In which we see the world and all the wondrous creatures therein. And probably get lost a lot.

Watch this space for pictures, video, and updates!

The album was getting too big, so additional albums are posted at the bottom of the blog - hopefully I'll have everything labeled within a couple of months.

Click on the slideshow pictures to reach the album links for larger views.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dublin - Day 2

I have a blister on my heel! This is a catastrophe, because I think we walked ten miles today. Which is probably why I have a blister on my foot.

This morning, I got up at the crack of dawn and worked for a couple of hours before the guys got up. Then we headed out to the southeast side of town, where Trinity College is located (the Northwestern of Ireland...hee...). Breakfast at Brewley's, where I discovered that Drambuie and clotted cream on porridge is a phenomenal way to start a day. Then on to Trinity College. A stunning campus, and everything was green and flowering, as you can see in the pictures. The tour takes you through the Book of Kells exhibit, which is astonishing - you can see the pen strokes on a twelve-hundred-year-old manuscript. Then the tour takes you up to the Old Library Long Hall, which might be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. They wouldn't let us take pictures (sigh), but I picked up a few postcards - do yourself a favor and Google it. Anyone who loves books would be salivating over that room.

Next stop was Christchurch Cathedral, and we got there just in time to hear the organ performance. Another beautiful place - the stained glass was particularly nice, and the whole city is covered in intricate wrought iron, so there are a lot of great photo ops. The crypt was interesting, but we were all a little creeped out by the cafe sitting smack in the middle - the pastry shelves nudged up next to the grave of Lord Whatshisname. Corpses and cafe au lait do not mix.

Since we were in the area, we headed to Dublin Castle next. It's mainly used for state functions, and is a pretty standard Georgian castle - large and imposing, but stylistically not as interesting as some places. It's not my favorite time period, but I'm an art snob, so whatever. The tour was interesting, however, especially as you realize the push and pull of how Ireland feels about its history. Obviously they care about their culture and roots, since they've taken such great pains to preserve the old royal castle and all the trappings of the historical monarchy therein, but every tour includes information about Irish nationalism and the break with England - it's interesting to see the relationship at work, and I always forget that the conflict is fairly recent history. My favorite part of the Dublin Castle tour was right at the end, when they took us down under the current building to see the remainders of the old castle that used to stand here, and bits of the Viking world that is part of Dublin's history. Another modern city on a medieval city - it's amazing.

After the castle, my poor blistered foot was really starting to protest, but too much to do! We headed toward the Guinness brewery for the tour, but decided to go to Killmainham Jail first - a hugely important site in the history of Irish independence. We stopped for a bite to eat at Arthur's Bar, where a guitarist sat in the corner and sang every depressing pop song he could think of, as Jim noted. I heard once that in Ireland, the most popular guy in the room is the one with the most depressing story...

The map lied to us, and the trek out to the jail was far too long, and took us through not the greatest part of the city. When we got there, we decided to take the last tour and save the brewery for tomorrow. The tour itself was actually very moving - the jail has been in existence for hundreds of years, and there was a time when children could be jailed for begging in the streets. A scary and sad place, designed to suck the humanity out of every individual. The tour guide gave us a detailed account of the men that were killed here after the Easter Rebellion, which is a dramatic and heart-wrenching story, with this jail as the backdrop.

After the tour, my stupid foot decided it had had enough, and we took a cab back to the hotel. Now, we're all unwinding for a couple of hours before dinner. I hear Temple Bar is fun - we're going to seek out some music and a pub later on tonight. I am not a beer drinker, but I could become quite attached to Bulmer's - a strong Irish cider.

Pictures coming up!

