ireland in numbers

We’re home! Ireland was okay I guess. :P

  • Distance driven: 1286km
  • Places we stayed: Galway, Doolin, Killarney, Kinsale, Kilkenny, Dublin
  • Tiny islands visited: Inis MórInis Oírr
  • Pints of Guinness enjoyed by Ed: 14
  • Pints of Guinness not enjoyed by Ed: 1
  • Sheep storms: 3
  • Most types of potato served at one meal: 4
  • Caves explored: 1
  • Lens caps lost in caves: 1
  • Times I heard “Forever in Blue Jeans” by Neil Diamond before I realized it was playing on a loop: 5
  • Gaps driven through: Moll’s Gap, the Gap of Dunloe (number 1 favourite good time gap), Sally Gap
  • Legit haunted places we stumbled upon: Leamaneh CastleDerrycunnihy Church
  • Bangers eaten: 36
  • Primarks visited: 3
  • Unsettling things in Kildare: 7
  • Gingers ogled: 147
  • Faerie villages visited: 1
  • Incredibly boring films about Irish wildflowers viewed: .81
  • Burger King visits: 5 (they’re the only place in all of Ireland that serves an actual American-style “large” drink)
  • Emergency trips to the pharmacy for sticks to pee on: 1
  • Statues with comic-book-style boobs that gave me an inferiority complex: 7
  • Hidden roads driven down that led to incredible scenary and my favourite place in all of Ireland: 1
  • Jaw-dropping, epic vistas: 293

Ugh you guys Ireland was so awesome. The driving tour was better than we hoped: we saw incredible things, like sheep. And .. more sheep. And ridiculous landscapes, rugged mountains, breathtaking valleys, terrifying cliffs, and and and. It was so great. I would highly recommend the trip to anyone (maybe don’t get sick at the end) – we used Discovering Ireland for the arranging, which was frankly brilliant. Every place they booked us into was perfectly located, the rooms ranged from old school to modern but they were all comfortable, and breakfast was included at each location (which went a long way in ensuring we ate reasonably well the entire time).

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we joked about this place being haunted when we found it. turns out it totally is. ahhhhhhhhhh

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oh what a cute abandoned church we found that is also TOTALLY HAUNTED FOR REALS

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this was my favourite place on the entire trip

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another view of favourite place

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the gap of dunloe was also incredible

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sally gap was not too shabby

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anyway, here’s wonderwall

Where to next? That is to be decided. The next few months will be dealing with the move, and Ed is going on a man cruise in February. Will I solo travel to Japan? Back to London? Somewhere else entirely? All of the above! I just .. can’t plan anything at the moment, which is frustrating. I should probably sell the condo first. Anyone want to buy a condo? I’ll throw in a free coffee table!

Okay, back to work and daydreaming.

we’re off!

Adventure: Ireland begins today! We leave for the airport in a few hours, flying first into Heathrow and then taking a short hop into Shannon where we pick up our rental car and drive to Galway. I’m not looking forward to flying into London and then immediately leaving – there will likely be tears, because I am a ridiculous creature. Still, I’m very excited about our upcoming trip. We’ll be driving around Ireland for 10 days, then hanging out in Dublin for a while before coming home. ADVENTURE!

We’re also celebrating some milestones on this trip. On September 10th, Ed and I will have been together for twenty fucking years jesus christ that is a long ass time. If that’s not scary enough, the 21st of September will be our 15th wedding anniversary. We are celebrating with literal shamrocks and shenanigans (this remix is better than the original).

The hashtag for the trip is #kimligobragh. I’m not crazy about it, but let’s be honest – nothing will ever top #kimlichiwa as a trip tag. Also, the future is weird. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram, where I will undoubtedly post a zillion pictures of epic cliffs and roaring seas.

