Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don’t Cross Me – I’ll Get a Posse and Throw Tomatoes at You!

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Last weekend I went to Waterford; for those of you that remembered not to get pinched, it was also St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday. I was wearing green in several places (including my socks, black with shamrocks) and carried not one but two Irish flags for at least half the day. I know. You’re impressed.

If you have the name ‘Waterford’ tickling your ear, it’s because it is famous for its fine crystal. I don’t think anything can cap Murano glass, so I wasn’t too bothered with it. Besides, they don’t even have a factory there, just a showroom:

What I thought was cool, though, was the fact that Waterford Crystal was started by Quakers (the Penroses); that’s super neat because the Quaker edict states that nothing too showy can be included in a Quaker’s life. Quakers are not supposed to drink alcohol, either – and guess who was making beer? They represented two percent of the population but employed loads of people, and never involved themselves in politics.

Waterford is like many towns; it is comprised of buildings in rows, which form streets (gasp!):

And cathedrals:

And other stuff:

But it also has…VIKINGS!!!

And now you’re thinking, ‘Sarah is interested in many things. Also, she gets unnaturally excited whenever she sees fish.’ This may be true, but everyone knows that Vikings kicked major butt, and looked good doing it. (Just forget those nasty images of busty women in breastplates, screaming on stage and looking wrathful.)

Vikings started venturing out of Scandinavia at 790, to plunder and trade their way through the known world – and a hefty chunk of the unknown (take that, Mr. Columbus ‘Meany Pants’ Columbus!) – which included such far reaches as Iraq. The Vikings began doing their thing in Ireland in 795, pillaging mostly, but also setting up some pretty important towns (ever heard of Dublin?).

The earliest site in the area is actually Woodstown, five kilometers from Waterford. It’s not fully excavated yet, but the eggheads have decided that it was settled in about 840. They have found evidence enough to indicate that this was a dual-gender trading colony and a mint. And then, poof! It was abandoned, almost a la Roanoke.

Vikings started using currency in the 800s and 900s, importing silver from the far reaches and using a system of weights that was consistent in all of their known lands – not bad for when Europe was in severe economic decline and when people named their fleas. Vikings also had that wonderful tradition of metalwork we love so much.

In 840, loads of riverside bases were established…and then in 902 the Vikings were driven out…and in 914, they just came right back again, under the leadership of King Reginald. I don’t know about you, but times have changed: I wouldn’t be caught dead in a posse where a Reginald was orchestrating the gang. What can I say? Vikings had guts.

In 914, they founded Vedrarfjordr, which if you say it really fast, turns into Waterford (eventually); the name means ‘the winter haven.’ Waterford is actually the only place in Ireland that still has a name derived from the Norse. The Vikings founded their town on a triangular ridge of high ground, which is still called ‘The Viking Triangle’ today.

By 1090 in Waterford, there had been intermarriage with the locals and the Vikings were well established; however, the inhabitants of the town were never really seen as natives of the area and were called ‘Ostmen,’ which means ‘men from the east.’ I’m not sure why this isn’t ‘men from the north,’ but it is the Middle Ages we’re talking about here; only the Vikings and the Arabs knew what they were doing.

The city fell to Anglo-Normans in 1170, fell to re-invading Ostmen in 1174, and then permanently went to the English/Irish/Whatever/History Is Complicated. After that, the history of the town got really, really boring. Sure, Cromwell mounted his only unsuccessful siege of a town in Waterford, but he just came back the next year and kicked butt. What’s the point, if there are no Vikings?

Where this information is coming from is my visit to Reginald’s Tower, a neat looking place:

It wasn’t actually built in the time of the Vikings (sorry! If I had known, I would have changed it!), but it is built on the site of a Viking fort. The structure today was built in two stages, the first two floors first, and then the next two. It’s badass. They even remembered to install toilets:

They flush and everything. Sort of.

The part I liked best:

…Maybe not.

But at least there were two different bars to cling on to, and there were courteous signs posted:

Um. Duh?

