Saturday, October 28, 2006

Joe's Orlando Theme Park Madness #2

The PT Cruiser - Thrifty rental car in Orlando...

So before I start, there are picture links all through this update... Joe is back in Brisbane, and back at work :( after flying around the world on 11 flights in just over 2 weeks. Rather sleep deprived, especially after Orlando, where I made the most out of the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal (night 1 & night 2), which was rather great. On the way over to Ireland, I had a quick stop in London for the day - refer to previous updates for my thoughts! I met up with one of my DHL work colleagues. There was supposed to be a 3rd person too, but they didn't show. Then on to Ireland, which was great - a nice balance of cool, gloomy days and others with the sun trying valiantly to burn through the fog! I'm really glad Clare "undersold" Dundalk, as it really wasn't as bad as I 'd expected. I thought Dundalk was more of a "nondescript" town than a troubled one now, and will experience a lot of change for the better over the next few years. We will certainly have no problem living there - it has all the services and supermarkets you could wish for, and while it's different, that's the spice of life, and you gotta love the taters! The countryside around Dundalk is quite nice, lots of places for walks in the country and old pubs with Guinness on tap. So yes, I fixed a bunch of stuff in the apartment (Tain Court) and got the tv working (yes, now we can watch Spooks on BBC1), then we went to Cork for a weekend on Ryanair which was lovely. And I took myself off to Dublin for a day (no photos). I also met with DHL and talked jobs and career options, and the job market seems pretty buoyant just like Australia.
After about a week and a half, I left Dublin for Orlando, via Newark Airport (New York) on Continental Airlines. The security for this flight was extreme, with about 5 levels of questioning, searches and double checks. Dublin and Shannon (on the west coast of Ireland) are the only two European airports with U.S. border preclearance facilities (fully staffed by U.S. Customs), which save you a lot of time upon arrival into the U.S. All flights were smooth, and whilst Continental were very good, I would still rate Qantas as the best of the 6 airlines travelled on this trip (Qantas/British Airways/Aer Lingus/Ryanair/Continental/United).
Had a fantastic time in Orlando (refer to Joe's Orlando Theme Park Madness #1), and went to see The Pet Shop Boys on the first night at Hard Rock Live. There is no rest for the time challenged in Orlando, and the days and nights were filled with: Disney-MGM Studios the next day (if I hear "Have a Magical Day" one more time...), followed by the 1st night at Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), then up again for Universal Islands Of Adventure the next day, followed by a tour called "Unmasking The Horror" which looked behind the scenes at HHN (this was a real highlight for me), followed by my 2nd night at HHN. Got back to my hotel room well after midnight, to get up again at 4am, to fly to Los Angeles on United, to spend the day there, to leave LAX that night, to fly to Auckland, and connect to Brisbane. Mmm, very little sleep. I think I could spend a week in Orlando, but Clare certainly isn't the worlds biggest theme park fan (I could tell you about the time I convinced Clare to go on the Corkscrew at Seaworld, but I'll leave that for another day!) Anyway, a good time was had by me, and the tens of thousands of others in Orlando that week, although the rental car girls complained about how quiet things were. Now I have just over 5 weeks left at work, before I head back to Ireland again.
Just a quick summary of all the NEW picture links:
- London, 07 Oct 2006
- Dundalk, Oct 2006
- Tain Court Dundalk, Oct 2006
- Cork, Ireland, Oct 2006
- Cork Airport, Oct 2006
- Newark Airport, 18 Oct 2006
- Pet Shop Boys, 18 Oct 2006
- Disney-MGM Studios, 19 Oct 2006
- HHN#16, 19 Oct 2006
- HHN#16, 20 Oct 2006
- UA273 MCO-LAX In Flight, 21 Oct 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An update from Clare...

