Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 4 in Dublin: a few last things

I spent much of my final morning trying to figure out what to throw out of my suitcase. I did, however, remember to take a photo of the view out of the window in my room. This photo was taken from my bed. I was the top bunk and my whole body was against just glass. It was wonderful! A wall of windows.

After I gave up trying to magically make my suitcase weigh any less, I left the hostel for my last jaunt around Dublin. I walked over to Trinity College and got the walking tour. We couldn't go in any of the buildings since everyone, save a few lonely graduate students, are on holiday, but the grounds are extremely beautiful.

Then I had my last lunch in a wonderful pub in Temple Bar called the Auld Dubliner. I got there around 1 to read my book, eat fish & chips and drink a Guinness. At 2 an Irishman came in with his guitar for live music. There weren't too many of us in the pub so it was a more intimate experience. Wonderful.

I grabbed my suitcase from the hostel and headed to the stand to wait for the air coach......which didn't come....and didn't come....and the crowd grew larger. Finally this woman asked if I wanted to split a cab. We found two more girls and the four of us filed in. Was the same price as the air coach and I GOT TO SIT IN THE FRONT SEAT....ON THE LEFT SIDE!!! It was super neato! I've never been in a backwards (read: driver on the right) car!!

So I've landed in Prague which will be discussed after I find a towel (argh) and some vittles!

one quick question

Why do the toilet seats in Dublin NOT fit the toilet bowl? Is this what I have to look forward to all through Europe? Have I been spoiled my whole life by properly fitting seats?
(The attached photo is certainly not the most offensive example, it just happened that I remembered to take a photo while at the Kilmainham Gaol yesterday.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 3 in Dublin: tourist attractions

Today I tried to get a little more done. I was very successful which also extends to updating the blog. Margot and I were out of the hostel by 9 a.m. Starting heading toward Guinness. Unfortunately, the girlie sized t-shirts are NOT made for girls with arms strong from rock climbing! So the super cute shirt I bought yesterday had to be exchanged for something with bigger arm holes. sucks. But the one I ended up with is super cute, too, and I tried it on in the store so I could confirm the fit. I'm smart like that!

Then we headed toward Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced and is a "jail").
We got a tiny bit lost because no map of downtown Dublin shows the gaol. It was a bit of a walk but we made it. It was super slick and the guide was an amazing wealth of Irish history. We learned about all the different rebellions and wars for independence and all of the key players. It was really a great history lesson.

From there we opted to take a bus back to city centre. Not lazy, just tired and hungry. I wanted to go to Christ Church Cathedral next so just after the bus passed it, we hopped off to hunt up some grub. We stumbled upon the greatest cafe, Queen of Tarts. We each had the brie and spinach tart, foccacia, broccoli salad and green salad. It was all SUPER delicious! After our delicious lunch, we had the strength to check out a big ass church and crypt.

Christ Church Cathedral has a very long and rich history. It was the site of a Viking Church in the 11th Century. On the site is the church of today. One of the founders of the "modern" church was Laurence O'Toole, who was cannonized in 1200 something and whose heart is in a shrine in the back of the church. Neato.

Following that we opted for something a little lighter, like a shopping district! We wandered through the Powerscourt centre. It is a huge Georgian building that has been turned into an upscale/antique/jewelry mall. Then we just walked around Grafton Street, a street closed off to cars for just pedestrian shopping, and stopped for a scone and tea.

I took Margot to the bus to wish her off (and so I'd know where to get the bus tomorrow!), bought some more stamps, and went a tiny bit out of my way to go over the pedestrian bridge, the Ha'Penny Bridge. Then I headed back to the hostel to catch up on my digital committments. Go me!

Day 2 in Dublin: the big green bus

Before I left the airport I bought a Dublin Bus Tour 1-day ticket. On the morning of Tuesday, 28 July, I set out for the nearest pick-up point for my big green tour bus. It was pretty much in front of Trinity College, which is cool because that's the school that certifies my impending certificate.

