was experiencing. In the end, I gave up, resolving to get down to it properly when I got home to Ireland.
The conclusion I came to was that when you are travelling with other people, you really just don't have the time to write, because you're too busy chatting and planning what to do next, and even when you do find yourself with an hour or two of your own to spare, it's difficult to really settle down to the task at hand because you're wondering what they are doing and looking fwd to hearing about what they've been up to in your absence. Travelling solo affords the sort of time that is more conducive to stimulating the creative process.
Since I've returned home, I still haven't managed to actually write anything much about my time in Spain, due to being back at work and evenings being taken up with giving piano lessons. At least, that's my excuse. Maybe I still have writer's block..
To make matter's worse, I arrived back to work to discover that my boss sneakily moved me from my advantageous back-to-the-wall, birds eye view of the room position to a new desk right beside him. Fan-bloody-tastic! My blog entries will be few and far between from now on, it seems. My dossing days are over!
Anyway, back to the trip itself. Brian and I never actually made it south to Ronda or Seville as we'd initially hoped, but it was a pretty ambitious plan to begin with anyway. We ended up doing a city tour of Spain with one or two stops in smaller places along the way.
I fell in love with Madrid and, if I wasnt committed to my round the world trip now, I might even consider moving there immediately! It's supplanted Rome as my favourite European city. The city is absolutely alive, and what was even better about that was that it was not thronged with tourists.
One of the best nights we had there was meeting Steff (another TP member who've I gotten to know over the last few months). We arranged to meet her outside on of the main Metro stations near where we were staying. Had no idea what she looked like, and there was one or two almost funny/embarrassing moments where I nearly walked up to random people and asked them if they were Steff.
You always feel a little weird when you meet people for the first time, but after 5 mins with Steff you felt like you'd known her all your life. We had a great night, spent most of the night in stitches laughing. First, she took us to a little bar (I forget the name..) where they served this yummy white Basque wine.
Later on, we went to another bar in La Latina which played flamenco music and we had a few beers and some tapas. We got a fit of giggling at the barman because he had red-hair - he looked more like an IRishman than a Spaniard.
More bar-hopping ensued, and we eventually met up with Steff's Spanish friend Eva who was great fun! Steff ended up as an interpreter for the rest of the evening, but it didnt matter. We all managed to make ourselves understood, and most of the time the conversation just descended into riotous laughter.
One of our better nights out in Spain, it has to be said.
Anyway, I'd be here all day if I tried to tell you everything that was great about Spain, and none of us really want that. And what with the bad dose of writer's block, and the boss looking over my shoulder, and the laziness, it'll just have to wait. Lol!

October 4, 2005

A Cof Reflects on What It Means to Be Free...

12 more weeks of this insufferable grind. 12 more weeks and I am free!

I'm trying to get my head around what that's actually going to feel like. Have I ever really been "free" before? I think not.

In the beginning, there were play-pin boundaries and childlocks. Then came primary school (a welcome relief, its true, but a form of captivity nonetheless). Following this, began 6 long years of concentration camp-like internment, otherwise known as SECONDARY SCHOOL. Many people look back on this period of their young life with a certain degree of rose-tinted fondness. Not me, oh no! I remember....nuns..lots of nuns...and rules. I was told who I could or couldnt associate with, what career path I should choose, how I should look, and how I should speak. I've committed those times to the darkest recesses of my memory, where they remain smouldering, only to be stoked every now and then by a brief encounter with one of the aforementioned tyrants or school bullies.

The start of univeristy life heralded a period of feckless abandon, the illusion of having thrown off the shackles of secondary education, and the beginning of MY life. Ha! What a green little freshman was I! In the short space of a year, not only the bank but also the university owned my ass. Exams, resits, deadlines, account balances, overdrafts, contracts, duels at dawn.....no I was certainly not free, but I did love college.

I emerged from university as a butterfly from a cocoon, shaped, moulded, employable (snort), and up to my neck in DEBT! After a brief and ill-advised spell working in a doctor's surgery (because despite what my college tutor told me, no-one actually really wants an ARTS student. ) I was successful in applying for a position as a Technical Writer. Now I shall certainly experience true freedom, I thought. Where do I sign? Let my star-studded career commence!

