Across the pond... and back again.

A current Florida Gator temporarily relocated to the west of Ireland..

09 August 2006

Erin Go Braugh.. final Irish post...

The subject says it all. I leave for London and Amsterdam (early) tomorrow morning via Dublin.. So, tonight is my last night in Galway and Ireland.. probably for a while.

Things I will miss:
- "What's the craic?"
- Massimos, Blue Note, and various other West end pubs
- "Are you going out tonight?" "No." 5 minutes and 2 pints later. "Yes."
- "So you play with lasers, huh?"
- D4 - (pronounced dee-fooaarrr) - "Let's ride the Jerry Lee, like."
- "Would you like rice or potatoes with the Chinese sweet 'n sour chicken, laddy?"
- 80s night at the GPO.
- Bulmers.
- Various Swedish ciders.
- Free incoming calls and texts on my mobile.
- Texting more than I ever have in my life.
- Curry chips.
- Garlic chips.
- Curry and Garlic chips.
- Curry and Cheese chips.
- Supermacs (but only at 3AM).
- "Oh, Joey, that old guy just thought you were a rent boy."
- 15 minute tea breaks that last 45.
- Hour lunch breaks that last 2.
- Grand, brilliant, sound, and the like.
- The people.
- Galway.
- Ireland.


Out with the flat mates (and the lab) for some final drinks...

Everything looks and feels better after a few pints...

Even if you are leaving a brilliant place.

Slainte, Gallimh! Slainte, Eire! (Forgive me if the Irish is butchered.)

Slightly sullen (but ultimately happy to return to the States),

04 August 2006

Racing Away...

These past few weeks have been insane for various reasons... Loss in any form makes life much more intense. I have less than two weeks before I return to Florida; I have one more day of work left; and I leave Ireland in less than a week. Nearly three months of living in this little Emerald Isle has been brilliant, grand, great craic, and every other superlative I can think of. I'm not going to go into a long diatribe about how this trip has changed me -- (it has.. and it pretty much goes without saying). Instead, I am going to focus on making the most of my time here. Galway, I will miss you, and you will always hold a special place in my heart. Gainesville, I do miss you, and I'll be back soon. :)


Jessica and I enjoying our Bulmers from outside the gates of the Galway Races -- Ireland's equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. All the pomp and circumstance that is associate with horse racing can be seen here..

Despite being too cheap to pay the 25 quid to get into the Races, we had an amazing view of the Races..

Having a few drinks with my Irish mates (Paddy seen here) at Massimos during a Latin Salsa night. (Yes, a Latin Salsa night in Ireland.) Good craic. We enjoyed a nice (actually, not so nice) Galway Hooker microbrewed beer -- slightly fruity but a really bitter after taste.

Watching a late night gig at the famous Roisin Dubh -- tons of local acts go to this place. It is the definition of craic.

No more sleeping for the next two weeks.. Cheers! -J

27 July 2006

When the Irish go French...

So, yes, I have been slacking with updates. However, it's hard to keep up when you have accumulated a slept debt of what seems like 2 months. :)

The past week was a definitely blur.. but in a good way. I spent much of the early part of the week preparing for a presentation in Bordeaux, getting more data in the lab, and trying to relax. So here's a bit of a recap of what all went down..

Wednesday: Sleep for approximately 3 hours. Wake up at 1AM on Thursday.

Thursday: 2AM: Catch a night bus for Dublin Airport. 5:30AM: Arrive at Dublin Airport, way too early and tired. (Some secondary school kids had finished their leaving certifications and were going on holidays to Amsterdam -- needless to say, the generally peaceful and quiet bus ride was anything but.) I sat around the airport for God knows how long until I finally boarded my plane bound for Amsterdam. 2pm: Arrive at the Amsterdam airport. 4:30PM: Finally leave the Amsterdam airport bound for Bordeaux nearly 45 minutes late. (At this point, I am running solely on RedBull.) 6PM: Arrive in a very very hot (in excess of 105F) Bordeaux. Ahhh.. heat.. how I've missed such temperatures. I met up with some other folks presenting their research and toured around the city, having an apertif along the way before some dinner. Experienced plenty of Bordeaux wine.. only 3 hours into the trip. Got to sleep around 3am.

