Ireland! 9-13—9-21-2017

Last year I had gotten pretty depressed about life in general, and one of the things that was a sticking point for me was that I hadn’t been overseas since London in 2011. I needed to go overseas again. J has no interest in Europe, he thinks it’s going to be dirty, and he says there are plenty of things still to see in our own country. True, but I have a need. So I said I was going overseas this year, no matter what, alone or together, I was going. And I wanted to go to Ireland. Since he won’t “let me” go on my own, he said he’d go. He ended up inviting his sister Jessica, her boyfriend Pat, and their mom Gail as well. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go, only because I don’t feel that I do well traveling in a group. Though I am of the philosophy that groups can break up, and can do whatever they want, if there is something they want to do that others don’t. So I was prepared to do several things on my own, but again J does not share that philosophy and insisted that we do things together. Ok fine, but that just means everyone is probably going to do a lot of things they don’t want to please the group. In the months leading up to the trip we discussed all the different things we wanted to do, and made a tentative itinerary that would take us from Dublin, north, then down the west side toward Shannon.

Flight + Day 1: Our flights were uneventful, though a little delayed leaving JFK, so we landed in Dublin a little later than scheduled, and Jess and Pat were waiting for us at the airport. We couldn’t check into our Air BnB until 8am, so we stayed at the airport, had some breakfast, and grabbed a cab to our place. First stop after getting our stuff together – the Guinness Store House. Nothing like a Guinness at 9am! The Storehouse was really cool, though maybe a bit pricey. They have a multi story museum about the history and creation of Guinness, including how it’s brewed, their historic advertising, and other info. Included with the ticket is a tasting in tiny little Guinness glasses, and a free pint which you can either use in their special bar where you learn how to pull a pint properly, or at their top floor Gravity bar, which has a great 360 view of Dublin. We chose our pint at the Gravity bar, and it really did taste better than a Guinness at home!

By the time we finished our pints, and checking out the view, it was lunch time, so we grabbed our first real meal at a pub called Arthur’s. It was near by our place, which was in the Liberties neighborhood. I had a corned beef sandwich, which was tasty, though I thought I had read that you really wouldn’t find corned beef in Ireland. With the early morning flights, and the time change which was especially hard on me and J because of our work schedules, we took naps in the afternoon. Jess and Pat had reservations at a fancy 2 Michelin star restaurant, but before that, we all went to meet up with an old friend of Pat’s at The Brazen Head pub, supposedly the oldest pub in Ireland at 1198. That makes it older than the pub we went to in England in 1996, which was 1400 something, pre-Columbian. His friend was someone from college, not an Irish woman, but she lived in Dublin for several years and had a lot of good info to share about places to go. They went off to their dinner, and J, Gail and I wandered over to the Temple Bar area, and to the Temple Bar itself. It was paaacked. Too packed for me, plus I didn’t really want to drink because I was still jet lagged, so I kept leaving them there and going to wander the neighborhood. I never got down to The Clarence, Bono and The Edge’s hotel, but I saw a good deal of the area, and crossed over the Ha’Penny Bridge to the North side of the river, where I ended up getting some amazing falafel because I was starving. Back and forth from the Temple Bar and the street, J was finally convinced to go to one of the many other pubs in the area, the Norseman, with the 2 young Belgians they had met at the bar. This one was more comfortable for me, because it wasn’t so crowded, and we managed to get a table where we could relax. Had a drink there before walking back to our place.

Day 2: Wandered around our neighborhood a little bit while everyone got ready to start the day. Went through the nearby market, which was really like a flea market, with a lot of junk and shoes and knock off Chinese crap for sale. Not super exciting (definitely not a food market). For breakfast we got the traditional Irish Breakfast at a pub nearby – 2 sausages, an egg, 2 pieces of bacon (really, slices of ham), mushrooms, beans, toast and pudding – not dessert pudding, but another kind of sausage, and it was probably blood sausage. It was delicious. Next on the list was Trinity College, specifically the Library and Book of Kells. I was only interested in the library but it’s all one ticket, so we got to go through the Kells display anyway. The library is gorgeous. And the smell of old books, lovely. After that was one of the things I planned to do on my own, the Little Museum of Dublin, specifically for their U2 exhibit. But everyone went, and it  was actually pretty neat. It’s in a small house, 3 floors, and you get a 40 minute “tour” with your ticket – a guide who talks about the history of Dublin. The first floor was an exhibit on the history of pubs, the 2nd floor was history of Dublin itself through the last 200 years, and the 3rd floor was U2. The guide’s talk was fun and informative, and the U2 stuff was great (even for the others). Lots of photos of the early days, plus a pictoral time line of the band’s history and achievements. There was a full size statue of MacPhisto (!) and half a ZooTV trabbie you could pose with. Finishing there, we went to the National Museum of Archaeology, specifically for Jess to see the bog bodies exhibit. Super cool, how these bodies were preserved, so preserved that scientists could tell what their last meal was. That’s CSI shit! There were all kinds of other exhibits but we didn’t spend that much time looking at the rest of the place. Checked out some Egyptian mummies, some info on the Passage tombs, and early feudal Ireland etc.

After all the museums we were pretty hungry. We tried to go to a few places, but it was a weird time where many of them weren’t selling food because it was before dinner. We ended up at a place called 37 Dawson street, and it was great that we did. It was a super funky place, with all kinds of colorful furniture, art, taxidermy, more art, and more awesomeness. The food was good, I had a decent bloody mary. Pat left us to go nap, and we checked out a whiskey store and a tea shop before heading back. On the walk back to the house after, we went by St Patrick’s cathedral, which wasn’t open, but the park was. Pretty church. It started to rain (really, we had good luck, it had really only sprinkled, and for short times) which provided a nice rainbow. Back at the house, J napped too, and us girls just hung out. I had a headache, and none of us felt like going out again so when the boys woke up, they went out for some drinks while we stayed home and went to bed.

Day 3: We picked up the rental car, packed it up and headed out of Dublin. Pat took the wheel for the beginning, I was a little scared of driving in the city, and yes, we almost got in an accident immediately upon leaving our rental. He forgot to look right first, and yep, there was a car. haha. We grabbed some lunch to go and headed out to Newgrange – the megalithic passage tombs. Jess was nervous that we wouldn’t get in, as they only allow 750 in per day (or on Saturdays, not sure), but we made it there in time to get into both Knowth and Newgrange. Knowth was up first, and they bus you over to the site where a guide waits to walk the group around and explain the site. Knowth is the bigger of the tombs in that area, but you are not allowed inside, as it’s basically a crawl space. Around the main mound were several smaller mounds, which was neat because the other site doesn’t have those. They also have stairs leading to the top of the main mound which give a great view of the complex and countryside. After Knowth they bus the group to Newgrange, where again a guide explains the site and this time you get to go inside. Newgrange was built perfectly aligned to the sunrise on the winter solstice, they do a lottery for a chance to experience it, but for those who never will, they reproduce the effect while you are inside the tomb, and it was super cool. These are the oldest structures you’ll ever see, as they pre-date the Pyramids and Stonehenge. It’s incredible to see what these early humans achieved without any modern equipment and knowledge. The Knowth tomb was excavated and recreated, but the interior of Newgrange was completely intact and needed no restoration. Awesome, in the true sense of the word. There was another passage tomb we were going to go to, about an hour away, that was not as touristy, and you have to get a key from a pub to let yourself in, but we weren’t going to have time to get there before said pub closed 🙁 So instead we headed the rest of the way to Belfast for the night. Another AirBnb, which was a quick walk to an area of shops and pubs. We went to check out the Crown Liquor Saloon, a pub I had seen online that looked amazing – super opulently decorated, with little snugs (walled in booths with a little door for privacy) which we managed to snag when a group of young girls were leaving and I was standing closest to the door haha. We had some drinks there before moving onto another pub I had mapped, Muriel’s. We were hungry but were too late for food, so after a few cocktails there, we ended up at a brick oven pizza place which was delicious.

Day 4: One of the things I wanted to do in Belfast was the Black Cab Tour, which takes you around the city, giving the history of The Troubles – the conflict between republicans and loyalists/protestants and catholics. While planning the trip I never realized that this was something you had to book in advance. Bus tours I was looking at for Giant’s Causeway all mentioned stopping in Belfast for a few hours, where you could get one of these tours, so I assumed there was a location to go to to catch one of these cabs, but nope. Several companies run the tours, but you have to book it in advance, and after a few calls we were able to book one…but not until 2pm. It was later than we had intended to take it, but there was a marathon that morning which impacted availability. So we went to brunch at a place called The National. Good food, but I was unable to have a bloody mary because it was before noon. Blah. We still had some time to kill after we ate, but J wanted to stay at the restaurant and keep drinking. I had no interest in wasting my time, not seeing the area we were in so Jess stayed with him at the restaurant, and Gail, Pat and I left to wander the neighborhood. We went by St Anne’s Cathedral (but it was mass), and 2 other churches (one abandoned!), went back toward the restaurant a different way, and found the cute, trendy “cathedral quarter” area, full of more pubs and street art. Found a neat bar called the Harp, retrieved the others and had a drink there before going back to the rental to catch the cab tour.

