Well, this blogging thing feels more lame than anticipated, but I must say I have been better than I thought at actually writing stuff down once in a while. However, I rarely have internet access and the internet cafes, while affordable, have very screwed up keyboards and I simply cannot write comfortably with a freaking enter button one centimeter to the right of where it should be.
Also, since I seem to morph into some over-the-top narcissistic jackass when posting blogs, allow me to simply cut and paste my thoughts as I write them:
Galway & Galway City
When visiting Ireland, best not to take advice from Albanians.
Let me start by saying I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, as after going back and reading below it sounds like I'm bitching like Sean Penn at a political function.
It is shortly after midnight on late Monday/early Tuesday and I sit in the Ard Mhuire B&B typing this up. And yes, actually sober!
While I am enjoying Ireland thus far, I must say I have SOME regrets on choosing the Salt Hill section of Galway City. I was told of this location by some random Albanian guy at a cocktail party in NYC (yes at your place Paul). I had already decided to visit Galway when I spoke to him and I asked him a good area of town to visit. He said Salt Hill and he said there was a great bar (that he used to bounce at) called "Halo Bar". I specifically asked him for a non-touristy bar that wasn't just a bunch of 18-21 year olds. Well, when I arrived in Galway, the cab driver that picked me up at the airport said this place is indeed too young for me. He also told me Salt Hill is a bit far from the heart of Galway city. Oops.
I also picked a B&B that is rather far from even Salt Hill because the b&b website is a bit misleading. The place is great and they've been very nice, but I gotta say I'm tired of walking so far into town! Yes, there is a bus but not really. Yes there are taxis but I only take taxis home as I don't really have a phone. (kinda like having no phone...really)
Worth noting that walking 2+ miles to town is made harder when you start your day with a 5 mile run! Running along the Galway Bay promenade has been awesome! I took a few pictures on each of my ensuing 2 walks to and from town today. The only cool sunset photo I managed was sullied by the caravan/trailer park, but then again I think sunsets and trailer parks are 2 things I don't stop and enjoy enough. Don't you? (yes, I have issues)
Tomorrow I hit the Aran Island of Inis Oirr, which I'm guessing will be rather cool, as I felt a little proud when the tourist agent gal complimented my choice of Aran Islands to visit, as most do the other 2 islands, and I told her a friend had grown up in Galway City and said it was by far all the locals favorite but the least visited by tourists as it is furthest away. Granted, this wasn't really a friend but a waitress from Ireland that works at DJ Reynolds in NYC. The lesson? Drinking is very useful.
But overall, I have to say Galway is just TOO darn touristy. I know I'm a tourist but I just like to experience things like an intruding local and in this town I feel like tourists far and away outnumber the locals. And they aren't even dominated by Americans. Many British, Polish & Slavic from what I can tell, but mostly Irish vacationers. It is like if an Irishman came to the states and then went to Ocean City, MD. Great place to go for a local family vacation, but an Irishman? (Yes, I am an unappreciative moron)
The Aran Islands: Inis Oirr
The Aran Islands is definitely my favorite stop thus far from a scenic perspective. I played this one perfectly I must say.
Getting the tip that the island of Inis Oirr is the least visited by tourists (since it is furthest…barely) but the favorite of the locals was a good one! This place was incredible.
I’m also glad I left the bulk of my stuff at the b&b in Galway as the day pack is more manageable. There were only like 3 b&b’s and luckily I got a room as the first 2 had no vacancies.
After securing the room I rented a bike and toured almost the entire Island. I was hesitant to do so since I’ve never been a mountain-biker or cyclist. I’m just too tall and gangly looking. But while the 4 hours of riding was a bit tiring, it allowed me to see it all. And really it wasn’t a tough ride. However, I did get really friggin thirsty at one point and knew I was miles from the ONLY convenience store. I thought of milking a cow but then I remembered the scene in Kingpin..."we don't have a cow, we have a bull?"
But the Aran Islands are wrought with Irish tradition…old school Irish. They all STILL speak Gaelic (or “Irish”) although they speak English too but only to idiots like me.
It may not be where the McDermotts come from directly, but the fact it is the best preserved piece of old Ireland Is cool.
