Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dublin



We got into Dublin and our hotel early evening and headed across the River Liffy for a couple of pints and unfortunately not dinner. Apparently, the Irish aren’t late eaters so when we had finally decided to eat that was no longer an option. We ended up finding a diner a few streets over and since they also served pints there we headed “home” after that.

Our new home is comfortable; we got upgraded this week to a suite with a staircase up to our “library”. Don’t get too jealous. It is just two small hotel rooms with a spiral staircase connecting them, but to have two completely separate rooms is pretty exciting in our world. I woke up waaaay too early on Saturday and it was nice to be able to go upstairs and watch tv instead of trying to lay perfectly still while debating on just how many pillows it would take to make the bathtub a comfortable reading area.

Saturday we walked through most of the city making our way to the Kilmainham Gaol, stopping along the way at a few churches and other things we happened upon…





The jail has housed pretty much every important Irish patriot and holds more sad stories than I care to recount. It was really interesting though and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and, as it seems to be with most Irish people, a most excellent storyteller.

On our way out for an early dinner that night (why can’t we seem to eat lunch and keep our feeding times on schedule?) we ran into our compadre coming in from Brazil. After dinner we met up again to get him his first pint and add a few to our tally.

Sunday we decided to do the hop on/hop off instead of traversing the city again on foot. We first went to Trinity College where we had a great little tour from a grad student before heading up to the Long Room to see the ancient Book of Kells. The book is one of the oldest existing in the world today and although very interesting, I have to say the Long Room was the real highlight for me.

Anyone who finds the smell of yellowing pages in an old book intoxicating would understand just why I was in complete heaven. I could have sat in there forever just smelling the thousands of glorious old books. It was all I could do not to reach across the ropes and hold one in my hand. If only you could smell it…



We then rode through the Georgian neighborhood over to St. Patrick’s…


After grabbing lunch we headed over to Dublin Castle and the Charles Beatty Library…




We hopped back on the bus to ride through Phoenix Park, Dublin’s largest park that could house 2 Central Parks within it. It’s home to the US Embassy, their Army headquarters, their White House, the Dublin zoo, polo fields, gardens, and even leftover deer and pheasants from the days it was used as the King’s private hunting grounds.

It was a gorgeous day in Dublin with loads of sunshine although it was a chilly ride atop the open air bus’ upper level. We crashed pretty early that night and the wife began what is sure to be her last international audit of the year the next morning.

For my Monday I took advantage of our 2 day ticket and road almost the entire tour again. Although I was seeing some repeats, I was learning so much more from the bus driver that I didn't want to get off. He was providing commentary along the way that was laden with the wonderful Irish humor. It was highly entertaining.

My goal of the day was St. Michan’s Church, and more specifically their crypts. I couldn’t take photos inside, but trust me- it was beyond creeptastic. Due to high methane content and the limestone construction their crypts preserves bodies really well. I mean really well, like practically as well as the Egyptian mummies, just without all the work. As part of our experience you can touch the finger of an 800 year old knight for good luck.

I better be winning the lottery from “shaking hands with the Crusader” because just walking into the tomb room with all the open coffins was enough to really weird me out. Luckily I had lunch (read: pint o’ Guinness) beforehand so I was fortified and feeling braver than normal. Without it I may have chickened out before even going down the spooky crypt doors...



I thoroughly enjoyed my little day out. It’s so nice to be back in a city that actually has things to do and I swear the weather is amazing. It’s only in the low 60's, but it’s so sunny and wonderful. Everyone at the client has warned the Wife the sun is sure to disappear at any second and not to expect it to return for the rest of the year, but for the moment- it's gorgeous...




On the agenda for tomorrow: buy Wellies.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2 days in...

coming straight to dublin instead of trying to squeeze in another in-between location turned out to be a wonderful idea. not just in terms of giving ourselves a little break, but we also just had a great time.

as it is with all places, the people and vibe can really make or break it for me. don't get me wrong- dublin is a lovely city in its own right and there is quite a lot to see/do in terms of culture and history, but the people...they're just all* so amazingly friendly.

it just feels really nice to feel welcome and to relax in the company of a city instead of feeling isolated on its outskirts as nothing more than a tourist...its been a while.

they say dublin is a city with cold beer and warm hearts and so far we've found that to be a very accurate description. i'm seriously in love with this city.

pics and story of the weekend to come...