Only he was late…45 minutes late. J was annoyed and ready to give up right when he showed up. The tour was about 2 hours, and takes you to all the major memorials, street art and murals, the peace wall, etc. It’s really quite sad and supposedly, depending on who you have driving the cab, you’ll get a different perspective due to their own personal opinions. Our driver was former IRA, and you could tell where his loyalties lie, but it still seemed like a fair tour, not too one sided. It was interesting, as I don’t remember anything about it really, I was too young. Since the tour started late, we were still in town much later than anticipated and we needed food before leaving town. We happened to be near Crown again, so we went there for dinner. Bad idea, as they were short staffed, and it took forever. Jess was on edge because our car was still at the rental, which wasn’t ours anymore. Finally we were able to get served and eat, and headed out of town. The original plan was to try to get to Giant’s Causeway for sunset, but we also wanted to stop at the Dark Hedges along the way. We got to Dark Hedges right at golden hour which was great. So pretty! We thought we were the only ones there, as when we parked at the little lot, we were the only car. Turns out everyone else was parked at the other end, boo. And the street under the trees is still used, so cars went through fairly often. No matter, it was super cool. After, Pat raced (did I say he drives like a maniac? He does.) toward the causeway to get there in time, and it was a bit scary at times…racing too fast down these super narrow roads surrounded by stone walls on each side, with blind curves. J ended up yelling to slow down, just saying what we were all thinking. And we didn’t make it in the end, but that was ok. We checked into Carnside Guest House for the night, ran into Bushmills for dinner at the Bushmills Inn, then an early night.

Day 5: So I had suggested Carnside because of some blog I had found online that stated it was the closest hotel to the Causeway, a 5 min walk…welllll that wasn’t quite accurate. There was a hotel practically on top of the causeway, where all the trails begin. And our place MAYBE could have been a 5 minute walk to the Causeway visitor center and parking, but from there, the trails begin and it’s still a bit of a walk to the actual Causeway. Google said it was a 45 min walk from Carnside. BUT!! Turns out it’s a working farm with 200+ cows, and a “fun farm” petting zoo type place with goats!! Awesome. So I had the idea to get up and walk over for sunrise, and I figured I’d go alone or with Jess since she is also a photographer, but everyone wanted to go. When we realized it really wasn’t going to be walkable, we drove over to the visitor center and walked from there, around 7 am. And while the sunrise is not as nice as sunset, it was still going to be great to be the only people there. Until we weren’t. Arg! There was a film crew there working with a drone, for what turned out to ultimately be a video about an Irishman who had cancer who now runs marathons. For a while they were just doing test runs but told us when they were ready to film they’d need us to huddle out of the way, which was fine. Besides them, we were the only people there which was nice. The Causeway was gorgeous, unlike anything I’ve seen before. That said, it was also a bit of a let down because it was a far smaller area than I had thought it was going to be. Jess felt the same. We walked over the pillars for a while, lots of photos taken, before the film crew needed us to move. It wasn’t a long shoot, we just hid behind some very big pillars, and it was ok. Walked around the other side of those pillars, taking more photos. It was great.

Back to the hotel I checked out the farm situation. The fun farm has a room of small animals, mostly rabbits and guinea pigs. Then you can keep going to a bar in the back. The door was locked, even though signs said it was open, so I snuck through a bigger barn door and GOATS! And chickens, and baby cows, and deer. They were all in pens, but not like, veal pens. I felt sorta bad though, there is so much land to let them out on. I’m going to tell myself that they let them out, and it was just early morning so they were still inside from the night before. No one was around to ask. Grabbed some breakfast we managed to acquire even though we were late, then we continued our day with the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. We decided to do that first, before Bushmills Distillery, since whiskey and a rope bridge was probably not a good idea haha. Turns out we played it right as the weather was gorgeous while we were there, and got gloomy and sprinkled while at Bushmills. The rope bridge was fantastic! I was super impressed, partly because I had lower expectations for this than for the Causeway. I really just thought it was a rope bridge, you walked over it, you walked back, done. Turns out there is a whole hike leading up to the bridge, with fantastic scenery, clear blue water as if you were in the Caribbean instead of the North Atlantic. The bridge itself is safe, given that 1000s of people cross it each day, and it leads to an island where fisherman used to cast their nets (and then carry them back across the bridge, which used to really just be A rope). It was beautiful. The bridge didn’t bother me, it was fun! The others were a little bothered by it, but I’m far more bothered by standing near the edge of a cliff, which could fail at any time, or where a misstep will send you over, than this bridge. It was great. Highly recommend it.

We went back into Bushmills to go to the distillery since we hadn’t been able to go to Jameson in Dublin, and J was mad about it. We had perfect timing for the tour which takes you through the whole process from soaking the grains to distilling and bottling. The end of the tour gets you a small tasting, and then a free serving of whatever you like (except the 21 year old whiskey, which was 10#). You could also do just a whiskey tasting of 3 , or a fancier expert tasting which took 45 minutes or something (which J wanted to do, and the rest of us vetoed because we had a 5+ hour drive ahead of us, so he was mad, again). They did taste the 21 year old though, and though I don’t like whiskey I can say it was better than the younger ones.

Leaving there, the plan was to get to one of the passage tombs on the western side of the island, that is less touristy and is not part of any official park or whatever. We started our route there, but as it got later and later, and then when Jess realized it required a 20 minute hike to get there, we decided to skip it. I was driving at this point!! It really wasn’t that difficult to adjust, though I had to look both ways many more times since I was always unsure which way the traffic was coming from first, just to be safe. Anyway…J was highly annoyed and mad about everything at this point. He had been pretty miserable, claiming we didn’t do anything he wanted to do. And he’s not wrong, but the fact of the matter was he planned NONE of the trip. For months ahead of time we asked him to find things he wanted to do, and he didn’t. So we didn’t make special time to make sure he got to go to Jameson, and we didn’t spend every night getting drunk in a pub, and he was pissed about it. He was tired of being in the car with crazy driving Pat (amen) and we had a few more hours to get to Galway. So he sorta freaked out. It was upsetting, but we got to Galway and checked into our AirBnb. Our host was ridiculous! She was waiting for us with bottled water and cake, hugged everyone, super super friendly. We immediately headed out for dinner to the Latin Quarter on Quay street, which was very close by. Everyone was pretty tense and uncomfortable but we ended up at an Italian restaurant, which was nice, and J mellowed out. Afterwards everyone went back to the house, and I went with J to the Kings Head pub, since I knew how mad he was about everything, and I had told him over and over that Galway was where he was going to want to be, for pubs and traditional music etc. There was a band playing in back, and it was crowded in the room, but we found a place at the bar. It devolved into an upsetting discussion about how miserable he was, and blahblahblah. It sucks because this is the exact kind of vacation I want. Seeing as much as I can in a little amount of time, moving from place to place. And he hated it, he hated moving every day, hated all the driving (which I tried to break up so he wouldn’t be in the car so much, which is part of the reason why we ended up moving every day, to avoid 5 hour drives every time we moved). He wants to spend every night in a pub, sleep in, relax. I want to see the world. And this is why he should let me go places without him.

Day 6: Our host made us breakfast! It was not something I realized was going to be included with our stay, but it was really nice. (Crepes!) I had booked us a 5 mile hike from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher with a local farmer who was well reviewed. Given the tense state of affairs, the fact we’d have to leave very early to get there in time, and the soreness of my legs, I suggested we cancel it. We could still go, but on our own time line. It was decided the best thing would be for J to stay in Galway and not go to Cliffs with us. More driving, more miserable, and it was the right play. The drive was almost 2 hours, narrow roads, hair pin turns, etc. It was rainy when we got there, and yeah, he’d have hated it. He got to stay in town, sit in pubs all day, and he ended up meeting this older Irish lady named Fiona and he had a great time. Good. Vacation redeemed. Back to the Cliffs. Along the way we passed Dunguaire Castle, and since we didn’t have a schedule we decided to stop and check it out. It was surrounded by bogs, very pretty. It wasn’t anything giant, but it was nice. Back on the road, over the Burren – weird bare mountains that look like spirals from space. When we got to the Cliffs it was raining..not pouring, but a whole lot of mist and fog, so our view was interesting, and then got worse, but the rain moved out and the view got clear again. Again, gorgeous. We mainly stayed on the trail around the visitor center, which is not all that far. The hike would have been interesting, but given the weather, I’m glad we canceled. We were having a good time until….well…basically Pat got into a fight with a group of trashy Americans. As in, a literal fists throwing fight. It was stupid and nuts, and Jess was rightfully super upset about it, so that led to a quick exit and a downer on the experience. I drove home, and we stopped at a jam shop and a sweater shop, got some jam and sweaters lol. By the time we got back to Galway, it was dinner time, so we found J at the pub he’d been at with Fiona and grabbed some really good Chinese take away. Hung out there for a while, Gail and I went wandering, and eventually we went to another pub for beer and music. J stayed out later, the rest of us went home for the night. J had a good time, and was happy finally.

Day 7: Our last real day in the country, we wanted to explore Galway, since we hadn’t yet, before heading to the Shannon area for our last night. Our host made us breakfast again (fruit and scones), and we headed out to check out the Latin Quarter in the day light, see the Spanish Arch, and check out the shops. J’s new friend Fiona had invited us to her house on our way to Shannon, so after lunch we took her up on that. She made us scones too haha. Made our way to Bunratty Manor, which was down the street from Bunratty Castle. The castle offered a midieval dinner, but we didn’t know about it until we got to the hotel, and it was sold out. Boo. It would have been a neat thing to do. We walked down to the castle anyway, and though we couldn’t go in, we walked around the park, and grabbed dinner at a pub across the street. Early night in, since we weren’t really near anything else, and we had to leave for the airport in the morning.

Flew home the next day, exhausted, but happy. Even if J hated it, I had a great time, I loved everything we got to see, and I would definitely go back.

