2011-2027: Zorba Repatriation And Unexpected Events

2011-12-: Preparation and Planning

Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd September 2021

Another early start to drop Jez back into Abacus for more work to be done … we coffee’d and walked locally into an Andover Park as we didn’t have the car.  Late afternoon arrival back at our usual 5 pitch C&CC site, Woodlands Farm.  

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Replacement rear view and reversing camera …  the last one had fogged over.  Driving a nearly 5 ton vehicle with no rear view is not ideal!

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Lots of resident deer at the farm … mostly Roe and a few Fallow.

The background to this trip is that cars can only remain in the UK for 6 months or they have to be imported.  6 months would be up at the end of October and we also had a load of belongings to take across to the house in Crete.  J’s consultant had not argued about us going to Ireland for J’s daughter’s wedding, but had said no to him travelling to Greece.  So he was going to stay home (in Jez) with CO2, whilst I took Zorba and stuff to Crete.

Zorba the Greek car was collected from the Aged P’s.  Well, eventually.  He didn’t want to start.  A new battery in May, so not that.  Jump started off the Merc.  No power steering.  Googled and apparently it is usual for electronics to go haywire on jump starting.  Switched off and jump started again … power steering worked this time.  Back at the Farm, he was then emptied and all the boxes re-sorted to reflect the fact that James’ heart surgery would mean us staying in the UK IN WINTER.  Then reloaded.  All the PLF and transit rules done and understood.  Route plotted.

Maddy, my daughter co-driver was put on the insurance.   Plan well and truly sorted …. Maddy and I would catch the late afternoon overnight ferry on 6th Sept from Ancona to Patras.  4 hours to do a 2 hour drive to catch the next overnight ferry to Crete, arriving early on 8th. Maddy’s boyfriend, Jordan, flying in on 10th.  All to fly back on 17th.  Friends rate my planning.  They’ve not met my mother or sister, who are scary when it comes to planning, but what could possibly go wrong?!

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Fully laden … no room for you Oscar!

2013: Refusual at the First Hurdle

Saturday 4th September 2021

Final check of all paperwork and in the afternoon I set off to collect Maddy from Farnborough.  Zorba wouldn’t start again, so another jump start and I took the jump leads with me!  I got quite adept at accosting men in car parks to allow me to jump start from their cars! … Tesco as I collected a prescription for J and then Halfords to buy a lithium jump starter pack.  This will be fine, really, honestly, I told myself.  We can just jump start our way across Europe!  Then once there, I’ll take Zorba into the garage to have starter motor and alternator checked.  

Maddy drove back down to Chichester to get used to a left hand drive manual car on the wrong side of the road and parked nose out so we could jump start it again!  We had supper at the Aged P’s as our Tunnel crossing not until 0230.  We thought they’d probably put us on the next available train if we arrived early, so we got in the car to set off …. awful grinding and whining noise.  Then deathly silence.  A similar noise to the last time Zorba had to be low loadered to the garage for new injectors.  Zorba really wasn’t going anywhere.  The whole point of the trip was get Zorba back to Greece and was refusing!  I was on the verge of aborting, until I looked at Maddy’s face … she and Jordan were really looking forward to a holiday.  Decision … a fast decision.  I’d take the Merc.  At least our stuff would get over to Greece and I could bring back some winter clothes, not that we have many!

If you’ve never tried emptying a roof box, removing it … fixing it to another car and reloading it in PITCH DARK …. don’t!  It really isn’t the easiest thing to do.  But we managed it and it did stay on!  The Merc’s seats down, the inside was filled to the gunwales.  Interestingly it is less capacious that the Skoda Roomster – aptly named.  Excess boxes and bags were relocated to the Aged P’s garage … despite their downsizing house move and being told they didnt have room to store our stuff!  Ooops!

Slightly frazzled we made it to the Tunnel in plenty of time and did catch and earlier train at 12.45 p.m.

