Monday, July 31, 2006

Glengarriff and Kenmare

Finally I was out of internet contact in Ireland. The whole place seems so wired, but in a village, even my well honed internet nose couldn't sniff out a place!

I came to Glengarriff last Wednesday and stayed in Murphy's Village Hostel, in honour of my former boss. Main street right by the bus stop. The first afternoon I took off for some local walks. First in the nature reserve where I climbed up Lady Bantry's path to get a glorious view over the bay and mountains. Then a longer path that took me past forest and a lake and bog. Felt like I was walking near Kumara except that the tree kinds were different and there were stone walls in places. Next I took the walk around part of the bay and came to Seal Point where I got to watch a few seals on the rocks.

Second day in Glengarriff I walked on the road towards Castletownbeere for a few hours. The rocky mountain landscape and the views of the bay were magnificent. Third day in Glengarriff I took another road walk, this time on the Kenmare road as far as the first tunnel. The views were even more spectacular. Then the following day when I took the bus to Kenmare I realised I had actually walked quite a distance. I will miss all this physical exercise when I am back in town working!!!!!

Last night I stayed the night in Kenmare. I had intended to come right through to Killarney but it was booked out on Saturday night with a big game in town. Kenmare was worth some walking as well though. I sat by the pier and watched the river/sea for a while. There was also a stone circle with a dolmen near the centre of town. I also saw Our Lady's Well. There are lots of similar wells in Ireland apparently and they were probably originally used by the Celts, but then were Christianised. In the years of the Penal Laws when Catholic worship was prohibited, the wells became a place where Catholics could gather in some way. I have heard a few things about the Penal Laws but there is a lot more about the repression I am gradually learning.

Now I am in Killarney, the tourist mecca. (So I am using the internet!) Quite crowded here as expected. Walked to St Mary's which is a magnificent ne0-Gothic building with beautiful stonework in the arches. Tomorrow I will be a proper tourist and see something of the National Park.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I caught the bus to Kinsale this morning, made famous by various celebrity Tv cooks etc, so I knew it would be a bit more touristy than Youghal.
First I wandered through the farmers' market which had all sorts of interesting things on sale. Then I arrived at the 12th century (Church of Ireland) church, full of memorials to people but with much of the details of its early construction no longer visible. I was struck by the first stained glass panel I saw as it seemed to have all the hallmarks of a Bosdet stained glass (whose glass I saw on a tour in Jersey.) The wings were colourful like his magnificent wing designs, the halos were each different, the faces had a pre-Raphaelite beauty, there was handpainted detail on the angels' gowns, and the glass used on the central figure was brilliantly coloured. I took a photo to send to my Jersey guide to see if he thinks it is a Bosdet.
I then carried on climbing the hill and came to a Catholic parish. There I met a lovely woman just taking down a display about how Irish Catholic money had been used to help tsunami victims. There was also a wonderful display of photos about a local Kinsale man who went out there and helped with actual building work.
I had decided to go on a walking tour that started at 11.15. It was incredibly informative, but perhaps not quite what I expected as it involved more of a lecture approach than much actual strolling and looking at details in the town. Perhaps because the town is largely newer than its history. We found out where the walls ran, and were told a lot about the history of the harbour and the strategic significance of the harbour forts over time. We learned how much land had been reclaimed and it seemed that all my earlier morning walk until the brief climb to the old church had been over land that used to be in the sea. Kinsale was very well placed to service sailing ships coming to and from the Atlantic.
I had to eat some fish for lunch (though I took the cheap option so ruined my beautiful fresh fish with batter!). Then it was very muggy so I decided against a walk around to the fort, which I probably should have walked to in the morning. Never mind. I went far enough around to see the two forts at once across the narrow channel of the harbour, and how they protected the population.
It was a humid drive back to Cork as the bus air-conditioning wasn't working. I guess that doesn't often matter in this part of the world but it was a problem in the bus I was on yesterday afternoon as well. Then at the bus station I tried to buy a ticket for Glengarriff tomorrow morning, only to find the ticket office only sells tickets for that day. The one ticket machine often doesn't seem to give change so it doesn't seem that provision for buying tickets is exactly state-of-the-art. Still, buses have got me places safely so far through some lovely countryside so I mustn't be too grumpy about it.
I am still waiting for the famed Irish rain to fall. But I won't wish it on myself!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Today I decided it was time I saw an Irish beach and I took a day trip to Youghal. We were soon out of Cork and en route passed a few herds of freisan cows in the lush green grass.
When I arrived in Youghal the person sitting next to me told me the first stop was the one for the beach and a woman walking by told me the quickest route there: it was less than five minutes walk before I was barefoot on the sand. And it made me a little homesick!
It was sunny at Youghal all the time I was there, with just a few fluffy white clouds in the sky, though you could see some darker clouds inland. I walked along the beach past two "blue flag" beaches, and just like at home, some people were out earlyish walking their dogs. I was amazed at how warm the water was for paddling in. *If* I had brought my togs along, I *might* have gone in for a swim! The sand was lovely for walking along, nice and soft. I saw a few small hermit crabs rolling back into the surf, and saw some jellyfish I hadn't seen before lying on the sand. Kept clear of them just in case. They were about eight centimetres wide, mostly clear flesh, but with brown stripes radiating out from the centre. Perhaps common here but I hadn't seen any like them before.
I headed into town and took a brochure from the Tourist Office for a trail through town. This town was originally settled by the Vikings and later became a Norman stronghold. Some of the rich got executed for backing the wrong person along the way. Later Cromwell made his base here as he wrecked havoc on the Irish population. There was a poignant monument to a priest and one other who were "cruelly flogged" by the English, and two who were "unjustly hanged". These events certainly made their mark on Irish feelings towards the English over time. The Church of Ireland church was from the 12th century and had many memorials inside it that told a story of some of the Norman lords and those following them.
I finished my time at Youghal with another beach walk. More families were out enjoying the beach in the afternoon and both beaches were patrolled. Conditions were quite calm for swimming but I never did get around to testing the temperature of the water further out! Seems strange that in just over six weeks I will be near NZ beaches again, though it won't be summer water temperatures there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cobh (Cove)

