Beautiful beautiful Ireland

We only had a week in Ireland so were determined to pack a lot in.

We cruised over on the car ferry, which was a rather nice way to while away a couple of hours. After a night in a cute BnB in Rosslare we headed into Dublin. It rained a lot in the two days we were there!

Obligatory beef and  Guinness pie eating proved very successful, and there was sampling of said Guinness, as well an entertaining visit to the Guinness Storehouse where I got to pour my own pint (I think mine is the one in the middle). Most satisfying.

A more sobering visit to the Kilmainham jail gave us an in-depth look at Ireland’s struggle for freedom and the people who sacrificed their lives to obtain it. There is a heart-breaking letter on display from an 18 year old who was executed for being part of the Easter uprising. The letter was written the night before his death – all he wanted was to see his mum. So very very sad. It made Alcatraz look very tame to be honest.

We also managed to fit in a visit to Dublin Castle with its beautiful staterooms and Trinity College Dublin. The Book of Kells and the old library were well worth the long queue to get in. Incredible to see such an old and precious book, even if it was just a couple of pages open for viewing. (No photos of the book allowed sorry!)

 

Our next two days were spent driving cross country to the beautiful areas of Glasson and Ballina. On the way we saw a sign for a waterfall so headed down the tiny road and were rewarded with seeing a small but gorgeous torrent of water, and finding a place that did excellent tea!

Both  our hotels for these couple of days were by the water, firstly a beautiful lake  and then a river. Very quiet and a nice change of pace from the hectic pace of Dublin. Wayne played golf and I had a massage – bliss.

We then drove to Belfast for a trip highlight – a Game of Thrones tour! Entertained and informed by our crazy guide Brian, a seasoned extra on the show, we saw many of the places where iconic scenes were filmed and got lots of insider information on how things were filmed. Mandatory and  much fun was getting dressed up as Iron Islanders and having a go at fighting  with (very heavy and realistic )swords. Our kids were a bit worried that I was having too much fun fighting their dad!

Along the way we got  to cross the famed Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge (why do I agree to these things?) This was the biggest test for my vertigo ever. Several of our group decided not to risk it as it was a windy day but I knew I would be annoyed with myself if I didn’t attempt it. Suffice to say that it was one of the scariest things I have ever done! I had Wayne behind me, encouraging me to take bigger steps, or at least keep moving. I think I shook for an hour afterwards. I’m not sure that continually forcing myself to confront these situations is good for me but I am learning a lot about what I can to do if I have to, and it turns out it’s quite a lot. The Giant’s Causeway was much easier!

We finished our week with a walking tour of the ‘Troubles’ era in Belfast history. The other side of the fight for autonomy with devastating results that still scar the city emotionally of not physically today.Our guide had grown up through all the bombings and was a professional mediator with both sides of the conflict – could have listened to him all day. We wished we could stay longer in Ireland but the car ferry was booked, so we said our goodbyes and farewelled this wonderful country.

We loved Ireland, so dramatic, such sweeping vistas, delicious food  and friendly people. Another country to put on our ‘let’s go back’ list!

 

From Pompeii to Capri

A sensory overload already and we have only been here a few days. 

Early start onto the coach that will become very familiar over the next little while.

First stop Pompeii. A stunning day with Vesuvius looking peaceful and benign. Impossible to imagine it smoking and roaring. Today several million people live in neighboring Naples and more than 600 000 on its slopes. The trade-off for beautiful fertile soil is the possibility of another eruption. Not sure I could do it, but when the inhabitants of the region were offered relocation  in 2003 , very few people took up the offer. 

Today fortunately it slumbered on as we walked the streets of Pompeii. Theatres, shops, brothels, houses, public baths, a bustling city silenced forever; now full of curious tourists bringing an odd new life to the streets. Most of the heartbreaking plaster reconstructions of the bodies are out on loan but we did see one desperate frozen figure, head forever buried in his arms. Only too easy to imagine the terror he must have felt. 



Feeling fairly somber we headed to catch the ferry to Capri. A world apart from the tomb of Pompeii, the wharf at Capri was packed beyond belief with sunburnt and  over-tired holiday-makers returning home (some issue with the boats not sailing due to the weather, and no idea of on the part of the officials as to how to solve the ensuing chaos). Pushing our way through the crowds, in genuine danger of being pushed into the water, we clambered with relief into our open air taxi.



My own relief was short-lived when I realised we were heading up to Ana Capri, over the crazily high viaduct ( you can just make it out in the photo below, taken as I muttered ‘you have got to be joking’). Wayne reassuring me I would be fine, I reluctantly got in the car, feeling sick to my stomach.I don’t have any control over when my vertigo will strike (although I can pick when it might happen) it’s quite like a panic attack and very scary.  Fortunately for me the adrenaline rush won over vertigo. If we had stopped anywhere on the mountain I would however have been a quivering mess! Hopefully the hurriedly snapped shot and the video below give a little idea of the trip we would end up making several times up and down the road. 
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Our hotel was beautiful (arriving in one piece was a bonus) and it was a delight to jump into the swimming pool – the first of our entire trip! Gorgeous views out over to the mainland.

Capri itself was a chaotic and beautiful mix of crowds, traffic insanity, sophistication and style. Scooters, buses, three-wheeled trucks, cyclists and pedestrians all competing for the same spot on roads designed for a much less busy time.  Super yachts thrown casually into ocean moorings, designer labels sold from tiny ancient shops – I expected to see models and movie stars round every corner. We were enchanted and vaguely bemused and decided we couldn’t  imagine living here.

 Over the course of our two days we explored the island, avoided getting run over, did some shopping, ate gelato and wandered around in the rain. The sea around Capri is a combination of the most beautiful shades of blue that I could not get enough of as we enjoyed a cruise around some of the grottos and the Faraglioni despite the weather packing in. 



Then up the hill on the funicular for more spectacular vistas.



I even managed to stand right up against the railings (briefly) when we visited the Gardens of Caesar Augustus. As you can see by my smile, today was a victory over vertigo! Might seem like a small thing but I’ve had to stare down vertigo a few times this trip. The alternative is to stay down at the bottom of these climbs and miss the view, and I am determined to not resort to that!

All too soon we were throwing our bags back on the ferry and farewelling this enchanting island. Once back on dry land we were soon heading up to Umbria.