Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Just Had the Best New Years Ever, No Doubt About It.

I have to tell you about my night. I thought I had a date for tonight but for whatever reason she did not contact me. No worries, the Universe always has a plan, you and I should, know that by now. So without a date for the evening I was in the flat alone, again not a big deal as I have done about 8 NYE alone. But this one was special. At 00:00 I went outside (-5c) and witnessed one of the greatest events of my life. From my balcony I have a great 180 degree view of the city. Not only is tonight special because it is new years eve but also because Slovakia's Independence Day. Add to that the historic event of full entry in E.U. with the adoption of the Euro currency. This is the second time I have been in a country that has changed currency to the Euro. The first time was Jan. 2002 when I was in Ireland and the first 16 (I think) countries adopted the Euro. Some of you might think, so what, big deal, but for me to be part of a historic event (fully automatic gun fire right outside now, that's a bit much, don't think guys?) So what I witnessed was 20 minutes of fireworks all over the city. To my far right view I watched the fireworks from Old Town and the main celebration for the country. And from that point to 180 degrees to my left the city was filled with hundreds of different people setting off their own fireworks. It was amazing, I could not even begin to do it justice trying to describe it. I didn't even want to leave to get my camera, mainly because I didn't want to miss any of it but also I knew that I could never capture the true feeling of what I was seeing and if I can't give you on film what I see in my brain I don't take the photo. I just can't capture the feeling of being there in person. I am sorry you missed it but for me it was magic. Pure and Simple. It also did another thing. It restored my hope in the future not just for me but for everyone. I believe now more than ever in the internal goodness in people and I think that these troubling times we have ahead, will show that more than anything and will touch people in ways they did not know possible. Some say I am to much of an optimist but I believe that one person can change the world if they really believe that they can. So that is what I will do, I will change the world for good because one person can and will change the world, because it is what I want. If any of you want to help me all you have to do is believe that you can and then we will. Much LOVE to all of you. I feel it trust me.

Have Great New Year

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 - What Can I Say...

all in all, a great year. Sure it was not the easiest year at certain points compared to others I have lived in recent memory but still on balance a really great year. And I would not have changed any of it. Everyday I feel like I have been able to learn something I didn't know the day before that helps improve my life. Some people told me that I am too optimistic and positive all the time, well all I can say is this, it works for me so I will continue feeling this way. It can work for you only if you believe in it. It's easy, ask me and I can tell you how.

Some highlights from this year.

I got to visit 9, yes 9 countries this year.
Slovakia
Austria - a few times
Turkey - twice
Sweden
Great Britain
Ireland
The Czech Republic
The Netherlands - 4 times :-)
France

I meet so many great people this year and have formed friendships with some that will last a lifetime.

I had one of the best summers at camp this year and I was able to put together a slideshow for the kids that is going to be hard for me to top next year. Yeah I'm bragging but I knocked it out of the park this year. (I am working on getting it uploaded to the web for non campers to see but it's a huge file)

But most of all I learned more about myself in the last year and hope that in 2009 I will continue this quest. Trust me the more you know about yourself and exactly who you are, the happier you become.

I wish all of you the best for the new year and thank you for following me. Remember followsean.com is more than a web site, it's a way of life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Greetings from Istanbul

I am having a great time here. The only problem is the weather has been crappy and not worth taking photos when it is overcast all the time. I will hope I get some sun in the next two days. If not such is life, I will have to return in the future to get the photos I want. I know exactly where I want to take them but without the right light it is not worth lugging 25lbs on my back all day. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.

I would like to thank Zeynep and Irem for taking the time to spend with me and taking me around the city. Thank you both.

I will update you guy in a few days when I get home, I hope I will have photos to post so hope for sun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas To All

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers.

I am about to leave for a four day trip to Istanbul. I should have internet access and will try to post while I am there. I am really looking forward to seeing my Turkish friends and seeing more of the city. The weather looks like it might be ok for the first 2 days so I will see.

And again, I hope everyone has a magical Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Believe I See A New Bus Coming for Me

I am not positive but I think I see a bus with my name on it coming towards me. Again, I am not positive but I have a good feeling and my eye sight is very good. I will see as the bus gets closer but right now it seems to be about 8 days away. That may sound strange but make perfect sense to me.

I am sure that some of you who have been reading my stuff will get what I am talking about for the rest of you the best I can tell you is read my post about "the bus".

Remember, it is your universe and if you can learn to control even just a little bit of it you will be amazed at what can happen. If you think such things are impossible, then for you they will be impossible. But for me I prefer to think anything is possible and so far it works.

I also want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year since I may not post in the next few days.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photos From the Party in Prague

Prague Party


Click for more

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Need Storage Space - Call This Guy

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Best Birthday Cake Ever


I want to thank my flatmates, Maria, Eva and Katka for giving me the best cake I could have ever dreamed of. Girls, this is why I am your houseboy, because you do things like this for me. Do you know how hard it will be for anyone to ever top this cake.

What you are looking at is one of my favorite pizza's of all times, The Mexicanna bez Kukurica (without corn) from Pizzeria Tiffany. (300m away from the flat.) It is salami, hot chilies and hot sauce. It is spicy and most people have trouble with how hot it is but I can't get enough heat.

It was such a surprise for me I had to share it with everyone.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pavol Sipos is My Hero

Pavol found my wallet and passport in the taxi I had been in. Since it did not have my contact info for Bratislava in it, it took him a few days to track me down. He found a card to the car rental agency I use and asked if they had a phone number for me. They where able to give him Kate's phone number and he called her and got the address and brought it back to me.

For that I will make sure I do something very special for him and his girlfriend. He did not speak English but was able to explain to me enough for me to understand how he found me. I will never be able to thank him enough.

Thanks to you who also were praying for this to happen, it did because of you.

Cleaning Up My Mess

I got some good news this morning when I called the Embassy. I will be able to apply for a new Passport right here in Bratislava, which is great. I have my Birth Certificate and an old Passport being FedEx'ed to me hopefully by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. It should only that 5-6 working days for them to process it and get it back from the States. Since I am not traveling in the next few days it is not a problem that I don't have a Passport.

My credit cards are all being replaced and I should have all of them by next week sometime. My ATM card will show up Tuesday I hope. I do have some cash on hand and my flatmates all have cash so it is not a problem, it just sucks not to have anything. I really do feel like a man without an identity right now and it is not a feeling I want again.

The upside is with a new Passport they really have know idea just how long I have been in Europe so for me I feel as if I was able roll back my odometer back to 000000 and start fresh again here. That is the great thing for me about Vienna airport, when get to Passport control, they just open stamp it and hand it back.

I will keep you updated as things progress. Thanks for those who pray for me and send me positive thoughts, trust me I know they work.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

So My Bus Has Broken Down

The good news is help is on the way to get the bus going again. Thanks to my mom and step-dad who are sending me what I need.

So what happened, the simple answer is I lost my wallet and passport last night. I got way to drunk and lost it in the cab home. I made some bad choices last night and will pay for them now. It sucks but there is nothing I can do to change things so I will learn a $600.00 lesson. (cost of new passport, fedex cost for new cards, new card express fees, $240 for my flight I can't use now, etc.) The Ryanair experience taught me to wait for the good, and not to focus on the negative. So I will see what happens because I will not go to Amsterdam as planned on Monday. I hope to be able to visit Prague on Friday but I will not know until I call the Embassy on Monday to find out exactly what I need my mom to mail me so I can apply for a new passport. Loosing it sucks because I had so many stamps from so many places. But I remember them all and have photos so it is not the end of the world. I hope having a photocopy of both my passport and drivers license will help things along but I am prepared to fly home for a few days and get a new one if I really need to but I am almost sure I will be able to get a replacement in Vienna.

So lesson learned: Don't get so drunk you leave your wallet and passport in the cab.
Ok that's it in a nutshell. I will keep you posted.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Plans For December Are Starting To Come Together

I have made my travel plans and they are as follows.

I hope to be in Kremnica Friday the 5th of Dec. and stay the weekend with Joey, Martina and other friends. Returning to Bratislava on Sunday the 7th.

