The plan that hatched on that Saturday morning - October 29 - was hatched thus: drive up north avoiding the motorway, to see a bit of rural Ireland, on the East coast. Then, as soon as night fell, speed up north towards Belfast. And we did. Saw a lot of hamlets, lovely rolling hills, the urban areas of Drogheda and Dundalk, and it became night pretty much as soon as we passed the border (which we hadn't even noticed, except for a sign in miles per hour)
Lots of jokes were made about us driving to Belfast with a Dublin-registered car, mostly of the light-hearted horrible variety "have you checked for bombs" and "hope they don't set fire to our car, it's a rental". And indeed, a few people afterwards told me that, until about twenty years ago, driving up north with a Dublin-registered car, in the eyes of most people and the authorities, meant you were either carrying weapons or personnel, and you'd get special attention wherever you went. Thankfully times changed a bit, and when we reached Belfast we noticed quite a few Ireland-registered cars in the car park.
After a stroll in the centre we remarked that Belfast is a completely different city from Dublin, being more "industrial" looking, and despite some lovely sights all of us preferred Dublin to Belfast.
By the time we finished our walk around Belfast, we set off to find a pub where to eat, and we found it. We ate pretty typical stuff (fish and chips, stew, that kind of thing) and used the pub's wifi to look for a hotel, while behaving as perfectly adjusted adults.
No hotel in Belfast had a vacancy that night. Ah, DUH, it's a bank holiday weekend, go figure. After a few minutes of frantic research, we found a hotel in Carrickfergus, 15 km north of Belfast. Well alright, we had seen enough of Belfast so the plan for the next day was going anywhere but Belfast, so I booked the hotel in my name and stop at an ATM to withdraw some British pounds, just in case. 160 pounds in all, to have some leftover in case anything happens.
Of course we booked a triple room, because it was much cheaper.
Drove up to the hotel, showed the booking to the receptionist, and I do notice he looks at me a bit funny...then I look at the receipt, which sports a "Miss Daniele" as the booking name (and "United Kingdom" as my residence, welp). And that's when he saw two lovely girls come in (E. and G.), and his face changed from mild confusion to a smile that seemed to say "a-HA, ye filthy lucky love-child, shoulda told us, we have soundproof rooms".
The hotel had wifi (my Irish mobile sim wouldn't work over the border), so I took the occasion to message Luana, carefully avoiding to mention lodging arrangements. First sentence in the answer: "Are you staying out for the night? Did you book single rooms?" Ah, shizzle.
The next morning, while E. and I were awake at 8, G. would sleep soundly until 9. During breakfast (they had quite a lot of glutenfree options!) we discussed about the itinerary, what we wanted to see, and so on. We settled on a "we'll see what's on the road". The hotel had a hotel-sized mural with local attractions, though. Helpful!
So we got on the road...and stopped half a kilometre afterwards to see Carrickfergus Castle and its lovely scenery, and then followed the Antrim coast, enjoying the landscape and the seaside (Dani rate: 9/10 worth seeing)
...and arrived at Carrick-a-Rede, where we stopped for a coffee and to see what the deal was. Basically it's a stunning bridge to an islet off the Northern Irish coast.
What? It costs eight pounds per person? Bugger that.
We just took a walk around the coast, learned that it was the set for a few Game of Thrones scenes, then left, but not before mooching off the café's wifi to book tickets for the Giant's Causeway, which was just a few kilometres up the road.
We arrived there, left the car at the park-and-ride facility, and went to see this incredible natural attraction. While riding, we did notice the bus seemed to struggle a bit, but we paid it no mind. Then we arrived at the site, and noticed that the bus's brakes had caught fire. The driver had left the handbrake on. Gods.
The Giant's Causeway was incredible, quite crowded but the sea washing on these columns - so perfect that they looked manmade - was a spectacle to behold.
Took the full walk around it (oof) and got back to the Visitors' Centre as soon as it got dark. Mooching off the centre's wifi, we booked a hotel in Letterkenny, a few kilometres east of Derry, so we had the chance to see a bit of Derry too. We really liked the city, along with its buzzing Halloween events around the streets, and the dinner we had wasn't half bad either (highest point: the artisanal cider, 10/10 would drown). Then we took a walk around the Bogside, and realised how far, and yet how close, the Troubles were.
