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Germany 9/24-9/30/15

30 Sep

Hi everyone.  After a heavy fondue dinner in Winterthur, Switzerland last night we all crashed hard about 7pm.  Which has me up and awake at 3am, so I figure it’s a good time to catch you up on our travels.  All pictures can be found over at my Facebook page if you’re interested at https://www.facebook.com/Brentallica

Ok….where were we.  Heading to see the Nazi museum in Nuremburg last Thursday (maybe it was Friday).  Holy cow!  It’s been a week?  I don’t know if I can remember all we’ve seen, done, and stayed, but I’ll give you the short and sweet.  Moreso, so I can look at this years down the road and remember where I’ve been.  🙂

Friday, 9/25 – I think this happened Friday – Day touring the Nazi museum in Nuremburg which was really fascinating.  It didn’t really focus on the war, or the anti-semitism and horrors of concentration camps, but more of the rise of the Nazi’s power and then the actual facility itself which was to built originally kind of as a massive 11 sq km complex as a headquarters and showplace with huge halls, parade grounds, stadiums, you name it.  Huge rally’s were held here and brought people from all over Germany to attend.  The complex was never completed as all construction ended at the beginning of WW2 and was never completed.  After that we found a laundry mat and after a week in country it was nice to catch up on all clean clothes!  All in all, a very interesting day.  Slept back in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Saturday, 9/26 – Awoke in Rothenburg and as we hadn’t seen much of the adorable little German town (which is like the German version of Leavenworth).  I know that sounds wierd, but it truly is.  The town itself is remarkably intact from how it was 1000 years ago I understand.  Completely surrounded by walls which you can still get up on and walk around a good part of the small old town part of the city.  It’s old world charm, cobblestone streets, 1/2 timbered buildings/homes, shopes, cafes, hotels…..it’s really very touristy and mostly foreigners visiting.  A tourist hot spot.  Making it more of a Leavenworth in my eyes, but still great to see and get an idea that as much as things change, they stay the same.  It is beautiful.  It’s the little cute medevil city you see in every snow globe.  Pretty perfect in every way.  We also took a visit to the Criminal Museum in town.  While not the greatest museum, it did have a lot of exhibts that dealt with criminal punishment in old world Rothenburg and covered it quite in depth.  A good deal of it was in English.  The way crimes were brought forth, the criminal prosecution and how that was handled, and ultimately a good deal of it dealt with the punishments, and tortures used to get someone to confess.  I imagine a lot of innocent people endured a lot of pain to the point it was easier to admit guilt just to get the torture to stop.  Gruesome, but interesting.  Headed back on the road south after this and wound up spending the night in Krumbach.  While there wasn’t anything particular interesting about Krumbach, other than it seemed a good stopping point, we did have a nice stay.

Sunday, 9/27 – Got into Stuttgart in the early afternoon and headed off to Cannstatter Volksfest which is a 2-3 week festival/party that is held annually in Stuttgart.  I learned this is the equivalent of the Munich Oktoberfest.  Imagine a gigantic Puyallup Fair with a lot of beer.  There were thousands of people, more carnival rides than I’ve ever seen in one place by far, food vendors everywhere and then there were….beer tents.  This was my first time.  We walked in to a tent we figured easily had 2000-2500 people, many of them dressed in the traditional laddenhosen (sp?) drinking and partying and having an all around great time.  We found a table and tried to take it what was going on around us and try to feel a part of it.  At first, you’re clearly an outsider, however, as the beers go down (and they did), you find yourself getting into it and feeing more comfortable.  People start toasting your glass and you go with the flow.  Lots of singing, clapping, standing on benches, singing more, ordering beers…..we’re not really totally sure what happened after that as all our stories sort of conflict and not everyone in our group could remember the evening the next day.  Let’s just say we know we had a great time looking through our pictures the next day.  We figured we must’ve been in the beer tent 4-5 hours and have no idea how we were there that long.  We were able to find our exceptional hotel room (another nod to booking.com) and were all excited at 10:30p that we could listen to the Seahawks game which was starting back home.  By 10:45p, I think we were all fast asleep, but were excited to find out we beat the Bears 26-0 the next morning.

Monday, 9/28 – Figured we were so close, we couldn’t pass up a side trip to France, so we headed just over the border to Straussbourg, France and found a place for the night.  After a parking garage adventure in the scariest parking garage on earth, we dropped our bags in our room and headed out to explore the old town here.  Wound up finding the central plaza and another huge, beautiful cathedral (Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg) and admiring.  To me, while very beautiful and a look into the past, they do start to look and feel very similar.  They had a cheezy little tourist tram that drove you through and around the old town area at the speed of an 85-year old man on crutches, but it was a good overview.  Afterwards we pretty much repeated the same route, but on foot.  The area that really stood out to me was called Petite France (or little France).  Right out of any postcard you’ve ever seen and probably one of the coolest, most quaint, little areas I can every remember visiting.  It was spectacular to just sit at an outside care, watch the people passing by, and take it all in.  I enjoyed a beer, but my mates all insisted on wine.  We were in France so it was a must.  Situated on a little canal, it was simply spectacular.  The French gelato is also a spectacle in it’s own right.  Absolutely delicious.  And in my opinion, the majority of the French people we came across didn’t seem to really like us.  Just an observation.  I have no idea if it’s true, but they do seem to come off very snooty.  The staff at our hotel and our dinner waiter were just kind of “dicky”.  I still haven’t decided if it’s true that French people hate Americans, but in my short visit and experience, I can see where that belief comes from.

Tuesday, 9/29 – Headed back to Germany and stopped at the Friedrichsbad Irish-Roman bath.  We knew about this place before our travels.  Built in 1877 and catering only to the super rich (Baden-Baden is know as a “spa” town), it was the top spot back in it’s day if you wanted to be clean and pampered.  It retains a lot of it’s heritage today and for $40 you too can experience showering with your friends.  All nude.  Co-ed.  Now, it’s not exactly the Roman orgy, you may picture.  In fact, there’s nothing sexual about it at all.  It’s simply about well being and a series of steps (17 to be exact) you complete, in order, to get the full experience.  There’s a lot of showering, soaking in pools of various temperatures, sitting in air baths of warm to hot air, sitting in steam rooms of varying degrees, and my favorite, laying on a marble table, buck ass naked, face up, while a man scrubs you down with soap and a soft brush.  It was actually wonderful, and I loved the entire experience and the whole day.  Michelle joined me in my enthusiasm for it.  Chuck seemed to be cool, and even Jimmy while probably not his favorite part of the trip had a good experience as well.  After literally about 1 minute, you completely forget you’re naked and just enjoy the whole thing.  It was a blast and I wish we had something like it at home.  I thought it was wonderfully relaxing and I don’t think I’ve ever been cleaner.  I tried to not poop for as long as possible afterwards because I wanted to stay so shiny and pristine.  (All good things must come to an end sadly.)

