How We Ended Up in Prison, Oh and Freemasonry

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Didn’t expect to find myself in the Cork Gaol(their spelling of “jail” – pronounced the same), but there I was. Real-human-sized creepy looking mannequin-type characters were set up along the walk through the old gaol, to show how things used to be, like. (In Cork, you say “like” at the end of the sentence, like. Not like in the middle, like Americans do.) Every one of the fake-woman’s names in that gaol was Mary. Makes sense, as Mary’s the most common girl’s name in Ireland(thank female representation in Catholicism). Some of the scenes of the fake-people were rather brutal—a guard whipping a little red-headed boy for instance (only redhead in the whole gaol, as well).

We got out, and headed to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. This was my favorite of all the Cathedrals we’ve been to the past few weeks, just beautiful. Two nights before, some one had thrown a rock through one of the stained-glass windows—not like those can ever be replaced.

In front of the choir, there’s a plaque dedicated to the memory of the only Lady Freemason in Ireland, Elizabeth Aldworth(initiated 1712). There are apparently many links between this cathedral and freemasonry, even today it’s “Alive and well.”

We went to the Loch, a lake in the center of town with swans and ducks. The sky actually cleared for us to enjoy a warm walk around the lake.I made sure to get enough of that Irish liquid luck in me before flying out, think I tried a fair amount for three days there:Guinness, Murphy’s(more popular than Guinness in Cork, Guinness is more a Dublin stout), Beamish, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, Carlesburg(beer of the soccer team), Bulmer’s(cider…like tangy apple juice), Jameson(in a delicious Irish coffee), and Powers.

Guinness on tap in Ireland is worth the trip to Ireland.


The Gift of the Gab

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“The gift of the gab”, they call it, eloquence. That’s what you get for lying on your back, twisting your neck down and pressing your lips where thousands other lips have been. Well, my picture came out blurry the first time, so I kissed the Blarney Stone twice. Twice more eloquent, or does it backfire and the two cancel each other out?

What you don’t hear about Blarney Castle, is the tunnels. Tunnels and a poison garden. We hadn’t expected the mud-slicked eerie corridors beneath the castle to be open for exploration, but a few of them were, and we would’ve gone farther in if only I had dawned muck-friendly clothes that morning.

But the poison garden was swell, even in the rain. There was a sign for “cannabis” talking about how it actually wasn’t harmful, though I didn’t recognize any cannabis plants behind it. Either the kids had swiped it all or season’s not ripe for weeds yet. Also in the garden was salvia, a hallucinogen Mexican shamans have used(and also kids these days) and Hawaiian woodrose(another plant that makes you see things), among many others. Despite the title of the garden, most of the little signposts actually talked more about how –not- harmful the plants were, the positive affects and all that. Pretty interesting, but it was raining (usual for Ireland) so we bailed.

After Blarney, we headed back into town to ring the bells at St. Anne’s in Shanndon. I attempted Amazing Grace, and Bailey played When the Saints Go Marching In.

We spent the evening pub to pub, and found ourselves in The Corner House folk pub with Kilbeggan irish whiskey and more live blues. It was only their 4th show though, and you could tell. The girl’s voice was great, but she kept her eyes closed the whole time and the band wasn’t fully meshing like you need to, to groove with the blues.

We asked at the next pub what time the buses stop running, and they told us 11:40(yeah, Cork is pretty terrible with public transportation), they also told us to come back if we missed our bus.

Welp, we missed the bus. It stopped ten minutes before we got there. Luckily, another bus was going near where we wanted to be and the driver said he’d take us to the Bishopstown Pub anyway, right where we were the night before.

We didn’t make it to mass the next morning, but that’s okay because only older people go during the week, and we had gone the morning before. That makes third week in a row we’ve gone to mass this trip, also in three different countries (Vatican, France, now Ireland). Felt right going to a solid Catholic mass held in Ireland, something natural about it, like red heads and the color green.