Almost a year later, I have become not even an important cog in an important machine. I'm just some crap old cog, buried away in the back of the machine, trundling along, breaking down unnoticed every so often, but yet just necessary enough to have around in case one of the TOP cogs craps out. No, this is freedom neither.

So, what am I do when I am suddenly launched out into the big wide world with little or no deadlines and no one to tell me what to do? Will I be overcome? Will I go nuts altogether? Will I realise I'm just meant to be an old cog after all and turn around and come back? What will be the outcome? What does it feel like to be free?

September 11, 2005

Isla de Pascua

Ever since I was fifteen I've wanted to see Easter Island. It has always seemed a dim and distant possibility, and even after the idea for this trip was conceived it didn't look as if it would be easy to get to. It's one of the most remote places on Earth, but for that reason alone it is surely worth making the effort to see it just once in your life.
Today, at 3:45p.m., I booked my return flight to Rapa Nui. I leave Santiago on Feb 15th for a 3-day detour to see this mysterious piece of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I should arrive just in time for the end of one of their most famous festivals, Tapiti RapaNui. It could make getting accomodation more difficult and significantly more pricey, but it's going to be worth every cent!

September 5, 2005

Donde Esta El Nearest Campsite?

It's 10:30 a.m., and already it's shaping up to be one of those days. My co-workers are just about managaing to grunt at each and are wearing the faces of people who've indulged in a little too much this weekend, our diamond of a boss is in one of his "moods" about something, and we have two new people starting work here today (god love them!). I have the inclination of a piece of flaccid lettuce to actually do anything constructive today. It's Monday.
However, this is a short week for me. Only one more day before my brother and I jet off for 10 long, lazy days in Spain. Now that it's in sight, I'm looking forward to it hugely. I've been so caught up in the planning and preparation for my trip in January, that this took a bit of a back seat. We haven't really laid out any itinerary for this, apart from picking up a car at Girona Airport. We'll take it from there.
We're going to be doing this on a budget though, so apart from the luxury of having a car to get around, in all other aspects, it's backpacking in earnest! Hostels and campsites all the way. All the research I've been doing lately for South America has really impressed upon me just how expensive it is to holiday in most of Europe. Saying that, Spain is comparatively cheaper than Ireland in many respects - food and beer are definitely better value, so with a bit of careful planning I think we can make our euros stretch.
For once, I'm organised on the packing front! Instead of the usual last minute flurry, tearing dirty clothes out of drawers and power-washing through the night, I've managed to isolate what I'm taking and have everything washed and ready in advance. (thanks to Mam! ). I have to work tonight and tomorrow, and we're leaving very early on Wednesday morning, so I had to get my ass in gear this time.
Usually, I'm one of those people who overpacks for holidays. I try to bring clothes and shoes to cover all possible situations, and invariably end up not using half of them! I think it's a flaw of the female condition, most women I know are the same. A look of horror flashes across their faces at the thought of ending up in a situation where they might not have the right outfit! LOL. So, the new me, backpacking me, is determined not to haul half the wardrobe with me this time.
This time, I'm making do with -
  • 3 pairs of pants (1 heavy for night-time)
  • 3 T-shirts
  • PJs
  • thermals in case its cold camping at night
  • 1 jumper
  • 1 paclite jacket
  • 1 shirt
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 slightly dressier tops for night-time
  • sandals and flip-flops

It's all fitting in a 35L rucksack with room to spare.

Now, it better not be raining over there!!

