A Travellerspoint blog

Paris!

Bonjour?

sunny 72 °F

Only four hours of sleep and we are up again. Paris here we come! We got ready and ate a little breakfast, then caught the shuttle at 4:30am sharp. Nothing exciting to report about the airport and the security checkpoints. At least a cavity search would make it a LITTLE interesting. The flight from Dublin to Paris was only a little more than an hour. This Ryanair travel thing sure is nice and really saves us a bunch of time. Stepping off the plain the crisp breeze just felt French! Though the air felt clean I was surprised to see smog off in the distance. As we step ever closer to the French customs line, my apprehension at the language barrier is growing. The french like their language and do not put English anywhere. The signs, the info, the instructions; all Francais. It's been way too long since French class in high school! So here we are faced with the true out of comfort, language barrier, situation. Since I'm the planner and anticipator of all things, this is not comforting. At least THESE customs officials are smiling at people! Thankfully bonjour and merci were the only two words I needed to find myself through customs and on a bus for Paris. We were both exhausted from the late night and early morning and ended up sleeping for the 70km ride. Since this is a couch surfing city, priority number one was figuring out how to get to our host's flat. We are staying with a 29 year old Frenchman named Nicolas. My language barrier apprehension is still churning as we search for the metro station. In Ireland it was a simple matter of asking someone if you were lost. Here the signs are in French and the ability to ask directions is nearly nothing. This is the first time I've felt isolated on the trip and longing to be back in Ireland. It's just Casey and I with the French vocabulary of an infant, while people all around are happily communicating while leaving us in the dark. Plus, we must look really foreign because I've never gotten so many looks in my life! Thank goodness for my iPod and Nico's (Nicolas) clear directions. We had to take two different metro lines to arrive near his flat. The good news is that tickets are cheap. The bad news is that we are still tired and edgy. So it didn't help that after we exited our first metro line, we made the mistake of exiting the station and had to buy another unneeded ticket just to get back in. My grandpa says it costs to get an education! We made it to our destination of Republique Station and I realized that somehow I had deleted the email from Nico with the rest of the directions. Go figure. Yay for McDonald's free wifi. While we were in there getting ready to call Nico on my iPod, a man came up to me and jabbered, "Blah, blah, toilette." Well, when you order food, you get a code to the bathroom on your receipt. I was able to decipher his intent and with a merci, my French buddy happily ran off to the bathroom for relief. It made my day to help someone address a dire need in their life. Back to the travels. Thank you Terry Forrester for the skype account you gave me so that I was able to call Nico through the wifi and make contact. 

These couch surf hosts are a different breed of people I think. He left work to show us in to his flat where he promptly gave us a key and told us that his flat was our flat. He told us to come and go as we please. With that he left for the rest of his work day. Who does that? Hahah! We made away with his computer, some money, and some food right after he left. We are now in Switzerland. Just kidding. Made you think though eh? Casey and I really just ran for some dinner at the store and came back. Pizza with fromage and jambon. And let me tell you, frozen pizza here is better than most fresh pizza in the states. We had great aspirations to go out and walk around after dinner but instead spent the time journaling, blogging, resting, and sleeping. I feel like we are wasting time just sitting here but our bodies really need the rest. We basically just hung out until Nico was done with work. When he came back we went to the market to get supplies for dinner. At the market he explained to us that the French make sauces. It's an important culinary skill to make the sauce. Ingredients in hand we headed back. As we go, Nico is finally starting to open up to us. What a fun guy! He's tall and a bit gangly but very demonstrative. He told us that he works in movie and commercial make up and animatronics. He and a few other guys built their company from obscurity to one of the top work shops in France. He is actually a famous guy within his industry. 

Before dinner we had an aperitif of white French wine. So good. I don't like wine and this stuff was tasty. He gave us a cheers and explained to us the importance of wine in the French culture. It's not the equivalent to water, but close; just much more appreciated. He made these crepe omelet things that were really good. During dinner we discussed the differences in how our cultures greet one another. They kiss the cheeks while we tend to hug or handshake. He said hugs are very very personal and only among close friends. Even more personal than a kiss! Also, the use of physical touch via hands is very personal and only among close friends. Dinner lasted three hours as we discussed a full range of topics. We had a very respectful discussion of how the french see us and how we see them. Very interesting. You'll need to ask me about it because it's too much to write! Just to let you know a bit though, I felt his view was very generalized. That ended our first night in Paris! A home cooked meal with wine, sauce, and excellent conversation with a real Parisian!

