Sunday, September 25, 2005

Saddle Sore

I awoke the next morning early and in surprisingly fine shape. It was my last day in Killarney and I wanted to make the most of it.
The night before, Haim (the Israeli) and I had talked about renting bikes and visiting Ross Island and the medieval Ross Castle, as well as Muckross House (giant Victorian manor), and the Muckross National Park. We invited a few others to join us, but the only taker was Pete, the Aussie.
We rented bikes from the Sugan for 10 euros for the day. None of us had a bike that fit: mine was way to small, and I spent the day bent over the handle bars (and feeling the full weight of my breasts), Pete's (who is a teeny little super guy) was waaaay to big, ect. And we all felt a little like the Von Trapps riding around the countryside singing (matching clothes made out of drapes would've been cool).
Together, we headed out for Ross Island where we toured the coastline, stopped for a snack, and chatted with a few strangers.
Ross Island looked a lot like Wenatchee National Forest, with huge green trees, evergreens, hilly, and so peaceful, but there was almost no undergrowth-- just dead leaves and dirt on the ground (think Sherwood Forest in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).
We then headed to Muckross House and the national park. Now, it had been some time since I was on a bike, let alone for such distances and my ass was already starting to complain (and no, not flatulently). The whole undercarriage was sore and in pain. Everytime I dismounted, or worse, got back on my bike, shards of pain leaped from my groin up and down my legs and back. And, to make matters worse, my knees (completely blown out from years of athletic abuse) were cracking at every incline. But, I was traveling with two strapping young lads and there was no way in hell I was about to complain or turn back-- not just yet.
We stopped at Muckross abbey (which is completely skippable), and passed the manor for a hike up a large, steep waterfall. We lunched on a small cliff half way up an even larger, uneven stone stair (think Seven Years in Tibet).
Pete had been waiting all day to dig into his sausage, hashbrown, butter baguette (which had coagulated into a brown, greasy mush). After tossing that to the birds, and finishing off our candy bars, we climbed the rest of the way up the stair to what we thought would be the top of the waterfall. Not so. We had overshot the damn thing and there really wasn't anything but the beginnings of a creek to gawk at. Dommage.
After the waterfall, we made our way back to the bikes (waiting patiently for us at the bottom of the trail-- actually far away from the bottom of the waterfall trail, but that is a longer story) filling the time with a debate about whether Truman should've dropped the bombs, and the physical and psychological differences of sex on men and women (I think we came up with a some really effective solutions to much of the world's problems that afternoon).
I had really wanted to tour Muckross House, I had heard some amazing things about it, and I really like that sort of thing, but the boys had no desire and wanted to check out the Meeting of the Waters, which is where three large I decided to join them for a few reasons, but the most important being that Muckross doesn't offer discounts to students over 18 (!), and admission was 5.50 euro!
But, alas, as we headed to the 'meeting' my knees began to grind and I had to stop and walk up a couple hills. Now, I am sure that had it not been a rented bike, had I spent some time on a bike recently, and perhaps, not climbed and then descended down the waterfall's Tibetan stair before making it that far, I would've been okay, but that was not the case and I was losing speed. Fast. The guys were great, very patient and showed no signs of frustration at my crybaby whimperings, and we made it back to town in about an hour instead of the 30 minutes it normally takes.
That night, we met up with several others from the Sugan and hit the clubs/pubs. More drunken hours spent in the street talking about nothing-- this time with three Dubliners instead of Germans, and some really white trash Aussie girl.

And with that, kiddies, takes us to my vacation from my vacation.

Overheard in Ireland:

old man with cane walking along path: Yes, (Angelina Jolie) damn sure is (hot).
overheard at Ross Castle

Israeli to Aussie: so, Harrison with pierced ear and The Fugitive beard walk into a bar with a Snickers bar in one hand, and Reese Witherspoon in the other...
overheard several times throughout the day

Too easy, but I walk around inapropriately spurting this quote at really dramatic moments:
"I have a brother? I have a brother!"
5 pts for full name of brother and actor that played him

Friday, September 23, 2005

Killarney: the biggest little town on Earth

Day One:

I left Cork for Killarney the next day after Blarney Castle. The German girl I had met at Blarney had recommended a good hostel in town and I easily found it from the bus station. It is the famous Sugan Backpacker's hostel. It was amazing! It's in one of Killarney's oldest buildings-- and is certainly the town's oldest hostels. It felt more like a base camp lodge than a tourist retreat. The ceilings are low and musty, with mugs hanging from the rafters and the most eclectic collection of photos hanging from the walls (tribes from various continents, children, former guests and employees, ect.), and there is always some kind of very groovy music playing in the background.
All of the rooms at the Sugan are dorms and all of the bathrooms shared. And when I walked into mine (6 bed female), I was greeted by my German friend. She was sleeping in the bed next to mine-- bizarre coincidence! *shrug*
She was leaving from Kerry Airport to get back to Frankfurt and would be around town for a few days. We went to Murphy's Pub that night to listen to a small trio play traditional Irish music and grab a couple of beers. That was the first night/time I actually went to a pub in Ireland. Looks of shock and surprise may be crossing your faces right now, I have, afterall, been here for 12 days now; but where I come from, girls don't go out to bars by themselves-- and I've just never been that brave. So, yes, pub+ beer+ 3 old guys playing "O Danny Boy" (one of whom slipped my friend his number!): fun was had by all.