On Dec. 8th I will fly from Vienna to Amsterdam. I will stay until the 12th. It is my birthday gift to myself. What can I say I love the city and if it was not so expensive I would move there for 3 or 4 months to really get to know it as well as I want to. For those who have never been I recommend you put it on the list of places to visit. The best way I can describe what I enjoy about it, is this; take the multicultural aspects along with great museums, great food, etc. about New York City and put it on a small scale. 600,000 people compared to 8 million in NYC. The lack of really tall buildings in the city center is also one of the great things about it. You could walk from one end of the city to the other in less than an hour and a half. I am hoping to get lucky and have it snow just a little while I am there. I would really like to have a Winter series of photos from Amsterdam.

On Dec. 12th I will fly to Prague and visit with my former flat-mate Eva. Her Birthday is the 6th but we are going to celebrate it on the 12th. My current flat-mates and a few others will take the train from Bratislava to Prague for the weekend. We will all then return by train on Sunday afternoon.

Then I have booked a flight to Istanbul on Christmas Day and will stay for 4 days visiting friends. I am really excited to go back to Istanbul. To me it is the jumbo size version of NYC and this is why I enjoy it. But that many people is somewhat overwhelming to me sometimes.

I hope but am not sure I will be back in Kremnica for New Years Eve. But if that doesn't work out then the dream would be to return to a tiny little town on the western coast of Ireland called Doolin but only if my friend Kelly flew over to celebrate it with me. And would require me to fly Ryan Air again, not something I want to do. We had a great time there in 2001 and always said we should do it again some day. The third choice would be Amsterdam of course.

I hope it stays this way but if it changes it changes. I hope to keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My New Favorite Toy...


The Slingbox Pro - google it

The thing is great, I can watch live TV or from a Tivo (still the greatest thing EVER) at my Dad's house over the internet anywhere I have a high speed internet connection. I will see how it works in Slovakia. If it works like I think it will making watching Giants games simple. I will keep you updated.

For any of you who travel and miss seeing local coverage of sports and news while you are away from home, the Slingbox Pro is for you. The Solo is also good but spend the extra 20 bucks for the Pro, if you can find one. (I got so lucky to get mine but again, the Universe puts me where it needs me when it needs me there.) It was easy to hook up and setup , the only extra I needed was a wireless adapter. The kind the work on the Xbox 360 works with it and it was the easiest and cheapest solution to get it connected to the house wifi. It just plugs into the network port on the back of the Slingbox. That took about 3 minutes to setup with a PC before connecting it to the Slingbox. After making the connections in the back of the box I plugged it in and worked perfectly. You download the software (Mac or PC) and it walks you through setting up the the Slingbox. It took less than 10 min. but I was taking my time, mainly because I was amazed how cool it was and easy to setup. I then spent the next two hours just playing around with settings and basically went into super geek mode. I have tested over the internet and it works great. the faster your internet connection the better.

A special thanks to Dad and Janet for letting me set it up in there house. Dad, enjoy watching the races on your laptop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Leave for Home Soon

I have been in the States for the last 11 days visiting friends and family. I had a great time but I am ready to get back home in Bratislava. What can I say, I miss being a houseboy. The NY Giants game was great and I had a great time hanging out with Jason. (J - I told you that you would love having a Mac.) It was great to see the newest edition to the family, Conner. I got a chance to visit with my friend Kelly in D.C. She took me to a great little local place near her house called the Red Derby. I am now in NJ at my Dad's house until I leave tomorrow. I fly out from JFK at 6pm and should be back in Vienna around 9am. I can't wait.

My New Favorite Quote

A government big enough to give you everything you want,
is strong enough to take everything you have.
-Thomas Jefferson

Monday, November 03, 2008

I Am Back In America

I flew in yesterday afternoon in to Newark and meet up with my friend Jason, who flew in from Virginia. We just got back from the Giants - Cowboys game. Nice win for the Giants!!! (sorry Jason) We will drive to Richmond tomorrow morning. I will stay in Richmond at least a few days before heading back north. I have not decided if and when I will stop by Camp. I will see what things I need to get from the cabin and decide later if it worth the drive to get what I need. I am also thinking about visiting my brother Ben in Vermont, I would like to visit to see the renovations he did on the house that I lived in 2 years ago. I will then spend a few days in New Jersey before flying back to Slovakia for the next five months.

Yup you read that correctly, I will not be back for five months. I plan on a two week visit in early April. Over the next five months I am going to study, study, study. I am really into the idea of learning to speak Slovak, even though I know it is one of the hardest languages to learn. I really like living there and I need to be able to communicate with everyone not just the younger people who speak English. Plus I really want to see if I have the stones to actually do the work I need to do for me to learn the language. As most of you know, for me, school and studying rates slightly higher than getting kicked in the nuts while holding a baby. I will let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Amy MacDonald - This is the Life



I saw this last night and instantly loved it. It captures my last year fairly well. I always enjoy waking up and seeing who had to stay on the couch after a long night out. The early 20's are some of the best times in life, that's why I never gave them up. Grow up only when you have no other choice, to do so before then is just foolish.

Amy MacDonald - This is the Life

Oh the wind whistles down
The cold dark street tonight
And the people they were dancing to the music vibe
And the boys chase the girls with the curls in their hair
While the shy tormented youth sit way over there
And the songs they get louder
Each one better than before

And you're singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

And you're singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

So your heading down the road in your taxi for four
And you're waiting outside Jimmy's front door
But nobody's in and nobody's home 'til four
So you're sitting there with nothing to do
Talking about Robert Riger and his motley crew
And where you're gonna go and where you're gonna sleep tonight

And you're singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight? (x5)

Where you gonna sleep tonight?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Afternoon in Vienna



Click Pic for More

I spent the afternoon with my friends Mary, Eva, Lenka and Frankie (Milan really, but everyone calls him Frankie.) in Vienna. We walked around the city just looking at sights and taking pictures. I found out on this trip my great little Canon S60 camera has given up the ghost, the CCD is toast, such is life. We stopped at a cafe for a coffee and then came back to Bratislava for an quite evening just hanging in the flat drinking wine and talking. I will wait for another day with good weather and take the train back. It is about 20 bucks round trip and takes less than 50 min. The city is like no other European city I have seen. The picture of the girls on the tree are three of my four flatmates, Kate being the other, now do some of you understand why I am living here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

You Woke Up This Morning..

so no matter whatever happens today, it is much better than the alternative. I will say this, today we might find that the entire bus system shuts down and everyone is forced off the bus at a stop the are not ready for or prepared for. Don't worry, another bus is on the way, it may be a short bus and the ride may suck, for a long time, at least you are still riding a bus and that is always preferred to the endless dirt nap.

I am not sure exactly when but I feel by Tuesday for good or bad the die will be cast. So remember this, tomorrow is just a future yesterday and tomorrow always seems to take care of itself. Plus you really have no control over it so why worry, there is always sunshine after rain.

DON'T PANIC*

*but keep your towel on you. (for my Hitchhiker's Guide fans)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I Am in the Mood to Write

And for someone who is a bad writer to begin with, this is a dangerous combination, you have been warned.

So what exactly do I want to write about? I wish I knew, I only know that the words are not exactly what want them to be. I want them to each be a snippet of my brain that allows, even just one of you, to understand the absolute wonder that is this chemical soup I like to call my noodle.

I hate the fact I am not a writer because a good writer can do this with the ease of, of, shit I can't even give you a decent metaphor for something as easy as a, see I am still stuck. But that's not important right now what is important is my fingers keep hitting the keys with some type semblance of rhythm or pace. Again the chemical soup is happier when I can achieve this but it is not easy. It doesn't help that I dropped out of my typing class back in high school. But at least my fingers continue to move. So if I was to just start thinking out loud would that improve things; doubtful. (you like the semi-colon, I am never sure exactly where to put them but I see other writers do it, so why not me. To me a semi colon is like fine china, only used rarely and treated with respect. Again I was not the most attentive student in school. To me, grammar is for people who color inside the lines; pussies. See I did it again.) I have also decided that my use of "colorful language" in my blog, which is something I have thought about because of my younger readers, will continue to be used. They know what the words mean already and use them as well so who gives a shit, really. And if you are offended by such words that is your issue not mine. But I am willing to help you get over it. Again my fingers keep moving so we will see where the bus takes us. And there it is folks, it's the bus, that's what I am going to write about. Thanks to my friend Barbara who helped ladle this little pearl of wisdom out of the "soup". By the way, some have said the the words "Cellar Door" are the most beautiful in the English language but I think "Metaphorical Paradox" is better. Chew on that for a while.