Random observations as I remember things:

  • Everything in Belfast was closed Sunday morning until after masses were finished. Aside from the few restaurants offering brunch, other restaurants and shops, all closed.
  • The Irish are really the most friendly people of all the countries I’ve traveled to.
  • I guess I cut the entire line waiting to get into the Trinity Library and Book of Kells. There was a security guard at the door to the gift shop/ticket counter/entrance, and a line of people going away from him. Well, I just walked past him and into the shop. He didn’t stop me, didn’t inquire where I was going, he just looked at me and I walked in. I had intended to just ask a question about the ticket, there were a few people inside in line, so I just got in line behind them, and when I got to the counter and asked my question, I just bought the tickets and went in. I didn’t realize that the library and the book were the same thing, and that the line outside was for the whole thing. I had only read about the book having long lines, and I didn’t care about the book, so I didn’t realize the line was for both. But I don’t feel bad, because the line outside was not long, and it was not going to take a long time for them to go in. Also, Pat had walked into the gift shop and up a set of stairs, which turns out go into the library, all without paying or being stopped. So if you feel like cheating the system, you don’t need to wait in line AND you don’t need to pay. Just go in the gift shop and up the stairs.
  • We all got sick with colds by the end of the trip. Boo.

Washington DC 2016

It was time for my randomly booked vacation week, and while I waited and waited for the DC Bloody Mary Fest to announce a date, so I could change my week and try to go at that time, they take forever and I finally gave up and just booked a trip to visit Cassie during my already booked week. So I went Thursday night til Monday night, and it wouldn’t be one of my vacations unless it threatened rain the entire time and was cool and gloomy. It ended up only in the 50s most of the time, but I didn’t get really rained on until leaving for the airport to go home. And really, 50s is ok, it’s not hot and unpleasant, and not freezing.

Arrived Thursday late afternoon and basically just hung out, with the intent to go to bed fairly early so we could get up early to make the trek down to the Williamsburg area. The main reason to go down there was to try to visit the field of President heads that was featured in Smithsonian Magazine a few months ago. From our recon, it looked like it wouldn’t be too hard to just drive by the farmhouse and keep going, because it looked like a normal road. When we got there we found it was a private road, which we went down anyway, but there was a ton of construction going on on the property, and no way to drive past the house toward the heads. Lots of people were around and looking at us as we turned around, so sadly, no President head photos. Since we were down that way, and we didn’t have an interest in spending $50 to visit Colonial Williamsburg reenactment site, we passed that and went to the real historical site of the Jamestowne colony. When you approach the area of the colony, you come to this fancy building, and for $17 you get to go through the site and see reenacters and exhibits, and learn about the colony….we bought tickets, but then looking through the map brochure, I noticed that this wasn’t really where we wanted to be. We had planned to visit the actual site, where they’re still doing archaeological digs, and was part of the National Park system. So we asked the ticket lady and she said no, that wasn’t where we were, we had to keep driving past that area, and gave us a refund. We almost got fooled into another “silly” reenactment area!! (Ok it’s probably nice, it’s part of the Virginia Museum system or whatever, but it’s not the National Park). Cheaters. Stealing the park’s tourists. We got where we wanted to be, and spent a few hours walking around the original colony site and seeing some of the current digs still being worked on. It was neat. Grabbed some food, got a speeding ticket 🙁 and headed back to Reston for the night.

Saturday was still gloomy, but had a better forecast (no rain) than Sunday so our goal was the National Arboretum in DC. Grabbed some brunch (even if I didn’t attend a bloody mary fest, I made my own, with 4 different places), and on the way to brunch passed Arlington Cemetery, and decided to detour and go visit since I hadn’t been there before. It was really nice, and we had perfect timing to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Spent a few hours walking around there, and decided to go to the Arboretum anyway, though it was late. I was hungry by then, and another potential bloody mary stop I had mapped out was on the way so we stopped at Union Market to grab one. Union Market is a really cool place full of all kinds of different little lunch counters set up. Very hipster lol. All the food offerings looked really good, if I lived there I’d definitely frequent it. It’s sorta what the new Expo Market in Buffalo is aspiring to be, but 4 times as big. My bloody mary from Buffalo and Bergen came with a bagel sandwich with lox, cream cheese, onion and capers. Dear lord it was ridiculous, and it was a good lunch. Eventually made it to the Arboretum with an hour to go, and checked out just a little bit of it. It would be a cool place to visit again, lots of trails to investigate. Saturday night we went to see Cassie’s friend play jazz at a cajun place in Manassas.

Sunday was supposed to storm so we chose that day to go to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum in VA so I could see the space shuttle Discovery. Gah. I’d been to the DC Air and Space a few times, and I’m really not an airplane person, but space craft is a different story. It is so amazing, and I wasn’t sure I’d not cry (I wanted to, but I managed to keep it in). All the other air craft at the museum is nice too, some really cool looking planes, the Concorde, plus the ridiculously awesome SR-71 Blackbird spy plane (the other centerpiece of the museum after the shuttle). But the shuttle!!! They did a super nice job with the hangar they built for it, and your initial impression of it when you walk in, it’s awesome. That’s the only word for it, used the appropriate way. Full of awe. I get amazed sometimes about what humans have accomplished, this was one of those times. They have a whole host of other space craft, like the various Mercury capsules (they had John Glenn’s Friendship 7 in the restoration hangar, which was awesome), and an area of hanging satellites which were super cool. Just so much awesome. Highly recommended. (That night, we looked up where the other shuttles ended up and Atlantis is at Kennedy Space Center, in an equally awesome display, so now I have to go there, and one ended up in LA and their eventual permanent display is going to have it displayed vertically with the rocket boosters, which will also be amazing). I managed to only spend $50 at the gift shop, and $12 of that was to become a member of the Smithsonian (suggestive selling at work). I got a mug in the shape of the bottom of a rocket, a neat 3-d metal puzzle/model of the shuttle, a shuttle pen (not an astronaut pen, those are $30) and a memo holder that looks like Sputnik!!! So cool, so nerdy.

Monday Cassie had to work and I had the whole day to be a tourist before my flight home, so she dropped me off at the subway and I went downtown. My plan was the National Zoo, and then I figured I’d stop by the monuments for a bit because I hadn’t gone to them since the 8th grade class field trip in 1994. Then there was a fog advisory, and I thought, holy crap that’s probably awesome looking so I flipped my plan and went to the monuments first (the fog had lifted mostly by the time I got there but there was still a bit hiding the top of Washington, so it was neat). I started with the Einstein statue on the way to Lincoln, where I spent 5 minutes watching a bird fight. It was so weird. Einstein is a little pudgy and cute. Onto Lincoln and the reflecting pool. I thought about renting a bike share, because I knew it was going to be a bit of a hike to get from Lincoln to Jefferson, but I didn’t know what I’d do with it while I went into the monuments, since I had no lock so I just walked. FDR was one of my goals because I’d never been to that monument, and along the way was the Korean War monument (new since my last visit 22 years ago lol) and MLK monument (new in the last few years). The Korea monument was really very nice, no one was at MLK because it’s sorta in between the reflecting pool area, and the tidal basin, and if you’re walking the signage isn’t fantastic to get to the tidal basin. I had to back track a bit to find where I needed to go to get to MLK and FDR. Lots of people at FDR because there were buses. FDR, my fav president! He had a nice memorial with lots of waterfalls, lots of great quotes, and everything had braille which I thought was neat. One area of these bronze columns and bronze panels could have used some interpretation, I really couldn’t figure out what it was representing, and I tried to listen into one of the field trips but couldn’t quite hear. Since I had already made it that far, I continued walking to the Jefferson Memorial, which we had only driven by on the bus in 8th grade. He has a nice fairly simple memorial, with a nice view across the tidal pool. I was ready to move on to the zoo, so I googled the closest metro stop, and walking there took me past Washington (which I also haven’t really been to, but am not really interested in). So I saw them all except Vietnam, which I’ve been to twice, and there was no need to visit again (I have no family attachment, and you only really need to look up Thomas Fox, the guy who’s name my childhood street was named after, once.)

The National Zoo was fairly nice, though not my favourite zoo ever. They have giant pandas, including a baby, which is the main draw to the zoo at the moment. It is an Olmsted designed park/zoo (it seems like they all are!), and I actually hated the layout. It wasn’t really a loop, so I ended up missing things, having to back track to areas 3 or 4 times, and when I decided I was done and it was time to leave (skipping Amazonia because I wasn’t backtracking AGAIN), I had to walk through the entire zoo again to get out and get back to the metro, which was a mile away. The sun finally came out while at the zoo and it got pretty hot, and I got sunburned of course. The pandas were nice to see, tho I’d seen some, and a baby, in San Diego with the Foos. Buffalo Zoo has a nicer bird house, with a ton of birds, where DC’s had a parrot a duck and 2 peacocks….I thought I was missing something. They had 2 sand cats, which were super cute (they look like house cats, but live in the desert), and 2 adorable baby fennec foxes. They had a bunch of big cats, lions, tigers, cheetah. A whole group of elephants. It was nice, just not mind blowing. The Phoenix zoo’s monkey enclosure where they run around you was one of the best zoo things I’ve been in, nothing like that here.

So I headed back to the subway, and to Reston and Cassie picked me up at the station. Grabbed dinner, and relaxed before my flight. Enter giant thunderstorms and torrential rain. My flight was delayed, but then not delayed. Of course, the exact time we had to leave for the airport was the worst of the rain, and I had to run to the car through rivers of water running down the sidewalks, and step into a pond in the parking lot to get in the car, where the water was over my shoes and my sneakers filled with enough water that I had to pour it out. So my flight home I had soaking wet freezing feet, but at least it wasn’t cancelled like my normal luck flying. Then I get home to find my furnace has broken and it was 58 in my house, so I couldn’t even get warm lol. Life.

