No Sleep Til Dublin

Late on Good Friday we travelled to Dublin. Because I am a non-religious idiot who consistently forgets that Easter exists. We could have left so much earlier in the day! It would have made Such a Difference.But we did not. Our flight was at 10pm and, delightfully, RyanAir delayed and delayed and delayed it.

 We were heading to Dublin for the centenary of the Easter Rising (YES THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN A CLUE FOR FLIGHT BOOKING) but mostly because my parents were going to be there.


As part of the Hutt Valley Irish Society they had arranged a trip around Ireland and it all began in Dublin for the centenary celebrations.

 Despite the delays (just a day after I’d been praising low-cost airlines to a pal!) we made it to Dublin. After getting exactly the wrong instructions from the airport-bus staff which sent us overshooting our hotel and an unplanned for 2am stroll through eerily abandoned streets, we made it to a hotel bed just after 3am.


We were out of the hotel by 8am the next morning and met my parents at their hotel for breakfast. I honestly can’t tell you how we managed it but I think we were simply too tired to do anything other than continue in a forwards direction.

That and a lot of coffee.

 When in Dublin there are a few things you must must do: 1. Visit Molly Malone. 2. Guinness. 3. ???

(I love them)

 

We tacked on a quick visit to the Book of Kells at Trinity College (the book? Underwhelming. The library building? Excellent) and my family’s spiritual home, Mulligan’s Bar.


The next morning was Easter Sunday, the day of the parade, and the day I cried in the bathroom of an art gallery. Not my finest hour.


The city itself was almost entirely blocked off for the parade. We watched the beginning but honestly, every even peripherally involved army battalion (peace keepers from the congo in the 1990s!) were involved and I am just not that interested in military history.

 We tried to get across to the bus station but the parade! The parade. We could not find a way across for at least two hours. Two long frustrating hours. When we finally made it to the bus stop, of course the one we needed to catch (we had planned to visit Kilmainham Gaol) was on strike. OF COURSE it was. She sent us to another bus stop, across the city, and the heavens opened.


In the pouring rain I tried to navigate us to the bus stop but when we got there? There was no bus stop. And it was still in the middle of the closed streets.

Regrouping and trying to dry off over lunch we ended on the western edge of the city. A bus to Kilmainham arrived just as my parents were trying to find us to come with us. We’ll let it go, it’s a bus, another one will be along shortly. Of course, you know the punch line already. There were no other buses. We couldn’t even get an uber to stop for us.

 We never did make it to Kilmainham.


(on the other hand, we hadn’t booked tickets and it was part of the centenary celebrations so chances are that had we made it, we couldn’t have gone inside anyway)

 The National Gallery of Ireland is in Dublin and I can say that their bathrooms are excellent if you do want to have a short little cry about how nothing is working out the way it is supposed to. The art is pretty good too. No, actually, it’s excellent.


Pip and I were followed by a security guard. I honestly thought we were about to be thrown out of an art gallery. Which really would have just been the perfect end to the weekend.


In the end, we didn’t get thrown out of the gallery. We ended up going to the pub with my parents which WAS the best idea. After two ciders, getting caught in SNOW as we waited for our bus back to the airport was just the right side of ridiculous.

Dublin, man, it doesn’t make it easy.

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Sourtoe Cocktail

Look, okay, this title made sense when I wrote it but now? I have no idea why I chose it. Which makes it delightful in and of itself. Either way, it stays!

In March, all those many months ago, we finally made it to Scotland. One of my oldest friends lives with her husband in a suburb on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I’d been promising to visit for … well, since before we moved to London.What can I say? I am a terrible terrible person.

 It was the most flying of visits – we arrived in the early evening of Friday and we left just after Sunday lunch. Thankfully, Edinburgh is a delightfully compact city. It was quite sweet, really, coming from London.  

 
Our trip did not begin auspiciously. You see, I am an exceptional planner. Except when I am not. Somehow, I had managed to walk away from the ticket booth with only three of our four tickets. Not my finest hour. Thankfully, despite the woman at the customer services counter being less than helpful, they let us on the train anyway.


Immediately upon arrival Kat took us to the top of the Royal Mile to look at the outside of the castle and out to the city beyond. I have a working theory that Edinburgh is where it is purely because that outcrop was too perfect for a castle; they couldn’t not build one there.


