Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Lenin Mausoleum

Queuing up like this to spend a few seconds looking at a mummified corpse might seem like a strange thing to do but I was fascinated to be able to do this and to be able to see for myself one of the men who shaped the twentieth century and the cold war world of my childhood – a world of spies and espionage, nuclear weapons, underground fallout shelters for the great and the good and the constant nagging fear of Armageddon.  Of course I wanted to see him, I’d go and see the preserved body of Adolf Hitler if someone hadn’t poured petrol on it and set it alight!

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Today we were planning to visit Split but as we were preparing to catch the ten o’clock bus the clouds began their relentless march inland and the heavens opened again and we watched as first Brač and then Split itself slipped from view under a thick grey shroud.

When it had slowed from a downpour to a drizzle I was sent to the shop down the road to get supplies in case we were forced to spend the day in the room, which at that point seemed like a distinct possibility.  At the shop I couldn’t remember which beer I preferred, was it Karlovačko, Ožujsko or Laško so I bought one of each so that I could try them all just to be sure.

Read the full story…

Ireland, a Castle, a US President, a Mountain and a Sunset

Killimer to Tarbert Ferry

The ferry from Killimer to Tarbert took about twenty minutes and for €18 transported us four kilometres across the Shannon estuary and saved us nearly two hundred kilometres and two or three hours of driving.

Back on dry land we found the coast road and headed west and came first to the village of Ballylongford which is famous for a castle and for being the birthplace in 1850 of Horatio, later Lord Kitchener and we took a detour from the main road to visit the castle ruins.

Carrigafoyle Castle was known as the guardian of the Shannon because of its strategic command of the shipping lanes that supplied the trading city of Limerick upriver.  It was destroyed in a fierce siege that took place at Easter in 1580.  Such was the damage to the castle in the engagement that it was never repaired. Its ruins still stand, including the outer defences and moat, and the effect of the bombardment is clear to see.  The castle was open to visitors and there was free admission so we climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the battlements and took in the views over the surrounding countryside.

Carrigafoyle Castle Ireland

Our next destination was the seaside town of Ballybunion which enjoyed enthusiastic reviews in the visitor guidebook so we made our way into the town and found a parking spot.  We almost immediately wished that we hadn’t because whoever wrote the reviews must have been under the influence of mind altering drugs.  It was grubby and unpleasant with a street full of shabby pubs, greasy cafés and loud amusement arcades – it made Blackpool look classy so we didn’t stay long, returned to the car and moved on driving past a statue of a golfing Bill Clinton which is claimed to be the first ever public statue of the ex-President to be erected anywhere in the World (apparently he once played golf at Ballybunion).

It had been our intention to eat in the seaside town so now the challenge was to find an alternative so rather than follow the coast road we headed inland towards the market town of Listowel to find somewhere suitable.  Listowel is not the sort of place which is at its best at just past lunch time on a Sunday and most of it was closed but we found a pub where we had a Guinness and a disappointing sandwich and then left without looking back and continued the drive to Dingle.

It seemed to me that north Kerry is not an especially scenic or appealing part of the country and I was glad when we hit the Tralee bypass which took us quickly around the town in a sort of sling-shot manoeuvre and we entered the more dramatic landscape of the Dingle peninsular with the black Slieve Mish mountains rising to our left as we travelled further west into more picturesque and appealing countryside.

Conor Pass Dingle Ireland

After a few kilometres there was a decision to be made, either follow the direct route to Dingle through a flat valley between two mountain ranges that went south or to follow the coast road and enjoy a more scenic route towards the Conor Pass.  We choose the scenic option which took us towards the second highest mountain peak in Ireland, Mount Brandon, which despite this distinction is part of a curiously unnamed range.  Mount Brandon is nine hundred and thirty metres high and the tenth highest in the British Isles.

Away from the coast the road started to climb and as it did so it became much narrower and we passed signs prohibiting coaches and large vehicles from going any further as the road reduced to single carriageway with infrequent passing places as it weaved its way through sharp black cliff faces on one side and a sheer drop on the other.

More than once we had to collectively breath in as we squeezed past traffic coming in the opposite direction with barely a tissue paper width between car bumpers and I was momentarily distracted from the warning lights and the fear of mechanical failure as the risk of collision and bodywork damage seemed much more likely.

Eventually we reached the windswept top where under a blue sky with high white clouds floating by like a flotilla of sailing boats there were stunning views in all directions, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the town of Dingle to the south and right below us a high soft green valley casually strewn with lichen embroidered boulders and punctuated with inviting blue mountain lakes.  I liked this better than the Cliffs of Moher and I could have stayed longer but we were keen now to complete the final few kilometres into Dingle and to find our accommodation for the next two nights at the Dingle Skellig Hotel.

Richard had promised that this was a lovely hotel and he was absolutely right and after we had settled in we sat and relaxed with a Guinness and simply enjoyed the views over Dingle Bay and the Kerry mountains beyond under a marble cracked crazy paved sky and next to a meadow casually decorated with wild flowers.

