30 August 2005

BLOG-O!

Well, here we are… Dan and I are sitting on the edge of a gentle valley, on a warm, sunny, still August day. Six small, recently shorn wheat fields lie in front of us, and a peacefully dappled wood at our backs. We have just eaten a quickly assembled lunch of leftover pizza and salad, and are now relaxing on a picnic cloth in the green grass. Today, after Dan visited the dentist for his last tooth-polish, we travelled out to Haddenham (near Aylesbury) for a visit to St Tiggywinkle’s wildlife sanctuary… and I think you can guess what we saw there. No, not a giant, technicolour antelope! We saw HEDGEHOGS! They are really STUPID! But cute. They look like someone designed them for a play or a film, and didn’t bother to learn about anatomy – they look a bit like wacky animatronic creatures. Then we drove to Ilmer, a very tiny, peaceful hamlet (the residents of which I’m sure come out as devil-worshippers or something at the new moon!) where we visited a church that has been there since the 12th century. There were two white doves in the rafters! I then directed Dan quite haphazardly across a small section of Buckinghamshire to Little Hampden (past funnily named places like SNEED and LOOSELY ROW), where you now find us. Of course, as you may have realised, we have the laptop with us, and will post this blog when we get home!

But Ireland… as if you weren’t sick of it. After that night of boozing, we had to drive all the way down to Kells the next day. The countryside was lovely, and Jonathan Ross on the radio was hilarious, and my terribly queasy stomach was terrible. The country around Kells was probably some of the closest we saw to that cliché of Irish landscape – all rolling hills, bright green grass, stone walls and hedges. (May I just add here that today is SO LOVELY! We even have a warm wind blowing the smells of the countryside through our non-existent hair)… At Kells we stayed in a strange hostel – it feels a bit like it was once a school or scout camp. I slept most of the time, and woke up feeling a little better the next day.

That day we went to the Hill of Tara in the early-ish morning. For those who know of it, yes it was as ancient-feeling and as mystical as you think, especially early in the morning… for those who don’t, where have you been??? We walked around for a bit, and as we were standing in the centre of one of the rings, the sun broke through the blue-grey clouds, illuminating the green grass on the historical sights, and lighting the bales of hay a fey silver-gold. Looking out over the plains, you can imagine that those Old Kings of Ireland would have stood there and exclaimed, “YESSSSSSSSSSS! It’s MINE, it came to ME!!!” Or something far more noble. We went into the café and ordered scones and tea – the scones had just gone into the oven, so we waited 15 minutes and had the yummiest, freshest scones of the trip! We also bought some information pamphlets, and went and stood in the Banquet (Long) Hall, pretending to be the king’s harpers, royalty, etc. Imagining the hall as it might have been – bustling, almost chaotic, the smells of a feast in preparation, the rituals, the music, the rich clothing…

And then we drove to Dublin, checked into THE WORST HOSTEL IN IRELAND (at least, the worst one we stayed in… at least it was sort of clean. You can see my reviews of Isaac’s hostel and others we stayed in on www.bugeurope.com), dropped the car off at the airport, and began exploring the city. Despite the hostel, we both really liked Dublin. It is old, it has a great mix of seediness and coolness, it’s pretty laid back for a capital city, it has great alleyways, it has a cool University (more soon), good food at prices that are CHEAPER THAN LONDON (whatever others might tell you, it’s not as expensive as the English capital), a nice park/garden, a river (which makes it feel a little like Melbourne), it has plaques with quotes from Ulysses all over the place, a fantastic free museum, trams, and BEST OF ALL it has traffic lights with the same buttons – and the same SOUND – as Melbourne traffic lights. It is so strange to find yourself doing something as habitual as hitting the big round button, and realising that the last time you did it was on the other side of the world, five months ago. Tick, tick, tick, tick, psheeewww ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti… heheh!

