Damn Straight I Love a Curlicue


I was recently designing some invitation artwork to present to one of our Untuck clients, and one of the concepts was an art nouveau-inspired gatefold doorway invitation. As I traced over the inspiration door in illustrator and then added in my own flourishes to the design, I had to chuckle to myself, because the curlicue and I go way back. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was 15, but if you had told me then that I would sometimes be able to draw curlicues—for a living—I would have about died.

An invitation comp we recently did for a client at Untuck.

Behold the power of the laser cut. 

I think my obsession started sometime in the tenth grade. Fourth period was orchestra. I played the violin—but our district was cheap and there was only one orchestra teacher for four schools, so we only had class two or three days a week. (Which is perhaps why I never upgraded to a proper shoulder rest from an rubber-banded-on sponge...) On the days that we didn't have class, I sat in the empty chorus room with my one other friend in orchestra and we tried to come up with ways around the one constant issue plaguing our lives: extreme teenage boredom. Our go-to solution was arguing about who was hotter: a famous WWF wrestler (her) or Gavin Rossdale (me). And then one day I brought a skinny purple Crayola marker to school with me and this washable half-sleeve tattoo happened.

I was so proud of my purple half sleeve. Meanwhile, everyone else was wondering how Harold and his purple crayon managed to attack me.

I was so proud of my purple half sleeve. Meanwhile, everyone else was wondering how Harold and his purple crayon managed to attack me.

My obsession laid latent in college—being a mass communications major doesn't offer too many opportunities to incorporate curlicues, except maybe in the margins of my notes. It picked back up in grad school, where I did a city branding project on Budapest. I was all over my art nouveau architecture inspiration. 

Well, I mean...wouldn't want to be rude to art nouveau, so....better throw in some curlicues just in case.

Well, I mean...wouldn't want to be rude to art nouveau, so....better throw in some curlicues just in case.

This fixation spilled over into my first website, my first resume, and my first box of business cards (of which I still have about 475 from my box of 500). I even went as far as getting a "design your own credit card" with these curlicues on it. What? Hello, it's personal branding!

The truly horrifying bezier points of an illustrator n00b, all displayed in a wonderful flash website!


These days I try to forgo the gratuitous curlicue, but when the occasion calls for them, I'm all over it. Thankfully, my illustrator skills have improved massively and they actually look like curlicues now and not creepy sea creature tentacles. (For reference, see exhibit A, my first website). 

Advice, Tips and Itinierary for Traveling to Dublin & the Isle of Man

So I said about, oh, ten weeks ago, that I was thinking about posting some of my American traveler’s observations and advice for Dublin and the Isle of Man. Well, I finally lit a fire under my own ass and compiled my thoughts and advice. Here's hoping it is helpful to someone planning their own trip...


Advice, Tips and Itinierary for Traveling to Dublin & the Isle of Man

Some general observations about Ireland and the Isle of Man:

  • The people we met were very friendly. I was a little worried that people would consider us annoying ’murricans, but that didn’t happen at all. They’ll say hi to you and gladly give your totally lost tourist self directions without being annoyed. I think I’ve just lived in the northeast for too long, and since my first thought when someone approaches me on the street is that they’re going to try and scam me, I figured everyone else in the world had the same mindset. Not true.
  • Restaurant service is VERY relaxed. As a former waitress who always strove to pass potential secret server tests with flying colors, this took a little bit of getting used to. It’s not that service was bad—far from it—but it was more laid back. Like they wanted you to actually relax and enjoy the meal that you were paying for at your own pace, without breathing down your neck about your happiness with the food preparation or whether you require condiments for your mushy peas. (?!?!) What a concept. It was actually quite nice, and we definitely lingered at meals longer than we normal would have. In the U.S., servers are supposed to drop the check right after dessert is declined, or if dessert is ordered, within minutes of it being served. When we were in Europe, we always had to ask for the check when we were ready to go. 
  • Pubs don’t always serve food. I never really thought about it, but in the U.S., it’s rare to find a bar that doesn’t serve at least your basic microwaved chicken wings and potato skins. On our trip, we found quite a few pubs that only served alcohol. This isn’t too big of a deal as long as you don’t wait until you become hungry to try and find a place to eat. Then, of course, it will seem like you can only find pubs that serve booze. Which, alternately, can work to take the edge off the hanger, but only briefly. 
  • Many pubs that do serve food sequester the eaters from the drinkers in separate rooms. I guess the thinking is that the drinkers can get boisterous and the eaters might want to enjoy a peaceful meal. And often times, if you’re ordering food, you don’t have a server—you have to belly up to the bar and order the food for your table there. 
  • This may be my strangest observation, but the public bathroom situation was pretty great. As in, they are very private, often times with walls and doors from floor to ceiling so you’re in your own enclosed room. I once read this list on Thought Catalog about things non-Americans find weird about America, and more than one bemoaned the lack of privacy in American public restrooms. I really didn’t understand what they meant when I read that, but now I do. 
  • Europeans are a lot more energy conscious than we are (f*cking up again, America!) Almost all of their toilets were low flow and they used hand dryers instead of paper towels in the bathrooms. All outlets have an on/off switch, so if you leave your phone charger plugged in, you can turn it off without unplugging. The strangest energy difference we encountered was in our Dublin hotel room, where the electricity in our room would not work. We almost got to the point of calling the front desk when we realized that we had to leave our key card in a slot by the door in order to activate the electricity. So if we weren’t in the room, the electricity wasn’t on, thereby wasting lots of money and energy. Smart, huh? Luckily, Ireland doesn’t get disgustingly hot like it does here. 