Posted by hangtime41 13:18 Archived in France Comments (2)

Last Day on the Emerald Isle

Bye bye Dublin

sunny

The last full day of Ireland. I don't think Casey and I have ever left any place faster than we left this morning. So so thankful to be out of the hole with the prospect of staying in a nice place tonight. Today is a day without much of a plan. I know I want to shop a bit and explore more, but not much beyond. We both wanted a tin whistle and bought them early in the day. I probably won't play mine until I can sit down and really dive in to it. What a gorgeous day it is too. We improved our tans yet again! Since we hadn't showered after Friday night, we headed to the Four Courts early in desperation for an early check in. Sadly check in was not going to be until 3, but I was able to brush my teeth in the restroom. It's amazing how much more of a human you feel after a simple brushing. We wandered Dublin until our feet hurt and our stomachs were rumbling. We bought a pizza and split while sitting on the walkways over looking the river. Lunch gave us the energy to go in search of a lucky Irish penny. I had promised my friend Shawna that I would look for one in Ireland. Three hours later and no success. Most places that would have had it were closed.

It's so cool that we can walk around and then bam, a cathedral is right in front of you. I don't take any moment for granted. When I walk by I always drink deeply and commit to memory as much as I can. Tired and defeated we rested in the hostel with our just purchased groceries. At nine we headed out with our Finnish friend, Johanna, in search of one last night of music, craic, and a pint. We decided on the famous Temple Bar. Lively and awesome, like all pubs in Ireland, we enjoyed yet another amazing live band with a huge group of Spanish peeps. The Spanish are great. Very lively and energetic. I posted a video of them on YouTube. Good times :)

I'm sad that we have to leave Ireland in the morning. I like the pace of life here and the people. I know there is so much more to experience, but I am loth to leave this country.

Posted by hangtime41 07:06 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

From Dingle to Dublin

Where shall we stay good sir?

overcast

Another day of travel. I'm so glad we have these days built in where we are forced to rest. If we didn't, I think we'd end up lame footed in our rooms. For today, we really have no idea what town we will end up in or where we are going to stay the night. Now that we know the ropes of this travel deal, we can just go anywhere. So what I'm saying is if you aren't too picky with accommodations, come travel with us; yes you, it's easy! Unfortunately we started this day later than we wanted to. I thought I had set my alarm but alas, I had not. Our plan was a leisurely morning and catching the bus. Instead it was a frantic rush. It's a good thing we showered the night before! We packed all our things and began our goodbyes with Veronique. She even took a picture with us. I can't speak for Casey but she kissed MY neck and gave me hug. French thing maybe :) On the way out Veronique said, "Come back soon. The key is in the door!"

After a quick run to the store for breakfast we were off to Tralee. We weren't sure if we were going to spend the night there yet, but as soon as we got off the bus we decided to head to Killarney on the next train. An hour's walking tour of Tralee and on the train we go. We decided that we wanted to stay in Killarney (yes Pops, I can hear you singing the song even as you read this) and began a search of the local hostels. Lame! We couldn't find anywhere of interest, so back to the trains after we grabbed some bread, cheese, meat, and chips. As we ate our train platform picnic, we agreed that we would rather just get to Dublin that night and have the whole next day to sample the city in whatever way we felt. A relaxing train ride to Dublin found us in a hoppin' Saturday night city. Yay for fun, boo for trying to find a hostel. All the nice ones had no space at all. So we booked a room for the following night at the Four Courts Hostel and and went questing for a bed in the less...erm...choice parts of the city. We ended up at the first hostel we had stayed with. The only two beds they had were in a 12 person dorm in the basement. This was by far the low light of our trip. The room reeked of cigarettes and dirty clothes. That bathroom was basically a dungeon cell that smelled of death. Casey and I took one look the place, I mean dump, and both exclaimed that we were sleeping with our clothes on! In a rats nest you expect there to be rats, and boy was there ever. I don't want to speak poorly of my fellow humans, so I'll just relay what they did. At 4:30am they came in. Five of them; 3 from Ukraine and 2 from Zimbabwe. Hobbies including smoking, cursing, drinking, and womanizing. We were all asleep (two normal Swiss guys plus Casey and I) when they came in at that ungodly hour, flicked the lights on and proceeded to have a party in our room. If Casey and I hadn't been wasting away to nothing without a gym, we would have said a few words, but alas. They finally left at 5:30 giving us rest until 7:20. Needless to say, I'm a bit tweaked.

