on June 30th 1985 my parents married under this tree. That’s only one of the reasons this tree is my favorite I’ve ever seen. This tree is huge and ancient. I’ve climbed it (shhh!) and laid beneath it in the summer. I pass it a lot, it’s right on the bike path, on the river.
I snapped this picture quickly with my iphone on a weekend morning walk with my grandma and dad. I didn’t expect to capture the essence of this tree… but I can’t get over this photo. So I had to share. :)
The Jane Austen Argument, who I had met the night before, opened the show with 3 songs. I was nearish to the stage on stage left and some people were nice enough to let me stand in front of them after a bouncer glared at me for using the stairs to shimmy myself up the wall a little to have a chance at a decent photo. Like last night, SLF, the roommate, had let me borrow her camera, except tonight I had her 50mm 1.8. It’s almost identical to my setup back home (except I have the 50mm 1.4). Even though it’s been a while since I had a DSLR in my hands it didn’t take more than a couple minutes to get back into the swing of taken live performance photos. Someday I’ll figure out a way to get a press pass to a concert so I don’t have to deal with random people standing in my way.
It was lovely to hear the JAA again, and in a properly lit, warm venue! It was only just the tiniest bit cold Thursday night. After the finished their all-to-short set, I went out to the merch table to say hello. They remembered me from the night before and realised it was me that wrote the blog post. Which they had both read and thanked me for! Suffice it to say, if they come through Oregon (or wherever you are) check them out, they’re talented and really nice too.
Next up was Bitter Ruin, I missed about half of their short set because I was chatting with the JAA. Then S and I (who I had dragged to the concert even though it totally wasn’t her scene – she did have fun though!) spent the second half edging our way back into the insanely crowded dance floor. I wanted to be up front, I only had the 50mm lens with me, so going back and trying to edge our way to the front of the balconies would have been pointless. Up front though, there wasn’t an inch of space between people. So every time someone shifted or left I shimmied forward into the spot, and once or twice I just pushed through. Sorry guys, but I had been up front with a good view, I paid my dues by getting there early. I wanted my spot. And I’m so glad I got it. I could see the stage! Which never happens because I’m short, and I could get some unobstructed photos, except for the mic stand that no matter how many times they moved it was almost always in my way. Not that I’m complaining. I was within 5 feet of the stage, so close I’m surprised I can still hear today and that my ears aren’t ringing. Though perhaps my years of running events has killed those particular decibel levels already.
Amanda took the stage, opening with Astronaut, then followed with Girl Anachronism, two of my favorite songs of hers. From the beginning the show was high energy, even though much of her released music is not dance-y and is often balladic. Throughout the night we were treated to numerous guest appearances – Super Kate belly danced and led us in some calisthenics (the AFP fans aren’t accustomed to proper dancing at concerts, we must warm up) Una Palliner on violin, she took a break from her tour with Shakira to play with Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman even came out to sing The Problem With Saints, both The Jane Austen Argument and Bitter Ruin came out for another song performed with Amanda, then two very special guests, Tim Minchin and Tom Robinson. The night ended with the entire group on stage as Amanda absolutely killed Leeds United. It was a proper mass of awesomeness and dance party on the stage. I think it ended with less than 5 minutes to curfew.
Over the years I haven’t been to that many concerts, but this is the most fun I’ve ever had at one. There wasn’t a moment that lagged, the only time I thought about checking the time was when I wanted to know that we still had a long time until the show would end because I did not want it to end. I love Palmer’s music, her style and general attitude. She’s a performer through to the end, there to connect and entertain. I think she brings out the best in the people around her through her very nature because she has fun. And if you allow it to, it picks you up and takes you on a ride. You laugh and cry and dance and sing all at once. You’re soaring on a high that only comes from enjoying the hell out of what you’re doing and who you’re with – even if you don’t know who they are. However many hundred people were in that room, there was a connection. And it was wonderful. Oh, and thank you random boy who shared the water he’d just been handed by the security guard with me; it was a bloody hot mess in there.