Had a great time, saw so much stuff. I bought a jawbone fitness tracker a few months ago, and this was my first vacation with it, and I had been wondering how much walking you/I do on vacation. In my normal life, though I walk a lot at work, I rarely get over the 10,000 step goal unless I’ve jogged 2 miles and/or went shopping somewhere. The Arlington day measured almost 12,000 steps, 5 miles, but Monday…dear god I got almost 28,000 steps, which was 12 miles LOL. My feet were hurting so bad at the end when I had to walk all the way back through the zoo, and I was so hot, but no blisters, so that’s good. I’d not have made it if there were blisters. The other 2 days hovered around 6-7k, which seems kinda low. I chalk it up to the tracker not being good at measuring “slow walking”, which there was a lot of at the museum. Suuuuper sore now though, I think I’ll be just fine sitting on the couch all day waiting for the furnace guy.


  • DC is a good place to take a family because all of the Smithsonian related museums are free. So if you’ve got a couple and a bunch of kids, you aren’t spending $100s to get entry into each museum. I guess parking is expensive ($15 flat at Udvar, hourly at Arlington, $25 or something at the zoo), but if you stay in the right place, a lot is walkable.
  • I know that we were probably equally obnoxious to other visitors when we went in 8th grade, but we didn’t all have our heads in our phones, taking tons of selfies with selfie sticks, etc. I do remember a teacher scolding me and a friend for imitating a statue of a nurse holding a body (WWII female/nurse memorial or something), and I didn’t understand it as disrespectful at the time, but it was, and these kids were the same…taking photos behind the men standing in a bread line at the FDR memorial…but here, their teachers were taking the photos, not scolding them.
  • I had to pee at the Lincoln Memorial, and the bathrooms are ground level to the left if you’re looking at the front. I mention this because there is also a small museum on that side, with photos of the construction, different events and protests there, and it was really cool and probably not many people know it’s there. THEN you can take an elevator back up into the memorial instead of going back out and taking the stairs again (because I wasn’t done shooting it).


And now a political aside. All these Presidential monuments feature quotes from each one, profound, inspiring statements from speeches and writings. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you are on, these quotes and these accomplishments are inspiring. Then you think about what this election has become, and the things that get said, and wonder….in 2050, or 2100, what is President Trump’s memorial going to look like? (Who am I kidding, President Trump will start building his own monument as soon as he takes the oath.) Something gold and phallic I’m sure (yes I know all obelisks are phallic, but it will be the greatest, the most phallic obelisk). Epic quotes like, “I have the best words” and “bleeding out of wherever”…”I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”…”The beauty of me is that I’m very rich”…”My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”

What have we become?

Arizona October 2015

J and I headed west to Arizona for vacation in Phoenix and Tucson. The main reason was the Arizona Taco Fest in Scottsdale, which I was supposed to go to a few years ago with LeighAnne but we had to cancel. We were also going to go to Tucson for the Titan Missile Silo tour, so we added that onto this trip too.

We headed out on Wednesday, flying to Phoenix and then driving to Tucson for 2 nights. We stopped at Wild Horse Pass casino for dinner at their Asian place, and got to our rental around 7:30. Settled in and then walked over to the 4th street area which had restaurants/bars and shops etc. We went to a brewery that had a 12 beer flight! Holy moly lol. The beer was ok, it had a weird mouth feel to it. Stopped into a bar that was having Geeks Who Drink trivia, helped out some strangers on a few questions before moving on to a “goth” place, Surly Wench (I think) and Che’s Lounge, who advertised a bloody mary on their sign, so I had to try it (not bad!).

Thursday was our free day in Tucson so we drove out to Biosphere2. I thought it would be pretty neat to see, and a place not many other people I know will ever go to. I honestly don’t know much about it, I just remember it being in the news ages ago. It was cool, J thought it was creepy. It is being used now by University of Arizona for climate experiments, no more locking humans in for years haha. We finished there and still had time and daylight, so we drove to the Desert Museum. We only had an hour to spend there before they closed, so we didn’t get to take full advantage of everything there was to see but that was ok. The museum is all outdoors in the desert, and has animal exhibits and info on the plants and environment. It was really really nice, good views of the area, etc. Drove back into Tucson stopping at a roadside pull off to take some photos during sunset, got dinner at the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country, and hit a few bars again before bed.

Friday was the Titan Missile Museum tour. We elected for the 4 hour “Top to Bottom” tour, which took you to all 8 levels of the silo, control room, living quarters, etc. There were 5 of us on the tour with 2 retired Air Force tour guides. I have been trying not to use the words “amazing” or “awesome” in daily life so much anymore, unless something is truly amazing and awesome, because they are so over used, but the missile silo tour was amazing and awesome. The tour was really fantastic, the guides were really knowledgeable and the tour was super thorough, explaining every piece of machinery used to operate the missile and silo, what it was like to work there, how things were created etc. It was great. You get to “launch the missile” and everything! haha. The missile that is in the silo isn’t the original, which was dismantled and removed, but a training missile that everyone learned on years ago. So of course, there is no warhead, and no danger. There were no engines at the bottom anymore either. The thing is massive and it’s amazing to think of what the military accomplished with 1960s technology. It’s really hard to believe at times. Now I feel like with all the technology we have the system would be so over complicated and fraught with problems, where the old tech that was a lot of manual or mechanical parts would be replaced with computer systems that’d have issues. It was super cool, so glad we paid the money for the longer tour. Highly recommend it.

Pictures from Tucson

After the tour we drove back to Phoenix for the rest of the trip. We were going to stop at this ostrich farm where you could feed them, and that had something called a “goat penthouse” !!! as recommended by Rebecca who I met on a NIN tour, but it had started to storm pretty badly. Because every vacation we take, it rains. There was a ton of dust being blown around, plus rain and lightning, so we had to pass. We also had to pass on the domes of Casa Grande, these weird abandoned dome structures Rebecca also mentioned. We got to our place in Scottsdale, but it was still storming, so we couldn’t really walk anywhere. Turned out to be ok, because we weren’t quite within walking distance of what I’d call “downtown” Old Town Scottsdale. We tried some beer at another brewery before dinner and walking around Old Town a bit.

Saturday we got up early again to take the behind the scenes tour of Taliesin West – Frank Lloyd Wright’s western “camp” complex and school. J had been there before, but he still enjoyed it. It was another several hour tour that got to see more of the complex than the other regular tours. The complex is pretty incredible and very beautiful. It’s the first FLW building I’ve toured, even though we have Darwin Martin House right here in Buffalo. Even though his intent was the “compress and release” feeling of being closed in before walking into a big space, it feels a bit too claustrophobic to me. It was a great tour, and they even give you some snacks and beverages while one of FLW’s original Taliesin students talked to the group.

The weather was pretty nice in the morning, but once we left and headed to brunch it got crap and poured and poured. Cuz as I said, vacation = rain. After brunch we went out to another Rebecca recommended sites, Goldfield mining town. It’s not a true abandoned mining town, though it really was a mine, but it was all rebuilt and is a tourist trappy little place. General stores, a brothel, a saloon, a train…that kind of stuff. We did go on the little mine tour, which was meh, and the mystery house that is always fun even if you know the story isn’t real. It’s so disorienting! Rebecca told us to go because the saloon’s porch has a great view of the Superstition mountains, so we stopped there for a bit and had some drinks, took some photos as the sun set and watched another storm roll into the desert.

After Goldfield we went back to Phoenix to The Duce, this crazy bar that had a boxing ring, and corn hole, and shuffle board, and a soda counter, and trailer serving food, and insanely overpriced clothing, and ping pong, and…yeah. Tons of stuff. It was on a list of things to do in Phoenix I found, but turns out it was also on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. It was neat and fun, kicked J’s ass at corn hole, but it was so expensive. Around the corner was Alice Cooperstown so we stopped in there to check it out before heading back to Scottsdale.

Sunday was Taco Fest!! We did VIP which got us 10 tacos and 5 drinks in the VIP tent, private bathrooms, etc. It was a pretty big festival, lots of restaurants participating in a big area, so it didn’t feel super cramped like Soup Fest in the convention center here. We picked Sunday because there was a chihuahua beauty contest LOL. It was cute, 18 dogs dressed up in costumes. The 3 legged dog won, even though the one dressed like a pinata was cuter. We sat in on a tequila seminar, and a bartender flare contest, which was good because it started to rain…of course. After that, a lot of places were closing up, and a bad storm was coming in so we stuffed ourselves with our last few tacos before heading back to our place. The tacos were all pretty good, a few better than the rest. In general all the mexican food we had was fairly mild. The only hot stuff was the salsas on offer, J trying a habenero one that was ridiculous. It was a good delicious time!

Monday was another free day, so we ended up going to Papago Park to climb the Hole in the Rock outcropping and to visit the zoo. The zoo was way bigger than Buffalo, we seriously walked so much. Lots of different animals to see, and I even got to see lizards in the wild haha. It was one of my goals of the trip. Pretty nice zoo I’d say. Good times.

Headed home Tuesday. It was raining. haha. Lots of fun, saw lots of stuff, ate lots of tacos.

Pictures from Phoenix

Vegas Jan 16-21

Wedding time!!

Jason and I headed out to Vegas a few days early to have some fun and go to Adrienne’s wedding. We got in very early on Wednesday, did a few errands, before hitting up Gold and Silver Pawn, the pawn shop from the History Channel show Pawn Stars. I’ve seen the show, but I don’t regularly watch it, so I was surprised at how small the store was. It was very busy, but Phil wanted me to get him a silver coin with the Old Man on it, so I picked one up. The guy said the Old Man was there and could sign it, so we went to cash out, but ended up missing the Old Man so no autograph. They made an announcement that the store had to be cleared out because they were about to film a new scene for Pawn Stars, and since we didn’t have anything to look at anyway, we headed out. I guess you can’t be there during filming, and the guys on the show are only there when it’s a filming day…so we checked into the El Cortez Cabana Suites earlier than I thought we’d be able to, and took a nap. Everyone familiar with Vegas was like why would you stay there? Cuz it’s fun, retro, downtown, and cheap. I know the casino is a small old local joint, but it was more than adequate for playing, and the room was really nice. Not sure what the normal hotel rooms are like, but the Cabana Suites were great. Headed out after the nap for dinner at a Mexican place Jason always would drive by on Main, which was tasty, and started the “skuffle” with all the various match play and free slot play coupons Jason had gotten from the Las Vegas Advisor and American Casino guide. It didn’t go too well for me, and I didn’t end up with any free money from the coupons, but he did ok. Headed to the strip to Bill’s for kareoke for a few hours before heading to Ellis island to eat, then back downtown.

