Let the good times roll!

Although I didn’t like saying goodbye to Ireland, being back in the Netherlands is good too. Extremely good. On Saturday I went shopping with my young aunt Annemiek, we were both quite tired so we didn’t shop too much but we had lunch at definitely one of my favourite places in Den Bosch: Pilkington’s and drank cokes at a pub. On Sunday I got to sleep in, which was very welcome and I went to one of my other aunts’ birthday party, where I got to catch up with my cousins, which I don’t see very often. On Monday mum and I went to see “Becoming Jane” at the Chassé cinema in Breda, which was extremely pleasant (especially the scenes with James McAvoy, I tell you, if a guy like that had asked me to run away to Scotland with him I wouldn’t be here now, ohlala! ;)). Today mum and dad drove me to Leiden and took my books, iMac and clothes back to Etten-Leur with them, well most of it anyway, as I’m now sitting in the remaining bits which, although there’s not too much left, can still create a big mess. I could have of course tidied it up between when they left (around 09:30 and now) but instead I treated myself to some more James-ogling in “The Last King of Scotland” (Judith, I envy you for being among people with those cute Scottish accents!!!)

Oh and besides the eye-candy it’s a brilliant film!And wow, I didn’t recognise Gillian Anderson at first!

And now it’s time for bed….zzzz

Galway

Most of you have probably already seen the pics I uploaded to flickr and read the captions, so you should have an idea of what I’ve been up to, but here’s the longer version. On Saturday I arrived in Galway around noon, my host, Brian, was so good to pick me up from the train station in his shiny black Opel Vectra. Since Galway is a f*cking busy one-way pain we drove around for a bit (Brian thought he knew a shortcut, but it turned out he didn’t quite), until we found a parking spot near the cathedral. As it was definitely lunchtime (although I had some rhubarb crumble on the train :P) we went to the city centre to get some food at one of his favourite places, Java. It’s quite a relaxed place, some of the other costumers started playing the piano, I had a fabulous sandwich with goat’s cheese and it was good to catch up with Brian. After strolling around Galway for a while and drinking tea we headed to his house to relax for a little bit and freshen up as we intended to go out in the evening: we watched some excellent YouTube videos :). When it was already getting dark we headed out to the city centre again for some food (pizza at Fat Freddie’s) and then a couple of pubs. The pubs were really excellent but I was just too tired to really enjoy it. Actually one lady said “God you look really pissed” even though I only had a little bit of wine. Fortunately Brian was pretty tired too so he didn’t mind going home and thus I spent my first night on a sofa in Galway, and it was the best night in two weeks as there wasn’t a train at 7, or snoring roommates, in fact, I even got to sleep in until about 11. I then read a little and checked my email, as one should on a lazy Sunday morning (shame I didn’t have a newspaper). Early in the afternoon we went back into town for some more sightseeing, this time via the harbour filled with swans of the bay and salthill (the fancy boulevard bit of Galway). It was a bit windy and some rain drops at time but it was good to see and smell the sea again.

In the evening I was introduced to cooked corn with butter and after I’d wiped the butter of my chin and picked the corn scales from between my teeth (there’s just no decent way of eating these things) we were off again to the city centre, this time to a pub called the Roisin Dubh, a music pub. The taxi dropped us off right in front of the entrance which was quite cool we thought, and we first had a couple of drinks upstairs. There we met some friends of Brian’s whom he hadn’t seen for quite a while and which were pretty cool. After some time we went downstairs to dance to some pretty cool Indie Rock/Oldies mix, but fatigue kicked in pretty quickly. Luckily pubs close relatively early in Galway :).

Brian had to work on Monday so I had to keep myself busy, from one of Brian’s housemates I had found out that the Cliffs of Moher were definitely worth a visit. She told me there were a couple of tourist tour buses going there, but that would basically mean that you’d spend most of your day on the bus, only to be let out of it for an hour or so at a tourist attraction so I decided to take a regular bus. I’m happy I did. The journey to and from the cliffs was a trip in itself which took me via the coast road along Galway bay (quite narrow at some points) and up hills providing spectacular views.  Then the cliffs itself. Long before reaching them the road got quite busy and when we were nearly there I spotted a big car park and crowds of people, which was a bit of a shame, but then again, I was a tourist too there…I didn’t care much for the visitor’s centre (although it’s a nice, not so obtrusive building, and the bathrooms and cafeteria were quite convenient), the worst bit about it being the shops. They have really taken tourist crap to a new level even selling bits of rock and a whole array of goodies not in any way related to the location, but as long as people buy it they’ll keep offering it I guess. The cliffs were in one word magnificent. I took many pictures but naturally not one can convey the impressiveness of those rocks rising out of the sea. I quickly avoided most of the tourists by getting onto a trail that was more or less closed off (it involved climbing over a barbed fence) but a lot of people did it. Now, I’m not easily scared, but looking down 200 metres or so onto the sea, a descent which began only a metre or so from my feet at some points did not make me feel  comfortable at all. After a while I decided to put on my sandals instead of my trainers (in the process of which my bag nearly got blown off the cliff) which made me feel a bit more confident. I walked a little bit further until I came to a slightly lower spot where the grass provided me with a comfortable place to sit. This is where I spent most of my afternoon, in the sun, having lunch, reading my book, just gazing at the cliffs and the sea…An afternoon well spent 😀

