strandbooks:

You know what else is great in bed? Books.

Ze Burglar of Banf-f-f

A few months ago, I was curious how much tickets from Manchester to NY were over the summer.  I picked a random date that I thought might be cheap and set the engine to find a flight, expecting a ridiculously unaffordable price.  But instead, by some witchcraft magik, a flight that was half the price of all the others appeared before my eyes.  So, I bought it.  Impulse purchases are the best.

And then I realised that I didn’t exactly have a way to get back home from NY.  But I thought about it - why do I have to fly back from NY?  What if I hopped somewhere really cool, and flew back from there?  What if I visited my friend where she lives in Canada?  And so, my very cheap flight became very expensive as I bought a flight to Calgary and then from Calgary to Manchester.  Impulse purchases are the best?

After my whirlwind week in LI/BKLN/PA, I boarded the plane to Calgary.  The plane was an hour late departing, and I very very very nearly missed my bus from the airport to Banff, which would have been terrible because it was the last bus of the night.  But luckily the man at customs didn’t detain me (although that was a close call) and my baggage was already on the carousel (miracles do happen!), and my legs had the ability to run to the bus (my lungs on the other hand…).  It was a two hour drive in the dark to my friend’s house, so I could really only see the highway, which looks like any old American highway, which I guess should kinda be expected considering they’re attached, but I dunno, I expected something that screamed “welcome to Mountie Land!”  So after about 20 minutes, all I could see was the insides of my eyelids.  I woke once we got into Banff and the driver asked me if we were close to the house, but I obviously had no idea.  I figured we had a few more stops before mine, so when he pulled to a stop on a street, I didn’t know to get up.  Until I saw my friend through the window of her house flying out the door and down the street to the bus.  Say it with me, awwwwwwww.  After a happy reunion, we realised that it was well past midnight at this point, so we did little but went to bed.

The next day, I awoke to see a GIANT MOUNTAIN outside her window.  I couldn’t see anything in the dark the night before, so I was legitimately shocked to see this.  It honestly didn’t look real - the whole town looks like someone painted a magical backdrop for it.  It’s incredible.  I mean, just look at it.

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We headed into town to rent a car so that we could drive to the nearby lakes.  First was Lake Louise.  I’ve never seen a blue so blue.

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The water is all glacier water running off that GIANT MOUNTAIN in the background.  Which I promise is real, and not some painted optical illusion.  

We walked around the lake to the far end.  About halfway down, we wondered if we shouldn’t turn back, since the view wasn’t really going to change, but we continued on anyway.  And that happened to be the best decision ever.  At the end was a rocky shore-type-thing, and we decided to climb down to one and have a rest.  There was a family behind us, and the little boy was running around.  We turned to look, and discovered that he wasn’t just being a kid, he was feeding chipmunks.  There were chipmunks everywhere!  Fun fact we learnt: apparently, chipmunks live in rocks.  And really like little boy’s granola bars.  We, of course, got in on the action.

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This is the best photo I’ve ever taken.

After this chipmunk funfest, we drove over to Lake Morraine.  This lake wasn’t as breathtaking as Lake Louise, but it’s still incredible.  

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Right next to this pile of seemingly random logs was a big rocky hill that people were climbing.  We thought it looked dangerous and stupid to do that, but, well, you can see where this is going.

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This picture makes the hill look much more tame than it actually was, which is good, since my parents are the only ones that read this blog anyway.

So, that seemingly random pile of logs turned out to be how you climbed over to the hill - a natural bridge, one might say.  One false step and you were shin-deep in freezing cold glacier water.  (On the way back, SPLASH!  The young boy behind me felt the wrath of the lake.  He said it wasn’t as cold as he was expecting.  Poor kid.)  We used the logs as a obstacle course of balance beams, then wound our way up the rocks.  Halfway up, conscious now that chipmunks live in rocks, and armed with the Cheez-Its I brought for Hannah to try the best American goodie, we spotted our little friend.  Hannah made the first offering:

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And we were BFFS from there on out.

