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Favorite visual artistJJ AudobonFavorite moviesPOTC, Tangled, Court Jester, Howl's Moving Castle, Wall*E, Labyrinth, 1776, Iron Man, Star Trek, HTTYDFavorite bands / musical artistsLoreena McKennitt, Poets of the Fall, Immediate Music, Blue Oyster CultFavorite writersTennyson, Corbett, Zusak, Vonnegut, Coleridge, Pratchett, Lloyd Alexander, Coville, MAP, must I go on?Favorite gamesSolitaire. It fries my brain when thinking becomes dangerous...ooh, and Spyro the Dragon, he rawks!Tools of the Trade...are mathematically unlikelyOther Interestsbirds, dragons, gryphons, fantasy, star trek, farscape, books, cats, chocolate, you name it
BECAUSE I JUST WOULDN'T BE ME IF I WASN'T GETTING THIS TO YOU 3 MONTHS LATE
Sooooo bf and evil friend (let's call her EF) went to Ireland back in May. It was basically the best thing that ever happened.
Some explanation of EF: she's a college friend/fellow dance-partner of bf, and I met her before bf and I started dating. She's (self-avowedly) a terrible person, and also an amazingly fun human who UNDERSTANDS MY FEELS at HTTYD 2. We cried so hard in the theater, you guys. So hard. More on that later! Anyway EF is the sort of person who either loves you or hates you very quickly and very vocally, and she has multiple pet reptiles (including a boa named Toothless) and absolutely loves planning trips. So she's sort of the best thing ever if you want to go on awesome trips and not have to plan anything.
Anyway so her mom was planning on going to Ireland for a business trip, and was going to take EF and another friend with her for funsies. Then the business trip didn't happen, but EF and the other girl were still planning on going, and since they now had space, they invited bf and I along. Then things got kinda complicated for a while, and the other girl bowed out, leaving bf, EF, and I. We booked our tickets and were off! Here is a roster of our adventures:
Tuesday: Plane leaving at 6pm. Sick, because of course. Spend the morning arguing with my leasing office which is trying to illegally raise my rent and which has been dodging me all week in literally the sketchiest way possible. Board plane. Watch the newest Hobbit movie, and come to the opinion that Smaug talks Way. Too. Much. to be intimidating. Holy snizz, dragon! SHUT YER YAPPER.
Wednesday: In Heathrow, somehow. Be wowed by the vast amount of incredibly expensive alcohol available at that airport. I mean, geez, Heathrow. Quick jaunt to Dublin. As nobody's cell phone will work in Ireland, EF (who was traveling on a different flight) agreed to meet us at baggage claim. BF and I wait at baggage claim. EF's plane listed as having landed. No sign of EF. Wait some more. No EF. OH CRAP WE ARE STRANDED WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT HOTEL WE'RE AT WITHOUT EF. CRAP CRAP CRAP. Leave baggage claim in a desperate attempt to ask for help. Find out that Dublin airport has two baggage claims. Sigh.
Head toward hotel, but spend some time rambling around Dublin first because it's still like 10 in the morning. Be jetlagged and sore-throaty but excited. BF, however, does not tolerate sleep deprivation very well and is miserable. Poor BF. Stop at Dublin castle and walk the giant triskele pattern set into the green, and feel magical.
Something happened after that--probably the hotel--but I honestly have no memory of it. Hrm. At some point we dragged our carcasses out of the hotel to go find dinner. Ate at this adorable, magical little pub with several wrinkled old Irish men playing live folk music. Fell in love. Had Irish stew and cider and decided that there is literally nothing better for a sore throat than Irish stew. Get mildly accosted by a very drunk Irish man outside the bathroom. Get hugged a lot. Get embroiled in a very confusing conversation with the drunk man and the group of adorable little old ladies he decided to randomly talk to. BF and EF eventually figure out that I've been in the bathroom for an awfully long time and rescue me. For the song that I heard again and again in Ireland, look up "Galway Girl" by Celtic Thunder. I love it
Thursday: First real day, wooooo! On the agenda: Paddywagon day tour to Northern Ireland, Belfast, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the Giant's Causeway. Leave at like 10am. As we're boarding the bus, realize I didn't bring my passport. Desperately wonder if one needs a passport to get into Northern Ireland. Panic a little. An hour into the trip, Paddywagon bus driver asks us if everyone brought their passports, because we need them. Start sweating profusely and making desperate eye-signals to BF. Paddywagon bus driver is a funny guy. Paddywagon bus driver likes to tease the tourists with that gag. One does not need a passport to get into Northern Ireland.
