Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pushing through... Dublin and back to Foggy London Town

We made a short return back to Dublin before hopping onto a ferry and then grabbing a train for London. Now, not a great deal happened this night, we spent a short time enjoying Dublin's nightlife, but what is noteworthy about this layover are two things. First, I met some ladies from Vienna, Austria who I will likely visit in the early winter. They have promised me a night at the Vienna symphony (I am so psyched!!) and some amazing snowboarding in the Alps (I think this trip just continues to get better!!!!). Also, while waiting at the Dublin bus station for our shuttle to the ferry terminal I first heard the news about the collapse of Lehman Brother's.

Two things stood out to me about the fall of Lehman Brother's. First, the international coverage of the American marketplace is superb. Unlike American media, which puts international affairs at a very far second to domestic issues, the European media's focus has been largely on American Affairs, whether the election, fallout of Lehman, AIG, WaMu, Wachovia, or others. Secondly, the way that our world is rapidly changing. More could be said on that, but I will leave that to later conversation...

Anyways, enough on Dublin. My Aussie mate, Brendan, and I made it back to London, but not without excitement. After departing the ferry, we walked through the terminal looking for the appropriate train platform. Returning to the platform from which our train had arrived, we looked around seeing only two other people. Considering this a bit strange for a popular route, I decided to look around and see if there were any other possible places that the train would depart from. Wandering over to another platform, I saw a huge gathering of people and realized our mistake. With less than 3 minutes before departure, I ran back to grab my heavy backpack and rush to the train, just in time!! Then, on the train, Brendan looked through his slew of seat reservation cards looking for the ticket, only to realize that he had given that to the ferry attendant back in Dublin. I had my ticket but he had none, thus we devised a plan to make it to London. We used a common distraction tactic, and were able to make it back. Whew!

I stayed for another day in London, where I saw things better than I had a chance to before. Off a tip from a traveler from Vancouver Island staying at my hostel, I went on a free walking tour. The tour took us through some of the most interesting parts of London. We returned to Buckingham Palace where we saw the horseback changing of the guard and even got a picture with one of the infantry. Then, went past Downing Street, home of the prime minister. We also saw the hat maker and the wine broker to the royal family. Moved on through the financial district and saw some of the gentleman's shops, very ritzy! And at the end of the tour, we visited the Westminster Abbey, seeing probably the most interesting and incredible part of the city. This building, impressive in architecture, also is the burial ground and/or memorial to over 3,500 influential world leaders. Absolutely incredible. Right before the exit are, what may be the most memorable exhibits, that to Winston Churchill and to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These two sites recognition of some of the achievements of the world's most important politicians. Westminster Abbey is, without a doubt, a must see if you have a chance to visit London.

Very little more happened on this visit. Then, at 2am I had to wake up and catch a 5:25am train to Paris. It's hard-knock traveling. :) Anyways, I have to catch a train to Lisbon, but I will be sure to write some interesting notes about Paris later. However, I may not be able to upload pictures for another week.

I miss all of you!!!

Cork, Dublin, London, Paris, Nice, Marseilles!!!! Just too much...

Alright, this blog post is going to be about as much of a whirlwind journey as my travels have been!!! In about 2 weeks I have been to 7 major European cities!! Can you understand the difficulty I have had to keep up!? Don't worry though, with a bursting journal, I will be able to impart these incredible experiences with more detail than I can here...

So, I left off on my last post mentioning my visit to Cork (a city on the southern coast of Ireland). ...I will talk about the other places in other posts... To be quite honest, the little town does not have a great deal to offer for the tourist, but is a great home base for visiting some of the most interesting parts of Ireland. My three Aussie companions and I arrived a rather dingy, but comfortable hostel, and began our combat planning. Site-seeing, like many other things in life, takes a great deal of foresight and strategic focus...

