Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Package Wasting by @Amazon

Image source: Amazon.
Today I had a recent purchase of a Frostfire Universal Soft Car Roof Bars delivered - they look great and I can't wait to use them. They are a simple idea to let occasional users of roof bars carry stuff on the car roof - I intend to use for a canoe. The are excellent value at £19.99, and can be easily taken off and stored in the car. Postage was £7.06 (about €7.75) - again excellent value.


...what wastage by Amazon! The Frostfire measures 60 cm long and 12 cm wide, but was delivered in a giant box. You can see below that most of the box was filled with air-filled plastic bubble wrap - this was almost 7 metres long! While I had great fun bursting all the bubbles, and then putting the lot into the recycle bins, I wondered why on earth a box this size was used? Surely £7.06 could not have covered the cost of this (and delivery by DHL)? The Frostfire is not in the least fragile, so does not need any protection. Perhaps this was the only box available and had to be used? While I am more than happy with the product, I am not happy to be part responsible for such waste. Amazon need to be better at this.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Remembering the 1950s

Yesterday my cousin Susan, who is from Canada and was visiting Ireland for the first time, and I went on a short tour of north central Dublin to visit where her Mum was born, lived, and left in 1958 to emigrate to Canada. Susan's late mother Catherine Byrne is my Mum's sister - she was known as "Patsy" while she lived in Ireland. I don't recall ever meeting her, she died in 1979. We posed for photos out the last house in Ireland where the Byrne's lived. Susan told me that her Mum worked in the GPO at the stamp counter - so we re-traced her (likely) steps to work from Temple Cottages, through Dominick Street, Parnell Street, Moore Street, Henry Street, and O'Connell Street. An interesting experience - especially for Susan. 

Ireland is a completely different place now compared to 1958 - most of the buildings Patsy would have walked past on the way to work will have been demolished and replaced. While Temple Cottages remains the same, it is unlikely Patsy would recognise much of Dublin if she were here now. 

Outside 22 Temple Cottages in Dublin.
Susan inside the GPO.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Grave of Great-Great Grandparents

James & Catherine McCann's
daughter Anne.
Recently, when writing about the spreading of my cousin Ryan Byrne's ashes on the graves of his great-great-grandparents Richard and Julia Cullen in Gorey, Co Wexford - I noted that this cemetery has an on-line list (see At the cemetery itself it has a map of these graves so I decided to check if my McCann great-great grandparents' graves could be found. It turns out that the grave is very close to my Cullen Great-great grandparents. There are three people in the grave, in addition to James and Catherine (née Walsh), the grave contains their son William. Incidentally - the late actor Donal McCann is related to this family (and me).

I'd love to know what James and Catherine McCann looked like - I do have a photo of their daughter Anne (my Mum remembers her granny very well). They lived in Kilnahue outside Gorey - the name "Killanean", which is on their headstone, is regarded as a typo by the map details below.

Captured from the cemetery list.

in loving memory of 
William eldest son of 
James & Catherine McCann 
of Killanean 
who departed this life 2nd June 
1902 aged 32 years 
The above Catherine McCann 
died 2nd May 1908 aged 64 years 
James McCann husband of
Catherine McCann
died 26th January 1927

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

"Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?"

This blog attracts very few comments - most that are made are spam, but one today one caught my eye. "Anonymous" wrote ""Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?" as a comment on my Day of Rain post. Fair point - any reader of this blog is entitled to their opinion. A few thoughts on this:

What is a Blog?
This is my personal web page. The word "blog" is short for "web log" which was originally set up as a type of on-line diary/log. As I write this post I have noted that the "Day of Rain" post has been accessed 39 times (according to Blogger Stats) - this number is typical of most of my posts. Very few people read this blog, but I do not write for others - it is a personal diary. I don't actually care if anyone reads it, even less about their opinion. Of course I am conscious that some family, friends, and work colleagues do read some of my posts, so I am aware that I have a small audience. I publish personal comments and experiences, and while at work I write a lot about educational matters.

Who cares about anything?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many other social media sites are full of "look at me" posts. Blogger is just another one of many ways to post about any kind of activity. I am no different than anyone else in doing this - I guess "Anonymous" objects to a lot of people and their personal posts.

Freedom of Speech/Writing
Can anyone write what they like in a personal blog?  Well I do, and will not be put off by anonymous comments. As long as it does not offend or discriminate - I'll keep doing so. Writing about and posting photos of experiences while on holiday is an innocent activity and should not offend anyone.