This morning I caught the train out to Cobh. This is the port near Cork that many Irish left from, and I suspect my grandmother Margaret Malone, and her sister Bridget, may well have left from here about 1890.

It was an overcast day and a fitting day to remember the many sad farewells that happened here. My grandmother left Ireland and never stood on Irish soil again. Families in many cases were farewelled forever.

Cobh also has sad memories for locals because the Lusitania was torpedoed near here in 1915 with the loss of over a thousand lives. Survivors were brought to Cork, and quite a few dead were buried here, many not identified. A monument remembers the dead and those who cared for the survivors and buried some of the dead. Some people embarked on the Titanic from here also before its fateful voyage. Less well known are the many who were lost trying to escape the famine on ships that were not seaworthy and never made it. The heritage centre at Cobh told all these stories and more and was very informative.

The train trip out first passed by industrial Cork but was soon passing an estuary where the tide was out. Lots of seabirds were wading in the mud and I saw some curlews with their crooked bills.

Cobh itself these days is a pretty town with nicely painted buildings. In many ways I was glad it was overcast and the sea looked grey instead of blue, as it said more about the departures that occurred here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


When you were brought up in the Catholic school system in New Zealand, you know a lot of people of Irish ancestry. I keep seeing "doubles" of people I know. I have been nearly ready to call out to one or two. So this afternoon in the supermarket queue when it seemed like I was behind someone I knew a little bit as a fellow teacher in Palmie, I thought I was seeing a "double" again. Then she spoke. It was the teacher I knew from Palmie, here on a one year work visa. Small world!!!!!

Cork City

Cork City is certainly a place that rewards getting lost in. It still has a load of "real shops" not just the mass produced chain variety so there is plenty of character to the shopfronts even when you are not shopping!

For most of the day I have finally been in the "misty rain" I was expecting in Ireland but have been miraculously free of up until now. The hostel I am in is up the hill in Shandon, and from down in the central city this morning I looked up to see misty rain on the hills where I am staying. Added a certain Celtic mystery to the scene and explained the emerald green of the grass I have seen in the countryside.

From the hostel window last night you could see several buildings below that I have now been inside. I found out that the building with beautiful green domes was the Franciscan church and I popped in twice this morning. Both times it was busy, first with Mass and then with the rosary and lots of people were in there both times. The dome above the altar has some beautiful mosaics.

I walked to the Cork museum in the rain and was glad I had bothered. There were quite a few objects from people connected with fighting for Irish independence, and in the Irish Civil War. I had not realised some of the complexities of Irish history. There was also quite an extensive collection of neolithic objects and metal made in the area. Upstairs there was an exhibition about some of the designs in the St Fin Barre's Cathedral. I hadn't been intending to go there as all the Church of Ireland churches seem to have an entry fee that puts them on my budgeting list and they don't usually make the 'cut' seeing as I have seen so many European churches. However, seeing the maquettes for some of the sculpture, and cartoons for some of the stained glass, I was inspired to go there. The architect, William Burges, was certainly inspired. He won a competition to design the cathedral apparently, that had strict budgetary constraints. Once engaged he threw away his original plans and did something far more elaborate in Victorian Gothic style, using all he knew about European churches. The cathedral really is beautiful inside.

I finally had a pub lunch about 2pm. I get involved in looking at places and forget to eat until it is nearly too late sometimes! Pub lunches seem to be the cheapest way to eat here and you can get generous servings of vegetables which I sometimes lack in my travels.

There is a small protest in town about what Israel is currently doing in the Middle East. Awareness of this is far higher in Ireland than you usually find it at home in New Zealand.