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At one point, a lady a bit further down the hill from us called to get our attention.  ”Look, there’s a chipmunk!”  She screamed, as she pointed to a rock near her.  I pointed back to the one IN MY HAND and she told me to move my big head out of the way so she could get a better picture.  True.  We decided that it was time to say goodbye to our new friend, so we stopped getting him more Cheez-Its.  Except he was still hungry, so he started licking the cheese powder off our fingers.  I swear, this is also true.  I plan on writing to Sunshine Biscuits and telling them how much adorable rodents love their crackers.

Once we got to the top and saw the gorgeous view, we realised that there was actually a path that you could take, with man-made steps and everything, around the back of the hill.  Oops.

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We walked a bit on the path and a little way down the back of the hill saw what appeared to be a rogue hamster.  Like someone no longer wanted their pet, and so dumped it on the mountain.  We chased after it to get a closer look, but couldn’t find him.  People were starting to stare at us, so we walked back up to the path, and that’s when we noticed the sign that said “please don’t leave the trail, dangerous.”  Oops.  We googled it later, and it turns out that the forlorn pet was actually a pika.  SO CUTE.  I want one.  I googled it just now, and apparently they don’t do very well as pets.  Damn.

Further up the path, we found more chipmunks and we shared our Cheez-It glory with them.  We also did a bit of NatGeo photography.

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There was a smaller chipmunk with bigger stripes there as well, which we thought might be a baby, and maybe they lose their stripes as they age.  We googled this as well, and it turns out that it was a different kind of chipmunk!  Which just proves to show that racism is a social construct.

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Regular (Eastern) chipmunk (back) with his friend the Western chipmunk (front)

After this incredible hike, we drove back into town to pick up dinner.  We got takeaway from a local place, then drove out to Lake Minnewanka to eat.  We found a little rocky shoreline, where, weirdly enough, scuba diving was allowed.  We started to eat, looking around at the amazing view, when all of a sudden we heard nothing.  Literal, complete silence.  It was incredible.

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The next day, after a slow start of hashbrowns and Babar, we decided to take on Tunnel Mountain, a mountain right behind Hannah’s house (like, literally down the street).  The whole time I was there, I was joking that I was going to go back and tell everyone that I hiked the Rockies.  But then we actually did hike the Rockies.  Compared to the other mountains, Tunnel is more of a hill, but it’s still about a mile high if mountains could be measured like that.

The hike was ridiculously tough, because of the thin air and 85 degree heat and my out of shapeness, but it was worth it.

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Banff and the Bow River from the top of Tunnel

Around the back of the mountain, there was a great view of my new favourite mountain, Mount Rundle.  Just look at it.  It’s awesome.

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We hiked back down, washed all the sweat off, and wandered around town for a bit.  Later that day, while sitting in Hannah’s living room, her flatmate comes in from the balcony saying “have you guys noticed this?” and there was a GIANT deer in the yard.

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I probably shouldn’t have been so wowed by a deer because there were loads in Ithaca, but this thing was super huge.

The next morning I we went back into town for lunch, and then I had to say goodbye to the wonderful place that is Banff.  And after 23 hours of travel later, and 3 days of serious jetlag, I write this post from Jolly Old.

P.S. I really really really want to go back to Banff in the winter, if anyone wants to fund that.

She posts, as she drinks her black coffee.

(Source: lizemeddings)

denchgang:

amoyed:

hey where my baes at

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humansofnewyork:

"What are your hopes for them?"
"We left our hopes back in Syria."
(Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan)

“'My name is Robert but I would prefer that you call me Bob.' It's just like that. You know what I mean? And if you were to insist upon calling that person Robert, you would be a colossal dick.”

Paul F. Tompkins, succinctly explaining why you call people what they want to be called, whether it’s “little people” or “transgender” or “chairperson” or “Bob”. It’s not about being politically correct and it’s not about you. It’s about basic decency and respect. (via ericmortensen)

Okay, I’m done.

When in Wien

And on to Vienna!

Tracey I and decided to be adventurous and take the 8am bus down to Austria, because when else would we have that opportunity.  The ride was 4 hours, so we had to pack as much as we could in the 10 hour time span allotted to us.  Vienna doesn’t have any free walking tours, and we sure as hell weren’t about to pay for one, so we found a self-guided tour online.  We used a paper map (shocking!) and I read the printout of what each building was.  It was funny, and convenient, but I wouldn’t do it again (because I would have liked to actually spend time in a few buildings, rather than stand outside of loads).

