Monday, April 18, 2011

My Cinematic Alphabet

Last month, one of my favorite movie blogs, "Rupert Pupkin Speaks", created his list of the best movies A-Z. I thought this sounded like a lot of fun and a challenge, but I had no idea how difficult it would be. How do I choose just one movie per letter? I can barely come up with a response to the question, "What's your favorite movie?" (I used to say "Paper Moon" just to be a bit of s snob, but truth be told it's probably "Vivre sa Vie" or "Heavy". See! I can't even pick one in my own blog and I still sound like a snob!). To make it easier, I picked the first movie that came to mind or grabbed my attention. It's interesting how many of them are somewhat personal to me; either in content or by association with a particular memory or person.

So, here goes:

A- All That Jazz

B- Bell, Book, and Candle

C- Cafe au Lait

D- Dr Zhivago

E- Edward Scissorhands

F- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

G- Ginger Snaps

H- Heavy

I- Immortal Beloved

J- Jason and the Argonauts

K- Killer Klowns from Outer Space

L- Last Days of Disco

M- Mallrats

N- Night Watch

O- Orlando

P- Pulp Fiction

Q- Quartermass and the Pit

R- The Red Violin

S- The Salton Sea

T- Tank Girl

U- Uncertainty

V- Vivre sa Vie

W- What About Bob?

X- X: The Unheard Music

Y- Yojimbo

Z- Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Red Light A-Go-Go

Day 7- Amsterdam

My confusion over when our flight was leaving results in our dropping the car off at 9 AM for what I thought was an 11:45 flight. It's 1:45- oops! We can't check in until 10:45 so we wait and wait. Positive note: I get a bit of knitting done. Finally, Duty Free awaits! I can buy liquor but not cigarettes when travelling between EU countries. Cigarettes are around 9 euro or about $13 a pack. Not sure exactly what I was thinking bringing only a half pack with me. Actually, I know exactly what I was thinking- "Hey! I have to order my smokes duty free since they don't sell them in the US anymore, so why not just buy some there?" Stupid. Thankfully, not smoking in the car or room has really curbed my habit! I smoked less than 2 packs during that week. Success!

My Sister's Travel Tip: When checking bags, only check to your next destination if you have an extended layover. This saves your bag from getting ahead of you and being detained in your final city. There would be nothing worse than finding out your bag has been unclaimed and sent back to the country of origin. Talk about a bummer.

It's a hop, skip, and a jump from Dublin to Amsterdam. Aer Lingus does not offer complementary beverages which was disappointing. What's a flight without my traditional ginger ale? I also don't need a customs voucher, thank you EU, but it makes me nervous.

I'm totally unprepared for Amsterdam. It's as if I forgot we were coming here. I didn't look up any maps, restaurants, things to see, or think of accommodation. Thankfully my sister did and booked us into a Christian hostel in the middle of the red light district. Ironic, no? I like the idea of a religious hostel. One assumes the people there will not sell you into torture porn or steal your toothbrush. Also, with an early 10 AM flight, I'm not interested in listening to people go at it like bunnies or stumble around after a visit to the "coffee" shops.

Our credit cards don't work at the kiosks for the train to Centraal Station. You need some kind of computer chip that our cards didn't have- more cash out of pocket.

Travel Tip #4: Take plenty of cash

Streets in Amsterdam are a welcome sight- street signs! The "idiot posts" as I've always called them, in the red light district all have "XXX" stamped on them. We learn later that the street our hostel is on is a good place to pick up trannies. Wonder what the Christian hostel thinks about that. Our room is nice and overlooks the courtyard. We have one roommate that we'll meet at the end of the night. She's from Canada and is leaving at a similar time as us the next day. She agrees to help us get to the airport on time since she brought an alarm clock. Travel Tip #5: Don't forget an alarm clock.

We head to Dam Square which houses the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, it's facade is under renovation. Before we lose the light completely we are able to take a few pictures of the monument there. It's amazing how many people are out and about on a Sunday and how many places are still open. We grab some french fries with roumalade sauce (tasted more like tartar sauce, but still good) and a falafel from a guy who looked like Liev Schrieber. So far, everything is cheaper in Holland than it was in Ireland.

There has to be something to do on a Sunday night, and we find it shortly after finishing our dinner- The Museum of Sex. For only 4 euro it's also the cheapest thing we've done all vacation! I have to tell you, I was skeptical of going. Not because I'm a prude, but because I didn't know what to expect. Was it serious? A joke? Turns out it's a bit of both. It was a lot of fun and we took some hilarious pictures.

It's still too early to turn in for the night so we hit up Cafe Cuba down the street from our hostel. It's dark and wooden and has an almost 50s underbelly vibe to it. Our bartender is adorable and we all take turns picking songs from the juke box. Oh, this juke box was amazing! Kind of like iTunes, you type in the song you want and create play lists. They had everything and we blast some Ludacris for our new friends. No sooner did I step out to the bathroom than my sister worked her magic and charmed some locals. We were instant friends, buy beers and playing stupid bar games. My sister is not a big drinker; in fact, this is the most she's drunk in her entire life combined (and we're talking a total of 9 drinks all week). I turn her on to Grolsch and before I know it she's downgraded from a pint to a half pint to a whisper (really cute 1/4 pint, more like a flight). She is boggled! [side note: my sister a bit schwasted is very amusing.] I kept saying, "You don't have to drink it. They're buying your more because you keep finishing it!"

By the time we get back to our room, it is stifling. The radiator will not turn off. We crack a window but it doesn't really help, even with the 30 degree air streaming in. We gain a 4th roommate who demands the window be shut. Ironically, this is the best my sister sleeps all trip.