Anyways, we visited two very interesting contributors to world history... the Blarney Castle and Cobh. Now, these two names may not be very well-know to you, but they have had a major impact on the world that you know today. The Blarney Castle, an old (small) castle, served as the home of the McCarthy clan and is best known for housing the Blarney Stone. Not very interestng yet?? Well, the famed Blarney Stone, which can only be reached by hanging upside-down over the side of this 6-story castle, has gained notoriety for imparting the gift of eloquence to those who kiss it. This stone has been kissed by millions of people (I kissed it, so I guess I have as well) :), but most notibly by Winston Churchill himself, and as many of you know Churchill is known for his oratory magnificence, specifically in leading the UK and influencing several other western powers during WWII. Thus, perhaps I will return to the states a little bit more eloquent than before. :)

Later, in Cobh, we saw memorials to the two events that this small fishing town is best remembered by. This sleepy Catholic village is the port from which the Titanic sailed and just off the coast the American passenger-liner, RMS Lusitania, was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915, perhaps the cause of American involvement in WWI. Beyond this, the tiny town houses a gorgeous cathedral, seemingly far out of proportion with the modesty of the village. A great visit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Irrrrreland... A Soggy Experience

Please forgive me if there are typos in this posting. The keyboards in France are tres strange. :)

So, I traveled through Ireland and made two stops. One in Dublin, and another in Cork. My experience in these little Gaelic sitties was a good one, but a wet one. It rained almost the entire time! Really Seattle, we have been outdone. :)

Brend Ban (one of the Aussies I met the first night in London) and I left London by train, traveling through the English countryside, which is really beautiful. I wish I had enough time to spend in one of the little villages which we had passed. The countryside is covered in green rolling hills, speckled with castles, and suspended half between a tranquil past and a roaring present. The journey ended at the little dingy port of Holyhead, where we boarded a massive 5-story ferry, complete with arcade, store, lounge, restaurants, and even a small casino where passengers tested their luck at a game of 21. We made it to Dublin early in the day and met back with the two Aussies ladies who were also traveling with us.

Dublin was a very good experience. That night we went to a fun, but very American knock-off of Johnny Rockets, called (not surprisingly) Eddie Rockets. :) It was good and after a week away it was nice to be at a place that felt like home.

The next day, we spent the morning doing laundry. While I waited, I spoke with the portly and perpetually irritated attendant. We had a good chat where she told me of some of the best bars and also convinced me of the restaurants to avoid by showing me their towels stained to a colour not quite brown and smeared with what looked like auto grease. Later that day, we headed to the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. This building was the former premier Irish prison, housing several notorious political prisoners, among others. The gaol has a brilliant history, more a part of Ireland`s revolution than perhaps any other building. The tour there was incredible. The most interesting story told was that of Robert Emmett and his former house-keeper Ann. Robert, a prominent member of Irish society, had been involved in a plot to break from the British rule. He was captured, tortured, and put before the firing squad where he made a speech that has been mentioned by several important men, including Lincoln. Even more interestingly is the story of Ann who, implicated in the same plot as Robert, was sent to the Gaol where she spent years tortured, starved, and crammed into a cell filled with excrement and filth because she would not release a list of names of those involved in the same plot. Eventually, a political leader had her released, only to be hounded by the police for another 40 years, imprisoned and starved in a poor slum in Dublin, before she died never releasing the list. If Ann would have crumbled those important revolutionaries would have been imprisoned and likely executed; and Ireland`s revolution would have likely failed.

I apologise about the long story, the Gaol was so cool!

After seeing a bit more of Dublin, we headed south to the port city of Cork...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A brief apology

I apologise to everyone who checks this blog for updating it so infrequently. I plan to write a long comment tomorrow, or maybe a couple, about my experiences in Dublin, Cork, and so far in Paris. But for now, I must say that it has been amazing!!!! Unfortunately, my internet cafe wont allow me to upload photos, but those will come later. I have a ton!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pics of London

I couldn't post all the pics I wanted in the other post, so here are some more!

