It’s time to say goodbye…

But not for long! It’s taken me awhile to get my brain in a place where I was able and wanted to write down my stories again. There was dissertation writing and graduating and not finding a job and a general sorting out of nonsense, but I’ve gotten sort of back on track and have a new blog. Yay!

You may find a new set of random me-ramblings and adventures over at Postgraduate Pessimist, where I will regale you with snarky comments about life, liberty, and how much I resent being an adult.

Have fun!

Croatia Part 2

Day 6:

Our first full day in Omis was spectacular- it had to be, waking up near the top of the mountain! A wee kitty cat made our acquaintance and proceeded to pester us (adorably) for the rest of the trip.

624

I climbed a 5b first thing, which was great. The rock had more friction than the rock at Paklenica so it was nice to get great hands and feet on a climb. It was fantastic being out in the sun all day, and with town so close by we could pop into the local cafe to get caffeinated and explore the local market! The pastries here are super tasty, and a sun-warmed peach from the market topped it off. Yum! 627A long, lovely day in the sun was completed by the return of some seriously strong wind and a beautiful sunset over the ocean. Grocery shopping for the next few days was enjoyable because of the exchange rate and because the fruit and veggies actually looked like they had been grown in the ground and not in some factory somewhere. Again- yum!

Day 7: Hello, cactus, my old friend

After a morning spent holding my breath and clenching my sphincter on some more terrifying mountain roads, smelling clutch, and getting yelled at by an old Croatian woman, we finally made it to safe climbing ground. We also passed an old man rolling down the road on a mobility scooter, which cracked me up! You go, dude.

Our first crag ended up being entirely too windy to do anything on, so I mailed my postcards at a local shop and we settled in to the aptly named Belfast Cafe for a few coffees and reworking the day’s plan. The cute little cafe had a selection of Ireland’s finest whiskeys and a good old tricolor over the bar, despite the fact that the man behind the bar spoke neither English nor was Irish in any way :). We were right below another castle called Klis, which looked pretty cool although I couldn’t get a very good picture of it.

629 632 633 634

We headed to another place called Marjan, a hot oasis of cliff side towers and cacti. The red things on the cactus can be eaten, we were informed- too bad no one looked for thorns, first! I avoided this particular snack, this time. The routes were great but a few alterations had to be made in order to avoid cacti growing out of handholds! Although the road was quite near in order to belay you had to be a bit closer to the rock, which meant getting up close and personal with some spiky plants.

Long story short, I was picking cacti thorns out of places for awhile. Ouch! Other than the cacti, the view over the ocean as great and the air was fresh.

637 639 640 643   656  660 663 667

There was a church and a tower built into the side of the cliff, so naturally we climbed it :).

I didn’t end the day on a very good note. I went up an easy route to rescue gear for the Flying Dutchman, who couldn’t do it either. I was ohsoclose to being able to clip the last bolt, but exhaustion and general frustration proved to be too much. I’ve got a bit of a reputation growing for swearing my way up routes I find particularly difficult. Usually this means I get mad and then do it anyways, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. I was mad and frustrated getting off the rock that day, made none the better by having a stressful drive back to the house.

Day 8: Close encounters of the bird kind

Today, I got crapped on by a bird. Nice. First, though, a few of us headed up to a crag with some easier routes before getting lost and realizing the wind was going to be just as bad higher up and retreating back closer to the water. We had our usual car troubles starting with trying to drive with the handbrake on and then forgetting to put the car in gear (twice) when attempting to turn about on a step hill. Plummeting to my death over a cliff because of incompetence? Not on my list of things to do this holiday.

We joined the rest of our crew near the river and I led my hardest sport route so far, a nice 5c that was a lot of fun. Yay crack climbs! We headed back to the sun and climbed a few more routes before tackling a 6a+, which I was really keen to climb.

675 676 681 684 688 693

Prior to attempting this particular route, I had been belaying a friend and got pooped on by a bird faaaar above me. Hit my sunglasses, which I was glad to be wearing! According to her, getting pooed on is good luck… I’ll take what I can get, I guess?