Front view of Newgrange with white quartz facade
Hi all,
Sorry for a long time since I have emailed (or blogged!) Mainly due to the combination of travelling with work again, assignments (MBA) and more visitors. Sailing finished the weekend Mum came over. Hopefully I will be able to get some photos of the last race around the Kish lighthouse for the blog. I haven’t done any Hash walks since Paddywack in Dublin in Aug - those pics are linked here. But may get to the Belfast hash on Wednesday night. Joe has been updating our blog that I still haven’t learnt how to blog yet (so Joe has updated it!)
Mum has been and gone as has Joe (Joe will be back soon though). So now I am sick and collapsed in a heap on the one weekend between visitors and assignments/exams (still crawling along with the MBA). I have been listening to various BBC radio shows and have heard a summary of Irish history from 1690-1790 and now understand why the Orange order was formed and how the really bad stuff against the Catholics started around 1750 and really got under way when they could send them off to Sydney. May have to learn to podcast from MMM in case I listen to far too much intellectual stuff on BBC.
Joe fixed: the radio (now on BBC), the TV (now on BBC), the car radio (Now on BBC), the dishwasher, washed the car, made all the lap tops in the apartment be able to pick up Wi-Fi wireless internet, put a mirror up in the bathroom and fixed the light bulb. I have the phone on at home and everything working now.
I have work in the north this week and then 2 weeks in the office and then a week in Texas, USA. Went to Poland a few weeks ago for my EU salmon project. So lovely and sunny and warm, blue sky like Australia, but a killer of a winter. I also have an animal welfare course for salmon farmers to design and then design a new seafood auditor course, and input all the data for the EU salmon project.
So the weekend Mum was in town I had to finish the last fish economics assignment (MBA) and do 2 work reports. Luckily the weather was terrible and Mum was sick of touring (across Russia and Italy), so she didn't do much and I typed drivel.
I went to Tipperay last week for work. The song "It’s a long way to ..." is actually a British Soldier song, as there was a big base there before 1922. I saw what is left of the barracks. I went out to dinner with Chris and Shay the night before going down and Shay was singing the song until he stopped and said "I shouldn't sing this as it’s a British soldiers song." And promptly stopped. The people I was with also told me that, and showed me the old barracks. The town is really small actually. We need to do a weekend around Tipperay as there are so many castles and ruins on the banks of rivers and on top of rocks around there. I would say that the castle at Cashel is more striking than Edinburgh.
Joe went to Belfast International airport to take plane photos in the laneways near the farms. But a car came up and parked right next to him, watched him until he left. Joe told Peter (my boss) this story - who lives right near there. And Peter laughed and said it was MI5. Apparently there is a RAAF base right there too and as my car has County Louth plates and is registered to the company in Dundalk, the Brits have cameras in every lane and would have been watching Joe especially with his camera and Dundalk car. Plane watching isn't big in Belfast!
Joe came over just hours before our actual anniversary day and we had a lovely leisurely breakfast and then Shay (Chris was still in Minsk) came up from Dublin and we went to Carlingford and did a token walk towards the top of the Tain trail mtn and then a side detour to a minor forest and back to the pub as it was pissing down and Joe didn’t have the gear and was soaked. So not like Straddie a year ago. We met a black and white sheep dog on the way up the Tain mtn. He was sitting in the road up to the “wee gate” where some kids were picking blackberries for jam. And he took us up to the wee gate and waited for us to let him in, and took us all across the trail and then down again and only vanished when it got really wet and we let him out of another gate onto a laneway where we assume he ran home. He was really scared of sheep. Wouldn’t walk near the sheep until Shay has shooed them away. Fascinating. He must wait at the road waiting for people walking up to take him thru. He also got some chocolate from Shay, which he really liked.
Today has been magnificent after pouring rain all night. You can really see all the different colours in the Cooley Mtns - red bracken and green grass patches, dark green forest and white houses against the pale blue sky and fluffy grey clouds. Joe has taken loads of great pics (coming soon!) Earlier this week I got a phone call from the people who run Newgrange (5000 yr old druid temple) saying that I had won a place in the lottery to see the sunrise during the winter solistice on the 22nd of Dec. Which is good because we fly to Germany on the morning of the 23rd of Dec for Christmas with Gerald and his family. As I can take another person, Joe is a winner as well! (Joe says - am I, REALLY?) He didn’t get to visit Newgrange this time as he came on audits with me and saw parts (most) of Nthn Ireland. We went to Cork City on the weekend (and ate and ate, it's a serious gourmet town) and he went on the bus to Dublin and took the bus tour and visited the Guiness brewery, etc.
Was hoping to get tickets for Lansdowne Road Wallaby match in Nov (19) but at 150 Euro on the terrace to stand in the rain, I was thinking that I would just go to the Aussie pub in Dub with Chris and Shay. And then a friend of a Tracy's found that the Aust Rugby Union website had special tickets for Aussies residents living in Ireland for a third of the list price. Must have passport details to buy and collect tickets. So we have been rounding up passport details to get Carol (Kiwi) and her Pommy friend in. So now we have a mob flying in. We have Tracy coming in from Baghdad, her ex flatmate (Darwin) coming in from Scotland and another bloke from England. The Wallabies are playing Ireland for the last match at Lansdowne Rd before they close it for a refurb. This will be the last game played there as the Gaelic Footy people won’t let any “British Games” be played at Crowe park (the other Dublin Stadium) because the British murdered a whole bunch of people at a Crowe Park Gaelic Game in 1919 or so, I don’t think much Rugby Union will be happening around here for a long while. And it will be a big Aussie fest.
For the Catholics: Dundalk even has Novenas!!! Mum had to explain to me what they were, so you ask your Mums. About 10,000 people (really - no exaggeration) turn up to pray to some obscure saint (Mum couldn’t even tell me about him) 10 times a day for 10 days. Has clogged the town up traffic wise. No car parks anywhere. They even have the Angelus on TV twice a day. And end of the night prayer on TV.
Am officially sick today. The sore throat has progressed to a chest cough. But it all explains why I've been so tired in the last few days and had achy pains which seem to have gone now. So have done very little today. Unfortunately I have three back to back audits this week in the north. I think I will go on the Belfast hash walk on Wednesday night at Lisburn if I am feeling okay by then.
Cheers, Clare.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Joe's Orlando Theme Park Madness #1

