Monthly Archives: March 2014

London Calling (day two)

Our big ticket item for Sunday was going to see a Tottenham Hotspurs FC game at White Hart Lane in Tottenham.

We began the lovely, sun-shiney day, however, with a stroll through Kensington Garden to the Prince Albert Memorial (which Bret kept telling me was a statue of Buddha).  We ran into a pair of feral  rose-ringed parakeets en route.  I think it is interesting that when the King gets married, his wife becomes the Queen, but when a Queen gets married, her husband is a Prince Consort.  The memorial, which is just across the street from the Royal Albert Hall  is pretty spectacular.



We strolled on to the other side of Hyde Park and jumped on a tube.  We made a quick detour for part 1 of Bret’s trip down memory lane and dropped by the Generator hostel, where he spent the first week of a six month stint in London 14 years ago, then passed by the Burger King around the corner he used to frequent.


We also caught a glimpse of the rival team’s (Southampton) bus.


And so it was time to make our way to White Hart Lane!!

We had planned to take the tube to Tottenham Hale station, but we were serenaded by young, Southampton supporters on the train (and exchanged supportive glances with fellow Spurs supporters), so we decided that we were probably heading to the same place as them and jumped off the tube when they did.  It was a decent walk from the tube station to the stadium, so we got a good feeling for the neighborhood.  Tottenham is a municipal borough of London, about eight miles northeast of the city center.  Tottenham has been around for over a thousand years.  In the late 1870s, the area was transformed from a semi-rural recreational area for upper class Londoners to a middle/ working class neighborhood because of an influx of cheap housing and transportation into London (the train).  Currently, it has a multicultural demographic.  We saw more ethnic diversity on our walk to the stadium than we have seen on our journey so far (or around Corvallis).

The Spurs started playing football in 1882 and have been on location at White Hart Lane since 1899.  There is controversy over the fan’s use of “Yid Army” to identify their support for the Spurs.  Originally, Spurs supporters were subjected to anti-Semitic slurs because of the large contingent of Jewish supporters.  They fought back by adopting “Yid” as a chant to diffuse the insulting nature of the name calling.  Now, they are reluctant to let go of the chant, although there are fewer Jewish supporters and currently many find the chant insulting (the English Football Association, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Association of Black Lawyers have called for a ban on the chant).  It is an interesting cycle.

It was also really interesting to walk from a very ethnically diverse neighborhood into the White Hart Lane game day zone.  Not a lot of diversity there, but a lot of white men… occasionally a girlfriend or wife (Myself included, I suppose…I estimated the male: female ratio at 9:1 and Bret estimated it at 4:1).  There were a lot of father/ son combos too, but I only saw two little girls.  It made me a little sad.

Anyway, we were there to support our team, so we got our beanies and scarves and found our seats.

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Things were not looking good for the Spurs.  Southampton scored 2 goals early in the first half.   This might be one of them:


The Southampton supporters were drowning the home team supporters with cheers and chants.  It was almost getting embarrassing.  The Spurs came back though with a goal just before half time.  I think that livened the crowd a bit and the second half started with some loud cheers and another home team goal!  The rest of the half went back and forth with no more goals until 1 minute into 4 minutes of stoppage time.  The Spurs made a glorious comeback and their fans let the other team know.  This was the chant after the winning goal (video is from a different game though and strong language warning).

It was pretty exciting 🙂

After the game we shuffled with the rest of the crowd back to the tube and headed to Leicester Square for a stroll and Chinatown for dinner.

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And, of course, we stopped for a pint at the local pub near our hotel, The Stewart’s Arm, where we got to hear an interesting (and by interesting, I mean barely recognizable) version of “Wagon Wheel,”  a song that always brings us back to our wedding 🙂

London Calling (Day One)

So, we decided to go to London for the weekend.  We were lured into it by stories of incredibly low airfares.  The airfare was, in fact, quite inexpensive…  can’t say quite so much for the rest of the trip, but we had a great time!