The Bus
Ok I will try and explain this the easiest way I can. Life is a journey, you are being driven on this journey in a bus. The key thing is you are not driving the bus, even if you really want to, you can't. That thing in your hand right now that you think is a steering wheel, is just a kids toy you put there thinking it would let you drive the bus. Trust me the driver is locked in his compartment and you are not really allowed to speak to the driver. (These are not my rules, there is a sticker on his window that says, "don't talk with the driver".) Stay with me, I will get to my point, it just might take a bit to get there. The driver knows where he is going but he does not tell you where, the best you can do is look out the front of the bus and see what is coming at you, the only problem is at best you can see 15 seconds down the road. The problem with doing this is, to see down the road you have to get up from your great seat in the back which has a glass bubble top that gives you great views of what is all around you and you go to the front of the bus, which has only a view of what is in front of you. Now the only thing you can see is your future and only a few seconds of it as it goes flying by you. It is hard to figure out where you are because you can't focus on the things going by, it's to fast. But most people (I guess 80% of the population) stay in the front of the bus and some even bring their toy steering wheels with them because they think that it works better in the front of the bus. These are also the people who ignore the sign that say don't talk with the bus driver. So now they are trying to drive the bus by looking only to the future and missing life as it passes them by. Then they get angry because the bus isn't going where they think it should, again you are not driving the bus, get that into your head. This anger comes from fear, the fear that you have no control over your life. Guess what, you don't, your not driving the bus, get it? Move back to your good seat and enjoy the view. Here is the part most people have trouble with. Somethings the bus you are on stops and the driver tells you to get out and wait for the next bus that has your name on it. Sometime you don't want to get off the bus you are on, you might like the bus you are on or you might be scared to get off the bus because you are not sure where you are. You have to get off the bus, even when it scares the crap out of you, the next bus will show up. But if you sit on the bus you never see how many other buses with your name on them go driving by. They may be even better buses with better views but you miss them. Sometimes the stop is in a remote place and you think if I get off this bus, it is going to leave and I have no idea when the next bus is coming. Well live in fear and let it rule your world or get off the bus and face your fears. Odds are, it's never as bad as you think it is and for every fear you can get over only helps you later deal with fear and finally remove as much of it from your life as you can. The next bus almost always shows up as soon as you conquer your fear and step off the bus, that is why there is no posted bus schedule, you are the one who sets the schedule, that is the control that you have. Sometimes the bus stops and you find yourself in a transfer station and there are may different buses with your name on them. Take your time in choosing because they are always coming and going. And they can go in so many directions it is hard to choose but a choice is needed so you don't get run over by one of them. So to sum up, stop trying to drive the bus, and get off the bus when it stops, especially when you really don't want to.

Ok that's enough for now, the soup is happy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Had a Great Weekend in Kremnica


Click Pic for More

I went to visit my friends Martina, Joey and Barbara at Joey's weekend cottage in Kremnica and we had a great time. The cabin right now has no running water or electricity but it really doesn't matter when you are with good friends. At least there is an outhouse with nice views. Joey and his friends and family have helped him take what was once just a small cabin and increase it's size over 4 times as large now. What you don't see in the photos is the 30m, steep walk up to the cabin. Bringing materials up here can be a huge pain. I am amazed at how much they have gotten done in just over a year. When it is finished it will have running water, electricity, kitchen and a bathroom. It also is very private and has very good views. My brother Ben would really appreciate the "yankee" use of any material to save money. (Joey takes old shipping boxes from work to use as sub-flooring and other things.) While it is not 4 star living, I love the place and hope to have one of my own one day in Hybe. I have the spot picked out now I just have to buy the land from the farmer who owns it and start building.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Life in Slovakia

I decided that since I am trying to get 1 year temporary residency here I should follow all the rules and do what I am supposed to. Any visitor who is staying in a private home is required to imform the police about them being in Slovakia and how long they plan on staying. You should do this in the first three days after you arrive. So I missed that window. But I went to the American Embassy on Tuesday just to let them know I am in the country and I got emergency contact info, which is always nice to have.

They said I had to go to the local police station in my area of Bratislava, Petrazelka. I was not sure exactly where I needed to go but I had remember a building that I one day saw many police walking in and out of about 1km away from my building, so I figured I would walk back over there and check it out. It turns out not to be a police building, strike one. But as I was looking around I asked a guy if he could tell me where the nearest police station was. He wasn't sure but told me not to worry, he would make sure I found it. He got the location of the police station then it was a question of which buses to take. So he hoped on one bus took it a few stop and got out and waited for the next bus, which took us a few more stops. Jackpot, we found the police station. He head in and Paul, my guide, asks were I need to go to register. The man behind the counter said we had to go to special police station for foreigners and he gave us directions, strike two. So we got back on the bus went back to the first bus stop we had gotten off at and started walking. We had to walk about 500m until we got lucky and looked right and found the place, jackpot. We walk around to the front of the building and found out it is closed on Thursdays, strike three, I'm out.

I walked back to my building, thanked Paul for all his help and came home and started thinking just how fun it is do deal with former Soviet Bloc governments. At least I know how to get there tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Ireland Collection



Click Pic for more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guess Where?


Click Pic for More

Like it's hard to guess where I would go.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Basic Lesson Learned Again

For those how don't think that this journey is not a learning experience is missing out on real life. I have just been taught a lesson I have been taught many times before but sometimes seem to forget because it is right in front of my face.

So what is the lesson?
"What you may think is bad now may in fact be a very good thing. You just have to look for the good in any situation."

How did I learn this again?
Easy, the Ryanair snafu. I was so mad and angry because of what happened last week. And so for the last week I have been thinking about it and all it does is get me angry when I do. What good is that doing me? I can't change it so why do I let it get to me. Because I am stupid sometimes and forget what I have learned. But I should know to look for the positive in any negative; there are always two sides to any situation. Even if the situation looks completely black you will find a small area of brightness that if you can focus on that it will soon become the only thing you see. The blackness fades away.

When I was sitting in the Shannon Airport getting mad at Ryanair and trying to change my tickets and everything a guy walks up to me and asks me if my laptop is connecting to the internet because his was having problems. Me being the geek that I am had to help him. I loaned him a network cable so he could connect and check his email. His name is Andrew, he is Irish but is married to a French woman and lives in France. If I remember correctly he owns a language translation service company in addition to a few things he has his hands in, a few other small businesses. We then spent the next few hours talking about life, travels, family and random stuff. He was also great in helping me relax about the complete hosing I was taking from Ryanair. Well it turns out that he contacted me and has invited me to visit him when I visit France. Now if I did not have a problem with the flight, then I don't get to meet him and don't have someone to show me parts of France. Having a local who can show you there hometown and surrounding areas is the only way to travel. Case in point, my trip to Istanbul, without Irem to show me around I would have never seen 95% of what I got to see in that city and because of this I will return to Istanbul because there is so much more to see. It also had a side benefit for her, she is again proud of her city because of how much I enjoyed seeing it. So I will visit Andrew sometime in the next few months and see what lessons I might learn from him and hopefully I can teach him something.

I just need to remember, even when things look bad the Universe puts me where I need to be, when I need to be there.

It all works out in the end, it always does.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Istanbul Collection



Click pic for full size images.

This is a collection of my favorite shots of Istanbul.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Istanbul Day 2 Photos



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Istanbul Day 2

WOW, all I can say is WOW.
Irem took me to a tower, who's name escapes me now but it was a vantage point I had dreamed about for taking pictures. When you see the panoramas I will put together you will understand what I am talking about. When we got to the top I spent the first 5 minutes just looking around and saying WOW. I was so blown away by the views of the city. It really made me understand how huge this city is. I am sure I will return to Istanbul in the future. The place is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures. I them spent the evening with Irem and a few of her friends for drinks and good conversation. I really enjoyed visiting her University campus, it has amazing views of the asian part of the city and a beautiful bridge. I was I had better hotos but because of the time of night it was very hard to get a few good shots. Photos to follow soon.

An email from a friend

The following is an email I received from my friend Jake, I asked his permission to re post it here for others to read as I feel it is important to share.