After the Tower had exhausted its use for defense, it was converted into a mint and later a jail, where it is said that the female inmates “were in the habit of indulging in jigs, reels, and country dances to while away the tedious hours.” I think it was also used for storage at some point.

So after I was done with the Tower, it was almost time for the events of the day to get started; I found a good place on the mall (actually a street, not like the grassy stretch of grass in front of the gazebo in Brunswick, Maine), leaning against a barricade. After a long wait, a group of girls – and one boy, who was probably either cursing or blessing his luck – came out to dance. They all danced in different groups; the littlest ones went first (there was a collective gasp when one of them fell on the wet surface), followed by the others. The boy got a solo that involved a lot of high kicking and skill.

Finally, the parade started to come through, starting with your standard emergency personnel:

And Bagpipes. I LOVE bagpipes. Though you rarely meet a handsome bagpiper – but there was that one we met in Algorta that one time…

And then there were absolute swarms of desperate and unhappy children that walked past (yes, I am superimposing my own memories of parades here), and then…through the mist…

GIRL SCOUTS!!! Haters are told to hold their foul tongues on this subject.

There were loads of floats inspired by Reginald’s Tower and other architecture of the city:

And there was other Viking stuff:

These are the Vikings beating the stuffing out of each other, and have a riotously good time with it. I roared at them as they walked past.

This is more local color; throughout the parade, there were a few moments where everyone stopped and bits of Waterford history were re-enacted in front of the mayor. This was where a guy was put in the stocks. I felt a little bad for him, as it looked like he was going to have a few bruises the next day, due to the tomatoes people were throwing at him. I was really hoping that they would have a good cabbage, but no, just tomatoes. Cabbages – if at the right stage – could just explode in a very fetching way.

Wait…was that?

The answer is YES. That is a massive war elephant – and it can blow steam out of its trunk. I don’t know if you can see him, but there’s a guy riding on its back, having a great time brandishing his spear at people.

I was pretty sure the parade was dying down – after all, at least half of the town’s children had marched past us, as well as racing dogs, the coast guard, and more military dudes (with bunches of fresh shamrocks tacked to their chests). At one point we’d even seen a helicopter flying over.

And then the announcer announced the final contribution:

There were at least 100 guys/leprechauns/biker chicks that roared past us. A thought occurred to me – whatever started with bagpipes and ended with a motorcycle gang just HAD to be good. And so it was.

After the fumes had cleared, I went into the Bishop’s Palace (which had been directly behind me the entire time) and took a tour through it. There were chandeliers, elaborate place settings, and paintings of pretentious people.

There were also some great stories, though, about a doctor who cared for the poor in his spare time (it was pretty rare in that period to get a decent doctor if you weren’t rolling in the dough); I would tell you his name, but it’s unclear in my notes.

There was also an architect, John Roberts, who had an interesting family and set of descendants; look him up sometime if you are so inclined. He was a man that worked until the day he died – and he died in a construction accident, so he could have gone on quite a lot longer than he was able to. His grandson (or great grandson, I can’t remember) was an officer in the first World War; in the Palace there is a letter of his telling his nephew not to enlist for the war right away and to finish his schooling first, as his talents would be needed later – this shows great foresight, because most people thought that the War would be over before Christmas.

I don’t remember the name of the lady in question, but one of the dames lording over the Palace had great fun in moving the fireplace mantels around while her husband was away. In that time, if you were wealthy, you showed off with elaborate mantels over your fireplaces; this was a significant investment, so if you decided to move, you would take them with you. This means that they must have a certain mobility when they are put in place. I would like to think that if I were a rich lady of that time in possession of a house such as that, I would mess with my husband’s mind in such a manner after he had gone away.

After that, I was museum-ed out; I walked around and looked at some shops. There were stalls set up in a square in the shopping district, music from the speakers, and a small amusement park near the river.

