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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 25 Sep 2007

Location: Paris, France

MapSunday 23rd
In the morning, a short train ride under the Seine to an area called L’Alma, and the street Rue de New York that runs next to the Seine. This street runs under a busy intersection, and it was in this tunnel that Diana lost her life in 1997. The tunnel entrance, by complete coincidence, is marked by a large golden replica of the flame from New York’s Statue of Liberty, placed there in 1987 by a group of U.S. businesses who were based in Paris, to “strengthen US-French relations”. It’s a strangely solemn place because there is no official commemoration to Diana’s death here, but there were many flowers, cards, candles and graffiti left by people.
For the afternoon, we headed to Café-Oz, to watch Australia play Fiji on the big screen (actually in Montpelier). A pub-full of Australians, drinking Fosters – just like being home. The game was very one-sided (Australia won easy) so we ended up sitting outside talking to a young Melbourne couple. Fiona was a nurse, so Anne had a kindred partner. Adam was a copper, and Collingwood supporter, so the blokes had some things to talk about. We were soon joined by Matty, eating his pizza (and drunk). When we found out that Matty was a policeman too, I really felt “out of it”. Our final night in Paris, and France, was a blinder.

My final impressions of France … the people are warm, generous, and friendly, Despite any language differences, we found nearly everyone we met to be helpful. Some things that we did find strange were that dogs are allowed into restaurants and trains, and the smoking is still allowed in restaurants – this spoiled some quite delicious meals at times. The large numbers of beggars on the streets, and street people who seem quite at home sleeping under cardboard on park benches. The majority of young people dress very smartly, quite eloquent, fashionable and sophisticated. Many of them also smoke. The huge number of cafes, bars, restaurants, bistros, pubs - all with sidewalk dining. You can never go hungry in France, as long as you have a pocketful of Euros. Getting around was easy – Paris underground was great, and good roadsigns usually made driving through France straightforward. We have thoroughly enjoyed our three weeks in this fabulous country.

Monday/Tuesday 24, 25th
A short flight to Dublin on Aer Lingus, paying 80 euro in excess baggage, found us in Ireland, armed with a hire car and GPS. We headed south to Cork, and our first Irish hosts, Vince and Niamh Smith (I met Vince a couple of years ago through my work).
We immediately noticed the countryside was very green, in fact spectacularly green. Quite incredibly green. And today we only had our second day of rain – which is pretty good after a month on the road.
The next day, we explored Cork, and first up was Blarney Castle. A gorgeous old castle, some of it ruins but enough intact to climb to the top, and the option of kissing this dam stone. Anne did – sort of, it’s not that easy to reach. The castle and grounds were quite beautiful, but perhaps spoilt by the hundreds and hundreds of tourists – mostly American (but there were at least two Aussies!!). Then on to Midleton, and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. How whiskey is made is a fascinating story (specially Irish whiskey), and it became evident that there is a distinct rivalry between the Irish and Scots for who makes the best whiskey. Irish is triple-distilled, Scotch is only double, and it was the Irish who taught the Scots how to make whiskey in the first place, many centuries ago. Here we also saw the largest copper still in the world, built over a century ago and ceased operation in 1970. A huge, empty copper vessel.