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.