Day 7: The Dublin and Wicklow Mountains: funerals, pubs, and even a wedding for good measure

16 09 2013

Morning playlist:

1. The Dubliners – Seven Drunken Nights

2. Ronnie Drew – Dicey Riley

3. The Kilkennys – Galway Girl

4. The Dubliners – I’ll Tell Me Ma When I Go Home

5. The Dubliners – Finnegan’s Wake

Am I the only one that can surgically disable an alarm clock while still mostly asleep?

Well, apparently, that’s what happened because when I finally regained consciousness on Saturday morning, the time was 8:54am, and our Galway/Cliffs of Moher tour was leaving in six minutes. Problem was, I was still in bed, and about a 20 minute walk to the tour departure point. Naturally, I only did what was logical: I muttered a few choice words and fell back asleep.

Upon waking up around eleven, I saw my sister had pulled open the laptop and was desperately looking for some other tour that would take us away from Dublin City. Lo and behold, a half-day jaunt through the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains was available at 3:00pm. We registered, got dressed, and made our way downtown.

After a satisfying lunch of potatoes, meat, gravy, potatoes, cabbage, potatoes, gravy, and more potatoes, we made our way to the departure point and were greeted by a friendly small Irishman named Shane O’Donoghue. Now, I’m not one to put a label on anyone, but if you ever needed to a way to quantify being Irish, Shane O’Donoghue would be your man. He was friendly, jovial, loved to tell stories (which he did all night long), sang along to classic Irish tunes (see playlist above) while (safely) careening along the small mountainous roads, and loved himself a pint of Guinness. Sadly, as El Capitan of our tour bus, Shane was relegated to only reminiscing about Guinness –but boy did he have a cool story to share at the end of the night.

To sum up the more straightforward parts of our tour, this wasn’t your typical ‘scenic’ romp through greenery, no. In fact, this was simply an Irish pub crawl where the designated driver was also a pub, beer, and Irish history expert. Our destinations over the 9 hour tour were 6 famous pubs in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, namely “The Blue Light Bar”, “Johnnie Fox’s” (also known as Ireland’s highest bar), “An Tochar House”, “Glenmalure Lodge” –where I had a Lamb steak that was so fresh it was still ‘baaaaa-ing’, “Ta Ses” –an Irish grocery market the size of a bedroom where the checkout counter is a bar with multiple beer taps, and last but not least, “Harbour Bar”, a fantastic pub with traditional Irish music in one bar area and in the other half of the bar (which used to be a funeral home), a small stage with full band performing original music.

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What started off as being a disappointing morning turned into a fantastic evening of Irish greenery, new friends (our group comprised of friends from Chicago, Wisconsin, and… Stockholm, Sweden), the BEST pour of Guinness in Ireland and the whole entire world (yes, even better than the Guinness Storehouse, me thinks), and Irish music ‘stuck in me head and oozing out of me skin.’

So, you’re all probably wondering what the cool story Shane shared was… well, no less than 10 days ago, Shane stopped by The Blue Light Bar for a pint when he recognized some out of town visitors. Apparently, Adam Clayton Jr. was just married that day and since he grew up in a town just down the road from there, he stopped in for a pint as well. Cool story, right?

If it’s still not that interesting to you, maybe this will help: here is a picture of Shane and one of Adam’s friends from the wedding:

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Still not cool enough? The man with Shane, Adam’s friend, goes by the name of ‘The Edge’.

Still not enough?

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The man with the sunglasses is also Adam’s friend. His name is Paul David Hewson and sings in a band.

Ok, time’s up. Paul Hewson goes by the name of ‘Bono’ and is the lead singer for a small Irish band called, ‘U2’.

Oh, and Adam? He’s the bass player. 🙂

Slainte!

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Day 6: Top o’ the marnin’ teh ya

13 09 2013

Welcome to Dublin!

Morning Playlist:

1. The Cranberries – Linger
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Kspj3OO0s

2. The Dubliners – The Wild Rover
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siQtzrI5w88

3. U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg5wfabsjnY

4. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89NjEeHku8o

5. The Script – Breakeven
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzCLLHscMOw

6. Metallica (The Dubliners, Thin Lizzy, et. al.) – Whiskey In The Jar
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boanuwUMNNQ

7. Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GemKqzILV4w

8. Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds (by Daniel Lanois) – The Maker
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpVxLQv-IT8

9. The Muppets – Danny Boy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCbuRA_D3KU





Day 5: Neither Paris nor Dublin, probably the most interesting adventure so far… by accident

13 09 2013

Another place holder… Checkout, Gare du Nord, ter Trains, Beauvais airport, walking Beauvais, the Cathedral of St. Peter, French bands covering American songs, Ryanair, and taxi conversation…





Day 4: Old history, ‘new’ family, and yes, people really do play accordians on public transportation

13 09 2013

Hey! Where did Day 4 go?

Stay tuned… this one is so important it’s gonna take some time.

‘Till then… it’s on to…





Wednesday morning playlist

10 09 2013

1. Dexter Gordon – Darn That Dream

2. Chet Baker – My Funny Valentine

3. Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

4. Bach – Partita No. 3, BWV 1006, performed by Hilary Hahn

5. Chopin – Nocturne No. 2 in Eb Major, Op. 9, No. 2

6. Joni Mitchell – A Case of You (Live in Paris) as performed by Diana Krall

7. Coeur de Pirate – Francis

8. Jacky Terrasson – A Paris

9. Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition





Day 3: A late start, getting French-ier, “we’re like little ants,” the Eiffel Tourist Trap, an exquisite La Rive Gauche (Left Bank) dinner, and a foosball/Kronenbourg nightcap

10 09 2013

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Bon soir!

