Aug 25, 2010

Lost Diaries 14-The Final Chapter

Friday, July 22 (continued...)

So, as I was typing five years ago, we took a bus from Cork to Waterford. It was not a tour bus like the one we rode in Scotland, but instead just the public transit system for Ireland. It was an interesting experience. Since the rail system in Ireland is not very well developed, lots of people use the bus for transportation cross-country. Many different classes were present on the bus, but it seemed that "high class" was not receiving the lion's share of the representation. Also, the roads are not very well developed or well kept. In some places they are so narrow that only one car can pass and every mile or so the road widens a tiny bit to give cars going opposite directions a chance to pass by one another. It was crazy. The foliage grew right up to the road, also, and we saw tractors bushhogging the bushes on the side of the road. It was strange. Maybe that's what a hedge is? Who knows. Anyway, in Waterford we luncheoned at the authentic Irish McDonald's and then took a town tour led by a colorful local. We also toured the Waterford Crystal factory, where we picked up a souvenir for Damon's mom and learned that the craftsmen actually memorize the patterns that they cut in the crystal. It is all done by hand. After the tour, we took the bus back to Cork where we had a bowl of Irish stew at a pub built in the 1700's. The pub was cool; the stew was hot, but mediocre. After filling our bellies, we crashed at the hotel.


Saturday, July 23

We took a bus tour of Cork and Blarney Castle in the rain. Blarney Castle could more accurately be described as Blarney Pile of Rubble, but we kissed the famous stone anyway. You have to lie on your back and hang upside down off the side of the castle wall to accomplish this, so the slippery, rain-soaked stones added an additional degree of difficulty to this feat. We also picked up a souvenir for mom at the wool mill near the castle: a claddagh sculpture made from peat. Back in town, we had lunch at Quizno's, packed up, and took another national bus to Dingle. Rick Steves had raved about Dingle in our guidebook, and it sounded like a small but interesting town. We made two mistakes. First, we overestimated the amount of hotel accommodations available in Dingle, and second, we underestimated the popularity of the destination as a weekend getaway. This resulted in us arriving at nightfall in a rain storm and calling 30 hotels and bed-n-breakfast joints before eventually filling up the pay phone we were using and having to trudge through the rain to a new location to keep dialing. Our plight was so hopeless and pathetic that a man leaving the grocery store actually offered to make us a pallet on his floor. It was very sweet, and we almost had to take him up on the offer, but we eventually found an empty room at a bed and breakfast WAY outside of town. When we arrived there, we were wet, cold, and starving. The nice owner of the bed and breakfast made us sandwiches and tea and we collapsed into bed.

Sunday, July 24

Rain greeted us in the morning, so we took our time getting ready and enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast: fried egg, toast, sausage, ham, and "pudding."  The pudding looked more like dark brown/blackish muffins.  It was palatable, however, and I was relieved to see that tomatoes and ketchup were not a part of the tradition in this corner of the U.K.  After breakfast we relaxed for a few hours and terrified the poor innkeeper's toddler son.  He spoke mostly Gaelic and was very shy, so our attempts to be nice and play with him went over like a lead balloon.  His favorite pastime was watching home videos of himself.  We road into town with our hostess and rented bikes to complete the 30 mile tour of Dingle recommended by Rick Steves in our guide book.  You would think that by this point in the journey I would have learned my lesson about Rick and his suggestions, but he got me again.  At mile 13.5 I threw in the towel and we had to call a cab that could accommodate me and my bike.  The only one to be had was driven by a rather grouchy sheep farmer.  I had apparently interrupted some urgent sheep-tending business and put him in a foul mood to begin with.  I then made the further mistake of telling him that our next destination was to be the fair capital of his country.  He was totally incensed that I would be so daft as to look forward to a visit to "fekkin' Dublin."  I spent many minutes in fear that I would be thrown from the moving vehicle, such was his wrath.  I feel the need at this point to clarify a few minor details of the cycling conditions.  These were not mountain bikes, or road bikes that we were on, they were cruisers.  Big, heavy, one speed, upright cruisers.  Also, the majority of the route was on the windswept coast, and I emphasize WINDSWEPT.  No matter which direction you were pedaling, you were contending with gale-force winds that relentlessly assaulted your face.  Lance Armstrong himself wouldn't have blamed me for quitting.  Another high point of the ride (while I was still on it) was when we passed large herds of sheep grazing in mountainside fields.  We thought it would be funny to baa at the sheep.  It was pretty funny as long as they just looked at us in confusion.  It was decidedly less funny when a rather large male sheep hopped up over the stone fence and proceeded to chase us.  For over a mile.  Anywho, after the cheerful cabbie dropped me off in town I found a seat in a pub where I tried to avoid the locals and their questions while I waited for Damon.  Emphasis on the "tried."  By the time Damon finally found me I had been forced to share my life story at least three times.  The scenic but "slightly challenging" bike tour?  Yeah, that took Damon 6 hours and 15 minutes.  Thanks, Rick.  You rock.  We grabbed some pizza, locked the bikes to a street sign, and took a taxi back to the B&B, which interestingly enough, was about 100 yards from one of the points of interest on the bike tour.  If I had stuck with it for a few more miles, I could have quit at the comfort of our lodgings.  Go figure.  My final observation for the night was that the shower was lousy and had about the same water pressure as spit. 

