Galway Summer Tempest

On the second part of my Irish journey this summer, I decided to take in Galway, a medieval town on the Western coast. After three days of intense heat in Dublin, a city I never thought I would see such heat in, I took a tranquil train rides through to the West of Ireland and reached Galway city mid- morning. The ride had been filled with views of great fields of green and an interesting political conversation with an Irishman. Warning, if you start up any politics with the Irish, it will be a long conversation. Actually, most conversations, especially with men in Ireland, will be long and take a while to end. It was a wam, bam, 48 hours well spent and I wished it had been longer.

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The weather took a funny turn right after I arrived, I got off the train needing a good long walk, dropped cases at the bed and breakfast and took College down into the downtown area of Eyre Square, passing through the shopping mall that boasted one of the remaining walls of this great walled city of Ireland. I headed down into Quay and Spanish Arches area, chased the lanes around  for a couple of hours. It looked and smelled of rain, so I tried to cram in the sights as much as I could. Then came in the storm. I had been napping at the B&B and the whole place shook. Within 10 minutes and amazing wind storm with hail, thunder and tree bits blew in and was gone. That’s Galway for you.

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A Taste of Irish Feminism: Crestfall by Mark O’Rowe

One of the main reasons I was in Galway was to take in a play as the Arts Festival was in full swing. I had been trying to book plays from overseas and several had sold out but luckily I snagged a seat at the Druid for Crestfall, a play with three powerful women on a night and what their lives had culminated in for that one night. Deep and insightful to the psyche of womankind it gave a great snapshot of real life tragedy and life in a tiny compact stage. I was on the edge of my seat and drawn in, raging inside with the cast. The play ended up with few favorable reviews, but I think that is because the reviewers just could not handle the raw nature of the play. I was relieved to see a man could write about women, actually capture some of the guttural essence of single mothers and other women downtrodden by society. Directed by Annabelle Comyn, and starring Kate Stanley Brennan, Siobhán Cullen, and Amy McElhatton. Three very different women struggling in a dystopian Dublin.

Galway Arts Festival

If you get a chance to come in the month of July, this festival is a good kick off for festival travels. I managed three festivals this trip, and this was a great beginning. In the beautiful surroundings of the city and university, the big top is also filled with concerts and Trad musicians. If you are planning to go, book your accommodations early and try to get them near the river. Taxis can be rough during the festival and you will need to walk everywhere. But it’s a great little city for walking. Many big and small acts come to the festival, with some famous Irish musicians booking in because they like the festival. Keep an eye on the website as tickets sell out fast.

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Dress in layers, you are by the sea. There is a great many shops to keep you busy. I usually don’t do the tourist shops things, mainly stick to galleries of which there are plenty in this town. Plenty of buskers and jewelry and clothing stalls to pass the time with. Galway is one of the arts hubs of Ireland with creativity on every corner. And then of course Galway is a tourist hub, filled with tour buses and bus barns that amazingly manage to fit in such a small downtown area.

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Connemara

The west of Ireland has many magical places to visit, all lush and green. I had planned for months on my day two being a fantastic trip to the Aran Islands. The weather the following day got even worse, the ocean filled with darkness and wind, so I opted for a coach tour of Connemara National Park instead. What a ride; fjords, endless sheep and landscapes, all seen in the mostly rain filled summer’s day. If you can manage it, stay in the park either camping or at a nearby inn. There is so much to see and experience hiking it will take at least a full day. The highlight of the tour was the Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Gardens estate tour. This massive estate was once home to a very wealthy family, but now has been converted to an Benedictine Abbey. The grounds are lush and rambling, you are in for a good walk with many photo opportunities.

Ireland’s west coast and the Atlantic Way is filled with a great many treats for the senses, wear layers and bring your imagination. Two days was not enough, so if you can manage it try for three to four days to explore this beautiful area fully. This is one of the few places where doing a hire car with a group may be your best advantage so you can get to all of the sights around Galway. Just be patient if you drive into Galway, for the streets pack fast and it may be better to park at the outskirts and walk in.

