Wow, 2012 is coming to an end and I’m a little surprised. It was an eventful year for us – one which had us wondering a bit about what was around the corner, but still a reasonably enjoyable one all in all. Since we once again failed to post very much (okay, at all) this year this will once again be a fairly long post catching you up on what happened this year for us.
Overhanging most of 2012 was the uncertainty around work. My employer was running out of money quickly since it had no income from about late June 2011. It made it difficult to make any really long term plans as we had no idea if we would continue to stay in Ireland or if the company would somehow find its way out of the hole it had dug.
In January, Diane returned to Canada for 6 weeks to help out her mother after she had knee surgery. 6 weeks is a long time to fill on your own … but I managed to fill in some of the time with a few trips. The first of these was yet another trip up to Belfast to take in an (ice) hockey game. A few colleagues and I took the train up and then had a nice dinner after the game before hopping on an after-midnight bus back to Dubiln.
A week later, pretty close to the same set of colleagues went on a lads weekend away to Riga, Latvia. The main purpose of the trip was to catch a KHL hockey match between Dinamo Riga and CSKA Moscow. One of the guys going on the trip is of Latvian descent and knew the language and the city pretty well. So for the rest of the weekend he showed us around. It made for a nice relaxing weekend away.
Things didn’t slow down for exciting things for me at all in February. A group of four guys from work went on a week-long ski trip to a resort called Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. The same guy who showed us around Riga goes to this resort nearly every year and was happy to bring us to his ‘home resort’. The weather was excellent, the food was fantastic, and the skiing was gorgeous.
A couple weeks later, it was time for UKIPT Galway. Our group of friends has done really well at this series of poker tournaments over the last couple years, and this particular event would be a fantastic one for our group. Not only would a couple of guys go deep in the main event including Nick who made his third UKIPT final table, but three of us including me would go deep in the €300 side event, which I eventually came 2nd in for a €11,800 score. To top it all off, Max won the high roller event. Our group took in over €50,000 in winnings that weekend!
Diane found a groupon-style deal for flying lessons awhile back, and on March 18, we finally got out to use them. One at a time, an instructor took us up in a Cessna plane and we were even given control of the plane in the air for a little while. It was a pretty fun experience that we’re both glad we got a chance to try.
The other big event in March was the discovery of ice hockey in Dublin! A small ice rink had opened in Castleknock in Dublin, and a surprising number of people were attending weekly hockey training sessions. So a few of us went up to try it out. Despite the small ice surface, the guys training were willing for us to join them and so a few of started going every week. Eventually, Mike and I bought all the gear so we could play without fear of our shins getting hit by a puck.
My folks made their third appearance in Dublin in between a trip to Europe to see the family that lives in Austria. During their visit, we made a weekend trip to the fantastic Ring of Kerry. We basically repeated the trip that Diane and I did on our own back in 2010 – with a couple of small differences. One of this was a stop at the Gap of Dunloe – a picturesque area to do a little walking. We capped off their visit with a trip to the Merry Ploughboy – a traditional Irish music pub which does a touristy show and dinner. It was a pretty nice little evening.
Later that month, Diane and I went to Paris. Our main purpose of going to Paris was to see a trio of bands (Epica, Stream of Passion, and Xandria) perform there, which seems like a pretty good excuse to finally make it to Paris (Diane had been previously but this was my first trip). We arrived late on Friday night, and spent Saturday walking around in a drizzly day. We met up for dinner that night with the same friend of Diane’s who hosted us in Lausanne, Switzerland. On Sunday we joined the queue for the Lourve and spent a good portion of the day wandering around there. I think my favourite part of the Lourve was the architecture of the building. It really is a pretty stunning place. The show on Sunday evening was fantastic — the venue was pretty big and well laid out, and the sound quality was excellent.
As spring moved on into summer, we found ourselves not nearly as busy with trips as the prior months. Part of the reason for this was it was getting pretty obvious that the work situation was going to be sorted out one way or the other sooner rather than later. Up to this point we had constantly been promised that news on a deal to restore the site to operation would be coming soon. It often felt as close as a week or two away or at the very least not more than a month away. The mood and moral in the office was starting to get pretty bad as people seemed to be leaving for more stable employment almost every day or two.
Finally, at the end of July, the deal we were waiting for finally occurred. On the 31st of July, PokerStars purchased the assets of the company and formerly took over. Our sights were now set on a 90-day relaunch period in which we needed to get a pile of work done to ready the site to be used again by people. But my first order of business was to go back to Canada …
Diane’s sister was due to get married at the beginning of August. So Diane went back to Canada to help setup the wedding a few weeks before-hand. I joined up with them in Vancouver at the beginning of August to take part in the festivities. A few very warm days in Vancouver were quite enjoyable. The wedding itself was lovely, and the reception was quite nice — including some bonus fireworks at the end courtesy of the Vancouver Celebration of Lights which they hold every summer.
After a few days in Vancouver, I flew back to Edmonton to spend some time with friends and family. Diane joined me a few days later after doing a quick road trip down to Seattle and then back up to Edmonton. It was good to see everyone that we did get a chance to see. Apologies to anyone we missed — we’ll get you next time!
A couple days after landing back in Dublin, the hockey team we’d been training with made a trip up to Belfast to play a late night hockey game against one of the rec teams up there. So despite being a little jet lagged, I drove up with a Mike and Andrej to go play. We lost by a few goals, but it was a fun contest… one where I scored a flukey goal off a defender.
The relaunch effort at work was very much in full swing by now. The pile of work looked insurmountable, and there just weren’t enough resources to devote to all the things that needed doing. Our work days got longer and there wasn’t too much time to devote to much else. Despite that, we did get out to a couple of fun things. The company threw a “Fresh Start Party”, at which the staff were treated to a night out with an open bar and got a chance to mingle with other staff. Gus Hansen, a professional poker player and the first of our signed pros, made an appearance and we spent a fair amount of time chatting with him.
Diane and I also got out to see Dara O’Briain’s “Craic Dealer”. Dara is an Irish standup comedian who we’ve been trying to see for ages. I finally just decided to buy tickets as soon as they came out which was about 8 months prior to the show. So finally we got a chance to go see him and it was an excellent show. There’s a DVD out if you’re interested – he’s very funny.
The relaunch of November 6th was looming at work, which made October a very work-heavy month. We did make it out for one quick weekend trip to London to see some friends there. While both sets of our friends had been there for more than a year we hadn’t had a chance to get over there to see either of them … and one set was about to have a baby and would be moving away from London after the baby was ready to travel. So time was starting to get short to see them while they were still close! So a quick visit was in order which made for a nice weekend away.