In other news, I am in a good spot right now. August was made of stress around here, but things have resolved themselves to managable-if-not-outright-satisfactory and I can breathe heaving sighs of relief. I’ve also had some fun: last Saturday was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I spent the weekend in Seattle with Ali, and our day started out with breakfast with the girls (complete with avocado theiving) and a trip to the new Funko store in Everett which holy crap that place is made of awesome. I was fairly proud of myself for not going nuts in the store and buying everything in sight, but Ed saw through my ruse and knew it was because I actually own most of it already. Still, the store is packed with life-size Funko figures which are super cute. The Japan section has a great Godzilla scene going on, you can visit Hogwarts and Gotham, and .. just go check it out. It’s worth the trip, promise.

That evening, Ali took me to Art of the Table for my very first visit. Ed has been to AOTT many times, as have most of our friends – but somehow, I’d never gone in the 10? years it’s been a part of our social circle. I was getting pretty grumpy about it, but this past weekend I got to experience the whole thing.

It was probably the best meal I’ve ever had. I wanted to try everything as it was meant to be enjoyed, so I didn’t let any of my food pickiness dictate my meal. We had the tasting menu, in which small plates come at you continuously until you basically can’t move – and as a special request Barman Mitch gave me an introduction to the world of Gin (as I have previously decided that I am going to enjoy gin). I got very drunk but in a sophisticated way (there may have been some drunken facebooking about my boobs, sorry about that), but I managed to keep myself upright and thoroughly enjoyed each of the drinks Mitch made for me. Ali had a paired wine with her plates that I also tried and actually liked – that brings the total number of wine I enjoy to TWO. Yeah, I’m all fancy now.

If you’re a foodie or just want to try something special, I highly recommend a visit to Art of the Table. Seriously, I can’t really do the experience justice with mere words – it was SO FUCKING GOOD.

After food, it was time for burlesque! One of my favourite people ever was performing in a show in downtown Seattle, so we went to see some beautiful people take off their clothes. We were a bit late and missed part of the first act, but the show was three hours long so there was plenty for us to take in. Also, burlesque raffle: I won! Boobs were involved, and other substances. It was great. We were there to see Lauren perform, and her act was so great – completely different from the other performers, it was hilarious and adorable. I love Lauren. Have I mentioned that?

It was such a good, good, day. It’s been way too long since I’ve had quality Ali time.

Oh and on Tuesday, Ed and I went to a live sex demo. It was live! Live sex! Demonstrated!

More on that later, if I remember: I need to go triple-check the number of cardigans I’ve packed, and probably put on some clothes for the plane.

ADVENTURE HO!

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cliffs for daaaaaaaays.

punk rock feels

Once of the first (PG13) things Ed did when we started dating was introduce me to punk. Until that point, the only punk I had really listened to was some early Green Day courtesy of a boy I had a huge crush on (which was unreciprocated because his “type” was the complete opposite of everything I am but dang if I didn’t try), so the music Ed played for me was utterly new and totally fascinating. I loved the music, and bands like Descendents, ALL, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Strung Out, and No Use for a Name became the soundtrack for that period of my life.

Last night we saw the Descendents play the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and I was immediately hit with ALL THE FEELS for those early, confusing, libidinous days. The show was a bucket list item for Ed, and I’m so glad we went (we have a really bad habit of buying tickets to shows but not going) – they sounded amazing and it was a high energy show with multiple encores. Lots of old songs mixed in with the new, a comfortable venue with great vantage points, and just plain fun to be at a punk show with old friends. I mean, it wasn’t a white boy rap show, but it was still a good time – just faster.

I can’t help but wonder if the not-insignificant amount of longing I am experiencing for the early days of our relationship aren’t caused by the current upheaval in my life, our upcoming Big Anniversary, and my wayward hormones. I recently went through 25 years of non-digital photos to weed out duplicates and things that should never have seen the light of day, so those early years are fresh in my mind. It’d be easy to say “life was simpler then”, but that’s absolutely not true: life was messy and confusing and complicated as fuck. I like the now much better.

I do not know what to do with all of these feels, so I will go back to packing boxes and suitcases. We leave for Ireland in 24 days!

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us in a few weeks

takayama

One of my favourite parts of our trip was the time we spent in Takayama. It’s a small city smack in the middle of Japan, about 4.5 hours by train from Tokyo. It gets a lot of snow, some of which was still visible when we arrived at the beginning of April.