Dublin - Day 1

When we arrived at the hotel, the comfortable, well-placed Drury Court Hotel, our rooms were not quite ready yet - not surprising, given how early it was. So instead, we left our bags behind the counter, gathered cameras and city maps, and went out. Our first stop was the Queen of Tarts bakery cafe. Our concierge assured us that it was awesome, but that she doesn't go there often because, as she notes, she wouldn't fit through the door. Take a look at the scones picture in the album above and you'll completely agree. that place is dangerous in a wonderful, calorie-filled way. Luckily, this trip is designed to keep us moving - the whole city is walkable. After lunch/brunch, we went for a walk over to St. Patrick's Cathedral and took some pictures of the grounds and the exterior. It wasn't originally on my list, and I didn't want to do anything that our friend Jim might want to join us for - he got in late last night. We didn't go in, as jet lag was starting to kick in. Back at the hotel an hour of sleep, and then we headed across the river to the Jameson distillery for a tour and a complementary whiskey cocktail. Then back over the river to meet up with Jim, dinner at the Hairy Lemon pub across the street, and sweet, sweet sleep.

My first impressions of Dublin - a beautiful city, a mix of ancient and modern. Lots of tourists (we've heard a lot of French), and so far, the friendliest people overall. Our cab driver gave us pub recommendations, the concierge was very sweet, and everyone seems happy to answer questions or point you in the right direction. The city is remarkably compact, pretty clean, and I want to take pictures of everything in sight. I keep hearing about Ireland's reputation for bland food, but I have to say we haven't had a bad meal yet - all the classics are yummy, well-seasoned fare. And the tea is addictive.

Other things I noticed - it's a very political place. Irish sentiment about England, about their history, about politics in general is very much a part of general discussions - it's interesting what you overhear and the opinions that people offer up.

A crazy first day, but sleep will make it all better.

Landing Cows

The flight in was the usual - racing across JFK to reach the Aer Lingus terminal, attempting to sleep on the plane while some poor guy tries to figure out how to calm his screaming toddler, seeing cows lounging on a field by the runway as we landed...

Other clues we might be in Ireland - the plane captain's name was William Butler, and the flight attendants offered us very strong tea. Plus, I heard one of them mutter "Two beef, or not two beef" under his breath in a lovely Irish lilt while he was serving dinner. Shakespeare wasn't Irish, of course, but comedy is comedy.

Safe and sound and slightly jet-lagged.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Off we go!!!

I think the title says it all :)

More when there's something more interesting than check-ins, TSA lines, and boarding to report.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


There's a point right before any major trip where I have to sit down and make a list of every tiny little thing that needs to be done before I go.  As far as I know, I've never NOT gotten through the list, but it still fills me with dread.  Realistically, I know that I've covered my bases - I'm essentially packed, the cats aren't going to starve in my absence, the rent check has been written, all the work and writing has been transferred to the appropriate file format for mobile access, etc.  Somehow, however, there are still twenty-seven things left to do.  Twenty-seven.

On the plus side, one more day!  I can't believe it.  I'm not quite excited yet, but I'll wake up tomorrow morning and the list will be done, and it will hit me all at once and it will be awesome.

Watch this space - there's some good stuff coming up!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


It doesn't seem that long ago that I was one of those people who thought cell phones were pointless.  Of course, that was before I lived in a city where you spend more time in your car than you do in your home.  Now, many moons later, if I accidentally leave the phone at home I am liable to have a panic attack.  In planning this trip, the main concern my travel companions had was about the quantity and quality of wi-fi, and part of me agrees.  Yes, I'm a total workaholic, yes, it will be good for me to separate myself from the gadgets for awhile.  However, like the emergency supply contents of my handbag, I feel safer knowing that if I need to connect, there's a way to do so.  Besides, this is a working trip anyway - part research, part vacation, but there will be lots of typing regardless.

What to bring?  The cell phone is a given - European number, linked to a credit card.  My own cell phone will stay off.  The question of computing was trickier, but I've settled on some sort of tablet - portable and capable of solid word processing, which is really all I need.  My iPod for the long journey portions of the trip.  Cameras.  Plural, which is kind of funny.  There's a camera on my cell phone, a camera on the tablet, my old point-and-shoot Nikon which I'll toss in the bottom of the suitcase in case the good camera fails me.  The good camera.