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Spanish Arches

Abbey

Benedictine Abbey

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Connemara State Park

Victorian Walled Garden

Victorian Walled Gardens

A Edinburgh Fringe 2017 Survival

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Edinburgh. I came for three days. I somehow survived the maelstrom that was Fringe Festival 2017. It was the 70th anniversary year, so of course I ended up going, how could I pass that up? What an amazing 3 days spent. I am surprised I survived it. To think what the performers and artists do to survive it, there have been documentaries made on it I am sure, and if there aren’t any, they have probably been filmed this year. So much material, so many great performances, so little time. It’s the frenzy and fun of a festival and in a historic city. What an amazing combination.

I had been going non-stop through my tour of Ireland and Scotland for two weeks already when I rolled into Edinburgh. I had spoiled myself a bit and taken my first ride on a Virgin Train, I figured since it was the end of the highlands tour for me, I may as well go out in style.  

I had scheduled some days in between big cities to do touring and have some down time. I am glad that I did. Edinburgh on a regular tour, is a great capital city to visit. Big and filled with much to do. Twisty winding streets (Wynds) and closes, and too many people at times. Add the world’s largest and oldest Fringe festival and you have a massive sprawl that will take you along with it, like a storm rain flooding a river. It can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. How do you survive 3 or 4 intensive days of plays, comedies, music, and any other creative expression in an already teeming city, with a population that can explode to 3 times the normal capacity for the city? You try to have a game plan and be ready to take things on the fly, change at the drop of a show card and impromptu is the theme.Coda

Planning

Before my trip, I had tried to book a few plays or comedy routines by ticket online. The online database of 3000+ shows got to be a bit much, and digging through them really daunting. Because I was not a UK resident, of course I did not know many of the  performers at the shows. It is an international festival and acts come from all over the world to perform there. However, after years and years of watching UK shows on rerun and late night cable, often 5 years out of date, I h ad a fairly good grasp on many of the bigger names performing. But that’s the excitement, the discovery of new talent you haven’t seen before while traveling, taking a gamble on a artist or musician. I was well rewarded.

CaltonLesson learned, book one to two paid shows in advance only. There will be other shows that you will want to see. Decide your show budget. While there are a lot of half price opportunities on certain days, you may not be there those days. Edinburgh is expensive, so maybe 3 shows a day and allowing for food and drink may fit into most budgets. Free shows are available, and great fun, but bring a few pound coins to drop into the hat. Edinburgh is one of the most expensive touring cities and the artists and performers have to pay to stay as well.

Not sure who to book because you usually only see US or Canadian acts? If you have some favorite UK stars, plug their names in the search on the main website. Some artists on Twitter or Facebook announce they may be doing Fringe. Many people give Fringe a whirl when they are new artists or actors and many stars came back this last year for the 70th. Look at the many play boards up. By the second week people review shows by plastering stars up on some of the playbills. Take a chance. There is no perfect way to do Fringe, so just be open and let most of it happen. That’s what’s so fun.

The Venues

Every spare space in Edinburgh becomes a stage during the month of August. Every church with a spare room, all music venues and clubs get divided up and reworked by some really amazing planning people. The organizers of this amazing event hopefully get to go on holidays themselves when they are done. They do a bang up job. That said, you survival depends on your mindset. For the Fringe is a twisty wild ride of a beast. And it happens outside Edinburgh Castle gates on down through the wynds. The main maelstrom is in the upper Royal Mile, and spills out both sides into Grassmarket, the pub mecca of Edinburgh. Arm yourself with a map that includes where the Closes are, the small streets that are really winding, sauntering stairs that run in between and across the main streets. These are your well welcomed escape routes. For the Fringe indeed a teeming beast, and after being in it for an hour or two, you will need to take a break and look at the rest of the city. I found that if I worked in 3 hour cycles of being in it, watching shows and performers, then retreated to closes or even hiked Arthur’s Seat, it helped keep my sanity a few times. The Fringe has a handy app that you can load and check for performances near where you are. I had a few glitchy moments with it, but it was dealing with over 3000 shows and GPS locating. Don’t worry, there is something around every corner that you can see or do, and so many you may just not make it to. Tough choices.RobertsonsClose

