Oct 30, 2011

Ireland/Scotland: 10.30.11: Commando Memorial

Commandos gazing upon the view.
Anyone who knows me well knows I have a special fondness in my heart for those who serve in the military.  I support our troops despite what FOX news relays to us and I realize that each person who serves is doing something spectacular.  I am thankful for them every day.

On the way to Glengarry Castle we passed by the Commando Memorial.  From our little two lane road it was simply a large statue with a pullout nearby and no real markers telling us what it was.  I whipped the car into the parking area (and gave Jen whiplash) as three buses and big trucks of military men were loading up, leaving the area.  (Oh, by the way, those "men" were kids, I must be getting old.)  The memorial is dedicated to all commandos who had lost their lives in service of their country from 1939-1945 and others who sacrificed after.  The large statue overlooks some of the most beautiful country side.  Even with the fog and darkness approaching, it was a sight to behold.

Although the large statue was impressive, the makeshift memorial for the more recent soldiers/commandos grabbed my heart strings and made me reflect upon my friends, loves, and life.   Here are a few photos from that memorial, which sits with only a view of the parking lot but seems ever so much more important.

The photos were particularly heart wrenching...

I thank the soldiers for their service, far and wide.  May Angel watch over them. 

Scotland/Ireland: 10/30/2011: Kilmartin, Dunstaffnage, Oban, Ivangary

Kilmartin Chapel Graveyard
Big day today full of me driving and watching Jen's leg tense up as she reminded me repeatedly about the LEFT side of the road.  Would it be wrong to tie her up and just put her in the trunk?   We stopped at a few castles (go figure) and walked through a few graveyards (dejavu) and I've simply decided there isn't much else to do on the road here.  

But, oh what pretty graveyards they are!  Each time we pass one I hesitate, wanting so badly to stop and take a leisurely stroll.  They are so frequently seen here in the tiny towns we pass one can almost forget that each marker represents a life gone (and sometimes 3-5 family members stacked right on top of each other).  I read the inscriptions and ponder that despite the years that have passed (sometimes more than 100), that person is being thought of on this day simply because I have stopped.  Since I am feeling rather lazy, I end this particular post with some photos.  May you all live to be 100 (if that's what you'd like) and end up having your names read 100 years from now!

At Dunstaffnage near the Chapel

Chapel at Dunstaffnage.  

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Scotland/Ireland: 10/29/2011: Tarbert, Skipness

Tarbert Castle

We are headed west.   But we are in SCOTLAND, Mofos!   Drove to Tarbert today and ate one of the best tuna fish sandwiches I’ve ever had and the friendliest service.  (There is something to be said for eating tuna that’s fresh as you watch the ships sway in front of the restaurant window.)  Today was the first bout of serious rain we’ve encountered.  Scotland has been patient with us thus far but I think we’ve reached the end of our dry, blue sky days.   We attempted to tour Tarbert Castle, which is actually just two walls and a bunch of scaffolding all sitting pretty on the top of a wet, rainy hill.   You had to make sure and shut the gate so the sheep wouldn’t get out.  We took a few photos as the rain soaked through my jacket and the wind whipped past my ears.  We tromped back down the hillside dodging leaves and mud and made it back to the Kia, soaked through and through.  
Skipness Castle

From there we went to Skipness Castle, which was another abandoned castle.  This time the drive was more of what I’d expect from Scotland...single lane roads with pull outs.  We (and by that I mean I) drove along the shores of what could only be described as the roughest water I’ve ever seen, the waves crashing onto the shore and swells busting themselves on the rocks which have been worn over time into slabs.  It was beautiful.  Majestic even.  We continued driving until I was sure we were actually going to meet the Hills Have Eyes dudes in the middle of nowhere, when we came upon this tiny village that’s only resemblance to civilization was one red phone booth.  Seriously.  There were about ten homes all in a row along the jagged, rocky coastline and near the end, one red phone booth.  I expected a welcoming party of deformed men wearing other people’s skin.  Just past there was a brick arched bridge that led to the parking area of Skipness Castle.  

