The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Luxembourg Day 2: History and Culture (but First, Slides!) January 14, 2017

We began our second full day in Luxembourg City  with a walk through Municipal Park on our way to find somewhere to have breakfast. However, the morning meal fell a few notches on the priority list when we stumbled across a giant playground pirate ship–and just days after Talk Like a Pirate Day (yes, the trip was in September, and I’m just now writing it up in January–don’t judge me!). It was a beautiful day, and the playground was empty. Clearly, the universe was telling us that it was time to play!


Breakfast can wait!

My father quickly went about climbing the tower on the ship because, as he said, “Someone’s gotta do it!” Well, of course.


Dad is on top of things.


My turn!




About to descend the twisty slide!

As we continued to let our inner children frolic (videos here and here), several passers-by (all of them adults, mind you) came and joined the fun on the ship. Eventually, we gave in to hunger and continued on in search of breakfast…or maybe by that time, brunch. Whatever you want to call it, we ate it at Boulangerie Paul. Take it from a rhubarb enthusiast–their rhubarb tart is delicious.

Next, we explored the Bock Casemates, a series of defense tunnels that were dug out over a period of about 100 years during the 1600s and 1700s. They were seriously cool to see.


Here, the ground reminded me of brains. (Bock Casemates)


Is this thing loaded?


Bock Casemates


Here, the ground made me feel like I was in The Empire Strikes Back. (Bock Casemates)


A view from the Bock Casemates


Tower at the Bock Casemates


Vineyard under the Bock Casemates


Panoramic view


I  ^  Luxembourg

After a lunch of pizza and beer at Il Punto, we headed to the National Museum of History and Art. Ironically, we managed to get far more lost there than we did while wandering through underground tunnels earlier in the day. We saw some cool stuff, though, including an Edward Steichen exhibit. Plus, the mirrored ceiling in the museum’s elevator made for one of the coolest selfie opportunities ever.


Looking up!

We passed most of the rest of the day wandering about, eating gelato, drinking wine, and taking lots more pictures.



Danger! Umbrellas and wine?





Here, the ground reminded me of fingerprints.


Evening falls on Luxembourg City.



Ireland to Luxembourg (and a Stop in Between) January 6, 2017

Filed under: Family,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 2:39 pm
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On the morning of the seventh day of our trip, Ian and Friday got up unfathomably early so they could get to the airport with ample time to catch their flight home. Michelle and I were continuing on our trip to meet my family in Luxembourg and had a later flight. So, we groggily bid our husbands goodbye and slept for a few more hours.


Pylons in Dublin kind of look like small people wearing bowler hats.

We Ubered to the airport, got there  plenty early for our flight, and decided to spend some time souvenir shopping. I think just being in the airport elicited premature end-of-vacation panic in me, and I had to continually remind myself that I still had a few days of vacation remaining, lest I buy all the things before leaving Dublin.

Once we were en route to Amsterdam, it began to dawn on me that the connection to our flight to Luxembourg City was pretty tight. Living in Chicago, I guess I’m a bit spoiled by having direct flights available for most of my travels So, when I booked the tickets, I didn’t stop to think that making a connecting flight in 40 minutes, while not impossible, was not terribly realistic. Still, our flight out of Dublin left on time, and I tried not to fret. We even landed in Amsterdam on schedule, so I was still hopeful we’d make it as we taxied for what seemed like a really long time…ah, but that was just my anxiety, right? It probably just seemed like a long time.

The plane parked at a gate, and we were finally about to be let off when an announcement informed us that there were problems with the jetway. People were working on it, and it shouldn’t be long. Deep breaths.

Eventually, we got off of the plane and rushed toward our gate, still hoping we could make our connection. We followed the signs that pointed us toward the right terminal but gave no indication of the distance to our gate (which I believe, although don’t quote me on this, was about 17 miles). Our hearts and stomachs sank a bit when we saw the line at passport control (so much for easy movement between EU countries), but our flight was still listed as boarding by the time we made it through. So we ran. We ran until we couldn’t run anymore, then speed walked for a bit, and ran again. I had seen people running through airports before, and whenever I did, I felt glad not to be them. I hate being late for things. But alas, I was now one of those people–running awkwardly, dragging luggage behind me, sweating, and gasping for breath.

