It’s been a while and I’ve been missing writing here. I’ve plenty to tell you about, so many places in Ireland and elsewhere, I want to share with you.
But first, if you don’ mind, I thought we could look back on last year. I’ve made some great travel memories and discoveries at home and on the European continent. I really want to document them here.
Without further ado, let’s jump in my 6 favourite travel moments of 2017!
CROSSING THE MARGARET BRIDGE AT DUSK
It was a cold January evening in Budapest and I was crossing one of the city’s many bridges to get to the Buda side. I was hoping to get night pictures of the Hungarian Parliament there. I was working against the clock and rapidly losing light so I stepped up my pace, blinded by the cars’ headlights coming my way. It was rush hour, the city people were eager to get home.
Underneath my feet, the Danube was flowing steadily, taking in its stride numerous ice patches. A frozen Danube, an extraordinary sight to behold I was told.
Despite, the traffic noise, I could hear voices coming from under the bridge, I looked over the handrail and to my utter amazement, two locals were having a casual conversation, standing on a giant ice sheet in the middle of the river. Uh?! I waited a few seconds to see if anyone needed help but they carried on talking like they always meant to be there.
I looked up and as the sun just hid behind the horizon, it set the sky ablaze with a thousand pink shades. Despite the biting cold, I removed my gloves and placed them in my faux-fur coat, retrieved my camera from my bag. For each step I took, I snapped a picture of this view for the sky was quickly changing and the parliament buildings were glowing brighter and brighter.
Buda felt like a distant memory, I didn’t care about getting to the other side of the bridge anymore nor about losing any sensation in my fingertips. What mattered was there and then, and that magical pink sky.
CELEBRATING BLOOMSDAY IN SANDYCOVE
2017 was the year I finally ticked off the big Dublin touristy events. It only took me 9 years, go me. I saw the St Patrick’s Parade in the capital for the first time and in June, I celebrated Bloomsday. Bloomsday, for those of you who never heard it, happens every 16th of June, it’s a day where Dubliners relive the events of the day depicted in James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s a brilliant way to experience the book, even if you’ve never read it, and also get to the very essence of the city.
On that day I took the Dart to the seaside town of Sandycove and Glasthule. This is where the opening of Ulysses takes place, in the Martello Tower. You could argue that taking a train to a Dublin’s seaside neighbourhood could hardly qualify as a travel memory but to me, discovering that a local gem can create wonder in your heart at home is worth a million memories made on the road.
Sandycove is pretty much a postcard village but on Bloomsday, it turns into something quite electrifying. Chairs and tables are laid on the main street, set up for the annual lunch. People of all trade and ages are dressed in early 20th century garbs. Horses dragging carts, are clippety-clopping on the macadam. Ladies are adorned with wide-brimmed hats and Edwardian dresses, men wear tiny round glasses and elegant boaters. It’s astonishing how many true James Joyce doppelgängers roam the streets on that day! My own boater in hand, I ascended the path to the Martello tower, surrounded by a group of women in billowy white dresses. Midway, I stopped at the Forty Foot creek to admire the brave swimmers. Despite being the month of June, it’s nowhere near swimming weather in Ireland.
Once inside the Martello, we all squeezed ourselves at the windy top of the tower, listening to Ulysses read by actors and looking out to ‘the sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea‘.
WANDERING IN THE EMPTY GARDENS OF THE NEW CASTLE OF ANSEMBOURG
As soon as I walked under the baroque gilded gate and laid my eyes on the rose garden, I knew I was in for something special. It was a humid Summer afternoon and my Dad and I were road-tripping across Luxembourg. On our way to the capital city, we stopped at the New Castle of Ansembourg to stretch our legs. Luxembourg is very much known for its castles and I could not pass up seeing one of them. This 17th century beauty does not allow visitors inside unfortunately but the gardens are free to roam. So many features enchanted us that afternoon: the mysterious hedge tunnel at the back of the land, the golden eagle fountain, the maze, the elegant white-marbled statues standing tall on the garden’s avenue, a bicentenary tree (the tallest in Luxembourg!) and of course, the fragrant rose garden.
HIKING IN GLENDALOUGH
Another ‘big Irish thing’ I ticked off last year was Glendalough. Despite being one of the most visited Irish sites, this valley in county Wicklow was terra incognita for me. The reason was the sole bus service only does one return trip a day there and I thought it would frame the exploring to a tight schedule. So last Summer, I decided to rent an Airbnb for a few days in the area. Perfect plan, right? Yes perfect plan if it wasn’t for the fact that it was kind of a hike already to get to the starting point of Glendalough’s several hiking trails. I completely believed in my capacity to go from couch to 20km a day. Eh, no. Needless to say that Day 2 was a rest, I-can’t-move-from-the-bed, day. But the following day I was thankfully back on my feet. Even though it took me a few attempts, I finally ascended the climb that starts at the mining village on my last day. This glorious view over the lake (and the fragile sense of achievement for little couch potato me) was of course worth any stiff legs and wobbly knees. I want to do it all over again already!
ADMIRING LADIES VIEW IN KILLARNEY
Back in September, a friend came to visit from Belgium and we embarked on an epic road-trip across county Kerry. This was truly the nicest surprise! One of the many, MANY, highlights of this trip was to finally see, with my own two eyes, the view that had adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom. Ladies View in Killarney National Park. I had blue-tacked a postcard of this majestic landscape at the foot of my bed and every time I looked at it, it would lift my heart. For me, it encapsulated everything I had hoped to find in Ireland.
Fast forward to last year, the daydream became a reality and it didn’t disappoint. It can get tiring to live in Dublin, what with its constant business, its high cost of living, its grey weather but that such treasures are on my doorstep (or a bit further), it is pretty special. Now could we a have a decent transport system across the country please?
WATCHING THE SUN SET ON THE DOURO RIVER
Oh Porto… sigh… if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I’ve got a mad crush on Lisbon. Well, it turns out Porto had a similar effect on me, granted they’re very different cities with different atmospheres. On the first evening of my trip to Porto back in November, I already had stars in my eyes. My feet had naturally carried me to the banks of the Douro River (Douro means Gold in Portuguese… the Golden River, how poetic!). I crossed the Dom Luis I Bridge and sat on a bench on the Vila Nova de Gaia’s side. From there, I watched the sun set on Porto, on its colourful house blocks. The sky lit up in vibrant colours for the last day’s hurrah. The weirdly out-of-place looking local boats were coming back to port. Above them, thousands of seagulls were hovering in a synchronised sway. Apparently, I like a sunset!