Blogging Plans

Well, I’ve been more or less planning to continue my blog, but I’ve decided to start a new one for specifically not-Ireland related posting. I may continue using this one for traveling, because I’ve got a pretty good theme going here.

I’ll be gradually transferring my non-Ireland stuff to my new blog, which can now be found at http://smileyfaceasylum.wordpress.com/

So update your bookmarks and prepare to read my fun stuff there. 😀

Home Sweet Home Sweet Home

I repeat: Home sweet home sweet home.

I’m home. I’ve been home for one full day now, plus a few hours on either end.

My (somewhat irrational) joy at being home has nothing to do with how much I did or did not like Ireland, because I loved Ireland. It was green and beautiful and I was constantly surrounded by Irishmen and beer. Ooh look! A military convoy! But nothing compares to the wonderfulness that is Minnesota, rain or shine, or more specifically snow. Minnesota’s in my blood, freezing January, April blizzards, and all. I wouldn’t trade my time in Ireland for any of those things, but I have never been so glad to see the Twin Cities as I was when  we flew over it. TFH or not.

For those of you unaware, because I may have just made TFH up, it means Trip From Hell.

We woke up at 5:15 AM in Galway. That’s just not a good way to start off a trip. TOO DAMN EARLY. (My apologies for my language. It just is way too early). After a drive during which my family members were constantly checking they were going the right way–which is why I travel nowhere without my GPS–we arrived at the Shannon Airport. Good, fine. No problems here. In fact, there really weren’t any problems until New York. Part of the reason there were no problems in Shannon? Soldiers.

That’s right guys. A planeful (plane-ful? plane full?) of US soldiers had a layover in Shannon. Which means, yup, uniforms. I was a very, very happy girl. Especially when one of them informed me that Les Mis was one of his favorite books. That was a good beginning. It got less good.

Well the flight to the US was a day flight. On a plane without TV screens in the back of the seat in front of you. I mean, wtf? You’re telling me that I have to watch whatever crap movie you’re going to play on one of those TVs that never works properly, all the while unable to play trivia? And I hate day flights. They kill me. Six or seven hours sitting on a plane is torture enough, but when you can just curl up and sleep, secure in your knowledge that it’s night (back home), makes it somewhat more bearable. But as I relinquished the window seat to my father and kept my assigned seat of the aisle, I was constantly jostled by everyone and their brother walking (constantly) up and down the aisle. See, I had been imaging the plane I flew over here on: Two aisles, so you only get hit 50% of the time. Nope. No dice.

Well, we land in JFK, fine. No problems there, we eat, and board our plane. Well, we taxi for a while and come to a stop and our friendly pilot comes on the intercom and says “There’s a bit of a backup here, we’ll be taxing for about twenty minutes.” Well okay, I guess I can deal with that. I’m just pleased to be on American soil again. Even if by “soil” you mean a plane. Well, we sit there and sit there and sit there and then our friendly pilot comes on again and says, “there’s still about twenty planes in front of us. I thought we’d be moving faster. It could be another half hour.” Okay, wait. I’m not  so okay with this. I am a one two hour flight away from Minnesota and then a four hour drive home. I’ve been awake since 5:15 AM, which is five hours earlier than you think it is, and I couldn’t sleep on my seven hour flight over here. I am not okay with this.

Interjection for a bit of information you may or may not know about me: I have Restless Leg Syndrome. I know it doesn’t sound too terribly bothersome, I mean, just shift about and you’ll be fine, right? WRONG. Nothing about RLS works that way. It’s like someone stabbing your legs with needles. It’s not a sharp pain  but it is a definite ache, and it is not good. And by this point, I hadn’t experienced it for about five months, but the night before we left, it started coming back, so I hadn’t slept too well the night before, and they’d bothered me for seven hours on the flight from Shannon, and now I’ve been sitting on a plane for almost eight hours. The most I can do is jiggle my leg and it’s not helping. I have six more hours before I can stop traveling. This is not okay.

