August 21, 2010

Loose Ends - Dublin 2010

Not much else to add to my handful of other posts about this city.

I don't take a lot of photos this week. I don't do a lot of seeking out adventure. I simply walk and observe. And relax.

So, I'll end with a couple of photos that mimic all my other "Loose Ends" posts from this summer.

The first is sunset on the river.



The second is gratuitous picture of myself for your collection.

Positive/Negative – Dublin 2010

Time to rate Dublin, based on my week here.

Overall Opinion: Sigh. I wish I had some great things to say about this city. It’s not bad. Friendly. Accessible. But nothing really jumps up and grabs me.

Maybe it’s just the end of my travels and I’m slowing down, a bit exhausted, burnt out, emotionally tapped.

Or maybe this city is good enough to walk about, eat at a couple of decent restaurants, and simply relax. That should be enough … it’s not. I find some peace in the beautiful park, but as for the city itself? Nice, but not memorable.
 
Positives
  • Calm – nothing here really makes your heart beat faster. This is a good thing, when you need it. I find the peaceful quality very soothing for a while. Might not be an everyday lure, but for now it’s enough.
  • Green – much of the city is natural, open parkland. This infusion of green is welcoming after years of living in borderline desert. Often, I take advantage of the opportunity to soak up all the cool refreshing greenness.
 
Negatives
  • Crazy Drunks – it doesn’t take long before I encounter the crazy drunk stereotype. Morning of my first day, waiting for the tram, I observe a rambling, staggering young man talking at lightning speed about everything and nothing. He talks to me. He talks to others. He gets on the tram and talks to himself. Out loud. Excited. Happy. But certainly confused. Every city has its problems, but Dublin has more daytime drunken encounters than any place I’ve ever been. Not really threatening. Sometimes a little begging for some loose change. But a definite craziness, like I’m never really sure if they’ll walk away or suddenly start twirling around with their arms outstretched. All you can do is wait and watch.
  • Crumbling – Dublin went through a really good economic period a few years ago. It lead Europe in job growth and production and money. Then … crash. The higher you go, the farther you have to fall. You can tell the damage done by numerous “To Let” signs all over. You can also tell by the boarded up stores and buildings. This city will rebound, but for now it’s taken a beating and the bruises show.
 
disclaimer

Now … Then – Dublin 2010/1990

Way back in 1990, RDe and I land in Dublin for 7 days. It’s the 2nd leg of our first overseas trip – a trip taken for considerable payment. London has us buzzing from the previous week, and Dublin greets us with a party.

Funny how little I remember of that time. I vaguely recall staying at a B&B, but could not tell you where it was. In fact, I recall little of what we do with our time. I’m left after these 2 decades with mental snapshots: Me in Stephen’s Green, posing for the camera, reading “The Dubliners” by Joyce, like this shows how I'm connected with the location. I believe it at the time. Another image I can remember is walking down Grafton Street. I’m amazed at the open walkway and stores and people. Yeah, never have seen anything like it.

Here I am in Trinity College 20 years ago:



I'm actually much happier than I appear in that photo - it's my serious, gazing into the camera look.

Now back to the present. I’m doing basically the same things. I go to Stephen’s Green (but no Joyce and photo shoot of myself). I weave my way through the throng of Grafton Street, now with typical chain stores passing on each side.

Here I am at Trinity College in 2010:



My emotions are not the same. Of course, not. What I mean is the difference is more pronounced than I expect. I’m not thrilled. I’m barely amused. Twenty years ago I'm all wide-eyed and bouncing off the walls. That past me is taking dozens of photos, and this is in the days of film. Remember that, boys and girls? Your camera clicks and you have no idea what’s coming out. The present day me is content and interested, but barely bother to take out my digital camera.

Dublin seems smaller, but not because this is my second visit. I go to London a lot, and I obvious adore that city. My mood shift is something else. Dublin has changed, but I have changed more. I’ve seen so much more. I’m not so easily impressed.

Is this a good thing or bad?

Self Portrait - Dublin 2010

Last city and I might as well keep up this theme.

The Slow Wind Down Continues – Dublin 2010

Next day, I head over to Phoenix Park for a picnic – I have the hummus, the bread, the chips, the Coke. The weather is rainy, cold, windy; I’m not really dressed properly for this. The picnic is good enough, but with the shivers and an urgent need for a bathroom, I leave after 30 minutes.

No big deal, I tell myself. It’s only a park.

