11 May 2005

an impact indescribably solid


mission objectives:

20050511.01-A: locate and employ ground transport to landing zone.

DETAILS: ground transport departs at 0658 hours from bus station::ire:ennis. eta at lz: 0758 hours.

20050511.01-B: locate and employ air transport to location bravo victor alpha.

DETAILS: air transport departs at 1110 hours from SNN:shannon airport::ire:shannon. carrier: ryan air. flight no: fr132. eta at border: 1350 hours.

20050511.01-C: navigate the border.

DETAILS: intel is limited.

20050511.01-D: locate and employ ground transport to recon objective.

DETAILS: intel is limited.

0630:: reconone: reconone online and en route. over.

0630:: recon hq: received and acknowldedged. feed is clear. over.

0635:: reconone: the streets of ennis are empty. request permission to initiate secondary recon mission. over.

0635:: recon hq: negative, reconone. permission denied. over.

0636:: reconone: repeat. the streets are empty. environment is optimal for photographic recon. over.

0637:: recon hq: negative, reconone. negative. permission denied. you have limited time to reach ground transport. over.

0642:: reconone: initiating secondary recon. capturing and sending images. prepare to receive. over.

0642:: recon hq: that's a big negative, reconone. abort secondary mission. ground transport departs in 16 minutes. proceed immediately to ground transport. over.

0643:: reconone: images trasmitted. proceeding to ground transport. over.

0645:: reconone: i'm having a problem finding the correct route. gps is acquiring satellites. over.

0648:: reconone: satellites acquired. location confirmed. i'm been off course for the past seven minutes. rerouting. over.

0650:: reconone: request eta until ground transport departure. over.

0650:: recon hq: ground transport departs in 8 minutes as outlined in your mission details. over.

0650:: reconone: shit. i'm not going to make it.

0651:: recon hq: had to initiate that secondary recon mission, huh?

0652:: reconone: proceeding doubletime. request statistics for mission success if ground transport is missed. over.

0652:: recon hq: calculations complete. there is secondary ground transport in approximately 60 minutes. missions 20050511.01-B and 20050511.01-C have 89% success rate if primary ground transport is missed. over.

0653:: reconone: acknowledged. over.

0657:: reconone: i have a visual, but i don't think i'm going to make it. over.

0700:: reconone: arrived at ground transport. transport was delayed. i'm onboard. over.

0700:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0705:: reconone: ground transport has departed. i'm en route to lz. over.

0705:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0730:: reconone: i'm hungry. over.

0738:: reconone: a passenger just missed his stop and the bus let him off one half kilometer from the missed stop. over.

0738:: recon hq: thank you for the intel, reconone. please filter transmissions for relevance. over.

0739:: reconone: acknowledged. i'm still hungry. over.

0805:: reconone: ground transport has arrived at lz. mission 20050511.01-A is complete.

0805:: recon hq: acknowledged and confirmed. mission 20050511.01-A is complete. initiate mission 20050511.01-B.

0812:: reconone: check-in won't begin until 0915 hours. calculations indicate there is a +5% success rate for mission 20050511.01-C if i enhance my appearance before arriving at the border. i'm going to deviate from the original plan and shave, brush my hair, and apply the remainder of my deodorant in the shannon airport bathroom. initiate equipment replacement procedure for the deodorant. over.

0812:: recon hq: acknowledged. deviation noted. equipment replacement is in process. over.

0832:: reconone: i've identified two americans but am not engaging. over.

0907:: reconone: a queue has formed at the check-in desk. i'm in position zero three. over.

0907:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0920:: reconone: equipment checked. boarding pass acquired. position zero seven. boarding at 1040 hours. i picked up some intel from other passengers. there is readily available ground transport from location bravo victor alpha to the recon objective. price: thirteen euros. mission notes have been updated. request permission to locate and engage food. over.

0920:: recon hq: acknowledged. permission granted. over.

0927:: reconone: i've acquired 500ml of coke and 100g of maltesers. engaging. so good. proceeding to observation deck until boarding. over.

0950:: reconone: not much action up here. only two planes have interfaced with the runway so far. damn these maltesers are good. over.

1014:: reconone: i was in this airport exactly thirty-six days ago. over.

1020:: reconone: proceeding to security check. over.

1020:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1027:: reconone: i'm through the security check. no issues were encountered. proceeding to boarding area. over.

1037:: reconone: a large party of school boys just arrived in the boarding area. they're all wearing yellow sweaters. request statistics for finding an optimal window seat if this horde of kids boards before me. over.

1038:: recon hq: calculations complete. there is a 97% probability that you will not be able to find optimal seating if the horde boards in front of you. over.

1038:: reconone: perfect. request permission to initiate secondary mission. over.

1038:: recon hq: permission denied. over.

1042:: reconone: the horde is boarding. blah. over.

1052:: reconone: those with position numbers zero through sixty four have been given clearance to board. boarding. over.

1058:: reconone: i'm onboard in optimal seat. i have defeated the statistics. over.

1107:: reconone: the pilot has just reported there will be a delay with the take-off. wish i had some more maltesers. over.

1125:: reconone: are you still there? over.

1125:: recon hq: yes, reconone. stay on target. over.

1128:: reconone: preparing for departure. communications blackout until arrival at location bravo victor alpha. over.

1128:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1352:: reconone: i'm on the ground. equipment has been retrieved. mission 20050511.01-B is complete. repeat, mission 20050511.01-B is complete. over.

1353:: recon hq: right on schedule, reconone. good work. confirm completion of mission 20050511.01-B. proceed immediately with mission 20050511.01-C. over.

1353:: reconone: proceeding with mission 20050511.01-C. over.

1355:: reconone: wow, that was easy. one question. one stamp. POW! i've successfully navigated the border. must be the clean close shave and tidy appearance. mission 20050511.01-C is complete. repeat, mission 20050511.01-C is complete. over.

1355:: recon hq: excellent. proceed with mission 20050511.01-D. find ground transport to the recon objective. over.

1355:: reconone: acknowledged. over.

1405:: reconone: i've successfully located ground transport and have used my language skills to purchase a ticket. i was so excited the ticket clerk understood my french that i almost forgot to pick up my ticket. boarding ground transport. eta at recon objective is 1510 hours.

1405:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

1406:: reconone: some woman just asked if the free seat beside me was occupied. i wasn't able to interpret quickly enough and just smiled and nodded, indicating that she was clear to sit down. she realized i didn't understand and sat down. so much for the language skills. over.

1407:: recon hq: stay on target. over.

1408:: reconone: ground transport has departed. over.

1425:: reconone: gps is tracking progress. eta at recon objective in 30 minutes. over.

1425:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1517:: reconone: i've arrived at the recon objective. repeat, i've arrived at the recon objective. mission 20050511.01-D is complete. over.

1518:: recon hq: acknowledged and confirmed, reconone. we have your position at the recon objective. good work. over and out.

i was in paris. damn, check me out. now, had to find my hostel. track with the gps. there i am... and there's the hostel, about 3km away. my mind flashed with thoughts about my walk to the phantom hostel in edinburgh. i decided to get a cab. okay, third foreign language interaction of the day. found a cab stand quickly and got in.

'parlez-vous anglais?'

'uhhhh... un peu.'

i decided to go for it.

'je parle francais seulement un peu, mais j'essayerai. je vais a la rue andre gill.'

'andre gill, eh?'