2014: Tyre Pressure but not Tired

Sunday 5th September 2021

One of the benefits of travelling across the EU on Sunday is that most countries ban trucks unless they are refrigerated goods, so the roads are relatively empty.  Our route was toll free through Belgium and Luxemberg, re fill with cheap diesel, and then toll free through France to Basel.  Bought a vignette for Switzerland and used the free Gotthard tunnel during Sunday night.  As Maddy had not been put on the insurance for the Merc, I was driving overnight.  Once offices opened, we tried to get her on my insurance … no, my ex pat insurance will not cover anyone under 25.  No go with her insurance either as they won’t cover 3rd party on other vehicles if under 25.  We ended up paying for expensive day insurance that ran for 24 hours so she did a couple of good stints behind the wheel.

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 It got warmer as we moved south … layers were peeled off….

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… and hair tied back … the air con doesn’t work, so windows had to be opened.  I found another use for a mask to keep my hair from blowing in my face.

A few weeks ago we’d had a tyre warning light come on … nail … tyre repaired.  However, having inflated the tyres for a heavy load, the warning light came on again.  Every time we stopped, I was having to check and re-inflate.  Could anything else go wrong?

Having made good time with only a few nanny naps, we stopped in Como and had a proper restaurant supper.  Well deserved.  We had made such good time we had some big nanny nap stops that later that night.

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Maddy had pizza, but my swordfish with caponata was lovely.

2015-2116: Killing Time and Missing the Next Ferry

Monday 6th & Tuesday 7th September 2021

We had made such good time, having allowed for holdups …. but we even managed to get past Milan before the rush hour and so arrived in Ancona at 9.00 a.m.  We parked up at a Motorhome stop that J and I have used a number of times … formerly Auchan, but a few other shops and cafes.  Breakfast and lunch … Maddy clothes shopped, of course!

We drove down to the port mid afternoon.  Paid for our tickets … only to be told the online office had incorrectly used previously bought tickets, but it did mean we paid less than we thought.

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The ship was late in … they didnt send the the text offering me alternative dates until after we had sailed!

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All these trucks did eventually make it on board….

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… meanwhile, I consumed a few of these.  It was Cretan wine, after all.

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We treated ourselves to serviced dining … if you can call it that!  Linen table napery, but rubbish food and service and very expensive.  J and I have never eaten on board before as we’ve the dogs, but never again.  And the cabin stank of ammonia … obviously the toilet tanks needed cleaning out!  The food was almost enough to make you gag, but the cabin stink certainly was!

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Fortunately we’d brough our own brunch.

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With time to kill on the 22 hour crossing, we dyed our eyebrows!

The ship was 4 hours late into Patras so no hope of catching the next overnight ferry.  Oops … my carefully laid plan!  Before we docked, Maddy was onto a booking site and found us a beach hotel for about £50.  We had a lovely supper at a neighbouring restaurant.  A fraction of the price compared to onboard too.  Before we left the port, we found the Minoan office and rebooked our Pireas – Chania ferry for the following evening.

2017: Tourist Day

Wednesday 8th September 2021

The ferry from Pireas was less than 2 hours away and didn’t depart until evening, so we had all day to kill.  We thought about sunbathing …. but it was grey with showers.  Tourists, it was to be.  We drove up the mountains to Kalavryta to a holocaust museum.  I’d been before with J and the Aged P’s but had found it very moving.

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Video recordings of some of the now grown up survivors and girls told of their first hand experiences, making it very real.  Descriptions of how the women and children tried to identify their family and then dig graves with bare hands in the frozen soil, as all the tools had been destroyed when the Germans burnt the all the houses.  Just as moving as the first visit.

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View from the hill were the men and boys were mown down and now where many still lay.

 Maddy is rather fond of Corrie (Oscar too sometimes!) and wanted to see where we had found her.  I think she rather hoped we would see a close relative of Corrie that she could adopt … don’t know who she thought would look after it with her about to go off to Kings to do her Masters!  Fortunately, this time, Accorinth was bare of strays.

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James and I have stayed here twice later in the year so never seen it so dry.  It was about to close, so we only had a quick wander.

