The Blue Doors of Dublin—Not a Rock Band

 

Blue Doors of Dublin – Dublin, Ireland (1/50s @ f/8 ISO 100 @ 24mm Handheld)

I titled this image Blue Doors of Dublin. That would probably make a pretty good name for an Irish rock band now that I think of it. Since arriving in Dublin I’ve been taken by the brightly coloured doors I’ve seen everywhere. I found these blue doors adorning an apartment complex just a few blocks from our guesthouse. A new photographer friend, who has travelled Ireland extensively, suggests the origin of the coloured doors. The story goes that when Queen Victoria died the English asked everyone to paint their doors black whereupon the Irish immediately painted theirs with bright colours. I don’t know if that’s a true story or not but it sounds about right.

Stephen F. Dennstedt

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Dublin, Ireland Viewed in Black & White

Just a block or two from our guesthouse (here in Dublin, Ireland) is Saint Peter’s Church. It is beautiful and dramatic—and especially so in black & white. I always enjoy converting some of my favourite shots to black & white images. Doing so often changes the entire visual dynamic of the photo—creating mood and drama. I photographed this beautiful old church during my morning walkabout and thought a black & white treatment might do it justice. If you’re into retro black & white photography (like me) you might enjoy this look. It turned out pretty much like I envisioned it.

Saint Peter’s Church – Dublin, Ireland (1/50s @ f/8 ISO 100 @ 20mm Handheld)

Saint Peter’s Church – Dublin, Ireland (1/50s @ f/8 ISO 125 @ 16mm Handheld)

I chose to take only one camera and lens with me on this morning’s walkabout: my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV full-frame DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM wide-angle zoom lens. Shooting at 20mm and 16mm respectively I embraced the distortion this lens produces (it was intentional). I made absolutely no attempt to correct distortion in post because I think it lends drama to the scene—the church tower and spire reaching for the heavens. It was an artistic choice and I am happy with my decision. Know the rules of photography first and then make your own creative choices based on your vision.

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Our First Walkabout in Dublin

Stephen F. Dennstedt

This morning was our first walkabout in Dublin. Today is partly cloudy with a high temperature of 6°C/43°F with a wind of 22 mph (windchill 1°C /34°F). Bundle-up weather for sure but warmer than Iceland.

Our first day here was a travel day and we were exhausted so we stayed in our room. Yesterday it rained (often hard) all day and we chose to take an extra day for recovery. This morning, however, was gorgeous so we headed out on our first adventure.

A few casual observations first. The only Irish folks we’ve met so far has been our taxi driver. The hostess at our lodge is Russian, the receptionist is Lithuanian and our food server in the White Moose Cafe is Polish. We did meet the cook this morning and I think (maybe) she was Irish. Everyone has been super friendly and very polite—Dublin (initially at least) throws off a great vibe. Food prices seem to be on par with the USA, higher than Latin America but less expensive than Iceland. A large cup of robust coffee is 2.50€ and breakfast this morning was 6.50€. The portions are large hearty.

Interior View – Charleville Lodge

For instance our breakfast this morning was a breakfast sandwich consisting of a fried egg, sausage, bacon and cheddar cheese all served on a very large bread roll—it was big and extremely satisfying. This afternoon’s meal will probably be a large bowl of their soup of the day (the cook said it was going to be a robust vegetable soup) served with bread and butter for 4.50€. Again, these prices aren’t bargains necessarily but they are reasonable and doable. Joel and I both have laundry that needs to be done (after 2 weeks in Iceland) so our first order of business was to search out a laundry close by.

Exterior View – Charleville Lodge & White Moose Cafe

A few blocks away (just past Saint Peter’s Church) we spied Mr. Tubs Laundry & Dry Cleaning so we’ll probably haul our stinky clothes over to him tomorrow for some much-needed refreshing. The architecture is very quaint and charming here in Dublin (at least the part of Dublin we’re staying in). Lots of brick and brightly coloured doors (reds, blues and yellows). I don’t suppose Ireland has many earthquakes (like we do in California) so brick is a good building material and looks really neat. We also spied a couple of large pubs close by so I know we’ll have to stop in for a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Saint Peter’s Church

The traffic is well-mannered although we can’t seem to get used to everyone driving on the wrong side of the street. Pedestrians do the same thing but on the sidewalks—it will be a learning curve for us I suppose. For once we didn’t get lost our first time out (we usually do). My role has always been that of the designated navigator of our team but since my cerebral event in Guatemala my sense of direction is shot all to hell—I am ALWAYS 180° out of sync. If I’m supposed to turn right I always turn left and vice versa. It’s like my internal navigation system is all messed up and poor Joel isn’t much better.