'hmmm...' [looks in some gigantic street listing map] 'ah.'

we were on our way. cool. interesting area with lots of red glowing sex shops, yet sidewalks composed of the average city dweller. kids playing in the large median area and right across the street: POW! THE SEXODROME in overwhelming capital block neon. i saw a sign for my hotel. hotel andre gill. does one tip cab drivers in paris? apparently so. i told him to keep the change and i don't think he even said thank you. blah. so, into the hotel. the receptionist spoke english and i was in the room about five minutes later. seemed clean and well maintained, if a little cramped. the hotel had crammed three single beds in a room designed for one. i don't think i could tell you the color of the carpet. a walk across the room was less of a walk and more of a sideways shuffling. still, i had a bed for the night. i was in paris. what? you haven't checked me out yet? do it now.

relaxed just a bit in the room and read from the guidebook. ten minutes, a roommate: nathan from australia. nicest guy. talked for a bit. he was going out to find some food and i asked if i could join him. out on the street. he'd planned to hit 'mackers'. mackers? =mcdonald's. i told him i could do just about anything but mcdonald's. i was in paris and i wasn't going to start out, middle, or end with mcdonald's. we'd need to find something else. a little down the street, a shop selling assorted sandwiches and pastries. we went inside and ordered. ham and cheese, nothing special. first bite. whoa, that is good. another bite. _wow_, this is the best ham and cheese sandwich i've ever had. each bite delicious, this is going to end too quickly. that flaky soft crunchy fresh chewy white baguette bread was giganticly tasty and at that moment, for the first time on my trip, food became more than just sustenance. i was in france, and it was true, the french know pain. le pain.

nathan had already navigated the metro system. ticket machines. roll the roller, select your desired ticket, put in your coins out spits a small rectangular ticket and a slightly bigger receipt if you so elected, and i had. insert and then remove, and i was injected into the system that is the paris metropolitain. we'd get off at the concorde stop. walk a bit, sortie, and then [an enormous sweeping sound right to left with an underlying sustaining rumbling chord becoming louder and screaming as it approaches, reaching you before you expect it will, smashing you straight in your face with an impact indescribably solid]. place de la concorde, a giant roundabout. the egyptian obelisk, thousands of years old, a gift from egypt, in the center. the eiffel tower, the first time for me, in the background.

and i. was here. in paris. [static]

we'd planned to walk through the public gardens down to the louvre, but the entrance to the gardens did not behave appropriately as an entrance and we walked past it, across the seine. la seine. here it was, the river seine. before only a word on a page, now a watery muddy green river flowing right [THERE!] beneath me. we realized we'd missed the entrance and retraced our steps. i remembered learning about paris in french class in high school and as we walked towards the gardens i wished my very nice french teacher were right there to give a refresher. i tried to find the file in my head, but i stumbled into a room filled with only scraps of paper, torn, notes written neatly in pencil in my highschool handwriting, incomplete. i'd need to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle before they'd be useful. i started assembling the scraps as we walked.

the gardens, not altogether very impressive, a stretching level surface of tiny light brown sand, trees to the left and right. through an arch, and there beyond another roundabout the glass pyramid of the louvre. again, before only words, now [sound] right in front of me. we walked over to and stood in front of the pyramid and a guard came over to ask me [in english] what i had in my hand, not with a suspiciously authoritative tone, but with one interested and curious. i showed him my gps and the maps and he began asking me a question about the maps when a woman attempted to bypass his checkpoint and he had to deal with her.

we walked again towards the river. the eiffel tower in the distance and a long walk, but one filled with the sites and sounds of the city. me trying to absorb it all. navigating by sight, there above the city. closer and closer... a long walk down more light brown sand, trees cut into squares, and finally beneath the giant. and i was in paris, trying to absorb the whole scene: a snapshot taken with my eyes, printed with a white border and spread out on a table, then rolled up neatly and pushed lengthwise into my head. here it was, right there. [before] i'd thought how impressive could a large metal tower actually be, but standing beneath the four legs, [after] it was. it was that impressive. the fucking eiffel tower, right in front of me. it was early evening and there was time to ride to the top. i remembered nico and vadim had told me in scotland just to ride to the second level, that the view was just as impressive from there as from the very top. but how could we? there in paris and only go halfway, impossible. ten euro seventy to the top. inside the elevator, climbing up one of the massive legs. a stop at the first level, us to the second. everyone off.

[sound] spectacularly amazing view. the shadow of the tower ticking through the buildings below. nathan and i wondered about the black rising awkwardly from the white. how were the permits approved? we tried to find the name on some informational plaques, but it was not identified. forgotten. we spent about fifteen minutes on the second level, circling. amongst the others crowding for pictures. suicide jumpers, determined to die in style, detered by the metal cage. and then up to the top, another elevator... and up and up. enclosed and caged and crowded. the reality of the top of the eiffel tower is a crowded mass of people clamoring for photos, pushing in and about. once for entertaining dignitaries and still for television and radio antennas. nico and vadim had been right... despite the change in altitude, the view afforded by the top of the tower was not significantly better than that on the second level. we didn't spend long there, the view similar, the crowd different, and so we descended. i turned around to watch the the next elevator ascending. <--[avi movie file. BEWARE: large file: 4.9mb]

my morning in ireland. my afternoon in paris. i'd already been to the top of the eiffel tower. wow.

slight difficulties finding the metro station. we made our way back to the hotel and met our third roommate: rodrigo from... i tried to guess but he told us before i could finish... chile. the name sounds altogether different when pronounced by a chilean. if you are american, the name you just heard in your head is not this man's name. [g, g... wdyka... c?] we talked a bit and then decided to hit go out to a bar, an irish pub in paris, with a woman singing cover songs in english. i remember a nirvana song. rodrigo and i sat down and told nathan what we wanted and handed him money. he refused the money. when he came back to the table with the three drinks, he had an unsettled look on his face. i decided to give him my money despite his previous refusal. 'those three drinks cost 18 euro,' he said. i gave him another two euro.

0214:: reconone: what an incredible day. over and out.

posted by paul at Wed 11 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

10 May 2005

trying to escape. escape.

i woke up and packed up. today i'd depart doolin for ennis, a town i thought of more as a transportational facility city than a destination. ennis was closer to the airport. nothing more.

i walked out of the river hostel and tried to burn the image and memories in my mind.

it's always difficult leaving a place that you like. i said my goodbyes to karl and thanked him in giant amounts and signed the guestbook. i walked away from the hostel to the bus station not wanting it to end, imaginary ropes trying to pull me back inside, snapping with each step. i bought my ticket a different hostel opposite the bus stop. an american [guess] woman was infatuated with the toaster inside and needed to take a picture. she was going to ennis too. a bit rough. i sat outside waiting. an italian couple asked me if the hostel was a nice place; they were staying there. i told them i hadn't stayed there, but if they disliked it even a little, to travel down the road to the river hostel. i got up and walked across the road with my pack. i looked up and liked the way the tree branches contrasted against the sky and deciding to take a picture. seemed like everything had more magic.

the bus came and the driver was incredibly friendly. seemed he knew many other passengers. locals knew his name and one told a brief story about how she'd taken the bus a few days before and he hadn't been driving and she asked where he'd been.

track track to ennis. we arrived at the first ennis stop and i got out and asked if he knew where the abbey tourist hostel was... he smiled and pointed directly behind the bus... it was right there. no long finding walk.

i didn't have a reservation at the hostel, but not a problem. a very nice woman, tall, drew a walking pattern on a map and led me to the room, up a stairscase, right, down a hallway, right, up another staircase, right, right again, down a hallway, on the right. i asked her name as she walked away. the view out the window of my hostel.

