goodness

Ayr to Dublin (to home)

Who in their right mind wants to get on a plane piloted by someone just as tired as you are at 5am?  I don’t understand the logic of early morning flights.  My body feels weird, and the pilots probably take turns taking naps.

zobo apocalypse practice grounds

The Preswick airport was completely empty.  I wandered around for a good half hour before I encountered anyone who didn’t work there.  The flight on Ryan Air was pretty bare-bones, but also cheap.  I landed in Dublin and wandered around trying to find where the free shuttle to my hotel was.  As I waited for my ride, a couple of  American tourists asked if I knew where the “paddy wagon” was picking up/dropping off.  I shot them a confused look.  “We were told to take the paddy wagon,” they explained with alarming detail.  “Isn’t that something that carts off criminals?” I asked.  Their sober exteriors melted instantly; “That’s what we thought!” the other one blurted out, laughing.

My shuttle came soon after.  I got the the hotel and paid ten Euros for an early check-in.  I rode up the elevator and saw horses in a neighboring field.  I dropped my stuff, sat on the couch in my very nice room, and began to mope.  I couldn’t find a bus into Dublin from the hotel.  I missed Scottish Friend.  I missed boyfriend.  I was ready to go home.  But it was 10am, and I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t take full advantage of being abroad.  “What makes me happy?” I thought.  “What will put me in a good mood?”  The answer was, of course, animals.

I have a child-like love of animals, especially otters.  It’s a common source of jokes for Boyfriend.  I have to pet every dog I see.   My voice raises a full octave when I talk about any baby animal.  Luckily he finds it cute.  When I have trouble waking up, he has taken to asking me what an otter does, at which point I smile sleepily, grab an imaginary clam, and pat it against the (also imaginary) stone on my tummy with reckless abandon, at which point I am more or less awake.  That’s what I love about Boyfriend: he takes the weird parts of me, and makes them useful.

two beds, a couch, table, desk, chairs… i was ready to host a conference on napping

But where to find animals in Dublin?  Why, the Dublin Zoo, of course.  So I took the free shuttle back to the airport, caught a bus to the city center, then wandered around and got some bad directions from a couple of people, got on another bus, got off at the last stop, and wandered around Phoenix Park until I came up on some men tending to the grass.  I asked them where the zoo was.  “Here I’ll show ya,” one of them seemed to say, and got up and walked me back the way I’d come, across a street to another park, and pointed me in the right direction.  Despite his unintelligible accent, I managed to catch that he used to go to to the zoo as a kid, and has been living in the area more or less his whole life.  What a nice guy.

The zoo was expensive (€15!), but I had it almost all to myself.  The lionesses were dozing by a back wall, a tiger was hypnotizing to watch as it paced back and forth along a side wall, then perched itself up on its hind legs to get a better sniff of the food truck.  The snow lion was grooming its tail and taking refuge from the light rain in a small cave, the ring tailed lemurs were awesome and very agile, and there was a baby monkey with a red butt that was just bounding all over the enclosure (falling often and adorably).

no photo i took does it justice

The were oryxes (super long horns), elephants (very dexterous trunks can pick up bits of carrot from the ground), ostriches (fluffy and haughty), hippos (their fat bellies jiggle when they walk!), rhinos (one of them chased a smaller one away from the food), tapirs (they squeak!), penguins (so small!), sea lions (they played underwater), giraffes (so tall!), and they all improved my mood markedly.  I was sad to be there alone, though.  Zoos are perfect for sharing.

I grabbed a bus back to the city center, walked to a good fish and chip place, sat down and had a huge piece of fish, some fries, and tea.  Another bus took me to the airport, and the free shuttle took me to the hotel.  I took a bath, showered, played Draw Something, set out tea for the next morning, arranged for a wake up call, Skyped with Boyfriend (bragged profusely about all the cool animals I saw that day), and hit the sack.

ironically, he was irish

There’s not much else to tell.  I woke up too early the next morning, took the shuttle to the airport, flew to JFK where I met some really nice guys, one of whom just started playing ukulele like me.  When I sang, “My dog has fleas,” he came right back with “Goats can eat anything” to help remember the tuning (thanks!).  So we sat around and chatted for a while, and played songs and learned how to play Leaving on a Jetplane (makes me cry every time).  When I finally got home, Boyfriend picked me up, we got pho, and went to bed.  I woke up too early and had plenty of energy for work the next day (surprisingly).