September 2, 2005

Time to Get Fit

Last weekend I went on a pretty easy trek - nothing too strenuous - and was shocked to discover how unfit I've become in the last few months. I found that the first section of the trek (a 10minute steep ascent) completely winded me, when a few short months ago I was able to race up it.
It's time to get my ass back to the gym. Yes, it's looking like we've seen the last of the Irish summer, the evenings are getting shorter, and with nothing but a promise of more episodes of Fair City and Nationwide hitting the TV screens for the autumn, it seems that the only option is to put my leisure hours to good use by burning off some stubborn excess and building up those muscles for the trip ahead. I can't believe how lazy I've gotten over the summer!!
The thought of digging out the unflattering gym-gear and actually physically entering the doors of Aura Fitness is not even slightly appealing. It's been months since I last huffed and puffed on a treadmill surrounded by hoards of sweaty, heaving middle-aged men, anorexic, wasted looking girls, and sculpted, bulging beefcakes. Ugh! Like I said, not appealing.
But, it's all for a good cause. One of the first things I will be doing when I land in Peru is the famous Inka Trail. Although, it's described by many a tour group as a moderately difficult trek, they do recommend that people undertaking it be in reasonably good physical condition. If a small hill in Co. Tipperary is taking it out of me at the moment, what will I be like clambering up the Inka Trail post-Christmas.
Not a person known for my iron will-power, Christmas is always a time of the year when I'm likely to double in size! This year, I'm going to have to be steadfast in my refusal of all things fatty and sugar-laden. It's bad enough that I'll have to hire a porter in Cuzco just to lug my backpack. What's he going to think, if I can't even lug myelf up there! Lol!!
With all this in mind, I resolve to return to the gym this weekend. It's going to be painful, but the first day going back after a prolonged absence is really the worst........

August 25, 2005

Recapturing Childhood Excitement

Nervous excitement is all part of the dizzying preparation surrounding a round the world trip. My Dad often says that the best part of a trip is often just before you leave, the planning, the anticipation of what's to come. I hope that's not entirely true , but when I think about it now I understand the difference maybe. Once you are on that plane, you are actually doing it, and nervous anticipation is replaced with a sort of nervous energy. Something akin to a survival instinct kicks in, so that you can concentrate on getting from A to B, picking up those bags, finding your hotel. Once the holiday experience begins, you become involved in the doing and seeing, and have little time for anticipation.
I asked myself today if I really truly knew the meaning of exhiliration.
I don't think adults really experience excitement very often, I think you have to have a child-like heart to really feel it. Adults are too afraid to give into it, to let go and be carried away by it. I tried to think of the last time I really truly experienced nervous butterflies-in-the-tummy excitment. I couldnt, at least not as an adult anyway. The closest I could come was being in bed on Christmas Eve and listening to the grandfather clock in the hall, waiting for Santa, too hyped up to sleep, too nervous not to, willing the morning to come.

The thought of leaving what I know and am used to, to carve out a new path in the world on my own fills me with the twin feelings of dread and possibility. Some days one outweighs the other, on others they exist in equilibrium. As the time draws closer, I expect them to fuse as one intense emotion, so I will never really know if what I am feeling is dread or excitement....a bit like sky-diving, I imagine.
Last night I opened the Rough Guide to South America and began to read. I flicked through the sections until I landed on Peru. I'll be flying into Lima, so it's as good as place as any to begin. The more I read, the more the "What-Ifs" in my head were drowned out. The old adage "Knowledge is Power" sprang to mind, and how true it is. The vague idea of landing in Jorge Chavez airport with my life in 65L on my back and little or no Spanish is some days enough to frighten the daylights out of me. As I read through section after section of the chapter, however, underlining details of bus numbers and street maps, my confidence was re-kindled. And then, the first waves of excitement began to wash over me. The wonderful realization that I will land in Peru with no commitments, no deadlines, enough money to keep me going for quite a while, and the freedom to see and do anything I want, hit home and I couldnt stop smiling. I started to map out a trajectory through the continent.