I was very disappointed by the bus. The "live commentary" was a recording and it would be prompted at not quite the right times, so I really didn't know what it was referencing. Really frustrating. But, I rode along until the Guinness Storehouse!!! Some things are worth enduring a bad tour. I was on that bus with 3 girls who had been to U2 the night before and had been on a well-narrated big green bus the day before. They added to my frustration because they spoke of what a good tour could be! However, they really bothered most of the other people on the bus, but I just laughed. They, too, got off at Guinness, but they disappeared into it before I was hardly off the bus! And I thought I was the one in a hurry for a pint.

I took my time. I was able to take part in a 1/2 hour lecture in the Archives room that went through the whole 250 year history of Guinness. It was really interesting. One amazing fact I'll share: the harp on the Guinness logo was trademarked in 1850something. When the Irish Euro was being created, they (the people in charge of putting images on coins) wanted to put the harp on it as a symbol of Ireland. Unfortunately for them, Guinness already had the harp image trademarked! The compromise: the harp could be used on the coin, but the image is FLIPPED from the one on the Guinness logo! Check it out sometime. Very cool the power of the Guinness company!

One more super neat thing I learned: the widget (what makes a draught can possible) is better than the internet!!

While I was there, I got to pour my own delicious pint. The Galaxy Bar, on the 7th floor, is the highest point in Dublin (because it's a tall building on top of a hill). Beautiful views. You'd be able to see further if it wasn't always raining or about to rain!

I bought postcards, a keychain (I gave up ALL my keys when I left the states but realized I'd soon need a keyring, now for my suitcase lock, and later for my flat door), and a much NOT needed t-shirt....but it is SO CUTE! (just add this to the long list of clothing I'm going to have to WEAR on the plane tomorrow!)

After leaving the Guinness Factory (finally!) I headed back out to the big green bus. This time, I was so fortunate to have a real, actually LIVE, narrator. I learned more in the 4 stops than I did in the initial 10! Sad. And you know where those 4 stops took me??!!!........The Old Jameson Distillery! Apparently Day 2 in Dublin was my alcohol fiesta.

Unfortunately I was pretty tired by the time I got there so I didn't take but only one photo. Of course it's super cute! So when John Jameson started distilling, he had warehouses full of barley....which means there were mice. So they had a cat in the warehouse, Smithy, who caught about 20 mice a day. He was such an important part of the growth of the distillery, that when he died he was STUFFED. So that picture of a cat is an ACTUAL 200 year old stuffed cat!

Super funny, after the tour, a girl recognized me from the hostel. She asked me if we slept next to each other! Ha ha ha...our beds are next to each other and I hadn't even noticed. So we walked home together and rested before dinner. Margot, the girl I just met at Jameson, and Miruna, another girl from the hostile, and I all went to dinner for some traditional Irish fare. We all split Chicken Curry, Fish & Chips and Beef & Guinness Stew. Delicious! Of course, with Guinness to drink!

We stopped by THE Temple Bar of the Temple Bar area for a quick pint before heading home for the day....long day of alcohol tours!

P.S. Not sure why the pictures came up in the order they did. I even deleted and started over...and still the stuff cat is showing up 2nd.

Day 1 in Dublin: U2!!

After my (much deserved!) nap, one of my hostel roommates was planning to go see U2. I asked if I could walk with her to see if I could find a ticket. As luck would have it, I found a girl who had one ticket for sale. luck would have it, it was quite close to my new friend's seat! So we walked in, parted but agreed to meet at the end, and went off to enjoy the show.

I'm sure U2 puts on a great show everywhere. I wouldn't know because Monday night was the first time I'd ever seen them...but to see them in DUBLIN?!! That was an event not to be missed. The crowd was a SEA of people. You couldn't tell where the floor ended and the seats began. It was incredible. I read that Croke Park can hold over 82,000....and I'm pretty sure that it was at capacity. And this was the last of 3 nights in a row that U2 was playing. Absolutely amazing.

