First Impressions

14 10 2010

I’m left standing outside a train station for nearly an hour waiting to be collected. There’s a man sitting on a bucket playing a trumpet, he knows two songs, he repeats them a lot… without improving. I’m wearing a rucksack, it’s heavy and the day is hot. Am I going to slip into one of my trademark moods?

No way José, the trumpet man is American, the train station is Boston South Station and I’m on holiday baby.

My lift arrives in the form of Jake “The Chin” Lindmark (see above video). Boston traffic on a Friday at 5:00 is mental and we’ve got to travel 30 miles out of the city. During the journey Jake informs me that I’ll have to sleep on the living room floor because the spare bedroom has being changed into a bar.


I’ve spent the day travelling from New York and I’m knackered so we decide to have a quiet night down the local. After meeting Jake’s dog, who would become my new best friend, and a real life lesbian called KT it’s time to take the edge off reality.

We rope in Jake’s house mate Dan and head to the Irish bar. We don’t have much choice in this as every bar in Boston is Irish. Lots of beer and Irish accents, it’s like being in Dublin. The quiet night ends trying to flip the car in Mc Donald’s car park and me ranting all the  way home because they charged me extra to have a bottle of water instead of coke with my Big Mac Meal. Falling up the steps to his house we have to see if his bar works.

It does.


I sleep.

Then it’s morning.

Then my head hurts.

I force myself to get up and go into Boston. On the train in I decide to stay for an hour and then I’ll head back to Jake’s and try to get some sleep. Within 30 minutes of walking around Boston I’m hooked. The city is incredible. This is the city New York wishes it could be. It’s clean, it’s friendly (I should point out New York is, also, exceptionally friendly) and it oozes my favourite thing: FUN.




Boston You’re a Beauty

13 10 2010


A Day Out At The Liverpool Red Sox


Culture is always the first port on any Pauliday (that’s a cross between Paul and holiday… sorry I’ll never use it again). A bit of a hike outside the main city is The Museum of Fine Arts, unlike DC and NYC I have to pay and, even after flashing the student ID of money saving fun, I cough up $20. A vast building that, for some reason, puts all the crappy pots and coins at the front and you have to make your way upstairs and to the back to see some of the gems.  I’ve seen a lot of Van Gogh’s on my holiday but the MFA provided me with by far my favourite as well as a feast of Monet.

I spend three hours here and my ticket is good for a second visit within the next week, I decide I shall make use of it, work my way around and look at more crap pots and a chair from China?

Enough culture time to drink. Jake arrives in and we try out some of the variety of Irish pubs on offer. Boston is a university town and that means I get asked for I.D. everywhere; each time feels like a compliment. We end up in Whiskies and I see the most beautiful bar maid I could ever imagine. She’s the kind of gorgeous where you could make her the biggest movie star in the world. Can she act? Doesn’t matter. Sorry I’m digressing; I shall have a long hard think about her later. The only problem is she’s turned to place into a sausage factory of admirers so we decide to try somewhere classy.

A few doors up we go to a snaaazzzzzyyyyy bar. Shit, it looks expensive.

“I’ll get this round” Jake informs me.

“You sure?” I say, “thank fuck” I think.

This is the point where everything gets hazy, I know I spent the last hour before bed sitting on the floor trying to compose a song on a guitar hero guitar; no television or wires, just the guitar.. There was shots, beer, brandy, I got a hug from a scouser, drunk driving behind a cop car, no water with Mc Donald’s even my new best friend looked concerned for the state I got myself in.


My new BFF


The last few days have merged into one. Went to see the Red Sox and went to the top of The Prudential building, cracking views up there, tries to watch a game of American Football but went for a lie down instead, let other people barbecue for me, met the other lesbian Shelli (lovely couple who also have a lovely dog) and made use of the fridge buy filling it full of beer and then emptying it.

Boston is like a European city, the town planners obviously thought fuck that grid system shit, just  put streets wherever; resulting in a wonderful maze of skyscrapers towering over little churches, hidden parks full of hot women and more awesome second hand book shops.

My MFA ticket is good for another visit and… well… it’d be rude not to. I spend an hour staring at the same paintings and ignoring the pots and chair. Stopping for lunch I’m a bit annoyed at having to pay $10 for a sandwich. Then the sandwich arrived or as it should be called a breeze block. I don’t eat for the rest of the day (no wonder I’ve being doing massive poos for the last fortnight). It’s my last day in Boston and I soak up every second wandering aimlessly before heading back out to Jake’s.


A Normal Bookstore


We go out to celebrate my last day and I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t remember leaving the pub, but I didn’t get a hug from a scouser. There was, however, a pub quiz on and amongst the team names were Nailin’ Palin and Fat babies ruin great vaginas. I’m wearing the Boston uniform which is a Red Sox cap backwards.

On my last day I visit Salem, where the famous witch trials were held and buy a copy of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, makes sense but different Salem. Shit.