so many turns, instead of first exploring the city, i'd explore the hostel. i got lost trying to find the exit. truly. i wandered around, opening wrong doors, trying to escape. escape. first across the river the bridge decorated with hanging plants which someone must take care of. around the corner, past the cathedral [research]. walking up and down the streets, very happy with ennis, my opinion changed from just a transportational hub to an actual nice destinational place to visit. i got some food and relaxed under some type of statue where a tour guide spoke to ten people with cameras. i listened, right behind. some more wandering, down to the river where a man and a boy were feeding the pidgeons. blah, the pidgeons, why feed them? in the water: swans and ducks. a nearby sign explained the species. what i had thought of as a random gathering had actually been given some formality.

i used the internet cafe for a while and then headed back. there, i met a man from slovakia. conversation was slow with much hacking, but i managed to convey that my grandmother was czech. he could speak czech fluently; i can count to twenty. i couln't explain much with numbers. short. shortly after, i met a guy [ryan] from ohio, on his way to the airport. ennis: for those airport bound.

finally to sleep. much snoring from the slovakian, but i fell asleep easily.

posted by paul at Tue 10 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (3)

09 May 2005

in the seemingly very remote


my last full day in doolin. woke up to say goodbye to tom.

i decided to hike the coast to the north and again consulted karl on the best way to reach the coast.

karl: 'take a right outside the hostel, walk to the end of the road to the sign that says 'beware of the bull', climb into the field, over a couple walls, and you're there.'

me: 'got it. thanks.'

as i walked away i wondered whether or not i should go back and ask him about the bull, then decided that he would have told me if there were any danger.

down the stone road to the end... 'beware of the bull'. i looked around hesitantly. no bull in sight. i climbed over the wall to the right and continued along the fence... scanning scanning. another field... no bull. another wall and i was there. again, the ocean, the rocks. the cliffs weren't nearly as high... the terrain was different. giant rumbling rocks sitting idle. giants. walking on the tops, carefully. when not rocks, the twisting patterns of holes, deliberately. the giants in steps, and i picking my path one giant at a time, with no certain path, looking down just stepping. watching the ocean, vastness. filled with [static] with the sun and the air. dead but immortal, plants captured in the limestone. here it was possible to walk the entire way down to the water and there, pools, water trapped after the tide. the most interesting forever. small fish there, scattering quickly until i waited patiently for them to reappear. some of the pool bottoms smooth, years and years and years of natural sculpture. some of the pool bottoms rough, pits filled with black spherical spiny creatures, spikes waving. this wasn't an aquarium that one would visit in a city; this was real. they were here and now, spikes waving. i remembered those aquariums with children holding urchins, but were they a certain species? the holdable kind? i looked around for something to pry those hiding from their pits, but nothing around. i'd let them be, hiding and waving.

further along i came upon a man and his golden retriever. the first on this hike. she was pure with a long full name sounding like royalty, but he called her summer. she was wet and running and happy to say hello. i was happy too. onward and higher, the cliffs coming back, but not to the same extent as to the south, to more of a flatness and not the pits filled with tidal water, instead filled with grass waving and with floating pink flowers. cracks leading deep down which reminded me to step with purpose for fear of plunging and being locked inside. with no one around i'd be a long time unfound. i saw a bird on a cliff, on the edge. the cliff curved around back to me on the left, i'd need to investigate, maybe a nest, but not to disturb to observe. i walked slowly but it took off and when i arrived, nothing but the rocks and whiteness. there one of the deep deep pits and i was careful again, the long shards of rocks broken apart with a portal to the water far below. i looked down. unfound.

i continued on, finally to the road. in the distance, i saw buses and cars bringing people there to see the sea. like two days before, i had the feeling of a more after a long hike of giants and pools and summers. a wide expanse of openness with scattered green and more scattered rock. a cow watching six calves eyed me carefully the entire way; i stepped delicately so as not to provoke an attack, which again might have been a little fun and funny to watch.

and on and on and on along the road... in the distance i saw some houses, with hopefully a store nearby (i was thirsty), i wasn't sure. i took a picture of a rock so that when i was far away from it i could look back and remember that just moments before i had been right beside it. to a farm with [a circle of stone ancient or new?] until i had no choice but to walk on the road. i passed some men digging a ditch. once arrived with the buildings in sight, nothing but scattered houses, no stores at all. it had been five hours and it was 4:30pm and suddenly i realized a hike back would put me into darkness. hmm. i turned around fully on the road and began the trek back. i passed some men digging a ditch. i looked up and saw the rock far in the distance.

the thumb, unsuccessful. on and on, i stuck to the road. the thumb, unsuccessful, i started counting the number of vehicles which passed by but soon gave up the game. along the road, twisting, the blind turns making me walk faster for fear. 'don't be tempted to take a shortcut up to the castle; there are impenetrable briar bushes there,' karl had told me. such a good thing he did. i would have tried and encountered them, turned around and lost time. i stuck to the road. up the hill toward the castling tower in the distance. at the top, finally at the top, i turned around and saw a field, the rocks in the distance where i'd been an hour before. a sign pointed the way to the right and i was making good time. another right, a long straight stretch, i passed a smiling girl and ten minutes later a man too involved in his walk and his music to look or smile. two people passing each other in the seemingly very remote, and can't ever look up to say hello. blah. hello. or not.

i passed the rainbow hostel where i could have stayed and had completely different experiences but didn't. fate i suppose. opening in front of me, the expanse of doolin, ireland. close to the hostel, i found manuel at one of the pubs. he looked up a word in his spanish dictionary... 'very worry'. worried? i looked at his dictionary. 'weary'. si, mi tambien.

back at the hostel. another perfect shower. i discussed my plans with other hostelites... i'd be flying to paris out of the shannon, ireland, airport on wednesday. doolin was just a touch too far away to rely on successful bus transport down to shannon in time to make my flight. tomorrow i'd be traveling to ennis, ireland, which was closer to the airport and had more reliable shuttles.

another perfect evening next to the warm stove. the perfect ending to my three shining jewels in doolin.

posted by paul at Mon 09 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

08 May 2005

black is the colour

so, what to do today. the night before rich and trish, a very nice couple from nottingham, england, had recommended biking in a peninsular region south of doolin. it was a bit too far to bike the entire way there from doolin, so i planned to take a bus down to a small town called kilkee and rent a bike there. i ran my plan by karl in the morning and he doubted that i'd be able to find a bus down to kilkee, especially on a sunday. he recommended biking the burren region to the east of doolin... a very rocky area with unique scenery and sprinkled with castles, stone forts, and prehistoric tombs. sounded like a plan.

the owner of the bike rental shop right next to the hostel was out for the day and karl was watching the shop for him. he set me up with a bike and a very nice detailed map and pointed out the best way to bike. perfect. another stop down to the doolin deli... loaded up with food supplies... and i was off.

the first stretch of road was up a hill. five minutes into the hill i pulled over and took another look at my map. hmm, wonder where five minutes of biking had taken me... had i passed any major landmarks? any major intersections? no. i decided it was a good time to eat my doolin deli apple. tasty. look around a bit... up the hill... maybe this whole biking thing wasn't such a good idea. took another look at the map trying to figure out what the scale was... maybe this circuit karl had drawn up would be a bit too far. okay, enough stalling... time to press on. bike bike... finally, i conquered the hill.

coast coast down. wow, what a great idea... this whole biking thing. take a few pictures here, there. nice trees, nice flowers, more stone walls. ireland is _really_ into the stone wall thing. i decided if i had any free time while traveling in ireland, i'd use it to build a stone wall. i came across a castley tower... no one around. i biked around it once and took some pictures. the sign on the tower door read 'private' and the griffins growled at me to stay away. damn, i wanted to buy a castle. my own private castle.

