A Travellerspoint blog

May 2015

Easter in England

A great visit with family in Shrewsbury and Ellesmere, with stops in Liverpool and a day trip to Wales!

semi-overcast 10 °C

Prior to heading out to England we needed to bridge a gap in accommodations by shacking up at Isaac's hostel which is located near the business district in Dublin and just a couple blocks north of the River Liffey. Nice hostel, friendly staff, but I am not going to lie, it was pretty tough leaving our beautiful and comfortable accommodations with James and Jaro to settle into the world of bunkbeds and shared rooms. What are you going to do though - chalk that up as a good old first world problem when travelling. Isaac's was an interesting stay as on the first night we got treated to soothing late night/early morning drunken carrying ons by some German gents - who were not even in our bloody room! These beauties got back from their night out in Dublin around 3:30 in the morning, crashed into the room beside ours and then proceeded to carry on like they were the only people in the entire city! They were like a couple of schools girls laughing and babbling on, but the worst part was likely that we couldn't understand what the hell they were saying! It was a 35-40 minute roller coaster ride of unbearable noise that would slide into short breaks of silence where you would get your hopes up that they had finally passed out, only to have your prayers shattered by some more uncontrollable laughter and even some wonderful yelling! My despise for these fella's was at an all time high, but eventually they did pass out and we got a few winks of sleep in our room before daylight made its way through the curtains. Well, I can't say we got even with these guys, but what I can say for sure is that everyone in our room made no attempt to be quite for them when started having our showers and using the washroom outside their room in the morning. I am sure a few people are asking why we didn't do something about it the night before and all I can say is, once you get your grown ass into a bunkbed, it takes a lot to get you out if it, especially in the middle of the night in a sleep depraved state where the chances of hitting your head or tripping are very good. I mean, I have suffered through having to take a leak for hours before, just to avoid having to crawl out of my cramped up bunkbed - no joke! On our second night at Isaacs we met up with a couple of our roommates and went for dinner and drinks just around the corner from our hostel. One of the girls was from Canada and she was teaching over in England, while the other girl was from Italy and she has her own business in Ayurveda massage. Sherry and her had tons to chat about this Ayurveda is an area that Sherry takes special interest in. We had a great time out with the girls and at the very least we had endeared them enough to not have them be to mad at us for needing to get up at 4:00 am to head for the airport.

As with most morning flights, the time to peel ourselves out of bed came way to early. After getting all of our unnecessary luggage stored in the lockup at the hostel for safe keeping while we were gone, it was off to the airport to catch our RyanAir flight. I had heard lots about these budget RyanAir fights and I was keen to see what they were all about. Hell, I was just ready to see what a 30 minute flight was like after all the crazy long journeys we had taken in our travels leading up to Ireland. Surprisingly enough the flight itself was comfortable and it was only 30 minutes before we landed on the east side of the Irish Sea in Liverpool! Sherry's Aunt Marj and Uncle Phil were there to greet us as we made our way out of the airport. After arriving in so many airports as strangers, left to our own devises to find our way to the next hotel, hostel or apartment that we would be calling home for awhile, It was really nice to see familiar faces smiling and waiting for you . It was the exact same feeling we had when Joe and Angel were there to meet us way back in Australia. Thinking that the plan was just to load up our stuff in the car and make tracks to Ellesmere I was already planning on how I might nod off to sleep in the car while hopefully controlling the unflattering things a persons body can do while relaxed and asleep. My quandary was quickly nixed as we would be treated to a surprise tour around Liverpool, compliments of our new tour guides, Marj and Phil! We made our way throughout the city making stops at such iconic locations as the Diocese of Liverpool and the Albert Docks where there is a Beetles tribute showcase, along with a museum which at that time was putting on an exhibition detailing the slave trade that took place through the docks of Liverpool over the years. The Albert Docks are a really beautiful area, with shops, restaurants and many other interesting stops which are scattered throughout the old shipping storage buildings (http://www.liverpoolwaterfront.org/albert-dock.aspx). The weather was a little on the cool side temperature wise, but that was secondary as it was a beautiful sunny day and that was enough to wipe the sleep away from our eyes as we toured around the docks. One of the iconic things for tourists to take part in while visiting Liverpool is a trip across the River Mersey on the ferry. This ferry trip became inshrined in music history in 1964 when Gerry and the Pacemakers wrote the song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" which turned out to be a hit in both the UK and the USA. With all that backstory in mind, we happened to stumble upon what I am sure will be known as another iconic moment in the life of the Snowdrop Ferry that crosses the Mersey. As part of commemorations for the first world war, the same artist that created the famed Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, was also commissioned to repaint the Snowdrop Ferry in homage to anti-submarine ‘dazzle camouflage, and we just happened to be there for the launch of it all. When Marj went to grab us tickets to take the ferry across, she came back with 3 free tickets which would allow us to be onboard the Ferry for its maiden voyage with its new paint job. This was just shear luck of the draw in that this historical event was happening in Liverpool and we had a chance to be apart of it. Camera crews, local dignitaries and Sir Peter Blake himself were amongst the one hundred or so passengers that boarded the Ferry of the 30 minute harbour tour. This was one of those one off, random experiences that just worked out in our favour and we are happy to have been apart of it. Thanks Phil and Marj for the great introduction to Liverpool (Phil's hometown).

