3 day Paddy Wagon Tour of Southern Ireland

Friday morning was another early one with our meeting time being 8am at the Paddy Wagon Office. We hit the road at about 8:30am and drove out of Dublin with a quick stop at Phoenix Park (largest city park in Europe at 712 hectares - since I have no clue how big that is our guide told us it was bigger than all of London parks combined or 9x as big as Central Park!) It is so beautiful, just peaceful and acres of rolling green fields, lovely big trees and deer roaming free.

Friday was a rainy day (which I guess you’d expect of Ireland) the windows
fogged up and it was generally miserable. Our first stop was at Clonmacnoise which is the ruins of an old monastry and is littered with golden age celtic crosses marking graves. It was really beautiful and a bit spooky actually! We arrived into Galway at 3pm and had free time exploring the town. It was a cute town but we ended up in a coffee shop to keep warm and dry! That night the group went out to a pub for dinner – 3 other paddywagon tours were there at the same time so it was a massive group. We stayed for the live band and a few drinks, making our way back to the hostel before we were to turn into pumpkins.

Saturday our group of 14 (3 boys total!) took off at 9:30am – and you’ll be pleased to hear we had wonderful weather! We travelled to the Bog of Allen and passed by various castles stopping for many photo opportunities. The bog is made up of peat which if I understand correctly is formed by sediment on the swamp land that hardens into a black substance as it has nowhere to drain, and it is used as a fuel for fire etc. We saw small piles stacked by a farmer to dry and also larger areas which are “bog-farmed” by a factory. We then came across a flooded road and watched with amusement as a few brave cars made their way through but we heard that the local car place has towed 13 cars out in the last day! Our driver didn’t want to risk it as he had spent a few hours the previous day picking up a tour who’s bus’ engine had blown up by driving through a flood!

Later we passed through Burren which is home to an eerily haunting limestone landscape. It is so strange seeing miles of stone, some with massive cracks in it and even hills of stone in the distance as well. We stopped at Doolin for lunch and then continued on to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs stretch for 8km and rise 214 metres above the Atlantic ocean, they were breathtaking and we were so lucky to have good weather and really enjoyed a good 90 mins exploring. Niki was brave (or stupid) and went over the tourist site boundary (along with many many others) and got a snap of a crazy woman sitting with her feet over the edge. There were “Good Samaritan” signs everywhere… thankfully no one decided to throw themselves off while we were there! That afternoon we took a car ferry and then made our way to Killarney for the night where we were treated to some stunning views. Killarney is the start and end for people doing the Ring of Kerry and is just so gorgeous. We went out for a pub dinner and then on to a bar for bargain drink specials before heading to hear some live music by a 3 piece band. It wasn’t river dance or anything but super fun hearing some traditional stuff and watching the local drunken crowds doing their irish dancing (or trying to!). Our hostel was pretty crap this night – with 12 of us in the same room (Niki being the only boy again)! Next morning (Sunday, last day of tour) we were away at 9am and again lucky to have great weather. Very clear and crisp and a perfect morning to see the massive Killarney park by horsedrawn carriage! The park was so beautiful and peaceful and just how you imagine Irish landscape. We saw wild deer including a very large stag which was very special.

We did a drive through tour of Cork and then continued on to the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone. I had never heard of this before but kissing the stone is mean to give you the gift of the gab - Just what I need! The grounds and castle were really lovely and kissing the tone was an experience in itself as you have to lie upside down with your head hanging back and your get held there by an employee so you don’t fall – and it’s quite high off the ground!

After that we had a couple hours of solid driving (and passenger sleeping) before arriving at the ruins of Cahir Castle. Again a gorgeous setting and we had lots of fun exploring and taking photos. We arrived back into Dublin around 6pm and headed straight home to Debra’s for dinner, dvd and hairwashing!

Monday after our tour we had a much needed sleep-in before heading to town, my plan was to hit the shops! Niki spent the afternoon at the Guinness Factory (surprise surprise) while Debra and I shopped til we dropped. We each came away with a pair of boots and matching grey skinny jeans – my first pair ever! I feel so fashionable it’s hilarious. At 4ish we met back up with Niki in a cafĂ© called “The Queen of Tarts”, this place wins many awards and I can see why. We each had a scrummy treat, mine being a slice of baileys and chocolate chip cheesecake = divine! What a perfect way to end such a great long weekend.
After many hugs and a nearly-tearful goodbye (who knows when we will see Debra again!) it was time to catch a bus and head to the airport for our 8pm flight back to London.

Dublin - Ireland Oct 08

Back in June I was perusing the Ryanair website (a very popular pass-time of mine) when I stumbled across the biggest bargain of my year: £4 incl taxes return flights to Dublin for both of us! Obviously I booked it then and there, figuring if we didn’t end up using the flight it didn’t matter.