Well, after over an hour (my father tells me it was 45 minutes, but he slept. I’m pretty sure it was over an hour, the plane finally took off. By this point I was ready to just chop off both of my legs and throw them at whoever runs Delta.

So nothing else too exciting happened. I was miserable with my legs for the rest of the trip, and I just wanted to go home. Which I finally got to, but it took far too long.

Conclusion: TFH.

But I’m home. And while I’d rather have walked from Galway to Hill City than take those flights, I survived.

There will be one more obligatory post about Ireland before I move on to much less interesting things. Such as my life.

Liebe Familie

So my family came to visit me in Ireland this past week. Meaning I am going to have to condense a week’s worth of shenanigans into one post, because I’m going home tomorrow!! which is a pretty big celebratory moment for me. I wants mah coffee and mah car.

Well I made them go to Kylemore Abbey first off, which I won’t post any pictures of because they’re all already up here. The only real difference is that it was rainy and the flowers had bloomed. Very pretty, but quite grey (and chilly). We discovered my father cannot take pictures, even with a super high tech camera that makes it difficult to take bad pictures. Shame.

Next stop was the Aran Islands, which are really quite beautiful, even if it was still raining and even colder. The weather was 70s and sunny. Then John and Sandy come and it gets rainy and cold. I blame them. But on another note: hello incredibleness. As someone who was not overly impressed with the Cliffs of Moher, I would like to offer this for your perusal. While not as high as the Cliffs, you can look over the edge. But it’s very windy, so I recommend lying down while doing so.

We hit up Dun Aengus, which was epic (and where the cliffs from the previous picture were), but unfortunately it was really foggy, so most of my distance pictures of it are just grey and you can kind of see maybe where it might possibly sort of be.

I pretty much insisted that we go see Newgrange because, c’mon guys, it’s Newgrange. You don’t get anything awesomer than that. It’s so awesome that, by the awesomeness bylaws, I am not required to keep proper grammar. It’s like 3000 years old, and older than both Stonehenge and the Pyramids, because these people were epic like that. And you know that’s what they were thinking while they were building it. It was nothing to do with winter solstices. They were all “We’ve got to beat the Brits and the Egyptians!!” Clearly.

So that picture is from a good distance away, as you can tell by all the little bitty people there. But you can also see the massiveness of Newgrange compared to the little bitty people there.

And I got so excited about telling everyone about Newgrange that I am disregarding the wibbly wobbly, timey wimey rules again. The tour, Mary Gibbons Tours I believe, left from Dublin, which means we got up very early and got on a very long bus ride to Dublin. And as the Queen was there, roads were shut down and there was something like 9000 extra Garda (throughout Ireland I’m assuming, not just Dublin… even though there well could have been). First off we hit up the Hill of Tara, which was pretty awesome because it figures prominently in most of Ireland’s mythological history. Cool things went down there.

All the buildings are long since gone, but the ridges and stuff apparently shows where they were. So pretty cool, overall. Our guide said that on a clear day (which it wasn’t, even if it wasn’t really raining at the time) you can see something like 2/3 of Ireland. Even so, the views were spectacular. And it was windy. Very, very windy.

That was pretty much all the tour was, just the Hill of Tara and Newgrange and a lot of history, which I was fine with, because I like history. But still, you know. Newgrange. People built that thing. By hand. By themselves. It probably took them something like fifty years, meaning that the people who started it very likely did not ever see it completed. They brought various stones from (I think) as far as 3 km away, which is a big deal when you don’t have pickup trucks, semis, or cranes. There’s a picture of my dad standing in front of Newgrange on facebook, and it’s waaaaay taller than him.

Okay, moving on. Next trip: Cork. Participants: John, Sandy, Chelsea, and Emma.

We wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone (and I’ll get to that, promise) but more exciting news first. We knew the Queen was in Ireland and that she was spending a few hours in Cork on the day we were there, so as we were walking to our B&B we saw a big part of the road blocked off and Sandy stopped to ask a Garda when she was supposed to be coming through. It wasn’t that big of a wait (even though it turned out to be. Queens sort of get to make their own timelines) so we found a barricade with no one standing at it and camped out for a while. The woman standing next to us was pretty awesome and told us all sorts of interesting things while we were waiting, including that part of the reason the Queen was late was because she decided she wanted tea. Seriously. She just decided she wanted tea, made her entire motorcade stop, and had some tea. Can you imagine the poor waitress (or waiter) in the shop she decided to stop at? Oh, by the way honey, I served the Queen of England tea today at work.

