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September 2009
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November 2009

October 2009

My Hotel: Let Me Count The Ways

--Shower has more mildew in the grout than at my house. Can I get a bottle of Tilex up here, stat?

--Wake up calls are 10 minutes early (automated system). Not bad if you need to get up at 7. Really sucks when you need to be up at 5.

--People party around my hotel at all hours of the night, almost every night. Not IN my hotel, NEAR my hotel and they stand in the streets and shout and shout and shout.

--The food is bad. When you just want a bowl of soup or some spaghetti from room service after a long day, forget it.

--The coffee cups are sometimes just rinsed out. Thankfully it was ME in the room the day before, but ew.

--The cleaning staff change the sheets when they feel like it.

--The hairdryer doesn't work. Guess I'll go to Boots and buy one. And leave it here.

--Today my pillow, with no pillow case, was on my desk and my used towel still where I left it on the door. Was there some emergency and all people had to leave the building suddenly?

--When I called to complain about the sloppy housecleaning today I got "So, you need a pillowcase?"

Here endeth the rant. 

Going out to dinner now.

In Which I Curse Tom Jones

Back in Belfast.

But we couldn't stay in our usual hotel because it's completely booked due to a Mr., ah, what's the name, I have it right here, yes a Mr. "Tom Jones" performing some sort of musical even tonight. The city is PACKED.

Okay fine, I can wait one more day to get back to the hotel I can't actually say I like but it's become the devil I know. My other bags are there waiting for me. But I had the perfect plan worked out to do laundry tomorrow as I need to wash clothes and B A D L Y. I have plenty of underwear, that's not a problem. But my two pairs of jeans are either extremely past their wash date and/or splattered with mud. This is one of the many joys of living in a hotel -- you squeeze your laundry out as long as you can and I'm past due. Oh, and it's not cheap. We have a special low deal with the hotel: only £9.95 per laundry bag. That's about $17 to you and me.

Wait, it gets so much better.

The flight from Edinburgh (which I've done 2 times now) is literally 30 minutes in the air. It was a little bit bumpy at first (very rainy today) but not bad. I read and looked at the green and very wet country beneath me when I could see to the ground. As we arrived into Belfast City Airport it got REALLY bumpy. Okay fine, not much to worry about. And then the sweet little boy in front of us hurls. Vomits. Upchucks. Performs a technicolor yawn. Uh boy. But, the thinnest of silver lining was that I scurried to find an additional vomit bag for the poor mom to give to him and that distracted me from the turbulance. Then I found a fresh pack of tissue in my purse and kept handing her a clean when she'd used each one up. She must have told me four or five times "Thanks! You're a star!" Her kind thanks was distracting me from the smell.

Land we did and I got out of sick-smelling tube (seen here).


The transpo guy packed all the luggage into the car, telling us how awful traffic is in Belfast. I almost laughed, thinking how small it is compared to LA (sorry Belfast) and thought, at least I don't have to be on the 405 for the next hour. The trip from the airport to the (new) hotel was about 8 minutes. 

Checked into the hotel, a straight up Business type hotel along the lines of a Holiday Inn Express or Courtyard by Mariott. It's busy in here, families and business people are all in the small lobby bar/restaurant. Dragged all the luggage to the room to find it is a fully accessible room for someone in a wheelchair. Which means, no tub or shower stall of any kind -- the whole bathroom is a shower stall with handles everywhere. Rock on for those that need it, seriously. For me, I could only laugh after this wacky afternoon as I reached down to the wheelchair height sink to have a glass of water, while I read the sign on the giant sliding door that said "Make sure this door is fully closed when showering so that the steam doesn't set off the sensitive fire alarm." Great. I can just see it/hear it now tomorrow at 6am. 

Oh but now. Now I have a pint of cold, crisp, refreshing beer in front of me and I'm relaxed and telling you all about it. And I'm laughing. Sort of.

This is my glamorous Hollywood lifestyle!

A Man Called Ginger

Yesterday I had a great day on the job. Why? Because it didn't feel like work at all. The weather was stunning, sunny most of the morning with scattered clouds, and there were miles and miles of gorgeous scenery to take in.

Here is a major thing I've noticed: Scotland is not a dry country.