I loved Ireland.  I loved Scotland.  I miss it already.  I can’t live in LA my whole life.  I have to get out.  But more of that later.  For now, I’m having fun passing out souvenirs to friends, and looking through photos.

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Oban to Ayr

Breakfast was at 845 today: Canadian bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg with toast and tea, just like yesterday. I had about an hour to pull my things together and be out by 1015.

the man in the blue shirt and cap is the owner

My train to Glasgow wasn’t until 1, so I meandered down the hill and found a picnic table to sit and enjoy the view for the last time.  I pulled out my ukulele for he first time since JFK, tuned it up, and played just a couple of songs before some happa guy with glasses approached me and said he loved playing uke.  We started chatting and I invited him to sit down for a spell.  Turns out he has the same Lanikai ukulele back home in Atlanta (he was American), and an almost identical case (from this store on Etsy). We talked about what we liked about Oban, Edinburgh and Dublin (he loved Galway).  I asked where he’d eaten (food is an important topic while travelling), and he named a few fish and chips places, but he hadn’t been to the shack where I’d had oysters every day.  So we went and had half a dozen oysters each (his treat).  He was thoroughly impressed, of course.

We found a seat under the clock tower near the bus stop (his bus left at noon), and chatted some more until he left.  While we waited, an old man approached us with a smile and said, “I thought I should know your names since I took a photo of you!”  He had taken a photo of the clock tower, and since we occupied its base, we ended up in the shot.  I offered him a seat next to me, and he proceeded to monologue with pride about his Panasonic digital camera (similar to mine, but nicer), how he didn’t need to add extra lenses (so cumbersome) because of the excellent optical zoom on his camera.  And so on until he abruptly stood, blurted a friendly good-bye, and walked away.

fish stew and “crusty bread”

My American buddy and I exchanged emails; he lives in Atlanta and travels a good amount, so we’ll have to keep in touch.  After he left I went back to my picnic table and had some fish stew from a stand on the bay, so delicious.  I grabbed a good seat on the train, and started reading A Walk in the Woods, a hilarious and fascinating book by Bill Bryson about walking the Appalachian Trail.  I got bit by the hiking bug during my walk around Kerrera.  I’ll have to do some hiking when I get back.

After a transfer at Glasgow I was on my way to Irvine to see Scottish friend, whom I haven’t set eyes on since the 2004 trip to Romania where we met.  She met me at the train station with a hug, and laughed when I tried to get into the driver’s side of the car.  We picked up her cat from the vet, and chatted during the rather scenic drive to her house, where she lives with three very friendly and playful cats, and her boyfriend of several years.  He had food poisoning, and couldn’t come to dinner with us (which I was happy about, actually), poor guy.  Scottish Friend took me to a restaurant called Scott’s (I think?), where I immediately ordered the haggis as a starter, and an enormous seafood platter for the main dish.  The haggis was… amazing.  So delicious.  It was put together with some mashed potatoes on top and a cream sauce over the whole thing (which is typical, apparently) in a somewhat cylindrical fashion.  I was extremely impressed.  I asked Scottish Friend if people there really eat haggis all that often, and she said eats it about twice a week.  I’ll have to find a good place here in LA for it (although it’s such a volatile dish, that should be an adventure).

OHAI I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE

We went home and looked through her photos of the Romania trip.  She remembered almost everyone’s names (I couldn’t remember hardly any).  She and her boyfriend and I stayed up and chatted about accents (apparently it’s commonly known that Scottish Friend is universally difficult to understand, since she has somehow managed to create an accent all her own), and their burning desire to visit America, bolstered by the boyfriend’s current obsession with Man v. Food, a show on the Travel Channel where some American man with inevitably high cholesterol eats ridiculous portions of enormous foods at diners and the like all over the country.  I told him I would be sure to show him all the best places too eat around Los Angeles: Korean food, sushi, pho (which they had never heard of!), burgers, pasta, sandwiches, etc.  This fanned the flames a good amount until it was time to go to bed.

