Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ireland: Belfast and Dublin and a whole bunch of Guinness

"Thank you, Dolores!  It was lovely staying with you," I called out as I lugged my ginormous backpack onto my other shoulder.  I started saying "lovely" on the trip because every waiter or waitress was always referring to my potential order as "aw, well, it's low-vly."
"Of course! It was great having you even if it was a short stay. Like any good love affair: in, out, before the rot sets in!" Dolores called back.  This is Ireland, where the people are sincere, hilarious, and out-of-their-way helpful. 

At the beginning of June, my family and I took a vacation to Ireland.  I have 2 weeks worth of pictures taken by 4 different people, but I'll do my best to narrow it down and just share the highlights of the trip.

We flew into Dublin on a redeye and immediately grabbed our rental car to head up to Belfast in Northern Ireland for the day.  It was a red, stick, Peugeot, which my dad bravely drove for the entire trip (left-hand side of the road + left-hand stick + extremely narrow roads + roundabouts everywhere = adventure).  In my delirium after so many hours of travel and so few hours of sleep, I read and then mispronounced the brand of the car as Pew-ga-not, which became the running joke-name of our trusty vehicle.

The Pew-ga-not

Highlights of Belfast:
We took a black cab tour to learn about the politics of Northern Ireland.  Our driver/tour guide took us around to the different neighborhoods in Belfast, which were either Catholic/Irish or Protestant/English.  These neighborhoods are divided by "peace walls" which are like a series of Berlin walls meant to separate people. Interestingly, there are separate but equal services on both sides of the wall- so within one block, we saw two KFCs; one on the Catholic side and one on the Protestant side. Similarly, a public park was divided in two by a wall for each side to use. Our guide pointed out a duck to us, "We're on the Catholic side, so that's a Catholic duck."  He also explained that people of other religions were also considered to be either Catholic or Protestant.  So in one neighborhood, I spotted a mezuzah on a door and pointed it out to our tour guide.  "Yep," he said, "those are Catholic Jews."

Wall through the park

Catholic Jews!

Mandy and I, adding to the art/wishes on the walls

We also had our first pint of Guinness in Belfast,

checked out the Giant's Causeway,

and tasted some whiskey at the Bushmills Distillery.

We drove through the Glens of Antrim and I was absolutely floored by the beauty.  If I make it back to Ireland some day, my to-do list will include hiking and camping in the glens. (The pictures below don't do it justice.  Views through car windows do not usually turn out well!)

Just driving, was spectacular. We pulled off the road a bunch of times to snap pictures of the coast or sheep or the mountains.

They spray-paint their sheep to keep track of them. Note- the blue/green on the shoulders.

After Belfast, we headed back to Dublin.  Some of the highlights:

Trinity College. O.M.G. that library!  I was at home.

The Guinness factory.  We learned to pour the perfect pint.  Did you know that how your Guinness taste depends on the pour and the tap (distance from the keg)?  Anytime we asked locals for a pub recommendation, they would include that their rec had the best pour of Guinness around.  I never realized that a pour could make such a difference!

The typical, American, "We're Irish!!!" photo

I couldn't see the first word, but I'm pretty sure it said "Hydrologists"

We went to the James Joyce Center and we were there within a week of Bloomsday (Ulysses, anyone?)  This was really exciting for me, because I had painstakingly read Ulysses as an undergrad, so finally seeing Dublin was pretty cool.  We stood on the ha' penny bridge (they use to charge half a penny to cross) to snap a picture.

We also checked out the Kilmainham jail.  I've never been much of a history buff, but I found Irish history to be fascinating.  Probably because the Irish are such good storytellers! And maybe a little because they always seem to be on the heroic, but losing side through history. 

After Dublin we headed to Waterford, but I'll leave it there for now.  Still to come: Cork, Killarney, Dingle, Bunratty (and Dolores!), Galway, and the Aran Islands!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Back at it

I feel like every time I start a blog post these days it includes some note about how negligent I've been.  And it's true! Poor April didn't even get an update.  But I recently read some old posts I wrote on a previous blog, and while they were short, it was so nice to be able to peek back at those times in my life.  So I'm really going to try to drop in more, but perhaps at the expense of long posts and pretty pictures.  Let's see how it goes- let me know what you think.

