(American) Football in Ireland


One of the main drivers for this particular vacation was the opportunity to watch a football game in Dublin. To clarify, it was actually two football games, and it was American football (henceforth just football), not soccer. To promote football overseas and to increase tourism, Georgia Tech and Boston College held their season opener in Dublin. As an added bonus, the group putting the game together also invited over several high schools to compete as well. Our high school, Marist, was one of the lucky ones selected to play.

The high school games were played on Friday, with Marist (blue jerseys) kicking off last, at 5pm. We spent a lovely day in the city (see our previous post) and then made our way down to Donnybrook Stadium to cheer on the Blue and Gold.

The games were actually played on a rugby pitch, and it was interesting to see how they converted the field. There was a rugby game later that night, so the white marks on the field were the standard rugby ones. In a much fainter yellow, they had marked out the yard lines and boundaries. There were definitely times that the crowd had trouble telling if a player had gone out of bounds, so I’m sure it was hard on the players.

Speaking of the crowd, they were great. There were only bleachers on one side of the field (typical for local rugby), so everyone was mixed together. There were definitely pockets of supporters sitting together, but it wasn’t strictly divided. Ashley ended up sitting between two Marist moms who were VERY enthusiastic about their boys – both seniors, both in the game. The game was close for the first quarter, but Marist soon took the lead and kept it until the end (27-0). It was really a fun game to watch. Being high school, it moved a lot quicker than college (or pros), and there was lots of action – Marist caught two interceptions! It was great to see so many people come out to support the “kids”, and we had a great evening. Oh, and being Ireland, we were able to enjoy a pint while cheering on our team

One unexpected pleasure of the trip was catching up with old friends. Ashley’s parents were at the game too, so we got to spend time sightseeing with them. We also ran into an old high school buddy and his wife. She works for GT, so she was on duty frequently, but it was delightful to catch up with them whenever they had a spare minute. Last but not least, we got to hang out with an old co-worker of Ashley’s. She’s living in Dublin these days, and she had us over for brunch before the main event. She lives a literal stone’s throw away from the stadium, and it was so nice and relaxing to get out there before the crowds to enjoy good food and good company before the game.

Speaking of the game, wow. GT took the lead in the first half, but BC came back fighting. It really came down to the wire, but Tech scored with 35 seconds left on the clock. Let me tell you, the crowd went wild. Then, there was a crazy pass/run/fumble play where almost every player on the field touched the ball. The only clip I could find online really doesn’t do justice to how bizarre it looked from the stands. Aviva stadium was really cool. It’s an open design, but there is a roof that juts out over most of the seats. We were nice and dry while a steady rain fell on the field for most of the game. I can’t imagine watching a local sport there – the sound really echoed, and I’m sure a bunch of rugby or soccer fans would really raise the volume.


Miami Wrap Up

Sorry I missed a weekend there. My third weekend got derailed by a wicked head cold. Despite that  I still got out and did a couple of things.

The temperatures finally caught up with the me and broke 100.  Of course that’s also the weekend I planned some serious outdoor activities.  First on my list was the Zoo. It’s definitely a kid friendly place with lots for little people to do.  Several of the exhibits were great. I liked the amazon exhibit and the Asian aviary was nicely laid out too.  I was a bit disappointed in the Aussie exhibit though as I was hoping say hello to some old friends.  Coworkers warned about the lack of shade and wow were they right. I zigzagged my way from patch to patch and still felt like I got burned. Despite the head, some of the animals were pretty active so I got some good shots.

Fighting the head cold, I decided to visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. The grounds were lovely but I left my memory card at home (sad trombone) so the only pics I got were from my cellphone. The gardens are great. I highly recommend the tram ride. It’s included in the ticket price and is easy way to see where you want to walk around the gardens later. A WPA project from the depression, I wanted a bit more history about the design and building of the grounds but there wasn’t any.

The heat was bad and with my head killing me, I limited my visit to the orchid section and the butterfly house.  The kaleidoscope  of butterflies (really the term!) in the house was amazing.  There were so many Blue Morphos that I just wanted to sit down and let them swarm all over me.  I figured sneezing all over them was probably bad so I exited quickly.

My last weekend was spent running an ultra relay from Key Largo to Key West. Team Lucky 1101 consisted of six of us from work ran who the last 100 miles of US1 in roughly 3 mile stretches.  A coworker had to bail at the last minute so I stepped up and gave it my best.  It was hot (heat index of 100+), no breeze, and very little shade.  We finished in just under 18 hours which was great because it meant we did it in one day. I took a couple of pics at the various tiny islands we stopped on but didn’t bring my camera.  A wise decision since we were a bit cramped in the car. I had a great time and would consider doing it again if I’m ever back this way.

Pictures here as usual That pretty much wraps up my time here. Looking forward to being home.

