A Stone's Throw

practice your aim. you never know when you'll spy 2 birds at once.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the bad reputation

October 29 Belfast

For a city with such a poor reputation, there are some really friendly people here. Granted, such a legacy of violence is bound to put a damper on positive energies, but so far it's quite enjoyable here. And, the pubs. Some of the most interesting and welcoming places I have been to in all of Ireland. Using the £ gets expensive, and in Belfast it is especially expensive, but with some conservation it's not too bad.

The prices this weekend are way more than normal, but its a bank holiday here this weekend in addition to Halloween, and the beginning of the second half of the college student's semester. Busy busy. But there's nothing like Halloween celebrations in other countries. Way out of control.

Well, the internet timer is counting down the seconds to zero and I am out of bloody change to plug the meter. Nuts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

zip crinkle

Oct 26 - Derry, Northern Ireland

Let me share for a moment about living in a dormatory-style room. Zippers and crinkly bags. Every other moment someone is zipping open a bag or zipping it closed. Zip zip. And then there is the ominous sound of a crinkle. At first they are timid, perhaps even embarrassed about the crinkle, but then they get bold. Zip, zip, crinkle, Crinkle. They have apparently packed everything in individual paper bags and must search through each crinkly bag to find the desired item.

And then they find it, as always, at the very bottom of thier bag and must now reload all thier crinkly belongings into a bag the size of a small car. And then they forget something, naturally, and have to dig around to find this must-have item. All this time they are talking. It starts out in whispers, but then gradually comes to full voice, with jokes and laughs. I assume these are jokes from the laughter, but I can only assume because they certainly aren't speaking English. It could be Spanish or Danish or Russian or French or the dreaded Polish. The only constant is that it is loud. I believe that whispering in other cultures is just not acceptable. It's either loud or nothing. And they certainly won't walk around being culturally quiet.

By this time I am fully awake and trying to time my way for a clear path to the showers, which is another dicey experiment in group living.

But at 11£ a night, cheaper options are not readily available. Plus they included breakfast, which may not make it into a food magazine for its culinary mastery, but it does slacken the pangs of hunger.

not my cup of tea

Was invited to an IRA meeting for tonight from a group of young militant IRA members I met in the pub last night.

I'm going north.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

a number of walls

October 25 - Derry, formerly Londonderry Northern Ireland

With a sigh I said goodbye to Donegal. If you ever find yourself on the western coast of Ireland, definitely search the town out. Leaving also found another parting as the Nihilist surfers of Reed, Nial, and Al, joined by the ubiquitous Aaron left for Dublin where they were to catch various flights over the next few days. I wish them well in their endeavours. I hope Nial continues his new fashion sense, that Al finds a travel agent, that Aaron keeps on with his needlework, and Reed comes across a brand new 2nd gear. I am confident we will all meet again.

Derry is town divided. It sits square between two factions that cannot find a resolution to thier problem. On one side, there is graffiti honoring the republican's cause, and on the other, there is the loyalists, also emblasoned in grafitti. It is both discomforting and unfortunate. Such a lovely city on the banks of the river, with great cathedrals and monuments, all marred in some way or another with the tags of mad kids, barbed wire to keep one or another at bay, video cameras hanging everywhere to record or potentially deter hostile activities. It is a mess.

The wall surrounding the inner city is quite impressive. Stout enough to withstand wars and sieges over the centuries, it is a massive reminder of what the city was born upon.

I don't believe I will stay here more than a day.

On a side note, I have had to buy a new belt. Ever since I 'lost' my favorite trusty belt, I have gone through 3. This last one was purchased from Target and appeared sturdy, but under the duress of travel and rugged wear, it has broken down like a sad bit of hide that never should've made it to the varsity team.

We'll see how long the new one lasts. If nothing else, I might just buy some bloody twine and cinch the baggy jeans once and for all.

one of the best signs ever

Saw the coolest pub sign yet today.

In the town of Stranolar, outside of a building above the pub's front door hung a big sign with a picture of a grizzled old-west Clint Eastwood holding onto a tall pint of Guinness.

It was beautiful.

Monday, October 24, 2005

the love

October 24, 2005 - Donegal Town

Bonny Donegal.