Let me be your tour guide on our self guided tour.  For the full effect, imagine us standing on a street corner as I read from a computer printout with cheesy lines and shoddy English.

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Vienna State Opera House.  We got off the metro thinking we would have to walk a bit to find the first site, but it was literally right there.  It’s because I’m such a good guide.

Then we walked around the Opera House to Sacher Café (which again, looked way further on the map, but because of the surprising smallness of the city, I mean, my excellent guide skills, it was actually just around the corner).  This traditional Viennese coffeehouse is home of the original Sacher-Torte (chocolate cake), now a traditional Viennese dessert.  We got one slice of the cake, one apple strudel, and two cups of melange (coffee).  The cake was okay and I’ve never been a fan of strudel, but MAN THAT COFFEE.  It’s like a cappuccino, but better, and with a spoonful of whipped cream on top.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.  Oh man.

After the okay cakes and amazing coffee, we entered the Kaisergruft, the Imperial Crypts.  I was expecting something like des Catacombes de Paris, which is just bones, but what it actually was was a terrifyingly well-kept burial site of the royal Habsburg family.

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They continue adding to the crypts as members of the Habsburg family die.  They have a space waiting for you, Jenna Maroney.

After the crypts, we did some quick sites of Vienna, aka, standing outside a building long enough to take a photo.

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Neue Berg (New Wing) of Hofburg Palace

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Spanish Winter Riding School.  Named after the Spanish horses they used, not the Spanish teachers they employed.  (Because they were Viennese, not Spanish, if that wasn’t clear enough.  The teachers, I mean.)

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Ancient Roman Wall Ruins.  They actually go below ground, as I was standing on ground level looking down for this picture.

Next we visited Habsburg Palace.  The palace is actually split into a bunch of different sections, and although we only wanted to see the palace itself, the cheapest entry ticket forces you to see three of them.  I mean, I guess we could have skipped the two places that weren’t the palace, but we paid for it, so we might as well go in.

The first place was the Sisi Museum, which was dedicated to Empress Elisabeth.  I was expecting it to be boring since I’ve never heard of her before, but she was actually really bad-ass.  Basically she considered her forced marriage to the Emperor Habsburg a prison sentence and publicly lamented the loss of her freedom.  My kinda lady.  Next was the silver collection, which was pretty much a bunch of kitchenware.

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Gold, everywhere

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These plates were pretty cool.  There were hundreds.

After that was the Imperial Apartments (aka the palace).  No pictures allowed, and I was a good child and didn’t sneak any.

The next step was the Naschmarkt, which wasn’t on our self-guided tour, but Tracey found it through the powers of the Internet.  It’s half traditional market, half flea market.  The flea market part was a lot like Brooklyn Flea, but dirtier.  The traditional part was awesome.  Everyone wants to give you samples of real dried fruit (I tried a dried kumquat!), and we sampled the most amazing truffle gouda cheese.  We also sat down at a café for more melange, because it’s seriously that good.

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After the Naschmarkt, we continued on our tour.  Imagine me reading aloud beautifully from that paper again…

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St. Stephen’s Church. It’s big.

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Haas House.  It’s directly across from the church, and controversial because of its modernness.

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St. Peter’s Church.  It’s oval.

We planned to enter the church, but heared shouts down the street behind us.  Using Tracey’s method of “follow the noise,” we found ourselves in the middle of a protest with police monitoring the situation very closely.  We had no idea what they were protesting because there weren’t any signs (though there was one pride flag), and there weren’t many people.  I googled it yesterday and it turns out that it was a protest against Quds-Day.  How about that.

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When the protest passed us, we headed back to the church, which was now flooded with a massive tour group.  If I ever have the idea to join a travelling tour, just smack me.  Once I finally got to inside the church, there was a Canadian choir performing.  I have a video of them somewhere.

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Outside the church was the Plague Monument, which I don’t think I realised was part of the tour, I just thought it looked picture-worthy.  Also, that horse-and-buggy driver was definitely picture-worthy.  He’s throwing some serious shade.

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And that concludes our tour!  You’ve been a wonderful audience.  As we all know “free tours” aren’t really free, and if you would ever so kindly tip me as much as you think this tour was worth, I would greatly appreciate it!  Please keep in mind that I’m a broke student, made all the more broke by my wanderlust.  Oh thank you, you’re too kind.

