Halcyon Repose

Archive for October, 2008

Ireland, The Journal Part 4

by on Oct.24, 2008, under General

One more post after this one will complete my trip journal.

Day 9
Saturday, September 27th

Today’s plan is to hit the small town of Kinsale, grab some food, head to Blarney, and then back to Cork in time for our dinner reservations. We weren’t leaving early that morning, but I still had to get up before 8 so that I could move the car off of the streets and into the hotel parking lot to avoid getting a ticket.

At 10 we picked up Alex and had some breakfast at The Coffee Pot. I had some tea and a breakfast panini, and then we set off for Blarney Castle, which was a quick 10 minute drive out of Cork. The castle grounds were beautiful, and the castle itself was huge. Unlike Bunratty, it was unrestored, but you got to explore the castle in all of it’s raw, bleeding glory. We made the trip up to the Blarney Stone, waited in the queue, and then snapped a picture as we walked by, foregoing the traditional kiss. On the way out I stepped into the cave below the castle, but quickly backed out when I hit two inches if gooey mud. Next to it was the guard station which had three foot high tunnel, this one I pushed to the very end.

After I managed to clean off my shoes, we then headed back to the car, and drove past Cork and on to Cobh. Cobh was a beautiful town with a glorious cathedral up on the hill. The small dock in the center of town provided a great view for picture taking, and after getting our fill we wandered over to Quay’s Restaurant for a quick, light lunch. Afterward we hopped back in the car and headed up to the cathedral to visit inside. While we did get to go inside, there was a funeral service going on so we had to refrain from taking pictures of the awe-inspiring interior.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Kinsale. The trip around the lakes would take around an hour, but we decided at the last minute to try the ferry. I had never been on one before, and it was definitely a cool experience. It was all of five Euros, and while short, it still managed to be fun and saved us a good 35 minutes of driving.

We blew past Kinsale to the old Kinsale head, where there are some beautiful cliffs, a ruined tower, and a golf course which was locked behind an an old wall. We snapped some pictures, then went back to Kinsale for a quick walk about, and then back to Cork for our dinner reservation.

Dinner was at Greene’s Restaurant. It was a lovely restaurant with a waterfall lit up outside the entrance. Joe and I were joined by Alex, Michael, a Russian GM, Jason, lead GM, and his wife Jen. Dinner was opulant, but good. I had steak with a peppercorn sauce, and some sort of semi scalloped potatoe dish, which was really good.

After dinner, everyone else had to leave, so Alex, Joe and I walked around for a while to let our food settle, and we ended up at the Jury’s Hotel, and went to their bar, Weir’s, for some Smithwicks. There was a serious lack of girls there, so went back towards the town center stopping at The Catwalk where we finally scored some carbombs. I had to instruct the bartender in how to make them, and we killed them we quickly left as we were already tiring of the loud noise in the place. Since it was getting late, we ended up back at the Jury’s Inn for a last round of drinks to finish off the night. Little did I know it this bar would set in motion a trend for the rest of the trip. It was at this bar that Joe tried Kilkenny’s, a beer which would soon become our favorite new beer of the trip.

Day 10
Sunday, September 28th

Got up early, got a shower then went and picked up Alex for breakfast. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, no place was open. We stopped by the Blizzard Cork office, of course no one was there, even Jason was MIA since he had a meeting the night before with Gilmartin.

We then drove Alex to the airport and grabbed some breakfast there, wished him a farewell and headed back to the hotel to pack up and check out. We jumped back on the road and pointed ourselves toward Glendalough.

The first part of the drive was my worst day of driving by far. I was struggling to stay awake to Kilkenny where we stopped for lunch at the Kilkenny Design Center which overlooked the castle. I had the Lamb which was excellent, and a bowl of chicken chowder while I waited for them to finish preparing my meal. The soup was an actual entrée which was not expecting, but it was very flavorful with a hint of Thai influence (coconut milk). We decided we had enough castle tours, so we skipped over this one and got back on the road.