Then it’s over.

Jake runs me out to the airport and the adventure that began in DC two weeks ago, but really began in Rome last May has ended. I’m sad to leave but what a fucking incredible way to end the best summer ever.


Lots of this


Top Tip for the USA

8 10 2010


I’ve recently enjoyed my fifth visit to the USA and I must say this was quite possibly the best. A wonderful country with the friendliest people God ever put on his green earth. But I have a gripe.


Why oh why is it such a big deal? I went for a meal in DC with some friends; it was an expensive Greek restaurant and we all chipped in $8 towards the tip. Do I have a problem with this? No, not at all, the food was good and the service was friendly and prompt. Skip forward a few days and I go into a bar in New York, I order a bottle of beer, the bar tender pops off the cap of the bottle and hands it to me. I pay $6 for the beer and leave a $1 tip. The person who served me wasn’t rude or overly pleasant. Why do I feel compelled to tip? I question this with my cousin (a New Yorker going on 15 years) and he is adamant I must tip.

His reason is the people serving don’t get paid a great wage, they live on their tips. When did their wage packet become my concern? They probably have more money than me. The person who sold me a cinema ticket probably earns less yet American society doesn’t feel that their job merits tipping.

He says this is a tipping society, but no worker has a right to a tip. All I want is a bottle of Heineken, serve me and engage me and, you never know maybe I’ll like you, tell you get yourself a beer, maybe I won’t. Never assume.

Tips by their very name and nature are earned. Another bar I went to, as soon as I sat down the barmaid came over introduced herself to us and shook hands. We stayed, got pissed and happily left a $15 tip. No problem.

While I’ve name dropped DC and New York already in this blog I may as well mention I also went to Boston and it was awesome.

America, I love ya baby but if you want my money you gotta earn it like everybody else.

Rome Day 2

7 06 2010

And so the first full day of my Roman holiday begins with my alarm screaming at me: OI YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE ANY FUN, NOW GET OUT OF BED AND LEARN.  It was 8:30 and I had an appointment with the Pope at 11:00. I left my new great mates in their beds still giggling at the previous nights exploits and set off on foot.

Stick the kettle on Benny XVI

On my map of Rome my hostel was in the bottom right hand corner and Vatican City was in the top left but after 40 minutes walking I was nearly there so stopped for my first Italian cafe latte of the holiday only to be served by the rudest woman in the city (I know this because I made a point of meeting them all) but she was typically Italian and sexy so I forgave her. The combination of heat, walking, croissant and coffee only aggravated last night’s belly full of beer but what did I care, I was on holiday and so I continued.

Reaching the Vatican I was stunned by the size of the queue to get in (I had pre-booked, ha fuck you queue losers), it took me ten minutes to walk the length of it. I had overestimated the size of the city and arrived an hour early, bollocks anyway I could have spent that hour in bed.  I gave the man at the door a charming Irish look of innocence and he let me go through anyway and after changing my ticket for another ticket and then going through another gate I was at last getting an education. Though it soon became clear I wasn’t the only person to wish to pop down to pope town that morning, the place was rammed; really these people should be at home it’s early on a Monday morning.

I got overexcited an raced toward the Sistine chapel but after what seemed like forever I still hadn’t seen anything familiar and every room I went in had paintings on the ceiling. I began to worry, maybe I missed it? Maybe it’s really small and shit? So I called my brother: “Stephen where’s the Sistine chapel I’ve been walking for ages?”

“You’ll know it when you see it.”

“Is there curtains in it?”


“I’m in a long corridor with paintings on the ceiling and curtains.”

“No it’s huge you’ll know it when you see it.”

“Ok, I better.”

And I did and it was awesome. In fact it was so awesome that after spending half an hour there I left jumped over a barrier and went through the whole museum again. A bit slower this time and took in all the stuff I’d rushed passed earlier. The statues of  the Roman emperors, including Claudius, I read a book about that lad, Claudius the lame. Nice statue mind. The Raphael rooms which were amazing and with Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel I had only two ninja turtle artworks to go to finish my list. I took a holy crap in the Vatican, changed into my shorts and I needed a rest so I aimed for the hostel.

I treated myself to an Italian ice-cream and oh my life they are the best in the world and this inspired me to conduct an experiment to see if the body can be sustained by ice-cream, pizza and beer and am glad to report that over a short period this kind of diet is actually favoured by the body and mind but don’t expect an easy time having a poo. Crossing the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II I felt every bridge in the world should look like this. On my 4 HOUR walk home I did my touristy duty and stopped to take as many pointless pictures as possible. A right camera happy tart. I’d heard a lot about the Trevi Fountain and it looks lovely and all that nonsense in pictures but my word it’s busy and surrounded by the cheap tacky nonsense that normally annoys me so much in London but today I’ll stop and have a root. I take in as many churches and basilicas as I can and it’s all so stunning, eventually I make it back and crawl upstairs to an empty room, lovely.

