You’re the worst sick person I’ve ever met… yep those are the loving words that I threw at Anna this week. Her response – a big grin. Grrrr… such defiance. This definitely wasn’t my finest moment, but after avoiding sickness for our first 5 months of traveling, we both caught a cough and cold that kicked us down a few gears. Now before you jump to conclusions about me being horrible, Anna is a very independent woman and when she’s sick the stubbornness increases tenfold. This makes it very difficult to look after her because she fights off any help on offer. You may have noticed that I didn’t call her the worst patient because that would suggest that she was making herself available for treatment. On the plus side Anna thought it was hilarious when I explained that finer point. The sickness took hold in our last couple of days in Dublin, but we tried to make sure it didn’t hold us back too much.
One of the top rated experiences in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse and it was only 5 minute walk from Laura’s house. I’m typically not a big fan of Guinness, but I must admit that the couple of stouts I tried in Ireland really surprised me. Surely the best pint of Guinness would be found at the factory, so a tour was a must. Fortunately for us, the Keville’s had some contacts and we scored tickets for EUR6 rather than the usual EUR20. Considering I ended up having 2.5 pints at the end of the tour, Guinness essentially paid me to come look at the facility. The tour wasn’t a tour of the actual factory but it was more a self-guided exhibition set up in the old storehouse. This is where they used to store all the wooden casks while they matured and then were ready for shipping. The exhibition focussed on the process of brewing the black stuff, the history of Guinness and the factory’s influence on Dublin. The factory was established in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease on the site so there was no shortage of history! There was a large component dedicated to the transition from wooden casks to metal kegs as this resulted in a large change of operations at the plant because they were making all of the casks inhouse and by hand. One fact I didn’t realise is that the harp which is seen as a symbol of Ireland is actually a trademark of Guinness. When approached by the government, they consented for the harp to be used on the provision that it was the mirror image. We made our way through the various levels reaching the altitude bar with an appropriate thirst. The bar provides 360 degree views of Dublin which was great to see.
Refusing to spend time at Laura’s house feeling sick and sorry for ourselves (mostly Anna), we headed for a walk around town to see the sites and shopping districts. After this we decided to walk to the botanical gardens which are towards the edge of town. Anna enjoys taking photos of flowers so we thought it would be worth the walk to go and see them. It turns out that the other reason to head to the gardens is for the delicious cake that they sell in the tea room. Many thanks to Greta for the hot tip on that one.
We have been very fortunate with our visit to Ireland that it has coincided with the centenary of the 1916 uprising. Everywhere we have visited there have been special exhibitions on. Another one of these sites is Kilmainham Gaol where many key figures in the uprising and independence of Ireland were imprisoned and executed in public hangings. We took a 1 hour guided tour through the gaol where we were shown the cells of key prisoners and the harsh treatment of prisoners was outlined. With the centenary, the tour is very popular requiring advanced booking several days in advance. As we weren’t well we couldn’t make the most of the museum at the end of the tour because we were exhausted. We walked back to the house for a midday nap which is very unlike us.
All of the Keville’s were very kind to us by showing us around Dublin and taking us on excursions to the coastal areas like Bray. It was very nice of Laura to put us up at her place while we were there and play tour guide for us. Like all backpackers, we’re very grateful for any helping hand that we get along the way. But sadly the time came for us to leave and we were touched that all the Keville’s came around the night before to say goodbye.
Anna lived in Paris for 2 months on an exchange program during university and she was very excited to return to her old stomping ground. We only had 1.5 days in Paris so we didn’t plan too much, but the plan was to hit the ground running and walk around to various sites. Due to illness this didn’t transpire, but we still managed to find the energy to walk down to Anna’s old accommodation and check out the surrounding area. Once Anna stopped to think about how long ago it was that she lived in Paris, she had a small freak out about getting older. Fortunately for her, she will always be younger than me. We continued on to the Luxembourg Gardens and took a rest by the octagon pond where for decades kids have rented small wooden sail boats to sail across the pond. Watching the kids run around and around was entertaining at first but then became quite tiring. We retired back to our hotel for another daytime sleep.
Our full day in Paris was Bastille Day, so the city was in full swing as residents celebrated the national holiday. Everywhere we went we stumbled across another military convoy making its way through the city as they made their way back from the city parade. We covered more ground on that day as we made our way to the Louvre and strolled along the river, but we definitely didn’t rack up our usual stepcount. In order to make the 11pm fireworks off the Eiffel Tower we retreated once again for a day time nap. We headed out for the fireworks and joined the masses cramming into the parkland surrounding the tower. We found some space to set the tripod up and then guarded our land from intruders. Paris is a city still on edge from the terrorist attack 8 months ago and that’s still evident today. Halfway through the fireworks show there was commotion nearby and people started to panic and run. Naturally we grabbed the camera and ran but then we discovered that it was a false alarm. We found another spot and took some more pictures but we noticed that many of the residents were leaving so we decided to do the same. In hindsight, after learning of the attack on Nice the fear of the residents is justified.
On Friday morning we headed to Charles de Gaulle airport nice and early to meet my parents who had flown in from Singapore. Anna was very disappointed when my mum didn’t cry when we reunited because she lost a $20 bet that we had going. I will admit it was great to see them after 5 months and it’s definitely the longest period we’ve been separated for. We collected our brand new Peugeot 3008 lease car and then I drove the 5 hour journey to Brantome. I was looking forward to catching up on all the news from Australia but we had some sleepy passengers in the back of the car.
This post is a few days late because we’ve had difficulty securing internet in country France. In the next post we’ll outline our time in the beautiful Brantome and the relaxing time we’ve had so far. Anna is still sick but after a visit to a GP and commencing a course of antibiotics, she’s on the mend.
Fail of the Week
With no WiFi at our house in Brantome we decided to buy a local sim card so that we could create a hotspot and connect our various devices to the internet. After paying EUR40 for 2GB for the month it turns out that the service is restricted and does not allow a hotspot to be created. Grrr.
Meal of the Week
I was so excited to discover a Vietnamese Pho restaurant right near our hotel in Paris. Special beef noodle soup was just what the doctor ordered. It was so good, we headed back the next night for another.
Our tips for touring Ireland:
- Accommodation is quite expensive in the city so look out for hostels (or find a friend to stay with!)
- Look out for the hop on hop off bus in Dublin that only costs EUR10.
- Driving in Ireland is a piece of cake and car rental is cheap so go for it. The tolls are also very reasonable so don’t worry about going the back roads.
- Make sure you check groupon for deals on attractions because it’s common to score half price tix.
- If you’re driving the ring of kerry it’s best to do it in the anticlockwise direction that’s recommended and just stop where you see the tour buses stopped.
Average spend for Ireland was AU$66.20pp per night for everything including the car hire.