Subject:"Tomorrow is an illusion"

Often times I have heard Sean speak those words and I try to keep them in the back of my head during the day to separate the bullshit (work and schedules) from the meaningful (family, friends and good times) moments in the day. Sunday, those words resurfaced.

Char and I have made a great new set of friends who a month ago moved to Savannah from Alabama. Kim and Nathan are 33 years old and have 3 beautiful children (2 girls ages 8 and 5 and a son age 3). Nathan is an anesthesiologist in town and Kim cares for the family. Nathan, a huge Bama fan, flew to Alabama for the football game Saturday and went out with 2 friends after the game. When no one heard from him Sunday morning, his friends said to try the bar where they had left him the night before. The police found him dead in the backseat of his car (sleeping one off we think). The police are still investigating. He leaves behind his wife and 3 kids.

Sunday, Char drove Kim and her kids to Atlanta and I followed in my car to bring Char home. We met their friends in Atlanta who drove from Birmingham to take Kim and the family the rest of the way and Char and I returned Sunday night.

Just a few comments of many that day to put things into perspective. As we were loading the car Sunday, Allison (age 5) asked me not to forget Daddy's shoes. I guess she has heard her dad say that to her over and over in the past. As I was loading clothes into the car, a pair of dress pants fell off the hanger. I didn't think too much of it, but as I was putting the pants back on the hanger, I realized these were not just a pair of slacks, but the pants Nathan would be wearing in the casket. To make matters worse, Kim was insistent we brought Nathan's Jeep keys so he could drive the Jeep back home after the funeral. She wasn't connecting that his car was at the Jacksonville airport and that Nathan was dead. Absolutely pitifully to see anyone go through this.

Sorry if I got you down or if I am rambling but I just needed to get a few things off my chest. Times like these really reaffirm whats important in your life. You guys make me and my life better. Tomorrow IS an illusion. How true!


Enjoy your life today and be thankful for all the good things we have.
Jacob

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Istanbul Day 1



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What a city, this place is huge and filled with people, I really can't get over how many people are in this city. I am so glad I have my friend Irem to show me her city like i was able to show her New York City. I was able to see more things yesterday than I would have seen in three days if I was by myself. We went to the "Basilica Cistern" (Photo Above) It was built around 565 by the Byzantine Empire and was the water source of the entire city at the time, with a capacity of 100,000 tons of water (about 25 million gallons, if my math is correct).

We also went to a huge mosque and it was amazing inside. It was my first visit to a mosque and it was a great experience. We were there during afternoon prayers and this too was a great experience to see. I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in faith, no matter what your faith.

We then went to the "Grand Bazaar", which is a huge indoor shopping area that has been there for centuries. The place is huge and very easy to get yourself lost in. If you don't pay attention, you will exit in a place you did not expect to end up. We had been walking most of the afternoon and we headed to an outdoor restaurant to have some dinner and Turkish coffee, (it makes espresso look like weak cup of coffee) and to watch "Whirling Dervishes" - it is one of the physical methods used to try to reach religious ecstasy by the dancer. We had a great time, our waiter "Antonio" was very funny and should be a comedian but he is "scared of the microphone" (as he put it) so he says he will stick to being a waiter. I had a chicken kabob that was great. We then sat back and started to smoke some strawberry flavored tobacco from a big water pipe (hookah). It tasted great, I now understand why you see people just hanging out in a cafe having some coffee and smoking. It was a great way to relax and chill out. We stayed for about 4 hours just eating, drinking tea, talking and hanging out. I would have never found out about this place without Irem. It helps so much to have a local guide for a city like this.

OK time for me to get going.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lunch in Istanbul

So I have stopped by a cafe off the main shopping street I was at last night. This really is a cool city, the mixture of European, Middle Eastern and Asian culture is very cool. My friend Ali told me that there are something like 12 million people in the city. I am using my iPod for this post and it is not the easiest thing to type long posts. So I will leave it at that for now.

I Am the Road Warrior

In 24 hours I will have spent time in 5 different countries, Ireland, Great Britain, Slovakia, Austria and Turkey. Well it is really 25.5 hours for me to get 5 but it is close enough. I am looking forward to visiting Istanbul. I really can't wait.

I am tired, today started for me at 4:30, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to make my 6:30 flight to Bratislava. Let me tell you, Stansted Airport at 5:30 is a mad house, the place was packed. In typical Ryanair fashion the have one checking desk for each flight, so that was 30 minutes of waiting then security was faster this time than last it only to me about 12 minutes opposed to the 25 it took when I flew to Ireland. It was then a mad dash to the gate so I could try and get a good place in line for boarding, none of this sitting and relaxing waiting for them to call your flight, nope everyone starts to line up as soon s they get there. I was lucky and got to the gate with only about 100 people ahead of me, on the 737-800 as long as you're not 120th in line you shouldn't get stuck in a middle seat. The flight was uneventful and I was able to sleep for most of it, although when I woke up because of the way I had my head on the middle seat tray table, (the seats on Ryanair do not recline) my left leg had lost all circulation and it was 5 minutes of pins and needles.

When I landed in BA (Bratislava) the passport control officer keep looking at my photo then looking at me, I had forgotten that it is seven years old and I had hair back then, and I sometimes forget I'm bald. (So I am not ready to accept it, we all have our issues.) I grabbed a cab home and was excited to gt back to my flat even if only for 5 hours. I was a little shocked, my new flatmate's are not as into cleaning the flat as the last ones I had. But that will change, I will make sure of it. I swapped out luggage and went with a smaller bag, I still find I travel with too much stuff. I was able to transfer my photos over to the mac and I stitched together a few panoramas and was very happy with the two I did. I did no editing to the pictures yet but it gave me a good idea how things are going to look. I hope to have them finished in a week or so. It takes time to make sure they look as good as they can plus I am traveling without the mac so it is only when I am in BA that I will work on them, This Friday will be the first chance I get some free time but of course I will have photos from Istanbul to worry about. I really can't wait, but of course by the time I post this I will be there. (I am in the Vienna airport right now, my flight leaves in 20 minutes.)

So I had a new car service take me this time and the driver was great, he is a pissed off about the direction Slovakia Government is heading as I am about what has happened in the United States over the last seven years. Yes that is the main reason I am living over here, I don't like what has become of my once great nation, now just a democratically elected police state. Oh Sean, you are being overly dramatic, you may think but I don't thinks so. The man who gives up freedom for the sake of security deserves neither. (plane is boarding) OK now on board and Turkish Airlines has nice planes with very comfortable seats. This is the same type of plane Ryanair flies but on this pane 29 rows of seats, Ryanair has 33, so the legroom on this plane is much better, also the seats recline. It occurred to me I have been on the move for over a month now, it some how seems like months ago when camp ended but it was only 30 days, it's hard to believe. I am currently climbing to our cruising altitude of 38000ft somewhere over the southern part of Slovakia for the two hour flight, So far I am impressed with the airline, I will see how the food is to give you total coverage. They show a moving map of our flight and it is much better than any others I have seen on other airlines, it is done in 3D animation and my words don't do it justice. I am a geek when it comes to things like this, I enjoy seeing the speed and distance display and to know what city I am flying over. The food smells great and the flight attendants are easy on the eyes. (15 hours have passed) the food was very good.

So I landed and took a taxi to the hotel where I was meet by my friend Irem and two of her friends. I got to the hotel around 11:15 and I dropped my bags in the room and we went out for some drinks. We had a great time, we went walking down a main pedestrian street that even on a Monday night was packed with people, Irem said on the weekends it is hard to walk in this area because there are so many people going out. She said this was a small amount of people, i didn't look that way to me. I got back to the room round 2:30 and woke up this morning at 10:00am. I will wait for Irem to come to the hotel and take me around the city. This place is huge, there are something like 6 million people living in this city, that is more than all of Slovakia. I will try and post some photo tonight but don't hold me to it, Since I have limited time here I want to spend as much of it taking pictures as I can.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 8 Photos



Click for more pics.

Ireland Day 8


I am currently sitting in my rental car at the tip of Slea Head, visibility is down to about 100 meters, (and I have decided to do everything metric in my posts as long as I am in Europe, I will leave conversions up to you.) it is windy and the rain is a fine mist, basically I am in a cloud. But I have nothing but time to sit and wait and hope that the weather clears. I have no other place I would rather be so if I have to wait to see what I came here to see, I will wait. Yes, Slea Head is the reason I returned to Ireland. Back in September 2001 when I was here with my family It was perfect for photos. I came back in December of that year and it was not as good, now I have seen the worst it can be. I am not worried, I plan on taking a nap in the car and see what happens. I may sit here for hours and not see anything more than what I am seeing now, but how often do you get to visit your favorite place on the planet?

