May - June 2015
  • Day21

    Land and Sea

    June 19, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    We thought a nice way to see the Scottish countryside might be by steam train. Myself, I'm always up for a train ride. It's hard to believe it's been a decade since I worked on mine. I used to mark the passage of time by living in different states, but my continued residence in Colorado has made time stand emotionally still for me.

    We spent the morning in and around Fort William
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  • Day20

    Skye

    June 18, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    The Isle of Skye really did seem such. Clouds perched low over us all day, topping the mountains. We walked through them, they misted on us, winds gusted at up to 40 mph.

    We went over on a ferry in hopes of seeing a whale. There was no whale, but there was an ancient castle perched at the edge of the cliff. It was a day for warm beverages.

    Fairy pools, the Old Man of Stor, shrouded in mist, it all felt very ancient. Waves crashed on rocky beaches, the tides went out of the lochs. Cottages dotted the seaside, and sheep dotted the cliffs. The hair of scotch cows waved in the wind and rain, hiding their eyes.

    My own hair was whipped furiously, brightly stinging my eyes.

    At Kilt Rock, they had drilled holes in the metal pipes guarding you from falling into the sea. As the wind blew past them, they made a continuously ghostly sound.

    It's one of those places I'd love to return to eventually. To rent a self-catering cottage by the sea for a week, eat oysters, take long walks, and drink it all in.
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  • Day19

    Bog Factor

    June 17, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    In the morning we left our mirror paneled, fake rose petal room at the Glasgow Ramada, and headed north to Glencoe.

    To what extent does geography affect our character? And how long does it take to wind itself into our DNA? What kind of human do you become after generations living on these wild, savage, wind swept mountains? And how will these genes express themselves after your decendants have long since left?

    I still remember my first time in the Spean Bridge area. It was like awaking out of a stupor. It was in fact, the moment I recovered from the worst bout of food poisoning of my life. I wish I knew just where I was standing the moment I looked out over that countryside. But I remember the feeling distinctly. It was the moment I felt "healed," as I thought it.

    And it resonates with me still.
    If Colorado was lush and green, and surrounded by ocean, this would be it.

    My back is drenched in rain. 40 mph winds whip my hair into my eyes with painful, stinging force. It's a fierce country, and the moment that the clouds part, and the sun gleams down, it sparkles like an emerald.
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  • Day19

    Dubliners

    June 17, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    The only book I've read by James Joyce. I sincerely hated it in high school, but I`m finding a lot of things I hated in high school, I don't hate the second time around. So Ulysses is on the list to try.

    Much has been said of the vaunted friendliness of the Irish. I have to say, none of us have felt it though. Invisible is not so bad. Much better than active dislike. Not that I blame them. It was getting seriously annoying hearing more American accents than Irish ones while there.

    The Irish must be the silent ones, I thought. That's how they know eachother.

    The book of Kells fulfilled this student of medieval art history's dreams, and the literary walking tour inspired me to read more, as though I needed it. I was pleased to be there on Bloomsday, wear a straw hat, and eat some gorgonzola cheese.

    It was during that, in which we met the only Irishman there who spoke to us, telling us we didn't care anything about what he was saying.
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  • Day17

    Titanic Blarney

    June 15, 2015 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    The chapel in Cobh has 49 bells, which ring beautifully keeping time all day. Coming into the city, the incredibly steep hill taking me down to the water make me think of SanFrancisco, although I've never been there.

    Cobh`s claim to fame though, is not the brighly painted buildings on slanted streets. It's the fact that it was the last stop before the Titanic went to sea. After breakfast, before heading out of town, we stopped in at the Titanic Experience, where we stood on the actual deck, in front of the same Georgian style window, where the original passengers would've been seen off. A true study in opulence, and everything gone wrong. Thinking over such an accumulation of bad decisions was more moving than I expected.

    Every town and bridge and window in Ireland is bursting with flowers right now. But that certainly did not prepare me for the beautiful grounds of Blarney Castle. Even Ireland's only Poison Garden looked inviting when sun dappled on those immaculately kept grounds. I certainly could've spent much more time there, an probably would've, if not for the need for eloquence. Up steep stone spiral steps, and around the ramparts we waited in line like some ancient theme park goers, to lay down on our backs and bend off a grate to kiss the blarney stone upside down.

    Signs all over the castle explained, Blarney is not baloney. It is merely the varnishing of the truth. You can tell me if it worked.
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  • Day16

    Cobh is pronounced "Cove"

    June 14, 2015 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    And the flower of the day is the Rhododendron. Mandy has recommended to me the book Rebecca, in which the flower plays a prominent role in the emotions of the main character, set in England. We've arrive during their brief bloom here in Ireland, and they played a prominent role in our day. The usual low, mossy rock walls were frequently replaced by towering, overhanging, bright blooming tree sized shrubs. At Killarney National Park, we saw the oldest in the area, at 200 years. A beast of a grove of a flowering tree.