And that was it. In the evening I went back to Cork to celebrate the holiday with friends (don’t worry; I didn’t drink much, as the bars were too crowded to get close enough to order) and slept in deliciously late the next morning.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Competitive Jaywalking

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I’m a bit behind – it seems that all of the classwork rolls in like a tsunami at the end of the semester. Fortunately, I’m managing to run just ahead of the tidal wave. Well, for now, anyway.

Two weekends ago I was in Limerick – yes, that is actually a place. It’s not a verdant green forest like you might think – and there are definitely no leprechauns. Sorry to ruin the buzz.

Limerick is the first place in Ireland that has really felt like a city to me – though that might have been because of Friday, during which I spent two hours walking around trying to find the bed and breakfast I was staying in. I was told multiple times that “Ennis road is a big place.” And it is – it goes between Limerick and the great town of…wait for it…Ennis. I knew I would surprise you. The kicker is that the road is about 25 miles long – though thankfully I didn’t have to walk all that distance before I caved and called a taxi.

And I mentioned that I was in a bed and breakfast – usually I opt for a hostel, but this was different: me, a television set, privacy… Don’t get me wrong: I like living with other people, but after a certain point I want to round off my day with a bottomless bag of chips and crappy television on the one station that is any good that the tv seems to get.

Friday evening was spent convalescing; I put my feet up and snuggled into a mountain of pillows.

Saturday morning I ate the complementary breakfast and took the bus into town. I didn’t feel like taking my map out just yet, so I walked around until I saw a sign pointing toward something promising; I saw an arrow pointing toward something called ‘The Milk Market.’ Now I’m not really into milk, but it sounded cool. Turns out, I was right:

This is much like the English Market, but more temporary – the high point is on Saturday. It sells a huge array of things, from clothing to shoes to candy to foods of all types (including olives and pesto from that place I like – turns out it’s a chain, my life is wonderful) to weird foods, such as wheatgrass.

For those who don’t know what this is, be not concerned: this is something hippies eat. Or maybe drink – or maybe just kind of endure. It’s something you pay two euros for (about two dollars and fifty cents), and then you get about half a shot’s worth of intensely green liquid – about two teaspoon’s worth of liquid to non drinkers. I was instructed to ‘sip’; it was the most intensely weird thing that I have ever tasted. It was okay, almost pleasing, but at the same time, made me want to spit it out all over the sidewalk. It had a taste strongly reminiscent of chives.

There was also a bit of a head-scratcher:

I was too afraid to ask.

And then yummyness:

Yuuuumm…

Also scrum-dilly-umptious was the elderflower cordial I had. I think this is another hippie food, but I don’t care: it’s this old-fashioned drink, made with a concentrate out of a bottle that is then diluted with water. It was sweet, with notes of apple, pear, and honey. I’m adding this to the list of things I’m looking for when I get home.

It was Sarah-heaven. Though the toughest part was refusing the six-cadbury-eggs-for-one-euro deal I saw at one of the tables. I rationalized that I had to make sure that I could still fit into my pants, after all the trouble I took getting them.

After eating so much I could barely walk, I eased my way over toward the Hunt Museum, which is filled with all sorts of cool things from the medieval ages on back to the stone age. It’s wicked cool, especially when you follow one of the guides of the museum around; they’re very knowledgeable and if you find the right ones, really funny.

I liked the older stuff the best, but it was just really awesome to go from one massive period in history and just leap into something completely different. They have a Picasso (a menu cover for a restaurant that wasn’t successful), and a Renoir painting. I didn’t like the Picasso; I liked the Renoir.

The collection is the legacy of the Hunt family, which collected all this stuff and then left it and their house to form the museum. It’s kind of like the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum in Boston (yes, kids, this is free advertising, but I am available to come under contract. Snap it up early; I hear Swiffer is very interested), but laid out much more like a museum.