The drive to Glendalough was a pretty one. The Wicklow mountains being an interesting mix of the dry California mountains and the pine covered Tennessee mountains. Once we got there we found that the valley was CRAZY packed with people. Like the beach on Labor Day packed. We tried finding a room but everything was either booked or way to expensive.

I was tired, and a bit of an asshole, and I made Joe be the one to check all of the places for price and vacancy. After searching for a half hour, we came across the Trooperstown Woodlodge, which had just opened up six weeks before. The yard was large and extremely well manicured, and the house itself was very nice inside. It was a about seven Euros more than we wanted to pay, but we had finally came to realize that it as a good price for the area so we took it. We were the only people there at the time, so we got our pick of rooms, once we settled in, I almost immediately crashed for a nap. Once I was up, we decided to chill for the night, get up early tomorrow, visit the valley, and then have a late breakfast / lunch at the restaurant owned by the B&B owners.

We read for awhile in the sitting room, and Joe, the lucky bastard, was able to occasionally able to pickup a wifi signal from somewhere nearby. A little before eight, we bundled up and walked down the road for a late dinner and some beers at Lynham’s Hotel.

Day 11
Monday, September 29th

Today we got up early, showered, and packed, and went for a walk around the valley. We stopped by St James’ monastic site, which has been turned into a graveyard, and we took some photos. We then headed back up the trail and paid a visit to the remote St. Savior’s Church, which had some wonderful carvings still visible around the windows and doors.

After the hike back we heads back to the Wicklow Heather Restaurant to get our breakfast and to check out of the B&B. After fueling our bodies we headed off to the big city of Dublin.

After a bit of driving through downtown Dublin, we stopped at the first guesthouse we came too, which was at the Redwood Lodge across from the four seasons. It was 90EUs a night, which is more than we have payed elsewhere, but we were prepared for that.

After getting checked in (and lugging our backs up to the top floor), we got on a bus and headed towards O’Connell street for some shopping. Our main goal was Chapters, a used bookstore Joe wanted to visit. We found the location, but they had moved a few blocks away. We tracked down the new location and did some browsing. I picked up the Marilyn Manson autobiography with Niel Strauss, and the Eric Clapton biography.

Next door on the way out, we found a coffee shop/deli called Cahoots, which had an open wifi signal near by, so we got a chicken tikka marsala wrap and caught up with the rest of the world. Once we were finished, Joe had to go to go next door in order to use the credit card machine they share with the deli, and it just so happened to be the B&B we had been stealing our wifi signal from. On a lark, I asked them for the room prices, and they were 11EU cheaper than our current place, and it was in the middle of downtown to boot. They charged 10EU for a parking spot, but that was still comparable, and the wifi made it a no brainer. We booked our last two nights there, and headed back out to the streets.

We made a stop at the bus station to get the info on the routes and about the hop on hop off tours, and we picked up a free visitors map. We then stopped by a camera shop, but unfortunatley I didn’t find anything I was looking for.

We headed west a bit to the Temple Bar section of town, and got a table at the Temple Bar, which was absolutely huge, it just kept going and going. Unfortunately, they wanted 6EU for a pint, more than we have paid anywhere else, but we grinned and took it. We got a pint of Kilkenny, which Joe had gotten previously, and I was really impressed. It was really fracking good. I’ll have to see if I can find a keg in the states. While we drink our pints, a banjo and guitar duo went in stage, and totally started owning the joint.

Next we went in search of The Kitchen, one of Brenden’s recommendations, but they were not yet opened, so instead we stopped by The Porterhouse Brewing Company, home of the gold medal stout. We, of course, got a stout.

Next we walked around abit before stopping at a place called O’Donoghue’s. We had another Kilkenny and then headed out for food, which ended being across the street at a smoothie/sandwich place called Nude. I had a beef burrito wrap and their smoothie of the week. I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting the area. The prices were way reasonable, the portions perfect, and extremely tasty. A++ would do again.