New shoes on and snacks to look forward to should I succeed or fail, I roped up and got going. The climbing was great for the first 3/4 of a route, while two bolts in particular were pretty tough to get through. Nothing like a pinky hand jam to get you through a tough spot! I took a few rests and definitely didn’t climb it cleanly, but I was pretty happy that I got to the top any way that I could :). Success sandwiches were eaten and enjoyed after I whipped off my shoes (ow) and taped up some beat up fingers.

After my best day climbing, a swim was in order. The water was cool (darn wind!) but once you were in, it was lovely! Everything ached, but I knew there are very few swim in a Croatian ocean moments in life so I better enjoy this one. Back at the house I took a nice, hot shower (fantastic water pressure) and relaxed- good things were today!

698 699 713 717

Day 9: Unconsciousness is the only escape

If I ever create a new route anywhere in the world, I will call it ‘unconsciousness if the only escape’ because being unconscious is literally the only escape from this vehicle of madness.

Anywho… a lazy morning resulted in adventures around the nearby town of Split and ended by jumping off cliffs into the water behind a creepy abandoned factory. Climbers really do find the oddest places to climb! We were deep water soloing, which is a great way to climb without really having to worry about falling since you’ll just end up in the water anyways. Huzzah! It took me awhile to literally warm up to the idea of being in the water, but once in… whoo! So very refreshing.

733729

Unfortunately someone else didn’t find our activities so refreshing, as two police officers soon dropped by to inquire as to what we were doing. Actually, they already thought we were doing drugs, which made us all laugh! We’re really just a bunch of weirdos who like to climb, which the police believed looking at our collection of shoes and towels splayed out over the rocks. The rest of the day proceeded uneventfully, with excursions taken to the center of Split via an ice cream shop and a cafe for coffee and wifi for the more technologically inclined. Real social bunch we have here :-P.

753

Back at the house and in bed early, tired after a long week of adventures and climbing. So sadly close to the end!

738

Not sure why there was a chair attached to a ladder on the side of this building… wheelchair access?

739743750

Day 10:

Our last day climbing was wonderful, although bittersweet seeing as though our holiday was coming to an end. Croatia seemed to know we were on our way out and gave us a windless day, all the better for climbing! We headed to a sunny crag (through some broken fences… climbers really do find the oddest spots) and had a great afternoon climbing a few routes. We were all pretty tired after so many days climbing and retired to a shadier crag. A few of us lost the motivation to continue climbing, so a brief beer at a local cafe was had and we headed back to the house to enjoy the remainder of our holiday :).

755

 

 

 

 

760

The patio was the perfect place to sit and enjoy the company of friends and to watch the boats sail in and out of the harbor. The sun went down early (loved the extra hour of sleep, thanks daylight savings!) and the church bells rang all day in the town, echoing up the mountain.

The others got back and we had a last evening of laughter, banter, and general shenanigans. I made the mistake of using our sad wifi connection to check Facebook, where classmates of mine had posted up the fact that our dissertation marks had been published. Yeeshka! After a few harrowing moments trying to log in from a borrowed mobile, we all celebrated when it was realized that I had indeed passed my Master’s. Huzzah!

Naturally my dear friends decided that jumping in the pool was the only way to celebrate…. BBBRRRRR! Finding out the results of my year’s work felt a bit anticlimactic, but maybe I’ll feel differently when I’ve actually accomplished something with my degree. Like get a job. Worries for a different day. Today, it was time to enjoy 1.854 liters of Croatia’s finest brew. Cheers to that!

Day 11: The final countdown

Boo, back to Belfast. The morning was spent in suspended denial of our immanent departure; I lounged in the sun and watched as a couple of the boys played like puppies around the pool, wrestling and chucking each other into the pool whenever they could. I laughed a lot! We packed up and cleaned house, no one too excited to head back to gloomy Ireland.

