It is time, dear readers, to take you on a visual journey through one of my best days in Ireland - Blarney Castle. I took a bus out to visit the ruins on my third day in Cork, and I would have to say, it was a turning point in my soul. Dramatic, I know. But I'm not sure how else to put it. I felt at home there, and could easily imagine living in a place like that (before it had become a ruin :P).
The day was magnificent - warm and bright, but with a nice breeze. The views from atop the castle were magnificent - truly breathtaking. I stopped and just breathed up there, taking everything in, and stilling myself - something I've never been good at achieving. I just was.
I relished galavanting around the grounds and exploring every nook and crevice - from the dank dungeon to the hidden ice house in the forest, the witch's kitchen to the horse graveyard. I was a child again - but a bold, adventurous one. I saw the countryside, stepped where actual men had been held prisoner, stood on the grate that had seen soldiers pour boiling liquids on intruders' heads, smelled the flowers, contained my roaming hand from touching the poisonous plants, kiss the Blarney Stone (and didn't get sick!), went where I wasn't supposed to, sat and reflected in the bedroom of the girls that used to live there, and felt my spirit finally at rest. It was really quite glorious. I could have spent days on those grounds.
I was a bit surprised, though not unhappy, that all the other visitors only seemed interested in the castle itself, not the expansive grounds. I did the castle first, as I wasn't sure how long it was going to take, but then I traipsed off on a path to see what the great "wild" held. I was not disappointed. I witnessed such beauty and natural growth - nature at its finest. I've sorely missed being surrounded by verdant green-age ever since moving to NYC. I loved tramping through the underbrush, getting my hands wet and dirty with the goodness of the earth. I wish I could have seen even more than I did!
Alas, all good things must end, and so did my time at Blarney Castle. But just as I needed to be about my way, it started to sprinkle, and then heavily mist, so all-in-all, it was a good time to skee-dats. It was with a joyous heart and a wet head that I said my farewells.
So, a funny little post-script for my adventures in Blarney. I had actually met a man on the bus from Cork. He was originally from Blarney, and made sure I got off at the right place. We ended up chatting and grabbing a tea before I went to the castle, and met up a few hours later to take the bus back to Cork. We started talking to the girl behind us, who was finishing up a year long travel extravaganza! It was terrific talking to her, and when we arrived in Cork, since the weather was by then wet and dreary and none of us were in a rush, we stopped at the lovely little coffee shop, where I got an absolutely scrumptious cup of hot cocoa. We chatted and sipped for over an hour before our various duties called us away. I was tempted to write, "Only in Ireland", but actually, I think opportunities like that can happen anywhere, if you're open to them...
I got to spend a wonderful 4 full days in the lovely city of Cork. Garrett had work all week, so I was left to my own devices until the evening. He has a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment right on the river, so I was never worried about becoming lost.
Garrett had told me about the English Market, so that was my first order of business. As the streets are very windy (not a lovely NYC grid), I wasn't exactly sure where he had told me to go. Thankfully, everyone I met in Ireland was very friendly and helpful when it came to giving directions. When I got there, I was immediately transported to cooker heaven! Everything was local, fresh, and insanely priced! All the meat was incredibly affordable and nothing looked "off" - as so often is the case in grocery stores here. [I was at Trader Joe's the other day and there were signs exclaiming "Grass Fed!" and "Natural!" I thought it was funny that they make such a big deal (and sad that a deal must be made), when that's the way food is EXPECTED to be in Ireland.]
The dessert cases were especially enticing, and the hardest thing I had to decide was if I wanted to make chicken, beef, or pork for dinner! I ended up going with a stuffed and rolled chicken w/ root vegetables for the first night. Oh. My. Goodness. I have never had better tasting chicken! And that's not a statement of my cooking prowess. It makes a WORLD of difference in the flavor how the meat is raised. As animals way outnumber people in Ireland, you drive across the country and see it dotted with cows and sheep, let loose to graze the lush hillsides.
I also spent an afternoon exploring Shandon, even climbing the church tower and ringing the bells. It was a beautiful view of Cork from up there, and just think of the number of people that heard my fumbled playing of Frere Jacques and Amazing Grace :P
It was a bit of a climb, and the higher you got, the narrower the way became. But it was cool to see the bells - I've never gotten that view before.
After Shandon Church, I checked out the Butter Museum (which brought to mind the film Butter - anyone see it?). It was an interesting look at the butter trade, and I found it fascinating that cattle raiding was a huge thing back in the day.
As we had been out and about, bouncing from pub to pub until about 3am, it was a bit difficult to roust me from slumber (Cue theme of the week - Garrett was a trooper!). When I finally joined the land of the living, we ambled out and through the quiet streets of Dublin.