This ferry left on time AND the cabin did not stink.  And we’d taken our own picnic, so altogether a better and shorter crossing.

2018: Cleaning Day

Thursday 9th September 2021

We were up in plenty of time to have a coffee on deck and watch the approach into Chania port.  And with no more set backs, we were straight off and within 20 minutes we parked by our house.  Before we unpacked the car, we had to clean.  It had been empty since end April, but unwelcome residents had moved in!  Yep, stink worms and cockroaches again, especially in the basement where Maddy was to sleep.  So debugging and bleaching started at 0630!  Once Maddy’s bed was made, she climbed into it and I continued the clean moving up the house … she gave me a hand for the last bit and then we unloaded the car and roof box.

With the house pretty much in order, we had supper Almyrida with Gillian … lovely to try a restaurant that has been shut whilst we have been in residence during the winter.

2019-2024: A Holiday

Thursday 9th – Thursday16th September 2021

Jordan arrived the next day, so he and Maddy spent a few days sunbathing.  He is very fair (strawberry blond!) and used more than a tube of factor 50.  We went into Chania, I collected a ring a jeweller friend of a friend had replaced the stone.  I hired a car for Maddy for 2 days and they had an overnight in Rethmyno and visited Knossos Palace.  We ate out a lot … with friends, including a Sunday tea party in aid of animal charities: we ate our body weight in cake!  I also spent some time visiting car dealerships … after a summer forking our thousands on cars, we had decided we really do need a reliable car.  It needs to be Greek as we will be in Greece for more than 6 months each year and big enough to transport us and CO2 to and fro to the UK.  Short list of a Hyundai Kona and Suzuki Vitara … need to test drive and J to look at them in the UK.

On his own in the UK, J dog walked and waded through a pile of admin and jobs.  He had use of my sister’s car for a week and ate in a few pubs and at my parents … just as well as he’s a can’t cook won’t cook man.  I’d left him a few frozen soups and casseroles …. honest!

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 Almyrida with all the sun umbrellas out. 

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I got to walk and run one of our favourite local walks … Plaka head.

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On the way to one of my favourite restaurants, we stopped for a sundowner overlooking Almyrida.

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Chania.

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One of our meals in Eleanora’s.

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Maddy and Jordan flew out lunchtime on Thursday.  Think they had a good time, as they spent most of the previous day trying to work out how they could stay!  Having cleaned their room, I dined back up the hill with friends …. it really was fabulous to see friends after 5 months.

2025: The Return Journey Commences

Friday 17th September 2021

With the ‘children gone I completed the cleaning and got all my paperwork in order.  Rather hoping for an incident free trip as I was doing the return leg solo.

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I treated myself to a good late lunch in Chania at Salis restaurant which has been recommended by Ann … wonderful fish followed by two flavours of ice cream  Didn’t realise each was an entire pudding … I was offered two spoons lol!  Dill ice cream with strawberry jam and watermelon with pickled rind … both delicious.

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To save a little money, I’d booked an airplane reclining chair instead of a cabin … only an overnight crossing … medicine to help me sleep!

2026: Patras Tourism

Saturday 18th September 2021

Arrival in Pireas early morning and I drove to Corinth … I’d booked an antigen test there at 10.00.  I had a walk and beachside coffee beforehand.  Test was only EUR10, so a bargain compared the Kalives ones that Maddy and Jordan had had at EUR25 each.

Still with lots of time to kill, I drove to Patras.  Despite sailing in and out, we’ve never actually gone into the town centre.  I walked up a massive flight of steps to Patras castle … arriving as a sweaty puddle.  The first thing I did once on board was shower!  Fortunately I’d a cabin for this 22 hour crossing to Ancona.  Very few tourists, no British again and mostly truck drivers.  At Pireas the lorry loads were being clambered all over by a private security firm looking for immigrants.  I’d had to open the rear doors and boot.

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Patras Castle steps were right at the end of this boulevard.

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View from Patras Castle. 