Skipping Stones in Skibbereen

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On our way to Skibbereen, we stopped by seventeen stones in a circle, rare but there are a few of them found in the countryside of Ireland. This one was Liagchiorcal An Droma Bhig, or Dromberg Stone Circle. We couldn’t make it to Stonehenge this trip, but this was free and less traveled by.

The cottage was right on the coast. Green hills rolling into the sea. Peaceful. Quaint. No condos thrown up and stacked like Tetras on fire.

“If you go out into the water, and keep going that way, you’ll hit America,” she said. This is the Atlantic, there’s nothing in between it.

We went for a three-mile walk along the coast and up the hills, past some cows and some goats, and back down for dinner. Potatoes, carrots and broccoli, salmon and red wine.

Apple pie followed dinner, and then Bailey and I walked to the one pub nearby, the Skibbereen Eagle, for a pint of Murphy’s, we’d heard that was more popular than Guinness down in these parts. Guinness is a Dublin thing. We found the pub as expected – a couple farmers down the end of the bar.

In the morning we went into the town of Skibbereen to book our hostels for Amsterdam at a pub with wifi.

We walked to St. Patrick’s, a gorgeous church, altar-ornamentation even made by the local people hundreds of years ago. I knelt and prayed a while, and then we headed to Time Traveler’s bookshop. They had a book of letters of Anton Chekhov which I wanted, but it was pretty big and my bag’s already pretty heavy. They also had a bunch by Emile Zola, and some tiny falling-apart books I’d never heard of.

We headed back to the cottage. Bailey and I walked down to the water to a beach of flat-frisbee rocks – to our delight, perfect for skipping. We skipped stones until dinner (chicken and potatoes, veggies and beans), and then drove on in to Cork again.

First thing, we asked for the pub. The oldest one in Ireland was just down the street from us, called Bishopstown Pub.

The table next to us was full of kids who just finished exams. It was a bit weird seeing 18-year-olds in a bar, as you’ve got to be 21 in America, not exactly freshly finished with high school. One of them called me out on drinking stout. Apparently girls don’t drink stout. But they were drinking Budweiser. Haha.

The pipes, the pipes are calling…

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The first destination we set off for in London was Camden Market. We got tube tickets and caught the Victoria line to London Victoria and then the Northern line straight there. After sufficient haggling, we each came out with a dress. I also found the leather jacket I needed. The original price was insane, more than the one I’d been eyeing through the window in Florence. But it’d been marked down a bit, plus I had a straight up I’m-not-spending-more-than-this limit. (The limit was backed by the literal amount of pounds I had in my wallet.)

We walked all over mad Camden town, seeing all sorts of people dressed all sorts of ways. We got some Chinese food(I hadn’t had it in ages) and a crepe for kicks. The crepe was all sorts of can’t-even-compare-to-Paris horrible, but not unexpectedly so; we enjoyed it for the nutella and bananas. I still don’t understand why good crepes can’t exist outside France.

We began to wander a bit outside Camden town and as we were walking over a bridge I stopped. “I hear a guitar,” I said to Bailey, and went over to the side of the bridge to try to find the source of the music. I recognized “High and Dry” by Radiohead, but it was a woman’s voice singing it. And it was beautiful. I was about to hop over the side so I could tell her this when Bailey said she saw a guitar case across the river. There was a sidewalk there, so there must be a way down.

We walked around the block to the stairs down to the river walk. We made it down, but I saw a woman with a guitar case walking in our direction. She had packed up and was heading out.

Her name was Adeline Addruse and she sings under Regent’s Park Road Bridge every weekend.  Busking is illegal if you don’t have a permit…but you can’t get a permit for busking.

“It’s not busking if you don’t leave out a tin, or your guitar case open for money, and I don’t.” Addruse said. She does it just to sing and get back into music.

Eighteen months ago her son Cassidy was born, and that’s when she realized life’s too short. She quit her job as and insurance broker and is now a self-employed baker, who plays and sings under a bridge every weekend.