further down the road the sky filled with low lying clouds which looked angry.

into the first little town of kilfenora. church was just letting out and i was just biking in. i jumped off the bike and walked it up a tiny hill to avoid running over nice little children. at the top of the hill, the burren center... the central tourist office for the region... with not much inside of great interest, but around the corner, an old cathedral was being conserved. work was scheduled to be completed two years ago, so the sign said... work was still in progress. one couldn't help but walk over graves at the entrance. in a small hole in the rock above one of the window openings i could here tiny birds crying for food.

i continued on and the sky became blue again. always changing, the irish sky. another bigger castley ruins, just there, at an intersection with cars driving right by, the drivers not even caring that there was a hundreds of years old castley ruins right there. to them i guessed, ah, just another crumbling pile of stones. to me though, wow, some people built that hundreds of years ago and lived within. i took a left at the intersection and peddled up another hill. blah. the wind hard against me, i considered walking but didn't. then it started to rain lightly. blick. i thought about a hellishly soaking ride in the pouring rain, but the rain never became more than a light dampening.

an old stone church without a roof. the gate was closed, but i was required to investigate. i hoped the family living across the street wouldn't discover me. church eating plants were engulfing the structure.

a prehistoric circle fort made of: rocks. more rocks. i biked over the entrance barrier and it made a loud clanging sound. should i pay the four euro entrance fee? sure. the circle fort had been used as protection from the fierce winds, the nice irish woman told me. i read about the region in the office: "what is the burren? the word 'burren' is a corruption of the irish, boireann, meaning a stony place. the burren of north clare [county] is 500 sq. km. of exposed carboniferous limestone upland. such landscapes are known to geologists as 'karstic', a germanic term originating from karst, a limestone plateau near trieste, in italy. the burren hills display the full range of karstic landforms: blue-white sedimentary rock layered in horizontal beds; large flat pavements; and a whole world of microerosion features collectively called 'karren'." plenty of limestone for building walls. inside the circle of stones, some barely visible foundations of small buildings. outside, some cows grazing. it is here that after several attempts i was able to capture a spider web on film. i felt i'd passed a photography test and had progressed to the next level.

a prehistoric tomb called a dolmen. it wasn't possible to walk on the stone without taking each step deliberately. the ground paved with limestone, the clints and grykes in swirling patterns. i found those growing in the between. a sign warned against building miniature dolmen... made me laugh.

i found the left that karl told me not to miss. upward on a narrow road. no cars, no houses, no one around.

another circle fort, caher mcnaughten, and no one there. i pulled my bike inside and ate my sandwich within the walls.

i continued on against the wind... and the rain started again lightly, the wind a bigger obstacle than the rain. still with no one around, i struggled up a hill wondering when the flatness would come again. finally, a main road... coasting... still lightly the rain... into lindoosvarna, i had a drink and then continued on through the cold fresh light rain. almost home. coasting. track track and back, exhausted and satisfied.

tom was just about to start cooking up some more spaghetti when i got back. i told him that i'd help him as soon as i'd taken a shower, but he said he'd cook it up for the both of us. i took a shower in the perfect shower and came down and ate pasta. some other hostelites had arrived and we all decided to head down to one of the three doolin pubs. they went ahead, tom and i waited for my laundry to finish [balance the load in the dryer lest the rumbling and walking]. at the pub, a band of guitar, violin, and mandolin was playing in a tiny corner. guinness. spoke with andy, who had been coming back to doolin to the same hostel for about eleven years, he loved it so much. the landscapes he saw in his dreams were of here. he painted them in watercolor. at the table someone had heard a story about a couple who fell from the cliffs. when the man began to fall he grabbed for his girlfriend and ended up pulling her over as well. i had seen a monument yesterday; not sure if it was for them. black is the colour, the girls singing beautifully.

on the walk home, the stars shown brightly. gigantic and bright. we walked ahead, hid, and scared manuel and ivonna.

tom was leaving tomorrow, catching a ride down to dingle with a new zealander. have a great trip.

another _perfect_ day and another _perfect_ night. i could have stayed awake for hours longer.

posted by paul at Sun 08 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

07 May 2005

and those destined for greatness


it's always difficult leaving a place that you like. i liked galway and i liked the hostel and it was raining. so it was difficult.

the man i'd spoken to at the hostel in doolin the night before told me that they didn't accept credit cards and that i'd need to pay with cash. he also told me that doolin wasn't blessed with an atm. thank you for letting me know. i was almost out of cash and would need to make a withdrawl in galway before i left. i found my way over to the bus station... my first time there (as you might recall from an earlier entry the bus on which i arrived dropped us off just out of town due to an extensive traffic situation). the cash i had in my pocket just barely covered the cost of the ticket which was much more expensive than i'd have guessed, especially for a trip to nearby doolin.

over to the atm. insufficient funds. blah. try again. insufficient funds. blick. then i remembered that i'd used my free hostel internet access in excess to pay some bills online and that i'd most likely need to transfer some more money over from my savings account into my checking account. blick and blah, i'd need internet access. i checked my watch... the bus wasn't leaving until 10:30am... it was about 10am... i needed the money. in mission mode, i double timed it back over to my old hostel and sitting outside the front door, i thieved their open wifi access. i was in and out in five minutes; they didn't even know i was there. POW! i double timed back over to the bus station and arrived with time to spare. in total, i quadrupled timed this mission. that's four times to you and me. with time to spare, i say. damn, i'm good.

i saw this sign waiting for the bus to arrive. rather than towing a vehicle illegally parked in the bus stands thus allowing the buses to utilize that parking space, the authorities will wheel clamp your sorry ass. yep, they'll clamp you right there and then and the buses will drive right the hell around you with everyone laughing and pointing until you pay your 50 pounds. seemed to me that towing would have made more sense. maybe towing is illegal in ireland?

the bus finally came... i loaded up THE in the storage compartments on the side of the bus. after loading three quarters of my material life here and now into a storage compartment, i watch the doors of said storage compartment until they close. it will be a sorry day for he or she who thinks they can snag my THE and run off before the bus leaves. i'm waiting for you. i am. waiting. for. you. POW!

another of the i.really.want.to.fall.asleep.but.i'll.stay.awake.because.i.don't.want.to.miss.an.inch.of.scenery bus rides. track track track and i'm there.

the bus dropped me off almost right at the front door of the hostel... and i'll rush through the part where i met karl and he was incredibly nice and showed me all the best parts of the hostel (including the _free_ washing machine) because i want to get to _this_, the view out the hostel window. the morning rain had disappeared and a glorious sun was shining. SHINING. like one of those suns drawn by a five year old with the rays alternating short and long. SHINING. with only the slightest texturing of clouds which gives depth to the sky the kind that no one minds. it was about 1pm and i'd intended to take a nap when i arrived, but how could i with a sun and a sky and a view and a shiny new town such as these? not possible. i knew better than to pass up a shiny sun in ireland. i shot up. i put my bed in order, strapped on my day pack, and found karl reclining in a seat right outside the front door. quick flash of a thought: i want to open a hostel and sit outside on a reclining chair soaking in the sun.

me: 'can i walk to the cliffs?'

karl: 'of course, they're only five miles away. you could be there in a couple of hours.'

i pointed to the road where i'd seen a sign directing the way to the cliffs of moher.

me: 'that way?'

karl: 'no, walk along this road here, bear left at the fork and go up the hill and then walk along the road.'

me: 'got it.'

karl: 'be careful of the fences if you don't have a strong heart.'

i assumed that meant some of the fences were electric.

me: 'got it. thanks.'

