I’m going to try in this blog update to bring us up to the current time.
From Cork, we drove eastwards to Waterford (famous as the home of Waterford crystal ware) then north to Kilkenny (famous for a brand of beer, and a castle). We were running short of time, so we had just a quick circuit of the centre of Waterford, then up the motorway to Kilkenny.
Kilkenny is quite small (population about 25,000) but it was bustling with tourists last Friday. We had lunch at a small café, then walked the short distance to Kilkenny Castle, which was the home of the Earls of Pembroke, and then the Butler family, who were the Earls of Ormonde. The Castle, which dates from 1195, passed into the ownership of the Irish state in 1935, empty and derelict, but has been restored to its current glory by the Irish government. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside, but I have some pictures of the outside.
Kilkenny Castle, exterior view.
…and some of the Castle’s formal gardens.
Then to Dublin on the motorway. We eventually found our hotel, after taking the scenic route around the suburbs and city centre. I had been wary of trying to access accommodation in a very inner area (Temple Bar, the centre of the city’s night life), but its proximity to the centre, the river and restaurants, made up for its difficult access.
We walked around the city centre, then eventually found a good place to eat right in the centre of Temple Bar. Dublin’s centre has not suffered from urban renewal and redevelopment, so it remains mostly low-rise, mixed use, with lots of small shops, pubs and restaurants. The Liffey River cuts through the centre of the city, but there are many bridges, including pedestrian bridges to get across it.
The famous Halfpenny (pedestrian) Bridge across the Liffey, named for the toll originally charged for its users.
On the street in Temple Bar on Saturday night.
It is well known that Ireland has one of the weakest economies in Europe, mostly due to the government bailing out the banks after a property crash, and the lack of tax revenues to support the government’s expenditures. Unemployment is 20%+. Amidst this, there are clear signs of wealth – large houses and expensive cars are everywhere. The airport in Cork (pop 120,000) would make the Gold Coast Airport terminal look like an old shed, and Dublin Airport would make Brisbane Airport look small and dated. Maybe that’s part of how Ireland got into its current difficulties.
But Ireland’s most famous export is its people, with both Mike and I having Irish ancestry (among various other Swedish, Scottish, English and Danish ancestors also). Had it not been for past difficulties in Ireland, we might not be in our current fortunate circumstances.
On Sunday morning, we flew to Heathrow and made our way to our hotel near Paddington Station. It was the final day of the Olympics, and much of central London’s traffic had been disrupted by that afternoon’s marathon, but the city was calm and friendly. We watched the Olympic Closing Ceremony on TV in a local pub, until about half-way through when the management decided to close for the night (to the dismay of a full-house of eaters and drinkers). We retreated to our hotel to watch the remainder of the show. No comments on some of the content….
On Monday, we were tourists for a day. We managed to arrive at Westminster Abbey as it closed at 3.30pm, then at Buckingham Palace as the tours of some of the public rooms closed at 4.00pm. With adult visitors being charged £16 ($24) to enter the Abbey, I’m surprised it is not kept open 24 hours a day!
On Tuesday, we travelled to the village of Bray, west of Windsor, to dine at Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck. If you’ve seen any of his TV shows, you will know how elaborate and inventive his dishes can be. We had the full array, including Snail Porridge, Sounds of the Sea, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party the Kid in a Sweet Shop. It’s not for the feint-hearted or those without an adventurous palate. I have to admit that Mike had to help me with some of the dishes, but others were an absolute delight for me.
The adjacent table, about to devour the contents of the Cheese Trolley.
It was an afternoon of theatre and surprises, as everyone wonders what’s in each dish and how is it all put together. The service was impeccable, the staff were so knowledgeable, the setting was faultless. Before we left, Mike paid the bill, which I fear resembled a telephone number in terms of the number of digits it contained.
The restaurant was full, as it is twice each day, six days each week, and it’s always booked out three months in advance. Who said there was recession in the UK?
On Wednesday morning, we returned to Heathrow for our near 12-hour flight to Hong Kong, on British Airways. We were in Business Class, thanks to our Frequent Flyer points, and the flight was relatively bearable. We both slept lightly for a few hours during the flight, but we were grateful to get into bed for a few hours sleep after breakfast at our hotel in Hong Kong.
On the BA flight, I’m in the window seat facing backwards, and Mike is in the aisle seat facing forwards (and drinking champagne!)
Hong Kong is as busy, crowded, hot and humid as ever – maybe even more so this time, as a typhoon skirts around a couple of hundred kilometres away out to sea. There have been strong winds and rain showers in Hong Kong itself, but mostly we have escaped the danger.
Low clouds, wind and rain showers in Hong Kong on Friday. From our hotel.
Tomorrow, Saturday, we fly back to Brisbane on Cathay Pacific, arriving there just before midnight, then the transfer to the Gold Coast. Our big holiday adventure will be over, but we will have so many memories of it all. I think we achieved everything we initially set out wanting to do, and we had no real troubles along the way. I won’t mention Mike’s lost items, or his accumulation of hotel soaps, tea bags, lollies, biscuits and the like. (Customs take note.)
As the older of our travelling duo, I managed to get through it all without suffering any tummy upsets, sleepless nights (OK, one night excepted), hangovers or aches and pains. Not bad for someone who gets a Seniors’ discount in most places.
We didn’t miss any flights or trains, didn’t get lost on the roads in Ireland, and we got no parking tickets or speeding tickets. But we had a fantastic time away!!!
Thanks to our blog readers for persevering with us, and thanks for all your wonderful comments. And thanks to Mike for putting up with me!