Monday, 16 August 2010

Europe Report Card 2

Local Train to Frankfurt - unfortunately no time to catch up with Walter Schweikart, a cousin who lives in Ingelheim, and who is sick at the moment
Frankfurt - impressive railway station, met a NZ couple who suggested Altstadt Frankfurt (Old town) - old churches, market plaza, and Roman ruins

ICE train to Paris - 4 hour trip, very fast at times, lots of graffiti in Paris
Accommodation - Ideal Hotel - not bad, good prices and very handy to Metro. At last a proper double-bed! The lifts in these hotels in Germany and France are tiny - we almost couldn't fit both of us with our backpacks
Dinner - beautiful food at a local Brasserie, but cost nearly as much as the room!

Eiffel Tower - walked up in evening after dinner along the Siene, lots of hawkers selling trashy souvenirs (mostly africans or middle-eastern) - so many you wonder that any can make a living, looked lovely once the lights came on, and then at 10pm there was a lightshow on it so it sparkled

Health - woke up with a very painful hip, so knew we would have to split up (I cannot walk far or fast) and we want to see different things anyway, although not as painful after it warmed up
Notre Dame - disappointing - had trouble finding it (didn't realise that many are called Notre Dame - Cathedral of our Lady of...) - no-where near as impressive, or as big as Cologne Cathedral and a huge line to get in
The Louvre - I am sooo disappointed, one of the main attractions for me and it is closed on a Tuesday!
Palaces, statues, monuments - saw and photographed plenty, but mostly didn't understand what they were or what they were about, large areas of gravel everywhere and the wind was whipping up dust clouds
Trocadero - the top of where we were viewing the Eiffel Tower yesterday
Arc de Triumph - very interesting, but once again something that has an interesting outside but they want to charge to go to the centre - but I couldn't see the point as all it means is that you are in the centre of a chaotic 4-lane roundabout which has no markings
Dinner - Korean Restaurant (I think...) - extremely tasty, fresh and light on the stomach

Health - hip much better - still sore but not actually stopping me from walking 
St Lazare - no lockers at the station, and gendarmes with machine guns everywhere so I sat with the luggage while Darryl went for an explore for around an hour, and then we swapped - I did a bit of shopping and found St Augustin's Church, and thought better of the desire to take photos of a beautiful-looking building which seemed to be some sort of Military Headquarters

Train to Cherbourg - nothing unusual, interesting French countryside with little villages, farms (we both noticed that there were no sheep), and wind-farms - disappointed with the lack of directions from the train station to the ferry terminal - I asked and was given 'very' vague directions and told it was about 2 km, we decided to walk, but on consulting a town map outside the station (which clarified nothing) we decided on a taxi, and were very pleased as it was more like 5km, and we are sure we would have ended up lost - unfortunately unable to organise a mutually suitable time to catch up with Christopher (an Anderson cousin who lives just outside Paris)

Ferry to Ireland - overnight trip on the "Oscar Wilde", met a few Ozzies - a lovely older couple from Adelaide, and a nurse from WA. Spent the night between sleeping in the chair and on the carpet, but a very smooth crossing. Met a mad Irishman who wanted to lecture us on conspiracy theories in Australian politics!

The Black Church

Arrival - 11:30 at Rosslare in Ireland. Hard to work out about the train, our mad Irishman seemed to think a 10 min walk to the train was 'in the air' and looked like he was taking a 'long' shortcut, but ended up on the train too.Arrived in Dublin
Accommodation - booked into the Ripley Court Hotel, Talbot St - at last a real double bed with real pillows, tea and coffee in the room, and room  to is like a slightly faded very plush hotel of the past, but cheap as chips. Would recommend it to everyone - don't be put off by the rail line at the front, as the rooms were quiet, and the price included 1/2 an hour of free wifi internet and a full cooked Irish breakfast.
Sights - Went for a walk around town and found lots of interesting buildings and monuments, we went to look at 'The Black Church' and ran into our second mad Irishman, who was very passionate about lots of issues. 'The King's Inns' from 1795, huge but a bit of a mystery as to its purpose. There is an O'Connell St, O'Connell Bridge, and a huge O'Connell statue (Darryl's great-great grandmother was Bridget O'Connell).

