29 October 2011

in a day's work

Sometimes being a nanny is a hard slog. This new job comes with some impressive and persistant tantrums. Seems to be tied into learning how to deal with his emotions and how to express himself. This week has been full on. Being half term holidays means full days for me.

But of course there are perks, good times, fun and cuteness. Today we had some yummy fun making gingerbread men...and women...and monsters...and snowmen. ^^

Being a nanny is a great option if you want to get paid to play, be silly and have fun baking yummy treats.

24 October 2011

slotting into London life

The past week has been a busy one. Work as usual. I had a couple of full days as the almost 3yo boy has started his half-term break from nursery. All next week will be full days too. I'm already looking forward to next weekend. He's finally off his second lot of antibiotics and is in a lot better state than he has been since I moved in. Hopefully now we can actually start bonding and finding our places with each other. It's been nice to see what I've been told is his normal self and to hear him laughing. A full week with him will be good for us two I think.
I've also been connecting with people in London. I caught the bus and went to a knitting group on Thursday night which I enjoyed. It was nice though a little hard to have conversation with anyone who wasn't sitting next to me. Apparently the pub was a lot fuller than normal so the clatter of voices was louder. Friday night I met a friend from my Scotland tour and we went to the book club together that she goes to. There was about eight girls there, loads of delicious food and wine. It was a good night apart from being tired from a long day. The girls were quite lovely and some are into crafty stuff too. Saturday afternoon I went to Camden Markets which were huge and packed and lots of great stuff you can buy. I'll definitely have to go back. Probably more than once as a few hours just isn't enough to see it all. I bought a lovely blue hemp skirt and was tempted by loads more. Probably a good thing I didn't have cash on me. I did buy a mini London book map though as I keep going to places that are just off the folded map I have.
Today I'm relaxing as the coming week will be another busy one. But for now, I'm off to see if I can find some sneakers that don't have holes where they shouldn't. I should soak in a little sunshine too as this week's predicted to be wet and cool.

17 October 2011

playing dodgem-people

Saturday was a sunny day and not too cold so I decided to walk to Oxford Street. It was one of those things on my mental London-to-do list. Oxford Street is a major shopping area of London and apparently millions of pounds are taken in this area daily. Some extreme like that anyway. It's a pretty straight forward walk from my place. Once I got to Bayswater Rd I just headed toward the city until it turned into Oxford St. It took an hour or so and then I roamed for most of the afternoon.
I did a little shopping. Got some nice tops for myself but mostly bought bits and pieces for presents. Got a few family birthdays coming up. It was a sight to see. I went into Selfridges just to look. I'd been told it is quite glamourous and that is true. I only strolled through the first floor. Mainly I just looked around to see what was here. I got some lunch from M&S foodhall and went and sat in the sunshine at Soho Square. You could not walk straight down this street. Honestly, it's the most packed with people I've seen any area of London. I noticed this more when I caught the bus home. From the top deck it was more noticeable.

04 October 2011

ireland road trip

So I picked up my hire car from Dublin airport and after paying more than I expected in extra costs, stressing about getting out of the airport and away from the city without going through the toll (thankfully made easier with a GPS--though interpretting it's 'turn left' at the right spot was an annoyance) and heading into the countryside, I was smiling. Ooo, how I loved being behind the wheel again! It'd been 7mths since I'd driven and I'd missed it. It felt so good to be cruising the country roads, taking a detour as I pleased and seeing places I wouldn't have if I'd stuck with public transport.
I decided to stop by Loughcrew Megalithical Cairn where I ate my lunch and then walked up the hill. It was a bit windy but it was great to see the green fields sprawled across the landscape. I couldn't resist spreading my arms and exclaiming with a laugh, "I'm in Irleand." It was good to be back and know I had five and a half days before me to see it properly this time. I walked up to Carnbane East and had a look at the interesting rock set ups. It's a tomblike place though I don't think it actually is. But apparantly at the spring and autumn equinox at sunrise the sun shines at just the right angle onto a rock at the back that has carvings all over it. But you know, it's rocks. Not quite like the ones I'd seen in pictures though. I think I missed the main photographed ones in Ireland because I didn't have time that day to make a detour. These, and the walk, were a nice start though to exploring the country.
I continued to make my way over to Ballina and met my host who was in a hurry to get ready for work. I got ready too because I was going along. She works at this new museum that is being set up which is a collection of bits and pieces from Irish history. This night there was an event on as it happened to be Cultural Night (which apparently is a nationwide event). So I was introduced to her friends and workmates and shown around. One of her best friends kept me company most of the night as my host ran around as photographer for the evening. I decided I like Bailey's Irish Cream, looked around at the different artifacts on display, listened to some speeches and particularly enjoyed the live irish music that was playing downstairs. And just my holidaying luck (I seem to keep being places where significant things are happening), the Taoiseach (pronounced something like T-shark, the prime minister of Ireland) came to give a speech. I was introduced to him afterwards, specifically with the mention of me being from Australia, and had my photo taken with him. Ha. Amused. I seem to keep being places at eventful moments in my travels.

