Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#39 - Gargoyles and Street Performers in Paris

I love Gargoyles.  The real ones.  On cathedrals.  So there are really only three words needed for this.

Paris.  Notre Dame.

I like gargoyles so much I wrote a gargoyle song.

A true gargoyle (which name comes from the French word for gurgling) is a strange creature carved of stone and used as a water spout for rain to run off on a building.  This is why they were called "gargoyles."  Today we generically use the term to refer to other carved monsters, called "grotesques" found on cathedrals and other Gothic public buildings.

Of course, there are other locations than the cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris for viewing gargoyles, but Notre Dame is a magnificently fun place.  A grand wonder of architecture with a courtyard filled with street performers, and good places to eat within viewing distance.  There are also budget hotels in Paris city centre to be found.

So, when you are in planning a trip to Paris, don't forget to make Notre Dame a good long stop, because there is a lot to see.  My trip to Notre Dame was a clear, warm summer day with a cool breeze blowing through the trees.  A flamenco guitarist was playing in the square in front of the cathedral.  There were circus performers juggling and balancing in the square, and art was openly exhibited.  There was a skateboarding exhibition happening on the wide walkway coming up to the Cathedral.

Between the fun on the way up to the cathedral, and the awesome wonder of the cathedral it should be on your bucket list.  It made my list.  I have been there done that, and can check it off my list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Burning Man update - #7 completed!

Yes, Burning Man is a crazy experiment in radical self-reliance, and radical self-expression - sometimes too much so, but an absolute blast to be sure.  I joined a theme camp, and because we were setting up to serve expresso, and do dream interpretation during the days, we arrived a day before the opening of the gates to set up our "Spirit Dream Interpretation Camp."

I helped pull a 12 foot tall shopping cart mutant vehicle (built by Scott Veatch) from Ohio to Nevada, and back again.  Consequently my adventure was extended to two full weeks.

If you have always been wanting to go to Burning Man, all I can say is - oh yeah, do it if you can.  Yes, it is true that newbies to the event (called "virgins") are asked to roll in the fine playa dust at entrance to the gate, and (unlike some of my friends) I did not shirk my dust eating duty and initiation into the Burner world.  Hopefully I will be able to link to the video of the initiation soon. :-)

Here are a few highlights for me:  The temple and all the emotion being poured out as people wrote their dreams, fears, sorrows, and joys on the temple walls.  The Burning of the Man on Saturday night - even though there was a dust storm hindering the full experience of the burn, it was a great show of fireworks, fire spinners, and the biggest bonfire you've ever seen.  Reciting limericks in a pub which gave a free pint of Guinness to everyone who recited a limerick (our team came with 14 of them, and we turned the place upside down - as chief limerick writer I had my hand on most of those limericks actually).  Interpreting dreams and encouraging people with words of wisdom, and watching them fall apart (in a good way) in openness to the working of the Spirit.  Traveling around in the shopping cart by night, and meeting the same people we served in the Dream Camp.

Burning Man may be miles away from nowhere near Gerlach, NV in the Black Rock desert, but it seems right in the heart of our culture, and it is no wonder that has become a type of church for the 50,000 people who attend each year.

2011?  Return to Burning Man?  Maybe, I would certainly love to, but as for now I can scratch it off my list of things to do.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#38 - visiting Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland

The history of Ireland's struggle for independence is to a great degree housed in Europe's largest unused prison. Kilmainham Gaol was closed by the new Irish Free State shortly after independence was reached.  For 128 years it housed prisoners.  It was an unsegregated prison with men, women and even children (the youngest thought to be 7 years old) in 92 square ft. cells with 5 people per cell.

The jail was restored as a museum starting in the 60's and is now run by an Irish Government Agency.  It now houses the history of the fight for independence, and the sad history of famous executions.  It was here that 14 leaders of the Easter uprising in 1916 were executed, and black crosses mark the location of the executions. 

Dublin hotels in the city centre of Dublin are within a few minutes of Kilmainham Gaol.  Items such as the death mask of Robert Emmet, and the history of the Irish rebellion and struggle make this a must visit in Ireland.  This makes my bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

The last prisoner of Kilmainham Gaol, Eamonn De Valera later became the Prime Minister of Ireland and then the President of Ireland.  Your stop at the gaol may encourage you to more honorable goals.

Update #7 - Headed for Burning Man

Today I leave Scott Veatch's house helping to pull a trailer with this contraption on it.  This big shopping cart is called the blue light special.  Scott and his friend Jeff built this thing, and it will be one of the mutant vehicles at the Burning man event, and a part of the Spirit Cafe's outreach to the Burner's.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Visiting Old Dark London - #37

Some years ago, my friend Mike took me on a tour of London, which included among other things some of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley's haunts.  Always up for a little mystery, and coming from the significantly more occultly pregnant city of Salem, Massachusetts, I was excited to be led on a short tour of this sort in downtown London, by my good friend the Neo-Shaman.

The UK is the birthplace of modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism as we know it today, and London of course is going to be "the spot" for learning much of this history.

Atlantis Bookshop was one of the strange old man's frequented places, and it still stands, and is still active today.  This is also true for Watkin's Books, which has been around for over a hundred years.