Acts for The Non UK Audience

If you go somewhere like the UK and try to watch their drama or comedy shows without it being trickled down from PBS or Hulu, there are a lot of actors, singers, musicians, and any other artist you can imagine that you haven’t had the luck to see in action. We get a very filtered exposure to the worlds talent. I like it raw and out there, beyond the big networks.  A whole different sense of humor than in America or Canada exists and it’s quite good. The culture in the UK is nothing like how we think in the US, and there are many very talented creatives we’ve never even heard of. That’s why going to festivals like this are so great, you can see what people in another country really find funny or entertaining and get a glimpse of culture that you would never see otherwise. I went to three planned shows, and found a few free shows that really surprised me. Here’s just a glimpse.

Jocky Wilson Said

Grant O’Roarke

This show was a one man extravaganza about a Scottish darts great, Jocky Wilson. It takes place in the late 70s with the man being stranded in the Nevada desert desperately trying to get to get to an exhibition match tournament. The show was a workout and Grant took us on a journey all in one night with insight into a competitive world of dart playing and why someone would pursue that dream.

Dropping The Soap

Gary Lamont

With a title like that and well, I knew I was at Fringe, may as well get out there with the humor. I decided to take the gamble, with a star that had just left Scotland’s long running soap, River City, Gary Lamont. This show was hilarious and gave me great insight to the UK humor centered around UK drama shows, what we call the soaps here. There were guest spots with some celebrities I knew, like Graham Norton, and a few references to East Enders and some other drama shows I had seen over the years. But for the most part there were references to things very Scottish or UK centric, many shows and politics. But that is what made it delicious. Hearing people talk and joke about their lives in this way, even with slang you may not get, helps you to understand the Scottishness of something, and I found that after being in the country before, I got a lot of the slang said and was just so excited about the freshness of it. It’s totally in your face and that is what is so great about it. Very talented performer and I wish him well on his future projects.

Happily Never After

The Maydays at the Just the Tonic Venue, The Caves

I walked up, there was a poster with some very Tim Burton overtones. I know, Fringe is plastered with crazy play bills, not to mention being plied with show cards everywhere you went in the city. But this one tugged at my brain. Why? Well an ensemble promising the influence of one of my favorite directors, Tim Burton. Quirky, bizarre and Gothy. You got me. The promise was fulfilled by a great troupe of actors taking a subject cue subject from the audience and building a hour impromptu storyline. This one grew out of someone’s relative working at the post office. Not boring at all, centered around a missive that goes amiss. Engaging and twistedly Burtonesque, think Edward Scissorhands meets Big Fish, and some Gothy Fringe humor tossed in. Absolutely wicked.

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Sights

Edinburgh has some amazing sights to behold, and while it is difficult to get to some during such a festival, give it the chase. Edinburgh has many themed walking tours, including underground tours for the spooky at heart. It is also the inspiration for the Harry Potter novels by J.K Rowling, and now boasts some great Harry Potter themed shops. Two of which were open while I was there, but I could not get anywhere near the doors as the lines to get in were well up the block. I was truly saddened by the many hours wait to get in. I had peeked in before they had opened and was astounded at the HP gear available, but had tickets to a show. Hopefully I can manage to make it in my next visit.

Edinburgh is an amazing city with so much to offer any tourist. There are a great many free things to do, plenty of great shops, and it boasts some great vinyl stores. I strongly recommend if you go during the Fringe next year that you plan your venues in a certain area, with a few hours between shows to go out and take in the sights. If it starts to get to be a bit much, there are plenty of escapes off the Closes or nature parks along the Leith area. Survival means join in the fray, then repose in a cafe, pub, or eatery. Then with the added excursions, you will cover every inch of this great city.

