A pint of beer, but which one? Ireland’s debate rages on.

Murphy's beer ad in Cork, Ireland

I don’t know if you knew this, but Ireland has a lot of places to drink.  “Pubs.”  That’s the street name for these places to drink.  Inside these “pubs,” you can get some fine beers on tap.  (Side note: You don’t tip bartenders in Ireland, just one more example of Irish hospitality.  I left a tip on the bar, and the bartender actually pushed it towards me and said I paid too much.  This gesture would not happen in LA, where bartenders charge you a dollar for filling up a glass with tap water.)  So in Ireland, there’s this kind of beer that seems to be pretty popular.  It’s called “Guinness.”  I’m sure they’ll start exporting it to the rest of the world soon.

Kinsale Pub Ad for Guinness

But there’s a bit of a rivalry going on when it comes to which beer to drink in Ireland.  Guinness seems to be the official beer brand of Dublin, but for Cork, they have their own favorite.  It’s called Murphy’s.  Both are dark stouts, but they each have their own flavor.  Now I have to say, I’ve tried both, and it’s not just because I liked Cork better than Dublin, but I preferred Murphy’s.  It’s not as bitter as Guinness, and it’s a little lighter in body.  Does that make me less of a man, that I prefer the lighter, sweeter beer?  Some might say yes.  “Ooh, little American boy can’t handle the strength of Guinness.  He can’t withstand something that tastes like you’re drinking a loaf of bread.”  Well guess what?  I usually don’t even drink beer.  I’m a wine guy.  Yeah, wine.  Cheese plate-nibbling, cardigan sweater-wearing wine.  People should be grateful I was even drinking beer.  So there.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to work out on the low impact elliptical machine at my local gymnasium.

Aug 2011
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Cities, Cork, Dublin, Europe, Food, Ireland


Ponderings on an Ash Cloud

[The main reason for me visiting Europe was to see some friends of mine who are currently living in Europe.  Another reason was to shoot some new travel videos for a website called Tripfilms.  As I’ve been using my printed itinerary as scratch paper these days, Tripfilms asked me to blog about my current experience for their site.  I figured I’d post it here, too.  So here goes:]

When I got on a flight from Los Angeles to Dublin April 12th, I wasn’t thinking I’d get stranded in Ireland because of an Icelandic volcano.  I was thinking about how I didn’t have enough legroom and how the lady next to me was hogging the armrest.  The last time I even thought of the word “volcano” was probably three years ago when I watched the Pierce Brosnan film Dante’s Peak.  Volcanoes were not a top priority for me last Monday.  Now my entire future rests in the hands of a volatile, geothermal pimple on the surface of the earth.

What are the odds? What are the odds 97,000 flights would be cancelled because of a volcano erupting?  The last time this volcano erupted was in 1821.  I’m no statistics major, but I think the odds weren’t great.

For me, this situation means more time in Ireland.  Not the worst problem to have.  I’ve seen more of Cork, the seaside town of Kinsale, and the western town of Galway.  I was intending to travel around Europe for a while.  What’s another six days in Ireland?  For tens of thousands of others, though, this means they’re missing work in foreign countries, they can’t deliver their perishible products, and they can’t attend important celebrations.

We may never fully understand the ripples caused by this volcano.  For every wedding missed, two strangers stuck in an airport might meet and get married.  For every rotting shipment of lamb, a delivery supervisor might smell the meat and follow his true calling as a vegan restauranteur.  I’ve met new friends during my delay that I will correspond with the rest of my life.  If I flew out as planned last Friday, I would never have had a wonderful afternoon with Pilar in Galway and learned about cutting edge Spanish film directors.

Humanity’s history has been one of technological innovations, of harnessing earth’s powers for human’s wants and needs.  But still, even in 2010, all of our advancements can’t battle something from prehistoric times.  Thoreau said something once about how we don’t ride the railroad, that the railroad rides us.  Now instead of trains riding us, it’s airplanes.  How far we have come.

So what does the world do now?  How can we prepare for another ash cloud?  It’s not like volcanoes fit through an airport X-Ray machine.  We can prevent guns from getting on a plane, but we can’t prevent ash from entering the atmosphere.  Does this mean we return to the days of sea travel?  More ferries departing from ports?  Do we build long bridges?  More chunnels?  With billions of dollars already lost by this ash cloud, how many billions more will governments be willing to spend to prevent more billions lost?  Or will they just play the odds?  The world was safe from this volcano for 189 years.  What are the chances it will happen again?

