Monday, February 26, 2007

A Narrative Account of Our Trip to Ireland, In Which We Detail the Things We Did Whilst There and in Which We Recount the Intestinal Travails of a Man

You probably heard that we were in Ireland last week. Here is the somewhat truncated narrative account of what we did during our time there. Photographic documentation will be posted one of these days.

So, we spent the first two nights in Dublin hanging with A's brother, J (as always, the names of the implicated have been reduced to capital letters to protect their identities from cyberstalkers and anonymous cantankerous critics). On the evening that we got in (Valentine's Day), J had made a reservation for dinner at a good Indian restaurant called Jaipur, on 41 South Great George's St. They had a romantic mandatory prix fixe (sorry Mr. D) accompanied by a cold bottle of prosecco. I know it sounds weird--the idea of quaffing Italian sparkling wine with Indian food--but it worked, we tell you. It tasted particularly good with the chicken tikka. We had a lot of food left over and our mouths are watering right now just thinking about all that Indian food that we could have eaten if only we'd had more time.

The next day we toured Dublin until it started raining, then we toured some more. We saw Christchurch and St. Stephen's Green and then had a Guinness for good luck. Since it was raining, we thought we deserved that good luck Guinness. Also, we had gotten lost in what can only be described as the Bronx of Dublin for about 45 minutes. We still don't know how we did it, but we did it. We took a taxi back into the center city.

The day after that we rented a car (and yes, we bought the extra insurance at Sindo's recommendation. Some of our readers will know that my parents and my grandparents had their car stolen while they were on vacation in Hawaii one year, and that Sindo now suggests to all traveling members of his family that they purchase the additional insurance because you never know. Also, MasterCard and American Express don't cover you in Ireland. Only in France, Germany and Spain. F.Y.I.). Then we all drove down the eastern coast of the Celtic Sea (staying to the left. Always to the left) on our way down to Wexford and New Ross, which is where J lives now. That evening we had dinner at an Italian restaurant whose name escapes us, but whose house chianti was outstanding, quite in spite of the fact that it came in a half carafe. J ordered a pasta dish that was so hot it turned his adam's apple inside out. The wine helped.

The next morning we spent some time at J's place of work, and enjoyed conversations with his colleagues and friends. We took photos of the lovely Creacon Lodge and bade J farewell and set out along the southern coast towards County Cork. We took lots of pictures of dramatic cliffs and the ocean. We will post those dramatic pictures when we are done uploading them and labeling them. For now, suffice it to say that there were lots of sheep and pastures and forests and cute thatched roofs.

We loved Cork when we finally got there. It is a very cool college town, which gives it that youthful flavor. But to be honest, all of Ireland is a very young country, a fact that has become all the more apparent now that we are back in "old" Spain. I think I read somewhere that Ireland is the youngest country in Europe. Spain must be one of the oldest, along with Italy, which is enjoying something of a demographic crisis. (Okay. Our fact checker just came in and told us that in fact Spain is the fourth oldest country in Europe. Italy is the oldest.)

After an amazing stay at the Garnish House (their breakfast is top notch, although you will have trouble eating everything they put in front of you), we headed off to the Dingle peninsula. We loved Dingle Town, which is a charming little fishing village. Then we drove up to Connemara and stayed in an even smaller fishing village called Roundstone. We met a nice couple from Seattle there in the local pub (the only one open in the off season) and drank a lot of Guinness with some locals. There was also a chocolate sundae eaten at some point. We also ate what can only be described as the Best Piece of Cod Ever (with chips). Interestingly enough, that was the night we stayed out latest. It was also the night we drank the most. We like the dark intimate drinking sites in remote fishing villages.

On our last full day we drove around Connemara, the austere but very beautiful natural park on the west coast. It is one of the areas of the country where Gaelic is widely spoken. Lots of sheep. Absolutely gorgeous. Then we drove back to Dublin for one last night at the Grafton House.

All the guest houses we stayed at were lovely. And it seemed like each one we visited was more charming than the last. We got a bit tired of the "full Irish breakfast" by about the fourth day (two pork sausages, two pieces bacon, two slices pudding, tomato, egg, toast), but now we rather miss those breakfasts. If you have the means to get to Ireland, we highly recommend it. Ryanair can get you there from Madrid for 75 euro roundtrip for two. Including taxes and all that stuff. No carry-ons, though.

