A Week In Ireland (part three)

Here are parts One and Two if you missed them.

On the train leaving Belfast, the weekend had arrived. Besides groups of guys downing Carlsberg and dropping F-bombs non-stop during the ride, Ben encountered a group of slags in the food car with empty bottles of champagne and signs posted everywhere that read, “Hen Party In Progress”. Oh dear! By the way, I had forgotten about the term “slag” and I have a new appreciation for the fact I can’t find any other word that describes those women so perfectly. In any event, the weekend meant higher prices, but lucky for us we stuck to drinking in the day rather than at night.

Ben always looks so serious doing his ‘model face’…

Needless to say, our 2nd hotel in Dublin (across from the Four Seasons while being amazingly cheap) was part of the Bewley’s family of hotels and was much better than the independent and quaint little B&B we stayed at before. Again, I love Bewely’s! My only complaint is that the beds were meant for small people; our feet were dangling off the end. But that seems par for the course in these parts doesn’t it? This is in an old Masonic school…

Once and a while, we like to look for trouble. We thought we’d find it in Temple Bar on a Saturday night. I regret to say that all we found were hen parties and people getting their photos taken with little people dressed as Leprechauns — it was a bit depressing. The weirdest scene was a full grown man dressed as an Oompa Loompa giving women in the restaurant piggy back rides.  At least we only experienced one horrible meal on this trip, and it prompted us to throw out any restaurant/bar guides that we had. Somehow through the wandering we found ourselves at The Porterhouse by Trinity where I got to try a beer named after painter William Turner. See! I’m all cultured-like when I booze it up. We really can’t go to any city without trying at least one brewery.

Oh hey, look who I found, finally! I like how it’s pronounced ‘Tin Lizzy’ with the Irish accent. There was a big exhibition on Lynott going on while we were there too, his mom just released a book. You’d think his statue would be in a park or at a main intersection somewhere obvious, but no, it’s tucked away off Grafton Street in front of a cafe…

I always get this song stuck in my head.

We almost went on this tour simply because you get to wear a viking helmet as you go along…

Um, whatever! I like how he’s called one of America’s “most celebrated songwriters” and right next to him is Bob Dylan. That’s just damn amusing to me…

Painter Conor O’Mahony is now referred to as my husband’s husband in Ireland because they pretty much became best mates immediately. A mutual love of The Undertones among other shared interests. Too bad it was on our last day, but we had a great time in a small pub in Ballsbridge…

So here are some random things from our trip:

  • Burger King and Coors ads are everywhere.
  • I’ve never seen so many sheep in my life.
  • If you want to know what a slag is, watch the dating show “Take Me Out”
  • I fooled everyone into thinking this is my real hair color.
  • The train stations aren’t as obvious or marked as they are in other cities, so you have to really look.
  • Signage all being half in Gaelic, actually started to teach me Gaelic!
  • That hotel U2 own feels like a Ramada, don’t trouble yourself with it.
  • Are there any good record stores in Dublin anymore?
  • Marks and Spencer is pretty nice, wish we had them in the US.
  • Irish cheddar cheese is as good as it gets.
  • The smaller villages have too many Italian restaurants. I doubt they’re very good.
  • Up here in Michigan and Ohio we get tourism ads to travel to Alabama or West Virginia. In Ireland it’s ads for Yorkshire.
  • Jeggings and leggings as pants is a global epidemic that must be stopped!!!
  • People don’t use their laptops in coffee shops; in fact we saw many people writing things in notebooks and moleskins. Oh, and they talk to one another!
  • This was my favorite thing we caught on TV ever.

A Week In Ireland (part one)

After over a decade of not having left the country, my husband and I were able to finally go to Ireland for our anniversary. I had always wanted to get married at Giant’s Causeway, and he had lived in Dublin while going to Trinity College way back when, so it seemed a logical choice to spend time in Dublin and Belfast. I’ll be honest, the whole time we were trying to figure out ways to extend our stay! It also made us realize we are ready to move on, and intend to leave Cleveland and/or the United States by next year.