Around six I took a bus back to Galway, not via the coast this time but via Ennis which took me via a completely different route but equally beautiful. At Gor, Virginia, one of Brian’s friends I’d met the evening before got on the bus so I didn’t travel the last bit alone.

On Tuesday I had to get up early to catch my train to Dublin. Brian didn’t want me to walk to the train station with all my stuff so he drove me there and after coffee we said goodbye, after a way too short stay on the one hand, but on the other hand I was happy to go home again as I was quite exhausted after two weeks of ESSLLI and all the trains and buses the days after that. The train journey started smoothly but at some point we stayed at a train station for quite a while. Turns out we had to wait for the train coming from Dublin to pass, which can only happen at train stations because the rest of the train track is all single track. Travelling in Ireland is quite an experience! Anyway, I made it in time to Dublin to catch a bus to the airport and fly back to Eindhoven.

Around 19:30 I arrived at my parents’ doorstep, tired, but happy. Happy about being home again, but also about having had such a great time both in Dublin and Galway, happy about having met some great people along the way and finally, happy about putting some old memories to rest.

Going Home

The Last Day of ESSLLI 2007

I’m on the train to Galway now and I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to post this so when you read this it might be a bit dated, but so many cool things happened yesterday that I just want to write them down. The day started like any other day, getting up is getting harder and harder (this morning was the worst: getting up at 7! Especially the fact that I stayed up until 3 didn’t help, nor the people leaving my dorm even earlier and switching on the lights and stuff). Anyway, when I came downstairs yesterday I didn’t find Wouter and Tikitu eating the usual hostel breakfast (bread with jam) but fried eggs with cheese and tomato and walnut banana sandwiches (which, from what I heard, taste surprisingly good). Again we had to hurry for our lectures but we sort of made it in time, we even had time to spread some CHAOS posters, but more on that later. The lectures were pretty cool, the 2 I attended this week were definitely better than the ones last week, or maybe not better, just a better addition to what I already know. The two other courses I meant to attend were a bit too easy I think, although they were introductory, but it still wasn’t a bad week.

 

My juggling is also improving by the way (thanks to my very patient tutor), I have the basic technique down now more or less (I do get sloppy) so now it’s just practice, practice, practice. During lunchtime I went shopping with Wouter, Tikitu, Hanna and Matthew, we found a tapas bar that did scones and after that Wouter, Tikitu and I spent some time in a music shop browsing sheet music and admiring some traditional Irish instruments. Then it was again rushing to make it to the lectures, but some of the lecturers didn’t stop when they were supposed to so those few minutes we were late weren’t too bad 🙂 During the afternoon break it was time for the closing session in the student session, sort of the only official closing event of ESSLLI, so we all went to the Lloyd building where the prizes for best paper and presentation were presented, funny ad-hoc presentations of the winners and runners up and two light invited talks on logic jokes and how to successfully survive your PhD. Then there was time to thank the organisers so Hanna, president of CHAOS (initially ‘Carl’s Attempt at Organising a Summerschool’, since yesterday ‘Carl’s Achievement at Organising a Summerschool’) held a great speech to thank Carl, the local organiser for making us all have such a wonderful time.

