Friday, April 24, 2009

Coming Home

Well we finally did it - got on the plane and came back to Australia. When we rang Qantas to arrange the flight back we were uncertain when we could return as we thought that it would be difficult to get seats. The people at Qantas laughed at us and told us that this was no problem as there were many, many places available. On the flight back both Sharon and I each had a whole row of seats to ourselves on both connections to Australia. We were able to lie down and sleep, lie down and watch the entertainment screen and lie down and eat ïn bed". In fact there were so few people on the flights we almost all had a flight attendant each. The Qantas flight went without a hitch and it was the only flight during the whole trip that actually left and landed at the advertised time. It was great arriving in Australia where we were able to use the ATM machines without a transaction fee. We came home to our beloved dogs and much cuddling and licking took place before we collapsed into bed exhausted after a twenty-two hour trip from one hemisphere to the other. Soon we will wake up.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tales of adventure

After the Lakes District we travelled down to Nottingham where we got a delightful B & B. Once we had settled in, we went to Sherwood Forest to see all things about Robin Hood (hooray, hooray). I purchased a Robin hat and a Shield and Crossbow set and thus was able to travel around the forest with my fair maiden (Sharon) totally protected. Sherwood is a beautiful forest with many very, very old oak trees. The next day we went to Nottingham Castle where the Sheriff (boo, boo) lived. The actual castle was built over in the 17th century after it was destroyed but a bit of the original still remains. We had lots of fun pretending to be outlaws before we started heading back to London where we have been for the last couple of days. We returned the rented car and got a three day discount because they kept us waiting when we originally picked it up. We intend spending a few day chilling out at Sharon's nephew's place - yes I know - we are the relatives who came and stayed. We are planning our return to Australia in the near future.

PS: I have created a couple of slide shows - click on the links on the right side of this blog under the heading "View some slide shows of the trip" or click on either of these:

Sharon and Andre during the trip

Inside Chess Records in Chicago

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Climbing up the walls

After Glasgow we visited Edinburgh and took a tour of the town sites. Whilst there is a great rivalry between the two cities they are very different in so many ways. We then drove down to the Lakes District, crossing the Scottish/English border, and stayed in Carlisle where we went to the Saturday market and indulged in some of the great multicultural food - I ate Polish and Sharon ate Indian. The next day, after seeing Carlisle Castle, we headed for Hadrian's Wall which we climbed at the Fort Birdos point after driving along the length of the wall for quite a few miles. We then headed south to the Lakes District and had a lovely lunch at Talkin Tarn which we eventually walked around viewing the native wildlife. This was followed by a drive to Penrith to observe Arthur's Round Table - a neolithic henge - not the wooden round table of legend. We then visited Brougham Castle (after crossing an ancient bridge with the sign - Warning, Weak Bridge) before settling in for the evening. All in all, a very scenic and peaceful Easter Sunday driving around some beautiful countryside.

Friday, April 10, 2009

From Ireland to Scotland....the journey continues

It has been a few days since we posted a blog due to the lack of Internet access in the countryside of both Ireland and Scotland. We left Limerick and travelled through County Galway taking in some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen so far thanks to the west coast of Ireland. I have never seen so many sheep and in many places they had the run of the road - it was fun watching the young lambs "being really cute". We landed in Belfast where we saw the sights of the town including the area most involved in the Troubles. We spoke to many people who told us stories of growing up at that time and all we can say is thank god (whichever one you believe in) that we live in Australia. Sharon fulfilled a long held ambition by visiting the Sinn Fein headquarters where she bought a truly revolutionary t-shirt. We also saw many of the political murals (from both sides) which are still displayed with pride - not one of them was defaced in any way. We then took the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland and found a lovely B & B where we got great advice on local attractions. We spent the next day driving around the area and nearly got blown away (literally) at the Mull of Galloway - the most southerly point in Scotland. Sharon nearly fainted when we got to Wigtown which is known as the book capital of Scotland. She just stood and stared at all of the twenty odd bookshops which exist in virtually the one street. I joined the library where we were able to watch a pair of nesting ospreys via a webcam setup. This was a real local attraction and numerous people came up to check out what was happening allowing us to hear many stories about the ospreys and their young over the years. The countryside was so beautiful and the people so friendly we stayed an extra day in Stranraer before we headed off to Glasgow via the coastal road. We have taken a tour of the city and will head out tomorrow to discover more of Scotland.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why does the leprechaun have a pot of gold......

.....he needs it to pay for food and lodgings. Ireland is beautiful, Ireland is fun and Ireland is very, very expensive. We have travelled around Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary and Limerick and have been astounded by the cost of basics in the country. A normal pizza is 14 Euros or $28 dollars Australian. A basic lunch costs about 30 Euros ($60 AUS) and basic lodgings are 70 Euros ($140AUS) a night. The cost of petrol is $2.20 AUS a litre and a laundrette costs 18 Euros ($36AUS) - we really don't know how people live in Ireland. Apart from this Ireland is full of beautiful countryside, many castles and lots and lots of churches. The people are wonderfully friendly and very interested in Australia as everyone we have spoken to has some sort of connection with our country. It has been great fun driving around at a leisurely place and stopping wherever we want to. We visited Blarney Castle to see the Blarney Stone (see picture) which was right at the top of the castle and can only be accessed by walking up some very steep and narrow steps. We are slowly heading to Northern Ireland before we catch the ferry across to Scotland.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Anchors Aweigh

I am writing this blog entry as we are crossing from Wales to Ireland by ferry at 9.30pm. We have rented a car for a week so that we can tour Ireland and fulfill Sharon's lifelong ambition of seeing the land of her ancestors and discovering why she has a love all all things made out of potato. Just quietly, I think she also believes that there is a leprechaun waiting somewhere ready to give her his pot of gold. The views are quite spectacular as we can see the bright lights of the city of Holyhead in Wales from which the ferry departs. It is lovely watching the lights bounce off the water and to see the clear water churning under the ferry. The ferry trip should take about three and a half hours so we should arrive at Iam. I hope we can find somewhere to stay - otherwise it will be night night in the car.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Had a fun time in Wales and saw a number of places including an exhibition of Dr. Who paraphernalia and props in Cardiff where much of the new series was filmed. Saw the Tardis - see picture of me entering - and a great exhibition of the Daleks taking over the world. We also visited Cardiff Castle which has a long and illustrious history and is reputed to be a place once inhabited by both Uther Pendragon and his son Arthur. The Castle was transformed into a Gothic fantasy by the eccentric architect Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world. Within Gothic fairytale towers there are opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. We drove around Wales for a while taking in the beautiful countryside before we returned to London where we have been basically planning our trip to Ireland. We intend renting a car and going over by ferry so that we can see the countryside at our leisure. While we have been planning we visited the British Museum which has quite a collection of artifacts from many different countries. In addition we have been having leisurely brunches in a number of places and have been enjoying the food, especially the hot cups of proper British tea.