Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Restaurants

We were in Okanogan, Washington today. I finally got a temporary plate for my little car. That sounds so nice, so simple, getting a temporary plate. But it wasn't. It was a headache. A week long headache. I don't get frustrated too often, and there aren't that many topics that set me off. But, after a week of trying to get these ridiculous plates figured out (car bought in New Jersey, current owner in Indiana (love you, Dad), actual address in Washington, combine all the laws for Washington and Indiana, include all the paperwork, include varying opinions on what we can and cannot do, include awkward hours of operation), talking about them for five minutes made me frustrated and cross. And that's why I'm so happy to finally have a temporary plate! :D

Anyway, we were in Omak actually around lunch time. We went to this adorable little place called the Breadline Cafe. The interior design just really called out to my personality. There were old pictures on the wall, and a few paintings. In my mind I wanted to say, "This is sort of steam punk," but it wasn't really. There wasn't any futuristic anything. And not too much Victorian influence. Instead, it was sort of homey, and french, and bronze, and brass, and eclectic, and 50's. In the restroom there were newspaper clippings and pictures on the stall door. It was just details like that which made the place wonderful. There was a kind of lived-in feeling. Anyway, I'd go back just for the atmosphere and environment, but also for the food.

I ordered a Caprese Melt (Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella, on pesto/french bread) and it was quite delicious. And if I had been hungry for dessert (which I wasn't) I probably would have ordered the Tirimisu Crepe. Next time. I'll have to go back just to get that. Although, with all the other items on the menu, and the bakery in the back, I'm sure I could come up with all kinds of reasons to go back.

Here's a link for the Cafe.

Another random restaurant on my list dates back to this summer when we were in Detroit. I don't remember how we ended up where we did, but went to this little place called Mezza - Mediterranean Grill (on Orchard Lake Road). It was fantastic. Really good. I can't even remember exactly what kind of cuisine it was, but we had way too much food and couldn't keep the leftovers because we were flying out in the morning.

Ok. Here's the link. If you're ever in Detroit, it is definitely worth your time. A little blurb I stole from the website sort of describes it,
At our restaurant, you have the opportunity to enjoy the diverse delicacies of Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain and the Middle East. Whether you are sharing our world's famous hummus, our nature's freshest fruits in our Elixirs, or enjoying our succulent marinated lamb chops, our friendly staff is here to serve you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Travel: More than I expected

So, I was really planning on settling down for the summer and getting a job. Which I didn't do. I made progress in other ways, but I didn't settle down, and I didn't really get a job (I sort of got a job...but not really.). Instead, I traveled all over the United States and a little abroad.

Let's see if I can get it all out here.

I started by driving from Utah to Indiana (Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana).

And then....all over the midwest for awhile...(Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania).

California at one point.

Utah at one point.

Indiana again.

And then from there, I drove to Virgina (Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia).

And then flew from Virginia to...Detroit (Michigan)...and then on to...Washington (Seattle and then over the mountains to the Methow Valley).

Then back to Detroit, drove around Detroit, flew to New York, flew to the Bahamas.

From there to Atlanta, Georgia, to Louisville, Kentucky, and back to Indiana.

Then back to JFK in New York, on to Ireland, back to JFK, back to Cincinnati.

And then, I drove down to Alabama (Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama), took a quick trip back up to Tennessee.

And then I drove to Utah (Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah), and then on to Washington (Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington).

I don't think I'm forgetting anything.

Whew! Not bad for a summer, eh?

Unless I'm adding them up wrong, I think I visited 25 states this summer! And three countries...

What's more exciting than that, is that I got my 50th state this summer. Out of all of those states, Oklahoma was the most exciting for me in that way. I had visited 48 states before I was nine years old, and it took me almost 12 more years to get those last two. But I've finally done it! :)

I really was expecting a pretty sedate summer. Oh well.

I'm not complaining.

So much! So little time! Well...not really.

I've been behind in my blogging lately. Things have just been so crazy busy this last month that I haven't had time to think! Or at least to write.

What's new:

-a car, used, but new to me.
-a location, newish.
-a drivers license, Washingtonian, baby!

What will hopefully be new soon:

-a job. Yeah.
-car plates.
-GRE study book.

So, yeah, things are busy. And wonderful. And life is just, kinda great.