Addruse wants to do music, and is working on getting out of the self-sabotaging mindset so many people find themselves caught in. Yeah, she wants that 1700 pound Martin so she can record her music properly, but she doesn’t need it, at least—that’s what she’s trying to convince herself.

But she’s been doing music on weekends, and after she puts her son to sleep at night.  She asked if I knew of Tallest Man on Earth, see he’s just one guy but has a ‘band name’ rather than goes by Kristian Matsson. He’s quite a storyteller with his words and music. I asked what she’d go by. She said “Meet George Brown”.

When she was five, she wanted to be a boy called George Brown. That’s why—Meet George Brown.

I told her it works.

I told her of my traveling, and she told me of a guy who travels the world using and gaining miles from his credit cards.

She had dinner waiting, and we had all of London to see, so kept walking along the river, and she walked the way we came. We made it to the locks, and found ourselves right in the heart of Camden again, but Addruse had mentioned a view of London worth seeing nearby, Primrose Hill, and we set out to find it. It wasn’t hard, just walk towards the green, and up. We did, and found a bunch of others there, too. Some runners, some readers, some folks on holiday or just enjoying the evening.

We thought about heading back, but passed a corner with a sign that said “Blues all night.” I can appreciate some blues.  We decided to stop in for a beer.

One beer turned to two(the music was –really– good), and then the rest were bought for us, by a guy from Japan, some guys from Brazil…we met some cool people that night, and enjoyed good music. Made me a little homesick, I guess I never expected to find myself at a blues bar in London, but there we were, and it was awesome.

The over ground trains had stopped running by the time the bar closed. We wandered around searching for buses, eventually finding one that took us back to Crystal Palace. It was a bit late.

We made it, though, and woke up with enough time to pack and get tickets for a bus-ferry-bus ride that night to Cork, Ireland. Leaving from the bus station near London Victoria at 7 p.m. that night, and arriving in Cork the next morning, 10:55 a.m.

The bus ride was the longest I’d been on. Rough on the neck. I read while it was light out, and a little into darkness. Then all that could be done was sleep (not so comfortably). The ferry had couches to stretch out on, but they tended to be by the windows, which meant it was freezing. Of course, all our clothes were inaccessible, in the bottom of the bus. The couch was nicer on my neck, but I wore the leather jacket I bought in Camden town the whole way, and I was still cold.

But the ferry made it to port, and the bus made it to Cork, and we were picked up at the station by Bailey’s relatives, and went back to the house for tea and bread (“Bread makes you fat?!” – yes, yes it does, trust me I’ve had a fair lot of it…and will certainly be running hardcore when I get back to the States). We showered away the bus-feel, and I read a bit on Skibbereen’s history(the potato blight, the famine) before we packed up the car and headed to the cottage there.


London Calling

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We arrived in Calais and discovered that the trains that would hypothetically usually take us to the ferry weren’t running anymore today. Whoops. A man in a suit came out and nicely called us a taxi, which we shared with two women heading into the city, so we didn’t have to pay the full 42 Euro, only 30, which we split.

We got to the ferry, bought tickets, and were seriously interrogated by British immigration. This woman was a bitch. We’re only staying in England for a day, but I had to dig through my back pack to get my returning flight ticket(from Berlin to US), and then she held it in her hand for about ten minutes saying “I can’t find the date on this.” The other woman eventually pointed out its obvious placement.

They asked about our school, what year we were, our ages, when we got to Europe, all that. They were more intense on Bailey, I had my hard-face on.

It didn’t help that we were the last in line. But some folks came up behind us and they passed us on. We went outside to a courtesy bus that was to take us to the ferry. It looked like this man and two women were unloading their entire apartment onto the bus, right there in the aisle where people are already standing because its so full. Their car had broken down, they said. They had to move it all this way. It was packaged terribly, as well. A framed picture, and a TV screen, all out in the open, no cover or protection. Lots of little things, lots of mini trips back and forth from cart to bus—the other folks crammed on the bus weren’t thrilled about the time it was taking, they were anxious to make it to the ferry and, most of them, make it home to England.

