Michelle Creasy

Joined October 2015
  • Day41

    Farewell Europe

    October 14 in Ireland

    So I’m sitting at Dublin airport feeling a little bemused. There is no customs/border control. Ireland didn’t seem interested that I entered the country nor do they care I am leaving. Unless something is done behind the scenes with passenger manifests then how would they know whether I’m here legally or not.
    I also managed to stuff up at security. Not only did I still have water in my water bottle but i had put the food items I’d bought in my backpack for easy reach when I get to customs in Perth (assuming we still go through customs). I’d bought a bottle of Guinness steak sauce for Caleb as a thank you for house and dog sitting but it’s counted as a liquid so sorry Caleb, no sauce for you!

    My trip has been fantastic but (flight aside) I’ll be glad to come home. It’s a beautiful if cold day in Dublin, unfortunately I’m looking at it through the window. At least the weather should be good for the flight.

    As there is still so much of Europe I want to see I don’t think I’ll be back in Switzerland or Ireland to stay again. If I was I’d love to go and stay in St Moritz for longer (only possible if I win lotto!) and back to Galway and Donegal in Ireland.

    Would I do anything differently? Apart from not walking up and down all those steps in Rapperswil I think staying three night in St Moritz and Zermatt would have enabled me to see more.
    I was really lucky with the weather really, especially in Switzerland.
    I had a simple wishlist for Switzerland - see/touch snow, eat fondue. Those I did. I. Pretty sure I saw a marmot coming down a mountain in St Moritz so that was an added bonus.
    Wengen was everything I had hoped it would be and the cow parade was another bonus.

    The travel system in Switzerland is great. By using the app I didn’t need to but a travel card and could both look up the schedule and then buy my ticket on the same app. Having the half fare card was definitely worth it.

    I don’t think I made as much as I could have of my time in London. That was partly due to my leg injury (which I’m hoping has healed, it hasn’t given me any trouble since Donegal although I’m still avoiding stairs). I still haven’t made it to the Victoria and Albert Museum but there is always next time.

    Ireland has been fantastic. It has confirmed that travelling on a group tour isn’t for me. Wherever you go there is always a crowd. I’m glad I spent the extra time in the Connemara area, it is truly beautiful. Going to the Gaeltacht areas was a fortunate choice. They were also quieter with less people and tourists.

    It’s been interesting travelling throughout the different countries. Throughout Switzerland the bathroom always had a handheld shower, sometimes just a shower, other times a over a bath. Each time I got to a new place I’d have to work out how to turn the shower on as usually the same tap operated the bath and shower.
    In Ireland (and NI) the shower was always fixed and over a bath. There was always a good grab handle on the wall in the bath though. Switzerland was missing those.

    Each new place I stayed I took a photo of the view from my window (except Dublin apparently, obviously I was too tired after a long day).
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  • Day41

    Ireland's Ancient East

    October 14 in Ireland

    Today didn’t turn out quite as I’d planned. I had a list of ancient and medieval sites to visit. While I visited most of them I didn’t get to see much. I went to Loughcrew to see ancient burial sites but they were closed due to surveys being done.
    I came across The Spire of Lloyd (not on my list) which is a folly in the shape of a lighthouse. It was at the site of a famine mass grave. No markers or records. Quite sobering.
    It was raining quite steadily by now so I was looking forward to Slane Castle and distillery as I would be indoors. As I drove up to the castle I saw a lot of vintage cars out the front and was hoping it wasn’t closed for a wedding. I’m not sure whether it was a wedding but the castle was closed for a private function. Not to worry, I’ll just go to the distillery. Unfortunately that too was closed for a private function.

    After a late lunch in a gorgeous hotel in Slane I headed for the Hill of Tara, an ancient burial site. The visitor centre was closed. I was still able to walk over the site although I spent more time looking at the ground dodging the sheep manure than looking at the surroundings.

    I was quite wet by then and it was getting late so I headed for the airport. Ive handed in my car with no issues. I’ve driven nearly 3500km in 20 days although I didn’t drive at all in Belfast. I’m staying in a hotel at the airport and will have plenty of time in the morning before I have to be at the terminal.
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  • Day39

    Autumn Roads

    October 12 in the United Kingdom

    I left Belfast today to head back to Southern Ireland. That’s what this in Belfast were calling the Republic of Ireland. I was able to pick out some of the Belfast sayings. One of the displays at City Hall yesterday was on language and how the language and accent of Belfast has devolved from the English and Scots who were planted there as well at Gaelic. I somehow managed to chose Ulster Scots as the language and I couldn’t switch it back to English. I did try to listen for a while but had to give up. Apparently if you leave them audio unit for a while it jumps to Ulster Scots. They had to give me another one.