Rain has stopped, sun is shining and it has warmed up. Time to get out there again! Just over six weeks now until I get home. Time for the terrible winter weather there to come to an end for me. You hear now?!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Passed through Ballyporeen

This morning I caught the bus from Kilkenny to Cork City. The countryside at one point was gently rolling with lots of trees and very green - very attractive. Suddenly I saw a sign saying "Ballyporeen". Then I saw another sign about Ronald Reagan. I had not realised it was going to happen, but I passed through the village that my great-great grandmother, Catherine Henneberry, and her parents David and Mary, were from. (Ronald Reagan had ancestors from the very same village!) It was a brief view through bus windows and I grabbed a few quick photos but I guess it was better than nothing.

It was a bit of a climb to the hostel I am staying in in Shandon but it gives a view over the city - if you ignore the sight of the unkempt, graffitied cemetery right outside the window. Have just started exploring Cork and it looks like it has lots of interesting wee streets to explore.

As we drove here today I passed more shops and pubs with surnames of those I have known at school, work or as friends. So far in Ireland I have seen O'Donnell's, Ryan's, zillions of Murphy's, an O'Riordan bar and a J.Lalor pub. Yesterday I saw the tomb of a Dullany (pronounced Delany) who was founding abbot of Jerpoint. Butler House was prominent in Kilkenny. You name the surname of someone I know from NZ and chances are I have already seen a building with their name on it! I have seen two doubles of my friend Caroline and several young women who have reminded me of Erin. You all have doubles all you people of Irish ancestry in New Zealand!!!!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Jerpoint Abbey

Well, the plan was to hire a bike today and get out into the countryside on a wee circuit. But when I arrived at the camping ground where you can hire bikes, it turned out the only bikes to hire were men's mountain bikes. I think I was a bit spoiled in France with my wonderful bike, but a hard man's seat and a too-high bar changed my mind about biking. At that stage it was drizzling anyhow and it looked like rain might set in. (It didn't: we have another warm afternoon!)

Luckily the hostel I am in, Kilkenny Tourist Hostel, in a genuine Georgian mansion, has the best, most informative noticeboard I think I have ever seen in a hostel. It had the bus times for a local bus to Thomastown from where it is only about a 2km walk to Jerpoint Abbey. So equipped with times and bus stop details I set off again.

The bus driver on the New Ross service I took was a lovely old Irish man. He wished me "God bless you" as I went to my seat and sincerely meant it. He had obviously picked me for a tourist and took care to tell me where to get off the bus, which direction to walk in for the Abbey, and where to catch the bus on the return trip at what time. Real genuine Irish hospitality for a stranger.

Jerpoint Abbey was well worth a visit and we had a really informative guided tour, describing the history of this Cistercian Abbey. There were interesting sculptures on quite a few tombs and in the cloister area. There were patterns on some capitals. When it was "disestablished" the roof was removed over the nave area as it had valuable lead, but the chancel roof which was stone was left alone. The rest of the walls were not destoyed then but have deteriorated over time. There was at one stage a huge amount of land associated with this Abbey, and the powerful Butler family of Kilkenny had a close association with it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Exploring Kilkenny City

Last night I went to one of Kilkenny's many local pubs where they had some traditional music on offer. Two musicians played, and each of them played a variety of instruments that they changed to suit the particular song. They played old music and not so old music. Sometimes it was instrumental and sometimes singing as well. Some tunes I knew. They were superb musicians and I might go hear them again this evening.

Kilkenny is not so very big, but it is a "city". This morning I went on a really interesting walking tour where some of the mystery of this was explained. It lies way back in history when Kilkenny was a very powerful place and was in fact the largest settlement in Ireland, dating back to Norman times. Outside the city walls was "Irishtown". People moved freely inside the walls for work during the day etc, but the city walls held the wealthier ( English-aligned) folk. Kilkenny suffered mightily under Cromwell, with a lot of destruction and confiscation.

One thing that bemused me was that a 12th century church, made of the local black marble, and with its exterior stones still in excellent order, lies largely unused. It apparently has traded places between Protestant and Catholic numerous times and now neither uses it as a church. In other places, a 12th century building would be a treasured part of the heritage, but here it languishes as a hall, with cars parked outside in its unkempt grounds. The only reason I even saw it was via a guided walking tour. Unfortunately, this sounds like a not uncommon thing here in Ireland.

The guided tour also took us to the local jail, underneath the courts which are still used. But one day they decided to use the jail no more and it was just abandoned. So it is still in very original condition. We were able to go into a cell. Apparently if your crime was bad enough you were hanged, which having seen the jail would seem a more humane option. Quite a few people were crowded into one small dark cell and the standard sentence for stealing a loaf of bread was four years. We were told that few ever survived this period. The cells were unheated and food had to be provided by families. Death of inmates was the usual outcome.