Garden by Buckingham

The Albert Memorial - if you ever have a chance go here!!

Kensington Palace

3 images - Tower Bridge

Nelson's Column in the distance

Nelson's Column

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Europe... how long has it been?

Have I been gone for a week already?! In one way it feels like only a matter of hours, in others it feels as though it has been months. Europe is amazing! There is so much to see and so much to experience, and just a little too much to take in...

Well, as most of you know, I flew into London HR last Thursday morning London time. I drug myself off of the plane and made my way through airport corridors to the Tube station down below. Exhaustion and a bit of confusion set in, the result of a 20 hour day and excitement from years of anticipation. Even so, the Tube was a breeze! It just makes sense (Seattle could learn from the Brits :) ). I found my hostel, the Globetrotter Inn fairly easily (except for not realizing that there is no free-standing street signs, street names are marked on the buildings), and checked in. That night I met who would become my travel companions for the first week, and likely the first month of my travel. I was put up with 3 Aussies and a German. The Aussies -- Jess, Lauren, and Brendan. The German -- Jess. They have been amazing!!

So, London... a little too much to tell, but I'll impart a taste. First off, I was amazed by the Tube, which had a big impact on the traffic. One of the biggest cities in the world, but the majority of traffic is foot traffic! The Tube is so very efficient and so very accessible that London's streets are largely clear of the personal automobile. Secondly, what an electric city! This city is alive. People are everywhere. I have never been in a city with so many different cultures, ethnicities, and people groups. Everywhere you walk you hear different languages, different colors, different accents. It's really cool. Not too hard to get lost in the mass.

So, more specifically, where have I been? All over! We wandered all throughout the central part of London. Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Green Park, St James Park, London Bridge, Tower Bridge... There are monuments and sculptures everywhere! Buckingham was really cool, we saw the changing of the guard on horseback and took some great pics around the fountain that sits in front. Some great monuments tower over the city, as though watching and protecting its inhabitants. Nelson's Column in the middle of Trafalgar, Big Ben part of the palace of Westminster, Lord it over the city.

Although all of it has been great, I really don't think that anything can compare to Les Miserables at the Queen's theatre in London's west-end. First off, the art on the walls and ceiling are incredible! There are some really cool sculptures extending down from the vaulted ceiling and on the circular walls above the stage. Then, the show began. The sets were the best that I have seen. The entire show takes place on a revolving stage, and atop of that for most of the show is a show that rotates between a city building with elevated boardwalk and a barracade. On top of it all, the acting and singing was magnificent. I can only say so much, you'll just have to go!!

Anyways, the Aussies and I are now in Dublin, and I will have to fill you in on that in a bit...

Photos below -- Top - momument and gate in front of Buckingham. Second - gate and me! Third - Buckingham. Bottom - Westminster Abbey.

Friday, August 29, 2008


5 days, 1 hour, and 4o minutes until I leave the area where my entire life has taken place. Is this met with some sadness? Yes. Is it met with even more excitement? Yes. Will I miss those people who have and will be such an important part of my life and history? Yes. Should I stop writing pointless rhetorical questions? Yes.

It's impossible to say quite where I am at right now, and what I am thinking, mostly because there are so many unanswered questions that cannot be answered without experience. I really believe that this is going to be the trip of a lifetime, a great experience, and a time of self-education like none I have ever had. I don't expect to return to those I love as the same person, but only hope that I return as someone better.

To all of you who are reading this, my first of many posts to be put on this site, I would like to reiterate that I love you all and will miss you and wish that I could have one more day, one more hour, one more minute, one more memory with you. I can say without a doubt that the last couple of days have reaffirmed my affection for each of you. The outpouring of support, knowing critiques, and exciting 'going away' events and experiences, have been invaluable to me. I plan to keep in contact through this tool, and through my email. Please do not be a stranger.

Well, enough rambling. I don't have to say goodbye just yet, so I am not gonna. :)