The rest of the week was filled with plenty of rest and relaxation, some easter egg hunts and fun tours around Wales and Shrewsbury. Ellesmere, which is just a short drive to Wales, would be our home base for the first 4 days. It is a small town and is filled with all those small town charms you get to know and love in England. Historic homes, narrow, winding streets, a few pubs and lots of local shops to peruse through. On our second day we were lucky enough to be treated to a great day trip to Wales. We had the chance to see canal boats, which in my eyes, are best described as RV’s on water. These bad boys are fully equipped with kitchen, bath, living areas and even wood stoves to keep things cosy on chilly spring nights. At just under 7 feet wide so they fi inside the canal walls and up to a max of 72 feet long so they fit inside the lock systems, these floating homes are a sight to see for the first timers to the UK and if you happen across the right owner you just might get a tour onboard. We spent the bulk of our day touring sights in and around Llganogollen. One of the more interesting stops was the historical site of Valle Crucis Abbey which was built in 1201 and then dissolved in the mid 1500's. The remaining structure is still very well persevered and as such, is certainly worth a stop. Not having a vehicle to get around, there is no way we would have gone and seen the places we did on our own, but thanks to Marj an Phill we were never short of things to do. It was extra special getting to spend Easter with family. Easter brought to us not only a whack load of chocolate, but also a sense of normalcy as we were celebrating a familiar holiday and we had family to share it with. Even when you are travelling with someone else you know very well or who may even be your spouse, it is still very easy to feel lonely amongst so many other strangers as you come and go from one place to the next. Easter brought back that sense of family comfort that showed up right on que as Sherry and I were both starting to get somewhat weary of our travels.

A two night stay in Shrewsbury was next on our agenda. We headed out with Sherry’s cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex the day after Easter. Shrewsbury is a great town, with a population just over 100,000. It is definitely worth visiting if you are travelling in and around the midlands of England (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrewsbury). We were in good hands as Alex was born and raised there. We had been to Shrewsbury on previous travels to England with friends 5 years ago so we somewhat knew our way around which was nice, as both Allie and Alex had to work during the day - well except for the one day when they took the afternoon off to take us to a neighbouring town called Chester. As the story goes according to Alex he just told his boss that he needed time off to take “The Canadians” to Chester, to which his boss replied, sure, but do these Canadians have names. We were officially leverage in a time off negotiation and I couldn't have been prouder. We were very thankful to have Allie and Alex to take us to Chester as when we looked up the train prices, this stop was very quickly off of our things to do list based on cost. Chester is a great city, with lots of shopping, delicious food, historical churches and a beautiful horse racing track. Okay, so there is a good chance that I have just generically described a lot of towns in the UK but just in case Chester peaks your interest I have included their tourism link so you can do some research of your own (http://www.visitchester.com). It is located just South of Liverpool and is not too far from the Wales border if you wanted to slip over there during your travels. If you are keen on Roman history then Chester should certainly be on itinerary as it was originally settled as a Roman fort in the year 79 AD! So ya, its just a couple years old, with just a little bit of history going on there. There were no horse races on the day we made our tour to Chester, but Allie and Alex had both been to races and highly recommend taking one in if you ever have the time in your travels to that part of England.