And frankly I sympathize with the fact they speak such an impractical language, as it isn’t understood anywhere else in the world. Kinda like me with my SAS programming knowledge, only I have no pride and would gladly remove part of my brain to forget it. (perhaps I would speak complete sentences again) But somehow it is related. (huh?)
Several hours passes….
I just went out to 3 of the 4 bars on the island, having a pint or two at each only, and let me tell you it was cool! Did I feel welcome? Hell no! In fact I’m pretty sure a local drunken youngster wanted to kick my ass. Not because I did anything, nor did I tell a soul I was from the states or really even talk to anyone. I’m exaggerating a bit, as he was just belligerent and mumbling about kicking someone’s ass. May or may not have been me. (but if I were him, I’d say I was a good choice...and you know? Angry drunks have always fascinated me. I felt bad for this guy because if you are one of those belligerent drunks when you are young, chances are you will be in AA by the time you are 25. Who wants that?)
The last bar I went to, Ned’s, was pretty interesting. It was packed with locals (where do they come from? I feel like I saw about 20 houses, which means the entire town must get hammered on a Wednesday night!) Anyway, I had left the previous bar since I heard the band was coming on soon and frankly I didn’t want to be tempted to stay out late since I wanted to catch the early ferry at 8 bells in the morning. I went to Ned’s and when I arrived, there was a completely hammered fellow singing Johnny Cash tunes outside of the pub. He was totally trashed, which I thought little of, until he grabbed his mates (also trashed) and then headed to the bar I was just at. Why? Because they were the band!
Awesome. And no I didn’t follow. I had one beer and went to bed and woke up fine for the ferry. And yes, if you haven’t noticed, while I’ve had at least a couple beers each night, I NEVER went to bed as early as I have in Ireland. So I had to COME TO IRELAND to correct my boozing and late night ways? Yikes. And yes, I’m enjoying the normal sleep patterns.
So my only knock on Inis Oirr is the amazingly cold B&B. (hey, what can I expect for only 30 euros!) Plus the owner kinda creeped me out.
Galway City Day 3
After the Aran Islands, I returned to my b&b in Galway for 2 more nights.
Well, I have noted my regrets about visiting Galway, but tonight was fun I have to say. As is common with morons, we need a few days to figure out a town.
I figured out the bus system first and foremost. It doesn’t pick you up right outside my b&b, or anywhere close for that matter, but close enough that I can go into city center where it all happens. “It” being a good mixture of touristy crap, street-shows (which aren’t touristy somehow, maybe since there is fire involved and homeless guys they invite into the show…I digress) and a cool bar scene.
I also had a great cab-driver on the way home (11:15pm departure, mind you, which is my LATEST if you can believe that) and he told me that Halo bar is a great place, full of 27-35 year olds, and the only downside is they are a bit pretentious. Well, isn’t that New York? Or anywhere urban? Damn myself for trusting that first cabbie! I still blame the Albanian who said it was IN Salt Hill, but in retrospect, he may have told me to STAY in Salt Hill and PARTY in city center. But I don't think so. (I'm gonna catch me a rabbit and cut his tail off)
And tomorrow? Well, I MUST do laundry, as while I’ve only been traveling 6 days, I managed to run out of clothes. The only clean clothes I have are shorts (not needed here in the pseudo-arctic summers) and 2 bathing suits, one of which isn’t even mine but Joe’s, who put mine in my backpack my last night in London in case we swam in Marion’s pool. We did no such swimming, and I actually would have swam in the Aran Islands, if only I didn’t go touristy on myself and detach the handy-dandy “day-pack” of my overpriced backpack, and of course forgot a swimsuit.
Oh, and the b&b I am at has me in a THIRD room tonight. My first night, there was a booking mistake and they put me in an incredibly small room where I had to share a bathroom downstairs, which was fine since she cut 20 Euro off my 50 Euro a night rate (equivalent to about $600 savings with the current US dollar rate) and to make up for the mistake. The second night, she made up for it by putting me in a purty sweet room with a private bathroom. And then I went to the Aran Islands yesterday and when I returned my stuff was in an even sweeter room! This may be due to the fact that I complimented her Irish soda bread she was including in my breakfast. And yes I lied a little bit, as it was only so-so, but it prolly was more because my Mom makes the best there is going.