Miami Weekend 2

Same as the last post photos can be found here.  Scroll past the updates from last time. Sorry for the lack of pictures. I’m working on it.

The weekend stared early this time; A Thursday night baseball game watching the Fish play the Diamondbacks.  I was thoroughly impressed by Marlin’s Stadium.  It was clean, the food was pretty good, and well laid out.  The clean might have been helped that it was empty.  I know the Marlins’ aren’t great this year but to see a stadium that empty is kind of sad. I guess I shouldn’t complain since I got great seats cheap but I’m always a little sad when the stadiums are that empty. As an aside, there was a huge bobble head display in the stadium which had both the original racing presidents but my baseball hero, Rollie Fingers.  Need to get one of those.

For Saturday I made it down to Everglades National Park.  I highly recommend stopping at “Robert is Here” for a smoothie along the way. My strawberry mango was amazing. Also, make sure you have gas. There isn’t in any in the park and Flamingo (the far end) is ~30-45 min one way in.  The park is full of little short hikes at very specific spots due to the marshy and unpredictable nature of the terrain.  I feel guilty but I enjoyed Kakadu more.  It probably has to do with the excellent company I had but Kakadu felt more organized and accessible than the Everglades.  I didn’t get a chance to take boat tour but I did get to see lots of wildlife which was nice.

Sunday was back to Miami beach for breakfast and a walk around the west side of the island.  If you’re in the area, Yardbird is worth the trip.  I didn’t get the chicken and waffles but will the next time I go back (totally worth a second trip).  After a nice stroll through some of the residential areas, I headed up to the St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church.  A cloistered monastery from 12th century Spain, it was moved whole sale to Florida and then taken over by the Episcopal church and serves as a parish today.  The building is amazing although small when compared to modern churches. They even have some of the original heraldic devices  in the walls. Strangely, this felt more appropriate than did Vizcaya. There was a service on going so I couldn’t get pictures of the sanctuary.   If you’re in the area (Coconut Grove is not) it’s worth the visit.

Again, pictures are here. We’ll see what next weekend holds.  Half way through my trip. Looking forward to getting back to DC.

Farewell to Oz

Well, they say all good things must come to an end. After three wonderful years, our Australian adventure is finally at a close. With Drew already back in the States for months, it was finally time for Ashley to say goodbye. It was hard to move away from a place that really felt like home. Our fabulous friends took good care of Ashley in Drew’s absence, and they went above and beyond to send her off in style. There was time for one last holiday, so Ashley headed off for tropical Cairns.

With two days left, Ashley had to see one last Australian icon – the Great Barrier Reef. The trip to the outer reef took over an hour, but it was well worth it. Ashley picked up snorkeling gear and headed out to see what all the hype was about. She also grabbed an underwater camera, although the pictures don’t do the reef justice.

Parrotfish were among the most colorful residents of the reef, but there were hundreds of other fish too. Ashley found Nemo peeking out of an anemone, and was surrounded by a school of black and white damselfish at one point. Probably the most exciting find was a sea turtle sedately wandering by.

After a great day in the sun, it was time to go hide in the rain forest. Cairns is famous as “where the rain forest meets the reef”. Ashley took the Skyrail gondola up to the town of Kuranda.

Once at the top, it was off to the butterfly house and to feed some very cheeky parrots and parakeets.

One more night in Sydney and two long flights later, and Ashley made it back to DC to see Drew and Sophie again! More pictures from the Reef and Kuranda are at the links. Australia, it’s been awesome and we’re going to miss you. The blog will be quiet for a while, but expect the adventures to resume in the DC area!

Riding to Uluru

A good friend of ours is leaving Alice soon.  His encouragement is a big reason I took the plunge and got my motorcycle license, and he and I ride to some of the road houses near town for breakfast occasionally.  Before he left, he had one big item on his bucket list; ride his Harley to Uluru.  As a result, he, I, and several others saddled up on bikes, loaded a couple of support cars with gear and headed out.

The park is 450km (~275 mi) one way from town, which is a long enough ride in a car. The ride is made even more fun by consisting of exactly 4 turns. Most people who ride a motorcycle will tell you the fun part is cornering. Go fast in a straight line is boring. Top speed for the ride was about 110kph (~65mph).  My bike doesn’t go much faster, hell getting there can be a struggle, and a number of the off-road bikes lose traction much above that.  To top if off, sitting on the back of a motorcycle for 6 hours is pretty painful. My street bike (the blue one in the pictures) was so uncomfortable that I tied a piece of foam to the seat.  The result made the bike a bit hard for me to mount but much more comfortable to ride.

Despite all of that, the trip was a blast. We rode in formation down. A massive earth mover nearly forced us off the road. We had a bike breakdown at the half way point, which unfortunately meant that it had to be towed the rest of the way. Another bike got a flat 3/4 the way down, but that one ended up being fixable. Still, everyone that went felt great.  A group of us spent an extra day relaxing in and around the park, and the rest headed home after one night.

