A Travellerspoint blog

Belfast to London to Zurich to Hong Kong - Wed, 10 Aug 2016

Bye bye Ireland - Hello Hong Kong

Flying through the night - Business Class on Swiss Air

Had a great sleep last night and then had a little sleep in as we were going downstairs at 8.15 am to say goodbye to the gang, who were leaving for Scotland.

Lots of hugs and kisses and then we stood on the footpath for ages, in a very cool wind, waving goodbye as Brian was trying to merge the bus into the traffic. Then they were off, one of the nicest groups we have travelled with.

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We then went in for breakfast, back up to the room, final packing and back down to the foyer for our 11 am pickup. We waited and waited, and no taxi came so reception phoned the taxi company and they said they had a booking for "Button" for 11.25 am but they would send one straight away. It only took about 15 minutes to get to the airport, and it's raining. Our taxi driver was only born in 1970, at the very beginnings of "the trouble" and of course, he grew up through all the violence and danger. He thinks it is just great now, because being born into it, he didn't know any better. We had a very indepth discussion with him re politics and religion and he agrees that it's time to move on and start trying to live peaceably with one another. Not going to happen, I'm afraid.

We have found the Irish accent in Northern Ireland very hard to understand.

Check in went smoothly but we thought we might, and we did, have to collect our bags at Heathrow and rebook them through to Hong Kong.

The British Airways flight from Belfast to London took about an hour and left on time and Phil thought it was pretty couth as they served spirits along the way. He had a G&T.

On arrival at Heathrow, we had to collect our bags and find our way from Terminal 5 to Terminal 2, via lifts, escalators, moving walkways, a train, more lifts and finally we arrived at Terminal 2, an hour and a half after we had landed. Just as well we weren't in a hurry to catch our flight.

We are now sitting in the Lufthanser lounge, having a snack and a drink, before we board our 6.40 pm flight for Zurich and then on to Hong Kong.

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The flight for Zurich took one hour twenty minutes and left about 20 minutes late, but after another long walk, up and down huge escalators and another train ride, we arrived at our departure lounge with about an hour to spare.

We had a very delicious snack on our Swiss Air flight from London. It is just enough.

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We were expecting to board our flight to Hong Kong at 10.10 pm for a 10.40 pm take off, but they just announced a delay due to a problem with the tail and are hoping to board at 10.50 pm. Yipes! Fix the tail please, no matter how long it takes.

We finally boarded about midnight for our eleven and a half hour flight to Hong Kong. We had eaten some snacks in the Lufthanser Lounge so when they mentioned a huge meal we opted for the soup and salad, which was very delicious and then bedded down for the night. The beds are long and flat and I was very comfortable. Phil thought his bed was too narrow but we both had a pretty good sleep.

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I also misunderstood the announcement re the reason for the delay. When we boarded, the pilot told us that there was a problem with one of the tyres and after it had been fixed, the entire aircraft had to be checked thoroughly. Fine by me, as long as it keeps me safe in the air.

Posted by gaddingabout 07:08 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Giant's Causeway - Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Visit the Giant's Causeway; the Bushmill's distillery and afternoon tea at Ballygally Castle Hotel

all seasons in one day 15 °C

Hotel - Europa Hotel Belfast, Great Victoria Street, Belfast - Room 933

I am feeling pretty yuk today with a head cold. Not much fun, but can't miss the Giant's Causeway.

Today we travelled to the Giant's Causeway. What an amazing place this is. The weather held off and even though it was very windy, it stayed dry and we were able to enjoy this magnificent "pile of rocks". They are basalt columns, naturally formed by the slow cooling of lava / magma chambers. Well, I prefer our guide's explanation, which is -

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An Irish giant and a Scottish giant were fighting over land. The Scottish giant came stomping across the bay and when the Irish giant saw him coming, he dressed up as a baby, hopped into the crib and put a dummy in his mouth. Mrs Irish giant invited the Scottish giant in for a cup of tea and told him that her husband was out, but would be home soon. When the Scottish giant saw the huge baby in the crib, he became very worried about the size of the baby's father and decided that he probably couldn't beat him in a fight, so excused himself and stomped home back to Scotland - hence the giant's causeway. That makes more sense, doesn't it, than cooling lava!