DH

Fringe Festival at 70, Bigger, Better and Defiant

3894492440_9e61f57334_oBut will that change? Filled with politics this year, you bet.  In reading an article this morning on an interview with a founder of the Assembly Rooms Venue the Fringe festival in Edinburgh, there are fears that subsequent years will lose out in the international flare. Brexit fears and restrictions on visas will make the venue less attractive to performers from EU countries. Hard to think that something we all take for granted, such as a festival, could be so impacted by restrictions at borders. It certainly can.

The Fringe programs just got published. Last years fest was a massive beast with listings of nearly all performances. I lugged mine around with me all over Scotland. With the big 70th celebration this year, it promises to be an even bigger extravaganza. However, this can all change in the next 2 years if Brexit continues. Just think, Edinburgh expands it’s population every August to nearly 3 times it’s usual population. This includes people just touring the city and those specifically traveling to Fringe fest. In 2016, over 2 million tickets were sold in the month. So, if I massive influx this is happening, people are booking hotel rooms and spending a great deal on food, the local economy has a month of serious boom. This month is the month you have to book rooms months in advance as I discovered last year. The food offerings are enormous, and a lot of money is being made. What will happen if less acts can come to perform, if the festival loses it’s edge a bit due to restrictions on visas and performers rethinking that it may be easier to attend/perform in a festival in one of the EU countries? Will it mostly be a Scots only venue? Will the culture be less international? These are some of the questions coming up as all festival organizers in the UK brace for change. It’s not just the Fringe, but all festivals in the UK that have international performers may be affected.

The politics of the Fringe make it a great place to show union and solidarity. The festival is taking a without borders stance, celebrating the diversity of it’s performers and attendees. With current events in the world bringing a distasteful isolationism tone that is clearly against what arts festivals portray and celebrate, will the Fringe lose it’s edge? Not if organizers and performers have their say.

Secure armed police are now being seen in many public events all through the UK. There will be protests possibly and artistic political commentary throughout the fest.  This will not deter the performers and promoters. Themes promise to cover our current world state of affairs on refugees and political statements. Artists will express and share their views on the state of world affairs.

I am going with the thought in mind that this Festival is the perfect vehicle to portray all of life. I believe many of us attending will feel that this is the perfect time for this Festival to celebrate it’s 70th year, that it is a perfect symbol of cooperation and arts. You can see a microcosm of the world in a massive snow globe in a stage filled with many stages. I plan to pack in as much as I can in three days, what will you be planning for your days at the Fringe?

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2017/jun/07/edinburgh-festival-2017-what-to-see-and-where-to-go

http://www.beyondthejoke.co.uk/content/3082/news-edinburgh-fringe-2016-sales-figures-released

http://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/brexit-fears-for-fringe-ahead-of-70th-anniversary-1-4468002

Speyside Whiskey Festival

Attending the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Ah, Speyside. Cue the misty eyed, dreamy state that’s taken ahold of many a traveller, drinks connoisuer and social butterfly to have ever visited. Home to around half of Scotland’s world-renowned whisky distilleries, it is our Golden Triangle of 50+ whisky houses, with brands from the legendary to…

via Attending the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival — Travels with a Kilt

Binge on the Fringe: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Survival

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On the last tour in Scotland I couldn’t get anywhere near Fringe Festival, the month long Arts fest that has been going strong for 70 years. All accommodations were booked up that I could afford. My trip to Edinburgh ended up being the week before and after talking to a few residents, realized I would need to book about an year in advance for best lodgings. This is of course if you want to deal with a large European city that has its population swell about three-fold in four weeks. Had to think about that. I lived in San Francisco where this came close to happening every summer. When you live in a large tourist destination, it’s your least favorite time of year. Some stay, some go on their own vacations.

It’s the 70th year, so the festival is gearing up even bigger. This festival is insane. I picked up the program last year and spent an hour or two combing all the acts and theatre performances. It’s packed and overwhelming with something for everyone. I decided I would have to try to make it this year. Now, how do you navigate one of the largest festivals in Europe for your first time and if you only have three days to spare? Research, of course.