It was then that we realised that the cutoff time for checking in was midnight (we called it Mission Cinderella for a reason) and it was a quarter past eleven already. Ran to the car, drove off, set the navigation app on E.'s phone, and rushed towards Letterkenny (and duly joked about a Republic-registered car gunning for the border). Apple Maps is decent, but has one itty bitty problem: in cities where roads are divided between Upper X road and Lower X road, they don't bother to tell one from the other. Of course our hotel was in Upper Main Street and the app sent us to Lower Main Street.
We managed to get lost in a Donegal town. The shame will never go away.
Reached the hotel at 11.58 (suck on THAT, Cinderella) and checked in under the mildly disapproving stare of the lady at the reception.
The hotel itself wasn't too bad, but the Halloween party downstairs and the fact that it wasn't in the best position were a bit of a problem. Oh well, it was cheap enough.
E. and I were awake at 8, G. snored through 9 o'clock. Surprise, there. :P We drove through County Donegal (inspiringly wild sights) to Donegal Town, where we stopped to see the Castle (lovely little castle), and then came back towards Dublin through County Fermanagh, stopping both by Lough Erne (at Tully Castle)...
...and in Enniskillen. Right after leaving Enniskillen, I realised I still had a few pounds left, so I stopped at a petrol station to refuel the car with the *counts coins* twelve pounds and 30p left, so I wouldn't have had to bother with exchanging them. Smart :)
And it was getting dark, so we drove straight to Dublin Airport, left the car at the rental office at half six, took the bus...and our new travel cards weren't working. Tired and slightly angry at that, we just paid for the bus and went home. Took out my wallet, looked inside...
Pip pip and cheerio, Your Majesty. Smart indeed.
I made a rough draft of what to say in these entries. There's enough to fill at least seven of these posts. Welp.
After landing in Dublin on a very windy Sunday afternoon, we were scooped up by a bus sent by the language school that would support us through the internship and the others met their host families at a parking lot in West Dublin. Yeah, the others, because M. and I would have to be driven to our host family, a nice old lady and her (daughter's) two cats in western Knocklyon.
We had a quick chat to get to know one another and we faced our biggest adversary: the South Dublin Accent, manifesting itself in making us confuse - for instance - the words "pub" and "pope". We couldn't understand how Pope Francis would serve beer and have live music at a twenty minutes' walk from our house...despite it being possibly the coolest thing ever.
We both got to our rooms (mine was bigger, but his had a desk) and then set off for the most important things to do:
1. say hi to E. and G., two girls from our group who lived the closest to us, and
2. map the nearby pubs and set a meeting point.
At this point I should say that M. was one half of the sweet-as-molasses couple I mentioned in part one; the other half, R., lived about two miles away. Poor lads.
We had been assigned our internships a few days before: M. would work as a gardener in Phoenix Park, while I would work as an admin assistant in an industrial estate in West Dublin. He'd start work at 10 and I would start at 9.30, which, accounting for timezones, meant that for us it was like starting at 11 and 10.30 in the morning. SCORE!
The next day we took the bus to the language school. Some of us arrived a bit later because they didn't realise that, since Ireland drives on the left, they were at the wrong bus stop and missed it as a result. They were duly made fun of.
The language school held a crash course in Irish slang and tips about living in Dublin and brought us on a walking trip of the city centre, during which - guess what - it started raining, and I forgot to put my raincoat in my backpack.
A lesson truly quickly learned; since then, the raincoat would always be in my backpack.
It rained precisely once more during the daytime for the whole flippin' month, and precisely on the same day I had left my backpack at home.
And on the day after - Tuesday 18 - I started my internship in a recruitment company (how ironic, an unemployed person working to find work for others). The coworkers were very nice to me, but I realised that the South Dublin Accent outlined earlier was, possibly, playing in easy mode. A few coworkers from all over Ireland had accents I couldn't believe were made by humans, not to mention the speed at which they talked; took me quite a while to understand what they were saying, but I also realised that most Irish people talk too fast even for one another to understand, and so half the conversations are made up by the words "Sorry, come again?" or similar ones.
The not-so-good part was that I had to take two buses to get to work, and I could either choose to go to the city centre and get jammed in traffic, or go to the outskirts of the city and take the bus there in the other direction, in exchange for quite a longer trip. I took the latter option. I had to change buses in Tallaght, which in Gaelic translates to "plague pit". Lovely place.
The workload itself wasn't heavy: formatting CVs, searching databases for suitable candidates, inputting work hours in the payroll database, filing of invoices...usual clerical work. I also had to phone applicants to ask them questions relevant to recruitment, like pay expectations, notice period, reason for leaving, and such.