Things that are really helpful to know about traveling to Ireland and the Isle of Man:

  • If you sign up for international data and roaming, you’ll probably need to restart your phone so that it can find the local network. Since you can now leave your phone on in airplane mode during the flight, plus the fact that you’ll be jet lagged, sometimes you forget this basic IT advice. It took me several hours to figure this one out. Duh.
  • On a related note, make sure you bring a real map of the city you are in. Google maps is a lifesaver, but in case your data isn’t working, a paper map is really helpful. We did not think to do this. (All of the people over age of 40 reading this are like, “Wow, you’re a moron!”)
  • Make sure you have a credit or debit card that has a chip in it, along with a traditional magnetic strip card option. In Dublin, we didn’t have problems with our typical magnetic strip cards. In the Isle of Man though, they pretty much only took cards with chips in them, which have a completely different reader. We had no idea this could be an issue and just got lucky that Scott has a chip card (I didn’t). Some of our family members had issues withdrawing from the ATM too, since their cards didn’t have a chip. You definitely don’t want to be overseas without access to cash. 
  • Make sure you're staying someplace with WiFi. Again, this may seem a bit obvious, but some of the nicer hotels in Dublin charged a daily fee for internet access, and our cottage in the Isle of Man had NO wifi. It is nice to unplug, but let's be honest, it's also nice to upload photos to Facebook to make your friends jealous, and this will gobble up your data faster than you think. 
  • Don't take any nite-nite medicine on the plane. The best thing is to try and sleep on your own (you won't, but try anyway) and stay up for the entire first day of your trip, then crash hard that night. Then you'll be rested and skip most of the jet lag. Also, when you take Advil PM it makes going through customs much more stressful because you're all foggy and afraid of saying the wrong thing. It's not worth it. 

What to pack for Ireland and Isle of Man (in the spring):

Some tips on what to pack for a trip to Ireland and the Isle of Man

I can't speak for the rest of the year, but I think this would probably a pretty solid list for any point. When we were in the Isle of Man, we read somewhere that the hottest recorded temperature on the island was 84 degrees. Ha. Hahaha! 

  • Lots of layers. I brought several jackets with different levels of "American Touristy-ness": a wool blazer, a peacoat rain jacket, a sporty rain jacket, a fleece. I would also recommend gloves and a hat for the Isle of Man—it can be windy and cold. The weather in both places tends to be cool and damp, and it can change quickly in the Isle of Man.
  • Definitely a rain hat or something with a hood and an umbrella. You never know when it will start raining, but you can bet that it will at some point.
  • A dressy scarf. This worked double and triple time for me as an accessory that distracted that I'd already worn the outfit before on the trip, as a practical neck warmer, and as a sleeping mask on the airplane. OK, it was more like a bobushka than a sleeping mask. Either way, it worked. 
  • Really comfortable shoes. I was trying to avoid 1) packing too many pairs of shoes and 2) looking really touristy, so I packed a really comfortable pair of boots that I wouldn't mind walking in, and my most toned down pair of sneakers (ie, not my neon orange running shoes). I was really proud that I managed to bring only two pairs of shoes for the entire trip. This was an accomplishment for me. 

Our Dublin Itinerary

What to do in Dublin when you only have two days!

Here's what we did in Dublin that I would highly recommend. We only had two days there, but managed to fit in a lot:

  1. The Book of Kells and Library at Trinity College
  2. Jam Art Factory in Temple Bar (print from Yellowhammer Illustration)
  3. Temple Bar neighborhood  
  4. We did a historical walking tour of Dublin which was probably the most awesome part of our trip. I can't recommend it enough!
  5. Christ Church in Dublin
  6. The Jameson tour (it's not the actual factory anymore, but it's still fun. Plus, they let you drink. When in Dublin...)
  7. The Cobblestone was recommended to us by a few people for a great place to catch traditional Irish music. When we arrived, the musicians were on a break and it was very quiet with a few people drinking at the bar. We felt a little out of place, but I'd check it out again—I think we just went in at a weird time.
  8. Farrington's had really good food (not pictured, but also in Temple Bar)

Our Isle of Man Itinerary

What to do in the Isle of Man: our favorites.