rock. sun shining and i was going to see some effing cliffs. i stopped in at the deli. the only deli, i believe, the doolin deli, and picked up a ham and cheese sandwich and a coke which i ate and drank before i got to the fence, careful to stash the plastic containers in my pack. 'caution. very dangerous cliffs ahead.' hell yeah. i live for dangerous cliffs. today anyway.

i walked on. the road curved away from the coast and i took a trail well worn from walking. it was my turn to see what those others had seen. within five minutes, within me deep down, a feeling of [a sound within my head a little like static], the feeling of... like the day was meant for me to be right there right then. where the ground just dropped away the dirt to rock and rock to water. there and gone, a falling. and i stopped and looked around and it was the best thing _ever_ and i smiled gigantically and said something outloud which i'll keep to myself. on and on and higher and more and more. water dripping down blown up by the wind. an ancient tower which i'd come back to explore at some point.

the road curved back around and i saw two others from my hostel making the same trek. i couldn't decide whether i wanted these moments only for myself or whether it was nice having someone there to hear my cries for help after i'd plunged over the edge of the ground and was hanging on to a failing plant root. and again the road curved away and began a fence very near the edge with only a few feet between it and the edge. i walked in the space between. directly on my right, the plunge downward. on my left, the fence, a something which almost directed me to the edge, which prevented me from quickly turning away from the drop. and at that point i remembered what karl had said... 'be careful of the fences if you don't have a strong heart.' the fence wasn't the electric kind and i wondered if karl was referring to the drop to death while walking along the fence. only those with strong hearts could tolerate the walk in the in between? i must have misinterpreted. i pressed on, giving the other two adequate time in front of me.

a curving of the earth inward and a giant sea cave. i got as close as i dared with thoughts of descending down along and into, but decided to continue walking to the site where were the cliffs of moher. the remaining stones of a building long abandoned and bright purple flowers here and there. again the water flying upward, the wind directed up the cliff faces grabbing ahold of each drop and throwing each back to the ground, such that small pools were created with water controlled and discarded, so it seemed.

i saw the tower in the distance which marked the landing place of the tourist buses, i guessed. i was almost there.

at points the in between became more narrow and i, despite my destiny of there and then, felt compelled to put the fence on my right. the cows were there and many springs streaming down to the edge without knowing about the wind... and my boots fell victim to them both. i wondered if an angry bull would try to chase me down. that would be a little fun, i thought.

forward and up and another sign 'extreme danger: cliff falls continuing'. not even for one second. forward and up, a tiny flatness tucked away and hidden along the trail. there, a monument for two who had perished. today was definitely not my time.

nearing the tower, i had to navigate a few fences. la la la. throw my pack over. climb climb. a hundred meters or so more. la la throw climb climb foot down [!!!ZZZAAAPPP POW!!!]. holy shit, what just happened? holy shit that fence was electric. WOW! so _that's_ what it feels like. was my heart still beating? yep. diagnostic check. everything green. holy shit, that fence was electric. man. i likened the feeling to standing stationary and being hit by a fast moving wall. wow. WOW! i walked on, still zipping. i turned around and saw the other two behind me. best to warn them... i walked back. i'd guess germany or austria from the accent; they understood my warning in english. ACHTUNG! don't touch that freaking wire... you'll trigger the fast moving wall.

one last fence before the tourist area... non-electric. i threw my pack over, climbed, and was there. the destination. i turned around and saw this sign. i'd been walking on private property apparently.

all of the people milling around and i smiled. they had arrived in buses and had walked the stairs to the tower. i had arrived there after a two hour hike and all of the sights and sounds and smells and electrified zaps that came with it. i felt like i had more. i walked down to and laid down and hung my head over the edge and there the wind was most powerful, with greater control over the water. absolute fairytale _magic_. the waves crashing beneath, shattering into a scattering of droplets, and those destined for greatness were picked up and levitated by the wind, slowly at first, then quickly, up and over the edge to crash with to me a tiny splash but to them a giant explosion on the flat dry dusty rock. with my head hung over the edge, i could see the process from the beginning to the end... could watch a single sparkling droplet manipulated magically. i wondered if anyone else was as amazed as i with the water. most seemed more concerned with the plunge to death. i tried, but couldn't capture the magic with my camera. i laid there for about thirty minutes watching the water fly.

in the distance, another tower. a must. i started walking. distances were very deceiving. fifteen minutes later i felt like i hadn't made much progress. a glance at my watch... yikes. i'd need a bit of my own magic to make it back to the hostel before the darkness. turn back? of course not, there was another tower in the distance and i was destined to be there. onward, over terrain which truly seemed lunar if not for the water; craters carved by maybe the wind, one certain one i could barely traverse, the wind deciding it preferred i wasn't there. i upzipped my jacket and held it open like wings. i couldn't measure the angle, but i was certainly not vertical.

on and on, it seemed only two of us, a man a few hundred meters in front of me and i, had decided to hike to the second tower. and then, there it was. i'd made it. we'd made it. a crumbling ruins of a tower. i looked around and was so happy. i was supposed to be at the second tower. mission accomplished, i began my way back along the same path.

i had had to use the bathroom for the entire second part of my hike and the waves crashing below weren't helping matters. should i wait? no. okay, no one around. the other man was far in front of me... lots of rocks around... i sought out some cover. okay, finally. ahhh... WHOA! the wind picked up and my pee, apparently destined for its own greatness, was levitated and was pushed _right back at me_. i swear i saw pee hovering right in front of my eyes. i pulled back hard and stopped. my pants had gotten a nice soaking... quick check... nothing else, just the pants. HAA! i laughed outloud. _so_ funny. such a strange experience... i swear, right in front of my eyes. now... the problem remained... i still had to go, now more than ever. i crouched down low to the ground figuring i could prevent a recurrence by decreasing the airtime. okay... wind has died down... second attempt. WHOA! more wind and again, levitated... right back into me... this time on my pants, my jacket, and all over my hands. HAA! i laughed again. this was absolutely ridiculous. okay, i'm a smart guy... i know i can figure out this problem. third attempt... i crouched _as low as i could get_... kneeling and bending, one hand balancing and one hand aiming, i think i was about an inch away from the grass. ahhhhh! SUCCESS! i stood up, zipped up, and continued on. the wind was blowing so hard that all evidence of my mishap was erased within five minutes. urine is sterile, correct?

trek trek back, i made it back to the first tower in about fifty minutes. well, exactly fifty minutes. i was timing myself. now, a decision. darkness was coming soon. should i try and hike along the cliffs hoping to make it back before the sun dropped, or should i hike along the road away from the plunge to death. decided the road was the best option. on the way out of the parking lot i saw on a bus schedule that a bus would be going my way but wouldn't be departing for an hour. wait or not? the walk back along the road was about two hours. hmm. all this way just to be driven home by _a bus_? no way. i wasn't going to go out like that. not by a bus. it's time to give it a shot... the thumb. first time.

i started walking, holding out my thumb as each car passed. i don't think i walked more than five minutes up the road before a car stopped. the nicest woman, an australian... not even driving her own car. her car had broken down that morning and the tow truck driver had leant her his car until hers was repaired. _wow_. i tracked a bit on the gps... told her where to turn... she dropped me off right in front of my hostel. _wow_.

i was at level 10 and the word exhausted was at about level 7. walked down to the doolin deli to pick up the backpacker's best friend: spaghetti. back in the hostel kitchen, i met and ate with tom from the bavarian region of germany. [hey tom!] really cool guy who decided to travel alone in true backpacker style and see ireland rather than join a group of friends on an organized tour in turkey.