Another Irish story while we are on legends. The Ulster flag has a red hand in the centre of the flag. Apparently, way back when the land grab was on, and this dates back to King Heremon O'Neill in 1015 BC, the first person to touch the land could have it. They were racing across the sea to claim the land and one of the O'Neills cut off his hand and through it onto the shore, and then the land was theirs!!! Bit dramatic.

It's pretty easy to climb and walk over the rocks. Just as well it wasn't raining or they would be quite treacherous. There is a little bus that takes you from the tourist information centre down to the bay, or you can walk if you want to. It's not that far.

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We had morning tea at the Giant's Causeway and then headed off to Old Bushmill's Distillery, only 10 minutes away. Bushmill's has been producing whiskey continuously since the early 1600s.

We weren't allowed to take photos during the tour but it was a very interesting and informative tour. We were broken into two groups and our guide's name was Jade. She was a young girl but knew her stuff. She had been with Bushmills for almost two years. I enjoyed this tour a lot more than the Guinness one, simply because we were the only ones in an area at one time, and it was easy to hear what Jade was saying. At Guinness, there were hundreds and hundreds and the noise was echoing through our head sets. It was very distracting.

In the tasting room, as I can't stand whiskey, I decided to have a hot toddy, which contained whiskey, hot water, cloves, sugar and cinnamon. It was very nice and I am sure it did my throat a lot of good. We actually bought some whiskey chocolate and fudge, which won't be so good for the thighs!

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There are quite a few links golf courses around this area. The rough looks awful and the constant wind would be a huge distraction.

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We are taking the picturesque route back to Belfast, via the coast and through the Glens of Antrim. There are nine beautiful glens and the scenery is stunning. Basically, the glens were formed by a glacial exit to the sea. It's hard to take a decent photo from the bus, but you get the idea. The colours are magnificent.

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We stopped at Ballygally Castle for a lovely scone, jam and cream afternoon tea. This place is supposed to be haunted but we couldn't find the ghost. But the garden was lovely.

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Back in Belfast and getting ready for our farewell dinner. 10 of us are leaving tomorrow and the other 23 will continue on to Scotland. Very sad to be leaving them. They are a great group.

We walked around the corner to the St James Street Restaurant and went upstairs to our own private room. It was extremely noisy, because there was a wooden floor and no curtains. It needed those things to help muffle the noise.

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I did have a lovely crab entree but was too busy talking and forgot to take the picture! How unusual for me! Mind you, this has only happened since I kissed the Blarney Stone!

The limerick winner was announced. Alan and Alana won and it also was their 41st wedding anniversary. My limerick made it to the final five, but I thought theirs was better than mine. Anyway, Tom handed out shamrock pins to all who entered which was a nice gesture.

At dinner I sat next to Bob Horgan who used to be the General Manager at Royal Fremantle Golf Club when my boss was Governor of Western Australia and Patron of the club. He had had a lot of contact with Muriel Button who is the PA at Governent House, Perth. As she is half Burmese, we call ourselves The White Button (me) and The Brown Button (her). Bob had heard about The White Button and couldn't believe his eyes when he found out I was The White Button. It's a very small world sometimes.

After dinner, some went to a pub to farewell Jane's mum but I had a temperature, connected to my head cold, so decided to call it a night and go back to the room. Good decision.

Posted by gaddingabout 08:44 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Galway to Belfast - Monday, 8 August 2016

Visit the 10th century monastery of Clonmacnoice. In Belfast, embark on an iconic Black Cab city tour (whatever that means!)

all seasons in one day 17 °C

Hotel - Europa Hotel Belfast, Great Victoria Street, Belfast - Room 933

Had a great night's sleep at The G last night. The bed was wonderful and the down and feather pillows were DIVINE. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I just floated away into dreamland.

Our first stop of the day was Clonmacnoise Monastery, which is situated in the centre of Ireland, in County Offaly on the River Shannon. It was founded in 544 by St Ciaran (modern day name Kieran). Its strategic location helped it become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade and by the 9th century, it was the most famous in Ireland, visited by scholars from all over Europe. The Esker Riada was a series of Drumlin which were hills left behind from glacial movement and formed a natural road.

