Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Around Ireland in 9 days: Its not such a long way to Tipperary

So, Finally we get to the Irish adventure.

Day 1 London-Dublin-Belfast
Once we flew into Dublin (the landing made me feel a bit green -ironically) Suzanne and Bevan's Uni mate Olly picked us up quickly from the drop off bay, and away we headed. We decided to hold off buying lunch until we got into Northern Ireland, as we didn't have any Euros (Northern Ireland, being British, still uses Pounds).

We stopped at a smallish town and enjoyed some food from a bakery.

We carried on to Belfast, and checked into the backpackers, which ended up being really cheap (especially compared to the rest of Ireland) as they offered the 18 bed dorm to us, rather than the 10, which was 2pounds cheaper. Shortly after that we organised a Black cab tour, which was interesting. Following that we went for a bit of a walk.

Day 2
Belfast-Giant's Causeway-Londonderry-Kilcar/Donegal
After waking up to a smelly room, and finding a vacant toilet, we had breakfast and went to Belfast castle, which was amazingly free of charge. After looking around it, we did part of the walk on the hill (mountain) around it - going cross-country at times, lucky St Patrick had cleared Ireland of snakes aye. Then we headed North, to the Giant's Causeway. It was definitely interesting, although the name had conjured up some different expectations - the myth behind the name made a bit more sense though. Basically there was a heap of hexagonal rocks similar to that early 80's computer game Qbec - like honeycomb but different leveled. The name came about as a giant had built it as a bridge to Scotland to attack another giant, and subsequently it got destroyed.

Londonderry was pretty cool - the attraction being that it is a walled city (the wall being from old times) I also managed to find a pound shop and picked up a costume for St Patrick's.

We then headed on to a rural hostel, outside a small village on the north-west coast. It was pretty cool, as it was basically the owners house.

Day 3 Kilcar/Donegal-Sligo-Dublin
The next day we had a look around, including the nearby cliff, which was pretty spectacular. We then headed back to Dublin, having dinner at a pub with some more of Suzanne and Bevan's uni mates.

Day 4 St Patrick's day - Dublin.
Once we got up, had some breakfast, and dressed up and painted our faces, we jumped on the bus for the main street, and watched the parade. Following that we went to a pub. Beer was 5Euro each - approximately $15NZD so I decided against drinking. Despite this, it was fun, just chatting to people from all over the world for several hours.

Day 5 Dublin- Jenkinstown
Before leaving Dublin we checked out the Guinness Brewery, and then headed South. We stopped and spent the night at a hostel in an old Norman castle in a place called Jenkinstown, which was cool, but a little bit scary.
Day 6 Jenkinstown-Kilkenny-Cashel-Blarney-Kinsale

From there we went to Kilkenny, saw the outside of the castle, saw several Cathedrals and then headed to Cashel. The "Rock of Cashel" is an old Cathedral, and was pretty awesome.

From there we headed to Blarney, to see the castle and Blarney stone. However we got there a little late (although technically it still should've been open). So we headed to Kinsale for the night. After looking for a cheap-ish meal at a pub, we gave up and got some stuff at the supermarket. Turns out Kinsale is famous for its food.

Day 7 Kinsale-Ring of Kerry-Killarney
In the morning we had a good look around Kinsale, which had a couple of old forts. Then we did the Ring of Kerry. Some parts of it were interesting, but the majority of it was not much different to New Zealand. We spent the night in Killarney.

Day 8 Killarney- Limerick- Galway- Cong.
We had a quick look at Killarney castle and the Nature reserve - basically a swamp and lake, then headed to Limerick. Saw the outside of King John's castle, wanted to go and see where Frank McCourt grew up (author of Angela's Ashes) but apparently its all been bulldozed and developed. There was a shooting the night before, so just before we left Olly was asked to show an undercover cop his licence.
Galway was OK, we had lunch on the beach, and then drove to a rural town called Cong. It was pretty awesome - there was a ruins of an old abbey, and a nature walk. Apparently Cong was the filming location of a John Wayne movie The Quiet Man. That night we watched Ireland beat Wales at a local pub - good atmosphere naturally.

Day 9 Cong-Dublin
We got up early, and headed to Dublin. Made it in time for me to do a walking tour, while the others went to the Jameson factory.
Went to the airport, flew back to London.

Fakes & Posers

Much of the next two weeks was pretty boring, applying for jobs and the like. However in the middle weekend we went to Madame Tussuad's on the Saturday, and the Tower of London on Sunday.

