Every story starts somewhere and ours start on the 6th of June 2005 in an English village called Aylesbury at The Old Moat House pub now known as The Dog House Inn.
In May I left my job in Pretoria, South Africa to join my sister in Dublin, Ireland. A good school friend of mine, Vanessa, met me at Dublin Airport together with her then-boyfriend-now-husband, Leander, and my sister, Elsie. We spent some time together in Dublin and from there we went on a mini Irish road trip from coast to coast.
IRELAND: EAST TO WEST IN THREE HOURS
It was so long ago that I could not recall enough details to write a post on travelling Ireland from East to West, but I can tell you that it is just a mini road trip. It only takes about 3 hours to cross from Dublin to Galway. The Irish countryside is absolutely breathtaking, the people are something special and you must go to Galway to learn the correct way to drink a Guinness.
I fell in love with Ireland and would love to visit it again soon to do a proper road trip. I can’t wait to walk down Grafton street early on a Sunday morning before everyone else arrives and you can take in the feel and smell of the place. There is so much to do and see!
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
In June 2005 I went to the UK to visit Vanessa in Aylesbury and there I bumped into her big brother, Brendan. I won’t bore you with the mushy stuff, but it was true love from the start and the rest is history as they say.
In our very early love-sick days, Brendan promised me that he would be the one to show me the world. He remains true to his word and he reminded me on our 10th anniversary that he remembers his promise. So romantic!
Brendan started travelling at the age of about 22. He left South Africa with a friend to first work in Germany for a short while. Soon after that they “sold what they had and entered the kingdom”. A story for another day. He worked in the UK on a 2-year Working Holiday Makers Visa. Eventually, he found an employer in England who applied for a work permit. This enabled him to get permanent residency with indefinite leave to remain after 5 years, after which he could apply for a British citizenship via the naturalization process.
By the time we got together, Brendan had already travelled a bit. He’d been to Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. On his epic African Trip: Nairobi to Cape Town (with On The Go Tours) he went to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and ended in South Africa.
For our first trip together, we did not have time to get a Schengen visa for me, so we had to go somewhere where South Africans did not need a visa. We ended up in Geneva, Switzerland for 10 days in September 2005 and we had a great time. Communication was our biggest challenge, but nothing too serious. Locals spoke german or french and that was it for us. We didn’t get anything else from them. Not even an “OK”! We will definitely learn some French or German if we ever head that way again.
On our first day, we went to Bains des Paquis on Lake Geneva where people were swimming and relaxing in the sun. Lovely vibe but impossible to read the menu or order something if you don’t speak the lingo. We were lucky to get a little help and sympathy from a South African ex-pat living in Geneva who overheard us in our predicament after we ordered the only thing we could identify on the menu: fondue.
We were served a cheese and bread fondue with red wine and we burst out laughing not knowing how on earth we would survive on cheese and bread for the next 10 days! Luckily Bains des Paquis is known for the best fondue in the area and it was delicious. So we were in luck.
We did a lot in 10 days including hiring bicycles to ride along the Geneva Lake to gorgeous parks. We took boat tours on the lake and day trips by bus to nearby villages. We went to Gruyere, famous for the cheese and we took a cable car ride up a mountain to see a glacier. We have great memories of Geneva. It was expensive but well worth it.
Soon after that, we went to:
- Paris, France for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. South Africa won and we were there!
- Andorra with our good friends, Andy and Cani, for an unforgettable ski holiday.
- Aberdeen and Inverness, Scotland to see Nessie and visit our friends Dirk and Alecia. Luckily we did NOT see Nessie.
In 2012 we went on a two week Euro Road Trip across France, Belgium, and the Netherlands with the children.
That was our last trip before returning to South Africa where the children started school and we happily lived for the next five years near our family and friends.