Some of the greatest hits were from the bronze age, like the really cool ornamental shield found at the bottom of the Thames River, or the huge urn and cauldron found in bogs. Turns out that people in that age sacrificed more than prisoners of war to the bogs: they would toss in things like used cooking vessels as appeasements to the gods; it’s part of how much we know about that time period. Surprisingly, people cutting peat will sometimes find butter in the bogs: this is not just centuries old, this stuff is thousands of years old – and when people find it, it still smells like butter. Crazy, right? Apparently the equivalent of the bronze age housewife would get her husband to put the butter in the bog in the backyard (to keep it cold, I’m assuming), and sometimes when she got him back out there with the shovel to dig it up, he found that, well, he couldn’t find it. Imagine the nagging he came home to. Poor sod.

I heard all this from one of the guides at the museum; he also enlightened me on a very important point: anything that you see labeled as ‘ceremonial’? Complete bunk. Archaeologists have no clue whatsoever. This was a shooting-off point from talking about these fist-sized stone balls with bumps on them, used for ‘ceremonial’ purposes.

There were also these things called ‘momento mori,’ pendants in the form of skulls worn by people to remind them that they were going to die. So they would get up in the morning and see that the sun was shining and be happy, but then they would put on their necklace and go around on a crying jag all day. Though to be fair, it was totally natural in those days to be really sad, especially if the Black Death was going around.

This is St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was closed for touristic activity…and whose door I couldn’t find, even though I walked all around the building. But it’s kind of pretty:

Well, maybe not from that angle. Call the creepy organist, STAT. Also note the little sign pointing to the ‘entrance’: total lie.

Moving on…

TO DEATH, MISERY, AND DESTRUCTION!!!!!

It’s a castle. A big one. And it doesn’t have creepy stairs! Well, not many, anyway, and I didn’t have to go on them.

This place is pretty touristy, but it has great history, once you get past the exhibits that make noises, startle you, and make you want to make them meet their maker. (I couldn’t find the speakers and was pretty sure that there were cameras.)

It’s King John’s Castle, and it was built from 1205 to 1212, and it is AWESOME. I’m trying to spice this up for people not so interested in history. So how about sieges? This involves catapults, pouring burning oil on people, and guys in armor. The castle was under attack five whole times (maybe more, I can’t remember), two of those times during the Williamite-Jacobite War. Unfortunately the Irish/French lost that one, even though they were the defenders. The English had better organization and the French were being weenies, like always.

The castle was built on a site that had previously had a Viking fort (I love Vikings! Seriously. They had bathing practices before people in Europe knew what soap was). When the English came in, they knocked down the fort and built the castle. Unfortunately, the castle is named after King John – the only King John in English history for a reason, as it happens. He was cantankerous, despotic, and pissed people off. He is actually known for pulling Irish chieftains’ beards, which wasn’t completely popular.

So let’s go back to the Vikings, and completely skip the weird mannequin dressed as King John:

This is part of the early settlement, and some of the wall behind it.

During one of the sieges people actually dug tunnels to infiltrate the castle. Unfortunately, people inside the castle figured it out and started digging a counter-tunnel. And then they were THIS CLOSE and the siege ended. Too bad, right?

Um, this is a shed for manure. Did we see any livestock? Um, no. And there’s a lot there. What did they do, bring in a truck?

I can’t really remember, but I think these walls mark the expansion of the fort. You’d probably have to visit to know, so I could say that this is where the unicorns live – and didn’t I tell you…?

This is a view of a bridge, where a massacre of 700 men fleeing into the fort occurred: the Irish defenders pulled up the gate, fearing that the English attackers would get in. The Irish ended up losing that one; I’m guessing it was based on the fact that their karma was shot to hell.

The bridge separates the English part of Limerick from the Irish part. The English got their nice fancy castle, and the Irish – well, they got squat.

So after that, I walked around for a while, and then back to the bus, and then to bed. Sheer bliss.

The next day everything was closed, so I wandered around, in and out of a few stores. On my little sashay through a department store, I saw:

And right by the bus stop is a beautiful park – it was open, so I spent a few minutes in there. Flower lovers, raise your hands:

So that’s Limerick.