After finishing the tour, we realised that we hadn’t seen the river yet, so we headed up there to do just that.  It was less than spectacular, though I think that’s just because we didn’t go to a nice part.

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After that, we met up with an old childhood classmate who happened to be in Vienna with her family for the week.  Weird worldly coincidences!  She brought us to Popfest, a pop music festival held outside a massive church.  There was a giant light up duck (like, twice-my-height-giant), and one of the stages was in the pool outside the church.  I hadn’t really seen any locals the whole day (in fact, I hadn’t seen many people at all compared to how packed Prague’s streets were), until Popfest.  I guess the Viennese are vampires that only come out at night.  And as your formal official Viennese tour guide, you can quote me on that.  Also, all Viennese are 20-something hipsters.  Facts!

We spent about an hour there, then had to leave to go back to Prague. Thus concluded our quick sojourn in Austria.  Looking back, I wish we had stuck to a few things (the Palace, gone inside the Austrian Library, and gone to the Austrian Gallery to see Klimt), but what can ya do.

The next day, Tracey had a (really) early flight back to London, and I had the day to myself in Prague.  I had plans to visit the Jewish Cemetery, as I previously mentioned, but I got caught up looking for a place that could sell me stamps.  So instead, I had a nice sit-down meal, which I hadn’t really had in Prague yet.  I got a full block of warmed brie, so much creamed spinach I couldn’t eat it (and if you know me, you’ll know that that’s a lot of spinach), and a pint of Czech beer for the equivalent of $7.  That’s not a typo.  SEVEN.  Prague is ridiculously cheap.  Beer is $1.50.  Which is part of the reason I loved Prague so much.

But the main reason I loved the city is because it’s the perfect holiday city.  The architecture is so beautiful, everything is so cheap, and there’s just enough to do where you can take it slowly but still have a full day.  And the beer.  Vienna is much more of a working city, which was fine, but not as fun as Prague because of it.  Plus it’s way more expensive.  Although, it does have melange, and Prague coffee is terrible, so it does have that going for it.

prAHA!

After Tracey’s week in London, we went to Prague.  It was cheaper to fly from London, so I took the train down that morning and had a touristy day in the hot hot heat.  I dropped my stuff off at Tracey’s apartment, then took a walk over to my favourite place in London - Borough Market.  I got lunch, then decided to venture over to Hyde Park.  When I lived in London, I lived right in front of Kensington Gardens, which is attached to Hyde Park.  But I had never walked far enough through Kensington Gardens to actually see Hyde Park.  So, I figured I should probably do that.  Plus, there’s a Peter Pan statue there that I really wanted to see.  For those playing along at home, Hyde Park looks exactly like Kensington Gardens (I mean, they are attached) and I really didn’t have to go.  To make matters worse, I walked around the place for about two hours trying to find this elusive Peter Pan statue and I swear to you, it doesn’t exist.  The whole of the world lied to me when they said there was a Peter Pan statue.  It was HOT, I was tired, and there was no Peter Pan statue.  Hyde Park is the worst.  And I spent so long trying to find this thing that I was late getting back to Tracey’s, so we were late leaving for the airport.  Awesome.

imageView from Tracey’s London apartment

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imageHyde Park. Don’t be fooled by these pictures.  It sucks.

We finally did make it to Prague though, arriving a bit after midnight their time.  The directions that the hostel gave us from the airport (take bus 127, switch to metro line A, get off at Mustek, then just… find us!), of course only work when the busses and metro is running (besides the fact that “just find us” barely works as directions at all).  But some nice British/Czech man helped us figure out where we should take the night bus to, so we rode with the locals (for free!) through the streets of the Czech Republic for an hour.  Then we used Tracey’s excellent Google Map skills to walk to where our hostel should have been, except we just definitely couldn’t find it.  (Sensing a pattern here?)  We probably walked up and down the street for twenty minutes before we saw the tiny little sign to our hostel.  Turns out that the front door to our hostel was actually advertising the restaurant downstairs.  Excellent.