So I will wait and believe that the Universe will show me what it wants and it will be enough. Even with the bad weather, this place feeds me somehow, much like my cabin at camp.So after the first hour of waiting in some ways it is worse, the rain is not as hard but the visibility is down to 35 meters. I took a short nap in hopes of waking to sunshine, no such luck. Most people would call me crazy for just sitting here waiting but I don't know if there is sun in other parts of the Island, and I am missing some good pictures.? Who knows but I know this I will miss pictures here if I leave. It is hard to explain but I really don't mind waiting up to six hours for the weather to clear. If it doesn't, such is life but if it does... Karma is Karma

So while I wait I sit and listen to music from and about Ireland, I watch the seagull who has been my companion since I have arrived. He looks like he is waiting for tourist to drop some food and figures this is as good a place as any to wait out the storm.

The trip was fun, the weather did not turn out as I had hoped but I feel I was able to get some shots I was happy with. The thing I was retaught was this, when you don't have great sunlight but overcast skies, black and white becomes your best friend. I stopped looking for colors and started looking for different shades and tones, that in color may not look great but when converted to black and white look amazing. The shots of the run down castle are some on my favorites so far. I am looking forward to getting back on the Mac to stitch all my panoramas together. I am very hopeful I will end up with pictures that capture the beauty of the country, even without the best light. I really enjoyed being able to hangout with the golf tour folks in the evenings and then being able to do my own thing without having to worry about the riding on the coach and only stopping when it stopped. It is also nice because I am not flying out until early tomorrow and have time today to wait for my pictures at Slea Head. Yes I know the weather has not gotten any better but I have faith that I can change that, I just need to work at it a little harder. “And while the tempest loudly roars, I hear the truth and live it. And thou the darkness around me closes, songs in the night it giveth. No storm can shake my inner most calm, while to that rock I'm clinging.” - Enya (Playing as I am writing)

I am about to start hour three of my vigil and it is the same as when I got here. Seeing people on bikes ride up to this spot and give me hope, if they are willing to brave the elements to see what is out here, me sitting in a warm dry car it really not all that bad. What I wouldn't give for an updated satellite image right now. This morning when I checked I knew I had little chance to get good weather but I am always hopeful. Good things happen to me because I want good things to happen to me, bad things do not happen to me because I don't want bad things to happen to me. Learn it, love it, live it.

OK, so I made it two and a half hours before the Universe told me it was time to go. As usual, it was right. I headed back to Dingle and was amazed at how much the town has grown in seven years, it is sad really. There are nothing but row after row of two story, cookie cutter, vacation town homes outside of town. It spoils the view of the bay now. I was sad to see it like this. The good thing was I was more focused on trying to find breaks in the cloud cover. I didn't look at the town much as I was driving in. I then headed over the Conner Pass. Visibility was down to about 10 meters - (Sidebar ahead)

Other than not being able to stitch my panoramas together, I love my little laptop. For those who are on the road and hate lugging around 7 pounds of laptop, let me tell you this, spend the $450.00 and get the Asus EeePc 901. I have the 900 and will get a 901 in November when I return to the states for a visit. (it has a faster processor, better wireless and an over 6 hour battery life, over the 900) This thing has been great, I am really having a great time with it and it allows me to write when I feel like it and just want it want, I can then come back to it when I feel like it and write some more. OK back to Conner Pass and limited visibility.



On the way up the drop offs to your right will make the weak almost wet there pants. I was so bummed that the fog/cloud was so thick because, I couldn't get any pictures and since I could not see how far down it was, it wasn't scary at all. What's the fun in that. It's OK it gives me one more reason to return to Ireland soon. (Beware tangent ahead) The other one is I am so sorry I was in a rush to get to Slea Head because of the “Shepard” I saw on the ride up a random mountain road I had randomly decided to drive up because it looked narrow and steep, two things I love when driving. When you see the picture you will understand why I should have talked with him. I didn't want to bother him and make him stop, because as soon as you stopped moving the midges started to attack, so I just said Hi, and let him keep walking. The reason I think I need to go back and talk with him is this, he passed me three times on the road as he would catch up to me when I would stop every 200 meters to take a different angle on the same basic picture. Three times and each time I thought, talk with him a second find out what his story is, he is too unique a person not to talk with. His photos will help you understand. And I want to bring my mom over here to see Galway and points north. Who knows? (tangent over)


So on the way down the pass I understood when I had felt it was time to leave Slea Head, the rainbow I got to see. One minute nothing, the next, the sun pops out just for a few minutes behind me and in front of me is the coolest rainbow i had ever seen. I was so close and both ends were clearly visible to me. I don't think the photos will do it justice. So a parked my car and watched for about five minutes before the clouds covered the sun and it faded into memories. About five minutes later the sun popped out again but this time it lit up a hill and gave me the best shots of my trip. I haven't even looked at any of the photos from today yet and I know I have my winner in there. I knew it before I stopped the car, this was my one chance, the best light I had the entire trip and I was in a great position. I feel like that 30 minutes of time I had driving down the back side of the pass, seeing the rainbow and then the best light and colors I had seen in the last 8 days made every cloudy day I had before disappear, it saved my trip. Honestly without that 30 minutes I would be leaving tomorrow with no strong desire to return, now I know I will return soon.

I also want to say that the hotel was maybe not as bad as I wrote earlier, the U.M.S. played a major part in it. But it was cathartic to rant like that once again. It had been so long since I had done it I forgot how fun it was to write them, I just hate what it takes to get that muse going. I stick with this muse for a while, it may not be as fun to read but I try and keep it interesting. It was only the kitchen staff that first night that gave me a false impression of the staff. In fact other than that one dick head, let's be honest, he was, it was 9:50 not 10pm everyone else was great. The girl who cleaned the room was from Lithuania and was very nice as were the few other staff I got a chance to interact with where wonderful. Also the prices are not as high as I thought, I was reading from the back of the door which shows the maximum you can be charged, so my numbers are a little off. The place is still a maze though.

I will catch a flight out of Shannon at 6:40am on Ryanair, I then have 1 hour and 40 minutes to get off the plane in Stanstead, clear passport control, collect my baggage, clear customs, go upstairs and check in, go through security and run like OJ would for my next Ryanair flight to Bratislava. Yes that is how Ryanair does it, one place at a time, no connecting flights. That way they can whack you more times for more fees but is was still a cheap way to get to visit the UK and Ireland in one trip. I should be back at the flat in Bratislava by noon on Sunday. I then get up at 7am to catch the bus to Vienna for a 10am flight to Istanbul, Turkey for a three day visit with Irem and Ali, who I meet at camp this summer. I then fly back late Thursday night into Vienna. And I was jut thinking it would be cheaper for me to get a room in Vienna for two nights because Sunday I fly out for a 'mystery city” (Details to follow, Clem, no spilling the beans.) and the cost of a car service out and back is almost the same as a hotel for two nights. Plus I have the added bonus of being able to explore and shot Vienna. I will see... (crap now I have more work to do)

I did shot almost 200 pictures today, even with the crappy weather so I am going to get working on them and try and get them posted tonight, if I am not too tired. Plus Internet is 5 Euro per hour in this hotel so maybe not. Stay tuned.

My Last Day In Ireland

I was hoping for better weather today but it is still completely cloudy again. I hope as I drive to the coast it will clear up. I am heading to my favorite place on the planet today, Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula.

I just said goodbye to the tour group Jason brought over. They were all very nice people, a good mix of ages as well. I had dinner with everyone last night and got to speak with two couple, John and Joan, and Jim and Linda, both couples were great to talk with. I will miss Tim the coach driver, he was a great help to Jason and a wonderful tour guide.

I hope I will have some good photos to upload tonight but I can't promise much.