Amazingly, despite the amount of work that needed doing, we managed to somehow get the site back up and running with very few problems. The relaunch day went way better than anyone really had any expectation of. Players flooded in and sat down to play on the site after more than a year of no action happening. It was an incredible day. A couple weeks later, the company threw a relaunch party. They booked out a night club, had plentiful food and drinks, and a good time was had by all.
Also in November, the Celtic Clovers (which our hockey team was called) made two trips up to Belfast to play games. One game against the Foxes, and another against the Prowlers. We lost both games by wide margins, but once again I managed to score a goal in one of the games. There’s even a picture that Diane took for proof!
Finally, one of the groupon style coupons we got was for a significant discount at a fancy restaurant called L’Ecrivain. So Diane and I went out on a Tuesday night for a very enjoyable tasting menu. This meal capped off several excellent dining experiences we had over the last few months – including a tasting menu at Bang Restaurant and a couple of nights at the Dublin cookery school popup restaurant night. It was a very good year for trying some tasty meals.
This month, we went on another KHL hockey game trip, this time to Bratislava. Andrej is from Bratislava, and he proved an able guide around the town. He was also key in acquiring the tickets as there was a complicated auction process involved in getting them. It was quite a nice weekend where we enjoyed the local Christmas markets, had some good food and beer (Staropramen Black is very tasty), and walked around to see a few sights.
Just before Christmas, the Clovers made one last trip to play a quick hockey game against the Kilkenny Storm. This was quite a bit closer to Dublin as we didn’t need to go all the way up to Belfast. The Kilkenny team only had about 8 people there to play for them, but they were a very strong side and we ended up losing by a significant margin. Still, it was an enjoyable game!
It’s been an exciting year. Lots of trips and stories and pictures. I’m quite happy with how the work situation has resolved itself so far, and that means we might stick around Dublin for awhile yet to see how it continues to go. Early next year, we have a trip to the Bahamas to look forward to … and I’m sure there’ll be a lot more to see and do as the year goes on.
I hope everyone had a good 2012, and here’s to a better 2013! As usual, I’ll leave you with a selection of some of my favourite photos from the past year.
Wow, it’s a little hard to believe that we have left the blog here sit for 10 months. Somewhere along the way, posting just kind of dropped off as a priority. So apologies for that – maybe we’ll do a little better in 2012. As this is the first time I’m blogging about some of these events, I guess it’ll be a fairly long post.
2011 for us was an interesting year. We played host to quite a few guests, mostly in the summer months, and returned home for the first time in a couple years for Diane’s brother’s wedding. There was a fair amount of uncertainty for us though as the future of my employer hung in the balance after some rather shocking revelations. More on that later. Here’s a month by month breakdown of the events of 2011 for us.
We kicked off January by attending our friend Jay’s birthday party which was took the form of ‘pub golf’. In this pub crawl format, you are put on a team and given a score card that instructs your team to drink a particular set of drinks at each venue. Your team is scored for the number of sips it takes to down the chosen beverages. So for example a ‘hole’ might have 2 pints of beer to drink with a par of 10 sips. Needless to say, the competitive nature of people made for some interesting strategies. Diane and I joined the party halfway through for the ‘back nine’ and people were already quite drunk from the first part. Much fun was had by all.
January’s highlight trip though was the ski trip to St Anton which was the only thing I really blogged about for 2011. So for details you can go read that trip report.
There was a bit of holiday hangover after skiing in Austria. The one trip I did get away for was a weekend trip to Nottingham to play a poker tournament there. The weekend included not just the tournament, but also a trip to see the Nottingham Panthers play hockey and witness the epic Hummus prop bet in which a friend of ours attempted to eat two liters of hummus in an hour (he failed).
Our first two-time visitor aside from our parents was Jess, who arrived in town in time for St Paddy’s day this year. Like the previous year we decided to go to watch the Hurling and Gaelic football. The next day, we went out to watch the Irish women’s rugby team face off against England for the women’s six nations championship. Ireland wasn’t victorious, but it was a pretty fun night out.
Another poker tournament weekend also happened in March, this time in Manchester. As a happy coincidence, Epica was playing a show while I was there so I picked up a ticket to see one of my favourite bands.
On April 15, the online poker world was collectively shaken by the announcement that the US DOJ seized the domains of the top 3 US facing online poker sites. With some hefty criminal charges levied at the owners of these sites, the day has been labeled ‘Black Friday’. The aftershocks of this day have yet to be totally determined, but suffice to say it made things pretty interesting work-wise for the rest of the year.
A week later, Diane and I headed to London to catch the Serenity / Delain show there. It was the first time we were there on our own: previous trips there had been with our parents on each side. So we spent a leisurely weekend there on our own seeing a few sights (St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Science museum).
Diane went back to Canada a couple weeks earlier than I did to help with the preparations for her brother’s wedding. In that between time, I made another trip to a poker tournament in Cork, Ireland in which one of my colleagues made a very deep run. He ended up finishing 2nd which was a pretty awesome result. I also got offered a ticket to see the Kings of Leon when they played at Slane castle. The ticket was a VIP one which meant we got to stay away from the gigantic pack of people. It was a fun concert to go to.
I joined Diane in Edmonton for a three week long trip. While there, we caught up with friends and family which made the three week period pretty packed of activity. Diane’s brother Eric got married in a lovely outdoor ceremony. We also paid a visit to my grandparents in Rimbey which was a nice trip out of Edmonton for a day.
Jacqueline and Rick were our next visitors just a week after we returned so a week of hanging out with them and showing them the sights was in order.
At the end of June a second blow to the company after black friday was dealt when the Alderney gambling control commission pulled the company’s license. This blow would mean the company lost its only revenue source and would result in a several months of uncertainty about how long I would retain a job. While this issue has yet to be resolved even today, things are looking quite a bit better now so the uncertainty that plagued the rest of the year is almost gone. It definitely made its mark though on the rest of year for us.
The other happening in June was I eeked out a victory in an internet based hockey pool. You can see my name atop this year’s NNPT here although that link will probably only be good until the playoffs start up again next year. Unfortunately the title is all I get for beating out 126 other registrants in this pool, but it is still pretty cool to win something like this.
June was a pretty hectic month, which meant that July was going to be relaxed just as a way of cooling down from the constant busy-ness. Still, we had yet more visitors: Mike and Nolan stopped by on their tour of Europe after a conference in Spain. They were only in town for a few days though as they moved on to London. But while they were here we took them to Glendalough. I also joined them at the Guinness storehouse before heading on to hang out with one of the competitors in the computer poker competition and his prof for dinner.
We went out one night in August to cheer on Ireland against Croatia in a ‘friendly’ football match. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, and was a reminder to me of how dull that particular sport is to watch for me. Of the sports that people enjoy over here I much prefer rugby – it just feels so much more exciting.