We saw a modern marble statue of the early saint that the town is named after. Apparently he was here for ten years and was a town planner as well as a bishop so made sure the town was laid out well. The statue is made of the local black marble, and where people have touched it, it has already become a shiny black.

Our walking tour ended near the Abbey church of the Dominicans which had some lovely stained glass. An old small gate into the city was also near here. It wasn't far to walk to the Church of Ireland cathedral from the 12th century. I didn't go into the church but did climb the round tower near it, older than the church, and like the one I had just seen in Glendalough in the old monastic settlement. It gave a great view over Kilkenny and the whole area.

It is warm again today, though not as warm as yesterday. I have had a wee walk along the river but have not been too adventurous this afternoon. Supposed to be cooler tomorrow when I am hiring a bike so that will be good. Watch this space for me to be complaining about the rain soon enough.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Arrived in Kilkenny

I have just arrived in Kilkenny where my great grandfather is from. James Lalor. Unfortunately I don't know enough about him to track down an area in the county more precisely.
I would arrive in Kilkenny on one of the hotter days in its history. 32 degrees today apparently. Like a wee hothouse. But I must not complain as I am sure it will be raining soon enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Emerald Green

This morning I was glad I had decided to stay another day in Glendalough as the day was brilliantly fine and too good to waste sitting in buses.
I decided to take the walk up the Glenealo Valley again and then along the Spinc, as I had enjoyed the views so much the other day. I was sweating profusely by 10am as I zigzagged up the hill: it must have been mid to high 20s already - again something I didn't really expect in Ireland.

The morning colours were just brilliant. There wasn't a breath of wind and the trees were reflected in the still lake. The sun was behind me and the sky ahead was a stunning blue at that earlier hour, a colour I had not seen in European skies before. The bushes were an emerald green, the sort you associate with Ireland.

I met a guide on the mountain top who said such a run of fine days was unusual here. Two other Irish people told me that the mist can sit in the valley here for days so that there is no view. So I guess I have missed seeing Glendalough when the mist adds a sense of mystery to the monastic ruins, but I think I am happy that I have been able to enjoy the views!

The lack of wind is causing a problem on the south coast apparently as there is supposed to be a huge yachting regatta, but the unthinkable has happened and there is no wind!

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Glendalough walks

This morning it was glorious and sunny again and today I took the precaution of putting on more sunblock after getting a little bit burned yesterday! (Not something I was expecting to have to do in Ireland to be honest!!!)

With Patricia, my young German room-mate at the hostel I did a couple more walks. I had actually intended to be a bit lazier today, but somehow these hills just call you on upwards so you can enjoy the views. We began on the Orange 'Derrybawn Woodland Trail'. I enjoyed looking at St Saviour's church ruins which had Romanesque bits of carving still visible. Then there was a climb up a road past where they are getting rid of the conifers to try and get the forest back to what was originally native in this area.

We had some lovely views down the valley. A bit later as we descended, we came to a seat that overlooked the Upper Lake so we sat there and contemplated the view in the sunshine. A great way to spend part of a day!

After enjoying lunch under a tree near the Upper Lake we headed off on a walk that I had assumed for some reason was easy. (That wasn't actually what the map indicated, but it really wasn't too difficult, it was just that it was hot walking by now!) We headed off uphill on the Woodland Rd, that took us over into the Glendasan Valley with its river. The river track joined onto the walk that is the pilgrimage walk of St Kevin that people can do.

I have decided to stay here another day. I want to repeat yesterday's walk as I really enjoyed the track and the views, then I might head onto the St Kevin's track a little.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Glenealo Valley and Spinc

This morning in Glendalough dawned a glorious day and I ended up joining a young German woman in the hostel for a circular walk that a young Belgian woman in the hostel had recommended. From the National Park Information Centre we headed across to the path at the right hand side of the Upper Lake, as our Belgian room-mate had told us. (At the end of the walk as we descended we were really glad we had gone this way.) The beginning of the Glenealo Valley track alongside the lake was wide, flat and easy. Then when we reached the ruins of a miners' village, the path suddenly narrowed and became more stony underfoot and we were in the mountains. We zig-zagged uphill, fairly gently mostly.
My young German walking-mate told me she was a city dweller, not much into nature, though she had chosen to come to Ireland for all the green. She had done one mountain walk with her family in thigh deep snow last December and had told them never again. She was obviously a bit nervous about the dangers as we headed up hill on a rough track. It was good we were sharing the walk or she might have turned back again. We continued until finally we saw some more white arrows as we neared the head of the glacial valley. She became happy she had walked so far, and we were able to look back down the valley at the lakes we had walked by earlier.

Once we reached the top end of the track we had a brief stop. There is always that feeling of sadness when you know you are 'leaving' behind a mountainous place with beautiful views. But in fact more views were to come. We took the return section of the track and it was to lead us uphill some more, towards the ridge above some cliffs on the Spinc. This part of the walk was all a boardwalk on old railway sleepers. Some of what we passed was a bit boggy, and other areas clearly would easily get that way! As we climbed we got ever more spectacular views over other mountains in the area, and soon we had great views down the valley to the lakes etc. My walking mate was incredibly happy to be where she was in the mountains.

