Sunday, 17 October 2010

Crossing the Irish Sea

Left Weymouth last Monday in our little Citroen, drove across Wales to catch the ferry and sailed across the Irish sea to this fair land. We love Ireland: apart from the green countryside it is very different to England (it's even greener here), and has changed significantly since I cycled around the country 21 years ago. People are still the friendliest in the world (maybe even friendlier than the Vietnamese) but are much more European: good food, excellent coffee and of slim builds unlike the large, fat, pale English. They also have much more style, particularly in their dress. Apart from a reduction in the prices of real estate and, surprisingly, groceries, the country does not show the signs of straightened times. The restaurants and pubs are packed, people are travelling on local weekend breaks in their BMWs and Mercedes, and they appear to be in good spirits. Of course, like all economic downturns, the people affected are not readily apparent to the casual visitor.

After leaving the ferry we stayed in a tiny village in thick forest in County Wicklow, south of Dublin. Dublin has quite a European feel to it now, and its size is much more to our liking than the huge English cities and we had a great couple of days there. The countryside is less crowded and the roads easy to navigate. We're drove to the Dingle peninsular, the most westerly and southerly point of the country, in County Kerry. The coastline is as beautiful as any in the world, with high cliffs, rocky islands, sandy beaches and green farmland enclosed by dry-stone fences. There are a number of striking though small ancient sites and structures. Sunday was warm and cloudless, enhancing all we saw on our drive around the Ring of Kerry, the peninsular to the east of Dingle. The downside is that there has been enormous development here in the last 10-15 years and the villages and towns are not what they were. It is also expensive.

Yesterday we drove across the south of the country to Wexford, one of a number of towns along the east coast established by the Vikings in the 9th century. It is amazing that there are still elements of their settlement if you seek them out, as we do. We're currently on the ferry back to Fishguard in Wales and will drive back to Weymouth this arvo.

Next week we'll head to Cambridge for a couple of days. Then we'll head the following week to Scotland for about 8 days. After we get back Roger arrives in Weymouth for a few days before the 3 of us head to London.


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