Monday, January 17, 2011

Me vs. The United Kindom: Part Two

As I previously posted, I was beyond blessed with being able to visit the UK when I was 17. In Part One I discussed our trip there and the first few days in London. But, this post will be the good one. Trust me.
When we left Bath in England, I was pretty sad. I could have easily stayed the entire 2 weeks there but I also knew we were heading to Ireland soon. And that I could not pass up. But before we hit Ireland, we first had to venture through Wales and Scotland.

Driving into Wales was quite the experience. This was the first thing I saw –

That is a long ass bridge.

We stopped for lunch at this little eatery that was more or less some fast food place. But it was situated out in the middle of nowhere and was surrounded by lambs. Not even kidding. I ordered a BURGER but once I started to eat it I again had the feeling I wasn’t eating beef. I mentioned something to my Dad who then jokingly nodded towards the lambs out in the field – I nearly lost my lunch. To this day I have no clue what animal I was consuming.

Then we entered Cardiff Castle. There is nothing in the world comparable to being in a genuine castle. Especially knowing that it holds all sorts of history. This was one of the high points of our trip – being able to hang out in castles or at least, say I got to hang out in castles.

We found a quaint little B&B called The Pottery Inn in Blaenavon, Wales. The room my brother and I stayed in had all these weird occult books in it – and naturally, I swiped them. {I still own them actually.} Dinner was fantastic. Below our rooms was a restaurant and I enjoyed a fun evening with my family, playing the jukebox and OMG, I found the first smiling picture of me, maybe the only one! Naturally, being a major Goth at that time in my life, cemeteries were a total pleasure. I still get all giddy when I think about those old, creepy graveyards and you better believe I took a ton of pics. I just can’t find them right now.

The next day was one of the most memorable days in our 2 week adventure. My mom loves to be a tourist and not wanting to miss out on any of the local color, the 4 of us entered The Big Pit Mine.

I have already shared this story in one of my previous posts but will quickly recap it for you here. Basically, we were in a mine. To enter we had to wear helmets. And guess what? For all us American tourists, they offered to (oh yay!) take your picture. My mom jumped at the chance and before I could gather myself, our picture was snapped. I was just trying to overcome my shock at having to wear such an atrocity on my head and having the entire tour group stare at us. My exact thoughts were “Take the mother-fing picture and let’s get the hell outta this damn mine!!!” A few months later, that photo was sent out to about 100 family members and friends as our Christmas Photo for 1997. It continues to haunt me. (The picture is on my previous post, if you are at all curious….)

After the horrendous mine incident, we drove into the City of York. It was so….British. And I loved it. Street performers were everywhere, there was a giant, life-sized chess set for people to play and tons and tons of neat little shops.

We jumped back into our car and headed for Scotland. I’m not sure what time we had expected to arrive in Scotland that day but I am pretty sure we got lost. And I also vaguely remember us not being able to find one single place to stay for the night. My cloudy memory might be due to the fact that it was actually about 3AM (and after almost having to sleep in the car!) when we finally found one room in a Holiday Inn in Edinburgh. Apparently we came on the week of the Edinburgh Festival and every single hotel, motel and B&B was booked.

The morning started off with tons of rain and Edinburgh Castle. I was again in awe of the castle but not as much as my brother was. He was basically drooling over everything – especially in the gift shop – because this castle was all about William Wallace, aka Braveheart aka Mel Gibson. He was in seventh heaven. He got this cool dragon t-shirt (I remind you, he was about 13 years old) and I have caught him wearing it a few times in recent years. He is now 5’11″ and his beloved shirt has become a BELLY SHIRT. And he doesn’t seem to have a problem with that either. God, I love my brother.

One of my favorite parts of Scotland was going to Llandudno (by the sea) the next day. We stayed in yet another B&B and my only complaint was that there were tons of seagulls. Birds, most notably seagulls, and I are not friends.


(No, I did not just pass out and smash my head on my keyboard, that’s the name of the town.)

They call it Llanfair.

And then, the Mother Ship: Ireland.

Among my many phobias (what can I say, I am a freak) besides birds, I am terrified of the ocean. I think it’s a combination of seeing “Jaws” one too many times and also, the sheer size and depth of large bodies of water scare me to death. I even went through a phase as a kid where I was afraid to go in our swimming pool (which was about 9 feet deep) because of sharks. I might have been 11 but I won’t say for sure. And I might have been insane.

We boarded a ferry called the “STENALINE”. Picture a giant “cruise ship” that is like a casino on water. There were games and McDonald’s so I managed to get through it alright.

We entered Dun Laoghaire Harbor and soon we were in DUBLIN!!!

It’s important to note that my mother is an O’Connell. Ireland is crawling with them. Our original family is from County Cork, Ireland to be exact. Her family is Catholic & some of my distant relatives were even nuns. Yeah – it’s hilarious if you have spent any time with me that my ancestors were nuns. It cracks me up.

Dublin had my favorite B&B out of all of them. It was an old Victorian style home that was decorated very European. The only drawback was that there was ONE bathroom in the whole place. So, people had to share. I can’t tell you how freaked out I was to even take a shower for fear of someone bursting through the door. I managed to swipe some more goodies – in a drawer in my room were several UK fashion magazines, which at the time were a huge obsession of mine. Hey, I was a bit of a klepto, I admit it.

Which leads me to the end all, be all high point of our trip: and yes, I am being 100% sarcastic.

For some reason, that first morning in Ireland, I was not in a good mood. Maybe my eyeliner didn’t go on right, maybe my hair was frizzing out from the weird humidity, maybe my ass was hanging out of my dress – who knows. All I remember is that I was irritated.

As we walked down the street to catch the bus for a day of sight-seeing, I erupted into the loudest “FUCK” I have ever said in my life. Not even sure why I said it. Maybe I had a burst of turrets or something. All I know is that it happened in front of my parents and brother. And….. in front of 2 nuns.

You could hear crickets, it was so quiet. The nuns walked past, looking at me. After a moment, my Mom brushed past me and didn’t speak to me for a good part of the day. I guess I don’t blame her. That was pretty inappropriate, even for me.

Unfortunately on that same day, we were supposed to take a family photo at the cool, gothic cemeteries in Ireland and use it as our Christmas card that year. Well, none of us were talking to each other (uh, pretty sure it had to do with the nuns) so we never got that photo. And this is why The Mine picture came back to bite me in the ass.

After getting my vulgar outburst out-of-the-way, I ended up in a great mood. We walked around Dublin, saw O’Connell bridge, some cool street paintings, and wow, I smiled again!

On our last night in Ireland – we all went out to dinner. I remember 2 things about that night. The food was expensive and delicious (prime rib, I think) and as we walked back to our B&B in the dusk of an Irish evening, a very drunk guy standing in line in front of a pub hollered at me “SCHWING!!!”.

I wanted to die. I couldn’t believe it. Good ol’ Wayne’s World. Thankfully my parents laughed. Thank. God.

The end was pretty uneventful. We got back on the ferry, back to London for one more night and then, we flew home.

A few days after we came home, on August 31st, Princess Diana was killed. Even though her accident and death occurred in Paris, I watched the news coverage of London and the Palace and was not only grief-stricken but thankful we had come home before it happened.

London was a ZOO.

I can’t even imagine what our trip would have been like had we been there then.

We had been back in Idaho for a few days when, I was driving my Dad’s 4 Runner in downtown Boise and was dropping my Aunt off at an appointment. I turned onto a street and a few seconds later my aunt screamed at me “YOU’RE DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!” Scared the bejesus outta me. Guess those 2 weeks sitting behind my Dad driving in the UK rubbed off on me.

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