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St. Andrews, for the Non-Golfer

10 Sep

Anyone who knows me can tell you that any type of sport involving a moving object is not exactly my forte. So, to visit the birthplace of golf may seem an odd choice. My travel companion, however, has the refined taste to really appreciate such things.

I’ve heard this is a famous bridge. . . St. Andrews, Scotland

Now, don’t be misled – our budget and our planning time certainly didn’t allow for such luxuries as a round of golf at St. Andrews. However, being the clever and connected traveler he is, he managed to work his way into the rare opportunity to caddy on one of the world’s oldest and most revered golf courses.

So it is thus I found myself on the other end of a boys’ afternoon in a lovely, tradition-steeped, wind-blown town in Scotland. What does this afternoon at St. Andrews look like for me?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t photograph the wind, but wearing a skirt probably wasn’t the best idea. St. Andrews, Scotland.

Tall cliffs dropping off into a churning sea.

St. Andrews, Scotland.

Ruins of a cathedral overlooking a beautiful cemetery.

Not the same kind of bean pie we find in the States. St. Andrews, Scotland.

British baked pies.

Mint Humbugs & Berwick Cockles in sweets shops. Aged cheddar on malted brown bread with onion chutney.

Mint Humbugs & Berwick Cockles. St. Andrews, Scotland.

A quiet university courtyard with a wedding taking place. Lavish resort hotels and tiny storefronts that close up shop at 6pm. I’m a little sun-kissed & wind-chapped, but it was a beautiful afternoon, sans-golf. I heard the golf was lovely too.

Aged cheddar, onion chutney, malted brown bread. St. Andrews, Scotland.

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One day in Edinburgh(a)

8 Sep

Edinburgh at night.

I love it when a destination far exceeds your expectations, and Edinburgh came as a complete surprise. Medieval stone, tiny winding cobblestone passages, a tangle of multi-level upon multi-level buildings leading from one surprise destination to the next. Fortunately for us (though we didn’t realize just how much at the time) there was an international theater & arts festival, as well as the concurrent Edinburgh Fringe Festival taking place the month of August.

Street performers, Edinburgh.

Thousands of visitors descend on Edinburgh for the festival each year and we knew this would make accommodation options expensive at best – impossible at worst – and here’s where our good fortune of finding an exceptionally welcoming couchsurfing host came in.

Our wonderful host (and his adorable cat) came to meet us in town, pointed out landmarks (including the café where J K Rawlings conceptualized the Potter series),

Palak paneer & mixed vegetable curry. Edinburgh.

guided us to the best vegetarian and Indian food options in town, offered Scotch suggestions, and even found a chess exhibit on the Lewis Chessmen at the (really beautiful) National Museum.

The Lewis Chessmen. Royal Museum, Edinburgh.

(The British Museum even created a Harry Potter wizard’s chess set based on the actual pieces – though I must point out that my more rational travel companion cares not for wizards, nor wizard’s chess.)

Based on the Lewis Chessmen.

Performers, acrobats, hundreds of theater pieces performed every day, music on every street corner. . .allow me to highly recommend Edinburgh at any time of year, and especially during the festival.

Such a cute cat.

A very appreciative thank-you to Gracie and her owner for allowing us the opportunity to experience it all. We’ll definitely be back!

Dublin Doesn’t Always Rain

3 Sep

Dublin, Ireland

It feels really strange to fly overnight somewhere and pop out speaking English. The 6 hour flight to Dublin was wonderfully short – and the great advantages to ordering vegetarian meals on international flights are 1) you’ll never end up with a rubbery chicken bite, 2) balsamic vinaigrette, 3) fresh fruit, no pre-packaged brownie, and 4) you get served waaaay in advance of everyone else in coach class.

Dublin was very welcoming. There was beer. There was fish and chips.

Mmmmm. To-mah-to.

There was a very happy morning with the 5-item Irish breakfast – potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried egg, toast & coffee. (For an additional 5 euros, you can have the full 10-item Irish breakfast. However, as you may expect in Ireland, the other 5 items are all various meat products.) Also to note – as advertised, the “national chip of Ireland” brand is spelled “Tay-to,” but if you’d like a little red fruit, it’s pronounced “to-mah-to.”

We ventured on a long walk to the old prison, after which we passed the Guinness brewery. Opting against the slick theme-park-type tour, the smell of the roasting grains from outside was just as nice.

Wonka-type magic is happening behind those gates.

The view from outside was very Willy Wonka – you got the impression that there were wonderful, secret things happening just beyond the gates under those tall smokestacks. We also stepped into the Jameson distillery, and though we again opted out of the official tour, we managed to find the best dinner deal of the town inside the museum: a gorgeous seafood platter and huge fish dish – set against a background of the old distillery vats. It may have been a late lunch special (they’re only open ‘til 5pm), but if you’re looking for some gourmet eats on a tight budget, it gets my vote.

Smoked trout, smoked salmon, shrimp, crab claws, salad, Irish brown bread. Jameson Distillery, Dublin.

2 fillets, mussels, curry sauce, po-tay-toes. Jameson Distillery, Dublin.

As SendMoneyPlease has promised, here are my accompanying limericks to our Joyce-inspired evening of beers and Irish whiskey. A warning: as it was explained to me, the limerick is meant to be light and humorous, even bawdy or slightly off-color, so I’m working on keeping that intent:

 

7:40pm – The Gresham, Tyrconnell

Having napped, showered, and (not) shaven,
We start sipping and surely misbehavin’,
Though we got in the door,
There will be plenty more,
Yet, I’m sure this is just what I’m cravin’.

8:15pm – The Wynn Saints & Scholars lounge, Bulmers Cider

The curtains are all tapestry,
And the grey-hairs beside me have tea.
But they do not know,
Just an hour ago,
The drink that I had with Mikey.

9:15pm – Mulligans, Smithwicks

Tin walls, wood bar, trap door.
And they say there are ghosts in the floor.
The beer’s getting warm,
Mike regards me with scorn,
But I’m sure that he’s wanting one more.

11:09pm – Davy Byrnes, Guiness

So Mike has started to pace.
He’s determined to finish this race.
And I hope that we’ll heal,
From our long liquid meal,
But I fear that might not be the case.

11:36pm – International Bar, Bulmers Cider

Our last stop has wonderful tile.
For this, people travel for miles.
As we walk in the door,
It’s still quite a pour,
But our evening will end with much style.

Well, not really, because I’ve written one bonus off-color poem devoted to the ubiquitous condiment packets on every table. . .

Brown sauce, catsup, mayo, tart,
Each condiment taken to heart.
You join every meal,
with avid appeal,
And, hopefully, won’t make us fart.

My apologies. It was a late evening. . .

The distillery vats are just behind. Oh, and the Jameson’s pretty good too.