Fast-forward 5 months…Thursday 9 Oct we got up at 05:45 to catch the tube at 06:30 and then the train to Stansted airport – our train tickets costing 12x our flight price! The train only takes 45 mins, rather than the 1 hour 40min cheap coach we usually take, what a treat! We arrived at Dublin at 11 and spent a good 30 mins lining up for the non-EU passport line (yawn). Ireland’s arrival stamp nearly takes up a whole page and is bright green… too much detail for you all I guess, but I was excited!

We met Debra in town and deposited our bags at a left luggage facility for the da
y. After a scrummy Italian meal for lunch we spent the next couple of hours exploring Dublin City. It was fab having a personal guide, and it was nice being in a “small” city again where everything is within walking distance and is easy to navigate. We saw a statue of Molly Malone (the cockles and mussels song), Trinity College, Millennium spire, Christ Church Cathedral, endless Guinness signage and pubs, the pedestrian shopping streets and a city park. After 2 hours of dawdling we were getting tired and weary so Debra took us to a bar/restaurant that was converted from a very old church. The interior was absolutely gorgeous, even the pipe organ remained in place.
Later we headed back to Debra’s flat for a home cooked meal. En-route we had to stop for a
railway crossing - and get this, the gates are manually operated - as in a man runs out and opens/closes gate...what year are we in again?!! Later we headed back into town to meet up with some of Debra's friends for drinks. Niki tried all different types of local brewed beer and yummy cocktails were the go for us girls, although I wouldn’t recommend the “jelly bean” – it does taste like a jelly bean, but a black one (ewww) they really should specify!

Keep posted for details of our 3 day tour of Southern Ireland

The church AGAIN

On Sunday – after our cultural experience of Shakespeare the night before – we went to “the church” for an afternoon of boozing and crazy ruckus, talk about one extreme to the other!

We had planned to go back when we booked the Shakespeare tickets as Tim, Louisa, Toni and Debra hadn’t been before. Nicki Brown (a pal from school) had also arrived in London since then so was a good chance to catch up with her too. We started the day by meeting for a yummy cooked breakfast and champers at Tim & Louisa’s flat. At 12pm we made the move to Kentish Town and paid the stupid door-charge of £7 to enter the icky madness that is the church. Now you might recall we went to the church when Hollie was over on holiday way back in April, and although I had a great day I didn’t handle the daytime drinking too well and didn’t think I’d ever do it again…fast-forward six months and we are at it again! This time our "theme" was to each dress in a sngle colour...dressing up makes for more silliness so it's a must

We had the funniest time and again took a zillion pics (I must stop posing with drinks...)! Around 4:30pm at closing we made a very entertaining tube trip to the Shepherds Bush Walkabout, well when I say “we” I mean everyone apart from Niki…who headed straight home to deal with a premature hangover! Moderation isn’t a word in his vocabulary obviously.

We indulged in mince pies and a variety of drinks, danced our hearts out and met some nice and not so nice people. Later Toni, Nicki and I caught up with Nicki’s friends (accompanied by one of the nice people, joined to Nicki’s lips! Hehe) at a nearby bar where we were entertained by a brilliant kiwi singer/guitarist. A very fun day/night had by all… although I tell ya Monday was a hard day to get though!!

A Late-Summer's Night Dream

On the 4th of October we went to the Shakespeare’s Globe to see the closing night of "A Mid-Summer's Night Dream". Toni had organised us all and had purchased tickets way back in July for this popular theatre event. The Globe is situated on the Thames (next to the Tate Modern Museum) which is believed to be the original site of Shakespeare’s theatre and has been re-built to look quite authentic. It is a circular building with seats most the way round the stage with 3 levels of seating (wooden benches) above each other. The most astounding thing is that the theatre does not have a roof! It is gorgeous being able to look up at the moon, but it does mean that it’s a bit chilly inside! Because of this the theatre only operates during the "summer" months performing 4-5 different plays over the season, but is open for tours and the like for the rest of the year.

The plays are performed like they were in the “olden days” no microphones or gadgets, simple costuming and a very basic set. Our seats were to the side of the stage, so not brilliant, but we still got to see most of what was going on and somehow understand the story (with a bit of help from reading the programme). You can also attend the theatre for the bargain price of £5 - as long as you don't mind standing up the whole time... keeping in mind that the globe has no roof so you’d need to wear a poncho. (As you can tell the night setting on our camera is pretty crap!)

Kiwi Toast Festival - London 27 Sept 08

Louisa and Tim scored us free tickets (usually £30 each!) to go to the New Zealand day of the 3 day toast festival which is held annually in London - celebrating Australia, New Zealand and South Africa over a 3 day weekend. Wasn't our usual "full" crew, with Toni still trecking around Europe and Pam in the States (oh the glamorous lives we lead!) but Gina made the treck up from Isle of Wight to join us (YaY!) and we had a great day.

