A Travellerspoint blog

May 2009

20090501 Dublin -> Falset (Part 2)

The Nuttery begins!

sunny 70 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I arrive in Barcelona Reus airport in the early afternoon. On exiting the plane, I'm overwhelmed with the warm air. I'm sweating immediately and I love it!

I'm so happy to be here! I've been looking forward to this as my true "vacation". No planning, maps, hotels, buses, trains, seeking food and facilities, etc. For a few days. Just relaxing and enjoying myself. I love navigating and exploring, but I planned my trip with the Falset part in the middle for a reason. I knew I'd be ready for a break and recharge. *happy sigh*

An airport guide walks the passengers from the plane to the baggage claim. I feel like we are kids on a field trip - winding outdoors around what seem like random buildings. No wonder we need a guide.

I wait in the passport check line. When I get to the front, the girl tells me to step aside and fill out a special form because I don't have a EU passport. It only takes me a couple minutes and she hands me off to another checker. He checks me and my documents with a trained suspicious regard. When he stamps my passport, I gleefully exclaim "Muchas gracias, senor! Bien, bien!". He almost smiled... or maybe that was a smile for him.

I already see my bag on the conveyor so I grab it. I wander around a bit looking for Karen or Adam, but they are not in here. I can't see what is outside the sliding doors, and once I walk out I'm not sure I can come back in, so I wait a couple minutes to see if they show up. I decide they must be outside, so I walk through the doors and there is a waiting area. I glimpse Adam, and light up. There's always that slight nervousness when you're meeting someone and don't have a cell phone. But it ended up golden. Hugs exchanged, quick greetings - Karen is waiting in the car outside. Here we go - Whew!
He has a beer for me in the back already. Aaaah! Que paradiso!

Even from the airplane - Spain is nothing like i expected. It has hills - almost mountains. The landscape is mostly green right now. Its a little desert-like with the smaller plants and the loose soil. But there is enough moisture from the sea air, and enough buffer from what seems to be a light marine layer, that it is warm but nothing looks scorched. I assume it will be more desert-like in a few months, but I'm happy to be here in Spring. It's perfect!!

The main thing is that I expected this area to be more modern, urban and populous. The airport is a bit outside of Barcelona, so I'm really getting the beautiful rural view. Old brick and plaster casitas, gardens, groves, and countryside. As we drive and catch up a bit, something inside me uncoils. The air even smells good. *soul sigh*
I just want to disappear here for a few days. No past. No future. Just here. Now.

We pass some beautiful sites, and I'm just too busy enjoying them to even bother to take pictures. I'll take those pictures on the way back. (Of course, on the way back I go to the train in another place, instead of the airport. So those pictures are only in my mind now. ;)


We arrive about 20 or 30 minutes later. Karen introduces me to a bunch of shiny people sitting in the yard enjoying the sunshine. There's no way I'll remember everyone's names right away. Over the weekend it will all sort out, I'm sure.


Karen shows me the bed she's made for me. I feel so honored that these amazing people are putting me up for the weekend. Even when It's been forever-and-a-day since last we met. But that's just how they are. Amazing.

Here's the property "Casa Molino" AKA by our crew as "Casa Pinson":


I'm wandering around taking pictures of the property and the countryside, when Sicco says "stay close". I'm baffled, but I stick around the porch area, and suddenly there's all this commotion so I start snapping photos. Donna flew in from LA, but only a few people knew about it, so lots of folks were surprised to see her.


I settle in and start getting to know a few folks. The sunset is gorgeous!


More people trickle in. Magicians run amok in the kitchen preparing a feast.
There happen to be chefs and cooks about, so dinner is fantastic, of course! Thank you x1000!!! (Was that Melissa and Nik, or were Vance and Jason in on that one, too? I saw some kitchen helpers, and offered my services, too. But smart cooks can tell by looking at me that I'm one of those "clueless speed-bump" helpers and politely say "we're good, thanks!" ;) Then, I just help clean-up and balance is restored. heh.)


After we are in food bliss for a bit, the most wonderful music starts climbing up our spines and making our booties want to move. So, some of us let it ;) (Thanks for the amazing music, Tim!).


There were some serious surprises on the dance "porch". Not your usual suspects. But let's just say that I'd watch (and possibly participate in) a dance-off with Jim, Gee, and Grant ANY DAY. If the planets align properly, there may be moon walking and poppin' 'n' lockin'. You just never know with this crew.