Paddywagon bus driver very quickly learns that I am the weak link on this trip, as I wanted to use the bathroom *and* get a tea from (Costa) Irish-Starbucks during our 10 minute rest break--and as the bathroom line was not conducive to multitasking, I am the last one on the bus. He keeps a very obvious eyeball on me for the rest of the day, as I cannot be trusted to get back to the bus on time. This is probably entirely true. That said, Costa tea is freaking legit--they sell some kind of little teabag-pyramid thing with peaches and real ginger that turns water red and burns your throat and made my sore throat VANISH. VANISH. FOR A WHOLE DAY. SORCERY. (I have tried really hard to buy this tea online, but the shipping makes me cry. We Yanks like good tea too, Twinings tea company! Why u only sell the crap stuff in the US? )
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is incredible if you like heights and (seemingly)rickety wobbly things. I love both of these things. Tour guide tried jumping on the bridge to scare us. Didn't work. >:3 Belfast is...interesting. We spent almost no time there, just a quick stop for lunch, but...huh. I didn't think there would be such a drastic difference in culture, style, and feel between Northern and Main Ireland, but...yeah. Huh. The tour guide was telling us some history on the trip, and he mentioned that a few decades ago, Dublin tore down all its buildings with gothic or "English"-looking architecture that had been constructed during the occupation, and built modern buildings in their place, which is why Dublin has such a unique sort of feel. When he first told us that, I was like "ugh, what a waste of beautiful buildings." After seeing Belfast...well, I sort of get it. Belfast feels like London. It looks like London. There are big royal crests everywhere. It's weird.
Also, Ireland is *really* passionate about the Titanic. Apparently the Titanic was built in Ireland (in Belfast, in fact) and was a huge source of national pride and hope for future industry in its time. It comes up a lot. There's even a joke: "It took ten thousand Irishmen to build the Titanic, and only one Englishman to sink it." Tension!
So, yeah, when we go back (we ARE going back, this coming May...EF and I agreed upon it pretty much after arriving in Ireland. It was so hard to come back to DC. I love the US, but I WANNA LIVE IN IRELAND IT'S NOT FAAAIIIIRRR), we'll probably skip Northern Ireland. It just has such a strange, different, not-really-Irish feel to it. That said, if you're ever going for the first time, DO THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY. The causeway is soooo awesome. There was a monk wandering around the wave-swept stones, looking deliberately picturesque. You can climb on giant slippery hexagon rocks. Climbing on rocks is the best (but for serious you guys the coastline is incredible).
Friday: 'Nother day tour! Not with Paddywagon this time; I forget which company we used. This tour group was a lot older, and the guide was much less, erm, exuberant. This was probably the best flippin' day of them all. The itinerary was as follows: Cashel Castle, Blarney Castle, and Cork. Cashel Castle is this gorgeous, gorgeous ruined castle with a truly impressive tower (complete with circling, cawing rooks, which thrilled my BF) and a gorgeous view of the landscape. They let us ramble around for about an hour, and I thought it would be the best castle I saw in Ireland. I was wrong.
