goodness

Omnomnom

I was starving after shinkendo class last week, and popped over to the bakery across the street (Cafe Dulce I think) to see if they had anything to munch on while I walked to my car.

CHICKEN.  CURRY.  BUN.

It’s the white, fluffy kind of bun, and it’s full of chicken curry.  WTF have I been doing with my life up to this point?!  I need to learn how to make these.

Bonus:  They come in a hilarious little paper wrapper/pocket if you tell the cashier you want to eat them right now because they’re so damn good.

she's almost as excited as I am

she’s almost as excited as I am

I’m a huge fan on tonkatsu with curry, especially at Misasa in Mitsuwa on the Westside.  So good.  Santouka used to be my favorite ramen place, but I think that has shifted to places with richer broth, and less dough-y noodles (and better menma), although their chashu remains some of the best out there (if a little fatty).

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family, goodness, life, manfolk

Hawai’i: Day five

this year is the 12th.  I also spoke at the 5th.

this year is the 12th. I also spoke at the 5th.

Today was the first day of the Hawai’i International Conference, where I’ll be speaking soon, and which was my impetus for coming over here at all.  Boyfriend and I had breakfast (the rest of the eggs with tobasco and the last of the toast with honey), then drove across the island to the hotel where the conference is being held in Waikiki.  I attended a couple of talks: the first was on the sexual attitudes of university students (but turned out to be about Filipino students in the Philippines, and not pertinent to my interests), and the second was about race-based marketing (but was really just a presentation about a case study that proved the obvious: black people are more likely to pay attention to advertising aimed toward black people).  I checked out a poster session after that which was surprisingly poorly attended, but had some interesting stuff about the relationships between shapes and language with young children, and the relationship between gangs and religiosity (no correlation, even though being religious should keep one from becoming violent, right?).

/drool

/drool

Boyfriend was super hungry after that (he hung out by the hotel pool while I was busy), and found an amazing udon place called Marukame Udon not half a mile away that makes its noodles fresh (and in full view of their customers).  The line was long but moved super quickly.  You get to watch them make the noodles, then they put them in a bowl with the broth you order (hot or cold), then you get to choose whatever tempura you want and oh my fucking god they all look amazing.  I wanted them all.  Boyfriend got a cold ontama udon with one shrimp tempura, and I got curry udon with pumpkin tempura (of course).  Delicious.

boyfriend sang the theme for Jurassic Park as I drove

boyfriend sang the theme for Jurassic Park as I drove

We didn’t have time to go to the zoo like we wanted to afterward, so we headed back home and got caught in some Los Angeles-grade freeway traffic.  So brutal.  We jumped off and took streets to the 61 to get home, which took us through a really beautiful stretch of land that looked mysterious and awesome with all the mist hanging around the tops of the mountains.  We came out of a tunnel to see some deep green in low-hanging clouds.  Just gorgeous.

pictured: not a centipede

pictured: not a centipede

We took a short swim in the ocean for a bit, took a shower, dressed and were about to leave when we noticed we had a visitor on the window: a baby gecko.  I explained to Boyfriend the first time we spotted a baby gecko in the cottage that they’re good to have in the house because they eat bugs.  The second gecko we saw in the cottage, however, was a full-sized gecko, which was only a problem because the previous day, during a walk with Nancy and Bella, we came upon a dead centipede.  Centipedes are disgusting and horrifying and they fucking bite, so no thank you.  Naturally, I mistook the harmless gecko scuttling across the wall of the kitchen for a centipede and blurted out “OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!” before realizing my mistake.  Boyfriend almost had a heart attack because, as he put it, “You never freak out about anything, so when you said that I thought there must be a dead guy hanging by the ceiling in the kitchen or something.”  Sorry, Boyfriend.

Anyway, we headed over to the house to say goodbye to whomever was over there, chatted with uncle Bobby for a while (and gave Bella some love since she had been bitten on the snout by some fucking Labrador earlier today) before heading back across the island to Aiea to eat dinner at a sushi place called Kuru Kuru Sushi.  It was Boyfriend’s and my first time at a sushi place with a rotating conveyor belt, and it was so tasty.  I expect all conveyor belt sushi to be a little gross, but this one did not disappoint.  It was recommended by my cousin when Sister came out here with her new boyfriend last year.

Boyfriend has had a runny nose all day long, so we got him some Benadryl.  I sang him a song in the car that made him laugh: Gonna go get some yummy drugs for my boyfriend… Yummy yummy yum, drugs drugs drugs.

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goodness

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: 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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Edinburgh: Day 2

an armrest at St. Giles Cathedral

Our first visit to Edinburgh’s city center today, and my suspicions have been confirmed: Edinburgh is gorgeous.  Because it’s a historically recognized city, there are loads of regulations that force new buildings to closely resemble old ones (which are meticulously maintained), for extra police cameras to be placed all over to keep people safe, the cobblestone streets are immaculately kept (even in the residential area I’m staying in), and so on.  The historical sites are well organized and never crowded. Navigating the city was a bit challenging at first, but it’s so small that we became familiar with it very quickly. The little alleys that shoot off from the Royal Mile (the main drag) every ten yards or so are adorable and mysterious.  There are rivers running under the occasional bridge, he areas around which are a vibrant green and have an untamed look to them.

The day went something like this: Wake up and eat store-bought croissants and honey with tea, walk to bus stop and get worried that we’ll miss our stop when the driver fails to call out each stop.  Arrive at city center, and immediately get lost. Walk a full circle before finally getting to our destination.
Our first stop was Gladstone’s Land, a 17th century house with beautiful painted ceiling beams in the bedroom.  Old houses were built up to 13 stories high!  Of course they also fell down a lot, too.

Greyfriar’s Bobby. what a sweetheart.

