Ahhhhhhhhh… Dublin. Where the pints are dearer than anywhere else in the world.
This was a bittersweet part of the trip. I’ve had such an amazing time here and feeling very sad to know that it’s almost at the end. But more than anything, I’m feeling grateful and exuberant for having the opportunity to do this!
Started the day by meeting up with Jennifer, who needed a ride from Belfast to the Dublin airport on her way to Berlin. It was a nice chance to visit with her during the two hour drive and I hope we will be long time friends.
Dublin itself is wonderful in so many ways, but also kind of a bummer with so many tourists, many of which are really obnoxious. There are still many quality honest pubs – but here you also have many big mega pubs bursting with people – all having the time of their lives! It’s also a melting pot of cultures and nationalities – cuisines of every type imaginable line the streets.
And the music! Music is absolutely everywhere in this city and much of it very very good.
I stayed in the heart of Temple Bar at the Eliza Lodge – a cool little place I would highly recommend. GREAT location!
For the final two days, I put my camera away for the most part and just tried to savor every last moment of my time here. So not many photos, but many many memories – and THANK YOU soooooo much to all of the people who befriended this scraggly traveler – I’m honored to be your new friend.
My best guess is that I visited 82 pubs over the past sixteen days… that’s a lot of craic! I can’t wait to come back.
I had a full day and night to explore Belfast today and took full advantage of it. I started the day with a drive around the city, checking out the Titanic Museum, Belfast Castle, the Peace Walls and the city center.
Tried to learn as much as I could about the turbulent history of this fine city – notably the tension between catholics and protestants, each of which represent equal numbers of population here.
Giant imposing walls were built to keep the two factions apart from each other back when the troubles were active. Giant murals with messages of peace and positive messages and remembrances now grace the walls and many city buildings – Now they represent the hope for a peaceful coexistence between camps, but there is still certainly a tension in the air and still many pubs with locked doors that you have to knock on to be granted access (after they check you out).
The city center is as fine as I’ve seen – LOADED with excellent restaurants, shops and pubs and everyone quite friendly…. even when I inadvertently drove on to a pedestrian-only section of town and then had to keep going for about a block because there was no way to turn around!
I had a fine lunch and then then started checking out the pubs – classics like the John Hewitt and the Duke of York were fantastic! Thank you once again to my friend Brian, a Math professor from Belfast who I met in Ardara just five days earlier, for the suggestions on best pubs! btw, I tried to call you to meet up for a pint but the number didn’t work – one of us (probably me) must have got it wrong that night. If you read this, please shoot me an email!
This night was also the start of two arts festivals in the city: Festival Of Fools (Street Performances) and Cathedral Quarter Arts Fest. I caught the first show of the Festival of Fools at St. Anne’s Square and it was wonderful! Lots of people, especially small children and a great comedy act.
Grabbed a cab to the Engine Room Gallery to support Jennifer’s opening – which was quite nice. The event itself was very similar to any opening I would find here in the states, with kind people milling about, sipping wines and admiring the art. Jennifer’s work is quite impactful, the subject being African child soldiers – but it was her mastery of light that really wowed me – very nicely done!
I explored a couple more city pubs after that and then met up with the group at Sunflower Bar, where a bit of lively music was playing – I ended up talking all night with Adrian and his sister (Celine) and Jennifer – plus some new friends I had just met – Mauve and John. We were finally kicked out by the owner at around 1am… great night!
Tags: Travel · Uncategorized
I drove the Causeway Coastal Route all the way down to Belfast, one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever taken! I had a tip from Vicky to visit Torr head along the way and it was spectacular! It was about an hour detour on a tiny tiny road frequently clogged with sheep and hugging the sides of cliffs, dropping thousands of feet to the sea on one side and up against a hill on the other.
Torr Head was absolutely beautiful and once again, i didn’t see a single person on the roads.
From there it was straight to Belfast where i secured a hotel room and then set out on foot to explore. This is a wonderful city! A great energy bustling with people, loads of shopping. Many professional people and young people walking the streets and musicians everywhere. Enjoyed a pint at Madden’s Bar, a traditional Irish pub with a great crowd of people – I made many new friends there! Two of them were Adrian and Jennifer and they asked me to join them for a couple pints down the road. Adrian is a native Belfast resident and Jennifer is an artist from Baltimore, Ireland, who is in town because she is having an art opening on Thursday night of her paintings.