  1. The Manx Museum is a good starting point. It is very thorough, so I wouldn't recommend trying to see the whole thing unless you're a die-hard museum lover.
  2. Pony trekking. This was amazing
  3. The Liverpool Arms had realllllly good food. 
  4. The church at Kirkmichael. I mean, if you want to see the lambie lawnmowers
  5. Niarbyl, for the amazing sunsets.
  6. The Calf of Man, for the wildlife, hiking, and seals.
  7. Castle Rushen. The setups were a bit cheesy, but it was still cool to see an OUBLIETTE.
  8. The Boatyard Restaurant in Peel. This place had really good food and was cutesy in a fun way. The kind where the salt is in a sardine tin and your bill is served rolled up in a glass bottle.
  9. Peel Castle was more run down than Castle Rushen, but left a lot to the imagination and I really enjoyed it
  10. The Manx Electric Railway, which we took to...
  11.  Snaefel, the highest point on the Isle of Man.
  12. Checking out the night sky, but do it in the boonies if you can. We laid in the middle of the road at midnight and the sky was amazing.
  13. The Laxey Woolen Mills have all the tartan and sheepskin you could ever want
  14. The church and crosses at Maughold were really awesome.
  15. Tynwald for the history.
  16. The Royal George in Ramsey had great food and good beer selection.
  17. We wanted to go to Okells, but they weren't giving tours when we were there because they were busy brewing for the TT crowd. But I bet it would be fun to visit. PS: it's pronounced "oakles," not "oh-kehls" as we learned!
  18. The Point of Ayre and its amazing views. Plus lots of rocks.
  19. Port Cornaa for the hidden beauty.

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Days 6 & 7

With only two days left of our overseas vacation, it was time to see everything else we wanted to see on the Isle of Man before having to get back on the plane and head home. Luckily, it's a small island and we'd done a whole lot of sightseeing in the days prior. Saturday morning, we went to the Laxey Woolen Mills, where they weave Manx tartan: blue for the sea, green for the hills, yellow for the gorse (a flower that grows all over the island), purple for the heather and white for the cottages. We didn't buy any Manx tartan, but I did try on this bunny hat, because why not:

More hand-painted sign goodness.

We were way too cozy at the woolen mills, so we decided to head to Port Cornaa—a hidden gem of a beach that the owner of our cottage recommended we check out. I'd love to see this place when it's sunny and warm! It was beautiful, of course, but the wind was kicking and it was cold. 

Scott examines the unique geological structures.

Everything was so GREEN. I liked how these rocks sort of looked like miniature mountains:

And for reference, this is what I looked like taking the above picture. I'm not kidding when I said it was cold. It was cold enough for me to wear a hood and mess my hair up all day. First world female problems.

Once we had each collected a few pounds more of rocks and driftwood for our budding rock collections, we decided to go to Maughold to see the church and collection of ancient Celtic crosses. Maughold was once the site of a Celtic monastery (around 600 AD) and now houses a collection of ancient crosses from the Island. I had high hopes for this visit: I carried a bunch of art supplied across the ocean with me so that I could make charcoal rubbings of these crosses and potentially turn it into really awesome (free) artwork.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

So unfortunately, the charcoal rubbings...didn't quite work as I had planned. What with the crosses being, you know, thousands of years old and on less-than-even surfaces, my rubbings mostly looked like they were of a driveway in suburbia. I also gave the rubbings a shot with some colored pencils, which worked slightly better, but only slightly. Someday I'll scan them and see if I can clean them up in Photoshop, but for now, these pictures are pretty cool. The whole scene was really beautiful. 

Not to mention quaint. Gents!

Yep, I'm the American who took a picture of the bathroom signage.

By this time it was raining and my gloveless, charcoal-covered hands were half frozen, not to mention there was a wedding party gathering at the church, so we decided it was time to go get lunch. We headed back to Ramsey and ate fish and chips (OF COURSE, I had to at least once) at the Royal George. We also had cider that was really strong, but didn't taste like it. In other words, the best kind of cider. 


"Well, I mean..." our official motto of gluttony.

"Mushy peas" were a side dish often served in the Isle of Man. Though they look disgusting, they weren't actually bad. Just odd. It was peas served in a pea puree. There's a reason why the UK isn't known for its food. Side note: does anyone else remember that song "Fish and chips and vinegar, vinegar, vinegar" from their childhood? I thought it was from Looney Tunes, but apparently it's a scout song. Huh. Anyway, this was stuck in my head for several days of our trip.

After our boozy lunch, we drove (ok, most of us boozy-napped and one person drove) to the northernmost part of the Island, the Point of Ayre. Continuing on with the theme of the day: cold, windy, pretty. Not necessarily in that order.

The beach was never-ending and full of perfectly smooth rocks. We searched for sea glass, to no avail. 

But we did find this rock with a cracked-out face on it:

After several excursions to chilly beaches (I'm still trying to imagine people on holiday in the Isle of Man, trying to get comfortable on a beach blanket thrown over some rocks) it was time to head into town to reverse the effects of our drinking lunch with a quick stop for coffee and wifi. Scott's mom caught the electric railway home, so we decided to get a ride in the car to her stop and walk with her the rest of the way to the cottage—about a mile or so. A few minutes in to walking, I began feeling like I really wanted to run. Insert pangs of urgency to cross off running bucket list ideas like "take a run in every country you visit" here. Nevermind I wasn't properly attired to run (*cough* *no sports bra* *cough*). I decided it would be like my own Runner's World Rave Run photoshoot and I'd just go for it. The views were worth it, and I was hardly winded (amazing, given my recent lack of running).