Friday: 8AM: Wake up. Put on my dress clothes.. and sandals. (Gotta rep the Floridian lifestyle!) Gave 20 minute research presentation to many more people than I expected, including the head of the National Science Foundation (Europe Divison) and the US Consul in Bordeaux. Promptly headed to lunch, toured the University of Bordeaux for a bit, and then headed out to the beach. (YES!)

The beach in Bordeaux was absolutely savage -- the waves were incredibly powerful (forcing most of us to wade around in the rather shallow parts). Nonetheless, it was great to finally be at a proper beach, with proper temperatures, with proper waves. (Sorry, Ireland, but Salthill near Galway Bay does not count.) We had a fantastic 3 course dinner with calamari, oysters, some random fish, plenty of Bordeaux wine, and melt-in-your-mouth dessert. And just as we all thought the night was over (at about 11pm), we all headed over to the port side of the beach and waded around in the water for a bit. Now this may not seem all that spectacular if it were not for the bioluminescent algae in the water. It was dark outside, yet whenever you moved around in the water, the algae started to fluoresce, creating an eerie glow around your body. Definitely class. Of course, the night didn't end until around 4AM.

Saturday: More beach. Beach shennanigans. Fantastic. And, as per usual, plenty of Bordeaux wine. (And horrible French beer.) The night never ended, as I took a shower at 3:30AM, and caught a taxi to the Bordeaux airport at 4AM for my 6AM flight back to Dublin. (Definitely, not class.)

Sunday: Got back to Ireland at around 10AM. 4 hour bus ride back to Galway. By this point, I was pretty much running on empty. So what do I do? No sleeping -- 'You can sleep when you are dead.' I headed out to watch the big parade as part of the Galway Arts Festival. Finally slept at 12AM.

This week: Finally, somewhat chill. However, my time here in Eire is growing to a close. So, I expect my sleep deficit will grow even more. And you know what? I'm perfectly fine with that. :)

Cheers! -J

Victoire Square in Bordeaux

The Harbor as seen from this giant lighthouse in Bordeaux.

Random fish and barely cooked meat for lunch in Bordeaux.

Beach shennanigans in Bordeaux with the other research folks.

More beach in Bordeaux...

16 July 2006

This was time.. I was Irish...

This past week was a blur (literally and figuratively). I decided to be Irish for a week. So, for a twenty-something, that means going out every night.. even if you have work at 9AM. I only made it for three days and nights.. but I feel that's an "accomplishment" in itself!

If there ever was a time to go out in Galway.. it's in the month of July.. between the Galway Film Fleadh (which has movies showing all the friggin time.. even in Eyre Square!), Galway Arts Festival, Project 06, and The Galway Races -- there is little downtime to be a normal, functioning nine-to-fiver.

So a quick recap of this week(nights):
Tuesday - Went out to The Kings Head with some lads for a few pints.. and good local, rockish (but not trad) music. Good craic, indeed. A few pints turned into more than a few (aye.. I should have realized this).. and I didn't get home till about 03:00, only to go to work at 09:00. Class.

Wednesday - Pre-party at some workmates' flat. 80's music night at the GPO. While I still stand by my original comment that Irish people can't dance, anyone can dance to 80's music. And the Irish were dancing to 80's music. A lot. I feel like they played more of Madonna and Whitney Houston than I would ever care to listen to, but after a few pints.. you know.. they aren't so bad! Towards the end of the night, amidst a bunch of sloppy Irish folk, the DJ played U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- pretty much everyone in the club sang the lyrics.. very loudly.. ahhh.. Eire. Afterwards, my group headed to Eddie Rocket's, the Irish version of Johnny Rockets for some Garlic, Bacon, and Cheese fries -- I thought Steak 'N Shake had incredibly non-nutritious food, but apparently I hadn't seen the half of it. Got back at 3:30AM -- the sun was starting to come up in the distance.

Thursday - Preparty at the workmates' house again.. for a much longer time. Headed out to Karma. 6eu cover -- ugh. Interesting interior, but not worth the 6eu. I guess we had too many pints before we got to the club to realize that we paid for another 80's night -- ahh.. oh well. Still had a good time. Once again, the Irish love their Madonna. And U2. Mmm.. Supermac's at 3:00AM. Got back at 4:00AM.

Friday - Nothing! I said screw being Irish.. I needed to sleep. So, I saw Superman Returns at the OmniPlex and promptly went to bed.. glorious!