After such a long and stressful journey, we decided to have a bit of a lie in the next day.  We eventually decided to do a walking tour of Prague, and headed out that way.  While waiting for the tour to start, we grabbed lunch from the vendors in the square - Tracey got some weird traditional Czech bread (called Kürtőskalács if you want to look it up and/or try to pronounce it).  The bread made my tongue hurt (yay allergies!), so I got a crêpe instead, which isn’t at all important, except that it was like twice the size of my head.  Then we did the walking tour.  We saw so many things that I can’t promise to remember them all, but I will try…

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Art Nouveau Municipal House & The Powder Tower.  Apparently there was some Vin Diesel move filmed at the Art House (XXX?).  The Powder Tower used to hold, wait for it, gun powder.

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Old Town Square and the statue of Jan Hus, philosopher and priest and leader of the Hussites.  The Hussites were the protagonists in the Defenestration of Bohemia, which is a great story if you feel like googling it (because I don’t feel like typing it).

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St Nicolas’ Church. I don’t remember why this was significant, but I thought the massive rainbow umbrella outside such a stately building was funny.

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The Astronomical Clock.  Basically, it’s a ridiculously complicated clock, and the only one of its kind, mostly because the citizens of Bohemia blinded and muted the artist so that he couldn’t make a similar clock for another city.  He then got himself killed when, in retaliation, he tried to tamper with the clock gears so that it wouldn’t run, but instead was chopped to tiny bits by the strong mechanism.  Fun times!

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We then watched the clock’s show, which happens every hour on the hour.  It’s not a lot to see, but it is pretty cool knowing how incredibly old this technology is.  Basically, there’s four little statues that represent greed, secularity, vanity, and death, and the skeleton (death) rings a bell while the other three move their heads.  Then the twelve disciples of Jesus (I think?) appear at the windows.  Then a golden rooster crows.  I’m sure that the rooster has a more significant meaning than “because every clock has a chicken,” but I probably wasn’t paying attention during that part.

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On the back side of the clock tower is one of the only still-visible damages left by WWII.  Prague was left largely untouched by the war because Hitler loved the city so much.  However, after his suicide, that kind of went out the window and the bombs starting coming.  Of course, that was nearly the end of the war, so all was relatively well, or as well as a city can be in wartime.  But anyway, the side of the maroon wall broke off and the city left it as is.

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Wenceslas Square, aka New Town.  Also where our hostel was located.  Behind us was a bunch of modern shops like H&M and the like.  It’s a very stark difference to the architecture surrounding it.

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Then we ventured over to the Prague Opera House, which is where Mozart premiered his opera Don Giovanni in 1787.  This statue is supposed to represent Don Juan, or some other character and/or main theme of the opera, but as I haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t know.  They were actually putting that exact opera on while we were there, and we thought to go to it, but never found the time. 

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After, we walked over to the Jewish Quarter.  Right before you enter, there’s a massive statue for Prague’s favourite writer, Franz Kafka.  About two years ago, I decided that I should probably read Metamorphosis, because hadn’t yet and that’s a thing that people should do.  I’m still not so sure what I read.  But this tour told me that his books are largely based on his dreams, which makes a lot more sense now.  Kafka is the little man riding on top of the headless giant, which is from one of his stories (don’t remember which), although the giant isn’t bodiless in the book (makes the statue more Kafkaesque though). 

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Into the Jewish Quarter, the Spanish Synagogue.  I was waiting to take a picture of the Kafka statue without someone holding his arm for ages, so I missed the whole significance of this synagogue.  But here’s a picture anyway.

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The Old New Synagogue.  The story of the Golem comes from this very synagogue, and the Golem, all broken to pieces now, is meant to still be in the attic.  Again, google it.

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The Jewish Cemetery.  The Jews were not given adequate space to bury their dead.  Once the cemetery was filled, they had nothing to do but to make another level of the cemetery, burying people on top of old graves.  They figured that by the time the new level was filled, they would have a better plan.  But nope, they didn’t, so this continued for as many as 15 layers.  Now, the cemetery is as high as a one-story building, and there are tacky tourist stalls lining the walls (see: those red roofs).  Rabbi Levy from the Golem legend is buried here, and rumour has it that any Jew who finds his grave can have any wish granted.  I wanted to go back on my last day to make this happen, but I didn’t have the time.

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The Czech Philharmonic.  It was closed for renovations, but was apparently very important in its time.

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Prague Castle.  Pretty self-explanatory.