Road away from Skipness Castle
At that point the rain had decided to be our friends and was not appearing to let up.  We walked about a mile down a single lane road with fields and horses and sheep cheering us on.  Around the bend was the remains of Skipness Castle, reportedly haunted, standing tall overlooking the water.  Skipness Castle has lost most it’s luster...there is green grass inside and shambles of walls with no ceilings.  The place was a mess.  And most assuredly, my favorite place and castle thus far.  There is something about being near the water, the wind billowing at such a high rate of speed that it picks your arms up and almost holds your hand as it pushes you away.  I could have stood in the pouring rain all day, just letting the wind whip my jacket as I resisted the gentle push of Mother Nature.   I wanted to walk to the graveyard, probably half a mile away, but Jen wasn’t having any of it.  We walked back inside the castle as I tried to get Jen to scream at the ghost and annoy it.  She wasn’t having any of that, either.  Finally, we decided our jeans were soaked enough, our trackers were cold enough, and the ghost wasn’t going to show, so we left the area...leaving behind a little piece of my heart (and I don’t have much  to spare).  
Venison Sausage and mashers
From Skipness we headed back to our very own castle, Stonefield for another night before we moved farther west.  Back at the Stonefield we hung out in the bar for maybe five hours while Jen drank a bottle of wine and I sipped orange and passionfruit juice (I think I may have a problem...that J20 drink is GOOD!).   Eventually we ate dinner...she went back to last night’s leek, potato and seafood soup and I tried the venison sausage and mashers.  OMG.  I now want to go hunt and kill a deer.  This was the best food day I’ve had thus far.  A good lunch and good dinner?  Holy cow.  (For the record, Pepsi ...my friend...seems to be absent from Scotland.  Those Scots do not know what the hell they are missing.  And Taco Bell?  Donde esta Taco Bell?)   
During our five hour bar experience Jen took me back to “old home” week and we talked our parents, growing up together in a small town, and the things parents do that ruin us.  I didn’t want to play along at first, but as the wine flowed and Jen got more animated I decided it was pretty fun.  Jen has decided that the true story of my childhood does not compare to the one I made up, so from now on I will simply tell people the fake one: we ended up living with my Dad because my mom killed her husband at the time.  That does sound more dramatic and does kind of explain my neurosis.   I like it.  And, since I told Jen the story twice (after telling her it was a joke the first time) and she still believed it, I’d say it’s golden.  And I thought I was gullible. 

And, now I don’t need therapy.  I have simply decided all my faults are the real responsibility of someone else.  So really, it’s like I went through years and years of therapy and I am now fully recovered.  If you know of any single men, send them my way.  I have a list of my issues already typed up and ready for their review.  But please, don’t tell them about my family history.  I want to save the story about my mother killing someone for a time when I really need it.  You know, like when they piss me off and I ask them if that shit is hereditary?     

Oct 28, 2011

Scotland/Ireland: 10/28/2011: Things you've missed.

My rambling blog didn't have room for these diddys, which I don't want you to miss on the Scotland side of the tour.

First and foremost:  Jen insisted we stop by the birthplace of Harry Potter, which is a small cafe/coffee house on St. George IV Street in Edinburgh called 'the elephant house.'  Apparently JK Rowlings sat at a table and typed the first Harry Potter there.  WOW.  I have read some Harry Potter and watched some of the movies, but I would never personally go out of my way to see where the thing was typed.  I mean, yada yada, blah blah.  When I think of Harry Potter I think of this British dude I briefly "saw" and a time we went to a bar.  We were with my friend who was getting pretty drunk.  By the end of the night every time the British dude would say anything at all, my drunk friend would respond in a British accent, "Harry Potter!"   We would both laugh like crazy and say over and over, "Harry Potter!  Harry Potter!"  Poor British guy could hardly get a word in edgewise.  He ended up drinking with some other people at the bar and needless to say, there was no love connection.  To think of the horrors Harry Potter saved me from!