I slept in their guest bed, which was the softest, warmest, fluffiest cloud-of-a-bed I had slept in during the whole trip.  I was devastated to get up at 5am to catch a flight in Prestwick to Dublin.  Scottish Friend was nice enough to wake up early and take me to the airport.  How do we get along so well after all these years?  Strange how a connection between two people can be so easy.  She is such a blast.  I can’t wait to see her again, soon I hope.

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Edinburgh to Oban

Full disclosure: Once Boyfriend left with his laptop, I didn’t have anything to upload my blog from every night, so I kept notes on what happened each day on my iPhone to ensure that my memory didn’t fail me or start making stuff up.  Thus, the following posts are written at the end of each day in Oban.  After that I stopped taking notes, and must pull from my still-fresh memories.

I woke up when Boyfriend did, a little earlier than my alarm for the bus so he could make it to the airport on time to head back home while I made my way west across the country to Oban on the opposite shore.  I didn’t cry when he left (I cried a little after), but we were sad to part.  I didn’t have an appetite for the croissants and honey we bought for breakfast.  The tea we had previously enjoyed so much tasted bland and dirty; I poured it out.  I brushed my teeth, dressed, packed up my things and left without a backwards glance.

The 29 bus took me to the city center, as usual, and I walked to the train Waverly station.  A very nice woman helped me buy a train ticket to Glasgow, and a return ticket from there to Oban.  the Dublin airport and Glasgow train station both have a little restaurant called The Upper Crust that features delicious sandwiches on baguettes.  I got one with bacon, spinach, cranberry and brie.  I wish we had these in the U.S.  I made plans to eat there when I flew out of Ireland at the end of my trip.

i want to go to there

On the train, I sat at a table with an older woman who read a newspaper with an enormous photo of a topless woman with startling nonchalance.  I was duly impressed.  The train to Glasgow was a quiet, steady, and quick.  I couldn’t believe how much countryside we passed on our way.  The woman at my table glanced up whenever I whipped out my phone to take a photo of yet another unremarkable field.

The trip to Oban was three hours plus, and full of beauty.  I was astonished at the greenery, the seemingly endless lakes with houses peppered around the shores (or not), the fly fisher, the two men on a row boat that I saw in both directions, the sheep (!), the eternal hills capped with mist and mystery.  This was my first taste of the Scottish highlands.

I arrived at the end of the line at a very small (and totally unmanned) train station in Oban, and was directed by a woman working her a newsstand in the station to the tourist office across the bay.  As I walked the gentle arc around the pebbled shore below, I couldn’t stop staring at the water, the islands off shore that looked so close I lifted my hand to gauge the distance, just in case I really could touch them.   Happy people, families and (mostly German with a few French) tourists, chatted as they passed; a few benches looking out toward the islands were quietly occupied by silent, gazing groups of two or three people.  I looked to my right, saw a blue and white sign for fish and chips, and made a note to settle into my bed and breakfast, then head straight back to town, get some fish, and find one of those lovely benches to stare into the distance, relax my bones, and taunt the seagulls with my catch.

The Tourist Information (TI) shop was surprisingly busy.  Apparently Oban is known by local tourists (that is, those visiting from Ireland or the UK) as a good vacation spot for the older generation.  Let me say that again: the older generation.  Everywhere I went, every tour I participated in, every shop I visited, I was the youngest person there by a couple of decades (at least, usually more).  This surprising age gap made me feel especially lonely and out of place, especially without Boyfriend.  Everything was so beautiful, I wanted so badly to share it with him.