But after a while of watching more and more and more Garda show up, including the Garda equivalent of the FBI (seriously, they had the same dark blue/almost black jacket with yellow lettering on it). Something finally happened. A Garda on a motorcycle almost hit a pigeon. Poor thing looked terrified. Oh, you wanted to know the really cool thing that happened? I saw the Queen. That’s right. The Queen of England drove by. Well, she didn’t drive. And if you zoom way in on the picture, she’s practically looking right at the camera. I fangirled a little bit. I’ll be honest.

Well, then we wanted to leave, because it’s been like four hours, right? Well they wouldn’t open the gates and we could not figure out why. The Queen was on her way back to the airport, and it’s not like we could run fast enough to catch her. Well suddenly the Garda on the motorcycles who had been at the front of the motorcade came back and we were like, oh. Well okay.

But then back comes the Range Rover with the Queen. Heading the opposite direction. And somehow she’s still on the same side of the road as us. How does that work out? Conclusion: I’ve been to London twice and she hasn’t been at the Palace either time. Therefore: She had to drive by on my side twice to make up for it. WIN.

So I saw the Queen of England. In Cork. Randomly.

We knew she was going to be there, but not where she was going to be, or when she was going to be there. It was kind of epic.

All right, I need to wrap this up, because it’s getting monstrously long. So Blarney Castle. The stairs up to the Blarney Stone are terrifying. They’re spiral but super narrow and they have a rope running vertically along the center of the stairs to serve as a handrail. And as someone who gets a liiiiiiiittle bit claustrophobic, this was not an okay situation. I had my backpack with me (because we had to check out of our B&B that day) so the already tight corners were a little tighter. I do okay if I’m in a low room, but if the walls are very close to my shoulders, I am not okay. But I survived! Phew. You thought my ghost was writing this, didn’t you? Zombies are nowhere near as good at spelling or grammar than ghosts.

Well kissing the Blarney stone is scary. You are very high up, basically hanging over the edge of the ramparts with three rails below you and a guy holding onto you. And then he tells you to kiss the bottom stone. Which is, you know, low.

So that’s all of us, kissing the Blarney stone. I went all tourist and bought the “official” picture, complete with the certificate. Heh. Oh well, once in a lifetime, right?

Well, that’s pretty much the family adventures in Ireland. We’re going to spend a little time in Galway today (my last day!) I’m a little sad about leaving, but at the same time I am very ready to return to Minnesota and my home sweet home.

You’ll get the obligatory blog post written immediately upon my return (once I wake up) and the also obligatory reflective blog post within a few weeks of my return.

One last final note: Minnesota senators and representatives, I am completely ashamed of every single one of you who voted in favor of the amendment. This proposed constitutional amendment is completely unconstitutional and who gave you the right to determine who is allowed to marry? When did part of being an elected official include the “duty” to determine who is allowed to love each other?

Torchwood Three, Cardiff

I’ve been a poor blogger of late. I’ve been quite busy with traveling and packing and (believe it or not!) writing. So, in order to have the proper blog post come Monday, I’ll throw up a couple over the next few days.

I went to Cardiff (a few weeks ago) now. To be honest, I went entirely because of Torchwood and Doctor Who. In that regards: Cardiff is not a let down, especially as a Torchwood fan, where they don’t have to pretend they’re not in Cardiff. However, most of the stuff that you want to see around Cardiff is actually outside the city limits, so if you’re visiting just the city, two days is probably enough, to be honest. If you want to see some of the abbeys and churches around, give yourself a week or so and make sure you know how to get where you want to get. It sounds like the bus and rail system works pretty well.