Next was O’Neill’s for another Kilkenny. Afterward, we stopped at the corner market so I could pick up some chapstick, and then back on the bus toward our room. We got off a few exits early and had a pint of Smithwick’s at Paddy Cullen’s to end the evening.

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Ireland Images

by on Oct.23, 2008, under Life, Photography

The photos of Ireland are finally up. I managed to find a few hundred I actually liked and now that all the post processing is out of the way, I’ll get the rest of my travel journal posted.

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Ireland, The Journal Part 3

by on Oct.08, 2008, under Life

On and on we go.

Day 6
Wednesday, September 24th

Upon waking up, Joe and I started off with another round of breakfast. I finally realized that the traditional Irish breakfast is way too much meat, and leaving a bit on the plate keeps me from feeling weighed down.

After getting ready, we packed up the car and then walked back to the town center to do a little shopping. Joe wanted to get another polarization filter for his second lens, and we stopped by a music store to pick up some CDs for the drive. I also wanted to stop by Fig Coili and pick up their tshirt as a memento.

Once we finished shopping, we headed back to the car and set off to the Cliffs of
Moher. The country side on the way was definitely different as we traveled south. It was almost all being used for raising animals and it was extremely rocky.
The rock fences are out in force here, adding a little something different to the ambiance of the area.

The cliffs themselves were absolutely amazing, though a bit underwhelming at first compared to all the build up. We went out to the overlook to left and seeing a bunch of people out, beyond the lookout point, we hoped the wall and headed out to join them. I could complain about the bugs, the narrow ledges, or the stink of cow, but I won’t. Instead I’ll mention the amazing views further down the trail. It has obviously seen much use over the years, and for good reason, the shots we were able to get were amazing. On the way back, we noticed everyone seem to be enjoying some soft served ice cream. We decided to try some out, and it was some of the best soft served I have had in a long time.

From there we headed toward the portal tomb Poulnabrone Doleman, of course the fastest route from where we were was another narrow one lane road. After a death defying trip down the road, we arrived in Kilfenora and stopped at the local church which was noted as having a large display of High Crosses, and which had a small graveyard.

After taking some pictures, we continued on to Poulbabrone Doleman.
The landscape had gotten so rocky that trees were starting to get scarce. The man made rock formation set atop a very small cairn, and it was as eye catching as they were meant to be.

From there we decided to stay at the first small town we came to, which ended up being Corofin. We found a beautiful B&B, called Corofin Country House, which was the most expensive we have stayed at in the republic, but it was also by far the nicest.

After settling in, we walked back down to town in search of dinner and stopped at a little place called Bofey Quinns. I got the Lasagna and chips (and if you give me chips I will eat them), and Joe got a fish pie that was really good. We then split a chocolate cake which really did hit the spot. Beer of the night was Smithwicks.

We spent a few hours sitting and talking and around 9pm, a few locals showed up and started tuning their instruments, by 9:30 there were a full dozen musicians in a circle playing. The little local gathering was much more fun and interesting than the paid musicians you normally find in the pubs. We stayed for as long as we could stay awake, and then walked back to the room.

Day 7
Thursday, September 25th

We got up that morning by 8 so that we could eat (the blood sausage was not to my liking today, but Joe enjoyed it), and we were out the door running.

We made it to Bunratty Castle in short order and once in the park we made a B-line to the castle itself. It was in great condition, having been fully restored about 50 years ago, and a lot of the furniture was really interesting. After taking pictures around inside the castle (thank you 50mm 1.4… I love you), we checked out the rest of the park. It was of those restored village, ‘see how the people lived’ kind of things, which means it was pretty hocky and over played, but there were some nice pictures to be had.

On the way out we stopped in Limmerick for lunch. Our first choice for lunch was closed, so we stopped at small deli called The Wild Onion. I had an Irish style hamburger, and some hash browns both of which were really good. We also took the time to write out all of our postcards, and basically relax for a bit. On the way out I got a homemade chocolate chip cookie to munch on later.