BLARNEY CASTLE YOU GUYS. FRELLING BLARNEY CASTLE IS JUST ABOUT THE COOLEST THING THAT EVER EXISTED. I thought it would be the most touristy site we visited, but wowwwww. First off, the castle itself is INCREDIBLE. If you like really huge, imposing ruins that are still intact enough for you to climb to the top of, Blarney Castle is literally the best and most impressive I've ever seen (including Carreg Cennen in Wales, which up to this point was my standard in castle-impressiveness). It's also mildly terrifying, as they really do not care if you fall off, apparently, and as I said the castle is HUGE and the stairwells are REALLY TINY and there are a lot of big latrine-holes in the floor that are barred off in the technical sense only. Also it was really windy that day, and when you get up to the top you're like, wow, I might actually fly away in a stiff gale (yay!). I had resolved to kiss the Blarney stone because of course I would, but I didn't realize that the Blarney stone is not, in fact, a stone sitting in a field. The Blarney stone is the back wall on the ramparts of the castle, separated from the floor by a nice big hole that goes right to the ground several stories down. To kiss the Blarney stone, you scoot on your back over the hole, grab onto the bars embedded in the rock, and hang over backwards (Before you think I sound too cool, there is a photographer there, Disney-world-style, and somebody to hold your legs). But I did it!!! BF and EF both refused on the grounds that the Blarney Stone is kind of green and they didn't want to catch mono from it. Laaaaame. (For the record, I did not catch mono from the Blarney Stone)
Also, I should tell you a little adventure we had before we actually went up into the castle. See, under the castle are dungeons. You can go into the dungeons. The dungeons are basically a tiny, drippy little tunnel that goes waaaay back into the guts of the castle and gets narrower and narrower as it goes, and in some places the wall has crumpled so you can see the servants' staircases. Anyway like I said the tunnel is narrow and the ceiling is very low--maybe five and a half feet at the entrance, but it goes down to like four feet as you go back. There are lights embedded in the ceiling so you can see where you're going, but the floor is wet and slippery and there are some very precarious stairs. Anyway so we were crawling through this tunnel, EF in front, then me, with (6 foot tall) BF in the back. At one point, I glanced up at the light (which is like two inches from my head because the ceiling is so low) and, whaddya know, sitting on it is an ENORMOUS, VERY POISONOUS-LOOKING SPIDER. I swear, this was the most evil-looking being I have ever had the pleasure of seeing two inches from my eyeball, and it looked big enough to eat mice. I SCREAMED and EF saw the spider and SCREAMED and we both about-faced as fast as we could in a desperate attempt to GET OUT GET OUT SPIDER OMG GET OUT. BF, however, did not grasp the urgency of the situation. BF thought that having two screaming girls come stampeding out of the darkness meant "back up very slowly along the tunnel." He almost got run over. EF and I spent a few moments having a panic attack outside, and explained our woes to a middle-aged tourist couple who happened to see us doing the funky chicken outside the dungeons. The woman turned to her husband and was like "Harry, go kill the spider." And Harry was like "Ok." And Harry went into the dungeon and killed the spider. Harry is my hero. But we still didn't go back into the dungeon. (Fun fact: we looked it up later and the spider was a "false widow," and it only kills a few people every year. Joy!)
Then there are the grounds. The grounds of Blarney Castle are ENORMOUS and GORGEOUS and and and I can't even. We only got to explore a very small part of them in the three hours that we were there. There was a poison garden (wolfsbane! mandrake! nightshade! eeeee) and a fern garden and a wildflowers-of-Ireland garden and a waterfall covered with ferns and secret little staircases absolutely everywhere and the "Druid's Cave" and the "Wishing Steps" and the "Witch's Kitchen" and and and. There was also this tree with an *enormous* bough that looped very close to the ground. This bough was about four feet in diameter. We were walking along this path and saw a group of tourist girls trying to get up onto the branch (the top of which was about 6 feet off the ground) for a picture. BF, gentleman that he is, hoisted them up and we took their picture. Then they offered to take our picture on the branch, and we struggled up there and got one of my fav pics of the trip. By then another group had showed up, and we helped THEM onto the tree for pictures too. We spent like 20 minutes taking pictures and hoisting people into a tree and it was amazing and we were all instantly friends forever.
I could keep going on...point is Blarney Castle is amazing and if you only do one thing in all of Ireland, do this one. It's amazing.