Our final night in England was a short and sweet one back in Ellesmere. Short because we had to be up around 3:30 in the morning to leave for the airport and sweet because we got to spend that time with Allie, Alex, Marj and Phil. One last hang out with familiar faces before retuning to the obscurity of Dublin where we would be total strangers once again. This was not much of a concern though as our batteries were charged back up and some time exploring more of Dublin was something we both were looking forward to. Now it could have been all the Easter chocolate that we were jacked up on that gave us this feeling, but I am pretty sure it was genuine anticipation as we had only but a small taste of what Dublin had to offer in our first stop there. An early morning flight, a sleepy airport traversing and we were back on the streets of Dublin and headed to meet our new AirBnB host.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:37 Archived in England Comments (1)

Well Hello Spring & Hello to you too Dublin, Ireland!

Endless pints of Guinness, crazy weather, amazing AirBnB's, a complicated, tumultuous history and so much more.

all seasons in one day 8 °C

With no major flights booked beyond getting to Dublin on March 24th and 20 plus hours of flying from Perth, Australia behind us, we couldn't have been happier to know that we wouldn't be jumping on a plane any time soon. Clearing customs was the only hurdle between us and beginning our time in Ireland. This process went well as we had our documentation lined up ahead of time and I personally think the guy who was helping us just might have been to tired to bother asking a boat load of questions. This same gentlemen would be our first encounter of friendly Irish hospitality as he went on to make some recommendations on where we might have our best chance at finding work and where to avoid. This was quite kind of him and with that simple gesture, things were starting off on the right foot. For our fellow travellers out there, here is some quick insight into what we had to arrange before getting to Ireland. We ended up getting our Working Holiday Visa's through the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. These visa's would allow us to stay in Ireland for up to 2 years from our date of arrival, earn an income if the opportunity arose and to also come and go from the country as we desired during that time. The up front cost for this was $200 cdn each and it only took a couple weeks to organize all the required information and get our paperwork returned from Ottawa. Websites can be somewhat confusing when it comes to understanding what visa, if any, you require when travelling. If you have any doubt about what you need I highly recommend contacting the local embassy for your destination to ensure you are on track for your travel plans. It was just around 7:00 am when we cleared customs. As we waited for our bags a lovely Irish lady started up a conversation with Sherry while I was busy checking out the airport washrooms. They carried on for some time until our bags came gliding around the carousel and they parted ways. Another friendly face from Ireland!

Originally, we were not supposed to get into our AirBnB apartment until around 5:00 pm because our hosts would both be at work when we arrived, but thankfully I checked my email at the airport and they had left a note saying that Jaro would be around to meet us in the morning! This was a huge relief as we would of had to store our luggage and find something to do for about 10 hours, which would have been quite interesting considering our zombie like state....it wouldn't have been ideal but we were prepared to do it. Things were looking up and despite being tired we had smiles on our faces.....and then we exited the airport....When the automatic doors slid open and we walked out onto the pavement we got a lovely blast of 0 degree celsius weather. As if it was rehearsed, we both gave each other that look of "what the hell were we thinking leaving the warm weather in Australia!" I am sure that many people reading this are thinking the same and to be honest, we don't really have a great answer for that question. In our planning we just figured that after the time spent in all the other locations that it would be time for us to move on and so why not get settled into Ireland where we planned to set up shop for awhile. Pretty simple. Now that we were freezing our butts off, our next task was to navigate our way to our apartment on the South Side of Dublin. The gents that would be hosting us at our AirBnB sent us some extremely detailed information on how to get to their humble abode and from that we knew we needed to jump on an AirCoach. 10 Euros each would get us dropped off just a few short steps from our destination - which wasn't too shabby - heck I would have paid twice that just to get into somewhere warm at that point in time! The AirCoach buses can be easily found outside of the arrivals terminal and there are plenty of helpful staff if you have questions about ensuring you get on the right bus. A few pleasant features about these buses are that they have ample room for luggage storage, the seats are comfy and spacious and for the uber social media fans there is free WIF that works quite well! This actually proved quite useful for us as we needed to contact our hosts to let them know when we would be arriving on their doorstep. I wish I could tell you all that I had some amazing Irish sensation that came over me as we passed through the city to our destination, but to be honest, it was cloudy, it was too damn early in the morning, and we were cruising through a city.....so nothing too inspirational was firing up inside of me just yet. The streets were filled with pubs, I can verify that, but other then that single stereotypical observation, I really don't have anything exciting to tell you about our arrival in Dublin. Maybe the 20 plus hours of travel and over 30 hours without sleep had something to do with it.