723724

722

I volunteered as tribute to sit in the other car for the long journey back to the airport in Zadar, so more room could be taken for bags. Huzzah, one less thing to stress about! We left Omis and sped through the brilliant Croatian landscape, stopping for snacks and listening to great music. The Flying Dutchman and her crew, however, weren’t having such a splendid time- she succeeded in clipping another vehicle on the otherwise unoccupied motorway and scaring the bejesus out of her passengers. With her track record it wasn’t a surprise, but still. Yikes.

765

Casual dinosaur. It even moved!

We all made it safely to the airport, although not all members of the group are currently speaking to one another. Ha! There’s bound to be some friction when you spend 10 days in close proximity to one another. I was definitely sad to have left Croatia, but I suppose the return of some sense of reality had to happen sometime. At any rate, great memories were made and more climbing experience was had! Plus, got a new stamp in the passport :).
771

Croatia Part 1

Day 1:

For the last 10 days I have had the chance to spend my days in sunny Croatia with a group of extraordinary climbing people. We headed down to Dublin to catch our flight on Friday the 16th where the banter began in earnest, as it does. We grabbed our monopoly money from the airport in Zadar (Croatian money is called Kuna, and the cents are called Lipa. The exchange rate is awesome) and got in our rented cars to drive to a small town called Seline just outside Paklenica National Park. We arrived in the dark and got ready to climb the next day; I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. The plan was to stay in Seline for a couple days and then move to a place called Omis for the rest of the week. Already we had an inkling that one of our drivers, a person I will call the Flying Dutchman, was going to be a bit terrifying to ride with. More on that later.

Day 2:

Today we awoke to this view- what’s not to love about that?! Our house is spacious and can’t be beat with this to wake up to every morning. We have a massive patio on which to spent many a sunny morning and warm evening.

499 503 500

Our first day of climbing dawned perfectly. We explored the food offerings of Seline (a few houses and a shop) for climbing snacks and headed into Paklenica National Park early, sorted our passes, and walked a ways up a beautiful valley to where the climbing started. We were sport climbing in Croatia, which is different than the type of climbing I usually do outside. Sport climbing involves clipping your rope into preexisting metal bolts that have been drilled into the rock to protect the individual routes on a wall. The bolts are usually a few meters apart, so you’re typically not going to fall too far if indeed you do fall.

The trees were turning colors and the sky was as blue as blue could be- the sky against the rock was gorgeous. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

506 507 509 510 511 516

I was a bit hesitant to lead routes straight away, so I top roped a couple just to get warmed up. The sport climbing grading system is different than the trad grading, so I wasn’t quite sure what I could lead climb in the first place. I was a bolt up on my first lead of the trip when we heard one of our group yelling in pain from the route he was climbing- not a sound you want to hear, especially not on the first route of the first day.

Pre-falling

Pre-falling

He was lowered down and you could see that he had messed up his knee pretty badly. Thankfully a nurse from England was walking by and was able to help get him sorted as we called for an ambulance. The crag we were at was accessible by vehicles, so the ambulance wasn’t long coming. The police arrived first, however, to take a statement and to make sure that a foreigner didn’t get hurt intentionally in their national park. They came up and asked, “What happened?” We all just kind of stared at them…. “He fell,” was the obvious answer!

One they arrived the Croatian EMTs did a nice job bouncing our poor buddy onto a gurney and over some pretty large rocks; unfortunately none of us were allowed to accompany him to the hospital, so we relied on our resident Eastern European (from Poland) to sort out the police report and hospital protocol. He ended up in the only hospital in Zadar, so we knew where to find him.

The rest of us kept climbing, as there wasn’t much else we could do to help. I lead a few routes and really enjoyed my first day sport climbing, despite the accident. The rock was great and it was fun to climb in such a gorgeous, new place!

We headed into Zadar that evening to learn the fate of our friend and, let me tell you, Croatian hospitals are grim.

530

Turns out he had dislocated his knee and we had missed visiting hours for the day, so we couldn’t check on the poor fellow this time. Sunset over the ocean was incredible and gave us something to look at while the Flying Dutchman did her best to careen us off the road. There was a lot of mental power going in to keeping our car on the road and in the right lane… We stopped by the grocery store to pick up food for the next couple days and a couple beers for the road were cracked just to calm the nerves.