But anyway, the hostel we stayed at was incredible. It was River House Backpackers and it was incredible and nice and cheap. However, whoever told them that sewing the pillowcase into the sheet was okay was crazy. I didn’t know what to do with my arms if I couldn’t put them under the pillow! They had a great breakfast and the first night we were there they had a little meet-and-greet type thing with chips and drinks for the people in the hostel.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. These things didn’t happen in that order, even though we know that time is a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff. (Kudos to anyone who catches that reference. If not, I’ll give you a hint: It’s related to the reason I went to Cardiff in the first place.)

Kim and I went to the Millennium Centre first. It’s featured in a lot of Torchwood stuff, being, as it is, directly across from the Hub. It’s a big theater place, with lots-o-cool stuff to buy. Including an awesome postcard that actually says “Torchwood Tower” on it. Which I bought. For me. Not for anyone else. Straight across from the awesomeness that is the Millennium Centre (I cannot spell millennium to save my life!) was this. Yes, my friends, this is Torchwood Tower, the secret entrance to the Hub.

Basically, cue a weekend of geeking out. So much Doctor Who. We took a walk down Roald Dahls Plass, where some of the Torchwood stuff takes place and down by the bay, which is really quite beautiful. This paragraph is more to eat up space than tell you anything useful about the trip, because I want to post another picture and I don’t want these to get too out of line.

Anyway, back to the wibbly wobbly, timey wimey progression. At the meet-and-greet type thing I was telling you about, we met this lovely group of people. And went out for a drink with them that night at a lovely pub our hostel recommended to us. Another thing that hostel is good at: recommendations. Lovely people work there.

Cardiff is also pretty well known for these… well, basically they’re indoor market places/shops. Those are well worth spending some time in, even if you don’t want to buy anything. There’s a lovely little cafe called Minuet which is great for anybody with even a passing interest in classical music. Word on the street is the first ever record shop is in one of them. They’ve got tons of music stores and jewelry shops. It’s great, basically.

The second day we went to Cardiff Castle (where Jack was buried when his brother kidnapped him and made John bury him alive to torture him for losing Grey when they were children. Very, very dramatic). It’s a gorgeous castle, complete with a WWII-era bomb shelter. They used the walls as bomb shelters, which apparently worked pretty well. However, if you’re afraid of heights (or like me, do just fine until you realize that you have to come back down) don’t go all the way up into the Keep. The stairs are okay at first and then they just end up tiny and spiral and it is very very very high. My legs were shaking by the time I got back down. Phew.

Another entrance to Torchwood (the one they usually use) is through the Tourist Office. It looks like this in the show: The dock alongside it really exists, but they’ve blocked it off and it’s become a shrine to Ianto. Which is probably the greatest thing ever. If you take my blog literally, there are a lot of things that are the greatest ever. That’s why you never believe everything a writer says. We’re natural lairs, and we do it quite well.

So: Cardiff wrap up–very beautiful city, lots of Doctor Who/Torchwood stuff, but most of the really pretty stuff is beyond city limits, so make sure you have time to get there. Three days is almost too much in the city and way too little to go anywhere else. Wales is wonderful though. Smells like Minnesota after it rains.

La Serenissima

For those not in the know, that was one of Venice’s names. I think another accurate name is “The City of the Confusing Directions.” Goodness gracious, it’s impossible to find anything there. I suppose Venetians wouldn’t have a problem, but Meghan and I averaged about two hours for our must-see locations. That’s not counting the actual “seeing” time.

Our flight left at an ungodly early time, and the bus to Dublin (where our plane would be) was at an even more ungodly hour. We left Dunaras at midnight, caught our bus at one AM and tried to catch some sleep between bus rides and flights. I might have gotten maybe four hours. Fortunately, traveling to a city like Venice grants the traveler all sorts of magical powers–namely the ability to go without sleep until nightfall.

Upon arrival, we decided to find our hostel and drop off our stuff, then spend most of that day just walking around and getting used to the city. After about two hours of wandering we found it. I’m blaming that on our directions telling us to turn at a bookshop… there was not a bookshop. I don’t know where they got that idea. But we stayed at Residenza Corte Canal-Ca’Dario and if you’re ever planning on budget-traveling to Venice, it’s incredible. Breakfast, the best coffeemaker ever, and not many people competing for one bathroom–at least where we were. And once we found it, it wasn’t far from wherever we wanted to be, and about five minutes from the bus station.