I learned that the Wave (where people stand up with their arms up going around the stadium) is an international language. The weird thing was the HUGE amount of Budweiser at the concert. This didn't make any sense to me, but apparently they were a sponsor. I finally found the Guinness vendor...yum.

Monday, July 27, 2009

it begins!

I'm here. I'm in Dublin. However, I am so exhausted that it doesn't matter where I am. The overnight flight was not conducive to very good sleep (not that I really thought it would be). I always order a window but for some reason the plane wall was further away from the seat than normal....meaning that I couldn't comfortably lean against the window which is my normal M.O. And I had some delusion that I would be able to check into the hostel and take a shower and take a nap. Unfortunately, it's only just after noon, local time, and the room won't be ready until 2. So I'm doing everything in my power to keep my eyes open while I wait.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Oasis

I always get so nervous when needing to get to the airport that I invariably get there (here) way too early. So, here I am. My flight departs in 3 hours 10 minutes.

The perk 1: there was NO ONE in line when I checked in!
The perk 2: the cutie that checked me in is Irish!
The perk 3: the cutie Irish boy asked me if I would like to get "alinge pass" for $30...unlimited beer and cocktails and buffet and free wifi. Of course I would! I have 3 hours! However, I couldn't figure out what "alinge pass" is. I had him repeat it. Still didn't understand. So when I asked the woman at ticket sales for "alinge pass", she sold me a ticket to the LOUNGE! I had NO IDEA that's what he was saying! I guess I need to get better at guessing what foreign kids are saying since that's going to be my world for awhile!

The lounge is called "The Oasis" and the bathrooms alone made it worth the expense. Spacious stalls, well stocked with toiletries, CLEAN, even free tampax and maxithins (oxymoron?). I'm currently enjoying a Kingfisher beer and a vegetarian samosa. I'm not normally a fan of the buffet thanks to a particularly frightening Chinese restaurant experience and having been friends with Jessi (who abhors buffets more than anyone I've ever known) for so long, however......compared to buying food on the plane and/or living off of Clif bars, I'm opting for a little fruit and fried delights.

I'm not that nervous. The 1/2 xanax may be part of that (thanks Ilana!). I'm quite calm. Also, nothing feels real. I haven't had to show my passport since I was 14. That was more than 1/2 my life ago. And not only did I show it to him, he swiped it through a machine like a credit card. Things have gotten super high tech in the many years I've been away!

Saying goodbye to the roommates didn't even feel real. I think I've been gearing up for this for so long that it is just "right" that it's all happening. Go me!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

t-31 hours to take off!

My flight takes off tomorrow at 9:40 p.m. My bag currently weighs 22.3 kg. That's 2.3 kg over the allowance from Dublin to Prague. That's not including ANY books, which puts all books in my carry-on. Not quite sure what to take out at this point.

I actually feel a sense of calm. I did laundry this morning. My bag is essentially packed. The animals are taken care of (although I WILL change the litterbox before going!). I've developed a little cold but I've been taking wild amounts of EmergenC and DayQuil so I think I won't explode on the plane.

My roommates are super wonderful. They're making a wonderful last supper for me tonight. Steak and squash and wine. Delicious! Then...drinks at a pub with a huge beer selection. Which means I need to get everything done today!

I'm working on a last box of things to send to my mom to hold for me. The rest either goes to Salvation Army (about 30 bags were dropped off on Thursday!) or my niece. I'll make one last drop off at the storage facility where I've left things for my niece to get when she arrives in NYC the first of September.

Things left to do:
- make sure all contacts from my paper address book are in my computer
- eat lunch! (I just realized I'm hungry)
- go through the small stack of paper work that needs to be dealt with
- pay credit card bill

I really think that's it! I'm in a state of mild disbelief that I'm really doing this and the day has finally arrived! I actually cried a tiny bit this morning thinking that THIS IS MY LAST FULL DAY IN NYC FOR I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG! That's so exciting and so scary all at once!