Stirling Castle overlooks a magnificent graveyard that dates back to the 1600's.  It is one of the best old graveyards I've been to and not a one tombstone was toppled.  There were bullet holes on some of them, from when the Castle was under siege from the nearby Cathedral Tower and some unlucky man chose to hide behind some stones.   Of note, one of the men buried in this graveyard is John MacFarlane, who is the uncle of Butch Cassidy of the famous American duo Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   Totally cool factoid!  We had to hop on over and see the grave.  This new tombstone (new in 2000) was a shining star amongst the earlier, weathered stones from the 1800's.   I actually posted the photo with the "orb" (aka my flash bounce) so Jen would think there was a ghost near the tombstone, since once she sees it she will totally think this little orb is her friend in the bolo hat from the paranormal tour.  

I've suddenly realized graveyards are excellent photo ops and since there seem to be an abundance of them in Scotland (hmm and probably everywhere else) I've decided to seek out and photograph as many cool graveyards as possible.  I mean, how could anyone pass up on these:

Stirling Castle Yard East Side

Stirling Castle Yard West Side

Here we have a perfect example of why some men are better than others.  This is a dog cemetery, where the soldiers' dogs are buried at Edinburgh Castle.  There is a special spot in heaven for dogs, and for those men who love them.  If my dog doesn't like you, then I don't like you.  That makes me the worst kind of old maid, but I wear that badge proudly since no one will ever love me like my dog.  (Thank Gosh!  I can only take one obsessive out of control relationship at a time!) 

On the LONG plane ride to Scotland Jen and I had plenty of time to realize a few things.  1) the seats are too close together for anyone to actually be able to reach under and grab the life vest.  2) when the plane is going down I've heard you are supposed to put your thumb in your mouth so upon crashing the thumb can be bitten off and will be in your mouth when they find your badly bruised and probably charred body.  We have decided that we need our thumbs.  So, in the event the plane goes down, us single chicks are instead going to put our ring fingers in our mouths.  Clearly if we live we don't need those particular fingers and we will still be able to grip the ever important wine or margarita glass.  Win win.  Who's with us!???

Lastly, my favorite photo from the trip thus far.  Why?  I took as I walked from the graveyard on the way back up to Stirling Castle.  The tombstones behind me, pulling me back to the past, and the Castle ahead of me, pulling me toward the living.  The leaves, the moss, the walkway it all makes me ponder that no matter where you are or what you do there's always a path you can take.  You can chose to go back or forward.  Sometimes, right around the bend is more beauty than you've ever seen.  May all your choices make you happy and every walkway lead you where you belong.

Scotland/Ireland: 10/28/2011: Stonefield Castle, Tarbert, Scotland Day 3

Jen set her alarm last night.  Seriously.  We both were awake at 2 am after tossing and turning for hours.  The alarm went off at 8 am.  ON MY VACATION.  Note to everyone:  I do not set alarms on vacation.  I woke up and dragged myself to the dining area for free breakfast, anxious to try the oven baked bacon after trying the square sausage the day before.  (Note to ya'll:  square sausage is possibly thinly sliced heated spam.  And I, for one, do NOT EAT SPAM.)  I started breakfast by skipping the Cocoa Pebbles (I know, shocking) and ordering porridge.  Guess what?  Porridge is oatmeal.  Who knew?  (Oh, everyone other than me? It sounded so Oliver Twist I figured it was something special.)

We left Edinburgh and headed toward the airport, luggage dragging behind on the cobbled streets, bouncing up and down and occasionally getting stuck in the large cracks.  Once on the shuttle bus to the airport we found the bus full and we were forced to ride standing room only.  Normally I skip the bus would pay for a taxi, but rumor has it taxi's are expensive in Scotland.  And, frankly, if I'd skipped the bus ride I would have missed out on the sweet memories of near death as the driver was a fricking maniac.  Grasping the railing for dear life, rolling suitcase swinging back and forth near my legs, I felt like I was on an amusement ride.  Sure made driving the rental car on the wrong side of the street feel like child's play.

