What's been surprising to me over the years is the whole concept of food being part of a trip that people actually want to experience with you. What I did on my flights, to just about wherever I ate on the Emerald Isle, I took pictures of the food (if you want to see the pictures, ask):
Since I was flying business class on Delta, the foodie experience started there. Since I was on an evening flight, the experience started with dinner: shrimp with grilled pineapple, and iceberg wedge salad with tomato basil soup (which would become more popular to me on the trip), followed by a choice of beef short ribs (with garlic smashed potatoes and broccolini), fontina cheese stuffed chicken (with tarragon lemon sauce and farro risotto), pappardelle pasta (with mushroom bolognaise and fresh mozarella cheese) or an antipasto plate (prosciutto, soppressata, bresaola, stuffed grape leaves, mozarella balls and sun-dried tomato bean spread) (I chose the chicken), followed by a choice of desserts: vanilla ice cream sundae (with your choice of sauces, whipped cream and chopped nuts), a tasting of sweet treats, or a selection of fine cheeses (offered with fresh fruit) (I took the sundae - after all, we're talking real ice cream). For "almost there" (about 90 minutes out), there was seasonal fresh fruit and a choice of vanilla french toast (and scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese served with chicken sausage and maple syrup) or granola cereal (with milk). I had the french toast. It had been so long since I'd had french toast.
After the recording session, the group of us from Star Trek Grissom went to dinner at a place called Pho Viet (the link will take you to some information about it). It was my first real meal in Dublin, and it was what I needed. The following morning, I had the full Irish breakfast at the Ardmore House.
Once I reached my host's home in Belfast, I was able to sample some of the eateries local to him. I tried fish and chips at a place called "Suttons" which was about 1000' down the main road from where I was staying. The chips were what Americans would know as steak fries. The fish wasn't as plentiful as, say, what I'd have gotten at Leo Burdick's in Dublin, but it was fresh, as were the chips, and I slathered it all in malt vinegar (no tartar sauce or anything like that for me!). One night I tried Chinese takeaway from Golden Sand Chinese Takeaway (no link, I'm afraid). It was sort of OK, I guess. Nothing really to write home about. Wednesday night, I was taken to Sakura Restaurant. The one aspect of this restaurant which surprised me (and which caused me to take 2 videos) was the fact that there was inexpensive sushi coming around on a conveyor belt! The price of each plate was based upon the color of the plate the sushi was on. Wasabe an pickled ginger came in small buckets! For Thanksgiving, my host and I did Indian takeaway from Everest Restaurant, which is an Indian/Nepalese eatery. The food was rather good, and definitely different for Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivukkah, for that matter).
Lunches were sort of miss and miss. The only time I had lunch out was at The Nook at Giant's Causeway, which I described in an earlier entry. For some reason the pub's website wouldn't work for me. Maybe you'll be luckier. I don't know.
Once returning to Dublin, I stayed near my hotel and splurged a bit at Eurospar, as I explained in my last entry.
For the flight home, since it was an 8:40 AM flight, the menu looked as thus: smoked salmon (I don't eat salmon), seasonal fresh fruit, yogurt, roasted chicken breast ((with olive and tomato sauce, saffron orzo and sauteed sugar snap peas), been tenderloin and omelet (with Swiss cheese and carmelized onions, served with sauteed potatoes), apple ricotta crepes (with pecans, pork sausage and syrup), granola cereal (with milk) or a chilled deli plate (bresaola, ham and smoked turkey breast, with a deviled egg, brie, smoked gouda cheese and grilled asparagus) (I chose the tenderloin and omelet), followed by a choice of desserts: vanilla ice cream sundae (with your choice of sauces, whipped cream and chopped nuts), a tasting of sweet treats, or a selection of fine cheeses (offered with fresh fruit) (I took the sundae again). This was followed close to landing by "warm chocolate chip cookie service" followed by a choice of a chicken cobb salad (topped with corn, tomato, egg and cheddar cheese, served with breadsticks) or a hamburger (with Swiss cheese, onion, tomato and pickle) (I took the hamburger).
I decided not to do much of anything Friday after arriving at the hotel since I had to be up and ready to head to the airport no later than 5:30 AM (for an 8:40 AM flight). Seeing that there were two markets nearby, I went to the closer one, Eurospar, and splurged a bit. This particular Eurospar has a salad bar plus a sandwich shop and a hot meal area (small in scale than, say, the local Kroger or Publix, but you get the idea). The hot meal area (fixed to order) had a choice of several Oriental-style dishes, so I got duck with veggies and noodles. Then I saw that they had a ration of rashers! I will say this: Americans don't know bacon about bacon. The Irish to bacon right! No crispy skinny pieces of bacon. These were fat and cooked and limp and delicious!