    Anyway I digress. It was a lovely day to start, surprising as Storm Callum was meant to hit Belfast in the early hours of the morning but I woke to a cloudless sky. By the time I left the hotel it had clouded over. I realised that across the road was a unionist section of the city - Sandy Row. A mural there was of King William/Billy. It replaced a more militant mural saying “You are now entering Loyalist Sandy Row Heartland of South Belfast Freedom Fighters”and had a painting of a masked gunman. The replacement is much more mild.

    Yesterday the tour guide had said that the mountains surrounding Belfast were wonderful and gave a great view of the city. I set out for Black Mountain. The GPS wouldn’t recognise it so I put in Black Mountain primary school. I ended up in suburbia opposite a heavily fortified police station.
    Divis gave a better result but when I got there I couldn’t see the city.

    I made my way south along Lough Neath towards Armagh. The main reason for visiting Armagh was that my Creasy ancestors settled in Armagh in South Australia. That’s probably where the similarities end. I did find a lovely park with Priory ruins.

    This time I new the exact moment I crossed the border, mainly as there was a grey line on the GPS. Before I crossed that line I saw signs for Customs and Excise and also money exchange. There was no signs saying you are now leaving NI or entering Ireland and I was on a major road. Just a sign welcoming me to County Louth. A lot of the talk in Belfast on the news is how Brexit will effect the Northern Ireland/Ireland Border as there are so many crossing and some woman near Londonderry has her house in one country and her veggie patch in the other. No one seems to have come up with a solution yet.

    As I headed further south it got wetter and wetter. The scenery is still stunning though with all the autumn colours. One area I came across was full of apple orchards, it’s obviously picking time.

    I’m in Navan tonight so I can explore the ancient sites in the area tomorrow. Tomorrow’s my last day, I fly out on Sunday.
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  • Day38

    Politics and a dinsoaur

    October 11 in the United Kingdom

    Today was mostly about politics and the conflict in Northern Ireland. I started out with a black taxi tour. It was educational, interesting, eye opening and sobering. My driver Kevin was 9 when the Troubles started and he’s lived in Belfast all his life.
    His insight was interesting and I saw much more than I did yesterday on the hop on hop off bus. He took me to the IRA museum. That was sobering, especially to think that this happened during my lifetime.
    One thing that did make me laugh was one of the rules at the Armagh Women’s prison.
    “Letters may not be smuggled in or out of the prison unless permission has been given beforehand”
    I saw rubber and plastic bullets that were used, they are huge. I had just assumed they were normal bullet sized.
    Part of the peace wall is covered in messages and graffiti. Bill Clinton was the first to write on the wall. I also wrote a message.

    At the end of the tour Kevin dropped me off at the City Hall. They have a comprehensive exhibition on the history of Belfast. Again it was interesting.

    From there I went to the Ulster Museum. They have “Dippy”the diplodocus carnegii dinosaur on display at the moment. He used to be in the foyer of the natural history museum so while I missed him in London I saw him here. To be honest I’m not that excited by dinosaurs but the rest of the exhibition that looked at the various differences in animal species in Ireland and the UK.
    They also had a special exhibition on the events of 1968.

    From the museum I caught the hop on hop off bus again. I wanted to hear what they had to say again. This time the tour guide was an older guy compared to the younger woman yesterday. They seemed to have quite different perspectives. He was not that optimistic about the removal of the peace walls. The guide yesterday tended to view it more as history, which to her it probably was.
    The bus was the last one of the day so I finished up in the city. I took a walk to find Vistoria Square, a shopping centre with a dome on top that gives views of the city.
    From there I got some dinner and headed back to the hotel. My phone battery was very low so I tried to find my way back using the street signs but was having no luck. Fortunately my battery lasted until I got back here.
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  • Day37

    Touring Belfast

    October 10 in the United Kingdom

    Finally the rain has gone. It was a beautiful day today, cool but not cold and nice and warm in the sun.
    I started out with the hop on hop off bus tour. I sat up the top on the left, as I usually do and found myself ducking whenever we went under trees.

    I hadn’t realised that the city was still so divided. I was vaguely aware of the political situation when I was younger but did not really know much about it. The bus took us through both Protestant/Unionist and Catholic/Nationalist areas as well as along the peace wall which divides neighbourhoods. There is still signs of the conflict. The most sobering being the houses/flats with mesh covering the windows.
    In the Catholic areas street signs are in English and Gaelic, in the Protestant areas they are in English only. The union flag and Irish flag fly in their respective areas and there are so many murals and memorials.