Step 1 Book Accommodations Way Ahead
As I said before, last year I just couldn’t get reasonable rooms. Everyone I talked to said book early. Edinburgh is the most expensive of the cities in Scotland I found to spend time in as far as accommodations go. So shopping early is a great choice. You can always adjust later. Other festivals in the UK also require early bookings, and don’t count on camping accommodations as those will have been snagged up, unless you have some traveling companions in the know. You can however book in adjacent towns and ride in on the train, which runs extra trains during August.

Step 2 Enroll on Fringe Website
Most festivals have a website and you should join early. You will get updates to performances as new lineups happen. I am checking in as I heard many popular shows sell out quick. I am not be familiar with many of the performers, but I am only in the city for three days and have to cram. And some US performers do make it to the marathon. I see there is a Fringe society planning group for your visit. Ooo, I have pals.

Looks like I may have to book my train run early ish as well. ScotRail has festival trains for the month, but they may be a bit packed, so better book the to the festival run at least a month out. What a contrast is will be from the tranquility of Skye where I will be coming from.

Did I say marathon? Yes, for the performers and the patrons. Many a US comic has lamented that they survived the Fringe Fest. It’s a month of shows and you may have 2-3 a day to do, and your venues can be spread out. Search for some comedy on Netflicks with Fringe Fest in the title and see what I mean. Get a perspective from a comic, and of course YouTube.

Step 3 Research, Who to See, or How to See Them
Okay, so here is the thing. There are thousands of shows and performers. Many of them trying to make it, new to it, feeling it out. It’s a festival, that means experimentation. You may find some names you are familiar with, but it’s not going to be a headliner affair like you may be used to in your home town. So, how to pick things to go to and not strike out. Go with an open mind. I know I like impromptu theatre. So, I can probably be highly amused regardless. How to do this on a limited budget? Look for free and discount shows. Go during the day. Wait for reviews. Get the App for the Fringe. Sounds like a lot of ways to get overloaded. Most of what I have read has said to wait to find deals when you get there. Keep an eye out for the daily reviews of shows. Talk to a more experienced attendee near you. I plan on interviewing people while there to get their take on the festival.

Step 4 Make Sure Your Accommodation is Really Booked.
Your accommodation should always be booked well ahead in any place you stay, but I have had weird things crop up while traveling overseas and had rooms get overbooked, and computer glitches happen. Confirm you have a booking. If you would like to go but all things are booked up, you can find accommodations in bordering towns and take the train in. Extra transit is provided during this month.

Step 5 Enjoy
With all the craziness of any festival like this, sometimes you need to pull out and decompress. Edinburgh has so many great little spots, courtyards, district areas that you can take a few streets to the left or right and find a smaller space to eat some great Pop-Up restaurant food and just let go for a bit. Making a decision on whether to cram every minute with theatre, dance, music, and all other arts can be and exhausting stimulus. That fear that you may have to choose between 3 things is a bit much for us. Remember, spontaneity can be living in the moment and just breathing.

Prepare for weather. My summer experiences in Edinburgh were that they were very close to San Francisco/Portland weather. Changeable within a day, check your weather app. Bring light rain gear, also suncream and your brelly. Hopefully the performance you are seeing is in shelter.

DOWNLOAD THE APP. As we get closer to August, the festival puts out an App that is very useful for booking and getting up to the minute information. You also have a feature where you can check shows via your location to see what is about to start near your location. You can also purchase tickets via the app. Keep an eye out for this App appearing in July in the Android and Apple Apps stores.

Reading
http://thatbackpacker.com/2016/08/22/a-first-timers-guide-to-the-edinburgh-fringe-festival/
https://www.edfringe.com
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/edinburgh-fringe-2016-10-top-tips-for-survival/

Video
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNf8Pt5tOw

Travel Dates or Solo: Any Travel Bloggers Out There Want a Meet Up?