And a whole mess of cables and batteries and adapters to go with them.  I'm terrible when it comes to packing, but I'm hoping to adapt to traveling relatively lightly and condense some of these wires to a less ludicrous number. Luckily, half of them are Apple-based, which will make things easier.

Three weeks to go!  Ah, technology.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Do You Mean, Only One Bag???

A quick thought about ancient things as I was booking the last hotel this week.  While the missions have been around for much longer, most of Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, popped up about a hundred years ago.  Being an East Coast girl, a century is peanuts - if a building is not at least two hundred years old, I'm not impressed.  However, it doesn't take much to remind me that in comparison, our grand democracy is really not that old.  I booked a night at a family-run hotel in Salzburg for late in the trip, and the building itself dates back to 1365.  What's really impressive is that it's just a run of the mill hotel - no bells and whistles - but this little building in a small Austrian mountain town managed to survive in one form or another for almost seven hundred years.  That is definitely something to marvel at.

Speaking of marvels, one of the great wonders of the world will be watching me pack everything I need for a nineteen-day trip into one small duffel bag.  I am a spoiled traveler.  I like to be comfortable.  Camping means cabins and running water and electricity.  And I always overpack - turtle-like, I want to carry my home around with me at all times.  Oddly, once we're on the road, I don't mind getting lost, taking strange detours, or exploring, but I definitely want to know that if something goes wrong, somewhere in my bag is something that will set everything to rights.  However, since we're moving around a lot, packing light and smart is going to be essential.  A few tips I've come to hold dear:

1.  Passaporte, pasaje, y pista.  Passports, tickets, and money.  This is all you really need - everything else can be replaced or acquired without too much effort, but safeguard these three things.  Make copies of your passport (or take pictures), keep a copy of your itinerary separate, and don't put all your money in one place.

2.  It's all about the shoes.  The worst trips I've taken have involved poor footwear choices on my part.  Find something comfortable and sturdy that you don't mind getting wrecked on the journey, and make sure they're broken in before you head out.

3.  E-readers.  Ah, technology.  I can't go anywhere without a book or five.  Now I can carry 10,000!  Make sure your e-reader of choice is packed, along with all the proper chargers and adapters.

4.  Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, and Cheers.  No matter where you go, chances are nobody's going to mistake you for anything other than a tourist, but it doesn't hurt to learn a few words of the language of whatever country you're planning to visit.  You'll make a better impression and besides, it's just polite.  Slainte!

5.  Talk to people.  Half the point of traveling in the first place is to see the world from a different perspective.  Get out of the tour group mentality of just checking major sites off a list and talk to the people you meet - the owner of that B&B, the guy sitting next to you on the train, someone at the next table at the cafe.  You'll probably learn a lot from the people who actually live in the places you're visiting.  Go figure.

6.  Handbag 101.  For those of you with a handbag mentality, here's the contents of mine when I'm traveling - yes, it's ridiculous, but as I said, turtle:  wallet, passport/ID, itinerary, e-reader, charger, map/guidebook, camera, spare battery, hand wipes or Purell, tissues, Chapstick, sunglasses, Advil, Band-Aids, Neosporin, pen, paper, business cards, mini-flashlight, gum, hand lotion, cell phone, water bottle, granola bar, and sunscreen. Basically I could sustain a small country for a month on the contents of my bag.  If you're like me, go for travel size and invest in a couple of small, zippered bags to help contain the chaos.

We are just under a month away and there's still plenty to do - I need to buy train tickets from Vienna to Salzburg and back, need to consider my computing and camera options, and I need to start getting my messy apartment in order so that the cat sitter can actually find the cats.

Oh, and work.  Lots and lots of work.  Fun, fun, but it will definitely be worth it.