Locations such as 67-69 Chancery Lane where the strange old occultist once lived, and practiced his arts can be seen, and The Plough - a Pub and another hangout on Museum Street should be stopped at.  These dark and peculiar places in London bring you back to the turn of the century over a hundred years ago, and can give you a significantly creepy sense - unless of course, like me, you are comfortable learning about our wild, weird and wonderfully diverse world.

This is on my list of 1,000 things to do before I die.  I haven't died yet, and I've accomplished it - and it didn't kill me.

When you make this a part of you trip to London you will want to find hotels in London City Centre with parking.

For more info a Crowleys Haunts you can check this page describing a Crowley tour.

Las Vegas without the Lost Wages - #36

I am not a gambler.  I am not the kind of person who likes to go into the big cities when I travel - at least not for long, but I have gone for quite a few Holidays to Las Vegas.

Now, I have been there quite a lot because it was my halfway stop from Southern California to Utah each summer.  Yes, it is a gambler's paradise, but it has become more than that.  Shows, concerts, sporting events fill the schedule of the city's event list, but this is not the thing which captures my attention in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a great place for wandering around at night simply to look.  It is an architect's paradise with wildly designed hotel casinos in every possible theme.  Fountains dance, roller coasters fly through the air, lights beam through the sky, and ships attack one another and the Brittania sinks on the Strip at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino.  Wandering Las Vegas during the night is certainly worth putting on a list of one thousand things to do before you die - even if like me, you don't gamble.

St Stephen's: Canada's Chocolate Town

Just over the border crossing in Calais, ME you enter the heart of downtown St. Stephen's, New Brunswick.  A right hand turn takes you past the interactive chocolate museum, which tells the story of rise of the Ganong Brother's success in candy making starting in the late 19th century in St. Stephen's.  A block further brings you to the well run, and friendly visitor center.

St. Stephen's is a slightly out of the way stop on the way into Canada's eastern shores.  Route 1 in Canada has been re-developed and runs around the city now, but the old Main Street in Calais, ME still brings you to the old border crossing.

I stopped here on my way back from paddling the Bay of Fundy to visit some friends who work and run St. Stephen's University.  I had to stay longer to visit the chocolate museum, and buy some wonderful Canadian chocolate to bring home to friends.

Don't travel the east coast of Canada without stopping here.  Especially if you have kids.  The interactive chocolate museum is a wonderful hands on experience.  I like Canada's Atlantic Coast.  I'm hooked on the Bay of Fundy, and St. Stephen's will be a regular stop for me on my Holidays to Canada.

Friday, July 23, 2010

#35 - Anybody doing "Life in a Day?"

Along with that list of things I want to do before I die, there sometimes comes along a one-off event, which falls into the category of want to do, or perhaps even (if one should miss it) a 'I am really sorry I did not do that' event.

Filming my day, or parts of it for this production "Life in a Day" is one of those things, which will fall into the category of 'I am really sorry I did not do that' if I don't give it a shot.

Are you going to participate in "Life in Day?"  I'll be filming my life.  How about you?

Wanna do it? Check out Life in a Day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#34 - The Do Lectures in the Fforest of West Wales

The Do Lectures have been listed as one of the great "conferences" in the world.  4 days, 22 speakers, and only 80 attendees in a tent in the "Fforest" sounds like a perfect setting for learning and perhaps even unlearning.

Their website has the list of speakers from the last two years, and this September's lectures will be up after the event happens.

Of course, for a wild theologian like me to be a speaker would be a real hoot, but it looks like everyone becomes a teacher as well as a learner in the Fforest.

So, the Do Lectures make my bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die.  It obviously is making other people's list as well.

More on #26 - Kayaking the Bay of Fundy

My second day in the Banana car trip to New Brunswick brought me to the town of Alma on the north side of the Bay of Fundy Park.  I landed in town, and quickly found Fresh Air Adventure so I could ask about where to put in, and things to do in town.

At Fresh Air I met Daelan (Sp?) and Abby, who immediately were helpful and informed where to eat, and not to eat in town, and suggested it was good to put in right across the street in the Upper Salmon River when the tide was high.

If you stop at Fresh Air Adventure, Daelan is the guy with the tattoos, and Abby is the girl with the blond dreads.   They suggested a couple places to eat.  Being from Coastal New England I was not as enticed as other tourists by the proliferation of lobster and seafood places, but it was suggested that if I wanted that the best place in town was Tides which has both a Deck with take out, or a sit in fancy eating place in the hotel.

Instead I went to the Octopus Garden.  Any place named after a Ringo Starr song has got to be cool.  Octopus Garden is a combination blown glass art gallery, and cafe.  Rachel the owner is a drummer and she runs the cafe, and her husband is the glass blower.

I visited that first afternoon and met Vernon, who was extremely knowledgeable about places to paddle in the area.

Then next morning I returned.  I arrived a little earlier than the 7:30am opening, and decided to help, since Rachel was there and  had broken her big toe and was limping around.  So, I took down the chairs from the table tops, and set out the sandwich board sign.

Then I saw the guitar on the wall.  It said Play Me.  I obeyed.

This is my pick for the place to hang out in Alma.  Good food, great Panninis, a nice blend of loose leaf teas, and local stuff you can buy.  They even have a jam session night on Wednesdays.

I kayaked around the Upper Salmon River and bounced among the rocks going as far up it as I could.  Oh, the wonders of a plastic kayak!  You can hit hard things and just keep bouncing along without a dent.  The evening I stayed there I camped on the lawn at Fresh Air after spending time hanging with Daelan and Abby.  I like Alma.  I think I'd like to go back sometime.  I still have to paddle the coast of the Bay of Fundy Park.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#33 - Shopping at Midnight in Maine

I really don't care for shopping much, but musical instruments or certain sporting equipment can capture my fancy from time to time.  Shopping at L.L. Bean in Freeport, ME is actually fun for anyone at any age - especially if you go after midnight.  This is the store which is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Blizzards don't close it down, slow business doesn't distract it's goal of always being open.  It is the permanently open store.  I've been to L.L. Bean before, but I have never been there after midnight.

On my travels to New Brunswick to go paddling I needed a few things for the kayaking trip, and since I started late at might to drive north, I was able to stop in a L.L. Bean at 1:30am.  This is not my typical bucket list item, but I have wanted to stop in at L.L. Bean after midnight for a number of years now.

Check it off.  Done.  It really is worth the trip to Freeport, ME, which is a beautiful town, and a great place to visit.  If you like shopping, you even can go shopping at midnight, and you won't be the only person there - I wasn't.  If you are looking for deals to America and are planning on coming to New England, be sure to visit Freeport and the eternal adventure store.

I can scratch this one off my bucket list.

Kayaking The Bay of Fundy - #26 Revisited and Accomplished!

This last weekend I drove to Hopewell Rocks Park, New Brunswick, Canada.  The world's largest tides are only 9 hours drive from Boston, and so I took my $2,000 1994 BMW touring wagon, and my $200 14' sit-on-top ebay kayak and drove to Canada looking like I was riding a banana wagon.

Leaving Friday night I headed straight for Moncton, New Brunswick, and after a few other stops (see next post) arrived at the northern edge of the Bay of Fundy with my banana boat still attached to the car.

Saturday afternoon I visited Hopewell Rocks Park, bought my admission ticket, and signed a waiver at the Interpretive Centre releasing them from any potential disaster.  Then I drove to the location where the kayak instructors and tour guides put in for the the tours.

High tide was on it's way.  If you want to kayak at Hopewell Rocks, you have to do so at high tide, because at low tide you can walk in the spots covered with as much as 20-25' of water at high tide.

The day was windy and choppy with 3' to 4' waves, and there was one group already out with the guides, but they quickly went in, and canceled the second group due to the choppy seas.  I paddled south toward Hopewell Rocks, and came to the sea stacks, and "flower pots."  This place is stunning, and it is serious natural wonder worth visiting.

I spent a few hours in the water.  I rode up and down the waves appearing and disappearing to the watching crowds on the sea cliffs, and then made my way to the protected little coves of sea stacks.  I backed into tight crevices, and paddled back out again.  I explored the rugged coast line and the flower pot formations.  I chatted with onlookers in the stairwell which at low tide takes people down to the beach, and became a photo op for the other tourists.  I avoided going under Lover's Arch, because the waves were too big, and I did not feel like getting smashed between the water and the top of the stone archway.

The water was far too turbulent for me to get out my camera, and take some photos, so my D-40 stayed in the little gortex bag.

The following morning I returned to Hopewell Rocks Park to walk where I had kayaked, and took a lot of photos.  I also learned that the park rangers were watching me the whole time to make sure I was safe.  They remembered the one solo kayaker out in the choppy waves going up and down.

The Park Rangers are knowledgeable and friendly.  One gave me tips on where to head to paddle the next day, Kevin showed me videos of the black ducks he rescued from abandonment at the park, and Shawna gave me some great information on the seaweed and tides.

I am going to be headed back without question.  This is a world class adventure location, and can be experienced with a little adventure, or with complete leisure.  This is a first stop on holidays to Canada as far as I am concerned, and as for now, I can check it of my Bucket List of 1,000 things to do before I die.  Paddling the Bay of Fundy, and going back to walk where you paddled is more fun than driving a banana car.  Yep, its true - I'm a Fundy now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

#31 & #32 - Join the Fringe Element in Edinbugh, Scotland

I can check a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland off of my Bucket list of 1,000 things, but I need to do again, and perhaps consider a repeat trip to be one of the 1,000 things to do before I die.

Edinburgh calls itself the Festival City.  What has typically been the month of August with a combination of theater, art, comedy, and music including the famous Fringe Festival has now stretched itself from April to December and even into January of the next year.

Currently there are 12 festivals listed as part of the festival events in Edinburgh with the great majority of events still happening in August.

My August experience brought me to mimes, jugglers, street thespians, bagpipe and drum corps, a klezmer band, and more fun than P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney could dream up.  Of course most of the street performance is used as a way to sell tickets to events happening in the over 300 venues across the city, and yet by themselves these street performances are completely entertaining.

When you go make sure to find one of the hotels in Edinburgh city centre so you can simply step outside and walk into the frivolity.