most of the showers at the hostels leave something to be desired. the shower at the aille river hostel couldn't have been better. perfect pressure, perfect temperature, perfect perfect and clean. i spent the rest of the evening clean and toasty warm sitting in front of the wood (or in this case peat) burning stove, talking to supercool hostelites.

this day was absolutely perfect. THE MOST.

posted by paul at Sat 07 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

06 May 2005

the flying stabbing disinterests

max and massimo were leaving today... woke up early to say goodbye. best wishes, gentlemen. very pleased to have met you... we'll stay in touch.

a nothing day to do laundry, make travel plans, relax and take another walk around galway.

i walked up to a small laundrymat near the hostel, put my clothes in the washer, set my stopwatch and went out for one half hour to a grocery store. i bought two giant lemon muffins and some fresh not from concentrate tropicana. i figured the vitamin c would be good. walking quickly... i arrived a few minutes after the wash had finished. i quickly transferred my clothes to the dryer, hoping the laundrymat woman hadn't noticed the few minutes of laundrymat downtime. none shall depart while the clothes are in the dryer. woe is he or she who dares to cross the laundrymat woman, master of all clothing within ten meters. i walked outside for some fresh air while my clothes were in the dryer and was sternly scolded. when i came back inside i noticed no less than ten signs stating that one shall not depart the laundrymat while one's clothing is in the dryer. i also noticed approximately ten 'no smoking' and five or so 'don't dump your trash in our bins. take it with you.' signs. the laundrymat woman ran a tight ship. my clothes were clean and i was the hell _out_ of there.

back at the hostel, i spent several hours on the [free] internet... booked a flight to paris for the following wednesday, made hotel reservations for four nights, and chatted with my sweet girlfriend. i decided i'd travel down to doolin, a very small town south of galway which had been highly recommended by a girl i met in edinburgh, the next day. the hostel i wanted to stay in, recommended by my lonely planet guide, wasn't accessible by hostelworld.com... i navigated the phone system and called and spoke to a very nice gentlemen who took my reservation and told me how to reach the hostel. it's a nice feeling when travel arrangements are made.

soon it was evening and i hadn't yet fit in the walk or the relaxation parts of the nothing day. didn't even have a chance to take a shower... i had plans to meet up with marta and gavina that evening. met them at a completely packed i can barely walk in here pub. ah, friday night. i'd forgotten. so easy to lose track of time. we sat at a table on the second floor.

blathering drunk man approaches:

bdm: 'french?'

marta and gavina: 'no.'

bdm: 'spanish?'

marta and gavina: 'no.'

bdm: 'what then?'

marta and gavina: 'italian.'

bdm: 'aaaaaahhhhh.... [starts speaking italian]'.

marta and gavina seemed very disinterested. actually, they exuded disinterest. i could feel their disinterest flying from their eyes and stabbing the blathering drunk man in the head. bdm continues on in italian. marta responds that she's from milan, and bdm starts going off about how he dislikes the milan italians... he had moved there seeking work and they were rude to him there and wasn't able to find a job [all translated by marta after the conversation]. mental note: whilst trying to pick up women in a bar, don't tell them that you dislike all people from the city in which they live. poor judgement. the flying stabbing disinterests finally punctured the man's head and he turned to me and started speaking in italian.

me: 'i don't speak italian.'

bdm: 'ah... americano.... vafanculo, americano.'

[no clue what he just said... something about an american...]. probably wasn't very nice. i smiled and nodded.

he turned to me again.

bdm: 'i guess they're not impressed.'

really? good guess, captain. he walked away. marta told me after he'd left that he had said 'fuck you, american.' on a 0 to 10 scale, i was 0 distressed that he had just said 'fuck you' to me and a 10 distressed that i had missed the word 'vafanculo'... especially after a week of lessons in italian slang and obscenities (thank you gentlemen). damn. how could i have missed that word? i could have broken out an insult of my own from my vast italian arsenal. blah. i'd missed my opportunity.

marta and i walked gavina to the bus stop and then continued walking a bit. we said our goodbyes and i went back to the hostel. very nice meeting you, ladies.

tomorrow: doolin, ireland.

posted by paul at Fri 06 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

05 May 2005

where the water rebeled, regretably

this day would not be wasted. not that others were wasted but we had plans. a full set of. we woke up early to get to the bus station by 9:30am. we'd be taking a full day trip out to inishmore, one of the irish aran islands. first a bus to rossaveal and then a ferry to the island. all went well and we made it on the top deck of the doubledecker bus. in the back, mirko and massimo met three other italians: alex, gavina, and marta. humid and the windows were blurred. i didn't quite understand all of the italian, but there was translation when required.

we boarded the fairly with about a hundred others. chilly on top with a probably warm deck below. chilly with scenery for me. all aboard, the crew pulled the gangplank inside and just then a man with a small little girl ran up. the boat hadn't moved. the plank had _just_ been pulled in. and still the crew wouldn't allow them on board. the girl in tears, the man obviously distraught. and then his wife with another little girl. he had come from france he said. the girls in tears. and still the crew wouldn't extend the plank to allow them on board. very sad and a flash of a thought about organizing a ship wide boycott of this boat for the atrocities. it just didn't make sense. and then the boat pulled away. an irish man sitting to the left of massimo began speaking quickly and max directed him to me... he said he'd seen this happen before and that he planned not to take this ferry any longer. another company, run by those who lived on the island, was nearby and he would take that boat from now on. he was as upset as me about what we'd just seen.

we arrived on the island, the new group of six. some discussion and we decided to rent bikes.

miles. kilometers. stretches of stone walls. stretching stretches of stone. seemingly senseless. a division of inherited land, so i was told, but nothing within the walls. here a horse. there a cow. yet most empty plots, enclosed by four foot high stone walls. deliberately placed with no mortar. placed. leaning and balanced. giant fields of nothing but walls. i wanted to reverse time and watch one of the stones being placed. each rock cut or found and carried to that place and laid down. deliberately. i was in awe of these walls. we stopped at the ruins of an old structure to eat the food we'd purchased earlier. alex filled me in about some traps in czech... be careful here and there.

we biked on, sometimes pushing up the hills, sometimes rolling quickly down them, with me stopping constantly to take pictures of tiny wall flowers growing between the stones. already 2pm and we needed to be back at 5pm, still not even to the main stone fortress called dun aonghus. we'd bypass the worm hole, regretably, and to make time we'd stick to the main road and bike quickly to the fortress. parked our bikes and hiked up the hill which reminded me a bit of the hike up arthur's seat in edinburgh. and there the cliffs. without any type of barricade or fence or protection, and that was good i thought. more natural. the cliffs almost as powerful as the stretches of walls, but for me, not quite. the fortress was built of similar stones. a prehistoric fort in a circle. the same stones deliberately placed.

and then with time clicking we were gone, on back to the ferry dock. i peddled fast in the front and stopped and found some seals. seals don't like to be photographed. forward and the ruins of a church on the left. forward back to the ferry with a full hour to spare. an hour i thought which could have been used to explore the so called worm hole where the water rebeled against what is normal. still, a tiring and full day and the walls.

on the ferry ride home i spoke with marta who told me i spoke very good english. i'd hope, i thought, but she meant that i spoke slower without an accent and was easy to understand. i told her i was just slow. then i told her i had problems understanding the scottish accent and she was surprised. she would be in galway for another ten days, there researching papers unavailable in italy. almost everyone else on the ferry was asleep upon arrival at the dock. watch your heads, the staff told us as we exited. hand gestures like some sort of dying bird or get down dance to warn us from crashing our heads into the metal.