Eventually it was time to descend. There were many steps to go down, then a steepish road to walk down. People coming up looked exhausted in places, and I am not sure I would have persevered with the track had I started it this way. I am glad we had been told to go in the other direction! It was a superb walk. If you ever come to Glendalough, don't come on a day trip from Dublin: stay a night or two and take this walk!

It was a shock when we got back to the Upper Lake which had been quite tranquil when we left it. There were busloads and busloads of young people there as well as everyone else. There were many young Italians there especially, who seemed to be in the country for English studies.
I walked back to the hostel, and as the afternoon got towards four o'clock, busloads and carloads started leaving the valley. Now the old monks can rest in peace in their graves again! Though I gather there is a group of schoolchildren here in the hostel tonight, so let's hope they are well controlled so I can sleep in peace too!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


This morning I left my comfortable Dublin Hostel (Harrington House) and caught St Kevin's bus for Glendalough at 11.30am. We drove through Dublin for quite a while, but then hit more rural countryside and were soon surrounded by some hills. These reminded me of home a little, though they were much more rounded and looked like they had been eroded over a long period.

Glendalough is superb. There were lots of people on the bus for a day trip from Dublin, but this setting is peaceful despite the crowds. I booked into the hostel first to dump off my pack and then headed back down to the Visitor Centre. I was just in time to go with a group on a guided tour that was included in the very reasonable Visitor Centre charge. (You can see the ruins without going into the Visitor Centre but I was interested to see their video.) The lady taking the tour explained things very clearly and it gave me a good understanding of the history of the site.

St Kevin was a monk who found a place to live as a solitary hermit. But word spread and he had others wanting to join him. Eventually the settlement grew to be rather large. Monks weren't all single men: some had wives and families as well. The ruins of the monastic settlement were quite large. There was a chapel that still had the stone roof on from the twelfth century. There was the tall circular tower that is a typical feature of Irish monasteries but not elsewhere in Europe. There was a large stone cross. The cemetery, which has old graves and then newer ones dating from when the monastery was closed down, has many Celtic crosses on the headstones. These ruins were great to wander around and I am certain to go back again tomorrow.

In my hostel room there is a young Belgian woman who has only had a week's holiday but she has spent it all in this area walking. We walked down to the next village and had a drink on a terrace bar then she showed me a few more local tracks on the way back. We saw a young deer in a paddock on the way down, and then three goats munching in a field as we returned. They were obviously used to humans on the path and never took fright.

It has been a lovely sunny day here today. It would be nice if I can leave my raincoat in my pack for a while!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Natural History Museum, Dublin

Another day in Dublin and I am pleased to report that the sun is shining! Today's highlight was a visit to the Natural History Museum which has a huge range of stuffed animals etc. You enter and see these enormous antlers on these huge Irish deer (that I presume are now extinct though I never saw an explanation - I think you are supposed to know about them like we know about moa at home.) There was a hippo that made you realise how big they actually can be. There were also some whale skeletons and a small moa and some kiwis. There were jellyfish and beetles and a huge number of Irish birds. There were lots of different kinds of stuffed primates like lemurs etc and animals from Madagascar. After what I learned at the Durrell Zoo last week I hoped they still existed. Children were fascinated at this museum and so was I.

I gave my France RoughGuide to the second hand Oxfam shop to lighten my pack, but then I discovered a book I really wanted to read in another bookshop. Oh well, it is lighter than the guide I guess.....

I realised that what I like so much about Dublin streets is that a lot of the shopfronts still have wooden parts and they haven't all been converted to total glass anonymity. Another thing is that it is very lively, certainly in the summer anyhow and Grafton St is full of buskers. My favourite group yesterday was back again today: - seven string players who seem to be Irish students, who were playing well known classical pieces. There was also what looked like a family group today playing various instruments - or maybe two families, but the children were certainly a range of ages and they already played so well like they had grown up with improvising together from the cradle.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Arrival in Dublin

Yesterday morning I packed up my tent for the last time and headed to Jersey Airport for my relatively cheap BA flights to Dublin. Rozel Camping ground had been a good place to stay for 11 days: the people running the camp and other campers were friendly and I enjoyed being under the rural sky. But it was time to move on.

I got a window seat for both of my short flights. The plane left Jersey over the west coast then travelled along some of the northern coast. I really enjoyed being able to spot places that I had walked along this coast, as I had walked most of it. As we finally departed too far away to see, I was trying hard to see if I could see Rozel Camping ground one last time, or if I could see the spire of St Martin's, but we were speeding north by then.