Now my repeat appearance will hopefully be as a performer, and that is why the Edinburgh Festivals is on my list for a second time.  I've checked it off once as part of the great audience, and plan to check it off a second time as a performer.  There truly is no place like it in the world for festival fun.  It's on my Bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die.  Add it to yours - perhaps to join me?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Update on #26 - Kayaking the Bay of Fundy

I have decided that during the week of July 18th I am going to drive the short 7 to 8 hours up to the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, and I am going to check off #26 in my bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

My business partner Gareth Gwyn Jones should be meeting me up there for the fun, and my son Elijah will probably be coming along as well.  For you silly people who always worry about my safety (considering that this is the world's largest tidal range - about 50"), Gareth is a trained kayak instructor, I have spent more time in the water in competition, and sport than most people spend watching TV (well, maybe that's not true, because some people watch more TV than log in work or sleep hours), and Elijah is a strong enough swimmer/surfer to help out as well.

All that said - I am gonna be a Fundy for in the third week of July!  Woo-hoo.  Watch out Fred Phelps!  Watch out Ken Silva!  Okay, maybe that's not the kind of Fundy I mean, but hey I will be a kayaking Fundy for a few days in the Bay of Fundy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

#30 - Never be at a loss for words: Kiss the Blarney Stone

That's the tradition:  Kiss the Blarney Stone and you will never be at a loss or words.  My prolific blogging history may reveal the fact that kissing the Blarney Stone could potentially cause me more harm than good, but it still makes the bucket list of 1,000 things I want to  do before I die.

The Blarney Stone, also known as the Stone of Eloquence bestows a golden tongue to those who perform the task of lying down bending backwards and kissing the stone from an upside down position.  Presidents and famous people from all walks of life have kissed the stone, and over 300,000 people still come to kiss it each year.

It has been said that the stone came from sources as varied as Moses, King David of Israel, and St. Columba, but the most commonly accepted version says that Robert the Bruce gave a portion of the stone to Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster as gratitude for Irish support at the battle of Bannockburn.

The history of Blarney includes the fact that in the 1600's the McCarthy's who owned the castle created a bardic school at Blarney Castle which brought scholars from around Ireland.  During the time of Elizabeth I, the McCarthy's were required to surrender the castle, but the ruler of the castle Dermot McCarthy had such eloquent and repeated excuses for not surrendering the castle that Elizabeth remarked, "Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!"  From this point forward the word Blarney has been a part of the English language.

To find your way to to the Blarney Stone be sure to check out car rental Dublin.

#29 - Walk on the Moon! (in Ireland)

If the lunar landscapes are interesting and appealing to you, if like me, you would like to walk a wild, barren and somewhat dangerous land, you might not have to spend a million dollars to be one of the first civilian tourists to the moon.

The moon is really only as far as Ireland.  The Burren is an area of County Clare with a landscape which has been described as lunar.  The barren limestone plateau is a patchwork of cracks and fissures, which make it a unique walking adventure.  Care needs to be exercised to avoid falling and getting hurt, but the walk is not steep as the limestone plateau is made of rolling limestone rock hills and patches of grasses.

Strangely, arctic, mediterranean and alpine plants grow together in this one region, and the alpine flower: the Spring Gentian is used as a symbol for the Burren.  This area also has over 70 ancient tombs, and account for over half of those in County Clare.

This is on my bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die, but I am sure I will need to fill my rental car tank before making my way to the Burren.  Be sure to check out car hire Cork Airport for your rental car.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

#28 - Fenway, one the last of the great old ball parks

My first visit to Fenway Park was during a playoff game with the New York Yankees in the storied 2004 run to their World Series win.  Of course, I went to the third game.  This was the game where the Red Sox got clobbered 18-9 by the Yankees, and went down 3 games to none.  The next four games led to their improbable breaking of the Curse of the Bambino, and their first World Series in 86 years.

I stood by the famed Pesky Pole that night.  Somewhere I still have the picture of it.  It was a good night to see Fenway.  We had the seats, which are no seats: a standing only area underneath the stands on the first level.  Yet I ended up somewhere near first base on the second row by the 6 inning, because everyone starting leaving the slaughter.

A game at Fenway is a must see for people visiting Boston.  Even if you do not like baseball, it carries a sense of history like few places on earth.  Entering the ballpark and looking onto the field for the first time, you can imagine Ted Williams or Babe Ruth stepping to the plate.  The Green Monster, the highest outfield wall remaining in a major league park stands glaring at you from left field.  The place looks, feels, and smells of the gods of the diamond and takes you back 50 - 75 - almost a 100 years to the times romanced by young men for almost a century now.

Are you planning your holidays to Boston?  Fenway Park should find its way into the plans.  It will certainly find its way into your heart.

It was once on my bucket list of 1,000 things to do before I die, but I checked it off in 2004.  I could have gone again tonight if I had been available - tickets were offered, but oh well - I saw them loose in the most famous series they ever played.

Monday, June 14, 2010

#27 - Reading Thoreau at Walden Pond

Today I traveled to Walden Pond in Concord, MA just outside Boston.  $5 parking is the only cost, and this historic location where Henry David Thoreau spent two years living simply in a tiny one room house he built with his own hands a mile from the nearest neighbor in 1845-1847 has become revered as the home of the conservation movement.