So here is Joe blogging from Orlando, taking a quick break at my computer between 2 theme parks on the 2nd day... My trip here will pretty much consist of this:
Day 1 - arrived late afternoon from Dublin, via Newark on Continental. Collected a Thrifty car and went to my hotel, Fairfield Inn nr. International Drive. Had a quick break then I went to Universal, with every intention of going to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville to get some cocktail cups. HOWEVER, that was not to be! Whilst parking in the huge Universal parking lot, I met some crazy Americans, Glen & Walter, who were looking at the differences between their PT Cruiser (car) and mine, and they pointed out that The Pet Shop Boys were playing at 8pm at Hard Rock Live (in Universal). Of course I had my Belfast HHH t-shirt on, so it took some convincing (actually to several people last night) that I WASN'T actually Irish. Mental note - I will wear this t-shirt often, as it's a good talking point. So, I bought a ticket to the Pet Shop Boys, met Glen & Walter inside, and watched the concert, while downing a few American beers. Walter got pretty hammered. He "welcomed" me to America with some straight JD (Jack Daniels)... Mmm... I didn't drink the whole cup :( The Pet Shop Boys were absolutely brilliant :) and a fantastic night was had by me and others in the crowd. Ended off at Denny's for a quick snack as I hadn't eaten anything, and retired, eventually, back at the Fairfield Inn... zzz... Glen took quite a few photos of the night, and emailed them to me, as promised, within hours... Great guys, and YES, they were straight, and made it quite clear to me that we were probably the only straight guys in the crowd... Pity Clare wasn't here, as she too would have had a great night, especially in the current balmy temperatures in Orlando, pretty much like Cairns.
Day 2 - quick breakfast, then spent the day at Disney-MGM Studios in Disneyworld, then off to Halloween Horror Nights 16 at Universal Studios tonight (about to leave very soon)...
Day 3 - quick breakfast again, then the day at Islands Of Adventure, Universal Orlando, then my 2nd night at Halloween Horror Nights 16, to see everything I don't see tonight... I'm also doing a behind the scenes tour as well "Unmasking The Horror", which should reveal a few things about the running of the whole operation. I can't wait for that...
So, I will post some more photos and tell more on my next update. Now, to head out again, there is no time for sleep here, this is party town...
... Continued in Part 2...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

London and ipods...