We left Friday evening and arrived in time to go to bed at a hotel near the airport.  We were up early Saturday morning, however, in order to pack as much fun time in as possible.  We were on the first bus out of Stansted airport and made it downtown by 9:30am.  We started right in with breakfast.  The Regency Cafe had high marks on yelp and it hit the spot.


The next order of business was a walk past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey to the Thames River.

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We walked along the river past the London Eye.

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We found out what a taco truck looks like in London.


We stopped at Tate Modern to catch some culture.  A couple of Bret’s faves:

Portrait of a Young Woman 1935 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984


my fave:

Celebes 1921 by Max Ernst 1891-1976

When we were museumed out, we walked across the Millennium bridge.  It is a pedestrian bridge that was constructed as part of the Millennium tourist attraction package.  It was quickly nicknamed the wobbly bridge and closed shortly after opening in 2000.  It reopened in 2002 and seemed sound enough to us.


We also got some fresh toasted nuts with salt and caramel!!!



Next up, St. Paul’s Cathedral.  This is the seat of the Church of England.  The cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who is credited with rebuilding much of London following the great fire in 1666, and was the tallest building in London for much of its lifetime (365 ft).


We had to hasten along, however, because we needed to get back to the river for a boat tour!  Along the path on the northern side of the river, we ran into some more cool embellishments: camel sided park benched, dragons, and, yes, a 3500 year old Egyptian obelisk.  The obelisk is called Cleopatra’s Needle, although it predated Cleopatra by about 1500 years.  It was a gift from Muhammad Ali (the King of Egypt and Sudan, not the boxer) in 1819. It did not actually leave Egypt until 1877 and had a rough journey (including a few days floating around the Bay of Biscay in a giant iron cylinder after the boat that was transporting it sunk).  It was finally erected in 1878 over a time capsule (with the following items: A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers).

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Anyhoo, on to the river tour!

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If someone was found guilty of treason, he/ she would be shipped from the houses of Parliament to the London Tower, through the Traitor’s Gate, to await execution.


We were getting fairly worn out by the end of the boat tour, but we only had the weekend to pack in as much as possible!  So, we walked over to Piccadilly Circus for a much needed drink and snack at the Queens Head pub.  Then, we strolled through St. James’ Park to the entrance to Buckingham Palace.

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Luckily, we happened by a tube stop just as it began to hail.  We decided to call it a day and head to our hotel.  We barely made it out for dinner before we crashed out from a full day.

Next up, Tottenham Hotspurs FC game, the Tower of London, and a trip down memory lane for Bret!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wow.  What a fun weekend.  Here’s the short story:

  • Bike ride, Irish win in the six nations rugby tournament, and celebration of first day of our St. Patrick’s long weekend at Cafe Mexicana on Saturday.
  • Bus tour of the West Cork coast on Sunday, including catching Heavy Billy and Chicken George at the West Cork Rally.
  • St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cork City on Monday.

I have to say, by Monday afternoon we were quite beat.

St. Patrick was a christian missionary who is largely credited with bring Catholicism to Ireland (and, of course ridding Ireland of snakes).  He originally came to Ireland (most likely from England) as a slave when he was in his teens.  It is said that he was not quite so pious prior to his time in slavery and found God during the long days and nights working in solitude as sheep tender.  He was able to escape slavery and returned to his home where he went on to become a christian priest. He considered it his calling to convert the Irish to Christianity and was sent back to Ireland eventually by Pope Celestine.  While, clearly, his calling was largely fulfilled, there were Christians in Ireland prior to St. Patrick’s arrival and there are other missionaries that were also important in the establishment of the Irish Catholic church.

St. Patrick’s day celebrations seemed pretty widespread.  There were parades in most of the nearby towns (including Cork) and there seemed to be a lot of revelry going on all weekend.  Lots of flags, shamrocks, and leprechaun costumes.  It reminded me of the 4th of July in the US as generally a patriotic kind of celebration.