On an entirely different note, I made a new friend yesterday. I was taking a shower in my new(ish) bathroom and before I turned on the water I noticed a little spider in the bathtub (we'll call her Charlotte). A little nervously, I turned on the water, hoping she would climb out. But she didn't seem to be going anywhere so I got a kleenex and tried to convince her to get onto it. Which she finally did. I lifted the kleenex out and then quickly dropped it as she climbed up to where my hand was connected to the kleenex. Leaving the kleenex on the floor I hopped into the shower. When I got out I couldn't see her by the kleenex anymore but found her fairly quickly huddling underneath a bathmat nearby. Later in the evening as I was cleaning my face in the bathroom, she was still there, so I chucked the kleenex and wished her goodnight.

However, this morning, she seems to have disappeared. I looked around carefully for a little bit, but I don't know where Charlotte went. I'm not too worried. I'm sure she'll be fine. I just don't want to accidentally squish her. I probably should have caught her when I had the opportunity, so I wouldn't have to worry about squishing her, but oh well. And that, is Charlotte.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grammar Snob? Well, sort of....but not really.

I read blogs for a long time before I decided to start one.

Now, you should know, that while I'm far from perfect at either grammar or spelling (I tend to abuse my use of commas), I'm a little bit of a grammar snob. I won't tell you when you do/say something wrong (unless I think it is funny and I think you'll find it funny too), but I'll notice. Almost every time, I'll notice.

I even tend to text and message in full and complete sentences. With capitalization and periods. So, you know. I won't think less of you for your lack of grammar/full word usage in those contexts, but I'll still try not to do it myself.

So, (back to blogs) when reading all these blogs I always wanted to know how all these errors slipped through. It didn't seem like it would really be that difficult to get it right.

That's what I thought before.

Not so much anymore. Why? Because I find myself doing the exact same things. I'll miss a letter on the end of a word. I'll accidentally use the wrong "there" (sin above all sins). And I don't even realize most of these errors until I glance back through my posts a few days later. Or I don't notice them at all. It is slightly mind boggling.

Why does this happen? I think it happens most often because we are writing, editing, adding bits, writing some more, adding a few more bits, and at the end, maybe roughly proofreading it (maybe) before publishing it. Of course, I suppose it might depend on how much you blog. If you write a lot, you probably don't spend as much time proofreading. If you only write occasionally, you might catch more of those errors. Or not.

Whatever the case, writing a blog has at least helped me to soften my opinion towards those people who make mistakes in their blog writing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ireland: Day three +

We explored Ballyseede Castle in the morning, looking around on the different floors and in the different side rooms. Pretty cool.

We didn't stick around too long though because we knew we still wanted to go to Dingle and drive all the way back to Dublin in a day. After refueling we hit the road and after we were on a good solid road, I turned the radio on (when we listened to the radio we listened to an Irish Gaelic station which occasionally played some traditional music but usually had some sort of conversation in Gaelic.) and was instantly confused by what I was hearing. On the one hand, the tune sounded a lot like "I've got a feeling," by Black Eyed Peas, but....that definitely wasn't Black Eyed Peas singing, because Black Eyed Peas sound good, and they don't sing in Irish! It was partly hilarious and partly...just awful. We listened to the remainder of the song that played, but I'm glad we didn't hear it from the beginning. It really was terrible.

I decided as we drove that I want a house with a thatch roof, or if I ever have a house that needs the roof replaced, I want thatch. I haven't researched thatch at all, but it just looks awesome.

We finally arrived in Dingle and drove through the town and a little farther. We met up with some cows and had a friendly chat with them.

And then back to Dingle where we had the most fantastic ice cream out there. Especially the mint. Really, it tasted like mint leaves! Absolutely fabulous ice cream. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone heading in that direction, though I think they have a few other locations.

We did a bit of shopping there and then took off for Dublin! We passed back through Tralee, through Abbeyfeale, through Adare (all three of which would be wonderful places to visit), back through Limerick and on until we reached Dublin late in the evening. I'm sure Dublin is a wonderful city, and I'd really like to spend more time there, but I don't have any desire to drive there ever again. I don't think any of the roads are straight. We made it to our B&B alright (a lovely place right on the bay, Annagh House) but were very relieved to be there.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast and headed for the airport. No trouble returning the car or getting to the airport. However, when we got there and checked in, the agent told us that we could get through (somewhere) at 9:15 but that we could probably go straight there since there would be two hundred or so people in front of us. We didn't understand exactly what he meant then, because when we went through security, there weren't that many people in front of us. I fact, the Dublin airport felt more like a huge mall than anything else. We wandered around a bit but then I headed for where our gate was supposed to be, only to find another check point leading down some stairs to another area. Understanding that we would be going through customs in Dublin, I ran back to fetch my Mom and we headed down (at this point, approximately 50 minutes before out flight). At the check point the agent told us that our flight had started boarding half an hour earlier so we might need to listen for them calling us. We still didn't really understand any of that until we got down the stairs to where a much longer line was waiting to go through customs. Finally all the pieces had come together. We nervously waited in line, our flight time creeping closer, but made it through just fine and were able to get on our flight right away. Slightly more stressful than necessary (especially since it was all so unknown), but just fine in the end.