We made it, though, and went up to the deck and watched us leave the Calais port. Here we were, ferrying across the English Channel to Dover. I loved being by the water again, I feel comfortable near water.

We got a table by the window inside, and ate bread we’d saved from hostel breakfast this morning(hostel breakfast = bread.. that’s it.). Bailey went to change 40 Euro into pounds, and then I went to spend it.

“Keep calm and celebrate,” the bottle said—and we did, with beer and chocolate.

As the ship was pulling into port in Dover, I found myself, once again, surrounded by Englishmen (or so I thought…). How this happens, is usually it starts with two of them, but the more sentences exchanged, the more show up. There were eight of them, by the end of it. They were recommending cool places to check out in London, that sort of thing.

But the ship was in, so they headed to the stairs, I finished my beer and we strapped on our packs.

We went down a flight of stairs and out into where they keep the cars…we figured we probably shouldn’t be there, so we went down another flight, cars again. We went down a third flight and walked out, nearly right into the van of the guys we’d just met upstairs. It was a pretty big van, so I asked if they could give us a ride(you know, kind of joking but not really). They were headed to something North of London about 45 minutes…they said we could go with them then get a train from there back to London…but to get there would’ve taken 2 and a half hours, so it was a bit out of our way.

But the trucks in front were moving, so we had to decide something– we got in the van.

A few minutes of iPhone address-searching and all that, and they said they could drop us at Maidstone Station, where we could then catch a train into London, and to our final destination with Bailey’s relative whom she’s never met.

I told Bailey we should just hitchhike the rest of the way(now three countries I’ve hitchhiked in…Costa Rica being the first, Nicaragua the second…but that was last summer, and that was actually thumbs-out hitchhiking). I was half-joking.

There weren’t any instruments in the van so I asked why they were all traveling together. They live in England, but they’re all Italian. They’d gone to the Italy-Croatia match. It was a draw.

We were lucky, they’d started with 11, but three of them had flown back. We were a bit concerned about getting stopped by immigration, as there were now only eight guys, but two American girls in addition. But we passed through without a problem.

They sung a song they made for us, and Marcello even wrote down the lyrics for me. Its called the Blackburn song, and I recorded it on video.

We’re Backburn Rovers we are

We won’t Be Mastered By the
Burnley Bastards, we keep the
Blue flag flying high

forever ever we follow out team,
we Blackburn Rovers we are supreme

Come on Blackburn…

The rest of the ride to the station, they recommended all sorts to do in London, and told us to go to Liverpool, and also some places in Amsterdam. We made it to the station, and caught the 22:48 Train to London Victoria, where we’ll be arriving in half an hour. Then we switch to another train headed to Crystal Palace. We’d told Bailey’s relative, Deirdre, that we’d be getting there about seven…but Bailey called from the station to tell her we’d be arriving about 5 and a half hours later than expected.


Laptop battery dying.

London calling.

Adventure ensuing.

NUTELLA-BANANA CREPES (what Paris is -really- all about)

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Of the cities I’ve encountered, Paris comes closest to New York. Its huge, you get places by metro, lots of shops of fashion and sweets, and lots of tourists but more locals. In Paris though, everyone was so nice. We’d heard wretched things, that the French hate Americans, for example, and that they’ll be dicks to you if you try to speak English at them. On the contraire, anytime we asked for help in getting somewhere the people were very friendly and we had no problem at all.

We checked out of the Ambriot Hotel to  stay at a hostel for the next two nights. After we dropped our packs, we found a cute little place nearby, called “Miss Lunch” where we enjoyed delicious brie and meals I can’t pronounce the names of. Bailey got something with peppers, and I got something with pork. Delectable enough to mention. 

After a failed attempt at going to see the catacombs (they stop letting people in at 4…we got there at 4:09), we headed to Notre Dame. We noticed a sneaking line around the side of it and jumped in it, not exactly knowing what for. I ran around front and saw the masses pouring into the Cathedral, no line at all. But this line was to go to the top. Over 400 spiraling steps up.