That was the end of the tour.  After the walking tour, we went on a beer tour of Prague.  We were brought to 5 different local establishments and tried 5 different beers.  We had barely any time at each place, so unfortunately didn’t get to fully enjoy our beers, but it was neat to try them all.

The next day, we had plans to take a day trip to Vienna, but we missed the morning bus, so we continued on our Prague journey.  First we took the tram to the National Gallery, chosen because they were supposed to have Van Gogh.  In reality, they only had one small piece, but it was still lovely, of course.  But, I did discover Oskar Kokoschka and two other amazing artists whose names I didn’t write down and cannot for the life of me find, which I’m kicking myself over.  There was also a Modern Art wing that had an exhibit that was literally someone’s tumblr projected onto the floor.  It was titled, I kid you not, Virtual Collection of the Nuances of Art as Adequate Testimony of the Reflection of Desire (2014).  It was a Tumblr, forchrissake.  Also, there was some creepy security guard that kept following us and staring at us and by the end of our visit we got a little giddy and started staring right back at him and then he waved to us and we waved back and we were beautiful frenemies from there on out.

After the museum, we took the tram over to Prague Castle.  We didn’t know exactly where to get off, so we just disembarked when we saw lots of tourists milling around.  We were still down the hill from the castle, so we found what looked like the right way to climb.  But what we actually found was the home of the Czech Senate, which was a neat surprise.

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Then we continued on to the castle, which is less a castle and more an ancient compound.  We had about two hours to go through the whole thing, but after our trip to Blarney Castle and Kinsale, we were prepared.  First was St Vitus’ Cathedral, then the Old Royal Palace, then the Basilica of St George, then Golden Lane.  Golden Lane was a tiny tiny street with tiny tiny houses that were remodelled to look like how it was supposed to have looked in olden times, but just looked cheesy now.  But many famous people lived there, including Kafka, so that’s neat.

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View from Prague Castle

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St Vitus’ Cathedral

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The most amazing stained glass we’ve ever seen.

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LOOK AT IT.

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Old Royal Palace (where I wasn’t supposed to take photos but took this one anyway)

After the castle, we continued up the hill to the monastery, where monks brew their own beer.  The brewery tour was closed because they were actively brewing at the moment, but of course we still had to try the beer.

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View from the monastery

Then we walked down Charles Bridge, a walking bridge filled to the brim with tourists.

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The next day we actually took our day trip to Vienna, but I’ll write that in another post because this one is miles long already.

Céad Míle Fáilte go Corcaigh

Well, I just wrote this really long post that was about one paragraph from the end when my computer died, so THAT’S AWESOME.  I’ll try my best to rewrite it, but my spirits are crushed so I can’t promise anything as insightful as what I had before.  What I lost was definitely award-worthy, but the world will never know.

—-

A while ago I was trying to decide what to do for the summer: re-enter the dangerous waters of camp, slave 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job, or travel Eastern Europe by interrail.  When you put it that way, the answer seems obvious, but when you add in monetary and sentimental values, the choice becomes more difficult.  As I was agonising over this decision, my best friend emailed me that her job was sending her to London for a week of training and would I want to go on a short holiday before and after.  Why yes, I would.  All my previous plans went out the window and we immediately booked tickets to Ireland.

Tracey came to Sheffield a day early, with plans to show her the city.  But she had tons of work to do and tons of jetlag to sleep off, so we didn’t do much.  We had a short trip to the Botanical Gardens, ate brunch, walked through city centre, ate dinner, and that’s about it.  Oh well, next time.

The following day, we flew to Dublin, then caught a bus down to Cork.  Which definitely wasn’t the best use of our time, but was the easiest on the wallet.

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We arrived in Cork late, hungry, and wanting to see the World Cup match.  We tried to find a restaurant that would cater to all these needs, which was pretty impossible.  We ended up at some fancy wine bar that was conjoined to a pub, so we could hear the screams of the viewers as we ate our awesome food.  It worked.  

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The sun setting on the River Lee while we hunted for that elusive restaurant

Afterwards we had a walk around city centre at night and found this weird little surrealist bar (like actually surrealist, they had photos of Salvador Dali and screenshots of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory in frames all over the place).  I decided to try an Irish beer (called Beamish) because when in Rome, although I was very skeptical when she served me a pint of dark brown liquid considering my dislike of stouts.  But oh man, this was amazing.  It tasted like coffee and beer all rolled into one and I ordered it at every place there on out.

