Friday, November 16, 2012
Nothing like living your dream - over the last 11 months I have now travelled over 137,000 km which took 54 flights on 16 different airlines, visiting 16 different countries (sometimes more than once) - this has truly been a wild and wonderful adventure - I have not only learned so much about the world but I have the most amazing memories.
After Mexico I will be home for a few months (might need to get away from winter and do a short trip to Australia). However, I have paid a deposit for a South African safari on may 22, 2013. I am now making plans with Mag (friend of Sharon's from Ireland) who is going to join me and then we plan to travel around this area for a month with a goal to end up in Portugal in late June.
So stay tuned there will be more travels and more blogging - I hope you have enjoyed hearing about and seeing pictures of Lorna's traveling shoes!
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It is variously described as a country, province or region of the UK. Northern Ireland shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. As of 2011, its population was 1,810,900, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the United Kingdom. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland is largely self-governing. According to the agreement, Northern Ireland co-operates with the rest of Ireland – from which it was partitioned in 1921 – on some policy areas, while other areas are reserved for the Government of the United Kingdom, though the Republic of Ireland "may put forward views and proposals".
Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter inter-communal conflict – the Troubles – which was caused by divisions between nationalists, who see themselves as Irish and are predominantly Roman Catholic, and unionists, who see themselves as British and are predominantly Protestant. (Additionally, people from both sides of the community may describe themselves as Northern Irish.) Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain as a part of the United Kingdom, while nationalists want reunification with the rest of Ireland, independent of British rule. Since 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.
Stopped in Donegal for a quick coffee and gas - the weather has turned quite wet so no point in staying, I continued north to spend the night in Bushmills (Northern Ireland) so I could visit the Giant Causeway the next day. I arrived after dark in Bushmills and this was the first time I had not booked accommodation in advance. I could only see one hotel in the village and it had an AA rating so I thought I would check out the price. Let's just say I blew my budget on this hotel but it was very nice. The next day I realized all the B&B were located outside the village so I really should have booked in advance as they would have been too difficult to find in the dark.
The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea.
Of course, Carrick-a-Rede also boasts an exhilarating rope bridge experience. Traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets. Better them than me!
The rope bridge originally consisted of a single rope hand rail which has been replaced by a two hand railed bridge by the National Trust. Once you reach Carrick Island, the reward is seeing the diverse birdlife and an uninterrupted view across to Rathlin Island and Scotland. There is only one way off the island - back across the swinging bridge! Unless you stay on the one side and just take pictures!
It was a kilometer from the car park to the bridge so at least I am getting some walking excerise today.
Once in Ballycastle I drove through the town to the beach to get one last look at the Giant Causeway and the amazing scenery.
Love the sign - perhaps suited for Oak BayIt was very difficult to say goodbye to this part of Ireland as I knew this would be the last time I would see the Irish coast - for now anyway! I'll be back! The coast of Ireland is unlike anything I have seen before - simply the best!
I drove inland heading south bypassing Belfast and on to Dublin back to Sharon and her mum who have been such wonderful hosts. Thank you to Kathleen (Sharon's mum) for setting an iteninary of things I should see while traveling around ireland - you were spot on! I think kathleen has already started to work on the iteninary for my next visit!
My rental car outside the gates.
I am off back to England tomorrow to spen a few days with relatives before I return to Canada on November 15th. I have fallen in love with Ireland so I hope to take the luck of the Irish with my on my next travels.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Traveled from Cork to Killarney to catch a 6 hour tour of the Ring of Kerry (costing $18 - who says Ireland is expensive). I could drive the ring of Kerry but decided to enjoy the views and take advantage of someone else driving and beside gas is about $2 a liter here so it would probably cost me more than $18 to drive. Almost immediately the landscape changes when leaving County Cork and entering County Kerry (where Killarney is located). Gone are the lush green rolling hills for more rugged mountains (well mountains by Ireland standards) and a lot less greenery.
Kerry Bog Village - In Ireland two factors contribute to the existence of peat lands (soil made up of the partially rotted remains of dead plants which have accumulated on top of each other in waterlogged places for thousands of years)- high rainfall and poor drainage conditions. Bogs are very acidic. It is this acidity that helps preserve the excellent condition of 'bog bodies' (human bodies discovered in bogs, usually victims.of ritual sacrifice from long ago). Peat resources can be used for fuel as well as insulation- originally 17 percent of Ireland was covered with bogs! I avoided seeing any bog bodies but I did tour through the village laid out as it would have looked in the 1800's.
Between 1845 – 1852 famine devastated Ireland. The great famine was in fact one of the worst famines in modern history. A large portion of the population died or emigrated. Such was the drastic effect of the famine that many historians refer to Ireland as pre-famine or post-famine. Potato blight meant the potato crop failed and as a result left many Irish farmers and households without food. However, the potato failure alone did not cause the famine. It was a host of political, social and economic factors which all contributed.
An astonishing amount of food, animals and materials were exported by force from the country, at a time when it was needed most by the natives. The great famine was undoubtedly the darkest time in Irish history. Starvation, disease, emigration and mass graves were all prevalent during these awful years.
What village might have looked like . . .
The following are pictures of the landscape we got to see while travelling the Ring of Kerry.
Seems there are deer issues here too!
Downtown Killarney - population 15,000
A few things I have noticed about Ireland:
1. The friendly people
2. Extremely clean - towns, villages, highways, yards - everyone takes pride in their home and community
3. It is not nearly as expensive as I was led to believe - no more expensive than Victoria and in some cases less - B&B above was $55 for the night - could not get that in Victoria!
4. Very easy to drive around Ireland - well signed, although Sally sat nav (GPS in NA) is helpful except for a few hiccups! Drivers are very polite. You look at the map and think it will not take long to get from a to b, however most highways are not 4 lane freeways but rather two lane (or less) roads that wind their way through numerous towns - which is great for those of us sightseeing. There is also endless road construction. I did see one interesting sign it had a gas pump with a circle around it and a cross through it, next to it was a bicycle with the slogan 'burn fat not gas' - great advertising.
5. You do see some stone houses but most have been abandoned - most homes are fairly new, modern and large which reflects the booming economy up to 2008. Now some of the new developments have not been completed and a number of businesses are for sale.
6. It is sad to see signs pointing to a Famine Graveyard - but a good reminder of how this country was affected.
After a night in Killarney I made my way to the Cliffs of Moher - the weather was more overcast and much cooler as I reached the coast. Walking from the parking lot to the cliffs was quite a challenge trying to fight the strong winds.The Cliffs of Moher are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft) just north of O'Brien's Tower, eight kilometres to the north. The cliffs receive almost one million visitors a year.
O'Brien's Tower is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien to impress female visitors. From the cliffs and from atop the watchtower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south.
The entire area is picturesque and was exactly how I imagined this part of Ireland to be. The lovely little towns, fields divided by endless rock walls with limestone hills in the background.