Self Censorship
Why read something you don't give a "flying f@@@" about? Surely there is a lot of other web pages that you could spend your time more productively? If you don't want to read my posts, do not type "" into your browser. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wicklow Man Lifts Sam Maguire Cup #GAA

Wicklow man Seán Doherty, 1974.
Image source: Irish Independent.
On the way to Croke Park yesterday with Roma to see the Mayo vs Roscommon All-Ireland Football Quarter-Final we stopped for a photo opportunity with fund raisers for Crumlin Children's Hospital who had the Sam Maguire Cup on display. For a few bob they were happy to allow people have their photo taken with the cup, and Roma and I couldn't resist. Naturally as a Wicklow man I am wearing my Wicklow jersey, coincidentally the same colours as Roscommon on the day so I didn't look too much out of place. Roma of course is dressed in her Mayo county colours. Mayo have won this cup on three occasions (1936, 1950, and 1951), and have been beaten finalists 12 times. Wicklow on the other hand have never played in an All-Ireland final, nor have ever come close to it. So, Mayo are a bit more used to it than Wicklow!

However, I am not the first Wicklow man to get his hands on the Sam Maguire Cup - the great Seán Doherty from Greystones captained Dublin to win in 1974!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Last Day on Continent

Today I had to travel from Heidelberg in Germany to Maidstone in the UK via the Channel Tunnel. A day was lots of time to do this. I decided that first I would visit the Castle near the hotel, but it was raining heavily - this slowed me down. The Castle is fantastic, but hard work in the rain. I saw the largest wine barrel ever, and some fantastic ruins - a pity that the castle was destroyed by fire and lightening. The views from the Castle over Heidelberg, especially of the old bridge,  are majestic. One good thing was that the rain finally stopped as I was about to leave Heidelberg.

My first stop was to visit Schengen in Luxembourg - my first time ever in this country. Schengen is famous for the Agreement that allows free movement across borders in Europe. There is a wonderful display of national flames beside the Mosel river - sadly the Irish tricolour is not among them, largely because the Union Jack isn't there either. Schengen also marks the location where the borders of Germany, France, and Luxembourg come together.

Just for the he'll of it I decided to travel through the Channel Tunnel to get from France to the UK - so quick! I was struck by how few bikes (4) were on the train, not many cars either. It was mostly empty.

Some photos from today:

Heidelberg Castle in the rain...


The largest wine barrel in the world...

The village of Schengen in Luxembourg...

The bike is on Luxembourg, straight ahead is Germany, while France is to the right...

An almost empty Le Shuttle...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Road to Heidelberg

It's approaching the end of this European holiday and it is time to head home. Roma and I had breakfast in the market in Innsbruck before we parted - her on a bus to Munich (to fly home), me - I was off to Heidelberg in Germany (440 kms). It was tough parting as we had just the best 12 days together. 

I first went to the local Harley-Davidson Store in Innsbruck to get a souvenir t-shirt (which I managed to do despite their dreadfully small selection). Then it was turn around and head west towards the town of Motz which would be my signal to turn north. After a while I noticed that there was no signs for Motz yet, but I kept going because navigating the Tyrolean valleys is easy - or so I thought. Just when I begun to think I had made a wrong turn, I noticed a sign that I did not want to see: "Italia". I had somehow managed to ride directly south rather that west. I also had to pay €9 for the privilege of using this road, and €9 back. In all I lost about 1.5 hours and a lot of pride! Italy was the sixth of 8 countries I will travel through on this trip. Soon after crossing into Germany the rain came and stayed for the rest of the day. My rain gear is good, and just my gloves were wet.

In addition to the rain, roadworks and awesome traffic jams made the day a lot longer. At one stage I was stopped so long that I got off the bike to take photos of the traffic ahead and behind (see below).

I am staying at the Hotel am Schloss, a basic but comfortable hotel. The view from my window is the incredible ruins of Heidelberg Castle, which I plan to go up and see in the morning. I was in Heidelberg before on business (with SmartForce), but remember very little. Tomorrow it is on to Calais through Luxembourg and Belgium - two countries I have never been to.

Traffic jam forwards...

Traffic jam backwards...

The wonderful ruins of Heidelberg Castle in the evening...

