24 June 2006

Ireland

Dublin is just a very dirty city, and when we were in a cafe our first night two drunkards wandered in and started fighting with the store manager and before you knew it they came to fisticuffs and there was yelling and punching and screaming and Allison and I were just frozen in our chairs! Basically there are a lot of drunken people here, and we know it's because the city is just covered in garbage (our faces are like that becuase we're trying not to think about the smell). And since we're not here primarily to drink, we seem to have a shortage of things to do. But the weather is nice! Yes no more crazy windy rain storms.

Recently, Ireland has gotten in trouble for not doing more to curb the smoking epedimic. Here is the new campaign they've launched as a response. I like it! On the other side of some of the cigarette packs they have pictures of people with diseased faces or lungs as a result of cancer from smoking. Oh and Cigareettes are REALLY expensive. Good work Ireland!

I'm glad to report that once we got out of Dublin we have found Ireland to be a very pleasant place indeed. Right now we're in Galway, where we just saw our second impromptu air show, and a parade with a marching band! (Geek, I know!) We took a short train ride here to discover that all of the hostels were pretty much full. We ended up finding a place in what appeared to be a Polish Mafia hostel. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but we didn't want to use the showers there, let’s put it that way. Originally we were in a big dorm room, but got moved into a smaller room that appeared to have a young couple living in it. They were unhappy by our presence to say the least, so we made ourselves scarce.

We wandered town, which only took a few hours, before catching a choir concert by the Moss Chamber Choir from Norway. It was amazing, and we were lucky to have heard abut it. We also found this beautiful church on the back end of town.

After an unsatisfying dinner (i.e. $10.00 food that tasted like it had been cooked in a microwave) we walked out on the beautiful pier. Later we went running out there and caught the beautiful sunset (here's the pic from that epic night)!

In the morning, we got up early and booked it out of the Mafia hostel booked a different, rather pleasant one around the block. We headed out on a tour to the Cliffs of Mohr, and opted to do a walking tour of the hills beforehand.


A little geological history: Ireland started as a shallow ocean bed, and when the sea creatures died their bones formed into Limestone which now cover the hillsides today, known as the "Barren", the Irish word for "a rocky place". As you can see, the hills look like there COVERED in limestone down to the last inch, but once you get up into the foothills you realize there are big grassy patches. During the great Potato Famine, these grassy patches helped to feed the cows in the region, which in turn kept many people alive. During this time, the Irish government also paid thousands of laborers to make walls out of this limestone, just to give them something to do. So some of the hills now look like checkerboards, with big green pastures criss-crossed by limestone rock walls. Anyway, the hike was amazing and definitely helped me to appreciate this place that much more.

The Cliffs of Mohr are quite famous, but now WAY over populated with tourists. They've put up fences and walkways and a stupid gift shop, so the beauty you go there to admire is colluded by the modernization and the air is filled with smokers. You really lose a lot of the natural beauty and experience of it. Granted, people have gotten too close to the edge and fallen to so maybe you NEED a fence, but why let those people ruin it for the rest of us?


Next we headed to Dingle, where GrandBob treated us to a lovely stay in a B&B. Here we did our 1st sink laundry, which would become a real stable in our travels. We stayed two nights, and on our first full day we rented bicycles and rode around the Dingle peninsula.
This is similar to the Ring of Kerry, which is much more famous, but we could ride it in about 5 hours instead of having to take another bus ride (where I would surely fall asleep and miss the beauty). Boy were our butts sore! Oh and Allison got a SERIOUS sunburn, which was funny because it was CLOUDY all day. Oh well.

From Dingle we lacked didn't have a plan but decided to head to Kilarney. Unforunately most of our pictures from Kilarney (including the one of our MASSIVE free ice cream Sundae) were lost with Allison's camera, but we have some fond memories nonetheless. Mostly we wandered town for a few days and visited the many beautiful churches and castles surrounding the city. At night, we went to the same bar two nights in a row where we met a lovely Irish tour guide and his group of American Tourists. No one from Seattle, but we did meet some very nice Bostonians...Man those accents are cool!

From Kilarney we headed into the County Cork. Here the Irish Accent is at its best. You can hardly understand anyone, but that's the fun of it! We stayed in a nice hostel with a lovely staircase, and of course we were on the 4th floor! Cork was a lot like Dublin, in the big-city, dirty sense, but it was a little more relaxed and had a nice market that we frequented often. They also have an, err, interesting sense of fashion there:

From Cork, we did a day trip to Blarney Castle and yes, we kissed the Blarney Stone. They have a man seated up there to help you lean back over and really lay one on that stone. The castle itself is very beautiful (but dilapidated) and is situated on a very lovely grounds. I was continually surprised by how GREEN everythign was there. And of course you all know how much I love that color! While we were wandering the grounds, we ran into some French boys from our hostel, and of course Allison was very happy to get to practice her French! Of course, they were equally excited to use English...se la vie.