Back on the road south we stopped for a bit and a look around Frieburg.  Another huge Cathedral (Munsterplatz Frieburg), lots of shopping streets, restaurants, and cafes.  The most interesting thing is these little waterways that run alongside the streets.  I believe they are called Buchle….something like that.  I wanted to go buy a little toy boat and sail it down one.  I’m sure they have some funtional, practical use, but I don’t know what that is.  It did provide a nice ambience and trickling water noise.  Probably would’ve sounded cooler at night and I can only imagine the hundreds of people (especially drunk ones) tripping in them later in the evening.

Now onto Switzerland.  In searching for nightly accomodation we learned quickly that Zurich was out of our price range.  A dump was $300 a night for meager, slim accomodation.  We don’t need much, but spending that much for nothing didn’t seem to be a good enough value so we settled at a hostel just outside Zurich in the town of Winterfell.  The place is an old factory that was refurbished in 2011 and is not only beautiful and spacious (but again remember it’s a hostel), but our room is big with very high ceilings.  It’s a winner and we’re all very comfortable.  We did not get in until 8pm so we found the Austrailian restaurant downstairs to have a few beers and unwind.  We quickly learned that Switzerland is expensive!!  $10 for a plate of french fries?  However, they were so good, and they give you a bottle of ketchup to enjoy, not a wimpy little packet or two.  Those were some grubbin fries.

Wednesday, 9/30 – We took the train from Winterthur into Zurich to explore for the day.  Switzerland is expensive.  Zurich is off the charts!  $8 for a large coffee?  $25 for a hamburger?  It was just off the charts.  We took a walking tour with our excellent guide Jonathan who took us through the old town area of Zurich which is very beautiful and very bustling.  It’s a big city, lots of people, everyone going about their days.  The day was brisk and cool and we had to walk in order to not freeze to death.  Saw a few of the sights in the inner city and walked up to a park which had a great overlook view down onto the city below which seems to stretch as far as you can see in every direction.  Had a walk about on our own down to the lakeshore, but on a cloudy almost foggy day, it was hard to see and get a good sense of the vast size.  The public transport is exceptional and after some quick study it was easy to find your way around on the numerous trams that go off above ground in every direction and run every few minutes.  All-in-all a very nice visit, but not kind on your wallet.

Heading back to Winterthur we were decided our mission was we needed to have fondue while we were here and went out in search.  Fondue is a lot harder to find here than you would think it should be.  We learned apparently, like many cultures, the Swiss, do not regularly eat “Swiss” food.  Fondue is something you’d only have a few times a year, generally served after a cold day of skiing.  We did finally find a very well-to-do restaurant that had it on the menu and it was the full experience, exactly what we were looking for.  And of course, it wasn’t cheap.  But our service and food was wonderful and none of us could hardly walk afterwards we were so full.  Bread, and boiled potatoes, and so….much…..cheese.  Mmmmm…..so good, but we all overate and then waddled back to our room.  Everyone needed to lay down after that meal for a good hour or two and then we planned to head out for a beer.

Fast forward to now, 5am, Thursday morning, 10/1 as I sit here and write this.  We never quite recovered and the gang is still upstairs asleep.  I think we were all fast asleep before 8pm so it is a good chance to catch up on some rest with our tummies way overfilled.

In a little bit, everyone will wake up and we’re jump in our car and head back to Germany where we have an apartment rented just outside Munich for the rest of our trip.  We stay 1 night in most places, and no more than 2, so I’m looking forward to actually getting to settle in to a place.  We’ll be in the same place now until next Wednesday, 10/7, when we fly home.  There are quite a few sights in Munich we have picked out to see, as well as a day planned at Oktoberfest.  There are also nearby day trips we plan to take down to Innsbruck, Austria, the Zugitsphere mountain, and we’re all still looking forward to doing a summer luge.  Can we get it all in?  I don’t know, but we’ll try.

You’re totally caught up now as I sign off for the day.  Will try to write more sooner.  xoxo

 

 

 

Germany – 9/22-9/24/15

25 Sep

Hi everyone – Still haven’t felt the inspiration to blog, but I don’t want to dissapoint my dozens of fans so I will do my best to find the words.  First off, maybe it’s not been as necessary to me to blog as Facebook seems to be the way to communicate quickly and share pictures back home.  I assume everyone reading this is Facebook friends with me, but if not, just send me an add request.  My Facebook is at https://www.facebook.com/Brentallica

So….the last I left you we were on the train to Dusseldorf.  We arrived safe and sound and booked accomodation in the city at a small hotel called AOK I think.  They seem to be a large chain as I’ve seen them everywhere.  Nothing special, but we then made our way about a mile and a half through the city (again nothing special) to the Altstadt which is the old town which was very cool.  However, it was also very miserable weather and just about everything was closed.  We walked along the promenade on the Rhein which was lined with Beer Gardens (Biergarten?) which are row after row of communal table meant for drinking and visting and general all around having funness.  We had a restaurant suggested to us by someone and we were able to find it easily and sat down to our first authentic German meal since being in country.  Sometimes the menus have an English translation, but sometimes they down and you just kind of wing it.  We’ve been able to figure it out so far and I think we’ve all gotten everything we “thought” we ordered.  The food is delicious and with the exception of a pizza I got back in Amsterdam, I’ve been all local in my food choices which I know will be surprising to some.  The greatest thing about the restaurant was the beer service.  There were constantly servers walking around with glasses of beer.  If there was no glass in front of you, or an empty glass, you got a beer.  We sat down and within literally 10 seconds, we all had beer in front of us.  That…..is awesome.  They tally how many you’ve drank on your coaster to keep track.  Pretty cool.  We finally learned when you don’t want anymore, you put the coaster on the top, but it was a nice lesson to learn six beers in.

