Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slowing down is good for the wallet... err.. soul.

Up to now, the longest I had stayed in any one location was in Bath, for 4 nights, which I was regretting because, really, unless you are a member of Jane Austen Addicts Anonymous (JAAA), there isn't much to do there. I took a day trip from there to the Cheddar caves & gorge, which was great, just because Bath was getting boring :p Anyway, the point of the diatribe thus far is that I eventually realized that the 1-2 night stays in places were getting ridiculous. The pace is unsustainable for a couple reasons:
  • Buying a bus or train ticket every 2 days hurts the wallet
  • I'm not traveling to stress out about where I'm going to be sleeping every night
  • likewise, unpacking and repacking a backpack every day sucks

So, on that note, I looked at a map and said "hey, there's some little tiny islands off the coast of Ireland, and there's a hostel there!" (turns out there is a couple). So I took a bus to Galway (I had been in Athlone at the time, at another really-overpriced hotel), then booked 6 nights at Mainistr House hostel here on Inishmor, hopped on a ferry and got here just after dark. Figured I could read a book after spending a day or two seeing everything there is to see.

Almost everything here is made out of stone. At first this seems to be a neat gimmick, but then you quickly realize that it is out of necessity. I think there are two (maybe three) trees on the island, one is on the eastern side and is worshiped as some sort of strange deity, the one on the west side was burned at the stake (stone stake) as a heretical non-rock, and rumour has it that he may have had a brother who is still in hiding. Unconfirmed.

There are miles and miles of stone fences. No mortar or anything, just rocks piled into lines of stone, 1 to 4 feet high. Everywhere. Stone forts made in the same way, although their walls are more like 5-15 feet high and 10 feet thick. The cliffs along the coastline are amazing. Also, it is hilarious to watch some tourists peek over the edge -- they will get down on their stomachs and inch their way up. Almost silly.. I mean, really, the ground right by the edge is just as solid as the ground 10 feet back, why be scared? .. oh right, the wind shifts every 3 seconds :p still, I did walk right up to the edge and look over. 87 meters down to the ocean. Made the stomach spin a bit, so it was well worth it :)

The second day here (yesterday), I walked out to Dun Duchathair, another cliff-top fort. This one differed from Dun Aonghasa in a few respects: No admission fee, no trail to follow, and no other tourists. Seriously, for the last mile or so up to this thing I was just roaming free form around the landscape, then down the coast. There was a small plaque on one end of it denoting it as a national monument, and otherwise not a soul for 2 miles in any direction. Lovely! I sat and read my book for a couple hours, had a nap, got an even worse sunburn on my face than the day before [egads, time to start wearing a hat.. or at least lose the sunglasses, the raccoon burn is getting serious]. During the time I was there maybe three or four other people wandered through. After my nap it started to get crowded (there was another person there plus two more on the horizon incoming) so I wandered away to find a quieter place to read. Ended up taking a much rougher route over many of the ineffable stone fences and learned an important lesson: Never assume at what height the solid ground begins under the foilage. Ever.

And that is all there was to see. Actually, if it stops raining tomorrow, I will go to see this thing called the "serpent's hole", otherwise I am just gonna sit and read all day :p This novel is a thousand pages long and requires some peace and quiet :)

My current travel plans after leaving here is to spend a week or two going down the western then across the southern coasts of Ireland, then take a ferry from Rosslare harbour to France in early October. Not sure how long I will stay in France, as that will be a balancing act between various factors:
  • how expensive it is to stay there
  • how much I really want to brush up on my French
  • how friendly the people are
  • what there is to see

At the moment it seems likely that I will spend a couple nights in Paris, and then head for the Mediterranean coast for two or three weeks, then on to Italy.

I mention the above so that those of you (*cough*Talena*cough*) who insist on recommending people to see (not that I have seen any of them yet) can do so before I get to a place rather than after I have left. Of course, all plans are subject to change.