John Doyle Pub

It’s kind of sad and very frustrating but can also offer some humorous moments at times. It’s like the blind leading the blind. It wasn’t a gradual deterioration of an intuitive skill it happened virtually overnight—pre-stroke I never got lost, post-stroke I get lost all the time. One minute I had the skill and boom the next minute it was lost forever. All I can do is accept and laugh about it—but it does add an extra layer of risk (and excitement) to our ongoing adventure. If you want to replicate this behaviour try hitting your head with a big hammer and see what happens.

Local Apartments

One advantage of being slō-travellers is that we don’t have to do everything all at once. Arriving at a new place we slowly explore our new surroundings by using concentric circles during our walks to expand our knowledge (and familiarity) with the area. Do we still get lost? Of course—but that’s also part of the fun. A survival tip: always keep the name and address (and phone number) of your lodging in your pocket so if you get truly lost you can hail a taxi back to your starting point. You want to know how many times we’ve had to do that don’t you? Well I’m not going to tell you.

Mc Geough’s Pub

One final anecdote from this morning’s walkabout. We spied an old lady (a really old lady) with a walker trying to navigate a particularly rough patch of asphalt. A young lad (who we assumed was her grandson) was patiently helping her reach a smooth stretch. They finally made it, even with the old lady’s slow shuffle-step, and the pair parted company—they weren’t related after all. It was just a very kind and empathetic young man helping an older person in need. When was the last time you saw a random act of kindness like that? Like I said earlier, so far Dublin is really impressing me.

Saint Peter’s Church

 

When Partisanship Trumps Principle

Stephen F. Dennstedt

When partisanship trumps principle we are in trouble. When loyalty to a political party, a religion, a race of people or a country outweighs moral certitude we are in trouble as a people, a culture and a nation.

Yesterday the Alabama electorate spoke by electing the first Democratic Senator in 25 years in opposition to voting for an accused pedophile. I was as surprised as anyone—so kudos to Alabama (even though the margin was too close).

With the political dynamic in the USA being as contentious as it is we are all having to look deep within ourselves to ascertain our values—what do we stand for? The rot that is destroying our culture transcends all boundaries—political, religious, cultural and even gender. Hopefully this cultural upheaval will be a catalyst for positive change and renewed accountability. There is enough fault on all sides that I hesitate to cast aspersions in one direction or another. People who know me (or this blog) should be familiar with my political leanings. More importantly I hope they are familiar with my moral and ethical views.

I’m not going to turn this post into a political rant. Rather, I hope we will all take a moment to really think about our values and what we, as individuals, stand for. Unless we’re a psychopath or sociopath we intuitively (in our gut) know right from wrong. To do wrong knowingly in the name of politics, religion or cultural bias is to do evil. Inappropriate behaviour is inappropriate behaviour and no political or religious tenet to the contrary will change that fact. We are seeing plenty of examples of atrocious behaviour by folks who think they are entitled and it’s rocking the very foundation of our culture.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do try to educate myself and hold myself to a personal code of conduct (that hasn’t always been the case unfortunately). We (the collective we) need to start holding people accountable for their actions and behaviour. I’m beginning to see a very small glimmer of hope but I’m enough of a skeptic to be very cautious. I’m not holier than thou or even a goody two shoes. I’m just a person like you who wants to see some civility and decency come back into our lives. Regardless of political party, religious persuasion or ethnic background we can all do better.

 

Arrived in Dublin, Ireland This Morning

Stephen F. Dennstedt

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland at 9:10 a.m. (local time). We flew super-economy on WOW Air from Reykjavik. Never heard of them? Neither had we until we booked our flight. It’s like flying in a giant grape Popsicle.

Checkout the photo of the plane below. Their entire fleet of planes look like that. Doesn’t instil a great deal of confidence. I mean they look a little ridiculous. And their motto mentions something about their playground in the sky.

The individual ticket prices were good but everything else was up-charged from there. Charges for checked baggage almost equalled the ticket price and you didn’t even get a courtesy cookie or cup of water on the flight—you want a cookie or a sip of water you pay for it. Thankfully the flight time from Reykjavik to Dublin is normally 2½ hours and we shaved 20 minutes off that time (we left Reykjavik at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Dublin at 9:10 a.m.). Flying in initially over Belfast and then heading south to Dublin we saw a good dusting of snow on the ground.