Awoke on Wednesday and headed south towards Koln and visited the Koln Dom (or Cologne Cathedral) which is a spectacular Catholic Church on the edge of town.  Massive and beautiful and tourist crazy, but we were able to go inside and although I’m not a Catholic I felt the need to light a candle for my brother who left this world too soon.  I think the most impressive thing from this area in my mind were the photos of the bombed out Cologne from World War 2, but this huge religious monument was unscathed.  I suppose it’s a nod to the exceptional targeting abilities and advocates to the unwritten rules of war by our Allied Forces during WW2.  Really just remarkable photos.  I’m sure you can google them.  Don’t have the greatest bandwidth so I’m trying to just keep the pictures of everything on Facebook.

From Cologne we travelled south and found what we knew to be Rick Steve’s favorite German castle, Burg Eltz.  Owned by the Eltz family to this day from around 1000 years ago, it was a combination of 3 families (spurs of the Eltz) who built for about 500 years and would up with what is today, the castle.  The remarkable thing about this place is it was only attacked once, and for a very brief period so it has remained wonderfully intact and is today what it was for the last several hundred years.  It was decorated authentically for the different time periods and a real chance to walk through some medieval history.  Wonderful and beautiful place and definately wound up being a worthly stop.  Oh, and the Armory there was bad ass checking out all the ancient weaponry.  Totally far out.

Back on the road, a little further sound and we wound up in a town near Meinz, but I can’t recall.  I believe it was Russelheim or something.  Chuck had been in Meinz a week for work a year or two earlier and recalled a great German restuarant there.  We got back into Meinz and he was able to direct us right there.  Another fantastic place and pure German.  This was a brewery called Eins-something-burg.  I have to get better about writing things down.  As I mentioned we’ve been eating and drinking hearty German style.

We had a great hotel in Russelheim that we found on booking.com.  They’ve been our go-to source for accomodation on this trip and have found us great places at hostel costs.  Been really good to us so far so that’s their plug!  http://www.booking.com

Awoke yesterday, Thursday and decided to head a little further south to Heidelburg.  Visted the allstadt (which is now what I’ve learned is “old town” anywhere we go.  And “Zentrum” is town centre).  It’s very touristy and a walk through coblestone streets and very old building that are now shops, cafes, and whatnot.  Lots of tourists.  Lots of Americans.  The food and beer again continue to kick ass.  The walk through oldtown while beautiful was nothing spectacular you haven’t seen 100 times before and it’s funny I find my self thinking of Disney and Universal Studios and places like that.  It almost seems like you’re at one of those places and you have to remind yourself this is the real deal.

So the highlight of Heidelburg for me was Heidelburg Castle which is called Schloss Heidelburg.  For 6 Euro you ride an inclinator up the side of the mountain out of old town up to the castle.  If you saw the climb, 6 Euros was well worth it.  A Euro is currently about $1.16US.  These little cars are built at what I’d guess is about a 45 degree angle to fit right on the track up the side.  So if you laid them flat on the ground, you’d be reclining if you sat in them.  However that would be pointless as the floor would also be at an angle so you couldn’t even walk in one.  Everything’s level on the ride up though I’m happy to report and we made it to the top and walked all through the ruined castle from the 16th century.  I believe when it was up and rolling.  It was massive and we walked through the nearby park grounds as well.  The views from the castle looking down over Heidelburg are exactly what you think of when you think of Germany with the town spread out below in all it’s grandeaur and a peaceful river running through.  Bridges, people, rooftops…..all very peaceful and serene and we stood at the top a good while just looking down and admiring.

After a good visit we turned inland and would up driving into Rothenburg ob der Tauber where we spent last night.  This city is the real deal from the year about 1000AD I guess and while different with cars and tourists and shops, I understand is remarkably the same as it’s been for 1000 years or so.  The city is all old, old buildings, coblestone streets and very Charles Dickensesque.  At least it seems that way to me.  I can only imagine this place with snow and it would be right out of the movies.  True old world and I have to remind myself again this is the real deal.

I’m sitting at the bottom of a coblestone street and see my travel mates emerging from their slumber ready to start the day.  Heading down the hill towards me.  I guess this is a perfect stopping point.  It’s Friday now and our plans have us daytripping into Nuremburg to visit the city and Nazi museum.  We’re all very excited to see it.

I certainly don’t mean to glorify or condone Nazism or anything like that, but I’ve always found the story and history of Nazi Germany interesting and their rise to a world power.  I know probably a little more than the average person and looking to learn more even if parts of it are horrific and terrifying.  The military force and how it was built in the time it was built I find a remarkable story.

Tshutse…..I think this is spelled right.  It’s pronouned almost like “juice” and is the informal word we know as “bye”  🙂