Insult was added to injury when we reached our terminal only to encounter a broken people-mover, which could have shaved precious seconds from our journey if it had been operational. Still not about to give up, we ran some more. Breathless, we arrived at our gate to discover that our plane had not yet departed, but its doors had been closed, and we weren’t going to be allowed to board. Disappointed, we walked (at a more leisurely place) to the rescheduling counters and were rebooked on the next flight (roughly five ours later). With some time to kill, we decided the best way to cope with our missed flight and at the same time celebrate the fact that we did still have a few days of vacation remaining was to visit an airport bar.


Coping with a missed connection



This bench/sculpture looks comfortable, but it actually was not at all.

We killed some more time by wandering around the airport and browsing in shops until hunger prompted us to see out some dinner. It became quite apparent that we were still discombobulated by the wrench that had been thrown in our schedule when we both accidentally bought non-alcoholic beer (when meaning to buy real beer)–at airport prices even!


Damn it! Oh well, at least there was pie.

Thankfully,things were relatively uneventful after that. We made our flight without any problems. As luck would have it, we arrived at the lobby of our hotel in Luxembourg city at the same time my mom and brother had decided to visit the lobby vending machine (which has beer and wine!). Instead, we all decided to visit the hotel bar once Michelle and I were checked in. There we enjoyed some beer–this time, the real stuff–and toasted  our impending Luxembourg adventures.


That’s more like it!


IRL IRL Day 6: 30,000+ Steps in Dublin December 13, 2016

Filed under: Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 11:33 am
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We began our final full day in Ireland with breakfast at Herbstreet in Dublin. My waffles with fresh berries and clotted cream were delicious, despite the fact that I strongly feel that clotted is one of the least appetizing words in the English language and really has no place on a menu.


I dig the Dublin doors.

After breakfast, we went to Trinity College, where we saw the Book of Kells, which was pretty amazing and a tough act to follow. But I could have sworn I heard a choir of angels singing as I entered the Long Room and beheld more old books than I could likely read in a lifetime…although I do enjoy a challenge.


 I would like to live here, please, thx.

Our self-guided walking tour of Dublin continued with stops at Christchurch Cathedral and Dublin Castle. We intended to visit the Jameson distillery, but it turned out to be closed for re-development.


Christchurch Cathedral


Dublin Castle


Bridge on the River Liffey

We had also planned to tour the Kilmainham Gaol, but we didn’t plan quite well enough–tickets for the day were sold out by the time we arrived. Since we were all ready there, we  perused the museum there for a while, and that was quite interesting.


I have so many questions.

From there, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse, where we took a tour and had drinks in the Gravity Bar, which offers 360-degree views of Dublin. I’ve taken quite a few brewery tours in my day and the brewing of beer occurs regularly in my kitchen, so frankly, learning about the brewing process is not all that interesting or novel to me. That said, I really enjoyed the Guinness tour. The building itself and the exhibits are impressive, and the tour was structured so that, for the most part, you could go through at your own pace.


View through a waterfall or impressionistic painting?


Ian wished this was a real beer. I wished it was a real turtle.


Tiny Guinness is adorable!

At the conclusion of the tour, you have the option of (after brief instruction) being able to pull your own pint or to have one pulled for you in the Gravity Bar. We opted for the latter, mainly because I figured (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the bar might have options other than Guinness. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of Guinness (*gasp*!). I don’t hate it–it’s just not my thing. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I look at it, I expect something chocolate–not something with hints or notes of chocolate but rather some serious, deep, dark chocolatey goodness–and am invariably disappointed. And frankly, the assumption that everyone who takes the tour and is not a child would want a Guinness seems a bit short-sighted, but oh well. I drank a little, and my companions finished my portion.


In my experience, it’s the other way around.