There was a big poker tournament in Dublin this time and a whole bunch of our group went to play. My boss ended up with a deep run finishing 2nd overall for a nice payday. Another friend of ours also made the final table and finished 4th, so it was a pretty exciting to watch from the rail.
Our friend Kepi was our next visitor. On one weekend we took him up to Derry and to see the giant’s causeway which was a nice trip.
Soon after Kepi departed, Rebecca and Scott were our next visitors. Their visit coincided with a couple of leaving parties and stag parties that I was invited to, but we still managed to squeeze in a trip out west to Galway and Kylemore Abbey one weekend.
My line manager also got married in October. The festivities were held at Clontarf castle on the North end of Dublin. A muchly enjoyable evening.
Two events in November conspired to draw me back to North America within a week of each other: the first was the world series of poker main event, in which Sam Holden had made the final table. We met Sam during some of the poker tournaments we played in England and Ireland. A large group was headed over to Las Vegas to support him, and I thought it would be fun to hang out but had a little trouble justifying the trip on its own. The second event was my friends Curtis and Simone were getting married just a week later. After some deliberation I decided to book the flights: a few days in Las Vegas followed by a few more in Edmonton.
Las Vegas is a crazy town. While I enjoy playing poker, it really is a ridiculous place. Still, being there for the main event final table was a pretty cool experience. It’s a shame Sam was the first eliminated from the final table – it would have been amazing for him to go deeper yet. Still, the trip wasn’t without its story value. The night I arrived I got there just in time for the big group going out for dinner at a brazilian bbq restaurant called “Texas to Brazil”. The place serves all you can eat beef/lamb/pork/chicken in various cuts served directly to your table on gigantic skewers. After eating way too much at dinner and entirely jetlagged we returned to our hotel where we ended up playing a poker tournament there which I eventually won a few hours later. The rest of the Vegas trip was quite fun. We went and saw Blue Man Group one night, and also had probably the best Sushi I’ve ever had in a place called Sen of Japan.
I then flew on to Edmonton for a few days of seeing some family and a few friends. Curtis’ wedding was quite fun, especially the time I spent catching up with my University buddies.
It’s been a pretty quiet December. There’s been a couple of small Christmas gatherings and an evening where I went to see Leinster play against Bath in rugby, but other than that it has been a time to relax.
That about does it for my review of 2011. As always, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos from the year (many of them not yet uploaded until now!). I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2012!
Last year, Diane and I got our first taste of the week-long skiing holiday, and it wasn’t a secret that we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. So we were excited about returning to the Austrian mountains for another go. Extensive ski terrain, weiss beer, mulled wine, apres ski, schnitzel, and four course gourmet meals awaited us! We departed Dublin early in the morning on January 15th on Austrian airlines. Like last year, there was free food and drinks on our three hour flight to Innsbruck airport. We were greeted by our ski rep there, who introduced us to our driver: a profusely apologetic gentleman who arrived late in a too-small vehicle to fit the five of us who were going to St Anton. He was very friendly, and we squished our group into the little car for the one-hour transfer to the resort.
We arrived at the resort with plenty of time to sort out picking up our lift tickets and ski rentals. We could hit the hill first thing the next morning! So after sorting all that out, our group of 5 (Jay, Bryce, Jeremy, and Diane and I) hit the pub to kick off our trip! A few weiss beer later we stumbled back up to our hotel for our first dinner of the trip. The three others were staying in a hotel in the town center, but it had filled up before we booked so we ended up in a hotel that was a 15 minute walk up a steep hill. The hotel was lovely, just not the most convenient place to get to every evening after hanging in town. Fortunately, the hotel had a deal with one of the rental shops where we could store our gear, so a few walks up and down the hill was actually just good exercise rather than painful at the end of a long day of skiing.
The first full day there was a gorgeous sunny day — which was just a tad too warm even for skiing. The temperature in town was something like 7-8 degrees, with the temperature higher up the mountain still above zero. One of the immediately apparent things that differed from our trip to Mayrhofen was that the bottom of the actual skiing terrain was the town. That meant that there wasn’t a giant gondola queue both first thing in the morning and last thing on the way down, and it made for a more pleasant experience. Speaking of queues … we didn’t wait in one longer than about 5minutes for the whole week, and there were no queues to speak of at most of the lifts. It was a remarkably smooth operation with an incredible 85 gondolas and lifts – many being high speed quads or better!
Our week there coincided with Interski, which is a conference of ski instructors that only happens every four years. So our first day there we quite enjoyed seeing the various teams walking or skiing in matching bright coloured jackets of their respective countries. Of particular note was the Finnish blue jackets that were *everywhere*. Contingents from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Romania, Norway, Japan, Korea, and Montenegro were just some of the flashy teams we saw. Canada had a team there, we understand, but we didn’t actually see any of them on the parts of the hill we were on during the week. Our second night there marked the opening ceremonies so we headed down to see a bunch of cool synchronized skiing demonstrations and were treated to a lengthy fireworks display.
The second day of skiing took us up, in particular, Schindler’s Spitze which reaches 2660m elevation. This peak is accessible using one of the few triple chairs on the mountain, and featured a trippy moment when you go over a local maximum in the mountain and the left side right underneath your chair cuts away to a several hundred meter drop. The view from that peak was incredible (as you can see in the picture above), and the skiing was pretty good too (although a bit icy). We met for lunch with everyone at the top of the Galzigbahn, which is the first main gondola you can take from town, and had our first schnitzel of the trip (but not the last!) After our day on the slopes, we skiied down to Mooserwirtz – one of several on-hill apres ski places pumping loud German oktoberfest-favourite songs both in and outside. We found some spots to sit down on the crowded benches and were promptly our choice of beer (lager or weiss), warm beverages (mulled wine or jagertee), or even ready to go jagerbombs (small jagermeister glass bottles uncapped and sitting in a glass with red bull). The waiters carried something like 30 drinks on large trays through the crowded atmosphere and somehow still managed to not spill or break anything. I was impressed! Diane and I fled apres ski early to make sure we stowed our gear in the storage area before they locked up for the night, and climbed back up our hill to have some dinner. The rest of the guys kept going pretty late into the night!
The next morning, Diane and I were up early in relation to the other guys, so we headed up the mountain on our own — this time taking two large gondolas and then a third 6-man viewpoint gondola all the way to the top of Valluga. This is the highest mountain in the resort at 2811m, and offers an incredible 360 degree panoramic view of the Austrian alps! It was pretty breathtaking. After viewing there, we started a long ski down all the way back to town. We hopped on Rendelbahn, which is the other main gondola from St Anton going to a peak opposite the main skiing area — and met the other guys there for a late lunch. It was an enjoyable long skiout from that peak back down to town.