Germany 2015

22 Sep

Hi everybody –
Haven’t had a chance to blog yet. Haven’t really felt like it. Not sure why I don’t feel the inspiration, but I’m just not. BUT, I’ve been getting notes from home and my travelling partners as I think they want a shot to be famous in my travels so I guess I better get busy.
Have some downtime now as I’m sitting on a train travelling through the beautiful Netherlands countryside on my way to Dusseldorf Germany. The last few days have gone by quickly.
We left Seattle about 4:30pm on Saturday the 19th. And finally made it to Amsterdam about 1pm local time on Sunday. Only Chuck was able to sleep. BUT, we know the best strategy is to just immediately adjust to the local time and so we did.
My travelling partners this trip are Chuck, friends since high school and a bit of a general dipshit. Has travelled all over the world for work, but never actually seen anything or really gotten local. This is really his first time getting to vacation/travel in Europe. My buddy Jimmy who I’ve known 25 years, is an extensive world traveler, and even lived in Germany for a year and a half with his 8th wife. He’s on wife 9 now and seems pretty happy with her. And my old partner in crime, Michelle, who I’ve known since I was a little kid and my regular companion on these adventures and usually a co-pilot on a bar stool back home. My sista-from-another-mister. This is our 3rd Euro adventure together. Anyways, that’s my travel gang this time out.
So, we get into Amsterdam and immediately go the wrong way searching for our place we have booked for a couple nights. I thought I knew where I was going, and while I was heading the right direction, it did take us a bit to find the houseboat we were staying on. Happy to report, we finally did, and met our Captain Dawn, who was a gracious host and the houseboat was really great. Not the most spacious place, but we had enough room to move around and stow our gear. The toilets were weird, but I won’t go into that.  Staying on the boat was cool and I could feel the gentle rocking at night as I’d drift off to sleep.
We were all excited to see Amsterdam and the Red Light District, so we set out walking. And walking. And walking. We walked all over that first evening. Saw the lights. Saw the “coffee shops”. Saw the girls in the windows. Saw busy canals. Crossed many bridges. Enjoyed the building and narrow alleyways and nooks. Had a lovely dinner, although I don’t recall where. It was all … not overwhelming, but definitely an experience. Really cool just to stroll. I slept well and dreamt of Amsterdam all night, but I tell you when I woke up, I couldn’t remember what I was dreaming about. Honest. Just know it was about Amsterdam.
The next day, after everyone caught up on sleep, we had a grand day out. This time we set out towards the Anne Frank house, which I knew who Anne Frank was, but no real details. (I thought I knew who Anne Frank was…..I didn’t.) At first, I thought Anne Frank was Helen Keller, but I quickly learned that was the wrong story. One of my favorite things to do when travelling in Europe, or anywhere really, is to “walk in History”. That’s what I call it anyway. Be on the site, and walk in the steps where famous historical events have taken place. I just love it. So once I read the story of Anne Frank (while waiting in line 2 hours for tickets), I was really excited to get to take my walk through history. Absolutely fantastic tour, and museum, and a marvelous story, with a very sad ending. Just another month and the whole crew would’ve made it out as Amsterdam was liberated from the Nazis just a month or so after the Frank family and friends were rounded up and taken away. It inspired me to definitely read the Diary of Anne Frank which I will probably download on this trip and read on my kindle during down time. (Kindles, cell phones, portable wireless access points, it is so simple to travel here nowadays.)
After Anne, we needed to lift our spirits? So we eventually made our ways to the coffee shops, perused the menus, and uh, did as the Dutch do when Amsterdam, and every other tourist here (which there are a lot and a lot more Americans than I expected). It’s a great experience to see all the freedom and tolerance towards alternative “lifestyles”? The so-called “seedy” part of Amsterdam while different, didn’t seem so seedy to me. Everyone going about their lives enjoying their substance of choice, sitting at outside cafes, visiting, laughing, enjoying. The canals and boats passing by are wonderful to veg out to as well as some of the best people watching on the planet that I’ve seen. We just kind of absorbed and integrated into what was happening around us the rest of the afternoon and it was all really, really…..just great. I’ll tell you, I didn’t love the Red Light district like I expected to, but I did enjoy it very much. If I never come back, that’s fine, and if I come back again, great. I’ll look forward to it.
We wound up taking a canal cruise as well which was completely awesome. It was inexpensive, tolerant of any substances you may bring on board  and served drinks! That was a fun ride. Our tour boat captain educated us on the various buildings, districts, and histories and it was pretty groovy to cruise the waterways and go under all the bridges. Calming, relaxing, and very fun.
At dinner we discussed all the great things we had seen, only to find Chuck missed everything, literally everything, we learned on the cruise. He was busy taking selfies. As I mentioned earlier, he’s a bit of dipshit. We filled him in though on what he missed.
By about 9pm (we’d been out literally all day), we’d all had our fill. We made our way back to our houseboat and crashed hard. Those who couldn’t sleep the first night, did so the second, and we’re all perfectly integrated into the local time now. No jet lag at all.
And that brings us to right about now. Got up this morning and made our way to Amsterdam Central to catch the train to Dusseldorf. So, we’re all caught up! Love & kisses to those back home and will write more as soon as I can.
When we get to Dusseldorf, we have pretty much zero plans. We’re picking up a car at the railstation…..and that’s it. More to come…..Ta ta…..

Day 16 – Last Day in Ireland spent drinking in Dublin. :)

29 Jun

I’m on my last full day in Ireland. Spending it drinking in Dublin. We were going to visit the Glasnevin cemetery, which is highly rated, but decided one more day of pub hopping was more fitting for our type of visit. The girls shopped and we’re now planted at the Celtic Lodge bar. We won’t be here the rest of the day, but it’s a nice start.

Here’s my final Musings on a wonderful trip.