In addition to the excitement of a holiday weekend, Saturday was (by far) the loveliest day we have yet experienced in Ireland.  Not a cloud in the sky from the moment we woke and warm temperatures.  Couldn’t ask for a better day for a bike ride.  Bret posted pictures of the ride here (and most of the following pics are his). Nevermind the small boot-shaped detour in the southern half of the loop (I swear Bret didn’t take us down the wrong turn).  Bandon was a nice little town that I will look forward to going back and exploring again sometime. Although this sort of summarizes how I was feeling after our first long bike ride in a while:


We got home from our ride just in time to watch Ireland eek out a victory over France in the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament.  Bret and I started following this almost by accident (we happen to be in a pub at the time of the first Ireland match vs. Scotland).  We became loyal fans pretty quickly, although Rugby is both a brutal and a complicated sport.  We feel like we learned a little more each game.  The finale of the tournament pit France versus Ireland.  Ireland, France, and England all had the same record going into their last game.  England beat Italy resoundingly earlier in the day.  As things stood, if Ireland won, they would win the tournament (they had a larger goal differential than England).  If Ireland lost, England would win (unless France could outscore Ireland by more than 72 points), but France would hold on to second (they ended up fourth).  It was by far the most brutal game of the tournament (at least that we watched).  Ireland and France both left a fair amount of blood on the field and fought to the end for a score of 22-20 Ireland.  We celebrated the win with dinner and margaritas at our favorite Irish Mexican restaurant.

Sunday morning we got up early to a less than perfect day (clouds were back, but it was not raining).  We took the first bus to Skibbereen, a small town in West Cork near the coast. We have noticed that things rarely get going in Ireland before noon or 1pm and Sunday mornings are especially quiet.  We wandered around Skibbereen after finding some breakfast.DSC_0049

We found a Gaelic Football scrimmage to watch for a bit…  super crazy game, sort of a cross between rugby, basketball, and soccer played with a giant volleyball.  I am not actually sire there are any rules.



After wandering, we had a pint at the local pub before jumping on a bus to our next destination: Clonakilty.

Clonakilty did not disappoint us.  As soon as we got off the bus we wandered in the direction of the closed off street and the loud banjo.  We quickly found this:


yes, Heavy Billy on his VW microbus tour. We listened for a bit then took a jaunt around town:

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We ended up drawn back to Heavy Billy though, so we found a couple seats with a good view at the wine bar next door.  He was soon joined by Chicken George, the dancer.



Turned out, they were the entertainment for some sort of auto race rally, so there were also men and women in auto racing outfits spraying champagne from the top of a double-decker bus.  We watched until the festivities started winding down and after dinner, we jumped on the last bus back to Cork.

Monday, the gray skies were pretty solid and we slept in.  We roused in time to catch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, although with 100,000 people lined up, we couldn’t find a great place to view it.

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We did find some delicious brats and a cup of coffee.

After a long weekend of adventures, we were pretty worn out by the big day, so we had an early night (I know, so anti-climatic.  We felt lame, but it was a school night for Bret).

back to reality…. This was the rainfall radar when Bret left to walk to work this morning.



Our first Cork City FC game and a visit to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

We made it to the first home game for the Cork City FC at Turner’s cross stadium last Friday evening.  Friday day was, without a doubt, the nicest weather we have yet in Cork.  It was warm and sunny.  No wind at all.  Poor Bret had to work all day, but I had a fabulous walk along the the River Lee to the next town over and back.  It definitely got cold by game time, but the people were out and about with the hint of better weather and spring ahead.  5,000 strong at the stadium!  Ticketmaster warned us when we bought our tickets not to wear the opposing team’s color.  After some research, I determined that our colors are green and white… but the used to be red and white.  St. Patrick’s Athletic Club (the opposing team) is blue and red.  No wool hats for either Bret or I (Bret’s was doubly offensive being red and blue. I sneaked mine in because it is only red).  We got to the game a few minutes early and were lucky to find an couple of empty rows near the front section, away from the cheering section (they were already quite rowdy).