But first things first....nap time! If I'm meeting people out for drinks at 10 p.m. tonight....I should probably be awake!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kiyomi knows

Kiyomi knows I'm leaving. Or...she definitely knows something is up. I've been going through my room and have gotten rid of SO MUCH STUFF!! I think she can tell that I'm gearing up for something.

My mom arrived last Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. to help me go through everything. Last night two of the dogs were out of town so my mom just took Kiyomi out to pee. Mom was going to take her for a little bit of a walk, not just a quick pee, but as soon as Kiyomi peed she was dying to get back home. She ran in the door and straight to the shower to see me.

It made me cry a little.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fourth of July drama

Jess, Courtney and I had a great day out on The Lake in Central Park. We came home, showered, ate and sat down to play a board game.

Then we saw those telltale red and white flashing lights shining off the building across the street. Oh no!! What now!!

Apparently a line of cops were headed somewhere in a hurry and one of them got into an accident with a van. The van won. When we looked out there were SO MANY cop cars. Finally the two cops in the car were taken away on back boards. But everyone who was in the van were standing around talking.

At least nothing was on fire. But we are definitely ready for NO MORE SIRENS!!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Needless to say, no one really felt like BBQ or fireworks. We pretty much had our fair share of excitement the night before and when EVERYTHING smells like a campfire, a BBQ doesn't sound appetizing!

Jess came up with the most wonderful idea: go row boats on The Lake in Central Park. The sky was clear (after a VERY rainy June this was a wonderful thing) and it was warm but not too hot. We took a bottle of wine and stopped at a deli for sandwiches. The line looked long for the boats but it moved quickly.

Out on the water was just what we needed. Jess, Courtney and I cruised out to a nice shady spot, listened to live music and ate our lunch. An amazing day on the water!

Friday, 3 July 2009

July 3rd 2009, Friday. Got up, had breakfast, chatted with the roommates, went to the gym, stopped by the bar where Jess works for a quick drink and then headed home.

It was a little after 9:30 p.m. and I had just taken the dogs for a walk. Courtney and I had just started another episode of Dexter when some people were yelling outside. In Harlem this is not unusual but what made me remember it is that it was so loud we had to pause rude! A few minutes later I paused Dexter again. This time because I thought I smelled smoke. My roommate thought so too. We walked around the apartment trying to figure out what could be burning. Then she opened the front door. She screamed because the hallway lights were out and the hall was filled with smoke. We grabbed the dogs (3 in all) and ran to my room, furthest away from the door and at the front of the building. We stuck a towel under the door and opened the windows.

Our street already had firetrucks and more and more kept coming. We were crying and looking around, trying to figure out what was going on. We were in an apartment on the 8th floor on the right side of the "U" shaped building. The fire was on the 5th floor on the left side of the "U".

First there was just smoke billowing out of the window. (It must have been an amazing site from the south side of the building where most of the windows are. We could only see the one window on the front of the building.) We were watching the smoke and then suddenly there were huge flames shooting out of the window. That really freaked us out! Although I knew that the fire couldn't spread to us because it would have to travel 3 floors, our door was closed and the construction of the building is such that it restricts fire, my roommate was freaking out so much that it did get me riled up for a bit, especially when I couldn't get a hold of my mom. (I did get her by calling her home number and the first thing I did was yell at her for not having her cell phone with her!)

After what seemed like forever, water started shooting out of the window, replacing the flames. (Something that I JUST NOW REALIZED: While watching the event, I couldn't figure out how the firemen had gotten into the apartment to be shooting water out of the window......but the south side of the building is ALL WINDOWS. They could have gone in any one of them. A perfect example of where certain logic and reasoning skills disappear to while in a crisis!)