  • Ireland is green.  I’ve seen the 50 shades of green and then some.
  • The people are as warm, friendly, and genuine as you could ever meet.
  • The country side and the fresh air and the simpler way of life are probably not my cup of tea, but a great place to put your feet up and relax.
  • The driving in Ireland is spectacular provided you’re not too cautious.  Grin & gun it.  And watch the sides! 
  • Guiness beer is fucking awesome!  I love whiskey, but couldn’t get past the Guiness.  I’ve drank whiskey in Scotland.  I’m good.  That’s the best!  Don’t tell an Irishman that though!  However, Guiness rules all.  I’m sure I’ve drank about 100 pints since I’ve been in country.  No shit.
  • Hostel life is awesome.  You shouldn’t be afraid of it when travelling.  Everywhere we stay is clean, safe, and relatively quiet.  A little light street noise at night I find quite relaxing.  There’s folks of every generation from all walks of life there and you can’t beat the price!  It’s the only way to travel here in my book.
  • Staying away from other tourists is a great thing!  Nothing more disappointing than meeting other Americans at the bar.
  • Just like our country, the different sides of Ireland are all very different from each other.  East, West, North, and South has it’s own ways of life and I think they’re all brilliant.
  • I think everyone in the world is basically the same and all want the same things in life.  The chance to make an honest living.  Food, shelter, a safe place for you and your kids.  An opportunity for education and somewhere to unwind and have fun.  Scenery’s nice too.  I don’t believe it gets much more complicated than that.  We’re all the same wherever we’re from or who we call God.  Why is the world so complicated?  It really doesn’t need to be.
  • Nothing beats walking in the footsteps of history. 
  • Learning about a country, it’s people, it’s past, it’s present, and it’s future helps me appreciate and discriminate against my own way of life.  The more you know, the better person you are I say.
  • Travelling with friends and family can only bring you closer to the ones you love.  The ones with you and afar.
  • Oftentimes strangers are just as interested in you as you are in them and I firmly believe a stranger is simply someone you haven’t met yet.
  • McDonalds Quarter Pounders everywhere in the world taste exactly the same.
  • Irish & English beef kicks ass contrary to what anyone says.  The food we’ve eaten from takeaway to pubs to nice restaurants has never been anything short of delicious.
  • Leprechauns are hard to find.
  • Kissing the Blarney Stone is as much fun as it sounds!
  • Temple Bar district sucks.  There are no Irish people anywhere.
  • Gaslight Anthem is an OK rock band I suppose.
  • Not all showers are created equal.
  • Ask anybody anything and they’ll have an answer.  Might not be the right one, but you can rest assured your question will be answered.
  • Big flocks of sheep grazing in the countryside are always cool to look at.
  • Cows are bigger here.  Means they make bigger burgers and steaks.
  • There are no coin operated laundries anywhere in Galway.
  • The Giants Causeway is like nothing you have ever seen.  Truly unique and one-of-a-kind.
  • Don’t wear hats when visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
  • When ordering off a menu with Jenny and Michelle, make sure they begin perusing the menu at least an hour before the kitchen closes or you’ll be sorry.  And hungry. 
  • Always dress for all types of weather.
  • Axe bodywash doubles as shampoo just fine.
  • Metallica, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin are the greatest bands of all time and make excellent travelling partners.
  • Seeing Iron Maiden live at Donnington is extraordinary.  I saw Sabbath and Metallica there last year.  How fucking lucky am I?
  • You can charge 17 things off a single power outlet with a little ingenuity.
  • When leaving Phoenix Park from the south end, if you value living, do NOT try to find shortcuts.  Just go the way you came from.  We walked right through the “hood” and fortunately didn’t have to regret it.
  • If you’re driving, take a GPS with the appropriate map or rent one from the car dealer.  And having a good navigator is a good thing too!  Thanks Michelle!  It makes driving a lot easier!
  • After watching Irish dancing, I know where square dancing comes from!
  • Traditional Irish “Trad” music sounds, to me, like the same song over and over to a headboard-banging-against-the-wall beat.  Good for fucking I suppose.  While I enjoyed it and it’s definitely right for the drinking environment with folks stomping, clapping, and singing along, I don’t see me  picking up any CDs in the near future. 
  • The Irish say “Céad míle fáilte” which is Gaelic and translates to “100,000 Welcomes”.  Now, as I see it, 3 or 4 welcomes is plenty for anyone, but I felt the full 100,000 and appreciate every single one of them. 

Thank you Ireland. Love always,

Brentallica xoxoxo

 

Taken by the girls on Sla Head beach on the far west coast of Ireland.

Taken by the girls on Sla Head beach on the far west coast of Ireland.

Partying at The Dingle Pub in Dingle, Ireland.

Partying at The Dingle Pub in Dingle, Ireland.

 

Day 15 – Dublin

28 Jun

Had a quick stop this morning at my surprise restaurant for the girls. I had seen this article about 2 months ago (http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2013/03/02/10-coolest-mcdonalds-around-the-world/1957761/) detailing the 10 Coolest McDonalds in the world. One of them happens to be in Bray, Ireland which is just about 30 minutes south of Dublin and on our way back to the airport to drop off the car.  That’s gotta be worth a stop.

The building was the old Bray town hall from the mid 19th century and McDonalds gave it a once-over and now it sits at the town centre.  The branding on the outside is very subtle, and if you didn’t know it was a McDonalds, I suppose you could easily miss it.  It was pretty cool and Egg McMuffins were enjoyed by all courtesy of this big spender.  I paid for breakfast.

I'm lovin' it!

I’m lovin’ it!

Next stop was to gas up the car and drop it off.  We’d had it a week and while I was anxious to be “car free” again, I was very sad to see it go.  With the car you always have at the back of your mind that somethings going to happen to it, and what a pain in the ass, and what do I do….I appreciated that anxiety leaving.  However foundless it was.  The car was great!  And we had no problems at all.  I actually enjoyed driving in Ireland very much.  I love road trips and this was kind of the ultimate.  Especially taking the little country roads with no sides to speak of.  Very narrow.  Very windy.  Very fun.  Not many freeways, but highways here and there.  After 24 hours behind the wheel I felt very much at home and would have no problems driving anywhere else in Europe now.   The signage and roads, for the most part, are terrific.  And we did about 1400 km, so around 900 miles or so I suppose.  What a blast to drive through Ireland.  I highly recommended it.

Here's me and my Skoda.  I'm not sure if I've ever heard of a Skoda, but it was a kick ass little hatchback and a great ride around Ireland.

Here’s me and my Skoda. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of a Skoda, but it was a kick ass little hatchback and a great ride around Ireland.

Here's the route map of our jouney through this awesome country.  We saw a lot in a very short amount of time, but you know we stopped to smell the roses (and drink the Guiness) frequently.

Here’s the route map of our jouney through this awesome country. We saw a lot in a very short amount of time, but you know we stopped to smell the roses (and drink the Guiness) frequently.

Back in Dublin now, we took the Airlink back to the city centre and checked into our hotel.  Dropped the bags, and went out to get drunk.  Wound back up at one of our favorite pubs so far, O’Sheas.  Very cool.  Very traditional.  Not a ton of tourists.  Spent the afternoon drinking and reminicising and deciding what we’ll do tomorrow.

We learned there were would be traditional Irish music there that night and Irish dancing.  Ran back to the hotel to nap and rest.  The girls did girly shit and didn’t sleep, but I took full advantage.  We headed back to O’Sheas for a wonderful dinner.  We noted this place is always packed at meal time so they must serve great food.  We concur.  It was awessome.  The music turned out to just be a guitarist and accordian player.  The 8 Irish dancers must’ve been from the old folks home as the baby of the group was probably 60.  However, it was fun as we watched them boogie down.  Didn’t stay more than an hour before we sought out a different kind of fun.

