THE WANDERER

A TRAVEL BLOG

I love to travel and meticulously document my experiences in writing, drawings, photos, and collected keepsakes.  I have created this site to share my experiences.  I have a background in architecture so I tend to approach these new experiences from a design perspective, but I also try to immerse myself in the culture of my destination.

CULTURAL OBSERVATIONS / MAPS

This is something that I try to do everywhere I go.  I try to make note of all surprising cultural observations that I come across in my travels.  As a disclaimer, these may not be 100% true, as many are broad generalizations, and some of these were told to me by various people I met along the way, so take them with a grain of salt.

-          Irish people are just the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere.  They are very approachable, and not at all afraid to approach you.  They are also extremely helpful when it comes to advice about what to do and how to get there.

-          People have a lot of passion for their county and they display their county flags on their houses and cars.

-          When people give directions, I found that they tend to do so by describing the order of the towns you will pass through, instead of specific roads.

-          To park on the street in Cork, you must go to a local store and buy a “parking disc”.  It has lottery-style scratch-off sections that you use to indicate the year, month, day, hour, and minute that you have parked, and you leave it on your dashboard.

-          Gaelic Football is a very popular sport in Ireland and is one of the only remaining strictly amateur sports in the world, as players, managers, and coaches are prohibited from receiving payment.

THE ROCK OF CASHEL, DUBLIN, AND HOME 9/6/13-9/7/13

Friday 9/6/13

We were longing to explore some more ruins on our way back to Dublin, and a brief internet search led us to the Rock of Cashel, conveniently located right between Cork and Dublin.  We decided to head there for our final full day in Ireland.  The impressive ruins sit on a hill overlooking the countryside.  The complex includes a walled plateau, containing a medieval castle and cathedral that are connected, but built at different times over the centuries.  It also includes a ruined monastery at the foot of the hill.  The official tour covered the rich history of the castle and cathedral, but didn’t mention much about the monastery.  We wandered down the hill and across a field of cow pies to explore it.  The ruins were empty, and mostly on the ground level, except for what looked like a room above the crossing of the two axes of the building.  The only way in seemed to be by climbing the ruins and walking along the top a wall to a small doorway.  I made the climb and found myself in a peaceful, secluded room with no roof and four stone walls covered with ivy.  After spending some time sketching and taking pictures, we took to the road again and for one more night of partying in Dublin.

CORK 9/5/13

 

Thursday 9/5/13

Sitting in the Muay Thai gym outside of Cork was a very strange and fascinating experience.  I felt like I was getting an in-depth glimpse into a very unfamiliar culture:  not just the local Irish culture but additionally the culture of MMA fighting.  We were far, far off the beaten path of Irish tourism.  It took us forever just to find the place, tucked away behind a run-down strip mall, the only marker being a hand painted sign on a concrete wall with an arrow.  The people there were very friendly and happy to let us visit.  I sat a little awkwardly in the back while people trained.  During their breaks, they came over to talk to me.  They were very interested in why we had journeyed so far to come to their tiny gym.  Greg was ecstatic when the owner of the gym invited him to get in the ring for some 1-on-1 training.  I enjoyed watching, and to me this was another cool adventure.  But to Greg, this was a truly incredible and very special moment.  He got to work 1-on-1 with a 3-time world champion, someone Greg deeply admired, and he learned so much that it was a struggle just to retain all the wisdom he received.

ATHENRY, DOOLIN, AND THE CLIFFS OF MOHER 9/3/13 - 9/4/13

Tuesday 9/3/13

Driving through the countryside, we stopped at several places that caught our eye.  And this is exactly why we planned (or didn't plan) the trip this way.  We had no schedule, no itinerary, often no exact destination.  This was an adventure meant to be played out moment by moment, when the slightest observation on the side of the road or suggestion from a local café owner would change the entire course of the trip.  A stop in Athenry was inspired by the traditional song “The Fields of Athenry” and conversations with friendly locals there led us on a magnificent drive along the coast to a small town called Doolin, a hub for traditional pub music.

