the_siobhan: (What Would Jaques Cousteau Do?)
So now I know why they tell you not to fly when you have a cold. I can't say I recommend the experience.

cut for pics )

I'm really glad to got to go, it was fascinating stuff if a little depressing. We found a number of memorials in town from the Irish immigrants thanking Québec for taking them in in their hour of need. There is also a sizable population of Québécois with Irish names because their ancestors were orphans taken in by local families. (Our former PM Brian Mulroney as an example.)

And as our tour guide pointed out, it really puts into persepective the measly 25,000 Syrians refugees Canada is taking in.


Oct. 26th, 2015 11:19 am
the_siobhan: (Dufferin station)

This is a pic of our driver, a lovely man from Cork named Brian O'Gorman. If you ever want a driver in Ireland, look him up. He was awesome.

Doing a vacation with a driver is a little weird for me - on the down side, we probably stumbled on fewer things by accident. On the plus side I probably got less wet than I would have if I had been wobbling around the country on my own. Actually the weather was overall a lot nicer than I packed for. It really does rain every day, but never like it really meant it. And it was sunny for a few hours at a time on several occasions.

Friday we went to a tiny town (the name of which I honestly cannot remember) and climbed around in a graveyard looking for names. I use the world "climbed" quite intentionally there. There were city workers cleaning it up while we were there, and it had obviously been a while because some of the brambles were up to my waist in places. Many of the headstones were broken, knocked over or worn smooth. BC visited the library and apparently they had put together a list of all the graves in the area but the name she was looking for didn't show up. So that was a dead end.

From there Brian drove us to Dublin, where having a driver did not stop us from getting very lost. Once we finally made it to the hotel I called my cousin, who took us out for drinks and an evening of shit-talking. It turned out that it was a long weekend, so everything was packed and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only person in Dublin with a hangover the next day.

Saturday was more tourism. We visited Dublin Castle and one of the sites of The National Museum. Dublin is gearing up for the centenary celebrations of the The Easter Rising, so there is lot going on for somebody who is interested in the history of the country.

Sunday we got up at gawdawful o'clock dragged ourselves to the airport and I had Dreadful Flight II: Electric Fuckaroo because not only did we have to contend with the seats from hell, but we were stuck in them for an extra hour because the guy who's job it is to put the gas in the plane fucked up and didn't give us enough. The flight itself was really bad for turbulence so they couldn't even give us coffee. And then they tried to feed me this.


Seriously, what the fuck is that?

After a week of living in smoked-salmon-at-every-meal-if-I-damn-well-feel-like-it land, sticking this in front of me was just adding insult to injury.


I am home now and still lagged so I got up at the asscrack of dawn. This week is going to be all about the painting and then maybe I can get some of the pictures sorted out.
the_siobhan: (punk rock)
We did a brief bop around Galway this morning then back in the car to head to Cavan. We stopped on the way to visit Athlone Castle just because we were driving by and it looked neat. They have a museum that goes through the historical events of the site and it was fascinating. The Shannon River divides much of Ireland, and so anybody who controls the crossings has a major strategic advantage, which leads to a very, erm, eventful history. Lots of things going boom. Stuff like that.

Cavan is where BC is doing her genealogical research, so it was the main purpose behind this trip. Most towns in Ireland have genealogy centres now that researching family history has become such a big interest. Our driver told us of a graveyard in Cork (his home town) where they brought in experts to read the carvings on the old headstones and put everything they found online. Most of the headstones don't last long in this climate, so anything prior to the 1800s is pretty much impossible to decipher.

While she hit the library, I went to the bar. The hotel where we are staying, like so many of the big buildings here, was once an old English manor house. The ones that didn't get turned into museums became hotels. This one incorporated the original buildings and then expanded on them - leading to the pic I took below of the reception area. This is on the inside of the hotel lobby.

The old stables are still standing too, and have been turned into a spa and connected to the rest of the building by a long glass hallway. The bar I'm sitting in is in the basement and was apparently part of a network of underground tunnels running through the site.

This does not mean that they are not respectful of their historical buildings. It means that they have so many old buildings that they can decide which ones are important, and let the remaining ones be taken over by hotels.

BC has taken to categorizing the age of some of the places we visit by figuring out how many times Canada's existence as a country would fit into them. "This tower was built in 1100? That's more than six Canadas!"
the_siobhan: (Brighter Blessed Than Thee)
Yesterday was The Ring of Kerry, which is scenery, scenery and more scenery.