August 23, 2005

Counting Down the Days

Groan...only another 4 months and a bit to go. The thing is it will fly past but it feels like aeons away at the moment.
Today was just one of those days at work. My boss just went into Uber-Assh*le mode and started tearing strips out of everyone. I could see Angela the cleaning lady wasnt even safe, but she managed to skulk into the kitchen and close the door before he bore down on her! What a spanner! I'm really not going to miss him, faffing about with his palm-pilot glued to his hand all day! saying "Come on now guys, not enough WOW factor there. We can do better than that, hmmm?"
I'm DYING to just say, "Guess what, I'm going south for the winter!" and storm out of the office with enough WOW factor to blow his pea-sized mind entirely. Well, a girl can dream.....
Work is becoming a nightmare though. My mind feels like its turned into vegetable soup from lack of use. Thank God for the internet. Without that, I would have left here long ago, or maybe died slumped over my keyboard and no-one would have noticed. Yes, it is that bad.
Anyway! on a lighter note, yesterday I invested in a Gortex XCR jacket. I say invested because I have to convince myself that I was Me, I, Mise who decided to buy the jacket, not the sales assistant I met. I wandered into River Deep Mountain High on my lunchbreak for a browse (that's all I swear!) I emerged from the store 15 minutes later €300 poorer......I think....
I was lured in my the massive red and white SALE signs on the front window. "Oh!", I thought, "I'll have a quick look at the jackets and see if there's anything good on offer". I wasnt in the door 5 seconds and the devil's advocate slash snowboarder (or whatever he was) got his claws into me and started giving me the hard sell. I was trapped. I could see the door merely feet away, and when I heard the words "Only two hundred and ninety nine euro" floating over the air, I wanted to run screaming from the shop, clutching my credit card to my chest, shouting "Back fiend! back!"

Instead, what did I do?
I said like a witless eejit, "Oh, is that all. Well, I do need one, I suppose...." and let him prise the card from my fist. In a matter of nano-seconds, he'd swiped the card, bagged the jacket,and moved onto the next witless eejit without so much as a goodbye!
I should never be allowed to go shopping alone!
Anyway, on further inspection last night it seems my jacket isnt a paclite, as I originally thought, but XCR. I dont know much about these things, but it seems to be pretty suitable to the kind of trip I'll be doing, so Im going to keep it. Theres no way Im going back into the DANGER ZONE to exchange it. I'd end up coming back out with the same jacket, various travel gadgets and gizmos, and probably a surfboard or something.
I'm going to be staying away from the shop for a while I think. Lol!!
I do like my jacket though....

August 19, 2005

Getting the Ball Rolling

Well, the dye has been cast. After a year of restless plotting and researching, I finally got my act together and booked my flights.
It was a strange feeling to finally do it. My hands were almost shaking, and the minute I clicked the Purchase button on the Lan website, momentary fear gripped my heart. No turning back!
Since then, I've been on a roll. Things just seem to be falling into place! I'm flying out of Shannon (quite near my home which is really convenient!) on 03 Jan off to The Big Apple! I really cant wait to see New York! I only have 3 days there, so I'm going to try and squeeze in as much as possible while I'm there.
3 short days later, I'm getting on a plane to cross the equator for the first time! to Lima. I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous about South America, but this is what it's all about! Having abandoned the idea of joining up with Kumuka TOurs (I really want a challenge and to travel alone), the tentative plan is to spend a couple of days in Lima in the Miraflores district and see what it has to offer. My plan for Peru is to follow a similar path to the tour groups, so I think from Lima I'll head out to the coast initially, then down to Arequipa and from there back to Cuzco and the Inka Trail.
I'm going to give myself 2-3 months in South America. While I'm there I'm going to see Peru, Bolivia, as much of Chile as I can, including Patagonia, and then Argentina. From Buenos Aires, I hope to fly on to Auckland.
Visa is almost sorted for NZ!It only cost me €160 as well, which I was pleasantly surprised at. I thought it would be more somehow. And then its NEW ZEALAND for a year!!! I have been looking fwd to see this country for a lllloonnggg time. It's so exciting!!!!!!!!!
The itinerary after this is a loose one. No point planning to far in advance. Who knows where I'll end up. The itinerary is listed here on the homepage if anyone is interested.
Savings are starting to accumulate slowly, although I've a long way to go yet! I've booked an appointment for my jabs (ugh!) and all I have really left to pay for after that is my flight from SA to NZ. Good stuff outta me! Lol!
Anyway, that's all for now. Stay tuned....

August 9, 2005

Spur of the Moment

Hurray! Feeling a strange mix of nerves (oh God, what have I done...I didnt really think this through) and complete excitment (Yahoo! This means I'm on my way FINALLY!)

