Ireland’s West Coast: The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher

Our first day in the countryside included a drive down to our B & B near Liscannor, on the Western coast.   We drove from Dublin, through Galway and then southward.

On the way, we passed through The Burren which has an incredible panorama.   Edmond Ludlow in 1650 said,  “(Burren) is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…… and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.

Landscape of The Burren

We found our B & B, Atlantic View, operated by energetic Mary and then headed to see the Cliffs of Moher.

Backpackers near Liscannor

We arrived around 7pm.  The views were breathtaking.  We had heard about them from Couch Surfer.

Gorgeous Cliffs of Moher

She had told us about people climbing on the path on the edge and she thought they were crazy.   Gabe coaxed me out there but I didn’t stay long, wanting to get back behind the safe wall.   The reason is that it is very windy.  I know it would take a lot to blow off the edge, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Hubby on the edge.  He’s braver than me. 

The other side

We enjoyed the view for about two hours, quitting just before sunset.  With the sunset at about 10pm in Ireland during our trip, neither one of us could postpone dinner any longer.

One last glance. Beautiful.

We found a local joint, Daughan’s Anchor Inn, in the fishing village of Liscannor and happily enjoyed our seafood dinner.

The next morning we set off for Killarney, our base for exploring the Ring of Kerry.

Monaco and Monte Carlo

Post by Lauren

Gabe has wanted to go to Monaco and Monte Carlo since we have moved to Europe.  Being a fan of James Bond, I think he wanted to see the winding roads and glitzy casino up close.

We arrived into Monaco in the morning, making it a perfect time to enjoy coffee and croissants at the famous Café de Paris adjacent to the Casino Monte Carlo.  The Gladiator, Mama Mia, Gabe and I soaked in the rising Monaco sun as we watched Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bentley’s roll by.

Gabe and The Gladiator enjoying Café de Paris

Our immediate takeaway is how pristine everything in Monaco was.  To me, it felt like we were walking through an alternative universe, almost like a Barbie village, too immaculate to be real.

Monaco is a sovereign state, ruled by a royal family.   It is currently ruled by Prince Albert II.  His parents were Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly.  Princess Grace, previously a Hollywood actress, died when she had a stoke and resulting automobile crash over one of the notorious corniches.

Monaco is the second smallest sovereign state in the world, after Vatican City.  It is also the second most densely populated, only occupying one square mile of land.   It is the same size as Central Park in New York City!  It takes about an hour to walk across the entire country (not counting me with my bum feet).

We took a little train tour, and learned a number of things about Monaco’s history.   For one, they have a police officer for every 60 citizens.  Thus, crime is virtually nonexistent.

Monaco doesn’t have taxes, making it a desirable place to live.   The casino was started as an effort to start bringing income to the principality.  There is also no border patrol. They speak French and take euros in addition to their currency, the monegasque franc.

 

And how can we forget the F1 races?  Monaco’s notoriety has soared because of these infamous races that take place in its winding streets.  We think these would be neat to see one day.

 

Image courtesy of F1 4 Kids

 

However, for now, “Goodbye, Monaco”.  Back to reality for us….

 

Villefranche, a quaint sea village

Post by Lauren

We had heard from numerous people that Villefranche was a great place to stay on the Cote d’Azur.   After spending one night, we’d wholeheartedly agree.

Villefranche was quaint and beautiful.  The colored buildings were gorgeous at both sunset and sunrise.  The small port had cozy restaurants lining the water and provided a nice way to relax and reflect on our trip.

We stayed at Hotel Provençal which provided stunning views. We have a dear friend that recommends The Welcome Hotel as well if you are considering a trip.

 

Adoring Villefranche

 

After checking in and enjoying our balconies for a bit, we drove down to the port.  We ended up checking out all the menus along the waterfront and selected Les Corsaires.  Mama Mia announced after we were seated that this night would be their treat in honor of Gabe’s birthday.  It was a perfect way to celebrate!!  Mama Mia had prawns, The Gladiator and Gabe had steaks (Gabe was still on the steak train from our experience in Arles) and I opted for a veal chop.