That night we ended up at Arl Rock: a multi-sport facility offering bowling, rock climbing (both indoor and out), squash, indoor tennis, and ping pong. We spent some time bowling a bit. Bowling in Austria is a bit different from what we’re used to: there are 9 pins arranged in a diamond configuration. It made knocking them all down in one go quite a bit tougher than 10-pin bowling in my experience. The bartender there was a girl from Canada who met her heli-skiing boyfriend/fiance in the Yukon and moved over with him … so it was kind of cool to meet a random Canadian there. We were slightly jealous of her chance to live and ski in the Austrian alps!
The next day we decided to catch a bus to the ski region that was only accessible via lifts from the neighbouring towns of Zurs and Lech. The sunny weather came to an end that morning and was replaced fog and clouds. On the one hand it was a pity to see the beautiful sunny weather end, but the slopes badly needed some new snow so it was good to get some again! Anyways, we hopped on a bus and ended up in Lech. Our first couple runs of the day weren’t very enjoyable as we couldn’t see where we were going … so Diane and I, having been separated from the rest of the group, stopped for a quick bite to eat at one of the mid-mountain hotel/chalets. Fortunately, while the snow continued, the fog cleared enough to offer some visibility and we got some excellent skiing back in that area. In fact, I would go as far as saying it was some of the best powder I’ve ever skiied on an on-piste run! Deep fresh powder, and for some reason, there was a high speed octa-chair way in the back corner of the resort. Yeesh.
Our skiout from Lech after meeting up with Jeremy and Jay for lunch (and yet another different gondola ride) was unfortunately through fog, which made the skiout pretty tough. But we made it down to the bus station safely and returned to St Anton happy with a pretty successful day trip in the books.
Thursday was deemed a non-ski day. I had some significant bruises on my legs that I wanted to give some time to heal, so we spent the day wandering around town a bit and doing some shopping before going back up the three gondolas to the top of Valluga with the SLR camera to get some more pictures of the panoramic scenery.
Our final day there I was determined to get some more skiing in, but we started a bit late and did some of our favourite runs of the week on the main hill before turning our equipment in to the rental shop. We then took a bus back up to moosers for another go at apres ski. The temperature had dropped quite a bit, so we ended up sneaking inside and finding ourselves a table there next to some Irish skiers from Cork. Much merriment ensued – including some weird shots that involved a layer of whipped cream above some sort of warm liqueur.
The flight out the next morning was entirely too early (an 8am flight, with a one hour drive prior to that …), but it got us home in good time. It was a magnificent trip, and quite fun. More pictures will be on flickr when I catchup in my backlog. I’ve got several events to catchup with here though, so it might be a little while before they’re up!
Where did it go?
I spent it here in the apartment, at the farm down the street, around town, around the island, around the other islands, and on the continent.
The beginning of January found us back in Ireland after spending last Christmas in Barcelona. The end of that month found us on a train to Belfast, to enjoy Giants’ hockey and Cathedral Quarter red ale. Water pipes froze and burst, and people had issues driving and flying. It was just another winter to gently acclimatize the island for the winter to follow.
In February, a group of us went on a ski vacation to Mayerhofen in Austria for a week to enjoy good food, good company, sauna, steam, and snow! Not to mention TV coverage of the winter Olympics and post-ski trip Gold Medal hockey and pizza. It was so enjoyable that we may have to make the pilgrimage again this year.
March and April saw the lambs born and me planting up my little allotment in Airfield, thanks to the generous head gardener. The produce that eventually made it to relative maturity was quite expensive to produce: 50 euro plus gifts and trades, and about 10 hours for approximately 5-10 lbs of beets, 2-3 lbs tiny little onions, 5-7 lbs potatoes (pulled early as I was too lazy to spray for blight), various herbs, way too much rhubarb, one carrot, and some leeks that are currently in the plot at their peril. I think I’ll do balcony tomatoes from seed again – ‘Gardener’s Delight’ are the bestest! The lettuces were a win though – cheap and long-lived – I got quite a few very tasty salads out of them. I also had a little strawberry patch that brought me a disproportionate amount of joy upon finding one juicy red treasure.
March also contained two trips up to Ashbourne RFC for some hot port and Six Nations women’s rugby: I got some pics of the ‘Ireland v Wales’ and ‘Ireland v Scotland’ games. And fans under umbrellas with warm drinks!
Lots of our friends came out to see my first spring concert with Dublin County Choir downtown. We did Beethoven’s ‘Mass in C’ and Rossini’s ‘Stabat Mater’, plus the world premier of the Magnificat one of our basses wrote in Irish. :) Before the concert I was fed dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. During the break I got a text from Jenny saying that her rugby team had won their division final! And afterward I had a pint and a few more songs with the choir crew. Hard to top that, but I’m excited for it again this year.
The spring and summer were absolutely gorgeous in Dublin this year! May was just lovely. It started out with a long weekend trip with my exit buddy around the ring of Kerry with stops at Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Torque Waterfall, some lovely restaurants and B&Bs, and as luck would have it, a walk on Skellig Michael on a warm, sunny day.
June was a very busy month indeed. We were in Prague for our second anniversary, visiting Morgan’s parents and cousins. There was a weekend in London with Morgan’s folks, strolling around St. James’ Park and Hampton Court. At the end of the month we travelled up to Donegal for the Sea Sessions music festival and a few mornings of surf lessons. Bundoran was the place to be that weekend. The ruggers were there in fancy dress, doing what they do best. The bands were battling. The surf was… salty!
During the summer, I fell in with some hill walkers through a choir friend, and thus got to experience parts of Wicklow I would never have otherwise seen. They are lovely and helpful and welcoming; if only you have a sturdy pair of hiking boots, bring water, a snack and maybe some rain gear, boy do I have a hook-up for you! I think the camera is going to have to come along for the next round of walking. Relative to the spike in photography interest last spring/summer, progress has definitely been slow, and since Morgan has a fancy new camera body, that should pick up again in the coming months.
At the end of August, my mom came over to Dublin and we were to be found somewhere around these isles throughout September and into October. We saw Riverdance and ANUNA while in Dublin, spent a day seeing the old passage tombs at Newgrange, and went kayaking in Howth harbour. Our UK road trip took us over on the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead, through north Wales, through the Peaks, to York, across the Dales to the Lakes, then down to Warwick, Bath, and back to Wexford via the south of Wales. I will make this new year’s resolution: I will create a separate post for all you adventurers to consult should your future path cross that of my past.
And the traveling wasn’t quite over! My dear friend Celine very kindly had us to stay with her in Switzerland, and we ate some very tasty noms: fondue, sausage, confections, and chestnuts that we gathered ourselves. I’m also completely spoiled by the local wine. My wine life will never be the same. And I love to meander around with Morgan, enjoying a bit of scenery. Also, would recommend the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and CERN in Geneva. Celine even came over to Dublin for a few days of rain and wind and excursions that did not nearly compare to our adventures in Vaud. Please come back in the summer, Celine!