I have found the quaint retreat that I had sought in the fair sleepy town of Donegal. Perched on the edge of the aptly named Donegal Bay that reaches into the cold Atlantic, the town of perhaps 3500 residents is a boon to those in need of repose. After all the spinning days up until now, things have settled nicely to rest and allow me time to reflect and rest. Traveling wears you out. Living out of the bag and whatnot.

I swear that I now carry more non-perishable food items with me than clothes, only because cooking your own food is so much more affordable than eating out. The funny thing is how much you crave condiments. Mustards and ketchups, mayonaise and steak sause, dressings and oils, and of course - spices. People, love and shelter your condiments and spices. Hold them tight. You don't know the monotony of dry bread and cheap meat until you can't soften the blow with a wonderfully spread mayo or a tangy delightful mustard. And the extras.

Oh, the extras. Crisp lettuce crunching with each bite. Juicy tomatoes, sliced thin, zipping taste buds around your mouth in a crazy dance of wonder. Onions for those without care of their neighbor. Extras.

Love them.

Love them for the fact that they may be waiting for you in your fridge. Love them because you assume you will always have them at your culinary disposal. Love them as I love them.

Share the love people - have a sandwich tonight.

- C

Saturday, October 22, 2005

an afterthought

Oct 22 - North Coast

Alright, at the bequest of several other opinions, I will give Galway this - it has a much better nightlife than Sligo. While I enjoyed the Hostel in Sligo (the Holiday House?) quite a lot, with its very old framework, classically decorated living and sitting rooms, and free internet, a rarity, it was just not as hip and happening as Galway. First we couldn't have hats on in one pub, then it was our shoes that were a problem. One thing after another.

But, aside from the nightlife, I'll take Sligo over Galway until I see a reason otherwise.

- C

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The City of No Signs

October 19 North of Galway

Galway is useless. Gray, busy, and full of drunk kids. And why aren't there any damn street signs in the entire city? No joke. Bloody stupid. I got so seriously lost last night, I ended up getting a ride in the back of a Gardia (the cops), but even they took me to the wrong place. I didn't want to get back into the cop car, so I just said it was the right place and wandered more in the city of no signs until I found the hostel, salmon weir.

But Galway isn't good for much. Drinking. That's about it. We found a pub that actually had an affordable ale called the Hole in the Wall Pub, but was offset with guys swinging from the rafters and broken glass all over the floor. It was like walking on the crunchings of peanut shells. There was a night club called CP's (Couch Potatoes) with hordes of sweaty nubile youngsters dancing to insanely loud tunes.

Note: The hostel Archview is the most heinous nasty foul lodging I have ever been to. Full of Nihilist socks, dreadlocked filth, and the deathsmell of unwashed Poles.

Monday, October 17, 2005


October 17 Somewhere on the coast, something like Castlegregory...

With effort and determination, we hiked out to Gary Williams Point which was a slew of jagged rocks that jut into the Atlantic liked an angry collosal serrated blade. Waves broke and rolled huge there, prompting Reed and Nial into action. Carefully taking to the water, they worked their way from different directions to the end of the point that was potentially surfable. In time, they found success and rode the dangerous waves several times.

We dined on makeshift spaghetti and garlic bread.

Note: Girls here are pool sharks.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

kiss what?

October 16, The Dingle Penninsula

The adventure continues.

Crazy turn number 109. Yesterday I teamed up with Aaron, a musician/carpenter from Washington State, and two Cali surfers, Reed and Nial, who had a car and took off across Ireland.

Many times, if I blinked I missed the towns we passed through, but I wanted to see the ocean and the west coast. It is quite harrowing to drive in this country, most of which is covered in twisting and turning roads that have no shoulder, and naturally no room for mistakes. A lot of the landscape of mid-Ireland reminded me a lot of parts of upstate New York, Tennessee, and bits of the midwest.

The colors are turning here in glorious fashion, making for a stunning visual journey, especially as we passed Cork and into Blarney to visit the Blarney Castle. At first I wasn't too keen on visiting the often-spoke of Castle, but my opinion changed. Blarney Castle is a mighty, once-beautiful and well-cared for relic that affords a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside thatr is in near complete display of Autumn color.