Monday, July 25

We got up early and explored a couple of nearby points of interest before taking a cab into town.  At the ruins of a nearby church there was a swearing stone where people would touch fingers through this hole in the rock and make promises to each other.  Damon swore his undying love to me, of course.  Back in town we retrieved the bikes and returned them.  We grabbed some muffins for the road and boarded a bus to Tralee.  In Tralee we used the internet for a few minutes before hopping a bus bound for Limerick, where we changed buses for the final leg of our journey to Dublin.  We checked into the Harding Hotel and ate at the All American Diner down the street, used the internet to catch up with home some more, and hit the sack. 
Sidenote: Our hotel room in Dublin was very unique.  It was on the top floor of the hotel and oddly shaped because of dormer windows on the roof.  It looked out onto a beautiful church. 

Tuesday, July 26

We slept in a little and started our day at the All American Washeteria where we attempted to de-stink-ify the few outfits that we had been continually recycling since leaving France.  We went to Christ's Church and toured the church and the crypt.  Next we toured the Kilmainham Jail or "Gaol," where men, women, and children were all locked up together 5 to a cell and the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed.  We toured the Guinness Factory, which ironically enough is located on Crane Street; no wonder most of my relatives like to take a nip from time to time.  Damon was embarrassed because I told the employee who assisted us with the beer tasting that it all tasted like burnt coffee to me.  Anyway, that night we went to the Abbey Theatre to see The Importance of Being Earnest performed by an all-male cast.  It was truly one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.  Not so much because of the play itself, I am ashamed to say, but because of one particular actor who was portraying one of the young ladies in the cast.  He was tremendously cross-eyed and used it to his comedic advantage in a shocking way.  In a final note, our meals for the day were procured at Snax in the City for breakfast, lunch at the Tramway, and dinner at some Italian place. 

Wednesday, July 27

Slept in again.  Noticing a pattern?  Used the internet and had breakfast at Bagel Haven.  Went on the Dublin Castle tour.  Visited a few bike shops so Damon could drool over road bikes.  Did a little shopping, including grabbing some hurling sticks and balls for Lance and Austin.  Went to see The Fantastic Four, or as they say in France, Les Quatre Fantastiques.  So nice not to have subtitles on the movie.  We capped off the day with dinner at the All-American Diner.  Guess we were getting a little homesick, or at least our bellies were.

Thursday, July 28

We woke up early and took a cab to the airport, where we hopped a budget flight to Edinburgh.  Also on the plane: 100 Irish boy scouts.  Fun times.  We found a decent hotel, then toured the Museum of Childhood, which was basically just a bunch of old toys.  Next we toured Giles Cathedral, and finally, Mary King's Close, which I was a big fan of.  The tour guides were dressed in period costumes and pretended to be historical residents of the close, so it was neat in an educational and dorky way.  We went back to the room for a while to rest and write postcards.  Did I mention it is FREEZING in Scotland?  Take out a globe and you'll find it is pretty much IN the Arctic Circle.  Oh, and all of our warm clothes were IN FRANCE.  We decided to go back out and buy some coats.  Only had to drop 24 pounds for that, so we considered it a great bargain.  As evening fell, we went on the Ghosts and Ghoulies Tour.  It was fun, but several times I got a little freaked out and wondered why I had wanted to participate.  We grabbed some Pizza Hut to go (God bless American fast food!) and stopped by Ladbrokes on our way back to the hotel to bet on a dog race.  We lost.  We set up a tour of Loch Ness via email and hit the sack.