Joe and I then made our way to Cork, and just as we pulled up to the Jurys Inn (Dagmara, the receptionist at the Blizzard Cork office was awesome and hooked us up with the corporate discount), Alex gave us a call. We took a few minutes to get checked in and unwind, and then I called him back.

We met Alex and a local (David) at St Patrick’s St at the bridge and we in search of a pub before dinner. We found An Bodhran and sat down for a Murphy’s since I had not tried it yet. Murphy’s was just as good as Guiness, and when in the south, it is the drink of choice.

An Brog was the next stop. It smelled of very old smoke, BO, and sex, but we got a beer anyways. This is where we tried Beamish for the first time.

Next, for food, we went across the river to a take out Indian restaurant called Spice Route for some really good tikka marsala and naan. After that we stopped by Greene’s Restaurant to set up a reservation for dinner Saturday night. Then we went for one more drink and we ended up at Bar Thios. After a pint we made plans to meet up with Alex the next morning for our trip to Kerry/Blarney.

Day 8
Friday September 26th

We started things off early, picking Alex up by 8 o’clock. We immediately headed out to Killarney. We made good time getting to the park and we spent some time taking pictures around the garden, and we drove down the road to Torc falls. After taking some pictures we started around the Ring of Kerry. Stopping pretty regularly to snap some pics.

We stopped in Kenmare for lunch at a small Italian restaurant called Prego by Day, I had a filling sausage and onion baguette. After lunch we got back to the journey. The roads were narrow, and while I was too busy driving to check out a lot of the scenery, I did enjoy driving to the utmost, taking advantage of the 100km speed limit around the tight corners.

We stopped regularly for photo ops, about one third as often as Alex wanted. After covering the south part of the ring, the roads straightened up and we were able to make a lot better time. We finished up the drive and made it back to Cork by 8:30.

Dinner was at Wagamama, a Japanese fusion restaurant. We had a large Asahi each, with some duck gyoza, and I had some fried Yaki soba, which was not too filling, so I didn’t have to worry about getting too full to drink.

After dinner we went South’s Bar so that Alex could meet up with his Russian friends. We had a black current Guiness (a little to sweet), and Smithwick’s to finish off the night. I asked the bar if they could do a carbomb but they said no since it would get us too drunk, what a waste. :(

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Ireland, The Journal Part 2

by on Oct.07, 2008, under Life

The end of Day five is when I finally started actually taking notes, if the tense changes from past to present, that is why. At some point I should probably go through and standardize all of them.

Day 4
Monday, September 22nd

We left Belfast, and headed toward Derry. We called ahead and found a B&B with a room available, made the trip into Derry, checked in, and then immediately headed out to the Bushmill’s distillery. It was currently undergoing upgrades and it was not currently distilling, but it was still an interesting tour. From there we headed to the coast to the giants causeway. It was a bit of a walk from the carpark, and my knee was acting up from the beginning, but we finally made it there where Joe and I promptly split up to take pictures. I realized really quickly that I need to read up on tips for photographing landscapes, but I did enjoy snatching pictures of the other people there. After taking some pictures we went looking for the wishing chair, but we were unable to find it thanks to the really, horribly, bad map that they give you when you enter.

We headed back to the car, and drove to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, but we got there about 20 minutes after it closed. I gave Joe the sadface, and then headed to Dunluce Castle, the larger of the castle ruins along the coast, but it was closed as well. That didn’t stop us from getting some pictures of the castle with the setting sun in the background.

After the drive back to Derry, we arrived at late at 9:30pm, which was to late for most of the restaurants in the city. We found a place called The Diamond which was still open. I had the sausage and champs and Joe got their Irish stew. I kinda got the feeling like the place was the Irish version of Denny’s, even if it was a bit more upscale. My meal only tasted ok, but Joe’s was actually really good. For drinks I had an Abbot ale and a Carling. Both were ok, but nothing to write home about.