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

Being the excitable type I just can’t sleep and, though my legs feel like they’ve being on a death march, I have to go out and soak up more of this wonderful city. I limp back to the Colosseum for a proper look and standing outside a very friendly ticket seller approaches me and we strike up a conversation I debate doing the tour right away but my feet are about to fuck off and leave me there so I buy a ticket for tomorrow and crawl, defeated by exhaustion, back to the hostel. The Americans are there feeling equally leg raped and everyone gets a bit of kip.

When we wake up it’s pub crawl night. Hee hee hee. €20 a ticket and you get a free t-shirt? Sold. The first hour of drinking is free? My good God is this actually real? I’m in. A quick beer with the holiday team in the hostel and after calling Sonny a girl for about ten minutes he agrees to join us and get pissed. There’s not really much point trying to get an early night considering the state we’ll be in later when we crash back into the hostel.

And we’re off, first pub: the people participating in our pub crawl people are the only customers and I’m straight on the mother’s ruin, that’s lovely gin and tonics by the way. We’re telling some new people about the Wildebeest and Scabbie from last night and telling of our relief that they’re not here when I turn round and… Oh for fuck sake. There’s Scabbie waving at me. I wave back and with the subtlety of a kick in the balls walk to another room. I get chatting to a Canadian and an English man about football (sounds like a joke I know, Irishman Englishman and a Canadian in a pub) and after having had to listen to all the nonsense about baseball and American football for the last two days I relish a real conversation about a real sport. I am, however, rudely interrupted by the Wildebeest trying to pry me away. One of my world famous glares soon puts an end to that unwanted attention.

The night involved, surprisingly, visiting lots of pubs. There was a terrific menagerie of nationalities and I was the only Irish person. By the end of the night I had made friends from Holland, Brazil, England, Croatia and Canada (lots from Canada). Now the one thing I am great at when I’m either alone or pissed is dancing and Rome wasn’t going to go without a demonstration. It was while shaking my toosh that it came to my attention we had an actual break-dancer k in the group. While he was doing his thing my American roommate (one of the brothers) decided: bollocks, he’s not getting all the attention and, after clearing a space for himself on the dance floor, made to slide across it. Alas he didn’t so much slide as hit the floor, stick on all the spilt beer and bust his chin open (titter titter). When I eventually finished laughing I realised that the brothers had gone so Sonny and I hightailed it home. Well… we must have… that is to say I woke up the next morning in my own bed.


Rome Day 1

3 06 2010

And so it was; I came in over Rome trying to get my first glance of this historic city but finding my view impeded by the happy, kissy, get a room couple in the seats between me and the airplane’s window. It would be another hour before I saw the city and then it would be at street level. When I finally rolled in on a Terravision coach my first impression was: Wow, look at all the graffiti. The route the coach took into the city managed to avoid all the sights and upon arrival at the train station we spent an entire day in a traffic jam (well maybe 20 minutes but I’m rather impatient). People had been warning me all week about the pickpockets in Rome and I was on the defensive in this, not very attractive, area of the city. After parading up and down via Vincenca with my luggage for a while I found my hostel.

First impressions? I liked it. Good clean place and friendly staff. Up to the room and I’m greeted with the sight of three Americans trying their best, but not very well, to hide the disappointment that I’m not hot or a chick. After a quick introduction I make my excuses and arrange to meet in the bar later for a beer.

Collosso (First view)

Armed with a map and holiday buzz that’s growing I decide to take a wander to the Colosseum. I don’t so much wander as run and then, turning the last corner, there it is. I stand in the road like some class of a gobshite staring at this fascination. It’s inspiring, even by the standards of stadia built today this building screams at you: I’m the nuts. I’m worried about getting too close because I know I’ll stay here for the three days when I recall the invite to drink wonderful beer with my roomies. So about turn and back to the hostel.

I came to Rome on my own with the intention of an educational holiday and a learning experience. The night that followed decided otherwise. The only thing I love more than beer is fun and when the two are combined, well that’s just awesome. And combine them I did. Within a few hours I’m discussing some of the most vulgar aspects of ex girlfriends and dabbling in some mild international joshing. “Oi Yank, you come to Rome to eat cheeseburgers and insist that all the locals speak to you in American?”

“No I came for the ice cream and to be as loud and obnoxious as possible”.

“Good man”.

As the evening progressed all the satellite travellers moved to our table and with a group of about ten we giggled, pissed, farted and drank the evening away.

Somebody had drunken fumbling with girl we would later nick name The Wildebeest and somebody else had some slap and tickle with an old bird that became known as Scabbie. I was one of those people but I’ll refrain from saying which. Those stragglers who joined our group assumed I was lifelong friends with the Americans after listening to the utter abuse we were giving each other. Somewhere in the back of my brain there are memories of walking some women home and doing things that would make a bishop turn his back on the cloth. After an hour of giggling I finally went to sleep. I had to go and see the pope in the morning.

The travellers