Today we toured Stirling Castle in Stirling.  It was a great tour...far less people than Edinburgh Castle and more remote. The scenery was awesome.  I prefer castles that look upon green fields instead of city streets.   We also took a tour of Argyle House, which was basically an old run down huge house that I'm sure was regal in it's day.  Mr. Argyle ended up being beheaded and so did his dad.  Great family bonding, that beheading.

Jen was kind enough to allow me to drive the whole day and although she kept screaming, "LEFT!" (among other things) I know she was not worried about my driving at all.

Oh, wait, SNAP.  That paranoid chick initially grabbed my arm to remind me to stop and avoid hitting the stopped car that was about ten feet in front of me, and then nearly peed herself when I "accidentally" ran over a small pothole.  I swear, the thing was only about the size of a small tire.  She wanted to stop and see if the car was dented.  Finally, I think I pushed her over the emotional edge as I "accidentally" hit the curb going about 60.  As I told her, it was a SMALL curb, more like a little mound.  Geez.  The roads are narrow here.  If I have to hear "You're close to the edge" one more time...I did offer to let her drive and I had to do the chicken sounds, "chick chick chick chicken" repeatedly when she refused.  And when it got dark, holy cow you'd think she'd never ridden in a car before.  Our conversation went something like this, over and over:


Me:  This Kia handles like a dream!  What's the speed limit?


Me:  Just call me "dangerous!"  Oh yeah!  We're going over!!!!


Me:  Chill.  It's just a mound.


Me:  You want to drive?  No?  Chick chiCK CHICK CHICKEN!

Jen:  Our car is going to need an alignment.
Ships in McGregor's home town, Inveraray, Scotland
Of course, it probably didn't make things easier that Jen thought music would be distracting for me, so instead I sang out the one line I remembered from a song....over and over and over.  Then I just started making shit up.  When we stopped to take a photo I saw this awesome Landrover drive by. I had to spend the next twenty minutes reminding Jen that in the movie it always happens that the American woman is in some kind of trouble and saved by the handsome rich dude in the Landrover.  She didn't seem to understand the difficulty, which was clearly that there are two of us Americans.  She did get that there was no trouble.  I informed her the "trouble" could be simply that we were lost.  Geez, it's never this difficult in the movies.  So, after she professed she didn't want any man driving a Landrover (what an idiot she is), I had to continue on with my fantasy and even got so far as to name my hero,  Alec McGregor.   So don't be shocked when I don't come home.

We arrived at tonight's accommodations, Stonefield Castle, despite Jen's constant distractions while I was driving.  We are sitting in the bar, listening to some smooth jazz while Jen drinks some wine since she claims to be attempting to forget about the whole driving thing.  

I am looking out the window, watching as the wind whips the vines climbing the castle walls.  It's actually quite romantic.  When McGregor gets here Jen is on her own.  She will have to drive the Kia back to town, and I'm SURE she will hit a curb or two.  Then she'll see this driving stuff isn't as easy as I made it look.

Oct 27, 2011

Scotland/Ireland: 10/27/2011: Edinburgh, Scotland Day 2

Day 2 of Edinburgh.  Basically we walked around all day.  Did the National Scotland Galley, Edinburgh Castle tour, the Royal Mile of shopping hell, and did a paranormal underground tour.  Jen is currently reviewing all her photos taken in the underground tour and pointing out all the little orbs.  So far she's decided she has a miniature ghost in a bolo hat.  I told here there were probably a lot of those around in the 1800's so I'm sure she should submit her photo to the company.  Yep.  Totally going to hit it big with that one.  She should probably put a downpayment on a yacht right now, it's such a sure thing.  Yep.  For sure.  Totally.