Our flight to JFK was painless, but arrival in JFK significantly less so. We arrived earlier than planned, sat on the tarmac waiting for our gate to be open, finally pulled into our gate only to discover that there was something wrong with the jetway, which seemed to be stuck half way between the front door and the door just behind business class. They finally sorted that out and let us off where we mixed with a flight just arriving from Narita, all of us heading towards customs. A lady working at the airport separated us into two sections and let those from Narita go on ahead. It wouldn't have been a problem if she had told us why, but she didn't. So, a number of passengers from the Dublin flight began to get very angry at being held back. And they started to yell at her and she yelled back. It was all pretty ridiculous while also being pretty amusing. It was fairly clear to me that the most likely reason for us having to wait was because we didn't need to go through customs again, having just done that in Dublin. The Narita flight likely hadn't gone through customs so the airport staff were just trying to separate us so that the Narita passengers would go through customs, but we wouldn't have to. If that silly lady had just told the angry passengers that, the whole fiasco would have been less heated.

We did finally make it through and onto another flight home, but I think I safely say that of all the airports I have ever been to, JFK is easily the worst.

All of that aside, Ireland was wonderful! The people couldn't have been friendlier (except for that 23+ rule) or more welcoming. I'd recommend it to anyone with the remotest interest in going, and I'll be going back as soon as the opportunity presents itself!

Ireland: Day Two

To begin with, the owner of that first bed and breakfast was fantastically nice. We stayed at a place called the Glen and Eagle in Limerick.

Driving towards Dingle, we drove by a ruined abbey and decided to turn around and take a look at it. Once there we wandered around the grounds and the abbey itself for a bit, taking pictures, and then finally wandered out where two older gentleman were standing next to their car. One of them offered us a brochure and, if we wanted, an impromptu tour of the place, which we accepted. He introduced himself as Anthony Sheehy from Askeaton (where we were) and gave us a most informed personal tour of the Franciscan Friary/Abbey, all dates and details included. It was really amazing how much we had missed just wandering around by ourselves.

When we finally left we continued on to Tralee where we just planned on having lunch at a little place called Chopin's Cafe. However, looking at some of our maps we realized there was a hotel close by that really was in a castle. So, after an hour or two of shopping and poking our heads around the town, we decided to drop by Ballyseede Castle to see if they had any open rooms. Which they did. So we stayed.

We cleaned up and headed back into town for dinner, planning to stop at a local pub afterward where they were supposed to be playing traditional music that night. However, when we got to the pub we walked in, looked around a bit, and continued right on through to another door on the other side. Why? Because a.) there wasn't any music playing (we thought it started at 9:00 but it started at 9:30) and b.) there were only men in the place. There's nothing quite as uncomfortable as walking into a bar (by yourself or with a one or two other women) and being grossly outnumbered by men.

Anyway, we came back by after dinner and there was a sign on the door that said you had to be 23 or older to come there. So we decided to nix the idea and head back to our castle. I spent some time looking up that particular rule, and I don't really understand it. The legal drinking age is 18 in Ireland (correct me if I'm wrong) but there are still some places that set the age limit at 21 or 23. Why? If you know, enlighten me. I think it would have been just fine if we had decided to stay for the music, but there were enough pros to leaving that it wasn't a difficult decision to make.

We also met Arthur and Einstein at the castle that night. Arthur is an Irish wolfhound and Einstein...well, Einstein is special. I've never had a dog before, but Einstein was very sweet. He played the game featured in the two clips below. Basically, he brought a little pile of rocks at dropped them at my feet and I tossed them around and he either caught them or collected and held them in his mouth until he had them all and then repeated the process.

So, day two, awesome.

Ireland: Day One

Originally we had planned on going to my own Swiss Municipal, but due to a variety of factors, Switzerland just wasn't going to work. So, instead, we decided to head for Ireland. Very different locations, but in the planning process, a very small change for us.

I did my research, looking up Ireland and what people recommended we see in Ireland. No big deal. I planned and laid out an organized agenda for our travels through Ireland. Since it was to be a very brief trip (arriving around 11:00 on Monday, leaving around 12:30 on Thursday), I had us going to see a few specific things, but not going crazy traveling everywhere.