Today we visited to Bun Ráite Castle which is situated in a traditional thatch village, and from there drove to the Cliffs of Moher which are holy shit impressive. We are spending the night in Galway (which seems to be a real party town) and tomorrow we go to Cabhán, where BC is doing her family research. It may involve a lot of graveyards, so it occurs to me that the reason she brought me might be because bringing a goth means they are the least likely of anybody she knows to get bored.

More observations:
  • The crows here are like the pigeons at home, there are flocks of them everywhere. (I once pointed at two seperate flocks of crows joining a third on the top of a building and said, "Look! A mass murder!" BC didn't think it was funny.)

  • It rains just about as much as they tell you it does.

  • One of things that I remember most clearly about being here in '71 is the little winding highways with the high hedgerows on the sides. They may have built highways since then, but that doesn't mean those terrifying little roads have fallen into disuse.

  • A second thing I remember is that there seemed to be half-fallen stone towers everywhere, and that they are so common that the locals don't even take note of them. My cousins had one in their backyard. Since I have gotten here I can confirm that yes, my memory was accurate. So far I have seen the crumbled foundations of some kind of stone structure next to brand new housing developments, on the edge of parks and in the middle of sheep fields and people pretty much ignore them.

  • Irish people are nice. Even in the cities. It's a little unnerving.

    I took a pic on my phone just so I could show you the kind of thing I've been doing all week.

  • the_siobhan: It means, "to rot" (Default)
    I found a pic of the pub online, so I can show it to you

    See I wasn't kidding about the golf balls.
    the_siobhan: (flying monkeys)
    Today we went to the Rock of Cashel, ate lunch in Cork, and took a walk around the grounds of Muckross house. Tonight we are staying in a pretty little gingerbread hotel in a town called Killeen, just outside of Killarney. I'm sitting in the bar, where the walls are entirely decorated with beer labels and golf balls.

  • Parts of Ireland look a lot like parts of Ontario. In particular the area around here is full of low mountains and granite bedrock that is very similar to what you see in northern Ontario. Maybe the reason so many Irish immigrants settled there.

  • A lot of place names start with "kill". I finally looked up the meaning, and it turns out it's derived from "cill", meaning "church". I feel better now that we've cleared that up.

  • All the signs are in both English and Irish and I am more convinced than ever that Irish is a language based on incomprehensible logic. The Irish spelling of the city name Cork, for example, is Corcaigh. Just imagine what they do with the multi-syllabic names.

  • Ireland is the smoked salmon capital of the world.

  • Speaking of the food, I take back everything I have ever said about Irish cooking. I have eaten like a king since I got here. And I've even had really good coffee. More than once. England, take note. (US and Canada, don't even try, you're already hopeless.)

    Tomorrow we are driving "the ring of Kerry" which is basically taking in the scenery along the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula. I will take many more pictures which I can't post here because all my cables are fux00red.
  • the_siobhan: (fortune)
    I am convinced that highly paid engineers get hired to design and test the most awkward and uncomfortable seats possible at the behest of airlines. How else to explain that I have actual bruises on my ass from the flight over here.


    I am in Ireland! In Kilkenny today. And it is gorgeous in a very damp way. At some point I will figure out why my camera won't talk to my laptop, and when I do there will be photos.

    Noir City

    Apr. 28th, 2015 11:56 am
    the_siobhan: (What Would John Cleese Do?)
    My sister signed up for a website where people trade their houses to live in while on vacation. It's a brilliant idea; save the cost of a hotel while abroad and not have your house sitting empty while your plants die and the mail piles up on your porch.

    The house she stayed in turned out to be a cottage near the town of Haliburton. Axel, Jenn and I drove up for the weekend. It's early enough in the year that it's still cold and there are traces of snow around, but it was still pretty nice to be getting out of Toronto.

    view of the lake

    a few pics below the cut )

    And then on Sunday when we got back to Toronto and finished dropping everybody off, we passed this guy climbing around on the street furniture.

