Monday, April 21, 2008

Irish Pub of the Week #10

Irish Pub of the Week #10, "Blue Stack Lounge Bar" in the heart of Donegal Town. Didn't get the chance to go in this small place, but it looked kind of different!

Irish Pub of the Week #9

Irish Pub of the Week #9, the big amazing yellow place on the road from Dundalk to Castlebellingham we've driven past hundreds of times, but what's it called? TEA WINE & SPIRITS STORES? If there is a name, then please tell me!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A few aviation photos...

Hi all,
Yes I'm still a plane geek, and have put a couple of new (but quite small) photo sets online:
flickr photo link: <Aviation @ BCN Airport, 17 Mar 08>
flickr photo link: <Aviation @ DUB Airport 08>
The pics from Barcelona Airport were taken while we were waiting for our flight back to Belfast recently. The pics from Dublin Airport are my first for the year, dropping by the airport on a Sunday afternoon.
Bye for now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dark & Stormy

It's another dark & stormy night in Annagassan, and that's not the rum & ginger variety. The onshore breeze has been blowing up for days, but tonight it's gale force and grey clouds have settled in. White caps ahoy, not a good time to cross the Irish Sea. Funny, trying to remember last April... The yellow fields are in bloom, the days are longer but there's no sign of anything resembling warmth at all. In fact, most days are still in the single digits... Clare has been in bed with tonsilitus and I had flu a few days ago. We need to soak up some foreign sunshine, but we're pretty unlikely to find that in northern Italy next weekend...
Yes, it's all been go go go since our trip to Paris. The morning after we got back (at 2am), Clare was back at the airport at 8am. What the? Went via Heathrow to Shanghai on Virgin Atlantic. But unfortunately the Visas for China were not quite in order, so they had to go on to Hong Kong (damn shame), and because of Rugby 7's week, the only hotel they could find was a luxury place at the airport, so no complaints from Clare! They finally flew back into China, did a factory inspection (did not pass muster), stayed in more luxury hotels, etc. The work side of things ended up being fairly easy as inspection plans changed and there was a local public holiday. So finally back to Shanghai where Clare went off to find eggs benedict on the Bund, and she found them (at M On the Bund) and took a river trip. Then flew back to Heathrow on Sunday morning (1 week after Paris), where all the local & European flights were in complete turmoil due to 2 hours of snow that morning (down to 1 runway). So another night at Heathrow, then back into Belfast at midday Monday. We had dinner at a Dundalk pub on Monday night, then Clare went off to Cork where more work awaited... Had enough yet?
In the meantime, we're working on a new 'ticket' lodging system at my work in Dublin (HP), so everyone has been working very hard. A few more people have been heading to the local pub for a quick tipple after work, but I avoid going there if I'm driving (which is generally far better in the evening rush than the morning).
So this weekend will be quiet. Might have a sleep in, read the Guardian, maybe feed some ducks, etc. Bye all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The last plane out of Beauvais' almost gone...

flickr photos coming soon...
28 Mar 08 EI528 DUB/CDG 1815/2050
30 Mar 08 FR29 BVA/DUB 2250/2315
Paris... Going straight into our 3rd weekend of travel was quite hard, believe it or not (ooh, poor us)... It seems like the working week extends into the weekend, often with no sleep-in, punctuated only by another dash to the check-in and another European airport somewhere, where the baggage takes so long to get to the belt, and you find yourself comparing the level of customs scrutiny from country to country, and how well organised the transport services are, etc. Paris scored quite highly in that regard. But this was so short – Paris in a weekend is like peering through the candy shop window, but you can't go in. You go up the Eiffel Tower, explore the back streets and ride the open top bus with the Americans, but you barely scratch the surface of this amazing city.
We started on the Friday evening with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Charles De Gaulle T1, which was like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with it's 70's chic & perspex tube travellators. We like Aer Lingus for the sheer reason that they do seat allocation, as opposed to Ryanair which is like boarding with the rhinoceros herd (for the sheer fear of being left behind?) We took the people mover under CDG to the train station, then the RER train into Paris (just over 8 Euros). This ended up about 200 metres from our hotel (Hotel Des Mines, €108/nt) on Blvd Saint-Michel in the 5th arrondissement. Nice little attic room with bath, like when Harrison Ford escaped across the rooftops in Frantic.
On Saturday morning (after we were able to get that all important sleep-in) Clare discovered a nearby carpet shop in world record time, and acquired a nice Iranian piece (what a bargain) for which we then acquired another piece of cabin luggage later that afternoon (to carry it back to Ireland). Our area was full of little boulangeries, street markets, loads of Vietnamese & Japanese Restaurants. You could explore here for days, then move onto another part of Paris... So we took the open top bus tour (still slightly cool) which took us up the Champs-Élysées, past the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, into the traffic of Saturday afternoon in Paris – loads & loads & loads of police vans and demonstrators who seemed to be pensioners, fighting for better pensions or sick benefits, or something? In the meantime, Sue & Paul were racing to Paris on the TGV from Italy and arrived mid-afternoon. That night, we had a couple of happy hour drinks, then dinner in a restaurant cellar (we think they shoved the tourists in the cellar) which wasn't too bad (about €23 each). We took the metro to the Trocadéro to view the lights of the Eiffel Tower and barter with West Africans selling little light-up tower replicas (flashing away on our bookcase right now...)
On Sunday morning Clare discovered that she'd left her Irish credit card in the Iranian carpet shop the day before, so that had to be cancelled. Then we headed back to the Eiffel Tower, where we queued up (in increasing rain), and took the lift to the 2nd level. What an amazing structure, Clare stood well back from the edge! By this point it was really raining, so Clare, Sue & Paul headed for the Musée d'Orsay while I went to the nearby Musée de l'Armée and the Tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides (originally built as a hospital and home for disabled soldiers by Louis XIV). Good way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon. As the afternoon faded away, we said goodbye to Sue & Paul and did our final sector on the open top bus tour, then back to our hotel for the shuttle to Beauvais.
Paris Beauvais Airport is part of the Ryanair model of “cheap” flying in Europe (as much as I still love 'em)... The model where you question just how far the airport could possibly be from your destination city. In this case, Beauvais is a town in the countryside of Northern France, a long long way from Paris (seemed like ½ way to Belgium). Beauvais is a large tin shed regional airport with some improvements like a little supermarket and café with crummy food. Much like Proserpine. Ryanair dominates this airport and the queues move like rhinoceros herds (from check-in queue to customs queue to boarding queue, etc.) Our plane was late (bad weather in Dublin)... Very Late... and as we became the last flight on the departure board, and Clare was due to head to China early the next day, we started adapting the lyrics of “Khe Sanh” by Cold Chisel...

“Well the last plane out of Beauvais' almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Beauvais' almost gone
And it's really got me worried
I'm goin' nowhere and I'm in a hurry
And the last plane out of Beauvais' almost gone”

At some time well after 11pm, with our rhinoceros herd ready to stampede, the inbound Ryanair 737 touched down and achieved the fastest turnaround I've ever seen. With the threat of air traffic control delays if we didn't depart pronto, the pilot implored people to take their seats and we left Beauvais. They switched off the lights behind us. We landed in absolutely pouring rain in Dublin. Back to Annagassan at 2am. Now where are we going next weekend?