My favorite piece at the National Scotland Galley was a piece which depicted the beheading of St. John the Baptist, called The Feast of Harod.   I'd show you a photo but I would probably be sued.  The artwork features a lavish dinner party and Salome, the daughter of a woman I'll call "Crazy Wench", presenting the head of St. John on a platter to said Crazy Wench.  Crazy Wench is reaching out with a fork to puncture the tongue which represents Crazy Wench's revenge for St. John speaking out against her.   (Hmm, there are a few people I'd like to see with their heads served on a platter for the similar reasons.   Maybe that's why the art piece resonated with me.  Of course then I'd be Crazy Wench and I prefer the name Psycho Bitch.)   I also enjoyed the Monet (Poplars On The Epte, 1900).  It was quite interesting to learn he actually started the artwork from a boat and then ended up having to go in with a lumber company to purchase the trees so they wouldn't be harvested before he finished the painting.  What devotion.

Edinburgh Castle
 Edinburgh Castle was, well, a castle.  There was lots of rocks, brick, cobblestone streets, and tourists.  There was a huge gun, a maze that lead you to the Scottish crowned jewels, and an empty apartment where the Royals stay when they want.  (Apparently their furniture is so beloved they bring it with them.)   Also on site was a huge building dedicated to all Scottish who fought wars, current and long forgotten.  There were books lining the walls with the names of each dead Scot.  Talk about a true "book of the dead."  It was nice to see such a tribute.  I'd show it to you but out of respect there are no photos allowed. (No, really, I didn't take any even though I normally buck the system.)

Me, climbing on the walls at the Castle.  Just call me "Dangerous."   

Graveyard, for those dumb mofo's who couldn't figure that out.  
After the Castle we walked again on the Royal Mile (I can't seem to get away from this fake mile) until we reached the Royal's quarters at the opposite end.  During this walk we stopped and ate lunch at a reported haunted pub.  (No sightings but I did eat one of the worst cheeseburgers I've ever had.)  We also toured a cool graveyard where there were no tourists but were lots of old looking tombstones, standing and already fallen (so I didn't really have a lot to work with when wanting to knock any over.  I'm kidding!  I only vandalize in the States).  We stopped in at a purely tourist trap which showed the history of the people of Scotland from the early days to current.  It was free.  Which should tell you a lot about the quality.  But, it was a good way to see where all the dust in the country has gone.

Finally, to end our day we did the paranormal tour.  Am I a believer?  Depends on what you are really asking.  Do I believe in ghosts?  Yep.  Ghosts of boyfriend's past and prior mistakes haunt me all the time.  Do I believe in spirits?  Yep, especially vodka and tequila.  Do I want to tour the underground lair of a possibly fucked up and pissed off psychotic dude who's been dead for over 100 years and is known by Mr. Boots?  Nope.  Not really.  Do I have any desire to see a woman dressed in black and covered in blood who reportedly abuses pregnant women?  Sure,  that part sounds fun.   But, bottom line, if ghosts exist I'm okay with them not being near me, not knowing I'm here, and letting me go on my merry way.  Ignorance is bliss.  And I'm all about bliss.  

Oct 26, 2011

Scotland/Ireland: 10/26/2011: Edinburgh, Scotland

From the Edinburgh airport we grabbed a shuttle bus (6 pounds or almost 10 bucks US, thank you Uncle Sam) and were dropped off around 10 blocks from the B&B where we would stay.   Unfortunately it appears as though Jen is as directionally challenged as I am, and although we eventually arrived at our destination, it was touch and go.  We were dragging our huge suitcases down cobblestone streets which although aesthetically pleasing, are HELL on luggage wheels.  Oh, and stopping for Jen to review the map every couple feet was a real joy as well.  Nothing screams, "I'm a tourist!" like fondling a map and the smell of fear (hmm, fondling and fear?  Reminds me of the last time....oh never mind).   Combine the walk, the brisk 46 degrees, cobblestone streets (with strangely placed street signs) with very little sleep after being on two plane rides and traveling over 5,700 miles away from home and what you have is a grumpy, bitter me.  (What's new?)