After a bit, we made it to the front of the line. Luckily, Bailey and I were at the front of the group (they let in about twenty at a time) so we didn’t have to slug up the staircase at .4 kilometers per hour. Instead, we decided to run it. Yes, run up the 400 stone stairs.

And so we did…three-quarters of it at least. There was a landing a little after stair 320, and we had caught up to people from the previous group still making their way up. But it wasn’t long before we were at the second-to-highest level, with a gargoyle’s eye view of Paris.

We slipped through a wooden opening and up some more stairs, wooden this time, to the Belfry. I envied Quasimodo for the rafters above the bell he could climb all day.

We went back down and joined the queue to actually enter the cathedral. A few minutes after we were inside, an organ started playing. I whispered to Bailey, “I think mass is about to start, do you want to go?” She nodded, and we went to find seats. The priest’s voice echoed powerfully, and with a resonance I recognized of Catholic priests previously. The rhythm to the words was the same, though this mass was in French.

This was the first time I could recall attending mass in a Cathedral (the mass at the Vatican a week ago had taken place in front of St. Peter’s), and it was beautiful.

After mass, we caught a train to the Eiffel Tower. Or ‘iron asparagus’, as Bailey called it. Apparently, everyone hated it when it was put up, but decided to keep it up when they put it to use by adding a radio tower to the top of it.

Honestly, we weren’t about to wait in that line. Or pay 4.50 to hike up all those stairs. We’d done that, and on top of something a bit more aesthetically-pleasing and made up of a bit more than a hunk of metal. But I took pictures from below and we went to eat nearby.

Of course, everywhere close was bound to be expensive, but there was a slight deal on a starter, steak, and a plate of cheese or desert. I had to get the escargot, steak sirloin, and fromage. With a glass of wine, as well.

We only got tiny glasses though, because of the expense. We decided to go get a bottle someplace not that expensive and walk around. It grew dark, and we didn’t know the laws in Paris about open containers on the street. Bailey had a park in mind, but the only park we passed already had three packs of guys in it, we decided we needed our own turf. We wandered a bit, and found a pile of junk in front of this awesome piece of graffiti. We sat, and drank wine.

The next morning we awoke and went straight to the Catacombs. 6 million people buried in what used to be quarries. The bones were moved from other cemeteries (the Innocents one, mainly) due to health concerns. A spiral staircase down to these, as well.

A moist and musky labyrinth of bones awaited us down there. The tunnels were dimly lit, and the bones stacked to head- height, higher near the back. They checked our bags on our way out to make sure we didn’t steal any bones.  Honestly, I’m sure it would be the bee’s knees for some ‘goth’ high school kids, but to me, after the Bone church in Prague, it was rather boring. The sheer number of the dead people an eerie atmosphere is all it’s got going for it.

Back up on the street again, we bought crepes, a nutella-banana one for me, and then headed to the Louvre. We walked for hours, particularly in the Egypt section, but we walked all through.

Afterwards we caught a train to Sacre Coeur Basilique… which was on top of a huge hill where you could also see the extensive city of Paris. The weather was all gray though, so it wasn’t exceptionally pretty.

We returned to the hostel to make our flight reservations to Amsterdam and caught the Ukraine-France match. We finished our bottle of Bordeaux and went out for crepes, again. This time, I ventured a fromage jambon (cheese and ham) and it was actually quite good. By this point, neither of us could understand why we can’t find decent crepes in the U.S.. When we returned, the Sweden-English match was on (English 3 to 2).

We awoke early and caught a few trains out to Versailles, a gaudy mansion with surprising modern art pieces selectively placed around the palace. These I liked, but the repeated gold-only color scheme grew tiresome around room 23. It was raining, so we glimpsed the gardens before bailing back to pick up our bags and head to Gare de Nord to catch a train out of town.

We discovered, too late, that the Eurorail passes do, in fact, work from Paris to London. They were all full today though, so we’re headed to Calais now to catch a ferry across the English Channel, and then catch another train into London.

Au revoir!