It was on my bucket list of a thousand things to do before I die to read his book Walden on location.  Okay - I did not read the whole book today, but as you will see in the video below, I brought it with me to read a little while I was there.

Currently, the water level is especially high in this "kettle pond" which has no stream flowing in our out.  It is fed by the rain, and run-off from surrounding hills.  Because of the high water table the pond path is closed around most of the perimeter, but a walk around the pond is a gorgeous short - and not too strenuous hike.

Swimming, fishing, and hiking are all available at Walden Pond, and best of all there is a wonderful history, which can not do anything but inspire you.

I think it should be on your list of a thousand things to do before you die.  It was on mine, but I checked it off today.  So, if you are looking for a Boston city break, I am not sure you've really had the full break without visiting the beautiful home of Thoreau's simple living.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

#26 - Kayaking the Bay of Fundy

The largest tidal range in the world is boasted by Canada's Bay of Fundy, and it is on my bucket list of places to go.  In sections of the bay the tidal range is as large as 53 feet!  So you can imagine there are things to see in this wild land, which you not find anywhere else in the world.

Chignecto Park is a great place to take this adventure.  Paddle out to the famous Three Sisters rock formation during high tide, and go back to walk among these sea stacks during low tide.  Nature is at it's wildest and most beautiful in the Bay of Fundy, but of course that's the way it often is - dangerous wildness and awe inspiring beauty are wrapped together in a paradoxical package.

I'm planning on kayaking the Bay of Fundy.  It is not enough to see the tide, I want to get right down into it, and feel it beneath me.

Do you want to add this to one of the thousand things to do before you decide to permanently visit heaven?  Hopefully we'll meet in a sea cave, or among the stacks of Three Sisters. 

Catch cheap flights to Canada, and make your way to the rugged south eastern coast.  Join me in Canada - get Fundy with me.

Surfing Dingle: walk on water with Brendan the Navigator #25

Walking the Dingle Way and placing my foot among the ancient ruins where people still believed in miracles and called heaven down with the force of their faith is one thing, but I want to walk on water.

In the same place from which Brendan the Navigator hails, and hosts the mountain which bears his name there is also some of Ireland's best surfing.  Brendan supposedly was born near Tralee near at entrance to the Dingle Peninsula, and established monastic communities around Mount Brandon.  Later Brendan would set out on a journey by sea to find the "Blessed Land," or some Edenic variation thereof. 

Today there are people who believe that Brendan may have preceded Columbus by 1,000 years to find the Americas.  Reaching the Americas in a skin boat in the 6th century would have been a miracle indeed.  But I'll settle for walking on water on the shores of the Dingle Peninsula.

With locations like Brandon Bay and a place called "Inch" (how surfer-like is that name?) the Dingle has become a surfer's destination.

Pick up your at car hire Cork Airport, and head to the shores of the Dingle Peninsula.  It's on my bucket list as one of the thousand things I want to do before I die.  Perhaps we can walk on water together.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

#24 - Walk the Dingle Way

A walk through the heart of Irish speaking Ireland, surrounded by ancient Celtic history with beehive huts (clochain), castles, sea cliffs, beaches, Ogham stones, and ancient church ruins: now doesn't that sound like the walker's dream?

The south western tip of Ireland is made up of a number of bays and peninsulas the northern most of which is the Dingle Peninsula.  Starting at the city of Tralee, and typically walking 117 miles in a clockward direction around the Dingle peninsula to return to Tralee some days later, one is carried back into early Christian times in Ireland, and even earlier.  The path hugs the rugged coast, and traverses other memorable walks such as the Saint's Way, which is a memorial to Brendan the Navigator as it crosses the highest mountain on the peninsula named after him.

For a list of of activities on the Dingle Peninsula check here, and for your car hire needs go to car hire Ireland.

After having read The Voyage of Brendan a few years back this is on my bucket list of places to go and things to do.  How about you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

#23 - Ice Tubes: Surfing in Canada

Canada.  Surf.

Yes, the two words do belong together - at least for some people.  The last couple years I have not been out surfing, but I plan to change that.  Canada is one of the those places I would like to visit for a surf trip - in the Fall or maybe even the Winter.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but first you must realize that the waves on the eastern shores of North America are at their best in the Fall and Winter, and during the occasional late Summer hurricane which travels into the North Atlantic.  That leaves late Summer through Winter for the best surf.  Considering this I have wanted for quite some time to do a Winter surf trip taking me north from Massachusetts into New Hampshire, Maine, and then yes, into Canada.  Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland - maybe Labrador these are the places I want to go.  Maybe some surfing during the the northern lights?  Now that would be crazy!  :-)

Just remember, a good winter suit, and a thermos with warm water to start.  A nearby pub with a fire would be a great addition as well.

So, consider some surf fun in Canada.  Canada is making the pages of surf mags these days, and you can find cheap flights to Montreal.

It's on my list of a thousand things to do before I die.  Wanna join me?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Learn to play the bagpipes: Update on #13

You know you want to learn to play the bagpipes.  Have you considered going to a bagpipe summer school? 

Canada's Prince Edward Island has the school just for you:  The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts.  Affiliated with Glasgow's College of piping, this school people come to learn from all around the world.  New Zealand pipers, Japanese pipers, Kuwaiti pipers, Singapore pipers, and yes, even Scottish pipers have learned here.