Then teh travellingz slowed down and the only other places we went were over to Newcastle to see Joanna and catch a soccer game, and Glasgow and Aviemore to see Brasstronaut.
Once home, I decided it was finally time to join the Belvo rugby gals, so I signed up and started showing up for the Tuesday/Thursday night training sessions. My first game was down the road in Arklow, and though I only played half of it, I got muddied right away and had a few plays I felt alright about. Jenny thinks it’s funny that because the development team (that’s me) trains with the first division squad, we tend to do little things well, like ball presentation, but we’re not great at the basics, like running and passing and scoring. :) Most of the time, I just stand around trying to figure out what’s going on. And whenever the other team gets the ball and scores, I like to congratulate them for the hard work and dedication I can’t be bothered to muster. Don’t worry, though, the girls are teaching me, slowly but surely.
Other than that, I’ve been enjoying my two mornings a week on the farm, visits with the girls, outings with the groups, games with the boys. Pigs. Cows. Picnics. Tea. Beersbieques. Yoga. Monday/Wednesday choir, Tuesday/Thursday rugby. Gardening. Laundry. Eating. Sleeping. Karl has very kindly given me a loan of his viola and I have discovered that it is quite impossible to play, let alone hold properly. I’ve done a few bits with the choir committee and made a lot of cookies to take along to the farm. I’ve been to the Mill Theatre and the movies a few times. And the pub lots of times! Apart from that, it’s gone from the season of frozen pipes and running out of hay, to the season of frozen pipes and running out of hay, and life goes quite pleasantly on.
This blog hasn’t been getting the love it was getting for previous trips, but we’re still going to try and keep it updated every so often through the next year. I’ll use our annual tradition of having a year in review post to catch you up on the rest of the happenings in the year. Previous years in review include: 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Our plan in 2010 was to try and do a bunch of trips. Since we returned home twice in 2009, we decided that we’d skip doing so this year. Instead, our plan was to try and do a bunch of trips in Europe to see some of the continent we found ourselves on.
After getting back from Barcelona over Christmas though, we spent a couple weeks relaxing at home and getting to know 2010. Near the end of the month, a group of us went up to Belfast to witness the Giants ice hockey team play against the Nottingham panthers in the British Elite League. Yes, us hockey-starved Canadians had to find the nearest place where they played just to get a fix. It was a fun group – a good ten of us at least headed up for the trip.
In February, we went to Austria for a full week of skiing in Mayrhofen. A large group of 8 of us enjoyed some amazing skiing, some good food and the Austrian atmosphere. The trip coincided with a good portion of the winter olympics in Vancouver, so many nights were spent out at bars watching some of the events — and of course we needed to stay up late to watch several of the team Canada hockey games! It was an awfully fun trip.
For St Patrick’s day this year, we decided to skip the parade and instead watch some Hurling and Gaelic Football. On St. Patrick’s day, the all Ireland finals are played out in both sports so we decided to go and see what these sports to have to offer. Hurling is a crazy game … and it was a pretty good spectator sport. Players run up and down the field balancing the ball on their hurling sticks before swatting the ball large portions of the field in an attempt to split the uprights at the other end. Gaelic football, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as enjoyable to watch IMO. Seemed like a weird cross between football (soccer) and hurling.
For the May bank holiday weekend, Diane and I hopped in the car for an Irish road trip down to the Ring of Kerry. We had some absolutely gorgeous weather, and took full advantage by not just doing the main Ring of Kerry loop, but also climbing up the Skelligs. These rocky outcroppings several miles off the coast of South-West Ireland were the home of monks centuries ago. Now, they are a tourist attraction with a fairly limited number of visitors per year. We were lucky to get a spot – the high season wasn’t quite there yet where people have to book weeks or months in advance … and we really couldn’t ask for better weather than what we got!
In June, my folks returned to Europe to see us and our Austrian relatives. Since they had seen a lot of Dublin already, we decided to meet up in Prague to do some sight-seeing there. We spent almost a week in +30ºC weather walking around almost exclusively the old town. There was a lot to see just there! The food was good, cheap, and the beer was cheaper than the water! A weekend later, we headed to London with my folks to spend a weekend there before they headed back to Canada. We spent the main day out at Hampton Court: a historic palace associated with King Henry VIII. The next day we spent just walking around central London seeing some of the main landmarks before Diane and I had to head down to Gatwick to return to Dublin. We cut it a bit close: we ended up having to run for it after checking into our flight!
A weekend later, a few of us returned to Bundoran for another go at surfing in the ocean. This being our 3rd and 4th days in the water, we were already beginning to notice an improvement. Our teacher even went so far as to teach us how to turn. I’m actually pretty surprised how much I enjoyed it. Our trip coincided with the Sea Sessions music festival which gave us some live music to go listen to in the evenings.
July kept us busy as well. We headed up to the “Woolshed Sports Baaa” which was throwing a Canada Day party with Canadian beer in the fridge. There was a few of us PocketKings Canadians in attendance which made it a lot more fun than it might’ve been on our own. A week later, the office summer party was staged to an unfortunate day of rain. Still, the day was quite fun, and despite the rain much fun was had by all. We were also visited in July by our friend Jess whom we showed some of the sights including a trip up to Howth. Our friend Bryce had a milestone birthday as well in July and we partook in a really fun photo scavenger hunt.
Late in August, Diane’s mom arrived for a visit that started in Dublin and continued on with her and Diane taking the car on a ferry over to England. I didn’t take part of the road trip as I had to work, but that trip was bookended by a trip to Newgrange (which I hadn’t done yet) and another trip to London to see her off. The highlight of this trip to London was the Natural History museum: an impressive building all on its own, with a large number of displays in its not-insignificant size.
Almost immediately after returning to Dublin we were back at the airport to fly to Geneva to visit with Diane’s friend Celine. We spent a week touring the vineyards and attractions surrounding Geneva lake. This was the kind of trip I had wanted to get blog posts up for, but I kinda ran out of time so I guess this detail will have to do. We stayed with Celine in her apartment in Lausanne: a drive of an hour or so around the lake from Geneva. On a couple days where we were on our own, we took the ferry along the lake to some of the charming towns along the lake, We visited the Château de Chillon: an old castle neighbouring the Swiss alps. Our host took us to sample several of the areas wines … the whole valley was covered in vineyards with ready-to-harvest grapes! We also enjoyed the local fondue, and went to a restaurant in the woods for some seasonal game. Delicious! To top off the trip, we went to Geneva to see CERN. The tour of this large science facility was well worth doing!
