Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Stateside Summer

Three weeks in North Carolina's thunderstormy August was brutal– in a good way. But the humidity, the sun, the deep fried everyathang took its toll. (Some were more drenched than others, but we all suffered some degree of stickiness.) Regardless of the heat, those three weeks were a lot of fun. From my best childhood friend's wedding, taking my nephews river tubing, watching funny Youtube videos with all my high school friends... Margo and I had a nice adventure.

The best of August:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Croagh Patrick, Ireland's Holy Mountain

Somehow the willpower of going against the "lazy American" stereotype saw through my toughest hike in Ireland. Four hours of straight up and straight down a stone precipice, stumbling all the way. Dehydration, burning thighs, and a twenty pound backpack made my 2,507 ft climb unforgettable. 

So unforgettable in fact, that we found a Snickers bar... and I ate it. Chels E. does not each Snickers or any such junk. (Don't get me wrong, chocolate is a weakness... but a Snickers?!)

You can see the trail is pure rock. So much that every two steps you take up, you slide one back. My legs hurt for an entire week after this climb. Even more unbelievable, people hike to the top barefoot as a pilgrimage to St. Patrick. Why? Because pain, devotion, insanity, religion, the holy spirit, that's why.

James, who deemed himself an unfit hiker, probably set a record for the climb... in his fancy shoes and leather jacket. He made me look slow, which is unheard of.

365 islands of Clew Bay. John Lennon has his island here. It was his dream to build a house and retire on it.

When I finished, it was behind an older guy with a rather large mid-section. I thought he'd share my feelings of "let's never do that again." Because I definitely congratulated him and complained about the hike. Turns out, Patty Jo hiked Crough (croak) Patrick 139 times. He does it twice a week and has for decades.

Wrong person to confess to. Although it was tough, what a view. Definitely worth the experience... very happy I didn't know what I signed up for. You could not convince me to do it again, but who doesn't love a good challenge?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

West Coast Hikin'

From Cork I moved northwest. Killarney to Galway to Newport. A few buses and several sweet strangers later... I got my tour of the wonderful west coast.

Killarney (co. Kerry) was beyond beautiful. It has a huge national park, similar to the Dublin countryside but much rockier and more colorful. The animals were abundant too. I'm guessing a million farms cover the countryside. Though I lost count.

The best photo I may have ever taken..? Thank you, cow! (Haven't eaten one since this photo.) This in en route to a secret cemetery up on a hill. I had to get the local invite and jump two fences to get there.

Killarney National Park has the tallest mountains in Ireland, over 1000 meters high. I spent a night with these two ladies. Twenty-three-year-old part-time model, full-time single mother, vegan and passionate No voter. Sticky chocolate-covered daughter who talks to everyone and stays up till 11... or later... She made me wear the bunny ears the entire time. And only she could put them on my head. 

I bused up to Galway and then ferried over to Inishmore. Although it was way too expensive, when you're already so far in... you just keep going, right? (I'll drink to that– obviously.) Inishmore is off the coast of Galway, part of the Aran Islands (where they make all the wool wear). 

I was with another Couch Surfing buddy who was filming a documentary on Irish life. I ended up getting sunburned for the second time in Ireland... but not nearly as bad as he. Phew. Unfortunately for the documentary, my mic wasn't angled correctly and the feedback got a good chunk of wind in it. So we'll see if it can be recovered in the next years...

The new face of Ireland.

I took my first bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher (co. Clare) because apparently that's the thing to do. So I did. Although a beautiful bus ride, the cliffs were only okay. Yes, they are impressive, but once you've seen a good few cliffs... you've seen em all. (i.e. California coast, South African coast, English coast, NORWEGIAN coast...)

The cliffs from the ferry.

I spewed a little too much moolah on Galway and the adjoining coast (I didn't even mention my big night out with an Irish couple I befriended. Definitely one for the books– and still paying off those expenses.) So I was done bussing around, which was also adding up. One bus cost 19 Euros– unbelievable! So I took to the corner and held out my thumb. Ten minutes before I had my first car– who happened to be a musician who's played in Winston Salem. He was also *gorgeous* but that's besides the point. After getting dropped at a new location, I convinced four other kind drivers to give me a lift and take me into Newport– in record time. I would have had to take three buses and around five hours. I made it under two hours with a few new friends.

Newport countryside (co. Mayo) from a friend's cottage. The town is teeny tiny, but what a view! This was courtesy of the keyboardist in Jonny Guy's band. (It really pays to be #TacoGirl) After two days on the West coast, stopping off a Kilronan Castle and sneaking into a really lame Irish wedding, another friend and I took off back East in style.

Well at least the Audi is stylish... I look pretty ridiculous, but that's usually how it goes.

Friday, May 25, 2018

East Coast Irish Castles & Countrysides

Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork

Wicklow Mountains, outside of Dublin

Blarney Castle, Cork

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

St. Maarten Carnival 2018

The Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) was thrown to bits last hurricane season. (Its modern design was supposed to withstand heavy winds; claiming to be the hurricane-ready port.) The fact that no person/organization took responsibility for it after the storm allowed for a mold explosion. Now, a line of tents makes up our departures, arrivals, and immigrations. 

But something I found out recently, the most heartbreaking part was the lost opportunity for many women who wanted to work at the airport. Not because it has a good reputation or the quality of work/pay is decent. It is a desirable place to work because SXM sponsors troupe outfits for Carnival season. Long story short, women are literally basing their careers off of this festival. 

Costumes (or lack their of) can cost upwards of $2,000. Which on an island pay is not an easy bill. The fact that SXM will sponsor you during the biggest event of the year, is worthy of an application. (But the competition is tough.)

Some women were more prepared than others. This parade lasts for four hours, in the Caribbean heat, and for some... in heels. The music is loud (a little heavy on the bass) and constant. Tractor trailers inch along between troupes to offer a few minutes break and a rum punch.

The amount of booty popping was unbelievable. And I'm a fan of it, but after so much of the same, I would have loved to see another style of dance. (I think the DJs found an algorithm to enhance the amount/pace of booty pops.) I was impressed at how long these women could go– keeping smiles on their faces most of the way. 

These women are about 50% more covered than most. There had to be around 800 dancers coming down the street (it felt like it was never ending). Even the men were bedazzled and made-up. I suppose everyone was up at 6 am preparing for the parade. Some had airbrushed abs and Avatar designs all over their bodies. Others had little jewels glued to their private parts as a costume. Which for me is pushing it, but I do admire their effort and ease to which they can go so confidently showing every curve. If only for one weekend in the year, go big or go home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pookie in the USA

Margo got a two-week tour of the good ol' US of A in April. Naturally, we went straight for the capitol and then made our way south. Although she wasn't thrilled about the layovers at the airport or the escalators in the metro, she had a pretty great time. She got to see a bit of snow, grass, deer, and coyotes... which we don't get too often in St. Martin.

(Also, Americans took to her presence much more than local Caribbean women. Not to mention this dog is better behaved than I am... perhaps more fun too.)

Can you tell she doesn't like being held? Got to get the #cherryblossom selfies in tho. 

Although Margo is super calm, she loves to chase and tackle nine-year-old men (when told).

Though I'm sure she missed swimming in the ocean, racing down the beach and hopping on our paddle board... there's something about a big green yard that is hard for a dog to walk away from. Till October...