Let me tell you how much I love the Irish breakfast. I have decided it really isn’t that tough to create, as the 60 year old guy in the Aran islands with pungent B.O. made me an even BETTER Irish breakfast than the place in Galway. It was awesome(b.o. guy's breakfast)…though the coffee sucked big time. But here is what it entails:
-2-3 sausages, just like in the states, just maybe not as “brown and served”.
-2 honking pieces of Irish bacon, which is more like Canadian bacon, only they know enough to incinerate it so it isn’t fatty as hell.
-About 800 pieces of toast, 400 white, 400 Irish soda, and I like to clear my plate but simply cannot, and I can only assume they are putting the toast back in the mix for the next customer. (which I am fine with)
-2 pieces of black pudding (is that even what this ricey creation is??? Seriously, I want to know) It isn’t very good, it too was much better with B.O. guy.
-2 once-over eggs, which I used to HATE, but with 400 pieces of toast to burst it’s cholesterolly goodness with, it has grown on me big time. (even yesterday, when a friggin mosquito got caught in the over easy mess, and I simply picked it out AND ATE THE EGGS. (please send aid...and Crestar)
Also, let me tell you what a time I’ve been having with the bathrooms. (please stop reading if you know me even in the slightest and know this is only going to disturb you) Before I left NYC, my roommate returned for about 4 days, and since her apartment is about 10 square feet, and NO air breezes through the place, I know that any kind of, ahem, numero dos, isn’t going to clear the air for at least 2 hours, and since SHE NEVER LEAVES when she visits, AND I hate public restrooms, I basically sweated my way through my last 4 days, with the occasional night-prowler phantom display. THEN, I visited Marion’s parents, where I once again refused out of respect, and THEN I had that first night at the b&b with a “shared” bathroom, and needless to say I was a little “off” on life. I don’t know why I mention this…maybe so someone will explain why I have these issues. Even with my private bathroom at the b&b now, I watch nervously like a crazed gambler at a horse race hoping the flush leaves no evidence.
And also let me say I’m about done with the b&b’s, even as I sit typing in my master bedroom. NONE of them have wireless internet. They are certainly not full of teens like hostels, which I like, but the ARE full of families and couples, and I feel like there is a curfew, even though there isn't, and frankly I have been back before midnight every night.
GALWAY CITY DAY/NIGHT 4 (FINAL DAY)
After walking back from Galway city once again, the maid gal that works at the b&b happened to be walking along the road as well. After a short discussion, where she correctly surmised I am pathetic and have no travel companion, she invited me out with her and her friends.
She was a German gal who's taking English classes for the summer (even though she was 31?) and I must say I was happy to have people to hang with...especially a bunch of German gals.
However, it wasn't a bunch of German gals, or even German men, but mostly Swiss men, said German Maid and some gal with enormous boobs. (worth noting...at least I think so)
They were all classmates of the German gal, so they all had just taken a crash course in English and were happy to communicate with an ignorant American. They had trouble understanding me but I assured them it was because I have a speech impediment.
We all got totally hammered. Did I hook up with the maid? You know I don't kiss and tell...or maybe I do. She was certainly cool, I will say that, though she had very odd hair. (huh?)
Final Galway Ratings:
The scenery: 8
The "local feel": 3
The bars: 7
The food: 6
The friendliness of patrons: 7
The ladies' presence: 4 (like pubs in New York, ladies hardly show up!)
Desire to return 4
Value for Money 6 (I felt like I was ripped off, but after adding it all up, wasn't too expensive!)
Opinion of Americans: 4 Much like myself, Americans are just the most hopelessly moronic, cocky ("hey, I'm Irish too!") and presumptuous of the tourists.
Wow, didn't realize I didn't even include this from my notes....
I can imagine having a better day than today, but it would take some major thought.
I met a hot Spanish gal at the bus stop, about my age…and before you know it we were having dinner in Cork City. She seemed interested, was rather cute...although didn't speak a word of english...which I assumed was a good thing since I have nothing good to say anyway. I figured some well-placed laughs and Carry Grant preening would be my best approach.
But by mid-course of dinner, it was frustrating…since I speak no other spanish other "beer", "bathroom" and "wash your hands", and she spoke only slightly more English, we couldn't understand a word eachother said. However, we still had fun and laughed (about what, I don't know) and eventually though, it wasn't so fun. I got tired of talking like Tonto...and frankly, I couldn't shake it the rest of the evening after she left. (she had to catch a flight)
After sending her off on her bus (after striking out like Richie Sexson) I figured I would have 1 more pint, which I did at a nearby bar I remembered from last time in Cork City, and surprisingly, it kinda sucked.