I don’t have any of the answers.  As a normal civilian, I don’t have much say in those decisions, especially since I don’t even live in Europe.  I do know I will continue to travel the world despite this volcano.  Like the threat of terrorism, I won’t let the threat of a volcanic eruption prevent me from experiencing the joys of traveling.  That’s not the way I want to live, voluntarily stranded in America.  I will approach my journeys a bit differently in the future, though.  On my next trip, I’m buying travel insurance.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

TBR Special Report: Stuck in Ireland

So to catch you up, if you haven’t been reading my blog or opened a newspaper or turned on the news, one of Iceland’s volcanoes–the one with the really long name–started erupting.  Now, if we were living in the middle ages, that’d be fine.  We probably wouldn’t even know about it, until our crop fields got covered in ash.  But now that we have modern air travel, that volcanic ash in the air has prevented all European airline travel from happening.  Every flight has been cancelled, including mine.  Actually, to be perfectly fair, multiple flights of mine have been cancelled, since I’ve continuously tried to get on flights that departed later in the week.

And the funny thing is, Ireland is pretty close geographically to Iceland, so I’m really in the heart of the ash.  Come to think of it, that’s not really funny at all.  I’m trying to look on the bright side of the whole situation, and I’ve been able to visit friends in Galway that I wouldn’t have had time to see had I got on my flight days ago like I planned.

But enough writing.  Here’s a video update that explains my situation.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

The Joys of Ireland

All I’ve been writing about on this thing is doom and gloom.  I’m sure that gets a little annoying reading too much of it.  Here I am, wanting to travel, getting more time to travel, getting to experience more culture with that extra time, and all I write about is that most European flights have been cancelled in the most severe flight crisis since 9/11.  Enough about that.  Let me share some of the joys I’ve experienced while having this extra time in this fair land of Ire.

Dublin has a great historical walking tour led by history majors from Trinity College.  Mine had her doctorate.  Very informative, gives you a good sense of the city.

Cork is a lovely town.  It’s very walkable with two very photogenic rivers bordering its downtown.  Quaint streets, a wonderful market.  They even have an opera house.

Murphy’s stout beer, Cork’s local equivalent to Guinness, tastes great.  I think it’s much better than Guinness, actually.  A little sweeter.  And talk about a foamy head!  Like a velvety cloud.

The people here are really are as polite as they say.  Especially at the Glencairn B&B.  I don’t know if I could ever endorse a place more sincerely.  They really do treat you like family.

Irish taxi drivers round down to the nearest Euro.  I had a fare of 15.45, and the guy asked me for 15.  Amazing.

That’s enough positivity for now.  I’m off to bed.  The plan tomorrow is make it to Blarney Castle, then cook up some fresh mussels bought from the market with my friend Alex.  When I write a sentence like that, it’s hard to be upset I have four more days here.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Would four ounces of chicken noodle soup cure a cold?

So I arrive at LAX a good two and a half hours before my flight. The airline suggests two hours, but why not be safe with a little extra time? I pop in line to check my bag, hand my ticket and passport to the lady, and then wait. I wait much longer than I should. The neighboring employees have helped at least three people during my time at the desk. During my five minutes of waiting, I start building a whole story about this woman in my head. How she was able to get this high security job, why her right hand is bandaged, who the person is on the button she’s wearing. Then, just as I’m about to check my watch, she informs me my flight to Dublin has been cancelled, but she got me on a flight later today. She wasn’t inept at her job; she was trying to find me another flight all that time!

I’ll tell you someone who wasn’t as helpful to me: the pilot in Chicago who “called in sick,” thus cancelling my flight. Can pilots even call in sick? And if they can, isn’t there some reserve of other pilots to step up in a pinch? It’s crazy to think an entire flight could get cancelled because one guy woke up with the sniffles. Maybe his sickness is more severe than that. Maybe he had food poisining or something. But if that’s the case, then some dude in Illinois who undercooked a piece of chicken has singlehandedly delayed international travel for hundreds of people. That doesn’t seem right. I don’t know if the pilot’s phlegmy cough qualifies as an “act of God,” so we’ll see if my strongly worded letter will get me anything free from the airline for my inconvenience. Just goes to show you can control a lot when you travel, but you can’t control someone else’s immune system.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert