Iestyn was in Freiburg for the weekend but as usual didn’t write anything about it for SoBN, so I made a beautiful little video succinctly summarising the weekend in two minutes only. Epic. Iestyn loved the video so much that it made him go back to the video he started making about Schwarzwald about a year ago but never finished.
Gina decided to come to Dublin for a long, 4 day weekend. We decided to have a nice relaxing weekend, filled with good food and good times.
Friday was a nice and chill day. Started off with Gina topping up on her few weeks worth of reading Saturday’s Guardian, and eyeing up some fantastic biscuit recipes we could do later on over the weekend.
After a hearty breakfast and Netflix, we decided to head into town to do a bit of walking around and shopping. There isn’t much to report on the shopping front.
…and yet another unfinished post by Iestyn, it’s becoming ridiculous, he really has the attention span of a froot fly. So I’ll take over it from here.
There really is not much to report on the shopping front – the problem is that I come from a very under-served town as far as the variety of shops goes, and as much as I hate shopping, I still needed to give it a go and try to find some work-worthy pieces. I did find a nice pantsuit in Next, which I really liked, but unfortunately it just didn’t fit right, and I ended up empty handed. But anyway, I do like walking around Dublin, and it was nice.
For dinner we went to Yamamori, which was super tasty and nice.
Saturday was the most exciting day, as Iestyn had a couple of tickets to a Six Nations match in Dublin, Ireland vs. Wales. I was super psyched, as I never saw a rugby match live (or any other match, really, if you don’t count volleyball which I played for years).
We walked to the Aviva stadium surrounded by crowds of Irish fans, but there were some Welsh groups as well. The weather was nice and sunny with occasional showers, but it was really chilly.
We bought some rugby junk food before the match on the stadium, and watched the teams warm up. I was really excited. The Welsh looked much bigger and stronger, so I thought that was a good thing, and not only they brought over my favorite sheep guy, but they had a new addition of a proper huge beard (and 2m in height!). I was very hopeful for the match indeed.
However, it is fair to say that my expectations were not exactly met by the Welsh team’s performance. As a matter of fact, they got their asses kicked so badly by the Irish, I must say I was a little bit disappointed. It was still nice to watch all these guys doing their little rugby thing, but if the match was a little bit more even in terms of scores, it would have been more thrilling. Anyway, it was still fun and I was very happy we went!
In the evening we went to the cinema as we both wanted to see the new movie by the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis. We both really liked it, may be I liked it even more than Iestyn, I thought it was very beautifully made. I think i’m going to get it when it’s out on dvd as well and watch it again.
On Sunday, we decided to make a batch of the cookies for which we found the recipe in the Saturday Guardian – and I must say it was a great call! They were the Orange and lemon coconut biscuits, and they were divine. With the help of Iestyn’s housemates they disappeared quite quickly.
We also went to the cinema again, because we heard such great things about the LEGO movie – and they were totally right, the movie is AWESOME. As a matter of fact, everything is awesome.
On Monday, my pressie finally arrived, but it was sent to Egg, so we walked over to Iestyn’s work to get it. I was super excited because I didn’t know what it was. And I was even more excited to open it and find out that it was a new Ward Lock & Co. guidebook for my collection – this one for London! It’s good hundred years old and is in a really good shape too! I love it. I wish we could do our retro project with it around London, it has some cool photographs.
In the afternoon it was time for me to go, which is always so sad. But it was a great fun weekend in Dublin, and we’ll see each other soon enough hopefully.
This xmas we considered going for a trip to some of European cool cities, but then we decided not to, and stayed in the ‘burg. The idea was originally to have fun in the snow, with snowshoes and cross-country skis and all that but then the weather was actually really bad – it was very warm so there was no snow even on the hills, and it was often very rainy. This is btw the second year in a row with shitty xmas ambiance in the ‘burg, so I still didn’t get the skis I wanted to buy last year already. To be fair though, in the UK they had massive storms and flash floods, so that might have been even worse.
Anyway, we decided to be couch potatoes instead, and for that purpose got ourselves nice big 42” tv – the first time i’ve had a tv since like ten years or so. Of course we don’t actually get the stupid german broadcast, but got the tv specifically just to watch movies. And movies we watched – to name just a few, I loved The Great Gatsby, Behind the Candelabra, Another Earth (all newly gotten for b-day/xmas), and re-watched many of my fav classics – The Royal Tenenbaums, Shame, We’re the Millers, The Thick of It, Inbetweeners, Sherlock, Gone Baby Gone… And I still have Anna Karenina to watch when Iestyn’s gone (not really his type of movie).
