Four Courts Hostel – Dublin Ireland

For my first night in Dublin I stayed at the four courts hostel. I choose this hostel after as it was the starting point of my Shamrocker Adventure All Ireland Tour.

Continental Breakfast

The hostel has basic accommodations and walking on stairs is a requirement. Their are three common areas in the hostel, the kitchen galley, a quite reading room and another event room where they occasionally show movies.

Banksy Artwork

The hostel walls are covered with various recreations of Banksy artwork.

The hostel is located on a Main Street and there was quite a bit of traffic noise through the night. The beds were comfortable and using the provided duvets is required.

In the morning I jumped on my Shamerocker Adventure Tour – All Ireland Rocker with our Tour Guide Gemma and Driver Joe.

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Proof – Pizza Restaurant Dublin Ireland

On my way back from Open Gate Brewery I spotted a pizzeria with a wood stove and decided to drop in for a pizza.

Wood fire pizza stove

I was sat outside on the small terrace, I had quite a bit of time to look over the menu and selected the Meat Legend Personal Pizza.

The Drink and Pizza Menu

Once ordered the pizza and Strawberry Lemon-aid show up shortly fresh from the oven and kitchen. The drink was very favourable and I wish I had asked for the recipe as I suspect they used real strawberry exact vs. “Flavours” which we get back in Canada.

Again… I Started to eat before remembering to take a photo for the blog. I was quite hungry by this point in the evening.

Now back to the Hostel to get a night sleep before my Shamrocker Tour starts in the morning.

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Open Gate Brewery – Dublin Ireland

The open gate brewery is about a 5 minute walk around to the back of the storehouse. Unlike the storehouse which is a tourist circus the storehouse is a quiet affair which opens later in the afternoon.

It does require you to buy a ticket online in advance and was mainly filled with Irish locals (accents) and clearly a “date night” destination or with friends. There is a gate with a door man who will ask you your name and check you off the list.

What makes this pub unique and worth the visit is that this is where Guinness has it’s experimental beers. With various IPA and other beers available with unique flavours and colourful names.

Who wouldn’t want to try an IPA which goes through a Pineapple serving stage?

The 9€ entrance fee covers one pint of beer of your choosing OR a flight of beers to test. I went with the latter as you can see below.

Right to Left: Pineapple Cintra, Here we Gose gain, Papa don’t Peach, Honey + Fig Ale

Now I should premise that I’m not a beer drinker but I did quite enjoy the smoother flavours and having just drank a pint and a half of Guinness at the storehouse I wasn’t going to push it. But with some small slider burgers I ordered in addition (food prices were quite high) here is the results.

Testing beer #1

Each one was a unique beer, the two on the right ended up being too bitter/punchy for me while two on the right were quite good and if I had more room I could see getting a pint of the Honey + Fig Ale; that was delicious.

The verdict – Less Beer means I liked it more

Finally part of this pub purpose is to gather feedback from clients and there was a large blackboard where you could indicate what you thought out their latest products.

Most current brews

Finally it should be noted that when I say “experimental” there could be just a keg or two of each beer brew and often each flavour is only available for a limited time so when you visit it could be completely different selection, but it definitely worth the walk over from the store house.

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Guinness Storehouse – Dublin Ireland

Despite leaving almost an hour late from Toronto Canada we landed only 20 minute late at 11am in Dublin. In typical Irish weather it was partly cloudy and the sun was peaking trough.

At the airport I jumped on the 747 Public Air transport for 7€ one way (12€ round trip), it dropped me off about a block away from my hostel for the the night. I’ll review the Four Court Hostel in the next post after a good night sleep but this afternoon I had planned to be a tourist and check out the Guinness Storehouse and the Open Gate Brewery.

Both these attractions you can purchase tickets in advance on the Internet, I highly recommend it as the Storehouse line was about 1 hour, while the open gate brewery was walk in but you had to be on the list as entrance is limited.

Guinness Store House

The Guinness store house is located about a 15 minute walk from the Four Courts Hostel and very easy to find as there are several banners and signs and tourists pointing the way.

Escalators between each level, there is also elevators to one side and stairs for going down.

The storehouse is so named because it was once the site where Guinness was stored in barrels. However the whole building has been revamped into a exotic tourist attraction with a “pint glass” centrepiece up the middle which apparently could hold 10 days worth of production of Guinness.

Various slogans donned almost every wall at the store house.