Saturday - Gorgeous day! 80 degrees. No clouds in the sky.. light breeze. That's nearly a first! I brought my laptop, sunscreen, and sandals with me as I headed down towards Galway Bay to "lay out" with half of Galway and do a bit of work. Much needed respite (and as they say here.. detox) from being Irish. The weather made me feel like I was back in Florida, and, for nearly the first time, I felt a slight tinge of homesickness. Ay.. only one more month here. Insane.

This week is going to be hectic -- between new lab equipment, presentations, and packing, I am going to be crazy busy. Thursday, I head to Bordeaux, France for a little weekend research conference (and wine tasting).

I hear the weather is supposed to hold out here for a few days.. which will be grand.

Cheers from this side of the Atlantic! -J

12 July 2006

Croagh Patrick.. you old fool..

This past weekend I met up with Megan in Galway, and we climbed Croagh Patrick. Correction: Croagh Patrick owned us.

So, to give a brief overview, Croagh Patrick is a holy site in Ireland. Apparently St. Patrick climbed up the mountain about umpteen hundred years ago, stayed on the top of the mountain for about 40 days and 40 nights, and eventually came down. At the end of each July, nearly 40000 people flock to this site -- the highest mountain in Ireland -- to climb up the mountain. (The real hardcore ones go barefoot!)

So, after about a 2.5 hour busride from Galway to Westport (which ultimately was only about 60km away), Megan and I were taking a taxi out to Croagh Patrick. The weather was horrible. Let me repeat -- horrible. Wind, rain, and the like. Oh, and did I mention it was about 50F outside? Can't forget that. Nonetheless, Megan and I continued to brave Croagh Patrick.

There are three legs of the Croagh Patrick journey -- all of which have deceiving looking distances. We started the first leg uphill, which was set at a healthy 20 degree incline -- definitely worked the legs. The rain was just pissing on us, and our clothes and backpacks started to get relatively damp. Nonetheless, it wasn't too bad.. We stopped and took a couple pictures of the view from the first leg of the journey up.

Seems nice enough, right? Not too bad, is what we thought.. so after a quick little respite which included some cookies and apples, Megan and I continued up. We should have taken the fact that white clouds covered the top of the mountain as an omenous sign, but being the crazy Americans that we are, we paid it no attention.

We go to the second leg of the mountain -- nearly flat and right at the cloud line. It really was gorgeous, despite the rain.. and the hurricane force winds. I wouldn't consider myself a skinny guy, but Megan is tiny, and we were both nearly blown off the mountain about 50 times. At this stage, the rain was just pouring and hitting us in the face like bullets -- so intense! We walked for about another 15 minutes on this second part of the mountain, carefully watching our step so as not to fall off the mountain.

At that point, Megan and I were pretty much the only ones left on the mountain. Everyone had turned around because the weather was just disgusting. But we were soaked through and through, so we kept going -- it wouldn't have mattered if we walked down -- everything was wet. So we made it to the third stage -- the uphill battle. We couldn't really take any pictures because the only dry article in my backpack was my camera in its case, and we didn't want the electronics to die.. so you'll have to take my word on it.

The cloud cover was insane -- I felt like I was living in a cloud. I could barely see more than 10 feet in front or behind me, which probably wasn't safe, considering we were going up a really steep incline. (See below for a photo that was taken by someone else on a nice day during the last leg of the journey.)

So, finally, after another 30 minutes upwards, taking two steps forward and falling 5 steps back because of the rain and rock slippage, Megan and I made it to the top. There was a small little church... that was locked. And that was it up there. No view -- just clouds and rain. We found a tiny alcove, had a few cookies, and high-tailed our SOAKED bodies down the mountain once again. 1.5 hours up. 1.5 hours down. And then a nice, long, freezing bus ride back to Galway.

Nevertheless, I would do it all over again. The feeling of actually climbing Croagh Patrick was incredible -- something I'd like to try again. (Maybe on a better day this time?)

So, Croagh Patrick, we may have climbed you.. but you certainly kicked our arses.

Cheers! -J

05 July 2006

Baile Átha Cliath and July Fourth abroad...