‘Sploring

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Over the past months I’ve been doing a lot of exploring around Cork. Some of it has been involved with hunting the elusive bar-ba-loot (it’s Dr. Seuss, look it up), some of it has been wandering around looking for things (why does St. Patrick’s Street have to bend, anyway??), some of it has been field trips, and some of it has been actual touristic visitation. So what follows is MOST of what you can do in the city; I’m still missing a couple of things, so don’t think when this is over that it’s over (and confusion is part of the process).

What would be the most fitting would be to start with Finbarre’s Cathedral. I mentioned before that St. Finbarr is Cork’s patron saint – Ireland in general has two saints, St. Patrick and St. Bridget – who founded a scholastic monastery on the site of what is now UCC, in the sixth century. This means that Finbarre’s is really close to the university (as well as one of the best natural food stores I’ve been in, with some of the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted [shamelessadvertisement]).

And a piece of trivia – Finbarr founded his monastery on a marsh, which is what ‘cork’ means in Gaelic.

Finbarre’s was built from 1863-1870, so this thing is pretty new in comparison to similar buildings of the style – it reminds me a lot of Notre Dame in many ways, but smaller and with more mosaics. Is it in bad taste to say that it feels ‘homey’ inside?

This is the front of the cathedral. Notice something? Yes. It’s the sun. Wow.

There are daffodils all over the place here now – this photo was taken maybe a month ago, and there have just been more and more since then. It’s like walking through an ocean of daffodils sometimes, and I am the last one to complain.

This is the back view of the cathedral – if you’re noticing the gold figurine on top of one of the domes, that’s what I’m calling the Angel of Doom. This thing has fallen off of its perch twice; the third time this happens, we should expect seriously messed-up apocalypse stuff to happen. I just hope it happens in about 30 million years – I don’t plan on dying any time soon!

On the first field trip I did with Freshwater Resources Management, we went to the Iniscarra Dam, just outside of the city.    We got the full tour – of which I did not hear half – but this was basically the last non-disgusting field trip we took. Well, okay, the Heineken factory wasn’t half bad…

This is a power-generating station (though the energy generated by this facility doesn’t justify the costs involved, economical and ecological…hem hem), though its main reason for existence is that it serves as a measure of flood control. Which is funny, as in 2009, Cork experienced a 600-year flood, which means that the flood has a .166666% chance of happening every year. That also means that the city was flooded: the River Lee has been redirected through Cork to follow certain channels, so when the flood happened the river reverted back to its original channels…channels that ran right down streets. The bottom line is that it cost a lot of people money, that there was no water in the city for a week, and that such new buildings as the River Lee Hotel and the university’s new technology building (with all the fancy computers in the basement) weren’t patting themselves on the back concerning their timing. Now there are two construction sites basically right outside my front doorstep, in order to reinforce the walls that contain the river. The University College Cork is also suing the dam for damages done – which is funny, as it’s one governmental authority against another.

Here are some funny-looking engines:

…Nevermind. I didn’t load that photo; this one is much prettier. This is the lake behind the dam – it’s deceptively small looking, but don’t be fooled. It’s a river basin, so that basically means that it is a very long and thin lake. Is that too nerdy for you? Well, hold on!

This is a fish ladder – it’s what takes migratory fish, like salmon, from the bottom of the dam to the top of the dam. So it’s a big net-box thing, but if you were wondering, that’s how it’s done. (It also has not been proven to be very effective, but it’s better than nothing.)

Are you wondering what happens to the fish trying to get back downriver? Well, that’s a bit more tricky. There are two turbines that generate electricity inside the dam, one large one and one small one. These are the impediments between upstream and downstream – a bit of a problem if you aren’t interested in fish puree and a lot of angry anglers and environmentalists. The solution is a bit…iffy. During the time of the year that fish migrate back downstream, they simply turn off the smaller turbine (ever notice that things like pinwheels move slower the bigger they get? That’s what this is). I’m not sold on this method, but now you are smarter. Or maybe more bored. Or maybe you’re hungry?

If so, your cravings are about to get worse.