    A short walk to a huntsman's cottage turned tea room, a jaunt in a jaunting cart, a waterfall, a castle, a walled garden, a rock garden, and a prehistoric copper mine made for an intensely scenic day at Killarney. At the hunter's cottage, it was time to try a scone, with a pot of tea and milk, topped with fresh devonshire cream. It's perfectly clear where myths of leprechauns and fairies arise. One expects to see them under every mossy rock around each trickling stream bursting with lush tropical looking flowers.

    The copper mine, reputedly in use since 2500 BC, is also a site for young Irish children to lose their ball in a small bog, retrieving it with a crooked stick, and not a little fear and drama.

    Do the jaunting cart drivers wear golf caps just to lure tourists on their search for charming Irishness, or just because they like them? Either way, we are satisfied.
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  • Day15

    Prehistoric Beauties

    June 13, 2015 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    The Dingle Peninsula. All day I was waiting to figure out the joke, or at least why it's called that. But it remains a mystery. A beautiful, coastal, prehistoric mystery.

    Our day began with a quick stop off the highway at Bunratty castle. I was looking for a breakfast, and I found one across the street in a beautiful gift shop cafeteria. Smoked salmon and perfectly poached eggs with crispy capers.

    The drive down to the peninsula was intense. I'd love to relax and enjoy the sheep pastures dotting the mountainsides, but I'm completely focused on not slamming into the scenic bank of flowers growing into the road on my left, while a tour bus careens toward me, encroaching into my lane from the right.

    I managed to sleep 11.5 hours last night, which felt amazing. But the rolling roads almost rock me back to sleep.

    A walk along the windy, Irish beach rather reminds me of California, except for the bleating of sheep from all sides.

    The prehistoric and historic Irish architechture dotting the coasts are really entrancing. The ocean seems to turn the stones black along the coast, and yet remains clear and beautiful, crashing directly beneath Dunbeg Fort. I was impressed that it dated back to 500 BC, until we stopped at the Beehive Huts, which dated to 2000 BC. Aside from the sheep, who lead an idyllic coastal life, we had the place to ourselves.

    A coastal destination seemed the perfect place to sample the ubiquitous fish and chips, which I did, which were great. And follwed by salt flavored ice cream, made by drying the very salt of the sea of Dingle Bay.
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  • Day14

    Shannon, Ennis, and the Cliffs of Moher

    June 12, 2015 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    I`m hitting a wall of tired at this point. My big accomplishment has been driving on the left in lanes too narrow for the cars driving in them, without crashing into anything/anyone.
    My level of tired, coupled with the idyllic countryside, has the effect of feeling like a surreal dream. Flowers bubble up out of hillsides, and overflow great hanging pots. The Cliffs of Moher drop away away to a crashing clear ocean. There is no horizon line out there. Just a gradient from sea to sky.
    And my food of the day: black and white pudding.
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  • Day13

    Traveling thoughts

    June 11, 2015 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    The summer after my junior year of high school, I was newly 17. And my grandma Grace was turning 80. A big year, a big round square number. Eighty feels as though it has four sides. To celebrate this tremendous birthday, she went with her two daughters, and the two daughters of those daughters, to England and Scotland.

    It was my first trip to another country. A few things I remember vividly, and others I remember fuzzily. Soon, I'll be going to where my parents are living (in grandma's old house), and bringing years of boxes out of storage. Within one of those will be my old travel diary. I think of reading it with anticipation, and a hint of preliminary embarrassment. Does anyone love reading first hand the foolish things they thought when they were 17?

    Ninteen years have passed. An unbelievable amount of time. And grandma just passed away only last fall. It's almost nearly the same time of year we went before, with some slight adjustments.

    Grandma was 80, but I remember her being so spry. One of the sprightliest members of the group of us. I remember my first experience with throngs of asian tourists swarming over the massive stone antiquties in the British Museum; my floridian aunt calling the concierge to ask why there were no screens in her room. I remember the worst bout of food poisoning of my life, after a hamburger at the London Hard Rock Cafe; and emerging from my delerious stupor while looking around Spean Bridge, Scotland.

    Often when I visit a place, I think of the things I want to do when I come back. I suppose that trip was my first time thinking that thought. Somtimes I do, in fact, get to return to a place, to do those things I missed, or fulfill some childhood daydream. Even 19 years later. And even perhaps more years than that. It's a very exciting sort of blessing. It's a thought full of hopefulness.
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