Ben’s time in Dublin in the early 90s wasn’t exactly awesome; he had an annoying ex-wife and for the most part he immersed himself in school work. So really, this was a trip where I got to have him as a tour guide and he could actually go and have fun, finally. Actually, we avoided all the touristy stuff as much as possible and spent more time in pubs, a few galleries, restaurants and odd places.

Aer Lingus wins the internet for being a rather good flight (international vs domestic seem better and less stingy), and we checked into a little place next to Aviva Stadium. I think I have bad hotel karma; anywhere I stay that isn’t a chain ends up being full of good intentions but lacking in amenities. This place was nice until you actually got to your room, which had a tiny bed not big enough for us both, and it got worse when I experienced the fun of Irish plumbing problems — very “2nd world” as Ben kept warning me it would be. We always stayed south of the Liffey as he said the north side was the not-so-great part of town, so I got to know my way pretty quick as the city is rather compact. Lots of protests for the upcoming visit from the queen, everyone excited about Obama coming, Rod Stewart getting blasted on the train going to Dalkey (the hotel Ben wanted to take me to had been torn down and turned into condos!), and I loved how efficient the public transportation was; just don’t ask for directions because no one could remember how to go anywhere, it seemed. I liked Dalkey a lot, we almost went further down to Bray, or Kilkenny where Ben used to rent an estate carriage house by Bono during the whole Achtung Baby era, but at that point the jet lag had set in. Fun Fact: Bono would do yard work in his leather pants and bug sunglasses! The timing was a little off in that we missed seeing Moon Duo by one day, (a Morrissey tribute night was happening but 3 bands sounded like too much for us to handle) and the Leprechaun Museum sounded awful in a hilarious way. No, we didn’t go. We found that early and mid-week was a good time to be in Dublin; we avoided much of the tourists in Temple Bar and all the other nonsense that happens on weekends. Less crowds meant we could tip musicians to play Oasis songs nonstop, and the beer wasn’t at inflated prices (well, mostly). This didn’t stop the fact that sleazy Italian and Dutch guys were on the prowl and a naive American girl kept leaving her drinks unattended (I watched them for her, but that was a bad move on her part). We hit up the Brian Maguire show at Kerlin Gallery, and some record stores, but were disappointed to find it was all geared towards Thin Lizzy and U2 and not much of anything else. Come on, no Into Paradise even?

After hitting up Bewley’s three times, Kerlin Gallery, Marks & Spencer, witnessing how the worst parts of 80s fashion have gone global, and too much Guinness and coffee, we headed up to N. Ireland for the weekend. I liked the scenery on the train, and how the trains are..well, nice! Only bad part was seeing many sad ponies in people’s yards the further out of the city I got. Little did I know that the rain-sunny-rain-sunny-rain weather was about to get even more ridiculous up north.

Stayed tuned for part deux!

Rocktober Recap

Because Rocktober isn’t finished yet, I thought I’d post some photos from the Oktoberfest event I attended in Berea, Ohio. Was it better than the Minster one? By far. Was it better than what I assume the real one in Munich is like? Not really. Although the beer selection at this event was better than most, I thought the Warstiener was overpriced, and that the fair itself was actually half the size of what I assumed it would be.

Bonus points though for seeing children and various Emo kids on multiple occasions sipping beer from their elderly relatives cups that they were “holding” while they went and danced or entered their dogs in the races.  Yes, the wiener dog races were the highlight; who knew it could be fun and that placing bets makes it even MORE fun? FYI, older dogs are better at it than the new pups, they just kind of sniff each other and wander off when the gates go up. Oh here, lemme show ‘ya…

A very big deal as you can tell. The dogs needed several practice runs to get the hang of it if they were new. All the owners had to stand at the end with toys and treats to get them to bolt.

No participation ribbons here!

Dotto Snotto sticking her tongue out at me whilst making up some German fare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really not THAT big of a fan of HB, sorry.

Jager Bombs? Oh I know it is noon, but why not?