The place was family owned and dog friendly. In fact, this little guy kept checking on how my veal chop was.

My dinner table friend

 

Villefranche, we’ll be back some day!

A drive through Cannes and Nice

Post by Lauren

As we continued down the Cote d’Azur, I wanted to stop in Cannes.  I have always been intrigued by the film festival and this interest was accentuated by the HBO show Entourage.  I know, silly reason.

Luckily, Mama Mia & Gladiator were also game for seeing the coastal village.  So, we did just that – took a little detour and drove down the streets of this town in the South of France.

It was busy, bustling with a lot of folks getting photos ops by the grand theatre where the film festival is done.

Downtown Cannes, France

After our glimpse into Cannes, we continued driving onto Nice.  This time, we took a longer stop, strolling & rolling along the Promenade d’Anglais for about an hour.  The sky had grown considerably darker since our 30 min drive from Cannes.  However, people were out enjoying the breeze and beginning to start the nightlife on its stone beaches.

Both towns were interesting to see.   We weren’t blown away by either but have had several people who have lived in both say that we didn’t give them much of a chance.  I’d agree that a quick stop probably isn’t enough to form a judgement.

However, we can conclusively say that we adored the little sea village of Villefranche where we spent the night.  More on that later…

Enjoying Hermance

Post by Lauren

Geneva has a lot of lovely villages that surround it.  During the women’s club hikes, I have been able to experience a few of these little towns.  Since we walk fast through them, I just note which ones I should re-visit.

One such settlement is Hermance (pronounced Err-mance, with a silent H).   Hermance is about a half hour bus ride or car ride north of Geneva.   It is a lovely little village with a beautiful church and bell tower.

While the family was here, we decided to take a day trip up to it so that part of the crew could walk over the border to France. We took the bus which dropped us in the middle of town.

Hermance is on the border of Switzerland and France

 

Dunkel kindly pushed me around as I still wasn’t up for much walking.  We took a stroll down the streets of Hermance, noting it was like stepping back in time.  We only saw a few pieces of evidence of technology in bikes that had been left in the street — otherwise, just a peaceful quintessential Swiss village.

During our few hours, we ventured on the stone beach.  While walking near the shore, we noticed scuba gear.   Apparently the town is great for diving. They even have restrooms with showers for divers.

After the walk on the beach,  Dunkel, SweetWine, and The French Cougar took a quick walk over the border to France, which Mama Mia, The Gladiator and I just relaxed on the Swiss side.  Their passports weren’t checked as there is no border patrol at this quiet passing, but confirmed they were in France by some gentleman walking home from Hermance.

After the border crossing adventure, the group recharged with ice cream from the local epicerie (the only grocery store in Hermance) followed by some pastries and coffee at the lone patisserie in town.

Enjoying Hermance. In the photo of The Gladiator and Dunkel by the "creek", they are on the Swiss side, but the trees are in France.

The town is quite nice for guests to experience a quaint Swiss village.  And a plus for those wanting to add another country to their list.

Gratitude Friday: Four Hours

Post by Lauren

When we lived in North Carolina and Georgia, we could get to some pretty amazing places in four hours.  In that time, we could visit family in Virginia, check out North Georgia apple orchards, visit some vineyards and catch some NC mountain action.

However, here in Geneva, in four hours driving time, we can find ourselves what seems to be a world away.   We realized this even more when Gabe’s family was here and we did a lot of day trips.  Here are a few examples:

A 3.5 hour train ride or drive can put you in Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. Just cross your fingers for visibility!

A 4-ish hour drive can put you in the 2nd smallest principality in the world: jet setting luxurious Monaco.

A 3.5 hour drive puts you near Nîmes where you can find evidence of the Roman times - the Pont du Gard aqueduct built in 19 BC and a UNESCO world heritage site.

A 4 hour train ride can put you in the heart of Andermatt where you'll feel like you are in a snow globe....even in April!