It was a great view over the south of England but further north you could see the smog over London and not a lot else. It had been a short flight to Gatwick but then I had quite a long wait - the price you pay for getting the cheapest airfare you can! I was selected at security and had a bag swabbed and was questioned. I presume it was a random check- it wasn't explained - but these kind of checks do little to my mind to stop the real terrorists. They just make a political point and cost lots of money.

Just before 7pm I was airborne again for Dublin and had a window seat again. A great view over English fields and the more ruggd countryside of Wales before cloud too away some of the view briefly, then it was a great view again over the Irish Sea as we headed into Dublin.

I now have a huge Irish stamp in my passport - green of course! I just missed one bus into town, but the next one took me right close to the hostel I had found on the internet, just before 10pm. A calm, clean place. I shared the room last night with a guy from San Francisco who is working here a bit and had an interesting conversation with him. Actually, that is only half true: I think I did most of the talking!!

This morning I have been walking the streets. I was here in Dublin briefly when I was 23, over half a lifetime away. It has changed a lot. Then it was a bit rundown, but now it is vibrant and very multicultural, while still being distinctively Irish. I am tossing up whether to go and see the Book of Kells or not. The clearest memory I have of my last visit was seeing it. Then there were not so many tourists and it was free to see it. It was one of the experiences of travel I have always treasured. I am not sure that I want to disturb such a good memory by making another visit. Maybe I will go and see the Natural History Museum instead, as that sounds amazing.
Tomorrow I think I will go to the Genealogical Library. I am sure to report any progress here as Dublin easily has the hugest selection of Internet Cafes anywhere in the world. It must almost have more internet cafes than pubs and it has a lot of those!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bonne Nuit to Greve De Lecq

This morning was my last walk in Jersey and I am nearly ready to go back to the campsite, do a bit of laundry and start packing up ready for Ireland in the
The buses in Jersey are great for getting to isolated bays and that is probably a large part of the reason I have stayed so long! This morning I caught a bus to
Bonne Nuit Bay on the northern coast and walked back along to Greve de Lecq. It was partly cloudy but a good temperature for walking. The rocky cliff scenes
are dramatic without being too scary. This morning I passed what was recently found to be the site of a hermit's kind of monastery, and they found Iron Age
implements there as well. They were more reminders of the long settlement in this island (which used to be joined to France and has not always been so isolated an island.) I don't think I told you that there were a
few volcanoes here millions of years ago!
Yesterday morning started off quite wet but the day fined up well by the afternoon. In the morning I was faced with the choice of whether to sit in my tent and be bored, or head to the Durrell Zoo despite the rain.
I am glad I went to the Zoo, as it never rained much longer anyhow. The Zoo is not a normal zoo really: they focus on animals that they are studying for
conservation purposes. I especially loved watching the orangutans with their babies. I was quite blown away by the size of one of the gorillas. There were
some beautiful pink Chilean flamingoes which all seemed to be standing on one leg with their necks nestled on their backs to sleep. And the poison dart
frogs they had were dramatic.
Next posting will be from Ireland!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Corbiere Lighthouse

Last night a British couple in a nearby tent invited me to join them to go to some youth theatre in a park in St Helier. The young people did really well doing something written by Salman Rushdie. They especially shone in the second half when they had noisy competition from a large group of young people who arrived in the park drinking, many of them already very drunk at 8.30pm. The young actors just lifted their game and poured even more energy into what they were doing, ignoring those nearby, who eventually all left. The young people acting were clearly well rehearsed and showed a lot of team spirit carrying on in difficult circumstances.

This morning I caught a bus into town then another to Corbiere Lighthouse. As it was low tide I was able to walk out across the causeway and sit near the lighthouse. It was a lovely sunny morning with just the slightest of breezes and the views up and down the coast were glorious. Lots of people were out enjoying the peace of the morning.

I then followed the Corbiere walk, or as everyone local seems to name it, the railway walk, as it follows a path that long ago had a railway. I left the track at St Brelade's though and went and had another look at the stained glass we saw in the church yesterday. The extensive (at low tide!) beach at St Brelade's is a glorious golden colour and the view is marvellous, especially on a sunny clear day like today. Then after lunch I caught a bus to the "Glass Church". Luckily the bus driver realised it was closed on Saturday for cleaning so I carried on into town, where all the people are shopping. Time to head back to the campsite and walk to a dolmen I have heard is nearby, then it might nearly be time to see Rozel Bay at a higher tide than I have so far. The tidal range in Jersey is huge.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Glass Rainbow