The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs. The two towers were once one tower, seven stories high, but it was hit by lightning and when the top was knocked off, they were turned into two towers.

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The site is quite stunning. The Cross of Scriptures in a four metre high sandstone cross and has carved panels showing scenes including the Crucifixion, the Last Judgement, and Christ in the Tomb. The original has been moved into the visitors' centre to preserve it from the elements. This is a replica.

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All the other buildings are crumbling ruins, without roofs. A few of us walked to the Nun's chapel, which is a ruin as well.

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My mother passed away on 16 May 2015 and she always said "Don't you dare put plastic flowers on my grave". Well, wouldn't she love this? They are all fresh flowers growing on this grave.

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We stopped for lunch at a place on the motorway called Lusk. Tom was a bit embarrassed that we were stopping along the motorway, but it was really good and there was quite a selection of food. Phil had a pie, which he enjoyed and I had a sandwich.

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We continued on to Belfast, arriving at the Europa Hotel at about 3.45 pm. At 5.20 pm we all met downstairs for our Scenic Enrich Black Cab ride around Belfast. We went in a cab with Karen and Lou; Jane and Gary; Shelley and Ed and our cab driver was Dave, who would be lucky to be five foot tall. He was a very funny Irishman with a very thick accent, but we basically understood what he was saying.

First he took us up to the Belfast Castle and even though it was closing, he was able to take us inside because his son works there. The gardens were beautiful but inside, he wanted to show us a poster of the American B51 bomber that crashed into the mountain in World War Two. After the crash, the Americans cleared away the bodies and all the debris, but years later an Irishman found some debris and a ring at the site and when they traced the owner of the ring, he presented it to the airman's widow. A very lovely story. He even dressed up as a Leprechaun and we all had our photos taken with him. He was a blast!

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Then Dave took us into the Protestant and Catholic areas and told us many stories about the IRA days in Northern Ireland. We went to the Peace Wall, which is a huge wall built between the Protestant and Catholic areas and is locked at night and opened every day. These doors are closed manually. There is one gate that remains open, however, if there is any hint of trouble, an orange light will start flashing and the gate will close automatically.

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There are lots of murals painted on this wall and a tribute to Bobby Sands, who died on a hunger strike in the 70s. We remembered that. It was sad and one wonders if he might have been able to achieve more peace if he had stayed alive, and fought on.

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It was a most sobering tour and I find it very hard to believe that in this day and age, there is still a "Peace Wall" between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. It is almost unbelievable. Come on - this is 2016 - let's get with it and put all this hate to rest.

Dave was a great tour guide and kept saying "fooking" all the time, which was quite funny. Just as well we weren't "shrinking violets"! We had a great tour and we went an hour over time. I think we had the best driver.

Back at the hotel,

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the eight of us went to dinner at a pub over the road from our hotel. Jane told us that her Mum had passed away in Australia today and understandably, she was upset but told us that she died at 8am on the 8th of August and when that was happening, we were at Clonmacnoice, and Jane was actually standing at the Cross of Scriptures with Charmaine, saying a little prayer - so someone must have known something.

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One more night with this great group and then we have to leave them and go home. Tomorrow we are going to tell Tom that we want to come to Scotland with them. Please arrange it. Only joking.

Posted by gaddingabout 15:04 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Killarney to Galway - Sunday, 7 August 2016

Visit the Cliffs of Moher

rain 16 °C

Hotel - The G Hotel, Wellpark, Galway - Room 112

Couldn't get to sleep last night and felt like I didn't sleep a wink.

After a quick breakfast, we were on the bus for an early start and off we went. It's not raining yet, but it is forecast and we want to get to the Cliffs of Mohr before it rains and the fog roles in.

We are driving beside the mighty Shannon River. The Vikings sailed up the Shannon to Limmerick in 795 and stayed until 1014, when they were defeated in the Battle of Clontarf.

We joined the ferry queue and then caught the ferry across the Shannon to the west coast of Ireland. We had a good crossing and most of us stayed on the bus. Some got off and I got off for a little while to take some photos but the wind is ridiculous. It is blowing a gale.

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A bit of frilovity on the bus while crossing the Shannon.