bright, soft, and welcoming

A rather handsome boy at the TI (he couldn’t have been more than 18, I’m just terrible) said that he lived right in the neighborhood of my B&B, which shouldn’t have surprised me at all since the town is so small.  I took a cab for just a few pounds with captivating views of the bay to my right on the way up the hill, and was shown to my room by the mother of the woman with whom I had corresponded via email to book the room.  A large window on one wall let in plenty of light, and gave me a view of the backyard (clotheslines mostly).  There was a stack of mail-order DVDs on the sill, out of which I pulled an episode of Hercule Poirot (Four and Twenty Blackbirds), and the second half of the Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth (the first half was nowhere to be found).  My evening entertainment was shaping right up.  The tea caddy had a set of real china: one cup, one pot, and a different little package of cookies each day.  I dumped my stuff unceremoniously on the bed, changed into the stylish and very comfortable blue sneakers I had bought just for the trip, and headed back to town via the one and only road down the hill (featuring more gorgeous views of the town on the water).

on my appropriately decorated iphone case

I got my fish and chips, and sat down next to a solitary woman on a bench facing the water, just like I’d planned, and fought to keep a particularly brave seagull away from my dinner.  I signed up for a ferry to the Isle of Mull, a bus ride across the island narrated in both directions by a very friendly and funny driver, ferry to Iona, self-guided tour of the ruined abbey and still-standing monastery on Iona, and then all in reverse.  I decided I should wear myself out after sitting all day, and had a long walk around town, exploring a couple of blocks inland from the water to find some cafes and churches (all closed), except for the church at the end of the bay, which was plain inside and out, and had a lesson for children going on when I stepped in.  I took a few steps down from the sidewalk onto the rocky shore for a short way, and picked up some shells (where did I put those?).

I walked back up the hill to the B&B around 8, took of my shoes, read my Kindle, showered, popped Pride & Prejudice into the DVD player and crawled into bed to relax and hate Mr. Wickam.  Boyfriend called via Skype about midway through; it was nice to see his face.

The bed was the softest, warmest I had slept in during the whole trip, and I slept soundly in the quiet B&B near the top of the hill overlooking the bay in Oban.

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Edinburgh: Day 3

some nice lady was giving these candies away to the people waiting in line to buy tickets

We had such high hopes for today, but we couldn’t make it to the Palace at Holyrood.  We spent the majority of the day at the Britannia, a yacht for the royals that’s actually considered a palace on the water.

We wandered through just a few portions of each level of the ship, but it felt enormous.  The engine room was pretty amazing (a visiting German engineer, while on a tour of the engine room, is said to have declared, “These museum pieces are very nice, but I would like to see the engine room, please.”), lots of shiny copper pipes and glass covered pressure gauges.  The whole thing is lovely, if a bit cramped, but then I’m not used to maritime accommodations.

We took a break to have lunch at the only restaurant on the ship, The Royal Tea Room.  The wait was about 20 minutes and well worth it.  We had Famous Edinburgh and Assam teas, salmon sandwiches and Mull cheddar sandwiches, mushroom and truffle oil soup with giant french fries with seasoned salt on the side, and a scone with jam and clotted cream.  Too much food but super delicious!  We jumped back on the tour bus that brought us out, and listened to an informative, occasionally silly dialog between two fantastic accents (man and a woman) regarding the points of interest we passed on the way back to Edinburgh city center.

tea time at the palace on the water

We booked it to Edinburgh Castle, which is almost a thousand years old, and has never been taken in battle.  Recently, archaeologists found evidence of settlements on that very site as far back as 900 BC.  The castle itself has been rebuilt in various places, and purposefully changed by the Victorians in the late 1800s to look more “appealing,” and fulfill their romanticized idea of what the middle ages would have looked like (not super accurate, FYI, but kinda pretty if you’re not a stickler for accuracy, which I am, so fuck you very much, Victorians).  Needless to say, I loved the castle.  It also has the best view in the city, even on a rainy day like today.  You can see the clouds rolling across distant green hills, cold and wet, lush and fertile, secret and inviting.

impregnable door!