It’s an early night tonight (only 2:00am) so I’m gonna share as much as I can before my wine runs out and my forehead hits the keyboard.

Today, was another jam-packed day full of ups and downs. We got off to a late start and so lunch –breakfast was served while I was dreaming in my sleep– had to be a quick affair. The answer: grabbing a french sandwich (baguette, jambon, oeuf dur, cruditĂ©s, beurre) on the street. Let me just say, for a little less than 5 Euros, nothing beats scampering down a busy French boulevard while scarfing down a delicious sandwich out of a bag. The validation was that there were bags of sandwiches floating all up and down Le Boulevard St. Michel. 

I haven’t been able to comment on it yet, but this needs to be said: the Paris metro system (subway) is absolutely INCREDIBLE. Keep in my mind I have yet to experience the London Underground, and have only experienced the New York MTA Subway… but the Paris metro system is a traffic engineer’s nightmare/dream. Living up to my title as world’s-most-mediocre-son, I dragged my 60 year old parents all up and down Paris via the subway today, even during rush hour. During one of our long transit hikes in the Châtelet station, my mom, short on breath, muttered, “this reminds me of ants.” The sheer size of the rail network, amount of riders, and up to the second efficiency is really a work of art. One shouldn’t be surprised though: in a city where art can be found at almost every street corner, one of it’s most impressive works lies underground in a network of 214km (133mi) of track covering 303 stations. The Paris MĂ©tro is the second largest subway system behind Moscow, and serves 4.5 million riders every day. Châtelet – Les Halles station provides transit for 5 metro lines and 3 commuter rail lines (RER), and is the world’s largest subway station. I was enamored with the New York Subway system when I was there a few years ago, but with all due respect to Uncle Sam and Mayor Bloomberg, I have a new favorite metropolitan transportation system.

EDIT: For clarification. I’ve also been on the D.C. Metro but did not include it as a reference point because it would be like telling you I beat the snot out of some 4th grade kid at 1-on-1 basketball today.

You know how when someone warns you a plate is really hot and that you shouldn’t touch it… you go ahead and touch it anyway just to see if that’s true or not? That’s what my Eiffel Tower experience was today. You read about how it is a tourist trap, everyone tells you it is a tourist trap, and you know it’s a tourist trap… …but you go anyway and are disappointed because, surprise, it’s a big fat tourist trap.

Now don’t get me wrong, the tower itself is absolutely stunning. I hadn’t planned on doing more than taking pictures of it from afar, but when our tour bus came round the bend, and the tower came into my view for the first time this week, my jaw dropped. Simply put: its sheer size is breathtaking. Paris is full of large statues, old churches, and random dudes on horses who have apparently killed a lot of people. But the Eiffel Tower makes most of them turn into paperweights you use to spruce up the heavy oak desk in your study. La Tour Eiffel is like inviting Kobe Bryant to a college, lunchtime, intramural basketball game. Or, like John Mayer, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King to your neighborhood open mic night on Mondays. Opened in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, the 324m (1,063ft) is as tall as an 81-story building and is the most visited paid-monument in the world.

But, like all tourist traps, the beauty and presence of the tower gets drowned out by the mass of humanity scurrying in every which direction. Young couples making out, loud visitors calling out to others in the distance, kids chasing each other, street peddlers, and worst of all, gypsy-looking women and children pestering (following you) to fill out some sort of petition –they all diminish the experience so much that after I got my requisite photos, I quickly escaped underground and rode away on the RER train. To be fair, I did not take any tours or ride the lift up to the second or third levels (the lines were atrocious, and no one in my family had anticipated the tower being so striking), so perhaps I didn’t ‘fully’ experience everything the tower has to offer. But in my own humble estimation, I know the view of the citĂ© from above would have been gorgeous, but I don’t think that alone would’ve washed away the bad taste in my mouth as I fled the scene.

Getting late so I’ll wrap things up quickly here.

I took my mom out for a special 60th birthday dinner on the left bank of the River Seine  at Atelier MaĂ®tre Albert. The restaurant menu was apparently designed by or in conjunction with Guy Savoy, the world renowned French chef. As expected, the service was good if not very good, the wine was also good, food and drink were pricey, and the atmosphere was classy and slightly formal. The food itself was good if not very good, but for the price that we paid, I’d say the whole experience was memorable at best, and above average at worst. In short, I expected just a little more from the food for the price we paid.

After 3 days of trying to pronounce the French ‘R’ and eating every slab of pâtĂ© we could get our hands on, my sister and I were ready to ‘let our hair down’ and just have a good old fashioned beer. We stumbled upon a place not too far from dinner called The Long Hop –a boisterous British/Australian pub with Kronenbourg on tap. After a mom/son vs. dad/daughter foosball game that ended in bitter defeat for me, we finished up our pints while listening to the three blonde haired, blue eyed girls from the States chat up the bartender from New York State. Without starting a war of words here, it’s only been three days, but I am starting to understand (not agree, mind you) why Americans perceive the French to be a certain way and vice versa. This topic deserves its own conversation and will definitely revisited soon.

In the meantime, enjoy more some more pics from today. Sorry, there aren’t too many; the MusĂ©e d’Orsay does not allow any photography within its walls. Naturally, I snuck one of its huge clock overlooking the ground floor.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I don’t have any shots of the tower, you’ll have to wait till I upload my sister’s shots. Wide angle, panoramic, and fisheye views were her department.

Bonne nuit.





Morning playlist

10 09 2013

1. Coeur de Pirate – Comme des enfants

2. UB40 – Bring Me Your Cup

3. The Jungle Book Soundtrack – The Bare Necessities

4. Georges Moustaki – Nous Voulions

5. Maxime Le Forestier – Fontenay Aux Roses