Category Archives: travel

The Long Road Home Part One

It’s a beautiful day here in Tijuana. Maybe a bit too beautiful when you’re in an apartment with no air con, but gorgeous nonetheless. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather actually. Glorious, so it has been for our trip so far.

And what a trip it’s been! We’ve travelled by road the entire length of the west coast of the continental United States (and a little above and below too for good measure) to date and it’s not over yet.

We started in Vancouver, BC on the 1st of July. Two layovers on our flight from Montréal meant that we managed to add two more Canadian provinces to our list of “provinces that we’ve spent even a little bit of time in” that now includes: Newfoundland, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. And to do that on Canada’s 150th birthday felt extra special. Vancouver itself was great. A very special feeling city. Very different to Montréal but inimitably Canadian all the same. The highlight for me was the cycle around Stanley Park, a gorgeous urban park right on the edge of the city where forest meets sea meets city.

From Vancity, we bussed it to Seattle, the first American city on our trip. Gotta say, Vancouver was a tough act to follow. But we enjoyed our couple of days here. Again, if I was to choose a highlight it would be the Museum of Pop Culture.  Exhibits ranging from 50 years of Star Trek to previously unpublished David Bowie photographs to a look at the life and work of Jim Henson, saw us spending nearly seven hours in the place. And not a minute wasted. We had a rather special moment too, when Michael Jackson’s Thriller was played in full on the gigantic screen in the middle of the museum, which resulted in the whole place grinding to a halt to take in a classic.

After Seattle it was on to Portland. The dream of the 1890’s is alive in Portland, as Portlandia would have you believe. It’s a pretty chill place to be honest, and I think I preferred the vibe here. Special shout out to Dr Nick who met us for drinks and burgers and showed us around a little bit. We also got to see the feminist bookstore location from the show Portlandia, which was a treat for us.

We picked up a rental car in Portland as well and took ourselves south in the direction of San Francisco. Given the distance between the two, we decided to make a stop half way, in a tiny little place called Brookings, Oregon. It was a truly lovely little town and the AirBnB we found ourselves in was an absolute treat. Nestled in the Oregon woods, on the pacific coast, we spent one of our most relaxing nights here.

Then on to San Francisco. That bastion of liberal values and mecca for gays everywhere. We took a trip to see some redwoods on the way of course. Can’t pass through that part of California without visiting with our giant tree overlords. Impressive doesn’t even cover it.

San Francisco was a bit chilly. Probably the coldest spot on our trip. And actually, a well needed break from the heat was needed to be honest. For us, there were two main things we wanted to achieve – go out and have fun in the Castro and cycle across the Golden Gate bridge. Both were lots of fun, if different. It was very special seeing the Castro as a gay man from Ireland. Being at the forefront of pushing LGBT life to the forefront of modern western society, it meant a lot to be able to visit. We found a really chill bar called Twin Peaks with a window onto the main street where we were able to watch the gay world go by while downing a few cold ones. Beers that is. Keep yer minds out of the gutter.

We took ourselves across the Golden Gate bridge the following day. Jesus it was windy. But worth it. And it cleared the hangover that’s for sure.

Next stop was a little place called Los Osos. Again, the distance between SF and LA meant that a break between the two was called for. Our AirBnB this time was a mini-farm with goats, dogs, cats, horses and chickens. Very peaceful.

Los Osos will also have a special place in my heart for another reason. It was there that I did a Skype interview for a position in UCC that I had applied for at the end of June, a position that would be taking a step up compared to where I was before I left. A 3pm kick of time in Ireland meant I was up for a 7am interview. The wonders of modern tech meant that I was able to connect with the folks back in UCC from across the world for an interview that I didn’t want to miss. And I’m super glad I didn’t – before I left Los Osos I got the good news that I had been selected for the position. I don’t have the official contract yet so I don’t want to go into too many details. But the good news is I’m coming back to UCC for sure!

With that piece of luck, we hit the road for Los Angeles. Or as it’s also known, the Devil’s parking lot. Seriously, how does anyone live there? Do you all just sleep in your cars? Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed our LA experience (we took a hike in the hollywood hills, hit Santa Monica beach and got to see one of my favourite comedians, Mike Falzone, in person) but Jesus the traffic there is a personal affront to humanity. I reckon we spent half our time in LA in the car just trying to get from one place to another. I suppose that’s part of the experience. Can’t say I’d enjoy living that on a daily basis though. Nor would Seán.

After we extricated ourselves from the dry pit of Satan, we headed further south, to our current stop, Tijuana in Mexico. All three of the big North American countries covered. We find ourselves in an interesting AirBnB, one that is also an Art Gallery but that doesnt’ have air conditioning. For a couple of light skinned, pasty Irish folks we’re nearly at boiling point. We’ve only been here one night so can’t give a full report. Happy to be here. It’s a bit dodgy but we’ve managed ok so far. Had street tacos last night and they were fucking delicious.