528 526

Day 3:

Half the crew got up too early to start some crazy long multi pitches deeper in the heart of Paklenica, and the remaining four of us headed back in to conquer some routes. I struggled to figure out what was within my climbing range and what wasn’t- the grading system seems arbitrary, as I failed on something easy and sailed up something harder. Makes no sense to me, but still had a great day. Despite my frustrations the sun was out, I was warm, and there were plenty of puppies on the trail to adore! Two of the group went to visit the hospitalized one and sent back a report that he was in good spirits and wasn’t in too much pain.

542 544 551 552 559 563

A cute little souvenir shop in Paklenica provided beer which I drank and postcards which I wrote under a sunny rock looking at other climbers be awesome. The atmosphere here is great- lots of people around but not crowded, other climbers of all nationalities and genders and ages being friendly and passersby thinking you’re cool/crazy for climbing up a perfectly good rock. Plus, no one broke or dislocated anything today! Great success.

Back at the house we sat up, played games and generally enjoyed ourselves. The multi pitch crews got back happy and exhausted after their climbs and the Croatian vodka was cracked open. The weather forecast predicted rain, so a rest day was expected.

Day 4:

Bad Croatian vodka, bad! Rest day was good, because bad Croatian vodka made me feel like I got run over by a train. Or a truck. Or both. Took advantage of my rest day and woke up at 11, wondering why everyone was being so loud so early. Poor me! Recovery was slow but eventually things got on a more even keel. The mountains were misty and gloomy looking, much like the Mournes are sometimes.

564 566

We recovered our friend from the Croatian healthcare system and, with a quick stop for beer, had him sorted back out. He was ready and raring to go and, without a painkiller in sight, could drink to his wee heart’s content. He held no real malice for his belayer, who felt terrible that he had fallen (despite the fact that it was nowhere near his fault), but good natured teasing was passed about as per the usual.

568 570

We all got a bit antsy as the day went on and decided to take a trip to the local climbing shop in town. We had to wait for the shop to open so sat in a little cafe for a bit. Compared to everyone else we were very loud! And in comparison to the small town around us, we were definitely the loudest things there. The climbing shop was small but held many treasures, and I ended up with a great pair of new climbing shoes! I’ve been waiting a new pair for awhile now and, quite simply, could finally afford what Croatia was offering. Huzzah!

572 575

Walking back we went past the old ruin of a tower which was very cool, and naturally an attempt was made to climb it. Rocks were skipped over the ocean and we generally had a good, leisurely time on our day off.

577 583 584 587 590 593 597 599 601

All in all, not a bad day!

Day 5:

Day five was spent cleaning our flat and packing up to drive a few hundred kilometers to the town of Omis, our next pit stop. I was all for getting a few climbs in at Paklenica before we left (had a 5a I really wanted to lead, oh well) but we decided to drive to Omis first and find a close crag to climb before we found our new accommodation. There was nary a glimpse of the blue sky out our rear view window, and we were packed to the gills with bags and climbing gear.

The drive was long and a bit scary, but suitable road trip snacks (fun fact: Croatian gummy bears are called Wummies) were had and a road beer was passed around at particularly harrowing moments. Apparently tunnels were big and scary for the Flying Dutchman, as was any car that passed us on the road. However, the Croatian motorway was big and lovely and had hardly any traffic at all. Croatian radio is surprisingly awesome! Also, casual note to drivers: if you are already unused to being behind the wheel and have a habit of swerving whenever your eyes are off the road even for a second, you are not allowed to sight see no matter how beautiful stuff is outside the car. I’m in no way, shape or form peeved about the transportation. Nope. Not a bit.

604606

The scenery got distinctly more arid with red rocks and red dirt all around. We drove on some seriously narrow small town roads through places brimming with grape vines, massive front gardens, fruit trees and all sorts of other green things- it looked like the south of Italy, from what I know of the south of Italy. We descended towards the ocean and Omis and there was even a castle! I love me a good castle.