Two days later, while looking at the Dublin map, I realize my foray into the Phoenix had barely nicked the corner. This park is huge; bigger than all of London’s parks combined, twice as big as Central Park in NYC. So, the sun is out, the day is open, and I decide to give it a go.

But this time, I do it the right way:



My foot somehow gets stuck between the pedal and the frame. By “stuck,” I mean wedged in so tight I can’t move my leg. So, as the video shows near the end, I’m whizzing about 50kph, camera in one hand, required to ride down the wrong side of the road, and traffic oncoming … I’m filming my own tragic accident for YouTube!

Ah, too bad. I survive. My internet fame will have to wait.



Actually, my problem is filming while being a klutz riding a bike.

Eventually, I ride my way to the center of the park and camp out in the middle of a huge field. In the distance are the park’s residents:





Something really peaceful about watching animals grazing. Then, after whiling away the morning, another bike ride:



Yes, for those of you wondering, bumpy ride + rock hard seat = sore butt.

I stop here because, of all things, this area reminds me of this



Nature’s Basilica, I suppose.

Overall, this park is gorgeous. It’s size is impressive, but there’s more than that, of course. It’s such a rare joy for me to simply feel part of nature again. To feel the grass between my toes and nothing but wind and bird calls in my ears – I’m a big city type of guy. I’ve always lived in large metropolitans. I always travel to population centers. I abhor camping [oh, the posts you’ll see about that in the future!].

So, this day of lazing around and watching the wind blow is perfect. A calm slow wind down of a crazy month and a half.



The Slow Wind Down – Dublin 2010

My first trip to a park here is Stephen’s Green. Small, beautiful, cozy, crowded. Peaceful.



And then cold, windy, wetish, and uncomfortable. But I do manage to get this video …



That scream at the very end is brilliant.

My Irish Friend - Dublin 2010

August 20, 2010

Can I Get Something to Eat Around Here? – Dublin 2010

Well, yes, I can! Here you get a 3 for 1 blog post on my veggie adventures in Dublin!

In the course of the week, I end up visiting 3 veggie restaurants while here. Actually, more like 2 ½. My first excursion, to a place called “Nude,” labels itself as vegetarian, but what it really means is we have a couple of veg dishes. I have the “Jumping Bean Burrito” and it's average at best. No pics, cause the meal just isn't that interesting and I only take pics of stuff that deserves to be seen.

Next day, for an early dinner, is this place:


Finally, I find a sit-down, “Let me take your order” veggie restaurant. The atmosphere is definitely upscale: fresh flowers on the table, candles, music that is sorta jazzy, sort of funk. I order … um … gosh, I can't actually remember right now. I think I start with spring rolls and then, er, … gee, I really have no idea.

Aha! This is the real thrust of the review. With all their effort at cool ambiance and fusion food and hip music, “Juice” ends up being so run-of-the-mill. Nothing really special. The restaurant certainly looks nice, but doesn't really stand out as different than any other small establishment. The food is certainly eatable, but not outstanding. Hell, I really have blanked out on my main dish (and I don't have my camera with me, so no visual reminders). This forgetfulness is either a sign of my oncoming Alzheimer's or tells you everything you need to know about the impact of this dinner. You can decide which.

Oh, except for one last thing. I order Tofutti non-dairy ice cream for dessert, that I remember. It's one of my favorite treats and tastes so much better than regular ice cream. I remember this because Tofutti is so delicious. By delicious, I mean, I remember it being delicious years ago, because after waiting 15 minutes at “Juice”, the dessert never arrives. It does show up on my bill. How nice.


The last restaurant I try is “Govinda's”.


Another buffet scenario, with an all-you-can-eat policy and huge plates. It's very Hare Krishna, with Indian paintings, happy clanging chanting music, and a staff who looks a bit transposed from a 60's commune. (Sorry, don't mean to stereotype, but really, how else can you describe the tie-dye shirts, the flowery pants that billow out above shoeless feet, and the beaded braided hair?)

For the low price of 8.50 euros, I load up on a ton of food.



It's really good. I'm not a fan of buffet – once again, the reason I go out is so someone delivers food to me, not so I can serve myself. Yet, I have to admit this place cooks some tasty offerings. The rice is superb. The veggie lasagna was dee-lish. Sure, as usual, when serving the masses from the same table, the cooks tend to downplay any wild spices. This makes the whole meal healthy but bland, which seems a common complaint by me.

However, bland as it may be, a couple of days later when I'm starving and in the area, I go back. It's easy. The staff is friendly (in that Hare Krishna the world's beautiful sort of way). And the food is filling and good. At times, that's all you need.