 I had booked us tickets to visit the Real Mary King’s Close. A touristy touristy tour but pretty much the only way you can see a Close, an old Victorian street buried when the Royal Exchange was built on top. Except, you see, I had booked the tickets for 7pm. Perfectly timed to allow enough time for a drink after our 5pm arrival because I have my priorities straight. And, you see, I am an exceptional planner. Except when I am not. We sat down with our drinks and I pulled out the tickets and saw … 1700. As in 5pm. As in at least an hour and a half before when I was looking at the tickets. Not my finest hour. Putting on my broadest kiwi accent any my widest innocent eyes, they rebooked us for the next night. 

 

What with all the travel related stress I couldn’t trust myself to pick a glass of wine. This ‘wine flight’ was the perfect thing & that La Veldt pinotage? The perfect smoky wintery red.

We went back to the castle when it was open so we could wander around and pretend it was our castle and spend a lot of time thinking about how very cold and damp and smoky it must have been back in the day. Scotland isn’t known for temperate weather.


 

I hunted out the bust of Mary Queen of Scots that I’d visited in 1995 and felt extremely old.


Unhelpfully split between two buildings across the road from one another, Edinburgh has an excellent Modern Art gallery. We spent a happy couple of hours dragging the long suffering Kat around, before attempting to drive as far up Arthur’s seat as possible and failing miserably.

 

There’s a secrety little area of Edinburgh that basically only locals know about. Kat & Dave took us out there for dinner & oh that bridge. I mean, it’s not quite the Clifton Suspension Bridge but it’s pretty damn impressive. 

Our final morning was spent visiting The Largest Horse Sculpture in the World. Which, I imagine, is not the most difficult category to top. But, The Kelpies! They exist and yes, they are really very large.


One of the bonuses of visiting pals in far flung places is, seeing their faces notwithstanding, they know all the tips & tricks & best places to go. Kat took us to a great little Japanese place we never would’ve found, & Dave took us to get curry out the back of a mosque. Amazing. And sometimes they have transportation. So you can drive 45 minutes to see ominously large steel horse heads!


Suspicious. 

How we calmed the tides

I was raised in temperate climes. In Wellington (okay, fine, Lower Hutt) the weather always seemed to be not-quite-nice-enough down to actually-quite-chilly but I made it to 32 without ever seeing a frozen pond let alone heavy snow in city streets. Then we went to Copenhagen and my life was never the same. 


Landing in the afternoon to snow absolutely everywhere, our first thing was to add as many layers as humanly possible and head back out to the streets. It was late afternoon and the sky was darkening but I was in a country I’d never seen before.

 There were a lot more people on the streets than I had been expecting, the people of Copenhagen are a hardier sort, and the bicycles chained outside office buildings made me wince with the thought of sitting on the seats after they’ve been chilling in the sub-zero all day.


Our favourite thing to do is to sit outside a pub and people watch. We were not beaten by sub-zero temperatures in Geneva and we were not going to be beaten by sub-zero temperatures here. We found an Irish pub on a pedestrianized shopping thoroughfare, wrapped fleece blankets around our legs and managed two pints before the cold got the better of us.

 (We ended the night watching Labyrinth in Danish. Maybe alcohol affects you more in sub-zero temperatures)

 

It snowed overnight; our tiny little hotel room looked out over the entrance to an apartment building and there were footprints fresh in the snow.

 



So it turns out that in Denmark there exists quite possibly the best aquarium I have ever visited. And I have visited a lot. It was pitch perfect, enough stuff to keep small children absorbed but also, and this is key, enough information to cater to curious adults.

We saw puffins and otters and ridiculous fish. We’d checked our coats and the sea otter viewing area was outside, on the edge of the endless sea. The freezing cold was exhilarating.

Den Blau Planet (the blue planet) is at the edge of the city. We caught a bus back into town and bought coffees to warm our hands as we walked around the Kastellet (a star-shaped fortress built in 1662, as you do).


Rosy cheeks & frozen tundra is my new aesthetic. 


 

We were headed to the Little Mermaid because, I think, it’s illegal to not visit the first time you’re in Copenhagen. And yes, it is much smaller than you imagine, and in front of a highly industrial area, and really really quite out of the way. On the other side of an ancient fortress and all.