Okay okay, that seems obvious at first glance, I know. But the reason I mention it is because I was near some hills yesterday, not very high hills, you could see the tops of them. And it was sunny, so there was no rain coming down. And yet there were many little streams pouring water down from the tops of the hills into the smaller creeks and larger rivers that connect them all. Where was all that water coming from? The ground just must be soaked, always soaked. When you live in Los Angeles, where I'm only allowed to water our garden on Mondays and Thursdays (and I only let the water run for about 10 minutes at a time) this seems somehow miraculous.

We were met at a historic spot by a conservator and we got to look around and hear what he had to say about the place and to take as many photos as we wanted. He introduced himself as John "but everyone calls me Ginger." Love that! So Ginger answered many of our questions and pointed out tiny details (masons marks, rooflines, floor posts, etc) that we might not have noticed without him. Later as we walked a bit, Ginger and I talked about books we were reading. It was a really unexpected lovely conversation about writing and words and stories. He asked me if I liked to write and I admitted that I did and that I had started a novel a while back. Ginger said "Aye?" and asked me what it was about and I got suddenly really shy and felt awkward about saying what my story was out loud, but in the end I was really pleased to talk about it. He then asked "Will you get it printed?" (And with his heavy wonderful accent I'm not sure if he meant "published.") I said "oh yes, I hope so." I then asked him if he was a writer as well. He said, "Oh no, no no." 

There was lots of animal life to keep us company. This lovely bird hung around a lot:


And we spoke to this handsome fellow:


And these funny gents with their curly black and white horns:


But soon we had to return to "work" and we said good-bye to Ginger, thanking him profusely for the wonderful experience. 

Yesterday, I really loved my job.

"Either Peace Or War"

It may come as no surprise to some of my (ahem) new readers that I'm not in Belfast.

In fact, I'm in Bonnie Scotland today and I got to have a bit of a walk around Stirling. And because I'm in Bonnie Scotland I had to look up my Scottish clan and tartan. My grandfather was a Williamson and our clan is "Gunn." Our tartan looks like this:


Our crest with motto looks like this:


The motto is: "Either Peace or War." Clearly, we are (or were) not fussy.

After breakfast and a bit of shopping (needed better,thinner layers for the upcoming cold days) I saw this gentleman serenading all who passed by. I took some snaps and gave him a pound for his music. 


Rock that kilt!


Saw this above a shop and really liked it. I tried to find out the quote, but nothing clear came up. Anyone?


After a lovely slow lunch, I walked up to Stirling Castle, knowing it would be closed, but just wanting a bit of a view. I walked into the large cemetery and up to a good spot to look over at the castle. 


I passed this guy on the way. I dig his style.


This was my favorite corner:


And if you stand awkwardly in my hotel room, you can see the Wallace Monument.


Now it's time to go down to the bar, have a wee glass of wine and consider dinner.

Light Blue Morning

I'm watching the sun come up. The cloudy sky is touched with pink and orange, but only very gently. The little slice of river I can see is reflecting those colors with a thin mist hovering nearby.

I miss home, I miss Jen. 

We would have been having so much fun on Facebook and chatting back and forth while I was here. And one of the things that we would have been amazed about is how many men I've seen here in the UK who look just like our grandfather, Pock. I would have called (depending on the time difference) every time I've seen one. Or at least emailed later. I might have even snuck a photo of one or two if I could have. But without her, it's not as much fun. 

Obviously I told my mom about seeing Pock's face -- he was her dad after all -- but it's a different dynamic. 

The sun is up, but hiding. A grey day.

Causeway Route Weekend Day 2 - Part 2 (Dunluce Castle)

After the morning hopping all over Giant's Causeway, we headed further NW toward Dunluce Castle.



The ruins are well cared for now and walking around, it is easy to imagine what a lonely place this must have been for the women who lived here. You were FAR from everything.






Near the parking area was the Wee Cottage where you could buy postcards and sit for tea and snacks.


Kurt caught me hanging out with my other favorite past graphics.


In the pasture near the castle, the cows were chillaxin.


We continued along the coast to Portrush. Which town that has seen better days, a long time ago. We had lunch in a cheap/fast food place. Food was crap but the view made up for it. There were surfers and kite surfers out there. I think the water in LA is cold, can't even imagine how cold it is here. More power to them. 


We drove through Portstewart then motored back to Belfast, ending our lovely Coastal Route weekend adventure!