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Trinity College - not much from the outside - didn't realise 'till later that we could have seen 'The Book of Kells'
Dublin Castle - from 1204 - old stone fortifications and lovely grass garden with Celtic knot snake in stone, huge sand sculptures of norse mythology
Christ's Church Cathedral from 1030 - old stone church, included ruins of a chapel from 12thC

Old City Walls

St Audoen's Church from 12thC - in the Viking Medieval area of town - some ruins and a church still in use - a knight's tomb with he and his wife on the lid - many old tombs in the floor of the church
Old City Walls & St Audoen's Gate from 1275 - stone portal, 2 people stoned at one end and then 2 guys shooting up at the other...obviously a suspect part of town, although we sat in the park (which was beside the church) and had our lunch

Train to Belfast - first class travel - very nice - lovely views, except for the border checkpoint with barbed wire
Accommodation - Premier Inn - nice and not a bad price
Sights - walked to check out ferry terminal, for the early start but it was too far and we will take a taxi. Quite a few interesting old buildings, seems more affluent than Dublin. Had a delicious dinner of Mussels in White Wine for entree, and Duckling with Plum Sauce - Darryl had a Guinness Pie - and the National Trust owned 'The Crown Bar' 
Weather - beautiful! Lovely blue skies

Saturday: Ferry - very early start on Stenaline to Stranraer in Scotland.Very smooth 3 hour trip, but lots of soccer fans on getting geared up for some big match in Scotland.

Transport - picked up hire car which will be our transport for the next 23 days - little silver KIA - was a higher class vehicle than ordered.

Dumfries and Galloway - drove down to see Mochrum again (where Alexander Dun Smith was born), hoping to see church registers. 
Lovely old guy let me up into the organ loft to check the burial book (the only one they have) and I think I found the record for one of Alexander's brothers, but more research required. 

Found an old fort mound (Druchtag Motte) just out of town, and climbed it for a great view. 
On to Glasserton Church for the Turner side, but most stones in too bad a condition to even read. Beautiful countryside, green with pine forests and lots of stone fences on the farms. 

At Galloway Forest Park we climbed up to a stone spire set high on a hill - built in 1885.
Ayr - dinner at a Cantonese Restaurant - very delicious, and fresh Accommodation - don't even talk about it! I had thought that we would just see how far we got and then stop and the first place we came to - well, no way! I think we tried half a dozen places but all were fully booked, including the huge 'Railway Hotel' in Ayr, and the Travelodge...eventually we found a place which, although full, found us a place further along the road and pre-booked it for us.

We ended up at the Fenwick Hotel on the way to Glasgow (where we thought we might go if our search was fruitless) - it turned out that the Glasgow strategy would also have been in vain, as, on booking in (after 9.30pm), I was told of another guy who had just spent 2 fruitless hours chasing hotels in Glasgow by taxi before he also ended up at Fenwick. The hotel was quite reasonable considering its scarcity, and included a filling 'full Scottish breakfast' and free fast internet.

Our first very leisurely start in 2 weeks - I think it was 10.30 before we headed off. 
We met up with cousin Di Drover for coffee....what a lovely lady! Di suggested Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery which we headed to, and enjoyed the the exhibits on Scotland's First People, and Scottish Identity in Art. 

We saw 3 grey squirrels in the Kelvingrove Park gardens, and were impressed by the buildings of both the Museum and backdrop Glasgow University. Went into the centre of the city and found many impressive buildings and George Square with lots of statues (all draped in pidgeon droppings).
Accommodation - University Lodge room - excellent value.

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