2027: Mostly Bored On-Board

Sunday 19th September 2021

Straight off the boat in Ancona and I’d not had to show my double tax cert or even my passport.  More docs had to be presented from Crete to the mainland.  Being Sunday afternoon, I knew to expect traffic heading up to Milan and Como, but there were quite a few road works too.  I got my head down for a bit and then it was plain sailing back through the Gotthard Tunnel at just after midnight and Switzerland.

 

2028: A Good Run and a 3rd Ferry

Monday 20th September 2021

A pretty straight run up to Calais, with another cheap fuel stop in Luxemberg.  On one morning stop, I booked my day 2 Covid test, did the Gov PLF and booked the ferry.  Not used a Channel ferry in years as a) I remember lots of times where I felt sea sick (funnily enough don’t on the Greek ferries), and b) you have to leave the dogs in the car.  This time, I booked DFDS as it was a lot cheaper than the Tunnel at short notice and with a Flexi ticket I could turn up 72 hours either side of my booked crossing and be put on the next available ferry.

I arrived a day earlier than I’d booked and caught the 5.30 ferry. Again largely empty other than trucks.  The hour and a half passed really quickly as part of the Flexi ticket bonus is that I had a meal voucher.

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DFDS chicken curry free … as part of my ticket.  OK it was too … better than Minoan / Grimaldi!

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A meal with a view.

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Before I knew it, Dover in sight.

I got hauled over in Dover … why and where had I been.  Was this my car? etc.  I handed over V5, passport, Greek residency, Greek Tax number, Greek rental agreement and explained why and where I’d been.  He conferred with colleagues and checked my boot and I was allowed to leave.  

Back home to James and CO2 by 9.00 UK time.

So this return drive was just over 3 days door to door, with 3 ferries, 2 of which were overnight.  1125 miles door to door.  963 miles in 24 hours including nanny naps from Ancona to Calais.

Was it hard?  No, not really.  Audio books kill the journey.  More fun coming out with Maddy.

Would I do it again?  Yes, if need be.

Maddy and Jordan got a holiday.

We got most of our ‘stuff’ from the Aged P’s old house to Crete.

I saw some friends.

Failed on getting Zorba out of the UK  … Since our return the garage has established that the diesel pump must be disintegrating to cause the new injectors to fail and the battery was also not being charged …. so he is definitely for the scrap heap.  Not one of our better buys.

2006-2010: Shannon Back to the UK

2006: Oscar Disgraces Himself

Friday 27th August 2021

“Talking (at a distance) to the farmer’s wife she had also visited Fatima and goes there with fiends once a week to pray.”  Typo from the last post spotted by Mick P … couldn’t have been more unfortunate / inappropriate / ironic!  She was a lovely lady.

With another Covid test giving us the all clear and still having all senses of taste and smell, we left our sanctuary and drove to Clonmacnoise … another free for now Irish Office of Public Works site.  Not only are the ruins of the ancient monastery numerous and varied, they are also in a stunning spot over the Shannon.   It’s on the main tourist trail, but again Covid quiet for our visit. So important that the Pope visited and held a mass here in 1979.  Being the wet and windy Emerald Isle, a cover was erected over the specially made alter.  Oscar used it as a peeing post!

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We overnighted at Shannonbridge Marina.  We bought a waterways card giving us access to the toilets and chemical emptying.  Water was free all along the harbour, so I even did a washing load … stealth version where I keep the twin tub in the garage and the waste water (eco as I use soap nuts!) spilled directly into a drain, we had conveniently parked over.

We had a long chat with a chap called Joe (his email is JoefromIreland, wonder if he’s the only Joe in Ireland), who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure.  To avoid being prescribed drugs, he’d researched and come to the conclusion that a plant based diet could halt and even rectify most conditions, including heart.  Quite a draconian approach as one dr / guru / exponent even eschewed oils and nuts … not leaving a lot to add protein to your food.  We did consider it (briefly), but decided against … we like food too much.  However, we have added a lot of veggie and plant based meals to our diet.  We really notice a few lbs coming off when we have 4 veggies meals a week.  Those weeks where we eat out / eat a lot of meat … we put it back on!!!    Mindful of Joe’s advice, we ate out … if we’d wanted to go plant based our choices would have been limited to tomato soup … we chose chicken and salad!