Day Two:

The next day the two of us signed up for a Ring of Kerry bus tour. The Ring of Kerry is a tourist trail in County Kerry. The route covers the 110 miles of road, starting from Killarney around the Iveragh peninsula; it passes through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. Touristic attraction points are, among others, Muckross House (near Killarney), Staigue Fort and Derrynane House, home of Daniel O'Connell*.
The ring can be done in several hours or several days. We took the 6 hour tour, and thanks to some awful weather, spent most of that time on the bus:( Our driver and guide was James Sullivan from County Kerry. When he wasn't talking into the microphone, he was singing little ditties to himself. The day cost 14.50 euros with student discount (or special discount available to Sugan guests), and does not include lunch-- although the bus does stop at a pub for a quick tour of a bog village and 5 euros Irish coffees(!), a cafeteria, and, later, the little village of Sneem. Despite the weather, I had a good time: beautiful views, some really nice people on the bus with us, and I took some amazing pictures (which will probably not be uploaded for several days).
When we returned, I went down to the internet cafe where I paid 4 euro/ hour (holy fuck!) to check e-mails and let the family know I was alive. Sadly, outside of the big cities, where I was paying around 4 euros for 5 hours, that is the average price charged per hour.
As that night was her last in Ireland, she wanted to go down to O'Connells pub for some more music and beer. There, we ran into a group of guys from the Sugan: an Israeli, an Australian, a Kiwi, and 3 Germans-- one of which had a four foot fire baton he later took out into the alley and began dancing with. After the pub closed around 11, we went to an after hours dance club (the only thing open at that hour).
The fire twirling, dreadlocked German was eager to talk politics (blech!),** but another good time was had by all, and I met some of my roomies.
Much, much later that night, myself, the Israeli, the Australian, and 2 of the Germans stand in the street, drunk and drinking, and very loudly talking about nothing at all important.

Overheard in Ireland

drunk man being photographed: Think Viagra!

overheard in O'Connel's Pub by one of two young girls he was being photographed with

old guy with sharp teeth: I'm Jesus Christ, would you like to meet my mother Mary?

overheard in O'Connel's Pub

*Thanks Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.
**For future reference, if any of you would like to debate American politics with me, be sure that you 1) can speak the language well enough to both understand what I am saying and respond accordingly, and 2) know just as much as you do about American politics as you do about the English Language, 3) acknowledge that I am under no obligation to agree with you. Ever.
***Fire Twirler in photo is not dread-headed German guy

A Vacation From My Vacation

Tonight, I am in the town of Dingle, on the Dingle Pennisula, in County Kerry. I am taking a break. I am posting on all that has happened to me in the last few days (and that is quite a lot), so scroll down to read about each day's adventures.
I got here, today, after a very long and nauseating bus ride. I was exhausted from a night of drunkness and little sleep-- which I wasn't able to catch up on on the bus; it was completely packed and not at all comfortable. I arrived with no room reservations-- or even the name of a hostel or B&B, as I had planned to continue on to the tiny village of Dunquin for the night. Buses to Dunquin only run twice each week and only once each of those days-- neither of which is today. So, after my long, cramped bus ride, I was forced to carry my sack around town looking for a room. The tourist office was little help and it's the start of a weekend: not a lot of vacancies. Finally, I decided to walk into the 'luxury' hotel I kept passing. The idea of spending a large sum of money on a room for the night was becoming more and more appealing as my sack was becoming more and more heavy.
Now, I walked into that place looking like a nightmare; I was wearing dirty clothes, greasy hair, my sack and jacket covered in mud (it had been raining all day), and I was greeted with a giant, sincere smile and welcomed into their lobby. I am still unable to account for this. In the states, if I had walked into...well, most establishments looking like I did, I would have not been well received, let alone welcomed with open arms. But for the nicest hotel in the town to treat me like they did was amazing-- even before they knew whether or not I was seriously inquiring about the room.
I am paying 150 euros for one night. I have a soft, cushy double bed with several feather pillows, and ironed (!) linens*. There is a giant jacuzzi tub, which I have already put to use, in the bathroom I have all to myself. Should I feel the need, room service is available for a ridiculous amount of money, and the pub downstairs serves guests of the hotel complimentary drinks and reduced prices for desserts.
I am taking a luxury vacation from my backpacker's vacation. No hostel for me tonight, I just ate a 30 euros dinner-- which, not incredibly expensive, but when compared to the other meals I've had on this trip (the most expensive having been 11 euros), it was quite the feast (started off with a crab and avacado salad, had fish and chips as my entree, and apple crumble a la mode for dessert)! Tonight, I will return to my room (no roomies for me) as loudly as I would like, and take one more long, hot shower before getting into bed and...wait for it...WATCHING TV! That's right, kiddies, I have tv in my room, and while the only thing interesting that's on right now is Hurricane Rita coverage, this is the first time since May that I've watched tv.
This is the best vacation from a vacation ever!

*I love ironed linens

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hang in there, Baby

The online man of my dreams is going through...something. As I am unable to lend a helping hand, shoulder to cry on, bosom to weep into ;), to him, I say this:

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Blarney Stone: I kissed it.

Yesterday, I slept in until about noon. I am trying to rest up and fight this cold, but am currently losing. :(
I decided to go to Blarney Castle, kiss the Blarney stone and return to Cork for a some more site seeing. Except that after a only a few hours of walking around Blarney, I was exhausted, and had to return to the hostel to take a nap. I was awakened by a woman moving in (damn, no more room all to myself-- I hate sharing).

Blarney Castle was cool, but it was torrential down pour and very cold. Yeah! The grounds were so beautiful and electric green, with crazy looking trees, caves, druid rock type things, and very fun to explore, but don't forget your umbrella (or your flashlight-- for the caves and dungeons). The bus ride from Cork to Blarney was about 30 minutes, and round-trip cost 4.90 euros. Not bad, however, admission to the castle and grounds-- for a student-- cost 5 euros! I am still on the fence as to whether or not it's actually worth it. *shrug*
As I was walking to the castle, I met a girl from Germany (with an Irish accent-- of course), who was also headed to the castle. We hung out for the day and it was nice to have a buddy to walk around with. Her English is quite exceptional and we had a good time. After days of hanging out by myself, the company was a welcomed change.