View from my run in the Isle of Man.

View from my run in the Isle of Man.

After that I refueled with wine and crisps. AKA potato chips. What? It's vacation. 

The following day was our last in the Isle of Man (sad panda). It was sort of a weird day, because we had to be out of our cottage rental and return the car by a specific time. Not to be hurried, we had an early lunch in Douglas where we desperately tried to spend the rest of our Manx money. I may have mentioned this before, but the Isle of Man has its own currency, and it's pretty difficult to get it exchanged to dollars back in the United States—not to mention it was a bank holiday in the Isle of Man, so we couldn't exchange it there, either. After lunch, we took one last stop to Tynwald.

What would the Manx equivalent to "Dolla dolla billz, yall" be? "Poundy poundy poundz, mate"?

Tynwald is where (supposedly) the ancient parliament of the Isle of Man would meet. It's said to include dirt from all 17 of the island's parishes and has been around since the late 1300s, where several Lords of Mann were inaugurated. Apparently, the ceremony of "making public proclamations from mounds" is a Norse practice (thank you, Wikipedia). These days, parliament meets there once a year, on July 5th, for Tynwald Day. This is a long introduction to some pictures of sculpted earth!

Tynwald Hill on the Isle of Man.

Insert joke here about Scott legislating from the hill.

And that, friends, concludes our tour of the Isle of Man. Thanks for sticking with the blog recaps as they spread out over, uh, six weeks. I may write one more post for advice on traveling to Ireland and the Isle of Man and also on what the hell to pack, as I would have found suggestions for that very helpful (and Google failed me as I pondered my empty suitcase). 

But before I go, one last photo. Sad selfie on the plane, with Scott's mom photobombing. I had to force myself to stop laughing and make a sad face. 

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Days 4 & 5

Thursday of our trip, it rained. All. Day. Well, almost all day. It was the sort of rain that was soothing to listen to, and encourages you to sleep in and then take another nap after breakfast because it's steady enough that you know you're not going anywhere but to the couch to read your book. It's usually a bit of a bummer to have a vacation day taken out by rain, but I think we were all ok with the short break. Plus, the "conservatory" of our house (sun room) was a great place to listen to the rain and relax. Also with us was our friend Manannan.

Once the rain finally let up, we decided to take a quick drive to nearby Laxey Beach. It was coooooold, but we were all amused by the perfectly rounded, tumbled rocks, and trying to find the coolest among them to shove into our pockets. I'm fairly certain we all came home with about 5 extra pounds of rocks. For our rock collections. Of course. Actually, we have a terrarium that I can't get anything to grow in, so that's where our rocks now live. 

Ahoy from Laxey beach.

Once Friday came, it was down to business again, since we'd lost a day to rain and still had vacation plans to accomplish. We went to Peel Castle, which was mostly ruins, but really cool to check out. There was an audio tour which I only somewhat paid attention to. It was narrated by what sounded like Sean Connery and had many sound effects of oceans, seagulls, and battle in the background. Here's where I give the excuse that I'm not a good auditory learner, so I spent a lot of time taking pictures. 

Ruins of Peel Castle.

Scott does his best modern day impression of a medieval monk.

Audio guide = one too many electronic items to handle

Unimpressed! Not really.

Mr. Seagull Sentry.

As promised, here's me acting as a solider on the battlement. It was fairly comfy, actually, with nice views. I was using the audio guide as a firearm, naturally. 

File this under things I probably shouldn't post on the internet.

From Peel Castle, we wandered to the House of Manannan. It sounded like it should have been cooler than it was—I think we were all hoping for more insight into Manx fairytales and folklore, was mostly mannequins dressed up to look like they were occupants of various points in Manx history, with audio recordings to back them up. In other words—meh. There was a fake boat control room, and I had to laugh because immediately Scott gravitated toward the one video-game-like exhibit.

Scottie: I'm giving her all she's got, captain! (Sorry, I couldn't resist)

We finally had another really clear weather day on our hands, so we rushed back to Laxey to catch the last train of the day to Snaefel, which is the highest point on the island with amazing views. The electric train cars run several times every day—amazing given the fact that they were built in 1835. And felt every bit that old and rickety.

Lots of hand-painted signs all over the island.

Take the last train to Laxey and I'll meet you at the station.

I read somewhere that the Isle of Man electric trains had a hand in inspiring Thomas the Tank Engine and company. Sadly, Ringo Starr was not our conductor. 

Not bad for being 179 YEARS OLD.

Believe it or not, I was not purposely making this face for the photo. Scott's stepdad, Chuck, was behind me taking a picture that was perilously close to the back of my head, except I wasn't totally sure what he was doing (picking a hornet out of my hair?) I guess it's good to know this is my "What the crap?" face. I can't not laugh at myself. 

As the train started to move up the mountain, the views were incredible. A few times, we had to stop for sheep in the tracks! Move along, little lambie. Scott was not happy about being on this ancient train. In fact, I'm pretty sure he mostly hated the train portion of it. You could see the wordwork of the train frame moving along with the jumps and starts of the train tracks. Apparently, that's all part of the "engineering." 