Saturday: Dublin day! Walked through St. Stephen's park and saw a family of swans and cygnets. Visited a bookstore and FINALLY found a bird guide (to the great relief of BF and EF, who had to listen to me complain about not having one for the first three days). Visited Trinity college and got a great tour with a great story: apparently, all of Dublin (and Ireland) is sort of sinking because the foundation is all peat. So the Trinity library (aka one of the biggest and oldest in the world) was taking on water about a century ago, and the whole first floor has visible water damage to the stones. The Trinity staff moved the collection to the second floor, but didn't know how to shore up the library. Then, some Trinity alumni who had traveled to the American West (when it was still all new and exciting) brought back two maple trees from Oregon and planted them in front of the library as a donation to the college. The maples, finding that Ireland was just about the best possible environment for trees, promptly grew ENORMOUS (to the point where they are not only the largest of their species in Europe, they are possibly the largest of their species in the world) and actually drained all of the groundwater out of their vicinity--thus saving the library. Got to see the Book of Kells (SQUEE). Got dragged out of the library after an hour even though BUT BUT BUT I WAS READING ABOUT ANCIENT INKMAKING TECHNIQUES. Visited the Guinness factory, which was cool. Got to try a freshly-brewed sample of Guinness. Remembered that beer is DISGUSTING, even when Irish. Give the rest of my sample to BF. Buy a Guinness shirt because why not? ;D
That night we went dancing at a club. We ballroom-danced in that club (and I was wearing boots), and it was awesome. Irish young adults are just as awkward about ballroom dancing as American young adults. Sigh.
Sunday: Last day! Another bus tour, this time with Paddywagon again. Longest bus tour yet--we leave at about 5am, and we're scheduled to get back into Dublin around 8pm. We were heading out to Kilkenny, Killarney national park, and Inch Beach, which is about a 3-4 hour drive from Dublin. This day was, um...a doozy.
It didn't begin well. For both of our previous tours, there was a staff member with a clipboard waiting at the stop, and the bus came precisely on time. Not so today. We waited and waited with a fellow group of confused tourists, but no bus. No clipboard-person. Wait some more. Finally, around 5:30, a bus limps into view. This is clearly not the best bus in the fleet. While the Paddywagon bus on the first day was a bright green, cushy tour bus with the logo blazoned across the side, this bus is tiny, dingy white, and has a paper with "Paddywagon" on it taped to the window. This is the incarnation of a struggle bus.
We suspiciously pile onto the failure bus. It is emitting a highly annoying beep-beep-beeping noise, like a door alarm. The seats are smushed and uncomfortable. The windows are grimy. The bus is beeping. I turn to BF and EF and say, "I sure hope this beeping shuts off soon." That was the first mistake. Our driver, this redheaded beanpole twenty-something named Ronan with facial scruff and a sort of ax-murderer-vibe, said the following, in as many words:
"The first bus broke down." "The beeping is permanent." "We'll stop and change buses in two hours."
That was it. That was the extent of the words he spoke to us for the next two hours. The previous drivers? They chatted and sang and told stories, and if they got tired of talking they turned on the radio for us. It was jovial. Ronan? Ronan drove in complete silence. Ronan pulled the bus over several times to walk around outside and talk on his cell phone while gesticulating wildly. Ronan gave us a 5-minute pee break but didn't stop for breakfast. Ronan also didn't know how to drive stick, as evidenced by the the truly inventive grinding noises that the bus made under his control. It juddered. It whined. IT BEEPED.
Did I mention the beeping? Two hours of high pitched WEE-BEEP WEE-BEEP WEE-BEEP. Silence and BEEPING.
Finally we pulled into the gas station-cum-coffee place where a new bus (and a new driver) were waiting for us. THIS was a proper tour bus, roomy and cushy and legitimate-looking and SILENT. We piled on gratefully, and the group of ethnically-diverse Trinity College students who sat behind us immediately fell asleep. Me? I knew trouble was brewing when I looked out the window and saw Ronan and our new drive--a loud, cheerful man who was about 400 pounds--looking under the bus' maintenance hatch and scratching their heads. Uh-oh.
Our new driver got onto the bus.