Finally at our B&B, we were allowed to check in early (thank you travel gods!).  We went to the elevator and the maid was already there, on the way up to our room to split the beds (queen size unzipped to two of the smallest beds you've ever seen) so there wasn't any room in the lift.   There's barely room in the lift for two people, let alone luggage and the spare tire I'm rolling around.  I suggested we just take the stairs so we started dragging our suitcases up the stairs, huffing and puffing like 20 cigarette a day addicts.  Finally on the second floor (yes, second floor) we were pleased to find a clean room suitable for a... hobbit.  Hmm...small rooms, small lifts, small windows, small cars, I'm willing to bet there are all kinds of things that are made smaller in the UK.  (Bow chica wow wow.)

After a short nap we headed out to explore.  What we found were more buses than any place I've ever been and people everywhere.  This town is busy, old, and has its beautiful sights.

Dinner was at the Whiske Room, a quant shop on the Royal Mile, which goes for a little over a mile from the Castle to the gates of Holyrood Palace.  The Whiske Room specializes in, well, whiskey.  Jen ordered a whiskey sour and haggis, which is sheep's heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal, spices, and other tasty things.  I passed on that since I really don't have a strong urge to eat sheep innards.  It looked like someone threw up in the middle of the plate.  Yum.   Good for her.  I tasted it, and it tasted fine.  If I were starving I'd surely eat it.  Luckily for me, I was not and nor do I intend to be, starving.   Whew.

We walked around Edinburgh after chow, checking out shops filled with Scottish cashmere scarves and kilts.  We were schooled on kilt etiquette by a man wearing a kilt but I couldn't help wondering if his bits were cold (since I was cold and I was wearing two jackets and jeans).

Back at the B&B we lounged on the bed while the lights went on and off as Jen changed the television channel.  I'm a little worried that I'll roll over on this hobbit bed and fall face first into the glass table next to me, but I'm sure I'll be tired enough to sleep in the glass shards.

Tomorrow we walk around some more, take a few open top buses around the city, tour an underground ghost area, eat some pub food and procure a scarf.  Friday we'll be heading to the country and that's the part of the trip I'm excited for.  Bring on the green fields, decaying castles, small town pubs and farm animals on the road.  I'll take farm animals over people any day.  Get your minds out of the gutter, people!

Scotland/Ireland: October 25, 2011: Airport Security

I could have saved lives today.  I know, some people do that every day.  But, being an insurance investigator doesn’t  give me a lot of opportunity to do anything other than watch people bending and squatting when they shouldn’t.  

I saw this little diddy at the airport, alone and left behind.  
Cell phone abandoned at the airport.  
I told the United dude, who I will call “United Dude”.  He seemed concerned.  He walked over to the phone, picked it up, messed with it, then said it was completely dead.  

Me:  “It could be a bomb.”

United Dude: “Geez thanks, now that I’m holding it.”

Me, nodding with a serious look: “It could be.”  

United Dude:  “TSA scans things so it’s probably safe.”

Me:  “I just read about a gun being brought on a plane.”

United Dude: “Oh yeah, that happens all the time. It really does.”  

Me:   “Yeah I’m sure that’s just the timer.”  

United Dude:  “Hmm, ok.”  as puts the phone down and walks away. 

Me to Jen:  “I’m going to notify TSA.  If I see a TSA guy I’m totally telling.  There could be a bomb next to us and no one seems to care.  We could DIE!”

Jen:  “It’s probably fine.”

Me:  “Fine for you, I have a lot to live for.  I’d like to have sex again.  You have given up hope.”  

Jen:  “It’s not a bomb.  It’s just a cheap cell phone.”

Me:  “Um, HELLO....would you buy a nice cell phone just to blow it up?”

I started scanning the people walking by looking for someone official.  I start talking, first quietly, then a little louder, “There’s a bomb here, people!  A bomb!  A bomb!!!”  

Me:  “I probably shouldn’t start yelling that.  I could get into trouble.  What if they think it’s my bomb?”
Jen:  “Well, are you going to tell anyone?”

Me:  “No one has walked by that fills me with confidence.”  

Just then a guy walked over to the phone and started messing with it. 

At this point Jen is sitting three seats away since she moved closer to the plug in station, despite my warnings that if the bomb goes off they won’t even find pieces of her. 