While in Cork, I stayed at Sheila's Hostel. It is nice enough with internet, a mini cinema, a big communal kitchen, a sauna (?), and a lot of clean rooms. I stayed in a 4 bed dorm ensuite for which I was only paying 14 euro/night. It is close to the Cork city center, and near many other shops and restaurants. The front desk staff was welcoming and was able to get me set up with travel info., including bus timetables, maps, places of interest, ect. Sheila's is a great hostel; my only complaint is that the only laundry services available cost 6 euro. One can't do their own laundry (no public facilities and the bathroom sinks are too small), but must pay the staff to do it for you. There is one laundromat in town-- far, far away from Sheila's. Also, breakfast is not included with the price of your room.

Cork has a lot to offer in terms of restaurants. There are many fast food joints, a wide array of ethnic cuisine, and even cafeterias. One I rather liked was The Gingerbread House. It came highly recommended from a staff member at Sheila's and I would say it is the most rockin' cafeteria I've ever been in. The food is good, and comparable to most fast food. Everything from pizza to quiche, tarts and custards, to a traditional Irish breakfast for under 5 euro.

Overheard in Ireland:

old woman in front seat of bus: it has chicken and turkey in it.
bus driver: but it's meat. What is it: chicken or turkey?
old woman: both-- you put it in the microwave. I never cook anymore, I always use my microwave. 4 euro at Dunnes, not bad for chicken and turkey.
bus driver: but which is it? That is a whole piece of meat-- it can't be both?
old woman: it's chicken and turkey-- it's for the microwave.
old woman #2: I love my microwave, Shelley gave it to me.

20 pts. for film title:
"My little brother got his arm stuck in the microwave. So my mom had to take him to the hospital. My grandma dropped acid this morning, and she freaked out. She hijacked a busload of penguins. So it's sort of a family crisis."

This is one of my all time favorite movies. I will give you a hint: "I want my two dollars."

Wearing my house.

Things I brought with me and can't use:
My iPod. It is broken and with it, I brought a cord to charge it, headphones and remote.
My cell phone. It should work. It is a European phone with Tri Band and a universal calling plan. But it doesn't.
My laptop. The battery is dead (didn't bring my spare), and I can't charge it for reasons unbeknownst to me (and the guys at the Apple Center).
My flip flops. They are leather and I can't wear them in the shower. Also, it's freezing outside and not sandal weather.
My beloved Air Rifts. I love these shoes so much, but refuse to wear shoes that my toes stick out of in public (however, I can't bring myself to throw them away and have tied them to the outside of my sack).

Things I brought with me and don't need but have used anyway:
My gortex jacket. It is a little bulky to carry around in case of rain (and I also brought my umbrella), but it is earning its keep as a neck pillow/blanket for those long bus rides.
My sleeping bag. I love, love my sleeping bag. And while I've been provided with sheets every where I've stayed, I prefer the warmth and comfort of my, I mean sleeping bag.
My leather driving loafers. I wore them over on the plane because I like to dress nicely when I travel, but they are now squished into the bottom of my sac and I don't anticipate a need for them until I fly out again. Oh, I dunno. Maybe I'll wear them shopping in Dublin.

Things I wish I hadn't brought with me:
Full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body gel. Travel size would have sufficed.
My beach towel. A hand towel would have sufficed.
Lysol brand wet wipes. They suds up your hands which actually creates more problems as I use them when I don't have access to water. Stick to brands you know and trust.
My Philosophy Skin Care line. It's bulky and because of all of the stress and changing environments/weather, my skin has broken out anyway. Cleansing cloths would have been more practical.

Things I wish I had brought:
Cold medicine. That's right, kiddos. Serena is sick. I have a mild fever, am coughing, sneezing and exhausted. Also, my sinus and ears are killing me. And, because I take medicine that doesn't like to play well with others, it is difficult to find over the counter remedies (apparently impossible in Ireland where all products are made from the one drug I can't have-- or so says the pharmacist).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Waterford by Bus

Breakfast at the Mayor Walk B&B is served promptly at 8:30 a.m. Don't expect to come waltzing in at a quarter to 9, because it won't be there. This morning I ate with a couple from northern Idaho-- who actually seemed pretty normal (no white hoods or extra toes), and a couple from France. We had sausage, bacon (thinly sliced ham steaks), and eggs. I was out the door shortly thereafter.
As it was Saturday morning-- early Saturday morning, no one was on the cobblestone streets of Waterford as I made my way past the walled garden of the Presbyterian/Methodist Church (a combination I never thought I'd see), through the city square, past the closing United Colors of Benetton, or onto the Quay. There were a few locals setting up for the Saturday market, but just nuns selling bread, and a ponytailed thinman wearing a wolf t-shirt and selling his wood-carved dragons, crystals, and role-playing game cards.
I caught the 3 bus to the Waterford Crystal factory. The route starts out in front of Kelly's Fine Clothing Department Store for Women, and loops the town every 20 mins. or so. It is a great way to see the town-- even if you have no particular destination. I was the only female on the bus, I was also the only person on the bus (including the driver) under 60 years old. I was greeted with bigs smiles and a couple of winks. At the next stop, another old man gets on and proceeds to greet everyone on the bus. They are all on a first name basis. As we continue through the route, people get on and off, greeting each other and saying farewells. They also talk about people they see walking on the street:
-"Oh, there's Peter, there. Do you see he's got himself a new cane?"
~"I did! He was showin' it off down the pub last night."
-"You know, she used to be a pretty lady, but I much prefer her daughter these days"

It was so cute. Waterford isn't a tiny village, it is an large town with shopping centers, and a strong economy, but it felt so quaint and everyone on the bus wished me luck and told me they hoped I enjoyed my tour of the factory as I left!