*like seriously every person we've met. every person. except for the english guy who licked my hand at a pub. not cool, english guy. not cool. thank God i had hand sanitizer in my purse. hand santizer that i used 3 times after the episode. wth?!? who does that?!?

Friday, August 27, 2010

flashback friday!

in honor of my current book (yes, i'm still reading it...mainly during daylight hours, thank you very much) here's a clip from our trip to the mouth of a bat cave in nicaragua. i wish i had been able to really capture them better, but it was dark and i was a bit freaked out...



there were thousands and thousands of bats flying out. and yes, we paid money to do this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

that time again...

another 8 weeks is drawing to a close, as is our time in germany. this was our second round in europe, but unlike greece, we had the ability to really travel around to other countries with ease. maybe it was even a little too easy. we only spent one weekend in germany, which is a shame really because there are some beautiful places to see. ah, but our rational was that we can always come visit germany on vacation one day. when would ever have enough time to see lisbon, amsterdam, vienna, venice, london, prague and iceland again??

it’s a balancing act we play at trying to keep sane while at the same time cramming in as much of the world as we can, while we can.

i won’t lie and say we’re not a little tired. i’m looking forward to our first three weekends in ireland (actually in ireland!) like you cannot imagine. no airports, no planes = heaven!

of course, thanks to ryan air and their ridiculously low airfares we’ll be jetting off every weekend after that. which is fine considering we’re 99.9% sure we’re headed home the last round as our sponsor seems bound and determined to keep people as close to their respective homes as possible in an effort to cut costs as well as morale.

we’re looking forward to it though. we’ve got a lot going on back home and it will be so nice to spend our favorite time of year (read: football season and pumpkin lattes) with loved ones.

it's hard to believe this will actually make over 6 months we’ll have spent in atlanta and over 8 months in the u.s. since we began last january.

germany has been a great round with awesome travel, pablo coming to visit, two trips to visit friends and lots and lots of beer and sausage. i won’t say that our locations in cologne and essen, especially the latter, didn’t leave a little to be desired, but the weekends have been great.

now- back to packing…the guinness is calling.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Berlin


It was a lovely last weekend in Germany both with the weather and the company. KS invited us to crash in on her and her cousin’s weekend and we gladly accepted; arriving just in time to pop open some bubbly for Friday happy hour.

Saturday was an adventure for me. It seems 12+ years without riding a bike makes for a slow return to cycling. Seriously though, who can’t remember how to ride a bike??? I just assumed that it would be like, well, like riding a bike. Not so much.

Oh to be a 30-something and have one of your friends jogging beside you holding on to the back of your bike like a kindergartner on a fairly busy street in Berlin. Good times.

I did get the hang of it enough to actually enjoy the day, although I refused to cross the street on the bike and also walked it when there wasn’t a bike lane. I have a rule against dying on the weekends.

All was okay until I had two big radlers (more on those in the food blog) at the beer garden and may have had a slight collision with a man and his wife at the top of a curvy hill in the Tiergarten . I said “may” have. There were only two possible witnesses and they know the score should they squeal.

All I’m saying is- I biked all day long around Berlin and no blood was spilled- mine or that of any others. I call that a success. AND I did it all in a dress..






Sunday we were able to squeeze in the Gedachtniskirche and the East Side Gallery…both memorials to some of the city’s darker days…






I know I’m always saying it, but we really enjoy our weekends spent with friends so much. It’s such a rarity for us and just to have dinner and catch up is just as much a treat as sightseeing.

We can’t thank KS enough for the hospitality and AM for bringing the sunshine with him from Rome. Of course when we landed in Essen Sunday night it was pouring rain and continues to rain today. Oh Essen…how ready I am to leave you behind.