The College of Piping also has classes in Highland and Step Dancing, and Drumming.  Prince Edward Island was originally inhabited by the mi'kmaq, and the 2006 census identified 90 people who still speak mi'kmaq.  The population identifies itself mainly as Scottish, English, Irish and French (in that order), so the Celtic influence on Prince Edward Island is strong.

Price Edward Island may be just the place to connect with your inner Celt, and learn the pipes.  I'll be learning to play sometime soon, so I expect you will be sitting down for a piping session with me.

If headed to piping school please checkout these cheap flights to Canada.

Friday, April 9, 2010

#22 Go Mumming in Newfoundland

Winter does not seem like the time to visit Canada, but there is more than one reason to make the trek north in the coldest, longest days of the year.  My last winter suggestion for the frozen upperlands was to visit in the winter to experience the Northern Lights.  But, there are even stranger things happening in Canada in the winter than the wondrous Northern Lights.

Newfoundland is home to a 200 year old Christmas tradition:  Mummers visiting from home to home, or as it is also called among the Newfoundlanders "belsnicklers."

Here in Salem, I organized a Mummers Festival in 2008, but this is not the same as a spontaneous event with masked marauders knocking on your door and taking over your home with a party, demanding to be fed and given drink.

In St. John's there is an annual Mummer's Parade, and it certainly would be worth it to watch the parade, but I want to go mumming in Newfoundland!  I want to dress up and go house marauding creating parties as I travel with friends.  Who would not want to do that!?  It must be on your "bucket list" of things to do before you die.

You will need a ticket to Canada first, if you are going in the fun, festive, albeit cold winter season.  Check out the cheap flights to Montreal.

#21 Guinness, Guinness and more Guinness

As strange as it may seem to someone in the United States, the number one tourist attraction in all of Ireland is a brewery.  Of course, this isn't just any brewery, it is the famous Guinness Brewery, and the Guinness Storehouse (as it is called) is high on my list of places to go before I die.

The fact that it is in Ireland is reason enough.  The fact that it is a brewery is enough reason for me to want to visit.  The Guinness Storehouse rises high on the list apart from these reasons.  Its storied history is the reason a stop at St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin is in order.

The founder Arthur Guinness heard a sermon from John Wesley one Sunday, and it became inspiration for his life's work.  As Wesley often enjoined people "Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.  Your wealth is evidence of a calling from God, so use your abundance for the good of mankind."  Arthur Guinness went on to practice this command of Wesley's.

He gave large sums to the poor, and helped found Sunday Schools.  This same ethic was passed on to the generations of Guinness family members who took over the company.  During World War II sent every British soldier a can of Guinness with his Christmas meal.

In the late 18th century when the polluted city water was dangerous for one's health, and the country was in a Gin Craze it was the drinking of Guinness which helped stem the tide of sickness and of severe alcoholism.

You'll need a car to get around Ireland, and can find a great deal at this Dublin airport car hire.  Perhaps we'll meet at the Saint James's Gate Brewery.  Its on my bucket list.  Is it on yours?

#20 - County Donegal and a real Irish pub

I want to go to an Irish pub - a real Irish pub.  I am sure I will need to go County Donegal to accomplish this task.

Wednesday Night I was in Boston in an Irish Pub.  Boston is home to a number of good Irish pubs, but when it comes to Irish pubs I am sure I have not really been to one yet.  I want traditional Irish music with fiddlers, and accordions, and tin whistles, but I am sure that will still not be a real Irish pub.

What I will be missing is the Irish language, and for this reason going to rugged northern reaches of Ireland and County Donegal to see the stone circles, the dolmens, the castles, the cliffs, and of course - the pubs is on my list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

This list of 115 pubs is a good starting place for finding your way around the pub life of County Donegal.  You will also need a car, and can find a good deal at this Dublin car rental company.

Donegal is about three hour drive from Dublin.  Along the way you can take a detour and climb Saint Patrick's mountain in Murrisk, but be sure to visit the rugged, beautiful coastline, see the castles, and most of all do a pub tour for the music of Ireland, and the music of the Irish language.  This is on my list of things to do.  How about you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

#19 - Compete in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships

My business partner Gareth posted something about this on Facebook today, and the post reminded me that it was something I've been needing to add to my list of things to do before I die.  Check out the Youtube embedded video below, and consider what a great accomplishment and wonderful life goal it would be to train for and compete in the Bog Snorkelling Championship in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.  You just might want to add it your bucket list of 1,000 things to do before you die.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#18 Stone Brewery (Accomplished!)

Visiting friends and family back in my home area of North San Diego County, California I stopped for a tour at Stone Brewery in Escondido, CA.

They have been in their newest location for a few years and it is impressive.  Fine gardens are found at the entrance from the upper lot, and outside the classy bistro.  Even the men's bathroom is a work of art.  Yet, strangely their facility does not even have their name on it.  So, you had better know the address when you pass by.

The micro brew world has taken off in America, and nowhere is this so evident as the San Diego area, which boasts over 30 craft breweries.  It has become a haven for fine, innovative ales, and the big daddy of the craft brewers is Stone Brewery.  A craft brewer with equipment this large, and making this much beer is a beautiful thing in a world of cheap, watery American beer.