17 June 2006

London, York, & Edinburgh!

Greetings from Scotland!

Today is our last day here in Edinburgh. I love it here, and can't wait to comeback someday! Here's a rundown of the trip so far:

London was great. We landed 8 days ago and as you can see we were pretty excited! The weather was wicked hott, but in general we had a really great time. We passed Buckingham Palace, which i was rather disappointed to see was teeny tiny. They defintily make that little thing look bigger and more imposing on TV.

When we were walking through a little suburb Allison misread a sign above a house that said "Herman Melville, author of MOBY DICK, lived here". She mistook it and thought that Moby Dick lived there, so we had a pretty good laugh once I explained that Moby Dick was a GIANT SPERM WHALE!

We also hallucinated a H&M (best shopping...EVER!) and chased it around town for about a half an hour before we realized we were at the wrong tube stop. In addition, we took our own little bus tour to the "end of the earth" and saw an impromptu air show with fighter jets in a park and cannon's going off, which we later found out was for the Queen's 3rd birthday celebration of the year.

On our first night in London, this guy we were staying with, Ollie, took us out with his friends. We discovered the drink Pims, very delicious, and that English people really love Abercrombie, something I definitely don't understand. They took us into the red light district, where we danced the night away.

The next two days we spent visiting the London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Monument Station, Westminster, and we went up in the London Eye. The views were spectacular, but I'm not crazy about GIANT carousels or being locked in one for almost an hour with strangers. Too touristy for me, but it was a a great way to see the city.

Overall, London was waaay too expensive. No one was wearing tennis shoes and you have to go into a Border's Book store to find a bathroom! The city is clean, despite the fact that you couldn't find a trash can if your life depended on it. I would definitely go back, but stay away on weekends when it just becomes too touristy.

We left London on Sunday and rode to York, a small town where we planned to spend about 5 hours. After 3 hours, we were done and hopped the next train to Edinburgh. Allison had some wicked allergies and needed to get out of there! Its not that York was bad, only it was just a huge tourist trap...although it did have a beautiful cathedral worth seeing. We met some nice girls on the train ride up here and stayed the first night in a hostel with them.

The Hostel in Edinburgh was HORRIBLE. I hated it. The rooms smelled like hospital and mold, it was cramped, and there were only two working showers. But to get away, our first night we wandered up to the Castle on the Top of the Royal Mile, a main street in Old Town. We started talking to the guards, who later gave us a free tour of the castle!!! It was amazing, we went up in the flag area where no one gets to go even when they pay to get in, and we saw everything else too. Except for the crown jewels, but they are just the spare Scottish set anyway.

The next day we gave ourselves a tour of Edinburgh, the weather was fairly nice, aka there were no 50 mph winds and pelting rain like we had experienced the first two days. We went into a cemetery and discovered some secret views of the city. That's where I took this lovely flower picture. Edinburgh is a perfect mix of old and new, with the dark old sooty buildings surrounded by newly built or recently restored buildings. As I mentioned the Edinburgh Castle sits at the highest point and looks out over the valley/water. It was built to protect from English Invaders, and now protects the Scottish crown jewels.

We also got hit on by a ridiculously intoxicated man in his 40's, and I will spare you and not repeat what he said....

I love it here and would definitely want to come back for 3 weeks, rent a car, and go on my own castle tour. The past two days we went on tours but were a little disappointed. You pay so much to go on them, and then you have to pay AGAIN to get into the Abby, cathedral, or go on a boat, etc. But Allison and I have made our own fun and we revel at our continuous luck in finding little treasures.

Some Interesting things about Edinburgh: most of Scotland is basalt from ancient volcanoes, it's at about 58 degrees parallel, so it never really gets dark at night this time of year, for example the sun set last night at 11:35 or so. The clouds move so fast through the sky that if you look up at a tree you are likely to fall down becuase it makes you so dizzy. The toilets here are tricky and it seems to take an average of 3 tries to flush them, and like London, Edinburgh also seems to have a shortage of rubbish bins. Also, if you come here try Haggis, it's AMAZING!

Okay, this has gotten ridiculously long and it's out of hand. This trip so far has been amazing and exactly as i imagined, so I just want to say a quick cheers (thanks) to all of you who helped make it possible. Cheers!

12 June 2006

Leavin' on a Jet Plan

As many of you know, Allison and I will be leaving on a nine week backpacking tour of Europe. We'll be gone June 14-August 14, and flying direct from Vancouver, BC into London and back. So far, we're planning on spending 18 days on the British Aisles, then heading to Paris, Germany (to see Neuschwanstein Castle!), and Switzerland! From there, the trip is not so planned out, but we're VERY excited about everything. It has been a lot of hard work, but I think this will be the best Graduation presents two girls have ever given themselves!

Wish us luck!