Sherry and I had never used AirBnB before, so this was a whole new experience for us. In the simplest terms, AirBnB is a website that people can post accommodations with the intent being to rent them out in various capacities. You can rent an entire home, apartment, or just a single private room within a residence, for any given duration depending on your travel needs, with the only catch obviously being availability. In this case, we chose to rent a private room in an apartment in the south end of Dublin. What the heck - why not meet some new people and maybe learn a few things from them during our stay. To some people this may not seem very appealing as you are thrust into a living situation with complete strangers and surely it could be a roll of the dice in terms of personalities meshing or not. On the plus side, it can often save you a few dollars as you are only renting a single room and you have a kitchen to cook out of, thus giving you the chance to save on dining out every night. Another plus that you will frequently find in the shared accommodation set up is that you get first hand tips from people who live in and know the city, which in turn could lead to experiences that you may otherwise have not been aware of through the usual tourist information sources. When booking your accommodation you do have the advantage of seeing the reviews from past guests which can help to alleviate any anxieties you may have about your new roommates. As the saying goes, to each their own. I can tell you for certain that Sherry and I are big fans of having shared accommodations in the AirBnB scenario. You'll see why as our Ireland travels carry on.

Tired and groggy, Sherry and I hauled ass off of the AirCoach and then over to our apartment which was about 2 blocks away. On arrival we were greeted by Jaro, who was extremely welcoming to the dishevelled looking travellers who could have easily fit into any suspect line up at that point in time. After exchanging pleasantries and getting the lay of the land, Jaro headed off to work, we grabbed some food from a local shop and then it was head to pillow for both of us! The plan was for a short nap, but jet leg ran the show that day and we both crashed from about 2:00 pm until 6:00 am the following morning (sound familiar). The kicker for all this sleep was that it took place on Sherry's birthday! Whoops! So, quick recap here - on my birthday I jumped off of a giant canyon swing and we had an incredible dinner out, while on her birthday, just one week later, we flew for 20 hours and then slept for like another 16! So much for all that "make your birthday memorable", mumble jumble I wrote about earlier! Arriving in a new country on her birthday seemed like such a good idea when we booked everything.....

With our bodies recharged, we spent the next week or so touring around Dublin, taking in many of the essential tourist stops. Our hosts had plenty of guidance and advice for us on what to do and when to do it, which proved invaluable as we were like fish out of water in this new city. Getting around is fairly easy with tram lines running in almost all directions, plus buses and taxis being found throughout Dublin. Figuring out bus schedules is still a bit like solving the Da Vinci Code for me, so the trusty old tram (Luas green line) was our chariot in and out of the city centre for the week. It also helped that we had a stop just outside of our apartment building. Our first steps out on our own into Dublin took us for a walk around the coastal towns of Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire. When we reached the harbour of Dalkey we were met by a surprise visit from some local seals who were enjoying a fish gut lunch being provided by a local fisherman who just finished cleaning up his catch for the day. After that we made a stop at Finnegans pub, which claims to be President Obama's favourite pub in Dublin. The pub was nice as it had all the truly Irish elements found throughout it, I just felt a little out of place because pretty much the all the rest of the patrons were around when the automobile was invented! Obama must have liked this place because it made him feel young. It was really tasty lunch and In true Irish fashion, it was a fish and chips washed down by a nice pint of Smithwicks for me. Unfortunately we were hitting up these coastal towns early in the spring so they were not quite yet alive with the buzz of summer tourists and the harbours were void of the many beautiful boats that call them home during the warmer months. All that said, it was still nice to be breathing in the fresh sea air, while taking in a very relaxed environment.