For riding a train that's nearly 180 years old, we reached the top of Snaefel very quickly. We had about ten minutes to take in the views before the train was heading back down the mountain. 

On top of Snaefel, looking toward England and Scotland. Those crazy people on the right are hang gliders.

I may have mentioned this before, but on clear days (and at night) you can see England, Scotland and Ireland from the Isle of Man, depending on which side you're on (or if you're on Snaefel, you can see it all).

Looking toward Ireland.

The views were amazing and it was cold and crazy windy at the top of the mountain. You could pretty much see the entire island from here. This is probably where I would have put my castle. Who needs easy access to goods from the port? Put me where the views are! Of course, there's no castle here now. Just a cell phone tower and a bar for people who are unnerved by riding the ancient train up the mountain.

Mama Quayle and baby Quayle at home on the Isle of Man.

As evidenced by the twenty gajillion photos in this post, we made up for on the sunny day what we missed out on during the rainy day. Later that night, we went outside to check out the stars. The Isle of Man is supposed to have some really great night sky viewing since it's remote. We ended up laying, literally, in the middle of the road to see the stars (like I said, remote). It took a while for our eyes to adjust, and there were some clouds and light from nearby Ramsey, but we could see a fair bit. The more we stayed out there, the more we saw. Yes, we even saw a shooting star (or meteor, depending on how technical you want to be. Is Neil DeGrasse Tyson reading this? I'd better get it right just in case). 

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Isle of Man Day 3

Isle of Man Day 2

Isle of Man Day 1

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Day 3

On the third day of vacation, my true love gave to me: three Manx seals, two dishes of Queenies and a walking stick made for Gandalf! OK, none of that makes any sense to you now, but let me explain...

Another (less sunny) view of Niarbyl.

This particular day, we decided to revisit Niarbyl and then headed to the Calf of Man, which is at the southern tip of the island. It was cloudy and Niarbyl felt much different than it did the night before, when we were sunset-watching. By different, I mostly mean freezing cold and blustery.

We grabbed lunch at the Calf of Man cafeteria (yay alliteration) which was sort of like a rest stop, but it was set up as a semi-circle with all glass walls so you could take in the views. It was much fancier than any rest stop in the U.S., because who's clamoring for a view of the New Jersey Turnpike? We ordered Queenies, or queen scallops, which is a local Manx specialty, along with jacket potatoes topped with Manx cheddar. Jacket potatoes=baked potato. The cheese was glorious, of course. 

Please excuse the poor (tried to remedy through cropping) composition of this photo. I could have done something more artful, but I was hungry, so I didn't.

When we finished stuffing ourselves with the local delicacies, we went out to explore the Calf. Pretty soon, we spotted some seals nearby. The longer we watched, the more they showed off for us. They'd swim upstream (not really "upstream" since it's the ocean, but ahead of the current) and then they would ride it by us like it was a lazy river and pop their heads up. We were guessing that they must be used to getting treats from tourists, which is why they were so attentive.  

The views at the Calf were amazing, and the rock formations were really cool, and not so crazy high that we couldn't climb on them.

The Calf of Man.

I married a Scottie goat.

Since Scott is part billy goat, he of course did lots of climbing up, down, and all around. At one point, he found a large piece of driftwood that I referred to at his Gandalf walking stick. Of course, then I made him do his best Gandalf pose for this picture.

Flora and fauna on the Isle of Man.

Naturally, there were high fields overlooking the ocean that were full of lambs. It was some farmer's property, but also a public footpath, so we were able to get sort of close to the lambs. No, in case you were wondering, watching the baby lambs never really got old. 

From the Calf, we wandered into Castletown to check out Castle Rushen, where we arrived 45 minutes before closing yes, we were rushin'. (Yeah, I know, that was a particularly horrible pun.) Though we didn't have time to thoroughly go through the castle, we did have time to check out the stockade and some other cool medieval castle features.

Of COURSE we had to make time for this photo.

One of which was an OUBLIETTE! You guys! I was so excited. I was also excited that I could identify the murder holes and parapets. I have a whole list of medieval words from reading Game of Thrones that I may never illustrate for Visual Vocabulary, (because it would be a whole year of hauberks, mangonels, and kirtles) but it was exciting to see them in action. Yes, big dork over here. I think I was more thrilled than Scott, which is a little sad seeing as how he's the fantasy nerd in our marriage.

Visual Vocabulary knowledge in ACTION!!!!!!

Next time we get to an even cooler castle (Peel Castle) and me doing my best soldier-on-a-battlement impression. Yeah, it's something special.

You know nothing, Scott Davis! Except you do know an awful of lot medieval vocabulary words, I'll give you that. 

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Isle of Man Day 2

Isle of Man Day 1

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Day 2

On our second day in the Isle of Man, the weather cleared and we could actually see this view from our bedroom window:

Imagine waking up to this every day.

We got really lucky with the weather being so nice, because our big plans for the day were to go horseback riding, or as they call it in the Isle of Man, "Pony Trekking." Something about the island just makes everything more cute.

We arrived at the farm, suited up for our ride, complete with mud-filled riding boots and helmets, and signed our lives away. Step one was getting on the horse without stepping on the friendly farm cat...