Thanks again to my loyal followers, I do keep on eye on who visits and it is nice to see so many people returning to catch up with me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biko



Sept. 12th 1977

Watch "Cry Freedom"

Ireland Day 7



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We had about an hour of sun today. Not a great day for pictures but I tried. Tomorrow is my last day so I am really hoping for nice weather.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ireland Day 6


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I only got 2 hours of sun today from 5pm to 7pm but I made the most of it. Tomorrow should be nice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A 4 Star Rant

So, maybe it's the weather or maybe just my U.M.S. (Ugly Mood Swings aka male P.M.S.) kicking in but I am fired up. But Sean you are on a permanent vacation how could you have anything to rant about? Well I will rant about deception, the 4 star kind.

I am staying in the Killarney Plaza Hotel, rated 4 stars. They have them right next to the name outside the place. They are very proud of that and make sure it is known how swanky and upscale the place is. Everyone is wowed by the lobby and the fresh flowers and for most they never look any deeper than that. But take a closer look and I think you begin to see the real place. Let me first tell you what I think 4 star means to me. I have had the privilege to stay in some very nice hotels before so I feel I have a good idea what 4 star service should be. I have also stayed in at least 2 places I consider 5 star so I feel I have a good base for comparison. I stayed in Singapore at the Intercontinental for $98.00 per night and it makes this place look like a Days Inn.

Let me start by telling you that a standard room goes for 350.00 euros ($495.00) per night. (Keep in mind, in Slovakia my rent, food, bus fare, cable, internet and smokes only cost me about 350 euros per month. It is one of the reasons I love it so. The fact that the best looking women in the world live there also helps. Don't believe me, come visit and see, its like a supermodel factory.) And no I am not paying the full rate, Jason worked out a deal for me. If I was I would have checked out and gone across the street to the Killarney Park Hotel. (That's 4 stars for sure)

I will tell you all the things I like about this place, my view. And it is only because I got lucky and got the top floor (4th) and I have a great view of the main shopping street and a nice church. That's it, that is the only thing I like. What I don't like will take some time but I will try and keep this somewhat coherent.

Parking at reception, there is no parking for reception, you have to hope that there is not a bus blocking the entrance like I had and just drive up onto the sidewalk to unload your luggage. Really if you don't want to block traffic, you have to park on the sidewalk. No one to come out and help you unload, no valet service to take your car. Instead I had to park illegally down the street run in and get a room key so I could then drive my car around the back and park underground. Why didn't I just park underground first and then check in? Simple, you can't get into the garage without a room key. Again just keep reminding yourself, 350.00 euros per night.

I then park the car and try and make my way to the lobby to get to my room, not an easy task. This place was designed by a crack smoking fool. I would only confuse you if I explained the layout of the first two floors of this place. I have yet to walk around and not find someone confused by the layout of the place. Instead of having a ground floor and then a mezzanine level they refer to them as LG and UG for lower ground and upper ground, this is not some hilly battlefield you are trying to gain position on your enemy, it's a hotel.

I walked into my room and was extremely happy with the view, it helped me not notice the fact that this hotel is now 7 years old and in need of some updating. Some of the carpets are in need of repair in the common areas, they looked tattered and the seams are starting to separate and fray. The furniture in the room is nothing special, the same stuff you would find at any decent hotel. It's not cheap but it is mass produced crap really, just not what I would expect at these prices. The room size is fine and it does have a nice flat screen TV but with only a few channels. No movie channels or Pay per View, which on a crappy day like today, it would be nice to watch a new movie on TV. The bathroom is fine and the towels are soft, which even I admit is a rare thing these days in any hotel. The bed linens are nice but the bed, well if you like marshmallow soft then you are in luck, because it is one giant marshmallow. I am sure 7 years ago it was wonderful, soft, supportive yet just firm enough, now it's all soft, Viagra couldn't help it.

The next thing I expect is a staff that will go out of there way to make sure that you have everything you could want. When we were in Lahinch the staff there was great, even if the bar was closed you could go to the desk and the night porter would get you what ever you wanted, even just a glass of ice water. It was not a problem. This is what I expect but am not getting here, not even close to what I expect at 350.00 euros per night. I will give you an example of what I am talking about . Last night I went out and had a nice Chinese dinner but as usual I was hungry a few hours later. (why is that?) So it was 9:50 pm and room service is finished at 10 pm. So I called down to find out what desserts they had available. I am not stupid enough to order real food 10 minutes before the kitchen is closed, have you not seen the movie "Waiting". So I figured a dessert is quick and easy for them to do and I had a good shot no one would mess with it. (watch the movie) The guy who answered the phone seemed somewhat confused by the idea that I just wanted a dessert, I was confused by his lack of English language skills. He said he would check what was available. He came back to the phone to tell me the kitchen was closed. Now I could understand if someone ordered up a full dinner, drinks and dessert but I was looking for a bowl of ice cream, a simple order. The kitchen didn't feel like working, this I can understand, if I was paying 75.00 - 100.00 euros per night for a room but not 350.00. At those rates I expect service above and beyond. The other thing is because the only Irish people working here are at the front counter the rest of the staff does not have the internal hospitality, that is part of the Irish genetic code. Most of them are from Poland, India or Paskistan and while they are nice, this is just a job to them, nothing more nothing less, it just pays better than at home. Maybe I was spoiled in Lahinch because it is such a small little village almost everyone was Irish. Now I don't want you to think I am disparaging the non Irish, I am not, I am just pointing out they don't have the same mindset as the Irish when it comes to taking care of guests.

But the kicker and the one thing that has pissed me off to no end is Internet access. They have it in the hotel, wireless in every room, and the speed is OK and it is free. (free Internet is not a big thing in Ireland, most cheaper places charge for it or don't have it.) The thing that kills me is I have to call down to the front desk every 2 hours to get a new code to login into the wireless system. Because each code works only for two hours. You could be in the middle of a download or on a skype call or video conference, whatever, after 2 hours the connection drops. You have to call downstairs and get a new code. Again it is frustrating that you to have to do anything when you are paying 350.00 per night.

So I would not recommend anyone stay here, if you are visiting Killarney, stay at the Killarney Park or for a wonderful experience, stay at the Adair Manor, they are both true 4 star places. I even felt the hotel in Lahinch was better than this even thought it is not a 4 star resort. Also Killarney has lost some of it charm it had when I was here 7 years ago. While it is a great jumping off point for may sights in the area, it has grown past a small little quite town into a tourist only kind of place. I don't see or hear the locals like I did in 2001, just loud, fat Americans. (some say there is nothing worse than a reformed smoker, but a reformed American is worse. Yes I once was a loud, fat American but not anymore) It is life and things change, it just sucks when they change for the worse. I am sure this will be my last visit to this part of Ireland. In the future I will stay in the small towns that make up most of this country and avoid the more populated areas. You can still find the Irish charm and hospitality out there but is it slowly fading away. Skoda (it's a pity)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ireland Day 4



The view from my room.
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Ireland Day 3


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I had about 3 hours today when the sun was out some so I was able to get some good shots today. The panoramas should come out nicely but I need my Mac for doing those so you will have to wait until Sunday for me to get them online.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Words I Promised

So, Ireland for the third time is just as good as the first two. For those who don't know, my friend Jason is a travel agent who specializes in European Golf Tours asked me if wanted to to join the trip with about 30 other people. I jumped at the chance to return to one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you have never been here I highly recommend an 8 day trip. For my US readers, If you have never left the country, this should be the firs place you get a passport for. Trust me the, the food is great, the locals are very friendly, but sometimes hard to understand, and the landscape is second only to New Zealand (which should be your next trip) in my opinion. (For my Slovak friends, your lack of a coast line puts you in third, it's not your fault I need an ocean close by.)

The weather yesterday was better than today, with more sun and scattered clouds then the mainly overcast weather I had today. I was able to get some OK shots today but I wished I had better light. I also has a few tiny bits of dust on my cameras CCD (the image chip) which I can edit out but it is a pain so I will head up to Galway to a photo shop and get a brush to really clean it. The weather forecast for the next 2 days is poor as what is left of Tropical Storm Hannah are due here Monday afternoon. So I hope the drive north will be dry in the morning, I will continue west from Galway along a coastal road, if the weather holds. I have never been to Galway so I will enjoy seeing new places as long as it is not raining. As soon as the rain starts I will then head back to Lahince.