(it occurs to me now that we really didn’t stick to the city proper, the next place we visited was closer to Helsingborg, Sweden, than Copenhagen central)

 One of the best things we did in Copenhagen and actually probably one of the best things I have ever done was visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on a Saturday night in Denmark. By the time we made it out to Humlebaek it was already getting dark. Unfortunately this means that I have no idea what it looks like from the outside and as it’s right on the shore of the Øresund Sound, I can’t imagine it being anything less than spectacular.


 

We were there because they had a Yayoi Kusama retrospective and, well, she is one of my all-time favourite artists. The exhibition was the best one I’d ever seen (and I have seen a lot) purely, I think, because there was so much space. Instead of focussing on one of her many eras, it covered work from her early life through to New York and back to Japan.


Our final day in the frozen north was spent, surprisingly, outside a lot. We walked through the (frozen) botanic gardens to Rosenborg Castle, walking the (frozen) streets looking for the Design Museum and crossing a (almost frozen) canal. I’m surprised we made it back with any extremities at all.

  

If you are ever in Copenhagen, the design museum is an excellent time. 

(If anyone knows where I can get a print of this poster pls let me know)


I’m not quite so surprised that we’ve already booked to go back – this time in Summer. I loved it so much. 

Angel of the North

Late in 2015 I received a mysterious text message suggesting I ask for a week off work in early January, very hush hush ask no questions it might be a Christmas present related type thing but we need to be in Manchester on a Tuesday night. Given I am never one ruin a present if I can help it, tickets were booked no-questions-asked and it was only on Christmas morning I found out my absurdly perfect girl had bought me tickets to see one of my favourite musicians, Angel Haze, live. In Manchester. 


The day we travelled to Manchester we woke to the news of David Bowie’s death. The coach radio played tribute the entire journey north. I remembered standing in the rain in 2004, in tears, grateful to see him live.

 We rocked up to Manchester after 3pm. The evening was closing in and everyone sounded like they were from Coronation Street.

We were staying in the Northern Quarter – the gentrified hipster heart of Manchester – and I loved it. Our hotel was uh-mazing. Called the Abel Heywood, it was extremely inexpensive, a 5 minute walk from the gig, extremely comfortable, and above a delightful pub. I mean, honestly, what more can you ask for?

 My cure for coach-induced malaise is either alcohol or the gym. We got a pint at the pub beneath the hotel and they asked us if we minded that they were playing all David Bowie. No, we did not mind at all.

We had one day and one day only to explore Manchester properly so we made the absolute most of it. We saw the beautiful town hall (the bees symbolise how the city is a hive of activity. To which I point out that bees are being wiped out?) and the John Rylands library where I spent a lot longer than I would have expected entranced by stories about saving Victorian architecture around the UK and how in the early 20th century they were going to demolish much of the buildings around Westminster to create the kind of horrendous concrete blocks that so much of London is unfortunately heir to.

We got in touch with the city’s union past at the Peoples’ Museum which, well. It was well done but heavy handed. Not much in the way of nuance.

 After a traditionally mancunian lunch of pho, we spent the afternoon at an art gallery. What we thought was a tiny gallery that might take an hour eventually closed around us and we hadn’t even made it all the way through.

Band in the Wall is a small venue but perfectly formed. We missed the opening act but we made our way to a mezzanine level and I have never been so happy to be 5”1 in my life – there was a beam stretching right the way out the front of the mezzanine and I think the gap beneath it was 5”4? Enough for me to be only person short enough to fit under it comfortably so I was front and centre and no one no one was in my way. I’ve never seen a show so well in my life.

 It was an astounding show too – Angel Haze was outstanding, playing every song I adore from Back to the Woods & also brought back Werking Girls (the first I ever heard) and just generally was on fire and I am a ghost now.


 

 The next morning we left before the sun rose to catch our 8am coach back to London. We had a trip to the land of ice and snow the very next day and there was no time to rest. 

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Longum memoria, vita brevis

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Despite evidence to the contrary, I have been travelling this year. A lot. Honestly. Almost too much.

I missed writing about one trip which then became two and from then it just seemed all too difficult.

But I am not one to give up (that’s a complete lie, I give up on quite a lot of things) so here we go, 2016 begins again now.