Sunday morning we woke in Ennis to a sun trying to burn its way through fog both high and low. Our bus took another set of winding roads – I’m apt to believe Ireland has nothing but winding roads spilling through green and rocky countryside. Pushing out toward the seaside our bus climbed up the top of a hill. In front of us dropped the Cliffs of Moher.
For the uninitiated the cliffs are the ones featured as the cliffs of insanity in The Princess Bride. Other film locations I saw included Far & Away (I was the only one on the bus who knew the film) and PS, I Love You. You are kept from the edge of the cliffs by a rock wall. Before the wall went up about 4 people (mostly Americans) died each year taking photos at the edge of the cliffs. A strong gust of wind would come up suddenly and push them over. I have no doubt this happened it was incredibly windy at the top.
Also, after a little walk we found this :
(click for a larger version)
You can clearly see that the path used to stretch on along the 8 miles of cliffs and right along the edge. I’m not sure I’d want to walk that close to the edge – though truth be told I did get that close to the edge at Dover and that was about the same height! Needless to say part of me wanted to hop over that fence like countless others had and wander along the cliffs for a while in the wild where we weren’t fenced in.
After the cliffs we sped northward and the landscape grew steadily rockier with a grey creviced rock. Soon we found ourselves in the heart of the Burren. The Burren is known as Ireland’s lunar landscape. At first it just seemed a very rocky place, there were still decent patches of green heading over the cliffs and into the sea. A few of us ventured up away from the sea though, climbing the rocks until we hit a huge plateau. With the sea to our backs we could see nothing but rock filled with pockets and slits for miles.
Although I’ve seen landscapes of nothing but rock before, the pumice fields in central Oregon come to mind there is nothing quite like the Burren. Flat and grey it’s hard to imagine anything surviving here on the cold windy coast of Ireland. But you can see the green poking through patches of rock and dotted around were vibrant purple flowers stark against the grey of the rock and the grey of the sky.
Lunch found is in Galway, the furthest north our journey took us. Just outside of Galway is the town of Claddagh where the famous symbol of two hands holding a crowned heart come from. People go to Galway to buy the Claddagh ring and I’m no exception. Normally the ring is given by a friend or lover, as a sign of endearment. There are 3 ways to wear the ring and they mean distinctly different things. On the right hand if the ring is worn with the heart pointing away from the wearer, that indicates that the wearer is single, if the heart is worn with the heart pointing towards the wearer a promise has been made. If the ring is on the left hand, the heart is worn pointing towards the wearer and it is a signal of two hearts intertwined for eternity.
After lunch we sped towards Dublin, our time flitting around Ireland at an end. Though my friend and I stayed one more night so we could explore Dublin. Morning came and we found ourselves at the Leprechaun museum – a museum of Irish folklore. Although I knew the stories they told it was grand craic (that’s Irish for a good time. Craic, pronounced crack, means fun or liveliness and grand is their way of saying fine. So if an Irish person asks you how you are you say that you’re grand). Next was Dublin Castle nestled in the heart of the old city, nearly hidden behind it.
To me this castle represents Dublin and Ireland so very well. You can clearly see 4 different eras in architecture represented in the one building. The old is coexisting with the new in a beautiful strange harmony. It’s that sense of the old be lived with and not on or around.
That night saw our last glimpse of Dublin as the sun set over the Emerald Isle and our ferry pulled us out into the Irish Sea. I sat watching the sun sink lower and the colours change from pale pink to vibrant red and orange. With each moment we pulled further out and I knew that I’d left part of me in Ireland and not just because I stood in the ocean on the beach that is rumoured to hold part of your soul unless you return within 20 years.
Morning came early, around 6:45, and it was cold and rather windy. In fact much of Ireland is cold and windy, but somehow even after a horrible winter of no sun in London the patches of sunshine made the cold and wind and damp okay. Sidenote: some Irish consider a heat wave to be about 22ºc (71.6ºf). Crawling out of bed and into an amazing shower (not just because it was early and the show was warm, it was legitimately a really good shower) and munching on the breakfast of toast and cereal provided by the hostel we piled back onto the bus only vaguely remembering what was in store for us for the day.
