Archive for September, 2009

¨The Galway Girl¨: Ireland, Sept 2- Sept 16

September 24, 2009

Well, my solo adventure would not yet begin, as I met Susie, one of the sweetest girls Ive ever met, at my hostel in Dublin. Susie was from DC, but emigrated from China when she was 12, so not yet completely immersed in American culture, which could have something to do with her sweetness. In the same hostel, I met Marike, a lovely German girl of 20 who like to roll her own tobacco. So, an Asian, a Jew and a German walked into a bar… Actually, the 3 of us would walk into several Irish bars over the course of the next week, until Marike had to leave us and return to her native Germany. But Susie and I werent alone for long as we soon met Jen, a brilliant musician from Buffalo, NY, and the three of us would decide to continue our travels together through the great Emerald Isle. First stop, Galway. Remember the movie, ¨PS I Love You¨?. Well much of that took place in this beautiful city of Galway, located on the west coast of Ireland. And it was just as beautiful as it was in the movie. While there, we saw the Cliffs of Mohar, featured in ¨The Princess Bride¨, saw lots of cows and sheep, watched more traditional Irish dancing, and most exciting of all, I rode a Rickshaw. Not in the back as a passenger..I actually drove it, somehow managing not to mow over any innocent pedestrians, yet perpetuating the stereotype of the loud, obnoxious American tourist. Nonetheless, we had the craic! (Thatś Irish speak for ´fun´). During our week in Galway, we became regulars at a bar called the Quay. We returned to the Quay mainly for the atmosphere as well as the band. One night after the pub closed, the band invited us and a few people back to their flat. We agreed and the next thing I knew, we were sitting in the back of a van, the back door shutting behind us. Ok, this should be interesting, we thought. And it was a great night. We spent the night jamming on the guitar and discussing music. At one point, the guitaristś flatmate gave Jen a tour of the ¨greenhouse¨, where apparently he was growing his own special kind of greens. Ok, dont wanna know about that, thank you. At about 3 am, we finally left the house of green leaves and headed back to our hostel, but not before stopping at Supermacś (Irelandś McDonalds), in front of which about 300 drunken Irish teenagers gathered . Guess they were hungry too. The next day we left Galway and headed to the southeast of Ireland to the city of Cork, where we would spend a few days before heading back to our homebase of Dublin, which was exactly as we left it. Ah, Ireland. I could live here….if only it had a roof.

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¨Trainspotting¨: Scotland and Ireland with mom, August 26- Sept 2

September 23, 2009

Scotland: So, where did I leave off? Italy. So, after my overnight adventure at Milan Malpensa airport, I finally arrived in Edinburgh where mom, who had come to meet me in Europe for a holiday, patiently waited for me. We checked into our hotel and got ready before hitting the fringe circuit. To my pleasant surprise, we had brilliantly timed our trip to Edinburgh. It was right in the midst of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, one of the biggest cultural and artistic festivals in the world. Our first night, me, mom and my friend Tal, whom I met on the plane, attended a free comedy show, at which we were the only 3 people in the audience! (Guess thatś why it was free). Before the show started, Sarita, the seemingly friendly MC, insisted that we sit in the front row. Normally I would never subject myself to the front row of a stand up comedy show, however, we were too scared to object so we did as we were told. First question aimed at us: where are you from? Ok, here we go. These are the moments I wish I were Canadian. So after some good old America bashing, Sarita began to get personal. Suddenly she wasnt so friendly anymore. She inquired into momś marital status and she asked me if I was a natural blond. Now, that crossed the line. Leave my hair out of this! After being sufficiently humiliated at one comedy show, we continued the masochism and attended another the following night. Papa CJ was one of the comics from the first night and we thought the small bit that he did was so good, we wanted to return and see his full show. First question of Papa CJś show, ¨Any Americans in the audience?” When that was followed by silence, he reassured us, ¨Its okay, we like you now. After 8 years, welcome back!” This made us feel better so we sheepishly revealed our identity. ¨Did you vote for Obama?¨, Papa CJ asked us. As mom (an admitted Republican) tried to disappear in her chair, I replied, ¨Well, I did!” That got a laugh out of the audience, as well as Papa CJ who saw that as his chance to do a few Bush jokes and some Republican bashing, unfortunately at the expense of my mom. Sorry mom, but it is time to see the light :). Overall it was a great night in the city. The following day we went on a tour of Scotland. We went to the highlands, saw the Loch Ness (but no monster), ate Potato Leek soup at a little Scottish restaurant, and finally arrived back in Edinburgh where we packed our things in preparation for our trip to Ireland the following day.