Flipping through my journal, I must post this Random Moment of Hilarity:

2009.09.14 - entry made at Bath, England after returning from the Cheddar caves & gorge

...then at the end of Cox's [cave] is the "Crystal Quest Cavern" or some such. Mostly they just had a lot of fake goblins, wizards, etc (life size) and of course the dragon at the end. However, as I was in the third-to-last room taking pictures, I kept hearing people screaming in the room ahead of me. When I went through, it was nothing special - a fake castle wall with a [recorded] voice and some soldiers [statues], then at the end, an employee dressed as a wizard or something who pulled back the curtain into the final room. However, later (atop Jacob's Ladder), I met some of the screamers and inquired whether my theory was correct regarding the cause of the fright. Indeed it was, and this couple had played right into it:

The wizard-employee would stay very still as they entered the castle room, and the husband re-assured his wife that it was just another statue. She got right up close to examine it when he turned and opened the curtain for them. Based on how many women (and pansy-men!) I heard scream, I must assume that the wizard-employee has taken the raw materials of the dim lighting, dull clothing, rather thankless job and the customer expectation of "just another statue," and he has crafted something unique: hilarity in a cave.

More fun journal fragments (since at the moment I have some extended internet time, I figure it is a good time to post backlogs of stuff!).

2007.09.14 - Bath, England, just before bed.
"Bizarre Bath" [an evening street theater thing] was good. Probably more worth the admission than the "Bourne Ultimatum." Where else do you get to see a grown man wrap a stuffed rabbit in chains, padlocks and a postal mail bag, and throw it in the Avon (river)? Then bring it back all dry, later, after it has been dried by his assistant. Using a hare-dryer.

On the note of Bath, upon arrival I found it very unsettling. It did not seem to fit in with the rest of England. Soon I realized what was giving this impression: The trim on all of their architecture is Roman, from the stone columns, to the triangular stone decorative bits above all the doors and windows. This, juxtaposed over the typical English "smash all the buildings together without spaces because our real estate is limited" style gives an odd impression.

On the note of other places I've been: I really cannot recommend a single thing about Holyhead, and Chester is just barely better :p Athlone was neat but the accommodation scene is abysmal (hi, $189 hotel room. you are the last hotel I ever want to stay in!).

2007.09.16 - Holyhead, Wales
...met a couple stereotypical Irish guys around 1015. They were quite friendly, but totally drunk and getting drunker fast (Their wine bottle did run empty though). While it was hard to understand them at first, they [...]

... first, of course, they needed more liquor. I told them I don't drink [much] but they wanted to seek out a pub anyway. Of course, it was 1030 on a Sunday morning, nothing was open....

...In a moment of what was, for me, pure hilarity, one of them was asking a Welsh train police officer where a pub was, and mocking the replies. "Ya ask these English anything, and its just one quick bzbzbzbzbzz. Ya canna unnerstan a thin they say!" At least, I think that's what he said, since I could say the same thing about the drunk Irish.

As an addendum, I should say that most of the Irish people I have met here in Ireland are perfectly easy to understand, and rarely drunk :p just figures that the first ones I encountered were inebriated and incomprehensible, heh.


Scrapnqueen said...

Aaaawwwww....You linked to me. TWICE! I feel tho thpethial.

That was most satisfying. And funny. I know we have reasons to share a sense of humour, but you were bang on about what was funny.

Also, I didn't really expect you to stop by the Dublin library. Just thought I'd give you the option.

Also, I don't know anyone in France, sadly. But I hear it's Nice there. (You can say it: *grroooooaaannn.*)

Laurel said...

Sounds like yer havin' fun!! When you get to Germany, Mike has friends there from the US. She (Ann)serves on the military base there. He (Mo Shields) is retired and works as a volunteer with the armed services, taking wounded (after recovery) soldiers on tours through the Luxemberg battlefields from WWII, and other historical places in Europe. Mike says they would love to have you stay with them (I have met Mo, here in the States...he's very nice), and you could accompany him on his tours. Could be quite interesting. Let me know if you are going to Germany, and if you would like to meet/stay with them. T'would be fun I'm sure!!

Scrapnqueen said...

I've met Mo, too. Ahem.

Michelle said...

hey Logan, sounds like you are having a great time so far! Nice reading your updates... -M