One of the great things about Ireland is that everyone is incredibly health conscious - gluten free was a huge thing (woohoo!), and finding fresh juice was never an issue. We stumbled across little markets with fine foods and beautiful clothes as we made our way to a cute little restaurant Garrett'd heard about for breakfast.
As there was no real agenda for our second day, we spent it leisurely strolling along the river. There were a lot of little things we came across along the way: sculptures, graffiti, great photo shots, Oktoberfest, monuments, etc. All in all, a wonderful, relaxing day.
After our pleasant ramble, we decided to hit up the National Leprechaun Museum (ok, I decided to hit it up, and dragged the hapless G along. He was such a good sport.). Yes, Ireland has a Leprechaun Museum. DUH! It was a kind of kitschy time, but fun nevertheless.
After our adventure as Leprechauns, we headed back across the river to The Brazen Head - Ireland's oldest pub, originally founded in 1198! We each got a pint and tucked into some absolutely mouth-smacking worthy dinner. My Beef and Guiness Stew was the only meal I wasn't able to finish the whole trip because there was SO. MUCH. OF. IT! And oh, how I want a bowl of it right now.
After dinner at The Brazen Head, we grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed to the train station, where we caught the 9pm down to Cork. There had been a huge Irish Football match between Kilkenny and Kerry that afternoon (their equivalent of a Super Bowl - my flight from NYC had been packed w/ Irish guys heading back just for the match!), and the train was packed. We ended up sitting next to a Kerry girl (very happy since Kerry won over Kilkenny), and two funny guys - one of whom kept trying to hook up his friend with me and the other girl. Between the five of us, the conversation made the trip seem like no time at all, and one of the guys we'd met gave me inspiration for a new set of characters and story.
Day Two = Another Success.
My trip to Ireland was an absolute dream. I could not have imagined a better vacation, and it was the trip that kept on giving. The sights were amazing, the food divine, and the people quite the characters.
Dublin: Day 1
I'm doing this routine of yoga and a nourishment (usually juice or a smoothie) every morning, and I couldn't just not do it in Ireland. So, of course, I got my yoga boogie on in the Dublin airport once I landed at 9.30am. I felt a little funny doing it at first, but felt so refreshed and awake afterwards - esp. after having travelled for over 6hrs and slept little in the past 24hrs.
After taking a bus to the city centre, I met Garrett at the hotel we were staying and off we went to breakfast at the Elephant and Castle, an absolutely charming little restaurant with the most mouth wateringly succulent sausage I've ever tasted. I've never had finer ground meat - it practically dissolved on my tongue. I would soon come to learn that Ireland has the best food on earth (at least out of anywhere that I've eaten. I'm firmly convinced this is because of the way they raise their animals: no factory farm bullshit. Just fresh air, green grass, and humane conditions. It really does make all the difference in the world. Every single meal I ate was absurdly good.)
After breakfast, we walked around Dublin a bit and toured Dublin Castle, a structure that is still used for major events in Irish history. You don't see craftsmanship these days like you did when all of these castles and churches were built. The lush opulence was awe-inspiring. They also had a beautiful garden behind the castle, with fresh lavender and beautiful fountains around every corner. We stopped in their cafe for a small bite and a drink. Apparently, the Irish aren't that into drinking Chai, but the server was from India and was super happy he got to make me one. It was absolutely delicious.
After our snack at Dublin Castle, we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. We decided to take a guided tour, and I'm glad we did. Normally I like to just look around myself, but there was so much history behind everything, it was nice to learn about it.
It's named thus because it is believed to be the place St. Patrick did his first baptisms. It is generously patroned by the Guiness family, and Jonathan Swift is buried there. There is also a statue that happens to look like my college friend, Charlie :) In the below pictures, you will again notice the elaborate decoration, even detailed in the tiled floor. It's really quite breathtaking.
After St. Patrick's Cathedral, we went to Trinity College, primarily to see the Book of Kells. I was confused, because I thought the Book of Kells was an animated film. I, of course, was thinking of The Secret of Kells. The Book of Kells is actually an elaborately decorated manuscript of the first four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in Latin, thought to have been copied by four scribes. It was a mindblowing work of art. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the actual book or the exhibit explaining the craftsmanship, symbolism, and process of creation. To actually have gotten to look at something created around 800 AD... Just, wow. I've included a link to the Wikipedia page on it so you can take a virtual look at what I'm talking about.
We also checked out an exhibit in the Old Library about Brian Boru, the first Emperor of Ireland. It was a fascinating series of tapestries and pictures explaining his rise and fall, and Garrett and I both believed it would make a great Pixar film.
After seeing Trinity, we walked around Dublin; saw Grafton street and St. Stephen's Green - a lovely park with a family of swans living in it. We then hit up a couple of pubs and, all in all, had a terrific first day and night in Dublin!
