Gra Nomad Wanderings

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Well, did we really need a Peugeot 307 station wagon? The three vehicles we rented previously, Ford Focus (US), Fiat Punto (Eng), VW Golf (Ireland), were all smaller and all did the job. (Fay reminds me that the Punto was quite small and as a result the Banana Split stayed in his suitcases!)
This vehicle looks really smart. Sharp! Cool! Wicked! This is only day 2 of a 43 day lease. I feel I'll be learning about it for the next .... well, for a number of days.
Obviously I learnt reverse when we collected it at Rennes. It had 12 km on the clock. Lovely silver extreior with a matching dark grey upholstery and NO floor mats! Ordinarily we would never drive a new vehicle out of a showroom without floor mats. We also learnt various seat controls and what we could fit in which cubbyholes - and there are some.
Today I learnt about the speed limiter. Bill, Alpal, SJ and Nat would get a buzz outa this one. I set the speed limiter at 75 kph and accelerated so I could hear it beep when I exceeded 75. Wait for it... it NEVER went above 75! It really is a LIMITER. That'd be good when your kids wanted to borrow Dad's car. In Oz we have a slightly similar setup, except that when you set it for say 75, it beeps to let you know when you have exceeded the speed you had set.
The book telling you what everything is for is in FRENCH! Beauty! That's a lotta help. C'est un gros assistance!
It's a 1.6 Litre diesel, 5 speed manual. It has a lovely smooth gearbox and engine combo and it pokes along quite smartly thank you very much. And accelerates well!
While I don't think it has climate control exactly, I can set my side to 18 and Fay's to 20 etc. Maybe that is climate control. It also tells me outside temp. Unfortunately I can't find TODAY FM (from Ireland or Oz) so all radio is in a foreign tongue.
Our 4 suitcases fit comfortably on the rear seat leaving rear floor room for day packs and food box and the boot or trunk area of the station wagon for the folded BS (tandem bike.)
Neat slideout trays under the front seat too! Do they have them on the Statesman yet Al? They're not in the Silverado from memory.
Well, as the days go on, I'll let you know other things we learn about this beautiful silver Pug. Can you think of a good name for it?

Thursday, September 28, 2006


A few photos of Ireland that I promised to put on the site.

After staying 4 days at the Franciscan Monastery in Clara, we headed to Dublin to catch the plane to Paris on Fri 22 Sept. All ran very smoothly, car drop off, tickets, passport, baggage checks etc. One lass made a thorough search of one Ortleib bike pannier. She asked if there was a computer there. Fay said no. But when she searched she found the bike computer. Clever girl. No problems. Just repack thanks.
One and a half hours after takeoff we landed at CDG airport in Paris. Jacqueline was there to greet us as promised. She then took us and all our luggage in her gorgeous Renault Scenic to their home at le bec Hellouin. That was about a 1.5 hr trip. During our stay with Jean-Daniel and Jacqueline, we took in the very well presented D Day Museum at Arrowmanches on the north coast. This is where the British troops with allies from a number of countries, stormed into France on 6 June 1944. It was indeed a HUGE operation which surprised the Germans. It was incredible how they made the "harbour" and floated "roads" from England. Over 3,000 vehicles landed in this operation. The Americans landed nearby at Omaha Beach with huge loss of life. We also visited the American War Cemetery. Many people from numerous countries lost their lives in 1944.
Another highlight of our time in Normandy was a visit to see the TAPESTRY. It was made over 900n years ago. It depicts scenes of William's battles and his rise to the English throne. The tapestry is 70 metres long and about 50 cm wide. It was unbelievable.
The wood (or forest) at le bec Hellouin was also a highlight. Jacqueline and Jean-Daniel own the wood which contains Douglas Fir, Corsica Pine, Cedar, Oak to name but a few species. I know the tree doctor would have loved to be there. It is very peaceful to walk in the wood (even if stinging nettles did get me.)
Now here we are in Rennes, Brittany.
Today we explored this beautiful city. The Cathedrale Saint-Pierre was quite a size. The huge front doors were each 25' x 7'. And there were four of them. It dates back to about 1700.
Other places visited included:
jardin du Thabor, Chappelle Saint-Yves - Office of Tourism, the indoor swimming pool with incredible ceramic tiles on outside and inside, the Auberge de Jeunesse (Youth Hostel) and Parlement de Bretagne. It took us from 830 to 1630! We saw a lot and walked heaps.
They have many beautiful malls, mostly with cobblestone streets. The buildings are awesome - huge timber beams on the outside.... Normandy style. People are very friendly (contrary to what Coult reckoned they'd be). About 200,000+ people and around 60,000 students!
Gotta fly.