After finally falling asleep (after having a third hypoglycemic attack) and getting up at 3:30 AM (instead of 5:00), I left the clothing I had planned on leaving and headed to the airport. What surprised me this time is that U.S. Customs (where you have to declare what you bought while overseas) is now located in Dublin and not at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport! The upside to this is that you don't have to go through customs as I'd done in 2007, where you got your luggage, when through customs, gave your luggage back to the airline, went from Terminal E to baggage claim, and then wait for the luggage to show up there. The downside is that there was no duty-free shop on board the return flight, and the watch I was going to pick up for myself, well, I didn't. *sigh*
The business class lounge at Dublin is considerably smaller than the Sky Club at Atlanta Hartsfield. No showers, for instance. The food choices were OK (especially considering I was there before 6:45 AM). It also serves more than just a few airlines. About 80 minutes before the flight, I left the lounge, went through passport control, headed to the gate and was one of the first ones on the flight to come home. Again, the flight was fantastic. The flight crew was not as good as the outgoing crew, but they still did a bang-up job. The food? Well, I'll leave that for another post where I talk only about the food I experienced.
When I got to Atlanta, I found out after leaving the plane that I had to go to Terminal F to get my luggage, as that's where international luggage goes now? When I got to Terminal F, my luggage was waiting for me (it took about 10 minutes to get to the terminal and to find the carousel). I then got on a shuttle van to head back to the south terminal, where I walked to the MARTA station (not having been able to get someone to pick me up), took the train to Lindbergh station and then took the bus home.
Next time: the food experience from wheels up in Atlanta to wheels down 8 days later.
There was one last-minute mission I had to take care of: two people from the Atlanta Science Fiction Society wanted a first-edition copy of the new Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. Each cost $24 US, and were set aside to be packed.
On Thursday, I went early into the Belfast City Centre. See, there was a food and crafts holiday expo at the City Hall, and I spent some walking around. I finally bought some French soap for me and a hot chocolate (I needed it). I had planned on staying longer, but my host needed the house key (I figured I'd be back before he awakened). I got to the bus and rushed back to the house. Turns out it was a good thing I returned, as my host needed to do an audition and needed someone to record it using his smart phone. I ended up using my camera (I took both my camera and my smart phone) to record him 3 times. It was the least I could do since he gave up his bedroom for me and was sleeping on the floor in what I'd call his living room (I'm not sure of the equivalent term in Northern Ireland). Once he reviewed them and decided which he felt was best, I returned to the City Centre and walked around for a while at the food and crafts expo. The funny thing is, I ran into someone at the Windy City Cupcake booth (that was the name for it) who was actually from Decatur, Georgia! When I started describing the Decatur Farmers Market and its two locations, she realized I was from Georgia. She had been spending some time in Ireland getting engaged. The wedding is going to be in Georgia. I wish her and her fiance the best of luck and a long happy life together.
Since Thursday was Thanksgiving, I figured I'd do something different for dinner, so my host and I did Indian takeaway. It was good.
Friday morning, after having packed and repacked, my host took me back to the Europa Buscentre. After a two-hour bus ride, I was back at Dublin Airport, where I found out where I needed to be in order to get to the Hilton Hotel, which is where I was staying the night before returning home. I was able to get a fantastic deal for the night, with the caveat that I wouldn't have WiFi in the room (so I ended up going downstairs and using the WiFi down there - no big deal).
Tuesday was to be the first time I went to a destination I was told to head to. However, it did not work out. I left too late from Belfast to go to Carrickfergus, an old castle. I should have left about 5 hours earlier instead of at 3:00 PM as when I arrived there (it was a 2-bus trip), they literally just turned off the lights of the castle. *sigh* I ended up walking around the castle and taking some pictures. I also took a picture of a mine that had been pulled out of the sea near the castle (there was a plaque in front of it explaining). I knew that from then on, I'd have to leave early (even though my host usually doesn't wake up until about 10 AM).