We might have walked into Dingle that evening to eat but there was a meal offer at the hotel that was too good to miss so we stayed there instead and dined late into the evening until the sun slipped away and left behind a sprawling sunset and then a clear sky which made us optimistic that the good weather would continue into the next day.

Sunset Dingle Ireland

“As the sun went down it seemed to drag the whole sky with it like the shreds of a burning curtain leaving rags of bright water that went on smoking and smouldering among the estuaries and around the many islands”                     Laurie Lee - ‘As I walked out one Midsummer Morning

For anyone interested in what makes a sunset, find out about it here:        Rayleigh Scattering and Sunsets

Postcards From Ireland

County Clare Postcard

Dublin Postcard

Galway Ireland Postcard

Dingle Ireland

Ireland, Just Pictures

Dingle Harbour Ireland

Conor Pass Dingle Ireland

Inch Beach Dingle Ireland

Ireland Inch Beach

Ireland Cliffs of Moher

Ireland Dingle

Doors of Portugal

Doors of Portugal 1  Burgau Algarve Portugal

Doors of Portugal 2

Portugal Door 3

Ireland, The Father Ted Tour and Problems With A Ferry

Ireland Father Ted Tour Craggy Island Parochial House

Eugene’s was a wonderful place, well deserving of its James Joyce Pub Award, with a genuine Irish welcome and an excellent glass of Guinness, so excellent in fact that we stayed for a second and almost missed our table reservation.

We sat in a corner surrounded by Father Ted mementos and hatched a plan to try and visit some of the places associated with the TV series.  Actually, as it turned out we had already made a good start and we had unknowingly already visited some of the filming locations.  On the drive into the Burren we had seen the Aiilwee Caves which were renamed ‘the very dark caves’ in the episode ‘The Main Land’, the bare rock beach was the picnic site in ‘Old Grey Whistle Theft’ and the Cliffs of Moher were featured in ‘Tentacles of Doom’.

As we spoke to other customers who for some reason were gathered around an unnecessary log fire there was a event outside which could have been a pure piece of Father Ted as a parade of Priests and altar boys made their way down the High Street following a statue of the Virgin Mary before they stopped where a crowd of people had gathered for the celebration of the Corpus Christi at the other end of the street.

After a good meal at the restaurant we returned to Eugene’s for a final Guinness and after a conversation with a very drunk lady from Belfast walked back the short distance to the Grove Mount bed and breakfast.  It was the longest day of the year and a clear night so although the sun had not long disappeared already the sky was beginning to brighten again in the east.

Sheila served an excellent Irish breakfast and gave us clear instructions on how to locate the Craggy Island Parochial House, which was the home of Fathers’ Ted, Dougal and Jack and we set off in the sunshine along narrow roads flanked by hedgerows decorated with wild flowers, buttercups, iris and fuchsia, until we reached the next village of Kilfanora which is the location of Vaughan’s Pub which was used in the episode ‘Are you right there Father Ted?’ as the Chinese pub.

Vaughans Pub Kilfanora Father Ted

We stopped for a while to take some pictures of the replica props and then carried on towards our principal objective.  On the way we passed the ruins of Leamanean Castle, which isn’t used in the series and then followed the directions to the house and after a while there it was looking exactly as it did nearly twenty years ago when the series was filmed.  It is a private house and apparently lots of people turn up at the gate to see it and have their photograph taken but it was still quite early and we were the only ones there so we had the photo shoot location all to ourselves for ten minutes or so.

We were anxious to continue with our journey now because we had a distance to travel towards our next destination of Dingle and we were unsure of the travelling time on account of conflicting information at breakfast.  We were planning to take a ferry across the River Shannon and although the lady who served breakfast said that it wouldn’t be too busy and there would be no problem, Sheila said that it might be so we should allow some extra time for the journey.  This created some uncertainty but everyone knows of course that in Ireland road signs are contradictory and confusing, distances are approximations and travel advice is as reliable as a government economic statistic.

Our journey took us back to the coast at a place called Spanish Point where we stopped for a coffee and enjoyed a short spell in the sunshine next to the beach and then we followed the coast road south until we reached the river and eventually the ferry crossing at Killimer at twenty past twelve.

The timetable suggested that the next crossing was at one o’clock so we joined the line of traffic and Kim and Pauline went inside to the gift shop and as soon as they had gone through the door the cars started to move forward for loading.  This seemed early so I asked the man supervising the loading what time the next crossing was and he said in five minutes!  They had altered the crossing schedule!

There was potential trouble here because Kim and Pauline like browsing around shops and Richard and I grew concerned.  Pauline appeared but no Kim so Richard ran back to find her.  There she was casually browsing the merchandise and even refused to believe the departure information interpreting this as another trick.  When she looked outside and saw that the car had moved and was parked on the ferry the penny dropped and there was a mad rush to get on board as the engines started to growl and the ferry staff began preparations for departure.  She was rather flustered but eventually found it just as amusing as we did.

The boat slipped away from its moorings and we left County Clare and Father Ted and crossed the water to County Kerry.

Kilmer Ferry County Clare Ireland