This is the English Market. This is the gold nugget in Cork: if you can find it, your life is set. This is where you get any ingredient you could ever possibly wish for, for any dish you could ever dream to make. This is also where incredible olives and pesto are from: I try to limit myself to one purchase from this place each month in order to pace myself…and not go bankrupt. Otherwise, this blog would be about how happy my tummy is, and as interesting that may be for me, you wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth – oh wait! You don’t pay me for this!

This is the main entrance of the market – but there are several others. It’s like this giant incredible secret place that even once you know where it is, it keeps surprising you.

This is yet another part of the market – note the shop, ‘Pots n’ Pans,’ as well as Dan (twin of Nick, who studied with me in the same program in Bilbao). The market is like a labyrinth. I’m considering getting a tattoo on the palm of my left hand, or maybe bringing a ball of yarn with me next time, a la Greek mythology. This is really and truly one of my favorite places in Cork – it’s just awesome. Period.

And now a bunch of really random stuff:

This is a cool cathedral with a massive Byzantine dome in the center, with similarly massive gold mosaics done behind the altar. One thing I can say for Cork is that they do good church.

I don’t know what this is, but it’s really cool. I’m also getting the feeling that I should know what this is – maybe the courthouse. Oh yeah. That’s right – I was a bit tipsy at the time. I’ll have to ask around and see if that thing with the traveling mimes also happened.

This is a park in the city center. (Your line: “ooooh, aaaah”)

And notice that the one closest to us is wearing a cute little hat…

This is St. Anne’s Church; I went here with Nick and Dan on the promise of being able to ring the bells. Nothing doing. Massive disappointment. We all had a good cry; it was a cleansing experience.

Moving on – last Friday I went to Blackrock Castle with Pauline, which my mother might recognize from the bag I decorated for her:

Blackrock Castle is now retrofitted to be a museum about space and natural history (behind the tallest tower is the dome of an observatory). The museum was pretty blah for Pauline and I, as we already know all of it – though we both were pretty enthused about trilobites: they never get old (comparatively speaking).

We had a nice dinner at the restaurant there; I had a gratin of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, cheesy, savory, wonderful. So wonderful I did the tourist and took a photo:

And then we heard a guy talk about nothing. Literally, nothing. For example, a nugget of thought:

The absence of something is nothingness, BUT the absence of everything is nothing. Absolutely nothing. The whole idea of nothing is incredible to us because we can’t imagine what nothing is – just as we can’t imagine what the state of being dead, of our bodies not being occupied by our personalities.

Crazy, innit? And if you want to talk about crazy, well, I bought the guy’s book! (I’m looking forward to it, though.)

The view from this castle is tremendous, especially on a night such as this one was. I’m not much of a city girl, but I did like the prospect of the lights on the bay like that. It also makes me a little sentimental; I imagine the ocean closing the distance between me and home – wherever that might be – because all of the homes I have known have been on the water, with my fondest memories being looking out on the water as night falls.

And my last hits – at least in this edition:

There is a hill that, if you take the trouble to walk up it, affords the best views of the city.

So that’s all for now. Keep [Austin] weird!

This Way for the Future

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This past weekend I went to Cobh – pronounced ‘Cove,’ isn’t Gaelic great – a town outside of Cork.

It’s got a load of history for such a small place; for example, Cobh (also called Queenstown for a while, thanks to a visit by Queen Victoria) was the last port of call for the first immigrant into Ellis Island in 1892, a seventeen year-old girl called Annie Moore. She traveled with her two younger brothers to America and in thanks for her trouble, she was given a ten dollar gold coin. Think about the courage that must have taken – maybe she and I would have had something to talk about (too late to strike up a conversation now, though).

Cobh was actually the town through which the majority of Irish emigrants passed; chances are that if you have Irish ancestry, he, she, or they came through Cobh before finding a new life. Cobh was the last part of Ireland they were likely to ever see.

