27 December 2009

Alans Column in the Leinster Leader

Schnitzel’s European Adventures.
Like crossing the road.

You are more likely to boil an egg in luke warm water than you are to find parking in Bordeaux. Seemingly everyone has parked their cars and gone to bed, hence the city being nicknamed ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The second part of the nickname because the city is tremendously beautiful. It is not a cryptic pseudonym. This is a city you should definitely visit if you like buildings that weren’t built yesterday. Wonderful arches, bridges, monuments, buildings and even roads decorate the city. It makes you feel that nobody works there, the locals just bask in the beauty of their surroundings and gawk insatiably at the complexities of the stonework.
If Bordeaux is called ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ then Biarritz should be called ‘The Windy Beauty’. If you are using this column as a travel guide then my tip for Biarritz is wear heavy shoes. If you are a particularly light person, perhaps a heavy hat would also be advisable, or maybe a strong partner you can cling onto. It is not to say that the town is not sleeping, this is no different in our experience of French towns so far. It was baron. Not a human in sight, I’m sure in summer it’s hopping, but November is not its prime. Maybe it should be called ‘Sleeping Windy Beauty’. Its massive waves attack the gorgeous coast line in a spectacle that is better viewed from behind the stone wall 20 metres above. It is borne on a cliff edge and driving along above the beaches with the splash of the crash of the wave reaching up that high it gives you what I would consider the Biarritz feeling.
We entered Spain as if we had crossed the road. There was no sign, no elaborate ‘Welcome to Spain’ no ‘Viva’ or ‘Vamos’, nothing. I only realised we were in Spain when I saw a shop called Pepe’s. Then I noticed that I no longer had any idea what signs said, and the Renaults and Peugeots turned into Seats. Spain immediately seemed, for lack of a better word, poorer. Construction seemed endless and somewhat futile, like you could guess many of these structures may never be finished. Streets seemed less clean and organised.
We got to San Sebastian expecting surfer parties and a crazy night. No matter what anyone tells you, November and December is not surf season on the west coast of France and Spain. We were told it was and we learned the hard way, it was like a French town, everyone was indoors, perhaps afraid of the wind, I don’t know.
If you did not know, you could guess that it was just south of Biarritz because it shares the same ferocious savage waves that seem to have some sort of a feud with the beach and want to damage it furiously and repetitively.
Next stop is Bilbao which is slighty inland so will be hopefully less windy but what it lacks in blow it will make up in beauty.
(Email: alanbennett8@hotmail.com for comments or suggestions.)

17 December 2009

Mikeys Video Blog type thingy.


Ok so i had a dillema, i felt stupid talking into a camera on my own and i didn't feel comfortable doing it in front of other people so heres my solution..

link below:


Mikeys Video Blog type thingy.

part 2 of week 1.

ok so i dont know how to attach videos to my blog from youtube which is an actual balls. if anybody knows please do tell me.

but below is the link for the video on youtube:


Alans Column in the Leinster Leader cont.

Schnitzel’s European Adventures.
‘To The Great Walled City Part 2’