Trinity College has an amusing and informative little walking tour, and also houses the Trinity College Library (2 and a half metres longer than Trinity College Library in Cambridge, and thus the longest single-room library in the world) and the Book of Kells. The library (Long Room) is AMAZING, and worth the entry to the Book of Kells. The ceiling is 2 storeys high, and a walkway runs right down the middle. Off the passage, there are deep alcoves: both walls lined from top to bottom with old books. And above these alcoves are other alcoves (on the mezzanine) also lined with shelves upon shelves of books. The ceiling is arched, and made of dark wood, and the sunlight falls through large windows in the middle of each alcove. Best of all, guess how they arrange the books??? BY SIZE!!! Hilarious! The Book of Kells comes with an excellent exhibition on the historical context, making of, religious environment, interpretation and conservation of the book. The pages themselves are displayed rather stupidly in a dark room in a glass box without any sort of queuing system, so you sort of have to push in… the visit was great, and out of the experience the idea for a novel popped into my head, the fist scene fully formed (I am actually writing it!)

The museum is also excellent. It provided a really great summary of all the things we’d seen – the megalithic tombs and info on those people, the old religions, the arrival and spread of Christianity, the Viking heritage, medieval towns… and GOLD. Oh my word. I have never understood why people went to all extremes to find gold, but seeing so much of it (a lot of it replicated, but much of it real) made my head go a bit funny. My mouth started watering, and I actually began to think about how to steal it all!!! Gold-lust. It exists. We had to go for brunch (in the chic-est, cutest, gaelic-speaking café) to calm me down.

Hilariously, just as we were leaving the hostel to go home, who should appear but the ubiquitous and lovely Simona?!?!? It was very amusing – we also saw her from the bus going to the airport… Dublin airport has RIDICULOUS security: everyone has to take off their SHOES and put them through the metal detector!!! We also saw a couple of the bike riders from Peter’s place at the airport. Watching the mainland fall away below the plane, we once more got a view of Dublin and the Wicklow Hills/Mountains, basking in the patches of late afternoon sun. We were sad to be leaving – but we will definitely be back. Next time we will be prepared for the very approximate road-signage (occasionally only in Gaelic), the tiny lanes, the road works (SLOW… SLOW… SLOWER, the signs say!), the accents (I still couldn’t tell if some people were speaking Gaelic or English)… but we will also know to expect the friendliness, the laid-back atmosphere, the music seeping through every aspect of life, the stunning, stunning scenery, the (mostly) excellent hostels, the famous fog, the emerald-green fields… Eire…

32 comments:

  1. hellooo Rachel & Dan!
    Sound like you are still having a fab time! Can't believe how much you have seen and done - still VERY jealous!
    Same as usual here really but you may (or may not) be excited to hear (if you haven't already) that I am now 18 weeks pregnant (yup preggers, up the duff or whatever!)
    Nath and I are really excited & all is going well thus far.
    (Probly didn't need to blab it out for all your friends and all to read & say "who the hell is that & why is she telling you this?" but I'm sure they'll get over it.)
    Luv to you both - Theresa Hopman (nee Peachey! hehe)
    p.s. I will now HAVE TO make SCONES for my dinner after your delicious reference to them!

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  2. your shoelace is untied

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  3. theresa - congratulations!... i would say 'keep up the good work', but i don't know how relevant that would be?!?!? keep us informed!

    sam - congratulations, too, on your awesome powers of observation - my shoelaces are indeed untied. although i'm not wearing shoes.

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  4. Hi chooks! Arranging books by size is definitely the most sensible way to go - that's how I arrange my books! We all have our obsessive-compulsive peculiarities (ahem, colour coordinating CDs and books....Which reminds me - Esther and I walked past a shop here that had a rack of clothes out the front and the clothes were all organised according to colour!! We giggled and talked about how you (Rach) would have approved and how weird you are...). So, wow! Actually started writing a novel, eh? Not like the rest of us who just talk about how 'one day' we're going to write something long and worthy....Yours isn't going to be a nutty fantasy/sci-fi, is it? I don't know if I'll be able to read it if it is. I think Dublin airport security sounds cool. I like taking my shoes off!

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  5. P.S. Your mum is indeed über-grand

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  6. Ha! Sorry Isaac's acted like the country party (we call the Liberals - libs, nationals - nats...therefore the country....). We had a similar experience at Wombats in Vienna where an otherwise ok hostel experience is made ridiculous, infuriating and upsetting by incompetent staff who think you are just a whingeing tourist...ARGH! Anyway, glad to hear you are well and merry.
    We are counting down the days til holidays... 2 more weeks! Woo hoo!

    Toodles,

    Julia

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