Non-essential travel from Ireland was re-permitted from the end of July. Having bought a flight to Malaga on the Costa Del Sol earlier that year, before the date when restriction were eased, for the day after said restrictions were finally lifted was perfect timing. This would be my first trip to Malaga – though I’d been to sister Andalusian city of Seville en route to Morocco some years earlier. My preconception was that Malaga was a gateway to Torremolinos and Fuengirola and those massive sun holiday resorts so beloved by the Irish and our northern European neighbours.
What hit me first as I disembarked the plane at 8pm was how hot it was. I’d forgotten to take into account the sweltering heat of southern Spain in summer. I should have known – I’d been to Greece and Malta during high season on previous travels. My lack of foresight was my own fault. I wasn’t worried – I was on holidays. I would struggle through. More concerning was my lack of digital Covid vaccine certificate. Having been fully vaccinated since May I should have received this soon to be compulsory travel pass. No such luck. I had the cardboard HSE card detailing my status but was worried it might be looked at askance by the Spanish authorities. There was nothing I could do about that now. I wasn’t going to delay my trip for the sake of a QR code.
My hotel was in the centre of the surprisingly large city. My research indicated that Malaga was Spain’s sixth largest city with a population of 600,000 people. Good news. This wasn’t just a beach resort. Press 2 below for next page
By July of this year, international travel out of Dublin Airport remained banned (in theory) for all but essential purposes. Obviously a hastily muttered ‘funeral’ to any inquiring policeman would see you waved through security. I am not a convincing liar however, so I performed my usual clever trick – I flew from Belfast for my upcoming trip. My destination was the Scottish Highlands. The plan was to visit the city of Inverness to where you could get a direct flight. I contacted a Glaswegian friend M, and asked her if she had any recommendations for Inverness and the surrounding area.
‘When are you going?’ came her reply. I told her early July. To my astonishment she told me that she and her partner D had bought a camper van and were planning a camping holiday in the Highlands at the same time I was visiting. An offer of a tent and a seat in the van was made. This was a welcome development. Solo travel is very enjoyable, and I have become a veteran of such excursions. Traveling with friends is preferable, however. Shared experiences take the edge when it comes to travel.
My EasyJet flight was early morning from Belfast International. The thought of rising at 5am to catch a bus from Dublin filled me with horror. I booked a room in a youth hostel close to the Europa bus station in Belfast that would allow me to emerge from my crypt at a more humane 8.30am and reach the airport on time for my flight. I ignored the fact that I was at least twenty years older than everyone staying in the hostel – I had paid for a private room so I could close my door on the world.
The flight the next day was uneventful, short, and almost empty. The bus to Inverness town from the airport departed once an hour. The next scheduled service was in twenty minutes. I asked the driver if he was going to town. He said that he’d be back in the airport in twenty minutes but if I wanted to board the bus now that was fine. The airport shuttle was a back-and-forth service. I may as well see some of the Highlands. I hopped on the bus and went on my way. The landscape around Inverness is very like West Cork – very beautiful. Press 2 below for next page
As this strangest of years draws to a close, I am putting finger to keypad one more time to describe my travels in the time of pandemic. My final jaunt of the year taken before the second lockdown was imposed was to Venice as September turned to October. I will preface this post with my usual disclaimer. While traveling to, and while in Venice, I observed all physical distancing, hand hygiene and mask-wearing guidelines. I observed the fourteen-day quarantine period upon my return to Ireland – which as I have previously mentioned is not that difficult when you live alone. I kept this excursion entirely to myself again, not wanting to hear people’s criticism or judgement of my decision to travel. The only person I was placing at risk by my choice was myself. For the sake of my sanity, I thought my decision was sound.
I received a call from a friend a couple of days before the new lockdown for Dublin was declared; asking if I’d be interested in accompanying her to the Druid Theatre production of ‘Druid Gregory’ in the grounds of Coole Park in Gort on Sunday evening. She had acquired a pair of tickets for the sold out show. I had a very brief internal debate about the wisdom of traveling West on the weekend that the capital closed up shop once again. Considering I live alone, work from home and only meet a small handful of people at a socially distanced level on any given week, my decision was easy. I was going to the theatre for only the second time since March (in August I went to see Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ by Bewley’s Café Theatre in the Irish Georgian Society building on South William Street in Dublin.
‘Brief Encounter’ – the 1945 British film directed by David Lean is often cited as one of the most romantic films of all time. Based on the play ‘Still Life’ by Noel Coward, it tells the tale of an extra-marital affair between two middle-aged people, whose relationship is played out in stolen moments at a train station. Continue reading Brief encounter at Limerick Junction→
The flight to Kyiv from Dublin lasted 3.5 hours, and was a typical Ryanair experience. When you are trapped in the air for that length of time, they can try the hard sell at their leisure.
We were greeted at the airport by Vladimir – the representative of the letting agent, whose apartment in city centre Kyiv we were residing for the weekend. He drove us to our abode. It was 11pm. We needed a cocktail, and headed to N::B Cocktail Bar which has to be the loveliest bar I have ever visited. It is just off the Maidan Nezalezhjnosti (Independence Square) and is a cosy yet luxurious place with the best signature cocktails on the planet. Continue reading Chernobyl→
I had been to North Africa before. The exact timing is hazy but I suspect it was in 2007 that a small group of us travelled to Egypt, and I ended up in a situation where an obstreperous camel pissed on my brand new designer trainers, beside the Pyramids. Egypt was spectacular but I still bear a grudge against that camel. It was time for my return to the continent. My destination – Morocco. Continue reading An Irish goat in Morocco→
While pondering on how to successfully poach an egg – while eating one – in the canteen at work in the Wastelands this morning, I started eavesdropping on the conversation beside me. A colleague was describing her son’s summer working holiday in Canada, and about how he has just started work in a distribution centre in Vancouver. How sweet, I thought, to be nineteen years old and traveling for the first time. I inquired whether or not he’d need a visa to work there. Unsurprisingly the answer was yes. Of course a visa is required to work on another continent. I mentioned my impending holiday to the Maritimes, and announced smugly that I wouldn’t need a visa. Continue reading A visa for Canada→
When I was invited to go to Bath I was excited. I had heard about this place – the reviews were positive. My knowledge of the city on the other hand was scant. I knew that it was built on hot springs and that the EU (otherwise known as the Roman Empire) had invaded and had built Roman baths there which lasted for centuries, until the Celts decided to ‘take back control’ and that ‘Brexit meant Brexit’ and kicked them out when the EU collapsed in the 5th century. That was it really. The links to Jane Austen (she lived there for four years between 1801 and 1804) and its proximity to Stonehenge were news to me. My sojourns to England tend to be to London or Brighton. This would be my first excursion to this part of the country. My travel companions were to be the members of a writing group that I am peripherally involved with. I have been to one of their meetings, but I’m friends with a regular attendee, so I decided to go. I wouldn’t encroach on their plans and would do my own thing, while availing of their company in the evening. It would be a more social style of travelling. Continue reading Having a Bath→