Today I went on a tour that was a privilege to be part of. It was called "The Glass Rainbow" and there were only seven of us on it, led by 'Blue Badge Guide' Paul Nicolle. It was a coach tour that took us to some of the places on the island where there is stained glass by Henry Thomas Bosdet. It was a day of discovery.
At the time of the Reformation, all the 'Catholic' things out of Jersey churches, like stained glass, statues etc, were discarded in favour of the more Calvinistic Huguenot approach where the whole focus was on the pulpit. But around the 1900s, rectors were beginning to bring back some elements like stained glass into the churches. Henry Thomas Bosdett, born in Jersey, was an artist
who completed many commissions for new stained glass windows.
Before we began our tour, Paul showed us a picture that Bosdett had done that illustrated his talents with life drawing. His great ability to bring life to
the human form in art was to pervade our day.
We first saw an Annunciation at St Helier church where the life almost
jumped out of the figures. The expression on Mary's face expressed her surprise while the angel had the first of many pairs of beautiful wings we were to see that day. There was great tenderness in the figures, something we were to see again.
At the Jersey Museum they had especially got out four large 'cartoons' for the
wedding at Cana, windows we were later to see completed at St Aubin's -on-the-Hill.
My favourite church was probably St Brelade's, where the stone used in the building looked like beach stones. It was very atmospheric. There was a window
there that showed a sower who looked ready to stride strongly forth out of the window. The sense of life reminded me of some of the power in Michelangelo's
sculptures. There was a Crucifixion that gave everyone pause to think quietly and reflectively. There was a Good Shepherd who had gone for the Lost Sheep, one of several on that theme we saw that day.
The people I was with on the tour were all Jersey locals, and they were all incredibly friendly. Paul Nicolle was very knowledgeable and shared his
knowledge with us so well. It was a joy to be part of this group. (Paul leads a tour to dolmens on Tuesday: - if I was still here I would be going!)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Clifftop walks

Yesterday morning I woke to rain on the tent and decided a bit of a museum-type day was in order. A lady picked me up while I was waiting at the bus-stop and dropped me at the PO. Friendly people these Channel Islanders and nearly all of them seem to know someone living in Kiwiland, mainly in Wellington or Auckland it seems, which explains why I never meet them. Tried to post a parcel home but only sent half of what I intended once I realised the cost - so will need to put up with carrying a few things in my backpack!

I then headed to the Maritime Museum since I now know my ancestors were heavily involved with the sea. They had some interesting info there about tides. Also a facinating model of a woman smuggler. The Channel Islands used to be a great place to get stuff through from France for England to avoid paying duty. In the 1700s a woman suspected of smuggling was strip-searched and a riot ensued so women were never searched again. So these women had HUGE dresses with all manner of gear hidden underneath.

It was time to try and book my passage to Ireland which seemed like it might be horrendously expensive whichever way I did it. But luckily I got a BA flight via Gatwick to Dublin that surprised the travel agent with its cheapness and is certainly heaps cheaper than backtracking to France to get a ferry from Cherbourg.

In the afternoon I went to the Jersey "Living Legend"exhibition- a very well done multi-media presentation on Jersey's history.

Today it dawned a bit finer and I have been able to indulge my first love, walking. There is a great bus system here that means you don't need a car but can get to all the far-flung bays by bus. I caught a bus this morning to L'Etacq which was quite a barren spot on the north-west coast. I hadn't been walking long and it began drizzling with a light wind from the sea in the west. It suited the barren nature of the landscape, with rocky cliffs falling down into the sea. There are also lots of reminders of WW2 in this part of the island, with gun emplacements built by slave labour all over the place.

I came to Gros Nez where there are ruins of a defensive chateau from the 1200s that never actually provided much defence against the French. The rain had eased off by now and I was on the northern coast proper. I kept walking until I reached La Greve de Lecq, enjoying fine views all the way. I was pleased to find I still have some cycling fitness and going uphill in places was not a trial, though generally the walk was reasonably flat. I was surprised to see a couple of very sandy golden beaches, patrolled, though nobody was swimming on this cooler weekday.

At La Greve de Lecq I actually had a sit down lunch in a restaurant, my first in Jersey. For £10 I got a half lobster salad and some Jersey Royal potatoes, as well as strawberries and cream. Very yummy.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Family History - Neolithic history

Woke this morning to a bit of thunder and could see
some lightning forking down in the sky! But it all
finished so I could go out walking some more.
Armed with a map that showed me where the road Les
Ruettes was, I set out hopeful that this morning I
would find the house called Les Ruettes where my Payn
ancestors lived. And it wasn't too long before I was
standing in front of their house. It has been much
altered over the years, with an extra storey added on,
but it was clearly the same traditional styled rural
house. I was glad to have made this contact with the
I next kept walking to get to La Hogue Bie. I have to
confess that I was completely ignorant of the fact
that Jersey has a rich and varied neolithic history.
At La Hogue Bie there is a mound covering a large
passage grave, which it is explained was more than
just a grave and had ceremonial uses. In the 90s it
was discovered that the sunlight at the equinox
reaches a far part of the passage. On the top of the
mound in the 12th century, a chapel was erected over
this place of pagan pilgrimage, turning it into a
Christian site.
During WW2, many forced workers had to come to Jersey
and German bunkers intrude on the mound. A memorial to
the workers is in the bunkers.
I decided to go to Jersey Archives in the afternoon to
put some of the family names into indexes to see what
turned up. What did turn up was an interesting book,
all in French, detailed various legal matters
surrounding inheritance. Then I checked a few
censuses. I found my great-grandfather at home as a
mariner a few years before he left for NZ. His father
was listed as a ship's carpenter and his mother as a
schoolmistress. I now have a reader's card for Jersey Archives!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jersey -shops and coast