When we finally made it into the city centre we got ourselves tickets on the Dublin Sightseeing Hop on/Hop off bus tour. This is the best way to get your bearings and to get a good idea of what you want to see and do while in Dubin (https://citysightseeingdublin.ie). Dublin is a city that is steeped in centuries of incredible and complex history. The tour guides on these buses will give you great insights to the major events that have taken place over the years in Dublin, along with the famous people who helped to shape the city into what you see today. As my high school history teacher Pete Carver would attest to, I am not exactly a history buff. I have the C's, D's and final exam marks to prove it. With that said though, I really did enjoy learning about the origins of the city, along with the centuries of conflict that has shaped Dublin into the city it is now, while building Ireland into the country we know it to be. Even if you cannot keep up with all the timelines of conflict, despair and growth, it is pretty incredible to be standing in front of castle walls that are almost 1000 years old (Dublin Castle - city centre) or looking at inscriptions on jail walls that were carved by the famously executed 14 hero's of the Easter Rising in 1916 (Kilmainham Gaol). At Kilmainham Goal you are even shown the exact places where the executions took place, which is quite moving on its own. History aside, the bus tour also gives you a great chance to figure out which pubs you want to grab a pint in, of which, there are literally hundreds. Take advantage of the hop on/hop off aspect and try a few out along the way!

Two stops on our initial city tour that I really enjoyed are the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. No coincidence that free samples came with the ticket price! The prices for each tour is respectively decent and, in my opinion, worth the spend. There are many people who will say the Guinness tour is not worth the expense as it is not a guided tour and I have agree as it would seem like a given since they are such a large and prosperous operation. Sherry and I both felt like we got value from our time at the brewery, but I can certainly see the other side of the argument. There are many different ways to purchase your tickets for the Guinness tour, we combined it with our hop on/hop off bus ticket, but another great option to help avoid lineups and to save some cash would be to use the Viator App, which I would recommend checking out for any travel you will be doing. Once purchased, your ticket includes a complimentary pint of Guinness which you can chose to use during a lesson on how to pour the perfect pint or you can relax in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building where you will be treated to 360 degree views of the city whilst sipping on the wonderful brew that helped to build it all. For Sherry and I, we ended up being able to take in both experiences. When we walked into the Guinness Storehouse a gentlemen who was unable to use his ticket for a pint, kindly offered his ticket to us to use and I had absolutely no problem accepting! On top of that, Sherry doesn't drink beer, in light of her gluten intolerance, so needless to say I was one happy lad, quite full of Guinness by the time we walked back out onto the streets of Dublin. Watching Sherry focus so intently on pouring the perfect pint may have been the best part of my day. You would have swore she was mixing highly toxic chemicals, that, if mixed wrong, would have killed everyone in the room. I couldn't even get a smile out of her for the photo! As for the Jameson Distillery (we did this on a separate day), we had a great time there as well. You can purchase your tickets right in the building and if you have to wait a bit before your tour starts there are lots of little restaurants around it where you can saddle up for some Irish grub and maybe a drink or two to get yourself in the mood for some whiskey tasting! Unlike the Guinness Storehouse, this tour was a guided one and the young lady that was touring us around did a great job of going over the whole distillery process, while sharing the storied history behind Jameson's which dates back to 1780 . At the end of the tour you are given a chance to compare Jameson's, with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker, before heading into a private bar area where you get to chose a Jameson drink to top off your tour. There is no doubt when you leave this tour that you will have warmed yourself up on the inside and will be ready to face the ever changing weather that Ireland can toss at you. Just a quick note on the weather - the rumours are absolutely true! You can be treated to rain, snow, sunshine, gusting winds, rain while the sun is shining and just about any other type of weather you can think of, all within a single hour at times. I would strongly recommend applying the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" when heading out to tour around Ireland. Investing in a durable rain jacket/wind breaker, will be money well spent all day long.