Unfortunately, the tour of the factory was more like on of those "luncheons" you have to attend while to get that free weekend in Vail.
Sure, you get to go through the factory, but at every stop, the guide made a point to sell-- even the craftsmen had memorized a bit, telling us to make sure to stop by the gallery and pick out something pretty to keep them in the job. Ick.
But, with my student ID I only paid 4 euro, and I did have fun seeing the town.
Then, I headed back to the Quay to catch the bus to Dunmore East. This is a tiny village in County Waterford. It is a fishing village with a beach, a park, a church, and not much else. But it is so beautiful and there weren't any tourists-- it was almost as if the town couldn't support any kind of tourism. It is that small. It is also very green, the water is very blue and the surrounding rocks, cliffs, and beach staggeringly beautiful. Today was warm and the sun was shining, so I played on the beach, picnicked on the cliffs, and talked to locals. My bus driver there and back was named Percy. Percy had to be about 80 years old, and like most of the inhabitants of Dunmore East, was more difficult for me to understand, than anyone I've ever heard speaking in French. Even in Waterford I've encountered some strong accents, but today was the worst. I felt like a complete idiot, because I had to ask people to repeat themselves several times.
While on the beach-- in my new suede PUMAS (I think I'll regret that one later), I made friends with a couple who lived across the water in Wexford County, and a little boy who was running around the beach completely naked, playing with his big, black dog. Now, it was sunny and warm out, but the water was freezing cold-- even the wet sand was cold (hence the PUMAS), but this kid was begging his mom, "Ma? MMMAAAAA! I want to go in the water with the boats!" His little bum and hands and feet were covered in mud, and he was so happy splashing in the tidal pools.
Tomorrow, I am making my way to Cork and hopefully, good weather and luck will follow:)
I am still having problems with my side bar, I don't know how to pull it back up from the bottom of the page, and I still can't post any of my pictures. But, stay tuned.

One of my favorite websites is Overheard in New York. Today, I bring you Overheard in Ireland:

Tour Guide: Are you Catholic?
Tourist: No, we're American

-- heard in Christ Church Cathedral

Man on street talking to buddies: It's called Ciallis or something like that. It's like the other one, but is supposed to work for days instead of hours.

--heard in Dunmore East.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Waterford City, Waterford County

I am in Waterford City in Waterford County, Ireland. It is a small little place and because it's off season, there aren't a lot of tourists (Yea!). I rolled into town today with no reservations and no idea of how long I wanted to stay. My bus ticket from Dublin was 10.50 euros for a 3 hour trip. I was pleasantly surprised with the bus: clean, speedy, and cool-- as in, not hot. From the depot, I crossed the street to the tourism office. They called the one b&b in town in my price range (there are no hostels here, but I am only paying 26 euro [!] for my room-- and it's pretty nice-- not pretty, but nice). They booked a reservation for me and I walked up the hill and through town to check in. I am set to leave on Sunday and between then and now, I will go to the Waterford Crystal factory, another little coastal town (the name escapes me), and explore this one.
In other news, I bought a pair of PUMAs today. My wonderful camel-toed Nikes are showing their age and will not make the rest of the trip. I paid 80 euro-- which is waaaayyyyy more than I would've paid in the US or even Paris, but that's my own fault for not replacing my beloved shoes sooner.
The power cord for my laptop is not working-- I don't know why, but it is quite possible I fried it when I plugged it into the outlet at my hostel in Dublin last night. Dommage. Now my battery is close to dead and I can't use my precious. I am trying to check out all of your sites as usual, but for some reason, my links and side column are not showing up on this cafe's computers? Do they not normally show up for all of you? Anyway, I am reading along when I can. And as soon as my precious is up and running again, I will post pictures.
Also, if it is the beginning of Fall in Paris, it is the dead of Winter in Ireland! It is bitingly cold and rainy and miserable.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Part One: I’m Baaaaaaaaaccckkkk.

I haven’t posted anything for a while because last week was my last one in Paris. *tear* And instead of packing, preparing, and doing all of the things I didn’t get done during the summer; I played tour guide for some visiting friends. It was fun—but exhausting. We visited several sites each day and my digital camera was stolen.
Last Friday, the girls’ first day in Paris, we saw almost everything there is to see in this great city. We started at the l’Arc de Triomphe, walked down the length of the Champs Elysée (where the girls had their very first authentic Parisian café experience), stopped by the Place de la Concorde for pictures, crossed the street to the Seine for (more) pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Alexandre III bridge, the re-crossed the street and the Place de la Concorde to the Madeline Church by way of some very expensive window shopping (Hèrmes, Chanel, Dior, Valentino, ect.). It was there—at the church, that I set down my camera to consult my guidebook. We were headed to the Opera next and I wanted to make sure we took the shortest route possible (it had been a long day of walking thus far). I got up and left with my guidees, but left mon appareil de photo resting on the seat. When I returned for it, it was gone. This sucked for several reasons: 1.) It was one of a very few gifts from my father I actually like, 2.) It will take several weeks for insurance to replace it, 3.) I had to go to the Police Commisariat to fill out a police report for my insurance claim, which wasn’t awful, but finding the damn place took about 2 hours or walking around the same city block over and over again. 4.) I was broke and had no way of replacing it myself before I left for Ireland (Captain Obvious says: “leaving you without a camera for your big trip!”)
“Why was I broke?” you might ask. Well, because my financial aid had been spent on a program I was not participating in. I am an exchange student. I pay normal tuition—unlike study abroad students who pay for special programs (which tend to be much, much more expensive).
That night, we also filled two and half hours with 2 days worth of art at the Louvre, went to Trocadero and had kir while waiting for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle. It was the first time I'd seen sparkle-- and Trocadero is the best spot to watch it. We got home around 2 a.m. and were up early the next day for more.
All of my money woes were all taken care of on Tuesday before I left. I had sent a rather seething e-mail to my financial aid officer letting her know that I was close to panhandling in the metros, and that I needed my money pronto. It was waiting in my bank account Tuesday morning. So, after seeing the girls off (to London), I headed to the FNAC digital…and I bought the most amazing toy in the world. It is a Casio EXLIM It weighs less than my cell phone, is about as long and thin as my index finger, and the screen is almost twice the size of my old one! Yea! Toys! It came with a 5 year warranty, extra lithium battery, memory card (512mb SD). It is 5 mega pixels—3 for film. I am still learning how to use it, but I really, really love it.
I also took advantage of my newly acquired wealth and bought a 250 euro pair of Vera Wang* sunglasses I had been lusting over for a few days.
I finally got packed up and ready for my 2 week adventure in Ireland, but even on the plane over, all I could think about was leaving Paris—a city I have absolutely fallen in love with; I don’t want to move.
I am moving because I am registered at the University of Caen in Basse-Normandie for the Fall/Spring 2005-6 school year. These plans were made long before I ever arrived in the City of Lights, and cannot be changed now.
I flew from Paris’ Beauvais Airport to Dublin last night at 11 p.m. courtesy of RyanAir.
I had no idea how far away Beauvais is from Paris—about 1h20mns by shuttle bus (which is not free contrary to what several guidebooks claim. It costs a whopping 13 euros and they don’t like to wait while you rustle through your pack to find change). I left Paris around 4 p.m. with hopes of dropping my very heavy backpack off in an airport locker, and returning to the city for a movie, and one more sentimental good-bye, but when I realized the effort (and expense) that would require, I just stayed at the airport—if you can call it that. It is tiny—teeny, even. It’s great because it cuts down on airfares, but there isn’t much there to do.