Thanks Jacqueline and Jean-Daniel in le bec Hellouin, and thanks to Albert, Marie-Paule and Lucas here in Rennes. You have been wonderful hosts.

Tomorrow, we pick up the Pug and head north.

Still no baby.

Friday, September 22, 2006


In Oz we regard England as "the Mother country". If that's so, then Ireland is our "Father country"!
There are many links between Australia and Ireland, even if they don't do cricket.
It's still expensive here in Ireland (maybe not as bad as England) and we're hoping the continent will be kinder to our pockets. I tell everyone we're on a SKI holiday (Spending Kids' Inheritance) - and I think they're after every red cent!
People in Ireland have been extremely friendly and helpful. Unfortunately they have a few problems... like their road signs. As a result of poor signage we've found ourselves lost a few times. But there are always friendly faces to help get you back on track.
The Dingle Peninsula (SW area) was great. We were in a museum near Dunquin when Tony & Carol Slater showed up. They are Cooma folk that we'd not seen for about 10 years. Tony was dentist to Fay and son Jeremy.
Roads can be tricky round here. When there's an approaching bus or semi there just isn't room to squeeze past unless you head for the hedges!
We've seen some structures which date back to 1000 AD and even further back. Unbelievable!
The pubs are warm and friendly places and we've been to a few and tried out Guiness! We've been entertained by singers, musicians and dancers.
I've picked up a couple of number plates (licence plates) here in Ireland - "No, you don't say!" says one of my kids. They will join the display I have back in Dubbo. Over 200 plates I guess.
Fay and I have had the chance to chat with boys at a local school this week. Thanks Madge and Brother B for having us in your rooms. We even had to sing Waltzing Matilda with the 9 year olds! Thanks Kathleen and staff for making us so welcome.
Hey... one of the problems here is that they're really pushing the Irish language now. That's great... but sometimes the signage is ONLY in Irish!
Ryder Cup starts tomorrow! All hype here! Europe v America. Should be a good battle.
Special thanks to the team at the monastery here in Clara (Co Offaly) where we've been staying for the past few days. We have really been accepted as family. You blokes and the ladies that cook and clean have made us feel very much at home. We shall miss you all.
Now, for Paris! We fly out of Dublin at midday tomorrow (Friday).
Sorry I've had trouble with photos. Don't know why.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Heaps of bridges are pretty small and old. ONE LANE thanks!

The bridge with 12 or 14 arches was at Ballydehob. Really neat.

The beach is on the Dingle Peninsula... in the SW of Ireland. There were even waves!

As you can see, Banana Split (our tandem) fits in the boot (trunk) of our VW Golf. We have had a couple of rides here in Ireland.... but it is a wet country. Aust is a dry country!

We depart Dublin for Paris on Friday 22 Sept. Hopefully the SPAAK family will be around to meet us. They are Servas friends.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Day 1 in Dublin was the final of the hurling game between Cork (dressed like Sydney Swans in red and white) and Kilkenny (dressed like Hawthorn in black and amber). We walked with all our luggage, with and through the crowd as they headed to the ground. The crowd looked like Melbourne on grand final day. Kilkenny broke Cork's run preventing them getting 3 in a row. We made it to our hostel.

Day 2 in Dublin - a taxi strike. In the arvo, all taxis drove into the city to cause a gridlock. Guess when we chose to ride the double decker "city tour " bus?

We've since wandered down to the SE corner of the island, visited Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and now Kinsale. We stayed with lovely Servas hosts in Wexford (Emma) and Kilkenny (Mary and son David). Hostels ($50-60 for a couple) have also proved a cheaper option than B&B's ($85-100).

History of this area includes potato famine, Titanic's last port at Gobh, Norman and Viking invasions, Cromwell's plundering etc. The lusitania was also sunk off Irish south coast by a German U-boat with over 1000 casualties.

We put our bike Friday together in Kilkenny and then went for a cycle on their narrow roads. As Graham Brown found, and also John Ansell, cycling around this place, like England, isn't quite as simple as a ride in Rochester, Waterfall or Dubbo. Roads are often narrow, limited shoulders, sometimes poor signposting ( we ended up on the wrong roads 2 days in a row), and often a fair bit of traffic. The hedges beside the road often encroach on the tarmac.

Sad news recently about Steve Irwin and Peter Brock both passing away - doing what they loved best - exploring nature and racing cars respectively.