Thursday I had gotten us tickets to the Neon Boneyard. It was a place I had wanted to go on all my previous trips but never got to. They’ve got a new building and set up, and offer hour tours of the various old signs that have been donated to them, but not yet restored. It was really cool, but I like that kind of thing. From there we headed out to see Adrienne and Tom’s new house, caught dinner with them, before going for some more “skuffling” at various off strip casinos. It went much better this time. I won about $80, ended up back at Ellis Island with the coupons, so we ate there again, $7.99 steak dinner! Then we played mechanical slot machine horse racing for 2 hours lol.

Eric arrived Friday, so we after we got up we met up with him to do our last “skuffling” in some shady North Vegas casinos. Some of the coupons Jason couldn’t use, as he was not new members at these places, so Eric got to use them and make a few bucks. Friday night was a little bachelorette evening for Adrienne, starting with dinner at 4 Queens, and a few drinks at Don’t Tell Mama piano bar downtown. The boys were on their own for a few hours but I think they had good fun. When Adrienne and her “normal hours” teacher friends left for the night, I walked around a bit with her to-be in-laws but it seemed like they were going to go to a club, so I said my goodbyes and went to find Jason and Eric, who were playing coin op horses again haha. As it turns out, explorer friend Chris was in town with the Air Force, so he met us there for a bit. We ended up back at El Cortez, played some pai gow for a bit before calling it a night.

Saturday was the wedding rehearsal and luncheon at Sunset Station, at noon, then I had to take the rental car back to the airport. Thankfully Eric picked me up there, we went back to El Cortez to get Jason out of bed, then down to the strip for the night. Caught some dinner at the PBR Rock Bar before heading to the Orleans for the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey game. Had to prepare for the NHL season somehow! And it was something Jason has always wanted to do while in Vegas. They lost the game, but it was fun. After that, back to Ellis Island for the 3rd night for some kareoke. Chris met us out again, we hung out there for the rest of the night. Eric got to sing, it took forever though because it was so busy. Chris had talked me into doing Salt n Pepa’s “Shoop”, but (thankfully) we never got called before we turned in for the night. That didn’t stop us from singing in the car on the way back downtown though 🙂

Sunday was wedding day. Adrienne picked me up early in the morning to go to her hotel, got to watch some of the Sabres game before catching lunch, and the hair and make up people arriving. I didn’t end up getting my hair done, since I don’t have much and Adrienne liked it the way I do it anyway. Off to the banquet hall to change, get pics done, and wait for the ceremony. Adrienne looked super pretty, her dress was so nice, and she was super happy! It was nice and short, given that it was a bit chilly outside, but it was perfect for them. It was a great night. After the reception, Jason, Eric and I headed to the Goretorium, a horror movie haunted house and bar on the strip, another place I wanted to go. We had a drink there before going back to….Ellis Island. The intent was more kareoke but I was hungry so we ate first, and by the end, we were all kinda done so we just headed back to the El Cortez. Jason went out to play a bit more, but Eric and I were done for.

Check out was monday at noon, which was a tad too early, but what are you going to do. Jason and I dragged around downtown that afternoon, getting lunch at the Mob Bar, wandering around, betting on the Sabres, playing a bit of Let it Ride (no idea how he talked me into that one, but i ended up hitting a full house, though I didn’t play the 3 card bonus), and finding the Sabres game on tv at the Golden Nugget. We caught dinner at a pub on Freemont, played a bit more at El Cortez before heading to the airport. A mighty long journey home, since we had a 4 hour layover in Newark, but we made it. Exhausted, but in one piece.

It was a great trip. Had a lot of fun, the wedding was great, it was awesome to get to hang out with Eric again for more than a few hours at a show. Now I have no vacation time scheduled until September, which was kind of a bad move on my part I just realized haha. I should have taken Memorial Day like I usually do, but I saved my 4th week for whatever comes up. Not that I have any money for another trip but still…Sept seems so far away!

Vegas Photos

New Orleans Psychic

oh yeah. there were free psychic’s at the witches ball, so i had my cards read. she said that when good things happen to me i feel like i don’t deserve it, and that i should know that i do deserve good things. then she said 4 months from now i’m going to have a de ja vu moment, where something is going to happen that has happened to me before, and i need to be aware of it, and do the opposite of what i did in the past. also someone from a past life is going to turn up and change my life around, in a good way. they are going to be inspiring of creativity, and be my new best friend (to which jason said, he was going to be jealous of my new best friend, and they lady said no he wouldn’t be, because it would be someone he connects with from a past life as well), and it was a non sexual connection. it will be a girl who is younger than me. and she said i need water around me, i need to drink more water, and if i’m feeling down, i can turn on animal planet and watch the whales or whatever haha.

new orleans!

i originally had vacation time scheduled in August, but with nothing to do and no one to go with, I rescheduled to the week before Halloween so I could go somewhere with Jason and Susan, and that place turned out to be New Orleans. Having been there 10 years ago, and not really having much desire to ever go back, I was sorta meh when we decided to go there. But I thought, maybe now, knowing more of the things I like to do, and not being a poor recently graduated from college girl, maybe it would be a better time. And that’s how it turned out.

We flew in fairly early on Wednesday, and our apartment that we rented was not quite clean and ready for us, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out for lunch at a nearby tapas place called Baru. I had found it on a quick google search a few days before departure, and the apartment owner also recommended it, so we figured it was a good bet. It was quite good, Susan and I had something called arepas, which were stuffed cornbread sandwiches sorta, and Jason had a jerk chicken burrito. After lunch we took a walk down Magazine St, sorta looking for a grocery store, but also just killing time. Not realizing at the time, even though I had it mapped, we walked by Trent’s former studio, Nothing Records, twice, and stopped at a bar called The Brothers Three, which was practically next door haha. Back to the apartment so Jason and I could take a nap, since we worked and didn’t sleep the night before, then their friend Justin came over so we could go out to dinner. We ended up walking the other way down Magazine St to a place I had mapped, and which had been on Diners Dive and Drive Ins (is that what the show is called?), called Joey-Ks. Tried some gumbo, and red beans and rice which they are famous for. Pretty good even though the gumbo had shrimp in it. From there we headed down to the French Quarter, first to a bar called the Burgundy Bar which Jason had wanted to go to, but appeared to be having a private party, so we wandered til we got to the Old Absinthe Bar for an absinthe frappe. Absinthe is just as wretched as I remember. Walked around Bourbon St more, to a place called Sing Sing’s that had a band getting ready to play, and hung out there for a while. Susan, being someone who sleeps normally unlike Jason and I, was exhausted, so Justin took her back to the condo and came back to the bar with us for the rest of the night. Justin and I did almost lose Jason when he left the bar to buy cigars. Since there are no open container laws in NOLA, we followed after him but he had gone the wrong way, so we waited at the cigar store til he found it haha.

Thursday we got a late breakfast at a near by diner called Slim Goodies, and then some yummy gelato at Sucre. We walked around the garden district, to see Trent’s old house, and attempted to go to Lafayette Cemetery No 1, but it closed at 2:30. Justin met us out again and took us to City Park, where we went to the NOLA Museum of Art. It was a nice collection, but we didn’t have time to go to the sculpture park outside. We walked back to Justin’s and went out to dinner at a bbq place called Squeal. It happened to be down the street from a bar I had mapped out as a local music venue called the Maple Leaf Bar. However being that it was only after dinner time, the band wasn’t going on until 10, we had a lot of time to kill and got tired of waiting, so we ended up going back to Magazine St to Le Bon Temps Roule, who also was having a brass band called Soul Rebels. Susan couldn’t make it that late again, so she went back to the apartment, Jason and I stopped in the Brothers Three bar again (which we dubbed grandma or grandpa’s basement, because that’s totally what it felt like), before heading back to see the band. We watched one set before heading out, there is only so much trumpet I can handle at one time LOL. They were really good though and the place was packed with people.

Friday we had booked a tour of the St Louis Cemetery No 1, so Justin picked us up and we headed out. This cemetery is one of the ones that had been in the DANGER area of the 2002 danger map (which I forgot to bring!!), and thus was someplace I hadn’t been 10 years ago. The tour guide was pretty good, lots of personal stories put in, and it was a pretty nice tour. It was super hot though, high 80s, lots of sun. The tour began and ended in the French Quarter, so for lunch we went to Stanley’s in Jackson Square, as recommended by our friend Jenn. After we walked around Jackson Square, grabbed a quick beer at Jax Brewery (which isn’t actually a brewery anymore, just a bar restaurant, which was kinda a bummer), and looked at the river, which I hadn’t actually seen last time I was there. Checked out a few voodoo shops before heading back to the apartment to rest. Susan was having leg issues and needed to ice them a bit, and Jason wanted to get a fleur de lis tattoo, so I went with him to a shop we had found down the street. He kept trying to get me to get a matching one, but I just couldn’t commit haha. For dinner we went down to Frenchman St, which was recommended to us as where locals go hang out, instead of Bourbon St. We ate at Three Muses, another tapas place that has bands every night, though this night was not local music, but a group from Brazil playing Brazilian music. Not quite what we were looking for, but the food was really good. We left there and went to the Spotted Cat Music Club to listen to the band there…it might have been a brass band, I can’t remember. From there, down the street to the Apple Barrel Bar, which had a blues rock band playing who I thought were pretty good. Oh somewhere on the street was the Frenchman Art Market, so we looked at what the artists and vendors had to offer, and I bought a paper machier skull, and a necklace for Jenn for Christmas. Meanwhile the temperature had dropped from 80 whatever during the day to 50 something, and super windy. I wasn’t quite prepared for that and was freezing haha. So next was Melange speakeasy (thank god for facebook check-ins, cuz I don’t even remember this place), then VASO New Orleans Ultra Bar, which is I think where Susan left us, and the bar tender ended up throwing out my bag of stuff from the art market. We left, I realized I didn’t have my bag, and went back to get it and it was already gone. It wasn’t a long time we had been gone, but they claimed they thought it was trash and threw it out. We asked them to get it, and they said the garbage had just been taken out. We offered to look for it ourselves and they said no, so I think they just stole it. Cuz even though the skull was wrapped in newspaper, the free print the same artist had given me was not, and the necklace was in a blue mesh bag, clearly not trash. Ugh. So anyway, Susan had gone back to the apartment for the night, and Jason and I wandered around, ending back at Bourbon St, for a very late night. I don’t think we got home til 6am, oops.