WOW Air

It’s warmer here than in Iceland but still plenty cold (for us old guys) with a nighttime low of -1°C/30°F and a daytime high of 4°C/40°F. Checking through Immigration & Customs was pretty routine but we did have to prove we had the financial wherewithal to stay in the country for 90 days. I had to trot down to the nearest airport ATM and print a bank balance statement to show solvency—we had to do that a few times in Latin America too. In the future we will probably keep a current printed bank statement with us if it comes up again. Those with cellphones simply show the online information to the agent.

Charleville Lodge – Dublin, Ireland

However, as mentioned so many times before, Joel and I absolutely refuse to own cellphones again (we are both stubborn to the max on this issue). We inquired about a shuttle from the airport to the city but found the taxis to be pretty reasonable. The fare to our lodge was about $20 Euros total ($1.00 Euro = $1.17 USD) and Joel and I split the cost at $10 Euros apiece. It was about a 20 to 30 minute ride into the city and our first impressions of Dublin were very positive. Our driver was cool and provided running commentary the whole way. Charleville Lodge was our destination and we arrived safely.

Charleville Lodge – Dublin, Ireland

We’re paying more than we usually do to stay at the Charleville Lodge but the cost is still very modest by Dublin standards. And after all we’ll be here through New Years (almost a month) so we might as well be comfortable. The hostess and staff have been super attentive and helpful already, the internet seems to work good (so far) and they even have an attached cafe called the White Moose where we spent some time eating a breakfast burrito (Mexican food in Ireland?) and downing a couple of beers while our room was being readied (we arrived before official check-in time).

Charleville Lodge – Dublin, Ireland

It was a long day today. We were up at 2:30 a.m. (the alarm was set for 3:00 a.m.) for a 3:30 a.m. pickup at our Reykjavik guesthouse to the airport coupled with the normal stress and anxiety associated with a travel day. Although the flight itself wasn’t very long it was pretty cramped and uncomfortable. We’re happy to be in Dublin and look forward to getting out and exploring a bit tomorrow. Again, we’ll be here for 3 weeks so we can take it pretty slow and easy and really enjoy ourselves. Our hostess said she will help us to organise some day tours outside of Dublin in the days to come.

 

Goodbye to Beautiful Iceland and on to Dublin

We’re leaving Iceland early tomorrow morning after two amazing weeks in this cold winter wonderland. Our wakeup call is at 0300 a.m. for a 0330 a.m. pickup to the Reykjavik airport (about a 1.5 hour drive from our guesthouse by bus). We’ll get to the airport at 0500 a.m. (for check-in and security) and our flight departs at 0700 a.m. (it’s a 2.5 hour flight from Reykjavik to Dublin) arriving late in the morning local time. Hopefully, Dublin will be much warmer than Reykjavik even if it is blustery and raining. We’ll be in Dublin for the holidays (Christmas & New Years) because it’s hard to travel and find lodging during those times.

After the holidays we’ll explore the rest of Ireland, Scotland and England before crossing the channel. It’s good to be back on the road again, doing something instead of wallowing in our sorrow back in the States. I still can’t quite believe I will never see my granddaughter again but I’m slowly coming to terms with that sad fact. Like I said, it’s good to be doing something (anything) again. Travel, like photography and writing, is good for the soul. You can literally find yourself (if you’re lost) on the road and being alone doesn’t necessarily equate to being lonely.

I’ve never viewed travelling as running away from things but rather an effort to run towards new experiences and adventures. Much like writing I find it to be a cathartic experience, a sort of cleansing of the mind, soul and body—it’s a holistic activity. I would rather spend my money on the travel experience than on expensive shrinks back in the States. On a lighter note the weather will be warmer in Ireland—cold, blustery and raining but not the heart stopping, eyeball numbing subfreezing temperatures of wintertime Iceland. So early to bed tonight and then off to Dublin first thing in the morning.

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Iceland in Stark Winter Black & White

The Iceland hinterlands present a cold, dark and bleak landscape in winter. It reminds me of photos I’ve seen of Siberia. On our coldest exploration day we experienced a windchill of -22°C/-8°F. I decided to convert three of my images to black & white to convey that sense of freezing cold and isolation. Monochromatic images aren’t to everyone’s liking but I favour the retro look they often express and the sense of mood and environment that can be achieved.

I know there must be some old hands out there who appreciate this kind of photography. I cut my teeth on black & white photography and still enjoy the medium very much. To get a good black & white photo isn’t simply hitting the convert to black & white filter in Photoshop. Working with Levels (to achieve true blacks and true whites) and Contrast (to emulate the black & white film of yesteryear) is also crucially important. It’s a very different process than colour.

Stephen F. Dennstedt