During all the mayhem, I couldn't find Charlie Parker (my cat) anywhere. My mom told me he'd be fine but I left my room 3 or 4 times to try to find him, each time with my shirt covering my nose and mouth, and the last time even covering my eyes. Our apartment was so filled with smoke that you could hardly see and it stung like crazy. On my last trip out, I had made sure that the front door was unlocked so the fire department could come in.

Finally, my dog started barking at my bedroom door. We opened the door a crack and a fireman was walking through our apartment. He made sure we were all okay and told us to open all the windows and keep the door open for maximum air circulation. While we were getting our instructions, Harper, Jess' dog, made a run for it. I didn't notice at first but did a quick count and he was gone.

I ran out of the apartment and started heading down. At each landing I asked a fireman about a black dog and I was told he had gone down, down towards clean air. Finally a fireman said that another guy had carried him outside. I dashed down the dark stairs and into the night. I saw a fireman holding Harper outside of the crime scene tape. I got him and proceeded to receive a lecture about tags on dogs. I didn't go into it, but his tags are on his collar in the house because he (normally) doesn't ever leave the house without it.

I headed back into the building wearing sandals, not appropriate post-fire footwear because of the enormous amount of glass everywhere, and carrying Harper, a 25 pound dog. I'd dashed out so fast I hadn't thought to bring his leash....but I couldn't have set him down in all the glass anyhow.

On the way back up, I ran into another black dog, Vagabond. I told the firemen that I knew the dog but not where he lived, but I would take him. Of course I couldn't carry him because I already had Harper. I was able to get Vagabond to follow me up a couple of flights but after that he got distracted. I found out later that Vagabond belonged to the burnt out apartment and that another woman found him and took him in for the owner.

Jess got home during the fire and had to stay behind the police tape. Some asshole told her that the black dog, Harper, was dead. Of course she freaked out and called Courtney. All Courtney knew was that I had run out of the apartment looking for Harper but hadn't returned yet. I didn't have my phone on me because it all happened so fast. That, of course, made Jess freak out even more. When I came home Courtney told Jess that Harper was fine and Jess was able to get back into the apartment shortly after that.

Our apartment doesn't really smell anymore. The dogs do, maybe they'll get baths today. The hallways of the building REEK like smoke and although they've been cleaned once, are still gross. One of the elevators has a metal interior which has some pretty neat discoloration from the smoke. Many of the windows on the stair landings are broken out from the firemen bringing in air. did the fire start? A French masseuse on the 5th floor (Vagabond's mom) lit a candle, went into the kitchen for something, came back and the curtains were on fire. From there everything went up pretty quickly. She ran out, LEFT HER DOG AND LEFT THE DOOR OPEN. In our building, if the door was closed, the fire would have been nicely contained. Instead, the fire spread to the hallway, trapped many residents in their apartments (everyone from the 5th floor to the 10th floor because of the amount of smoke!), and filled the whole building with smoke. (and how do you leave your dog?)

~~The pictures I took with my camera during the blaze didn't turn out well because the flash was going off and I didn't have the brain power to change the settings. But my camera has a wrist strap so it wasn't until after the major event that I took out my phone to shoot pictures when I wasn't shaking anymore. It is the phone pictures that I'm posting because they look so much better.~~

All day Saturday there were firetrucks pulling up in front of the building, checking things out. Apparently our building is being used as some sort of example of bad preparedness. A.) no emergency lighting came on. B.) there is a standpipe on each floor THAT DOESN'T WORK. C.) I heard NOT ONE fire alarm going off the entire time. (These are just the things that I noticed or was told about...who knows what else is wrong!)

I've heard many grumblings from people, the younger residents, looking to move ASAP. I can't figure that out. After this event, it would seem that the management company would have to put in a lot of safely features, very soon making this a very safe building. And, even without those features, this building is built so solid that no one should really be that panicked. People are crazy.