Getting to Takayama was a bit of an ordeal. We misread our train tickets and got to the station late, then got separated from our group. Ed and I were able to exchange our tickets for a later train, but it meant we got into the station almost two hours after everyone else. We were originally only scheduled to be in Takayama for 18 or so hours, so losing some of that time was sad (we fixed it later, though). Still, it gave us time to collect our thoughts and also food before we boarded the train, so we were able to enjoy the ride with delicious treats and destressing, which was really needed after the morning trials.

The train took us along the coast and through the mountains. The ride was beautiful – Japan’s rail system is amazing – and the quick stop to change trains in Nagoya was painless. It was raining when we landed in Takayama, but our hotel was a short walk away.

The main reason we were in Takayama was to stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. We stayed at Ryokan Asunaro, which was incredible. The staff were amazing, the building was old and cozy and furnished with beautiful things (I fell in love with a lamp. I love lamp.), and our room was as advertised: tatami mats, shikibuton beds, and buckwheat pillows (which my spoiled western head found uncomfortable as hell – I am the worst samurai), and gorgeous yukata for us to wear. Our room didn’t have a bath or shower, which is part of the experience: the inn had an onsen for bathing.

Okay, so, onsens. A traditional Japanese public bath sort of like a hot tub: get publicly naked, wash yourself publicly with soap/shampoo/assorted bathing accoutrements in a public shower, then get into a glorious hot public bath to soak and relax and be quiet. Publicly. Super mega traditional onsens might have co-ed bathing, but that fell out of style years ago. Nowadays, onsens will have separate bathing areas for men and women, or specific “women only” times. Like many things traditional and Japanese, there are a lot of rules associated with public bathing: no phones, no clothes, wash yourself with soap separately beforehand, don’t wash your underwear in the onsen (this is apparently a big problem, because there were signs EVERYWHERE and on every website specifically telling people not to wash their underthings in the springs), and – sadly – no tattoos. Tattoos have a much different meaning in Japan, where they are seen as signs of gang activity. In North America, my “persist/resist” tattoos mean less that I am yakuza and more that I am sick of patriarchal bullshit, but many places in Japan still frown upon them. That being said, Japan enjoys the western dollar. Some places are okay with tattoos in their baths, and others will have relaxed rules and/or be okay with them if they’re covered up. If you’re going to Japan and plan to visit an onsen, I HIGHLY recommend you check the rules before you go.

I hadn’t bothered checking the rules for Ryokan Asunaro, because I assumed I would not bother with the public baths because public nudity.  However, getting there was *really* stressful. In addition to missing our train, we found out that a) I had accidentally booked my room at the ryokan for being for one person only, which is a problem when they’re busy and have you booked into a room with a twin bed, and b) our accommodations in Kyoto (our next stop and home for 5 days) had been cancelled less than 24 hours before our arrival, leaving us with nowhere to stay in the middle of cherry blossom season in the business tourist spot in Japan. Our group of 4 were screwed, bigly: the “replacement” accommodations HomeAway offered us had half the amenities we needed, and room for only three people. Nothing else was available in the entire city: two people searching non-stop came up with exactly three available hotels looking for $450+ per couple per night, and one sketchy-looking AirBnB that was even more expensive. Desperate, I started looking outside of Kyoto, and found us some decent (and decently priced) rooms in Osaka, instead. A slight change of plans – we were supposed to be in Kyoto for 5 nights, then Osaka for one night before heading back to Tokyo, and now we would be in Osaka for 6 nights – but we had a place to sleep and shower (and our hotel turned out to be super central and awesome), which that was the important thing.

So. After we checked in (the staff was wonderful and managed to accommodate us even though I had booked our room incorrectly), outfitted ourselves in yukata, huddled with M&S to figure out out housing problem, solving said housing problem, then getting re-dressed, we went out to wander the town. It was eerily quiet and crazy peaceful, and we enjoyed our First Dinner (ramen) and Second Dinner (sushi) and the company. When we returned to the hotel, Ed wanted to turn in for the night but I was still TENSE AS FUCK due to all the things that had happened that day – so I went exploring, and checked out the onsen.

Which was completely, totally, utterly empty.