WTF?

Really sad we missed the craft brew tasting, but I guess I’ve had all of these ones right here more than a dozen times. Look, they even put out the beer named after my buddy Chris!

The polka band here performed both Johnny Cash and Dead or Alive in Polka-style. Not. Even. Joking.

Big ass tent.

Ben likes monkeys, not matter what the situation.

Hey look, there’s Dennis! He invited me to go drinking with him once and I had to turn him down. I tried flagging him over to our table but Ben didn’t want him to come over for some political reason.

I like Riesling!

Overall I give the event a B-. The entertainment was good, the beer selection was meh, and there was only one good food stand. Even trying to find a proper pretzel stand was tough, and I don’t understand that, being that there was Chinese and Italian food stands!  Come on people, Oktoberfest means let’s try to keep it Magna Germania, okay? I also got sick from a greasy potato pancake, but that’s what I get for eating anything from a fairground stand. Again though, the dog races made it worth it. Oh, and did I mention there were multiple Juggalo sightings? Why yes there were. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get photos. Don’t know what a Juggalo is? Well this might help (NSFW)

A Beerly Tradition

Last weekend I did the Grand Rapids brew pub extravaganza trip yet again. You can read about past ones here and here.

This year we cut out all the nonsense and just stuck with the Diemer Race (my husband beat former Olympic Bronze medalist Brian Diemer again, and won a donut) and going to Hop Cat, twice. Truthfully, as much as I like Founders’ beer, their brew pub isn’t always the best experience due to a surly staff and food that is just okay. Our friends who came up from Ann Arbor agreed, so Hop Cat bound we were. We also cut out the trip to Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo because last time, we couldn’t handle the hippie hackey sack jam band crowd. Also the food was blah. Hop Cat still remains one of my favorite brew pubs ever. There’s a reason it was ranked top 3 in the USA!

The real highlight of the trip this time was finding an awesome motel in Grand Rapids — after two times failing. Off the horrid 28th street strip of mini malls and cash-for-gold outlets, was a small oasis with white fences, lamp posts, and hollyhocks. It was like you stepped into a Thomas Kinkade painting, only — you know, without it being too awful. There was chintz; a solarium; kitsch fox hunt art; live parrots; a library; large rooms, and a breakfast room that even had a dress code (that didn’t stop some idiots from wearing PJ bottoms all damn day though). Who knew a Quality Inn could be so nice?

Hop Cat, land-o-happy. It was shockingly dead for a Saturday up until the England vs. USA soccer match. If this place were in Cleveland, I’d probably be there every dang day!

Ben getting his pre-race drink on. I think this beer was called “The Jerk”

It was so humid they had the fire hydrant on just for people finishing the race to cool off. One guy collapsed at the finish line and wasn’t looking so good when EMT showed up.

This is Mulan, he was funny.

We thought it was weird and gross this place had a teenage girl dressed as a cheerleader dancing all cute-like to get you to come in and sell your gold. Who the hell keeps gold in their car anyways? I wonder if she’s ever been propositioned? Man, if I were a cop, I’d be keeping an eye on this one.

A Fabulous Day in Pittsburgh

Drove down with Michelle Muldrow and Dott Schneider to Pittsburgh for some art farting and for the Box Heart 10 Year Anniversary exhibit. We lucked out with great weather (okay it was pretty hot actually), an awesome ride with leather interior and cruise control,  and rocked out to some classic rock while eating beef jerky at one point. Yeah we like beef jerky — deal with it!

Although there are still a few places I haven’t visited, like The Mattress Factory, I think we got a lot done in the time we had. Yes, eating and drinking are integral parts of a day trip anywhere. There were neighborhoods I had never seen up until now — which was nice for a change — and I like that everything seems compact in that city and it never took long to get to certain areas. You don’t need to hop on a freeway to get from one side of town to the other! The show up at The Frick was nice because I work small, and it was all tiny landscapes. I also got to see a fab Peter Paul Rubens portrait along with some killer medieval icons.