The 45 minute tour begins under the pirate flag, and ends with a sampling of four beers (small samples mind you.)  The tour is interactive and allows for questions about the brewing process.  Hops are passed around to smell, the malted grain is passed around to taste.  The brewery is immaculate, and large.  This is an impressive operation, and they highlight fun mixed with a good smattering of irreverence, and education.  Our tour guide, Daniel offered all of that.

Beer Advocate describes Stone Brewing as the "All time top brewery on planet earth..." having received the highest rating ever.  So, if you like a good ale, this is the place to visit.  I went with my friends Steve, Justin, and Jim.  They agreed.  It was a rippin' fun tour.  You should add it to your list of things to do before you die.

#17 - The Gaint's Causeway

The giant's name was Finn McCool ( Fionn mac Cumhaill in Irish).  There are variations on the myth, but the story is that he was challenged to a fight with a Scottish giant, and built the causeway to Scotland to battle the giant Benandonner.

Now one tale says that McCool fell asleep and his wife had to cover him with a blanket to pretend that he was her baby, and when Benandonner saw the size of the baby he fled and tore up the bridge to Scotland behind him.

This geological phenomenon is a classic example of the truth being stranger than fiction.  This area of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some almost 40 ft. high, is one of the great wonders of the world.  This is Northern Ireland's most visited tourist site, and was voted 4th on the list of natural wonders of the UK by a Radio Times Poll.

Other basalt columns can be found around the world, such as the Devil's Postpile near Mammoth Mtn, California, but the location of the Giant's Causeway on the edge of the Irish sea in Northern Ireland places this higher on my list than the others.

You will want to rent a car if coming from Dublin.  The Giant's causeway is 3 miles north of the village of Bushmills, or about 3 and a half hours north of Dublin.  This Dublin car rental will give you a good deal.

The Giant's Causeway makes my list of things to see before I die.  How about you?  Is it on your bucket list?

#16 - Climbing Croagh Patrick (Murrisk, County Mayo, Ireland)

In a world of pilgrimages, this may not be among the greatest tests at 2533 ft., but it certainly packs a spiritual wallop.

This mountain in Murrisk, Mayo County, Ireland 5 miles from the town of Westport is reputed to have been a place of worship for 5,000 years.  Now, whether that is true or not pales in comparison to the legendary connection to Ireland's patron saint, and one of my heros:  Saint Patrick.

Patrick of course, was not Irish, but rather was a missionary who felt called to the foreign land from his native Britain (today's Wales.)  So, some of my friends celebrate Saint Patrick's Day as a Welsh holidayHere's my song to commemorate Saint Patrick.

This is the most important Catholic pilgrimage in Ireland.  Nearly a million visitors scramble up the scree scattered slopes each year.  Some even do so barefooted, though the Catholic Church does not recommend it.

Tradition and a bit of rural myth tell us that in 441 AD Patrick fasted for 40 days upon this mountain, and banished the demons and the snakes from Ireland.

The walk up the mountain includes a statue of Patrick erected by a Westport pastor in 1928, and 7 stations of prayer on the way to the summit.

I am not Catholic, but my interest lies in remembering one of history's greatest missionaries, and prolific church planters, as well as following in the footsteps of one of the most influential Welshmen in history.

If you make this trip you will need a car.  Croagh Patrick lies 228 km west of Dublin.  You can get some of your best deals at this Dublin Airport Car Hire.  Then you'll be off to walk the steps of Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland.

It makes my list of things to do before I die.  Does it make yours?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Canadian Northern Lights: Update on #12

For those of you following my list of things to do before I die.  You will have seen that I want to go to the far reaches of the northern hemisphere to see the aurora borealis - commonly referred to as the northern lights.  It is #12 on my list.

The northern lights require darkness.  From mid-August until April is typically a good time to catch the Northern Lights depending on how far north you are.  The best viewing occurs at the darkest and coldest  times - January being a peak month for viewing the aurora borealis. 

Ontario even boasts a scenic drive dedicated to the Northern Lights among other natural wonders.  Visiting the northern lights in the dark seasons in Canada will require bundling up in warm clothing.  You will be visiting one of the world's colder climes during the colder months.  So, be prepared when you catch a cheap flight to Canada to pack for cold weather, and don't forget to bring your camera.

#15 The Passion Play at Oberammergau

I first heard about this town in Germany, which performs the Passion Play about the crucifixion of Christ once every 10 years, and has been doing so for hundreds of years when I was in junior high.  Since that time I have wanted to go to Oberammergau.

This year marks the 40th running of the Passion Play.  In 1633 the town made a vow to God.  They would perform the Passion of the Christ once every ten years if they would be spared from the ravages of the bubonic plague.  The town was spared, and they have been performing the Passion Play every ten years for almost 400 with breaks, which occurred only for wars.  From May through September the Passion Play is performed daily, and is viewed by half a million people.  There will be 110 performances in 2010.

I am not sure if I will make this decade's performances, but Oberammergau is a miracle story - and not the least of the miracle being that they kept their promise for 400 years.  This puts the Passion Play at Oberammergau high on my list of things to do before I die.