Exciting news: I'm going to Ireland! I'm taking the reins and heading off to the land of fancy for a ten day adventure with the one and only Garrett Hetrick. We've been friends since pre-school, and it's be great growing up together. He's now working for a tech company and moved to Ireland to work in their Cork office training people, and there was NO WAY I was going to pass up this opportunity to 1. See him again, and 2. Visit a place that has always ensnared my fantasy and mystically driven heart.
I'm very grateful I'm going so soon (I leave Friday, September 19th), because I NEED to get away from New York for a while. I need to be surrounded by green, growing things. I need a new environment, a new perspective, a myriad of new experiences. Nature. I can't wait to be surrounded by it! I'll also be there when the Autumnal Equinox is, so you know it's gunna be a good time :)
While I have a rough outline of what I'm going to do, nothing is concretely set - which is exhilarating! I can't wait to just wander the streets of Dublin, walk across the countryside of Dingle, and touch the ruins from ages past. I know it will spark my creativity (which has been sorely absent since moving here), and I'm looking forward to finishing my fairy tale.
I will take many pictures, taste many brews, and talk to new people. I look forward to discovering a new part of myself. I don't expect to discover WHO I am, but on any trip, on any adventure, you learn something new. And if there's one thing I crave, it's to continually learn new things - either about myself, or the world, or people as a whole.
So much has been happening. Many times, I've gotten a great idea for a new post, but then was too busy to sit my butt down and write it, and the next thing I knew, Poof! The idea had ventured on to some other open mind.
It has been a time, let me tell you. While I could go into intricate/monotonous/exciting/salty details, suffice to say: My first impression is always the right one. It's not always the one I go with, but I've learned over the past month, I definitely SHOULD always trust my gut instinct on people/places/events. It's a fascinating realization.
Take, for instance, meeting someone new. You get an immediate read off of them, sometimes without them even saying anything. Time goes by, and you slowly feel yourself interacting with them, and thinking, "maybe they are(n't) such and such a way." You think things could be different. And then, as time continues on, you realize, No, they aren't. And you were right from the start.
I've always lamented that I don't understand people - they confuse and irritate me. But it appears that, at least subconsciously/innately, I read them better than I realize. I'm also not saying that there's anything wrong with giving people second chances. But it's intriguing to me that, looking back on my interactions and relationships with all manner of people in all areas of my life, my first feeling towards them has always led me true, even if it took me making mistakes to see it.
Have you ever made eggs and bacon? At 1am? After a night of disappointment and angst? (Did I really just use the word "angst"? Yes. Yes I did. To my shame.) Then you know how glorious it is. You start the bacon in the skillet, obviously heating it up well and good before putting it on, then turning it down to low. It sizzles and pops on the hot surface. You get ready for bed, carefully listening to it hiss its' last on your stove top. You thank the pig for its' brutal sacrifice. But at 1 am, you're just tipsy enough not to care enough to really dwell on the horror that is factory farming (no doubt where your food has come). As you wait and listen, you feel the bitter pang of disappointment - of the evening, of people, but mostly, of the non-openness of the Chinese restaurant upon which the hopes and dreams and full stomach-nessed of your evening rested. You head towards the bathroom to do your night's ablutions as the fat in the pan steams and wisps your way. Your keen sense of hearing can tell it's juuuuust time to turn the strips of pig-flesh over to ensure proper done-ness. Again, you try to ignore the factory farm horror-story. Instead, you play with your cat, who has missed your presence all day and can be no happier than to be in your arms, purring, and licking your face. Finally, oh, finally, you know it is time to add the golden egg. You walk to the stove and see the near doneness of your pig-fat and flesh. You take a cool, oblong shell out of the case, feeling its weight in your hand. Mercilessly, you bring it down on the edge of the pan, hearkening forth its golden glory. Cold, wet, it falls into the hot, sparking hell that is the skillet, doomed along-side the stripes of bacon. The pan is so hot, the golden-white nugget starts cooking before you can even grab your tool of ultimate destruction: the blue spatula of doom. You swiftly grab your weapon and set to work, decimating, seasoning, and stirring your foe and food. Before you quite realize what has happened, it is over. Your instrument of glory is covered in the golden gore that is your egg. The pig-fat oil has effectively sizzled your food to perfection, and you plop it delicately on a red plate - symbolic of your hard-won conquest, is it not? At last, you retire to your abode, to enjoy the ministrations of your attendant and enjoy the meat and egg of your labour. As you shovel it hastily, unashamedly, and perfectly into your mouth, you realize, everything is a little bit better...with bacon grease.
I've always thought these quotes were a load of bollocks. But (as seems to be happening increasingly lately) I find myself changing my mind. How apropos.