    Spider Man

    I gotta say, to me the most hilarious part of this picture is the guys under him going, "OMG LOOK! AN AVAILABLE PLACE TO LOCK YOUR BIKE! ON QUEEN STREET! "

    home safe

    Sep. 6th, 2014 10:17 am
    the_siobhan: (shock and awe)
    The flight home was marred only by Toronto weather - severe thunderstorms over the airport meant the plane couldn't land, then after being in a holding pattern for a while over the city we had to fly to Ottawa to get more fuel. Then we had to wait to actually get the fuel because there were other planes in line ahead of us and then by the time it was our turn the thunderstorm had caught up with us. They don't like their people working around big metal tubes when there is lightning around, go figure. So we sat on the tarmac and waited for it to blow over. We couldn't even get off the plane.

    Once the storm had gotten past the crashing and banging stage we got back to Toronto easily enough and customs, baggage claim and the taxi ride home went as smoothly as always. I ended up home at 2 am after being up for 25 hours and being in transit for almost 17 of those.

    I slept like a baby last night.

    It was a brilliant trip. More posts later when I get a chance to sort the photos and retrace our steps.
    the_siobhan: (dinosaur)
    The good news. No laundry to do when we get home.

    The bad news. Because somebody stole it.
    the_siobhan: (steps)
    Yesterday we really did walk all over a mountain.

    Today we walked all over Rapperswil, which is a tiny medeval town not far from my sister's place.

    Tomorrow we will walk all over Zurich.
    the_siobhan: (shock and awe)

    I didn't sleep at all on the plane, arrived around 4 am Toronto time, found Axel and then spent the afternoon rambling around the neighbourhood (and drinking wine) with my sister and her husband. They live in a small town just outside of Zurich on the lake. The picture is the view from her guestroom.

    I slept something like 14 hours straight and I feel fantastic. Today we're going to go climb a mountain or something.


    Aug. 22nd, 2014 04:35 pm
    the_siobhan: (flying monkeys)
    My flight is oversold. My seat is not guaranteed. I am not best pleased by this news.

    Ah well. Naught to do but hang in the lounge until the desk opens.


    Aug. 22nd, 2014 01:57 pm
    the_siobhan: (shock and awe)
    At the point where I'm all packed and trying to figure out what I'm about to forget.

    This is where I start getting excited.


    Jul. 16th, 2014 11:22 am
    the_siobhan: (shock and awe)
    Flights to Europe booked. Holy crap we're finally doing this.
    the_siobhan: (steps)
    It looks like I'm going to be doing these out of order. An order that is primarily based on how long it will take me to come up with a coherant answer for each one.

    [ profile] jackspryte gave me the prompt;
    A vivid and/or evocative description of the most beautiful/amazing/awe inspiring place/space you've been to/in.

    I decided on my answer to this one when I was looking at a friend's FB post about places they had visited in Canada and it mentioned this location.

    A whole bunch of years ago Axel and I were invited to a friend's wedding in Maine. When we were making our plans around that we decided that we would extend our vacation after the event, drive North into New Brunswick and check out some of the east coast provinces, since neither of us had ever been there before. We did that and spent several days tooling around the coast taking pictures of covered bridges and boats at low tide, eating fresh seafood and being completely touristy.

    There were a few places that were on our short-list of things to see while we were out there, and the Bay of Fundy was on that list. So we found a campsite near the park, set up our tent and pulled out a schedule that we had picked up at some rest stop along the way to figure out what time we should show up at the park in the morning. It said that the low tide was going to happen at 11am. Only it also mentioned that low-tide happens twice in a 24-hour period. It was currently around 10 pm.

    It took some doing for Axel to convince me that it was a good idea for the two of us to go roaming around on a unfamiliar shore in the pitch black all by ourselves but somehow he talked me into it. The gates were locked so we had to leave our car on the side of the road that leads in and climb over a fence to get into the park. There is a walk along a wooded trail that is quite short to get to the stairs that go down the cliff, it seemed like miles in the dark. I was still half-convinced that we were going to end up on some Darwin Awards website and Axel kept taunting me by turning the flashlight off. I finally made him stop by saying the word "bears" at him. I was glad I did; we didn't see any bears but we did spot the world's biggest toad sitting in the middle of the path and I would have been very sad to have stepped on him.

    If you have never been to the Bay of Fundy, it's an inlet between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and it happens to be the site of the highest tides in the world. We were in a provincial park on the New Brunswick side where they have built wooden staircases that take tourists down the 15-metre cliffs to walk around on the shore when the tide is out. So we climbed down the stairs and walked around what is essentially part of the ocean floor.