Just a few days after returning from Switzerland, we headed back to the airport for a trip with Aaron to see his brother’s band play in Scotland. We caught Brasstronaut’s Glasgow show on October 15, and then took the train up to Aviemore to see them play there on the 16th. The two shows were played in very different venues — which was pretty cool actually. The first was a club that reminded me a lot of the Starlight room back in Edmonton. A relatively small venue, but great for bands that wouldn’t necessarily be able to fill a large venue … and good atmosphere for it too. Aviemore is a small ski resort town much like Jasper. The town’s main road is lined with mountain equipment stores, and the population of it can’t be very high. The venue was a small pub, and was a great intimate atmosphere. Before leaving Scotland, we had a few hours to spend before flying back to Dublin so we sought out the Science museum in Glasgow which was quite good.
Whew. That was a lot of travelling! We returned home and rested up a bit. We played host to another friend, Maria, and also met up with our friend David in early November. Later that month, we headed over to Newcastle to visit a former coworker who had moved back home. Newcastle had just got a big dump of snow – which turned out to be a lot of fun: we had a fun snowball fight the first night between the pub and the nightclub. On the Saturday we spent some time walking around the city before heading out for a lovely dinner, some more drinks, and a few of us ended up at one of the local casinos to play some poker. On that particular evening, I ran about as good as you can at a cash game and cashed out a profit of nearly 400 pounds! The next day, after sleeping in a bunch, we headed out to see the Newcastle football team play a match against Chelsea. It was my first Premier league football match — and I’ll have to admit that even though I’m not a big fan of the sport it was a pretty fun game to watch.
The big news in December was two separate dumps of snow: the first coinciding with our trip to Newcastle, and the second one leading right up to Christmas. Both times, the city ground to a halt with the lack of snow tires and proper process to clear the snow in place. The airport was backed up, and even the LUAS was closed a couple days. Luckily, we hadn’t planned on going anywhere over Christmas in an attempt to save some holiday days for another ski trip. So we spent a very quiet holiday time at home. The company threw its annual Christmas party earlier on in the month. As usual, they pulled out all the stops on an evening that lasted until 7 in the morning for some of us. The food was excellent, and it was open bar all night long. Yeesh!
It has been a very good year — lots of good things happening, and all kinds of fun trips to go on. Hopefully we can fill next year with a bunch more fun trips.
Like previous years in review, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos from the year. Happy new year everyone!
So … it has been quite awhile since we last posted here. Life has been insanely busy in the last couple months, and sadly this blog has been forgotten about.
Let’s try to catch you up on what we’ve been up to, shall we? After our Prague trip, we spent a weekend in London with my mom and dad. This might come as a surprise, but despite living just a one-hour plane trip from London for almost two years, we hadn’t yet spent any time there that wasn’t spent in the airport. So this was our first trip there to actually see anything there. We spent most of Saturday visiting the Hampton Court palace. It was a nice place to visit with a mix of architecture, art, history, and gardens.
The other day in London we mostly spent walking around central london. We walked around St. James Park, saw Buckingham Palace from the outside, saw the London eye, walked around in China town for awhile. It was a pretty nice weekend — not too fast paced but we still saw a bunch. On the way home, we almost missed our flight by slightly underestimating the time it would take to train it to Gatwick airport. Luckily, we didn’t need to check any bags, and a bit of stressful running through the airport found us at our gate before anyone had boarded yet.
The weekend after London we went up to Bundoran for surfing classes. That weekend, there was a big music festival on called “Sea Sessions”. So our weekend involved going to surfing lessons in the morning, and then heading to the festival to listen to some live music and enjoy some tasty beverages. The festival itself was kind of fun, although I didn’t really know any of the bands. Probably the highlight was the battle of the bands. There was some pretty talented bands there and I enjoyed most of their sets. It was also the second time we’d been up to Bundoran for surfing, and our 3rd and 4th lessons went pretty well. By partway through the last one, we were starting to figure out turning. Maybe with a few more lessons we’ll be pro surfers!
On Canada Day, a pub in town called the Woolshed threw a party that we decided to attend. They served molson canadian, moosehead, and sleemans at the bar (in bottles and cans), played the men’s and women’s gold medal hockey games from the most recent olympics on the televisions, and had a Canadian DJ playing tunes from Canadian bands like Great Big Sea, The Tragically Hip, Our Lady Peace, etc etc. It was pretty fun.
One of our friends, Jess, arrived in Dublin for a few days. On the weekend, we went up to Howth to walk along the cliffs and see the market up there. We had a nice lunch there and watched the seals being fed in the harbour. It was a nice little visit.
The summer really flew by in a hurry!
Yeesh, June was a busy month! I’m just now finally catching up with what we all did. Hopefully I can get through the several trips we went on before the next batch! My folks had arrived in Europe late in May and had spent some time with our Austrian relatives. Our plan was to meet them in Prague for a week and then head back to Dublin. So on our 2nd anniversary, Diane and I flew to Prague.
We arrived in the afternoon and made the trip from the airport into town pretty easily. There’s a convenient bus from the airport into a metro stop, which we hopped on and found our hotel. Upon walking in we were greeted by my parents and my cousin and her husband who were sorting out our rooms. Apparently the hotel had some water problems, and we were moved to another hotel in the same chain but right in the old town. This turned out to be pretty handy, as we didn’t even have to make use of the transit services at all that whole week. We just walked everywhere.
Having found our new hotel, we checked in and then headed out to wander the streets a bit. The streets of Prague are quite pretty. The streets and sidewalks are all cobblestone, and the sidewalks in particular are all arranged in nice patterns of black and white stones. After wandering a ways, we found a place to eat called the two hedgehogs (after translation, of course). Dinner was simple, and tasty.
The next morning we got up early (well, for us) and after a quick breakfast at the hotel, headed out towards the Jewish district of the city. This is apparently quite a draw for tourists, so we figured getting there earlier would be best. The tourist areas for this were several buildings spread throughout the Jewish district. So we dutifully took each building in order. The most impressive one of the bunch was the Spanish Synagogue — in which every inch was beautifully decorated. I wish pictures had been allowed inside …
After exploring these buildings we went in pursuit of lunch, and after getting out of the heat for a bit, hit the streets again. My mom was looking for some bead shops, and one in particular was near by so we went in search of it. After finding it, our group split up for a bit of exploring and shopping on our own. So Diane and I split off — I had seen a Crumpler store (a company that makes nice bags and backpacks) which we went off to and I bought a new camera bag. Sweet! After that, we found a lovely little park with an incredible rose garden, and a little farther along a mall that sold some cheap and delicious ice cream. We met back up with the rest of our group in front of the National musuem which overlooks Wenceslas square.
