Day not worth trying to work out anymore.
Appologies for lack of posts- so much has happened between my last post and now that I can only afford to give a brief recap of the most important events that have occured in that time.
Bordeaux- Les Pigaux..
So after saying my goodbyes the following morning to Natalie, Philip and Hamish in the early hours of the morning I caught the train to Manchester Airport having one final glimpse of the English landscape for the time being. Along the way I see Bolton's Reebok Stadium aswell as the Stadium of Light in Manchester.
I fly from Manchester Airport to London Gatwick Airport and because our flight was late in its arrival, have to sprint all the way along to the other end of the Gatwick Terminal to board my plane to Bordeaux. Arriving in Bordeaux it was the antithesis of what I expected it be in terms of the weather- drab and overcast in contrast to the hot temperatures I'd been told to expect. Despite this it still looks very interesting from the sky and I couldnt wait to get to have a look on terrafirma. I meet Jane and Chris for the first time after a moment of waiting on opposite sides of the arrivals entrance and not being able to recognise each other amongst the throng of people.
Stoked to finally have arrived I'm driven to my new home in 'the Beast' to a faraway land, which the further we drive, the harder it becomes to spot civilisation. Being showed into Chris and Jane's house I couldnt be more stoked as their house epitomises the quitnessential French villa.
First Day. After only two weeks spent adjusting to life in the Pigaux
I had been arranged to visit Paris for three days in between when Chris was due to receive his delivery of goods needed to build his new kitchen which would be the project that would take up our working hours for the next 5 months.
The moment I arrived into the centre of Paris via the train system I immediately conquered my goal to see the 'Eiffel Tower', as I had failed in this venture on my first visit to the city years ago. It is a very impressive structure- you dont get to really appreciate how big it is in reality until your standing right underneath it.
From there I tried to a whirlwind tour of the quintessential features of Paris in under an hour before I had to seek refuge in my hosts home for the evening. I was fortunate enough to see The Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysee in this time which was very satisfying having occupied our screen desktop at home on our family computer. I now felt as if I had arrived in Paris officially. After this I had to find my way to Billancourt the suburb in which Stephanie and Loic, friends of Chris and Jane had kindly allowed me to stay with them. It was only Stephanie and her two children, who were to greet me at the door of their apartment however as Loic was on location for work.
London.. coming soon
Location: Ulverston, England
While we all wait for Philip to finish his morning shift of work (he was able to get the afternoon off due to our visit) we occupy the time by going for a walk up the notorious Hoad Hill which stands regally over the town of Ulverston. Atop stands the John Barrow monument (lighthouse), commemorated to Sir John Barrow, who was a founder of the Royal Geographic Society in the 19th Century (not that you or I really care that much, but I thought it would make me sound cool).
Hamish uses the time to take a nap while we make use of the photo opportunity that the panoramic view at the top of the hill provides of the town, surrounding harbour and hamlet.
Once Philip arrives home we send him immediately back out the door and we venture out first for lunch in town then out into the heart of the Lakes District which is what the county of Cumbria is most famous for. Just before we enter a little village Grasmere, we stop to visit the "Lakes Poets" museum accompanied with William Wordsworth's (the lake poets most famous poet) old cottage, perhaps more for Kate's benefit than mine. I am quickly taken back however with my curiosity on a lot of the exhibition pieces. Such is the tranquility of the area it is easy to appreciate how one would be inspired into a practice like poetry living here.
We end up only having time for this visit as we lose track of time on this visit, but nevertheless are satisfied that we saw the essence of the Lakes District.
We finish the evening at home watching the European Cup final, or more predominantly a frame by frame recap of Phil's local team's golden moment of glory at Wembley Stadium which Phil had travelled down to the game for (and subsequently lost his voice for), where a single strike in extra time had put Phil and the rest of Cumbria into a frenzy by winning the '145th' division of the Premier League or something close to it anyway.
Location: Blackpool-Ulverston, England
the tenth anniversary day of my travels marks the beginning of my course bearing towards Montalivet-Medoc, France.
On this day Kate and I are to make our way to our cousin's Natalie and Philip McAllister, and to see the newest member of the McAllister family, Hamish.
The flight to Blackpool International Airport must be the shortest international flight in history (at least to me it felt like such), complimented appropriately with the most agrarian-looking excuse for an airport I've yet seen ( if you can picture a standard tin-shed with a prick of a British customs agent who stops only you to look at your passport and barrage you with interrogative questions then you get some idea). Still, to see the English coastline for the first time was quite cool- very flat, almost seemed to blend out of the ocean.
Natalie and Hamish greeted us in unusual circumstances in that they were the ones coming out of the tin shed while we were approaching them in the pick-up direction from the carpark as we had been searching for their car till that point. But I digress;; it was great to see Natalie for the first time in a long while, and Hamish was a joy to be around from the onset- his strawberry hair gave him a distinctly McAllister signature look, but I could still see elements of both Natalie and Philip in his face.
