Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Designing for the iPad ... kind of

I know in (not so) recent posts, I have talked about using a new content management system at the newspaper. It's been rough going while they work out all the kinks. I've tried my best to remain positive during this time of short staffing and high stress, and not until today did I actually see the fruit of my/our efforts.

The new system is supposed to help merge all platforms for the newspaper, namely on the iPad. It is actually a reall cool app. It takes the PDFs of the daily paper and enhances them for tap-, swipe- and zoomability. We can add videos, slideshows and links to the stories on the page while we are designing the section for tomorrow's print edition, and today was the first day I saw my A section on the iPad. It was pretty exciting -- especially because the copydesk has an iPad now!

Technology is an amazing thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting lost in Ireland

So I am going to take a break from taking a break to tell y'all about my recent trip to Ireland. Even though I've been back for a few weeks, the experience is still fresh in my mind, and I want to share some of it!

Wednesday, June 15
This was the first day of my vacation, and the first day I tried to fly to Dublin. I say "try" because flying standby in the summer is like pulling teeth. You never know if you will make the flight, and that is super crappy.

I left on an early flight out of Jacksonville to Chicago so I could spend some time with my mom, who was flying up from St. Louis. Weather wasn't on our side, so we both had delayed flights. It all worked out, though, and we had a nice Italian lunch before I tried to make it on my international flight.

The airline gods were nice to me, and not only did I get one of the last seats on the plane, but I also was seated next to someone who didn't make their previous connection because of the bad Chicago weather. Two seats for me!

Thursday, June 16
The flight got in at 8 a.m. local time, and Allie had given me directions to Trinity College, where she was staying. We didn't quite communicate everything, though. She thought I was going to get in at noon, and I thought she was out of class by 10. I knew where to meet her, but the times got all screwed up.

It was so weird to be stranded in a place with no way to contact anyone. My phone wasn't international, and I couldn't find Wi-Fi anywhere. It wouldn't have been as bad, but I had a bag to lug around with me, and I wasn't sure when she was supposed to show up. It made me wonder how we all survives without cell phones.

We found each other eventually and began planning our weekend roadtrip across the country. Allie's friend Grant decided to come with us, too. This is what we planned, plus a few little detours that we made over the weekend.

Click to view a larger version. I marked the major places we stopped.

Friday, June 17
On the morning of the 17th, we took a taxi to Buget rental car to pick up our transportation for the weekend. While renting a car was more expensive than taking buses would have been, it was totally worth it in the end. You can't get lost in a bus, and the more people you have pitching in for the cost, the better. We got a Hyundai Getz and named him Peanut because he was tiny and oddly peanut-colored.

Peanut and Grant at a random petrol station we drove 9 km to get to.

After attempting to make it out of Dublin for more than an hour (signage, traffic and overall driving in Dublin is NOT good), we finally were able to hit the open road. Allie had the unfortunate opportunity to drive in the city of Dublin and got really turned off by it for a while. After some cool country driving later in the trip, everyone felt comfortable behind the wheel.

We all had to have our brains on the whole time we were driving, though. Not only were we driving on the left side of the road, but the steering wheel was on the right side of the car. We had more than a few near-death experiences, but now that I am back in the States, I find myself thinking I'm on the wrong side of the road or getting really confused.

Anyway, our first stop was in Limerick. We took a pretty major highway to get here, and I was driving for most of it, so I got really used to road. We didn't stay very long in Limerick, but we got to see some of the city, have a beer and talk to some old men at a bar about the Irish government being liars. It was pretty entertaining.

Next on our list was Cork, where we had booked a hostel for the night. Cork was my favorite big city we visited. The city center is situated in between two rivers, and we got to walk around and see a lot of the culture and architecture.

Cork at sunset.

Our hostel wasn't that bad. I mean, it was a hallway that they managed to fit three bunk beds in and the water in the shower was cold, but the people there suggested a couple cool things that we wouldn't have otherwise done.