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Yesterday we rolled into Innsbruck - a pretty city between huge mountains lining a valley. For the last leg of our holidays we are staying in a self catering apartment in the centre of the Old Town. Yesterday we walked about to check the city centre - Innsbruck is a lovely place with everything very close in a small city centre. Today we went up to the top of a local ski slope to get a better view of the Alps and Innsbruck. Smashing. We used the Funicular and ski lifts to get to 1,905 metres above sea level. We we came back down we went on the Sight Seeing tour, first big stop was to Schoss-Ambras which contains the world's oldest museum. Later we went to the Panoramaunde Bergisel Ski jump site - awesome. 

Some photos from yesterday and today:

Bridge over the River Inn...

In the City Tower with Roma standing on glass at the top of 133 step staircase...

View from the top of the city tower....

Only mad feckers jump this thing in the snow...

At the Schloss Ambras...

On top of the of the mountain at Seegrube...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Zell am See

Just for the hell of it we decided to take the bike out for a spin to Zell am See - about an hour from our hotel. It is a pleasant ride through the mountains, but as we got closer we noticed that many others had the same idea as us as the road was very busy. The town of Zell am See was packed with tourists, and as we were in our biker gear we found it very hot. We did not stay long and instead had lunch in a biker friendly cafe near Mittersall. On the way back to Kitzbühel I took a wrong turn, but overall it was a nice ride - Zell am See was not a great experience.

In the evening we were joined by Paul Radic from Enniskerry - he's a BMW rider, but otherwise OK. We had a great dinner together and shared our summer biking stories.

Some photos from today...

The bike:

A fine Alpine view:

With Roma in Zell am See:

What happens to old bikes when they die:

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Known more for its reputation as a ski resort, Kitzbühel is also a popular summer destination - especially with hikers. Not being much of a hiker, I decided with Roma to give it a go. Rain was forecast from 10:00 (it did not come until 16:00), so we decided to set out early to go to the top of the Kitzbüheller Horn (2,000m) - we were the first people on the lift up (an extraordinary €37 for the two of us just to go to the top). The views from the top in all directions were magnificent - the hills were alive! We made our way down through an Alpine Flower Garden, and stopped in the Alpen Haus for an iced tea. We intended to take the easier route down, but somehow managed to take the most difficult one - it was very tough. But we made it to the bottom 3 hours and 40 minutes after leaving the top - my shirt was soaked with sweat and my legs felt like jelly. Nothing for it but to check out the hotel's spa where we enjoyed the pool and the no clothes allowed sauna (a first for me!)

Some photos from today:

At the top of the Kitzbüller Horn...

Near the Alpine flower Garden...

My new Facebook profile picture...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Today we made the short trip to Salzburg by bus for a little sight-seeing and some lunch. Jaysus - Salzburg is crowded! Just after we got off the bus we were outside Mozart's Residence, and decided to have a look. It is an interesting story and exhibition about the famed composer and his family. Some of the instruments he played and music (and letters) he wrote are on display. The Museum is well worth a visit and does not take long to go through. Later we went to the Old Town where we visited the opulent cathedral and saw Mozart's statue - one would think that he was Salzburg's only citizen, his name is everywhere! We had a smashing lunch in Mozart Platz and following a wander we got the bus back to Berchtesgaden in time before the spectacular thunderstorms hit. Tomorrow we move on to Kitzbühl in Austria - weather is starting to become more uncertain!!!

Some photos from today...

Lunch at the KK restaurant:

Salzburg's best view...

The statue of Mozart...

Monday, July 17, 2017


Today we had the pleasure of visiting two of south Germany's most popular attractions: Königsee and the Eagle's Nest. First up was an early morning visit to the lake at Königsee - we had no problem getting on a boat for a pleasant trip on very calm waters. The scenery was astounding - high cliffs either side of us all the way. Plenty of waterfalls to see and lots of clear Alpine water. The boat trip is about half an hour to the end of the lake. We walked for a while and enjoyed the woods and lake in equal measure.

Following above we made our way to the Eagle's nest overlooking Berchtesgaden. We took the bike to the basement car park and followed this with a bus trip up the mountain. Very organised. At the top bus park we had a 40 minute wait to take the elevator up the final 124 metres. Once we were through we were in the Eagle's Nest - Hitler's retreat in 1938. It was very crowded and because you had to reserve a bus back down we were against the clock all the time. The views were breathtaking, and even though Hitler was a bollix, it was interesting to think that we walked in the same places as he did today.