Our first stop was Dingle aka Dingle An Daingean Uí Chúis (which translates roughly as Dingle Dingle by the sea or so we were told). Dingle is in the far west of Ireland and in one of the Gaeltacht (pronounced gale-talk) or Irish speaking regions of Ireland. Only about 90,000 people fluently speak Irish, the countries official language, despite it being taught in schools. The small fishing port city was quaint and I regret not getting any photos (even when we returned for lunch!) but I blame the rain.
After a brief stop in Dingle we headed out onto the peninsula, an increasingly beautiful and harsh place to live. Though not so harsh as thee Burren to the north, but I’m getting head of myself. The landscape can only be described by words like vibrant, stunning, open, raw, old, lived with instead of lived on. The stark wild energy radiating through the hills and off the crashing waves reminds me of Oregon at its best. Honestly though, pictures are more than words, though I feel anything I was able to capture pales in comparison to reality.
The evening finished in the town of Ennis, where I wandered the streets while the others passed out exhausted before dinner. The town was small and simple but alive and vibrant. Old and new wound in and out of one another building up the city. I found myself wandering down the tiny main street past half-closed buildings (it was half seven at night) and around a few turns, just to see the city, get a feel for it. We hadn’t had much time to really explore any of the cities we’d stopped in and I just wanted to feel the city, walk around and collected its flavour in the back of my mind. Wild and free, full of life and the will to do more than just exist, much of Ireland felt this way to me.
I found myself at dinner with friends I had only made the day before, found myself talking easily and enjoying every moment. At no time did I have the worry and awkward quiet that I usually fall into with new people. I’m not sure if it was being away from home and away from where I lived that gave me confidence or if I’m finally learning to balance quiet and calm with conversation. Maybe it was Ireland and its ancient energy coursing through every fibre of existence.
After four full whirlwind days travelling around the southern tip of Ireland I felt a tug at my heart as I watched the sun set over Dublin while the ferry pulled out into the chilly night on the Irish Sea. Up until I stood on the westernmost tip of Ireland in County Kerry and walked around a faery circle I was wondering what I was doing back in Europe and why I was staying here. London, as much as I love it, is not my city and I will only ever be a good friend, I will never belong. The booming throng of crowds and expansive swaths of concrete are alive but they do not resonate with me on that raw primal level that makes you feel connected to the land.
Ireland hummed across my skin, I soaked it up and never wanted sleep.
The journey to someplace is just as important as the adventures had in that place. I’m not overly fond of flying, you don’t see anything and you can’t move, the prospect of a train & ferry trip excited me. Just as the sun slipped down over the horizon my friend SLF and I sped out of London under the cover of darkness. Three trains later at approximately 1 in the morning we found ourselves in western Wales in the town of Holyhead awaiting a ferry that would leave before the sun came back up. We woke up to the first inklings of proper daylight and a sleepy Dublin.
The wind was cold, but the sky was clear and the air was clean. It felt alive.
So what exactly were we doing arriving in Dublin at half six in the morning? A tour. Growing up I always scoffed at tours, lots of old people riding around on a bus, herded around like cattle. But in recent years with the rise in popularity of gap years and young people hopping around the world tours have transformed. I had stumbled upon Shamrocker Tours through STA and I’d highly recommend them to anyone young (or young at heart!) who wants to see Ireland, especially if you are only 1 or 2 people. Renting a car was going to prove expensive for just two people and we wouldn’t have a local telling us about Ireland. So, a bit sceptical but wanting to see more of Ireland than just Dublin or Belfast we got on a bus with 29 other strangers (+ tour guide & driver).
I found myself jumping into conversations with my fellow travellers. There was little point in not talking to at least some of them as we would be spending all our time together over the next 3 days. The four girls I talked with the most have already connected on Facebook, and if we’re ever in the same place again I’m sure we’d meet up. As we all packed onto the bus sleepy, cold and yet excited our excellent Irish guide moved us through the oddities of introductions. The vibrantly green land sped past towards our first dive into Ireland: The Rock of Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel is a large rock on which a castle sits. The myth goes that the devil himself took a bite of the earth and spat it out, and that is the Rock of Cashel.