I most loved the hour approaching midnight when everything went an easy casual. People started to sit around the musicians and join in. People were performing random solos; someone sang a song, a girl played her flute for a song, another guy sang a song (people joining in for the chorus), another lady sang and played guitar, etc. Very communal feeling. It was great. And I saw a guy play the spoons. Like really play them; not just tap them together. It was great. My host was just fabulous too. She was so nice and frequently made sure I was ok and enjoying myself. Very hospitable. It was a great couchsurfing experience. My only awkward moment was having to wake her to say goodbye when I need to leave midmorning the next day.

I was driving along one of the highways when I spotted a sign for the Museum of Country Life which someone had told me about the day before. So since I was passing by I took the detour and happily spent more time there than planned. It was set out in lovely gardens/woodlands and I wandered around a little before I actually found the museum building that was around the back of the estate. This museum was a display of country life (obviously) that existed right up until the 1950s or so. They were so resourceful. They handmade just about everything they needed and used what they could get their hands on. It was interesting to see how they did things and got what they needed. I was fascinated by all that they made using just straw; furniture, rope, bridle and saddle and reins and more. They also used reeds, heather and willow. I also found a huge spinning wheel and saw a short video of napping which I'd never heard of before. (It's a method to roughen and treat fabric to make it warmer and more waterproof.) In the 'education rooms' there was a whole bunch of women knitting and spinning so I went in to have a look. I chatted with a lady who said they all got together once every two months to craft together. We talked about dyeing because that's what they'd done last time and I found out that the 'fruit' around the walnut and shell is the best source of brown dye.
Eventually I decided I better get going so I could find my hotel in the little town of Liscannor in time. I enjoyed listening to the radio while cruising along...and creeping along too. A lot of the roads in Ireland are just wide enough for two lanes, one for each direction. There's no edge to pull over on. You have to wait till you find a spot to pull over if you need to. I was glad I had the GPS because it would have been hard to navigate by myself with just the map. The roads were quite windy too which I didn't mind driving except when I kept catching up with drivers who were being suuuper cautious. Some sections I drove a lot slower than I comfortable could have. Night arrived this day in just such a circumstance. I'm not sure if the GPS took me on the road I'd planned to take but it was an extra windy road where I was stuck behind the head of a random convoy that slithered slowly up and then down. By the time I made it to my hotel it was almost 9pm. Bit of a pity really because my room was delightfully fancy compared to what I usually end up with and it made me feel glamourous. I even got choc chip bikkies with the drinks welcome basket. It was great to be able to access the internet from my room there. I got up at 5:30am on Sunday to go online and talk to and see my family, especially some of my nieces and nephews, back in Australia. Then I went back to sleep for a few hours and didn't end up leaving till almost noon.

I backtracked slightly to the Cliffs of Moher which were quite a sight. Pity it was a little hazey though. The sun did come out momentarily and it didn't rain really so at least I was able to view it comfortably. I took lots of photos and wandered back and forth. I thought it looked great but it would be an amazing view on a clear sunny day. I had in mind to sit out here somewhere and just enjoy it but it's one of those tourist destinations so there was lots of people around. Whilst I did linger I didn't kick back and relax like I had planned. Not that it was really the weather for that anyway.
By the time I got in the car and started south again, I decided I needed to head straight for Killarney where my next hotel was booked. The sun came out while I was driving and I wound my window down and took a slight detour to go a short scenic route around Spanish Point and then followed the GPS toward my destination. I toyed with the idea of driving around the inlet which would have added quite a bit of time onto my journey as I was a little concerned about the process of getting on the ferry. But the GPS took me right past the pick up point and I could see that I hadn't yet missed the once an hour ferry I opted to take it without thinking. This ferry, across the River Shannon, was very straight forward to use. Drive on and park and pay the guy that comes to your window. It was the first time I'd ever driven on to a ferry though so there was a feeling of childlike glee at another 'first'. It was only a 20min crossing and then I was driving again. I found my hotel in Killarney easy enough and it wasn't far from the centre of town. After settling in I walked to town and around a bit. Shops were open late and there was plenty of people about. Seemed to be American season as there was the USA accent coming from a significant amount of people--not just here but in all the touristy places. I ended up going to the cinema which I'd seen on my way to the hotel. I was in the mood for chick flick/comedy so I went and saw Crazy Stupid Love which had been raved about on the radio. While there were a number of scenes that I cringed at, overall I was quite entertained. Yes, life can be crazy messy but it does go on.