I took a ton of photos, especially on the grounds of the Frick, so here are some of those…

Beer Me!

What do you get your wife for her birthday to show you care? A custom beer order, duh! Our friend Chris wins awards with his brewing skills and we decided to go over and see the process of making an "Arabella Imperial Red". Click images for descriptions. I really didn't follow what was going on other than it smelled great…

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So we did this same trip again. Only this time we reversed it and got hammered at Founders rather than a lost night of weirdness starting at Bell's. I wish I had taken more photos at Hop Cat because that place is amazing, even the bathrooms are gorgeous for a brew pub (yes I always have to comment on facilities you know). For most of the trip it was pretty mellow, the only scary part were the tween and child cheerleaders staying at our motel who had on gobs of whore make up, and hair extensions. Most were rather fat too; I thought in that line of activity a chunky physique would be frowned upon — hello, pyramid cheer? It was just really creepy, it was like Jon Benet Ramsey meets Little Miss Sunshine meets Rock of Love. Ew! I also keep forgetting how fast people in Michigan like to drive, like desert speeds, where 95 is considered slow. No wonder I counted 22 dead deer on the roadside. It gave me sad face.

Anyways, again I am too lazy to do commentary, but you can click images and see the descriptions….

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Beer Me!

What do you get your wife for her birthday to show you care? A custom beer order, duh! Our friend Chris wins awards with his brewing skills and we decided to go over and see the process of making an “Arabella Imperial Red”. Click images for descriptions. I really didn’t follow what was going on other than it smelled great…

DSC00149DSC00159DSC00158DSC00157DSC00156DSC00155DSC00154DSC00153DSC00151DSC00150

So we did this same trip again. Only this time we reversed it and got hammered at Founders rather than a lost night of weirdness starting at Bell’s. I wish I had taken more photos at Hop Cat because that place is amazing, even the bathrooms are gorgeous for a brew pub (yes I always have to comment on facilities you know). For most of the trip it was pretty mellow, the only scary part were the tween and child cheerleaders staying at our motel who had on gobs of whore make up, and hair extensions. Most were rather fat too; I thought in that line of activity a chunky physique would be frowned upon — hello, pyramid cheer? It was just really creepy, it was like Jon Benet Ramsey meets Little Miss Sunshine meets Rock of Love. Ew! I also keep forgetting how fast people in Michigan like to drive, like desert speeds, where 95 is considered slow. No wonder I counted 22 dead deer on the roadside. It gave me sad face.

Anyways, again I am too lazy to do commentary, but you can click images and see the descriptions….

DSC00172DSC00193DSC00192DSC00190DSC00187DSC00186DSC00184DSC00183DSC00181DSC00179DSC00178DSC00176DSC00175DSC00174

Michigan Trip

Wow, I really don’t know where to begin on this whole crazy weekend to Michigan. What started out as just a trip to Grand Rapids for a 5k turned into a beer fest of sorts. I’m glad I stuck to my new little program of “smart drinking” where I can enjoy many beers and yet not get hungover at all. But that’s a class I’ll teach someday. Anyways, be sure to click the photos below for descriptions.

At first on the way to Grand Rapids we stopped in Ann Arbor for lunch, remembering how expensive and overrated Zingerman’s is now, we opted for a Whole Foods off the freeway. I was constantly worried about running into people I didn’t want to see, and realized I just cannot move back there for whatever reason unless offered a job of $100,000 or more year. I like a certain level of “smug” but A2 has gotten out of control. Stops at Outlet Malls and such were had, and we checked into a rather nice Travelodge once outside Grand Rapids. My husband likes the bear a lot…

The Brian Diemer 5k was the next day, so we decided to drive around and find food in the downtown area as neither of us had ever been to Grand Rapids. I’d say it compares to Akron pretty much, but with a few nicer restaurants. Anyways, it was easy to spot where we’d be eating — The Hop Cat — mostly because the second I saw the sign my exact words were, “KITTY KITTY KITTY!” It was a damn fine place, with extensive beer list and really good food. Mister is still talking about that “Killer Mac and Cheese”…