I’ve been craving fish and chips since that delicious bunch I got in Dublin, so we poked around until we found some (we checked out The Last Drop, a pub named in reference to the drop of a body on a noose rather than a drink, but they didn’t serve fish and chips).  But the fish was so boring!  I was so disappointed.  My last real meal in Edinburgh, and it was dull.  At least I had some really excellent fish last night at The Witchery.

The bus ride home was drama-free after yesterday’s slight panic about how we’d find our stop (which is not named on the list of stops in town).  Luckily, I’m awesome, and recognized our neighborhood by a shop name that was similar to a pub we went to on the first night, and the small clock tower that houses the pizza place of all things.

We’ve been home at the B&B for a couple hours, packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow.  Boyfriend has extra room in his bag (which has wheels, unlike mine), so he’s offered to take some of my stuff home with him: gifts for friends and family, and some of my dirty clothes.  What a sweetie.

I’m really gonna miss Boyfriend, but it’ll be nice to be on my own.  I’m so used to having someone to point things out to, share experiences with, hold hands with when it’s cold.  That part is going to be hard.  But I’ll enjoy having no one to double check with when I have an impulse.  That’s always fun.  I still have to make some solid plans for Oban.  I’m thinking of doing a day trip to Iona and Mull, and going horseback riding.  We’ll see.  If I can find a beautiful spot to sit, I’ll be happy.

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Ireland: Day 4

cold wind, warm sun

The weather today was just perfect.  The air was crisp, but the sun was shining all day with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Boyfriend and I walked to a park that was recommended to us, and sat on a bench for a while and watched a couple little girls (sisters) play and race.  One of them declared suddenly, “We must kill the dog!”  The dog was pretty cute, not sure what he did to deserve a death sentence.

We walked across the street to the National Museum of Ireland where we saw, among other things, The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio.  I could’ve sworn it was stolen, but there it was.  It was a nice little collection for a museum that charges no fee at the door.

everything was green

Just north of that was Lincoln’s Inn, where we had sandwiches and soup, and discussed how awesome we are.  Boyfriend did a little dance in his chair and when I was done laughing, I mentioned, as I have before, that I’m pretty sure I’d like to marry him some time in the future, if he keeps doing stuff like that.

Then we walkedforever to the Guinness brewery (two miles, but it felt like longer) and went through the tour of the place, which was highly informative and actually pretty interesting.  Tickets are 13 Euros, and allow for a tour, a lesson on how to pour a pint of Guinness (which takes 119 seconds and two separate pourings to complete, in addition to putting your thumb on the harp, filling to the top of the next harp, etc.), which you can then drink, plus a free pint upstairs at the Gravity Bar way at the top of the building with 360 degree views of the city and green hills beyond.

we poured this one together (Boyfriend did the first part, I topped it off)

We took a rail train four stops east, then walked to the “Oriental” area, where we got some boring noodle soup.  Then we headed back to Gogarty’s pub to get more oysters (a dozen this time!) and a cup of Guinness with some live music.  At 11pm a male and female dancer who used to work on Riverdance showed up to dance for us.  I couldn’t believe how lightning fast the woman was.  Obviously the man was impressive too, but the woman was crazy good.

It’s well past my bedtime now, and I’m looking forward to flying to Scotland tomorrow.  Dublin has been fantastic.  Next time I’ll have to rent a car and spend some time in the countryside.

 

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Ireland: Day 3

I cannot believe an illustration for Mr. Trout already exitst

We had another traditional Irish breakfast today, along with a dish of scrambled eggs with smoked trout, which Boyfriend immediately took to calling “Mr. Trout,” and continued with a little song, and, as the day wore on, full character description (he’s a detective who wears a fedora, has a family, and travels all over the world).  According to Boyfriend, “He’s on the case.”

After breakfast I went back to bed for a nap (my clock is still on Los Angeles time).  Boyfriend woke me up with stories of Mr. Trout.

We wandered around the city looking for Dublin Castle for a bit, and heard some enormous noise coming from the city center.  A formula 1 race was going on, so we went to check it out.  So loud!  We didn’t get to see any formula 1 cars, but we did see two very fast cars pull donuts right next to each other.