At first, obviously, I was unsure about how I'd fare, then a colleague said "you have what they're looking for: if you're unconfortable talking on the phone, they'll probably be terrified about making a good impression." Cue the inevitable evil laugh, and the ensuing phone calls went well.
Of course, I had to change buses to get home, too. I'd usually take the 49...
The first two weeks floated by easily: during the weekend the language school organised a trip to an archaeological site (Knowth) and a Viking-era cemetery.
The second weekend, though, would have been much different: not only Monday was a bank holiday, but the Friday before was a builders' holiday, so I could look forward to a four-day weekend (h*ck yeah). That's when, chatting with E. and G. (see second paragraph), a crazy plan hatched: rent a car, travel somewhere, no plans, no guide. We agreed to leave on Saturday morning, and return...whenever.
So that Friday I was to have lunch with my colleagues, since one of them was returning to the US after a year in Ireland. But before lunch, we'd go kart racing. Hell. Yeah.
But there was an itty bitty issue - the kartodrome wasn't served by any bus line, so I thought I'd rent the car a day earlier to save myself some trouble.
That Thursday evening, therefore, I took the bus to Dublin Airport and started looking for the car hire office. Looked everywhere...except in the only obvious point, the arrivals terminal. Whoops. After that, rented the car (a lovely Skoda Fabia) without problems, got to the car park, opened the car, sat in it...and there was no bloody steering wheel because I sat on the passenger's side. After some light cursing and thankfulness for the evening darkness, I started the car and, in a mild panic and thinly veiled terror, off I went.
It wasn't bad at all, it's just that shifting gears with your left hand is hard if you never did it. Oh, and the fact that the Irish drive like the Italians, but without any self-preservation instinct to speak of.
Friday went smoothly (apart from getting lost on the way to lunch, but oh well), and prepared the few things I'd carry for the weekend.
Saturday morning, wake up at 9 to be ready whenever the girls were...and ready they were, at one in the afternoon. Load the backpacks in the car, turn around, and we're off. Destination: north.
But that deserves a post of its own. :P
(Brace yourselves, part three is coming)
As many of you probably know, this April I was made redundant and so - after a bit - started looking for jobs (with less-than-stellar prospects) and applying for public jobs (with even-less-stellar prospects, but that hasn't stopped me from trying).
So one day I came across a job listing that wasn't a job listing but an internship programme. 90 places reserved to those who were unemployed for at least one month, resident in my province, and registered as jobseekers. You could try for one (and only one) of six 15-places selections: London (August), Brighton (August), Malta (October), Dublin (October/November), Berlin (November) and Malta again (November).
My German isn't even decent, so Berlin was scratched off the list right away. London and Brighton had the application cutoff time set too early for me to have the necessary requirements, so I had to choose between Dublin and Malta. (Not that I would have chosen London, anyway. Brighton, perhaps, but not London)
"October temperatures in Malta range from 15 degrees Celsius in the night up to 25, or even more, during the day"
Scratch. That. Let others go roast themselves in the middle of the freakin' Mediterranean.
Dublin it is. I always wanted to go to Ireland, after all; even my secondary school leaving thesis topic was the Easter Rising, back in the days of yon.
The programme included:
a language test in early September (B1 level);
a three weeks' English course starting September 26;
Departure for Dublin on October 16, return on November 20;
Travel expenses (plane tickets, Dublin bus card), accommodation (host families) and meals provided
Support from a local language school
90% monetary contribution towards a language certification (I have one from 2001, so that's one of the main reasons I applied)
The keenest of you will think, "and Luana?"
Well, to say she wasn't exactly excited would be an understatement, but seeing that it could be a good experience lasting five weeks only (and after telling her she could come to Ireland for a weekend) she agreed. Puppy eyes may have been involved. Everything's fair in love and/or war.
The language test went well (WHO DA MVP???), so I was due to start the English course. There were 13 other people going to Dublin, a pretty well-assorted group (ranging in age from 25 to 41) and made up of mostly agreeable people (a couple were a bit full of themselves, but oh well, no one is perfect).
The three weeks' course also went well despite a few hiccups, and in the meantime some friendships (and a disgustingly diabetes-inducing-sweet couple! ) were formed, since we were together eight hours a day for three weeks straight. Of course, we behaved like perfectly well-adjusted adults at all times.
