Apr. 3rd, 2012

ACPT 2012

Apr. 3rd, 2012 10:46 pm
brownthrasher: (Default)
A bit of a delayed entry here--I took the day off from work on Thursday 3/15, and drove into Brooklyn. I stopped at the Wareham liquor mart to check out their cider and mead, otherwise straight on in with no major traffic problems. I met Mom at the Marriott.  She had gotten tickets to a play that night, Seminar.  After a little rest we took the subway to the theater district and walked around Times Square a bit, including the M&M store (much better than the Hershey store). There were a lot of people dressed up like cartoon characters, like Spiderman and Elmo. We ate dinner at an Irish restaurant which was okay. On the way to the play we passed the opening of Death of a Salesman; Martin Short was standing outside. We went to our show, which included Alan Rickman and Jerry O'Connell. It was okay, but several of the jokes went over my heard.

The next day, Friday, we ate breakfast in the hotel, then went sightseeing--first to the United Nations. They were ripping up the fancy circle for the official entrance; the visitors entrance was a tent with metal detectors and bag scanners. There were several world art exhibits, including one of quilts/fabric by or for women seeking rights; also pictures of the Japanese tsunami. The pictures of the previous UN Sec Gens were all small rugs done by Iran. We took a tour with a guide and recorders that could be programmed to different languages; we saw the Nobel medal, a Buddhist stupa, and displays on the UNs work with disarmament, freedoms, and development plans, as well as the General Assembly and Security Council rooms. All very dated to the fifties. We went looking for lunch and ended up at a Chinese restaurant with a very international clientele. Then we took a cab to the Rubin Museum of Himalayan art, which I enjoyed but Mom didn't get. It included modern Indian paintings, and lots of buddhist figurines and mandalas. Then back in the subway to the Marriott, where the puzzlers were gathering. For dinner a bunch of us went to an Italian restaurant around the block, Queen (the Mortons closed this year) and we enjoyed a leisurely dinner, some people going back to watch the palindrome competition. After dinner I played a round of Peter Gordon's Celebrity, then we had Bananagrams at the bar.

Saturday was competition day. We went out for breakfast at a diner down the street which was good. Mom found her friend from Reynolds who was  a rookie and shared our room that night. Puzzle 1 was a little tricky, with a letter addition theme. Puzzle 2, Boustrophedon, was more tricky, with alternate rows of clues reading backwards. Puzzle 3 took phrases that started with two initials, such as PR, and added a third, such as CPR. I felt well about the first three and hadn't heard of any errors. We broke for lunch at Panera's, which handled a large lunchtime crowd with good organization. I picked up a couple crossword books, and admired a wreath made of solved puzzles (but underbid the silent auction). Back in the room again, Puzzle 4 was straightforward--movie title mashup, Puzzle 5 put theme answers partially diagonally (easier than usual for #5), and puzzle 6 killed me with its EEW/IEOH crossing. I will not soon forget IM Pei's first names. My only wrong answer the whole weekend. For dinner we went to an Indian restaurant on Montague, Mom and me and her friend (Daphne?).  For the evening entertainment there was a talk by Matt Ginsberg on his crossword solving computer program, which failed on puzzles 2 and 5 but otherwise did fairly well. Then a multipart game from Puzzlenation--I teamed up with Jan O'Sullivan, and we finished about 30th. (Andrew came in second, all by himself).

Sunday came, I was happy with being in the top sixty or so, despite my error (which was fairly common). We had breakfast again at the diner, and went in for Puzzle 7, which was a basic addition puzzle. So I ended up in my desired spot at 10% pretty much exactly. No trophies for us this year--Mom in fifth for age, I in fifth for New England. I did get a button for beating Dr Fill. The finals were good. I theoretically was faster than the third place B finalist. Tyler Hinman again led the pack in accuracy, and Dan Feyer in speed. Then back home again to the Cape, with just a short nap along the way. 

I saw many of the regular crowd there again--Dave, Bob Kerfuffle, Nancy and Beth, Jan, Peter and Robin.  Michael Sharp stopped at our table Friday night at the bar, but was unfortunately too sick with GE the next day for the competition. Brief hellos to Ryan and Brian, Andrew, Robert. I met the other Cape Codder, Ed Foster. Also Laura Dove, a psychiatrist from middle Massachusetts, who finished one place above me in my region--she was very nice, but will have to be my nemesis next year. Steve King was back again, and did a good job in the talent show. I did beat Jan this year, who must have made an error in the final puzzle. I didn't see Roberta, but she did well, as did Peter. Missing this year were Steve Smith and Marion Strauss, due to family issues; also Ulrich and chefBea.
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Friday, Day 0, met Juli at airport, no problem x I realized I had forgotten my passport. We went on a Duck Tour and aye at Legal Seafood and fought Boston traffic. 

Day 1, drove back to the Cape for my passport while Juli slept in. We went to Chinatown for lunch and found Juli is not into dim sum. Then we walked through the Commons and Boston Garden. Then off to the airport and flew into Dublin. 