    I got off the bus at the Titanic museum. The museum is great and very well done. It gives a history of industry and shipbuilding in Belfast and then then the building of the Titanic right through to the aftermath of the sinking. I spent quite a lot of time there looking at all the exhibits.

    I also met up with another Pokémon playing internet friend. It was nice to trade Pokémon but it was even better just to talk to her, get her experience of living in Northern Ireland and hear her perspective on various topics. We chatted for quite a while before I went off and finished the museum.

    I got back on the bus and the next part of the tour took us up the Parliament House. All vehicles are searched as they enter the gates although this was quite perfunctory. The guard took a look on the back seat and didn’t bother going upstairs. On the way back we again went through separated parts of the city.

    I got off opposite the Europa Hotel. It’s the most bombed hotel in Europe, having been bombed over 30 times. It’s around the corner and up the street from where I am staying.
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  • Day36

    Giant's Causeway

    October 9 in the United Kingdom

    Today started out cloudy but with no rain and it stayed that way for most of the day. I imagined I could see the Scottish coast but I really don’t think I could see that far in this weather.
    I started out at the Giant’s Causeway and I had expected it to be a lot bigger somehow. I did enjoy listening to the stories on the audio guide. I’m glad I had headphones as most of the other people with audio guides seem to be struggling to hear them. I keep the cheap headphones from the hop on hop off buses for this very purpose.
    The stones in the Causeway are fascinating. Many different types in such a small area.

    Yesterday the car notified me that one of the tyres had low pressure. I put air in it and we were fine until the evening when it happened again. It happened again on the way to the Giant’s Causeway and so once I was done I found a service station, put air in the tire and rang the car hire company. I was informed that I was liable for the tyre and the cheapest option would probably be to have it repaired myself. Fortunately the service station I was at had a tyre repairer attached so I soon had it sorted out. Fortunately the tyre was able to be repaired. I’m not sure what it was - probably a small piece of glass or metal as it was no longer there. At £16.50 I think I got off quite lightly.

    I then wound my way down between the Glens of Antrim and the coast road to Belfast. The Glens were very pretty. Forrests mainly. I stopped at Glenariff Forrest Park and went for a short walk.

    I’m in Belfast for the next three nights.
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  • Day35

    Ireland's North

    October 8 in Ireland

    Today’s goal was to visit the Giant’s Causeway. I got a bit sidetracked and didn’t make it up here in time. I set the GPS for Ballycastle which is where I’m staying and I should have been here about 1:30pm. The drive east took me back through the National Park and while the weather wasn’t as good as Saturday it was still a lovely drive.

    I got to Letterkenny and saw signs for Malin Head. Googling showed it was the most northerly point on the island of Ireland so I decided I needed to visit. It was a nice drive up there but oh so windy when I got there. On a fine day you can see the Scottish isles but I couldn’t see very far today at all. Fortunately it wasn’t raining while I was at Malin Head.

    I’m not really sure when I crossed into Northern Ireland. Somewhere around Muff I stopped at a service station and noticed the price was advertised in Euros and also pounds for cash. Shortly after that the GPS started giving me weird speed limits - 97km/hr, 48km/hr and I realised I must be in Northern Ireland. I didn’t see a sign at all.
    The other telltale sign was the increase in roundabouts. I took the A2 from Derry to Bushmills and there seemed to be roundabouts every couple of kilometres.

    I’m just here for the night, I see now that I could have spent 3 nights here but I’m still glad i spent those couple of nights in the Connemara area.
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  • Day34

    The Wild Atlantic Way

    October 7 in Ireland

    Today’s weather wasn’t great to say the least. If you are interested take a look at the radar or satellite for Ireland at the moment and you’ll see what I mean. It was with some misgivings that I decided to stick to my original plan and go to Arranmore.
    From east of Kerry to near Londonderry the road along the coast is known and signposted as The Wild Atlantic Way. If I’d had the time if would have been wonderful to drive all 2500km of it. Up until today I’ve taken the wild to mean the wild beauty of the lamdscape. Today though I got to experience the wild weather.

    Unlike other ferries that I’ve taken this one wasn’t a “roll on roll off” in which you drive on one end and drive off the other. This one you backed onto it and drove off. The tide was low and it was quite steep reversing down the ramp. I obviously didn’t look to confident as one of the ferry guys came and offered to reverse the car for me. I gladly accepted his offer.