We didn’t really know what we wanted to see in Venice, and all I knew was that I wanted to see the Fenice Opera House, which was featured in a book I love, City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. I need to reread it, now that I’ve been there. So we really just walked through the city, mostly just wandering and turning when we saw an alleyway or something that looked interesting.

On our travels, Meghan spotted the Guinness harp and wanted to take a picture, so we walked up to it, and I glanced through the window and saw, roughly, this. Yep. They were watching hockey in a bar (or pub? What do you call them in Italy?) in Venice. So Meghan and I decided to go in and watch the game. Around the end of the game, a couple came up to me (Meghan had briefly gone off at this point) and asked me where we were from. We chatted and it turned out that they were also from the US, further south. They gave me their Minnesota story–it was where they’d gotten their dog, which they named Dakota. 🙂 So we had a nice chat with them about traveling in Italy, and they seemed to really enjoy meeting Americans abroad, which I can certainly understand. Sometimes there’s nothing like hearing another American accent when you’re abroad.

We went to bed really early that night, being as we hadn’t slept since two night’s previous (keep in mind that a couple hours of sleep on a bus and flight hardly count as actual sleep) and ended up sleeping for twelve hours. The next day we succeeded in getting extremely lost while searching for the opera house. But getting lost in Venice is not a bad idea at all. In fact, if any of my readers decide to dash off to Venice, I recommend getting lost. Some of the prettiest sights we saw came as a result of getting lost. Including this. Photographs cannot accurately show the beauty of this city.

But we continued wandering around and hit up Piazza San Marco and saw St. Mark’s Basilica, which grants its name to the piazza. The American couple we talked to told us about Harry’s Bar, where Hemingway apparently did a lot of his writing, so we decided to see that. We’ll just say that finding that took a lot longer than finding either our hotel or the opera house, but we did take a long break in order to eat and do this. That’s us on a gondola ride. 😀 100 Euros, but well worth it. So relaxing! And we didn’t tip over, which we were a little worried about. All the big(er) boats on the canal with their motors. Sheesh.

Eventually we found the bar and took some pictures, then returned to our wandering, which consisted mostly of me taking pictures of places like Burberry, Versace, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and the like. Places that have things I really want but could not afford. Meghan and I had more or less determined that while in Venice, we eat a large lunch and then have coffee and gelato for supper, because why not? My coffee the second day was heavenly. That dark band on the bottom is a solid quarter inch of melted chocolate, and the rim is covered in sugar crystals and more chocolate. If I could somehow make this on my own, I would have it every day. Wow. Just wow. Then we headed back to the hotel/hostel/thing for a little while.

We headed back out into Venice for sunset. Which is another one of those worthwhile things I suggest you do. The canals are beautiful in the sun, but they’re gorgeous at night, reflecting all of the lights. We didn’t get to see this the first night because we went to bed before the sun had even completely gone down. I am not kidding you, it probably wasn’t even dusk before we gave up and fell asleep.

We headed back early the next day, as we had a ten AM flight back. However, because when the Europeans strike, they do it right, we didn’t get on until eleven AM. We thought we weren’t getting on until two, and the flight to Stansted wasn’t supposed to go anywhere until four, but the strike ended early. However, being stranded at Treviso Airport is not  a fun experience. Nothing about that airport is fun. If you go to Venice, just pay the extra money and go to Marco Polo. But seeing this on the flight back was almost worth it.

The Alps.

Seeing them sort of shows why people had so many difficulties crossing them in the past. I mean they just don’t look very friendly, do they?

Once we made it back to Dunaras, I fell asleep at eight and woke up at four AM to catch my bus to Dublin for the trip to Cardiff, which you will hear about later.

