29 September 2009

Bike Trip through North Clare

September hasn't been a bad month in Ireland compared with the summer we never had. So this afternoon, my husband and I set out on a bike trip around North Clare (the county we live in). First we went to Lahinch, a small seaside resort with a beautiful beach. Lahinch has in recent years become very popular with surfers.
We then went on via Kilfenora, home of the famous Kilfenora Ceili Band, and on to Lisdoonvarna, where the annual Matchmaking Festival takes place. It's actually on at the moment and the town was decorated with bunting. We were too early to witness any activities as most of the "dances" are taking place later in the evenings and at night. I've never been in one of the pubs or venues during the festival, but I found a nice video clip on YouTube (funnily enough from the BBC in the UK) which illustrates what the Matchmaking Festival is about:
Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
We carried on through the Burren to Ballyvaughan on the North Coast of Clare which forms part of Galway Bay. The panoramic shot shows part of the Burren with Ballyvaughan and the sea in the background.
We stopped at Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughan, a well-known pub and seafood restaurant for a bowl of seafood chowder and then took the coast road via Fanore to Doolin. Doolin is a famous tourist spot for traditional music and you can take a boat to the Aran Islands from here where people still speak Irish.
On the way back, we passed the famous cliffs of Moher which can be seen in the video clip about Lisdoonvarna and went back via Liscannor and Lahinch.
A nice round trip of over 150km. The weather was kind to us and the sun came out near the sea, so we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Photo 1: Our bikes in Lahinch in front of the leisure centre
Photo 2: View from the Burren towards Ballyvaughan and Galway Bay
Photo 3: I'm sitting on a wall by the pier in Ballyvaughan
Photo 4: Sitting inside Monk's Pub by the open turf fire
hoto 5: The boat going to the Aran Islands from Doolin

19 September 2009

On yer Bike!

One thing I've been meaning to write about is bikes. No, not push bikes, although I've always enjoyed cycling too. I mean motorbikes and anything on 2 wheels with an engine.
I've always loved bikes. As a teenager, I lived in Germany and as soon as I was legally allowed to, I got a "Mofa" at the age of 15. It looked like a little moped but the engine was restricted to 25km/h and you didn't need a licence for it. It was an ugly little red thing that often wouldn't start, but I loved it.
My second motorised bike was a moped restricted to 50km/h. A licence was required for riding it, but you were only tested on the rules of the road, and the insurance for these bikes was cheap. It was a shiny blue Peugot bike. I had it for several years.
Got my first car in 1975, but went back to cycling in 1977 as I'd moved to West-Berlin, a city with an abundance of public transport and great cycle routes. The only motorised thing I drove during the next couple of years was a Mercedes taxi for a living and to finance my studies in Berlin.
Around 1980, I took motorbike riding lessons and passed my test. A friend of mine had a Yamaha XS 650 for sale which I purchased. Now that was something else! I did a good bit of touring with that bike, but my most memorable trips were from Berlin to Ireland in 1982 and in 1984. Both times, I was the rider and had a boyfriend on the back of the bike. And both times, we made it back safely. I must have a rummage to see if I can find any old pics from the trip in 1984 as the bike was packed so high, it's a miracle the wind didn't blow it over.
When I moved to London in 1985, I reluctantly sold my lovely bike to a friend who subsequently crashed it only 3 months later :(
For years after, I didn't have a motorbike and didn't think I'd go back to biking as my daughter was born in 1987.
We moved to Ireland in 1997, and after a couple of years, my husband who had always had bikes, was talking about getting a motorbike again. I advised against it, but only a few weeks later, he bought an old Kawasaki Z900. He was so pleased to have a bike again and asked me to come for a spin. Reluctantly, I got on the back of his bike (only the 2nd bike I'd ever been on the back of one) and off the went. Well, we didn't get very far. After about 8 miles we stopped and I told my husband that I wasn't at all happy on the back of his bike. When he suggested that I should get my own bike, I just laughed...
3 weeks later, I'd purchased a Kawasaki 400cc Eliminator and felt great. We went on a few outings and a couple of times I took my daughter on the back of the bike. That's when I noticed that the 400cc engine wasn't really up to much as the weight of 2 people slowed it down. I mentioned this to my husband who suggested upgrading, but I couldn't find anything I liked at the right price.
Sometime later, my husband mentioned that he'd seen a great bike for me in Galway but wouldn't give me any details. So off to Galway we went, and then I saw it:
A dream of a bike, next best thing to a Harley: it was a cruiser, a huge Suzuki 1400cc Intruder. I have to admit, it was love at first sight, but I told my husband that the bike would be far too big for me. And too expensive. But I went for a test ride down the road...and the rest is history.
That bike I rode for several years. Did a lot of shorter trips in Ireland with it and went to to the Continent in 2004 via France, Luxembourg, Germany, Holland and Belgium. A mammoth trip of 3500km in 15 days or so. My husband had upgraded his bike as well and rode on his own motorbike.
In 2006, I had a lot of problems with tendonitis and decided that the Intruder was getting too heavy for me. Riding it on the Continent would've been fine, but the Irish roads are fairly bad and very narrow and winding especially in the countryside, not the ideal roads for a big heavy cruiser. So for the first time, I downgraded and went for a scooter. What? A scooter? you might say. Well, actually, the Yamaha Black Max 500cc is classed as a hybrid as it looks like a cross between a bike and a scooter. Very zippy with fairly big wheels and a sleek appearance, I liked it immediately.
We travelled to Germany via England in the autumn of 2006 with 2 bikes and had a great time.
However, a couple of years ago, I decided to give up biking in Ireland. The main reason for this was that there are so many lousy drivers on Irish roads and that so many bikers get killed in this small country. For various reasons, we were considering moving to the UK again, and there, I thought, I'd be able to get back on my bike.
That was before the recession and now we can't even think about moving as the housing market in Ireland is dead and selling our house at a decent price would be impossible.
So all the while, my poor Black Max was gathering dust in the garage and I couldn't bear to think of it. In addition, my husband was walking around with a long face every time the weather was nice (which is rare enough here), as we couldn't both go for a spin on our bikes.
So this week, 2 years after making my decision not to ride a bike in Ireland anymore, I changed my mind and registered and insured the Black Max again. And for the first time in 2 years, we went out for a leisurely spin in the Irish autumn sun! Lovely!
Me and my Yamaha 650 XS in 1981 approx.
My Suzuki 1400cc Intruder
Me and my Black Max taken in Kilkee, Co. Clare, today 19.09.09.

