Sunday, August 18, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #479] Bournemouth

Rachel and I took the last trip of her European adventure this weekend to Bournemouth.  Bournemouth is one of the many seaside towns the working classes used to decamp to each year during the Industrial Revolution, and remained popular until budget airlines allowed the masses to venture beyond Britania.  Many of these towns have fallen on hard times, but Bournemouth is still doing well.  It's a lovely city, very pretty and easy, with a very artsy, alternative bent.  I liked it immensely, and I can see why "Bournemouth was found to be the happiest place in the UK, with 82% of people questioned saying they were happy with their lives".  Were I a small city kind of guy, it's somewhere I could imagine living.  It's definitely on the return visit list.

This means Rachel's visit is drawing to a close - I will miss her a lot when she goes.  We're already talking about potential destinations next year, though, so I will look forward to her next Summer visit.

Cheers,
Shaun



Our hotel was last decorated in the 70s and had a very individual stye.



River Bourne selfie!


River Bourne park


Rachel's rendition of me hung over



Central Bournemouth


Central Bournemouth


Our hotel restaurant seems to host the local early bird special



I matched the 70s decor quite well


Rachel hadn't had quite enough seafood, so we battled the elements to eat at the seaside restaurant West Beach, which has earned a recommendation.



Dorset coast


Central Bournemouth

_________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | Shadwell | Tower Hamlets | London E1 | UK | shaunism.blogspot.com
--
--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to The-Life-of-Shaun-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/The-Life-of-Shaun
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to the-life-of-shaun+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #478] Northwest Passage

About six months ago, before she had even booked a ticket, Rachel messaged me to say "I want to go to Brittany if I come.  I want to eat a seafood tower."  She'd seen an episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations where he'd done so.  And so this weekend, we set off to France for the sole purpose of going to that restaurant.

The adventure started in Portsmouth.  No wait, the adventure started with the two-hour bus ride to Portsmouth.  Once there, we just had dinner at Las Iguanas next to the dullest hen party in history, then retired to our bunkbeds*, to rise early the next morning for our six-hour ferry ride to Caen, in Lower Normandy.  We'd only chosen Caen as it was a lot cheaper to sail into than St. Malo, and the seafood tower supposedly lay inbetween the two.  We passed a pleasant enough night there, but there's not a lot to recommend it.


British people on the ferry to Caen, pretending it's warm, as they do


The next morning we were off to Chez Jacky, which we learned only after arriving to Caen was not located a leisurely hour drive away as supposed, but three and a half hours away across Brittany.  Undaunted, we pressed on - there was no way we'd come all that way for the seafood tower and weren't getting it - and arrived after an enjoyable ride to the lovely hamlet of Riec sur Bélon, home of Chez Jacky.  Rachel was excited Jen had come along as there was now someone to share the seafood tower with her; however, Jen wasn't very hungry, so, other than a bit of crab and some mussels, Rachel was left to devour the tower alone.  Which she did, while I sipped on white wine.

Riec sur Bélon, home of Chez Jacky


Now you see the seafood tower...



...now you don't!  Notice the jacket's off too; it was a hard-fought battle, but Rachel triumphed.



From there, another 3.5 hours to Saint-Malo, our port of exit.  We chose it for no other reason than it was another harbour to exit from, and so didn't look into it at all.  Fortunately, TripAdvisor had led Rachel to book a hotel in the old town, which turned out to be phenomenal.  It's a beautiful, island, old European ex-fort town, completely surrounded by a city wall.  Cars are allowed on very few streets, and they reactively fill with outdoor seating, people, artists and tourists.  Considering its looks, charms and location, I'm surprised I've never heard of it before.  But here we were in August, the high season, and the crowds were completely manageable, and our hotel only cost €30 each per night.  Truly a great surprise.

View from our room in Saint-Malo


Outside Saint-Malo's wall


Saint-Malo street scene 


The penultimate day was reserved for my contribution to the adventure, a visit to Mont Saint-Michel.  I saw a picture of it once many years ago and was blown away - it didn't look real.  It's a giant abbey surrounded by a tiny medieval-looking village below, rising out of the sea.  It's an impossibly perfect vision.  So I googled it, found where it was, and decided it'd be nice, but wasn't likely on any of my standard city breaks.  But, now I was going to Brittany for the seafood tower - Mont Saint-Michel was doable!

And what a stunning sight it is!  The first time you see it, peeking up out of the horizon, it looks fake, and as you get closer, it looks more and more surreal.  In an engineering folly, the French built a giant causeway-cum-parking lot right to the Mont's front gates.  This served the dual purposes of spoiling the visage and silting up the bay, turning it from open waters to marshlands over the decades.  Fortunately, they've realised the mistake, and cars are now all parked a good distance away and you can only reach it by a forty-minute walk or shuttle bus.  They are also building a new elevated approach and will destroy the current-halting causeway.  The construction marred our approaching views, but it was still awesome.