We got some fish and chips from a chain called Leo Burdock, super delicious, best fish and chips I’ve ever had.  And it looked like I got a whole fish!  Way too much food.  It was takeout only, so we popped into a hotel lobby and pretended to be guests while we ate and made use of their facilities.

We finally found Dublin Castle, bought tickets for the 4:40 tour, and visited Dublinia, the viking museum!  There were all kinds of dioramas with far too realistic-looking people (one of which is looking right at you as you turn a corner, super creepy), and a place to try on Viking clothes and helmets (which we did, with a fearsome pose).

Dublin Castle’s front door knobs were shiny lions, raaargh!

We rushed back to catch our tour of Dublin Castle, which I pictured in varying degrees of ruin, but it’s actually a fully functioning government building in most parts, and it’s just beautiful.  It lacks the gaudy, gold-plated look of older palaces of Europe, and instead has a quiet sense of cohesion and historical class that other, more ostentatious European buildings seem to be dripping with. We got to see what’s left of the Powder Tower (where the kept the gunpowder until it all blew up and burned the castle for two straight days), which was super cool.  The tour went too quickly.

We were signed up for a traditional music pub crawl at 7ish that starts at Gogarty’s Pub, so we found the place, then relaxed at an inn by the river to get tea and recharge before the crawl.  At Gogarty’s we had a cup of Guiness and a half-dozen oysters (delicious!) before we started out on the crawl.  There was a guitarist with a lovely voice, and an Uilleann piper (what he described as similar to Scottish bagpipes, “The only difference is Uilleann pipes sound good”), both of whom were very friendly and funny.  The Uilleann pipes really do produce a gorgeous sound, a deeper and more broadly ranging tone that, once it gets going, is impossible to resist stomping your foot on the floor to keep the beat.  The crawl was my favorite part of the trip so far for sure.  Afterward we grabbed more fish and chips (from the same chain, different location, since it was the only place open at 11pm on a Sunday) and wandered over to The Duke, where the piper recommended that we go to hear more live music (on our way in a woman almost ran us over on her way out.  The guy following her said to us, with a laugh, “Quick one, in’t she?  FOKKIN’ ‘ell!”).  The bar tender filled us in on the intricacies of Guiness, which tastes totally different and delicious here.  Apparently there’s a bar in Spain where the owner meticulously cleans the pipes once per week, which makes the Guiness taste “gorgeous.”  He said that Guiness is “like a baby” (very sensitive) and on a cold day the head will be smaller.

Anyway, the piper pointed out that good traditional music is played not for an audience, but in more of a jam session among the musicians, and that if you approach them to ask them to sing your favorite song, “the most polite answer you’ll get is something along the lines of ‘Well sing it yourself, then.'”

A few things I learned at the pub crawl:
-When an Irish person says ‘Irish’ it sounds like ‘Arsh’
-The Irish are “very hard to pin down” and are “notorious for never quite giving a straight answer.”  A man once asked for directions in Cork, and was told, “Well I wouldn’t start from here.”
-When drinking the two phrases commonly used are “Just the one,” and “Never again.”
-When playing that hollow drum they hold with the left arm and play with a short stick with the right, a good way to keep the beat is to say one of a few phrases in your head, like ‘Black and Decker, Black and Decker, Black and Decker,’ or for a different beat, ‘rachers and sausages, rachers and sausages.’  The piper said, “You can’t tell a child learning to play this instrument to play in four-four time with an upbeat every other measure.  The response you’ll get is, “I’m bored,” and my response is of course, “Me too, let’s go to a pub,” at which point they’ll say, “We can’t go to a pub, I’m just a child.”  So to avoid saying things that will get me fired from teaching positions, we stick with things like ‘Black and Decker’ instead.  I don’t know what we did before power tools.”
-A singalong is called a sing-song.
-The guitarist said, “If you were to kill someone with an Irish flute, you’d never get away with it because everyone plays it differently so you’d be recognized instantly.”
-One hilarious song they sang was about an Irishman who went to California during the gold rush, and was hoodwinked by a man dressed as a woman.  “She” got him drunk, took him to bed where he fell asleep, and when he awoke, he found a woman’s clothes, wig, and a shaving kit. So he puts it on, and goes outside and a man gives him a wink.  He sees how much money this man has, and offers him a drink in turn.  The chorus was something like “Her lips were red, here eyes were blue, her hair was as yellow as the gold she stole from me.”