After loading up on Guinness-themed souvenirs, we sought out food at Against the Grain and then headed back to the apartment to pack up. Packing is never particularly fun, and according to my FitBit, we had racked up more than 30,000 stops that day, so a couple of beers seemed well deserved. As we drank and packed, we pondered exactly what had compelled us to buy quite so much beer. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was no way we were going to finish it all. Ah well, hopefully the next occupants of the apartment enjoyed it.


It’s true–the streets in Ireland are paved with potatoes!



IRL IRL Day 5: Limericks, Literature, and Libations October 20, 2016

On the morning of Day 5, Michelle and I again walked in to the main part of Killorglin with hopes that, this time around, some of the shops would actually be open. They were, and they included this place, the name of which amused me, and where I finally purchased the sweater in the window that I’d eyed every time I walked past the store.


I guess that sums it up

I purchased a few other souvenirs, including a picture book about King Puck and a photo of a puffin. Also, Michelle got a rock.

We spent much of the rest of the day on the road, and as we passed through Limerick, we (mostly I) decided that collaborating to compose some limericks would be a great car game. To commemorate our stay in Killorglin, we wrote one about His Royal Goatness, King Puck.

There once was a goat named King Puck
Who once a year ran quite amok
They took him to town
And gave him a crown
To bring all the children good luck

And how could we not honor our favorite songster from the previous evening?

There once was a urinal singer
A bit tipsy but still a real ringer
His notes never missed
When he took a piss
Which caused other people to linger

It also happened to be the birthday of a dear friend of ours, so we had to write a limerick for her as well. In doing so we learned that it’s harder than you might think to find rhymes for “September.”

On this fine day in September
Sara we surely remember
We stand up and yell
“Hey, we wish you well!”
May your party last into November*

We stopped to see the Rock of Cashel. We noticed this sign in the parking lot, which led us to wonder is castle tailgating a thing?


I can’t say I would have thought to tailgate in a castle parking lot

The Rock of Cashel was by far the oldest and probably coolest looking of the castles we’d seen. My enjoyment of it was hardly dampened by the fact that I had “Rock of Cashel” repeating in my head to the tune of “Rock the Casbah” the entire time I was there.


Grumpy castle is grumpy


Irish High Cross at the Rock of Cashel


Generally good advice


Celtic knots


Birds circling ominously


The round tower at the Rock of Cashel

We headed to Dublin and arrived with just about enough time to check in to our new place and head out to the Literary Pub Crawl we’d booked. The crawl included stops at four pubs (The Duke, M.J. O’Neill’s, The Old Stand, and Davy Byrne) as well as Trinity College. At each stop, the guides regaled participants with interesting anecdotes about Irish authors and acted out portions of their work. It was great fun, probably not hindered by the fact that I’d had a few beers without having had a proper dinner. At the end of it all, the guides quizzed the audience on what they’d learned. I won a T-shirt, not necessarily because I learned the most but rather because I was quick and loud with the answers (also not hindered by the aforementioned beers). Eh, who needs dinner when you have beer and a free T-shirt in size XXL?


Best pint glass ever


It’s a major award!

*The line I originally composed for this was “And hope that you don’t get dismembered,” but I was overruled. I guess a birthday poem that contains the word “dismembered” might not make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it was clearly expressing an anti-dismemberment stance. I mean really, birthday dismemberment is the worst.


IRL IRL Day 4: Goats, Gaps, and General Gaiety October 14, 2016

Filed under: Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 3:33 pm
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I started my fourth day in Ireland with a nice wine glass full of coffee. Why a wine glass? Well, I searched the cupboards for coffee cups but found none, so I had to make do with what was at hand.


Breakfast of champions

Fortified by breakfast, I readied myself for the day ahead, which included using the weirdest hair dryer in the world. I’m pretty accustomed to hair dryers that are attached to walls, but this one looked more like a central vacuum than a hair dryer. It did blow hot(ish) air, but there was no way to properly direct the flow. Plus, all but the slightest move would trigger the dryer to automatically shut off.


What the what?

But anyway, I survived this hardship, and Michelle and I walked into the main part of Killorglin to explore, pausing on the way to take selfies with the statue of King Puck because who doesn’t love a selfie with a bronze statue of a goat wearing a crown?