*Fun Little Fact: no one in Paris knows who Vera Wang is. I think this has to do with the fact that there are so many couturiers throughout the city, a Vera Wang wedding gown (or any of her other fashions) are much less impressive/important.

No points for this one... too obvious.
“We’ll always have Paris.”

Part Two: Sorry, Lady. You’re Just Not My Type.

After signing in and going through security, I waited by the gate, on a bench next to a woman. She was playing with a very cool camera phone, and I said so. Being the proud new owner of a camera myself, I was happy to talk about some of the new gadgets coming out—and it was an opportunity to speak in French. Turns out, we were both headed to Dublin. She is trying to learn English for work, and is going to school here.
Before long, the plane arrived and we jumped in the free for all that was forming at the gate. Now, here is why I don’t like to make friends in close quarters. She asked me for my phone number and told me that we should definitely get together next time she was in Paris (I had neglected to tell her I was moving to Caen). I smiled and mumbled that that sounded nice, but quickly changed the subject. So, of course, she manages to sit right next to me on the plane, and insists that I give her my number. I happily do so, except that it isn’t so much my number as a few random digits I quickly scrawled on a napkin. Then, feeling more and more like a completely insensitive ass, I pretend to be so tired, I must sleep…immediately. But after a while, she is moving in her seat, flipping buttons and doing her best to “wake me up.” So, I bite. We end up talking for the rest of the 1h30mns. flight. Thankfully, the baggage carrousel was insane and I lost her going through customs. She actually told me I would never find transportation to my hostel and that I should stay at her house for the night. Eeeewwwww! Now, I don’t say “eeeeewwwww” because she is a woman, or even because she is an old woman (okay, middle-aged [but there was already some tragic sagging). I just don’t like being picked up on by strangers—male or female. It makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable (I have issues, I know), and she was just too touchy, just too forward for me to do anything but run full speed towards the exit. I hoped into a cab before she could find me again. What is it about me? I know people who have had random conversations in airports that have led to lucrative careers, love, and a free place to stay whenever they’re in town. AAARRRGGGHH! Why do I always strike up a conversation with the assholes, creeps, and stalkers (that is a completely different story)?
I had to take a taxi because I only knew the name of my hostel—check me out: world-class traveler forgot to write down the address of where she was staying and paid 20 euro for a cab. I am at the world-famous Avalon House. It is a big, old brick building in a great neighborhood (Dublin, too, is divided into numbered neighborhoods, but I have no idea how it works). The people here are nice, very accommodating, and so far, I am the only person in my 4 bed, ensuite dorm. I’ve had the place to myself, I paid an 8 euro deposit for a giant locker, and fixed myself dinner in the kitchen tonight. There is a Dunnes grocery market just down the street.

*The "Fuck" airline in the picture is supposed to be RyanAir.
**No Kilkenny planes or passengers were injured in the taking of above photograph

Part Three: Top O' Tha Mornin' ta Ya'

Yesterday (thanks to an hour time difference), I was up early, out the door in search of breakfast before 9 a.m. (Avalon offers a continental breakfast-- but it is awful). By accident, I stumbled across the Dublin City tourism office. It is just a few blocks from the hostel and quite large. They have everything anyone could ever want to tour Dublin. I bought the Dublin Pass which gives me free entry into most attractions, museums, and monuments for 48 hours from the first time I use it for 49 euros. This is worth it if you plan carefully and make the most of your 48 hours.
Dublin is not a tourist-friendly city. It is less expensive than Paris and London, but offers little in terms of transportation than taxis, and guided tour buses. The city bus system is awful. Not only could I not find a route map, the routes are not posted in their entirety at each stop and not at all in the bus itself-- so during my rides, I was forced to ask the driver several times what stop I needed to get off at and was this it. One driver negelcted to alert me of my stop and I had to walk back to town from the city zoo (which, like most city zoos, is located on the edge of town). One thing Dublin has going for it is the fact that it is very small and can be walked across-- but who wants to?
I started at Trinity and the Book of Kells. I had to pay the 10 euros for the guided tour, but it was worth it. Then, I walked up Dame Street, toured the Temple Bar, and hit Christ Church Cathedral. Then, I walked over to the Chester Beatty Library. I had no idea what expect from it, and I was very impressed. Not only did my Dublin Pass give me a free book from the gift shop, but I really enjoyed the collection of books, art, and asian antiquities. Tired and exhausted from my walk back from the zoo (!), I stopped by Lonely Planet (best store in the world-- when is Paris going to get one?), and went home, where I played with my camera and picked up some dinner from the market down the street.