wait and wait for the bus. i asked the woman and she said two minutes, but twenty passed. raining a bit and we were inside. tired. finally, and a swarm, and mirko somehow bypassed the line and saved us seats in the back of the top deck. well done.

in galway, some words were exchanged in italian which i took to mean we'd meet up later. we split and alex, mirko, max, and i walked back to the hostel to rest briefly before going out. we left the hostel and wandered the streets and i found a record store which sold the new nine inch nails album. purchase. and in walked marta. i asked her how she'd found us and she told me of the plan to meet up at 10pm at mcdonald's. it was 10:15pm. my counterparts had apparently forgotten about the rendez-vous.

the pub with an irish band playing cover songs. u2 and similar. a mistaken italian word. goodbyes and then back to the hostel.

posted by paul at Thu 05 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

04 May 2005

there would be no reason

i spoke with one of the hostel staff who recommended checking out inishmore, one of the aran islands off of the west the coast of ireland. would need to take a bus to rossaveal about an hour away and then a ferry over to the island. the morning bus had already left and the afternoon bus wouldn't give us any time to explore the island. would wander the city with massimo and mirko.

galway exploration. in circles. in squares. in rectangles. up and down the street here and there just exploring. we'd been down this street before. we'd seen that before. and then a moment when we stopped and realized we'd seen almost all of galway. i can't remember how max worded it. we looked at a map and decided to take a walk to nearby salthill. salt-hill or salth-ill? still not sure. the salthill expedition turned out to be a great decision. a long promenade along the ocean and people enjoying the sun. a long walk down a pier the end was restricted. the sign told us but those two didn't read it. turn around and further down the beach and small cliffs in the distance. treacherous stones. many snails here and there sealed up during the day. the cliffs looked like they'd been carved by a machine, but there would be no reason. wind and water. we all leaned over to see the plunge. a short rest and then the walk back.

we decided to cook pasta tonight. all of the grocery stores had closed yet we found a large convenience store. italians don't eat bread and butter with their pasta. max and mirko cooked and cleaned. thank you gentlemen. delicious and filling. two americans studying in london had arrived in our room, one from baltimore and one from pittsburgh. i told him i'd grew up about an hour east of pittsuburgh and he knew of my hometown. out to another pub and max and mirko bought me drinks... i'd owe them. thank you again gentlemen. we walked outside and i sat with two statues.

posted by paul at Wed 04 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

03 May 2005

admin entry: reconboard

the reconboard is now operational. i'll be posting random comments there which will most likely be more current than the regular blog entries. i welcome others to post there as well. comments relating to a specific blog entry can be made right on the entry... any random comments can be made on the reconboard. enjoy.

posted by paul at Tue 03 May 2005 at 08:06:06 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

the master plan wasn't evident

another day of travel. to galway on the west coast of the island. but first in dublin, a quick visit in the morning to the photography galleries... one exhibit depicted everyday life in one of ireland's prisons. another, scenes of ireland's streets. i really like old pictures of cities. what was there before and what had survived and what had changed.

to the bus station... found it... four hours with a stop in athlone. major traffic difficulties as the bus pulled into galway... so much so that the driver told us it would be quicker to walk. so, out on the street with the backpack THE pack and a short hike into town to try and locate the hostel.

galway is in the midst of major public works in the center of town. the central park was partitioned off, barricades divided the streets, and machinery lay dormant throughout the park and street. the master plan wasn't evident, but many of the streets were torn open and it appeared that new brick was being laid. i'd arrived late in the afternoon and the workers had departed. stillness and calmness with a touch of right before the evening out energy. despite all of the construction equipment and general disarray of the city center, i immediately liked galway. it reminded me a bit of my hometown in pennsylvania. i could imagine how beautiful the city center would be after the construction. wished the construction had already been finished, but such is the consequence of traveling during the off season. i get to see the preparations for the summer.

to the hostel. major traffic difficulties at the front desk, but finally through. free internet access [unheard of]. clean bathroom. solid beds. very nice. i usually consider travel days wasted and might not take full advantage of the rest of the day. a bit tired. i went out for food and returned to meet mirko and massimo, two italians from bergamo, italy, in the room. both very nice. the three of us hit one of the pubs in town crowded with people and a tiny band packed in the back corner. i ordered guinnes; the italians order bulmers, not realizing it was hard apple cider. i tasted a bit... a bit tasty, so i traded max my guinness. onto another pub and eventually back to the hostel and sleep.

posted by paul at Tue 03 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

02 May 2005

anti-anti party

this monday was slow, a bank holiday for the irish and an anti-capitalism/globalism/anti-anti party in the streets. i spent more time wandering the city. the four from yesterday had planned to meet up at 7pm for dinner, but nick and david had bought too many souvenirs and had almost run out of money. no dinner with them... i wandered some more. nick, david, and steve were all leaving for home tomorrow. the italians back to milan and steve back to ottawa after two years away.

posted by paul at Mon 02 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

01 May 2005

a saint's heart in a cage

breakfast was exactly the same as yesterday's and very tasty. i'd met steve, a canadian, the day before and we ate breakfast together. he told me the two italians were planning to attend a gaelic football game that afternoon and asked if i wanted to join them. sounded like fun. a cross between soccer and rugby so we thought. at some point i need to take in a real football game here in europe. back in the room, nick and david, the italians, confirmed. we'd meet back at the hostel at 3pm.

some more wandering. the christ church cathedral. the guide book said to check the northern wall, which had been leaning precariously since 1562. i couldn't see the leaning wall from the outside and then again the dilemma... should i pay the admission price (five euros in this case) for what could be just a ten minute visit of possibly nothing really special or would there be something surprising and wonderful inside. i wanted to see the leaning wall. here's my five euros. yes, i will pay five euros to see your leaning wall. one wall, please, reel away.

inside. ooh, an informational page? impressive. color coded by language. english was yellow. the yellow page provided a small map of the cathedral with points of interest. i followed the guide around the cathedral. very very cool. beautiful. complete with a saint's heart in a cage and a mummified cat and rat discovered in the organ pipes. wow. i wondered if they really had a human heart in that cage. deeper. i had to be _reminded_ about the leaning wall by the lovely yellow. i couldn't see it, this wall which deviated from the perpendicular by 18 degrees. i'll ask. 'that wall right there. go up to the pulpit and look down and you'll see it.' still nothing and then [AHH] there it is. wow. so much so that it seemed the wall would topple but as it's been leaning like that since 1562 i figured i was in no risk of making the irish news. tourists killed in dublin as the christ church leaning wall finally fails. practically invisible in the picture.

then, on the BACK of the yellow page... more tour... down into the crypt. what a great word... crypt. crypt. encrypt. decrypt. crypt. one can't go wrong with a crypt. i descended into the depths of the crypt. the christ church cathedral crypts were once the site of a marketplace between the columns which support much of the cathedral. a video presentation and artifacts. some special plate given to the cathedral by a king. research. the crypts are the oldest structure in dublin, so the yellow sheet claimed.

as i ascended from the crypt i heard the organ music. ah. this was soft and soothing organ, like a flute. at some point i'd like to hear a powerful organ reverberating through a stone cathedral. this was mostly on the soothing side and less on the [this is a sound in my head: one long rich heavy chord sustaining for five seconds and releasing and still reverberating through] side, but it was a beautifully soothing organ in a very old cathedral and i was very happy. stood not quite directly under the organist but back just a bit and watched and listened. an older man, he seemed to be making a few mistakes and fiddled madly with the pushing and pulling organ controls. i smiled. a man and a woman on my left were repositioning a microphone and drew my attention to a giant entanglement of microphone cables on the hundreds of years old cathedral stone. cables wrapped carelessly and tangled. new and old. i must have looked like i was working as well... another tourist gestured 'is it all right if i come in there [the somewhat enclosed choir area]?' with accompanying questioning facial expression... i nodded sure without giving away that i too was just a tourist.

five euros less in my pocket and very satisfied. very.

i met steve, nick, and david back at the hostel at 3pm and we left for the gaelic football game. we didn't know who was playing, how the game was played, or how to get to the stadium. we knew the general direction of the stadium and followed a small crowd of people. 15 euro ticket in the standing section. 5 euros had i been a student. blah. where to enter the stadium...