[When I asked Grant about his moves, he reminds me that he's a drummer and says something like 'Do whatever you want in-between. But, always hit the 16 beat.' I'm sold. ]


The night progresses and there is food, music, dancing, bonfire, and wonderful people sharing an amazing time. Everyone is excited to be here. I keep hearing that its important to "take it easy" tonight, because tomorrow night the party may go until dawn. I'm having such a great time, I can't imagine anything better. But, the more people I meet, the more I hear "Oh my gosh - you've never been here before? Oh! you're going to have the best time! Just save some energy for tomorrow!"

I took it easy except for the sleep and dancing thing ;). I was up until dawn making new friends around a fire in Spain. *bliss*


Posted by icufoundme 18:43 Archived in Spain Tagged lodging Comments (1)

20090501 Dublin -> Falset (Part 1)

Bye Dublin! Faere thee well!

rain 46 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I get up, check out, and ask the concierge for the best way to get to the airlink bus station. That's the bus that goes direct to the Airport.
This morning, I was planning to take a taxi to the Airlink. I assumed about 5 Euro, 5-10 minute drive. so, i was surprised when the concierge said the Airlink stop is only a 6 minute walk away. He gives me directions and I head out walking.

After 10 minutes, I'm kicking myself for listening to him. The walk ends up being more like 25 minutes. The whole time I'm sweating and getting clammy from the cold air. Its drizzling, and I'm nervous about making my flight after the last experience.

Some locals direct me past the Airlink stop to a city bus stop, and I have to backtrack a couple blocks. This whole time, I'm dragging my suitcase and making a racket on the uneven cobblestones, and getting stuck behind leisurely shoppers milling about.
I finally find the bus stop, and I'm crossing my fingers that I get to the airport in time. It seems like an eon passes standing there waiting and hoping the bus shows up. To my relief it shows up after about 10 minutes. (Bless reliable public transport!!)

I'm expecting a 45 - 60 minute ride with all the stops the bus makes. But, it only stops 2 more times, and we arrive at the airport in 30 minutes. I have plenty of time - even if they search my bag again. whew!

I really want to send out these Dublin postcards, but I want to get through security in case they search my bag again. I also want to see how far the terminal is before i start frittering time.

Security doesn't search my bag this time. But, my terminal is the one absolutely farthest out, and away from the airport facilities. i could risk walking back to the center of the airport to send the postcards, but might not get back if they board on time. Then, I'd get stuck in a bad seat, or worse - miss the flight. I opt for the safe route and stay in the boarding line.
Of course, they board late, and I would have had plenty of time to send out the cards (even if they boarded on time). But that's Murphy's law, right? Oh well. y'all can just deal ;)

Dublin is gorgeous flying out. Fluffy white clouds over emerald green land. I really like Dublin, but I'm also really ready to be in Spain.


Posted by icufoundme 15:09 Archived in Ireland Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

20090430 Dublin

Okay... one more pint of Guinness

overcast 55 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I was getting ready in a leisurely way when the room service starts knocking and bugging me even though I have the "Do not disturb" sign on the door.
It turns out they say I don't have the room reserved for tonight and I need to check out. What?!

There was some back and forth with the front desk, but for whatever reason, they only reserved me through Thursday - not Friday. And they are totally booked for tonight. Shenannigans!!

They have one room left at their sister hotel next door for tonight for $20 more (uh huh). so, I check out of Harcourt Hotel and into Harrington Hall. The rooms are not ready yet - maybe an hour more. But they have wireless internet in the lobby, so I sign on for a bit until the room is ready.

Dang, it's snazzy! Chandeliers, marble bath, elevator, 3rd floor view. Nice! Oh, a bath would be divine! [I'm not sure why - but it seems that all the taps in Dublin come on full force right away and splash you - except at this hotel. Hm.]


After getting settled in, I head in to town, and hop on the bus tour again. My ticket had just expired, but the bus driver was in good spirits and said "aw, c'mon then!". So, I did.
I was hoping to get to the Jameson distillery. Its not too far outside town, so I should be able to walk back. If not, I can get a city bus for cheap.
This time on the tour, I was able to write the names and details of the sites I took pictures of yesterday. I'll add the notes to the pictures after I return. It's going to take a while.

I would bet money that the tour bus operator is snockered. It's the first time I've taken a bus tour where they don't use the pre-recorded schpiel. He does the whole thing verbally and has the few of us aboard cracking up. He's giggling the whole time. Making lewd comments and telling Irish stereotype jokes. He gives us the low-down, and the real story... and sometimes a load of malarkey. It's great. [Guinness is HUGE here and he explains how much the Irish drink of it, then says they're not alcoholics - they are just doing what they can as individuals - trying to pay pack the Guinness family for all they've done to help the Dublin community. Heh.]