London Take Two, Part The Final

I should have gotten this up way earlier, but as I’m leaving for Venice tomorrow I figured I’d better get this going. Final day in London we spent mostly just wandering around. I have my own royal borough. Yaaay me.  I have to share with Kensington, but I guess that’s okay. We hit up Portobello Market where parts of Notting Hill were filmed. And to prove it, because for some reason I might lie on here. For all you know, I never was in London. It’s all an elaborate hoax to make you think I’m way cooler than I am. Maybe I don’t even have a birth certificate. (Did you see that little jab there?) I got a little distracted from my proof. Okay, here comes the proof. Notting Hill. With the same font from the movie. Which I’d never really seen before, so I watched it when we got home.

We spent a lot of that day in Kensington Park/Gardens and Hyde Park. Kensington Park wasn’t that impressive. It was large, and green, sure. But I like ones with cool landscaping and stuff. St. James was probably my favorite in that regard.  Kensington Gardens were gorgeous, but very small. One cool thing did happen in Kensington though. We met Ken. He was pretty interested in Emma’s peanuts, so we shared. He ate out of both our hands. It was adorable. A family and their kids were watching us. The kids wanted our squirrel. We kept him though. Well, kept him until we got up to leave, which wasn’t too long after we fed him.

From there we saw the Princess Diana Memorial in Hyde Park. It only took us like an hour of wandering around to find it. We didn’t really realize how large both Hyde and Kensington were. I mean sheesh. You could probably pack all of park-going London into the two of them and still have elbow room.

I’m really quite fond of Diana. I think it has to do with my family, probably. I recall them liking her, anyway. From there we flew home, got back to Galway at ridiculously early hours, and dropped into bed.

Next update could be either four days or a week away. I’ll leaving Galway for Venice at midnight, I’ll be back on the sixth, and leaving for Cardiff on the seventh. So you’ll get lots-o-updates after that.

My Favorite Reactions To Today’s News

So by now we all know that bin Laden’s been killed. But there will be enough people talking about whether that was a good or bad thing and what it means that he was found in Pakistan. I’m not here for that. I’m definitely not here to argue morality, which I’m bad at anyway. I’m here for sharing my favorite reactions to the news.

“Harry Potter is a champ: ‘Osama Bin Laden is confirmed dead on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. Coincidence?'”
We got him in time to save the Millennium Bridge. Way to go, guys.

The BBC news anchor mentioned the Navy SEALs had “licenses to kill.”
James Bond has successfully completed another mission. Cue theme.

“World champion of the longest hide-and-seek game.” “How long was Voldemort in hiding?” “Eleven years?” “He won.”
It all comes back to Harry Potter, guys. Always.

“The Americans found a way to top the Royal Wedding.”
Eh, you know. We do what we can.

A collection of different companies/thinks I’ve liked on Facebook: “Breaking News: Chuck Norris back home from Pakistan vacation”
“I seriously hope they hit Osama bin Laden with balefire. Don’t want him coming back.” (Wheel of Time reference)
“Congratulations, America!!!” (From a DCI corps… that explanation was a little redundant, really)

“So it’s finally been done. Osama Bin Laden’s horcruxes have been destroyed. The prophecy fulfilled.”
I told you. It’s always Harry Potter. This situation doesn’t really lend itself well to Lord of the Rings. I’ve tried.

“It’s kinda like the One Ring has been destroyed… but there’s still a bunch of angry orcs out there.”
I challenge you for a Lord of the Rings reference, and I get it. Thank you.

From Jeff Dunham’s facebook: “Walter: We got Bin Laden! Donald Trump is asking for his long form death certificate…”
“Achmed: Osama Bin Laden has reportedly been killed… welcome to the club, bro.”

And I’ll leave you with my favorite picture and a clip. Hopefully a clip.

SorryOkay, and honestly, it’s a good time to remember all the people killed on September 11th and the terrorist attacks following, as well as those killed or injured in the war. But nobody says you can’t remember and honor them with a little bit of humor, right?

Edit: My apologies, I keep seeing new things and remembering things I should have added. I’ll try not to spam facebook with these updates.

Edit again: If anyone is following this as I update, I’ll just keep adding the updates onto the end, above the video.