Archive for March, 2007

Hotel de Glace

Ice ice baby! Lots and lots of it. Enough to make a hotel in fact and it’ll only be there for another few weeks. A truly original (in that it’s built to a different design every year) work of art that’ll become no more than a large puddle. Oh well, at least they’ll have the fun task of rebuilding it this winter.

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As you may be able to pick up from the map of the hotel I posted on flickr, it’s a huge structure that features 36 bedrooms and individually designed suites, a bar and a nightclub, a chapel, a ‘playground’, an exhibition room and of course the all important for expensive hotels; a spa & sauna.

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The hotel is about 30km outside Quebec City, a bus ride through a town called Shannon and past a large firing range and Canadian army base. It’s built on the grounds of what appears to be a large ski resort. You can get anything from snow mobiling, cross country skiing and of course dog sledding (more on this later). For the pseudo-adventurous, when you book a chilly nights stay in the ice hotel, you also get a room booked for you in the nice warm, comfortable hotel next door. Phew!

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I must admit to feeling a bit (or a lot) lost as I strolled around the hotel, looking for unique ways to photograph something that’d already been shot from every conceivable angle, with every possible lens and undoubtedly by people who all had their own artistic ideas and plans on how to make their shots look. As time went on and my shots were looking less and less original (and yes, I should have bought a cheap tripod), I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting anything previously unseen. Oh well…

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It was at that point (more or less) that I began to seek booze. Off to the N’ice club . Hmm sweet booze. Actually very sweet. My memory isn’t what it used to be so I can’t remember what they called it exactly but it was a mixture of Grand Mariner and something else, served in a ‘glass’ which was actually a small hollowed out block of ice. I actually enjoyed it, once I overcame the fear that my lips would stick to the side of the glass leading to what would no doubt have proved to be a hugely comical moment.

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I hope I’ve gotten a few of the better photos from the truly amazing experience in the ice hotel here. I refuse to say it was a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ because we will, beyond all doubt, return here one day. I’ve put the rest of them on flickr so you can judge if I got my selection right!

The Kindness of Strangers?

A rant, more or less summed up by the above slightly doctored photograph. The first in a series of long overdue rants, each spiraling off on it’s own wonderful tangent, designed to clear the mental air so I can get back to posting photos and waffling on about them endlessly. More or less…

So anyway there we were, driving down from Sligo on a truly pissy Sunday evening. It rained, then the rain turned to sleet and finally snow. The snow froze and turned to sleet, I was mistaking them for top flite at one stage. At any moment, I imagined Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington might come raining down on my windscreen. The drive from Sligo is, in places, unnervingly hairy. Especially from Sligo to Galway. Then you hit the traffic in Limerick and sit around twiddling your thumbs/tickling your balls/finding as yet new and unexplored crevasses in which to mine for fluff. That kind of thing. You get through Charleville and it’s the home straight. You’ll be home in 40 minutess, maybe a little less if you don’t get stuck behind some bloody rental car or fucking idiot with a 2 meter eyesight range.

Then, a wonderful sound. That unmistakable sound of a wheel rim ploughing a trough into the tarmac. You pull over and yes indeed, some little bastard of a screw has been lying in wait for your lovely rubbery tire. The little prick; Quite literally. What makes it even worse than that? Why you’re driving a French car with a poxy, useful as a cotton condom French toolkit. As a people, the French must not break down that much. I’m sure if they had any experience with their toolkits (i.e. by getting stuck at the side of the road for an hour and a half pissing around) they might re-evaluate their whole emergency provisions. But no.

Having never actually seen the spare wheel or indeed the toolkit of my car before Sunday (I’ve only had it since April 2006), I was hugely, nay overwhelmingly moved to see Citroen’s idea of a set of tools with which one repairs one’s motor vehicle. Moved first to frustration, then to anger, then very close to dementia. In the space of how ever bloody long I was standing by the side of the road wrestling with a tire iron the length of a less than generous toothpick (and coincidentally made out of weaker material than one), no fewer than 100 cars passed me in a variety of weather conditions. Having changed numerous flat tires before, I imagined I’d have it done in fifteen minutes. Eh no. I lost count of the amount of well equipped 4×4′s with their well equipped toolkits that passed me by within the first 10 minutes. At one stage, a troop of 3 seemingly ‘professional off-roaders’ passed me with the entire kitchen sink strapped to their bonnets. Livid. I swore ten years worth of my filth quota out within the first 20 minutes. Twenty Major would have blushed.

As the hailstones pelted down I tried in vain to shelter myself while still wrestling with the wheel that would just not come off. I kicked it, pushed it, tried to lever it off with my ultra-shitty toolkit and even resorted to a few Jackie Chan style flying kicks in it’s general direction. Fucking wheel! I didn’t fully lose hope until It came to pass that the tool I was using in a vain attempt to remove the stuck wheel was in fact made out of softer metal than the wheel itself. Bra-fucking-vo Citroen. I’d have killed for some leverage. If I had had a paper clip, a small amount of gaffer tape and some nearby branches I could have MacGyver’d a better set of bloody tools.