We then went to The Metro, where we started into the Harp in earnest. We hit it off with a local couple by the name of Laura and Neil, and we spent the rest of the night drinking with them till late in the evening. It was our heaviest night of drinking by far for the trip. As a note. I suffered a small mishap on the way home, I stumbled off the side walk and twisted my ankle pretty badly, I had to limp back to our room and haul myself up the stairs. I was not a happy camper at all.

Day 5
Tuesday, September 23rd

Got up late after the night of drinking, and went to the Settler’s Inn (the sister B&B to where we were staying) for our breakfast. After yet another full Irish breakfast, we went back to the room so Joe could take a nap before we headed out. As expected, my ankle had stiffened up pretty badly, so I voted to pass on exploring Derry (which I already regret), and instead head on out. I’ll have to visit there again I really did like the town.

We jumped in the car and headed for Galway. Along the way we stopped in Sligo and visited Yeat’s Tavern for lunch, and then we stopped by his grave for some pictures. The graveyard and church were both beautiful and all of the morning’s clouds had blown away by that time.

Afterwards, we continued on to Galway, and once there, we searched for a B&B. We found a small one named the Red Gate House and we took a quick nap before heading to dinner. We walked through the street malls on our way to Quays St, and once there we ate at McDonagh’s of Ireland Seafood Restaurant. The bruchetta was amazing and the spicy seafood pasta out of this world.

Next we headed to the Quays bar on Brenden’s recommendation. It was a large three floor bar with an interesting décor. The bar was filled with a lush red finish and it was just starting to fill up with customers. We had a pint of Smithwicks, and then decided to head on down the street to see what else we could find.

A few blocks away was a hopping pub called Tig Coili, which advertised itself as the home of traditional music. The place was packed and old black and white photographs lined the wall. Joe was done drinking for the night but I continued on regardless. As I finished a pint of Smithwicks, a few performers started playing in the corner. Since one of Joe’s goals was to experience some real Irish music, I got another pint and we stayed and listened for awhile.

After leaving Tig Coili, I wanted to drag Joe to at least one more pub before calling it a night. I was looking for a loud crowded pub and right on the square we came across Fibber Magees. There was live music playing a a number of people outside. It ended up being only moderately crowded and the music was actually karaoke, but there was a cool laser light effect on the ceiling, so I decided to stay, got a Carlsburg, and enjoyed all the cute girls the pub had to offer.

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I has a virus

by on Oct.06, 2008, under Life

Stupid torrent search engines!!

When searching for torrents for the new BBC show No Heroics, I got fooled by one of the advertisements, which I assumed was actually a torrent link, and ended up being a site that carried a pretty nasty virus. Now instead of working on my photos or updating with more of my journal entries, I get to start reformatting my system.

This sucks.

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Ireland, The Journal Part 1

by on Oct.05, 2008, under Life

Thanks to the glory of the iPhone, I was able to keep some notes during the trip. Since I haven’t gotten to the pictures yet, I figured I could at least clean up the notes a bit, and post them here. Here are the first few days from the trip. I didn’t start actually keeping notes till day 4, so all of first few days were the details I could pull up after the fact.

Day 1
Friday September 19th

We arrived in Dublin after a seven hour flight from Chicago early in the morning, and, after retrieving our luggage, we hopped on the bus to get our rental car. While the price for the car rental itself was completely reasonable, they totally killed us on the insurance fees. Even then, we gladly forked out the five Euros a day for a GPS unit. They wanted even more insurance money for another driver, so we decide I would be the only driver for the trip. After spending a few minutes in the parking lot trying to figure out the gps actually worked, we were off.

Driving on the left was easier than I had feared, it was all the little things about being on the right side of the car that I really started to notice. Things like using the same hand to shift and to activate the turn signal, and the rear view mirror being on the left instead of the right. Of course almost right away we missed a turn in a round about, and Cher (our gps, short for Cherise) sent us down a terrifying one lane road to get back on course. Not only are these roads narrow but they have lots of blind turns and people FLY down them. We only had one encounter, which lead to both cars slamming on brakes and the other car being nice enough to pull over enough for us to get by. Once back on course I realized how much better roundabouts are over red lights. Once you get used to them, and you get the rhythm down, you can definitely move through them fairly quickly.