London… It's 7.45pm Saturday, and here I am back at Heathrow Terminal 1. Another feat of design where they let a rat run through and maze and find cheese, then gave it a pen & paper and an architect’s degree. Either that, or someone said, “let’s build a long skinny line of gates 1km out into the middle of the airport, and make people walk all the way from the plane through poky corridors to where they collect their bags”. Take a wrong turn and you find another few hidden gates here and there. But these hidden areas do contain exceedingly good sandwich shops. The Brits are good at that.
What a great day in London. Blue skies (worthy of Brisbane), taking photos for tourists at the Eros statue, a couple of pints at lunchtime, and the Billy Elliot musical in the afternoon, which was really fantastic. My creative juices are really flowing tonight, thinking thoughts about everything going on around me. Maybe that’s because I’ve been awake for 46 hours now, give or take a snooze through some crap movies, or the in-flight map as the blip of our 747 crawled sluggishly across Kazakhstan. Let’s review those crap movies now before I talk about London again…
Click – Adam Sandler fans will like it. Nobody else will.
The Devil Wears Prada – Meryl Streep plays an evil fashion mag bitch who still manages to communicate some sort of moral values to a new recruit. Obviously American.
The Lake House – Far too confusing for an inflight movie. I kept expecting Keanu Reeves to say “whoa”. Along with Sandra Bullock, they were far better in Speed.
Poseidon – There’s something ironic about watching an ocean disaster movie while the wings on our 747 are flapping furiously while crossing some stretch of shark infested water at 40,000 ft.
So back to London... I was on the tube going back to Heathrow, and the ipods were making me chuckle. There was a line of like, 5 people with ipods and mobile phones. One guy with a big nose has an ipod and 2 mobile phones. 1 phone rings and he mumbles a drug deal in Spanish. Then the 2nd phone rings, he puts the first phone on hold. The ipod buds stay in his ears throughout. This pattern continues. The guy next to me makes his phone beep in alien tones while using the ipod. These 2 devices are unrelated as far as I know. An Arab guy with an amazing headdress gets on. The headdress flaps like a Star Wars costume, Jar-Jar Binks style. His phone rings and he also answers it. Then a Virgin Atlantic hostie gets on, adorned blazingly in red. Checks the phone, puts on the ipod, and looks poised for her flight to Hong Kong or wherever. I’m immediately reminded of the irony of this morning, when an elderly United hostie got on the tube. The poor old dear had lipstick running like Bobo The Clown. Must have been a hard flight in from Omaha. So naturally you start to compare the difference of United vs Virgin recruitment policies in your mind. Richard Branson vs The Florida Bingo League. Mmm. So all through these tube journeys, and walking the streets, you hear so many languages and see people playing in lush green parks (like the movie Notting Hill), and you sense an amazing level of racial harmony. At least it looks that way... Only one other thing, so many people on the tube have really bloodshot eyes (like the vampires in Blade). Either everyone is taking drugs or they live permanently underground riding the tube. Probably just too much fun and too many late nights. So London certainly has a very cool feeling. Now if only they could fix Heathrow Airport…
As a footnote, the gate for my Terminal 1 flight (Aer Lingus) was Gate 88, about 5 nautical miles from the check-in area. But seriously, the route to this gate area went across a busy airport road, down a couple of travelators and finally into a long area that resembled an alien space tube. But still room for a couple of bars with faded carpets and sticky tables. Please give my regards to the rat. I hope he found the cheese.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Random musings from 40,000 feet...

Joe has just flown BNE-SYD-HKG-LHR, and here I stand at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 6am. Good flights, but more about that later when I have a chance. Really just observations, as I reckon if you get here in one piece, and on time, you've got nothing to complain about... Now to get into Central London...!