Just so you know, I have had 2 pints on a FRIDAY NIGHT, and I was fine with it, but logic told me to try another pub. I go into a pub and while I’m ordering a drink from a rather young but rather hot gal bartender, some drunk guy bumps into me and strikes up a conversation.
He is about my age and totally hammered. Within seconds of meeting him, he buys me a drink, hits on about 4 different girls in 2 minutes (and isn’t a very attractive man), and then tries to milk my nipple to get more vodka in his drink. In the words of Morgan Freeman from Shawshank, “I liked him immediately”. So he brings me to meet his "mates".
Reluctant, I join him and find out it is a bachelor party, for his buddy Terry and about 10 of his buddies. His buddies are very nice but also standoffish as I would be with a random guy busting onto the scene (especially since they know he likes to milk nipples and might attract the wrong crowd!) But after talking with the boys we hit it off quite well.
I wouldn’t have joined this crew if it didn't feel appropriate. It was obvious they were the “drink a shitload with the boys” stag party rather than “let’s get hookers” stag crew that I frown upon.
Ever meet a group of folks one night and think “wow, if circumstances were different, I would definitely be friends with these guys”? This is how that crew was. Just a great, hilarious bunch of guys. And the one guy, the very guy who bought me that first beer, may be the funniest person I’ve ever met…and not because of his wit so much as his shameless presence in the bar. We all have those friends that will walk up to any girl and bust out the most purposefully terrible dance moves, and we also have another friend that likes to take off his clothes when drunk (Carp) but this guy was BOTH of these guys.
You know how you laugh so hard that you not only cry but realize you are “the laughing guy who nobody else understands why it is so funny”? Well I was him. Sure, his buddies were laughing, but this guy was killing me.
And these guys said they had been drinking since 10am, and here I was speaking caveman with a hot Spanish girl who didn’t drink, and STILL, I managed to catch up to these guys AND leave before the party was over. (mind you, most had left, but some were still there)
Excellent night though!
Cork City: Day 2 & 3
Well after Friday, one of the better days of my 34 years of existence, I had trouble following Saturday or Sunday with the same kind of evening. And frankly, that is a good thing since you shouldn’t have bachelor party-level partying more than a few times a year.
So Saturday was pretty relaxing. Sure I had a couple pints, and was actually willing to have SEVERAL pints, but the magic wasn’t the same, and there was a pivotal juncture when I knew I had to go home. I went into a bar on Washington street and was feeling a tiny bit loserish for CLEARLY being by myself.
But out of nowhere, I catch a horrific stench that is clearly a fart. Just as I’m recognizing it, the fellow next to me has already recognized it and had already been surveying the scene for culprits.
Perhaps the timing of him smelling it before me and then looking at me to see my own level of surprise and disgust (which he probably took as an admission of guilt) did me in. You know I have little shame when it comes to toilet matters, and often don’t know how to keep such things to myself, but let me say I was NOT the owner of that one.
But in retrospect, I remember the accuser walking over to my area, and I’m fairly certain he did it himself. But at the moment I was guilty, and I kinda found it quite funny and knew I couldn’t prove my innocence (and it lingered while I chugged my beer to speed up the trial). No Richard Kimble vengeance for me!
And then today, I pretty much organized all of my idiotic ramblings and uploaded my blogs and pictures. Please note this is more time consuming than you would think. Seriously, the wireless router on my floor is messed up so I have a very weak connection at times. (good thing I payed extra for a wireless enabled hotel rather than b&b’s!)
And tonight? (Sunday the 26th) I was fairly tired after my documenting, and I was also hungry, so I decided to stray from the norm and try a Thai restaurant. I went in there at 4:30pm and recalled just how early it was, so I went and had a pint nearby until a respectable dinner hour. I went back and it was still totally empty, and remained so for my whole meal, demolishing my expectation that the Irish might love Thai food as much as I.