It took a while to get us all saddled up and everyone adjusted so they were *ahem* comfortable, or at least, as comfortable as one can be when your sit-bones, etc. are smashed into another mammal's vertebrae. Then we took off on our magnificent pony trekking adventure. Sadly, I didn't get to take lots of pictures of this part (the pesky waiver; didn't want to break the rules or my neck) but our guides and family members did get some good ones. 

Insert audio here of Leonardo DiCaprio shouting, "I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD!"

From left to right, the ponies are Whiskey, Patsy, Pickles, Humpty, Barney and Cody.

Our tour guides were really great. They kept giving us positive feedback on how we were handling our horses by exclaiming, "Smashing! Brilliant!" All of the horses were very well behaved, except that Scott's horse, Cody, was a little preoccupied with getting up close and personal with Barney's rear end for the duration of the ride. I suppose that's not bad behavior, just a little idiosyncratic.

After dismounting our horses and going back to the comfort of the car seats (I must have a really bony butt, since mine hurt for days afterward and no one else seemed to be that affected) we grabbed a pub lunch at the Mitre Hotel in Kirk Michael. Our cottage rental did not have wifi (gasp!) so whenever we went out to pubs, everyone was hurrying to post their pictures to Facebook or transfer money from their bank accounts. I thought this was a hilariously American habit, so of course I took a picture. 

After everyone was full of lunch and cider, we went to the Kirk Michael church and graveyard for a visit. Scott's family is from Kirk Michael, so there were a lot of potential Quayle ancestors buried in that graveyard. The graveyard had two full time attendants/landscapers:

Hey you, get offa my lawn!

Oh my yes, I love to eat the grass.

It was fairly odd to encounter these local sheep in the graveyard, who spend their time eating the grass and then fertilizing it...copiously. I guess it's the circle of life. The top lamb was more suspicious and always kept an eye on us. The other lamb was super friendly and loved to get scratched, though at one point he tried to eat my scarf and when I yanked it away he was not happy. He jumped up on me to get at the tasty yellow cotton and I had to body check him. Doing battle with a lamb over your scarf: only in the Isle of Man. 

I also found this sign inside the church and couldn't resist taking a picture. It looks so ominous! SILENCE, PLEBES!

OK, guess I'll just be quiet then...

After leaving Kirk Michael, our plans for the evening were quickly solidified into sunset watching at Niarbyl. Since the weather was gorgeous and we didn't know if it would be clear again for the rest of the week, we decided to try and pack it in. We were staying on the eastern side of the island, so we had to drive across the island to get to the western shore and pick out our viewing spot. Luckily, the island is small and because it's so far north, the sun doesn't set until 8:45 PM, so we had plenty of time to eat dinner (and drink more cider). (And eat some ice cream).

The sunset did not disappoint. We were serenaded by seagulls, sheep, horses, cows, and probably seals as we sat and watched (and snapped lots of photos). It was amazingly not crowded at this viewing point. We were joking that if this was American, it would look like the Jersey Shore, with McMansions built on top of each other for the best view. Instead the area just had some cottages. No big deal. 

That figure on the far right is Scott's Uncle Chip. Hey Chip!

Makes me think of an abstract painting.

One of the coolest parts of sunset watching was discovering this moon bounce sea grass on our small hike to the viewing area. It was this super spongey, bouncy grass. I thought it felt like the roof of an unstable sod house that we might fall through; Scott had fun pretending it was a moon bounce. Not caught on video: Scott stage diving into the grass. I'm sorry I didn't get that one for posterity. 

This post is monstrous, I can't believe it only covers one day. It's making me tired just writing it. Anyway, up next is exploring the Calf of Man and Scott acting like Gandalf. 

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Isle of Man Day 1

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Day 1

We were up at the crack-o-dawn to get to the airport in Dublin and catch our flight to the Isle of Man. Everything went smoothly and our flight was nice and boring, clocking in at about 25 minutes long (crazy, right?) Random fact: for both of our local flights on Aer Lingus (heh, yes, I know, the unfortunately named Irish airline) they played U2 as we were boarding and disembarking. I bet those flight attendants want to bash the speakers in… 

When we arrived in the Isle of Man, the weather was cloudy and really foggy. We learned later that the fog is a trick of the mythical sea god Manannan—the story is that he would wrap the island in fog to protect it and hide it from Vikings and other ne’er-do-wells who were out for pillaging adventures. The fog made it hard to see much of the island at all, so we didn’t really know what the terrain looked like. We could also actually see the fog moving in around us and getting thicker by the second, which is something I’d never seen before and was mesmerizing to watch. Small wonder the phenomenon was chalked up to the sea god!

This fog is thick as pea soup! You mean peanut butter? You eat what you like, and I'll eat what I like!

Once we got to our cottage rental, we did a little exploring and found that we were surrounded by farm lands filled with lambies. There were so many sheep and frolicking lambs all over the island, the cute overload was nonstop. 

This guy belongs in a Snuggle Fabric Softener commercial.

We also encountered, time and again, that Europe was built for short people. Of course, this made me feel right at home.

The Doll's House—just my size!