Sitting in a cafe in the PDX, listening to Reggae on an Easter afternoon, I ponder the traveling adventure I am about to embark on in two months. I often find traveling alone has it’s drawbacks. One is that you sometimes try to share out what a great experience you are having with some fellow traveler nearby and they give you the glare, the what are you doing disturbing my vay cay thing. Really sad. Then there are the ones that if you even say “Good Morning” to want to glom onto you and vampire your day. It’s one extreme to another sometimes. I usually hang in public with myself, people watch and probably smirk too much to myself. It’s amazing how much complaining some will do while on vacation. Rooms suck, food sucks, whatever. Usually they are ‘Mericans and a few pensioners from the UK really had me in stitches last trip. Travel is a work. Seriously, getting to any destination is going to take effort, and with the luck I have had, rail strikes and whatnot, it will be again. The trick is to just let it go as part of the adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I drip of sarcasm most days and can outdo many a person on that front. I just try so hard to not do it when traveling because I have just waited too long to get back at it, why waste the time? But there is some fun in commiseration if done right. So maybe meeting up intentionally with a group is the ticket.

So, if you are stuck on your own traveling, or by choice, but would still like to maybe meet fellow enthusiasts and just talk about fabulous experiences, try to arrange a meet up in a city you plan to visit. But how? There are plenty of web resources out there. If you have used one not listed her, let me know and I will add it to the list.

2017 Trip July 19 to August 5

Glasgow

Dublin

Galway: Arts Fest, are you going?

Belfast

Skye

Inverness

Edinburgh: Aug 5-8 Fringe Festival, are you going? 70th Anniversary

Trip Together

https://www.triptogether.com

Website offers a travel meeting/dating like arrangement thing. You can arrange to either meet or start travels together with other people. Granted, in looking at this site I see an awful lot of good looking women and would caution that some may be using this as a pure hook up situation. Hope that’s not the case, but if that’s what you want, hey.

Go Girl Guides

http://gogirlguides.com/

Women travelers meet ups, and travel tips. They are expanding to having travel groups meet in various cities so you can meet others planning to travel, maybe find some compatible people to travel with.

Solo Traveler World

https://solotravelerworld.com/

Website dedicated to the solo traveler and many great articles or travel. You are alone, but not alone here.

Meet Up

https://www.meetup.com

It’s worldwide and many people create groups. Each city has it’s own flavors, but most have a travel meetup group or a few. Contact a bit ahead of time and see if they are still meeting and get on the list if it’s a day you may be in that city. Everyone has an adventure to share.

Note: Always proceed with caution on any site where meeting strangers may happen. Sadly there are some real toads out there, to downright villains. Sadly I have read of travelers getting harmed in their travels, so just be cautious. Look at reviews on the site if they have them, see if there have been any complaints. Good luck.

Spring is in The Air: Festival Time!

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It’s Spring. It may be taking a while to crawl in, but the desire is there to celebrate. And that means festivals. All around the upper hemisphere we are screaming time for a break from the winter. So what’s your flavor in a festival?

Festivals are huge in Europe. The university students explode just like in the US, running off to Spring Break. It’s much the same, full on rave for some. The festivals have gotten bigger and more media intense, and getting there and back can take days. And you thought Burning Man was intense here. Whatever size or flavor, there will be one in some Euro city you visit. Hey, the bird are chirping.

Europe

16 April ITALY, Florence, Scoppio

4 – 9 April AUSTRIA, Mayrhofen, 3- Snowbombing Festival del Carro

EverFest Guide

Ireland

March 16 – 19 Dublin St Patrick’s Festival and St Patrick’s Day Parade

March 16 – 19 Mar Kilkenney Trad Fest

March 30 Limmerick Fringe Fest

May 22–30  Fleadh Nua, In Ennis

May 29 Spring Bank Holiday

May 28th April to 2nd Feil na Bealtaine (Beltain) Spring Fest

Scotland

March 24 Bonobo Glasgow Music Fest

April 26 Edinburgh Trad Fest

April 27 Speyside Whisky Fest

May 1 Bank Holiday Festivals

13 Festivals you Need to Know About

UK

May 18 The Great Escape Brighton

Late May  Bath Music festival

May 27 Love Saves the Day Bristol

June Bath Fringe Fest

And Glastonbury already sold out.

Best UK Festivals

 

And just wait until school gets out! Music Fests.