The next day, we caught the bus to Blarney Castle.  No wait, first we went to a cafe, where I ordered a large cappuccino and Tracey ordered a small chai tea latte.  Except that they put my espresso in Tracey’s chai, so I was given a large cup of foamed milk, and Tray had this horrendous concoction of bad chai tea latte + equally bad coffee.  5 Euros down the drain.  Back to Blarney Castle - The grounds are massive and amazing and we did not schedule nearly enough time to see it all.  (Which is part of the reason I’m bringing my parents back in November.  The other part being that it’s soooo pretty.)  We saw the caves and the dungeon (well, I saw the dungeon, Tracey got too claustrophobic having to crawl on hands-and-knees through the rocks to get there).  Then we made our way to the main castle and the Blarney Stone.  Actually, we made our way to the two-hour queue for the Blarney Stone.  We were entertained by the Australian family behind us, but that didn’t make the wait much better.  They had people lining the stairs!  Hello, fire safety hazard.

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Kissing the Blarney Stone is one of the most unattractive processes I’ve been through.  You lay flat on your back, grab hold of two iron bars above your head, and tilt your head all the way back while an old man lowers you down to the bottommost stone.  When you kiss it, you’re supposed to be given the ‘gift of gab’, but after my beautiful text post was deleted, I don’t really feel like talking to anyone.  Also, the money hungry people at Blarney Castle take a photo of you in all your glory whilst this is happening.  The queue plus the picture plus the slightly dangerous aspect of it makes it like the weirdest Disney ride you’ll ever experience.  I don’t have any photos of the event because I asked the worker at the souvenir shop to never release mine to the public (and because the ones we cheated and took by ourselves are on Tracey’s camera).  But I do have this view from the top of the castle:

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We didn’t really have time afterwards to do anything, but we couldn’t resist having a quick run through the grounds.  We completed the hour walk in 15-minutes, but it was totally worth it.

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After that, we caught the bus back to Cork so we could get right on another bus to Kinsale.  I first found a photo of Kinsale about two years ago while I was working my menial Brooklyn job.  I brought it in to my equally wanderlust coworker and we agreed that we would quit and move there to open some sort of shop.  I won’t lie, the main reason I wanted to go to Cork was so that I could visit Kinsale.  And boy, did it live up to my expectations.

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Kinsale is the cutest town on record.  I still want nothing more than to open my pie/book/music shop (and nighttime infusion bar) there.  It would be painted adorable colours and would make my heart happy.

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Plus, there were these dogs, which elevated my existence onto a higher plane:

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We didn’t have enough time in Kinsale either.  Besides the fact that I could stay there forever, we really only had enough time to literally run through the town in order to catch our bus back.  Going back there in November, weeeeeeeeeeee!

We got back to Cork with just enough time to watch the final World Cup match.  We used Tracey’s tried-and-true method of “follow the noise” to lead us to a pub to watch it in.  We ended up turning down a cute alleyway into a packed bar that was rooting for Germany, so the atmosphere was right.  The whole place erupted when they won.  I have a video of everyone singing We Are The Champions if anyone is curious what 300 hundred people waving pints sounds like.  We met Tracey’s friend after the match (who, coincidentally, told us that the pub we found was the only international pub in Cork), and hung out with him and his friends.

The next morning, we went to a better cafe, and then to the English Market, which was nice, but nothing more than a regular market.  I don’t know what I was expecting really.  (Dead Dove, Do Not Eat. Well, I don’t know what I was expecting.)  After that, we got brunch at a tea house, then got on the bus back to Dublin.  I messed up and thought Tracey needed to be back in London a day before she actually did, so I bought my flight home a day before hers.  So, I went back to Sheffield, and Tracey had a day in Dublin.  I’d already been to Dublin, so I guess it worked, but it was a sad mishap nonetheless.  But, I can’t be too sad because Cork is wonderful.  So wonderful that I immediately called my parents upon returning to the UK and told them I’m taking them there in November.  Cannot wait.

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"I’ve Proved Myself As An Artist, So Now I’m Going To Be A Forklift"

A full statement by Kanye West regarding his latest endeavor

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