So short life-update: my marathon training was going really well until I ran back to back races at the Hot Chocolate run (San Diego) and the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon in San Francisco.  The RnR course was brutal and combined with the super hilly Hot Chocolate run, I did something weird to my leg.  So I ran for the first time in a month on Saturday but found I was still hurting the next day.  I can confidently say I won't be running the marathon, but I'm hoping to run or walk/run the half still.  We shall see.

After the Hot Chocolate Run with my coworker/friend Christine.

I've been cooking up a storm!  I made my own lavender sugar the other day and berry scones to go with it.  I've been dreaming of those scones since, and I'm excited to make them again, perhaps with different fillings.

I also made Elmo cookies for my favorite little buddy up north and his family. I was very pleased with how they turned out.

I've updated the garden, and when I had finished planting the last plants I had, my neighbor stopped by and asked, "oh so you're going to try again?" I think I'm offended, but there were a lot of dead plants that I had cleaned out, so maybe he has a point.  The landlord just got around to telling me that there is a spigot I can use downstairs, so I've purchased a hose and I actually water my plants pretty regularly now.  So, yes, neighbor-man, I AM going to try again. :)

My home-made, formerly-yogurt-container, planters

My city is on fire.  I don't really remember this being a big issue in the past springs I've been here, but today people lost their homes.  Two of my coworkers were evacuated from their homes and are staying somewhere else for the night.  Another friend was evacuated from her work.  Just this week I read a book to the children I volunteer with about a family who lost their home in a fire and then had to save up money to buy a big comfy chair.  Their neighbors gave them spare pots and pans and a table and mattresses, but they had to save their coins to get something nice.  I know the kids read the book again today, and I wonder if they're thinking about the people who are in that situation right now.  I hope we can all come together, like in the book, and take care of our neighbors.  Keep San Diego in your thoughts.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

King Tides Part 2: The San Diego Edition

So I've already talked about the King Tides (the super high tides that occur a few times a year and are a great demo of what sea level rise will look like) and my experience chasing the tides around San Francisco.  About a month later (and two months ago- oops!) I did the same thing in San Diego.  I dragged my intern (Hi Emily!) with me to one of our project sites on Thursday morning (Jan 30) so that she could get out in the field during her short time with us.  We headed to Los Peñasquitos Lagoon which is just north of Torrey Pines along the coast.

Source: Google Maps
The next day, I got up early again to catch the high tide at Kendal Frost Marsh in Pacific Beach along the northeast hump of Mission Bay.

Then, since I'm a HUGE marsh nerd, I drove out to San Dieguito Lagoon on a Saturday to hang out by myself and take time lapse pictures.  Wait, you didn't do that too? :)

The yellow areas are some of the other parts of the marsh that I've worked in.  The red circle is where the time lapse photos were taken.

At Los Pen, as we like to call it, Emily and I trekked around the lagoon and checked out the beach.  The beach was pretty much gone because the water levels were so high.

 Where's the beach?

Sea level rise = beach and bluff erosion
Lagoon mouth from the north (looking south) under a normal tide- we were standing on the sand.

Lagoon mouth from the south (looking north) under a king tide- where we were standing in the picture above is now under water! Note the path north of the lagoon that goes under the bridge.

Looking back into the marsh under a normal tide
Looking back into the marsh under a king tide- crazy how this almost looks like a black and white photo since it was so gloomy out!
This is the path going under the bridge.  Definitely not safe to walk on at this point.  The sign is usually at the beginning of the beach.

At Kendal Frost, most of the marsh was under water.

This is not usually a bay.  The housing on the left is definitely at risk under sea level rise.

Great Blue Heron (I think)

This was a small, dry island where the birds were just hanging out.

At San Dieguito Lagoon, I headed to the beach first and checked out the lagoon mouth.

Stupid people building homes where the water wants to go!

The dog beach at the north end of the lagoon mouth

Just south of the lagoon mouth.  This is normally a beach, but the rock rip-rap and the sea wall are there to protect the (dumb) houses behind it from storm events.

Watching a marsh drain...

10 min later...

10 min after that...

And 10 min after that...
Okay, I know, these time lapse pictures are super lame.  :(  I got carried away at the beach and looking at the other marsh units and got to the site I wanted to see too late! I missed the highest tide, so my pictures just captured the end of the drainage.  I'll just have to go out again next year!

Also, this is the site I've spent a good amount of time at.  Last summer and the summer before, when I was ITF, it was here.  (Same for getting muddy and muddier).

So are you going to come out with me next year to chase the tides?