The weather had changed from icy-sleet apparently when Natalie was driving to Blackpool to a more mild 13-14° piercing breeze when we arrived (fortunately I had just spent the past 5 days acclimatising myself to those conditions in Ireland so I coped ably.
We settled into Ulverston at Natalie and Philip's after the hour drive by having tea and biscuits; which I had to appreciate given it was my first time in England.
Once Philip arrived home from work we went for a little walk around the petit town, stopping for a beverage at one of the archetypal British pubs.
After a scrumptious dinner Natalie introduced me to her all-time favourite British inventions; the Jaffa Cake biscuit. I concurred immediately- very odd but very tasty at the same time.
Location: Killarney, Ireland
After breakfast in our hostel we move onwards around Kerry through a picturesque town in a corner of Ireland's west coast called Kenmare, then on to an ancient heritage site which showcases a series of stone circles (akin to the stone henge) and nomadic tribal areas which are perched on top of a tall hill for strategic war advantage. It was of great fortuity that we even found this site however, as moments before when we had taken refuge on the side of a deserted road abandoning hope of finding this site- we came to talk to a local Kerry shepherd in the middle of the road. Finally salvation!.. That would have been the case had we spoken Kerry English that is- the man may as well have been speaking in Spanish (he may well have been speaking gibberish im still not convinced it wasn't) but suffice to say he left us in a further state of array than before (if you can imagine your strongest Irish accent, double it and you might get some idea of what it was like). Fortunately though in our dialetical confusion he blocked off our path to further desolation, and put us back on the path whence we came and eventually to our desired destination.
Given our strict timeframe we were unable to venture any further down the Irish coast, but instead returned to Killarney then back to Castleisland, to visit Hannah and Lena. Upon our arrival we were immediately offered a glass of Cherry and Whisky which I quickly found is the custom in Ireland; not wishing to offend our hosts we each accepted a glass. After some confusing conversations due to each partie's difficulty in understanding each other's accents, we soon found Hannah and Lena to be very warm and funny to talk with.
My favourite line was Hannah asking Kate and Laurence if they had heard of "open marriages"; and promptly suggesting they should take up the ritual as apparently in Ireland marriage breakups had hit an all time high.
After being offered a smorgasbord of food we exchanged our final pleasantries and bid farewell in pursuit of our next visit to meet Kevin and Trish O'Connor in Maynooth, a little village/suburb on the outskirts of Dublin.
After driving round in circles for 30mins in the surrounding area we were finally able to find the home where Kate had previously lived for a number of months, and had a nice evening that included dinner, a kick around of a football in the front yard with young Liam, and some after dinner drinks.
With our stomachs well fed, and tongues well tied, we attempted to find our way home in the dark of the night, doing pretty well to only take 20mins longer than ETA.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Kate, Lawrence and I rise particularly early this morning (7:30am) after a relatively late night spent conversing firstly with Kate's Eason's workmates followed by my new Aussie mate Tom Caru.
The last three days spent in Dublin had been highlighted by a few memories: a fascinating/jaw dropping visit of Croke Park (famous for the Croke Park Massacre/ Easter Uprising) which as I alluded to was an incredible piece of architecture; its capacity stands at 82,300 and all of that is stacked at a disconcertingly vertical angle to give you a sense that your sitting right over top of the pitch. Moreover the museum's interactive nets which allowed you to simulate critical actions of the GAA's (Gaelic Athletic Association) two most prized national sports: Gaelic Footaball, and Hurling, was as good for tension-alleviation as it was entertaining and informative (both exercises involved whacking the respective balls basically as hard as you could so naturally I was right in my element. The WoolShed bar, Dublin's premier Antipodean bar which had some of the best collection of old-school Rugby and League posters your likely to see, was a novel attraction. The St Michan's Church tour, Church St was Dublin's oldest north side parish church founded in 1095, but more importantly held these underground vaults which still host a series of mummified bodies that you could touch! It was actually more exhilarating than I lead on plus the tour guide was a bit of nutcase so that made it all the more memorable. Finally but not least was the token Irish Christian partitioner who came up to me while I was nonchalantly eating my lunch by the riverside in the centre of Dublin where he proceeded to stutter his way through 45mins worth of rhetoric.
On this day however Kate, Lawrence and I were scheduled to pick up a Rent-a-Car from the International Airport, followed by an express overnight Road Trip South West to the county of Kerry to visit Killarney initially, followed by Castleisland on the return leg to see Lena and Hannah, two distant relations of ours from the Shanahan clan.
This plan was so perfect in its guise that the fabric of time itself would weave in and out of the perfect centricity of it; that is if Kate and Lawrence were able find to the way to our destination and back.