Posted by hangtime41 08:05 Archived in Ireland Comments (2)

Dingle Round Two

Biking to beauty

sunny 70 °F

Our first morning in Dingle and we slept till nine. That sure felt good. Not wanting to miss out on anymore of the day, we each had a quick shower and went in search of breakfast. It had been so long since we'd eaten a real breakfast that we grabbed and chocolate milk from the store and then roamed the streets in search of eggs and meat! We stopped at a little place for exactly that, and then headed to the bike shop to rent bikes for the day. It was only 12 Euro for really nice 21 speed bikes. After walking and walking and walking for the last several days, there is no other word for speeding through the town on a bike than exhilarating. It was another sunny and beautiful day in Ireland and we finally were going to be touring in the open air, not on some bus, with the power to stop and go whenever we chose to. We headed out along coast of the Dingle peninsula and had barely gone two miles before we saw a sign to a leather shop off the main road. Thank goodness we decided to go because we ran across a graveyard with ruins! Finally! We actually were able to stop and walk around. Celtic crosses loomed all over the grassy knoll with an ancient crypt being the center piece. This is the Ireland I've been dying to see. We continued on to the work shop after we had our fill of the ruins. It was too pricey at the shop so we left to get back to the coast. Where are we again? Oh yeah, IRELAND! And in Ireland all you have to do is look and you'll see ruins everywhere. Up on the hill a few miles from the leather shop Casey spotted a ruined keep. It was so cool sitting there on the hill, that we back tracked and tried to make our way up to it. We weren't able to get up to the keep itself, but within a hundred yards of it to snap a few pictures. I love this place. 

As we kept riding, the coastline kept getting more majestic and more amazing. The roads were winding and snaking along the ever growing cliff edge. After riding for several miles enjoying the natural beauty, we came upon an old fort. By old I mean 500 years B.C. How cool is that? We were allowed to walk the path down to the edge of the cliff where the fort was perched in defense and explore. How they built things so sturdy out of rocks is a wonder. I took a moment to sit in the fort and look over the sea and try to see what someone 2,500 years ago might have seen as he guarded the fort. Could it be raiders from another tribe approaching by land? Maybe some boats carrying enemies were approaching the shore as he shouted warning to his fellow soldiers. We climbed the hill and talked a while with the lady that was in charge of the site. She confided in us that she had been the States and had smuggled Idaho potatoes into Ireland! Sadly though they were not suited for the climate and rotted. Not half a mile up the road and we came upon an ancient dwelling site with beehive huts. These are basically igloos built out of stone. I've come to realize that people have always been ingenious. We feel like we are smarter because we have cars and computers, but really it's just that we have the tools and materials now to make them. 2,000 years when these huts were built they only had stone. And they did, with that stone, amazing things that we could do no better with had we been living at that time. 

The beauty of Ireland came about 3 miles down the road from the huts. We came around a bend and the ocean opened up wide before us. Directly ahead there were massive rocky islands being kissed by sparkling waves. In the distance we could see a beach at the base if the now 200 foot cliffs. The road was steep to get there, but beyond worth it. The waves were dazzling in the sun and sand was as fine as could be. We took our time exploring, all the while feeling like pirates or explorers just landing. Though the sand was pretty, I hate the stuff. We had to sit and let our feet dry so that we could put our shoes back on! Ha, oh the little things. Time was running short on us now to get the bikes back in time, so we hustled it out of there. Just as we were heading out, there was one more site we noticed. Down the cliff edge was a stone walled trail winding down to a ferry dock. Apparently the farmers in the area herd their sheep down this path to the ferries to transport their live stock. You have to see pictures of it to truly appreciate the windiness. This last detour proved to be a mistake as the climb out of the path sapped us of the last of our energy. To get back on time we had to bike up through a pass to cut across country. The path was so steep for the first part, and we were so tired, that we had to push our bikes! I have not been that tired since college basketball practice conditioning drills. Thank goodness that after the up came a down and we were able to rest for nearly two miles of coasting.

When we finally made it back to town, Casey and I bee-lined for the nearest fish and chips place. Even after devouring that meal I felt as though I hadn't even eaten! As we ate we realized that the weather had been so nice that we each got a bit of a sunburn! Are you joking? We had to come to Ireland of all places to get burnt. Ha! Since we were both jelly legged we made our way to Veronique's for some rest. To my happy surprise she was making omelets (what a strange word). Yes please. We rested and chatted with her about Irish culture and government for a few hours and then headed out for a pint, craic, and music. Off to the new favorite spot, the Court House Pub. Time for my 3rd pint! It's polite, when enjoying the music of a pub, to buy a drink to support the establishment. We sat next to Corey and Amy from Missoula and listened to another ridiculously talented group of musicians. I now know why the Celtic Woman are so talented and from Ireland. The singing talent here is angelic perfection. 