Why kiss the Blarney Stone? I have no idea, and the map guide never gets to that. A gimick maybe. I didn't want to even think of all the lips that had been there before, so I will move on. Surrounding the castle is a fantastically tended wilderness walk that takes you over mysterious streams, through majestic pine groves, and among what are considered the remnants of a druidic culture that used the ancient rocks and trees in their mystical practices.

Leaving Blarney, we moved north on stomachs of ham and cheese sandwiches and coffee, through the county and past the beautiful lakes of Killarney and into the Slieve Mountains. The Slieves reminded me of some of the mountains in western Wyoming and on a smaller scale, parts of Scotland's highlands.

We reached the town on Inch and stopped at the Inch Penninsula where it was said to have great waves. The locals said that it did indeed have such waves, but what took my full attention was how beautiful the coastline of western Ireland is. All of what is said of the west coast came true in that moment and all the travels to get there was worth it.

The town of Dingle is a sleepy place of 1500 people with 53 pubs. Strange ratio, but we found one with authentic Irish music to have a few pints to take the edge off and turned in.

soccer, ale, and the like

October 16 - Kilkenny

And yes Southpark fans can laugh at the name. But respect it, for they brew Swithwicks here. Oh yes.

I have had to buy new shoes. My trusty originals just weren't up to the task of so much endurence being asked of them, and had begun to cut into my feet badly. I tried to make due with a pair of those gel inserts from Dr Sholz, but take my word for it - they're absolute crap. Worthless. They just slide around in the shoe until the shoe isn't wearable anymore. So with a low mood, I bought new hiking boots, which weren't terribly expensive, but are waterproof (Ireland oddly is always wet) and right comfy.

Last night I dined on half of a half-chicken. Which for those playing along at home - 1/4th. The rest I shredded and used as a sandwich on bread I had stole from the free breakfast that morning. Dry, but life-sustaining. Stretching the dollar can be an art, and I'm beginning to be a tradesman. No master by any means, but no apprentice either. But it is a neccessity here as everything is so bloody expensive. They'll charge you for sheets, blankets, toilets, hot water, internet (huge). It's madness. And the socializing just can't be dismissed. And here in Ireland, that means pubs.

It isn't that you have to drink much at all, it is just the inflated prices.

Before I left Dublin for Kilkenny, I stopped off at the National Library. It was a rather simple place, with one main reading and research room, where you can request books and some clerk or other will go fetch it for you. Pretty sweet deal, except I enjoy perusing books manually, but it's thier rules. I chanced to come across a James Joyce exhibit which was likely the best exibition of any one artist I have ever seen. In addition to the grand display, I realized I own a first edition of Ulysses. There under their security glass was the exact copy of the one I have.

Intrigued at their possible worth, as well as the neccessary steps to protect them, I was able to convince the National Library to get me in phone contact with the collections curator who told me that they do indeed have great worth and gave me all the info to protect them properly.

Kilkenny now. Small, quaint, pretty, it's pretty much what I expected a smallish town on Ireland to be like. Lots of pubs (which is always the case), friendly people, and not much hussle and bussle except for the drivers of cars who just can't get how to negotiate through traffic.

I watched several matches today, the best being Chelsea v Bolton, in the lively pub called the Push House. There is something entirely satisfactory about watching a match of soccer in an Irish pub. As a bonus, the pub is right across the street from my hostel, which I can't recall its name. It is a great place, the hostel, with abundant character lining the walls and counters in the form of paintings, posters, newspaper clippings, wall art, bookshelves, et al.

More later...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Completion of Dublin

Oct 14, Dublin

Long days. That's really the life you have to embrace as a traveler. Getting up at the movement of others as the sun rises, traffic roars to life, construction crews begin thier battering of the road. Finding your way through the cobweb of your head as you blunder through your travel bag and sort out your compacted life before you head out into the whirlwind of the day. Wandering strange cities without quality knowledge of where you are going, not knowing where your next meal will be, or perhaps even where you will bed down for the night. Planning day trips, managing long-term trips, figuring finances. Then finding your way to the evening meal and to bed, or whatever repose you enjoy.

And then, repeat. And again. And again.

Today finds me on a bus for the southwest. I have a town in mind, but what you plan doesn't always work the way you think it should, or in fact will.