We strolled down to Kelly’s and met up with a bunch more people, sat outside in the sun and had a great time! We then went to Adrian’s place to keep the party moving and listen to music. He lives in a very interesting part of town, overlooking the very apex of the dividing line between the Catholics and Protestants. I learned more about life in this interesting city and some of the scary times of the past.
After a long boozy night, grabbed a cab back to the hotel, had a whiskey at the bar and crashed hard!
Tags: Travel · Uncategorized
Woke to an absolutely beautiful morning, and started walking along the cliffs above Giants Causeway to the north. Probably did 6 or seven miles – good way to start the day!
From there, just a short trip down the road to the Bushmills Distillery, where I learned how their whiskey is made, then had samples of course!
What better way to follow a whiskey tasting than to cross a rope bridge over the sea? Headed to Carrick-a Rede rope bridge, originally used by fisherman to get to a little island just off the coast, now a tourist attraction. Was a fun experience though and another good walk.
Onward to the destination for the day, Ballycastle. I wanted to check out another pub on my list, McDonnels, a little place owned and operated by a man and his wife, but it is now only open on thursday – staurday… another sign of the times.
Still had a fantastic night in this little seaside resort town. Stayed at a lovely B&B run by a woman named Lily, who made sure I was comfortable and well fed!
Wandered through the village, having a few guinness with the locals and betting on the ponies, then dropping down for some fish and chips at Morton’s – wow! GREAT fish and chips here. John Morton owns the place and he is a fulltime fisherman – the catch of the day was young cod… tasty!
His niece, Vicky, was bartending at the Harbor Bar just down the street. I had a good long conversation with her about life in the village. John Morton might be a great person to follow for the documentary and I secured permission to shoot and go out on the boat with them for a day.
Tags: Travel · Uncategorized
Had one of the best days ever!
Spent the morning exploring Derry – Ireland’s only walled city. I walked on top of the wall all the way around and in doing so, learned about the tragic history of this city over hundreds of years – I can now see why there’s a gritty edgy feel in the air here.
Headed out along the Causeway Coastal Road, stopping for a walk in Ballykelly Forest, then on to Downhill Denmense, a Mussenden Temple perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.
Stopped in Coloraine for lunch and a look around. This town has potential, with loads of pedestrian walkspaces, but there was a depressing vibe in the air… plus there were very few pubs!
Next stop was Dunluce Castle, considered one of Ireland’s most dramatic castles, also perched dramatically on the cliff’s edge. I didn’t bother with the tour because by now I’m chomping at the bit to get to Giants Causeway, just a few mile down the road!
Giants Causeway… I’ve always been interested in geology and since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to see this place in person. Now I’m finally here and it’s incredible! So surreal, wild and exciting – this landscape is awesome.
I spend a couple hours shooting photos and then book a room at the Causeway Hotel at the top of the cliffs – a FANTASTIC Hotel! I highly recommend this place for any visitors to the area.
I had a couple Magners (in honor of my friend Kathy who is from the area!) and a beautiful Cod dinner, then set off for a sunset hike. The sun sets around 8:45 here, so there was plenty of light left for a good long walk along the tops of the cliffs.
It was windy but clear and I was the only one out there. The sea was lashing wildly and foam was flying clear up to the top, hundreds of feet in the air.
I scored some beautiful images as darkness arrived, then retired to the bar for some Bushmills.
Tags: Travel · Uncategorized
Woke this morning to the worst weather I’ve seen on this trip – heavy winds, rain and even some hail… forget about camping tonight!
I hugged the coastline all the way to Crohy Head, through the Rosses, a very beautiful part of Donegal and then to Kincaslough where I checked out Sharkey’s pub. Being fairly early on a Sunday, it was closed but it certainly looked like the kind of pub I’m looking for – one of only two pubs in the area with many houses close by for walkers… very small village.
Onward through Gweedore and then to Errigal Mountain – where I had hoped to do some climbing, but the weather was still fiercely terrible and the mountain shrouded in fog so i passed on by and stopped at Glenveagh national Park and Castle.
Had a great afternoon of hiking despite the bad weather – using every bit of rain gear I brought with me, I hiked way up to the top of the mountain looking down upon the beautiful lakeside castle. The trails here are STEEP! And they go straight up, no switchbacks on these trails!
Because of the conditions, I had the entire place to myself and didn’t see a single person for the whole day out there. At the top of the peak, the wind was so strong that I had to fight just to stay on my feet! The strongest winds I ever encountered anywhere.