Friday, July 29

Rain...cold...misery.  That pretty much sums up Scottish weather.  We ate breakfast at a local tea room down the close.  Damon had a proper English tea and I had toasted teacakes and Scottish shortbread.  We took a cab to the movies where we watched Madagascar.  Yes, we were that cold and miserable.  After the movie we ate and played video games.  Then we watched The Wedding Crashers.  We took a cab back to the room where we watched the British Big Brother Live Eviction.  Pathetic day of tourism.  Went to bed.  Still cold... 

Saturday, July 30

We had a breakfast muffin at the Bean and Grape.  We took pictures in the very photogenic Advocate's Close and a phone booth.  We went to Edinburgh Castle and toured the military museum, and saw the crown jewels, the prison, and the chapel.  On our way back down the street we saw that kid who plays Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter movies filming a scene in Advocate's Close, the same spot we had been taking pictures in earlier!  The crowd of gawkers claimed that the scene was for an upcoming Potter movie, but seeing as I am writing this years later and almost all the Potter movies are out, I think they were lying because I have never seen Weasley run down Advocate's Close and ask a policeman for directions in any of those movies.  Oh, well.  Next we went to the John Knox house.  We grabbed some McDonald's and hopped a bus to St. Andrews to play 9 holes.  Just kidding, we just saw the 1st and 18th greens and toured the British Golf Museum.  We took the bus back and had dinner at Relish-Gourmet Burgers before retiring for the night.

Sunday, July 31

We left on a bus tour like two retirees at 8 a.m.  Along the way I learned that: Edinburgh has 27 golf courses.  Caledonia was the Roman name for Scotland, and Pontius Pilate's father served there as a centurion.  Our first stop was for breakfast.  Damon had a hot bacon roll and a hot sausage roll.  I had a scone.  We stopped for pictures at Glencoe, site of the Campbell massacre of the McDonalds.  Lunch was Scottish soup and a sandwich along with whiskey tasting.  We toured Urquardt Castle and took a boat ride on Loch Ness.  Loch means "lake."  We did not see Nessie on the lake, but managed to capture her in a box to bring home while perusing the shelves of the conveniently located gift shop at the end of our boat ride.    We had dinner at the Tipsy Laird and were "home" for 8:30.

Monday, August 1

This is where it gets a little fuzzy.  I quit taking notes, and since I waited 5 years to write the final diary entry, I really have no idea what happened.  I know that somehow we made it back to Paris.  I know that we had to ride trains all over the city to reclaim all of our luggage, since we were unable to store it all in a central location.  (We had a box of wine and the main train station would not store liquids because of 9-11 regulations.  Stupid terrorists ruin life for normal people, but I guess that's their goal, huh?  Jerks.)  We spent the night in one last Frenchy hotel in which you had to insert the room key into a slot in order to make the electricity come on in the room.  They call it environmentalism, I call it being a cheapskate.  We had to dump all our toiletries and consolidate bags in order to make our luggage manageable for the return trip.  We flew out of Charles de Gaulle and landed in Washington, where long lines in customs almost made us miss our flight to New Orleans.  We almost died on that flight due to extreme turbulence.  Seriously, the pilot came over the loud speaker and screamed, "Put on your seatbelts NOW!"  Apparently, no one had schooled him on the whole "remain calm in order to not freak out the passengers" thing.  I just knew I had made it through two international flights and would die on a domestic one, but God had other plans for me and we landed safely in New Orleans.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I would go back in a heartbeat and do it all over.  I hope that some day I can take my girls to Europe and show them all of the places that we loved.  And maybe even some of the ones we didn't.

The end.  

1 comment :

dara said...

ahhh, i love the lost diaries. Thanks for posting this so that I can read this while waiting for the clock at work to speed up.