Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday 17th; to the Airport.

Another fine sunny start to the day.  During the morning a drive to Cork Airport to pick up chum Linda who will be staying nearby for the coming week.  Midway along our route we stopped for a while to explore Clonakilty; childhood home of Michael Collins (of whom there will be more on a subsequent post);  source of the celebrated Clonakilty black pudding and venue for the globally unique "Random Acts of Kindness Festival", a festival which aims to celebrate the welcoming and warm hearted nature of the Irish people as a whole. The catchphrase of the July Festival is; "Cut the Misery and Spread the Positivity".

Animal sculptures, Clonakilty

Thursday 16th; Mizzen Head

Close to Mizzen Head, Barley Cove beach and sand dunes were created by the tidal wave which followed the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
Mizzen head is often claimed to be the most south westerly point of Ireland but it is not quite that.  Early in the C20th Marconi had telecommunications laboratories here and at other places on the Mizzzen Head peninsular including Crookhaven where I had an excellent crab salad and stout lunch.


Friday 17th; Clear Island

Built late in the C19th n the site of an earlier beacon, the Baltimore Beacon marks the one of the hidden entrances to Baltimore Harbour; the other is marked by the lighthouse on Sherkin Island.
On this first dry, still and sunny morning since arriving here in Ireland almost a week ago I took a ferry to Clear Island.  Later in the year, when the sea is warmer than its present 7° there will be whales in these waters; today I saw only birds.  Clear island, Ireland's most southerly inhabited island, lies 13 kms off the mainland coast.

On the island I visited Ed Harper at his remote goat farm.  An engaging character, Ed came to Clear Island over thirty years ago from his native Manchester to establish his goat farm.  A master of caprine husbandry of which he is a willing teacher, Ed is passionate about goats.  He is also a collector and performer of folk songs.  Since he was three years old, Ed has been totally blind which, for me, makes his story extraordinary.
Ed Harper

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday 12th May - at home

Photographed Saturday 18th May when the sun came out.
After ten days of travelling, a day settling in to our comfortable temporary home was most welcome.  The foul weather did not matter, in fact, by deterring any desire to go out of the house it was probably an advantage.

10 May, au revoir to France - 11th May, hello again to Ireland!

From Quintin to the ferry port at Roscoff, from where I had a passage booked to Cork, is but a hundred kilometres or so and I had about nine hours in which to cover that distance.  I chose to drive directly to Roscoff and to spend what would be my last day in France for a while pottering about the sunny seaside town.

The huge ferry Brittany Ferries' 'Pont Aven' left on time at eight-thirty and, despite its size (42,000 tons) was soon pitching and rolling through a heavy swell and continued to do so throughout the night.  The restaurant on this ship was far and away the best in which I have eaten on any ship on which I have previously sailed.

The heavy sea did not prevent the Pont Aven from docking on time at Cork but unloading of vehicles, and passing through immigration and customs controls took almost two hours.  I eventually arrived, twenty minutes late, at Cork City bus station, where I had planned to rendezvous at eleven o'clock with Lisi who had travelled overnight by bus and ferry from London.

After a light lunch in Skibbereen and a tour of the supermarket to stock ourselves with food we checked in at the cottage we have rented for the next month and found it to be very comfortable and, in every respect, an ideal place for us to relax and 'take-five' on life.

Towards Baltimore

9th May, to Brittany

The breakfast room at La Couyère
After breakfast in another of the converted farm buildings at La Couyère I pressed on into Brittany to the old town of Quintin where my room for the night was in a rambling old stone building full of quirky ornaments and decorations.  My huge room had a window overlooking a garden across which, several years previously, a tree had fallen but had not been removed.  The house was a delight in which to spend a night but I was less than comfortable in the eerily dead town which appeared to have no life in it whatsoever.  If there were any beings in Quintin they keept themselves very quiet and well concealed.
Garden feature at Le Clos du Prince, Quintin
The breakfast table at Le Clos du Prince where nothing matched but everything looked good.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

8th May, largely along the Loire valley

In France the eighth of May, anniversary of 'VE Day' when, in 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies to bring WWII to an end in Europe, is an important day of remembrance and celebration.  Sixty-eight years on the consequence for me was to find free parking at Amboise where I tarried for a while for a look around.  As I wandered the old streets sunshine gave way to a shower driving me into a shop where I bought a light raincoat.  As soon as I was back on the street the rain ceased and the sun reappeared; since then I have had no cause to wear my new raincoat.
My 'room' at La Couyere
At La Couyere my accommodation was yet again in a converted farm building this one dating from the seventeenth century.