In our fist week we spent lots of time trying out some of the local pubs and doing our best to train our ears to interpret the many different Irish accents we encountered. The pubs fill up early and if the weather is all out of sorts, they will fill up even earlier. So, if you plan on just randomly popping into a pub in the city centre later in the day, be prepared to duck in and out of a few before finding a seat, unless you are one of those people who likes to get into a fresh pint early in the day, then you will have no problem finding a barstool to curl up onto - just don't mind the well weathered Irish fella who might babble on next to you in what will seem like a foreign language of sorts. Of course we made a stop in the Temple Bar district at the one and only Temple Bar. If you google "Dublin Bars" the Temple Bar will no doubt be the one that tops the list. As much as the locals will tell you that Temple Bar is nothing but a tourist trap with jacked up prices, I still can't get over how great it felt when I was tipping back my first Guinness while listening to an Irish musician entertain the bar. We were tucked into a corner that put us well within earshot of the music, but slightly out view from the singer, but it was perfect. You won't likely find too many Irish folk in Temple Bar, as it is in the heart of the tourist district, which means we were sharing this experience with...you guessed it...Tourists! Even with our company maybe not being all that genuine to the Irish experience, I still had a big old smile on my face and enjoyed every minute of my time there. If you are trying to manage your costs then you may want to limit your entertainment and dining experiences in the Temple Bar District and Grafton Street areas as food, clothing and just about everything else is priced for tourists with deep, or at least, alcohol inducedloose pockets. The good news is that you only need to walk a few streets away from these areas and you will still be able to enjoy great food and entertainment and not blow your budget. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying to avoid these areas, both Temple Bar District and Grafton street have their own unique appeal which deserve your attention. On any given day you will come across some extremely talented buskers on Grafton street (singers, dancers, artists, musicians etc.), while the Temple Bar District offers the opportunity to run into new friends from all over the world.

As I mentioned earlier, Sherry and I really hadn't made any concrete plans beyond our first week in Dublin, so as a result we spent a few days working out what we thought we should do next. This is where the AirBnB scenario played out really well, as we had the apartment to ourselves during the day and our hosts had tones of Ireland travel information gathered up that we could peruse through at our leisure. Surprisingly, during our days of planning we received an invite to head over to England and spend the Easter Holidays with Sherry's Aunt Marj, Uncle Phil, Cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex in England! There was nothing much to discuss on this one, it was a yes right away, followed by the task of booking a RyanAir flight to get us there (so much for not flying again for awhile hahaha). While leafing through some of the pamphlets in the apartment we came across Shamrocker Adventures which offers a 7 day tour that takes you all the way around Ireland. This was a goal of ours from the beginning, but we just hadn't figured how we would go about it with no car and not wanting to overspend on a tour. The price was appealing right off the bat, so I did some research on trip advisor and could find no flaws in what I saw there. If there was room available for us in one of their upcoming tours we were sold. We had hoped to time it that when we got back from England we would jump right on this tour, but it was booked up until April 18th. Knowing we would find something to fill the time in between we signed ourselves up. Now, I may make these decisions out to be very simple in nature, but what is important to note is that there are two of us involved in each one. There were plenty of conversations and time given to each person to think through our options as they came to us, which kept things on the up and up once we finally pulled the trigger. Did we agree on everything right away, no, not always, but we have learned to give each other time to work their way through a choice before reacting to their initial feelings about doing it. These are the simple little life lessons that you go through together and which seem to be magnified when travelling and if adhered to, will hopefully only make things even easier down the road as we learn how each other operates. Alright, I think that is enough of my Dr. Phill impression, lets get back on track here!

I will leave off this post by saying that this will not be the last that you hear about Dublin and the many great experiences it has to offer. Our first week in the city staying with James and Jaro was a great introduction to Dublin and Ireland as a whole, but we knew there was so much more to see and do. Each day that passed by we became more and more comfortable with our new surroundings, which brought with it a craving and anticipation for even more!