Each floor is dedicated to various stages of the Guinness mantra, starting with the ingredients and malting process with higher floors dedicated to advertising history, proper tasting techniques, and how to pour your own Guinness.

Tasting Room Sampler with various aromas being pumped in the room to help enhance the experience.

While I found the tasting room quite a cute experience the real fun was where we learned to “pour our own Guinness” out of real keg taps.

Apparently taking this “course” makes me a certified Guinness pourer…

After pouring your own perfect Guinness with the direction of their hands on instructor you get to enjoy your pint of Guinness in a traditional Irish pub setting specifically for drinking.

It was perfect before I took a sip… honestly… would I lie?

Now if pouring your Guinness isn’t of interest to you then you can take your 1 drink voucher all the way to the top floor where they have the “gravity bar” which has panoramic windows over looking the entire 44 acre Guinness estate which includes the modern brewery and various supporting buildings.

View from Gravity Bar

Finally I headed back to the ground floor which has an extensive Guinness merchandise from pint glasses, clothes to other nick knacks with Guinness label imprinted on it. Glassware could also be engraved if you do choose. There is also a separate section for women clothing. Given the location I found the overall prices to be reasonable and not entail a huge markup.

The Merch Store

Next I head to the Open Gate Brewery where Guinness has various experimental beers…

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Travel Planning – At it Again

So for the last few years adventuring around the world has been on hold as I became a graduate student at University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering. However with that wrapping up and the prospect of re-entering the workforce its time I sneak in a “small” vacation before life gets busy once again. Which comes to the topic of travel planning, as I’m a bit out of the game and the board has changed quite a bit since my last great adventure involving an airplane.

A bit to small for my current journey but none the less effective

For one, I used to use a travel agent, Megan Weir, at Ottawa Adventure Travel before they got bought out by Merit ( https://merittravel.com/expert-profile/megan-weir/ ) and she was able to help me plan trips as she understood the market offerings and my highly spontaneous travel hijinks. Conversations like “I know it’s Thursday but find me a trip to the tropics leaving tomorrow afternoon/evening” and tight budgets… $1000-1500 / week + flights top (with the exception of the Africa Trip which was closer to $2500/week). And being last minute there were always deals and not being too picky we would navigate the current offerings and land at a suitable action/culture/relaxation balanced adventure.

The London Eye

This time I’m alone in the planning department and mainly using the internet (vs. all those brochures which I got constantly piling up on my kitchen table when I was always travelling). A few things are different, first I don’t have the same access to travel agent’s resources, and I’m hopefully flying using points (that I have amassed over the last decade or so… being last minute traveller I’ve never actually managed to use them before).

Now if the London Eye photo don’t give it away, my destination is again the United Kingdom, an odd choice given they are currently embroiled in Brexit, but my brother is currently working over there and I want to go visit. Also on the potential docket (because I’ve been to London twice now) is popping in an Ireland Island or Scotland trip (or both!) depending on how flights work out and tour dates.

Back when I travelled with Contiki across all of Central Europe, however being +35 now they are off the list of potential tour operators.

Why Tours you ask? Well I’m again travelling solo on this trip, and I’ve found when doing so its best to travel via tour. The main advantage is you can enjoy the trip and let someone else deal with all the logistics. There is also the safety aspect, on a tour you are travelling with others and if you go missing someone will notice (I use the analogy of walking in the woods and breaking your leg… although now I just point to the movie 127 hours as a reason not to “go it alone” in unfamiliar locations). vs. travelling alone where no one really knows what you are up to on your adventures. So I’m leaning strongly in that direction for part of the trip.

Fun side note: I get lost a lot, because I tend to walk/hike/bike around locations and “tourist” maps are not particularly accurate… although for this trip my brother is going to set me up with a UK Phone plan for the time I’m there so I’ll have GPS and with luck enough data to send a play by play over instagram/twitter @EmberSkyMedia

Copenhagen Mermaid
Copenhagen Mermaid

When travelling with others we tend to free-style trips where we decide in the moment where we want to go and what do we want to see. This method requires a bit more work (split between 2 or more people) but allows for changes in the plan to adjust on the fly which comes in handy when weather and outdoor activities are involved. My most outrageous free-style trip was with my younger brother and I traveled 2 weeks in Europe with little more than 3 flights booked and accommodation on the first and last day of the trip. We ended up backpacking / hostel across three countries. You can relive our adventure starting here. We will be freestyling the Southern England portion of the trip and the current plan is to See London/Brighton/Salibury and maybe squeeze in Bath.