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The old bridge across the Shannon from Shannonbridge Marina.

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Stunning by night!  But a pub next door and a few groups / parties on boats that continued until about 3.00 a.m. meant I had a bad night.  I also cleared up a load of glass bottles from the party goers … GRRR!

2007:  Ringdoon (Ringdoom), but no Gloom

Sunday 28th August 2021

We set off to walk a peninsula into Lough Ree containing a medieval castle and village.  We arrived and the land owner had closed the site!  The farmer had erected loads of No Dogs and then Keep Out signs.  We weren’t the only ones to arrive not knowing it was shut.  We parked in a nearby car park having a lot of landscaping work done for lunch.  And then as it was so peaceful and beautiful we stayed the night.  We walked to the nearby St John’s Wood, ancient woodland, being preserved.  And such a lovely evening, we moved the van a smidge and had a BBQ.

Another camper arrived and they joined us for a quick drink.  He is a teacher in Ireland and said he does no school work at all during weekends or holidays … either the Irish schooling is pants or he is a truly pants teacher … I’ve never come across one that could get away with confining the workload to weekdays during term time!

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Lovely and warm so time for a paddle.

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Judy’s Car Park.

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Peaceful spot to do some knitting … my knitting and unpicking notebook!

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BBQ spot.

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Double trouble snuggles.

2008:  A Distillery but no Purchase!!!

Sunday 29th August 2021

We headed to Dublin and stopped a Killbeggan distillery en route. They claim to be the oldest distillery in Ireland …. but upon being questioned by James … Yes, Bushmills were awarded their licence first, but Killbeggan started production earlier.  Killbeggan also stopped production and the the distillery was resurrected … of sorts.  It’s owned by another distillery, which is where the Killbeggan whiskey is made.  Using different water etc, it would NOT taste the same as the original.  And we didn’t think much of it anyway … we decided for the price, Dad would prefer a supermarket brand!!!  Very unusual for us to come away without a purchase.  

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One of the old pot stills … have a feeling this came from elsewhere…

We spent two nights at Camac Valley Campsite near Dublin.  We have used this site a lot, and like the big neighbouring park for running and dog walking.

2009:  Greyfriars and Family Meeting in Bray

Monday 30th August 2021

A short walk along the coast at Greystones … there is a coastal path all the way to Bray, which we will do one day.  

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Light lunch in Greystones.

Then a Covid distanced meeting with two of the brothers in the Lidl carpark at Bray.  Tom and Mary we had see at Sinead’s wedding, but John had only just flown in from Chicago.

 

2010:  Irish Tintern Abbey

Tuesday 31st August 2021

With the Rosslare ferry at stupid o’clock on the following morning, we drove south to Tintern Abbey.  First we stopped off to see Amelia, another sister … fab that we saw all but one of J’s siblings this trip.  Tintern Abbey was founded by the founder of the Welsh one.  He was crossing to Ireland in rough seas and prayed that if he was delivered safely, he old build an abbey where he landed. 

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 It was a lovely walk to the Abbey.

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I walked the labyrinth with Corrie, an evening habit I did on our Turkish lockdown campsite.

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Tintern Abbey … a lot of restoration going on, but due to covid the library was shut.

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Colclough Walled garden … lack of staff meant the numerous laden apple trees were not being harvested … visitors were encouraged to help themselves.

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A different route back.

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Oscar seems to have mastered the sideways head movement to get his sticks through.

The Tintern car park would have been ideal for an over night, but too far for our early ferry, so we moved onto St Helen’s.  What a fab spot.  We were joined y an Irishman in a Spanish registered van, his ferry was direct to Spain. 

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A ferry on the horizon … ours not until morning.

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Jez overlooking the harbour.