After quick trip we arrived in Trim, home of Trim Castle, where we found parking and went off to search for lunch. Not much was open in the streets, so we ended up eating at the cafe in the hotel across the street from the castle. Joe and I both ordered fish and chips, and after finishing up the meal, we went across the street to the Trim Castle. The ruins were extensive and the informational panels were interesting. We spent some time about the castle shooting pictures, then we were off in search of a place to stay.

The information office gave us a list of B&Bs and after a few tries, we found one with a room available. The owner gave us directions to a place for dinner a few miles away, so we grabbed our cameras and backpacks and set off. After blowing past it (very bad map) we managed to find the place once we turned around to retrace our steps. We had a nice dinner and a pint of Guinness, and on the way back through town we hit three more pubs for some drinks. We killed time drinking till night fall, at which time they lit up the castle, and we got some night shots. After Then we headed back to our room for the night.

Day 2
Saturday September 20th

We got up early and had our first Irish breakfast. It contained an egg, sunny side up, two sausage links, two strips of bacon (which is not served crispy), half a tomato, and what I assume to be blood sausage (black pudding… black with bits of grain throughout). I started it off with some tea, orange juice and raspberry yogurt, and then dug in when the main course arrived. After eating we packed up and headed north.

The driving was much less stressful than the day before. Partially because of the better roads, and partially due to me being more comfortable while driving. We turned on Cher and told her we wanted to go to the Hill of Tara, and away we went.

The day was clear and we got some decent pictures, unfortunately the mounds on the hill are better photographed from afar. We then headed to Nevan where we tried to go to Ryan’s Bar, a recommended place for lunch in Joe’s guide book, but they did not serve lunch on the weekends. They did recommend the another place, so we went across the street to The Gate and grabbed some food there. Joe and I both had a Shepard’s pie, and i had a bit of tea to caffinate myself for the next leg of the journey.

After filling up our stomachs, we headed off to Newgrange. We had some problems finding the place due to a lack of directions in the guidebook, and growing pains with Cher. Once we finally found the site, we discovered that the visitor’s center was across the river and required a 25 minute drive to the nearest crossing and back. By the time we finally found the place we only had enough time to visit one site, so we decided on Newgrange of course.

You can tell a lot of care was taken in the restoration of the site. The mound itself was impressive, and the engineering necessary to build it originally was almost incomprehensible.

From Newgrange it was time to head to Belfast. We called ahead and found a room at the Marine Guesthouse. We arrived just in time for dinner, so after checking in, we were given directions AWAY from the center of town for food, but we did manage to find a nice pizza place, and hit up a few pubs on the way back to the room.

Day 3
Sunday September 21st

Today was our walking tour of Belfast. We got up, had an Irish Breakfast, and then headed out into the Streets. We quickly realized that the city as still asleep since it was Sunday morning, so we went back to the room and did some reading for a few hours.

Around eleven we ventured out again, taking pictures as we walked into the city. Unfortunately the Ulster museum was closed for renovations, so we walked by a number of churches and eventually by the city hall. We stopped by the Crown Liquor Salon for lunch, a tourist trap of immense proportions but the décor make it a must see for all visitors.

We walked around a bit more, and eventually headed toward the Ulster Museum’s botanical garden. My original intent to just shot some shots for my mom, but I started really enjoying taking macro shots of all the flowers.

Next we went to the Queens University to walk around and take some pictures, and then back to the room. After cleaning up we went down the street to a small Indian restaurant, which had some great nan and tikka marsala, and I got a pint bottle of Cobra to start off the night.

We hit up Ye Old Eglatine Inn, and the The Botanical Inn (the Bot), which was totally rocking. We assume that it was due to the Man U game earlier that say (which we forgot about damnit), but there were plenty of cute girls all over the bar, so it was not a total loss. After a few drinks there we headed back for the night.

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