Unfortunately, our trip had an explosive climax. S got a GI tract bug on the last day. It was either the Mexican food (!) we had on the last night, or a 24 hour flu virus. He woke up that Wednesday morning with an ill feeling that was soon followed by several trips to the loo to drop a deuce. It was a beautiful day and we had plenty of time before our flight, but S couldn't eat anything or go anywhere so A took a brief jaunt out into the city. S just lay in bed, trying to fall asleep so the pain would go away. (It was only sunny for about 2.5 days, so S felt particularly bad about feeling so bad.) After a rough taxi ride to the airport S had to make another urgent deposit. He was glad that said deposit came on BEFORE getting on the plane. But then, about an hour into the flight of two hours, he had to vomit (to keep things interesting). So he spent 20 minutes in the minuscule bathroom "puking [his] brains out." The reason we think it was the Mexican food (!) is that there were lots of red peppers in there. Forgive us the juicy detail, but as you know, amagomundi is known for professionalism and attention to quality.

So this week we have been recuperating. S has been eating small pieces of apple, a piece of toast, and a few bits of yogurt for breakfast all week. Pretty much a standard S travel story, no? Another country, another stomach ailment. Someday we will write all about the acute gastroenteritis that S got on the final night before completing the Camino de Santiago (he never did complete the trek). That was a doozy. There is a photo somewhere that his tío took of him while he was wasting away in Majadahonda, one week after returning in defeat. There is also a good story about a trip that S took to Mexico with Freddy. Also a doozy. But that time Freddy got the same bug.

Next weekend: Berlin.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Parental Visit Review: Madrid de los Austrias Portion

Okay, we're back from Ireland. But first things first. The concluding chapter of Parental Visit Number One, Part Two.

When J had gotten better, we had everyone over to our apartment for dinner. In the photo above, you will see S's famous tortilla, a salad, and fried padrón peppers. We washed this fine meal down with a little bit of Rioja.

Since they were in Madrd, J and G had a lot of amagomundi news to catch up on. Above, you can enjoy a meta-blog moment in which J and G read amagomundi on amagomundi. Whoa. We could offer a fine academic analysis of the rhetorical and philosophical implications of this moment, but we prefer to leave that to our intrepid readers. Post your comments and analysis as you wish! No fancy words, please.

We took a walk towards Sol up the Carrera de San Jerónimo.

Bought some postcards.

Took some nice pictures.

Walked some more.

Had a pastry at Sindo's favorite pastelería, La Mallorquina, at the Puerta del Sol.

Continued our walk down calle del Arenal.

Took more pictures.

Photographed the Cathedral.

And the Palacio Real. We didn't go in though. They want 8 euro per person to tour the royal palace! Jeez. European citizens can get in for free on Tuesdays, I believe. But only one of us is a European citizen.

Another view of the Cathedral.

A spectral image of a building reflected in the glass that keeps folks from jumping off the bridge on calle de Bailén.

The Cathedral as seen from the south side of the bridge.

Two of the amagomundi staff in front of that Cathedral.

Our favorite little garden near La Latina: El Jardín del Príncipe Anglona.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Amagomundi Takes It to Dublin

Dear readers, amagomundi will be off line for a week as we tour the southern coast of Ireland and visit with our brother/brother-in-law in Dublin (same person, but different relationship depending on which one of us you talk to). Stay tuned for exciting details and hot thumbnail photos.

Also coming next week: Parental Visit Review: Madrid de los Austrias Portion.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Parental Visit Review: Chueca Portion

So. Getting back to the fun filled parental visit of the week of January 24th. We had lunch at Café Oliver on that Thursday, which was good as ever. You can see in the photo that J is having orange juice, because she was coming down with that terrible cold we mentioned in our blog of January 26th. She would later go to bed and not get up again until the next afternoon. Our intrepid suegro G found soups and juices for her and nursed her back to life. So they came over for dinner on Friday night.

During J's illness, G made friends with the local pharmacists and barmen and women. On their last morning in Madrid, as we walked to the corner cafetería for a final café con leche, G said hello to several of them when they shouted their good mornings.

This is the fine looking couple that J and G had to look at through that lunch at Oliver.