A 4ish hour ride can take you to the South of France to gaze on the magnificent cliffs overlooking Cassis.

A 3.5 hour drive can put you in the heart of Arles, France where you can find yourself in the middle of a Van Gogh scene.

A 4-ish hour drive can take you to Nice where you can walk along the beautiful Promenade d'Anglais and watch the sunset.

A four hour train can take you to Milan where you can eat your fill of pasta, gelato and experience the liveliness of Italy alongside of appreciating The Duomo & The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

A four hour ride can have you in Cannes where the famous film festival takes place each May.

Look for posts in the coming days on each of these places we visited with Gabe’s family.

Until then, I am grateful for our location to be “four hours” from all these magnificent sites and the recovery of my feet so that I could keep up. Thank goodness for the wheelchair!

Swiss Sporting Events

Post by Lauren

Everyone was off of work Monday for the national holiday. It was the first one Gabe had taken since everyone in the US continues to work (and need things) on his Swiss holidays. We had planned it to be leisurely and imagined it like the tranquil scene below:

However, things got a bit “sporty”.

First, we met up with the group down at the river. Since Geneva has a plethora of yacht owners, they have been talking about taking out their “yacht” on the lake or the river ever since we had met. They had launched about an hour prior, and this is the scene to which we arrived:

We rode around in the yacht (or at least some of us did, as we couldn’t all fit at the same time with the picnic) for a little bit and hung out in the sun. Note the patriotism demonstrated by crew.

After we discovered how strong the current was after all the rain, we realized that it was going to be hard to get the ship back home upstream. Therefore, we had to come up with an alternate plan. It involved Adam scaling the wall.

Once the yacht was aboard land, we came up with an another activity as can be seen below. I was a chicken at first but the group quickly convinced me to partake in the fun.

 

 

A picnic in Aix-les-Bains, France

Post by Lauren

This weekend, we did a quick overnight trip with A & A to Lyon, France.

Since we knew dinner would be an “experience” in Lyon, the culinary capital of France, we opted for a picnic to stop on the way.

We ended up in Aix-les-Bains which was a cute little French town on beautiful lake, Lac du Bourget.

Not a bad place for a picnic!

Gabe confirmed the water was frigid, just like Lake Geneva.

Say Hello. Wave Goodbye.

Post by Lauren

Canadienne Buffets will simply never be the same. Yes, one of the original fab-five, D, is leaving Geneva to return back to the US after her summer internship with the Lutheran World Federation.

It is definitely a bummer for us as she was one of the first three friends we made in Geneva. However, we knew that goodbyes like this would happen during our time here, as Geneva is a transient city by definition. With 40% foreign residents, people often come and go because assignments usually aren’t permanent. So this week, we sadly learn it firsthand!!

L hosted a goodbye party in honor of D this weekend, with the theme “sticks” since the joke was that she is returning to the sticks (to continue studies at UK, in Kentucky). A, D and L came up with this idea that everything had to be served on sticks and I’d have to give them major kudos – it was delicious and memorable.

So, it was a really fun way to bid adieu to D and wish her a bon voyage back to the US. We’ll miss her a lot.

The silver lining of this coming and going thing about Geneva is good friends from Charlotte, S and S, moved here this week. We were really glad they are getting settled well and look forward to great times Swiss style with them.

Yvoire, France

Post by Lauren

We had heard from our friend A that Yvoire was a really cool medieval town on the lake to check out. He had traveled there on a co-worker’s boat for dinner one evening. We personally think his way was the best way to travel. However, since we were in Northern Geneva countryside so that Gabe could attempt to teach moi how to drive a stick shift, it was only a 15 minute trip.

It was a cute town and I can’t wait to bring my Mom back to see the beautiful flower covered buildings. But, as A had noted, a bit crowded so we might choose to go back in the evening or when it isn’t the middle of summer.

Another small world story – we bumped into a lady Gabe works with in Yvoire. So, two days in a row, we have collided with people we actually know while we were out and about. Switzerland is starting to feel like home!