I am so glad I got up this morning at 5:15 to go with Jason on the hired bus (coach) to the airport to pickup the main group of golfers who flew in at 6:00. (About 10 of them came in yesterday with Jason and his father to get a jump start on the jet lag for better golfing.) I had decided that instead of taking the coach with ll the golfers and being locked into where they are going, I would rent a car for the week. It is so nice to be able to set my own agenda to go find some good shots. I will sometimes follow the bus or ride on for some of the trips just because they are places I want to see. The other advantage is on Tuesday the whole group has to be on the bus at 5:45 am so they can make the ferry so the don't miss there tee times at a very popular golf course. (If I cared about golf I would be able to tell you the name) I will get to wake up when I like and drive to Killarney to meet them later in the day. The weather forecast right now for Tuesday is heavy rain but should be clearing out that night, I hope. Thursday is my best chance for sun. And if that happens I will drive all day taking photos. The plan is to be able to send all the clients on the trip a nice slide show DVD showing them places they saw but also places they didn't have time to see because they are playing golf most days. There are a few wifes who aren't playing golf so Jason's dad will stay with them and Tim the coach driver will take them on day trips. One of th places I would like to visit is Waterford, I really want to see the Waterford Crystal factory, I have always been a huge fan of hand blown glass. Watching them you understand the true artistry involved with working with really, really, really hot sand. (2000 Deg. Celsius (FUNFACT: Glass is not solid, it is in fact a super cooled liquid. Over many years (100+), glass window panes will become thicker at the bottom as the top thins.) ) But I digress. I have not planned past Tuesday because there are way too many factors out of my control which makes planning futile. As I have said before , “I know what I am doing today, I have a good idea about tomorrow but after that who knows.” The people on the trip are all nice and there s a core group who I will most likely hangout with at night. That's about all I have left in me for the night. I will hope to be able to give you some nice shoots tomorrow but I can't promise much. Some people tell me I set the bar too low sometimes but what they don't understand is I am not doing a high jump, I'm doing the limbo, so the higher I set the bar the easier it is or me so I keep the bar low to keep it challenging. If you can really understand that last statement, then you really understand me. Enjoy.

Ireland Day 2


Click Pic for more.

It was cloudy all day so I'm not real happy with most of my shots. I did decide to rent a car for the week to make it easier for me to travel so I am not tied to the golfers schdule and riding the bus with them. I am tired and will try and write some later. Enjoy the pics.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ireland Day 1



Click Picture for More

Words to follow.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Greetings from The UK


(Click Photo for More Pic's)
Bexhill on Sea

This was the most blue sky I saw in the two days I have been here. But it is typical UK weather so what can I do. I am hoping that the weather will clear and I get a few nice days in Ireland.

It has been fun to visit with Milos and Zuzka. They have a tiny flat but yet made room for me to stay so I didn't have to get a hotel. It is about 250 to 300 sq. feet (9-10 sq. meters) and it is enough for the two of them. I love it because I love small spaces and how much space do you really need? We went to the local Pub the first night and I had some of the best Guinness I have had since I was in Ireland 7 years ago. Clean taps make the difference. Yesterday Zuzka and I drove the tank out to Brighton Beach to check the place out. To me it was exactly what I was expecting, it reminds me of Coney Island with better architecture. As you can see in the photos the weather was crappy and not worth taking many photos. We headed back to the flat for awhile then we went to pick up Milos at work before going to dinner. We went to a small hotel right on the beach and had dinner overlooking the English Channel. The food was fine but typical English fare, it's hard to cook a steak rare when the steak is only 1 cm thick. I guess no one has told them steaks need to be thick not thin like a veal cutlet.

I leave today for Ireland and will spend the next 8 night there, before returning to Bratislava for 1 night to get ready for my trip to Istanbul for 3 days. I am looking forward to getting some great photos in Ireland. I can't believe it has been 7 years since I was last there. In some ways it feels like yesterday. For those who have never traveled outside the US, I would put Ireland as your top choice to visit first. The people are great, the landscape is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and the food is good as is the Guinness.

So more updates to follow. Thanks again to my loyal readers, I am getting my grove back and hope to be able to top some of my New Zealand posts, we will see. Raul Duke, patron saint of writers, protect me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I'm in the UK

So Ryanair, what can I say about a bus that flies. Really this just like a bus. They have ads on the overhead bins, really like the kind you would see above your head on a bus or subway. It was interesting how they load these planes, no one has an assigned seat. If you pay an extra 10 Euro you can board the plane first and get one of the choice seats, if not it's cattle car time. So I skipped the extra fee and just got near the departure door at the gate. The fun thing about the airport in Bratislava is it's old school, you have to walk outside get to the plane. So they open the door and it becomes a bit of a mad scramble as a few people start to run to the plane. I just stepped up my pace and was on the plane before most of the people and was able to snag an exit row seat, which on the 737-800, has a ton of legroom. The next thing about discount airlines is they charge you for everything. I got a tiny can (.25L) of 7-up for 1.50 Euro and a ham and cheese on Sub roll for 5 Euro. It is a nice racket they have going with this airline. The sandwich was good but not 5 Euro good. I am waiting to see if there is a charge to exit the aircraft when we land. They allow you only 33lbs per checked piece of luggage, which of course they charge you for. My bag is about 50lbs. You can bring on one item for free as long as it is under 22lbs. They also charge you 10 Euro if you want to check in at the airport instead of doing it online. They charge you 10 Euro if you want to pay for your flight with any credit card other than the Ryanair Visa.When I was booking the ticket it said it was going to be about $100 round trip but after taxes and and a new fee every time I clicked next. The total came to $250 only about $60 cheaper than flying a moor carrier. The guy at check in let me slide on my bag being overweight, which was nice because I am sure it would have cost me 25 Euro extra. They also sell scratch off lotto tickets to try and win free flights and other stuff. Plus duty free that most airlines sell. I will give them this, they are efficient and seem to be one of the only discount airline that makes money. Oh yeah none of the seats recline, so I am really glad I got an exit row. Plus they have the best on time arrival average of 90%.

So I got into Stanstead and it took about 30 minutes to clear passport control. I had a rental car waiting for me but upgraded because they were out of Portable Sat Navs (gps for my American friends.) so I upgraded to a car with it built in. It is a Nissan Extera or something like that. It is diesel and has tons of torque, it is also a 6 speed. I'm not sure if it is a turbo or not but it feels like it. I will find out more about the “tank” as I am calling it and let you know. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the ride. It is huge compared to most European cars and on the narrow back roads it is a bit wide and I would rather brush up against the hedges on the left then the big truck on the right. As for driving on the other side of the road, as I have said to people before, as soon as I get to my first circle, my brain goes, OK now I got this. Right turns are a bit tricky sometimes as you are crossing over traffic to do so, the trick is to remember that cars will not be where you normally look for them, just look to the other lane. Plus it is always better to wait until it is all clear then to risk jumping out in front. A little bit or patience goes a long way. Traffic around London was what I expected, with a few slow downs and a five minute stop for a broken down car. The cool thing about the Sat Nav is it gets traffic updates and told me the M25 was packed because of an accident so it asked me if I wanted to reroute. I have to say, it is a cool feature and I want to know when it is going to be in the US, maybe it is now but not in my Honda. It was about 2:45 minutes of driving to get to Bexhill on Sea to visit with Kate's sister Zuzka and her boyfriend Milos. I was on the motorway about half the time and then on back roads for the rest. I could have stayed on the highway, if not for the traffic, and gotten here maybe 30 minutes sooner I think. I really enjoyed driving on the back roads, sure it is slower but you get to drive through some nice little towns along the way.

I will stay here for just two night and I leave for Ireland on Friday. I will spend tomorrow walking around the area and taking photos. And since I am in the UK, there is a really good possibility I will be able to rant about how bad the food is here. I understand now why the French hate the English so much, it' because they don't understand what good food really is.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kremnicke Gagy



Photos from Kremnicke Gagy
Kremnica Comedy Festival.

Thanks to Joey and Martina and all there friends for a great weekend.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hey Guys, I Finally Found It!!!!!!



Who knew it was in Amsterdam this whole time.