'can we enter here?'

[hahaha] 'no, keep going.'

'is this our section?'

[hahaha] 'no, you're around back.'

after walking another two hours or so [or maybe five minutes] we made our way to the opposite side of the stadium and into the standing section. bag searches aren't very effective... how can a quick glance into a bag determine whether or not there are alcohol or firearms concealed beneath? can't. lots of team colors, orange and green. the search was a little more thorough for them. i watched.

two games were played in the stadium today... the previous game had just finished and monaghan (where my great grandparents were married... go monaghan!) had won. the monaghan fans, wearing blue and white, had stormed the field and it took about 15 minutes for the police to coerce everyone back into their seats. lots of pregame marching, a song, and a moment of silence. the game began.

steve learned that players could score one point by kicking the ball through the uprights and three points for kicking the ball through the goal. 95% of all of the points were made by kicking the ball through the uprights. i chose the green side. the green side lost. i just realized i didn't take any pictures of the game being played.

i was saving myself for a dublin guinness. the home of guinness. we hit a pub in the temple bar area and i sipped my first. dark. rich. smooth. cold. i wouldn't say it was delicious, but it was a far cry from the 'heavy, thick, and bitter' i'd heard used to describe guinness in the past. i spent fifty euros in the pubs. somehow. somewhere, fifty euros. had a great time with nick, david, and steve.

posted by paul at Sun 01 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

30 April 2005

an industrial city concrete straight down

a free breakfast isn't a free breakfast. take it or leave it, you've been charged when you paid for your room. in most cases the hostels serve nothing more than toast and jam and coffee and sometimes cereal. the dublin hostel was not one of the most cases fortunately. eggs, bacon (which more resembles slices of ham than bacony bacon), sausage, hashbrowns (though they must have a different name), fruit, juice, bread. everything. everything and very good everything. i'd eat this free breakfast every morning i stayed at the hostel. filling.

the river liffey runs through dublin. a greenish river i wouldn't want to fall into. i saw a shopping cart lurking just beneath the surface below one of the many bridges. the banks are not grass and not a gentle slope but an industrial city concrete straight down into the murky green.

a misting raining exploration of the capitol of ireland. wandering through the parks and streets with the sky all gray. gray skies are good for museums and i visited two: the national gallery and the museum of natural history, which may be better named the museum of taxidermy. the first floor: one giant chamber filled with stuffed animals from ireland. the second floor: one giant chamber filled with stuff animals from around the world. a third floor balcony gave a better view of the two whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling with cases of mostly sea creatures and a fourth floor balcony was filled with insects and other small creatures. all of the small creature display cases had a leather mat over them which needed to be lifted for viewing. not sure why. maybe the light would fade the color. this would be a very scary place at night with the creaky wooden floors and all of the eyes and skeletons and generally enveloping deadness. the glass cases would come crashing down running from them.

garmin had reversed the locations of the natural gallery and the museum of natural history. will advise them.

back on the street and hungry. when i asked for a turkey and cheese sandwich, a woman used grated cheddar cheese, a first which turned out to be rather delicious. the fresh roll played a large part in the deliciousness. i relaxed in st. steven's green eating my grated cheese and turkey sandwich. try to fade into the bench unnoticed and just absorb the sites and sounds. as has typically been the case on these islands, the morning mist and gray were swept away and a bright blue sky was left behind with still a slight chill. i remembered that i'd considered not packing my hoodie. i remember that often whenever there is a chill.

i found a few market streets. many people here and there and i hate walking with people crowding me all around... quickly over to the side of the street where i stood for about 30 minutes while a dreadlocked man on my left played on a drum. a girl gave him an orange. an orange. i think he'd rather have had the money. i thought about a juicy orange for a bit... where to get one... then out of my mind. further down a group of hare krishnas were chanting using a portable megaphone, accompanied by drums and little cymbals. generally a nice chanting sound. i talked to a man who said he'd lived with them and called one of them, with shaved orange hair wearing a white sarong, a hypocrite for wearing leather sandals. he told me i looked like a musician.

an early night around 10pm and i retreated.

posted by paul at Sat 30 Apr 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

29 April 2005

very solid steel

time to leave the united kingdom, a wonderful beginning for my travels. i wondered if there was any type of border station. out of the land of the pound sterling and into the euro. from 1.9 to 1.3 and yes it matters. in belfast i had made contact with david nesbitt, a minister of a church in ballybay, ireland, and the manager of the property where stands the church in which my great grandparents were married on valentine's day in 1898. the research had been done by a distant cousin and i knew the name of the church and the name of the county... david nesbitt's website helped me find the rest. i exchanged a couple of emails with david and we finalized the details on the phone. i'd be taking a bus down to monaghan (the 'g' is silent... 'monna-hen'); he would pick me up, drive me out to the church, and then back to the bus station so i could catch a bus down to dublin. what a nice guy. so nice.

as the bus drove away from belfast, i had a twinge of regret for not taking one of the black taxi tours, apparently the best way to see the religiously and politically charged murals in the areas around the catholic falls road and the protestant shankill road. i'd made a call but as i wasn't with a group, i would have had to pay the private rate of around 25 pounds. a little too pricey. tourism is slow in belfast in april, so it seems... no other groups were going for me to tag along with.

random fact: the titantic was built in belfast in the harland and wolff shipyards. the large yellow h&w cranes can still be seen.

i arrived in monaghan with an hour to spare before i was to meet david. explore and mission: withdraw euros. mission accomplished quickly. monaghan is a very cute little town. a few photos for home and a turkey sandwich with a deliciously crisp baguette. my first euro exchange... and the belfastian turk said _american_ money was like monopoly money? wow. i don't think you can get more monopolian than the euro notes. i'll take this turkey sandwich, a coke... and oh, i'll buy two hotels for boardwalk and park place. there are 2 euro coins and 1 euro coins and 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c coins. the notes are different sizes and colors. non-europeans can check them here.

i met david at the bus station and made the mistake of walking to the wrong side of his car. blah. my very first ride in the other side of a car and on the other side of the road. strange at first. david was an incredible guide... telling me a little bit about the church and the surrounding country as we drove out. absolutely beautiful day with bright sun. cahans church is very large. first observation. the current building, built in 1840 to replace two older buildings, is slowly decaying but funds are being raised for renovations. i took many pictures (see the gallery). HISTORY. my great grandparents... my grandmother's parents... were married in this building more than 100 years ago.

back to the bus station and then down to dublin. in irish gaelic: baile atha cliath. you see it on all of the license plates. i'm always concerned about the initial walk from the bus station to the hostel... how far... through what... will i be able to find it. in this case, not far at all... the hostel was located very near the bus station. very solid steel bunk beds. i met david, an italian, who woke up groggy from his sleep when i entered the room. his friend, nico, was sleeping as well without the wake-up part. i think it was around 6pm or so. the hostel looked solid. i booked an extra night and went out for the new city walk.

posted by paul at Fri 29 Apr 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)