Saturday Jason slept all day, so Susan and I left him at the apartment and went out to the French Quarter to go to the Pharmacy Museum (which unfortunately was closed for a wedding), and the French Market for a bit of shopping and food. Saturday night was the Witches Ball. Jason had found out about it about a week before we left, and it was quite expensive, but I figured you don’t go to New Orleans at Halloween and not go to a fancy costume ball. And it’s really organized by witches. It was at a fancy mansion on St Charles, and it was unfortunate that it was so cold out, because their performances and ritual were held outside, and it was just far too cold for Susan and I to be out there in our little corsets and skirts. The party was not really what I expected, it was pretty serious and calm, but I figure the high price doesn’t lend itself to a bunch of young people just there to get trashed, which is probably a good thing. There were so many amazing costumes and dresses. The open bar was top shelf liquor, but even after all my drinks, I wasn’t buzzed or anything. Can’t say the same for Susan who was feeling pretty good, and had to go back to the apartment. Jason and I went down to Bourbon St to the after party at some Tropical theme bar, which was just kinda eh, but we talked to some other people from the Ball, and sat on the balcony and people watched all the costumed folk on Bourbon. It was a bitch to get a cab (Susan ended up walking back to the apartment, Jason and I walked forever to get a cab to the Quarter), so we had an earlier night than the one before, only cuz we knew it’d take so damn long to get a ride back to Magazine.

Sunday Jason slept all day again, so Susan and I left him again, and went shopping up and down Magazine Street. There are lots of fancy stores and antique shops, but we didn’t buy much (they were spendy shops). Managed to get Jason out of bed for dinner, which was down Magazine again, at Juan’s Flying Burrito, which was super yummy. That night we cashed in the groupon I had bought to see the Hot 8 Brass Band at a place called the Howling Wolf Den with Justin before having an early night. The intent was to get up early on Monday to check out of the apartment, and head down to the Quarter for the last of acting touristy. Again, it was a bitch to get a cab on Monday, so we ended up walking through the garden district toward St Charles, which allowed us to stop by Lafayette Cemetery after all. Finally found a cab on St Charles and headed to Cafe du Monde for beignets, stopped into St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square (which is nice, but by the standards set by all the other churches I’ve been to on travels, it’s not really fancy or special), visited the Ursuline Convent, and just walked around to more voodoo shops, and to find the absinthe decanter I had seen in a shop window (which we did find, and I did buy, it’s being shipped this week!!). Lunch was at a place called Fiorella’s Cafe which was recommended by a lady in the Voodoo museum (which we didn’t go in). By then it was time to head back to the apartment to get our bags, and wait for our ride to the airport….which never came. I had bought a groupon for roundtrip limo service, which ended up not being a limo, and ended up having a ton of issues with. I called to find out where he was, he was in traffic and didn’t know how long it would take to get us, so we were advised to call a cab. It was a little nerve wracking, there was a lot of traffic, but we made it in time and got to Atlanta. We knew we had a good chance of not getting home because of hurricane Sandy, and indeed our flight from Atl to Buffalo was canceled. We were rebooked on a Tues morning flight, but given the uncertainty of the hurricane, we didn’t know if that would end up getting canceled as well, and we needed to get home. So we asked to get on a flight that night to Detroit, where we rented a car, stayed the night with Uncle Ed and Aunt Laurice, and then we drove home on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we had to go the long way around Lake Erie, since there was no reason for me to have my passport on this trip, and thus we couldn’t go through Canada. We finally got home around 4, a nice 7 hour drive. Thankfully even though we were still driving through the “hurricane”, the wind and rain weren’t all that bad.

Had great fun, ate lots of good food, drank a whole lot, good music and good company. I enjoyed the city much more this time than last time, it didn’t smell as bad, and it wasn’t as hot haha. Though I do wish the temperature hadn’t dropped SO much.

New Orleans Photos

Boston part 2

Jason and I headed back to Boston to stay with his sister because he had gotten tickets to see 2 Amanda Palmer events by donating to her kickstarter album campaign. So we left work super early Tuesday, to try to sleep before catching the red eye, but that didn’t work well so once we got to his sister’s apartment we went back to bed for a few hours. Caught a late lunch at Red Bones because he needed to succeed at eating the jamaican jerk beef sandwich which defeated him back in May hahaha (and he was successful this time!) Made a few stops in some stores, then off to the Middle East for the show.

The first night was a special VIP event for kickstarter supporters who donated at a certain (high) level. It was more of an artsy thing, featuring an art show of work Amanda had commissioned, or called for, for her album. She said usually the art is displayed in the same location as the performance, but at this place the art had to be in a different room of the restaurant upstairs, and the show was in the performance venue downstairs. And the show was not really a traditional rock show, more performance art kind of thing. She introduced a guy from her band, and he played an orchestral piece with some other string players. Then a guy named Walter Sikert played one song, and then Amanda. It was her, and the first guy who played, and another guy from her band, just with a banjo and mandolin or something, and she had a key-tar that she played a few times, and a knife….yeah. So it was just the 3 of them on the floor, no mics, no amps, with people sitting on the floor around them, and other standing behind. If there were 150 people there, that’d be high. It was small and intimate and kinda really great. They played a handful of new songs, a cover of Nirvana’s “Polly”, and probably old stuff…I don’t really know, because I don’t know any of her work other than what was played with Dresden Dolls when they opened for NIN in 2005. But yeah, she is definitely a performer and this small thing was really neat to see. Oh, everyone there got a gift bag with stuff in it, and each one had a different used book picked out by Amanda (or possibly her husband, Neil Gaiman, who I think is the real reason Jason donated to Amanda, cuz he really isn’t a fan of her haha). My bag contained John Irving’s A Widow for One Year…ok! and a folding pocket comb, which I’m pretty sure I also got in a package from Chuck Palahniuk, an adult sized eye mask, and a few stickers. I can’t remember Jason’s book, but he also got a purple crayola marker.

Our 2nd day brought lunch in Harvard area, so we could be near the glasses place Jason ordered new frames at, then we headed to the Institute of Contemporary Art. I had seen an ad in the subway for their current exhibit which looked neat, and I/we hadn’t been there before. It is a small museum, but it was a good interesting collection of modern art that didn’t make me mad, which is hard to do haha. Our next destination was Newbury St so Jason could get some shoes, but we went a round about way that included walking through Boston Common where it was ridiculously hot, then going down the wrong street in the wrong direction, and finally having to break out google maps to figure it out LOL. But we made it, he got shoes, then back to his sister’s to get ready for the 2nd show, and grab dinner with her.

The 2nd show was a regular concert that was open to the public and sold out (venue capacity was like, 567, so still a small show), but it was still part of the kickstarter rewards Jason got. It was ridiculously hot and uncomfortable in there, and Amanda wasn’t going to go on until 10:30, so it was a bit unpleasant, and we were stupid tired from being out in the heat all day. Eventually we moved from the bench we claimed on the side of the room, to stand in the back in front of a large fan, which was much much better. So there were 3 openers, someone maybe called Jaggery, the singer lives with Amanda. When she wasn’t screeching she had a nice voice, but good lord, the screeching was so ear pain-y. Next up was someone else who lives with Amanda, who is a piano composer and played one of his pieces. Then Walter Sickert played a full 30 minutes set, and he has potential. Going to have to look him up. Then it was Amanda, backed by her full band, the Grand Theft Orchestra. They played nearly 2 hours, and included 2 Dresden Dolls songs I recognized from 05. Again, she puts on a great performance, though it was different from the night before, and not being a fan, 2 hours might have been a bit long. But it was enjoyable and I’m super glad Jason took me with him. I don’t think I could ever listen to a full album of Amanda’s work, but she is definitely entertaining.

Bars close at 1 or 2am in Boston, depending on something we don’t know, so we caught a cab from the Middle East, and went to a bar we had passed on the bus that I was like “we must go there!” and happened to be open until 2, called People’s Republik. Communist bars yay! Grabbed a drink there before they closed and we headed back to the apartment for the night. Early wake up this morning, to head to the airport to come home, and my cab fare was $50, only he didn’t take credit cards and I only had $45 cash. oh well LOL. Guess I didn’t have to pay for his tolls, and he didn’t get a tip. So sad. Jason thinks $50 was too high anyway so….I win. Of course, my flight was delayed and I didn’t bother to check before I got the cab, so I had an extra hour to kill at Logan by myself. But it was no big deal (especially considering how long we sat at the airport when we went to Boston in May).