Found a bar up the street called The Celtic, which was a must younger crowd.  The place doubles as a hostel and Michelle is staying here a few extra nights before she heads home to Seattle.  Jenny and I leave on Saturday.  The place was fun and the music flowed.  Not so much traditional Irish music, but more covers with an Irish twist.  Much more lively and we had another fun night listening to the music, soaking up the energy and ambience around us, and having a general all around good time.

Off to bed, and our last full day in Dublin is tomorrow.

Love,

Brentallica

Day 14 – Back towards Dublin

28 Jun

Woke up today totally refreshed. We all slept until about 9:30am which meant we had to jam out in an hour. After unsuccessfully figuring out how to get hot water (you had to press a boost button out on the wall outside the loo and wait a bit. Well we hit it, we waited, but the water was as cold as it was when we started.) Michelle and I braved a cold shower, but Jenny (stinky) wasn’t as bold.

Anyways, off back towards Dublin now and our first stop today was at the Rock of Cashel. I don’t know if any of us knew exactly what the Rock was, but it wasn’t what we thought it was. However, it wound up being very cool. It’s the ruins of an old monastery. Not a castle at all. And it’s a huge monastery. Or it was. Toured through the ruins and there’s some remarkable remnants of days gone by including what was once an amazing painted ceiling which I imagine is somewhat similar to the Sistine chapel. (Or as Justin Beiber, douche, would say, the Sixteenth Chapel). Anyways there was enough left you could tell this place was once very rare, very holy, and very beautiful. There was some scaffolding up which kind of distracted from the visit, but nothing too bad. Also got to see St. Patrick’s cross, or what’s left of it, housed here inside where it’s protected. Proved to be a very good and educating stop thanks to our wonderful guide.

Jenny at The Rock.  There is no actual rock.  It's just what it's called as it's built on a massive rock.

Jenny at The Rock. There is no actual rock. It’s just what it’s called as it’s built on a massive rock.

The Rock.  Big.  Foreboding.  But again, not a castle.  A monastery.

The Rock. Big. Foreboding. But again, not a castle. A monastery.

Pushed further towards Dublin with a stop at Kilkenny Castle. Now this actually was a castle, however, one like we’ve not come across yet. It was completed restored and redecorated as it appeared in the 17th & 18th centuries. Room after room decorated for the period was really amazing to see what it was once like. So elegant. You can tell the fuckers who lived here were mega rich (the Butler family).

The Rose Garden at Kilkenny Castle.

The Rose Garden at Kilkenny Castle.

The 19th century flushing toilet I think was my favorite thing, but only because it was so bizarre. And they must have had huge asses. They bowl was huge! I also liked all the old oil paintings of various characters from the castle’s past. These people mostly looked like assholes to me and I would say they were all pretty unattractive, but to see these centuries’ old paintings was very cool. To look at the clothes that were fashionable at that time was very interesting. They really do look like complete assholes, but I’m sure they were lovely chaps. If you were rich too.

My beautiful rose in the garden.

My beautiful rose in the garden.

The grounds and outside was immaculate. Reminded me of Wayne Manor (from Batman). Lush lawns that stretched away forever and a beautiful rose garden rounded out the visit.

 

Jenny & I at Kilkenny Castle.

Jenny & I at Kilkenny Castle.

Also didn’t mention that all those oil paintings which also contained a lot of scenery art, which was equally old, is really quite valuable and the place doubles as an art gallery. I’m not an art guy, but I really did enjoy looking at all the paintings, and I loved wandering through the restored and fully decorated castle.

That was another fun stop.

Passing through Hollywood, Ireland.

Passing through Hollywood, Ireland.  See the hillside sign?

Pressed on even further and tonight we find ourselves in the Wicklow mountains, south of Dublin, for the night. We’ve found the local pub and just had a terrific dinner and are enjoying pints deckside. A lovely evening is in store, I know.
We’ll be up in the morning and I’ve told the girls I’m taking them to breakfast at a place I learned about a few months ago in the town of Bray, Ireland on the way back to Dublin airport to drop the car. I can’t tell you here because Michelle will probably read this, but I’ll share it tomorrow and we’ll get pictures. I promise it’s cool.

The girls at some roadside ruin we stopped at in the Wicklow Mountains.

The girls at some roadside ruin we stopped at in the Wicklow Mountains.

That’s it for tonight.

Love,
Brentallica.

Day 13 – Blarney Castle

27 Jun

Well we loved our accommodation so much at the Hostel Cork City we decided to stay another night. Which is nice, because Michelle and I didn’t feel so hot when we woke up and Jenny was stone cold hung over. Rookie. After our fabulous night in Cork, we didn’t get to bed until late and had to get up early … let me rephrase that, I had to get up early to go put a parking disc on the car. That bought us a couple extra hours of sleep.

Met the man, and paid for another night as well so we were all set. Finally, we set out for Blarney Castle, which is nearby, and the reason we stopped in Cork in the first place.

Cork is a really cool city. They laughed at us in Dingle and asked us why we’d want to go there. I think everyone here is particularly proud of their own little niche in this great island. Makes sense. I’m damn proud of Lynnwood, WA, but only because that’s my home. I know most people think it sucks, but I truly love it there.

The castle grounds and things to see was much larger than we anticipated so we wound up there about 3 hours. We had lunch in the small town of Blarney and forced Jenny to eat so she rebounded a bit. After that we entered the castle grounds and it’s everything you would expect from a world class castle ruin. It’s fantastic. We took the 100 step climb to the top and all of kissed the Blarney stone.

Me at Blarney Castle

Me at Blarney Castle

They lean you over on your back with your head off the edge and you plant one on a big old rock. Where hundreds have just kissed before you. I don’t know if it’s going to win any hygiene awards, but at the bottom we all remarked how fun and quirky it was. Supposedly, it will grant us all “the gift of gab”, but I really am not sure any of us need it. Especially after a few pints of Guiness.

Whoa....

Whoa….

Jenny plants a big old fatty on the rock.

Jenny plants a big old fatty on the rock.

I gave it a quick little peck.

I gave it a quick little peck.

Michelle was licking it which I don't think you're supposed to do.  It took two men to pull her off it.  I don't think she's gotten laid in a while.

Michelle was licking it which I don’t think you’re supposed to do. It took two men to pull her off it. I don’t think she’s gotten laid in a while.