Tower Bridge in London

But back to this current planning… Ireland/Scotland. Well to put it mildly I am currently the only family member who hasn’t traveled to Ireland at some point and time. Similar to my Master Degree with me being the last one in the family to get an advance degree I though the symbolism would be fitting. Also the fact that I’ll likely not be travelling to this part of the world in the near future with sights on Thailand / Indonesia once I have some funds saved up from working at whatever new job I find… yes planning for the future.

The Dark Hedges (ooooo… spooky!) near Monea Castle in Northern Ireland

Scotland on the other hand is where my family originated before emigrating to Canada (Donaldson / Hay / Raw Clans) with the rest being from Ireland – Trust me, we have quite a “family tree” archival scroll stashed away. While I have been to Scotland before with the family, that was almost 20 years ago, and I was not of legal drinking age despite everyone insistence that I could actually order a drink (my parents LOVED that…). So going as an adult will be I feel a different experience, not that I plan to drink myself under any tables… but I’d like to taste some Scotch Whiskey in actual Scotland.

Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban, Scotland from my Father’s Walk of Offa’s Dyke

Besides those two destinations there is England, or London/Southern England to be perise. For that portion I’ll be visit my younger brother and bouncing back and forth to various day trip destinations that he is recommending to me; he lives there so I’m relying on his advice as he and his fiancee have been doing various weekend getaways. So locations like Brighton, Stonehenge, and some stuff in London are on the list to be negotiated in the coming weeks via Whatsapp.

There is a reason I’m the Photographer and not the Model… LOL

So for travel planning my starting steps is to check out websites, now I have travelled with a few companies before;
– Contiki but they have a 35 year old cap, and I’ve unfortunately crossed that threshold.
– GAdventures (back when they were called Gap Adventures) but they don’t really have the tours I’m looking for and seem to be a bit more pricey then I last remember.
– Busabout has a few plans, looks like they may be cooperating with Haggis and Shamrocker depending on the country. Its not quite like their Hop-On Hop-Off tours but there is some promise.

I’m sure there are other companies as I broaden my initial search, with luck I’ll find something that is enjoyable and a bit active without requiring a marathon-esque training program beforehand. Of course it doesn’t matter what company I pick I’ll likely end up with my usual hijinks of taking the road less traveled and try to experience the “true” essence of a location; local foods, and not just what they sell to the tourists.

I’ve also need to contact the flight point people and determine the ideal arrangement of flights. Fortunately I have some flexibility in that as I can stay with my brother for free in south London (or south London?… not entirely sure on where his new place will be). But I do need to make some choices “now-ish” as a few things are dependent on when I leave and return; but the plan is to be back home in Canada before any potential Brexit occurs… just in case.

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Flickr Account Deaths…

So a lot has changed in the photography world but one noticeable change has been Flickr’s severly limit free accounts. In reality it was inevitable and I’m not surprised it happen, although the way they handled it was surprising.

Despite the fact that my father and I had paid for Pro accounts for a long time, we had long ago relished back to free accounts. To put it mildly we saw a significant drop in views from our posts and the photography community that had grown around Flickr had long moved to facebook.

Yahoo (who owned Flickr) has not be a big mover and shaker in the marketplace of online images, and Flickr really hasn’t changed over the years and became scattered when other social media competition rose up, like 500px.com and Twitter/Facebook and now Instagram. In addition we had our own site (MegaPixelTravel.com and the now defunct HayPhoto.ca) to show our portfolios and images along with more in-depth content.

So with Instagram taking off, Flickr became another Social Media Zero (before “Social Media” term was coined) to fall. Its still around, but all the free accounts, including our own have been limited to 2000 images (or whatever the limit was…). I’m sure this move reduce Flickr’s costs significantly, and perhaps even boosted review as photographers scrabbled to save their online portfolios and upgrade to paying packages. But the majority I suspect having long moved off the platform let it lapse.

So moving onward and upwards with the trends I’ve opened a Instagram account etc. I thought about the handle for a while (that hashtag name) and given I’m working on a new more multi-media company (film, photography, astrophotography, art, and maybe even some music) in addition to occasional updates to this site when I board an aeroplane more immediate updates will be Ember Sky Media #emberskymedia on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / Youtube etc. as much as I can manage them.