Gonna hit the town a bit tonight and do some culture tomorrow before we head back to the states for the last leg of the trip to San Diego. And Comic-Con. I can’t wait!

Later,

Mush

Departure Lounge

A colleague of mine retired today. After 40 years in UCC, give or take a few, he’s off on retirement. Henry’s leave-taking has been giving me pause for thought of course, with my own imminent departure in just over 3 months time. 
Life on the Big Screen in UCC
On the face of it, it seems like quite a lot of time. 3 months. A quarter of a year. 12 weeks or thereabouts. But it really will be here in no time at all. Plus it also means that I only really have 2 months left in work before my career break begins. Which is only 8 weeks. Or about 56 days. Which is actually only 40 work days. Jeebus. Canada is hurtling towards us! 
During the speeches today, it emerged that Henry had actually left UCC for a period of time to work for the private sector. And talking to another colleague who had taken a career break I found out that she too had been out of the place for 5 years but the downturn in the economy made a safe return to the hallowed halls that bit more comfortable. I do genuinely wonder if I’ll go back to UCC. Will I take my break and branch out into fields not yet imagined, begin a career path in other organisations? Or will my time away be just that, time away, a brief sojourn in a career spent mostly in the environs of College Road? I’d like to think that I’ll make the break out, begin some incredible adventure away from the place that has been my work away from home for the last 17 years (if you include my student days). That’s pretty much half of my life so far. But in the large scheme of things, 17 years is but a fraction of a full career. A sizeable fraction admittedly but a fraction none-the-less. 
Whatever does happen, though, whether I stay away from Cork for years and stay away from UCC forever or only take a brief sabbatical from the Irish ivy league, I’m glad to be going. I’m glad that I’m lucky to have the opportunity to do this. To go and have an adventure for however long or short. Plus I get to bring my husband along for the ride. And sure, that can’t be all bad. 
Later, 

Mush

Maybe it’s Maple-ene!

So, as I might have mentioned before, we’re getting our asses out of the Dodge that is Ireland and heading west this coming November. Myself and Seán are officially emigrating (for a while anyway) to Canada on the 24th of November 2014. And I can’t wait. We’ve been talking about going and living and being in another country for a few years now, but had decided we were going to wait until after the wedding and Seán’s masters before we’d actually go anywhere. London was mentioned, the continent, even New Zealand. But we settled on giving Canada a go to begin with. 
More wedding pics – I thought our little paper gays looked like they like to travel
We applied for the visas back in March – I got mine pretty quickly, but due to the pressures of the course, Seán didn’t complete his process until more recently this summer. Regardless, we were both lucky enough to be accepted onto the working holiday visa programme which means that we can stay and work in any part of Canada for up to 2 years. We were pretty haunted it has to be said, considering we only decided for definite to give Canada a try in January, well after the time that visas normally open for application. 2014 was a different kettle of fish to other years, though, as the Canadian government released a whole bunch more visas for Irish folks. The demand was incredibly high and the first batch of 3800 was snapped up in around 5 minutes. Thank the gods for UPC super fast broadband is all I’ll say. 
Don’t you know, we’re caught in a trap…
I had let work know before Christmas that we would be thinking of moving on somewhere soon after the wedding in July so they were aware that a departure was possible. I got to apply for my career break (I work for the public sector, I’m gonna take advantage of that if I can) at the start of July. I’m taking a year initially but can extend for up to 5 years in total depending on how things go. Of course, I recognise this is a luxury that not everyone has and it is certainly a perk of the public service. But given that recruitment and regrading has been embargoed the last few years, I don’t feel too bad about utilising the personal development facilities available to me. Still, it’s nice to have the safety net. Come the 31st of October, I will no longer be working for UCC. For the first time in over a decade, I am off out into the world again. It’s scary and daunting but exciting at the same time. 
Yaay Noelette! She took great pictures at the wedding!
We’ve our flights booked for the 24th of November. Flying into Toronto. But we’re thinking we’re going to give Montréal a go. With Seán looking for work with languages (particularly in the area of terminology and translation) we figured we’d go where he could get a foot on the language ladder. Me, my french is shocking but I’ve heard there is a strong IT sector in Montréal with a lot of multi-national companies who don’t necessarily require French for the day-to-day work. So we’re going to give it a go. If it doesn’t work out, we can try somewhere else. But it’ll be good to try none-the-less. So if you know of anyone in Montréal looking for a webmaster, hook me up! 
Seriously though, how scary does Liam look?
Later, 

Mush