After a hard-slog of sleeping (and when I say hard, I mean it in the most literal sense of the word; for anyone who has driven on Ireland's outback roads will know how wonderfully intrepid they are) on the leg to Kerry (complimented with some text book dynamic stretches in between rest breaks, perfectly documented for those of you wanting to learn what great form of a superb athlete looks like (see facebook video)) we checked-in to our hostel then embarked on a scenic walk alongside the Killarney Lakeside track, which took us from a dilapidated ancient Church to a private estate overlooking the grand lake. This was a much more pretty and tranquil part of Ireland in contrast to the dense hussle and bussle of Dublin: perhaps a more classical portrayal of one's imaginings of what Ireland looks like.
After the standard greasy Road Trip dinner I comad into my hostel bed as early as 8:30pm given that I was still suffering the affects from jet-lag.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Kate and I rise early; (that is early in Kate's vernacular of early, that being 10am) and venture into the inner-city of Dublin on a sight-seeing tour of the city itself but most predominantly of the local museums. Fully jet-lagged whilst trying to take in all that has happened in the last 72 hours at the same time as trying to absorb the present scene around me was a difficult task; this fully dawns on me as we arrive at our first destination the National Art Gallery of Ireland where I am inundated with an array of grandiose artworks from a host of the premier artists in history. Despite my best efforts I cant suppress the grin written all over my face.
I attempt boldly to revive the old stores of information in the back of my otherwise brilliant mind, of the first year days in my Art History lectures at Vic Uni, but to no real avail. Inspite of this I do my best to look the knowledgable part when an Irish concierge informs Kate and I about the Picasso piece on display.
Next stop on our journey is the National Archeological Museum which turns out to be the surprise package from my perspective. Not having great expectations before I enter, I find I'm quickly fascinated by the extent of interesting fields on display, in particular the bog men.. Behind each corner of a series of rotundas lie these grotesquely disfigured corpses of ancestral Irish delinquents whom in their death were thrown in these sess-pools of boggy marshes where their decomposing bodies were able to be preserved to an unwieldy outcome. Another surprise package inside the museum falls upon me when I am confronted by Albus Dumbledore conjuring up some magical spirits of the venerable kind. In actual fact its that guy who plays him in the movies (you know the one; the crap one who ain't a show on the first real Dumbledore) but nevertheless I am sutiably impressed.
Afterwards sis' and I succumb to the evil spirits of hunger and are forced to seek salvation in the nearest tavern. A nice curry chicken gives me a unique insight into the culinary art of the indigenous culture. Following lunch we take stock in a privately-run public library which showcases a series old manuscripts and artefacts on the many organised religions around the world. this caps off an incredibly informative day which sees me gain a fairly good scope on the Dublin city-streets aswell as on the museums themselves.
One soothing pint of Carlsberg in Kate's dimly-lit after-work bar later and we head home reflecting on the taxing day just spent.
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
I am woken early due to the sound of the 4am prayer reverberating across Abu Dhabi via an intercom system of some description: one of the most amazing sensations I've ever experienced. The booming voice is both hypnotic and very humbling to listen to. I wake again this time at 6am as the first signs of jet-lag kick in. Following a quick pick me up shower and breakfast Diedre and I make our way back to the airport for a 9am scheduled departure. As though to ease any lingering nerves at my final long-haul flight to Dublin, the car-radio informs me that Dublin airport has been closed till at least midday due to a recurrence of Mt Ejafyg=)hiykyll disrupting Ireland's airpsace alone. the irony wasn't lost on me and I had to laugh; ohwell I'll just have to visit more of UAE instead i thought to myself, Dubai sounds good.. Instead I am reassured at the airport that my flight has merely been delayed a further four hours to 12:50pm. So as I say goodbye to Diedre I wonder what am I to do to fill yet another episode of insipid airport waiting. The free facebook alleviates the monotony for a brief period before I meet a fellow antipodean traveller from Melbourne, Tom Caru who is in the midst of launching his worldwide tour of all manner of ecclectic gymnasiums which he is blogging about. We're both similarly stoked by the nature of our respective OE's by how every experience is so new, raw and undiscovered. For instance the view before us looking beyond the foreign Eithad airplanes to reveal a sea of desert in every direction is uniquely invigorating.
Eventually we make it on to our plane, and as you correctly surmised by the fact you're reading this, safely to Dublin. Apart from the incessant feeling of restlessness, and the constant sound of babies, this flight was memorable for the butter. A purely serendipitous chance I am able to show the Irish man next to me a picture of my home province by virtue of the sticker on the Anchor butter of our lunch meals (a pic of Mt Taranaki). (he was suitably impressed for those of you who think I'm a bit crazy right now).
The scene of Ireland as we hone in on our final landing is one of pure, unadulterated green. I meet Kate waiting for me in the arrivals wing and we shuttle off to the next bus heading for town. the two things that strike me as we make our way through Dublin is how cold and dirty the city is. Despite these reservations I'm relieved and ecstatic to be here.