Decided that a city stop was in order, so made my way to Derry – a bustling urban environment and my first visit ever to Northern Ireland. It is a bit strange to have to convert your money here to sterling, but that’s they way their world works here. Did a bit of exploring the city, had a nice meal of fresh monkfish and chips and then hit the sack hard.
***** On a sad note, I spoke with Debi who informed me that our long time friend Zoe Parsons had passed away. She was a fantastic vibrant person and put up a brave fight with pancreatic cancer. She will be missed, but I will raise a glass in her honor tonight!
Finished the night in Westport by roaming from pub to pub, checking out the live music in each one. This is a great city for music, with about seven or eight pubs having traditional music within a couple blocks area. The final stop of the night was at a place that was pretty well deserted, save the two old men in the corner, one with a guitar, one with a banjo, both completely wasted, neither could remember the words to the songs. I was the only one at the bar, and sipped on a Jameson while listening to these two characters – perfect end to the night.
Woke very early and had another full Irish breakfast at the hotel, then hit the road toward Slieve League. Along the way I stopped at Yeat’s Gravesite, just north of Sligo (I told you I would Gerard!) and stood for a moment to soak in the aura.
Hit Bundoran to check out one of the pubs on my list, Brennan’s. It’s a lovely old pub, carved wood bar and ceilings, stained glass windows. But the community and the neighborhood is pretty well run down and didn’t have a good vibe. I wandered into the casino across the street and hit for about 50 euros! Sweet – that’s twelve pints (yes, I think of money in terms of pints now).
Stopped for a pint in Donnegal city, just to rest a bit and get my bearings.
Then made my way along incredibly treacherous roads to Slieve League, and started hiking to the top. It was STEEP STEEP STEEP, but it was a gorgeous day, perfect for hiking! I walked for more than four hours, making my way all the way to the top and then along the ridge of the cliffs – got some amazing photos!
Finally ended up in Adara, named Irelands most livable Irish village by the Irish Times. Got a room at the Brae House (35 euro, just leave on the bed when you leave), and proceeded to drink and eat my way around the town. It was Saturday night and things were hopping everywhere! This is a village of 1200 people, but there are twelve pubs along the four block stretch.
Ended up at the end of the night at Dougherty’s, where there was a hen party (bachlorette) and the women were absolutely going crazy over a guy who stripped as he sang Tom Jones songs… the place was going mad all night and it was a load of fun. Also met a great guy from Belfast, Brian, and hope to meet up with him later in the trip for another couple pints.
Another jam packed day today – I’ve added FIVE more potential pubs to the project: Mickey’s in Dooega, Lynet’s in Cashel, Valley House in Valley, John Patton’s in Dereens and the Achill Sound Hotel in Achill Sound – all of these villages have a population of less than 200.
But the stars today were the Black Faced Mountain Sheep and the gorgeous beaches on Achill Island, were I spent most of the day!
Tags: Landscapes · love · Travel · Uncategorized · wildlife
Yearning to get back out into the country, I bid farewell to Gerard and Richard (and Gally). Once again, I’m SO THANKFUL for these wonderful hosts! I look forward to meeting up again…
Drove to Clifden and had a nice lunch of Seafood Chowder, then explored the town. It’s a nice enough little place with fine galleries and colorful pubs, many choices for food.
The highlight was the surrounding area! Gerard suggested that I take a drive along the Sky Road, and WOW was it spectacular! High above Clifden, there are views across the sea that took my breath away.
I then dropped down to the Beach Road and walked along the beach for a little while – it was a windy day and the waves were churning.
From there, headed north to Conemarra National Park. I hike the trails way to the top – about three miles roundtrip – once again was treated to beautiful views, and the weather was perfect.
Just north of the park was the next stop, Kylemore Abbey. At 12.50 euros, it was a steep admittance price for what I saw, but it was interesting – a beautiful abbey and walled Victorian Garden.
The drive from there to Westport was stunning – about two hours of coastal and lakeside driving through winding roads. I stopped frequently for photos and captured some really nice landscapes.
Stopped briefly in Clew Bay for a pint – nice little place but nothing special, and then proceeded to my final destination for the day, Westport.
I had one of the finest meals of my life (Crab Claws, Crab Cakes, Scallops, Chocolate Mousse and great wine). I got to meet the owner and we chatted for a while – he suggested some locations for me to explore along the coast which is what my game plan is for today.
Closed the night with a couple weary lints at Matt Malloy’s where traditional music was on the bill, and crashed mightily!
Another fine day.
