What a weekend we had last weekend! The Electric Picnic took over, now familiar Stradbally and we were, yet again, completely won over by the Pod Productions offering to the festival circuit! They create such a wonderland, with such attention to detail, and the whole affair is reminiscent of Disneyland... not a stone unpainted, not a fairylight forgotten!
The one thing I absolutley love love about the picnic is the absense of young twats out to cause mayhem... the whole crowd are pleasant, happy and there to relax, there is a sense of joviality in the air, displayed in even the most introverted getting their spotty wellies and zogabons on!
The line up is always interesting, the picnic constantly offering an eclectic mix of old and new, with nothing too contemporary, nothing to draw the teenyboppers!
We went this year with our children, and it was brilliant. Mary had a ball, feeling like one of the gang as she strolled through the crowds in her wellies and skinny jeans... Joe (equpped with ear protectors) enjoyed all the attention, and slept through most of the evenings entertainment. There was a whole section dedicated to children, with workshops ranging from basket making to stone writing! The rain held off nicely until the early hours of Monday morning and it seems the Electric Picnic did not fail to disappoint anyone.
The mix of music and art, with the most curious displays of puppetry, sand art, and performances from all sorts, is perfect fodder for those hungry for an alter ego, an alternate world....
One where they strip off the suit, the mortgage, the stresses and the strains and float back eagerly into the carefree existence they once knew as childhood!
Well, with some resistance, we eventually pulled up in our queue for the Dun Laoghaire bound ferry, and after a short wait, we drove on board. Birdy found herself placed among some real grannies, and she was the baby for once!! Her engine was like a kitten purring beside these growlers! The short sailing home was uneventful, and quiet... Our funds had expired over a cooked breakfast this morning, and so with barely enough for a shared cup of tea, we had little to do but talk about our trip and how, although it felt like forever since we had left, it had flown by!
Its hard to believe we won't be unpacking the van tonight, folding down our comfy bed and waking up to another new day.... in another new place.... with the open road ahead and the world at our feet...
I can't believe its time to go home, after all the wonderful experiences we've had and amazing places we've been... the time has come, to take off our nomadic sandals and step back into our regular shoes.... Booo....
For now, though, we're just driving, closing our eyes to the reality, the direction we are going and imagining that we are on our way to yet another city...
Bill is full of surprises, and a great example of this was last year, when we took trains across Europe, he shocked us all by saying the name of the longest place in the world, as our train passed through and the long never ending sign passed us by.
So we demanded immediate lessons, and since then we have all been able to break out the tongue twister on demand...
At the end of our holiday last year, we diverted the trip and booked into a hotel in Llanfair p.g. which was great fun, the town comprises of a train station with the biggest gift shop you'd ever see, and a chipper - which we all concurred did the best fish and chips we'd ever had!
So this year of course, we had to stop by and try those fish suppers again! We weren't let down! The freshest fish, in a dark beer batter, with juicy salty chips and mushy peas... when you're hungry its manna from heaven!
So arriving in Britain to rain and wind, not much different than Belgium...! But thankfully by the time we arrived in Wales, the rain had stopped and the wind had died down, and so it was camping reminiscent of childhoods spent in Brittas Bay...
We had rang ahead and were greeted with a chorus of "Come on DOWN!" so we were looking forward to a bit of camp in camp!! We weren't disappointed as the reception was manned (I use the term lightly) by a very colourful pair, one who fell about in a mock swoon every time I spoke to him claiming to be a "goner for an irish accent!"
The campsite was spotless, with great facilities and a shortcut through the most scenic countryside brought us to a delightful little town on the sea!
We found ourselves, for dinner, in a hotel that didn't seem to have moved with the times, I kept expecting Benny from Crossroads to come around the corner!
After a pie and chips dinner, followed by treacle tart (never had it before - YUM!) we headed back through the fields, in the dark, to our campsite. It was eery and beautiful, but scary-scary and I swear I could hear Derek Acorah whisper "Whats that Sam?" when the wind picked up as we rounded the hill!
We keep remarking how it doesn't feel that the trip is over.... but it is.... tomorrow we'll board the boat to Dun Laoire, drop Birdie off to my moms, get back into our regular car and head back to our house... until next year!!!
We've only seen a handful of vw vans as we've travelled along, we saw alot in Britain and then one or two on our way to the mill. Then we saw none, bar one in our campsite in Florence, and we were shocked at the lack of them in Germany where we were sure they'd be rife! In amsterdam there was rumours of one in the campsite, but I never saw it, and so we were delighted when we drove into our site in Bruges and saw we had a neighbor. This was a lovely van, with completely original interior, owned by a french couple taking their maiden voyage to sweden! We chatted with them, and told them what we had learned from our trip, and from those more expert than we! The other vw van we saw in Belgium was turned away from our campsite, as it was full, and so they parked up outside on the street for a rest. It was a deep silver, and had been given a "pimp out" which I found really unappealling. It had blacked out windows, alloy wheels and a spoiler!! It looked like a thug! The vw can barely reach 60 miles an hour so why anyone would make it sporty is beyond me! I really think the vw campervan should be made to look as close to it would have originally, modernising them just makes them look sad, like mutton dressed as lamb... it takes their personality (soul?) from them and they don't deserve that!! They are old ladies, give them chintz and flowers, not leather and spikes!
We were dying to get to see the chocolate factory and museum that Bruges boasts, and so after the Holy Blood and our carraige ride we shot down to catch it, as it closes at 5.