Mont Saint-Michel, from the new parking area



Approaching on the causeway



This is what the Mont and bay looked like in wetter times.



Once inside, the tiny, cramped streets were charming, though obviously soley devoted to tourism, and it made us wonder how many people could come on the island in any given day.  The abbey itself, while impressive, loses its impact once inside.  What makes it so singular is its place in the world, and from the inside, that is hidden; you could be inside any of Europe's great cathedrals.  And after doing our tour, on the way back down, we found out just how many people they let in each day, namely as many as wanted to come.  The busy streets up to the abbey had become a virtual queue, nearly all the way from the abbey's entrance to the gates below.  I'd originally wanted to have lunch there, but the restaurants were all closed until noon, and the idea of fighting the crowds for another thirty minutes and the obvious waning of my companions' enthusiasm defeated me of that desire.


Inside the walls



The abbey, in approaching



The spire, with the archangel on top



Inside



Looking down at the village below


But that defeat lead to a hidden success, as we stopped off in Cancale, another delightful town across the bay.  Once there, we found a beachside restaurant with a view of the water and Mont Saint-Michel in the distance.  It was great to see it from that perspective - its bulk apparent even from that far away - and to think of its teeming hoards and overpriced food as we sat in our pleasant spot on the beach and sipped cool wine with lunch.

Mont Saint-Michel from Cancale


From there, another evening and dinner of bread and cheese in the lovely Saint-Malo, then to bed - after all, we had an eight-hour ferry ride and two-hour bus journey to get back to London.  All told, it was a great weekend - the best trip to a restaurant one could hope for.

The island-fort town of Sait-Malo receding from the ferry


À bientôt,
Shaun


*We were joined on our trip by Rachel's friend, Jen.  Jen surprised Rachel with a last-minute trip to visit her in London, to which Rachel said "That's fine, but you realise we're going to France that weekend?"  All our two-person accommodations became three, and Ibis Budget Portsmouth cleverly packs more people into one room with single-atop-double bunks.

_________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | Shadwell | Tower Hamlets | London E1 | UK | shaunism.blogspot.com
--
--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to The-Life-of-Shaun-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/The-Life-of-Shaun
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to the-life-of-shaun+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #477] Losing my religion

One of the things Londoners and New Yorkers have in common is a connection to their city that goes far beyond a place to live, work and play.  When you say "I am a Londoner" or "I am a New Yorker", it is a statement about who you are, not where you live.  The facts of life in the city, its geography and character, its joys and its miseries, they become the threads of a commonality binding us to it, and it becomes almost a religion.  You either get it, are a believer, and stay; or you don't, can't hack it, and leave.

I absolutely loved my time in New York, and it made me the person I am today. The freedom, the people, the experiences, they were life-affirming and life-changing.  I remember being on a flight home a year or two after moving there, and for the first time ever I understood what it felt like to be going home.  New York was my life.

I still love New York, but I don't miss it.  I remember the first time I realised that; I actually felt a little guilty, like I was cheating on a lover.  And I suppose in a sense I was.  But I knew then I would never be moving back.  I had found a new religion.