Unable to communicate with the man standing next to her, I text her.  “Is that his phone?  If so the bomber is right next to you.”

The guy put the phone down and then walked away.  I made eye contact so he’d know he wasn’t messing with some stupid tourist.  

Me:  “Did he turn on the phone and just walk away?”  

Jen:  “Yeah.”  

Me:  “Oh great now he turned the bomb on and walked away.”  

Jen:  “Yeah.” 

Me:  “Maybe we should follow him.” 

I turn around in time to watch him walking into the Guinness Irish Pub.

Me:  “Hmm..he just walked into that Irish Pub.  Maybe we should follow him.”

Jen:  “Yeah I could get a Guinness.”  

We could have saved lives.  I could have been a hero.  Instead we got sidetracked by Guinness.  

Five minutes later:

Jen:  “The phone is on.  He’s going through a rough patch.”

Me:  “What?”

Jen: “I can see a text.  The first one says, I think I’m just going through a rough patch.”

Me:  “Holy shit.  He’s suicidal.  It COULD be a bomb.”  

I spent the next ten minutes trying to get Jen to pick up the phone and read it while I looked out.  

Jen:  “He’s drinking his troubles away.”

Me:  “Let’s go talk to him!”  

Jen:  “You go talk to him.”  

Me:  “Ok if I go talk to him and distract him, will you look at the phone?”

Jen:  “I’m not going to get arrested.”

Me: “You could be saving lives.”  

Jen:  “Or just being nosy.”

Me:  “He’s going through a rough patch,  He’s like a puppy down on his luck.”

Finally, Jen stands up, puts her phone next to his and reads the first few lines of his last texts.

And me, I’m cracking up because FINALLY I got Jen to do something she wouldn’t normally do.  

Holy cow, this is going to be a good trip.  By the time we’re done Jen is going to be walking up to complete strangers asking if she can taste their Guinness and get a photo.  

Oh, but if we do explode, I’m just glad she’s going to die first. I mean, after all, she’s the one not taking this bomb thing seriously.  

Oct 7, 2011

Scotland/Ireland: Screw you, Patrick at Yahoo, if that is your real name.

My previous traveling buddy, Jennifer, and I have been planning a trip to Scotland and Ireland for months now.  Several long, grueling months of 5:30 and 6:30 am texts (what the f*ck who does that shit?  If I happen to be awake at that time I'm doing something you don't want to know about), a continuous email flow about sights, hauntings, suggested readings, and tedious conversations about what to see and where to go.  I am at vacation saturation.  I am so ready to just get on that plane and get this over with.  You see, I'm not much of a planner.  This was probably evidenced in my solo trip to Texas where my only plan was to head southeast and eventually hit the state line.  Jennifer is a planner.  A planner of epic proportions.  She could probably design a trip for a family of ten in about an hour.  Word of caution:  throw out the budget and remind her to pencil in some bathroom breaks.  You order a plan and she'll hit you with emails of spreadsheets that have what you must do, what you should do, what you may like to do combined with the addresses, gps coordinates, website address, interesting facts, and for the love of all that is holy, the hours of operation.  To me, that's f*cking overkill.  Just point me in the direction and let me go!  Just get the hell out of my way and let me pee when I need to and eat when I want!

So, after all the planning (err, yeah, thanks for your hard work, by the way, if it were up to me we'd be sleeping on someone's floor and eating at people's houses that we met along the way) the moment has finally gotten close enough for me to start pondering if I need to get a new rain jacket (which if I do, I'll wait until the night  before the flight to procure).   In about two weeks and two days I'll be on a plane to the  land of greenery and men with accents (bow chica wow wow).  But first, an over priced vacation wouldn't be complete without the pre-vacation drama.  

So this week I get home from work and check my email.  It's a lovely email from our tour company with the subject line of :    Urgent Travel Documents for your Trip.  It reads as follows:

      Hi Jessica and Jennifer,

      It is Patrick with myguidebritain. I am just contacting you to give you the heads up on a few things. 