Did I mention I love Guiness now? Who knew? I drink it every day. My favorite sip is the first sip which I call “the mustache sip”. That’s the one where the lovely foamy, creamy head gets caught in your stache and you have to kind of lick it, suck it, wipe it out. It’s a really good sip.

The mustache sip.

The mustache sip.

Sadly after the castle, none of us were in the mood to party. Even Michelle, the biggest partier amongst us, with me a close second, agreed, that we could use a night off. We’ve been out every single night since we left so a night in sounded nice to all.

Michelle and I sat out on the patio at our hostel just hanging out researching what to do the next day, where to stay, and all that fun stuff while Jenny took a well needed nap. I convinced these “menu divas” to actually try some take out food after eating all our meals in restaurants, cafes, or pubs. I was scared if we went out we’d start drinking and wanted to get an early start. These chicks usually will look at a menu for an hour or so and by the time they’re ready to order, the fucking kitchen is closed. Happened more than once this trip.

Anyways, I’m happy to say I was successful. We got some pizzas, watched some Irish TV for a bit, and I think we all hit the hay before 9:30pm. I mean 21:30.

See you tomorrow. Love,

Brentallica

Day 12 – The Dingle Penninsula

25 Jun

We dropped the laundry in the morning! Hooray! We were all completely out of clothes!

Hit the road to do the Dingle Penninsula loop trip. Travelling through the beautiful roads of far Western Ireland. The roads were narrow and we stopped frequently to look at this or that.  The drive takes us mainly along the incredible coast.

Gettin' pissed at The Dingle Pub!

Gettin’ pissed at The Dingle Pub!

This is a beehive hut.  Named because it looks like a beehive.  This was a single-family house about 1200 years ago.  A little small...

This is a beehive hut. Named because it looks like a beehive. This was a single-family house about 1200 years ago. A little small…

Me at the end of the world.  Next stop, Boston, Massachusetts is what the locals say!

Me at the end of the world. Next stop, Boston, Massachusetts is what the locals say!

Hey look!  I got a new hat!  It has an official tag inside that says “made in Ireland”.  I’m not the souvenier type, but losing my hat at the Cliffs of Moher, turned out ok.  This is perfect.

Hawaii?  Nope.  Try Sla Head beach on the west coast of Ireland.

Hawaii? Nope. Try Sla Head beach on the west coast of Ireland.  The girls went wading.

The chicks really dig Ireland.

The chicks really dig Ireland.

This is the Gallarus Oratory.  This is one of the earliest Christian churches.  No one knows how old for sure, but 1200 years seems to be a good guess.  These dudes copied holy scripts, farmed, prayed and got along just swell until the Vikings and the Normans invaded and fucked everything up.

This is the Gallarus Oratory. This is one of the earliest Christian churches. No one knows how old for sure, but 1200 years seems to be a good guess. These dudes copied holy scripts, farmed, prayed and got along just swell until the Vikings and the Normans invaded and fucked everything up.

It’s really quite interesting as every stone is cut perfectly and put together like a puzzle.  They really knew how to build something that would last.  Again, there’s no one here.  It’s been great.

After we finished the loop, we picked up our clothes (yay! clean clothes!) and made our way towards Cork, Ireland.  That’s in the southern part of the country.  Driving away from the country and getting back towards the bustling cities in the east.

Cork seems somewhere in between to me.  It was kind of not even on our radar planning the trip, but it seemed like a good place to stop for the night as we wanted to tour the nearby Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney stone.

Stumbled around the town centre looking at all the shops and things which were mostly closed as we had gotten in late.  Could not find any pubs serving food, so we pub hopped our way about.  I had sworn I would only have one or two beers as I really needed a night off.  We have been partying every night.

Anyways, 2 beers led to 3.  3 led to 4….and pretty soon I’m smashed.  We spent the night partying in a pub, that was more like a Parisian bar, than a traditional Irish pub and met some Irish gentlemen.

Con was a dead ringer for President Obama and had a thick Irish accent that we had a bit of trouble communicating at first.  We learned the gold circular pin he wears on his lapel is his badge to claim he’s 100% fluent in the native tounge here, Gaelic.  Predominately spoke on the west coast amongst the locals, but they know English just fine as well.  I’m told they generally speak to each other in Gaelic.  The rest of the country is taught it in school, but it sounds to me as if it’s slowly dying out as the rest of Ireland doesn’t get much of a chance to practice and English is the main language around the majority of the island.

John was an older fella and he was a natural born story tellers.  He was a real kick in the ass.  And we all proceeded to get absolutely fucking hammered.  Really hammered.  And we still hadn’t eaten!  Ugh.  John wound up falling in love with Michelle and begged us to be chaperones so he could walk Michelle home.  We decided if John could find us a takeaway joint nearby, we’d allow that.  John came through and we found a couple of rickshaws to carry us to a joint that was still open.  Food at last!

Michelle broke John’s heart and we parted ways for the night.  He was a real genuine Irishman and kept us entertained telling us non-stop stories.  Very genuine.  We had a blast tonight!

Michelle knows what hotel he’s at though if she changes her mind.

Love, Brentallica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11 – Cliffs of Moher & Road to Dingle

23 Jun

Started the morning headed south towards the mighty Cliffs of Moher.

Jenny has become quite adept at finding us great breakfast spots and this mornings stop at The Strawberry Hedgehog in….I’m afraid I forgot the name, was brilliant. We talked with the owners who served up a delicious breakfast in the smallest, quaintest, little cafe you could ever imagine. Perched right on the edge of a fishing village, it was heaven. I’ll have to figure out the name of that town.

Looking out at the Atlantic over the countryside on our trip to the Cliffs.

Looking out at the Atlantic over the countryside on our trip to the Cliffs.

Next up were the Cliffs of Moher and they’re every bit as impressive as you’ve heard.  Rising 700 feet straight out of the ocean they run for 8km along the western coast of Ireland.  Waves smashing and crashing in below and the scenery is just breathtaking.  The wind was ferocious today.  I’d guess 35mph sustained winds and gusts to at least 60mph.  Probably more.  They were strong enough to move me and I was having fun leaning backwards into it to let it hold me up.  A couple gusts were strong enough to actually support me.