Cork City FC is in the premier division of the SSE Airtricity league, so the competition is pretty fierce.



It was a hard fought draw and the yellow cards abounded, but it was fun to watch and cheer for the home team.  Apparently there is a no swearing section (family section), but despite being surrounded by kids, we apparently were not in that section.  St. Pat’s (the opposing team) had a small section of loyal fans at the opposite end of the field who were completely surrounded by security guards.  We were thinking this was a bit overkill for a city league game before we realized that the rowdy section of home team fans were also surround by a score of security guards.  When the game was over, the announcer even asked that all the away team fans remain in their seats for 10 minutes while the home team fans exit to the east side (away fans are on the west).  Some serious crowd control measures…  Good times, we will for sure head back for more Cork City FC action.  Fans for life.

The next morning, we woke up to another gray day.  Rather than going for a bike ride in the rain, we opted to go to the church service at our neighborhood cathedral (It’s got a 3.5/5 star rating on yelp (for real)).  I was thinking it was Roman Catholic (we are in Ireland), but it turned out to be Anglican (turns out it switched sides during the reformation)… either way a 1.5 hour service.  The singing and organ playing that dominated the service were really lovely, as was the church.  The lighting and the sound were serene and meditative.  I was a little amazed at how few people were there, probably less than 50 (on the first Sunday of Lent!).  It was mostly elderly people, which I expected, but I was surprised that there were only about 4 young people (<18ish, including two infants) outside of another 4 or 5 in the choir.  Growing up, I went to my share of catholic and episcopal masses and it seemed like almost a social outlet for tweeners (I generally only went with my friends +/- their parents- so always a social outing for me).  Not looking good for the long term health of the congregation.  We enjoyed the service.  Not sure we’ll do that one again, but it was fun and the Cathedral is a fantastic neighbor.

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The Sportsmans Arms


I was a little skeptical of this pub, but Bret wanted to try it out, so we went to watch the Monday night football game (Man City vs Chelsea) and have a pint.  It is a pretty sizable pub, so we walked in fairly unnoticed and grabbed a corner seat with a good view of the game.  The crowd here is still a bit older than us, but fairly young.  There was a large crowd in the back of the bar playing cards.  The first half of the game was fairly uneventful… but some new folks arrived for the second half that spiced things up.  They clearly had some from another pub and were very interested in the game.  There was a lot of swearing, a lot of yelling at the guys who was swearing (telling him to stop swearing), and a lot of apologizing for the swearing (not from the guy who was swearing).  Apparently, I have innocent ears.  Bret and I just grinned and nodded and kept watching the game.

I would have given the Sportsman’s Arms a fairly low review for being a bit boring if we had left after the first half, but I thoroughly enjoyed the people watching (and hearing, I guess) in the second half.  I would definitely go back to this one for big games…  although I would want to get there early to get a good seat.




I love this pub.  Bret and I had it on our list of places to go to from our first stroll around the neighborhood of Marguerita Villas (the street we live on).  We first popped in on a rainy evening hoping that they served some food.  It was a bit intimidating because all seven or eight of the bar patrons turned around and stared at us like we were aliens.  I had a feeling maybe ladies were not super welcome, but as soon as we asked the bartender about food, they all got real friendly.  Sadly, they do not serve food, but they all had suggestion about where we might go instead.  Bret was keen to stay and have a pint anyway.  I was, however, on the verge of the hangries, so for the sake of everyone involved, I insisted we go eat some food instead (ended up with take-away fish and chips).

We finally made it back there a few weeks later…  I know it sounds like a long time, but there are sooooooo many pubs to try out (including at least 6 between our house and Moks).  Again, walking through the door was a bit intimidating, but we found a nice corner, next to the fire place where we could drink a pint of Beamish and watch some football (Man City vs Tottenham?).

The pub had an amazingly large adorable old man: Emily ratio.  Although they seemed to be rooting for Man City, they didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the game.  Just arguing a bit about bad or good calls and cheering at goals.  There were a couple of younger guys there that seemed quite a bit more interested in the game and left as soon as it was over.  Eventually, a couple of adorable old ladies joined us near the fire with half pints.