7th May

The slow and very pleasant drive from Châtenay to Fougères sur Bièvre was largely on empty 'C' and 'D' roads that snaked through quiet, ancient country villages.

En-route to Fougères sur Bièvre I stopped to stretch my legs at this pretty village beside a canal
Fougères sur Bièvre

6th May Continued

Chambres d'hotes Olivet at Châtenay in Burgundy was the first of several converted farm buildings in which I would sleep over the next few days.  This little gathering of buildings was set in delightful, lush, green, rolling country on which fine looking cattle contentedly grazed.  In the evening I drove a few kilometres to eat high on Mt St Cyr with fine views over the surrounding countryside at, 'Le St Cyr' an unpretentious restaurant with an excellent menu.

Contented Burgundians

5th May; the remains of the day and into 6th May

Back at la Cabine Pascaline invited me to join me her for 'some light snacks' that she had prepared.  I do not know whether it was her delicious 'light snacks', the wine she served or the mountain air that caused me to sleep so soundly but I woke refreshed and ready to begin my long week of travelling.

The 6th May dawned dull and wet in La Houches but I had only a couple of hundred kilometres to drive to Châtenay, my next stop.

5th May; More of Italy and Into France

Exterior wall mural, Chamonix

The now indispensable Sat-Nav led me from Brunello along attractive, traffic-free by roads towards the Monte Bianco tunnel.  Quite late on I joined the main road which I followed through the tunnel into France where I arrived at lunchtime on a fine spring day.   ‘La Cabine de Pascaline’, my booked home for the night, where I was not due to arrive until later in the afternoon is but five minutes from the tunnel exit so I drove on for a further ten minutes into Chamonix to while away a couple of ours over lunch.  Chamonix is a most agreeable place to spend a few hours.  It has an abundance of cafés and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets and I soon found a place that looked as though it might suit my simple tastes.  It did!
Fishy starter!
Porcine main course

Creamy dessert

4th May, Italy

During the past twenty years I have become a moderately frequent visitor to Venice.  I like the city very much but it is no place to be lumbered with a car so I hastened from the port to cross the lagoon and get onto the Autostrada for a quick, if uninteresting, 300 km drive to Brunello, a delightful village surrounded by lakes and snow-capped mountains, not far from Como.

2nd May 2013, Leaving Home

Home, shortly before leaving

My ferry booking to Venice was due to leave Patras at midnight on 2nd May.  I had all day to pack the car and dawdle the 250 kms or so drive to the ferry port so chose to set my Sat-Nav to ‘shortest’ rather than ‘fastest’ route.  After having a serious problem finding a B&B in the residential back streets Reggio Calabria last year I bought a Garmin Sat-Nav.  The drive this year to Patras was its first meaningful test, a test it passed with flying colours.  This incredible gadget led me along empty roads through beautiful mountain villages where preparations for the Orthodox Church Easter were busily under way.  In the shade of leafy glades the slaughter, flaying and disemboweling of pascal kids and lambs was quietly taking place before entire families; rituals which, possibly by millennia, pre-date the Orthodox and all other Christian churches.

Country road, Northern Peloponnese.

The Ferry departed on time and, after an uneventful journey, I arrived at Venice early on Saturday 4th May, on time in Venice.

A Mnemonic

Methoni, 29th April 2013

In order to to keep some sort of record of my third pilgrimage to Ireland I am resurrecting my neglected blog.  I have no idea what provoked my first impulse, as recently as 2011, to visit the country but when I am there I am aware of a pleasantly comfortable sense of attachment and contentment.  Weather apart, Ireland, it seems to me, has much in common with Greece, my chosen domicile for the past fifteen years.  I find the people of both countries naturally warm and friendly with a common-sense rather than strictly law abiding attitude to life.   My Delphic attraction to Ireland though has more to do with a sense of place somewhere deeper within my psyche.  Since to my knowledge not a drop of Irish blood pulses through my veins, my attraction to Ireland is indeed a mystery.