All hail his goaty graciousness!

Having been on vacation for a while, we’d sort of lost track of what day it was, but we were reminded that it was Sunday upon seeing that the only things open in Killorglin were a grocery store and a lamb farm supply store. Priorities, you know.

The four of us then set off to do some sight seeing by car, giving Friday his first driving experience in Ireland. Nobody threw up, and we all lived to tell about it, so we’ll call it a success. We thought we had seen some narrow roads before that point, but those were nothing compared to the ones around the Lakes of Killarney. The roads were also quite twisty, so it wasn’t actually possible to go very fast, which is good because there were plenty of hikers, bikers, and sheep about.


Gap of Dunloe


House in the Gap of Dunloe–it’s a bit of a fixer-upper


Does it get any more Irish than this?


Ladies’ View, Killarney National Park

I absolutely must mention Jarvey’s Rest, where we ate lunch and I had, by far, my best meal of the entire trip—a wild mushroom duxelles and spinach filo strudel served with red onion compote and a leek cream sauce. YUM.


Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park


Muckross Lake


I’ve heard of tree huggers, but it seems that this tree would rather have a kiss!


Ross Castle


Look, mom–I’m in a castle!

Later on, we returned to Bunkers Bar in Killorglin, for dinner, drinks, and a traditional Irish music session. At one point in the evening, Ian came back from the men’s room to report that the man who had stood next to him at the urinal was quite drunk…but had a lovely singing voice. Apparently, he had just been warming up because not long after that, he joined the session and graced the entire bar with that voice. Finally, we felt like we’d gotten the true Irish pub music experience!


IRL IRL Day 3: Fuel Tank Follies and Dingle Giggles October 12, 2016

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 12:46 pm
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On the morning of our third day in Ireland, we bid farewell to Ballyvaughn, but not before stopping at a service station to fuel up. Well, what I should really say is that we stopped at there nd puzzled for longer than we’d like to admit about how to open the fuel tank on the rental car. We searched diligently for a switch, exploring every inch of the dashboard, the glove compartment, the center console, and the driver’s side door. I would have gladly read the freakin’ manual to solve the mystery, but we couldn’t find that either. So, there we were, seven degrees among the four of us, and we couldn’t open the damn tank to put fuel in the car. We were just going to have to live in Ballyvaughn forever! Thankfully, one of the service station employees came to our rescue and showed us what to do. It’s very complicated, you know…you just open the door. There’s no lock. None of us had even thought to try that. After all, we’re from America where we fervently protect our highly subsidized gas!

With that out of the way, we set off to Dunguaire Castle, near which we narrowly avoided an all-too-close encounter with a tourist who either had a death wish or was completely oblivious to the fact that 1) Irish roads are narrow, 2) there are scores of other tourists around who are driving cars they’re not used to, very possibly on a side of the road they’re not use to, and 3) THIS WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE YOU WALK. I don’t think he even realized how close we came to hitting him. We were half tempted to go back and just tap him with the car so he would at least learn a lesson, but then we remembered that we were the four people who couldn’t figure out how to open a fuel tank, so perhaps we should dial back a bit on the judginess.


Dunguaire Castle


View From Dunguaire Castle


Obligatory selfie


Castle web

From Dunguaire Castle, we headed toward Dingle, a town whose name always causes my internal 12-year-old to giggle. We got stuck in a traffic jam in Adare, but that allowed me to get this picture, so not all was lost.


Gas stations here are very sullen because stupid tourists can’t figure out how to work their rental cars.

Otherwise, the drive was scenic and pleasant…except for the stretch when we were stuck behind an old truck that was wobbling so much, I was a little afraid it was going to break into pieces at any moment. Anyway, Ian was practically becoming an expert at driving on the challenging Irish roads.