Omis was a far cry from Seline- it was bustling and vibrant, quite obviously a tourist center and bigger city than Seline certainly was. People flocked to an outdoor market and sat at outdoor cafes, sipping coffee and enjoying each other’s company and the sun. There were also many ships of all shapes and sizes in the harbor, which were fun to look at!

After a brief altercation with a missed stop sign and oncoming traffic we finally were safely parked near a crag just outside of the city center. The place was called Planovo, and it was suuuuuunnnyyyy! We deposited our injured buddy on a bench where he tanned the day away.The rock was great and I tried on my fancy new climbing shoes, which hurt so good. I led a few routes and really enjoyed being outside.

617619

Our new digs looked like this- and at the top of the mountain, to boot! More Croatian adventures to follow in the next post 🙂

623622

The Jizz of the Dabbling Duck

Today I had the lovely chance to head up to the north coast with a couple of the derby ladies to a place called the Gobbins Path. The Gobbins Path has been around since the early 1900s and is a coastal walk meandering through caves, around the coastline and across many cool bridges.

On the walk we learned lots about geology, a bit about engineering, and how to walk very slowly behind elderly people. Apparently everyone else our age is actually in school or has a real job, which might explain the lack of young ones on the trail. Ah, well.

The path was about three miles long, and the name Gobbins refers to the land around the path. On a nice day (which this was) you can see over into the Isle of Man, Wales, and Scotland.

002 004 006 007 011 012 013

The path and its bridges were conceived of by a man named Wise, who had a dream to increase tourism and knowledge about Northern Ireland’s north coast. The bridge below is called the Tubular Bridge and is based on the bridge that was originally erected on the original path.

014 016 021

We also got to catch the Irish Coast Guard on a little training run. Helloooo helicopter!

023 024 025 028 029 032 034 037

Of course, there’s always a Game of Thrones location to be seen. Far in the distance here you can catch the quarry where the Wall and Castle Black are filmed. Pretty glad I don’t have to work in a quarry, personally. We also passed through Carrickfergus and got to see their little castle, which I quite like!

038 001

All in all another successful, sunny day in Northern Ireland.

PS- totally just realized I didn’t explain the title, which sounds totally rude. Basically we were hanging about in the gift shop before our tour started and happened upon a hilarious section of a ‘Birds of Northern Ireland’ book. There is a bird called the Dabbling Duck and we really couldn’t get past the sentence that read ‘the jizz of the dabbling duck.’ I have no idea why it was important, but we giggled about it all day. We are children. It’s ok. We’ve accepted it. Also, we didn’t see any Dabbling Ducks but you can be sure I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for one.

So this one time it was sunny

So this one time it was sunny and warm in Northern Ireland for about 4.5 seconds, and I managed to be outside for all of it. Win!

Here are a few pictures of some north coast adventures I had last week.

041

The Dark Hedges- you may recognize this from Game of Thrones!

042

The cool thing about Northern Ireland is that pretty much everywhere is a Game of Thrones location.

044

Iron Islands, anyone?

060

Beautiful dinner views!

045 052 053 062

A few derby friends and I went up to a little place called Ballintoy to participate in some shenanigans called coasteering. Coasteering involves shoving your pasty, decidedly not ready for bathing suit weather body into a wet suit (I felt like an overstuffed sausage), popping on a life jacket and helmet and rocking around the north coast’s frigid Atlantic waters climbing and jumping off daft things.

Yup, just my kind of adventure! We swirled in eddies, had contests between the group of us, and ate edible seaweed. Delicious, delicious sea spaghetti. And then we jumped off crazy shit, which is great when you’re supposed to be falling off of it!

12046633_1048458171845822_5615600751027524682_n

It was a little scary. But we did it!

12049300_1048454935179479_7145251582103285138_n

We had to wear brightly colored shorts in case the Coast Guard had to identify a body. Whomp whomp.

The One Where Nothing Happens

The climbing trip where…. nothing really happened.