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I walked the coastal path in both directions … Oscar is camouflage hound.

2010: Homeward, but not quite.

Wednesday 1st September 2021

7.30 Ferry and managed to cat nap with our blankets on some benches.  As CO2 had to stay in the van, we stopped at the same car park in Fishguard on the way out and I took them for a walk.

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That’s the ferry we arrived on.

We overnighted at Stonehenge and the next day Jez was due into Abacus for work.

Only 2 weeks in ireland, but a great mix of family and travelling.  A great trip.

 

2004-2005: Covid Concern and Another Watery Pitch

2004: Portumna to Meelick Wier

Wednesday 25th September 2021

On the way towards Clonmacnoise, we stopped off at Portumna.  As we ended up spending longer here than planned, Clonmacnoise had to wait for another day.  Portumna was owned by English landlords and is therefore semi-fortified … God forbid that the natives should attack!   … they seemed to be related to every great British house … the list of marriages read like Debretts Peerage.  It was gutted by fire … a laundry room cause apparently … not the locals!  The Office of Public Works for Ireland, who very kindly waived all entry fees to their properties for the summer, have put a roof on (EU funding helped!) and have an exhibition about the family and castle inside.  The stable block is the restaurant so we have a lovely quiche and walk around the grounds with CO2.  There is an aire with services at the marina here, but it was choked and we hadn’t fancied being within 2m of the neighbouring motorhome, so we headed up river to Meelick

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Portumna Castle.

Meelick Weir proved to be another gem.  A car park right on the water.  A sunny afternoon so families were swimming.  A farm behind with a friendly farmer and wife.  A lot of work going on here … a new walkway at a cost of millions and the car park being given a coating of tarmacadam and big post with plants … J watered these.  In a few weeks the Taoiseach ({rime Minister) was arriving for a grand opening.  The weir was built originally to control the flow for that hydro power station that we couldn’t get into.

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The new weir … apparently it used to be much lower with boards and the farmer’s wife said the was always worried her kids would fall in.

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Corrie wasn’t impressed with all those holes, but she got used.  Interestingly the boards are the same as the ones we have for standing Jez on when the ground is soft … although Dad cut ours into 6  manageable pieces.

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Another pitch perfect, in fact so lovely we stayed another day.

2005: Portumna to Meelick Wier

Thursday 26th September 2021

Part of the decision to stay here was so we could isolate.  James 3 children had had negative PCR tests to fly back to their homes straight after the wedding.  Within days of arriving in Doha, Simon felt unwell … yep, Covid.  Had he caught it and spread it at the wedding?  Lots of guests had PCR tests … we had NHS antigen tests so we did one this morning and one the next day … fortunately everyone was testing negative.  Our biggest concern was that soon after getting back to the UK I’d booked to drive Zorba the Greek car to Crete with Maddy as co-pilot.  If we tested positive, we anticipated being stuck in a government isolation unit … and what would happen to CO2?  Fortunately … we didnt have it, but it was a worrying 2 days.

After our first negative tests, we walked to the Victoria Lock and then onto the narrower original canal and tiny lock.  Then in the afternoon we set off to St Francis Church – the oldest Catholic Church still in use in Ireland.  There was a statue from Portugla of Our Lady of Fatima … nice to join up dots … we’ve been there.  Talking (at a distance) to the farmer’s wife she had also visited Fatima and goes there with fiends once a week to pray.  

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Victoria Lock.  Actually had a lock keeper on duty.

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CO2 were unimpressed by this activity so close. Barking!

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St Francis Church and former monastery to the left.  I am not religious, but it really was a peaceful place.  The grave yard led down to the river front.

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Huge roof inside St Francis.  But really didn’t like the orange new wood of the pews and up by the alter.