Next it was off to find some lunch.  We found The Hub in a guide book which we forgot back at the B&B, but found it again in our wanderings.  It’s a cafe (among other things) built within a large old church.  We got a cheese plate which did nothing to fill me up (although Boyfriend was oddly satisfied), and went off to meet up with our tour group.  A nice older lady gave us a general history of Edinburgh during our walking tour under a constant drizzle.  The rest of the group was very stern and didn’t laugh at any of her funny (and true) stories of old Edinburgh, so I made a point to keep a smile on my face and listen intently.  It was all very interesting, to tell the truth, and she did a very nice job.  At the end of the tour, she took us down under the North Bridge, a dank, moist place that would’ve been pitch black and reeking of burned fish (they burned fish oil in their portable lamps).  We got the overall impression that life back then was not something to be envied.  Gardy-loo!

We stopped in a little cafe to dry off and satisfy my growling stomach (I’ve been eating more than usual with all the walking around).  After some scrambled eggs and toast, we set off for St. Giles Cathedral, which was more ornate than I had imagined.  I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but I didn’t expect there to be shrines and gravestones to various important and wealthy people inside.  I had forgotten how old Edinburgh really is; St. Giles Cathedral was founded in the 12th century, and has plenty of beautiful carvings and windows to show for it.  I paid three pounds to be allowed to take photos in the cathedral, and it was well worth it.

white chocolate, strawberry ice cream with a very thick whipped cream and chocolate on top

We made it to The Witchery for dinner in plenty of time, and were among the first seated of the night.  We had three course meals of butternut squash soup, salmon, beef, and ice cream and cheese for dessert.  I ordered the Atlantic blackened bream for the second course, but was told afterwards that the chef had a look at it and wasn’t satisfied, so they substituted with salmon, which might have been the best salmon I’ve ever had.

I ran into one totally impenetrable accent today (although Boyfriend professed to be able to understand every word, what a liar).  The man with the accent took our photo with a statue of the Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog that guarded his master’s grave for fourteen years.  If possible, it was more adorable that I expected.  Anyway, it turns out this guy was telling us about the graveyard just around the corner that we should check out, and we did.  Super cool.

there were loads of these skull and crossbones all over the graveyard on very old tombstones

All the shops seem to sell the same thirty patterns of cashmere scarf/stole/blanket/skirt/kilt.  Not sure if I’ll end up getting anything at all here by the way of a souvenir, even though this part of the trip has been just fantastic.  What I really wanted was an Irish kilt pin.  They’re so lovely and simple, just a circle or a C shape with a pin going through.  But they’re all so expensive.  Maybe some other time.
After the bus and a short walk home, I realized we didn’t have enough for breakfast, so after a quick rest we were back outside to walk to the market: croissants for our tummies, batteries for my camera.
That’s all for today!  Tomorrow is Edinburgh Castle (for real this time), the Britannia yacht, and the Palace at Hollyrood.
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Scotland, I am in love

Boyfriend and I arrived in Edinburgh today, and fell in love instantly.  Everything looks old, the accents are hilarious and fun, and we haven’t even been to the city center yet.  It’s been a drizzly evening, the cobblestones are jet black and shining under the streetlights.  The buildings are a grayish brown brick or stone, and everything else is green.  It’s just gorgeous.

kitty dreams of the outside world

But I’m ahead of myself.  Breakfast this morning at the Harrington Hotel in Dublin ended with the waitress calling over her shoulder to us, “Be happy!”  So that was adorable.

We booked it out of there, and made the bus and the plane to Edinburgh in plenty of time.  I looked out the window while we took off, and nudged Boyfriend to wave and say with me, “Goodbye, Ireland!  Bye, Dublin!”  I asked him if he ever did that when his planes took off.  He said, “Yeah, in my head,” and managed to leave out “like a normal person, you hilarious weirdo.”  What a sweetheart.

We took a bus and walked about a mile to our bed and breakfast, St. Bernard’s Guesthouse.  We decided against paying for a cold breakfast and bought some croissants, honey, tea, and cranberry juice.

We wandered a couple of blocks over to find some pre-dinner food (we hadn’t had anything since breakfast except for Worcestershire sauce flavored chips, and some bacon flavored… crispy things.  We couldn’t decide if they were tasty or gross).

Quick side note on airports in Ireland and Scotland:
I’ve never seen so few people, nor so many easy to understand signs and well-organized layouts in airports, at home or abroad.  Kids go running around, playing while the parents read and chat.  The people were so friendly, unlike the TSA people at LAX who are in a constant state of fuck-off.  When I commented on this to a teller, he said, “Well no one’s after us.  They’re just passin’ through to get to someone else!”  Well said, sir.

Anyway, pre-dinner food.  We wandered around and couldn’t find any place that served dinner before 6 except a place called Pizza Express, that sounds like shit but turned out to be a pretty upscale place, and served delicious pizza.  Mine had a fried egg on it, and we split a cider.  Amazing.

We headed back to the B&B to plan out our day tomorrow, and work up an appetite for second-dinner, which we decided had to have meat pie.  We found a delicious steak pie with blue cheese in it at The Stockbrige Tap just down the block from us, coupled with a Black Isle Stout (dark but brighter than Guinness).  We got to listen to the locals chatting in surprisingly comprehensible local accents, and had a nice walk home in the chill air.

There’s a small park just outside the B&B where someone was hosting a large party today until late into the evening.  It says light so late here (the lights come on around 10) that it’s easy to stay out later than you ordinarily would.

I’m super excited about tomorrow!  We’re taking a bus to the city center to save time and energy to visit the Undergound, a statue of a dog, a famous pub, and a museum.  I’ve been too excited to sleep for a few nights because of the cool stuff we’ve had planned for this trip.

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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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