Today, I started out equally early and I went to Dublin Castle for the first tour of the day. After the tour-- which was very cool and I highly reccommend it, I had plans to go to the National Museum of Art and History, but the bus system was becoming more and more complicated in my mind and I decided to walk to the Guiness Storehouse instead. It is not too far a walk, but it rained, hard in Dublin today, all day. My pants from the knees down were soaked. The Guiness tour kinda sucked and I was glad it was included in the price of my Dublin Pass (it is self guided and would have been so much more interesting/engaging with a guide [which are available for groups/extra arrangements).
After drinking my free beer in the Gravity Bar, I caught the 123 Bus to the Spike. The Spike is a giant metal spike in the middle of a street in the middle of town. It is 10 ft. wide, and more than 300 ft. tall. A strange sight.
Then, I headed back to my hostel by way of Cranston Street and Nude (an organic cafe where I had a rather yummy bagel with ham, apple chutney, and tomatoes-- none of the above being available in France-- or, at least, not together ;) .
I took a petit repose and headed to the birthplace of George Bernard Shaw. It was a longer walk than the guide claimed and I was getting miserably wet and cold-- even with my umbrella. But this is a self-guided tour worth taking. You listen to headphones as you walk through his house, which has been completely restored and returned to its original Victorian glory. It was warm and cozy inside and this was one of the few places I've been able to take pictures-- let alone with flash.
Then I was off to St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is bigger than Christ Church and equally interesting to tour. There is a park in the back, and while there is no crypt to tour (like the one at Christ Church), worth the expense (also covered by the Dublin Pass).
Well, I am off to dinner. This cyber cafe is closing and I am paying way more money than I should be to use the internet.
Tomorrow, I leave Dublin for...I have no idea yet. Wish me luck!

10 pts. for character, 10 pts. for movie:

"Fuck you, lucky charms!"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Land of the Dead

Cimitère Père Lachaise is on the opposite side of Paris from me. I must change from train to metro, and from one metro line to another after that. When I finally arrived at the Père Lachaise station, I saw the giant wall surrounding the cemetery. It is really tall and topped with spikes. I didn't see an entrance gate anywhere so I just started walking along the wall... and walking, and walking, and walking. The wall disappeared behind store fronts and restaurants, but there were still funeral service stores, flower shops, and tombstone dealers along the street so I continued along with hope. Finally, I walked into a small garden that ran along the giant wall. I assumed this was some kind of formal entrance for the grand graveyard, but it was just a garden that ran along the wall.
When I did make it to the entrance, I was told if I wanted a plan of the cemetery that listed the famous headstones, graves, and other sights, I needed to go "over there," "up there" the security guard told me (in French) and he pointed. So I walked straight "up there" in the direction he pointed to the crematorium. There were other buildings there as well, but none had any kind of welcome offices-- or any other kind of offices, and there was a funeral going on, so I decided he must have meant for me to walk past this group of buildings. I continued my walk... and I walked, and I walked, and I walked. One thing about Père Lachaise-- it's fucking big. Sure, there are a few main paths (normally in cobblestone or pebble--both of which suck to walk on and I ruined my favorite pair of shoes), but step off the beaten, and you are forced to literally climb over jumbles of tombstones, crawl around sarcophagi, and bramble through weeds, roots, and crumbles of stone. And, just like every other street in Paris, none of the paths at Père Lachaise are straight, but rather wander into one another, change direction, and, sometimes, stop rather abruptly in the middle of nowhere. I walked from one end of the joint to the next, and found nothing. Not one kiosk (granted that would be extremely tacky in a cemetery), employees, gardeners, ect. I had to walk back through the maze of marble and ask the same guard what the hell he was talking about.
He was with a gardener who was showing off a brand new skillet he had just found in the street (there's a whole garbage foraging subculture in France that is worth its own post...). They politely informed me that I needed to walk to the other side of the cemetery and I would find maps available in a small office building near the front gate (an entrance much, much closer to the metro than the one I had entered from. I was just there. I had just walked back from there!). But the gardener-- who was pleased I like his skillet, offered to give me a ride through the "park." An offer I quickly accepted-- it's not like he was driving a hearst or a cold storage truck, just a little gardener's golf cart.
It was a long ride and the gardener tried to make polite small talk.*
-"You're German?"
-"Is your family okay?"
~"Excuse Me?"
-"Do you live in the south-- in the hurricane states?"
~No, thank you for asking. They are all safe in the Northwest"
-"Ah, yes, good. It is a very, very bad thing."
~"I cannot begin to imagine."
*awkward silence ensues*
-"We are here."
-"Walk down there and turn right."
-"Bonne Chance!"
Parisian cemetery maps suck. They are easily read, but not at all practical in use. It is almost impossible to get one's bearings, and then, to find one tombstone among 60. *sigh* I finally decided to make an effort in finding Jim's grave, and then, wander, get lost, and go home. I knew what general direction I needed to be going in, and walked, and walked, and walked, and then, realized I had gone too far. I did find it; there is a permanent guard placed just next to it, with scores of people-- most caring less about Morrison's tombstone than about watching/photographing the freaks and hippies making their pilgrimages. It is the cemetery's most popular gravesite, but something I would have easily passed over; it is very plain and surrounded on all sides by other tombstones and sarchopagi (therefore difficult to get a good look at). After paying my respects to Jim (having been born after he died, I will mourn the loss of Val Kilmer much more. Ah, Val Kilmer *flutter*), I just walked around, enjoyed the breeze, and the start of my favorite season of the year: fall. The leaves have been turning for a weeks now in Paris, but it was the first time the air had that autumn crispness that is so fresh (and believe me, a welcome addition to the sometimes overwhelming scent of dead leaves and rotting flowers).
I saw Chopin's grave. As I walked up to it, a very old, withered man approached behind me with a small ghetto blaster. He positioned himself right next to the guard rail (most of the Père Lachaise's famous residents have some kind of barrier surrounding them), and hit "Play" on his little stereo. The four or five of us taking pictures all stopped and for about 2 or 3 minutes listened to Chopin. When it was over, the little old man hunched himself over his cane and without saying a word, walked away.