2001-2003: Seeking the Source

2001: Irish Craic

Sunday 22nd September 2021 

Having filled our tanks we drove to the other side of Ireland.  It wasn’t the plan … that had been to do a trip down memory lane for J, going to places he’s lived.  But all good plans are sooo apt to change.  We drove over to Clarinbridge … family home of Shane.  Both bride and groom were staying there for a few days and Shanes Parent’s hosted a BBQ for friends and family.  Needless to say the booze and chat flowed … amazing hospitality. A guitar was presented to the chap who’d played at the wedding service and Tom, Shane’s father, got his accordion out.  Even James sang a little song!  Whilst we’d been given a lift to the house, we opted to walk with CO2 back the 1.5km to where Jez was parked.  We were loaned high vis and weaved our way back!  Amazing stars.  Craicing night.

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Lunch from a new motorway service station …  my munchy crunchy burrito …  j ordered chicken and chips and was given the wrong order … lots of soggy chips … YUK!

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Our pitch close to water at the Clarinbridge pub.

2002: Quin & Stop 1 Along the Shannon

Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th September 2021 

A slow start day!  We decided since we were over on the west, it made sense to follow the Shannon (longest UK river) back to its source.  But on the way to the Shannon, we stopped off at a small town called Quin … source of the Clunes in Ireland.  Originally from France, a lot settled here.

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Lunch in the Quin pub that was just opening.  OMG … I had the fish platter … it was just superb.  It was full of locals having their one meal of the day … huge portions and really reasonable prices … no wonder it was busy.

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Quin Abbey.

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J beside some Clune graves … some old and newer so Clunes still reside in Quin.  A lot of James and Catherine Clunes … oh dear!

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Quin Abbey:  walls still standing.

We decided to not to explore Limerick city.  Tried to see the massive original Irish hydro electric power station on the way, but it was currently closed to visitors.  But we did see the dams further up stream at O’Briansbridge.  I walked upstream upon arrival and the next morning we both walked downstream.

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Walks in either direction.

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Walking up stream to the dam.

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Canal and Shannon both converge.

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Pitch perfect.

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Local children had contributed to this Fairy Glen … said it before, but will say it again … In England I suspect this would have been vandalised.  

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One of the hump backed …. bridges, not James!  Built over tributary streams for the horses.

2003: Killaloe and Ballina

Tuesday 24th September 2021

A very SHORT drive up river to Ballina … a free carpark by a very busy open air pool. Whilst J rested, I walked the Tourist Trail.  Late afternoon we crossed over the bridge to Killaloe church … cant remember why the cross was special, but it was!  For such a tourist place, a dearth on Logh Derg (!) of places to eat … all fully booked, so back to the van for home cooked supper.  And look at that sky … it was super warm.  Shame it hadn’t been like this the day of the wedding.

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Looking across to Killaloe Church.

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Ancient bridge … the metal work in front of it was for fishing.  Lovely mellow hills all along our route.

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A railway was extended to service guests at a hotel on the banks of Lough Derg.  Local washer women staged a protest … unusual in those times.  They lay on the train track until a bridge over the line was built.

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Killaoe Church and Cross.

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In the absence of a meal out, we had this for pud.  Forgotten how good they are.  Ice cream and chocolate … what’s not to like?


1996-2000: An Irish Wedding

 1996 – Stupid O’Clock Ferry

Tuesday 17th September 2021 

Ferry booked Fishguard to Rosslare.  CO2 Passports updated with worming table and Irish Pet Advance Notice form submitted.  And just like that, we were off.  Arrived in plenty of time to walk CO2 and eat.  Ferry at 23.45, well past out bedtime!  Had to leave CO2 in the van but reckon they slept.  We took blankets up and after an ice cream for me (no surprises there) and a wine for J (equally no surprises!) we dozed on the benches in the bar.

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Great dog walking from free park up.  Local lady said quite a number of dog traffickers had been caught at Rosslare. View across to Port.

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Tourist Trap?  Possibly, but told motorhomes welcome and food reasonable.

1997 – Sleep

Wednesday 18th September 2021 

Landed at 4.00 am, Yes AM!  Drove to a park up … gate locked so onto Plan B … Murrintown Community Centre car park.  Perfect until about 6.30 … why do people need to hurl glass into recycling bins at this hour?  