    There was no moon at all that night so it was pitch black. There were also no clouds so we could see the rocks above us as black shapes against the backdrop of dense stars. The mud was sticky and sucked at my feet with every step and everything stank of brine. If I put my hand on the rocks I could feel spiky barnacles and slippery seaweed. We could hear the water lapping at the sand just a few yards away and the deeper ocean noises off in the distance. And of course the sound of our feet squelching through the mud.

    It's hard to explain what it was like walking around down there. The inlet is wide enough that the sky above us seemed to stretch to the horizon. It was one of those nights where the air is so clear that if you focus on a cluster of stars for a few minutes your eyes suddenly realize that the dark patches between them are full of even more, even fainter stars. And etched against that background is the pure black shape of the flowerpot rocks. I felt incredibly tiny and ephemeral.

    We walked around in the dark for about half an hour before we decided to head back. We ended up taking a slightly different path through the woods and promptly got lost[1] but Axel "Country Boy" Johnston managed to guide us back to the road and we found our car easily from there. We went back during the day of course and did some mucking about on the ocean floor in full daylight with the other tourists. We took a bunch of pictures and were able to see the parts of the inlet that you can't walk around on because they are nesting areas. It was gorgeous and it was fun and it didn't have a tenth of impact of walking around down there in the middle of the night.

    [1]My sense of direction is hopeless if you take me out of an urban environment.

    Comment here if you want to add a suggestion of things to write about.
    the_siobhan: (What Would Johnny Cash Do?)
    Since electricity is dodgy at best in Haiti, most people schedule their days according to the sun. Which means they get up really honkin' early. Of course from the sounds of it they also stay up really late so maybe Haitians just don't sleep. Anyway.

    This means that at every place we stayed breakfast was served at 7 AM. Everybody else was up for hours by this time. I, on the other hand, honestly could not tell you my own name at that time of the morning.

    So I'm sitting on my bed staring at the room and trying to upload the English program to my brain while BC is "helps" by delivering rapid-fire questions, instructions and commentary. "Those are your pants. Paaaaaaaants. Pants. Do you remember pants? See you can tell they are pants because they have two legs and a waist. You wear them on your legs. You put your feet in first then you pull them up to your waist. You should probably sit down for the feet part and stand up for the waist part. You don't put them on your head because then they wouldn't be pants. Then they'd be a hat." And so on[1].

    Eventually I'd get organized enough to finally make it down for breakfast.

    "You're funny in the morning," she told me.

    "You know," I said "Delayed sleep syndrome is classified as a disability to be accomodated. Do you know you are mocking a disability?"


    "I'm so blogging about this."

    [1] Paraphrased. Memory also not so functional in the morning.
    the_siobhan: (fortune)
    In spite of my care I managed to get a sunburn across my upper back and shoulders. It wakes me up whenever I roll over onto my side and my shoulder hits the bed.

    I am also covered in mosquito bites. I'm not kidding, I think I couldn't locate a square inch of skin without at least one, including my knuckles, eyelids and between my toes.

    I therefore think it is absolutely the height of injustice that I am also going home from Haiti with a cold.
    the_siobhan: (goatse)
    BC hired a driver to take us to Jacmal and back because we had too much crap to haul it to the bus stop comfortably. He picked us up late yesterday because there was a brief rainstorm that dumped a truly unbelievable amount of water on us.

    As a result of the late pickup it was well after dark by the time he dropped us off at the guesthouse.

    There are a couple of things that I observed about the trip.

    1. Haitian driving can best be described as, "He who hesitates is lost." The trick is to honk your horn to notify pedestrians and other drivers when you are overtaking, passing, pulling into the oncoming traffic, driving up on the sidewalk or otherwise trying to be the first to get into that small gap in vehicles that you can see just a few cars ahead.

    2. Rush hour in Portoprens lasts 24/7.

    3. The roads in and around Portoprens are not as good as the ones in Jacmal. There are potholes, piles of rubble overflowing onto the road, sections where there is no pavement, sections covered in water and sections where there are massive holes which may or may not be blocked off by giant concrete barriers.

    4. Pedestrian traffic is even heavier at night than it is during the day if that's possible. The average side street in Portoprenz makes Yonge St look like a graveyard.

    5. Pigs, goats and chickens move about freely.

    6. There are no streetlights.

    7. Haitians do not slow down at night

    8. They also talk on the phone

    9. While driving a stick.

    It did occur to me at one point that Axel would be right at home here.


    the_siobhan: It means, "to rot" (Default)

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