Heading home at midnight, Casey and I decided to leave Dingle the next day and slowly make our way to Dublin over the next two days. I will definitely be spending more time here in the future. Dingle: Four thumbs up!

Posted by hangtime41 07:07 Archived in Ireland Comments (2)

Dingle!

A coastal beauty.

overcast

Today is a day of travel. I'm so looking forward to resting my legs and feet! I think I've walked more in the last three days than we ever walked around Disney World in five days. It was sad to say goodbye to Liam, Rae, Joe, and Anna. However, as is the nature of a fresh morning, the travelers spirit is running high and it's not as depressing a prospect as it had been the night before. The first train of the day was from Galway to  Portarlington. Here we had to get off the trains and wait an hour for the next one. I have a great picture of Casey taking a nap on the platform. It was such a nice day. The sun was out and the birds were singing. I expect it to be like that when we get home. From there we went to Marrow. A walk across the platform after we stopped and we were train bound for Killarney. Sunny and 72 in Killarney! I was so nice to walk around as we searched for the bus stop. It was here that I made my first travel mistake. I thought we had to take the bus from Killarney to Dingle, when actually we should have stayed on the train until the next town. It cost us and extra 7 euro, so not a hugely painful mistake. Killarney was nice and we may try to get back there before we leave. So we road the bus from Killarney to Tralee, and changed busses to head to Dingle. For the most part, the trip was pretty uneventful. Lots of sheep and lots of green. Ireland really is ridiculously green. And they spray paint their sheep to tell them apart. Interesting. To get to Dingle you have to go through the mountains then down to the coast. It was really cool because I had my music on as we started to climb. The music fit perfectly as we climbed into the fog layer of the mountains. We wound along for awhile until the descent started. It brought a smile to my face as we descended and broke through the clouds and my music swelled at the perfect moment as I looked over and saw the sun glimmering on the water in the bay and the green grass of the surrounding country. A real life soundtrack.

Dingle is an active fishing village with the old boats, a pier, and sailors. As we stepped of the bus we were greeted with the salty air in our face and the masts of the boats standing watch over the pier. Such a GOOD feel to Dingle. Coastal towns in the US never impact me this way. I guess it's something about the tangible old history and the authenticity of the people. Here in Dingle we are couch surfing with a French woman named Veronique. Talk about a hospitable and trusting person! She told me via email that when we arrived at her house, to simply walk in and that the key would be in the door. Um, what? Who says that to people they have never met? Thankfully she was home and we didn't have to be sitting in her living room as she came in from work. What a great French accent! Just like the movies :) She was already cooking dinner as we walked in the door and our initiation to her house was dinner with her and her four children. Three girls and one boy. I can only remember Juliet and Emilie though. The most intriguing thing discovered at dinner was that not only do her kids not know french, but the have Irish accents! Hahah! She told us that 18 years ago she had become tired of French life and moved to Ireland. Then she proceeded to show us how to get around Dingle, where the best sights were, and where the best pubs were. There are 52 pubs in a town with a non tourist season population of 1,500. Thats about 1 pub for every 28 people. Holy Moses! So we set off to explore as is our usual method in a new town. After walking and looking for an hour, Casey turned around and said hi to an older couple that was behind us. Tony and Denise are there names and were from Southern England. And so our little walking party grew from 2 to 4. Casey is great at breaking the ice with strangers and then I picked it from there. They both had never been to Ireland and were touring the country by car via a ferry from England. They are both boating enthusiasts and live on the coast. Denise was the spitting image of Julie Andrews with a beautiful accent to match. She informed us that they were looking for some "fiddely diddely" music. I told them I knew just the place! Thank you Veronique! The coolest things keep happening when we meet new people. We went into the pub where Tony quickly offered to buy us each a pint. Bulmers! How cool is that? We hadn't even known them 15 minutes and they offered that. Then we got the best seats in the house, just before a rush of people came in. So here we are, listening to two old Irishmen play traditional tunes on the pipes, flute, and guitar with our two new friends from England. You tell me, how often does that happen? After those two left for bed, Casey and I headed down to a pub called the Court House. The doors to these pubs are easily only 5'8" but usually have a ceiling that raises to a normal height. This pub only had a ceiling 2 inches taller than the door! We got some smiles as we hunched to the back where he ceiling was actually tall enough. In the back we met two Americans, Terry and his wife, and talked with them about our travels until 12:30am. We jovially made our way back to Veronique's and crashed into bed. Tomorrow: bicycling the Dingle Peninsula in search of ruins!

Posted by hangtime41 14:19 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

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