Speaking of Sherlock, we could not wait for the new season (not really a “season” they only got like three episodes, and that’s after like two years! I wonder what they’ve been doing.) Unfortunately we could not watch it on the new big tv because we’re outside of the UK and we didn’t manage to work out FilmOn on it (not so “smart” now, is it?), but we still loved the first episode so far, and I cannot wait until the season is on a dvd.
Towards the end of our little holidays we found the full first season of Boardwalk Empire on dvds for only like 10eur in a shop in the ‘burg, so we got it to try it out, and we got completely hooked – watched the whole season in just a couple of days. Now I cannot wait for the shops to open to get the second season as well (I hope they have it!).
We had plenty of xmas cookies to eat with all that trashy entertainment, plus some delicious Leonidas pralines. I got an amazing kettle from Iestyn for my b-day, the kind that measures and shows the temperature of the water, and can be set to heat the water to any temperature – that’s important to make the perfect green tea and other tea kinds, which I like to make. So our holidays were also accompanied by excellent teas, from Kusmi in Paris and from the Palais des Thes.
Out tree was small as always but lovely, and there were so many presents underneath this year! We bought our supplies for xmas lunch on the Munster market as usual, that’s our fav thing to do, and Iestyn selected a lovely mushroom and chestnut pie for this year’s menu, accompanied as usual with roasted vegetables with Porto wine sauce, and mashed sweet potatoes with baked garlic. It was super-delicious, and i think we should make the mushroom pie our festive time staple.
I got awesome pressies, honorable mention goes to a proper ginger beard! I also got many books and a t-shirt and lush bath bombs and dvds and a beautifully designed lunchbox, so that I can prepare my lunch for work more often, which I should really do.
We also managed to give each other the same present – a lovely graphic novel called The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. One of them will have to go back to the store; so Iestyn will be keeping his, while I can pick another present to exchange for. I selected a great book about Wes Anderson’s films, but it’s currently all sold out, so we need to wait for the re-print (April may be?).
So all in all it was an epic break; we didn’t do much, but had a great time and re-charged our energy for the nex year!
At the end of November, for our anniversary we decided to go to Paris, because Iestyn found some cheap tickets from Dublin, and I now have a TGV train to Paris from the ‘burg (significantly less cheap but direct and fast). So we took a couple days off, and headed to Paris on Friday early morning, to meet at Paris Gare de Lyon a bit after 10am. Of course my train was exactly on time, while Iestyn was slacking along the way and kept me waiting for like half hour. After we finally met, we made our way to our cute little under-the-roof apartment Iestyn booked for us, beautifully located by the church of St Eustach in the Les Halles area – we could not be more central.
The weather was a bit grey and cloudy but it was not raining, and the xmas lights were already on in the streets, so it was all quite nice.
After we dropped off our stuff, it was practically time for lunch, given how early we both got up. We found a nice little place in our street called Little Italy, which seemed also to be super popular and it was really crowded at this hour. We managed to get us spots eventually, and had delicious filling meals and wine, but the true winner of the lunch was the creamiest, nicest tiramisu ever. It was right up there in the dessert heaven with the creamy cheese cake we had in Porto.
After lunch it was finally time to start exploring the city. We decided to start off with a gentle walk along the Seine to the Musee d’Orsay. Musee d’Orsay is beautifully located in a renovated old train station, and is one of the A-league galleries that actually have something to show for themselves – in this case it’s France’s national collection of the impressionist, post-impressionist and art noveau movements, spanning cca 1840s to 1914. The paintings collection features many works of Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissaro, Sisley, just to name a few. So, as Iestyn noted, a far cry from some other establishments, which have a doodle Picasso made while on the phone, and call themselves galleries. We loved the space and loved the collections, and it’s a place we’ll go to again sometime. It was not allowed to take any pictures inside, so we just took one of the main area, and one of Iestyn with his favorite statue – Ours Blanc (Polar Bear) by François Pompon.
There were also a few paintings by my favorite Henry Rousseau on display, most notably The Snake Charmer, which was cool but still not as cool as the surprised tiger in the London gallery, which remains my nr.1.
When we got out of there, it was already dark, and so we walked over to the Tuileries gardens, place de la Concorde and Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. There was already all the xmas shebang on Champs-Elysees, decorations and markets. Unfortunately the decorations were a bit over the top and the markets loud and uninspired, so it really didn’t convey any xmas atmosphere, more vulgar and circus-y.