I jump off the bus at the stop for the Jameson distillery and give the driver a hearty thanks and tip. It's a few blocks walk, but I found it after some exploration (oddly - it's not obviously marked from the main street). I picked up some goodies from the gift shop for friends back home, and headed toward town.


On the way, I passed a hotel bar that has an Irish band and step-dancing later in the evening. One flat fee covers a multi-course meal, a drink, and all the live entertainment. I make a reservation for myself in an hour, then head up the street to look in the shops for post cards and gifts. I buy some trinkets and entertain myself reading the irish blessings on the magnets, then head back to the tavern.


The food was great, and the music was good as well. the dancers were phenomenal. I guess they are some of the Riverdance crew. It's really amazing to see up close! (I thought of you the whole time, Kara!)


I took a couple videos and pictures of the band, but my camera battery died before the Dancers came on - Doh!!! One of the band's singers was like an Irish Janis Joplin - man she had some gritty soulful pipes!


I also met some great guys at the tavern (Otto, Tom, and Gary). They are in town for the TT Rally (no wonder there were so many bikes around!). I also didn't get any pictures of them due to the dead camera, but we used Otto's camera to get a few. Hopefully they will send them along so I can post a couple. Good luck on the rally guys! Thanks for adopting me!

We stood around talking until the bar closed, then I just decided to catch a taxi. I had a great conversation about culture with Michael, the taxi driver from Nigeria. He offered to take me dancing at the best club in town. Nice offer, indeed. But I have to get some rest. I have a flight to catch. And I'm not missing it! (Not to mention that It might not be wise ;)

At the hotel, I set the clock alarm and arranged a wake-up call as well.
I got everything packed up and ready to go in the morning so I can just walk out the door.

Dang, there's no wireless on the 3rd floor. Oh well.

The bath tub looks so appealing. The tap looks like one of those old fancy telephones. But I decide sleep takes precedence. A quick rinse. Then, off to dreamland.


...If it wasn't for that club thumping across the street... Everyone is outside singing in unison. It's tempting to go down there - it sounds like they are having so much fun! But I opt for the ear plugs instead. Zzzz...

Posted by icufoundme 14:24 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

20090429 Dublin

Dublin sites

overcast 55 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I get up, and turn on the TV to check the time. mid-morning.
I'm amused by the commercials here. They are more blatantly risque. It also seems that toilet cleaning is an obsession. There is every variety of toilet cleaning product you could imagine.
In one commercial, the kid keeps repeating to his Mom "I need a poo!". Apparently he wants to go to his auntie's house to poo because she has glade plug-ins and Mom does not. Heh.
There's also a lot of creative commercials for birth control. Fascinating.

I head out to catch the bus into Dublin proper. As I arrive at the bus stop, I smile at the man sitting there and he gets a weird look on his face them looks away. I figure 'well, whatever', then he turns to me and says in his thick Irish accent: "sorry, love. you threw me there fer a minute. not much reason to smile on a gray day like today. wasn't spectin' it." So I smiled again and said "well It's my first time here, guess I just don't know any better. It looks beautiful to me". This time, he smiled.

I jump on the public bus to the center of town where the tour buses are.
On the way, I'm looking for a used clothing store so I can buy a jacket.
I spot a Unicef shop and hop off the bus at the next stop, then walk back to the shop.
I buy a beige jacket that's a little too small. It's one of those feather-stuffed jobs. The pickings were slim. Whatcha gonna do? It only cost 2 pounds, so I'll ditch it before Spain.

[The shop was selling everything that day for 2 pounds for a children's charity. That's something I've noticed a lot in Europe. People are really big on giving to childrens' charities. Not that we aren't into charity in the states, but here, there are people asking for donations at every major hub - airports, bus stops, shops dedicated to selling items for charity every few blocks, etc. Maybe our solicitation laws prevent that except for the Salvation army at Christmas time for some reason?]

I catch the bus again with a nice warm jacket on, and head downtown.
I find the tourist information office and buy a tour bus pass that's good for 2 days. (I tried to take the ghost tour, but it was booked up until Friday night. Dang.)

I noticed that there is a movie theater across the street all decked out in Star Trek gear. Wolverine is out today. Maybe I'll go see it later after its too dark to take pictures on the tour. Hm.


The tour was great. Those bus drivers are like Kamikazes trying to keep up with the pre-recoded Audio. All these tiny, narrow streets and pedestrians and traffic, but they barrel through undaunted. Sometimes we are within inches of other buses. They take the turns so fast I could swear we are about to tip over. It's crazy!