Shayne & Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:53 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Back to Aussie Land for a Visit

Perth to Geraldton - Geraldton to Perth - Perth to.....DUBLIN! 4 jam packed days on the west coast of Australia.

sunny 30 °C

With 15 hours of travel time in the bag, we finally landed back in Perth Australia just after midnight. It was the wee hours of Friday morning and this meant that we were walking into a pretty empty airport. Tired eyes scattered the airport all around us, which included ours and we only had one goal in mind - get to our hostel and find our beds as quickly as possible so we could grab some long overdue shut eye. We booked one nights accommodation at Perth City YHA. It only took us about 25 minutes to get there from the airport and the night guard had no problems checking us in. The building itself is pretty massive and it looks like it could have been some sort of university residence way back when. There would be no lake front/mountain views waiting for us when we rolled out of bed in the morning but that was alright by us, as sleep was the only item that topped our list of things to do at YHA. The late night hostel entry routine was becoming just that for Sherry and I, routine. We went our separate ways to find washrooms and then regrouped, trying to make as quiet of an entry as possible. We had a shared room for four people and, as was expected, the top bunks were left for us. Well, there is really no quiet way to sneak into a top bunk when you are an adult. The bed is creaking, you're trying not to hit your head off of the roof and you just hope when you barrel role over the rail that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down on the unsuspecting person who has likely just nicely gotten to sleep on the bottom bunk. All went well on this "covert ops" entry and after finding some ear plugs to stifle the snoring of our new roommates, we both were counting sheep before long. Morning brought with it an open agenda until about 4:00 pm when we had to be back at the hostel to catch our ride to Geraldton with Damian. Damian is best friends with Angel and Joe and, we are now happy to call him a friend of ours as well. Damian used to teach at the same school as Joe, Angel, Jess and Nigel, but he had recently made the jump to Perth to continue teaching and luckily for us, he was ready to go back to Geraldton to see all his old friends.

After checking our bags into storage at the hostel for the day, we headed out to find breakfast, which was followed by a walk along the Swan river and around the harbour before finally setting out some towels under a park tree where we both opened up our books and just chilled under the shade. The swan river waterfront near Bell Tower is a great place to tour around and it also has ferry transportation to Fremantle if anyone is interested in heading out that way. We just didn't have time in our day to take that all in and so we just chilled. I picked up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath" when were flying to Australia and I hadn't had too much time to get into it, so this down time was a welcome chance to dive into it. I won't get into the details of the book but I will go as far as recommending reading it to those that haven't - it is certainly worth looking up. I have enjoyed everyone of Gladwell's books that I have read and this one didn't disappoint. I am admittedly not a big reader, but when I happen to find a book I really like it doesn't usually take me too long to knock it off. The day was perfect for just chilling outdoors and the time passed accordingly. Before we knew it, we had to pack up to meet our ride. Since we got back to the hostel a bit early I had time to sit in the lobby area and watch the cricket match that was on, while Sherry kept watch for Damian (Damo) outside. Damo arrived in style as he popped his pickup truck up over the curb, skimmed past Sherry's feet and then brought it to a graceful resting place in a spot that absolutely in no way resembled a parking spot - that was classic Damo. With no parking on our side of the street he just did what he had to do and made it work. After piling into the truck, we all did our best to ignore the fact that we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, and the best way to do that was to just start chatting. Damo is a top notch conversationalist, so there was no issue with getting things rolling. We covered a lot of ground in the 4 hours we had together and at no time did we ever enter into that awkward silence as the topics were free flowing from one to the next. There were plenty of laughs had which made the drive pass by even faster. Between funny text messages to our friends waiting in Geraldton, to ridiculous stories from Damo's teaching days, there was no end to the laughter. The part that made this drive even more interesting was that we had only met Damo for 30 minutes a few weeks earlier, prior to this drive, yet you would have thought we knew each other for years. That is a true testament to Damo as a person because he is one of those people that you just gravitate to because of this zest for life and endless knowledge of just about any topic. When we finally rolled back into Geraldton, it was after 9:30 at night but that didn't stop everyone from hanging out until after midnight carrying on with even more stories and even more laughs. Sherry did her best to try and sneak off to bed early, but that good old fear of missing out kept her hanging out on the patio with the rest of us well past the time she planned on staying up until.

