Thursday, July 26, 2012

Limerick, Ireland

I must admit, I did not do much tourism in Limerick.  I wish I had, but it was nice just to sit with my dad and my sister and just chill out!  We drank lots of tea and visited various family members.  I did take a few pictures of King John's Castle and the Shannon River.

Aobh, my little sister, is so clever - she's only two!  She is speaking so much and can identify letters, make the sounds and count!  Amazing child.  Here she is with my reading, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'.

Aobh identifying the letter 'O'
 One sunny day (sunny for Ireland) we went for a drive to Kilkee, a beach place that Limerick people visit.  It is Limerick by the beach because when you go there, you'll see Limerick people.  We bumped into my great aunts down there :-)
Aobh getting ready for the beach wearing her 'cool dudes'.
For Mom and Dad LeBlanc -  The trees in Ireland (and England) have trees growing over, making the look like a tree tunnel.  I spoke to my step dad about this and he told me it is because people in Ireland and England built roads through forests.  That is why the trees form the tunnels.  I'll take more pictures of the ones here in Wycombe.

Kilkee Beach - it was FREEZING and very windy, yet there were mad people swimming in the sea.  yes, I know it's healthy to swim in freezing cold water, but I think they are mad for doing it.

This was my first time being back in Kilkee since I was a child.  I was 7 years old last time I was here and I vividly remember eating these small barnacle creatures called 'Periwinkles'.  

Here are some great aunts and cousins we bumped into. 

We went North of Kilkee to a place called Lahinch which is close to Galway.

Random old castle.

Great aunt, uncle and cousins.

Strabane, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland

One thing I absolutely love about Ireland (apart from my family) is the countryside and the stone walls.  It is so beautiful and old.

Driving to Strabane was lovely.  We had great weather!  Strabane itself is a very small town with not much to do or see.  We got to my Nana's house, had a lovely dinner and we relaxed.

The next day, we had breakfast, a good ole Irish Breakfast with sausage, eggs, bacon, beans and black pudding.  After that, we got on the road and stopped off at a few churches to light candles for our lost loved ones.  I loved this prayer.  Hope you can read it.

All around Ireland, there are statues of Mary and baby Jesus.  The Irish love Mary.  Her image is everywhere.  I love that the Irish celebrate Mary so much because she was a woman and a mother.  It is important to celebrate our mothers because we would not be here or who we are without them.  I love my mothers, sisters and all my female friends.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

It's been a long time since I've been able to blog due to all the stops I've made and people I've met. Today is the first day I've been able to sit down by myself and relax so here is an update of what I've been doing. First stop, Belfast.

 I left Paris on July 12th and met my very good friend, Mary from Portaferry. We were great friends at university and our friendship has continued. It was lovely to spend time with her.

I also met up with my good friend, Natalie, from New Zealand.  It just so happened, she was in Belfast on the exact same day!  What a lovely coincidence.

Out for a meal.  We had a NZ wine :)

 July 12th is an interesting day to arrive in Belfast as it is 'Orange Man Day', the day that William of Orange won the battle of Boyne and took control of Ireland   In Northern Ireland, this day is celebrated by marching through the streets of Belfast playing songs and waving the British flag.
The flags are flying high.

 After the marching people stay on the streets and get very drunk, leaving an awful mess at the end of it. I was shocked at the state of the place - rubbish everywhere and it just felt weird, knowing I was in Ireland yet there are British flags everywhere and I am using Sterling. 

 Mary took me on a tour of 2 roads that are polar opposites - Falls road is Nationalist   (,_Belfast)  and Shakill road loyalist ( They are divided by a massive wall because during the troubles there was a lot of fighting. The wall is now called The Peace Wall and people have graffitied it. Visiors can sign it. We didn't have a pen handy so I didn't contribute.

We also went to the Titanic Museum that opened this year to commemorate the 100th year of the ships sinking.

I have ALWAYS been fascinated with the Titanic and felt a crazy connection to it. It's such an amazingly sad story!  A ship, built in Belfast by hundreds of men, sworn to be the most magnificent ship the world had ever seen and it SUNK.  It's shocking how we can be promised such a fabulous, happy story and then it all turns to custard.  Not only that, but you can totally see how people were treated so poorly, especially the working class who were left to perish.

My connection to the Titanic can be explained by the places I have been drawn to.  Places such as, Belfast, Southampton (where we lived in 2008) and Halifax (where Robert's family are living and also where the victims of the Titanic are buried).

Mary and I had a great time in Belfast and our next stop is in Strabane where we meet my 79 year old Grandmother; my last grandparent so it is important to stop off and see her.  She lives an hour and a half away from Mary who was kind enough to drive me there.  See you in Strabane.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Paris, France

Wow, wow, wow wee!  What a city! What a place!  Full of history, people, landmarks, bread, cheese and beauty.

We arrived in the afternoon after a frightful train journey from Antwerp.  It was frightful because I thought I lost my phone (I didn't. Robert had it in his pocket!) and we had a group of very annoying and loud teenage girls sitting behind us.  Thankfully it only lasted 2 hours and we were in Paris where I met my mum.  It was her birthday so it was amazing to spend the day with her in this wonderful city.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel and met Robert's brother, Pierre and our beautiful nieces, Lillian and Sylvia.  Robert's brother and his family have recently moved to Paris to work for the OECD -  an amazing opportunity and an adventure for them. It was brilliant to visit them and see how they have settled in.  As expats, Robert and I both know the benefits and challenges of living aboard and it was great to be able to share our experiences and to learn about Paris from an expats view.

We spent a lot of time in Paris on the Metro.  I loved it!  I loved the signs, the colours, everything! It reminded me of being back in London on the underground.  I felt totally comfortable navigating my way around the Parisian Metro system which was very efficient and mostly clean.  I liked the different seats on different lines.  My favourite was the stripy, colourful seats.

We visited the Eiffel Tower everyday because it was so close to Pierre and Sara's place.  We also visited The Louvre, Musee D'orsay, Champs Elysee, The Arc De Triumph and Notre Dame.  Robert said I was the only girl on the Champs Elysee with a rainbow hat and called me 'The Rainbow of the Champs Elysee' - a very fitting title even if I do say so myself :-)

We also spent our time having fun with our delightful nieces and enjoying coffee, cheese, bread and wine with Sara. One night we all went out for delicious pizza and pasta...mmmm, I can still taste my Pasta Arrabiata....yum!!

Thank you for such a wonderful visit - we loved being with you all :-)

We loved being in Paris!  It was even better because we had family there who we could catch up and chill out with.  It was a special time for us and we can't wait to go back again.

Next stop for Michelle, Belfast, and for Robert, Lille and then Canada.  I have the camera so will keep you updated with my travels.