Saturday I came into St Helier and went shopping for a change! I bought a Lonely Planet guide, -in English!- for Ireland. It confirmed what I had heard really, that Ireland is an expensive destination, so we'll see how we go.....St Helier was all abuzz with the England-Portugal game that was about to get underway. Sadly, I gather there were some riots in St Helier after England lost, but my camping ground is a whole world away in rural tranquility, though it may only be a few "miles" by bus.

Sunday morning I left the camping ground quite early as another hot day was forecast, and walked to Rozel Bay. Very gorgeous. The tide was quite low and I wandered amongst some of the rock pools and over some seaweed covered rocks. Then I headed uphill on a cliff path and soon found a coastal footpath which I followed around to Bouley Bay. It was a glorious coastal walk. I was reminded of some walks I have done with the Vinks around the harbour near Christchurch! I passed a rock called White Rock which reminded me a little of being at Cape Reinga, as currents seemed to be meeting near it (though it may have been an illusion with rocks under the water.)

At Bouley Bay I had some brunch, from a caravan run by Mary, a friendly woman with lots of life who made eating there fun. I must admit, I haven't eaten very well here in Jersey yet. Even a sandwich costs about $10 NZ. And I am pining for the lovely service in France. I am sure that hunger will soon get me over the expense/lack of service hurdles!

I walked back via the roads to the camping ground. I am getting used to their narrowness and listen well for where cars are coming from. I gather that the narrow roads are a legacy of the way farms used to be organised in the time of my ancestors anyhow so I can't complain. It is just a bit nervewracking if you are walking along a narrow road next to a rock wall with stinging nettle poking out wide!

In the afternoon I took a siesta as it was quite warm! I am reading a book called "Not quite British" which is enlightening about the kind of lives my rural ancestors led. They used to speak a Norman-French dialect. I hadn't known when this largely died out, but it seems that compulsory schooling, with the use of the dialect banned, had something to do with it. Sad echoes of what happened with the Maori language in New Zealand.

In the evening an English couple invited me out with them for a drive in their car, and I got to St Catherine's Bay, and Gorey, both very beautiful. I can't get over how very calm the sea is at present.

This morning I went in search of Les Ruettes, the house my great grandfather grew up in. Never actually found it, but it was an interesting walk that took me to a dolmen in Faldouet. I had some great help from a meter reader though so know another place to try tomorrow. For now, it is too hot again and I see another siesta in my future!

I took the footpath down to Gorey from Faldouet, grabbed some brunch and took yet another scenic route by bus into St Helier, past a rocky area that has become an internationally recognised marine reserve. This might be a small island, but it is very scenic, and a great bus service is a real aid to exploring even if you have no car.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Rozel camping ground

Yesterday I was up very early to leave Bonnelles at 6am with my friend who was on her way to work. We took a car to Orsay-Ville then the RER which I hopped off to join the metro to get to Gare Montparnasse for a trip to St Malo. I had no idea at this stage whether it was possible to get to Jersey the same day or not, but it all worked out and I am happily installed in the Rozel camping ground.

At St Malo a friendly bus driver helped me get off the bus at the right stop for a short walk to the ferry terminal. As my pack has a pile of Loire brochures etc I need to post home, as well as the 3kg tent at present, I was glad not to have to walk far!It wasn't too long before I was able to check my luggage through to Jersey, leaving me time to have a quick look around St Malo. The old town has been largely rebuilt after heavy bombardment in the war. The cathedral has a beautiful modern rose window. It also had an exhibition by a photographer, with text mostly from Acts teamed with photographs of where Paul passed on his last voyage to Rome. I found the exhibition inspiring.

The ferry sailing was very smooth and before I knew it, my clock was set back an hour and I was in an English speaking land! I wanted to go to Rozel camping ground as I knew it was near St Martin's parish where a family grave was. At the terminal I was told there were hardly any buses to St Martin's (not true: they run at least every hour in summer) so I took a taxi. Probably easier at that early evening hour I guess and I was soon happily esconced in my rural camping ground. The camping price is a shock after the cheap prices in France, but the people running the camp are absolutely lovely and I know I will enjoy staying there.

I had time in the evening still to make my way to St Martin's churchyard where I found the grave of my great great grandparents, Thomas Payn and Elizabeth Mourant. Maurice, a cousin, had videoed it some ten years ago so I knew what kind of headstone I was looking for. Very special to find it. It records the names of several children who had died young as well, a sad fact of those times.

This morning I was woken again by birdsong close above my head. It will be hard to get used to sleeping inside again after all this camping!