Ireland: The moment I arrived in Dublin, I felt as if I were home. After almost 3 months of travelling in over 5 different countries and countless cities, this was the first place that truly called to me. I dont know if it was the greenery, or the Irish accent, or the friendliness, or the Irish accent…but there was something about Ireland, and I would end up spending the next 2 weeks there. But more about that later. On our first day, mom and I attended a world cultural festival right on the outskirts of Dublin where they offered various natural and homeopathic services and products. We treated ourselves to a 30 minute Reflexology session (aka, a really good foot massage), ate a chocolate and marshmellow crepe (pure heaven), watched some Tango dancing and did some fair trade shopping. Chocolate, massage, shopping.. does it get any better than? Later that night, we went to see some traditional Irish dancing, which was just fascinating to watch. Before we knew it a week had passed and it was time to say goodbye. So mom headed back to the states and I returned to my gypsy adventures. After 3 months of travelling with various travel partners, with mom, and staying with friends, I would now begin my journey, for the first time this trip, alone. And I was scared.

The Terminal: Israel to Edinburgh via Milan. August 15-25th

September 19, 2009

Ok, where did I leave off? Ah, Israel. So during my stay in Israel, I visited Jerusalem where we visited the Western Wall, the holiest site in the world. Being a somewhat cynical New Yorker who never really embraced religion, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, when I arrived to the site and began walking towards the wall I was overwhelmed with an indescribable sensation that rippled through my body- more spiritual than physical- and I was overcome with emotion. It is true what they say- there is something about that spot in the world and by feeling it, I now believe it. The rest of my two weeks in Israel would be spent discussing and reflecting on religion and God and spirituality and all that good stuff, and I would make the decision to sign up for that 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat that I discussed earlier. I’m usually up for a challenge and thought this may be a good one, not to mention being good for the soul. So, I confirmed my participation and decided to do it. Until I read the terms and conditions: “For 10 full days, no speaking, no eye contact, no physical contact, no reading, writing, snacking, smoking, no wearing of clothing that could be distracting to the opposite sex” (no I am not making that up, that is an actual rule). Furthermore, the schedule would include waking up at 4:30am to begin meditating until 9:30pm when we would retire to our rooms for sleep. So, I decided my soul was okay as it was and cancelled my reservation. I will meditate in silence at another time. So, after a total of two weeks in the beautiful holy land, I finally said goodbye to Meital and her family and headed off to Scotland where my mom (who I finally convinved to leave the country) would be waiting for me. Unfortunately there weren’t any direct flights from Israel to Scotland, so I had to make a stopover in Milan. Even more unfortunate was the fact that I ended up missing my connecting flight in Milan. More unfortunate still….the next flight wasn’t until the following day. So, I would spend the night in the Milan Malpensa airport. Ok, this could be an adventure, I thought. Who knows who I’ll meet or what I’ll experience. First stop, ATM machine, cause you can’t do much in the airport without a bit of cash. Next stop- food, cause what else are you gonna do in the airport. Then, a trip to the airport bookstore where I would buy the latest UK issue of Glamour and a cheap mystery novel (the only book available in English). So, throughout the day, I ate, drank coffee, wrote, window shopped, read UK Glamour about 3 times, met a taxi driver who invited me out to a spaghetti dinner – who I respectfully turned down-, was yelled at by a bathroom attendant for taking too long in the stall (lady, have you HAD airport food?!), and spent the rest of the day scouting out a location for sleep. Milan Malpensa airport is pretty large. There are at least 3 floors in Terminal 2, so lots of sleeping options. As it began to get a bit late, I approached a couple of nice looking airport security officers to see if they had any suggestions as to where I should sleep. Maybe there was a secret dorm or some really comfy couches somewhere that I wasn’t aware of. “Bonjourno Senor. I’m hoping that you could help me. I’m going to be spending the night here and I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to where I should sleep.” The nice gentleman exchanged some words with each other in Italian and finally replied, “Yes, Madam, you can go downstairs to the tourist information desk and they can give you a listing of places.” Oh, he thinks I mean a hotel. Silly man. “No, sir, you don’t understand. I don’t need a hotel. I will be sleeping here in the airport and was wondering if you could point out any comfortable sleeping spots.” Blank stare. “Oh. Um, you could try the second floor, by check-in”, he replied. “Oh great, thank you so much. Bonjourno!” Ooh, what’s on the second floor I wondered? Nothing. Just a bunch of chairs, which normally would work; however, these were the chairs with the armrests in between them, making it impossible to lie across them, unless you contorted your body in just the right position, getting your legs either under or over the armrests, which I did. I lasted about an hour until I noticed some dodgy looking character pacing back and forth one too many times. That’s when I decided to try the 1st floor. It was much more crowded and I think I remember seeing what looked like big comfy chairs outside of a restaurant. I was right. There were big chairs in front of a restaurant (which was now closed, being it was the middle of the night), but they were not comfy. Nonetheless, I made the best of it and ended up falling into a deep sleep in a somewhat bearable position. Until I was awoken by buzzing. A fly kept buzzing in my ear. I swapped it away, yet it kept coming back until I finally woke up and realized I was swarmed by flies! It didn’t make sense until I remembered that I had finished the bag of caramel popcorn that Meital packed for me right before I fell asleep and the flies must have smelled it. Oy. Oh well, its almost 5am, I have to wake up soon anyway. This time I will NOT miss my flight! Scotland, here I come.