And “how was the thai food?” you may ask? Actually it was pretty good! Sure, a couple slices of the chicken were a little tough, but not off-puttingly so (kinda like Foghorn Leghorn) but by the time I finished, I was in heaven…although the green-curry-heavy dish left me smelling of curry worse than Dell Curry. Huh? (note: I should not sully any VA Tech grads at this point who haven’t admitted to killing dogs…and has any university in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD had a worse year than Virginia Tech? Michael Vick, you broke my heart…bastard)
So anyway, I went home after dinner and did some more blogging and travel research, and with an ounce or two of energy, decided to go out again. I stayed very local and went 50 yards from my hotel to a place called “Rearden’s”. The bouncer outside looked unfriendly but I went in anyway with low expectations, mostly because I heard a traditional live music band was playing and I hadn’t caught much of it thus far in Ireland.
Wow! What a cool place it turned out to be! I found a seat hidden in the back of the bar but totally in view of the stage and marveled at the band, which was actually a REAL traditional Irish band, only they were about my age or younger. Seriously, this was a concern for me, that the Irish had been so sickened by American and other foreign stereotypes of traditional Irish music that they had grown tired of their OWN music.
Luckily I was wrong. This place was full of Cork locals and Irish from out of town at worst, and it was simply amazing. And no, I met no friends, and frankly didn’t stay much more than an hour, but it was cool I tell ya.
Cork City: Day 4
So my day in Cork started with a much needed run. The 50,000 calorie a day diet suggests so. After that I did a “hop on, hop off” bus tour, which is always a tad lame since you are propped up on the upper level of those things, with touristy tidbits playing far too loud to pedestrians and my hideous shiny pate extends above all on top of the bus.
But no matter the town, those things are always enjoyable. Got some good pics and good info, like how “The Four-Faced Liar”, probably my favorite pub in NYC, got its name. It is because the tower has a clock on each side, and the prevailing winds would screw up each side back in the day. Nice to have answer for that! And yes, it made me thirsty.
After the bus tour, that same German gal who worked at the B&B in Galway happened to have her sister visiting Cork at the same time and suggested I meet up with her and sis and boyfriend. Well I’m glad I did! Neither her sis or boyfriend were actually THAT fun, but we went to a bar on St Patrick’s street, the main street in Cork that I had been avoiding since it is mostly shops, and this place was pretty cool. It had live traditional Irish music as well, the instrumental kind that is nice to have in the background.
Since Ireland joined the European Union, it has seen an influx of foreign residents, the majority from Poland and Lithuania I’m told. If I may pass on the stereotype, they don’t mind the Polish so much since they are “good workers” and willing to do cheap labor. They clearly don’t like the Lithuanians since they are “lazy and only want to beg and collect welfare”. They did not mention world-class B.O., but I confirmed that one myself. And Baltic B.O. was bad enough before the emergence of sleeveless shirts. Damn whoever invented those!
Anyway, I mention this as it isn’t just Polish and Lithuanian, there are LOTS of EU temporary or newly planted residents. At this pub, I found myself hanging with several Germans, several Italians, a couple Spaniards and one rather amusing Austrian guy. He was cracking me up big time, but in more of a “laugh at him rather than with him kinda way”.
He was a mixture of a real life Borat and Hanz and Franz from SNL. He had an excellent knowledge of American pop culture and America in general. (as does everyone everywhere I’ve been. Seriously, we don’t know shit about anyone else but they keep an eye on us…and not enviously so in most cases!)
Anyway, Christian the Austrian was talking about the Governator (and told me how his country ostracized him for “killing two people” meaning he didn’t pardon two executions as governor…wow, that’s kinda heavy really).
He also kept saying things like “Kevin in New York who is home by himself” and I thought he was just making fun of me being 34 and single, but I finally realized he was talking about the movie “Home Alone”, and yes Macauley Culkin’s character was indeed named Kevin.
Then things got funnier when the Spaniards, the Germans and the Austrian all started singing American pop tunes. And the Austrian kept adlibbing (rather cleverly) his own stuff in there. It did get a bit annoying when they started singing U2 songs because (a) I dislike U2 frankly (no really, always have) and (b) U2 is kind of the pride and joy of Ireland and it isn’t cool to butcher their songs with broken English and (hilarious) adlibbing at 2 in the morning with residences a few feet above us.
I went home at a decent hour (midnight-ish) and got up for my flight to Norway feeling fine. I sit in Norway now typing this up. I shall tell you about Norway when I truly experience it!