albadger: (Wildfire)

Good Gravy, I meant to post every day while I was in Ireland, but I underestimated the tenacity of the Escorted Tour. Nearly every night I arrived back at the hotel exhausted and unable to post, and every morning I awoke just time to go out on an exciting expedition -- often, a life-changing expedition. For example:

I have now kissed the Blarney Stone.

Technically, I head-butted it. But I figure that gives me the power to psionically trasmit waves of flattery at you out my pineal gland. And given the unpleasant climb up and back down, I'm not going back there. It's not dangerous anymore, there are lots of guard bars, and an irritated local who holds your knees while another less-irritated local snaps pictures of you "kissing" the stone (pictures you can buy later for 10 Euros). Neither of the locals cares if you kissed it, or if you head-butted it. If you heard that rumors that the locals pee on the Stone after the Castle closes for the evening, you can kiss the camera guy instead of the stone, which is supposed to be as "lucky." I wasn't tempted by option 3.

But so much else has happened! We rode the Escorted Tour bus around the Ring of Kerry, which really is spectacular, and went to two more "evenings," one a satisfyingly curatorial approach to Irish music and dance with just enough flash to satisfy the stupider tourists too, the other a rubber-chicken banquet in a ruined castle, with a harpist and two singer/actors doing poetry and songs from the Irish Renaissance -- worst-bang-for-buck item on the tour, don't check that box when you sign up.

More significantly, we went to Inishmore, site of the movie Man of Aran and the play the Lieutenant of Inishmore, and though we saw no cats, terrorists or shark fisherman, it was indeed amazing, as you would see from my photographs if I were any good at taking them or understood how to upload them from the camera. By the time I get home I should have that down.

We're currently in our last night in Belfast, which is a very different city from Dublin, but I won't go into details until I get home. Don't read much into that. My favorite thing in Belfast is the Leaning Tower of Albert, which I would totally have climbed if they let you.

Going to bed now, will be back with you when I land in England tomorrow!

PS I got my replacement Amex card! Thanks to Allie, greatest Escorted Tour guide in the history of ever!

albadger: (Frontier)
Didn't post last night because I was up late on the phone with American Express. I seem to have mislaid my card in the Dublin airport, and when I first spoke to Amex they were wonderful -- "we'll get a replacement card sent to your hotel tomorrow before 5pm!" Sounded too good to be true, and nothing showed up at the hotel. When I called back, the agent at first refused to believe I was telling the truth until I testily asked him to review the notes. "Well, yes, they did the replacement card," he came back, "but it's gone out. It should have arrived at the hotel." Hotel says no. Says no the next morning. Probably still says no a day later but I'm too tired to call and find out tonight.

Eh, whatever, the account's sealed now, and I have other funds. So two exciting days! Wednesday we visited one of those grotesquely huge estates that rich people used to maintain to prove their superiority to rest of us (what do they use for that now?) and its gardens -- Japanese garden, Italian garden, English garden, one garden for each salad dressing. There was even a pet cemetery, with many horses, chow dogs and cows. The inscriptions on the stones seemed sincere.

More importantly yesterday, we visited Glendalough, a beautiful vale with a pristine lake overlooked by the ruins of an ancient monastery. As I was drinking in the natural vistas, it struck me -- this was where they didn't film Zardoz. It looks a lot like Zardoz, and I did some research -- the real shooting location was at Lough Tay, only a few miles over in County Wicklow. As we were not on the Zardoz Filming Locations tour, we didn't get to see it. DAMMIT.

Today, also, dominated by places Zardoz wasn't filmed. A stud farm was a fascinating glimpse into a subculture, and also wasn't the horse barn where the Apathetics lived, and the Rock of Cashel, which is a hill with a ruined Gothic cathedral on top, and would look a lot like where the Exterminators gathered to greet the giant floating stone head, if the ruined Gothic cathedral wasn't there. Then on to County Cork, and we're staying in the town of Blarney tonight, getting ready for tomorrow's ritual of being dangled by a stranger over an abyss so you can put your lips on a flithy piece of granite that's got everybody else's germs on it in case you don't die.

Also I'm still terrible at uploading the pictures from the camera, but I hope I will have that figured out by tomorrow.
albadger: (Brendon is a pretty lady)
Today was the first real day of our escorted tour -- a form of travel with which I am mostly unfamiliar (I did one with my Dad in 2001). Today, a bus ride with a local tour guide through the streets of Dublin, the first half of which was a complete waste, since the guide had no clue as to using a microphone, and was either inaudible or distorted and muddy. I thought it was me until somebody else went to the front & showed the guide how to hold the mike. Once I could comprehend her, I liked her, because she had a laughing contempt for inherited aristocracy.

With one exception -- the Guinness family seems to be revered in Dublin, because, even after centuries of inbreeding, they still devote a huge portion of the family's income to public projects that don't just Band-Aid problems but really make things better. Also, they make beer.

Also on the tour was St. Patrick's Cathedral, a truly beautiful building (largely restored by the Guinnesses), and the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College, which was a true Mona Lisa experience -- a historically important but not that visually impressive object locked in a case and effectively invisible through the backs of the milling crowd. On the other hand, the huge library room upstairs was awesome and I need a room like that in my house.

Not on tour but accessible on foot was the museum that had the bog bodies. Sure, there was other stuff there, but I don't remember what, because we were there to see leathery corpse parts and nothing else. My favorite was the one who was found when an automatic peat digging machine jammed. Perfectly preserved right down to the line where the peat machine was chewing him up and finally got stuck.

Tonight, we went to an "Irish Evening," a dinner followed by a show. Everybody in the audience seemed to be on escorted tours. This led my brother to describe the event as an "Irish Luau," as the setup resembled what you'd see at the Hawaii Cultural Center. Riverdance-style dancing, a guy playing a tin whistle, and an aged comic with hoary jokes about Paddy Murphy and long-suffering Mrs. Murphy. If you comment on this post, I will reply to the comment with one of his jokes. At least until I've done all the ones I remember.

Tomorrow: On a bus to someplace out in the country that I forget what it's called. That's the glory of an escorted tour: I don't HAVE to know!
albadger: (Leprechaun Merle)
Now at the Maldron Parnell hotel in Dublin, which seems to be staffed almost exclusively by beautiful young French women. My brother found a brochure in the lobby for a "Leprechaun Tour," but he must have grabbed the last one, because I couldn't find it when I went to look. On the other hand, Riverdance is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

I got here yesterday afternoon after a blissfully uneventful Aer Lingus non-stop from SFO (good: the seats next to me were occupied by two petite girls who used the other aisle and never bothered me; bad: the most intriguing movie in the entertainment system was Mortdecai). We got to walk around a bit, it's a nice, compact town and has the world's largest flagpole with no flag on it (google "Millennium Spire Dublin," I haven't broken the camera out yet). Today is our city tour, so some real pix I hope. Leprechauns if I see any.


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