Next morning was the 5k race in Cutlerville outside of Grand Rapids. Cute little town, with cute simple people — tractors and all. My man ran 16:57, and was told he won a donut since he actually caught up to Diemer — the former Olympic bronze winner. Friends Stephen and Jennifer came up to watch the race, but before the donut could be had and awards, a parade was to take place. Let me just say this was the slowest parade ever. We realized it was because all the floats and cars were actually stopping at a red light each time. Plans had been made for the 4 of us to meet up at Founder’s Brewery, so it was a toss up, wait for the donut or get some damn beer. After waiting an hour for the parade to end, the beer won out. It was an amusing parade though…

It was time to hit Founder’s, baby. We had been looking forward to it for quite some time and it was a beautiful space. The only problem? The staff, well, they were pretty un-attentive considering there was practically no one in the place. So I’d say, great beers and environment, bad service and a weak jukebox. Still we plan on going back next year…

We really lucked out on the weather the whole trip, and later that day drove down to Kalamazoo to meet up with another friend of my husband, and to hit the Bell’s Brewery. After a short nap at a Hawthorne Suites (dude, those tempurpedic mattresses are so amazing!) we were picked up by my husband’s pal the “Coach”. The Coach took us for a small dinner, we walked around quite a bit around downtown, and then arrived at the amazing and beautiful Bell’s Brewery…

Now, after these photos essentially is when things got interesting; interesting in that we decided to go to a few more places and it was graduation weekend. While I adhered to my “smart drinking” program, others didn’t, and the results were both hilarious and sometimes iffy. I don’t like not knowing where I am, being led around by drunkies, and when testosterone levels of college boys drinking gets out of control and weirdos in cars are offering up free cocaine, I sober up quickly — especially on foot wandering dark streets in a rain storm. I won’t get into all the details, but in the end, we were in a way “rescued” by some college students at their home when the Coach brought us up to their house hidden in the woods. I’ll give you a rundown of various quotes from all of us at one point or another, it should give you an idea of how the night went:

“if your path isn’t righteous, your destination is gonna be crap”
“I’m trying to be the sensible drunk”, “if you were, you’d be telling us to drink more!”
“your purple tiger stripes are beautiful, I want my children to have purple tiger stripes…just. like. you”
“we need 3 more bars, and some Gin and Tonics”
“I think we need a cab”
“I don’t think there should be women drivers”
“We should leave, because there’s gonna be a fight, and I think you might get in the way”
“We can cut in line, they won’t beat us up because you ran under 17 minutes today”
“It looks spooky that direction, and there’s some cops, and a domestic violence dispute”
“it is a 2 mile walk…okay no, 50 meters”
“you are vegetarian and run 3 miles a day, you don’t have gout”, “no, I’m pretty sure I have gout”
“Alright you monkeys, I’m in charge now and we’re walking this direction!”
“Bella Vendetta, Bella Vendetta, Bella Vendetta…have a granola bar”
“I’m cranky, I’m sobering up, and it is raining on me — I hate Michigan”
“I’m taking you to Appalachia, Appalachia in Kalamazoo”
“Be careful, the neighbor wears jeans, and has only one eye”
“Are you guys okay? Do you need coffee? A sandwich? Vegan gummy bears?”
“I want peanut butter, and popcorn…I want a peanut butter and popcorn sandwich”

Yeah. So that was our trip. Not bad for 2 days in Michigan to attend a 5k race, huh?

Oktoberfest: Minster, Ohio

Ah, Ohio. So much to explore in my adopted state, there is no shortage of strange and overly kitschy trips you can do here as I’m finding out. My husband and I have a habit of doing trips that seem more for people in retirement than a younger couple. I’m shocked we don’t own an RV yet. This weekend our destination was Minster for the annual Oktoberfest and 10K race. Upon driving into the area where we were staying which was Sidney, there were many bizarre and disturbing anti-abortion billboards to be seen, on top of just the usual “the rapture is coming!” signs along the freeway. Always a nice welcome don’t you think? Ah, this will be fun.