    The crossing itself was okay. The route is relatively sheltered as it finds it’s way through some small islands before arriving on the east side of Arranmore.
    I set of to drive to the lighthouse but took a wrong turn and ended up on some. Eye narrow roads where a lot of the bitumen had washed away in parts. I found my way back to Leabgarrow which is where the ferry came in. There weren’t a lot of options for lunch as nothing looked open but I found a pub that did ham and cheese toasted sandwiches (and that’s all they did) but it was fine for lunch.
    After lunch I set out again to find the lighthouse. It’s on the northwestern tip of the island and the weather there was quite ferocious. The rain was coming in horizontally and quite hard. I didn’t take a lot of photos as I didn’t want to get out of the car and even winding the window down sent in stinging rain. I could barely see the ocean through the rain. I’m sure it would be amazing on a fine day. I tried to take the ring road around the island but the weather got worse and so did the road so I went back to Leabgarrow. I was concerned that the ferry might be cancelled but on the other side of the island the wind was much calmer.

    As I turned the car around to reverse in the same guy as before came up to the car and I was again very happy to let him put the car on the ferry. I’m sure I could have done it but I’m equally sure he was a lot quicker than I would have been.

    Once back on the mainland I headed for Inishfree island (which isn’t an island) just for a look. Again the weather was quite wild.

    I finished up with a stop at a service station laundromat to do a wash before coming back to the hotel.
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  • Day33

    Glenveagh National Park

    October 6 in Ireland

    Today started with a trip to Cruit Island, as recommended to me. On the way I stopped off at a boat ramp for a look. There was a bloke there, who on hearing my accent showed me his boat. It is called the Cootamundra Wattle. He said that he used to hear the song on the radio every day on his way to work and finally looked up what it was. He did ask me if I was related to the Boyds as seven sons had gone to New Zealand years ago. One had never been more than three miles from home and then he went all the way to Christchurch.

    Cruit Island was beautiful. It is connected to the mainland via a bridge so easy to get to. There were a lot of reeds along the road and after seeing a video at the museum yesterday I could see it being harvested to use for weaving. I went out to the golf course (mainly because that’s all my GPS would recognise when I was looking for directions) and it is on the western edge of the island looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was shining and the ocean was such a deep blue. The photos just don’t capture it well enough.

    From there I went down to Burtonport planning to catch the car ferry to Arranmore. Unfortunately I hadn’t booked and they didn’t have anymore availability for cars today. I booked for tomorrow and headed out to the Glenveagh National Park. Like a lot of National Parks over here it is different to our National Parks. There were houses/farms in it. At one point a had to drive through a small flock of sheep. I also saw donkeys!

    I always ask the GPS for two routes and I chose the long route which I think took me around the outside on the east side. I finally got there though and it was worth it. There is a castle there - Glenveagh Castle and the gardens are gorgeous. There is a walled garden with fruit trees and vegetables and then acreage with plants from around the world. I even found a gum tree! The trees all out in their autumn splendour.
    To get from the car park to the castle I took a shuttle bus. I got the same driver both there and back and I’m pretty sure he was speaking Gaelic to his mate who came back with him. Obviously it could be any number of languages that I’m not familiar with but I like to think that as I’m in an Gaelic speaking area it was Gaelic. We also saw a couple of deer on the way back to the car park.

    I spent quite a while there so headed back to my hotel when I was done. I’m writing this in the bar. I ate here last night and tonight - it’s much easier when I don’t have to go and find somewhere to eat. They have some good seafood here. Last night I had crab claws and kippers, tonight smoked salmon and scampi. Turns out I didn’t realise kippers were smoked herring. It was very rich and I think it will be be a long time until I try it again.
    There is apparently live music her tonight but it doesn’t start until 9:30. Hopefully I can stay awake that long!
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  • Day32

    Travel to Annagry

    October 5 in Ireland

    Today was a travel day and it took much longer than the 4 hours suggested by the GPS. It was closer to 8 hours. I’m not quite sure I’ve got the settings on the GPS correct as even from Clifden to Westport which should have been fairly straightforward along the one road but I was constantly turning off and on the various roads. Then as I got close to Annagry it took me on this really narrow road halfway up a hill just to rejoin the original road I turned off from.
    I did stop at the Museum of Country Life in Turlough which while small was interesting. It was a good reminder that a lot of the traditions were necessitated through poverty and not nearly as romantic as they may seem. They also had a small exhibition on Irish Travellers. It’s the first reference I’ve seen of Travellers since I’ve been here.

    The rest of the trip was pretty much just driving up. It’s a very pretty area and I’m looking forward to exploring it tomorrow.
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