"Hey guys!" he said with forced cheerfulness. "How are you feeling?" People cheered. "How did you like your old bus?" he asked, with a rictus grin. People booed. Loudly. "...How would you like to get back on that bus?" he asked, abandoning pretense. People wept. Apparently the new bus had sprung a hose leak, and back to the struggle bus it was.
One of the Trinity guys tried to wake his sleeping buddy. "Wha?" asked the hapless student, coming to. "What is it?" "We...we must...return," his friend said, with no further explanation besides the look of anguish in his dark eyes. "Noooooooooo!"
(I am completely and totally serious about the Trinity guys. Everything that I report here actually came out of their mouths. I would pay money to follow them around all day, and they were probably the only reason we didn't go insane.)
So back to the bus of misery we went. It was still beeping. Our new driver tried to make the beeping stop. He slammed the side door. The beeping stopped. No! It can't be that simple!!!. It wasn't. The beeping started back up after a few moments where we almost dared to hope. One more hour on the beeping bus, although at least this tour guide actually talked to us and didn't make us suspect that he was going to dump our bodies somewhere rural.
For a time, our tour was almost like a regular, non-fucky day trip. We saw Killarney (gorgeous!) and Torc waterfall (heartbreakingly lovely!). We found another magical tree--this time a behemoth with three parallel, slanted branches about 8 feet off the ground, one above the others. BF, EF, and I climbed up and got our picture taken, and that's one of my other favorite pics from the trip. Irish mega-trees are the best. Our driver took apart the dashboard and started ripping wires out, and made the beeping stop without too much apparent damage to vital bus systems (Honestly though, I think everyone would have considered it a fair trade-off). He also knew how to drive stick, as the bus did not sound like a dying sawmill under his control. (That said, he was uncomfortably racist against gypsies/travelers, which was a bit...surprising. There's a lot of animosity against them, which is so foreign to me...we have such a different concept of "racism" in America. Culture shock, ouch!) Anyway.
We went to an adorable farmer's market in Kilkenny and had amazing food, and my BF tried tripe (which was horrifyingly gelatinous and whitish-yellow, with a honeycomb pattern...urgh). I bought honey like a normal person. Inch beach was grey but lovely, and we stopped at several amazing lookout points to take pictures. The Trinity guys were not impressed by the sightseeing stops. "On the bus, off the bus," they complained. "Ten minutes for pictures!" (This will be relevant later, so remember it). Anyway, so a pretty ok day after the morning. But it was not to last.
Our new driver left us after the day's activities were over. "Ronan will get y'all home," he assured us, before making a beeline to his car. (I maintain that he knew *exactly* what Ronan was like, and abandoned us to his mercies). Ronan got back on the bus. Ronan, as per usual, did not talk to us or turn on the radio, but began drivingg in silence. The bus immediately began making unsettling noises and rattling and generally making us nervous. The noises and shaking got steadily worse. A grinding whine filled the cabin. The windows fogged as the laboring engine noticeably warmed the interior of the doomed bus. Ronan drove the bus up a hill. The bus was by this point physically incapable of making that hill. The whole bus vibrated as Ronan gunned the engine, trying to force it upward. I clung to BF, sure that we were going to start rolling backwards and end up in a ditch somewhere.
Finally, finally, the bus crested the hill. We paused at the top, grateful to be alive. I looked out the window. There was a dead cat in the bushes at the side of the road. It was sort of darkly hysterical--it felt rather apt. "Guys, there's a dead cat next to the bus," I informed my traveling companions. "TEN MINUTES FOR PICTURES."
Ronan forced the bus down the hill a little and pulled off by a little house (that is, the only little house. We were about as rural as it is possible to get. There were lots of fields and sheep and cows and very few anything elses. He said he was going to call for a replacement bus. He pulled out his phone. His battery was dead.
We were a tour bus full of foreigners. We did not have working phones. There were several minutes of debate. Finally, one of the passengers procured a working phone, we piled out of the bus to wait--as much to prevent Ronan from trying to drive off again as to get some fresh air. We all stood around scuffing at the gravel and discussing how much more wrong it was possible for things to go. One of the Trinity guys pulled out his ipod and started playing the "Loony Tunes" theme.