Dillyeo Inc.

12 September 2009

Climbing to the top of Mullaghmore in the Burren

Yes, I was in the Burren again. Those of you who have read my previous post on the Burren will know what I'm talking about.
Well, as I've mentioned on various occasions, we had no summer again in the West of Ireland for the third year running. For the last 3 months, from the beginning of June to the beginning of September we had rain every day. Not necessarily for the whole day, but we had some rain every day. Very frustrating!
And then, 4 days ago, the sun came out. Normally it comes out when the kids go back to school, but this year it was delayed by a week. But now our summer is back, or should I say it started in the autumn? We've had a pleasant 17 to 21 degrees today, warmer in sheltered spots, blue sky and sunshine, yippee!
So I donned my walking boots, grabbed a couple of my dogs and set off for the Burren. I expected to see a good few people out walking, but it was very quiet. Many people would have spent this Saturday at the seaside after such a rainy summer.
I'm not usually overstruck with what our local council does, but they actually did a good thing by marking out some walkways in the Burren. Previously, you had to find your own way which was fun, but you could easily injure yourself when walking over the rocky ground, especially when you were trying to walk over grass and shrub covered rocks. Many a time I've slipped and nearly twisted my ankle as the rocks are very slippery when wet.
Not so today. There was a little bit of mud in places, but most of the path was dry. Now, this is not a walk to want to do without proper hiking boots, but if you're kitted out and fairly fit, you can master the walks they've marked out. They are between 4.5 and 5.5km long.
For the first time in several years, I climbed to the top of Mullaghmore today in beautiful sunshine. I met a couple of people coming down from the mountain, but nobody else was going up and I had perfect solitude when I reached the top, a wonderful experience. And looking around, I couldn't see a single soul except for my 2 faithful hounds who'd accompanied me.
Pity my photos cannot portray the peaceful silence up there, nor can the camera really show how high up you are on Mullaghmore (I think you're climbing 140 metres in height between your starting point and the top of the mountain).
Enjoy the pictures! This time I've included a picture showing the "Father Ted House" in the distance, nestled among the hills around Mullaghmore in the vicinity of the village of Kilnaboy, Co. Clare.


09 September 2009

Internet connection still up the creek

Unfortunately, my internet connection is still up the creek and I haven't been able to get online at all since last night. Will they ever fix this?
I'm really stressed out and I'm sitting here in my vehicle in town with my netbook on my lap dealing with my emails. Needless to say, I'm not in the right frame of mind to post to my blogs.
More to follow as soon as I can access my internet from home again.

05 September 2009

Netbooks save PC industry from collapse

Do you own a netbook?
I bought a netbook at the beginning of 2009 as I though it would be handy for carrying around when I'm out and about, rather than carrying my much heavier laptop.
I must admit, I'm still delighted with it (Samsung NC10). I'm a real gadget fan and like my mobile phones and computers, but I'm not as keen on the latest smart phones and touch screen phones as I used to be as many of them are awkward to use:
Maybe the font is too small and can't be adjusted, or the touch screen makes usage more time-consuming, or writing emails is long-winded as you have to use T9 or regular texting. Some of the phones have QUERTY keyboards, but they are so small that you can't type on them.
The netbook, however, has it all in my opinion:
You can type on their keyboards and send emails easily, you have a fairly decent size screen for using the internet and can watch movies without ruining your eye sight. In addition, the current generation of netbooks run on Windows XP. This takes up less space than Vista and is more reliable. And with the advent of Windows 7, netbooks will really come into their own.
I don't have to rely on my phone for emails anymore when I'm out and about as my netbook boots up in seconds and with the help of my broadband modem or wireless hotspots, I can have internet access in most places.
Looks like many people have similar requirements, as the netbook has saved the ailing PC market:
Netbooks save PC industry from total collapse

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02 September 2009

Muhammed Ali looking for his roots in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland

Yes, Muhammad Ali was in Ennis yesterday and I missed this once in a lifetime chance to see "The Greatest". He was a sporting hero and famous boxer, then called Cassius Clay, when I was a child in the 1960, and he's still a name that most people are familiar with. He visited the Turnpike in Ennis for the first time in his life to look for his Irish roots.
Mind you, to catch a glance of him would've been rather difficult as there must've been thousands of people packed into the county capital for this special occasion.
I had of course been aware of his visit to Ennis (10 miles from where I live), but I'd already booked a short but well needed break in Northern Ireland), so I wasn't around when he came to Ireland.
Here's an article from the RTE News about Muhammad Ali's visit to Ennis:
Ennis honours Muhammad Ali