Sadly, my Kangol hat I’ve grown to love so much blew right off the top of my head and out onto the cliff.  It was only about 20 feet from the gate so I hopped it to go get it and someone told me the ground is very unstable and that would not be wise.  Jenny forbid me to go and so I said goodbye to my favorite hat.  😦

This picutre does NOT do these behemoths justice.  Truly awesome.

This picutre does NOT do these behemoths justice. Truly awesome.

It's hard to see, but there's my hat right at the edge of the cliff.  I wonder where it is tonight.  Lonely, missing me.... :(

It’s hard to see, but there’s my hat right at the edge of the cliff. I wonder where it is tonight. Lonely, missing me…. 😦

We boogied on down to the cutest little village of Adare and were lucky enough to get on the last tour of the day to the impressive Desmond Castle.  Really spectacular ruin and our tour guide was Mrs. Doubtfire, I swear to God.  There were maybe 12 of us and the only way to visit this castle is by guided tour from a heritage center in the middle of town.  Then they shuttle us up there.  More awesome castles completely off the beaten path.

Desmond Castle on the outskirts of Adare, Ireland.

Desmond Castle on the outskirts of Adare, Ireland.

I don't know if it gets any cooler than ancient castles.  This bitch went up in 1100.

I don’t know if it gets any cooler than ancient castles. This bitch went up in 1100.

We pressed on to Dingle which is a fishing village on the coast down in the south west of Ireland.  Had pints and dinner at Murphy’s Pub and then walked up through the small village.  It is so cute.

In the morn, we’re dropping off our laundry (finally, we think!) and then doing the Dingle Penninsula before we head back towards Cork tomorrow night.

All is well with the world.

Love, Brentallica.

Day 10 – Connemara Region & Galway

23 Jun

Headed north this morning to the Connemara Region of Ireland.

Stopped in the village of Cong and had the greatest breakfast at an awesome little coffee shop called The Hungry Monk. Small, local, traditional, and very quiet when we arrived. Breakfast consisted of some great coffee (I love the coffee here) and then I ordered a bacon sandwich with butter and ketchup on brown soda bread. I got a plate with two pieces of bread each stacked to the ceiling with bacon. It was heaven.

Right across the street are the ruins of the Cong Abbey and these wonderful old graveyards. The ruins were great. Totally accessible. And for the most part, completely free of tourists. We were where we strive to be: Off the beaten path. Took a short walk down to the crystal clear stream behind the abbey and watched a couple local boys pulling Salmon out of the river. Also, out here is a little Monk’s fishing hut where they would hang a net through a hole in the floor and tie a little bell on top. When the bell rang, it means a fish was caught in the net and they’d hoist it right up. Talk about easy!

The ruins of the Cong Abbey.  Beautiful, peaceful, serene, and pretty much empty!

The ruins of the Cong Abbey. Beautiful, peaceful, serene, and pretty much empty!

The Monk Fishing Hut!

The Monk Fishing Hut!

We then drove through peat bog fields, forests, and rolling hills to reach Clifden. This is another adorable little local village. Bigger than Cong, but not by much. It made the perfect stopping point for a pint out on the western coast.

Headed back inland, towards Galway, and came upon Aughnanure Castle which has been restored and provides an awesome backdrop for pictures. I like to sit in the yards and look around at the castle and buildings and try to imagine what life might of been like in 1100 when it went up and passed down through generations of families. Very beautiful, quiet, and serene. And for the most part, tourist free. The castle was totally accessible to all four floors up a winding midevil stone staircase. Each floor was visitable and we could learn about the families and life in the fortress. It’s restored wonderfully, but doesn’t have any furniture or decoration so you have to use a bit of imagination, but it proved to be a worthwhile stop.

Looking up at Aughnanure Castle

Looking up at Aughnanure Castle

There's the girls down at the bottom of the castle.  You could go right to the top.  Like six other people there.  Great!

There’s the girls down at the bottom of the castle. You could go right to the top. Like six other people there. Great!

Headed back to Galway in search of a laundromat, only to discover, there are no coin operated laundrys in Galway. Only drop-off/pick-up service. Being it was Saturday and we’re jamming out Sunday (they’re closed) this wasn’t going to work.

Before I came out here, I had heard an old friend from Einstein & Shoreline was a traditional fiddle player out here in Galway and that’s how he makes his living. His name is Mike Chang. He’s a tall Chinese man, and he’s become very well known in these parts and runs several “trad” sessions and plays in bands.  We had been in email contact and made plans to meet that night.  It’s been over 25 years since we’ve seen each other.

Walking out of the laundry, who do we see, but Mike Change walking across the street carrying his fiddle case.  Kinda cool.  I recognized him immediately.  Looks the same to me, just a bit of gray in the hair.  We catch up quickly and make plans to meet up in a few hours.

We meet Mike at Taaffes on Shop Street and have a great time catching up over pints.  Michelle knew Mike too.  So we played the game “…so what’d ya do after high school”.  By far, Mike’s story was far more interesting than either of ours.  Jenny commented his story was so interesting he should write a book!  How he got involved in Irish music and how he wound up in Galway 14 years ago is nothing short of a tale that will keep you wanting more.  What a life.  It was great to see him, and he promised to ring me the next time he gets back to Seattle.  All in all, it was an awesome day and a great finish.

We wound up at The Crane Bar where Mike leads a traditional, called “trad”, Irish music session.  These are traditionally, when musicians show up with their instruments in the middle of the bar and break out in a big jam session.  It was awesome.  Mike was the leader of this night’s trad and it was awesome watching the group of 20+ play tune after tune while the locals soaked it up.  Such a treat.

Us & Mike after a couple of pints.

Us & Mike after a couple of pints.

 

Galway is Seattle's "sister" city and here's the plaque to prove it right near Eyre Square.  Three's one in Seattle I have to go find now.

Galway is Seattle’s “sister” city and here’s the plaque to prove it right near Eyre Square. Three’s one in Seattle I have to go find now.

There's Mike near the back corner hammering away in this awesome gathering of traditional Irish musicians.  It was standing room only!  They all come out!

There’s Mike near the back corner hammering away in this awesome gathering of traditional Irish musicians. It was standing room only! They all come out!

Love,

Brentallica.