Much like our last trip down, Uluru is pretty ordinary until you get close enough to see the caves and crevasses.  Riding around the rock was great because you felt really close to it while still doing 35mph.  Ashley and I spent our free afternoon relaxing and hiking around Kata Juta.  We took advantage of the cool weather to hike further into the valley than last time.

The ride back was a bit slow due to a strong headwind.  We picked the better day as the group before us go stuck in a rain storm. We spent longer a couple of rest stops than we wanted but other then that, the ride was uneventful.

I’ve got the helmet cam video from a friend and am working on a ride video. That should go up here in the near future. Pictures are here.

Great Ocean Road To Adelaide

As our time away from Alice wound to a close, we spent the last two days driving into Adelaide and exploring the city. The drive from Naracoorte towards Adelaide is through rolling farm lands, but not a lot of tourist attractions until you get closer to the city. We stopped in Hahndorf for a quick lunch. The town was founded by German immigrants, a fact that is clearly a source of pride. It would definitely be worth a long day trip from Adelaide. The food was great (bratwurst, chocolate, and beer) and the shops looked interesting.

However, we did not have time to stop for long. We were on a mission. Our friend had an appointment to hold a koala at the Cleland Wildlife Park. You may remember us talking about Paul’s Place on our first vacation. Cleland Park is the more organized and coordinated version. Maggie got to hold a koala and pet a wallaby, a grey kangaroo, an echidna, a bandicoot, and an emu. We also saw some big red roos having a bit of a fight. It was a great place to spend several hours walking amongst the wildlife. After interacting with all of the animals, we drove to Adelaide and went out for Belgian beer and mussels before calling it a night.

We spent our last day exploring the city, starting with a tour of the Haigh’s chocolate factory. The tour was short, but it was neat to watch them make truffles and learn about the history of the company (plus, the free chocolate was excellent). We’re bummed that even though they have an online store, they won’t ship to the NT.

After the chocolate, we toured around the Art Gallery of South Australia. Ashley and Maggie were excited to see an exhibit on haute couture (Drew thinks it’s all meh) and a smaller one focusing on lace. From there, we stopped at the National Wine Centre and tasted some okay wines. They have all of the wine hooked into machines that dole out tastes (or glasses) and add it to a chipped card. At the end, you pay for what you drank. It’s an interesting system, but we found it hard to navigate through 100 wines when they were not grouped in any logical way (style, region, etc.). We finished up the day by strolling through the Botanical Gardens.

We head back to Alice tomorrow for a few more days of sight seeing before sending Maggie off to Sydney. Pictures from Adelaide are here and we’ll have more soon!

Chairman’s XI v. England

The Poms take the field

It’s summer here in Australia, which means the boys of summer have come out to play. The smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of the bats make Drew and Ashley feel right at home. There’s only one small problem: there’s no baseball. Instead, we’ve both fallen hard for Cricket.

We’ve posted here before about watching Cricket but this is the first time we’ve gotten to see it live.  The English national team is in Australia for their annual series (known as “The Ashes”). In between matches, the English team is touring Australia.  It was our good fortune that they decided to stop in Alice and play a two day match against a squad of hand picked Aussies not already on the national team.

Both days (Friday and Saturday) were lovely. The weather was hot but not unbearably so and there was a pleasant breeze blowing across the oval. The town council put up a bunch of sunshades all over the place. There was some talk that the heat would impact the English team’s performance and that certainly seemed to be the case on Friday. By the lunch break (2hrs. of playing), England had put up just 71 runs. For those of you not familiar with cricket, that’s slow. As a comparison, the Aussies put up 56  in their first hour of batting on Saturday.  The Brits bounced back at bit in the afternoon but declared for 212 after 6 hours.  The crowd was pretty small since it was a work day but everyone was excited to see the the start of the match.

A side note here. As one might expect, British cricket fans travel as well as English soccer fans. The traveling fans are known as the Barmy Army. No idea why.  They are following the team around Australia during the Ashes.  They were pretty quiet on Friday but livened up Saturday.  They start every match by singing “Jerusalem” and then follow it up with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” after every out.   While I wanted to see some cricket hooligans, none showed up which was for the best.

Watching cricket is a lot like watching baseball.  You sit in the sun/shade, drink overpriced cheap beer, and eat fried food.  Going to the games is great because there’s no talking heads.  Cricket announcers are much worse than ones in America since there’s so much dead air.  It’s the opposite of baseball in that if teams are hitting, the game feels fast. Even if the game is going quickly, players still have time to sign autographs and stretch. All in all, it is definitely a nice way to spend a Saturday.  We’ve got lots of pictures of bowlers, batsman, and other crickety things here.