Wednesday morning, I left early, took the bus to the Europa Buscentre (the central bus station) and ended up getting a 1-day multi-zone bus pass (can you say souvenir?) so that I could go across quite a bit of the country. I took the bus to the Giants Causeway (with only one transfer, at Coleraine). When I got to the Causeway, I realize you have a choice: you can either go into the visitor's center and pay £8.95 for that and extra for an audio tour of the Causeway, or you I could just go and walk it and discover it for myself, which is what I did. Granted, it's about a kilometer down, but I figured I could use the exercise and the fresh air and it turned out to be a lot more fun that way. The walk was down a good enough grade that I realized I'd have problems getting back up at a decent pace, so with the bus pass, I took the bus back up. I got some pictures what I think was the entire area, and had some other tourists take some pictures of me part of the way down and in the "Wishing Chair," which is one of the geological formations there. See, for those who haven't seen it before, the main geological feature of the area is all the hexagonally-shaped columns which form certain items, like the Wishing Chair or the Organ. The rest of the area is shaped like items like an onion, a camel, Finn McCool sleeping, that sort of thing.
By not spending a whole lot of time at the Causeway, I found I had about 50 minutes before the next bus would come to take me back to Coleraine, so I went into the only eatery by the Causeway, a pub called The Nook at the Causeway. It's built in what used to be an old schoolhouse. Never really having partaken of "pub grub," I looked at the menu, chose a tomato & basil soup and an all-Irish cheeseburger for lunch (with water). The soup was delicious; the cheeseburger hit the spot (especially considering that I'd not had much for breakfast about 6 hours previously). Granted it was a bit pricey, but I felt I was worth it to experience pub grub for once. I took a bunch of pictures inside the pub and promised to send one of the two people not in the kitchen to the pub. I'll also send a CD with the other pictures. I also put a review of the pub up on TripAdvisor (my first).
The only bad side to the trip was at the Coleraine bus station. It seems that a schoolgirl got into more than just a tussle with another schoolgirl, for what reason, I don't know, but it appeared as if the first was going to push the second into one of the windows at the bus station. I yelled at the first girl to stop, threatening to call the police, which I did. The second girl, however, didn't want to talk to the police and instead talked to a staff person at the bus station. I went on back to Belfast.
The last time I'd taken a real vacation was to go to Worldcon in 2007 (Yokohama, with a side trip to Hong Kong). After one year of heading back home for Thanksgiving, then 2 years of "I can't plan any sort of trip because the office is on two-hour call for a trial" which meant I had to work half of Thanksgiving weekend each year and then every day for nearly 3 weeks (2009) and nearly 2 weeks (2010) on the same case, no less, only to have it settle right before trial in 2010, then staycations in 2011 and 2012, I decided I'm getting the heck out of Dodge this year, and planned it six months early.
Friday, November 22, I came in early to the office because we needed to get some legal paperwork out but the paperwork, which was supposed to arrive electronically, didn't. It'd didn't arrive until almost noon, and then I got it out. I had hoped to leave the office at noon, which became 12:45 PM, and then finally I drove home, where my neighbor graciously drove me to the MARTA station to get me to the airport (after literally some last-minute packing that couldn't be done earlier, like insulin).
After checking in at the airport and going through TSA under Sky Priority (10 minutes wait), I headed to the business class lounge where I spent over an hour while texting on the phone, over-eating, drinking a lot of tea, just anxious to get underway. When the time came, the flight was called 10 minutes early and I went to the gate. When I boarded the aircraft, I found the seat was absolutely fantastic. See, I was flying business class (saved the miles for the trip) and it was something similar in concept (though not in appearance) to L'Espace Affaires that I flew in on the Air France legs of the 2007 Worldcon trip. After takeoff, I took the time to recharge all electronics, eat some really good food (pictures available) and not sleep. It was an 8-hour flight to Dublin, and was just shy of 7:00 AM when I landed (only to discover I didn't put my travel alarm clock in the luggage). I had to find a taxi to get to the hotel (because the hotel doesn't have a shuttle service - it's a small hotel) and get there at 8:00 AM. I had figured I wouldn't be able to check in as check-in time was supposedly way later, but was able to with no problem. I got a shower, found some of the people I would be meeting up with for the day's activities, had a cup of tea (since I'd eaten on the plane), then met up a bit later and took the bus into town for the day's recording session of two episodes of Star Trek Grissom, where I play "Dr. Michael Liebmann, Ph.D."
The recording session went very well. I was up first and what had been allotted for 30 minutes took 35 minutes. It was then several more hours of other people recording their lines from the 2 scripts, and I noticed I was starting to majorly fade. By the time we walked to dinner, I'd already been up something like 30 hours with no sleep (couldn't sleep on the plane). We went to a Vietnamese restaurant our esteemed Dublin host had recommended, ate a HUGE bowl of chicken pho, and then asked that someone who was staying at the same hotel help me make sure I got back there so I could get some sleep which, it turns out, didn't happen for several hours because I suffered a hypoglycemic attack (thank goodness for glucose tablets). Half an hour after taking them, I was fast asleep.