The remainder of Dublin was spent wandering through any part I hadn't seen in the first few days. Visiting places like the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin Castle, St Werburgh, a corner bar that my friend and I exited quickly after a run in with a too-friendly local, St. Stephen's Green, the National History Museum (which sorely needs to update its displays - most of them are animals that were taxidermied in the 1890's).

The National Art Museum was especially wonderful. Huge, as museum's tend to be, and rather unmapped, which is a key hobby of the Irish - not mapping anything properly, it took awhile to get around, but once the Magellan instinct cut in, all was grand. We found paintings by the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Poussin, Titian (way over-rated), and Paninni, who in addition to epic paintings appartently made a fine grilled sandwich.

Of course no trip to Dublin can be complete without checking out Trinity College and the Book of Kells. No artistic expression has ever impressed me more than it. The absolutely laborous detail that went into each page is astounding. I tried to take a picture, but security I found is quite against that, but to thier credit they were extremely potite about it.

And then there was Rathmines. A place I was told of thousands of miles away, a place people in Dublin seemed not to know, a place that was literally off the published maps of Dublin. Mythical Rathmines. It took an hour to walk to where we finally found a person who knew what we sought and helped narrow our search. And as was told before, so it was true. Rathmines was exactly how good old Mick Carmody said it was going to be. Brad is witness.

Speaking of, it was an unfortunate moment when Brad had to catch a plane, but such is the way of the road. I am sure we shall adventure again.

And so, after another day of loping around Dublin, I decided to slip my cable and get outta dodge. I may have stayed longer, but my hostel was too overrun with hygene-challenged Poles to bear the idea of another night.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

footing about

Wednesday, October 12 – Dublin

The last two days have been a long eventful journey. A new friend, Brad, a bloke from Scone, New South Wales Australia, and I tromped about most of Dublin. He and I met at O’Caseys where he, myself, and David, a chef from Edinburgh Scotland, traded stories and pints. My own philosophy of travel coincided so well with Brad's, that we journied together. Mostly our philosophy was walk a general direction, see what's on the way, stop whenever to snack or refresh, move on. Very relaxed. If you do't see something, it's not the end of the world.

The list of things we were able to see is quite extensive, so only those that I can recall will I type out. More descriptions will be forthcoming. Included were: Christ Church Cathedral, The many bridges over the River Liffey, City Hall, St. Audoen's, St. Catherines, the Guinness Storehouse, and Kilmainham Gaol.

I was quite impressed with all of them, except perhaps the Guinness Factory tour. Here is why – it isn't in the Guinness Factory. They show you magnified bits of hops, a waterfall to represent…water, small videos shown in barrels of people making – right, you guessed it – barrels, a vast collection of toy boats and airplanes that resemble what has hauled their beer around the globe over the years, and of course, they show you all the various paraphernalia from advertisements since the inception. It's no small wonder they curb your anger at being charged 14 euro by shoving a ‘complimentary’ Guinness in your hand. There’s that whole complimentary word again. I believe it's used when a disservice has been done to you.

We found solace in a pub (surprise!) and managed to somehow begin a journey to find an answer to a horseracing question that we only vaguely wondered about to start with.

Note: Temple Bar area is quite cool with it's shops, bars, and restaurants, but is way over-priced.

Note II: Bring an umbrella in Ireland. If you buy one here, it will fall apart and ascend into the sky. True. Have witnesses.

Monday, October 10, 2005

food lacking

Monday, October 10 – Dublin

Touchdown. The plane, that is. We arrived early by some 45 minutes, and by some strange bit of timing, I ended up the first person off the plane, which means I was rewarded with a short line at customs. Whatever the legendary friendliness of the Irish, the custom officers are wholly immune. Much like my last trip to the Emerald Isle, I was given a hassle by a early sixties guy with bad hair, worse complexion, and an apparent dislike for being alive. Also, like last time he didn’t believe that I was merely a travelor, that I had some other agenda, that I would somehow wreck his fragile Irish economy with my tourist dollars. What a useless &*%$Ј!

I hopped a bus towards somewhere in Dublin and upon gaining the area known as City Center, I took my leave, striking out on my own across Dublin. I found the River Liffey pretty quick and lovingly sprawled out on a bench that sat on a quaint boardwalk. People must have thought I was another insane American, but who cares – they weren't just trapped on a plane for 6,000 miles.