I did it. I just booked the preliminary flights for my RTW trip. I've been talking about it for so long at this stage, I was even beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get my ass in gear and do it.

Anyway, I've been keeping a close eye on some ridiculously cheap fares over the last while and today they went up slightly, so that was the impetus for the RASH DECISION.

So, I'm booked on a flight to NYC on 3 Jan and then on a flight from there to Lima 2 days later.

I've also reserved, but not paid for, a flight from Buenos Aires to Auckland (which is about €1000 ouch!) in late Feb.

Excitement, excitement, excitement......

July 19, 2005

Kicking Back in Kerry

By 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon, I was so bored at work that my head had gone numb and I was contemplating saying a number of very rude and expletive things to my boss. Just in time, my brother rang to tell me he'd made a snap decision to pack up the car and head to Dingle for the weekend. Was I up for it???

All that was left of me in the office car park at 5:30 were some big black skid-marks! :D

Got home, threw some essentials in my pack and we hit the road. The weather forecast for the wknd was promising blue skies and lots of sun, and it was certainly shaping up that way. Apart from a pitstop in Tralee for petrol and some Mars bars, we made Dingle in just over two hours. Even though we'd packed the tent and camping gear in the boot of the car, we rang ahead to the Rainbow Hostel and, as luck would have it, they had one twin room left! Rainbow Hostel is a great spot! A spotlessly clean hostel with good facilities and about 10 mins walk from Dingle. (meant to take a photo but forgot :( )

Headed straight into town to Conaire's pub to meet up with my brother's friends. One of them is jsut back from a few months in India, so I was happy to spend a few hours picking her brains and listening to all her travel stories. :) Conaire's was quite a lively spot - there was a trad band in the for the night and the walls of the pub were pratically heaving with ppl up dancing and singing. We fancied somewhere a bit more chilled out after a few hrs, so we decided to check out the wine bar up the street. This place was really nice - you would not expect to find it in Dingle. It serves quite late, and has some of the best pizza Ive ever tasted! Yum. After a few glasses of wine, we all meandered homewards emjoying the warmth of the night.

10:30 a.m. Saturday. Woken by LOUD knocking at our door telling us we had to get up. Groan. Pain in head. Meant to drink at least two glasses of water before bed last night....We had to get up and get dressed, get our thing together pretty quickly. Initially, we were told that Sat night was booked out at the hostel, but when we went downstairs to pay, the girl in charge told us she had just had a cancellation and asked if we'd liek to stay another night. We could have stayed in bed after all....LOL. Oh well, it was good to be up anyway. After dumping our gear back upstairs, getting on some new clothes and washing up, we decided breakfast sounded good. We walked into town to wake ourselves up. I love the smell of the sea air! And what an amazing morning - blue sky, sun sparking on the water and on the boats - it was good to be alive.

This is where we had breakast - Darcy's. I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, lots of fresh coffee, orange juice and toast. Pain in the head was gone within a few mins and I was right as rain.! :)


The day was stretching out ahead of us with lots of possibilities - we could go swimming, we could sit outside in the sun and read, we could explore the town....in the end we decided to go for a hike. At the mouth of the bay, there was a hill with a look-out tower at the top which looked interesting, so we piled into the car and drove out along the bay to the foot of this.


The heat was really starting to build up by now, and I wasnt relishing the thought of encasing my feet in my big hiking boots, so i opted to leave on my sandals. Mistake! Half-way up the hill we came upon what seemed like oceans of gorse!! I had to trudge through this for at least 15 mins. Ow! Ow! Ow!

But the pain was definitely worth it. The views of Dingle from the top were spectacular. YOu really wouldn't think you were in Ireland.It was more like Croatia or the South of France or something.


We spent a couple of hours lying in the sun and chatting, and soaking it all up. This is Ireland at its best. We dont often get weather like this.



Eventually, when we all started to feel hungry and thirsty, we made our way back down. We arranged to meet a friend out in Ballyferriter, so we took the Slea Head drive out past DunChaoin and the Blaskets. It was funny to see the confused tourists standing out with their English language maps looking at the Irish roadsigns. Lol!!