At one stage near the bitter end, I stood up and soaked from head to toe with the titleist bouncing off my eyeballs, a little piece of shit Honda Civic (oh I’ve got your license plate number by the way) flew past, horn blaring and a bunch of baseball bat perching mother fuckers inside laughing their tiny minds out. Lucky for them I still had a modicum of self control and I resisted the urge to throw the solid steel tow-hook I was carrying through their back window as the car slowed for the prolonged enjoyment of the genetic mistakes inside. You haven’t heard the last of that one, you Carlow fuckers.

Oh but that’s not all, several minutes before that a Gardaí squad car, full to the brim with ‘helpful civil servants’ slithered past at a pace so pedestrian it seemed to scream out “we could help you, but I really don’t want to bother”. One thing’s for damn certain, the Irish police force (or at least the wankers that passed me) will never be able to use the ol “To protect and to serve” tagline. Useless shower of bastards.

All this time I’d been praying for the tiniest drop of WD40 so it was like all my birthdays and Christmases come at once when a helpful local rounded up from a nearby house handed me a huge can of it. Five seconds later the wheel was off. 2 minutes after that, I was tightening the wheel nuts with the spare on and was on the way. Certainly made me feel like my last hour and a bit was well spent. At least I went someway toward destroying the shittiest car toolkit in the history of automation.

So to everyone that passed a white Citroen C4 on the Cork road just outside Newtwopothouse (yes that is actually a place name) on Sunday the 18th March, may you all die screaming in pain. To the Gardaí, may your overtime be slashed repeatedly and may you eventually be replaced by a far lower cost group of reserves. To the 4×4 drivers, It would have taken 5 fucking minutes out of your hugely hectic social schedule to stop and help me. To the Carlow branch of Burberry Ireland, I hope your kids turn out to be as pig ignorant, woefully stupid and generally as belligerent as you no doubt were to your parents. I hope they never move out of the tenement you save all your lives to buy and most of all, I hope when you get put in a retirement home it ends up appearing on primetime. And not for any good reasons either. Finally, to the service monkeys that removed my ‘free 24 hour Citroen roadside assistance’ sticker from inside my windscreen to replace it with a ‘your next service is due on…’ sticker, I’ll see you on April 2nd and I’ll be bringing the lube made from chili peppers..

It’s not all negative though. It will make me do a number of things. 1, go to a hardware shop and buy a good tire iron. 2, get a can of WD40 which stays in the car permanently. 3, give aid to any motorists I see by the side of the road that look like they’re in need of it. That’s it. I’m finished. Where’s the whiskey?

A short walk around Balbriggan

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Last weekend I went to Dublin for a very weary boards.ie meetup and spent most of the weekend either driving, sleeping or wishing I was eating. You know you’re getting old when it takes you over a week to recover properly from the ill effects of a few late nights.

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The original purpose was to go up to learn some photoshop (which I badly need to do). As expected, the amount of photoshop knowledge I retained from the trip could be successfully documented on the back of a grain of rice. There is much one-to-one education required methinks; I’m not as quick off the mark as I used to be (?)

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The boards.ie crowd, taken from inside a tree. I shit you not…

For my next trick, a big meetup of any interested photo bloggers, flickr users and boards users. Probably in Dublin, more than likely in the summer. Watch this space, I’ll eventually get the details worked out. Until then, there are more from Balbriggan on Flickr.

Irish Blog Awards 2007

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Same bat time, same bat channel. The 2007 Irish Blog Awards (held last Saturday night in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin) went off without a hitch despite being a much larger affair than the previous year. There are now 21 (open to correction) categories and many thousands of bloggers all clambering to get their hands on the new & improved trophy. As you can see from the photo above, there was quite a turn out (well, thats only a small percentage of who turned up really). If you can’t see yourself in the above photo but are damn sure you were in it, try the larger version.

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There were a whole load of somewhat familiar faces there (well, I was quite drunk at the last one) along with a freakish amount of new ones. Blogging really has caught on! I’m not going to post a long, drawn out list of winners, sponsors and vital statistics, everyone has already gone through that almost a week ago now. I did get to photograph almost everyone (who won anyway) in a kind of ‘carry-on’ hurried sense. A queue formed behind me at one stage, that’s how fast the ‘giving out awards’ part of the night went. Couldn’t wait to get to the drinking part I suppose.

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Rick O’Shea performed admirably yet again as MC, I’m no longer in any doubt that he’ll be called upon year after year to do more of the same. It was great to meet all the same old crew as last year, along with a few new faces. I’m not going to list everyone, I’d be here all day.

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Rick the MC.

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Damien accepting his “Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere” award

These and more of this kind of thing in the flickr set.