During the last session we went to Butler’s for a last visit and got some more tips from Carl on where we could find some nice food. We also got him to sign some of the CHAOS posters for us :D. After Wouter’s last session had finished we went on our way to ‘Steps of Rome’ a cute little pizza place and we had our pizza at Stephen’s Green where a photo exhibition on animals in the wild had appeared (the one that was near the Westerkerk in Amsterdam some time ago). After the pizza Matthew wanted to see some ducks, and fortunately St. Stephen’s Green has a big pond so that was no problem :). On our way out of the park we lost Hanna and Matthew, but Wouter, Tikitu, Tom and I then went towards the Porterhouse, a pub near Trinity where we expected to find Hanna and Matthew again (only Matthew didn’t get in because the bouncers didn’t like his clothes). Fortunately we met up with them again at the Trinity Inn, where there was an unofficial but widely announced end reception. I was told that it’s a very quiet pub on most Fridays, but that of course was not the case with about 150 ESSLLI goers, so some of the locals were mildly annoyed, but not too bad. We stayed until we got kicked out (around 0100) and then stayed outside the pub for a while because no-one really wanted to start saying goodbye. With our little group we at least managed to postpone it until the traffic lights near our hostel, to which Matthew escorted us, and at the last corner we said goodbye to Hanna who was in a hostel just around the corner. Francesca (whom I hope got her flight sorted out, as she has to change her booking because Aer Lingus will be on strike next week), Wouter and Tikitu (who had to leave the hostel around 07:00 this morning to catch their flights) and I continued our conversations in the hostel cellars until we nearly fell asleep on the sofa. There was some more procrastination on the flights but Wouter, Tikitu and I have come up with a little toy project (which might actually be a nice safety net if our PhDs don’t work out :P) and for the rest it’s just trying to go to ESSLLI again next year 😀

The end is near

Today is ESSLLI’s penultimate day and we’re all a bit sad that tomorrow it will end (some hot chocolate cheered us up a little though). We’re having a short break now before we’re going to cook again, this meal is supposed to be our pièce de resistance so we need to be fit to get it all working (ok and to find some space in the kitchen). On Wednesday we cooked a bit meal for a couple of other ESSLLI participants so we actually claimed a whole table at the hostel which was pretty cool (it’s a shame I fucked up the custard, but there was apple crumble and apple-strawberry crumble so luckily we didn’t have to go without dessert). Yesterday I didn’t cook, we first had lunch at the Winding Stair, which used to be a bookshop + cafe, but due to new fire safety regulations they had to split the two, but it is the same name and same building, just two different entrances. The meal was excellent (although a bit expensive), a friend of Tikitu’s came by on his way back to Amsterdam and we were having such a good time that we also missed the lecture after lunch.After the last lecture we sort of crashed a book launch party (I’m not quite the intended audience for the ‘Handbook on Spatial Logic’ but the wine was good and we had fun :)). After the reception it was time for food and Carl introduced me to the Lebanese food at one of his favourite restaurants in Dublin. Last year’s organisation left us quite to ourselves to explore Malaga, but this year’s organisation also includes guiding participants to the coolest places in Dublin. This afternoon we were advised to get chips at a certain place and we just got back from getting groceries from an amazingly cool food market, even though it’s expensive. It was a gorgeous place and I wish we had discovered it earlier.

foodmarket

Part II (after dinner)

We just got kicked out of the common room at the hostel because they were closing, so we didn’t even have to do the dishes because the kitchen would be cleaned anyway at night. Fair enough. Our dinner was superb, if I may say so myself. I made the starter: salmon with cucumber and a dressing of sour cream with lime juice and black pepper, Wouter treated us to a fantastic coq au vin and Tikitu had especially emailed his mother for her fabulous rhubarb flan recipe. Needless to say we’re all stuffed now 🙂

Lunch/shopping break

After writing my previous blog post and taking in some food I met up with Tikitu and Herman to find some Irish additions to our music collecti ons at Celtic Note, a record shop on Nassau Street. On the way there we passed Trinity sweaters which has just the most gorgeous jumpers and I’m still thinking about buying the lovely woollen hoodie I saw there. On the other hand, Celtic Note could turn out to be quite an assault on my wallet as well. We didn’t have enough time to listen to enough CDs to make our final choice, so we’re going back there some other lunch break, but I think the live CD/DVD by BellX1 I saw there will most likely be added to my music collection later this week.

Update

ESSLLI has been extremely busy (but extremely good) so not much time online to keep you updated. As I mentioned in my previous proper post Wouter and I are quite enthusiastic (some call it crazy) about cooking ourselves, so the scones happened, as well as fresh tortillas, ‘homemade’ pizza, avocado-shrimp cocktail and cherry crumble. Over the weekend there weren’t any lectures, so we could explore Dublin and its surroundings a bit more. Marieke, another Dutch girl had found out that there was a bus to Glendalough, so Saturday morning at 11:00 a group of mainly Dutch people gathered in the rain at Trinity for a trip to the countryside. Fortunately the rain wasn’t too heavy, and the dampness provided some gorgeous fog that made the glen look a bit gloomy at times, and it also made it quite a nice temperature to walk. We first did the real touristy things such as have a look at the monastic city and eat some expensive scones from a little food stall, after that we went up to the Poulanass Waterfall, and then on to one of the hill walks with breathtaking views on the lakes. At some point the walk led us away from the valley views into an extremely dark forest, and then back onto some lighter roads with entirely different views. We arrived back at the visitor centre more or less exactly on time to catch the bus back to the city, so slightly damp, but happy we got on, and Tikitu made some sandwiches because for us hungry lot.