All My Photos from Amsterdam


Well at least the ones I like enough to show you.
Click photo to see the rest.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 3 into Day 4

So Day 3, I started my day the same way, milkshake at Barney's. I know what you are thinking. “You start your day with a milkshake?” Sure, why not it is a great way to wake up, it has vitamins and calcium, with the added bonus of quick sugar rush to help get moving for the day. I talked with the two German guys, the normal stuff, my life, my journey, my philosophy, etc. Again the Universe keeps doing it's job, I don't question it anymore. I then started walking towards the center of town and Dam Square. I was not all that impressed, I prefer the places that are near my hotel, much more character and a lot less touristy. I left the main road off Dam Square and just started walking a few blocks, not really going anywhere in particular, just wandering and looking for things to shot. The next thing I know I turn left for no reason walk a block and end up in the Red Light District. I was not looking for it and I thought it was in another part of town. It was what I imagined it would be. The daytime talent was weak at best, and down right scary at worst. I then headed back to the hotel and grab some takeout. I went to a place called Wok and Walk. You go in, tell them what kind of rice or noodles you want, then what meat you want then what sauce you want, three minutes later you have a to-go container and are out the door. For fast Chinese food it was very good. After dinner I went back out for a walk to see if anything was going on. Without my tripod it's not worth shotting some stuff I would like to and I am not a huge fan of the flash. I walked about 10km today and I really felt it when I got back for the night. The room has a great bathtub for soaking so of course. (no jake, i didn't make a move) I chilled out the rest of the evening watching some news and a few TV shows.

Day 4, Checked out and enjoying a milkshake, as usual, at Barney's trying to meet my deadlines so the 6 of you who read this will get your fix today. As I was sitting here 5 Irish kids (19 – 26) can in to start there 3 day holiday. I talked with them for about 30 minutes about everything Irish, I am glad I got to speak with them as it will make it easier for me to understand them when I get there sometime next week. The plan for the rest of the day is as follows, get some lunch, walk around a new part of town I have not seen that is NW of my hotel. I am hoping for some good shots. I will be back to the hotel to get my bag from storage and take the tram to Central Station at 5pm to catch a train to the airport for my fight out at 8pm to Vienna. I have a car service that will return me to Bratislava, as the bus stops running at 10 pm from the airport back to Bratislava. I will also pot more of my photo once I get back home, I am still looking for a few apps for this eeepc that work like my Mac.

I am now having lunch at a small Italian place on my favorite street for places to eat. And Wijacking someone's net signal. Enjoy, I know I will.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amsterdam Day 3



















More words to follow.
Carsten and Steffen, my new German friends
Thanks for everything. (Great Guys)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 2 - Night Time Fun

So off to a late meal, I took advantage of the hotels location and walked past about 30 different places before settling on a Mexican place off the main square I am near.

It turns out to be a good choice the service was fast and the food was very good. My plan now is to head back to the square and see if the two guys I saw playing last night are back. If so I will try and get some video for you. They had a funky blues sound and I picked up some cd's from them last night. The only problem is the Asus has no cd drive so I will have to wait to get home to listen to them.

No offense to my English friends but, your brothers and sisters are the loudest, drunkest, rudest tourist I have ever come across. If you are walking down the street and hear a bunch of loud drunk people there is a 95% chance they are English, the other 5% are Scots, sorry but it's true.

So I am in the square listening to the “The Famous Unknowns” I hope the video comes out.



Day 2 in Amsterdam



So I am still not over the jet lag, it was 3 am before I was able to get to sleep. Of course it could have been the espresso at 9:15 last night, not a wise choice for someone who rarely has caffeine. I spend the most of that time working on photos.

Today is overcast with a small chance of rain, so the light is very flat for photos, I will see if I can work it to my favor. I have found this trip that Front Doors and Iron Work is catching my eye more than anything. I plan on walking into new areas near my hotel which is really turning out to be perfect for my needs, it is close to great restaurants and is right on the tram line so getting back to the airport is not going to be an $75.00 cab ride. Stopped by Barneys to talk with Andy and get some locals advice on spots to visit and I am now heading out.

I spent the next 3 hours just walking the streets taking photos. I stopped for lunch near the hotel and had a great pizza. It started to rain lightly so I packed it in for the day and came back to the hotel to give you an update. It is now still cloudy but dry so I will head out later for dinner.


















Amsterdam - The Return - Day 1

So where did I last leave things. Oh yeah, departing from JFK.
Well the flight was uneventful other getting stuck in the bulkhead row
that does not recline because of the emergency exit behind me,
so I was forced to rest my head on my tray table, not my
preferred sleeping position. I did try and offset that by taking
three benadryls and two screwdrivers to get me to sleep,
which still did not work as well as I had hoped but I was
able to get about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of sleep. I then had a
car service take me to Bratislava.

So I am home, and yes I do feel like this my home,
I could try explain the reasons I feel this way about Slovakia but I
am not sure I could convey exactly what I feel since I don't seem
to understand it myself. The closest thing I can say I this, I know
that the Universe wants me here for some reason. It is the same
reason I return to Camp every summer, because this is where I
should be. For those of you who get to talk with me face to face
will understand the concept I am trying to get across because
I have said it before. The key now is for me to recognize why
So how is it living in the same flat as your ex-girlfriend. To be
honest it was rather strange right at first, both of us not quite sure
what to expect from the other. That passed as we both just sat
down and chatted about our summers, how they went etc.
It was then I think we both understood that while we were not right
for each other as a couple, we could in fact be OK with just being
friends. The lingering feelings we both are dealing with I think
will slowly fade in to the past and make it easier just to be friends
with each other. As with everything, time will tell. So the trip,
I as I write this I am 20000 feet above the Netherlands about to
land in Amsterdam. I am looking forward to spending a few
days walking around taking pictures and taking in the local culture
and attractions.

Landed in Amsterdam and took a cab to the hotel because I
was to lazy to figure out the train and bus lines in a town I cant
pronounce the names of the stops.

Andy from Barney's lounge was here again and remembered
me and all my stories. I was surprised how excited he got when
he saw me, I felt for sure that there was no way he remembered
one old American from 4 months go. It was my hat that I think
made him remember me.


(Props to my Pop for the vintage 1971 "Go Fast Hat")

So first impressions, First, I love having the Asus eeepc 900,
it is perfect for the mobile blogger like me. Second, Barney's
still makes one of the best milkshakes you wil ever have.
Third the cab drivers here would give the NYC crew a run for
there money, my only advice is close your eyes and pray.
Fourth The hotel I got this time is now my new favorite spot.
I will get some photos to show you this area of town in the morning.
I have no view but it's a smoking room and it is bigger than the
last place. But the down side is you can't smoke inside the
restaurants or bars or coffee shops, go figure. You can light up a
spliff in the coffee shop but the get mad at you if you fire up a
nicotine stick, what kind of sick twisted moronic bureaucrat
came up with that one, oh wait I think I answered my own question.

So what is my game plan for the next 72 hours?
Tonight if the rain holds off I am going to do some night shots,
which without my tripod, should produce some interesting results.
But to be honest some of my greatest shots have happened by accident.
Tomorrows weather looks like it should be nice so it will be a
day of walking and shooting.

So I have gone mobile and am now sitting down for dinner at a
small Italian place off one of the main streets. So the plan is for
me to stop every so often and just start to type. I have already
taken a few good shots and this way It will give you the up
close and personal view of the city, plus it's fun for me to do it.
It gives me a look I need as a single guy dinning alone. Doing this
makes me look important. ;-)

So I just finished one of the best dinners I have had in a long time.
The veal saltimbocca was amazing and the gravy on the spaghetti
would make grandma Lucarelli proud. I am going to finish it
off with some tiramisu. Then off for more photos before calling it a night.

I just got mistaken for a Frenchman, I couple sat down to me
and started to speak to me then I said I don't speak French the the
man thought I was French. Serge and Fabienne are from Aix province
and I have just been sitting here talking with them as they wait for there dinner.
They are both teachers who are on holiday. I told them about my
travels and we talked about my philosophy of life and that today is
the only day you get so you better enjoy it. Anyway, tomorrow is
just a future yesterday. Serge's english is very good and is able to
translate what his wife misses. They are both very pleasant to talk
with and disprove the old stereo types of what you might think of
the French. He has also given me the name of a French writer
Andre Gide to read. For those of you who don't believe me,
I will say it again. The Universe puts me where it wants me to
be when it wants me to be there.

And the tiramisu was great, of course the espresso at 9:15 might be a mistake.

I am now hanging out in a square listen to two guys jam on guitar,
the sound is amazing. I tried to get some video but it hosed up on me, I will try again tomorrow.















Bike repair with a brick, the Amsterdam way.