Sunday, September 18, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
On my first trip to London, in the early 70's, I arrived quite sick from India with long hair, a beard and a backpack. It was cold and rainy and I was dressed for 100+ degree weather, having just been in New Delhi, with a stop in Saudi Arabia on the way to England. I hated London.
Since that trip, I've had a number of pleasant trips to London. On our most recent arrival, Karen and I were sitting in first class, looking out over a clear sky at night, with Big Ben and the tower bridge in view, we felt like Wendy Darling and Peter Pan, flying over London. Between my first and the last trip, I recommend the last.
We were met at the airport by our car, with a driver holding up a poster, "Gary Barnum". We couldn't actually see him right away and I had to call the car company to get his location. I think he saw our luggage.
Karen and I are a "portable" couple in the classic Victorian sense. With one, possibly two, porters, we can pretty well navigate our way anywhere on the globe. At hotels, once we are close to being packed, I call down to the front desk and indicate "we need help with our luggage." I usually follow that with, "he should bring a cart . . . a large one . . . possibly some friends." In fairness, if they survive, I am a good tipper.
Well, our driver came out of hiding after his bosses tracked him down and he helped us portage our luggage to his car.
Shortly after that, we arrived at the Doubletree Hilton at West End. This is not to be confused with the Hilton we later stayed at in Dublin, this was a Hilton in training. Paris Hilton would not stay here, she wouldn't even allow it to carry her name. I assume this is why it was referred to as the Hilton at West End and not the Paris Hilton.
It's huge, it's complex, it's iconic, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it's in Cashel at the heart of Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel, more formally St. Patrick's Rock, is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church. The buildings represent both Hiberno-Romanseque and Germanic influences in their architecture.
To quote from the WIKI entry "The complex has a character of its own, unique and native, and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe." The Rock is the setting of the fictional "Sister Fidelma Mysteries" mediaeval whodunits from Peter Tremayne.
Here's a good video from the Cashel Tourist Bureau that tells a lot about Cashel and the Rock:
With tickets in hand to New York, it seemed only natural that the news announcement shortly before our arrival was "Earthquake Rocks New Jersey and New York".
Karen and I have grown to expect this kind of welcome in our travels.
Of course, it was a little disturbing that, while we were in New York, the headlines were "Hurricane Irene Leaves Flooding and Destruction it its Wake as 11 Die and Millions Without Power While Storm Churns Up East Coast".
In between these two "natural" disasters (in the sense of "naturally, that would happen with the Barnums") we caught a couple of shows and had some nice meals. I think we might have been like General Gordon at Khartoum, "Seems like a nice morning for a pot of tea, might warm up in the afternoon."
We stayed at the Newark Airport Marriott Hotel. This may seem like an odd choice, but on actual days of travel, it is incredibly convenient to the airport (I suppose that comes with the name). On days when you're not traveling, admittedly, it is a bit odd, but inertia is a powerful thing when you have luggage ("an object at rest will tend to stay at rest" applies particularly well to me). As our bellhop told us, "It's the only hotel inside an airport in the United States." He was wrong, of course, but I let him live with the hope.
For our journeys to the City, we had Jose, our driver, to ferry us back and forth from New Jersey in a Black Escalade. It felt like the Sopranos, without cigars.
About eight years ago, Karen flew in to New York to meet me in early December. I was there for a conference, or work, or possibly just lost, I can't recall specifically. Because of the blizzard that was occurring, Karen's plane was the last flight in or out of New York City for the next three days. It was a freakishly early snowstorm which NOAA now just puts down as a "Barnum Visitation". While Karen was flying through the storm assuming the plane was not going to make it, the woman next to her recommended "Carmine's Restaurant" as a place to eat near Broadway. Karen took the fact that the airplane landed safely as a sign and we have been regularly dining at Carmine's ever since (with Karen gradually relaxing her hold on the table in case of air pockets). On our most recent trip, all of our evening meals were at Carmines.
New York was, as ever, a lovely place to visit. We were the last plane to fly out of Newark for the next several days. I think the Port Authority made a special effort to get us out of the area.