Finally, our rescue bus came for us. Apparently Paddywagon was all out of buses, so they had to hire another company's bus. We got a new driver, at least, who was friendly and normal. We drove the last three hours home in an exhausted, stressed daze. (BF and I had a flight out at 9am the next morning, and had been considering hitchhiking back to Dublin before the new bus showed up). At one point, the new bus driver gave us a blithe apology for the catastrophe that was our day. Trinity guys started playing "It's too late to 'pologize" on their Ipod. Could literally have married Trinity guys at that point. We got back into Dublin around 10pm (well after everything had closed) and ordered room service before passing out.
Monday: Flew home. Watched "Her." It was good--props to ScarJo for making a compelling character with just her voice. Tuesday: BF started summer job! Poor BF
And that's it! As much as I can remember, anyway. I'm sure it was more than any of you wanted to read. :S
Other notes about Ireland: EVERYTHING is green. I'm sure this sounds ridiculous, but they call it the "Emerald Isle" for a reason, and that reason is because there are more shades of green in Ireland then I have ever seen anywhere in my life. The plants in Ireland are ENORMOUS. Everything is like twice the size it should be. And the trees in Ireland are all on tree-steroids. They are magical. Also there are a whole lot of ostensibly tropical plants around, because apparently the freakish Miracle-Gro properties of Ireland supersede latitude. Irish cows shall forever be called "moo-moos!" because EF loved them so much. I didn't know that I could fill up my camera's memory card in one day. I have learned. The hotel we stayed at had the best breakfast in history, and the one day we got to eat it (because we didn't have a tour bus leaving at stupid-o-clock) we pigged out like whoa. You can RIDE HORSES THROUGH KILLARNEY AND WE ARE DOING THAT NEXT YEAR BECAUSE AAAAHHHH Go into the "American food" section of any Irish grocery or candy shop that you see, just for funsies. Europeans have no idea what we really eat, but they suspect it's nothing but peanut butter and Reeses Puffs cereal. Irish fudge/toffee/pastries are amazing. Eat them. Eat them all.
Sooooooooo sorry about the novel. I kept putting this journal off because there was just SO MUCH to say and I knew it was going to be a PROJECT. And I also wanted to get everything down so I had a record for myself of everything that happened. It was all just so amazing and I would go back in a heartbeat. Ireland is a beautiful, amazing, incredible country and I feel like we've barely scratched the surface. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
Other things! Summer job at the FAA was awesome! My boss, Laura Montgomery, has self-published two sci-fi novels which are available on Kindle. Check out her latest! www.amazon.com/Manx-Prize-Laur…
HTTYD 2 was SO AMAZING and SO SAD and I hate it for breaking my heart so hard that I was actually sobbing in the theater. I've been listening to "For the Dancing and the Dreaming" on repeat and each play is like a STAB IN THE HEART but it's SO BEAUTIFUL AND GAHHH. (
"Edge of Tomorrow" is a GREAT MOVIE you guys! Seriously, when it comes out on DVD, go see it! I am the last person to willingly go see a Tom Cruise movie (blech) but it's SO GOOD. Like, legitimately smart *and* funny sci-fi--how often does that happen HNNG. Basically all the cleverness of Source Code mixed with all the fun of Starship Troopers, not to mention one of the most *legitimately* kick-ass female characters I have EVER seen in sci-fi (Aeryn and Zoe and Ripley aside, of course). Seriously, Rita is my idol (even more so since I realized that Emily Blunt is married to John Krasinski and hnnnnng).
I got a kitty! His name is Finvarra, after an Irish king of the faeries, and he's a little goblin. He's about 9 months old and was formerly a stray. When I first got him, he enjoyed peeing all over everything in the house. Now he's stopped that, but has moved on to eating entire houseplants. I love him.
I think that's all for now! I'll stop talking and go work out like I promised I would today, hurr-durr. Love you guys, and thanks for listening to me blabber! Have a kitty!