In we went and paid. WHAT A BLOODY WASTE OF MONEY!!! The most horrendous statues made of chocolate lined the halls, tacky and awful and then rooms and rooms of cups used to drink chocolate over the ages. WHO CARES ABOUT THAT??? There was an impressive display of white chocolate statues, made by a russian artist, I didn't get the name, as I was distraught that they were in a glass cabinet and so I couldn't lick them...
I wanted to see sweets on conveyor belts, a friendly fat chocolate maker singing as he dipped his finger in the liquid and then rows and rows of chocolate sweets would fall from the ceiling into my waiting mouth...
Instead a young bespectled choclatier told us, in six languages, how to make a praline sweet, in about six minutes and then ushered us out as the next group came in...
I was so disappointed, but consoled by the token tasting as we left the building... with a gob full of chocolate its hard to be downcast for long!
On a tight tight budget (we are broke, broke, broke) we had chosen our itinerary from things less likely to dig deep in our pockets! The Basilica of the Holy Blood was free, and since I am intrigued by and curious about relics, we headed there first. The relic is very precious as it contains the blood of Jesus Christ. Not only that but the blood becomes fresh again daily, then coagulates again at night. You may be interested in my ommitance of words like "apparently" or "supposed to" but where relics, and religion are concerned I think its more respectful to present the information in definate language. Why not? Its a belief held by many people and so when on their turf I try to be respectful.
So we went to see the Holy Blood and I actually got to hold the relic itself! I queued up and they allowed me place my hands on it. I couldn't take my eyes off it, and I have to admit I was open mouthed, and not in prayer! It was bizarre... a blood stained rag in a glass tube, but the blood was as new as if I had just dabbed it off a wound. Bright red and glistening. Amazing.
Of course there are those stick in the muds who say scientifically the blood changes because of temperature, but I say Booooooo to that! Why shouldn't it be the blood of christ? Why shouldn't it be revered and held in a precious vile? I think its brilliant, and I have to say I felt something when I placed my hands on the glass bottle, despite my curiousity for the world of relics, despite my questions regarding how the blood of christ ended up in Belgium, despite the obvious modern "oh come on!" reaction that most would have, I felt something as I laid my hands on the precious relic, a mixture of amazement and awe, followed by a definate feeling of encouragement.
Perhaps it was the curiousness of humankind that touched me, the belief in our uniqueness, the belief in God, or maybe it was the strength of the relic, who knows?
After a breakfast of waffles and coffee, we were off again to Bruges, with a list of things we wanted to see. So we queued and got on board a horse and carraige. The driver was very informative, with a great roll on his 'r's that amused us all, and we saw the sights in thirty minutes. We always try to do a city tour, as its a great way of seeing everything in a day, but in bruges there was a very reasonable rate for a carraige ride, only five euro more than three tickets for the bus tour.
Belgium is a country I know little about, and so I was none too pushed about visiting it, in fact it was barely factored into our trip. However when Fergal told me he was in Bruges and it was wonderful, we decided to forgoe Luxembourg and drive straight to Holland, then spend time in Belgium, going home through Dunkirk and Dover instead of Amsterdam to Newcastle!
We booked into a campsite near Bruges called Camping Memling. On arrival we realised that the photos on the website were taken cleverly, what we thought would be a large site turned out to be a tiny little nook with limited facilities, nonetheless lovely and very homely.
Still on the cycling buzz from Amsterdam, we hired bikes and cycled into Bruges!
Bruge is a medieval town, surrounded by a moat, there was once walls which don't remain but the four gates are still there and are very impressive... Cycling over the drawbridge, I would have given anything to be on horseback! The whole town is cobbled streets, and the buildings are out of this world! Pretty, dainty, fairylike, Bruges couldn't fail to grab you by the heart and wrap itself around your little finger... Despite the bustling queues for horse and trap rides, and canalboats and the fierce prices of the central restaurants, you forgive Bruges instantly for its tack and tourist gack, and adore every stone under your feet!
We hung around for the evening, going for pancakes instead of dinner, served by a grumpy landlady in a local creperie... I ended up having a bit of a "hit the roof" moment in school french with her after our visa was roughly denied (despite signs on the door) and she started telling other customers about us wanting to use a credit card as if we'd asked for tick!
Despite this, we concurred that the belgians, perhaps, were generally of surly charachter, and so it didn't put us off... we just couldn't wait for tomorrow with a whole day to explore!
I had wanted so badly to see the Anne Frank house, and Mary had read the diary between the mill and amsterdam, so on our way to Bruges we stopped and went in. There was only a couple of people there in the queue and so when it opened we had a wonderful opportunity to see everything without crowds.
It was a very strange experience, I wished I had reread the book beforehand but even so it was amazing to be in the house they hid in from the Nazis and to see her actual diary.
It was hard not to be upset, going through the secret annex as she had, walking along the corridors and up the stairs as she described, with her bedroom walls as they were, her height marked on the wall and videos from people who knew her sharing what they knew of her life.
What got me the most was how young she was, I had read the book as a child and so had seen her as someone older than me, I don't think I really understand that she died after everything, that really only struck me as I looked at her life size photos and saw a little girl looking back, like my own little girl, full of life and so so young.
The thing that I will remember most, though, is the footage of Otto Frank, Annes father, talking about the diary.
He said that when he came back to Amsterdam, after the liberation, and found out that no-one else would be coming home, he was glad to have annes diary, which she had always entrusted to him to keep safe and he had promised never to read. It had been in a case that was kept for him by friends. He said it took him "a very long time to read it" and that when he did he could not believe how deep she was, and how serious her thoughts had been. His final words have echoed in my ears all day and I'm sure I will always remember he said that the conclusion he came to, after reading Annes diary, was that no parent "really knows their children"...