Later that day, we went to the Manx Museum. It seemed like a quaint little museum when we started the tour, but the longer we were there (another room of artifacts? Well, ok then) we began to realize it’s VERY thorough and full of all kinds of ancient and modern history, art, natural history, specialized exhibits, artwork and archives. I'd like to say I gave each exhibit the attention it deserved, but I'd be lying. After a while, I lost steam and headed to the gift shop. One can always find amusement in the gift shop.

Foot-selfie at the Manx Museum (plus cool tiled type, of course)

The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful, aside from Scott ordering little lambie's uncle for dinner. Don't you just love his creepy smile? In his defense, we hadn't eaten lunch.

Coming up in the next installment: pony trekking through Middle Earth! (I guess that would make me the hobbit...)

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Dublin, Day 2

After our first day in Dublin, we had a really, really, REALLY great sleep. Being up for 36 hours straight generally ensures that. So we were rested and ready for our second day in Dublin. We'd booked a walking tour, but walked back to Temple Bar first to get breakfast.

If you recall, my sister had warned us about the Temple Bar area. In her own words:

My sister's sage advice for the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

Thanks for the practical advice, sis. We had gotten out of Temple Bar unscathed the night before, but as we were trying to find a breakfast place, a very drunk dude wandered out on the street in front of us (because he was getting kicked out of a bar) and screamed at the top of his lungs, “I'M NUTS!” He then proceeded to befriend Scott and talk his ear off about everything and anything (something about how Scott looks like a famous footballer). It was a little unnerving, but he eventually left us alone. He didn't want money, he didn't want booze, he just wanted to talk. Definitely different than being accosted by a drunk person in the States (generally speaking, anyway). 

The walking tour we booked through Historical Walking Tours of Dublin was absolutely fantastic. I will freely admit that despite my Irish heritage, I know little about Irish history aside from the potato blight and what Tom Branson has taught me on Downton Abbey. So really, hardly anything. The walking tour gave us lots of background and fun historical tidbits, among them being....

The Palace Bar, which has been the go-to pub for Dublin journalists for a very long time. Our tour guide had a great sense of humor, and I was totally taking notes on his one-liners. One of my favorites was: “Locals don't let facts get in the way of a good story.” It seems to be the motto in my family as well.

The Palace Bar in Dublin.

Murals in Temple Bar. Don't be alarmed by the semi-decapitated people, it's just what iPhone panoramas do.

He also took us to some of the famous sites of the Easter Uprising, including this statue on O'Connell street, which has bullet holes from the revolution in it. 

And then there was Lady Justice at Dublin castle, who was facing the castle and not the city. Or as our tour guide put it, “She's got her face to the castle and her arse to the city.”

The unfortunately situated Lady Justice at Dublin Castle.

We ended our walking tour at Christ Church, originally built in the 1100s, which had been “restored” in the late 1800s. The renovations were financed by Guinness competitor Henry Roe, as the Guinness family simultaneously financed the renovation of St. Patrick's Cathedral nearby. The renovations to Christ Church were so costly that it ended up forcing Roe into bankruptcy. And I say "restored" because apparently, the architect in charge added on all kinds of extra flying buttresses and such—things that were more Victorian than medieval. 

Christ Church in Dublin.

After a quick tour of the church and a pit stop (“Where are the bathrooms located?” “Oh, those are in the crypts”) we decided to check out the Jameson distillery. It was pretty cool—Scott was disappointed because the distillery is no longer in Dublin (they moved it to Cork) so it's really more of a tour of a museum kind of setup. I still enjoyed it. Mostly because you could have a Jameson drink during the tour and a complimentary drink afterward. I think we both discovered new favorites: whiskey sour for Scott, Jameson and ginger for me. Also, there was lots and lots of hand type (design geek time).

Well, I mean...when in Dublin...!

Jameson & Ginger: my new favorite drink.

Jameson & Ginger: my new favorite drink.

Good old fashioned hand type at the Jameson distillery.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and instead of eating lunch like sensible people, we decided to check out a nearby pub that had been recommended to us by our tour guide and our AirBNB host. This particular pub (The Cobblestone) is well known for having live, traditional Irish music going pretty much all the time. I should also back up about the lunch part and say that we thought we would grab some lunch at this pub, but one of the lessons we learned as we stepped in and ordered a pint of Smithwicks is that unlike in the U.S., pubs abroad frequently do not serve food. We quickly realized this pub did not serve food, and although the musicians were playing when we arrived, they stopped a few minutes later and it got dead quiet. The locals stared. We downed our drinks (on really empty stomachs) and headed off to find lunch, which turned into trying to find dinner as we tried a few other pubs that had no menus and didn't serve food. Not to sound typically American, but I was confused and hangry—you don't even serve fries? I mean, chips? Agghhh! We eventually found dinner and were spared gnawing off our appendages for sustenance. Am I being too dramatic? Ah well.

After two whirlwind days in Dublin, it was time to pack up and head to the Isle of Man. I really enjoyed Dublin, but I was also ready for a more relaxing pace that we were able to get into on the Isle of Man. More to come on that leg of the trip...