I didn’t even take my harness out of my bag (at least I brought it this time!). We climbed up the damp side of Sleive Binnian in the Mournes to be greeted with rain, sun, rainbows, a couple puppies and some sheep. Even though the weather sucked and I didn’t get to climb anything, we still had a great day (proving that who you climb with is just as important as what you climb).

Photographic evidence of the weirdness that is Norn Iron:

001

Eh, little windy but doesn’t look too bad.

002

A few clouds, beautiful view…

004

It’s steeper than it looks

008

Whomp, just a few more clouds rolling in

015

Climbers are… odd

023

Sunshine: “I’ve been here the whole time. You didn’t just spend half an hour huddled under a rock trying to keep dry, no….”

026

Wet granite= bad climbey times. However, this particular piece of granite holds my favorite route called ‘Thrill Issues of the Jellyman’ which is entirely too hard for me to climb but I love the Nemo reference anyways.

032

Belay buddies through rain and shine!

036

Top roping daft things because we didn’t have anything to lose at that point

037

The rainbow just means that shit was pouring down rain about 5 minutes before I took this picture.

040

Wind tunnel fun!

A Postgraduate Press Release

I know I can’t broadcast this to everyone who is asking questions about my future (pity), but here it goes anyways.

A Postgraduate Press Release: To Whom It May Concern Re: My Future.

No, I don’t have any career plans. I don’t have a career. I had series of jobs I didn’t like and an allergy to the hours of 9-5.

I am not moving back to America, although I would like to visit sometime next year, finances pending.

Right now I am keeping busy rock climbing, playing roller derby, and looking for jobs.

Yes, I am looking for jobs in Northern Ireland. One day I woke up and decided I really didn’t mind living here, so we’ll see how finding employment goes and if the British government lets me stay.

I also spend my time watching entirely too much Netflix, coloring in my adult coloring book (scratch that- my coloring book for adults. I always say that the wrong way), and soaking up the late-to-the-game sunshine that has recently decided to grace the green grasses of Belfast.

My future plans, if working in Belfast doesn’t pan out, include eating lots of rice and pasta and saving my pennies to move to Nepal, because it’s inexpensive and because mountains.

That is all. Thank you for your attention.

Here’s a picture of a happy otter.

otter

Dissertation Happenings

‘I feel like there is just darkness when I think about my dissertation. And a couple dragons.’ -my classmate, Ali

There are still dragons and darkness when it comes to my dissertation, but I am happy to announce….

THAT I AM OFFICIALLY DONE WITH THE NONSENSE THAT IS GRADUATE SCHOOL!

Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowooooooowooowoooooooo!

That’s right. I polished up my edits this very evening and am now happy to lay in bed, book in hand, and relax a little bit.

Of course, I still have to deal with the fact that it actually hasn’t been graded yet, but I’ll save that worry for later. They can’t fail all of us, after all….

It’s been a long year, and yet it has flown by. Fall is in the air in Belfast (did it ever really leave?) and friends are slowly but surely packing up and moving on after this weird adventure called grad school. I’m still not sure how I feel about most of it, but I’m glad I did it.

Whew.

Vive la France!

I took myself on a vacation to France this last weekend, which was an amazing and completely wonderful trip! Nothing like submitting a half-assed dissertation draft before taking off for a few days… to Paris, no less :).

I found the sun, I found great wine, I found great food and, most importantly, I found the Eiffel Tower. It was kind of hard to miss.

I also found that French people were definitely not as rude as I have been told… but maybe it was because I made an effort to speak French and wasn’t an obnoxious tourist. There were a lot (a lot) of those.

My hostel was located near Sacre Cour, which was a beautiful cathedral with an impressive panoramic view of the city. You could see from Notre Dame all the way to the Eiffel Tower, and as I explored Paris I got to know all the places I had seen from atop the steps of Sacre Cour.

108

The view of Sacre Cour from atop the Arc de Triumph

20150814_211435

artwork near Sacre Cour

20150814_205350

182

Sacre Cour, walking up the many steps

Of course, my first day was also an intro into the art of navigating the countless souvenir vendors who would shove things in your face or, to my deep chagrin, actually grab your arm to show you whatever it was they wanted you to buy.

