Category Archives: Travel

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 87. On Languages, Foreign or Otherwise.

Coming back from my recent trip to Nice, France, I am still concerned about the need to have another language under your belt. Yes, it’s true that most countries we visit will speak English as a second language, including (although cynics will say otherwise) France.

I think it’s a matter of common courtesy to address those who host our annual visits in as much of their native tongue as we can manage. The next time I travel abroad, I intend to learn as much of the language as I can. Even those who visit us know our language. We should return the favour.


100 Words, 100 Days: Day 83. On Neighbours.

Mozart lived here when he was younger.

While I was in London this weekend, I stayed in The Belgravia Hotel (more like a guest house, but there you go) on Ebury Street, about ten minutes walk from Buckingham Palace. I took a bus tour of the city and it actually passed through Belgravia. I learned I was in august company. Mozart lived across the road from the hotel (he composed his first piece at the age of eight in London); Ian Fleming, Roger Moore and Sean Connery lived nearby too. JK Rowling and Margaret Thatcher are current residents.

Geniuses all, with the exception of The Iron Lady.




100 Words, 100 Days: Day 71. On Nice.

Wish You Were Here?

One of my least favourite sayings currently doing the rounds, especially in the bar trade, is “It’s nice to be nice.” Really…is it? Sometimes it’s nicer not to be nice. Sometimes you can get a hell of a lot of satisfaction just by being rude to people who deserve it. Of course, you can turn the other cheek – but why leave yourself open to another assault. It doesn’t make sense.

There is another nice – Nice, in the South of France. If you’re looking for me in the coming week, that’s where you’ll find me, lying on a beach, having fun.




I’m off on holidays this week. A friend and I are heading to Nice in the south of France for seven days. When I return, I am then taking a weekend break in London by myself. I’m looking forward to both trips immensely. But as everyone knows, when it comes to taking time off certain preparations must be made.

1. Cleaning: vacuum each room (hello carpet, long time no see), dust shelves, degrease counter top and cooker, clean out toilet and shower area. Replace old towels with new ones. Febreze the shit out of fabrics.

2. Organise: throw old newspapers and magazines away, sort out post, place bills in drawer (or burn them, whichever works), tell neighbour what day the bins go out (seeing that it’s you that always puts them out), make sure they know that the bins don’t come back in by themselves, renew library books online (for the sixth time) to save you bringing them back.

3. Bedroom: change bed linen (nothing worse than coming back from a holiday only to sleep in the same sheets you’ve slept in all year*), tidy floor, remove and hide pornographic material**, put books back in bookcase, check drawer for condoms and replace if out of date ***, check for batteries (why, I don’t know).

4. TV and DVR: from recent magazines, find out which of your favourite programmes are on what days and at what times, then set your DVR to record them while you’re away. Set aside three hours for this because you will check, double-check, then triple-check everything. Series Record on Sky is a must in these instances. Whatever else happens, don’t miss the series finale of Doctor Who.

5. Repeat Step 4.

6. Tell landlord that you’ll see him when you get back – but don’t tell him when you’ll be back. Make mental note to bring him back a stick of rock. This will act as a sweetener when you don’t have his rent.

7. Repeat Step 4.

8. Passport: check that all official documents are valid for time of travel. (Phew!) Cringe at photograph taken eight years ago. (Note: update travel insurance if you feel the need to. If not, you only have yourself to blame if a shark bites off your leg.)

9. Security: ask your neighbour to keep an eye on the place while you’re away. Say you’ll bring him back a carton of smokes for his troubles. Make a mental note to conveniently forget while in Duty Free.

10. Money: make sure you have some, otherwise it’s bread and water for a week.

11. Reading material: bring a couple of books for the beach/pool/balcony/police cell. I recommend a few thrillers to pass the time, but if you want to chat up the local talent, something intellectual will act as a conversation starter. And no, pornographic material doesn’t count.

12. Repeat Step 4.

I will update my blog as and when I can. Stay safe and keep warm.


* only joking

** really, I’m only joking.

***¬†they always are ūüė¶

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 23. On Space Tourism.

What with the global economy looking like its going the way of the dodo (via a Life Extinction Event – Deep Impact, how are you?); with riots breaking out in nearly every major city in the United Kingdom; and with a 77-year-old semi-retired television presenter well on his way to becoming President of the Republic of Ireland, one thought comes to mind: Neptune is supposed to be nice at this time of year.

I don’t know about you, but the next space ship that passes my way, I’m on it. I just hope I don’t bump into some damn dirty apes.

Aardvarkian in Athlone Town

Athlone on the River Shannon

I’ve often said that the best thing about Dublin is the road out of it. I have my reasons for this, and I’ll pursue those reasons at a later time. Needless to say, I look forward to any chance I get to make like Moses and get the flock out of there.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Herself where she thought we should go for our next weekend away. Athlone was mentioned and thought it was as good a place as any. So I booked us into The Bastion B&B on the Left Bank of Athlone and away we went last Friday evening.

Wikipedia describes Athlone (from the Irish Baile √Ātha Luain meaning “town of Luan’s¬†ford”) as located close to the geographical centre of Ireland, on the border of two counties,¬†Roscommon and¬†Westmeath, which are located in the provinces of¬†Connacht and¬†Leinster respectively. Although the¬†River Shannon, which runs through the town, forms the historic border between County Roscommon and County Westmeath, the¬†Local Government Act of 1898 designated most of the town as belonging to Westmeath, including areas west of the river. Much recent growth has occurred outside the official town boundaries. Monksland for example, a suburb on the west side of the town, is not within the official town boundaries, yet is the most populous area of County Roscommon.

Okay, enough history and geography. What did she and I think about the town? It’s beautiful for starters. The Left Bank, where we stayed, is the historical section of Athlone; the Right Bank is where the high street shops are (as well as fast food restaurants and nightclubs). To walk from the back end of the Left Bank to the top end of the Right would take about an hour. Enough time for a tour of the city (amid rain showers), some shopping and a chance to catch the West Ham vs. Chelsea game in the pub.

Sean's Bar: the oldest pub in Ireland (circa 900AD)

Speaking of pubs: there’s only one pub you should go to when in Athlone. Sean’s Pub is the oldest pub in Ireland (check the Guinness Book of Records if you think I’m having a laugh) and has an excellent heated beer garden. The locals are friendly, the stag and hen parties come out in force, and the music rocks the house.

On Friday night a duo played a mixture of country, traditional, soul and rock ballads. Three hours passed away in a flash. We finished off the evening dancing to Lady Gaga in Coppers Nightclub.

As usual we skipped breakfast on Saturday morning; but we made up for it with a good lunch at the Town Centre. Did I mention that it rained for most of the day? It did – twice; once for three hours, and again for four. Lucky we brought our brollies. But by the end of the day we had already decided that we’d return before Christmas.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

It was back to Sean’s that night (after I went out to get chips while Herself watched The X Factor) where a guy on a microphone belted out Oasis, Steve Earle and Saw Doctor tunes. A group of lads were down from Belfast on a Stag night. They were a bit worse for wear and one of them lost his glassed while giving it loads on the dance floor. Poor guy! I remember when I used to do that…

So it was a whistlestop trip if truth be told. There’s only so much you can do over a weekend, especially when the weather is inclement. But we’ll do it again for sure.