Sunday, Day 2, in Dublin at 6am on two hours sleep. Rented a car, stopped for continental breakfast, too foggy to see Dublin so we went up towards Newgrange although it wouldn't open for two more hours. We tried to drive over to see the Irish sea but got lost on Dundroghsn. Ended up still at Newgrange and napped a bit in the car. Newgrange was cool, there was a nice museum, we took the bus over to the mound. It's 5000 years old, older than the pyramids, and of unknown use. Big stones at the foundations, some with intricate carvings. Topped with mound of smaller stones and grass. In the center is a cramped passageway ending in three alcoves, set up so the sun shines in through the passage on the winter solstice. Then we drove over to Roscommon, stopping to eat in Athlone for a late lunch at the Olive Grove. We got lost on the way to Castlerea, driving through the small town of Glimsk on narrow roads, eventually ending up at the Armcashel B&B run by Rita. 

Monday Day 3. From Castlerea went to Ardcarne Cemetery, which was a little hard to find, and saw the gravestones of the other McGreevy's, all from last century. Then went to Strokesworth House and toured the house, still with its 20th century furnishings and gradually getting repaired, and the Famine Museum. Learned about 19th century peasant life. Fourteen pounds of potatoes a day for food. Fields turning to mush over a day. Then drove to Clifden in Connemara, ate at a nice restaurant in town, the Derry Clare. Staying with Sue at the Sharamore B&B.

Tuesday, Day 4. Had a nice breakfast with fresh caught, fried cod. Went to Kylemore Abbey, which was built in 1850s in a castle style, now given to the Benedictine nuns. Saw a little of the insides of the castle, a nearby mini-church to honor Mitchell Henry's wife, and the formal Victorian gardens. Saw sheep running across the road. Drove through the hills of Connemara.  Stopped on Oughterad at a tiny quilt shop, Rags for Linda, they kept chickens and birds and are running several quilting classes for new quilters. Hit Galway at rush hour. Were awfully close to the B&B, Consilio, when we stopped to ask for directions. Juli's glasses broke :(  went into town for pub food and music, ate at King's Head and listening to acoustic covers by a guitar duo. 

Wednesday, Day 5. Started in Galway on a rainy windy day. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast. Went to the local mall to see if the opticians, SpecSavers, could fix Juli's glasses, but no joy. Drove off to County Clare to see the Cliffs, hoping the rain would halt. Stopped at Dugaire Castle, but could only see the courtyard, the inside was locked. (Learned later that they do Medieval dinners there.)  It was still raining, so we decided to go to the Aillwee Caves to stay dry. We looked at their extensive birds of prey exhibit;  I watched a keeper feed a raven. Went to the cheese shop. Went through the caves, which were nice but not as grand as those in AZ or KY. We had soup and bread at their cafe, and hooray, the rain had stopped!  So we booked it the 28 km to the Cliffs of Moher, which were spectacular but very windy. O'Brien's Tower was closed due to wind. The skies alternated threatening and sunbeams. Cows were grazing in the nearby fields. There were four German boys who ignored the signs to stand on the cliff edge until a guard chased them off. White stuff floated up from below periodically, which may have been frozen sea foam. The waves were crashing against the cliff. We skipped the visitor center to start off to 'our next stop in Ennis. Along the way we passed a herd of cows being directed by two 'cowboys', one mounted atop a bicycle.  My directions were vague and I didn't correctly remember the name of the B&B, but we made it to the Eden Hill House anyways. After relaxing with a cuppa tea we went into town and had a nice dinner at the Poet's Corner.  Finished with some a capella Irish songs. And Fiddler on the Roof and Johnny Cash. 

Thursday, Day 6. At Eden Hill we had a lovely breakfast. I had the full Irish breakfast, Juli an omelet. We chatted with a man from MD/IA who was on his third trip to Ireland about his experiences at B&Bs and looking for old castles. The shower and bedroom were the nicest we had yet seen. Before we left we went to see their show jumping horses in the back stable, and petted their dogs (Lily, a basset;  Barony, a terrier). Then we went off to Bunratty Castle. The castle there was built 15th century by Normans, taken over by Irish, and deserted in the 1700s after a war and some damage. It was restored in the 1950s to its probable historic appearance. There is a surrounding theme park with houses from rural and urban areas, centered around the mid 19th century. We had a quick lunch in the tea room there.  Then off to County Kerry. 

Friday, Day 7. Started at the Ferris Wheel B&B, our least favorite place...little warmth from the host, very isolated.  Breakfast was okay, I had a full Irish breakfast with the black and white puddings. Since three people had now told us that the Dingle Peninsula was nicer than the Ring of Kerry, off we went. Which included a stop at the Sewing Shed quilting shop in Keel, which was much more active than the one in Galway, and with more patterns and kits, although fewer bolts of fabric. We stopped in the town of Dingle to walk the streets and shop a little. We had lunch in a beer garden; fish and chips for Juli, a BLT for me (lots of bacon, wee tomato). We drove down the Slea Head Road, stopped to look at the Blasket Islands, thousand year old beehive huts, a thirteen hundred year old church still standing (Gallarus Oratory), some alarming cliffsides and stretches of flat beaches. We went back along Conors Pass--watch out for sheep grazing by the side of the road, a long curvy stretch of one lane road with some pollutes for oncoming traffic, and a herd of cows being led across the road. We made it to Adare Manor, a large estate built in 1860 as a private residence but turned into a hotel in the 1980s. A lovely three course meal in the fancy dining room. And our trip in Ireland is almost done.


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