I tried to get some good pictures, but the streets are narrow, the buildings are tall, and the buses move so quickly - it's no easy feat. I just snapped away like crazy and spent an hour or two sorting them later. I deleted about 1/3 of the pics i took after all was said and done. You wouldn't know it by how many remain though ;)


Here are a few things I didn't catch with the camera:
- There was graffiti that said "RIP Ireland. Lisbon is the killer!".
- There was an electrical box with a lightning symbol that said "Death lies within".
- There are pigeons that look different than ours - ruffled necks and dove-like coloring.
- There are HUGE blue jays.
- There are sea birds unlike regular gulls. Black wings and white bellies. Different beaks.

After the tour, I drop into the movie theater to find that the next showing of Wolverine is in one hour.
I talk to the usher about local eateries and he points me to Flanagan's across the street. I order a traditional Irish stew and Guinness. Sooo perfect!


Then, I head back to the theater and watch Wolverine. It's great! Go see it ;)
There was a hilarious ad before the movie. It showed a Ken doll getting ready for a date, then barbie also getting ready. They have a great time on the date vignette, then go back to her place and the "bow-chicka-bow" music starts as they undress each other. Then, it shows them naked looking down at an obvious lack of equipment and the ad ends with the tag-line for a variety store "some bits are necessary". Hahaha!
The movie experience in Ireland is basically the same as in the states. The differences would be the ads, and the fact that there is only one theater screen, and the fact that they draw the huge red curtain across the screen for a 5 minute intermission between the ads and the movie.

It's getting dark, so I head back to the hotel.

For some reason the heater stops working at night, and the room gets cold. I think the hotel just turns things off at certain times to save money.

I also can't figure out how to turn on any lights in my room other than the 20 watt bulb in the lamp on the desk, so the room is quite dark at night. It's a good thing the bathroom has a window with a light outside, or I'd have a real problem ;).

Side notes:
- there are lots of tanning booths in Dublin. *snicker*
- All over Europe there are corner markets called "Spar" that are the equivalent of a 7-11 in the states. [Once, I walked into a Spar where the store was packed with people, and the entry door was full of constant in/out trafic. I just made a left inside the door because it was the only unclogged area of the shop. But it turns out there was a reason for that - It was the *ahem*... Adult section. Oops. So, i had to try and weave my way back into the entryway traffic from that section. Heh.]
- I expected everything here to be smoky, but I have not encountered any smoking other than infrequently outside business doorways. Nice!

That's it for now,
Nighty night!

Posted by icufoundme 13:59 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

20090428 Dublin

Leisure day

overcast 55 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I wake to room service knocking to clean the room. I'm not feeling so great and the thought of packing up and hauling my stuff to another place is not at all appealing. I call the desk and extend my stay so I can just stay at this hotel thew whole time I'm in Dublin.

There is wireless but i can't seem to connect from my room. I need a pwd. I call the desk back and she says you have to use it from the lobby or bar/cafe. Ugh.

I end up dozing and reading and watching the news until afternoon.

Now, I'm feeling better and I'm ravenously hungry. It's Time to shower, use the wireless in the tavern, and get some food.


I had a nice long hot shower. took my time getting dressed and ready.

I've figured out that my room is probably cheap because its basement level, and every movement in the surrounding neighborhood is so dang loud. Also, I can hear every floorboard creak when the people upstairs walk around. but I have great earplugs, so it works just fine for me. And I'm paying less than half the going rate - oh yeah!

Here's the view:

I head to the restaurant/bar and ask the bartender about the wireless, and he says It's available through the whole restaurant. I order a pint of Smithwick's 1710 Irish ale from him. It's a gorgeous pour. They really don't mess around with their pints in Ireland.


I also ask him about the food and he recommends the chicken quesadilla (not beef). And definitely don't order the steak. Good to know!

I make myself comfortable at a table in the back. There are only about 6 other people in the restaurant.


The smoked chicken quesadilla turns out to be quite tasty indeed.


I stay there late into the evening uploading pictures, tagging them, working on the blog entries, etc.

They are closing up at 11. It's 10ish, and getting more crowded, so I decide to head out to the corner market for supplies, then back to the room.

The Pakistani man at the shop is very friendly and helpful and tells me which of the plethora pastries is best. He actually climbs around his booth to go through the packages with me, asking what kinds of things I like and making recommendations. He asks where I'm from and we chat a bit. He says Americans are very friendly - nice people.
I get milk, juice, water, pastries to go with my morning Instant coffee (which is pretty tasty, actually), and cookies for housekeeping. Then, I head back to my room.

I want to get some decent rest since tomorrow will be a tourist day for me. I have some milk and pastries, read some more, and drift off to sleep.


Posted by icufoundme 13:40 Archived in Ireland Tagged lodging Comments (0)

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