I stripped down to my nothings, lathered up under the shower, then had myself an amazing non-life-threatening solo soak in the onsen, tattoos and all (Ryokan Asunaro has no rules against tattoos; another reason I highly recommend a visit). It was EXACTLY what I needed after my stressy-fuck day, and probably one of my favourite memories from our entire trip. I would never had dared go into the onsen if there were other people around – nobody wants to see my gross self naked – but being all alone gave me the push I needed to get my ass in that water. And it didn’t kill me! Which was a real concern of mine! See, the last time I was in a hot tub was several months after those pesky Heart Issues, and .. well, those signs that say “don’t get in a hot tub if you have a heart condition” apparently aren’t just for show. I almost passed out and got all ded and also felt super, super horrible for several days afterward. I’ve been extremely leery of hot water since then, but was feeling brave and naked and what’s the worst that could happen when you’re utterly alone on stone tiles and some 7.664 kilometres from home.

A SUPER RELAXING GLORY BATH, that’s what.

I’m glad I got SOME relaxing time in Takayama, because Ed snored all night long and I couldn’t get comfortable on a pillow made of cement so I ended up with very little sleep that night. I skipped breakfast (and apparently missed out on a delightful meal) to get some more zeds, then geared up for exploring. Originally, we were supposed to be on a train to Kyoto at 930 the following morning, but after seeing how awesome Takayama was the night before, we changed our train tickets to give us the day to explore. We bought souvenirs, had amazing honey yogurt, posed for selfies near roaring rivers, found some delicious lunch, and just generally had an excellent time – just what we needed before heading to Osaka.

more japan

By this time, we’d settled into a novel routine in Tokyo: wake up between 6 and 7 am to utter chaos (complete with people falling down the stairs – the record was three different falls on one morning), shower, raid the food supply for energy, then get out of the house by 9am. We had big, big plans for our third day in Tokyo, so after a quick stop at 7Eleven for strawberry sandwiches we were on the subway and heading towards the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Ali is a planning wizard and had arranged for us to have lunch at Sky Restaurant 634, the ultra-fancy restaurant some 345 metres from the ground. Our reservation was at 11:30, so we basically ran from the station to the lobby of the Sky Tree. This was difficult, because the Sky Tree is attached to an AMAZING mall, complete with Pokémon Centre. I confess to being utterly distracted by the Pokemon store gashapon machines, and had to be dragged out to make our lunch reservation on time (complete with promises that I could come back after lunch and spend money – yes, I am a petulant 7 year old cosplaying as an adult woman). We met up with our group, and before long we were seated by a window in the middle of the sky:

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dang, that’s dense

The view was pretty cool. The food wasn’t too bad, either:

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appetizer trio: in-house bacon, sea urchin stuff, seared tuna

I’m damning with faint praise, here – the meal we had at the Sky Tree was phenomenal, and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Everything we had was ridiculously good, including the scallops that made me cry tears of deliciousness. The entire experience was a total treat, from the crazy view to the amazing food and service and the excellent company. We’re not foodies by any stretch of the imagination – we’d happily eat strawberry sandwiches all day long – so we (okay, me – I’m the only one in our group who hasn’t experienced dining like this, mostly because Ed won’t take me to Art of the Table in Seattle) almost never get to have Fancy Eatings. I totally loved it. Ali is a genius with excellent ideas.

After we ate, it was time to see the rest of the city from 350 metres up. We explored the observation deck, which is something I will be doing again for Reasons:

  1. We rushed our way through window-looking because it was hella crowded and I was getting mall rage
  2. We had to be clear across town by 4:45pm, and we (not just me) really wanted to go shopping in the mall downstairs
  3. There’s actually another observation deck a little higher up that you can go to, and normally I would – I love city views from High – but see #2
  4. I neeeeeeeeeed to see Tokyo at night, from super high up

The views were absolutely incredible, but I didn’t get enough time with them. Definitely doing the Sky Tree again, as soon as I can.

Then we shopped. It was fun. Things were purchased.