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Murrintown Car Park … it was empty and QUIET when we arrived!  Despite the wafts of bacon form the butty van, we brunched chez nous.

We’d pre-booked a campsite not far from Sinead’s wedding venue …Moat Farm Camping.  A great site in that hard standing, views, dog walking nearby BUT at EUR25 pn, one would expect warm showers!  Fortunately, another guest tested them first so we showered aboard!

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View from our pitch.  Doesn’t it look damp?

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Local walk led me to a semi permanent pitch at the end of a long path … 4×4 needed.

1998 – OMG What Is This Wet Stuff!?

Thursday 19th September 2021 

An easy day … we walked up a hill … full wet weather gear adorned.  Primped a bit for the wedding the next day, me not James!  Just a hair trim for him … with the dog shears!

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Somewhat limited visibility … they don’t call this the Emerald Isle for nothing!

1999 – THE Wedding

Friday 20th September 2021 

Sinead had organised us a motorhome parking at the Rathsalagh Hotel … just had to get there!  We followed the hotel signs and I carefully negotiated the main entrance gate … wafers either side.  Got hollered at … you ain’t getting down there … there’s an arch … you’ll have to reverse and you can follow us to the MH parking.  By this time there were 5 cars backed up behind us … we were stopping other guests from arriving at the the wedding!  A bit of jiggling and cars got past, I reversed and followed the hotel van for about 2 miles to the ‘trade’ entrance!  Lovely chap complimented my driving skills with a ‘fair play to you’ … typical Irish understatement!

Parked up … usual wedding … drinks, lots of people to chat to … especially J’s other offspring and some siblings.  Lovely wedding … chapel with a friend playing and singing, great readings and band … 

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The day before outfits!  And real bonus was the M&S sale shoes at £3.99 … niece Zozo has her eye on these!

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J walked Sinead down the aisle.  Very special as we hadn’t known till Monday that we would make it.

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Wicked veil / train.

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J’s 2 sons Stephen and Simon annihilated Sinead in their speech … definitely X rated.

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Cake, bride and groom … all stunners.

The only incident was 25 mins of (cash up in flames) fireworks.  Knowing our Corrie doesn’t like storms and our gun dog (NOT) Oscar loud bangs, I left the display and went to check on CO2 … cushions and rugs completely disarranged!  

Given Sinead and Shane had not been able to visit the venue, this was the 3rd date rearrangement  … what a feat of organisational excellence.

 

2000 – National Stud … Not the Bride Groom!

Saturday 21st September 2021 

Breakfast at the hotel and a leisurely departure from friends and family.  We discovered Sinead had not made it to her suite last night.  Shane had spent a few hours of slumber alone.  Sinead was overheard explain to a chamber maid, whilst wearing an oversized Tshirt, that it was not what it seemed.  She had passed out in her brother’s room … honest.  Shane didn’t make it down for hours as his clothes had been mislaid.  J’s 3 other children headed off to Dublin for pre-flight Covid tests.

And we headed off to the National Stud.  A title aspirational English landlord threw money at the horse stud even giving  a winner to Royalty, and eventually got his peerage. Then left the Stud to the nation. 

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The grounds were stunning and you could smell the money.

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Current sperm donors and their fees … top billing is Invincible Spirit at EUR80,000 per shag!  Apparently the stallions have a very high success rate and it only takes minutes.  A quick recovery and they can ‘ service’ the next mare.  Some get shipped off to Australia  in the down season so sex all year round!  The window of opportunity, so to speak, is relatively short as owners don’t want young runners in the age bracket.

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Can’t see his wares, but he’s a stud!  Double railings keep the boys from brawling.

But for us the real joy here is the gardens.  As well as general the well tended and invested in air, there are two gardens.  Native species garden dedicated to a Saint, I forget which.  And a Japanese garden where you walk the 15 stages of life.
 
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With all the rain, this path was a mini steam.  Coordinated hopping by J and Corrie, neither of which appreciate wet feet.