WHAT THIS BLOG IS ALL ABOUT: a journal and compendium of where to go and what to do for those who love to travel ...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Jumping from here to there ...

magic by the sea
Home is where the heart is: three days without WiFi and my Irish diary has fallen by the wayside on this Traveller's Tale blog - though not in my journal. Writing almost non-stop and sketching; but it will take me a time to catch up and working duty calls. Tomorrow, early, we catch the ferry from Rosslare in Co.Wexford to Fishguard (Wales) and thence home. I have so much to tell; so many stories in our circuitous journey through some very varied landscapes, and places; and such welcoming, friendly people. For now, I am sitting outside the motorhome, after walking down to the sea, sand between my toes (childhood) and feet in the water as I took photos of mini-waves to print onto fabric back home. This child's drawing in the sand epitomises what life is surely all about.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The magic continues - day two (actually Friday 20th)

Ireland Diary: Belfast to Lough Erne: We wake early on board the Stena ferry, called at 5.30am, quick cup of coffee whilst I watch the mist rising from the hills behind Belfast Lough and a pearly sky. Disembark at 6.30am negotiating a traffic system that is not that difficult – once you have done it once and know which lane to be in. Heading for the M1 towards in clear light, and no rain! Distances are misleading – we are so used to seeing Ireland on a map as quite small when seen next to Britain, but it is vast; spacious and beautiful; and so little traffic compare to our mainland roads.

Almost empty roads
Sunlight as we pass exits to familiar names, though I have never been to any of them: Lisburn (wish I could stop to visit the Irish Linen Centre and Museum), Lurgan, Craigavon, Portadown, Armagh … You instantly notice the paucity of traffic, as we head west. Flat lands as we pass the southern end of rectangular Lough Neagh (so large is could be a huge inland sea). Distant hills to the northwest and plashy fields of meadowsweet and fruit orchards;  and rosy-coloured berried rowans with my beloved ox-eye daisies ribboning the verges. Too early to stop and investigate the Peatlands Park, which I would have liked to have done, as this whole flat and boggy landscape is peat-based. After Dungannon, the M1 ends and becomes the A4, dual carriageway with parking laybyes every mile or so. Rolling hills – and through the windscreen photos for we have no time to stop.

Such a view
Leaving Clogher and still driving west, sawmills and a very pastoral Co.Fermanagh; cattle and sheep but little arable, a pastoral scene. Two-and-a-half hours after leaving Belfast Docks we reach Enniskillen (the island town); miss the signs for free parking and find ourselves in the ASDA carpark by the Erne Shopping Centre (24hr fuel available) and 2hrs free parking for customers. I buy a bottle of water to prove we ARE a customer and leave R. to sleep off the early start and the long drive whilst I walk over the road to Tescos and some late breakfast croissant – it is still only 9.00am! – and a pair of trousers which I hope will fit, because I have left two pairs airing in the laundry room at home. The carpark is filling rapidly by 11.00am and we fear we may be boxed in; determined to discover more than a modern shopping complex on the outskirts, we ease our way towards the town centre and into the Shore Road Car Park which obviously caters for coaches. It’s right alongside the Erne waterway linking Upper and Lower Lough Erne. 

A watery scene on the Shore Road in Enniskillen
Raymond's hooded crow
I try to capture the watery scene whilst Raymond photographs a hooded crow. Not sure exactly where the town centre is, but R. disappears whilst I bargain hunt in a charity shop and emerge with a pretty floral blouse that I will take apart for page edgings in whatever type of journal eventually houses all the words and images of this trip. 

First I take this photo, then I stand sketching them, outside a fruit and veg shop
The High Street is not so long that we could lose ourselves; it’s full of independent shops. Reunited with R. who is studying a large poster sized map of the town centre, we amble for a while, window-shopping then aim for the Butter Market, traditional venue for food supplies. 

Caught in the act!
To my surprise, it houses craft shops, studios and workshops and in one, houses in what I treat myself to a special offer Winsor&Newton Cotman paintbox of student-quality watercolours in tubes. It has three good sized fold out palettes; but the reason for the purchase is that I can swap the tubes for my artist–quality equivalents once back at home. I also buy a bottle of blue masking fluid with integral nib and a half-inch flat. If I do this at every town we visit, I will be bankrupt! 

Such a surprise
Lunch at Rebecca’s Coffee Shop right at the heart of the Butter Market - clearly the place the meet, and THE place to eat for it is buzzing with happy conversation. Delicious food and a pot of tea with PROPER milk – whole milk, none of your skimmed or semi-skimmed rubbish. We decide that Enniskillen is a purposeful town with people busy about their own affairs, but incredibly friendly. 

Nearly at our first campsite
A few miles north we reah our campsite for the night: Blaney Caravan & Camping Park, sedate and quiet with immaculately maintained pitches and an owner with whom we have a long and interesting conversation on the state of tourism, history, a suggested drive through the forest (maybe tomorrow?), a castle … well we could have chatted for hours. We had had a long day, prepared supper an crashed out long before our normal time for retiring.

Safe arrival
This was written yesterday (Friday 2oth July, 2012) but I had no WiFi connection and so it is a day late. Today (Saturday 21st July, 2012) has been one of wonderful relaxation; I haven't even yet had time to look properly at the 82 images I took, nor to type up my notes. But we are now at a campsite right by the sea just outside Sligo; and I have so much to tell that I may have to split eat day into two diary posts. At least I now have WiFi - recently installed on this site set within the sandunes. Nearly all colour has faded from the sea and sky. I even found time for sketching and painting; indeed a little everyday since we left home.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Magic in the air ...

Ready for the ferry
It's the start of our week-long motor home visit to the island of Ireland, and a journey of discovery. All so friendly and helpful once we had eventually reached 12Quays at Liverpool/Birkenhead (actually the latter) - delayed because I was simultaneously reading SatNav, Google maps and a road atlas and failed to direct Raymond at a critical junction. 

Ready to board the Stena ferry
Check-in prompt at 19.15hrs, overnight bag organised (we have a cabin reserved), and we wait to board; a gentle half-hour alongside the River Mersey in which to write and take photorgaphs. We’ve already received a text message from Stena to say the 22.30 Liverpool to Belfast sailing will depart on time. 

Taken through the windscreen as we are about to board
Ahead of us, under grey rainclouds is the long thin skein of waterside Liverpool. At first glance, grey too, like the slick surface of the water; but all shades of grey, interspersed by buildings of cream stone and red brick – and subtle shades of those, too. A painterly line, a watercolour wash. I feel the urge to sketch as well as write. 

Reading menu
So I do; and the more you look, the more you see. And then it is 20.00hrs and time to board, find our comfortable cabin and the ‘Metropolitan Restaurant’ and, oh, a menu to die for. Delicious food, courteously and elegantly served. 

Truly delicious
As is my wont, I write and type whilst eating – amazingly, the free WiFi (internet@sea) requires no irritating password. So easy, just click and you are logged in. Dusk descends, shoreline lights pinprick as through a theatrical backdrop gauze; all is transformed. The magic has already begun.

(Images are converted to very low-res in order to upload using on-board WiFi)