The day before the race, we got ourselves a snazzy room at a Comfort Inn which had a two-person jacuzzi tub, always awesome, and we decided to explore Sidney a tad before doing some re-con work over in Minster. Now, as we drove into the town square in Sidney, there was something odd. Something…familiar. The lamp posts, the court building with the clock, the 50s diner across from the square…

Then we realized what it was, and oh my, were we about to enter the diner and walk into this scene?!

The Spot was actually pretty cool, we got burgers and fries and a coke for $4 and they weren’t too ridiculous in size. It was funny, we noticed all the newspaper clippings and photos of George W. Bush all over the place (he came to visit and had a meal or two) and then noticed that the ketchup at every table was not Heinz, but Hunt’s. hee-hee. The locals were nice and talkative, mostly the elderly who have lived there their entire lives. We went back twice.

Sidney is also where the Air Stream is manufactured. They give factory tours, but we didn’t want to be tempted into buying one. Other than that though, the town was dead. Store fronts weren’t boarded up, but rather just had a bunch of crap in them like mountains of wicker baskets and they all looked dusty. The only other sign of life was a tattoo parlor. Despite this, we spotted at least 4 goth/emo kids wandering the streets. Goes to show they are everywhere, even in deserted small town America. Then next was Minster.

We got the Budweiser horses out of the way. Man they were huge, and got a sweet ride in…

The horses — for whatever reason — all had huge erections as we walked through. The children didn’t know what to think, and an old man told me it was my fault for exciting them. Even Ben had a huge erection…

I mean the horse ‘Ben’  — not my husband Ben. Anyways, next day was race day, and the start of the festival.

It was hot people. 90 degrees at 10am. The race started late, there was almost no shade, and my husband said he watched other runners drop like flies. One guy just ran over to a lawn with a sprinkler, one sat down on the sidewalk. As I waited at the finish line EMTs were escorting some of the first runners across the finish line. I wasn’t even racing, but just walking a few blocks caused me to sweat buckets. But not my man, he finished with no problem, no wobbles or collapsing.

That’s right sucka’s! At this point it was time to get some pretzels and some goddam beer! But, one little problem…

Okay, people, when you only have TWO DIFFERENT BEERS available for consumption — that’s not an Oktoberfest! Seriously, Bud Light and Amber Bock don’t cut it. I spent $2 for a single plastic cup each time. Sure I drank it, but it was gross, I was mad that I couldn’t even get a Beck’s. What the hell Minster? Does Budweiser just dump money at your door so you don’t allow real beer tastings? There was only one bar in the whole town, it was gross, and all they had was Bud Light and Warsteiner on tap. I have a 12 pack of Warsteiner in my fridge, so I’m not drinking it from a bar tap where there is no air-conditioning. Seriously, this was as close to a stine as I came…

So, at this point we decided to say screw it to the parade. It was hot, the beer sucked, the food was a good variety but who really wants to eat a hot meal when it is 90 degrees out? There were also bees everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of bees. We decided to slam at least two beers before heading out, so we stuck around the gazebo to see who won what age groups etc. (oh yes, the top two were from Kenya, like we didn’t know that would happen). Well, it was good we had that second beer, because guess what? Hubby won his age group!

37th overall, 1st in 40-44. Besides a medal, he won a free pair of Nike shoes! It was here that we decided to celebrate with another pretzel and another, ew, Amber Bock. This then prompted Ben to start saying over and over “respect the medal” and push it in my face. If we got pulled over on a back country road for driving under the influence, what was the plan? “I’ll shove this in the cop’s face and say, “respect the medal!”

After enjoying a jacuzzi soak back in Sidney, getting a root beer float at an A & W and recovering from heat stroke it was a ‘leave it to Beaver” marathon that lulled us to sleep. The next morning we left the rows of truck stop fast food joints and scary anti-abortion billboards, ‘respect the medal’ we yelled, as it was time to get the hell out of central Ohio!