My ratings

Nude: ◊◊

Juice: ◊◊

Govinda: ◊◊◊

When You Gotta Go – Dublin 2010

Oddly, I’ve never had this thought before about any of the other cities I've visited, but Dublin has a real dearth of public toilets. By “dearth,” I mean none. Not along the streets. Not in the parks. There is a real absence of public toilets in this city – I suppose the idea is to hold it until you make it home.

Now I understand why so many alleyways smell like piss.

Hotel Quirks – Dublin 2010

Actually, the Clarion Hotel in Dublin is the best of all the hotels I've stayed ... though if you check the other "hotel quirk" posts, you'll realize this is not exactly over-the-top praise. However, for what it is, the hotel provides a wonderful end to my bouncing around for the past 6 weeks. Nice large room. Comfortable double bed. Great view … see the vid.


It doesn't hurt that I get an upgrade from a single to a double, for no apparent reason other than my winning smile.

All that said, there is one thing that I find really quirky. Maybe it's just me, but there are some things I don't need to know about myself.

Internet Problems ... Again! - [Updated!]

I cannot seem to upload any videos ... not only to my blog, but not to YouTube, Vimeo, or anyplace else!

I can download with no problem, so I'm a bit perplexed here.

As of right now, I have a backlog of posts from my week in Dublin. Until I figure this out, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Blogging without posting videos seems to be too restrictive.

Well, I'll work on fixing this. If not, then I'll make some sort of decision.
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UPDATE: August 21

I've obviously found a work around. So the problem is fixed. The posts are flowing again. The universe is a better place.

August 19, 2010

Insight Into My Character - Dublin 2010

Natural History Museum … or Where Dead Animals Go to Frighten Children – Dublin 2010

It took me a while, walking around this large room stuffed with stuffed animals, to realize a theme. Someone wanted to scare the crap outta the kids.


C’mon! That’s a koala bear at the end! Grimacing and gnashing his teeth like vampire. Oh please!

Wacky Videos – Fun Science Facts – Dublin 2010

I Know It When I See It – Dublin 2010

Another city, another modern art gallery. The one in Dublin is a bit isolated, situated in an old military hospital. The building itself is nicely maintained and a bit interesting, in its majestic stoic fa├žade. As for the art pieces? Well … the whole collection is a bit sad.

You see, this is what I believe:


But if you can't overwhelm me with vision and talent, and you can't scare me with grotesque images, then all that's left is … what? The first problem with Dublin's modern art museum is the lack of pieces. Spread out over 2 floors of a fairly large building are only a handful of pieces. Maybe 2 dozen at the most. I might have complained about the crowded conditions in some museums, but this is too much “negative space.”

However, even if they don't have an abundance of art to view, at least they could push the boundaries a little – you know, impress me with their forward looking, abstract weirdness. Instead, what I see is predictable, boring, and at times plain old stupid.






C'com! You can do better than that, can't ya? Slapped together abject sex/death images with the occasional weird geometrical design thrown in, a bit off kilter just to show how edgy you are? I've seen better graffiti in Rome!

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Side note: Taking pictures is strictly forbidden, so I sneak around the numerous watchers (and I mean as in more guards than art pieces) and snap away stealthily. But then, I take a picture without noticing a security camera mounted on the ceiling. Oh no. I foresee a dozen shock troops pouring out of their barracks, truncheons ready. I slip the camera in my pocket, act cool, and spritely sidle away. At exactly this moment, my phone rings.

I jump...and I'm not a jumpy type of person. My ring tone is not some light, playful melody, but an old fashioned loud harsh bell. I think it's an actual alarm! It reverberates throughout the floor of the museum – where the few other viewers have been huddling in corners whispering to each other out of respect for Art. Of course my phone is in my coat pocket, all buttoned up, and my coat is draped over my arm. Fumble. Curse. Scramble. Seems like forever, but maybe half a minute. By then, it's too late. Phone stops ringing and there's nothing left but the echo. And my severe sense of doing something really really wrong. Ah, I get over it. What the hell. I take a few more photos.

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Well, near the end of my boredom, the highlight of my 30-minute stroll was this slight discovery:



Whoops. Sort of got mixed up. Yet, it was the most surprising and amusing part of the entire museum. That's disappointing.

August 18, 2010

Back to Earth – Dublin 2010

I’m using this last week of my 6-City Tour ™ to settle back down to earth. No rushing around. No intense need to visit a must-see location.

Dublin is my weigh station at the end of a long trip. I’m taking advantage of that.