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Dublin Day 1

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Dublin, Day 1

As I mentioned last week, we recently went on vacation—to our respective motherlands, Ireland and the Isle of Man, and I'd like to take you along as I recount our adventures here on the Bloggy Blog...

We took an overnight flight to Dublin from Philadelphia on Friday night. While we were waiting, our flight got delayed and then some dude near our gate lost his shit and ended up being escorted to the secret holding tank in our terminal. He was later wheeled out on a stretcher with restraints (I don't think there was anything wrong with him other than being way too drunk and belligerent in the really wrong place). So that was a nice start to our trip. When we finally got on the plane, Scott and I were about 16 rows apart, in separate sections of the plane, so we said goodbye and promised to meet up again when in Dublin!

Thankfully, the drunk guy in the airport wasn't a bad omen for the rest of the flight. I was sitting near a loud kid who yelled at his mom to shut up for most of the trip (alternating with asking if we were there yet) but it was otherwise uneventful. I tried to sleep and failed miserably. It was a little weird, because they served two meals during our flight (even though it was midnight and 3 AM, respectively). So even if I had wanted to sleep, I would have probably been awakened for my warm muffin and coffee anyway. 

We arrived in Dublin at 9 AM their time, 4 AM EDT. I was feeling pretty chipper at this point, but Scott had taken some Advil PM and was a wreck. We made it through customs somehow, and grabbed a taxi to our AirBNB apartment. We had planned to shower and freshen up a little at our rental before venturing out into the city, but the owners were still cleaning it, so—DENIED. We could at least drop our bags and our host gave us a map and some good pointers on what to check out. Despite feeling grubby and tired, we knew that we would have to stay up all day to not have the jet lag follow us around all week. 

I should also mention that at this point, the 3G on our phones wasn't working. I was starting to get really annoyed, because I had signed up for the international data plan and we only had a tourist map—and also, streets in Dublin aren't particularly well labeled, and if they are, it seemed to be with numbers and not names. Not helpful. I am dependent on GPS and the blinking blue dot—what of it? So we wandered toward the city (we were about a half an hour walk from city center) and decided to grab breakfast. And coffee to wake us up. Here's our "dead tired in Dublin" pose. Sexy, right?

Once we were full of Irish breakfast we found our way to Trinity College (spoiler alert: Ireland is not known for its food. Nothing was bad, but there were odd elements—baked beans, stewed tomatoes, bacon that is thick and not crispy). Since we were only in Dublin for two days, I kept our "must do" list very short, and a visit to see the Book of Kells and the Trinity College Library was first on our list. 

In front of Trinity College. The grass is always Ireland.

We couldn't take photos of the Book itself, but the display graphics were pretty cool on their own.

The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript that is around 1200 years old. I have hazy memories of learning about it long ago in my design history classes. It did not disappoint. It was beautifully done, and so detailed. Those monks were mighty fine with their brushes! I would definitely recommend checking it out if you ever get a chance, even if you aren't a designer or art geek. 

One of the other great things about Trinity College is their library, which looks like something out of a movie set. It's got two stories of old books and lots of marble busts of famous philosophers. I kinda wanted to pull down a book and curl up in a corner and read while we were there. Alas, I understand that is generally frowned upon. It is not part of the admission price. 

I cropped out all of the heads of people wandering around to make this photo prettier.

After checking out the wondrous Trinity College, we went to a coffee shop to re-up on caffeine, kill time, and use Wifi. At this point, we still had no service and I was not happy about it. Because hello, I needed to post a picture of Homer's bust on Facebook (priorities!) Then it finally dawned on me that I had never turned my phone off and on again—because of the new FAA rules about leaving it in airplane mode—and wouldn't you know, once I rebooted my phone the miracle of 3G was back. So if the same thing ever happens to you, now you know. 

We were in the Temple Bar area of Dublin, which my sister had warned me about. Her words of advice: 

We walked through Temple Bar but we didn't hang out there. It is not really your scene either. It's a bunch of younger people getting really wasted, peeing and vomiting all over the street. It's gross. But if you're in for a spectacle or you can get in and out of there by 10 pm I'd say it's safe. 

But we had a great time there. We found this awesome little art and design shop, Jam Art Factory, where I bought an art print from Yellowhammer Illustration. I think a huge part of our success in the Temple Bar area is that it was 4 PM and there was never any chance of us staying there late enough to witness the drunk shenanigans. We ended up grabbing dinner at Farringtons, which actually had really awesome traditional food, and no, I'm not being sarcastic at all. The food was really tasty. Of course, we were deliriously tired by that point, so perhaps we weren't the best judges...

Strolling through Temple Bar.

More on Dublin soon. It was a jam-packed whirlwind of two days, so I'm breaking it up for easy reading!

Visual Vocabulary Vacation (just for this week)

Visual Vocabulary is taking a vacation this week, because I was on vacation and too busy doing things that weren't drawing to illustrate a word. Visual Vocabulary will be back next week, and in the meantime, here's a photo from my trip that's probably prettier than anything I would illustrate. Cheers!

Sunset from Niarbyl, Isle of Man

If you want, you can always quiz yourself on the Visual Vocabulary archives