nicer than our room by a lot

We crashed in bed and played Draw Something for a little while.  I’m actually writing this in the lobby the following morning (day 4), with some Italian tourists in the couch nearby since we have trouble getting a wireless connection in our room on the lower level.  Yesterday started with rain so we went out to look for ponchos.  I asked a couple of guys who were wearing some cheap ones where they got them, and they took them off and gave them to us.  So nice, such generosity.

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Ireland: Day 2

Day two in Dublin started with sun and ended with rain.  Apparently the weather change happens a lot here.

otters are the best

Boyfriend and I saw the Book of Kells today!  What a whimsical, incredible work of art.  There are all kinds of bizarre animals, like a bird with its feet in its mouth for a prominent “D”, and an otter with a fish caught in its mouth, which is now obviously my favorite part.

After that we exited into the Long Room, which houses all kinds of neat old books (I was told yesterday that “neat” is a distinctly American word).  I love old books, and the high ceiling is so pretty.  There was also a really cool wrought iron spiral staircase which Boyfriend and I really wanted to take a photo of, but alas, no photos allowed (but I found this one online that doesn’t quite do it justice).

note to self: WANT

We grabbed some sandwiches at Neary’s (smoked salmon, and chicken), then walked back to get a tour of Trinity College from a very funny graduate student.  It had started to drizzle, so when we got home we relaxed and forgot we had to be at dinner by 6 until 610.  It was 1.3 miles away.

We zoomed over in a taxi and were put in with the 7pm dinner group.  It was at The Brazen Head, Dublin (and possibly Ireland’s) oldest pub.  There we had a three course meal over a pint and coffee with dessert, and enjoyed some folklore and local history.  There were loads of Americans there, and the songs were great.

We didn’t end until 1030, and by then it was raining.  We mapped out a route home and got wet all the way.  I was getting into a bit of a sour mood until I reminded myself that this was Dublin.  It rains here all the time.  I should really just get used to it.  Then Boyfriend pointed out that we could put our clothes on the heater when we got back to the hotel room, and I got super excited.  Extra warm clothes for a cold day?  Yes please!

Breakfast this morning was delicious, by the way.  We’re having breakfast every day at the hotel, and it’s just lovely.  One of us ordered crepes with fruit, and the other got an egg with sausage, bacon, half a tomato, and pudding (some kind of oatmeal cake, not bad).  I’m looking forward to that tomorrow.  Plus, Dublin Castle!

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Ireland at last

we sat on the top level while our driver almost hit just about everything and everyone on his way to the city center (the German tourists up there with us were laughing and freaking out)

I’m in Dublin, Ireland!  I traveled for 27 straight hours, finally got to the hotel with Boyfriend and passed out immediately for an hour.  Then we had to go meet our ambassador, a local Dubliner who brought some vouchers and took us out for tea and croissants and scones, and told us about his city.  There was a quick mix-up at the Little Dublin Museum, and they apparently forgot all about us while we poked around and looked at some old U2 photos, so the head of the whole ambassador program took us out instead.  Thank you, Simon, you were really cool.

He gave us some great advice, then went back to work.  Boyfriend and I decided to get an early dinner at a French place he recommended (Guileton?) early so we can get a good amount of sleep. I got the best sausage I’ve ever had, and Boyfriend got lamb.  Our hotel room is small, with simple but pretty wooden furniture.  Although it sounds like some people are digging gravel outside right now… Anyway, I’m exhausted and excited about tomorrow.