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Once across the other side, we stopped for a coffee break. Meanwhile, Tom our Tour Director, admitted that one of the limericks I gave him blew out of his hand and ended up in the Shannon. What! Could I please write it out again? Oh my goodness. Just as well I had written them down as I certainly wouldn't be able to remember them.

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We are trying to get to the Cliffs of Moher before the predicted rain arrives and we achieved our goal. They are quite stunning but the wind is gale force and keeps coming in waves. It is very dangerous. Some people are standing right on top of the cliffs. I certainly wouldn't be doing that.

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Anyway, after taking some photos, we went into the cafe for lunch. There are millions of people in there, tying to find a spot to sit and eat their lunch. We found a table and sat with Tom and Marlee. The food was quite nice, but as usual, too much.

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The guy who took this photo comes from Toowoomba and lives not very far away from my family home! It's a small world!

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As we left the Cliffs of Moher, it started to rain and the wind blew and it was so tempting to stay on the bus, but we arrived at a vantage point for a photo of Galway Bay. You can't come to Ireland and ignore Galway Bay, so the "intrepids" got off and took some photos.

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We are also in the land of dry rock walls and as opposed to the ones in Cornwall, these rocks are quite big.

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This place is called The Burren. The whole area is limestone based and there is not much dirt on top of the limestone. Over the years, when it has rained, channels have been carved in the limestone and now exotic plants from all over the world grow there, probably they think because the limestone is warm. In Spring, many botanists can be seen rumaging around in the area, looking for all the different species. It is quite a phenonomen.

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Tom read out the 22 limericks he has received. Some are funny and some are a bit average. The first round was judged by a "clap metre" and now he has five or six in the final bunch that he and Brian will judge. One of mine is in that group, but personally, I think there is a better on than mine. Anyway, the winner will be announced at dinner tonight. It has been a bit of fun.

It's raining when we arrive in Galway and we stop at the Galway Cathedral for anyone who wants to go in. Me and half the bus go in for a look. It is a lovely cathedral and for a modern cathedral (1965) it is quite old looking. It is build of Galway limestone from the Anglingham quarries in Menlo and from the Ballinasloe quarries. The floor is of Connemara sepia marble with panels of red and white marble. The pews are made of Utile mahogany from West Africa and can seat 1500 people. The ceiling is barrel vaulted in shape and is made from western red cedar from the Pacific coast of America. The stained glass windows are very unusual and lovely.

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The G Hotel is a very modern hotel and was designed by a hat designer. The corridors are extremely dark but the rooms are light and airy.

A little welcome snack.

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Dinner was provided by Scenic this evening in the swish dining room of the G Hotel. What a fun place this is. The corridors are so dark, you can hardly see where you are going. The lounges downstairs are hot pink and purple and orange and a swirly black and white carpet. Just gorgeous. Not sure if the style is called Retro or the French Whore's Boudoir!

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We had dinner with Ed and Shelley from Perth and Marylynn and Bob from Perth and we three girls sat in a purple velvet shell! It was so much fun. In fact, we were having such a good time, I forgot to photograph the meal. So Phil had Smoked Gubben Chorizo Caesar Salad and I had Crisp Cod and Salmon Fish Cakes for entree. For main I had Baked Fillet of Salmon and Phil had pan fried Chicken Supreme and for dessert we both had Dark Chocolate and Tonka Bean Mousse. A very nice evening.

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We are only staying one night here and tomorrow we will be off to Belfast and the end of our tour. We have just loved Ireland and especially our travelling companions.

Posted by gaddingabout 13:35 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Killarney - Saturday, 6 August 2016

Travel the Ring of Kerry. Scenic Freechoice - ride in a jaunting cart. Dinner with Annie and Byron, Scenic friends we met and travelled with in Peru.

all seasons in one day 21 °C

Hotel - Killarney Plaza Hotel, Kenmare Place, Killarney, County Kerry, Killarney - Room 420

Slept really well last night, even though I thought the pillow was as hard as a rock, but when you're tired, nothing matters.

We had a special time booked for our group to have breakfast this morning but we asked the manager last night if we could sneak in a bit early. He said yes, but be warned that there might be long queues associated with the group before us. We didn't mind and actually, there weren't very many people there anyway.

This morning we are doing a bus trip around the Ring of Kerry. It is beautiful scenery of mountains, lakes and glacial valleys. As long as the weather holds off, it will be great.