We loved this place.  It is definitely a good place to go on a rainy, cool night for a quiet pint near the fire or to watch some football in relative peace.  Although, Bret is sure it will be a zoo for any big game (like a Six Nations Rugby game).  I am sure we’ll be back.

Northern Ireland and the Giants Causeway

I don’t have too much to say about Belfast.  I caught some sort of virus and spent most of the time we were there holed up in the hotel room, sleeping.  I did enjoy the Titanic museum.  It really covered not only the Titanic, but also the industrial revolution in Northern Ireland and the ship building industry in the UK.  There was minimal exposure to Celine Dion.

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The drive up the coast was fabulous.  We had a cold, sunny day and the views got better around every turn.  See Bret’s pictures from the trip.  We arrived at our destination, Finn MacCool’s right as the weather starting turning back to rainy.  Finn MacCool’s is a wee family run pub and guest house.  We loved it there.

The Giant’s Causeway


The Giant’s causeway is this 300m stretch of the coast where the rocks look like stacked beehives (Does anyone remember the video game Qbert?) Legend has it, the Giant’s Causeway was built by the giant, Finn MacCool, so he could battle with a Scottish giant, Cuhullin.  After building the causeway  from Ireland to Scotland, Finn MacCool realized that Cuhullin was much larger than him, so he ran home to his wife, Oona (loosing his shoe in his rush to get home).  Oona hid Finn MacCool in a giant cradle.  When Cuhullin came to fight Finn MacCool, Oona invited him into the home and showed off their baby,  Cuhullin saw the size and strength of the “baby” and was scared back to Scotland.  He destroyed most of the causeway during his flight.  Leaving only a small stretch on each side:  The giant’s causeway in Northern Ireland and Fingal’s cave in Scotland.  Of course, there seem to be as many variations to that story as there are basalt columns.

I loved this place…  could have stayed there all day if it had been a little warmer and less windy.

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After we had explored the causeway, we hiked around into the next cove. Passed more cool rocks:


Around the bend, we could see the Chimney Rocks (The chimney to Finn MacCool’s house).


It looked like there once was a path all the way around.


but it was closed off because of a giant landslide.


So, we turned around and made our way (across a much smaller landslide) back to the entrance via the upper route. IMG_2526

An aerial view of the causeway ( that is as close as I get to cliff edges).


The weather was turning a little colder and wetter, so we made one more stop at Dunluce Castle before grabbing some lunch and heading to the Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery. IMG_2533



This distillery got its license to distill “great quantities of aquavite, usquabagh and aqua composita,” under King James I back in 1608!  It had probably been brewing whiskey long before then, however.  They have made whiskey under the Bushmill’s label since the late 1700s.  We enjoyed the tour and the complimentary whiskey at the end.



Well, mostly, Bret enjoyed the whiskey.  Dinner beverages were more my style.


After dinner, we decided to finish our tour of the night life of Bushmills.  We had started the night before with a pint and a game of snookers at the Bush House, so we finished up with pint at the Scotch House Inn and Bistro.  I have a hard time believing there was any bistro associated with the Scotch house, but we did make some friends.  Barney, sidled up shortly after we walked in and offered up a fist bump to me after telling me how drunk  he was.  The rest of our conversation alternated fist bumps, with him telling me how drunk he was or him asking me the same few questions over and over.  It was quite amusing.  Then, we met Stephen, who was really nice and give us some insight into Bushmills, in general, and the Scotch House Inn, in particular.  It turn out the bar maid at the Scotch House may be the sassiest in the region.  After we finished our pints, we returned to Finn MacCools for some night caps.

The next morning, we picked up early and took the long road back to Cork in some light rain. Super weekend.  We would definitely like to make it up that way again.  Perhaps when the weather is a bit better, but then, it seems, there are a lot more tourists to contend with.