Originally I had planned on our traveling North to see Brú na Bóinne (neolithic tomb) and possibly Trim Castle in Meath and then West to Westport, climbing Croagh Patrick and driving down to Galway, and then driving back to Dublin and spending our last full day there.

However, when we arrived in Dublin and went down to get our car, a few things occurred to alter our plans rather drastically. Actually, really just one thing occurred. We were talking to the agent at the Enterprise desk (fantastic service, by the way) (especially given that when we first arrived and gave her our reservation information she informed me that I had made it for the wrong day. That's what happens when you forget that you are flying out on one day and arriving on another) and she asked where we were going and we explained that we were headed to Meath. She then asked what we were planning on seeing and we told her. She explained that the reason she asked was because she had used to live up in Meath and that there really wasn't much there. We then asked for her recommendation and she laid out a nice little drive. So, step one: Chuck the pre-made plans.

We got our car (a cute little Fiat Panda) and took off in the direction of Galway. Before too long we stopped to get some fuel and realized that we couldn't put the car (manual) into reverse. We were on the verge of calling the car place to get their recommendation on what to do when we looked in the book and realized that the gear shaft had a ring on it that needed to be lifted in order to go into reverse. Silly us...

Cruising down the road to the song below we enjoyed the beauty of the countryside (or at least what we could see from the motorway) (although we eventually got onto the smaller roads where we could really see what was around us).

They had a kind of interesting thing in Ireland. While many of the tolls along the road were paid on the road, there were also some that just notified you of the toll, requiring you to pay it by 8:00 p.m. the next day. So we stopped (at the same time we figured out the whole reverse thing) and paid it at a gas station. And got a Mars bar for good measure.

Farther down the road we stopped for a bite to eat (I'm very slightly ashamed to say we got something at McDonalds (something we would normally never do!) but they had much better chips (fries) than you'd find in the states, as well as wraps and Mars Bars shakes.) and a quick nap and then continued on, hugging the left side of the road.

Having lived in Wales for a short period of time, I always enjoyed the bilingual signs. I usually had a pretty good idea how to pronounce them though, as well as a pretty good idea what they meant regardless of the translation. No such luck in Ireland. I guess I need to work on my Irish Gaelic.

We continued towards Galway and then curved South/Southwest towards the Cliffs of Moher. We realized very quickly on those tiny roads that it was a very good thing that we had asked for the smallest car they could give us because the roads were very narrow (also because in Ireland you have to pay extra for car insurance...probably the result of too many stupid American drivers not recognizing which side of the road they needed to drive on). Narrow as in, sitting on the passengers side of the car (the left side) I felt like I was constantly cringing as the bushes and brush flashed by me outside my window. I wouldn't have been comfortable sticking my hand out the window. Even opening my window on some of those roads felt a little threatening, like the branches would reach in and grab me.

At one point it became even more abundantly clear that the small car was a good idea because on one of the narrowest roads of the drive we were following a large tour bus and a semi-truck came along in the other direction. The tour bus ended up needing to reverse, along with the twenty-something cars behind it (including us). It was a painful moment in the driving. I've no idea how the semi-truck managed at all on those roads. Particularly on the hair pin turns that we encountered a little further along the road. Scariest Job Ever: Tour bus driver.

It was kind of funny. On those backroads the speed limit was usually 100 KmH. All I can say is: Yeah Right. Well, sometimes.

Along the way the road was often edged in the most beautiful orange and red flowers. I'm not entirely sure what they are called, but it reminded me of fireweed in the states.

Taking the scenic route along the cliffs we found blackberries, a small castle tower, and a beautiful house ruin. It is amazing how many ruins there were like that all over the place. Finally arriving at the Cliffs of Moher we buzzed through the museum/gift shop and then went out onto the cliffs. It was very beautiful.

There were also biting gnats which may have taken away from the entire ambiance slightly, but not too much. The Cliffs were beautiful and the rock they had used to make stairs/fence were also beautiful. There was a poster for marathon held at the cliffs this weekend. Maybe I'll have to train for that...and run my first marathon there. I can't imagine that being a bad thing. :) Although, I do have to wonder a little where people run in Ireland. The roads really weren't pedestrian friendly. They were hardly car friendly. Maybe the Irish just prefer moor running.

We finally left and headed for Limerick. It was a pretty low key drive. No more semi-trucks. Almost to Limerick we passed Bunratty Castle and the thought struck us to maybe stay at the hotel there, if it was in the castle. So we turned around and drove off the road in a few places trying to find the appropriate exit ("Right HERE?") but finally did arrive only to realize it was just a hotel next to the castle. So on we drove to Limerick to a very nice bed and breakfast. Out for dinner and then to bed.

A perfect first day.