When i woke today, the weather looked fantastic for a game of golf, so we played 18 holes on the scenic Gort Golf Club. Richard gleefully took my money with his superb play, but no matter, the views were sublime and it felt great to get out and hit the ball. My drive off the first tee was one of my best ever! But then things quickly went downhill and I hacked my way around the course… smiling all the way!
From there we hit Linnane’s Pub in New Quay for a few pints. A lovely seaside pub with heavy aroma of clams and garlic in the air and horse racing on the telly.
A quick visit to Bishop’s Quarter in Ballyvaughan, one of Richard’s domains, then a beautiful dinner of pasta carbonara prepared by Richard and Gerard, washed down with a good bottle of red.
After dinner, Gerard and Gally (Richard’s dog) and I headed up the mountain to see one of Ireland’s oldest landmarks, the Poulnabrone Dolmin, at sunset. More than 5000 years old, this monument stands eerily alone in a barren field of limestone.
Finally around 9:30 in the evening, it was time to return to our favorite pub in the area, O’Loclainn’s Bar, where Margaret cheerfully poured numerous Green Spot whiskeys for us.
April 24th, 2013 · 1 Comment
Explored the beautiful city of Galway today! It’s a lively, vibrant place, with a large area for pedestrians, filled with shops, restaurants and pubs. I walked along the piers, through the Spanish Arch and along the Clauddagh, then toured some of the large cathedrals.
Later in the day, Gerard and Richard met up with me at the King’s Head Pub for a couple pints, then off to an amazing meal.
We finished the night at Gerard’s place, sipping fine whiskeys by the fire and playing music until the wee hours.
What a day today! Loads of exploring and hiking:
I woke to a bucolic scene just outside my bedroom window, a nice pasture with a flock of sheep roaming about! Just idyllic accommodations and I can’t thank Richard enough for hosting me here – he has been just wonderful and fun to hang out with!
Gerard and I set out for a day of sightseeing and hiking:
- Bell Harbor panoramic views
- MacDonagh’s pub in Aranmore for a pint
- Yeat’s tower – his WB Yeat’s residence tucked away in the woods
- Coole Park – once the home of Lady Gregory and the center of Irish culture, now a nature preserve. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw were frequent visitors here.
- Dunguaire Castle
- Kinvara Pier
- Corcomroe Abbey
We then returned to Richard’s place and he prepared a nice meal of lamb chops, boiled potatoes and peas with a nice bottle of wine.
In this village, the pubs generally don’t open until 8pm – so at around 9pm, we set out toward Fanore, to have a session at O’Donohue’s pub. This is a gloriously rural and scenic pub! Situated on the edge of the sea and surrounded by lush farmland, it’s the primary meeting place for the locals and just the type of pub I’m looking for.
At 9pm, we were the first one’s to arrive, with most other walking in between 10 and 11pm! We had several pints there and enjoyed conversation. I can think of no better drinking companions than two Irish priests! All the locals know them and respect them and we talked and drank well into the morning.
Another fantastic day!
In the morning I was greeted by May at the B&B with another full Irish breakfast that she had prepared. Even though I wasn’t very hungry, she demanded that I sit and eat!
I headed westward on the M6 toward my destination for the next few days, Ballyvaughan, a beautiful seaside village about an hour south on Galway.
The original plan was to stay with my friend, Gerard McCarthy, who is a Catholic priest. He was covering for a colleague and friend, Richard Flanagan, also a priest, in Ballyvaughan. So we would both stay at Richards for a few days and then head onward. Upon my arrival, I was instantly whisked into a pub and seated at a table with a family having their funeral lunch, having buried their brother that morning, in which Gerard conducted the services.
After a pint of Guinness and hearty roast beef, mashed potatoes, veggies and apple cake lunch, we spent the rest of the day exploring the area.
We walked the Rinn peninsula, with views of Galway across the bay to the north. explored the Burren and visited the Cliffs of Mohr. The evening was spent at O’Loughen’s, a classic Irish pub, no tv, no music, just good whiskey, guiness and conversation. We drank Green Spot whiskey and it was glorious!
I landed in Dublin at around 4:30am and was quickly issued a very nice red Nissan Micra. Driving was much easier than I expected – as though I had been driving over here for years! I set off on the motorway just as a gorgeous sunrise was emerging.
As I exited the motorway toward Kells, the road quickly narrowed to two lanes, then one lane, weaving and bobbing through the countryside with high hedges creeping in on both sides.
Kells in a pleasant farming community about an hour from Dublin, with numerous pubs. I walked the empty streets for about an hour – it was not even 7am on a Saturday morning and all was quiet.