Upon arriving in Dingle (teeheehee), we ate lunch at Murphy’s Pub, during which time Ian and Friday almost came to blows while debating the merits of roundabouts. This seemed to be a clue that it was time for everyone to chill out for a while, so we took a relaxing stroll around Dingle (giggle). We had noticed that ice cream cones are to the Irish what bottles of water are to Americans. No matter whether they were driving trucks, riding bikes, or conducting symphonies (okay, we might not have actually seen that last one), most Irish people about town seemed to have ice cream cones. That was reason enough to pop into Murphy’s Ice Cream (which makes me wonder how many different establishments named Murphy’s could one patronize in a single day). I sampled some gin ice cream, which was good but not what I was in the mood for. I opted for Irish coffee and sea salt.


Colorful Dingle (gigglesnort)


A cousin of Crookshanks, perhaps?

We had learned our lesson on previous days, so we stopped at the grocery store in Dingle (snicker) for fortifications before driving to our next home away from home in Killorglin. Once there, we relaxed with a beer and then headed out for dinner…and more beer. It was not a long walk to the main part of town, but it was more treacherous than one might guess. By that time it was dark, and we had to walk a few hundred feet without sidewalk. Then Michelle was viciously attacked by stinging nettles and Friday decided to eat some random berries from bushes by the roadside. Apparently, they were not poisonous because he survived.


I love toucans.

At Bunkers Bar, we had dinner and drinks and settled in to listen to some real live Irish music at a real live Irish pub. The guitarist twiddled around for a short time and then went away for 45 minutes, during which we entertained ourselves by discussing fascinators, trying brown sauce (thumbs down), and tossing out bits of wisdom like, “When you’re naked, you don’t have pockets.” When he returned, we couldn’t help but laugh because our first experience with real live Irish music in a real live Irish pub was…City of New Orleans. Good morning, America, and good night, Ireland!


IRL IRL Day 2: Cliffs, Karst, and a Cave October 5, 2016

The morning of our second day on the Emerald Isle, we encountered our first Irish traffic jam. In case you can’t tell because of the poor quality of the photo (it was taken through the windshield…no, I was not the one driving), those are horses.


This is allegedly a two-way road. Really, Ireland?

Our first stop was the Cliffs of Insanity…erm, I mean the Cliffs of Moher. I’m told we were lucky to have been there on a clear day, as many a traveler had gone to the cliffs only to have them mostly obscured by fog. We couldn’t have picked a better day…well, except for the fact that we were there outside of puffin nesting season. 😦


Three of us being alumni of Bradley University, we even brought along a flat version of the school’s founder, Lydia Moss Bradley, as part of her 200th birthday celebration (#CelebrateLydia).


Bradley Alumni with Flat Lydia at the Cliffs of Moher

In addition to the stunning views, we saw several signs…with varying degrees of usefulness.


They’re not called the Cliffs of Insanity for nothing.


My best guess is that this means “do not light seagulls on fire.”

Our next destination was Poulnabrone Dolmen, which, contrary to what you might believe, does not mean “stones wrapped in giant grape leaves.” It’s actually a portal tomb, which dates back to the Neolithic period, and sort of looks like Frank Lloyd Wright’s take on Stonehenge.


Poulnabrone Dolmen


Karst field


Life amidst the rocks

From there, we went to Kilfenora for lunch and libations at Vaughn’s Pub.


Ailwee Cave was next on our agenda. During the tour, for a short time, all light sources were extinguished, and we were allowed to experience complete darkness. The guide instructed us to wave our own hands in front of our faces, and I swore I could see my hand…even though I knew I really couldn’t. It’s not hard to imagine how, if lost in the total darkness of a cave, one’s mind could quickly begin to play tricks.


“Straws” in Ailwee Cave (apparently, they don’t get much longer than this, so we were lucky again)

Having finished our sightseeing for the day, we headed back to Ballyvaughn. This time, we made it to the grocery store before it closed, only to find that they did not carry beer. Yes, we’d bought some the night before, but that wasn’t going to last forever. Instead, we restocked our supply of snacks and planned to hit the off-license store again later.

We dined at L’Arco, an Italian restaurant with good food and…unhurried service. By the time we were done there, the off license store was closed (turns out it’s only open for about 2 hours each day). Once again, we were left to wonder, why is it so hard to by beer in Ireland? Nevertheless, the day was in the books as a good one.