Saturday was also the day of the ESSLLI party, and apart from the fact that they served Amstel bier (I don’t know anything about beer, but clearly it’s inferior to the great ales and stouts that are usually served here) it was pretty cool. There wasn’t as much dancing as last year but there were balloons and cool people to talk to, a nice welcome cocktail and Jameson :). On Sunday we decided to have a quiet day around town, as Tikitu had also signed up for the croquet match at 15:00 so we couldn’t go away too far. We first got some ingredients for breakfast/lunch, as we had missed the breakfast at the hostel (which is only until 09:30). We only stuck to the bare necessities: baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, olives, lettuce, oranges, strawberries & cream and walked to St. Patrick’s cathedral to have a picnic. All was well until a cloud, that at first sight seemed to just pass over us, decided to burst, urging us to pack up our stuff and seek shelter at the cathedral. When it stopped raining we walked towards St. Stephen’s Green to continue our picnic in a bandstand as the grass was wet. Just after we’d finished and got up to go to Trinity it started to rain again so we stayed and Tikitu gave Wouter and me our first juggling lesson with oranges which gradually turned into squashed oranges :).

As the grass was too wet for croquet Carl, the organiser, came up with a different game: kubbs. It’s quite complicated, but it involves throwing sticks at each other’s bricks in order to make them fall and it was great fun. The crowds of tourists that tour Trinity also thought it quite interested and kept asking us if this was a traditional Irish game, but our Finnish team member suspected that it’s actually Finnish, which would also explain its alternative name Viking Chess. After the game Carl led us to a bar with traditional Irish sessions, this basically means that anyone who knows the folk songs and has an instrument can join in and it just creates a great atmosphere. The rest of the evening was spent with a more or less similar traditional touch as we also visited a place with pub food and a carvery (basically a guy standing behind a counter with a heap of various kinds of meat asking you whether you want chicken or beef or whatever he’s got and then cutting off a portion, your dish is then completed with at least 4 kinds of potatoes, cabbage, carrots and whatever other veggies they have). After this hearty meal we lost half of our group, but picked up some other people and moved on to another bar with an Irish music session, and Guinness and cider until they closed.

Yesterday Tikitu, Wouter and I had a more relaxed evening at the hostel (cooking, doing the laundry & an evening walk) because we were all quite tired after the exciting start of a new series of lectures (also the lack of sleep we built up was starting to take its toll).

Haute Cuisine at a hostel and other tales of the city at the Black Pool

We are earning respect in the kitchen of the hostel due to our cooking skills (and courage). The kitchen at the hostel is just equipped with the basics: hobs (electric unfortunately), ovens and a microwave. Most people in the hostel mess around with pasta and tomato sauce, but not the Dutch ESSLLI crew. On Tuesday we cooked pasta, ok, with tomato sauce, but from fresh tomatoes, onion, mackerel, tuna, peppers and mushrooms. The main course was the desert though: apple crumble (I’m even using it to make friends with the hostel staff ;)). I should have paid attention to the fact that Irish butter is salted, but it was good nonetheless. Yesterday Wouter and I went for soup, stuffed peppers and pancakes (and pancakes on an electric hob are a pain!). There aren’t many pans available in the hostel so I asked an Italian guy whether we could use his after he was done with it. Turns out he was finished with it before we’d finished our starter so we feared someone else had taken it, but there it was, in our corner of the kitchen, clean, and no-one dared touch it :). Later this week we’re going to try scones 😀

The weather in Dublin has also improved btw, in fact, I got sunburnt while lying in a park during lunch, and quite charmingly my necklace had shifted a to a bit higher on my neck so now I have a nice white stripe on my neck. But I should be able to get rid of that today. I must confess that I also skipped the student session yesterday because the weather was just to great to go inside, so I sat outside the old library with Paolo and later Wouter.

The lectures are quite OK, although they could be a bit more challenging. It’s not that I already know most of what’s being told, but it’s just a bit too slow. Suzan and I mentioned this to a lecturer, and he was happy that we liked his lecture, but didn’t seem inclined to speed things up a bit. But at least we tried 🙂

This morning I already did some proper sightseeing before going into Trinity as I walked along the Liffey and visited Christ Church Cathedral with Tikitu. It’s an amazing building with an arch over the road, but the inside is also fantastic, especially the tiles. There was also a morning prayer going on when we entered the church, but I could only see one worshipper, clearly religion is losing its charm to many people.

Back to the lecture now.