From there we headed back towards our hotel to drop off our purchases and get out of the heat for a bit more — it was 30 degrees almost every day there! We then went for dinner at a pub around the corner from our hotel. Not the best choice for food, but it wasn’t too bad either.
The next day, the plan was to hit up Prague castle. This wasn’t something my dad was interested in doing again, so he took my cousin and her husband off shopping and we walked our way up to the castle to explore the many exhibits open there. It was a blisteringly hot day, but we got going and there sure was a lot to see at the castle. Probably the highlight of it was St Vitus’ cathedral, which sits in the middle of a large courtyard in Prague Castle. The cathedral itself is impressive enough from the outside, but inside it was quite amazing. It sported several large stained glass windows with incredible detail, and every nook and cranny of the church seemed to be filled with yet another thing to look at. It was a good spot for pictures…
We took our time looking through all the exhibitions and then headed back down towards Charles’ Bridge: a long pedestrian bridge over the Vltava river. This was our meeting spot with the rest of our crew. On the way, we walked through quite a large group of people surrounding a bike race that had been setup in the area. So in +30 degree heat, these people were pedalling their bikes up and down hills for what is almost certainly a grueling amount of time. Ugh. The rest of our party were waiting for us at the bridge and we walked around the area for a bit doing some recon for a place to eat a little later. Diane had done a bit of research on wikitravel and we settled in a place called Malostranska Pivnice which turned out to be a great choice. The food was delish!
The next day, our destination was Petřínská rozhledna (Petřín Lookout Tower). The tower sits on top of a large hill overlooking prague, so the top of the tower offered a really nice view of Prague. To get there, we took a funicular that serviced that area. On their previous trip to Prague, my parents had climbed the hill and had ruled that out as a possibility for this trip. So after taking the funicular we wandered some of the gardens at the top of the hill and eventually found our way to the tower. Since the rest of the party had already done the tower on their previous visit, just Diane and I climbed the many stairs to the top and enjoyed the view from the top.
The heat had started to get to us there, so we decided it was time to head back down the hill and find a place in the shade to have some lunch. We found a place on the main road not far from where the funicular stop was. After a much needed break we wandered around a bit more before going back to our hotel to rest some more (we really weren’t used to the heat, and the whole week of heat was enough to make us slow right down). On the way though, we grabbed some ice cream from the same place a few days earlier. Mmm.
This being the last day in Prague, I wanted to try and find a particularly good restaurant to eat at. After doing some looking on wikitravel I found one, but when we got there it was all booked up. Oops. So we returned back to the hotel and asked them for a recommendation. They kindly made a reservation at a place really close by for a late dinner — which was fine given our late lunch. So we wandered over there and enjoyed a wonderful meal.
Our final day in Prague was a travel day, so we didn’t do much other than wander a little bit before taking transit to the airport and heading back to Dublin with my mom. It was a pretty fun week, and I think since we didn’t see much more than the old town in Prague that we’ll have to return!
On our May long weekend (May 8-10th), Diane and I decided that it had been too long since our last trip, and since it was a long weekend it was an opportune moment to hop in the car and check out an area of the Irish countryside we hadn’t yet gotten to. One of the main touristy areas we hadn’t gotten to yet was the Ring of Kerry, in South-West Ireland.
So on Saturday morning, we hopped in our car and started down in the direction of Killarney. It’s a pretty long drive! It probably took us well in excess of 4 hours to get there, and since we slept in and packed that morning we didn’t actually get on the road until almost noon. The roads in Ireland are pretty high variance: there are now quite a few fancy new motorways available, but once you get off of those the road quality can quickly degrade into roads that you really can’t drive very fast on. Most of the way out though, the roads were pretty good, so that was good.
We stopped to check in at our B&B – a little house a few minutes drive outside of Killarney. Our host kindly informed us that Killarney was particularly busy that weekend due to a motor rally happening nearby. Forewarned, we headed into town and took a quick pre-dinner walk into Killarney National park before heading off to find some food. Not sure where to eat, we consulted our handy Ireland lonely planet guide and it recommended a restaurant called Bricín which we were fortunate to get a table at since it was booked up later that evening. The food was absolutely delicious! A great way to start off our trip.
We returned to our B&B early since we wanted to get an early start on the next day. The day was a bit rainy and windy at the start, but after being on the road for a little bit the sun came out and the day was absolutely gorgeous. We started the day by stopping off at Muckross house which is part of Killarney national park. The house has some really nice gardens including an extensive arboretum which was quite pretty. Lots of mossy trees and flowering trees!
Our next stop along the ring of Kerry was the Torc waterfall, which conveniently enough is just a few minutes walk from the road. The waterfall is just part of a larger hike which we might need to go back and do at a later time. But we had a lot to see that day, so we didn’t really have time to spend a couple hours hiking. So on we went, next taking a quick stop at “the ladies view” which is a nice viewpoint from the road over the hills and lakes. The place gets its name because of the “pleasure expressed by Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting on their visit in 1861 in that spot”. It is indeed a very pretty view.
Not too far from there, we stopped at Molls’ gap and the Avoca cafe stationed there for a small lunch. From there, it was a fairly short drive to Kenmare which the guidebook said had a stone circle to see, so we did! We also made stops at the Staigue Stone fort (an old ring fort overlooking some stunning scenery) and at the viewpoint at Coomakeesta pass which offers an absolutely incredible view from the road. The road is up high with green rolling hills dropping below us and spreading out dramatically right out to eh rugged coastline. For us, this was probably the highlight of the very scenic ring of kerry drive.
Our stop for the night was a town called Cahersiveen, which is a lovely little town. We got there pretty early so instead of going to dinner right away we wandered around the town a bit, finding not only the giant Daniel O’ Connell memorial church but also an old abbey that had long since fallen into disrepair. So much so that there was a whole bunch of vines growing in and through the bricks. Pretty neat … Dinner that night was at the seafood restaurant QC’s. Another really good meal!
On the Sunday we decided to call and see if there was any space left on a boat headed to the Skelligs: two craggy rocky islands shooting out from the ocean off the coast of Ireland. Apparently, getting on one of the boats in the summer is pretty tough, but they were just getting going for the season so we got a spot. Nice! So on Monday morning we found ourselves on a boat at 10am heading on a 50 minute boat ride to Skellig Michael. The water was calm and lovely, and we were soon climbing the hundreds of steps up to the top.
The skellig’s stairs were numerous and it took quite awhile to climb them. The view from the top was sure worth it though! Near the top there is some beehive style huts set up – apparently there was a small group of people who used to live there a long time ago. I can’t imagine it though.
After a couple of hours climbing around, we got back on the boat. The boat operator took us by the other skellig which no one is allowed to land on — it is reserved as a bird sanctuary … and my oh my there were a lot of birds!!! We didn’t just see the birds though – there were also some spotted seals sunning themselves on the rocks! The waves were pretty choppy on the way back, so we were given yellow raincoats to prevent us from getting soaked.