      Our sister company myguideireland has gone out of business. They are the supplier we used to book your Irish              hotels. Therefore, we have contacted the hotels direct and have arranged for prepayment for your rooms. However, there might be some confusion when you are checking in depending on who is going to be working the front desk. If you run into any problems please tell them to have someone in accounts or reservation take a look and they will see that credit card details or a bank transfer were made for your rooms.

     Also, I had to rebook the Hertz car through a local travel agent in Boston we work through. Attached is the new voucher and confirmation number. Please print it out and use it to pick up the car. While picking up the car through Hertz it would be best to not mention myguide as it could cause some confusion.

     I am sorry about any inconvenience this has caused you but I assure you everything is all set. Obviously it wold be a good idea to check your flight time on the aer lingus flight the day before you take it.

     Please email me to let me know you have received this attached voucher. Also let me know if you have any questions. It is best to reach me through email.

All the best,

Patrick Phelan

So naturally, being the investigative superpower that I am (no, really, I am) I note a few red flags immediately (with my first impressions directly following).

1)   Gone out of business?  (What the f*ck!)
2)  There might be some confusion when you check in?  (Holy Shit!)
3)  It's best not to mention myguide when picking up the car?  (Motherf*cker!!! Son of a bitch!)
4)  His email is a yahoo account?  (gee those are special, right?  Damn it! Fn yahoo account.)
5)  All the best?  (I am going to f#cking cut you!)

I text Jennifer right away.  Unfortunately she's at happy hour and can't be bothered (slutty lush) but she assures me she saw the email and sent one back asking for a phone number just in case we have issues while we are there.

Hmm, pardon me,  but this investigative superpower did not just fall off the turnip truck and a phone number is not going to be enough to pacify my yearning for more knowledge.

I do a quick internet search (cause that's where all the good stalkers...cough, investigators, get their information) and see that the company actually went belly up in August.  That was months ago.  Those bastards didn't say a word until today?  At this point I am wondering how many of my frequent flyer miles I'm going to have to use to hop on a plane to Boston and kick Patrick's ass.  That is, IF he IS in Boston.  He's probably in Malasia in a tiny room with 50 other experienced fraudulent tour booking agents.  

I shoot him an email back (oops, without consent from my travel mate) and ask in the best possible way if we need to call the credit card company and stop payment.  Cause that's how this aggressive freaked out bitch rolls.  (and, ok, so maybe I wasn't that nice, but what the holy hell is going on!)

Patrick responds with an email within a few hours indicating everything was fine, no worries, no need to  contact the credit card company, chill.   And although Patrick's words would be soothing to the average traveler (maybe), I'm still on red alert and my opinion was he wrote everything he needed to write to try to stop us from reversing the charges.  Screw that.

Jennifer steps up to the plate and decides to contact EVERY hotel, castle, bed and breakfast, car rental place (and choir boy we may have eventually had contact with) to ensure we have reservations and they are paid in full.  Which, frankly, IS now a pre-requisite for my ass getting on a plane to Scotland in roughly two weeks.  Emails start pouring in and indicate everything is fine.  One place doesn't have us at all but that's because her name is spelled incorrectly.  Whew.  Well, she's saying, Whew.  I'm still wondering what kind of brain surgeon Patrick must be to be able to stop and redirect all the emails to each location and answer them himself.   That could just be my paranoia asking.

So, it seems, crisis adverted.  In a few short weeks we will hop on the plane for roughly 14 hours and start our journey through Scotland and Ireland...noting all excel spreadsheets and paying close attention to the timeline.  (Cough  bullshit! cough)  

Still haven't gotten a bike reserved but apparently responding to emails isn't the rental company's strong suit.  So much for their large ad in BMWMOA magazine.  We'll see what happens with that and you can bet I'll be bitching and moaning about that along the way.   Aren't vacations supposed to be a time for relaxation and laughter?

yah.  Expect a lot of photos of me laughing while Jennifer is being pulled into mysterious panel vans.  I've already started the bidding.  This vacation is going to pay for itself!  

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