On the good ship Gráinne Mhaol

The Mooloolah river flows into the Coral Sea just south of the seaside town of Mooloolaba. In its final half kilometre it wraps around a spit, enveloping the boats anchored in Mooloolaba Marina that stick out into it on hundred-metre-long arms. On arm C of the Marina is a thirty-five-or-so foot yacht called the Gráinne Mhaol (pronounced Grawnya Wail) owned by our Irish friends Karl and Kara. Knowing they were heading off on an Antarctic cruise in the new year, we asked them around Christmastime if they needed someone – knowing full well they didn’t –  to housesit the Gráinne while they were away. Magnanimously, they played along and said that’d be great, actually. We could keep an eye out in case anything happened while they were away, like a plague of bluebottles or a shower of cane toads.

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Pandanus, Alexandra Headland Continue reading

A little piece of Greece in Bloomsbury

Our travels took us to London this past weekend, and to a part of town we weren’t at all familiar with: Angel. Sandwiched between the City Road and Regent’s Canal, our Airbnb place at Theseus Place took us along the calm waters of the canal with its colourfully inhabited barges each time we came and went to Angel tube station, even if the place itself lacked ‘street appeal’. To judge by the posters and books inside, though, the Frenchwoman who owned it was obviously a big Star Wars fan, so we felt the force was with us the whole weekend.

Eoin at the Parthenon Sculptures, British Museum
Eoin at the Parthenon Sculptures in The British Museum

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To Kingdom Come

We looked on Couchsurfing recently for options for a two-day midterm break stay somewhere in Ireland, and Bert from the Netherlands got back to us. He lives just outside Abbeyfeale, in the county of Kerry, or ‘The Kingdom’ as they like to call it down there, so we thought: why not? That was far enough away to make it worthwhile going for the Sunday and bank holiday Monday, and there’d be plenty of things to see en route, so we accepted, and he confirmed, and that was that. We were going to stay in Bert’s cottage just over the Kerry border with Limerick, barely a stone’s throw from the river Feale.

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

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Camping trip in Poland

Here’s a short piece I wrote for the Irish Times amateur travel writer competition recently. We’d just come back from Poland, so it seemed like a good idea to write about that.

Camping near Weba
Camping near Weba

Only a few hours of daylight were left to us – Maciej and his wife and two kids; me and mine – as we set off into the countryside for the start of a week-long tour of Pomerania, in northern Poland. Within ten minutes we had cleared the suburbs of Kołobrzeg, the large resort town on the Baltic coast in which we’d spent the last week as guests of Maciej and his young family. Everyone was glad to be on the road at last, and the crack was good on board. Continue reading

Family trip to Berlin

After leaving Zakynthos we flew to Berlin via Athens.  Not the quickest way to go but the cheapest option we found at the time.  We flew with Aegean Airlines who were surprisingly good with 23kg of luggage and meal included. We’d chosen to stay in a small pension-hotel in Charlottenburg- Wilmersdorf because of its excellent TripAdvisor reviews, its decent price, and the fact that it was a single bus ride from Berlin Tegel airport.  The ease of getting to your hotel via public transport is always something I take into account, as our kids are too small to be able to lift their own luggage up and downs stairs or on and off trains and buses. Hotel-Pension Bregenz was on the fourth floor of a six-storey building on a quiet street just near Olivaer Platz, south of Kufurstendamm.

We took it pretty easy and spent quite a bit of time just wandering about. Some of our favourite experiences were: Continue reading

The Peloponnese – Monemvasia and Elafonissos

In part two of our trip around the Peloponnese we went to Polilimnio and the Mani.

It was time to leave the Mani even though we’d only had time to see a tiny part of it. We headed south to Areopoli and through the mountain pass towards Gytheio with a quick swimming stop at Mavrovouni beach along the way. Arriving in Gytheio just before lunch, we planned to eat at one of its famous harbourside fish tavernas.  But it was still a little early so we set off to explore Marathonisi, a one-time island, but now connected by a mole to the mainland.  There was an intriguing-sounding Museum of the Mani that occupied an 18th-century tower house that we’d hoped to visit, but alas, it was closed.  In ancient times this little island was known as ‘Kranae’, and according to Homer it was here that Paris and Helen of Troy spent their first night after running away from Sparta. We chose a taverna for lunch and sat at a waterside table where we could see the little fish feeding on the mossy rocks. After a meal of kalamari, mussels and a rocket salad it was time to get in the car and continue towards Monemvasia. Continue reading

The Peloponnese – Polilimnio and the Mani

In part one of our trip around the Peloponnese we went to Ancient Messene, Pylos and Methoni Castle.

After two nights it was time to leave ‘sandy Pylos’, as it was called by Homer. We were going to head east across Messinia, go straight through Kalamata, and then drive south down the second finger, the Mani peninsula. The Peloponnese is surprisingly compact to someone used to the vastness of Australia but we quickly found that the correlation between the kilometres we drove and the time taken to drive them had a less than linear correlation.  Main roads can be tortuously windy with secondary roads lapsing into a single lane in places. Add to that the presence of two potential pukers in the back seat and our progress was slow. Continue reading

Zante’s French connection

Of all the nationalities I could have been if I wasn’t Irish, French would have suited me best. That has nothing to do with my French-sounding surname, which actually comes from a far-flung corner of county Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, but rather from the affinity I’ve pretentiously felt with the language and – oui – the culture since I was young. I did French in school, liked it, did well at it, read some French books, and really got into French cinema, especially if it involved nudity, which it usually did. To this day, my favourite movies include “Le Boucher”, “Diva”, and “Rififi”. Some days here on Zakynthos, I feel like I’m starring in my own Marcel Pagnol adaptation, like the père in “La Gloire de mon Père”.

The Venetian bell tower of Ágia Mávre, Kilioménos

The Venetian bell tower of Ágia Mávra, Kilioménos

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