This is a beehive hut that we spotted at along the way.
We spent the rest of the day out in Ballyferriter drinking in the sun. When the sun eventually went down heaeded back into Dingle for something to eat. Spent the rest of the night crawling the pubs and listening to the Irish lads winding up the American tourists. It was hilarious!! LOL. Ended up back in the wine bar to finish off the night. Didnt crawl into bed until well after four.

Sunday More knocking at 10:30a.m. Up, shower, pack, back into Darcy's for brekkie. Everyone feeling very tired this morning. Decided on a short walk around the headland at the mouth of the bay to wake us up. Found a secluded little beach and spent the next few hours watching Fungi the Dolphin in the water. He followed some jet-skiers right up to where we were, and jumped out of the water metres away. I'm a big kid, so this was the highlight of my day! :) I got pretty sunburned even though the weather was cloudy in the morning, so eventually I had to reluctantly leave the beach and head back.

In the afternoon, one of my brother's friends was having a barbeque to celebrate her birthday, so we picked up food, beer and a present. The bbq was great, and I ended up being head chef. Lol! I'm still waiting for the phone calls to say taht they are all dying with food-poisoning. We ate until we couldnt eat anymore, and then the weather turned and the mist started to move in from the sea. At about 8 o'clock we packed up the car, and headed back to Limerick, relaxed, full and very tired.

I fell in love with DIngle this weekend. Its a really vibrant town but its not overrun with tourists, and there's so much to see and do down there. I'll definitely be going back for a long weekend very very soon. ;)


July 13, 2005

Laying Plans

Frustrated by the fact that my trip to Spain is a whole 7 weeks away yet :( I bought the Rough Guide to Spain yesterday to start reading about more about the country.

I've been to Spain once, a few years ago. My ex and I stayed with some friends in an apartment in Torrevieja just outside Alicante. We hired a car and managed to do some exploring around the South-east coast, but I was pretty unimpressed and wanted to leave after a few days there. Maybe we missed the good spots, but it just seems that this part of Spain is crawling with British & Irish tourists and, what was probably once a beautiful coastline, is destroyed by high-rise developments stretching as far as the eye can see.

This time, I'm doing it Myyyy Waaaayyyyy. Spain is somewhere I've wanted to explore for a long time, and even though I only have 10 days this time around, I'm hoping to see quite a lot. :)

Hiring a car seems like a good option. Splitting the cost between two of us, it works out about the same as train-fares, and this way we can cover more ground.

Our flight is landing in Girona early in the day, so we're thinking of picking up the car, putting the boot down, and driving straight through to Madrid. I'm looking fwd to experiencing this city a lot. Spanish ppl I've met in college and worked with over the past few years seem to agree that, while Barcelona is decidely hip and cool, Madrid is less assuming and the ppl are warmer (and no, it's not because they are more inland. LOL). I'm looking fwd to making up my own mind.

I'd like to spend a couple of days in Madrid, there seems to be lots to see there. Two days isnt nearly enough time, but I think you can cover a good bit during this time. Although, I have been warned that you can wake up in Madrid, having lost 2 days of your life and not remember a thing! LOL!!

After Madrid, it's on to Cordoba and then Seville, maybe 2 days in Seville also. Andalucia sounds like an amazing part of the country. I cant wait to see it.

We're hoping to spend a night in Ronda. My brother didnt get to see it when he was last in Spain, and I've got lots of recommendations from ppl on this site to visit it, so we can't miss it! ;)

Then, on to Granada for a night. Looking forward to seeing the Alhambra a lot. One night should be enough here.

The drive to back to Barcelona from Granada is going to be a bit of a beeetch, so I think it might be worth stopping off in Valencia for a night on the way back. We might check out Tarragona, if we dont stay in Valancia. This leaves us with two nights in Barcelona before we head home. :)

We might be taking on a lot for a 10 day trip, but neither of us mind driving very much. I dont want to spend all my time sitting in a car trying to squeeze in everything, but I think it's pretty doable.

If anyone's got any recommedations of places to go, things to do along this route, I'd love to hear them! ;)

In the meantime, it's back to boring old work....:(