No. Nope. Nuh-uh. I guarantee that no matter where you come from or where you live now, grabbing a strange woman on the arm is literally never going to be ok. That garnered a couple ‘fuck offs’ from me and off I was, permanent bitch-face on as I navigated the city. Much different than Ireland, where a smile and a ‘hello’ are commonplace between strangers.

I have never seen so many damn selfie sticks being sold or used in my entire life… I hate them!

Moving on. I took my little map of the city my hostel kindly provided me and walked all over the city, topping first at the Louvre. The line was huge but it was completely worth it! Seeing all that history and such incredible works of art was truly amazing. I definitely got lost a few times in the labyrinth of halls and certainly missed a few rooms, but got to see many great things.

052

The Louvre contained many butts. And I documented them.

059

Paint my like one of your French girls.

073

The Mona Lisa was really cool to see… over everyone else’s heads.

074

I love this thing!

048 058 065 075 079

I could have walked around the Louvre for ages, but there was more of Paris to be seen!

I headed down the Champs Elysees, a favorite of my mother’s and a place I wish I could travel down with her. There were trees, there were bakeries, there were ice cream shops! No complaints from me. The Arc de Triumph was visible from the Louvre and only got more impressive as I got closer.

The Place de Concord and the Arc de Triumph

The Place de Concord and the Arc de Triumph

The Arc de Triumph! So cool!

The Arc de Triumph! So cool!

100

Walking the stairs up the Arc de Triumph

101

The view down the Champs Elysees

106

My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

Walking the steps to the top of the Arc de Triumphe was pretty awesome. Watching the tourists try and dodge the traffic in the roundabout below? Humorous, especially because there was a well-signposted tunnel leading right to the base of it :).

From the Arc I had a bead on the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to meander my way there, via couple French cafes. The coffee (and pastries) are fantastic!

084097118The Eiffel Tower is probably my favorite place in Paris, and not because it’s romantic or an impressive feat of engineering. The Eiffel Tower was the thing that whenever I caught a glimpse of it, I smiled. I could see a hundred cathedrals or sit in numerous cafes eating delicious things and still not be as personally excited as I was when I saw this silly building with (literally) thousands of tourists waiting to ascend it.

As impressed as I was and continue to be by the Eiffel Tower, I declined waiting in line to go up top and instead enjoyed it from a sunny bit of grass down below, crepe in hand!

The Hotel National de Invalides

The Hotel National de Invalides

Walking my map to puzzle pieces

Walking my map to puzzle pieces

"Irish" pub! Just like home :-P

“Irish” pub! Just like home 😛

Jesus, the hostel kitty :)

Jesus, the hostel kitty 🙂

Walking through Paris is a lesson in living history. Around every corner there is another building to be discovered, another corner where history took place. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t humming the songs in Les Miserables the entire time ;-).

When walking and trying to communicate in a language I didn’t know became too much, the Seine was where I headed. The river was crowded with tourist boats but the walk along the riverside was peaceful, beautiful and quiet.

 129

147

132

196

200

Is there a better napping spot to be found? I think not!

Is there a better napping spot to be found? I think not!

I did a ton of walking in Paris, to the point where I walked a hole in my shoe. On one of the days I was there I tried to make my way out of the city (why oh why do all bus and train stations smell like pee?) on a wee day trip literally anywhere, but couldn’t afford to get there because of the crazy prices of travel during the summer in France. Apparently traveling about requires more planning than this weekend warrior was willing or able to put in… so I got a city ticket, picked a line and got on! Long-ish story short, I found a sports shop, bought a pair of ballet flats that totally looked like old Chinese grandma shoes and also found a sweet little rucksack on sale to boot. That’s the shopping I did in France!

And food… there was so much delicious food! (Pardon the food pictures, but you don’t get to eat in France every day)

20150819_101612 20150818_152700 20150817_174835 20150816_184304

Another adventure was taken to Notre Dame, of course. The cathedral was incredible, but what wasn’t incredible was the insane line snaking out the door. My feet or brain weren’t up for an hour or two wait to get in, so I explored what lay underneath Notre Dame- the original foundations of Paris.