After a rest, since there was no sunshine, no discernable direction signs, and no street signs as far as the eye could see, I just set off towards what I thought was east. My coin flip worked when my direction choice was affirmed by several young men who claimed to be homeless.
The first hostel I came to was ironically the same one I stayed in years ago. I hated it then and doubted it had changed much, so I took off in search of another. I settled on the Hotel Abraham. For the equivalent of 20 US, I was set for the night, but the catch was that the room would not be ready until 3 that afternoon. It was 10 am.

I found an abandoned couch after much searching and proceeded to get absolutely no sleep at all from the impolite people stomping about like so many elephant impersonators. But time passed in fine fashion as I met two others who were similarly stranded roomless, they were Swedish and friendly. Perhaps synonymous?

The room was finally given me and I celebrated with a shower in a stall the size of an upright coffin that alternated between flesh-dissolving hot and cryogenically cold. Surely I will come to regret all of these haphazard bathing events over time.

And then I napped.

The Beginning

The first day of travel is inevitably the longest, and this was no exception. It started in the airport of O’Hare International where I was both blessed and cursed at once. I arrived to the airport nearly 3 hours before my departure time. Trying to be ahead of the game. Well, all was remarkable when I got my ticket, walked the airport, got through security, and found my gate all in 10 minutes or less. Seriously. I have had quick usherings through the airport before, but never like that. Golden. Yet, my luck had run out when I discovered that my terminal did not offer food of any kind. Zip. Zilch.

The only way to obtain food would be to go back the way you came, seek out your food, and then go back through the intense busy security, which only the clinically insane, overtly stupid, or incurably ravenous would attempt. And so I sat with a sad granola bar to tease me.

The airport was a wonderfully diverse crowd, as usual. There were the readers – deeply entrenched within the novels of choice. There were the retirees looking confused and a bit scared. The teenagers roam about, their mops of hair causing them to stumble over their baggy pants. Then there are the wanderers – those that cannot bear to sit down and casually drift, perhaps confused, and soon to be retirees.

With a proper smile and the use of a cheerful word I was able to secure a seat directly behind first class – affording me much more leg room. Crossing one’s legs in flight is a keen and often-overlooked luxury. Also, by stroke of luck, no irish-pun intended, no one was set to sit next to me. Such comfort. It's the small things.

Cruising speeds were set to 520 mph, at 37,000 feet, though you can’t notice.
Last bit of note: The complimentary beverage is laughable at best. It is a can of pop, 2 ounces at most. That’s like being complimented on being able to digest. The smell of in flight dinners floats through the air as they are heated, or in reality, re-heated. It smells quite good, which means I am ridiculously hungry. To a starving man a shank steak tastes like a 5 star porterhouse. Perhaps that is the key behind the lack of food in the terminal, post-security. Starve the people and then appear the benevolent Lord when you arrive with stale rolls and a hunk of crusty cheese.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


On a computer about as old as I am, I struggle to balance on this overly-high stool to type on this keyboard that hangs halfway from imminent descent. Yet, it is worth it. Indeed. It is free. Cardinal Rule 1 for travelers: If its offered free, consider hard if you are inclined to refuse.

It is Friday I believe, though I have been wrong before. Nighttime in Dublin is near the same as the day except that there are more people in the pubs, though not necessarily remarkably so, people drink a lot here regardless of the time of day. It is perhaps colder, and a few cars less on the streets, but none of this is new to any city.

I use this computer as fast as I can for it may be taken from me at any time. I was able to talk a desk clerk into allowing me to type for free as long as I didn’t use the internet. Woe be it to use the Net without paying someone somewhere. My, how the once free research-friendly tool of universities has changed.

Soon I shall attempt to save this to some manner of disk and then walk a number of city blocks for a reasonable rate of internet use, where I will post this online.

This is, I suppose, my first ‘blog’. And while I despise the name it is known as, I will still make use of its function, and that being a keyhole into a life. Not much more than that perhaps, but it is in fact better than a blank wall. Unless of course you like blank walls, in which case theres no hope for you.

So, I will have to backdate a few entries until I get up to date.