And that is exactly what we’ll do in just a few days when we head to our next home in Dublin on Friday. I can almost smell the Guinness…

Friday, August 20, 2010

[sigh]

[sofia petrillo style] picture it…

a small and ill furnished hotel room in the sprawling metropolis of essen, germany. 48ish hours ago…

[having just finished “a room with a view” and wanting all things e.m. forster, dorky mcdorkerson giddily looks up free classics on amazon.com for her kindle] “ooh, passage to india…ooh here’s howards end! dang it. i can’t find maurice!”

[wife, not truly listening as is normal when dorky mcdorkerson gets on a roll. said with eyes rolling] “uh, huh. what? yeah, sorry honey.”

[dorky mcdorkerson] “ooh, i should go ahead and get war and peace, huh?

[wife, eyes still rolling] “sure, sure. yeah, sounds great."

[dorky mcdorkerson, unfazed by her wife’s obvious lack of interest] “oooh, here’s dracula! i can’t remember if i’ve read it before…i’m getting it!”

[wife, somewhat interested] “you are not reading that before bed. you’ll be scared just like you used to be after watching that ghost show.”

[dorky mcdorkerson] “what?!? no way! paranormal state WAS scary, this is a classic. like i’m going to be scared from some book written in the 1800’s! come on!”

[wife] “DO NOT read it before bed.”

[dorky mcdorkerson, under her breath] “whatever.”

fast forward 24ish hours later, same hotel room. dorky mcdorkerson and wife have crawled into their giant bed which is actually composed of two larger than twin-sized mattresses pushed together. after another thrilling night in the sheraton essen lounge, they are settling in…

[dorky mcdorkerson turning on her mighty bright book light, grabbing kindle and clicking on dracula. she is frantically shaking her right leg, which she is allowed to do since the wife cannot be annoyed with the movement in her adjoining, but separate bed] “love you.”

[wife facing away from obnoxiously bright book light and laying on the far side of her mattress away from insanely annoying leg movement] “love you.”

20ish minutes later…

[dorky mcdorkerson] “honey???”

[wife, sleepily] “what?”

[dorky mcdorkerson] “i’m scared.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Island



Even rain couldn’t take away from the beauty of this country. Blast this rain! I think God is trying to get us ready for living in Ireland.

Anyhoo, back to our weekend…

We arrived early morning on Thursday and headed directly to the Blue Lagoon from the airport. Almost immediately you feel like you’ve landed on a different planet with all the green spongy moss covering fields of black lava rocks. Then you see the ethereal blue water and you’re even more convinced you’ve left Earth...



The Blue Lagoon is a hot spring and full of silica which makes it delightfully relaxing and leaves your skin super soft. I think it may be the best thing we’ve ever done after a long and early morning flight. Very relaxed girls...



After we were done soaking we made our way to Reykjavik and to our hotels. We quickly popped out to grab some food and see the town. I know it is technically the capital of the country, but I just can’t call it a city. Reykjavik feels far more like a college town than an actual city and not at all like a capital. Cute little restaurants, bars and stores selling Icelandic “woolens” (sheep outnumber people in Iceland) fill the small streets and thanks to the earthquakes there isn’t a building over a few stories high. It was ridiculously quaint.

We had one of those weird too late for lunch but too early for dinner meals and after milling about had a couple of local beers (Gull-not bad, not bad) and went to bed. We had been up since 4:30am so our 10pm bedtime seemed more than reasonable.

We set off after breakfast on Friday for the golden circle tour. This is kind of the quintessential tour in Iceland since it covers some of the best of their natural sites. We first stopped at one of their newest geothermal energy plants. What a snorefest. I’m all for being green and I actually find the concept interesting, but it was a bore of a tour. We then hit the Gullfoss Falls- really beautiful and we even had about 5 minutes where it wasn’t raining...


We saw 2 of the world’s 5 geysers although only one blew…or spurted…or erupted or whatever it is they do. Very cool...