Basically it's held in a massive hall with many stalls selling kiwi food and products like t-shirts, greenstone, buzzy bee etc and of course beer & wine; also recruitment agencies, shipping companies - anything that your average antipodean would be interested in! We were lucky to arrive early enough to snag a table and guarded it for the rest of the day, taking turns to grab beer/wine and munching out on everything we miss from home - rashuns, mince pie, L&P, chocolate and taking some home too (just don't convert into kiwi $$'s!).

The day was opened by a maori culture group which was wicked - you don't realise how much you miss that stuff! Daniel Carter and Zin Zan Brooke were in the sports section and took time to sign a few autographs etc. OpShop and Supergroove played later in the afternoon/evening and got the crowd pumping. It was a pretty good day but really not worth the ticket price so super glad it was FREE hehe, lovely to get a wee New Zealand fix, even though I know we're home soon.


We had three nights in Nice which I would totally recommend to anyone, not only is it a great place with plenty to keep you entertained it is fantastic as a base to explore the surrounding gorgeous beaches and other hot spots.
We followed a path up and around a hill which gives spectacular views across the city and houses various monuments, roman ruins and a waterfall. We wandered through a traditional food market, and stopped in at small patisseries. I formed a meaningful relationship with luscious lemon meringue tarts, and Niki kept finding more wine and cheeses to sample. On our first night in Nice we followed our Lonely Planet’s advice and dined at “Basta Pasta” which was so yummy, we ended up there again on our last night!

There is a fantastic promenade all along the beach which was lovely to wander down at night. Nice has a pebble beach which is extremely uncomfortable but the water is so so gorgeous blue, but when we were there it was a bit rough for my liking. Also the main square was a good place to be, “buskers” for entertainment including an opera singer and further up a pianist. There are pillars along the road with statues of people sitting on them that light up and change colour at night.

Our last day of the holiday was lovely, I spent the morning souvenir shopping whilst Niki watched the AB’s beat the Aussies to take the tri-nations & Bledisloe cup (needless to say someone was in an excellent mood all afternoon!). We later met up on the beach for our last baguette, ham and cheese lunch and soaked up a few rays before heading to the airport at about 7pm. Surprise surprise our flight was delayed 45 minutes…but ultimately it all went well and we arrived home at 3am… back in London… back to the grind…


On the 12th of September we took a day trip to nearby Monaco which is the second smallest country in the world (behind the Vatican). I know you’ve all heard about it and I can confirm they weren’t exaggerating… super yachts, fancy cars, luxury hotels, designer stores as far as the eye can see. Also a lot of tourists around so you didn’t really see the rich people themselves.

Monaco has still got a royal family which is rather famous (the one that Grace Kelly married into) so we went up to see the palace. The changing of the guards was a bit of a non-event but I guess quite refreshing to see something non-pompous and showy. (Not that you could see much past the swarms of tourists!). We wandered through lovely manicured parks and had some great views. The public transport to get there was very cheap and we found a supermarket to get our lunch so it totally didn’t end up being an expensive day at all even though you are surrounded by the rich. We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon at the beach – small pebbles this time, so still not ultra comfy but probably the loveliest clearest water we’d seen yet. Niki even had small fish swimming and nibbling at his feet.
We peeked at some real estate listings and were horrified at the prices…nothing was less than €1 million and there was even a listing for an apartment for €10 million!!! Disgustingly, filthy rich. Niki went into the famous casino (you should’ve seen the cars parked out front!) and he tells me it’s pretty impressive, but you don’t get further then a pokies room without paying a €10 fee.


The next morning we were up rather early to catch two buses and then a train to Cannes. We left our luggage at the station and spent the day exploring the famous film town. The town really thrives on the tourist industry from the Cannes Film Festival and there was lots of reference to it. The photos speak for themselves.

La Croix Valmer

Later that morning we took a bus to La Croix Valmer which is 20 or so kms from St Tropez. It’s a really small town, got a few shops and restaurants and lots of hotels. Our accommodation was in a sort of holiday resort – old people everywhere! I don’t think they were used to people just staying for one night, but it’s the only place we could find on the internet – turns out there were cheaper and better hotels there but oh well. We took a shuttle bus down to the beach which was really lovely and stayed from 3pm til about 7:30pm. We got some wine and laxed back at the hotel before going out to dinner later that night. A rather lovely memorable birthday!


We were in Toulon for 2 nights, after returning the car and settling into our hotel we ventured out for dinner and some exploring. Toulon is a naval base and has a marina so there were plenty of boats to see. Later that night I’d discovered I lost my glasses…don’t ask me how, it’s a mystery. The hire car company didn’t find any so I’m at a loss.
The next day we decided we were in need of some beaching and were lucky to have fab weather. The water is beautiful so clear and blue. We had a really great time the only downer was I was still covered in itchy bites! The next morning was my birthday (26!!!) and Niki popped out in the morning to get breakfast and surprised me with red roses
=) awww