So J and G went back to the Hostal Armesto to rest and recuperate, and S and A went for a walk through Chueca. We were impressed by the floating discs in the Plaza de Chueca. We saw a novenary of snowflakes fall. Ten kilometers outside of Madrid, it was snowing hard.


A playground. Those are just such nice colors.

Good graffiti, too. That there is what we call a trompe l'oeil.

An all too close look at the sabbati-beard. We still believe in the redemptive power of the well-groomed moustache, but we are now coming to embrace the power and charm of the dense beard.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Famous People and Dreamgirls

So on Monday we went to see what the ballyhoo was about. Taking advantage of the fact that Mondays are "día del espectador" at the Cine Ideal, we went to see Dreamgirls at the discounted rate of 5.30 euro. In spite of the infelicitously leaden narrative songs that bog the film down in the middle--we are thinking of the one about families and trees, in particular--we are prepared to join the chorus of voices saying that Jennifer Hudson is the bomb. Eddie Murphy was good, and Jamie Foxx did a great job, as ever, this time as the oleaginous agent/promoter.

And we experienced further evidence that Madrid can really feel like a small town sometimes. Just before the movie started, while we were trying to figure out whether we could move out of our assigned seats and into better ones, in came famous Spanish authors Antonio Muñoz Molina and Elvira Lindo, who were there with two unknown amigas. They sat in our row, separated from us by their two friends. When we figured out who they were, we contemplated talking to them, but then we realized that we just don't feel comfortable talking to famous people in movie theaters.

Why? Maybe it has something to do with not wanting to pump up the famous person's ego too much. After all, look what happened to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But we also figure that famous people probably want to be left alone. When we sat behind Pedro Almodóvar for Casino Royale (reported in our post on November 25th), we stewed through the commercials and previews before the film thinking about whether or not we should talk to him. We even felt a little jealous of the guy sitting in front of him who shook his hand. But then we have to admit that we were relieved when the movie finally started, thereby making any awkward introductions impossible.

We did more or less the same thing with Muñoz Molina and Elvira Lindo on Monday, even though we did have something we could talk about with them: In November 2002, during one of the long dark semesters of dissertation writing, S drove to the Dulles airport in Washington DC to pick the pair up and bring them to their speaking engagement at the University of Virginia. But surely they don't remember that episode as vividly as we do. We figured that this Monday they probably just wanted to enjoy Dreamgirls in anonymity. And then slip out with their friends as the credits rolled. And probably go out to dinner.

Someday amagomundi will publish big novels and achieve world renown for our artwork, and then 30-something literary critics and art teachers will gaze at the back of our heads in darkened movie theaters wondering if they should talk to us. And when they do come up to us and ask us to sign things, we will probably be thrilled to have our egos pumped up, even while we will feel a little bit annoyed that we can't go out anymore without people bothering us.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Don Sebastián de Morra

Check out my skate park, dude.

It's Official: It's a Hoax

An international network of climate scientists has concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. They said the world was in for centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas and shifting weather patterns — unavoidable results of the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

After years of denying that global warming existed at all, Bush administration officials asserted Friday that the United States had played a leading role in studying and combating climate change, in part by an investment of an average of almost $5 billion a year for the past six years in research and tax incentives for new technologies. Of course, $5 billion is not all that much compared to the $622 billion budget requested this year by the Pentagon alone, of which $140 billion would go to war related costs.

At the same time, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman rejected the idea of unilateral limits on emissions. “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution,” he said. This in spite of the fact that the United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country by far.

Luckily we can still count on sterling representatives such as Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has called the idea of dangerous human-driven warming a hoax. He issued a news release headed “Corruption of Science” that rejected the report as “a political document.” Interestingly enough, only Texas senator John Cornyn received more money from the oil and gas industry in the 2004 election cycle. Could there be a connection?

Got evil?

Should greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at even a moderate pace, average temperatures by the end of the century could match those last seen 125,000 years ago, in the previous warm spell between ice ages, the report said.

The PMA tells us that Arizona is really hot. And we all know that Arizona is one of the fastest growing states. So maybe Inhofe is on to something. Heat = economic growth. Maybe one day Oklahoma will be just like Arizona.

We look forward to hearing from A Frolic of My Own, our Oklahoman transplant living and writing in New Orleans.