Then we ended our day visiting the site of the world’s oldest parliament. Iceland was founded by Norwegians that wanted to escape their king’s rule. AKA- they were over the taxes. With no monarchs to rule them they created the world’s first parliament to still keep it somewhat civil, keep in mind they were Vikings. They chose the site due to the large amount of space, grass to feed the horses and available drinking water. No building was ever erected as the chieftains stood on “law rock” to announce new laws to the citizens each year. It is a place dear in the hearts of Icelanders as the birthplace of their country and government. Just so happens this is also where you can see the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia which was just freaking awesome…




Saturday we headed to Southern Iceland where drove through awe-inspiring farmlands to see waterfalls,tons of ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, a glacial tongue (also covered with ash from Eyjafjallaj√∂kull), some black sand beaches (one with very cool basalt formations) and visited a little museum founded and still run by the cutest little old Icelandic man you could imagine that focused on the culture of the Southern way of life complete with farmhouses from the 18th century…









It was a really great, but also long day- made even longer by our 1am flight out.

Iceland is just so unique and truly breathtaking. I’m sure many of you have never even thought of visiting it. God knows I didn’t a couple of years ago, but really you should put it at the top of your travel wish list. There is no other place like it.

This weekend is our last in Germany and we’re actually staying in the country to spend some QT with KS in Berlin. Can’t wait! And I’m sure I’m cursing us right now by typing it, but the weather called for rain all week but is now saying an entire weekend of sunshine. I’m still packing the umbrella.

**more photos to come as soon as i get them from our travel companion who played personal photog all weekend- thanks, v!!**

Friday, August 13, 2010

flashback friday

snippet of the german national anthem from the world cup game we watched in cologne...



this is germany- the beer is a very important part.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Prague



Prague…beautiful, charming, soaking wet Prague…well, at least it was soaking wet on Saturday. Even before we went to breakfast it was raining on and off. We decided to risk it since it was only a light rain. Weather report calls for “heavy rain”?? Why yes, but surely it will stay on and off and hey, we’ve got an umbrella and two raincoats. A little rain isn’t going to keep us from seeing this city.

Except it wasn’t a little rain- it was a lot of rain. Like a torrential downpour kind of rain.

But not yet, when we set off it was a light rain. We decided if we could make it to the Prague Castle we’d be golden since most of the stuff was inside and we’d see what we could along the way. We made it to the old town square and even across the St. Charles Bridge to St. Nicholas’ Cathedral with this annoying yet manageable rainfall…







It was while in the cathedral (and the reason there are so many photos of the church, although it really was pretty spectacular) that the heavens opened up and the rain came flooding out. We stayed in the church as long as possible and after a short couple of blocks we ducked inside a restaurant to try to wait it out. After some local beer, some bad potato dumplings and even worse goulash, we realized it wasn’t getting any better outside. To the contrary, it was only getting worse. Finally we decided to just get on with and make the long trek back to the hotel- in the downpour*.

Once there we changed into some dry clothes and promptly headed to the lounge- which is where we stayed all night. As boring as it sounds, it actually ended up being a fun little night in with far too much champagne and even a Canadian palm reader.

Sunday we were in total hustle mode to see all we could before our flight out that night. We finally made it to the castle were able to actually see some of the city and all its beauty along the way…







Another weekend’s plans foiled by this dang European summer rain. That’s okay though, we’re not quite done with you, Prague. As Arnie would say-we’ll be back.

We actually leave tomorrow morning for a long weekend. We’re so excited about it since it's a trip we've really been hoping to make while on the road (insert drum roll here)......(are you done?).....ICELAND!

Adventure awaits and yes, the weather forecast is of course calling for rain.