On Saturday, we started systematically going through our checklist of touristy things to do in Paris. (Well, we actually first went to find Paperchase, because I needed nice xmas cards, and I live in such backwardly place where they sell no nice cards, but it was on the way anyway so no detour really.)
First on our list, Hotel de la Ville - Paris’ beautiful town hall rebuilt in neo-renaissance style between 1874-1882. The ornate façade is decorated with 108 statues of illustrious Parisians.
From there we made it to Place des Vosges, Paris’ oldest square. Inaugurated in 1612 as place Royale, it’s an elegant ensemble of 36 symmetrical houses with ground-floor arcades, steep slate roofs and large dormer windows. They are arranged around large and leafy square with four symmetrical fountains. Victor Hugo lived here between 1832 and 1848.
On our way from Vosges to Notre Dame we passed by Centre Pompidou, the most hideous architectural adventure in Paris, and in the top European eye-sore league. Opened in 1977, it was visionary only in the way it predicted the awfulness of the 80s that was to come. The dry description in our guide notes that it was effectively designed inside out, with utilitarian features such as plumbing, pipes, air vents and electrical cables forming part of the external façade; but this description does not really convey the appalling monstrosity of the building. On top of its inherent ugliness the whole thing is of course impossible to keep maintained, so all the pipes are covered with a thick layer of dust and soot and whatever has been around in the Parisian air for the past thirty years, so it looks not only ugly but also worn down and sad. If the former French president Georges Pompidou was just trolling, he done it right, he totally pwned Paris; question is why, but that we might never know.
We just hope it’s got something to offer on the inside, but we didn’t approach it any closer.
Passing this disgrace, we arrived at Notre Dame, the heart of Paris. Nothing much to say here, very touristy but for a reason. We didn’t spend too much time there but enjoyed the views.
From Notre Dame we caught the boat ride to the Eiffel tower, catching some nice views on both banks of the river along the way. Eiffel tower is a must in Paris of course, although we had no desire to go/ride up, and just admired it from the ground for a little bit. Then we took a walk around the Hotel des Invalides, built in 1670 by Louis XIV for disabled war veterans. It now hosts Napoleon’s tomb among other things.
For the evening we were invited for a lovely dinner with one of Iestyn’s friends and his wife, and their gorgeous cat. We had a great evening with lovely mexican food, after which we decided to have another look at the Eiffel, all lit up this time, and with a view from Trocadero.
Without knowing this when we got the tickets for Paris, but finding out thanks to Gina’s thorough preparations, we were in Paris for the Sunday when all public museums are free of charge. We decided to take advantage of this fact, and stated off our day in August Rodin museum, located in the mansion he used for his atelier. We enjoyed strolling in his gardens admiring his sculptures, including the famous Thinker.
From Rodin museum we walked along the quay to another exhibition, the permanent collections of the Musee du Quai Branly – beautifully presented art from Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas, which we really loved, although at this breadth it’s difficult to take it all in. Everything from masks, carvings, jewellery, prints, weapons and more from all corners of the world.
After that we were all museumed out, and went for a walk along the Seine, Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III and to church de la Magdalene. We then made it to Louvre although we had no intention to go in, just to admire it from the outside before we enjoyed a nice pink-colored sunset on the Seine again.
When the evening was in, we climbed up the Arc de Triomphe to admire beautiful views of night time Paris. Even the trashy xmas lights on Champs-Elysees looked better from up above. Back on Champs-Elysees we went to Kusmi Tea shop, where Iestyn bought me some beautifully smelling teas, and we then sat down in their little place to have some team with the most delicious sweets ever.
On Monday, we woke up to a glorious sunshine, so we decided to get another take on the Eiffel tower, sunbathing this time. It was quite epic indeed, although the soft white cloud was coming in quite quickly, so by the time we changed location and made it to the basilica Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, the sky was quite dull once again. We paid to go up the dome to get some spectacular Parisian panoramas. By the afternoon when it was time to catch the train back home the sun came back again though, so our last glimpses of Paris were sunny and beautiful, and we were quite sad to go.
This is my analogue capture of the weekend; came out quite nicely if I may say so myself:
After a super busy few weeks at work, Gina decided to take a week off and head over to Dublin for some relaxing times. We umm’ed and aah’ed about whether we should rent a car and travel around Ireland for a few days, or head over to Wales on the ferry to see my family and do some hiking. We decided it would be much more fun to do some hiking and seeing the sights in Wales, so we booked ourselves on a ferry over the Irish Sea. There was much speculation if the ferry was going, as the weather over in Wales was very stormy. Gina read that it was the worst storm in 10 years.