Monday, March 8, 2010

#14 Go to the Busker's Festivals!

Each summer Canada's largest Busker's Festival enlivens the days and lights up the nights in Halifax Nova Scotia.  Six stages on the waterfront become a feast for the eyes, ears and mind.  Break dancers, fire spinners, and street performers of all variety take the stages and entertain people for 10 days each August.

Along with a rugged coastline of rocky shores and sandy beaches the Halifax area has a lively nightlife to entertain and keep you busy from dawn to dark. Other events in such as Shakespeare by the Sea, and the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo fill the summer months with non-stop fun.

In Ottawa, Canada's second largest busker's festival happens at the Spark's Street Mall at the end of July and beginning of August.  Street performers on the sidewalks and stages of North America's most beautiful cities help transform a nice time into a unforgettable experience.  Add visiting some of the great busker festivals to your list of things to do while traveling Canada.  Get yourself some cheap flights to Canada this summer and check out the Busker's Festivals along with everything else Canada has to offer.  I'll meet you there, and maybe we can both check it off our bucket list.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

#13 - Learn to play the bagpipes

I have become a significantly accomplished guitar player.  I can hokey around on the mandolin.  I can handle a few woodwinds still.  I can pull off being a simple beat man with djembe or congos, but there are a few instruments I have wanted to learn to play.  Accordion is high on my list, but now even higher are the bagpipes - no, not those noisy drive you out the room with your fingers in your ears bagpipes which are made by the Scottish, but these Welsh bagpipes being tuned up by my friend John Glenydd.  Well his real last name is Evans, but they call him Glenydd, because that's his house address in Llanfihangel-ar-Arth - how Welsh.

Cadair Idris on Video #2

Here are the next three video clips.  Climbing/arriving/down the next day.  Unfortunately I could not get my camera to work early in the morning for the sunrise.  It got grumpy and said it too cold.  The first three clips of the climb can be found here.

Cadair Idris on Video #1

I posted pictures of my climb and descent at Cadair Idris here and here before I returned from Wales.  For the reason I wanted to do this sleep over go here.

I am finally getting to posting these video clips I took on the climb.  Most Cadair Idris photos and video shots are taken in the summer so these show harsher winter scenes with their own unique beauty.  Plus it's simple proof I was there and slept on the mountain in the winter.  There are about 6 video clips I will post in two blog postings.  So here it is:

part two of the video series

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How do I get from the USA to Wales?!

So, on my trip to Wales last month I had to fly into London to get to Wales.  Alright, what's up with that?  There are no flights to Wales from the US right now.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#11 Accomplished! World's Oldest Record Shop and Young Welsh Musician

Yeah!  I have accomplished #11 on my list of things to do before I die.  Right now I am back in Brecon for the evening (so I can visit the brewery in the morning before I head home to Boston), and am sitting in a sports pub called the Lounge.

It is getting noisy around me, but I do a good job of blocking out a noisy world to sit in my own sacred space.  It is Football (read "Soccer" for we Americans) Night Man Utd. and West Ham the sign says.

Back to my point:  After last week's near miss with going inside Spiller's Records, I decided to meet Sarah Louise Owen in front of the record store.  Sarah is from Caernarfon (my favorite city in Wales right now), but recently moved to Cardiff.

I am trying to get Welsh musicians to come to the US through Boston, and wanted to talk with Sarah so we met at Spiller's.  So, here's the proof:  I met with Sarah, and went to the oldest record store in the world.

#11 on my list of one thousand things to do before I die is accomplished.  I even bought a couple Welsh band CDs while there - under Sarah's watchful eye, and helpful hints.  I wanted to buy one of her CDs but she insisted on me not doing that so she could give me some of them.  We stayed long enough to experience the store, pencil a check on my list (not really), and go to find a place for tea.
Here's Spiller's on the inside.  It is not so exciting as a shop, but the mystique is cool enough to make it worth it if you visit Cardiff, and necessary if you are an audiophile.  Check #11 off on my list!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some pics from Wales

These guys became my buddies in Brecon rather quickly.  Then again, the guy to the left is "Skin."  That's what he says people call him.  He has it tattooed on his right earlobe to prove it.  I think everyone in town knows Skin. ;-)  This is The Lounge.  I think I like the Lounge.  I liked Skin too.  They found out I pastor a church, and wanted to sing hymns like good Welshmen, but they couldn't sing worth beans.

  Stopped at Felinfoel brewery.  Now Skin told me about the nickname "Feeling Foul."  Of course, others told me that name too.  Skin says it was because it was a great brew to drink, but it was a bit rough when you left the pub.  Well, I do enjoy Double Dragon.  Look at all the antique beer cans here.  Spent some time with Phil Lewis at Felinfoel - fun stop.  We need more Double Dragon in the US.

Here are some of the students from Atlantic College.  We went to St. Illtud's in Llantwit Major.  Alish with the red hair is from North Wales, and speaks fluent Welsh.  They are looking at a medallion in the stones at St. Illtud's with the zodiac on it.  Jeepers!  You'd never find that in a modern Christian church.

This is what happens to old men who visit St. Illtud's.  They become part of the landscape or the furniture.