*Sadly my point-and-shoot that I used to capture some “fun” pics during the rainy walk back somehow ate all the photos. Which includes some awesome panoramic I took…sigh. I don’t know, but I have had some kind of voodoo curse going on with my electronics lately. If I can find some way to recover them I’ll post them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

filling in the gaps

as of late we have a great deal of loved ones dealing with hardships. cancer, illnesses, addiction, loss and tragedies…it feels like almost all news from home is awash with sadness, anxiety and fear.

being so far away is difficult for us. we feel helpless and know from this distance or even if we were home our only real option is to pray.

i struggle sometimes with my prayers. i wonder how to get it all in, to make sure i’m remembering all those i know in need and those i don’t even know…i struggle to remember to pray for God’s will instead of my own desires for people.

i read somewhere lately a passage about prayer. i can’t even remember where i read it, in a book i think or maybe an article, but it was about this kind of struggle. the person said they had decided to pray for God to fill in the gaps. the gaps being the space between people and the things they need, whatever those things might be…just for God to fill in that space, for God to provide the connection between where they are now and where they need to be to find peace.

i’m hopeful that God will fill in the many gaps back home and bring peace to all our loved ones and all their loved ones. this i pray.

any additional prayers and positive thoughts you could send their way would be very much appreciated.

flashback friday

some more of my awesome filming skills from our trip to manuel antonio in costa rica...



there is a lot going on in the video because there were little monkeys all over the place, but seriously can someone please confirm that the second monkey on camera actually does the sign of the cross?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"un-american, unequal, unfair"

yesterday was a huge day for my family and families across the united states. or as my friend on facebook said "a big yay day if yer gay". i'd say it was a big day for all americans who treasure the personal freedoms and liberties granted by our constitution.

a lifelong republican judge overturned proposition 8 that had banned gay marriage in the state of california.

the fight is long from over, but a victory is a victory and this one was big! below is the reaction from the attorneys that argued for the side of equality...



be warned- it's a little annoying to watch since a rally is going on behind them. i didn't know gays blew airhorns??

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

London


Our weekends are usually short affairs, but our time in London was cut even shorter by delayed flights, early departure times, and repairs to the Underground.

We started with the delay that cost us our dinner plans, but at least allowed us a quick champange toast and some take-out pizza at our friends' place.

Saturday we grabbed a quick bite and headed to the National Gallery. Swoon.

I heart museums- especially ones that are so incredibly laid out that you can still have a great experience even when time is limited. I also heart my wife who has been quite the trooper this round with all the art I’ve been shoving down her throat. She’s never been too fond of perusing paintings, but I think she’s actually starting to enjoy herself.

I was most excited to see this Van Eyck…



I still remember seeing it for the first time in one of our school books as a kid and being so drawn to it. It was much smaller than I thought it would be, although I’m not sure why I thought it would be huge. It was still hauntingly beautiful.

So…after our mad dash around the National Gallery we headed over to Parliament to meet up with our friends and take a tour of the building including the House of Lords, Commons and the rooms the Queen uses before she addresses the House. It was really so interesting and something I highly recommend should you go to London.

After grabbing a pint and some fish and chips at a neighboring pub we took a trip down the Thames to wander around Greenwich and then back up to Towers Bridge to have dinner. It was just really a lovely night chatting over dinner and a couple of pitchers of Pimms.

Sunday we had planned the unthinkable- we were going to all sleep in and enjoy a leisurely brunch with our friends before our early afternoon flight back. Oh the horrors- to be in a different city and not spend every waking moment running around like giant tourists?!? Yes and it would have been amazing, but thanks to the Underground line being down over the weekend we literally had to run out the door after just getting dressed.

Luckily with us being so close in Ireland we can hopefully fulfill our dreams of a simple brunch with friends at some point soon.

We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality! It was great hanging out and catching up!! Hopefully we can do more catching up before we leave Europe.

Friday we’re off to Prague and as soon as I get rid of the nasty cold I picked up in London I’ll be very excited.

DISCLAIMER- Due to the awesome pinched nerve in my neck and the fact that neither the Parliament nor the National gallery allow cameras, pictures were really at a minimum. I didn’t even get one of us with our friends. WTH?

Seriously though, the “masseuse” who took it upon herself to go all Chuck Norris on my neck in Bohol better hope I never make it back to the Philippines.