I don't like how I've been thinking (and consequently, acting). In my own eyes I've become whiney and a real complainer. How very unattractive, not to mention utterly unappealing. I made a decision I thought was the right one; an opportunity dropped into my lap, so I seized it. I thought I could work and work and work and not need a break. Turns out, I'm actually not a machine. Honestly, that was news to me.
Saturday night I found myself in a funk for no apparent reason. I figured it was just because I've been in such a great mood for the past month or so, I was over-due for some storm clouding. But that was me simply reverting back to an old mindset. I have been doing so much personal growth over this past year, and even though it's often a struggle, I know it's a healthy change. So, I let myself delve into what was making me upset; every little thought or desire, no matter how "stupid" or "trivial" I had unconsciously labeled them. Instead of tamping them down and pretending they don't exist because they're "not important" or "idiotic", I need to recognize and accept them for what they are - for who I am - and, either, let them go, or realize it's ok to live with them.
And I've realized it's ok to dwell on the good. I have a habit of always looking at things with a slant eye, expecting the worst (how I won the "Optimist" award in 8th grade, I have no idea). It's a defense to keep myself from being hurt by disappointment. But in protecting myself from disappointment, I'm also keeping myself from complete joy in any endeavor I undertake. Yes, I made a decision that turned out to be a lot tougher than I expected. That happens - maybe I just haven't experienced it much in my life yet, which is why it has been so jarring. Good decisions can still have consequences or negative side effects. But I need to stop focusing on the pain and hardship and enjoy the blessings, for they are myriad.
I never understood how one could "pick their thoughts". I always believed you thought what you thought. How could you choose what popped into your mind? I now imagine it's not so much picking what thoughts you have, as selecting which thoughts you choose to entertain for any length of time. Say I have a negative thought that pops up. I should acknowledge and accept it, then let it go, instead of stewing in it and letting it color all my thoughts and actions for the rest of the day.
You know what's going to be REALLY fun? Sticking to this when I'm drunk.
When I was a child, I was surrounded by music - my father's constant singing under his breath, my siblings various bands and jam sessions with friends. But my favorite was listening to sister Jessica and Grandma Nell play the piano. I would curl up on the couch and let the music wash over me, or dance madly around my grandma's living room to her bright tunes. It was soothing, comforting, and enlivening all at once.
Moving to NY, I hadn't ever thought about leaving that behind. It wasn't until Heidi's baby grand piano was tuned and she was playing it this morning that it washed over me. And let me repeat: BABY. GRAND. PIANO. What?! Yep. Heidi bought herself an early birthday present of a beautiful baby grand. And guess what. It fits perfectly in the Studio (which she has fantastically named White Pelican Studio). It sits regally in the quirky, air-shaft windowed corner, like it was made for our home. It doesn't crowd the room, something about which we were both slightly concerned.
Curled up on the couch, listening to Heidi play this morning, I mused on childhood memories and why I find live piano music so soothing. I think it has to do with the deep vibrations. I've always been a rather high-strung, anxious person, but sitting and listening to a piano play, or petting a purring cat, the notes and rhythms thrum in my chest and help calm and relax me. Always one to be working, I have a hard time sitting down and doing nothing. But when I listen to someone play, I don't feel like I'm wasting my life away by not running around doing stuff. It's a beautiful thing.
I encourage you to take time to sit down with a cup of tea, relax, and listen to the music.
When I knew I'd be moving, it was very bittersweet. While I was ready for a new living space, I was sad I wouldn't be living above Hibernia and right in the middle of the city, within walking distance of work, theatres, and rehearsals. I'd be spending a significant amount of time of each precious day simply commuting.
You know what? I don't mind any of that! I enjoy the commute home each night, because it feels like I really am going Home. It's funny to feel the difference between my neighborhood and heading to work in the middle of Times Square - smelly, sticky, hot, and full of obnoxious tourists. I was stressed last night and just wanted to sit in my backyard and have a few drinks, and that's exactly what I did! It's healthy for me to be surrounded by greenery and living, thriving plants.
We are slowly but surely settling in. Heidi has painted the livingroom and kitchen. I've (finally) figured out what I want to do with the bathroom, so that will be next. I still need to decide a paint color for my bedroom, and after it's painted I can put up my artwork and figure out what I'm going to do for "closet" space.
I took a contemporary dance class for the first time the other day, and it was terrific! I really loved how organic it was and how you crafted a story based on the movement - in Theatre dance, oft times the dance is created around the song's story. This was new and exciting for me, and I look forward to taking more contemporary classes in the future.
I also am going to be face painting at FAO Schwartz! I'm very excited to be painting again, and I've wanted to paint for FAO for a while.
Also, I'm happy to be able to offer a special rate for Queen of the Night reservations this summer, Sundays-Thursdays! If you're interested, contact me at email@example.com.