The course ended on October 14, and on October 16 we were brought to Milan to catch the flight to Dublin. My scale at home wasn't working well, so I had no idea whether my luggage was actually within the weight limits or not. There was only one way to find out in Milan: use the unused check-in conveyor belts as makeshift scales. It's technically prohibited, but hey, Italy.
The checked-in luggage was well within the weight limit (~21 kg out of 25). The cabin luggage went on the conveyor belt, and after a tense half-second, it gave the reading 9.95 (out of 10 maximum kilograms).
High-fived all of my colleagues (and a few people in the queue to boot, too). Hey-ho, let's go.
After the security checks (during which I was selected for a patdown search, typical) and the boarding, we had an uneventful flight apart from very windy conditions that had us circle the airport for a bit before being allowed to land (slightly roughly).
Fáilte go hÉirinn, Fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath.
Welcome to Ireland, welcome to Dublin.
Let's do this thing.
(part 2 - and more - to come)
So I was looking at an interesting recipe that had oven temperatures listed in Fahrenheit, so I typed "225F" in Google to take advantage of Google's quick converter.
I'm not even mad, magnificent love-childs (for the record, that'd be 107°C, or "just above boiling point" in cooking instructions)
The narration of Easter could have been made 1000x funnier if Jesus's resurrection had been scheduled for Good Friday at 3 o'clock
"Father into your hands I---- lol jk"
*Longinus stabs him*
*legionary fires a volley of arrows*
"didn't we already reserve that for Saint Sebastian?"
*gets skull bashed in, skull reforms*
"Did somebody say chimichanga?"
My boss asked me to come along to get [other boss]'s car from the mechanic while the latter was busy in a meeting.
We get to the mechanic, get the car, then he gives me [other boss]'s keys and asks me to get back to the workplace; my face was then frozen in an utter "WHAT" face
Basically, my task was driving a friggin' Audi A8 for more or less 30 kilometres
Familiarise with the car's displays and button for 15 minutes, then start the engine, touch throttle with tip of foot, find self strapped ass-first to a rocket (that car has 385 bhp - the most I had ever driven had 110 bhp)
Summary of the trip: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
ohgodohgodohgod I have to find a parking spot far away from all the other cars shizzle a dent in the bumper would cost like ten thousand years of work spiritofayrtonsennaguidemeplease ontheotherhandnoit'sokdon'tmind
stop the car, enter office, breathe sigh of relief
Today the rankings to determine those who have obtained public housing have been published, and we're in the first 7 places (the ones eligible to obtain a house with reduced rent)
So we're going to move sometime before the end of the year (the rankings are subject to a 30-day grace period in case of mistakes, and then the municipality has 5 months to allot the apartments).
happy as shizzle you guise
(view from the west-north-west)
October 9, 1963.
The town of Longarone slowly drifts off to sleep. It's twenty to 11pm, and it's been raining for a while now.
Longarone lies at the end of the Vajont valley, which is barred by a newly-constructed dam - one of the tallest in the world. In 1960 and 1961, landslides and small earthquakes had been reported, and a larger landslide led to the construction of an overflow tunnel; calculations showed that a landslide could have catastrophic effects if the water level came within 20 metres from the brim, and thus the water was kept under the -25m mark.
Throughout 1963, signs of a future landslide became visible on the side of Mount Toc, and engineers resolved to lower the water mark, in order to accommodate the extra volume.
In the night of October 9, the landslide proved to be much more massive than predicted. And very, very fast.
260 million cubic metres (more than 9 billion cubic feet) plunged into the basin at speeds up to 110 km/h (70mph).
The resulting wave spread on the other side of the basin, wiping away a few small villages, and towards the dam itself.
A tsunami-like wave, 200 metres tall, topped the dam and roared towards Longarone. In the town itself, no buildings in line with the mouth of the valley were left standing.
In the image above, the wave would have pretty much obscured the visible sky.
1910 people lost their lives.
The dam itself was, and still is, intact. Only the top metre of masonry and infrastructure was blown away.
 Toc comes from the Friulian "patoc", which means "rotten". Guess why.
EDIT: more pictures: http://www.corriere.it/foto-gallery/reportage/cronache/13_ottobre_04/vajont-foto-evaristo-fusar-30724ea4-2cfe-11e3-bdb2-af0e27e54db3.shtml#1 - the first caption contains the sentence "Primary school pupils numbered 226: 186 died."