Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Luck o' the Irish meets the Cliffs of Moher

Last Friday, I got on a plane bound for Leipzig. But since I was still on a month-long journey of the unexpected, of course, I ended up in Shannon, Ireland instead. At this point, there were only two viable options: lament the cancelled plans in Leipzig or get busy making news plans in Shannon. OK, scratch that. There was only one viable option.

With the help of the hotel staff, we quickly lined up a driver and guide to take us to the ever elusive Cliffs of Moher. I should stop here to acknowledge that it is a bit odd to describe Ireland’s most visited attraction, which has existed for 300 million years or so as ‘elusive’, but I have been trying to get to this place for ages and something (usually a combination of not enough time and/ or Guinness on tap) has always intervened. These Cliffs have eluded the hell out of me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Good, the Bad, the Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar is an ugly city.  I say this with full awareness of the subjectivity of beauty.  I appreciate the cultural norms and probably biased expectations that I possess.  I take into account the effect that my mood, at any given moment,  can have on my perceptions. Yet, even factoring all of this together, I return to the same conclusion ‘Tis an ugly city Or as my niece would say “U-G-L-Y! You ain’t got no alibi! You’re ugly!..”, but she is a bit of a bully like that.

The prevailing architectural trend is standard Communist-era block buildings.  The main road, Peace Avenue, is beset with the Asian equivalent of strip malls. The use of bright colors appears to be frowned upon.  And this may have been specific to the time I was there, but a persistent dust storm had everyone and everything finely coated in a layer of gritty sand.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Country #84: Georgia on my Mind

This latest adventure that began with the Killer Volcano of 2010 gifting me with surprise visits to Abu Dhabi and Kuwait continues. I was slated to hang out in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for a few days, where there was no ash plume anywhere on the horizon. Instead, they went one better and had an all-out Presidential coup, which continues to flare up into violent street protests a mere couple of blocks from our hotel.

Instead of risking ending up as CNN's resident tourist on the scene, we were thus re-routed to Tbilisi, Georgia. My first reaction was delight with this chance to add to my Country Count (#84, Baby!). The rampant tales I'd heard about the exceptional quality of Georgian wines factored into my excitement, as well. But based on noting more than misguided speculation, I expected the capital city to possess the same dour grayness that inhabits most of Bishkek.