I brought my ukulele with me, and made some friends at JFK as a result.  I totally hypnotized a little Indian girl, who watched me play for a good half hour before I left to pee and find some food.  She informed me, “I have a small guitar at home.”  I let her strum the uke, making different chords for her to play while a porter looked on, smiling.  Eventually he came over and chatted about how I reminded him of some woman on the kid’s show he watches with his little girl, Yo Gabba Gabba.

Nothing much else to report, except that tomorrow will be awesome, and I’m happy to see Boyfriend after so long a time.

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goodness, life, manfolk, work

The good kind of pressure

I haven’t had time to write recently.  Planning this trip to Ireland (and Scotland) has been eating up all my spare time.  I’m leaving May 31st, and returning June 13th.  I have to be ready for school (which starts on the 18th) by the time I get back, but I’m not sure if I’m eligible for the tuition breaks I thought I’d get when I applied for the graduate program.  I still need the reading materials, and I need to finish the online orientation.

I’ve been reading Rick Steve’s guidebooks about Ireland and Scotland, and I’m totally wiped out on research mode.  I’ll be spending five days in Dublin, three days in Edinburgh, three days on Oban, and one day in Ayr near Irvine with a friend I made during my time in Romania.  Then it’s one night near the Dublin airport somewhere so I can leave around 11am the next day.

Boyfriend will be in that part of the world on work, so he’ll be with me in Dublin and Edinburgh, then I’m on my own.  I’m excited to spend time in the Highlands.  I’m staying in a bed and breakfast in the little coastal town of Oban.  Apparently they make great whisky (one B&B I found offered a shot of whiskey every evening upon returning to retire).  I’ll day-trip out to the Isle of Mull, then to Iona.  I can’t wait to relax among some beautiful scenery.  Also, horseback riding!  I’m excited about doing this stuff on my own; taking it slow after spending the majority of the trip in cities (with Boyfriend).  I’m really looking forward to spending time abroad with Boyfriend.  We’re going to have so much fun.

Meanwhile, my room is a disaster area, I’m nervous about starting school again (plus the online aspect of it), I haven’t traveled in a long time so I’m worried about keeping my itinerary straight… frankly I’m a little overwhelmed.  I just keep reminding myself that everything loading me down is stuff I’m also excited about.  I guess that’s a sign that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  I wonder if this is what progress feels like.

It kinda sucks.  hahaha

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goodness, life, martial arts, school, work

A quit and a launch

i'm flying!!

I had a big day.

I bought my ticket to Dublin, Ireland!  So exciting!  I’m leaving May 31st, coming back June 13th.  I’ll have to head straight to work the next day (no recuperation time), but it doesn’t matter!  I’m going to spend some time in Ireland, see Edinburgh, visit a friend in Scotland who I met in Romania, and maybe visit another friend I made in Romania (who is a native of Arad, Romania, and lives in London now, and works as a freelance translator).  Who knows, maybe I’ll take the chunnel to France, and visit anyplace at all, because I have two weeks to bum around Europe.  It kinda depends on whether Diminutive Roommate and come along or not.  Either way, I’m going abroad for two weeks!  It’ll be my first vacation since London with my family, more than three years ago.

thanks fer sneezin' on meh!

After I bought the ticket, I put in my letter of resignation to Karate Job.  My last day there will be May 18th, giving me time to go to Sister’s law school graduation and cover for my coworker at Office Job who could definitely use a day off.  I’ll miss the kids, that’s for sure.  They’re so funny.  I’ll miss getting their drawings, and hearing all the weird nonsense that goes on in their heads.

The other day one of the kids wouldn’t stop clearing his throat.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “There’s a frog in my throat!”  I said, “What’s his name?”  The boy thought for a second, then said, “Coffee.”  I asked him why, and he said, “Because he makes me cough!”  Naturally.  That’s the stuff I’ll miss.  My bosses were nice enough, and pretty straight forward kinda people.  I mean, they all have their own eccentricities (anal-retentiveness, hyper-controlling, obliviousness to the plight of the sensei’s, etc.), but I’m beyond complaining about it today.  I’m leaving soon, and after that I’m going to spend two weeks in Europe, and after that I start grad school.  I have nothing to complain about today.

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