Cobh is even more known due to an event that happened 100 years ago and which is immortalized in one of the most popular films of all time. I’ll give you a moment to guess. Go on, take your time.

This is the White Star Line office building that passengers used to board the R.M.S. Titanic. That’s right – this coming April is the 100th anniversary of the night the unsinkable ship sank into the North Atlantic.

History geeks may be shaking their heads at me right now – doesn’t anyone know that the Titanic left from Southampton in England? This is true, but that didn’t stop it from making a few stops along the way, to be admired and to take on more passengers. At Cobh about 40 people boarded the liner and seven people left. One of those few that exited the vessel was Father Francis Browne: he asked his superior if he could travel to New York with a wealthy American couple, but upon receiving the cryptic message “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL” (pardon the capital letters – I’m assuming that’s just the telegram’s fault), he left at Cobh and went back to Dublin. This is already a great story, but there’s another little part that you can’t overlook. The movie Titanic is so great in part because of how authentic it feels, but how could anyone really know what the place looked like? The place is a rust-covered wreck now; we’ve all seen the photos. But we would know if Francis Browne owned a camera, which he did. All those iconic photographs of the ship’s interior – just assume that was the good padre.

Titanic was the second in a three-part series of megaships: the R.M.S. Olympic, R.M.S. Titanic, and the R.M.S. Britannic. To give you an idea, the Britannic was also nicknamed Gigantic: and I checked – the White Star Line still built it after the Titanic disaster.

2,223 people left Southampton, England on the 10th of April with high hopes; on the night of the 14th, 1,517 people died. That’s a huge number by any means, but if I have my math right (it’s possible that I don’t: even simple math sometimes eludes me), that means that 68% of the passengers died in the North Atlantic that night.

What I was not prepared for was the magnitude of the incompetence of the people that built and ran the ship: the ship was going at a very fast rate, considering the waters she was traveling through (in order to make time, to be sure) – sure, the captain navigated her into a slightly southerly course to avoid the worst of the icebergs,  but there was still a danger. That risk was compounded by the fact that the men in the crow’s nest did not have binoculars. And to top that all off, the number of lifeboats on the ship was based on the tonnage of the vessel, not the number of people that would need to be saved. There were 16 lifeboats, well withing regulations (down from 20, in order to free up more deck space, though that wouldn’t have been enough anyway), and when the ship sank, there were still more than FOUR HUNDRED free spaces on those boats. The abomination of it still riles me.

But there were some good stories, all the same. One woman, Margaret (Molly) Tobh Brown was a millionairess from Denver that was saved on one of the lifeboats, and spent the rest of that time helping others and going out of her way.

Another (anonymous) woman was distraught when she was pulled into one of the lifeboats, because her husband was being left behind – the others on the boat were afraid she might have some kind of attack. However, she was sane enough to persuade the rest of the people on board to take on a man in the water; everyone else was afraid of capsizing, but she convinced them. As dawn broke, she realized that it was her beloved husband.

There are also the not-so-great stories, like that of a 39 year-old woman with five children (the youngest of which was two years old), who was last seen, along with her entire family, on the deck of the sinking ship. It’s humbling.

On board there was not only the captain, Edward Smith, go-to-sailor for the rich and famous, as well as the most senior captain in the White Star Line, but also the Astors, a rich and powerful American couple, as well as Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus, and many others. I don’t know about the others, but I do know that the captain went down with the ship, as well as Mr. Astor (though Mr. Astor’s very controversial very young wife survived the wreck).

Okay, moving right along…

After lowering the mood substantially in the museum, we walked up to St. Colman’s Cathedral, a gorgeous bit of architecture that works as the equivalent of a mini stair-master. But there are killer views:

And then there’s the cathedral itself:

After that, we went back down on the hill. There had been a cat that we’d seen a few times out and around – once in the bushes, once crossing the road (I closed my eyes and prayed for the best), and then, for the last time, at his front door:

I just missed getting the two mirrored and looking at each other through the glass, but I still rather like this one – partially because you can see me reflected. Beautiful, aren’t they?