Friday, November 18, 2005

The dinner before Dean left
It's been a busy two weeks and particularly a busy last few days. We said farewell to the Dean "Toronto" on the weekend with a night on the town Saturday and a nice dinner that he bought on Sunday. All of this did nothing but foreshadow my own departure a week hence and was made doubly sad as a result. The week itself went quickly. I hung out with the girls and Sofia as much as was humanly possible, went out for some more Counterstrike with Costa and Theodore, and it got to the point that the guys at Micro cafe knew what to bring me when I sat down... Sokolata Karamella. I also made it to the horio on Wednesday for one last stay. And I ate 20-some meatballs, which I'm generally not that fond of, but my Aunt Marina, well, they were good is all...

Loukoumathes are a healthy part of a balanced breakfast
The weekend came again, and my departure was looming, but it didn't really feel like I was leaving. Friday night I went out with Niki, Lee (for awhile), Sofia, and a bunch of their friends and we had a great time. Then Friday melted into Saturday and we all stayed home and chatted, ordered crepes, and watched TV, which quickly became Sunday where we had dinner downstairs with Diane and the wine flowed freely (they have some very tasty homemade wine, which is even better with an apple in it). And, actually, in retrospect I think Sunday was crepe night. In any case, Sunday became Monday, and I got all my last minute stuff done, sent a bunch of stuff home so I wouldn't have to carry it in my bag (I wouldn't have been able to fit all of it anyway), went out for coffee with Lee, Yanni, and Sofia, then went home and made baked apples while George made some loukoumathes. Mmmmmmm... and then, strangely, it was goodbye time, as I left early Tuesday morning. Thankfully, it didn't feel like it was really the last time I'd see them for who knows how long, so it wasn't as difficult as it usually is. It just didn't sink in. Then, back upstairs, where I was hoping to have us all sleep in the living room "like old times" but Kelly wasn't feeling great and Lee was tired, so Niki and I stayed up late and hung out before my last day finally ended.

The metro zips by
Tuesday morning I was up nice and early, well, wait, let me rephrase that, I was up early (there was nothing nice about it), and packed and ready to go. I woke the girls to say bye, we hung around and waited for my cab, and then off to the bus station. I was sitting on the bus, 8:25 (it left for Athens at 8:30) when my phone rang. It was Niki. I answered the phone as follows: "What'd I forget?". Turns out I had taken her glasses and left mine on the table. Oops! I asked the bus driver if he'd wait as I'd forgotten something, and then took off in a cab "polla grigora" and made the exchange, making it back at about 8:33. Then I was really off. To a bad start. The bus arrived at the metro stop in Athens 20 minutes late, 10:50, and when I took the metro towards the airport, I'd just missed the previous train and had to wait a further 21 minutes, meaning that the train didn't come until 11:35. Well, my plane left at 12:50, so I was assured an interesting hour and a half. I made it to the airport just after noon, checked in, and it turns out, made it with time to spare (about 5 mins) to my plane. Whew.

Belfast By Night
3 bus hours, 4 airport hours, and 5 plane hours later I was in the heart of Belfast, which even from the bus ride in from the airport seemed very beautiful. It was. I made it to my hostel with little difficulty, only a long walk and some drunk girl coming up to me, jogging on the spot, and saying "This is me jogging" in a heavy Irish accent about 4 times. I asked her friends where they'd would undoubtedly be an interesting venue. They didn't answer me, unfortunately, just laughed.

Danny Devenney in front of one of his murals
The next morning, I hit the town with a French girl (Virginie) staying in the same hostel, and we went and checked out the political murals painted all over the place, especially around Divis St./Falls Rd. We were really fortunate to actually run into Danny Devenney, the man who'd painted many of the non-violent political murals, and had a good chat with him and his friends. A very nice guy and after we talked I asked him if he minded me taking a photo of his murals and he got right in there which was cool. Speaking of cool, it was quite chilly, and we wound up going into a pub to get something warm to drink, but had to settle for something warming. A pint, that is. And then in come the regulars, most of whom, they tell us, have been drinking since 6:30 that morning. Right next to us, two Irish men sit, both ex-IRA members. I don't have to tell you it was a little interesting. If nothing else, it was a good conversation, though their extremist views didn't exactly mesh with my not-so-extremist views. I mean, the one guy had done nine years in prison for doing some bombings, and then he's telling me he lost his wife and kids, but that was because when he got out, although he'd promised his wife no more, he went back to it. He was one of the blanket wearers, too, apparently, meaning the prisoners who refused to wear the prison uniform.

Belfast City Center
Anyway, we left not shortly after, it really wasn't scary or anything, though it probably should've been, but they seemed to like us and we were willing to listen if not agree, so there wasn't really any tension. I continued walking around the city myself because Virginie had a meeting, and saw that the centre is quite clean and nice. The sun goes down early though, and before I knew it, I was taking night shots and my thumb had split because the air was sucking all the moisture from me. I bought some gloves at M&S and continued along photographing and admiring the beauty. I went out with some of the hostel staff (all very nice, here at The Ark) and other visitors for a pint or two across the street and after a movie, Red Dragon, called it a night.

The Giant's Causeway
The next morning I took a bus up along the beautiful Irish coast to Giant's Causeway. We passed many beautiful things that I wasn't able to photograph, but also stopped for a few here and there in some small coastal towns, at a castle, and at a lookout where there is usually a rope bridge but it had been taken down for the year. The Causeway itself, supposedly built by a giant who wanted to challenge another giant in Scotland is impressive but not so big as it looks in photos. Still very neat, and worth the trip up, especially because of all the other scenery en route. We also stopped at the Bushmills Distillery, which is the world's oldest licensed Irish Whisky distillery. The distillation process was interesting, but not so interesting as the bottling area. The place can spit out 180 bottles a minute and was a testament to automation. None of my furtive photos came out, but it was amazing. Then, of course, the tasting, which was quite, well, tasty.

Northern Ireland really is beautiful
The rest of that day was not too eventful, driving back in the dark, doing some stuff around the city, and so on, but I discovered that Franz Ferdinand plays in Dublin the next day (i.e. today) and so I decided to head out this morning to Dublin, which was next on the itinerary anyway, and go see them and some friends I have there. So that's what I'm doing. Hopping a bus in 40 mins and going to Dublin. I'm not sure the itinerary after, but probably over to Galway, down to Cork, then across to England. Time continues to fly, which is lucky because it helps take my mind off all the people I miss, which seems to be just about everyone at this point. Soon enough, at least, I'll be seeing a whole batch of you, though don't be mistaken, I'm loving it here too. But, I should go catch my bus and some food, see you soon! (pictures soon)


Anonymous said...

Hey Dean
I stumbled upon this site b/c I was looking for commentary about the Greek Islands on the Contiki site. I opened your story and started reading for ideas of where to visit. ( I actually ended up dong the Greek Island Hopping tour) I have been reading along and I think your blog is very well done. You have unique and interesting writing style. Your travel stories have become my is almost like a novel that is coming to an end. Best of luck on the rest of your travels.

Dean said...

Hey, thanks a lot, I think you're the first reader that ISN'T related to me or obligated through friendship/idle threats. I hope that some of it helps and of course drop me a line, always like to swap travel stories. Just the site name (kat...) at

Sadly, as you'll see, I received your good luck wishes a little late, hope you continue to enjoy. :)