Our super fast ferry was cancelled, so we had to wait to catch the 9pm ferry over to Wales. It went super smoothly – with some of us sleeping the whole three hours. We were greeted in Holyhead by Dad, who took us back to my parents house – and to our super newly decorated bedroom, which was nice. CamperVan art and all! For Monday, the weather wasn’t in our favour to be heading up to the hills, so we decided to have a ‘tourist’ day around some of the places Gina hasn’t yet been to in Wales. After a quick stop at my favourite bakery in Llanrug to get a couple of nice pastries, we headed up the Llanberis Pass to see the mountains, and slowly make our way towards Betws y Coed where we decided to go for a spot of lunch.
Along the way, we stopped off at the lovely Swallow Falls – a multiple waterfall system that’s located on Afon Llugwy on the way to Betws y Coed. As it’s been raining hard all week, the falls were quite spectacular, the most fierce I’ve seen them.
After a nice stroll around Betws y Coed, looking at the art galleries, we had ourselves a nice cuppa and scone from a local cafe, and decided it would be cool to head up through the Conwy valley and see the mighty Conwy Castle.
The castle itself is a fantastic place, It’s stunningly located on the Conwy River and has fantastic views all over. We spent a couple of hours exploring every single rooms and hallways, even bumping into my old school teacher that I hadn’t seen for over 10 years.
We finished our touristy day with a quick trip to pizza hut, and then met up with a couple of my friends for a pint and a catch-up in Llanberis before heading home for the evening.
…and because Iestyn happily leaves posts unfinished like this, I will have to finish the job on this one.
After a touristy Conwy escapade, we decided the next day we should also do some nature fun, and selected Yr Aran for our little hike. We didn’t want to do anything too crazy as the weather was uncertain, but in the end it actually held quite nice with no rain, and it was just super cold and windy with some ominous blackness in the sky – just as we like it.
Not much to say about the walk otherwise, it was not extremely eventful. Iestyn took a nice panorama picture of the view but there was a rusty stick smack in the middle of it, so it kinda spoilt it. I took a great selfie up on the top.
On the way back to Dublin our (fast) ferry was cancelled again due to bad weather, and we had to take the big slow one. The storm was epic and the sea really rough this way round, so I got all sea sick for the first time in my life and was throwing up all over the place. I was not nearly the only one either, the whole thing was basically just a chain reaction started off by a little girl, who felt sick and did the only reasonable thing at such situation – ran to her dad and threw up all over him. Anyway, Iestyn was fine of course, but refused to go to the captain to tell him to use the stabilisers on the boat, which would have been appropriate I think.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the week in Dublin, which was boring as per usual, but sunny and nice nevertheless. We went to the Dublin National Gallery and I liked one of the paintings too.
Going back to Dublin!
One wrong turn on the highway right next to the airport, and we ended up on the Vasco da Gama bridge, our ultimate sight of the vaycay. As wiki points out, it is a cable-stayed bridge flanked by viaducts and rangeviews that spans the Tagus River in Parque das Nações in Lisbon. It is the longest bridge in Europe (including viaducts), with a total length of 17.2 km. Epic.
We soon left Lisbon far behind, Iestyn was massively stressed out, but I was completely calm and delighted for seeing an additional unplanned sight. Eventually we were fine, returned to the airport no probs, gave back our car and got on our flight to rainy Dublin.
Lisbon time! A bit scared of the driving and parking in Lisbon’s tiny, narrow, one-way, crowded streets, we did not let the fear get the best of us and bravely headed in for the morning. Iestyn and Nexy did super well and we arrived at our chosen hyper-modern underground parking lot in the middle of all that mattered in Lisbon.
We started off at the Miraduro da Graça, a nice viewpoint over the town with a cherry of a church on top. From there we walked over to the gorgeous Igreja São Vincente de Fora, with beautiful azulejo-filled cloister and epic exhibition of 18th-century azulejo illustration of La Fontaine’s Fables. Also, the biggest collection of seashells.
Quick trip to the flea market behind the church, and outside view of the national pantheon. We were not too keen on the insides of the castle, which was also insanely touristy, so we just made a nice walk around on the top of the hill for views.
A visit to the cathedral and a couple more churches, and we were ready for a rest in a nice Austrian café with toasted sandwiches, strudel and beer/coffee. This gave us energy for more sightseeing, and we headed to the spectacular Praça do Commercio, where we were approached by drug dealers every time we passed by the central statue of Dom Jose I (no less than five times).
We then tried to figure out how to get to Belem by public transport when Iestyn had a genius idea of just driving there, which proved super useful not only because it was only some 7 km from where we were, but also because we later found out that our campsite was very close to Belem as well.