Continuing from the first article in this column last week we had just left Nantes and our next stop was Carcassone, our goal.
The Transit was powering along nicely, sucking modestly on diesel, making admirable mileage on the open French road. We were closing in on our target, only a few more hours driving and trusty sat nav would do most of the work. As I said in last weeks article France closes early and even as early as 8pm driving through towns (to avoid tolls) we saw nobody. Towns here were desolate, not quite like desolate towns in Ireland however that are basically holes, desolate towns in France look cute and vintage like an old couple kissing in a park on a summers day. However quiet the towns were, the countryside was truly alluring, vineyards, old terrecota buildings, fruits I’ve never even heard of. It was all very enchanting, picturesque if you will allow an artist an obvious description. Soon after driving by endless streams of Renaults, Citreons and Peugeots and we were nearing our destination, sat nav took us down an unexpected turn. Away from lights and away from a road that would welcome oncoming traffic. Our Transit took up the full road and desolate towns began to look less cute and vintage and more abandoned after World War 2 massacres. Of course, they weren’t, they were charming placid towns, French people don’t use curtains, they have shutters outside their windows which make everything look boarded up as opposed to occupied and sleepy. Trees took a dull blue hue in the full beam of our headlights highlighting the perfect blackness that lurked behind. At the same time that Mr. Sat Nav brought us down this scary middle of nowhere road, Mr. Ipod was blasting out Thom Yorkes The Eraser, not the least creepy album ever made. Eventually we were told to ‘turn right’ and ‘in 200 metres we have reached our destination’. It seemed - admitedly- a bit small to be a ‘great’ walled city, but we crept upon it slowly regardless. When we got into Carcassone, our first illustrious target, we found a washing line tied up between two trees drying only white sheets in the darkness. This was the wrong Carcassone, it was a two house village. We had driven six hours to the wrong place. The worlds quickest three point turn took us out of the creepy little place and in the direction of Bordeaux. The principal problem with advancements in technology may well be our trust in them. If a machine says something we immediately assume it to be fact. If a microwave jumped off a bridge, I think I might just do it too. But only if it was a particularly sophisticated microwave.
Our Carcassone is on the other side of France, we will get there eventually and then this column may have something about ‘The Great Walled City’.
(Column continues next week. Email: alanbennett8@hotmail.com for comments or suggestions.)


15 December 2009

Mikeys Video Blog type thingy.

week 1 part 1
from Cherburg to Biarritz. not the best week of my life but definitely more interesting than most.


11 December 2009

Alans Column in the Leinster Leader

Schnitzel's European Adventures: The continuing search for the 'great walled city'

By Alan Bennett

Our trip had begun. We had already travelled the 102 kilometres from Newbridge to Rosslare and we were now eyeballing the gargantuan vessel that would keep us afloat to France.
It would be easy to be fooled when looking at one of these ferries, they may be magnificent and mammoth, but the waves rule the seas. Basically the ship goes wherever the waves want it to go.

They tend to demonstrate this by bullying the ferry up and down, up and down, up and down. I took my dosage of Sea-Legs an hour before boarding the ferry as stated, but I did not spawn the legs of a sailor, instead I seemed to get the legs of a man who had been drinking since Ireland beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup.

The first person we met happened to be Mikey's Uncle Dave who lives in Spain and was in Ireland for the weekend. Dave was a very nice man but he was a scaremonger, one of these people whose advice, while appreciated, is very much on the negative side.

If he is right we will be arrested in France, scammed in Spain and robbed, raped and beaten in Italy. My intention is to continue this adventure blindly and hopefully prove him wrong on every point. He did come up with one gem though, that we should visit Carcassone, a 16th century walled city. This sounded excellent to me, and so we had a target.

We arrived in Cherbourg, I think I have never been so happy to see land as Mikey embarrassingly had to peel me off the wet ground and direct me back to the driving seat of our Ford Transit van/house. We slept that night in a car park and woke the next morning and set our Sat Nav for Rennes, the first big city on route to Carcassone.

Rennes was quiet. We had made a discovery, France closes early. With this new intelligence we moved on until we eventually found a part of Rennes with some life in it. A square where a Christmas Festival had just finished was kept alive by about 500 young people who refused to let the buzz die. They stood in groups in the cold drinking wine and beer and smashing their vacant bottles; almost as a celebration, as if to say 'I have finished another, my thirst cannot be quenched' Suddenly it felt very like home.

Still the highlight of Rennes for me was a little street called Rue Du Chapitre. We happened upon it as we were ambling around oblivious to direction. We stopped because it stood out as looking particularly French, a charming windy cobble paved street, with enticing little restaurants and boutiques. Signs and menus were sought out of antiquity to give a particularly winsome vintage affect.

Next stop Nantes. Quite excited to get into the big city and look around, we were defeated by rain. This was no average rain, not only would our lovely little green isle be proud of this downpour, it would probably be washed away by it. We got a hot chocolate and continued out of the city that through my windscreen was obviously beautiful and historic.

Email: alanbennett8@hotmail.com for comments or suggestions