Next we wound our way further south to Blarney. The Blarney Stone is at the top of the castle, through an ever narrowing spiral staircase that you nearly have to climb out of. In front of the Blarney Stone you sit with your back to the wall and lay back arching over a hole between the floor and the wall and giving yourself a view of the ground several stories below. The guide inches you back and you kiss the dark stone before being whisked back up. After the head rush and excitement of kissing the Blarney Stone (or possibly just dangling upside down a high up in the air), me and a few others took off to find the faery ring and druid stones before going to lunch. The map was misleading, and the paths went in different directions than we thought they would (hmmm…), but we found most things.
After a very late lunch we found our way west to Kilarney, a town known for its nightlife. We listened to a man named Pa tell us stories and clever (yet very dirty) jokes while drinking Guinness (which really does taste better in Ireland) – both him and us. Then we found ourselves in a proper Irish Disco (pronounced dish-ko) until late unto the night.
Last weekend my friend put out a probe on facebook to see if anyone wanted to go to Cardiff. I jumped on the chance to get out of London and add another country and another town or two to my list.
We left early Friday afternoon, getting into Cardiff just after noon. The weekend was grey, a bit damp and foggy, though the sun did peak out from behind a could to say hi while we ate lunch in Caerphilly. London is vibrant and busy, quick paced and a bit dirty. Cardiff, while having the advantage of being on the seaside, was clean smelling and a bit more calm. Some of that might be due to the nightly rain we were getting. We didn’t let the damp stop us though. In less than 3 days we saw 4 castles – okay, 3 castles and a manor house where a castle used to be.
Our first castle was on Saturday morning, we jumped on a local bus and jumped off again when we found ourselves in Caerphilly. That morning on the castle grounds re-enactors were having a tournament. After wandering through and climbing over (in my case) the ruins, we found ourselves crossing a draw bridge to a field filled with people dressed in garments ranging from Viking to renaissance. Halfway across the bridge my friend and I ran into another group just out to see the castle.
Little Girl: Why aren’t they dressed?
Mother: Because, uh, they’re normal people sweetheart.
I didn’t have the heart to tell the mother that I’d have dressed up if given the chance, I also had to hide a snort of laughter as to not make the little girl think her question had been ridiculous… because really I was laughing at the mother’s response. Once on the field one of the “knights” came up to me and jokingly asked if I’d like to participate. Before I continue, I’d just like to point out that I’m revealing my geeky underbelly to you all here by saying this. I’m fairly certain he wasn’t expecting an enthusiastic yes. Nor was he expecting me to say I’d taken broad sword lessons, or that I’d done full contact swordplay with fake weaponry. It’s just not something you expect from a 5 foot nothing girl. He did invite me to duel after the tournament, but I couldn’t convince my friend to stay.
After Caerphilly we went to Castell Coch. It was pretty, but most definitely not in ruins. It doesn’t surprise me, but out of all the castles I’ve seen, the ones in ruins have been my favourite. Sunday we found ourselves at Castell Caerdydd (Cardiff Castle), which is a strange mix of ruins on top of ruins, and some not very ruin like bits. Our last stop before heading back to London was Saint Fagans – A Museum of Welsh Life. It’s what you call a living museum. An old plot of land, that used to have a castle (a manor house stands on the ruins) and a small village have been kept up and rebuilt. People work their re-enacting life as it would have been hundreds of years ago in Wales.
This morning I met up with a fellow North American, Goldsmiths student, and photographer for a walk around The City (ie: the original City of London – “London” is technically one tiny city and 11 boroughs made up of a lot of little cities). We had caught wind of a bunch of free walking tours that are being run around London in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics. The square mile that encompasses The City is filled with buildings very old and very new, usually right next to each other. Our tour guide was this lovely old Scottish man who knew plenty of history an anecdotes, from moment one we tried to figure out how to convince him out to the pub so we could sit an bask in his storytelling all day.
The City was the original settlement in the London area as it was the easiest place at which to cross the Thames, it was also the most important city in the north of Europe. In 1066, when the French invaded and took over England, London was the only town they didn’t conquer…
and these are some of the things I saw…
We’re hoping to go on another tour next weekend. They’re free, we get to walk around London, and we get told the history. Perfect hour or two, or entire day.