The catacombs of Notre Dame show some of the original roads, gates, and buildings that existed before Paris was Paris. There were Roman ruins and old docks that show how the landscape of Paris has changed over many hundreds of years. Pretty cool if you ask me!

156160167 More wandering took me past many interesting places (and lamp posts, apparently).

152

Drunk guy in a fountain. It was about 11am.

131141176

178

Crazy cool sculpture

179

Lemme just tell you that the Moulin Rouge is in a rough neighborhood, and I went during the daytime. Yeesh.

177

The Opera!

The Opera!

National Assembly

National Assembly

My last adventure was to the palace of Versailles. Once again the lines to get into the actual palace itself were off-putting, at least for me! I was satisfied (for now) with observing the beautifully decorated exterior and just imagining what opulence must lay inside. I took myself on a much cheaper tour of the Versailles gardens, which were immense! I had to think, if Marie Antoinette hadn’t been so laden down with skirts and nonsense she could have hid in there for the duration of the Revolution. But… maybe not.

208

The gate to Versailles

236

The best picnic spot I could have asked for

217 218 220 221 225 228 235 241 246 249 250 251 255 258 259 263 265All in all my trip to Paris was wonderful. I walked my feet off, discovered the metro and got to see some incredible things. I ate great food, and my only regret is not drinking more wine (yum) or knowing what cheese to pair with what (or how to order it in French). I ate many great meals, drank spectacular cups of coffee and had wonderful interactions with people. Next time I’ll try to go when the weather is still lovely, but when there’s not so many tourists about!

193

A question I ask myself frequently… and the answer is sometimes, does it matter?

Is this what cool feels like?

Gonna have a nerdy roller derby post here tonight, lovely people.

There’s this movie called ‘Whip It’ that came out a few years ago. It’s a roller derby film featuring some famous someones you may have heard of such as Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and Ellen Page. The film is based on a book of the same name by Shauna Cross, a former derby girl herself.

Basically, there’s this moment in the beginning of the movie when the small town main character sees her first derby girls. They skate into the shop and drop off flyers for their next game- they are light on their feet, smiling, and generally seem to be enjoying themselves, their friends and the fact that they have skates on their feet. The look on the main character’s face is a look I’ve had on mine many times- when I first heard about derby, when I saw my first game, when I started observing players I really liked, when I got to meet players I idolized. It’s the look you get when you meet someone you think is extraordinary, and they are; but they’re also completely relate-able and often go on to become your friends and teammates.

Back to the story. I went to the gig of a friend I skate with who is also in a band (yeah, she’s kind of a badass). We were told we could attend on skates, so a few of us got dressed up and lugged our skates down to the venue where we got to fangirl like crazy and be on roller skates. In dresses. I have to say, that’s a pretty good night!

11796406_10205991949150323_3129509750586258596_n

Our clever use of props…

After her band was done we sat about for a bit to watch the other groups. A member of the audience came up and told us how cool she thought we were and how fun it was to see people on skates rocking out to a crazy little band from Belfast. This was the moment that I realized that, to someone else, I was the roller girl they looked up to or wanted to be.

And that shit was CRAZY, yo. Also, I realize ‘cool’ is totally in the eye of the beholder and all that, but derby is my cool and I’m gonna roll with it (see what I did there?).

Today a few of the Belfast skaters had the chance to participate in the 25th annual Belfast Pride Parade, which was fantastic in many ways! One, it didn’t rain on us (a damn Christmas miracle right there), and two, there were so many people around participating and watching!

013

This selfie is what ‘dork’ looks like 🙂

009

Slugbug lovebug!

008 006 003 002

The pavement was hard to skate on but the atmosphere was great. I saw parts of Belfast I hadn’t wandered into before and I got to do it on skates. While wearing my new favouritest t-shirt.

11798150_10207650587086516_1487181035_n

Trample the patriarchy, indeed.

Happy skating, walking, running, biking, hopping, or whatever else you wanna do to get moving!