I drove the country roads for a couple hours, exploring the tiny villages surrounding the area ad getting used to the driving. Castletown was very pretty.
Returning to Kells, had a massive irish breakfast at the Headford Arms Hotel. Rashers, sausages, black pudding, white pudding, eggs, brown bread and four cups of tea. NOW I was ready to take on the day!
I landed a room at the Janetta B&B, hosted by an elderly couple who were a bit leary at first, but when they heard that my Great Grandfather was from the area, they instantly warmed to me and handed my keys to a room.
I spent the rest of the day in and out of pubs, starting with the Westwind, then Smith’s, Chaser’s, Virginia’s, and about three or four others. Along the way I met a nice collection of characters – betting on the ponies with Marcus and a group of guys, hanging out with John the farmer and “Gay Jerry”, Charles the bartender – all very welcoming and pleasant people!
I finished the night with a meal at the Cross Street Bistro, a little place with absolutely delicious food owned by a man from Pennsylvania – enjoyed a bowl of potato leek soup and battered haddock with peas.
What a great start!
Tags: Travel · Uncategorized
April 17th, 2013 · 1 Comment
Just returned from an absolutely EPIC time at Coachella – great weather, incredible neighbors and the best music I’ve heard at a fest. Faves include: The Faint, Alt – J, Infected Mushroom, Reignwolf, Kurt Vile, Jeff the Brotherhood, Shouting Matches, Lord Huron, IO Echo, Skinny Lister and C2C. LOVE this festival!
Tags: Camping · crazy · funky · love · music · Travel
March 28th, 2013 · 1 Comment
My favorite plant of the desert!
ISO125 16mm f/6.3 1/160
The latest piece – 3o” X 48″, acrylic. I like it a lot, but starting to think these are all looking too similar. May have to switch things up a bit for the next one!
Tags: Art · Landscapes · painting
Tags: crazy · funky · love · music · Travel · urban
December 30th, 2012 · 4 Comments
This was a nice little trip through some areas of the Supes that I had never been before, and I was blown away by the beauty of this area! I started at the Peralta trailhead and set out on the Dutchman’s Trail, heading toward Miner’s Needle.
From there, I ascended up through Miner’s Pass just as a nice storm blew in – I donned full rain gear, stashed the camera away and slogged my way up the trail, gaining about 1200 feet within a mile or so. There wasn’t a breath of wind or any noise at all, just a gentle and steady shower of rain pattering on my hood.
At noon, the sky was so dark it seemed almost night, but then just as quickly it began to break and I started shedding layers. I made it to the top where the trail intersects with the Coffee Flat Trail, then descended down into Marsh Valley and the sun broke through.
Strangely, almost disconcertingly, everything was still and quiet. Not even a bird call or insect rustle. My ears actually started to ache a little bit from the absence of sound. But it was completely peaceful and relaxing, a gentle descent down to Bluff Spring.
From there I made my way down toward La Barge Canyon and found a nice open spot near running spring water to make camp. Dinner was chicken and sausage gumbo, washed down with some good Irish whiskey. I built a small fire and watched the sun retreat below the horizon – just a few puffy clouds to catch the last violet rays.
Then it got COLD! It was probably the chilliest night I ever spent out in a tent. I had two liters of water inside with me and by morning they were frozen solid! I ended up having to fill my pot from the spring and boiling that to have water for breakfast (oatmeal with strawberries and a cup of tea).
I also had a chance to test out two new pieces of gear – the Sol Emergency Bivy, which is basically a space blanket (3.8 oz) shaped like a bag that I inserted my sleeping bag into. It worked GREAT – and I was warm all night, despite temps that were well below freezing.
The other little toy I loved is the Mont Bell Crushable Lantern, weighing only 5 grams, this little shade converted my headlamp into a nice glowing lantern, perfect inside the tent.
I spent a lot of time down in that valley, exploring areas off trail that looked interesting, and shooting lots of photos. The wildlife had finally emerged from their hiding spots, convinced that the storm had finally passed. I saw the most beautiful birds ever, but couldn’t get a shot of them – a big proud bluejay, a cardinal absolutely glowing crimson and some kind of bright yellow finch. Also spied some nice sized deer and a few lizards still braving the temps.
Finally it was time to head back and i made my way back up to the Bluff Spring Trail, from there it was just a few hours of hiking through a roller coaster hills and then a steep descent back down to the trailhead.
A very nice trip that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting a true Sonoran desert wilderness experience!
Tags: Camping · fauna · flora · Landscapes · Weather · wildlife