Saturday, was a really laid back day as everyone just kind of chilled out and rested in preparation for Damian's night out planned at a local watering hole called the Provincial. Joe had a soccer game that evening and I decided I would head up and check that out before meeting up with everyone down at the bar. Li Fiamma soccer club is where Joe plays his soccer and I had been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the guys he played with when we went on the stag trip a few weeks back. They have a hell of a good bunch of guys on the team, who seemingly come from all over the world. I am happy to say the boys pulled off the preseason win, which they really needed after a couple of rough starts prior to that. The crowd for the game was not massive but, there were those few local fans who had been following the team for years and years and who could be heard doing their best sideline coaching from start to finish. A few quick beers to celebrate the win followed the game, then it was off to join the rest of the crew down at The Provincial. The night only got better from there and in typical fashion, we finished off with some good old MacDonald's burgers and fries. Taking a step back into our time at the provincial I would be remise if I didn't mention the live music we got treated to. A young man, who was tall and slightly awkward looking (no it wasn't me....), took the small stage out on the patio and then proceeded to absolutely blow our minds with his incredible talents. He had an infectious smile and perfectly timed mannerisms about him, along with talents on the guitar and the trumpet which he seamlessly juggled back and forth between as his audience was afraid to blink on the chance that they might miss something. Toss in some beatboxing and the fact that he worked his shy, younger brother into the show and he had us all eating out of the palm of his hand. What was supposed to be a slightly earlier night, did't stand a chance once this guy took the stage!

Our last day in Geraldton was filled with lots of laughs, some goodbye tears and then another conversation filled drive back to Perth with Damo. We made a brief stop to see the Pinnacles (http://www.visitpinnaclescountry.com.au) on our way back to Perth. The Pinnacles are limestone formations which are found in the Cervantes desert and which come with a few differing opinions as to what actually created them. If you are heading along the coast on the Northside of Perth, I would recommend making a stop here. It won't be a long one and you can drive right through instead of getting out to walk around - making stops for photos as you want to. Moving on to Perth we arrived at our hotel for a good nights sleep before catching our flight on over to Dublin. Our accommodations that night were a welcome surprise for Sherry as she thought we were staying in the YHA hostel again, but as an early birthday surprise I thought she might appreciate a tub to soak in and a comfy bed for a good nights rest in, rather then dipping and diving into a hostel for a questionable sleep. We stayed at a place called the Fraser Suits. The prices were reasonably with respect to what you could be paying in most places in Perth and the accommodations were just what the doctor ordered.

It was hard to believe that our time in Australia had come to a close. Western Australia has many great experiences to offer people and many which we didn't even get a chance to take in. If you choose to go North of Geraldton you will not be disappointed and I have tossed in a link to help people who want to look into it a little bit more (http://www.australia.com/en/itineraries/wa-indian-ocean-drive.html) as we certainly didn't get a chance to do everything that was available to us (guess we'll have to go back!). There is snorkelling that apparently tops that of the Great Barrier Reef in all ways at Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. WA often gets passed over for the heavily promoted Gold Coast (which is amazing as well) but if you have time in your travels I would definitely take a peak at what adventures you could find in the West. With old friendships caught up, news ones formed, and hundreds of great memories, it is impossible to look back on our time in Australia as anything but amazing. It was hard to leave it all behind us, but we had an exciting new chapter waiting for us in Ireland. This is where our planning had really come to a stand still as beyond getting to Dublin and staying at an AirBnB for the first week, we hadn't decided on much after that. This was somewhat by design as we wanted to leave some parts of our journey to chance as you never know what opportunities may come knocking once you get to a place. A blank slate was waiting for us and we both waited with nervous anticipation to see what we would start filling it up with!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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