We hopped the train around 4pm to make our way to Shinjuku – we had a date with some robots:

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the calmest, most serene part of our trip

So, here’s the thing about the Robot Restaurant: I could write a million words about it, but it wouldn’t do a lick of good. You need to see the show for itself. This was another Ali idea, and it was a great one – yes, the show is a total tourist thing, but it’s hilarious and so bizarre and just generally a really good time. And you can drink sake or beer while watching it, which I can only assume makes things even better. A word of caution: calling it a “restaurant” is being extremely generous with the definition of the word. Go for the show, bring money for booze, but skip the food. Trust me. Plus, the area the restaurant is in is wonderful for exploring. Go find Godzilla Road! Look for the guy who grabbed Ed’s crotch! Find the game centre with the sympathetic attendant who rigged a claw machine so I would win a stuffed fox after trying a half dozen times and failing miserably! Shinjuku is awesome.

The following day was Wednesday, and our group diverged a little. Those with kids went to Tokyo Disneyland, but I had a list of things that I needed to see so we split up and tackled different things. First on my list was Shibuya, for the station, Dogenzaka Hill (because of Jet Set Radio Future), Hachikō, and the Scramble (because of The World Ends With You) – I didn’t have enough time to really explore Dogenzaka and the myriad of love hotels, but I definitely recognized it and that made me go eeeeeeeeee. The scramble and all of Shibuya Station was also great, and I could have easily spent an entire afternoon just people watching. It was really fucking hot outside though, so we ducked into the famous 109 for air conditioning, a bathroom, and Sailor Moon-esq socks. We walked around the area for a bit, visiting a Japanese McDonald’s (teriyaki burgers were great. cantaloupe milkshakes were weird as hell.), and just generally enjoyed life and sunshine and the thrill of being on vacation times. From Shibuya we went to Meiji Shrine (which was going through renovations, so most of it was inaccessible – the forest was beautiful though), then into Harajuku for some more exploring. It was an exhausting day, but a great one. I really like Japan. Have I mentioned that? If only they had Diet Coke.

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shiny boys and robot girls

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a good dog, bront

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wall! of! sake!

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harajuku puppy man

tokyo day two (i should probably go faster)

I could have happily spent our entire trip in Tokyo and still not seen everything there is to see. We did a ton of things in the 5 days we had available, and the things we didn’t get to will be waiting for us when we return. We know better now, too: book in advance. Always book in advance.

One of the top items on my list was to visit the National Art Centre in Tokyo, specifically to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. The museum was close to our Tokyo base, so we enjoyed a ridiculously beautiful walk through Aoyama Cemetery on a gorgeous spring day to get there. The museum and exhibit were amazing, and I’m so glad we managed to fit it into our schedule. The Infinity Room was hands down my favourite piece, but there was so much to see! Ed and I took so long in the Kasuma exhibit that we didn’t get a chance to check out any of the other exhibits going on, and apparently we missed some equally great ones. There was no time in our trip for a return visit to NAC, so that’s another reason we need to go back.

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imma live here now.

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giant hall, giant art, dapper man

After the museum, we hopped on a train and headed .. somewhere. We desperately needed to find food, but it was more difficult than anticipated – many restaurants in Japan are open for lunch, then close at 1430 to prepare for dinner. We arrived after 1500, and finding a) a place that was open and b) could accommodate 14 people was nigh impossible. We eventually managed to find an open place, but had to split up into three groups. One lost child and some really good curry later, it was time to explore the Sakura Festival going on a block to our right:

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stupid beautiful tokyo!

I bought Pink Zima, because I was in Japan goddamnit. Sabrina had some sakura champagne, and we roamed the canal gaping like tourists at the pretty pretty pink trees. We saw hot dog bros, strawberry everything, sexy time girls, pretty little mochi on sticks, and thousands of people. I think it was a Monday, but it was packed with bodies – can’t imagine what it would have been like on a weekend (but I’ll go find out and report back).

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Like all places everywhere, there was a huge line so we didn’t stick around to see what they had

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siiiiiigh

That evening, there was an epic thunderstorm over our house. It was incredible, and so cozy. We ate experimental Japanese snacks and candy while listening to the pouring rain and thunder. It was pretty fucking magical.

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like a boss.