Madame Tussuads was OK, but again, the wait (anticipation) and cost wasn't so worth it - it was only fractionally better than some other wax museums I'd been to (namely the Beijing one). That night we went out to a pub for dinner, which was nice - I had a curry, which are done really well over here (not saying they aren't elsewhere).

Sunday was the Tower of London. That was pretty awesome - castle-like, and a lot of history, as well as the crown jewels (even though I aren't into bling).

The following Friday I went and did the London eye and Dungeon (as my Madame Tussuad Ticket included them as I figured it was cheaper to buy the deal. I chose to do them on Friday, as that was the first fine day (for the London Eye.)

The Eye was good. The dungeon was OK too, but it was different to what I was expecting - I was thinking it would be like the Tower of London - but it was more of a Theatrical History ride - which in retrospect was interesting - Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, the plague etc. Along the way I passed Southwick cathedral, I hadn't heard of it before, however it was nonetheless interesting. I decided also to go to Borough Markets, a food market - so going back there when I have money! Mushroom pate (ie no liver) and a salad with gherkins that they melt cheese onto. I made do with free cheese samples and a German hotdog with sauerkraut.

The next day Suzanne & Bevan moved out of where we were staying (our cousin's husband's Aunty's house) into their new flat. I decided it would be a good idea to go and stay at our friends Christine & Chris's for a week - the first night there being a party we were attending anyway.

The following week I had an interview, and had a bit of a look around afterwards.
The next weekend was the TNT travel fair - which was cool. So much food for thought, and freebies. I met up with the girl from speed dating for lunch, and we went to the Camden markets - note to self, go again when not so many people, ie not a weekend. After that, I headed back to the TNT fair, as I hadn't quite gone everywhere. I'm glad I did, as I managed to score several free t-shirts - which was handy as I only had brought a limited amount with me to London. The thing from the fair I am real keen to do is a kayak trip around these islands in Sweden - they provide the kayak and camping gear, and there are thousands of islands - which are public property.

The following week I was staying in the lounge of Suzanne & Bevan's new flat. I managed to have four interviews that week. After one I went to St Paul's cathedral, which was huge, and awesome. After another, I went and had a look at Nottinghill - which didn't seem much like the Hugh Grant movie.

On the Saturday we flew to Ireland...

Monday, 9 March 2009

London, Rather!

The following day was Saturday. Bevan had hockey, so Suzanne and I decided to go to Hampton Court, as it was something Bevan wouldn't miss out on going to, as he had been there before (they had taken his parents there).

So we went out there on the train. It was quite interesting, the palace itself was OK, but I'm not really a glorified mansion guy, I prefer castles with moats, drawbridges, and turrents. However the grounds were rather amazing - huge considering the rest of London is so claustrophobically small.

There was also a maze - however it was reasonably small, and Suzanne & I managed to walk straight through it.

That evening was Valentine's, so I thought it only fair to let Suzanne and Bevan go out for dinner without me, so I went speed dating instead. It was quite fun - met 25 women, although there was 50 attending (natural instinct is why can't I meet them all?) After the main event it turned back into a night club, so I hung out with a girl I had been chatting to, but made sure I left early enough not to miss my train home.

London, What!

Hey there, thanks for your patience, finally we get to the London leg of the journey.

So I got to London, 10am in the morning (London time) however I hadn't managed to sleep at all on the plane. Suzanne met me at the airport, and we headed back to the flat to drop off my luggage (which wasn't the easiest to lug around on the tube and around the stations. Anyway, had lunch, then headed to the bank to activate my bank account, which was an interesting and mildly entertaining time while fighting sleep and nearly nodding off. Anyhow, we made it home, had some dinner, watched part of the first episode of Flight of the Concords (before nodding off) and then went to bed at about 7.

I was up again at 6 or 7am which was quite nice, but during the following week I would end up waking up at about 2 or 3am, and not being able to go back to sleep. Naturally this meant I could last until just after dinner time, before crashing.