Cheers,
Shaun









How to Live in New York City

DEC. 20, 2010 
Move here when you're 18 or 22, maybe even 24. Come from somewhere else-the north, south, west, Xanadu- and come to realize that everyone living in New York is a transplant. Even the ones who grew up on the Upper East Side end up moving into a place downtown, which, as you'll soon discover, is like moving to a different city.
Discover the cruel and bizarre world of New York City real estate. End up spending an obscene amount of money on something called a broker's fee, first and last month's rent and a security deposit. Cry a little bit in the leasing office but remind yourself that you're so happy to be here.
Picture hearing a man playing the saxophone outside your bedroom window. End up hearing a lot of sirens instead. Figure it's okay because it's New York and you're still so happy to be here.
Go out to bars in the Lower East Side because the Internet told you so. Fall in love with a bar called, Max Fish, and always stay out till four in the morning. Eat a falafel and have someone pay for a cab back to your apartment. Watch the sun start to rise while going over the Williamsburg Bridge and feel like your life is becoming some kind of movie.
Eat bad pizza but trick yourself into believing it's good because it's made in New York. Do the same thing with bagels and sex.
Meet people who will be your best friends for three or four months. They'll help you transition into city life and take you to weird bars in Murray Hill. It will be like the blind leading the blind but once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.
Watch your life in New York go through phases. Spend a summer in Fort Greene with a lover and get to know the neighborhood and its rhythms. Once the fling ends, forget the blocks, parks and restaurants ever existed and don't return unless you have to.
Encounter a lot of people crying in public. Watch an NYU student cry in Think Coffee, a business woman in midtown sob into her cellphone, an old man whimper on a stoop in Greenpoint. At first, it will feel very jarring but, like everything else, it will become normal. Have your first public cry in front of a Bank of America. Cry so hard and don't care if people are watching you. You pay good money to be able to cry in public.
Work long hours at a thankless job. Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive New York is, how when you walk out the door, $20.00 immediately gets deleted from your wallet. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in New York City.
Go home for the holidays and run into old friends from high school. When you tell them that you live in New York, watch their eyes widen. They'll say, "Oh my god, New York? That's so crazy. I'm so jealous!" Have a blasé attitude about it but deep down inside, know they have good reason to be jealous.
Go home and feel relieved to be away from the energy of the city, that punishing 4:00 a.m. last call. Spend the first two days eating and sleeping, getting back to normal. Spend the last two days feeling anxious and ready to get back to your real home. Realize this city has you by the balls and isn't going to let you go.
Someday you might grow tired of it all though. You might start crying in public more often than you'd like, have a bad break-up and want to pack it all up.
Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.
When you leave the city, you probably won't come back. Eventually your life in New York will seem so far away and sometimes you'll even wonder if it really happened. Don't worry. It did. TC mark
Image: Joisey Showaa.





_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Shaun H. Coley | Shadwell | Tower Hamlets | London E1 | UK | shaunism.blogspot.com
--
--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to The-Life-of-Shaun-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/The-Life-of-Shaun
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to the-life-of-shaun+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #476] Getting back in the saddle

Before I went to Chicago to be with Mom, I can't remember the last time I didn't have a trip planned, with tickets bought for somewhere.  I always enjoy having something in the calendar to look forward to and plan.  But when I went to Chicago, I didn't have any idea how long I'd be there, and there was a bit of a mental block, too; it was hard to think about after, and making plans would acknowledge that there would have to be an after.  Then when I first got back to London, being grounded - at home, in London, with my friends and routine - was comforting.

As 2013 moved on, I got my feet wet with UK city breaks, Manchester for a boys' weekend, Liverpool with Dad and Mary Keany.  Last weekend I went to Ireland with Rachel for a wedding, which has set the ball rolling: Brittany, Dorset, Tunis, Vegas/SF/Vancouver and India will roll me out of 2013 and put a happy ending on a year that sorely needs one.  It feels really good to have these trips on the books.

Ireland was great, as it has been each time I've been there.  I grow more fond of Dublin each time I visit.  It's an understated city, not much to see or awe, but the people are golden.  Everyone is so friendly and warm, outwardly optimistic, and number one on everyone's priority list is to enjoy life - my kind of people.  We saw the sights and drank the beer, and then my heart was broken: Siam Thai, which I've plugged before, has closed.  It was my favourite thing about Dublin and was honestly reason enough to go back.  But, fortunately, it turns out it hasn't so much closed as undergone mitosis - the owners parted way, each taking one of the three locations.  The one in central Dublin, Red Torch Ginger, has stayed faithful to the old menu and was sublime - the best Thai food I've had outside of Thailand.  It was so good we went back for dinner again the very next night.  It's the one must-do I tell everyone who's going to Dublin.  I need to get that return trip on my books...

Wanderlustfully,
Shaun





Rachel enjoying the six-hour stay at Gatwick Airport that RyanAir so lovingly bestowed upon us


Irish sunshine in Temple Bar - it's even stronger than British sunshine



Me, after Jameson, on the famous Ha'penny Bridge


Lots of stoic grey stone in Dublin



Rachel in a cell at Kilmainham Gaol, the prison where Britain kept, and executed, several IRA leaders


The core of Kilmainham Gaol



Proclamation, by Rowan Gillespie, a memorial to the executed leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916.  Ironically, the weight of Irish opinion was not behind the IRA movement, especially after the damage inflicted on their capital by the revolution.  The executions, however, enraged the populace, and turned the tide towards the independence movement.



O'Connell Street, Dublin's great thoroughfare


Jesus... in a glass box... in a traffic island...



Reminder in the car, in case you forget


The view outside our hotel in Killarney, where we went for the wedding



Killarney's quaint downtown



Wedding bus selfie!



Dingle Peninsula, where the wedding reception was held, and where the Atlantic Ocean meets Ireland


Me, Dingle behind



_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Shaun H. Coley | Shadwell | Tower Hamlets | London E1 | UK | shaunism.blogspot.com
--
--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to The-Life-of-Shaun-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/The-Life-of-Shaun
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "The Life of Shaun" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to the-life-of-shaun+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out.