Travel Tip #6: Ask about extra fees. Our hostel charged a 10 euro key deposit that would be returned on check out. Thank god I had a bit of cash. Also, bring your own lock and avoid having to buy one, even though they are relatively inexpensive.

I really want to come back here when I have more time. There's a bus tour that takes you out to the tulip farms, and windmills, and wooden shoe factories. There's a cheese maker as well! A gondala tour of the canals would be fun as well. Best bet is to rent a bike and ride until you can't ride anymore. Drinking is cheaper here as well by almost half. Our whole tab for about 4 beers was 11 euro, our dinner was 8.

Next: Home

Adieu to Ireland

The long delayed conclusion to my Ireland vacation:

Day 6- Cork

So far, Cork is unimpressive. It's a very industrial city and lacking the "brightness" of Galway. We try to visit the Butter Museum but it doesn't open until 10 AM. Hmmm... Wait around half an hour or get a move on to Dublin? 

Our B&B suggested we stop at the Rock of Cashel- an ancient castle and cathedral ruin. Once it was the seat of the ancient kings of Ireland. Now, this surprisingly well preserved ruin hosts tours most of the year. It's amazing to see. Cashel is a gem in the center of the country. We had a lovely lunch at Ladyswell along the main road and within walking distance of the ruin. I had the most delicious Mediterranean panini (with cole slaw of course) and my sister had the seafood chowder. I'm not sure how "chowdery" it was, but she said it was delicious.  

The rest of the trip North was uneventful. One thing that struck me odd was the radio. Irish radio is horrid. I will never complain about the lack of selection here for as long as I live. We literally heard the same 6 songs all week long. A sampling of the songs sponsoring our vacation:

- Enrique Iglesias "Tonight (I'm Loving You)- Of course, we sang the CD version "Tonight (I'm Fucking You) and this song has haunted me ever since we returned. I can't turn around without hearing it and when I do I must sing along. I even sang it for Suicide Karaoke. God, I love that song. Oh Enrique, when'd you get so dirty? It's even spawned a new verb "to iglesias", meaning to have sex. As in: You are totally getting iglesiased tonight.

- Jessie J "Money"- She hasn't really broken in the states yet, but I think her album is only just coming out. She was just in the last issue of Entertainment Weekly or Vogue or something and I saw her on Graham Norton not too long ago. I wasn't impressed, but now I feel I must inflict this song on everyone.

- Some techno/dance song that wanted to "take us higher off the ground". No idea.

- Bruno Marz "Grenade"- Sounds like the guy needs to get some self esteem.

- Adele "Rolling in the Deep"/"Someone Like You"- I fully admit to buying this album the other day. I can't escape it. She sounds amazing and I find her hilarious. Did you see her on "Chelsea Lately"? I tried to link to it, but my computer's acting up. Youtube it- trust me.

Now in Dublin, we're hunting for our next B&B which is located on Dublin Bay. It's a bit far out of the city but my main concern was getting to the car rental and airport on time. Regardless, there's a bus stop right across the street so we can leave the car it took me FOREVER to parallel park on the busy road. Our original B&B had plumbing issues that were as yet unresolved, but he booked us into another one a few doors down. The Sea Breeze is run by the tiniest old lady I've ever seen. How does she get up the stairs? Who changes the linen? These are questions probably best not to ask. Our room did have an excellent view of the bay but the room itself may have been the worst so far. Not bad, so much as old and out dated in more of a Salvation Army sense than an antique one.

After the required nap, we take the bus (1.80 euro) to the city center, or close enough really. All I want at this point is Indian food. I've been craving it something fierce all week. Problem is, we left all maps etc. in the room. I also still cannot find my camera charger. What the heck fire happened to it?! Wandering the streets of Temple Bar, in the rain, there is a beacon ahead in the form of a human directional. He is pointing to Shan Indian restaurant. God bless you sir. Now, get me a samosa! It's after 8 PM but there is only a large party in the dining room. I get a bit nervous but soon others arrive. I guess this is the place to go late.

It takes a while to get our food considering no one else is in the restaurant, but once it comes I don't really care. The samosa is flavorful and just a bit spicy. I have to Aloo Mutter (potatoes and peas) and my sister has the Saag Paneer (homemade cheese in spinach). I asked for mine spicy but that's not how it comes. Oh well... The assortment of chutney's is also very different from what I'm used to- slightly sweet lemon preserve, pickled onions, and something containing tamarind. Still, it was pretty good and just over 10 euros each.

We try for a pint at The Quay since we liked the one in Galway so much, but it is well over the legal limit of patrons. My stupid umbrella gets caught in several peoples jackets. It was also very expensive. We skedaddled back across the river to find someplace more cozy and closer to where we needed to pick up the bus home. Thankfully, the drizzle has finally let up. I can't remember the name of the bar we ended up at! It was fun with two levels. We almost went into this place next door called... Poets Corner? Poet Laureate? Something about literature. Before we know it though, it's time to catch the bus back before it stops running and start packing for Amsterdam. We're planning to leave our large bags at the airport, so stuffing all essentials into our carry on's is a chore. I'm starting to run low on funds.

I've eaten cole slaw at almost every meal in Ireland. People seem obsessed with it. Is this a new transport from abroad? I was even asked if I already knew I liked it before they would serve it to me. So cute. "Honey, I'm from Texas. We eat this by the bucket full!" For the most part, cole slaw here has a lot of mayonnaise. It was nice at first, I'm not used to real mayo, but eventually I just wanted to drain out much of it. A soft hand in cole slaw is often best I think. I've also lost count on the number of eggs I've eaten. Every breakfast and then on accident other times (stupid yummy quiche). If I never see another egg....

Next: This is the end or Hello Amsterdam!