Anyway, that next day (Friday) I got up and went with Bevan to his work, which is basically just round the corner from Buckingham Palace. I took a few photos before quickly getting bored with it. Next I walked towards and past the Big Ben, where then you cross the Thames. On the other side of the Thames was the London Eye, and I got talked into going to the "Moviem" basically a museum of some props and sets from different movies. To be honest it was OK, but not worth it when you work out the cost in NZ dollars. I then walked past most of the other Bridges along the Thames to Tower Bridge, and had a late lunch with Suzanne.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Jamie goes to Hollywood

So I made it to Hollywood, about 6 or 7 O'clock. They were doing a BBQ for dinner, so I joined in on that. Later on they were doing a Limo trip around Hollywood - so I joined in on that too. I had a quick shower - couldn't spend too long in there as the fuse had gone in the room, so there was no light or hot water. Anyway, the limo trip was OK, can say I've done it - although we didn't really go anywhere spectacular. Afterwards I decided that I would go and check out the nightlife - such as the Viper room etc, on the Sunset strip etc. Turns out that's not as close as you would think - so I didn't really make there, instead I did a bit of a fast food crawl - trying out several burger chains we don't have in New Zealand.

The following day I nipped down to the Hollywood walk of fame to check it out one last time, before catching the hostel-provided shuttle to Santa Monica - back to the Hostel I originally stayed in, for a night.

That night I didn't get up to much, and the next day I caught the shuttle to the airport. The shuttle driver was from Egypt, and was a great guy to talk to. And so, I got to the airport, hopped on the plane, and left the USA.

San Francisco

So after a flight of an hour or so, I landed in San Francisco, and caught the train into town. The hostel was a little bit of a walk from the station, but not too far.

Unfortunately the shuttle bus I wanted to catch to get back to LA doesn't operate on the day I wanted to catch it, so I had to take the one the day after I got there (rather than the following day.) I could have got a Greyhound bus, but it would mean having to travel to, and finding the depot, and paying a little more, where the shuttle was cheap, and door-to-door. So after sorting things out once I got to the hostel, I went for a walk to make the most of it, albeit being dark. I took a few photos, of the bridges - it was hard to tell which was which, as they (the Golden Gate and the other one) looked very similar.

The following day I took a quick tram ride to the Fisherman's wharf and back (unfortunately not enough time to look around it) before hoping on the shuttle to Hollywood.

The shuttle ride was interesting, although I did read and sleep parts of it - such as going through snow covered mountains - which I believe were the Sierras.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Viva Las Vegas

So after a long bus ride to Vegas - which unfortunately went through Los Angeles (and therefore wasn't as direct as it could be) I got there about 4am. After a bit of wandering around, I got escorted to the hostel by one of the conveniently located security guys. So it was about 6am before I got there - the map wasn't particularly to scale - it missed out Avenues 1-12...

So I had some more sleep, until about 9:30, and then got up and organised my stay in Vegas - I was semi-considering changing hostels, but decided against it as the others were probably not much closer to the action, and I would have to find them, which would waste more time. So I got the hostel to book me a tour to the Hoover Dam, I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, but they weren't doing tours there because of the apparent bad weather there. They also helped solve my problem of getting to San Francisco - I wasn't keen to take another Greyhound bus, especially as it sounded like you had to go via Los Angeles again..., anyhow they recommended flying, and after looking at a few sites, found a flight for $55USD on Southwestern Airlines. So I ended up booking another 2 nights there.

Later that day I went into town with 2 Aussie guys in my room. We went and had lunch at a buffet restaurant for only $8. Turns out things are relatively cheap in Vegas as it draws the people in so they come and gamble. Naturally not everyone who goes there has heaps of cash, so they have to get them there some how. Where the hostel was was in the poorer casino area, ie where you would go if weren't as affluent.

That night we went out drinking, including a ride in the pimp bus (pictured)

The next day I got up, and caught the tour bus to the Hoover dam. As I hopped on the bus I was greeted by a girl who said to "sit here where the fun people are" so I did. Her name was Renee, and she was there with her friends for her birthday. Turns out they were all Engineers, so every time the driver called concrete cement, they would correct him. Without them, it may have been a fairly boring trip.

So we did the Hoover Dam, including crossing it - which means you are then in Arizona, and also a different time zone, which was kind of cool, bringing my American state count to 3 (California, Nevada, and Arizona).

When we returned to Vegas, I got the driver to drop me off at the other end of the "Strip" so I could check out the various buildings. It was all very interesting, and if I ever go back I would go and check them out more thoroughly. I ended up walking the whole interesting part of the 'strip (ie where all the big casinos are, to the part where it is just normal shops and buildings (except for the wedding chapels) - the best part of 4 miles apparently. I did stop however at IHOP- International House of Pancakes - where it was all you can eat for $4USD. By the time I made it back to the hostel I was stuffed, and just had a spa and went to bed.

The next day I got the shuttle to the airport, and flew to San Francisco.