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Our first stop was a beautiful spot, overlooking a lake, with mountains in the background, for our group photograph. All good.

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The weather is starting to close in, but the Irish don't call it rain. They call it "soft rain" and it usually is. If you wait 10 minutes, it will change.

We drive through Cahirciveen where, in a couple of days time they will hold a Puk Fair. Puk is the Irish word for a goat. Here is a statue of the goat and for the next few days, a live goat will be tethered on this stand. It is all good and the goat is fed and watered regularly and animal liberationists keep away - this is happening regardless what you think!

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We were expecting to see tinkers and their vans on the road today, heading towards the Puk Fair, but unfortunately we didn't. They love coming to the Puk Fair.

Today is all about photo stops and our next stop was at Dingle Bay. Gorgeous.

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We stopped at a lovely little cafe at Waterville for morning tea. Tom our guide doesn't stop at the usual tourist places where there are a pile of buses, but this one we can have to ourselves. The owner had just made a fresh tray of rhubarb pie, so we had coffee and pie and Phil had an Irish coffee and some port cake. Photo of Phil and me and our great guide, Tom Doyle.

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These stones date back to 1700 BC.

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These ruins were the house of Daniel O'Connell, an Irish hero. In 1829 Daniel O'Connell lobbied and managed to get the Catholic Emancipation Bill passed. Up until this time, Catholics had no rights and weren't allowed to own property, horses, or anything of substance. Daniel O'Connell is a bit of a saint in this area, however, the story goes that he was a bit of a lad and if you threw some pennies over a school yard fence, you would be sure to hit one of Daniel O'Connell's kids on the head.

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Charlie Chaplin has always had a holiday home in this area and now the house is for sale. No one wanted to get out of the bus to take a photo but when we slowed down for the photo, these two people just lingered and lingered, so we just had to snap the photo, and that was that.

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We had lunch in the small town of Sneem. It was nice.

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As we will be driving through the Limmerick area tomorrow, Tom has asked us all to write a limerick and enter it into his limerick competition. I have written three as we drive along (which probably accounts for my feeling motion sick).

1.
We went on a bus trip, Phil and me
To make up the numbers to tirty three
We had lots of fun
Without too much sun
And will remember our tour with glee.

2.
There was a young man named Tom
Who asked us where we all came from
We then hopped on the bus
Without too much fuss
And toured through Ireland with aplomb.

3.
We travelled through Ireland with Scenic
A wonderful time you would tink
The guide was a cad
The driver was mad
And we all ended up on the drink!

I have decided to submit 1. and 3.

Back into Killarney to get ready for our Scenic Free Choice which is a Jaunting ride in Killarney National Park to Ross Castle. Phil has decided not to come but to have a hair cut instead. Just as we were assembling in the foyer for our jaunting ride, Byron and Annie walked in to have a cup of tea in our hotel. Lots of hugs and kisses and then, as there were two spare seats in our jaunting carts, Tom our guide, invited Byron and Annie to come with us. How lovely that was of Tom!

So Phil went off for a hair cut and we went on the jaunting carts through Killarney National Park. Annie sat up front with the driver, and Byron, Shelley and Ed, Margaret and Shayne and Byron and I sat in the back. The driver was talking to Annie a bit but we couldn't hear him very well and he had quite a thick accent. We jogged through the park and arrived at Ross Castle and got out for about 20 minutes to take photos. The sky looked very threatening but was perfect for some good photos.

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We met Byron and Annie in our hotel foyer at 6.00 pm and they came up to our room for a pre dinner drink. We then walked down the street a little way to a restaurant in a pub called The Laurels. We all enjoyed our meals and just talked and talked and talked. It was so nice to see them again. They are a great couple and still have a lot of travelling to do. They won't be back in Australia until the middle of October and then a couple of weeks after that, we will be having our Peru reunion at the Gold Coast at the beginning of November.

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These funny Americans were sitting at the table behind us, and kept waving when we were having our photo taken. We all had a bit of a laugh about that.
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We came back to our room after dinner and had a cup of tea and more chatting. I am starting to lose my voice. I guess I have caught the cold that is going around.

Posted by gaddingabout 09:43 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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