I took a couple hundred pictures, and will probably go back for 100 or so more. In the mean time, check out my link at right.

Okay, this one is difficult. It is difficult because, while from a widely known and popular movie (based on the even more widely known and adored book), you just don't ever see it anywhere-- except, perhaps, the occasional PBSmarathon.

"My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes."

20 pts. for film/character.
Good luck, I only have this memorized because I watch waaaaaayyyyy too much public television and last year, saw this show 4 times.
*HInt: delivered rather melodramatically by a tween girl

*I hate smalltalk. I am capable of it. Thanks to a socialite mother, I am quite skilled in the art of entertaining, bullshitting, and complete insincerity, but I rarely care enough to even try. I dislike being in the position of pretending. Why do people always assume that the person they have been forced into close quarters with wants to interact. When I am forced into a small space or intimate situation, I am never rude, but would simply prefer it to be as least invasive as possible. I don't like to talk to my neighbor on a plane, and I don't really care anything about the other women waiting in line for the bathroom!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gimme Some Sugar, Baby!

The gaunlet has been thrown down!
This morning around 9:30 a.m., while eating my muesli, I visited a few of your blogs. I should have been getting ready to meet up with my friend Patrick-- who I was scheduled to meet at 10:30 (I hadn't even gotten in the shower yet!), but I was wasting precious time surfing the blogger world instead (Spinning Girl knows what I'm talking about). I went to The Dark Pig, responded to his faux spammer note with one of my own, and from his site, I clicked the link to The Urban Cannibal.
I was surprised to see that even the zombie slut-lovin' UC was affected by the media whirlwind that was Brad & Jen and has now become Brangelina, but I must admit I paid little attention to his post after being issued a challenge:

"“Gimme some sugar, baby” – name that one Serena"

Now, I end most of my posts with a relevant film quote of some kind-- and I must admit, they've been pretty easy (however, only UC seems to be the only person either 1). interested in or 2). capable of answering them). Our little flesh feeder is currently leading with 30 pretend points, but today is the first challenge placed at my blogger feet; the first quote I've been asked to name. And FUCK! For most of you this is so ridiculously simple-- so obvious (see "Yo' Adrian," "May the force be with you," or "I see dead people"). But I read it over and over and continued to draw a blank-- completley clueless. I was stumped.
I couldn't believe that after all of the bragging I've done (on this site alone) about my freakish film fetish, I had no idea where this quote came from. It sounded so familiar-- I knew it somewhere, at one time-- but when? Where?
Obviously, it was spoken by a man to a woman... The Ladies Man with Tim Meadows? No, too obvious and not really UC's style. Okay, what is UC's style? Horror movies, classics, NOT Meg Ryan (probably not Rob Schneider)....
Blacksploitation? Sugar Daddies the candy are kinda retro?
Jackie Brown? Definitely* not. Shaft? No.
Crap, it's almost 10!

And so, I left (running) for my rendez-vous with Patrick--he's French, so actually, that's Pa' trEEk (and very angry).
What to do? What to do? I know this, but how? Who was Baby? And who wanted her sugar? I cannot not answer correctly-- I would loose all credibility as a geek and... CHEAT! I could cheat. Oh yeah, I hate cheaters-- and if I cheated, then it would be OK for everyone else to cheat on my quote quizzes. Fuck.

Now, here's where providence kicks in...
I met up with Patrick at Denfert-Rochereau. We had made plans the day before to go to the Catacombs (some of you know where this is going)! And, I have pictures and tales (yesterday I went to Cimitère Père LaChaise, too) and will post on those later tonight, so check back. There we are, half crouched, trying to avoid drips of water from the leaking ceiling, and I get it. I cannot lie, I'd been thinking about it unceasingly since I left my room, and I was becoming very, very frustrated.
I am standing amidst piles upon piles of bones (an army, one might say), and I have my Jumpin' Jack Flash moment. You know, the one where Whoopi is at her computer after hours, trying to "sing with me and find the key." She gets pissed, gives up, and throws the songbook into the trash. She sighs, and then...EPIPHANY! "OOOOOOhhhhhhoooooo hhhhoooo!" *enters "B-Flat"* "You know I'm right, you know I'm right" *presses enter, and watches as the computer screen flashes in color and reveals a 1980's-style chat room*
And that was me: "OOOOOhhhhhhhhhhoooooooooo hhhhhhhoooooooo"

And so, Urban Cannibal, here is your answer:

Ash to Sheila. Army of Darknees or Evil Dead III

"You know I'm right! You know I'm right!"

Now, here is where I must humbly cede to my man-eating friend: I know (that's not true: I think I remember) that Evil-Ash also says it somewhere in the film, but it's been so long since I've seen it...

And that, kiddies, will be today's quote quiz (UC will not be eligible but will receive 10 pts for stumping me on this part):
If Evil Ash actually does say, "Gimme some sugar, baby"-- where in the film and to whom?
This one's worth 30 pts.

*In looking back on some of my old posts, I noticed I've spelled "Definitely" wrong several times (the Blogger spell check doesn't work with Safari and most of the time, I just don't care:). That's all. Just acknowledging that I, too, am capable of the occasional mistake.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

And now for something completely different

I love Daniel Auteil. I find him to be incredibly sexy. If you do not know who he is, please allow me to describe:
He is short, more than middle aged, a bit rotund, with thickly defined wrinkles on his face. His nose is not only...well, French, but it was (I assume) at one time broken and not set properly. And if that doesn't wet your seat, how's this?