Having made it back to port safely, we were now facing a multi-hour drive back to Dublin, so we started high tailing it back. We stopped in Limerick on the way for dinner at a pub recommended from our handy tour guide… and the food was pretty awesome for pub food.
Not much else to say about our trip. We got back to Dublin pretty late and basically fell into bed after a good long weekend trip! We’re going to have to do another one of these trips in the near future — there’s so much to see down there.
One of the weekly highlights of my winter has been singing up a storm at St. Tiernan’s School. There are two nights I’ve been attending. One is super relaxed and fun (and is starting up again in late September if you’ve been craving that singing fix– all are welcome!), and the other is a little more formal than I’ve experienced yet, with something like 130 members divided into official parts (I am serving with the 2nd altos).
I sang with this big choir in their Christmas concert and again last week in the Spring concert, both held at the National Concert Hall downtown by St. Stephen’s Green. On both occasions I’ve been privileged to share in bringing an original composition to life. Here below is a clip from the more recent one, a Magnificat* in Irish composed by my friend Brian from the bass section. It’s really cool to sing local composers, to meet them and get to know them, and then to be part of a group large enough to give considerable power to the notes they’ve written. Almost as cool as sitting in rehearsal again (after more than a decade away for me) and feeling the shivers up your spine when some passage really comes together. The concert itself was great too – nobody screwed up too badly except maybe me – and for those who couldn’t make it, I’m sure there will be another soon. And then you can come see where I’ve begun to lean my appreciation of Irish and Latin and old school musak.
So, once again, a great big thank you to everyone for their fanship and encouragement.
It makes it even more fun to prepare the songs when we have such a lovely audience!
*For those like myself who initially suspected the Magnificat to be something out of an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, it’s from Christian tradition; a psalm echoed by Mary: “My soul magnifies the lord…”
**Sorry, video uploads seem to be eluding me at present. The same clip is on the choir’s website, at the bottom of the “performances” page.
Wednesday was particularly awesome because all of us went up Ahorn together.
Lemme backtrack for a sec though. Morgan wasn’t kidding about those first few days making you stiff and sore, so my Tuesday (or Day 3) was spent at my own pace on familiar Penken runs in the morning and in town with Bea in the afternoon. We strolled through the village, grabbed a snack – oh weißwurst, how I love you! – and read in the hotel solarium until it was time to soak, eat and bowl!
But Wednesday was good because the sun was shining (again!) and the Glüwien was flowing and Christine gave lessons to whoever wanted. (Pick me! Pick me!) And I got to see the ski-out, which had some very lovely scenery and more après-ski at the end. We caught a somewhat fortuitous/somewhat unfortunate bus, which left right away and passed very near our hotel, but which did not pass our way again after we missed our stop.
We ended up taking a taxi from the train station, where the bus route terminated. Then more sauna/swimming/steaming and more wonderful soup with supper. By this point the stiffness of the first days was leaving. Three cheers for the steam room and sauna!
Evening… lemme see… probably spent at Mo’s. That was the bar on the corner closest to our hotel. We discovered a few beers and mixes that were new to me at least. Would you believe I had my first Jäger bomb at Mo’s?
Thursday was a “ski-away day” at Hintertux, half an hour away. We got on a bus that wound it’s way past dwellings with stacks of firewood to the first of three gondolas that get you up to a snow-covered glacier. Included with this were three guided groups (slow, medium, fast) you could join. Morgan and most of the rest went down all the runs they could, including an absolutely epic T-bar (I saw a shorter one that disappeared into the distance) that they agreed led to their favorite run of the day. I joined the slow group and skied over the glacier in the morning, and then in the afternoon, took a tour under the snow and inside the ice itself. The layers and ice formations were quite pretty, and it was neat to see it from above and below. In the cafeteria, we discovered the tasty Tyrolean gröstl – pan-fried potatoes and onions and sausage with a fried egg on top.
As night fell we were to be found once again at Mo’s, where salsa night was going strong. It was a fairly early night for me, as we had one more day left and had to make the most of it on the hill. Morgan stayed up late to watch the women’s gold medal hockey game.
Friday came so fast. The last day. So sad! And yet so good because even though it was raining in town and visibility was a bit poor on the mountain in the morning, there was fresh snow just for us – what Christine calls “freshies”. In fact, it appeared that lots of people were dissuaded by the vis and came down early, leaving more mountain for those of us without hangovers. Morgan, Christine, Aaron, and Breece took down the “Hara-kiri” – advertised as a groomed run of 78 degree average pitch (I hear they use cables and winches to groom it.) – just to say they did. Apparently they didn’t find it terribly vertical, but the morning mist and snow made it less fun than it might have been. Just as well I met up with them at lunch. And lunch at the Schneekarhütte (top of the Shcneekar lift) was pretty posh. There was this bacon `n’ egg pizza with a super tasty hollandaise-esque sauce. Mmm! (We want to go back!) I spent the afternoon with Morgan and he showed me some runs he had enjoyed. All too soon we were on the last run home, but we were tired, it had been a good week, and it wasn’t too crowded on the gondola. We watched as we descended down through the mist, toward an invisible base.
One last dip in the pool, one more sauna session… I totally miss having steam rooms, pools, saunas, and plated dinners brought to me whenever I show up in the dining room. Friday’s dinner was just the two of us. So romantic! Everyone else fancied steak that night, so the dessert buffet was ours! We went to Mo’s with everyone for a few nightcaps and then we called it a night, though some of the lads stayed out über late. Well, I called it a night for a while. Morgan stayed up to watch semi-final Olympic men’s hockey (Canada v. Slovakia), and I woke up at the end of the first period of a game that could have gone either way and was really exciting. Plus, between the periods, there was coverage of speed skating events that worked out for a bunch of Kanadischens (that’s us) as well. Totally worth not going to sleep until 4 or 5 or whatever it was. Kind of cool, actually, to watch the Olympics from an area that’s hosted so many competitions and Olympic events.
And the next day we got our sorry (yet vicariously victorious) selves up and breakfasted and checked out. Going home is always a bit sad, but it was mid-day on the way back to the airport, so we got to admire the mountain scenery. And be served another meal on good ol’ Austrian Air even though it was only a few hours back to Dublin. We made sure to get together later that weekend and watch the men’s gold medal hockey game. (I actually forgot about rugby while anticipating hockey, but we (we of Ireland now) were busy beating England on their home turf while I was occupied with pre-game snacks. I’m such a bad immigrant! I hear it was a great game too.) And now we are home! Morgan has a bit of a helmet tan still and I just feel great. Spring is allowed to begin now.