Because Flickr is dead and Social Media 3.0 is just around the corner…

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MegapixelTravel update

Over the past number of months, there have been no uploads to the MegapixelTravel blog. That doesn’t mean that Graeme and I (and our cameras) haven’t been busy.  In addition to his day job, Graeme has continued his interest introducing short films and movies and on October 23rd, his indie movie “Ragnarock’s Cabin” was released for it’s first public showing at the the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa. It is now available on-line or for purchase at Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ragnarockscabin/96318650.  For my part, buying property in Greater Napanee, Ontario and attending to all of the details of such activity has kept me busy.  We both intend to add more entries to the MegapixelTravel blog during the dark days of winter.  – Ron

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Kanata Badminton Club 2014 AGM

Kanata Badminton Club 2014 AGM

Traditionally, the Kanata Badminton Club’s Annual General Meeting has been held in Tommy’s restaurant at the old town center. This year, the meeting had to be delayed a couple of months while renovations at the restaurant were underway. Happily, the renovations were finally completed and we could have our meeting.

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As a club with about 140 members, the club operates during the winter months utilizing the facilities of two local schools in Kanata, Ontario. Since the City of Kanata amalgamated into the City of Ottawa a few things changed but the Kanata Badminton Club still operates much the same as it did many years ago when I first became a member. Over the years, my ability to see the bird has diminished somewhat and, with each passing year, the entry players seem to be a bit younger :-).  It’s a community based recreational club and it’s still a fun way to survive the winter months.

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Kanata Badminton Club Executive 2014 – 2015

This year’s executive should have an easy year as usual even though it will once again be a year with some changes :-). Maybe, my play will improve and I’ll be moved back to the competitive red level again!

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Sir John Carling Building Demolition – Ottawa, Canada

P1070802.MOV.Still001July 13,2014 – Sir John Carling Building Demolition – Ottawa, Canada

It was a dull, dreary, overcast morning with lots of rain threatening from the south but, after 2 1/2 years of planning and preparation work, the planned implosion demolition of the 11 story Sir John Carling Building went ahead as scheduled and in only about 14 seconds the 11 story building became a contained pile of rubble. I was happy to have the opportunity to be there for the event and to assist Front Page Media Group in the documenting of this event. Unmanned GoPro cameras were stationed at various locations to capture the event from as many angles as possible.

The above high resolution video was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera from a prime location offering direct line of sight of the whole building. I left the camera filming after the explosions to capture not only the initial explosions that started the demolition process but also to capture the billowing cloud of dust that moved across the field toward our position a safe distance from the explosions. A pretty unique experience and the first of its kind in Ottawa, Canada. If you view this high resolution video at full screen size, you can see an employee scurrying to get to the safety of the cab of his truck before the billowing dust quickly closes in around him.

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Haunted Walk Ottawa – Time Traveler Trail

The Haunted walk has a new trail for the time-travelers among us, its called the Time Traveler Trail and it focuses on Ottawa’s past when Ottawa was Bytown and riots and pistol fights in the market were more common than Beavertails. Guided by Steampunk attired guides prepare to set off on an adventure in time.

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The new walk has already gathered the attention of the Whovians in Ottawa, as the Society of Doctor Who made an appearance to take the walk through time.P1070732 P1070738Our guide was quick to take us back in time with the help of their timely-whimey device.

P1070748- ShunkThe tour was full of great historical stories about a time when Ottawa wasn’t as tame as it is now, in fact traveller’s beware, time travel can be hazardous to your health and you could end up finding yourself in a duel as a way of solving slanders and slights!

A duel was the way to settle disagreements in the past, although what these two had against eachother we will never know.

A duel was the way to settle disagreements in the past, although what these two had against eachother we will never know.

Also this might be a cleverly disguised Dalek, just saying…

P1070765 - Dalek

Along the route we had a chance to seem some clearly historical signs, some on purpose and others by time traveler luck?P1070761 - Cropped

P1070751-CroppedP1070764 - Cropped Finally as the night drew dark (7:30pm tour rather than the weekend matinee 11:00am tour) our Time Travel energy grew low with the fading light and we got to see some of Ottawa’s premier buildings in their evening glory.

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In the end, all by Steve (poor Steve) made it back to our present time alive and well about 2 hours after we headed off on our adventures through time and walking distance.

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