Wednesday 9/4/13

The hike from Doolin to the nearby Cliffs of Moher was a series of majestic views that got better and better with each turn of the trail.  Many people from around the world come to see this incredible natural beauty, for good reason.  Unfortunately many get a short glimpse when they are dropped off by a tour bus.  I would strongly recommend anyone intending to visit make the hike up to the cliffs.  It is absolutely rewarding.

TRIM 9/2/13 - 9/3/13

Monday 9/2/13 – Tuesday 9/3/13

We eventually found our way to Trim.  It should be noted that the decision to go there was based solely on an image of a castle on the map in the Newgrange visitors center.  We were a little nervous about finding a place to stay as we drove into town just after dark and parked on the main street.  We walked past an old stone building called the Bounty Bar, which had a sign that read “Accommodations”.  Walking into the dimly lit pub, we found a gray-haired bartender inside.  After asking about accommodations, he pulled a key from under the bar and led us upstairs to what turned out to be a nice room for a very reasonable price.  Feeling accomplished with our continued success despite lack of planning, we headed out to find some traditional music and many drinks at another pub down the street.  The musicians were very talented and played folk songs from a dark corner in the Pub.  Some dunk old men started a conversation with us and we ended up talking to them until the owner of the bar closed the place down.  In the morning we walked around the picturesque little town, and around the ruins of a castle that had led us there in the first place.  They were very impressive, and apparently we weren’t the only people who thought so, as we learned that the castle was chosen as one of the filming locations for Braveheart.

RUINS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE 9/2/13

Monday 9/2/13

When I caught that first glimpse of Newgrange over the rolling green hills of the Boyne Valley, I once again got that feeling of awe that I cherish so much.  I spent many hours of my childhood reading a “Wonders of the World” book so I long had the image of this ancient place etched in my mind.  After seeing pictures for so many years, I was finally here, at one of the oldest man-made places on the planet.  Inside, I walked down the sole passageway, ducking under the weathered monolithic stones that held up the mound of earth above.  It was breathtaking to see the symbols and patterns etched into the ancient stones.  There was an atmosphere to the place that stirred the imagination and the soul, as if we were, for the moment, connected to some long-forgotten world of our ancestors.  Continuing our deliberately unplanned adventure, we found a map in the visitors center, picked some destinations from it, and took off into the countryside, not quite sure what we would find.

We got lost trying to find a town called Trim, and as the light was fading, stumbled upon some stone ruins in a field on the side of the road.  We got out to explore and were delighted to find a labyrinth of passageways and courtyards that used to be an abbey.  Exploring and climbing, I was brought back to my childhood fantasy of wanting to be Indiana Jones.  Bective Abbey would prove to be just the first of many ruins to explore in Ireland.

DUBLIN 8/31/13 - 9/1/13

Saturday 8/31/13

Even though I was only the passenger, driving from the airport to Dublin was a very stressful experience.  The combination of driving on the opposite side of the road, being in an unfamiliar car, and having bad maps with no idea where we were going (literally no actual destination besides ‘Dublin’) proved to be rather overwhelming.  Once we got some free Wi-Fi and figured out how to get to a hostel that we picked, the day got much better.  Our night out was wild, fun, and full of surprises and lost memories… Dublin proved to be quite the party city.

Sunday 9/1/13

Waking up on Sunday was an unpleasant experience.  My hangover took a bit away from the morning’s activities, but nothing could stop me from enjoying the beautiful campus of Trinity College.  The old stone buildings neatly arranged around the green were nice but the real treasure was inside the old library.  I found the Book of Kells to be a fascinating and incredibly detailed look at a time long gone, and I was awestruck when I walked into the main room of the library.  Like the nave of a cathedral dedicated to the worship of the written word, it drew one’s eyes up to the barrel vaulted wood ceiling and the galleries of endless old books.  The long space was lined with 2-story alcoves and tall bookshelves.  Each alcove was aligned with a tall window so that each little chapel of knowledge was brilliantly sunlit, which made for a lovely play of light as I looked down the length of the room.  I left that beautiful space so very reluctantly.  Later that night, as we were out doing some night photography, we met some strange and friendly people while wandering around.  It had been far too long since I had that special feeling that I get when I set out with no destination in the middle of the night, as I let the streets decide where I go in a foreign city.