This past weekend, I headed to Dublin to finally check out the most talked about city in Ireland and to meet up with Lee and Alli! During 3.5 hour CityLink bus from Galway, I felt like I was in the backwoods until about 20 minutes before the city centre stop. Dublin is one of the few places in Eire that has roads larger than two-laners and employ more stoplights than roundabouts (a novel idea in Ireland!). The city is divided through the center by the (polluted) River Liffey, which really is only pretty at night when you can't see the sickening green tint in the water. The first thing I noticed as I got off the bus was how much more 'cosmopolitan' (I know.. overused phrase.. but deal with it) Dublin was from the rest of homogenized Ireland -- Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Africans, Eastern Europeans, South Americans, Australians (well, they are pretty much everyone, regardless), and, yes, Americans. People were everywhere -- it was fantastic! Despite the oddly placed Heineken clock in a seemingly Guinness town, I rather liked Dublin -- even at the warnings of my Galwegian flatmates.

I pretty much just walked around the city throughout the weekend; once again, the weather was brilliant. I actually was able to wear shorts and not carry an umbrella -- wooooaahhhhh; I haven't been able do that in a while. Saw Trinity, St. Pat's, Temple Bar, the Dublin Spire (aka 'Stiffey by the Liffey'), St. Stephen's Green, and lots of random pubs and whatnot. Lee and I met up with Alli on Saturday afternoon to watch a bit of World Cup (i.e. Portgual beating England -- I am one round away from winning 25eu in the office pool!) and have a few pints of Bulmers and Kopparbergs Swedish Cider -- so good! The rest of the trip to Dublin was relaxing time; didn't do a whole lot except grab a pint and an occasional Bailey's ice cream scoop from Supermac's.

The bus ride back to Galway was rather long.. and a bit toasty. But all the while, still okay. While grabbing dinner back in Galway, Lee and I were approached by a completely and utterly intoxicated grubby middle aged woman who looked like she had fallen down about 50 times, based on the scrapes and scabs on her face. She kept handing us money and mumbling something -- finally, I figured out that she was kicked out of the pub next door for being too intoxicated and wanted us to buy her another drink. (Yeah right!) To no avail, she asked every single person she came in contact with (including people sitting in their cars!) to buy her a drink with the 'fiver'. Later on that evening, we headed out to the Living Room with the flatmates and a few other friends for some Sunday evening celebrating -- free wine and all. Good times, good times.

Monday -- after work, headed out to the Cinema to see The Wind That Shakes the Barley, an incredibly intense and well-made film (best film at the Cannes film festival this year!) about Irish independence from Britain in the 1920s. (Kind of appropriate for July 4th!) Like I said -- very intense -- not a 'feel good' kind of movie - especially the bitter tasting ending. I'm not sure if it will make it out to the States, but it is a must-see film if you can get your hands on it.

And finally, Tuesday, July 4th. Nothing was really different in good ol' Galway. Save the tacky American flags hung up in the University's canteen and 'Burgers and Fries' lunch menu (notice the usage of 'fries' and not 'chips'), Independence Day was nothing more than July 4th. That made me slightly disappointed -- it would have been nice to see some middle-aged suburbanite standing outside by the grill with a beer in hand wearing a gaudy American flag t-shirt. Ahh, the little things that are actually pretty trivial are the things you miss the most...

Happy 5th of July, now!

Slainte! -J

30 June 2006

Quick pre-weekend update..

This week has been brilliant! On Wednesday, I went on a "Corporate Day Out". Now imagine this scene -- a group of late 20-somethings, middle(and old)-aged Physics professors -- nearly all hungover from the previous night's escapades for a colleague leaving -- taking a bus an hour outside of Galway to Pallas Karting - "Europe's Largest Karting Center". Now imagine these same, semi-professionals in racing jumpsuits and helmets (I'll post pictures after this weekend) trying to beat each other in a rather competitive mini-Gran Prix style competition. And that's the corporate day out -- good craic, in all. And ultimately, I didn't have to do any work on Wednesday!

I'm heading to Dublin this afternoon and meeting up with Lee (and possibly Allison?).. I'm rather excited about it.. however, the Galwegians tell me that because I like Galway, I won't like Dublin. Bummer. I guess we'll see.

And to keep up with Justin, I have posted my travel map as well.. Blue is for places I've stayed & lived for more than 2 weeks; green is for places I have visited; yellow is for places I will visit by the end of the summer.

[Update: the page was acting weird -- here is a link to the map:]

Cheers! -J