On Tuesday the weather was a bit patchy so I decided to switch my walking idea with a driving one and see if the weather would, per chance, be any better the following day. So I drove around the Dingle Penninsula. It did rain on and off too so I didn't particularly stop anywhere--not for long anyway--just once I got to the point where there was a scenic stop. There I decided to pull out the watercolour pencils I'd been carting around with me and actually use them. I sketched without water though as I stayed sitting in my car and didn't want to bother getting too messy. My sketch was based on the view you see below. Nothing particularly fabulous but I haven't done any drawing in a while I probably prefer to draw more from my imagination with perhaps some inspiration rather than copy what I see. Eventually I continued on around the penninsula and back to Killarney.

This evening was a bit wierd. I wandered into town again but the atmosphere wasn't the same. But of course, it was Monday. I should have gone to have my pub meal the night before when it was still the weekend and more lively. I feel so silly and odd going into a pub by myself. I eventually stopped thinking about it and just went in. (The offer of Bailey's Cheesecake helped.) I did still feel awkward but I sat down and ordered the cheesecake and some Bailey's as well. It was sweet on my tastebuds. Mmm. Then I went and ordered some soup. He he. Fun to have tea backwards. The soup would have been quite enjoyable too except it really was over salty. Oh well.

Tuesday I checked out early and drove southward stopping at Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park as I'd planned. Very glad I did as it was beautiful. With the cloud covered sky and the tree canopy above the atmosphere on the short walk to the falls was delightful. Almost like I was in a misty, mystical forest. There was plenty of rocks and green around to make me gleeful. I hung out there a long while and took lots of photos.

I stopped at Lady's View which is apparently so named because Queen Victoria and her ladies thought this view was so beautiful. Perhaps so. It was hard to tell for me with the low cloud and misty rain. I decided to go find one of the walking tracks even though it was spitting but after walking about five minutes I changed my mind and headed back to the car. It wasn't really going in the direction I wanted to go and I really couldn't see much of a view still. So I just drove on to my next destination, another couchsurfing stop. The drive there wasn't bad. I giggled when I drove through a rock. I wish I had been able to stop and take a photo. There was this huge rock, smack bang in the middle of the road's path. So the builders of the road dug through it. Now I have been through plenty of tunnels but this was more like just a hole in a big rock. Shortly after this experience I drove through a cloud. (I have done that before and did a lot more this day too.) Once I got down near the Beara Penninsula it cleared a bit. At least in patches and I got to view a bit of the natural beauty of this more remote area as I drove. I didn't stop as I planned to just get to my host's place and settle in. I didn't know this would be the best I saw of the Beara Penninsula. I got to Allihies from a different direction than my hosts had given me, then drove on to find a buddhist centre they'd mentioned, and then pulled over and smsed them again. I ended up driving back and forth quite a bit trying to figure out where they were. Turns out they weren't actually in Allihies, just near it...somewhere. Eventually I found the Buddhist Centre and went there to ask them as my hosts volunteer there. One of the ladies there helped me make sense of the directions I was given and I was able to find my hosts at last. They were a nice couple and we had a pleasant chat. It was interesting to stay with Buddhists as I don't think I've ever spent time with any before. I hadn't previously connected the 'no killing any living thing' to being vegetarian but it's a good thing I quite enjoy vegetarian meals. And this homecooked one was most delicious and I savoured every bite. They had a living area that was glass for one wall that looked across what they told me was a beautiful view. But the cloud had come right down to the earth and I could see maybe five metres down the hill. The next day was no better. My hosts suggested places that were worth a visit but when I left mid morning the driving conditions were exactly like the photo above. I wasn't gonna see any views out here. I was a little down because of that and the fact that this was my last day here. In the end I decided I'd go straight to Blarney Castle; one of those landmark tourist places of Ireland. Since it is right by Cork where I was due to fly out from later that evening, I was gonna spend a few hours there and check off the Blarney stone on my 'visited' list.

It was a good decision too. There's more than simply a castle there. I went straight to the castle first though to make sure I visited the blarney stone. Good thing I did too as there were lots of people and you had to join the queue at the top. There was a staff member assisting people to kiss the stone and one taking photos you could collect at the bottom. I settled for my own version of visiting the stone. I word it that way coz I had no interest on putting my lips on that hussey of a stone. But I was there. :)

I then went to wander around the gardens which were wonderful. All green, damp, rocky and almost hidden. There was lots of tracks to explore and a boardwalk area too. Even a little waterfall though it looked manmade. It very nice to relax and wander about in such beautiful nature before I left for England where a few days later I would move to London.

It turned out to be an expensive holiday and cost me more than I had hoped it would but I'm still glad I saw Ireland properly AND that I drove myself around. I'm sure there's more wonders there I could have seen. Other great places to visit. It's one of those things...the more I travel the more I realise there is to see and the more I realise I won't get to see it all. At least I now consider Ireland sufficiently covered. So now to think about what country to visit next.^^