Great trip, albeit short, but it’s always nice to get away for a few days.

london august 19-24

I made the last minute (a week’s advance notice) decision to go to London for my week off of work. I kinda stressed out about it during that week between booking the flight and leaving, but as soon as I got to the airport I felt better (as I expected). I was flying through Detroit, and I had a short connection scheduled, only 55 minutes. So when the plane we were taking to Detroit hadn’t left Detroit until after they were supposed to already have landed in Buffalo I started to get nervous. The gate agent assured us we’d land at 9, with 40 minutes to make the connection. Except that we didn’t leave until 8:30, landing in Detroit at 9:35…my connection was 9:40. I thought for sure I was missing that flight, and even if I ran and made it, certainly my luggage wouldn’t make it. So I ran off the plane, ran to the other terminal, heard the final boarding call, ran to the gate, thought I was going to have a heart attack, but I made it. And landing in London, so did my luggage! Yes.

Upon landing at Heathrow, I had to make an expensive phone call to Verizon to make my phone work, which I’m not too happy about since the day before I had called global customer service twice to make sure the the phone would work, and then it didn’t work. Aggravating. Trained into Paddington, and since Pierre who I was staying with was at work, I decided to go off to the Freud Museum. The museum is in Freud’s house, which he moved to when his family had to escape from the Nazis. He only lived there for a year before he died, but his daughter Anna continued to live there the rest of her life. So the house featured all of the antiquities that Freud collected (which I had no idea he was interested in), his famous couch in his office, and other historical artifacts. It’s preserved just as it was when he lived there, and as Anna lived there. It’s small (it is just a house afterall) but it was very neat to see. Trained back to Paddington to meet Pierre, and off to his flat. Even though I was super tired from jet lag, we went out into the city anyway, walking around forever, got dinner at a pub, and back home for the night.

Saturday, the plan was to train out to spend time with Glen and Anna and the kids in Henley-on-Thames. Glen picked me up in Reading, and we tried to go by these old abbey ruins in town, which was closed (and Glen didn’t know why). So we headed off to Stonehenge, about an hour away. Unfortunately by the time we got there it was pouring, but that’s ok, it’s just rain. It just makes it difficult to manage an umbrella and cameras etc :). What to say about it? Everyone knows what it is, it’s definitely a weird sight to see when you turn on the road and see it on the hill. It’s cool to see it in person. While you can’t walk around the stones anymore, there is a circular walkway all the way around it, and you actually get much closer to it than I thought from other people talking about it. So it was neat. After the first walkaround the rain slowed, so we went around again before heading out for Henley. The rain cleared up into a nice day, so we walked into town from their house, went to a brewery in town which was great, and grabbed dinner at a pub. Yummy chili. I think I was still a bit jet lagged, and even though I was hungry, I just couldn’t eat very much of it. It was great to see the Lamberts again, the town is so cute, I could definitely live there.

Sunday was back into London for the Harry Potter Walking tour. It started in Leicester Square, and headed out to places in London that were either inspirations for things in the book, or actual filming locations. I think we saw the inspiration for Diagon Alley, Leadenhall Market which was the filming location for Diagon Alley, 2 different filming locations for the Leaky Cauldron (in Leadenhall Market for movie 1, a flower shop entrance for movie 3). There was a boat ride on the Thames to Southwark, which was inspiration for Knockturn Alley, and it ended at King’s Cross station (does it need explanation haha). We didn’t see the filming location for Gringotts, because I guess it was not remotely close enough to walk to given the rest of the tour route. It was a good tour, you see a lot of London, but probably would have been more fun if I was not alone. After that I think I headed back to meet Pierre somewhere and we probably got food but I can’t remember now haha. I think that’s the day we walked around the Notting Hill area and Portobello Road.

Monday brought “tourist day”. I had bought the London Pass which garnered you free access or extra stuff at 55 places around London, including most of the major tourist sites. I did the math and it did save me a little bit of money, so after picking that up from the tourism office, my first stop was Westminster Abbey. Being across from Parliament, I did a quick photo thing on the bridge, and headed to the church. Even as a nonbeliever, these massive churches are awe inspiring. Just the work that went into them, it’s ridiculous. No one builds this kind of thing anymore. Very cool. They had a small exhibit of photos from the royal wedding too haha. Close by was my 2nd stop, the Churchill War Rooms. This was the underground complex that was turned into Churchill’s headquarters during WWII, with the cabinet room, living quarters for all the important members, including Churchill and his wife, and other staff. Very interesting to see, and find out what it was like to be there during the war and the Blitz. Definitely recommended. Finishing up there, I headed to the Tower of London. Thankfully it was a nice day, because it’s a lot of outside walking, inside the walls, between the buildings etc. It was nice to see. I initially had no interest in seeing the Crown Jewels, there was a stupid long line outside the building, and there were a few more things to see before they closed so I skipped it. But after seeing the rest, and still having 20 min or so before close, I went anyway. The line was pretty quick moving, so it was ok. The jewels though…they look fake. And I dunno, just…whatever. They’re jewels.

Grabbed some food at a shop outside the tower, and had a little picnic. I thought the Tower Bridge Experience was open until 6, so I ran over there to try to fit that in, but turns out they closed at 5:30. Damnit, if I hadn’t eaten I’d have made it!

Tuesday it was rainy, which made it a good time for “museum day”. Since I missed the Tower Bridge the day before, that was my first stop. You get to go up the one tower, walk across to the other, and then down into the Victorian engine room, which used to run the bridge. They are doing construction on the walkways at the moment, so only one of the two was open but that’s ok. The engine room was super cool, well preserved steam engines, and explanations of how they worked to lift and lower the bridge.

Next was the Victoria and Albert museum. Not originally on my plan of things to visit, both Pierre and Glen and Anna recommended it, so I took their advice. It’s a huge art museum, which I found a bit overwhelming and confusing – there was no easy way to walk through the exhibits and see them all. I don’t think I saw everything in the 2.5 hours I was there, but that’s ok, I still saw a ton. It is very nice, lots of good stuff. From there, was the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. In short, it’s the Mutter Museum of London…lots of stuff in jars. Tons of stuff in jars, and then more stuff in jars. Awesome! Across the park from that was the Sloane museum, also on my list but of course by the time I got there, they were closing in 5 minutes, so I missed it.

The annoying thing about London is everything is closed by 6, so on my list of things to do I didn’t end up at the National Gallery, or Portrait Gallery, didn’t get to the Chislelhurst caves, or the Old Operating Theatre. If things were, at least, open until 8 I think I could have gotten everything in. Oh well.

Wednesday was departure day, and it started off terribly. Pierre had given me the key to his outside door, so I could leave my luggage in the hall and go out before my flight. Except that somehow without leaving the apartment from 9pm previously, the key disappeared. I looked everywhere, was panicing, unpacked all my stuff, checked outside, the key was no where to be found. He said not to worry about it and he’d figure it out, except he posted later on on facebook that he had to pay 115 pounds on a locksmith, so now I feel terrible. Ug. There was nothing I could do, though, so I took my luggage off into the city again and went to the Tate Modern. I had been there last trip in 07 but only for about an hour, so it deserved another visit. Went through the whole museum, except the Miro exhibit (no time, and you had to buy tickets), grabbed some lunch, and headed back out to Heathrow.

The flight to JFK was uneventful, and we were actually an hour early because we got off the ground very quickly in London. That left even more time for me to sit around in JFK waiting for my flight to Buffalo, but what are you gonna do. Messing with my phone, I got a severe storm warning notice for Buffalo for the exact time I’d be flying in, awesome. The flight wasn’t delayed due to the storm, but as we got closer to Buffalo you could see the crazy lightning. The pilot came on to say we were 10 minutes away but we were going to have to circle around a bit wherever we were, and maybe we were going to land in Rochester or Syracuse instead. Great. I guess the storm had moved away enough from the airport, that we would be able to land, but that meant flying through the storm, and wow was that unpleasant. Constant lightning in the clouds, turbulence, but we made it through (obviously), and were able to land. We were delayed on the ground though, as since it was still raining and there was still lightning despite the main storm passing, the ground crew couldn’t be out working to bring us into the gate. It wasn’t too long though, and with all that we were still on time.

The end. ha.

London Photos

ohio road trip

Spent 3 days driving around Ohio and sightseeing, in my strange way, with Alex for my first vacation of the year. Headed out early Monday for the first stop, Youngstown Ohio. Youngstown is your typical dying rust belt city. Sean had given me a heads up on a few potential exploration locations, and the first stop was the most promising of them – Republic Rubber. Wow is this place wide open. A handful of buildings, with not much, if any, machinery left inside, but your usual decay level and some interesting dumped debris (namely, a 1968 newspaper about Robert Kennedy’s assassination). Spent a few hours there, before heading out when Alex spotted someone that looked like a cop. After ducking aside and deciding what to do, we figured we’d risk it. Then I saw the cop car, ducked aside again. Went over a debris pile towards the street and thankfully the fence had fallen down, so we got out no problem. Sean later told us a cop had rolled up on him too and didn’t care they were on property. Oh well, even if we had know about Sean’s experience, I probably would have reacted the same.

The day was very hot, 93, we were mighty unprepared with no water, and we hadn’t eaten before getting to Republic, so after escaping we found a Chick fil A for lunch before checking out a few more bust locations. First was an old highschool that we bailed on because of cars parked around, and an old coal breaker that no longer exists. So it was off to Mansfield. We were already going to get into town much too late to visit the Mansfield Reformatory that day, but the 2 hour traffic jam because of an innocent looking car accident that closed all 3 lanes of the highway didn’t help. We went by the prison anyway, so pretty, then found a hotel and some food for the night.