Food Options In Ireland (Republic of)

We got to Dublin in the early evening last Friday. (I'll post about our wild day on the road in a few days.) Once we arrived, we were tired and cranky but oh so happy to be in our fancy hotel. Kurt found a dining guide in the room and our restaurant choice was secured: WAGAMAMA!

It was such a refreshing change from the small town Irish fare we'd been choosing from the week previous.

Of course we had to call Brian and tell him we were eating at Wagamama in Dublin!



Causeway Route Weekend Day 2 - Part 1 (Giant's Causeway)

After our drive up along the coast with stops at beautiful valley parks and the rope bridge, we were hoping to spend the night in Bushmills (of the 400 year old whiskey) or near the Giant's Causeway itself. Alas and alack most hotels were full up and we hadn't reserved anything! So we drove back toward Carrick-A-Rede and found a spot at the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy. It was a pub/inn combo, so after a few minutes chillin' in the room, we went down for a pint and some food. 

When we first arrived there were lots of people who looked dressed for work - suits and ties, etc, but it was a Saturday. When we went back down to eat, I realized we had stumbled into the after-gathering of a funeral. There were non funeral goers in the pub as well so we didn't feel too out of place. Just watching the dynamics of the group, I gathered that an older gentleman (60s) had lost his wife. I think his son and daughter in law were there and another older gentleman friend. It was strangely fascinating to be on the outside of it. I wanted to hug them all. I drank 2 pints of Tennants instead.

We fell asleep early and arose for a full breakfast fry-up and coffee then hit the road, first stopping in the little harbor at Ballintoy. We found this unusual house just above the small harbor. 


Not your typical Irish cottage by the sea.

The small harbor itself had stunning views.


On the way back up we saw the church and churchyard where there was the grave site of the previous day's funeral. 


We headed north again, aiming the mighty VW Polo toward Giant's Causeway. We stopped to look at a castle ruin - Dun something (sorry, can't find the name!).


Then into the tiny village of the Giant's Causweay and here was our favorite restaurant! Okay, we didn't eat here, but it's the same name as our fave restaurant in LA: Nook. Can't wait to go there again in the not too distant future. (The one in LA I mean...)


Then we headed to the day's main event -- The Giant's Causeway!
This particular spot is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I imagine in the summer it is TEEMING with people. There were plenty the day we were there, but you didn't feel one of zillions.

And it was windy. Very very windy, but luckily only a few drops of rain.


It's a super fascinating place and we crawled all around it.



We traded taking photos of others... 

Then they took ours. But by then, the wind had blown a nice salty fog filter on the lens...




There was a rainbow but we didn't find any pots of gold.






Did I mention it was windy?


Other amazing views.


And the Giant's Boot!


Soon it was time to head back up the hill to our car. 


We saw this man and his walking stick. Somehow it struck us funny to climb around these rocks with an umbrella. Maybe you had to be there. 


Highly recommend going to Giant's Causeway. If the formations aren't enough for you, then how about this? Legend has it that Finn McCool built the causeway to get to Scotland and you can see the other side of the "trail" over there. 

We decided that boy or girl, when we do have kids, one of them will be named Finn McCool Frey. HA!

Causeway Route Weekend Day 1 - Part 2 (Carrick-A-Rede)

When we last left our intrepid explorers, we were cruising up to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. 

I had forgotten to include a picture of this other tunnel we saw on our way up the coast:


It's really more like sculpture, I think.

Back to the Rope Bridge. First you walk a ways along the cliff edge with lovely views out to the small islands in the area. 


Then to the bridge itself. He's Kurt backing down the steep stairs. (He's being silly, really.)



Then I came to join him on the wee island.


Someone kindly took our photo.


Hey, let's read about the bridge!


It was about salmon fishing.

Loved the tiny caves and inlets. Look how clear the water is, makes you want to jump in and have a lovely swim. But then you remember it must be oh so very cold!


Kurt is working very hard to take a picture of us. Nice job.


Back to the mainland. 



And up!


View from the path.

It's a beautiful spot, a gorgeous walk along the water, and a fun trip across the bridge. I highly recommend!

Criss-Crossing The Country

We've had a busy time, Kurt and I, on my time off. So much to post about in the next few days: Causeway Coastal Route Day 1 Part 2, then Day 2. Then the Black Taxi tour we took at lunch one day all about The Troubles -- fascinating. Then a wild drive out west then back east to Dublin where we have spent the weekend. Back to Belfast today and back to work tomorrow. Tons of photos to sort and post! Stay tuned...