Sunday morning, I woke up refreshed, had breakfast with those cast members who were staying at the same hotel as me (by the way, if you're willing to stay a bit outside of downtown Dublin, stay at this hotel!) and, after a bit of time making sure all was OK with my stuff, took a taxi back to Dublin Airport so that I could get the bus which would take me to downtown Belfast, my ultimate destination. Since I don't usually travel by bus, I had no idea until I got on that Greyhound-equivalent buses now have WiFi on them, and I was able to check e-mail and stuff on the bus while traveling. Once I crossed the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland, my phone suddenly started to work (I'd gotten an O2 Northern Ireland SIM card to use in my world phone, but wasn't about to pay $2 a minute for roaming charges - I should've gotten a SIM card from Tesco in Ireland instead - next time, I'll know). I waited about half an hour at Europa Buscentre for my host, another gentleman named "Michael Liebmann," to pick me up and take me to his home. He's an actor, a voice actor, and has a voice-over agency. He's originally from Dublin and has lived in the Bronx (brave soul, he), but he lives in Belfast now. He has a house which seemed like a townhouse in size, but it wasn't a townhouse as I'm familiar with the concept in the US. We did quite a bit of talking. It also turns out he's letting out his second bedroom to an actor named Richard who's not from Belfast but who's working in the area. For the week, I saw very little of him as he had a gig down in Armagh, where he is participating in pantomime, which has a different concept there as opposed to what it is here.
Monday morning, I walked to the Tesco about .7 miles from where I was staying and got a new Tesco SIM card, which turned out to be a stroke of luck since it ended up costing me less for phone rates using it than the O2 card I'd bought on ebay. Monday was a day to take it easy and get acclimated to the area where I was staying until Friday.
As I used to do, I went "early" Saturday morning (usually I try to arrive by 9:30; this time it was closer to 10:00). All I did was walk through the market, one end to the other, the reversed the walk. I ended up doing about 2 miles? Ran into some people with whom I've dealt before. Bought a few items to give as gifts to the young attorneys in the office. Got free snack samples (well, they were left out for all to see!). Also got the usual free sample of Viva paper and Cottonelle. I was approached by one person the entire 2 hours I was there (and that was someone I know); otherwise, unless I initiated contact, I was not noticed that much. I walked back to the train station and headed home so I could get ready for the Atlanta Science Fiction Society meeting (of which I'm president).
I did not go to the parade on Sunday. I have not done so since 1999?, 2000? Waste of time for me to do so.
The third-quarter GaFiA meeting took place tonight. As with the second quarter housefilk, a laptop was used to bring someone in from out of town. Last time, it was catsittingstill in Tennessee. This time it was thatcrazycajun calling in from Mbabane, Swaziland, where his beloved wife is a high-level person for the CDC. Granted, the bandwidth was better on this end than on that end, but there were not that many problems as you would think would have occurred due to the bandwidth. Yes, there was a slight delay from over 6000 miles away, but it still made for a lot of fun and some good singing across the ethernet. Many thanks to our hostesses for hosting for the second time. Many thanks to those who showed up. The only downside was that by evening's end, my left eye was swollen, due to felis catus. I'm just glad I was able to last as long as I did.
The social event of the season will take place on December 14 at the usual location. Details will go out about a month in advance.
Tags: filk, gafia Current Location:bedroom Current Mood: tired Current Music: none
I was working at the time at Donohue, Hoey, Rawls & Skedsvold near to where I live. I would go in early so I could leave early. My work day was 8:30 to 5:00. I got in as always and started working. I was not paying attention to anything but my work. It wasn't until someone came in about an hour later that I found out that something happened. At that point, I checked the internet, read what little there was at the time, and went back to work. At about 11:00, one of the law firm partners told everyone to go home, as we were in the tallest building in the area of Atlanta where I worked and it was considered risky to stay there. I went home.
It's 12 years later. I'm thinking it's a good thing that I'm getting no reception on the television at home as there'd be a lot about 9/11, and thank you, but after the sensory overload of it back in 2001, I have no desire to re-live it.
Tags: 9/11 Current Location:I'm at work Current Mood: tired Current Music: none
There was an interview done online with regard to the most recent episode of Starship Excelsior last night. Several members of the cast and crew joined in the party. If you're interested, check here. It's downloadable. Please let me know what you think of the interview.