Tuesday was the prison. They offer self guided tours Mon – Fri, closed Saturday, and 3 different guided tours on Sundays. Their website said no “professional photography” and no tripods were allowed on the self guided tours, but they offered a “photographer tour” for 4 hours for $150…no thanks. Stuck to the self guided tour and suffered through low light photo attempts with no tripod. There was no sign at the ticket area about the tripod thing, so maybe if I went again I’d try to bring it and see if anything was said.The lady did immediately ask if we were professionals upon seeing SLRs, but I assured here that couldn’t be further from the truth. Hopefully some photos turn out not blurry. The prison is designed more hospital like, with 2 cell block wings and a central admin/warden section, rather than something like Eastern State with it’s wheel and spoke design. It closed in 1990, and several movies have been filmed there, most famously the Shawshank Redemption, and (I was not aware) Air Force One. It is a pretty nice place, and I recommend stopping by for sure.

After a few hours at the prison, we started on our way to Columbus and Taco Trucks. Had a few issues with that – I had mapped out the 3 that Carolyn had gone to last year, but 2 were not present, and 1 didn’t open until 4:30. Arg. Ended up finding one after consulting the internet again, and stopped for lunch. I love Taco Trucks. Had an el pastor (think gyro but with pork only) burrito that was huge and delicious. I had wanted to go back to the 4:30 opening truck after our next stop, the zoo, but in the end we didn’t. The Columbus Zoo is pretty nice, no San Diego, but a decent size with a nice mix of animals (when they were present in their habitats, which apparently none of the various bears were). We only had about 2 hours before it closed, but it was really all the time we needed. It was way too hot to be walking around so much haha.

So then it was off to Cincinnati for the night, stopping for night shots of the Cincinnati Union Station (designed by BCT architects) before having a bit of an adventure trying to find someplace open to eat late (everything closes at 10 which seems super early to me, even if it was a Tuesday).

Wednesday was the other main reason for the trip (1st being Mansfield) – the Creation Museum in Kentucky…

Here is my fair review of the Creation Museum: It’s a pretty nice place, and very well done. Clearly a lot of money was spent, and it is not some half ass hack job like I sorta expected. It’s pretty large, with a large nice garden outside, and sorta lame petting zoo. And it was very busy. Oddly, they had 2 guys outside that looked like Troopers (but were probably only museum hired security) directing parking and pedestrian traffic, then I noticed a public safety vehicle, and once inside 2 more guards with a k-9 unit…really? Are they really threatened that they need all this security? What’s the dog for, to sniff out drugs or bombs? Is someone really going to suicide bomb them? I just was really surprised by it. They really play up the dinosaur aspect of the museum, which in reality should be pretty small – all based on the idea that god created everything, and noah saved 2 of every animal, thus humans lived with dinos and dinos were saved in the flood…It’s really not a big deal, but there are freaking dinosaurs everywhere.

So the exhibits are based on Genesis, (duh) the opinion that god created everything in the last 6000 years, and then all the “proof” from the bible and earth records to support this opinion. What surprised me was that they actually do sort of show both sides of the coin. They had info graphics with one side being “rational man’s thought” (aka science) and “god’s” on the other. So for example they’d have the time line of the universe being created millions of years ago, and it’s evolution to present day, vs the time line of god’s 7 days of creation (7 right? You’d think I’d know this after today lol). I don’t think I’m explaining it well, but they did show both sides of the issue. They probably did conveniently leave things out on the “rational” side of the coin, but…I respect that they had both sides, because I really didn’t expect it and it would have been very easy to not do it. There were some things I had issue with, just because I don’t think the conclusions they drew were valid from their premise, but I’m sure no one else is questioning it haha.

While the wax dummies were pretty bad, the exhibits were pretty professional, almost Disney-esque. There were 2 video presentations that we didn’t watch, and various short video clips that went along with each part of the exhibit. The museum was solely focused on creation and Genesis, and seemed to end abruptly because of it, with few references to Jesus, no real reference to the rest of Christianity, and surprisingly no effort to convert (maybe they think everyone there is already Christian). I actually didn’t find it to be a complete waste of time and money, it was interesting and entertaining. Though I think Alex was angered more than I was, I really wasn’t that angry haha. Just amused.

Here is my Atheist review of the Creation Museum: it’s sort of sad and upsetting that so many people were there, obviously religious people, believing everything that was shown and likely not questioning the “other side of the coin” that was presented. Some of it was very hilarious, like how obviously the wax statues of Isaiah, Moses and King David were made to look stereotypically Jewish, and all the talk about dinosaurs and humans living together. They just won’t let that go!! It’s so completely unimportant! Their attempts to show the scientific side of things was impressive, but I suspect altered or incomplete figuring that no one will question it. And the most important fault of all….the dinosaur with the saddle, because obviously humans rode dinosaurs, was only for children under 12 years old. Gah!

The gift shop was large, and filled with a ton of books…books I didn’t attempt to even look at, because I know those WOULD make me angry, where the museum did not. We walked around the gardens, which are pretty nice, for a bit but again, it was way too hot out lol. Once I get my pics done up I’ll post with commentary, but at this point, this is all I can really think of to say about it.

Headed home after that, deciding not to pursue any exploring in Cincinnati. A fairly easy but long drive home followed, and now I’ve got one more day of vacation left, then back to work. Time to find some food!

Ohio Photos

Europe 2010 – part 3 – Latvia

Got into Riga pretty late at night, only to find that I couldn’t get money out of the ATM because I was over limit (inexplicably), and once at the hotel I couldn’t open my luggage because my combination lock suddenly had a new combination. Commence extreme frustration and aggravation, trying to call Samsonite (on hold for $3.00/min no thank you), texting Cassie to try to call them, and google searches – finally I found a page which had email instructions from Samsonite on how to figure out the combination. So I now know how to get by Samsonite combination locks.

Our hotel was in a good location in Riga’s Old Town, which was not quite as nice and quaint as Tallinn, in my opinion. They allow car traffic on all the streets, which is not as nice haha. Again it was alot of walking around to see the area, once I was able to get out money from an ATM we visited St Peter’s church and went up the bell tower for a nice view of the city. Near by was the “House of Blackheads”, which I didn’t realize was a museum, so we only saw outside. Next to that was the Latvian Occupation Museum, which was free but took donations. It was much bigger and well done than I was expecting for free. It was pretty moving, as I didn’t realize how badly the Baltic states were treated by the Soviets, and Nazis, and then Soviets again. And it’s hard to imagine it all, being an American and in no danger of being invaded and occupied by another country (although if Canada decided to get greedy, I’d probably be in trouble here in WNY haha).

Grabbed a cab and went to the Riga Motor Museum, which has a pretty decent collection of Soviet made cars, or Soviet used cars (like cars given to Soviets from foreign diplomats like Nixon), including Stalin’s limo, and Breshnev’s crashed Rolls Royce. I don’t know alot about cars, but it was interesting to see. There were wax statues of Stalin and Breshnev in their cars, and I think Khruschev.

That night we got some dinner, hung around a bit, and then headed out for some drinks. Riga has gotten a bad reputation as being full of bars that will scam tourists. There was a list on wikitravel, and on the US Embassy’s website, and again in the “what to do” books we picked up so we had a list to check against to be safe. I had wanted to go to Leningrad, which was Soviet themed, and looked cool from reviews and their website – but was not what was expected so we didn’t even go in. Instead we went to the Transilvania Horror Rock Cafe, which we had found earlier in the day, and is apparently owned by Marilyn Manson’s drummer, Umberto Ferri (but I don’t know who he is). It was a goth-y bar, as expected, with open coffins with skeletons inside for tables, church-y looking furniture, and scary decorations. We tried the national drink, Riga Black Balsam, which is an herbal liquor, very strong and interesting, but I didn’t think it was that bad. We moved on from there, trying to find a few other bars, and bars with people in them, but again, we were out on a Tuesday…no one else was. So the final stop was at Mad House, with only a few others, and then we turned in.

Our 2nd day we pretty much only saw the Zoo. It was small as expected, but it’s always interesting to see animals other than cats and dogs. Grabbed lunch at a place next to the zoo, which turned out to be a pizzeria, then back to hang out before dinner. Spent the night in, since I had to get up at 4am to go to the airport and go home. I had thought about going to a KHL game, the Riga Dinamo were playing, but I couldn’t find out how to get tickets, or the costs (I didn’t want to scalp, surefire way to get screwed), and the timing didn’t work out in the end. Ah well. Next time haha.

All that was left was the long route home, Riga to Berlin (where again, I had passport issues – my passport was stamped in Riga, arriving from Kiev, but not when arriving or leaving Tallinn, and not when arriving in Riga from Tallinn, or leaving Riga to Berlin, and again not stamped when arriving in Berlin. So when in line to check in for my flight to Newark, the lady is looking for the Berlin stamp, and I came out and told her, I came from Riga and no one asked to see it or stamp it…she had a weird reaction to that and I’m just like, this is YOUR airport, you should know what is going on, but she didn’t make a big deal of it after that. Then I had luggage issues, as in Riga they routed my bag right to Newark, and Berlin didn’t like that and rerouted it to Buffalo, but had to go find my bag and retag it, so I was fully expecting it not to show up), Berlin to Newark and Newark to Buffalo. I had a bottle of fanta in my bag from Riga, which I had to get rid of in a bomb proof container, and then get explosive residue tested (where I suddenly got nervous that they could tell I was radioactive haha), but I was clean, duh. 9 hour flight to Newark, cleared customs, but was delayed going home so the layover was about 4 hours.

Home again, unpacking to find my shampoo exploded, and my souvenir for Aunt Carol broke (souvenir bummer #3). It was a great and smooth trip, with no real problems. I have probably 7gb of photos to go through, yikes!!! That’s gonna take a while 🙂 I think I covered everything, had fun but glad to be home with kitty in my comfy bed again.

Riga Photos