We got some fish and chips from The Fish Wife (complete with mushy peas ... ew) and called it a night after a long day of driving. It took us less than six hours to get to Cork, but it was a fun-filled day nonetheless.

Saturday, June 18
This was definitely the best day of the trip. We crammed a ton of cities and things to do into this day, and we found a lot of cool stuff. But first, we visited the English Market in the morning to have some breakfast. It was greasy and delicious.

Before leaving the Cork area, we were told we must stop at the Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. We figured since we might not be back ever, we should totally do it. So, to Blarney we went, and we weren't disappointed. The castle and the grounds were gorgeous, and there was even a poison garden.

Blarney Castle.

I kissed the Blarney Stone! We waited in a pretty long line, but it was a touristy thing we had to do.

Among the items in the Poison Garden was a sign
that said the police had confiscated the garden's marijuana.

Our next stop was Killarney National Park, but it took a while for us to get there. We got lost and ended up knocking on a random door in the country to ask for directions. The woman who answered was a little scared at first, then asked us why we didn't have SatNav. Because it's more fun!

At Killarney, we took a jaunting carriage ride to be able to see a lot in not a lot of time. Our tour guide, Parkick, and our horse, Tommy, were very accommodating.

Tommy the horse taking us on a tour of the park.

Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park, the first national park established in Ireland.

After Killarney, we made our way over to Dingle, the most anticipated spot on our trip just because it was kind of off the grid. Our drive to Dingle (which is in the Ring of Kerry, a gorgeous part of the country) was absolutely breathtaking. Thankfully, Allie drove this part because I was so distracted by the landscape. Our hostel was even more off the grid than we thought. Advertised as the "Dingle Gate" hostel, it was 12 km away from Dingle in Anascaul. But they did have their own chickens in the backyard, so that was cool. It's a good thing we had a car!

Once we got to the hostel, we were recommended a seafood place to eat in Inch -- and a one-lane country road to get there. It was amazing. The beach, the restaurant, the food, everything. I'll let the photos explain the rest.

A view of Inch Beach. It was cold, but it was one of the most beautiful beaches I had seen.

Sammy's Restaurant. It was the only thing on the beach, and it had a gorgeous view of the sunset.

My favorite.

That night, we heard some traditional Irish music at a pub in Dingle and had a good time drinking the Irish brews.

Sunday, June 19
This was also a fun day on the road. Grant agreed to drive the treacherous cliff roads of the western Irish coast, and the Cliffs of Moher were on our minds. There was a ton of stuff to see along the way, though. We took a ferry, got lost in towns such as Kilkee (the Irish don't believe in street signs, so when you drive into a town, it's hard to find your way out), and accidentally saw some beautiful views. This was our only day that wasn't overcast, too.

Peanut (bottom left) is on a ferry!

The Cliffs of Moher were definitely the highlight of the day, and we jumped a fence to see the good parts.

It was kind of the thing to do, but there were still less people on that side than the legal side.

Artsy shot with the cliffs in the background.

It was a 400-foot drop with no railings after you jumped the fence.
All the more reason to get close to the edge, right? 

That night, we stayed in Galway, which is a big city with a big university. It was drastically different than the few days before in Small Town, Ireland. I could have stayed in Small Town, Ireland, for days.

Monday, June 20
We made the generally boring trek (major highways -- no fun after the twisty roads on cliffs!) back to Dublin. I had planned on doing Dublin things on this day, but we were too tired from the night before and places closed down by 5 p.m. So, it was a relaxing last day before I went home.

Tuesday, June 21
I didn't think I was going to make it on my flight back to the states on Tuesday, but I needed to try because I had to be back at work by Thursday. However, not only did I make it on, I got business class for the 8-hour flight back to Chicago! We even got in a little early, so I could hop on an earlier connection back to Jacksonville before the storm hit. I got really lucky there.

Overall, it was an amazing whirlwind trip to the Emerald Isle. And while I didn't see any leprechauns, I had a great time with some great people. I highly suggest a roadtrip if you ever find yourself in Ireland.