In Belem, we visited the most beautiful place of them all, the ultimate Manueline beauty to rule them, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Do I even need to mention it’s on the list?
Standing at the entrance to Lisbon harbour, the Monastery of the Hieronymites – construction of which began in 1502 – exemplifies Portuguese art at its best. The nearby Tower of Belém, built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s expedition, is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world.
As our book says:
The mosteiro is the stuff of pure fantasy – a fusion of Diogo de Boitaca’s creative vision and the spice and pepper dosh of Manuel I, who commissioned it to trumpet Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India in 1498. There is nothing like the moment you walk into the honey-stoned Manueline cloisters, dripping with organic detail in their delicately scalloped arches, twisting auger-shell turrets and columns intertwined with leaves, vines and knots.
Indeed, nothing like it. Vasco da Gama’s tomb is in the church as well.
From the monastery we walked over to the Tower of Belem, already mighty tired for the day.
Getting closer to Lisbon already, we crossed the famous faux-Golden Gate bridge and got a glimpse of the big city on our way to Sintra, whose “cultural landscape” is on the UNESCO list, oh god, how many more still to come?
In the 19th century Sintra became the first centre of European Romantic architecture. Ferdinand II turned a ruined monastery into a castle where this new sensitivity was displayed in the use of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance elements and in the creation of a park blending local and exotic species of trees. Other fine dwellings, built along the same lines in the surrounding serra , created a unique combination of parks and gardens which influenced the development of landscape architecture throughout Europe.
There are many sights to see in Sintra and surroundings, so we had to make a careful selection. After some navig kerfuffle around town, we oriented ourselves and went first to see the famous Palacio Nacional de Sintra with two iconic cone chimneys on top.
The building itself was beautiful with exquisite interiors and tiling, but it could not be more touristy, so the crowds spoilt it for us a bit.
Our fav piece of art was the painting of Jesus in naughty nightie, but we later learned that it was actually John Baptist donning that sexy little piece.
Afterwards we decided to visit the Quinta da Regaleira, a neo-Manueline extravaganza complete with huge gardens with tunnels, caves, secret doors, waterfalls, famous inverted tower, gods, goddesses, gargoyles and beasts… so much beauty! Nearly not as many people either, it made the highlight of the day.
Late lunch of pizza in a nearby outdoor snack bar, we had enough for the day, and decided to give a miss to the other places around Sintra and just head for the coast.
Iestyn selected Praia Grande due to some more dino fossils nearby, but there was not camping around, so we drove down to Guincho instead, the famous windy beach, mecca of kitesurfers and windsurfers. We found a tiny wind-shielded cove in the rocks and watched the surfers fight those mighty waves.
We decided to slowly head up north to the Setubal peninsula, while checking out some of the sights along the coast. After searching through our guidebook Iestyn discovered that there are some fossilised dinosaur footprints near the Cabo Espichel, so our trip for the day was decided.
It was a nice coastal drive anyway, so I didn’t mind. It turned out that there were actually several dino places to visit, some with a little walk along the coast, which was pretty. On Cabo Espichel itself the dino tracks were on a vertical cliff rock, which made me doubt their veracity, as I don’t think dinos had any suction cups on their paws to be walking vertical like that. Anyway, Iestyn was happy as a child, humming the JP tune over the whole trip (and I could tell what it was even though he didn’t hum it very accurately), so it was all good.
On Cabo Espichel itself there was a tiny lighthouse and medium-sized monastery up on the dino cliffs, which was pretty. After a windy cliffy lunch we headed further up the coast and camped in Costa da Caparica for the night. It had nice sun-setty little city beach, which had no waves, but did have two desperate surfers floating flatly around.
Gina’s name day!
After a leisurely morning, during which we purchased a beautiful parasol for Iestyn’s lobsterised body, we went to our now favourite Praia do Malhão to spend most of my name day.
We had great fun in the water, waves ad all, but we were a little bit careless about the tide coming in swiftly through the day, until one huge unexpected wave just swept over us and our stuff. Oh no! I was just munching on my nutella specifically bought for my name day, and now the jar was full of salty water and sand.
Our other stuff was also wet and sandy, including my book. We took it as a sign that we’ve had enough fun for the day, picked our stuff and headed out of town, to Porto Côvo. We camped nicely in the town, rinsed out and hanged our wet stuffs and headed for a nice name day dinner in restaurant Marques. Iestyn had a mushroom stuffing dish and I had a bowl full of delicious mussels cooked in wine with garlic and coriander. We shared a chocolate mousse for dessert.