10 Sept. was a special day for us. It has a couple of significant events attached to it besides being the day before 9/11.

We had a look over Cherles Fort at Kinsale, the Timoleague Friary (built around 1300-1500), Drombeg stone circle at Glandore (miniature Stonehenge), the little town of Ballydehob (ggod name for a dog Marg), a monument to the Indian Air Crash in 1985, and a boat ramp hidden at the end of a long winding road. It was called Gortakilla Pier. We finally found Glanmore Lke International Hostel. What a neat spot! Eileen has been caretaker here for an amazing 32 years. We had the place to ourselves including the open fire. And we also managed to phone our daughter Deb and husband Brendan back in Sydney. She's due to have a bub in about 3 weeks. Their first and our first grandchild. So it was sure a neat day.

Monday, September 04, 2006


England! Jolly England!
1 Coke - £1.60
1 lge pizza for 2 - £9
B&B or pub accomm - £50-100
pub meals - £8-12
bus/train for all day in London - £4 each!
fuel - £0.95 /Litre Multiply all figures by 2.5 to find out how many Aussie dollars.
The good news is I've already got a licence plate from England!
And the traffic in London is unreal. Out of London.... it's just hopeless.

Having said that, we've really enjoyed our 13 days in England/Wales. For scenery, there's some great coastline, beautiful harbours/ports, (with colossal differences in tides), hills & tors to climb to better see the countryside, tremendously narrow country roads lined with hedges, tree covered fences or stone walls. Houses, castles, barns & farms can be old, ornate, huge, historic, picturesque, majestic etc. And the people are.... well they're English!
We stayed with old friend Marie Kenworthy... now Walmsley! She and her hubby John are into flogging West Aussie wine! So, we had to sample a few drops while we were there. Tried desperately to prevent badgers invading and ruining their yard.... but I'd better not give too many details. Some of you know how animals mark their territory!
It was also great to meet up with Marion and Chris Slader in Wales. I just can't pronounce or spell any of their towns, except for Bangor, Menai and Cardiff! We really had great visits with Walmsleys and Sladers. Thanks guys. (Let me know how the badgers go please John.)
Because of the high cost of living, I could quite imagine this could be my last trip here - yet it just feels so comfortable... like an old boot!
So, on to Ireland! What will this be like?
* * * *
We arrived at Holyhead in North Wales after staying overnight at Bangor hostel. (cost: £28 - separate dormitories - $70 AU. You could get a pretty good motel room in Dubbo or Sussex Inlet for that eh? )
It was a 30 mile drive to Holyhead from our hostel (fancy the English/Welsh are still working in miles! Yet they buy their fuel in Litres!
We arrived in our Hertz Fiat Punto - a day late! Our ferry trip was booked for 3 pm Sunday.
* * * * *
As I write, I've been informed by one of the passengers on the ferry (cat ferry), that we are now in Irish waters! Hey, how neat it was to actually catch the earlier ferry which left at 9:50 am instead of waiting for the 3 pm one! Bonus! Extra four quid because this ferry goes faster! (I thought it'd be less because you didn't spend as long on the ferry!)
For a while it was pretty rough & the vessel jumped about a bit, but then the capt seemed to get the hang of the "track" and managed to avoid most "bumps and potholes" after that.
I'm feeling a bit better now. listening to my iPod playing "Save The Last Dance" by Righteous Bros.
Hey it's looking better outside - reckon Ken from Kansas with his party boat or the Billabong from Nanaimo would be able to handle this bit. Should be in Dublin in 40 minutes!
* * * * *
We're booked into a hostel in Dublin. Dublin International Hostel. It costs 36 Euros per day - 18 each. About $60 AU. Main thing we have to do is arrange car rental to wander round Ireland. No Al, the BS hasn't done a km in anger as yet since we arrived in London.
We're due to fly outa Dublin 22 Sept for Paris. Better let Jacqueline know Brian. Have u got their email address?
Thanks Janice for telling us to check out the pubs! Gotta get a bit of culture you reckon?
* * * *
Well..... here we are in Dublin. And the pubs are FULL! It's Sunday and it's the Hawks v Sydney Swans.... well... actually Killkenny v Cork.... no, not soccer.... HURLING! And man have they turned out for it! So, we'll try the pubs when things cool down a bit. I can hear Jeremy say, "What's wrong with you ol man? Lost your zip?"
* * * *
Just about had my Euro's worth..... One Euro for an hour. (Cheaper than at our hostel!) Better go and have a read of the paper & learn how US Open is going. Seeya. Multiply Euros by 1.65 I believe.... is that right DickO?