This man has a presence, a sensuality that I cannot begin to describe and everytime I see him on screen, my stomach flutters and I can't take my eyes off him. Today, I saw two movies, Dark Water (forgetable) and Peindre ou Faire L'Amour (To Paint or To Make Love). It's about a middle-aged couple who become swingers. It was good-- not great, but there was this man again. He is probably older than my father, and most likely the top of his head does not even reach my shoulders, but there it is: I lust after this man.
He's a great actor, he can be funny, dramatic, dark, silly, good guy, bad guy...anything. I've seen many of his films and liked most of those, and he has the most wonderful crooked smile. This man is old enough to be my grandfather and I can't stop thinking about him (I've been in France too long ;)

This is one of the most underrated romantic comedies ever. It is actually very funny and I pick up more everytime I see it.
20 pts. for name of film:
"Those French! They hate us, they smoke, they have a whole relationship with dairy products I don't understand."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I have spent the entire day at my laptop. Away for the last week and the events of Hurricane Katrina, I spent today getting caught up on what has happened, is happening, and what is coming. I am depressed, angry, and feeling very useless and homesick.
I started with MSNBC, moved to Headline, CNN, and Fox News. I searched the blog world for more info, and hit up Le Monde and Figaro for info spun by the French. Today's news was not good (if, by some miracle you were able to escape coverage-- trust me: not good).
I am angry. This hurricane-- before it has even ended its destruction, has become political. That I have read so far: Venezuela and one Canadian province have offered aid.
1. Venezuela doesn't get any props. The offer came with sharp (albeit completely ignorant) comments, and their thinly veiled gesture of *ahem* charity just makes Hugo Chavez look like an ammatuer politician and enormous ass.
2. When I receive horrible service at a restaurant, I leave a tip-- I leave one quarter. This, unlike leaving nothing, sends a strong message of dissatisfaction (and, at times, contempt). Thanks, Canada.
3. $25 billion dollars is not going to break our back-- sure, we'll be feeling the aches and pains for quite some time, but we don't need the aid (at least, not desperately). But today, in a situation like this-- it's the thought that counts. Where are our friends? Where are our allies? Have we become so hated; does the world really see Katrina as our just desserts?
I returned to Paris yesterday by car. En route, I was informed that a hurricane had hit the south. My French companions were concerned (they had seen the news-- I hadn't [for several days). But I (rather arrogantly) explained to them: 'tis the season;' these storms hit the south every year. No big deal. When I got home last night, a friend called and explained to me what was actually going on. Needless to say, I have been glued to my ecran for several hours.
Reading criticisms of the gulf coast's cities evacuation plans, the city of New Orleans infrastructure, and President Bush at this time are difficult to stomach for me (especially when they are coming from people within the New Orleans city government).

New Orleans was aware that the city levees wouldn't hold in case of...well, in case of Katrina. But the city regularly practices evacuation procedures and was prepared for much. And the White House has very little to do with the immediate responses to a natural disaster. Its FEMA's job to work with local officials. The White House is certainly involved in aftermath cleanup, and (hopefully) works to streamline future relief efforts. George Bush is not at fault for New Orleans' current situation (or any other city affected by Katrina).
I am disgusted and dismayed at the situation some survivors are now faced with. The city has been destroyed. Completely smote by an act of God (Sonja, I was as speechless to read that article as you!) for which there is no Fight and very little hope of Flight from (I know: preposition at the end of a sentence. Kill me).
A few years ago, Seattle was hit by an earthquake they felt down in Utah. 1 woman died that day-- but of causes completely unrelated to the quake. Right now, in Washington State, Mt. St. Helen's has been blowing smoke and bubbling lava since last spring. She could go at any minute. If that happens, few injuries (and I doubt any deaths) will be incurred thanks to expert evacuation, search/rescue procedures. Even closer to Washington's largest metropolis, Mt. Ranier is scheduled to errupt sooner than later. When that does happen, the entire west coast of North America will suffer from crazy tides, and clouds of ash will block out the sun as far as Wyoming. Lava and mud will dessimate towns, and our big cities will be covered in meters of ash stopping traffic and halting all air travel. But, Washington State is prepared for this. We know it's coming and everyone that lives on or around Ranier participates in regular evacuation drills. When disaster finally strikes, few lives will be lost. Washington is also prepared for tsunami, avalanche, and forest fire. No plan, however, is in place should the giant super volcano growing in size and force under Yellowstone burst. And, let's face it, I don't think any of us have begun to think about that cosmic dust cloud ready to descend upon Earth.
These natural disasters are so called because they are DISASTEROUS! What part of 'Act of God' don't these people understand? Regardless of how prepared we are, a catausrophic event destroys that which man creates-- by definition.
Like most of you, I really don't understand what is going on at the NO Convention center-- or any other part of the city. I have all of the same questions as Harry Connick, Jr. If he can drive his car down there, why aren't more buses showing up, where are the tankers of water? Ect. And, because this is American politics we are talking about, a commision will convene, a report will be written (perhaps become a NY Times bestseller), and political careers will end.
In the mean time, flood victims are dying of dehydration.
New Orleans, the Jewel of the South, is dead. One of the most historic and culturally rich cities on the continent is gone (and much to the delight of city's Klan members, NO's destitute minorities are being "cleansed" from the face of the earth).
I am confused and feel impotent without a television to yell at; I am surrounded by a very international community, who personally are crushed to witness what is going on right now-- absolutely brokenhearted, but politically, want nothing more than to scoff. This is hard.
I'm sure you've all got something to say about what I've got to say. No doubt many have important comments to make. Please do so. Today's post wasn't exactly well thought out-- just the angry ramblings of an American in Paris.

"I gotta go Julia, we got cows." (and) "Debris, we got debris."