Some photos from today....

On the boat in Königsee:

Waiting for the return boat...

Trying to blend in with the scenery:

Roma and I at the Eagle's Nest:

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Today, Roma and I took the bike up to Dachau just outside Munich - we went to see the Concentration Camp Memorial. It was difficult enough to find, signposts were not obvious enough for me and I got lost. There were a lot of people there and it is a sombre place - everyone walking about in a subdued fashion respecting the dignity of the place. The chilling message "Arbeit Macht Frei" greets you at the entrance and from there it is horror depicted all the way. Over 30,000 people were murdered here, and even though it was not an extermination camp on the scale of Auschwitz - savagery of the cruellest order was committed here. The museum tells the story of many people who were here, from the beginning when only Hitler's rivals were imprisoned to the liberation by the Americans. The crematorium was the most horrific part for me - I had never seen anything like this before. There was also the gas chambers (which reputedly were never used for mass killings) - scary to be even in the room.

Following all this it is hard to be cheerful and get back into the holiday mode. We went into Dachau Old Town (Aldstadt) for a late lunch and went up to the nearby castle to get a great view over Munich. In the evening we were definitely cheered up by the CSD Street Festival where lots of LGBT folks were celebrating Pride. Roma and I joined in and loved the style plus the young people's ability to share their pride in an open positive way. Horrific to think that Hitler would have ordered all these young people to be gassed.

Some photos from today....

Work Makes you Free...

The ovens...

Where the huts were built...


Friday, July 14, 2017

Hop-on-hop-off Munich

For a sort stay in any city, a hop-on-hop-off tour is a great way to see a lot in one day - today we tried Munich. Our first port of call was the Nymphenburg Palace - an interesting place, but like Powerscourt House. Lots of gardens to see,  it we moved on to the next stop which was the BMW World and Museum. Fantastic cars, but I had a special interest in the motorbikes - but I am still loyal to Harley-Davidson despite some fantastic machines old and new on display today.

Next we went to the Allianz Arena - home of Bayern Munich. Disappointingly the next tour of the arena was 1.5 hours away, so we had to settle for the super museum tour. I loved the nostalgia of the past football achievements of this top European team. Later we went to the English garden for a beer and some welcome sun.

Some photos from today....

At the Bayern Munich Museum:

Out side the Allianz Arean... 

With a beer in the English Beer Garden...

At the Nymphenburg Palace with Roma...

With one of the many antique bikes in the BMW Museum...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Autobahn - AwesomeBahn!

My bike can do 180 kph (110 mph approx) - I discovered this on Autobahn 8 from Stuttgart to Munich yesterday in a no speed limit zone. This is the fastest I have ever driven any vehicle by some distance. The bike had no difficulty at this speed - it seems that the Harley-Davidson Road King was built for this. No loud noise or vibrations to deal with.

The curious thing for me was that even at 110 mph I had to get out of the way of some other drivers who were queuing up behind me to pass me out. Savage! Slowing down to 100 mph felt like I was stopping! Heavy traffic soon put a stop to this.

Finally, I am enjoying a beer in Munich after 1,100 miles of road- cheers!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Green Fields of France

Today was about World War 1 for me. I have never been to any of the battlefield sites. For the first time I traveled through Northern France and the Thiepval region where a lot of the action during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 took place. I had about a 1.5 hour ride from Calais to Thiepval which featured a lot of rain, but after this the rain stayed away for the rest of the day. The Thiepval Memorial was my destination and it was easy to see from a long way off. It is a magnificent monument to the dead of WW1 who have no known grave. It is also a monument to a waste of life. While there I looked up the Irish regiments and spotted an "O'Loughlin, J" listed under the Dublin Fusiliers - I'm sure I am not alone in looking up family names on such a memorial. I also visited the Ulster Monument followed by the best part of the day in Beaumont-Hamel. Here I toured around a field dedicated to Canadians from Newfoundland who fought here in 1916 - I was struck by how close the front line with the Germans was. This evening I have ended up in Verdun and I have toured around the city centre of this historic location.

Some photos from today...

A wet start to the day in Dover.
At the Thiepval Memorial...

Look closely - there is an "O'Loughlin, J" listed...

At the Ulster Memorial...

Real trenches...

These are the German trenches, the Bristish trenches are below the tree line - a few hundred metres away...

The view from my hotel room over the Meuse... 

The huge memorial to the Battele in Verdun...