February 11, 2007 (2 Responses)
2006 IS FINALLY CLOSED OFF and now I’m ready for some serious changes in 2007. Part of that process was learning to move on from the excellent Year Of Debauchery - it’s amazing how comfortable you can get doing nothing but absolutely everything you want to. The plan was always to return to my more mercenary style of operation, both in private and professional lifes. January – being the usual slow month that it is – was not the time close that particular chapter and open up the new one, but February most certainly is.
The first stage of this move is to rehash the site here at Howl @ The Moon!; I think it’s healthy to keep forcing change upon myself so I decided to completely revamp the look and feel of the site, and based on feedback reduce the load times by delivering a more streamlined design. Essentially this involved upgrading to the latest release of WordPress (V2.1) and selecting a fluid width theme which I could then customise for my needs. Once That was done I set about modifying the code to eliminate unnecessary images and distractions from the site.
The result is what you see before you today; I call this theme “Fluid Howling” because it’s based on the excellent Fluid V1.0 by EktaÂ Paneri – who was gracious enough to help me out when I ran into trouble with the customisations. A few questions and answers later and here we are, a new beginning for the site and a new beginning for me too. But, before I move on to consider what’s next I think it’s worth doing a quick review of just exactly what a Year Of Debauchery entails, for posterity at least! Read more
January 24, 2007 (No Responses)
OK, SO TECHNICALLY speaking the Year Of Debauchery is over, as of 5.30pm on the 4th January when we returned from the Berlin gig and put it all behind us. Technically it could be argued that this is an entirely new year and from this point forward it’s just plain old 2007. However, one item remains before we put the wraps on 2006, you see SusiQ had organised one last adventure as part of my Christmas present, but I’d already booked Berlin for the New Year so we had to postpone the other one for a while.
Well, for a few weeks actually
This coming weekend is my birthday, and SusiQ decided to bounce this last fling, this final extravagance of our recent Year; this one last monumentally expensive celebration of all things debauchery-related until this weekend. It’s actually a very very fitting way to end our extraordinary year.
This weekend we are going to Monart – one of the top ten luxury spas on this planet, and by a very weird freak of geography it’s actually located in Ireland, which is nice; no mad airline travel required. For anyone who doesn’t know what Monart is (I counted myself among you until recently)… it’s not a health farm or get fit spa, far from it in fact.
Picture the most luxurious rooms and surroundings you can. Now add in a dash of the best food and wines and stir for a while. Then simmer with the very best relaxing treatments possible, on demand, night and day and you have some seriously fun and entertaining options for couples or indeed individuals. Swimming pools, saunas, local amenities (quad-biking, golfing, fishing, horse riding etc.) Just look at the relaxation room on the right hand side there… are you jealous yet?
Needless to say, while we are away updates at the site will be pretty much missing-in-action… but you can rest assured I’ll post about the Monart experience when we return, assuming of course I can raise enough energy to type
If this place lives up to it’s reputation I’ll be two things for sure by the time I return – seriously broke and seriously chilled out! Still – I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the ‘official’ end to our Year Of Debauchery. We head off tommorrow, returning Sunday so behave yourselves while we’re gone.
Bring It On Baby!!!
January 4, 2007 (One Response)
NEW YEAR in Berlin has to be seen to be believed, honestly! It’s pretty much Aramageddon with champagne; I’ve never seen (or heard) as many fireworks, bangers, explosions and fuck knows what else going off at the same time, all for a new years celebration. Over one million people gather in the Tiergarten (park) and go mad at the same time. Absolutely incredible! Still – what a way to finish off the Year Of Debauchery.
I’d spent lots of time convincing SusiQ that the Prague Weekend was the last in the series, and the finale for our wonderful Year of Debauchery, but she wasn’t buying any of it. Still, I continued to hold to the lie so I could surprise her with a weekend away in Berlin to see in 2007 but unfortunately she was doing something similar for me, and we kind of outsmarted each other
Berlin went ahead and we managed to rearrangeÂ SusiQ’s surprise for me (thankfully)Â - but more on that later in the month. We had just enough time to take in some excellent walking tours of the history of the city itself, the Third Reich related items, Zoo, Aquarium, some retail therapyÂ and more. Then of course we sampled the best the city had to offer in the evenings as well as the insane New Years (or Sylvester as they call it) celebrations itself. Absolute madness and chaos – not exactly a romantic break but a hell of an interesting one nevertheless.
So – what of Berlin then? Well I guess the best way to sum it up from my perspective is to say it’s a strange, confused and bankrupt place, worth the visit – if only for the history stuff – but I’m not sure I’d be rushing to go back in 2007.
Why strange? Well it’s got no heart, no soul in the city at all. It’s essentially a series of districts and the locals are fiercely territorial about their own districts, so they tend to socialise within rather than without. Even when the wall came down things didn’t change that much. The City Council decided to build a fab new high-tech area in the city which they hoped would become the ‘heart’ of Berlin (known as Potsdamer Platz) about ten years ago, but Berliners wouldn’t be caught dead there unless they work there or are entertaining tourists, so apart from the hordes of visitors queueing into the OV (Original Version) cinemas and IMAX theatres… it’s just not really happening.
Why confused?Â The whole east vs west thing is still very much alive. The wall may have come down but it’s still there in the minds and attitudes of the local Berliners. It may take decades for them to finally integrate and I suppose moving on from the territorial beginnings will also help. There’s all kinds of issues raised whenever the City wants to do anything (for example the monument to the Jews was to be located in a ‘central’ part of the city, but ended up on the former East sideÂ - the geography of which caused ructions. Then the whole ‘why just the Jews, why not the homosexuals or other factions?’ argument erupted and on and on it goes). Berlin hasn’t yet ‘found itself’ a cultural identity, but it’s still struggling to do so. Berlin is desperate for tourism and is getting good amounts of same, but they haven’t quite figured out how to treat them yet (service is patchy to say the least).
Why bankrupt? Berlin is basically a large building site which has run out of money and is incomplete. There are (and have been for quite a while) massive infrastructure projects focused either on reconstructing the past (such as the surviving buildings from war or since the walls came down) or on developing the future (such as Potsdamer Platz). Problem is the city has run out of money so lots of these glorious buildings are half way done, and covered in scaffolding as a result. A perfect example of this is Museum Island (no – it’s not a Disney attraction) where restoration work on one of the museums ‘ran out’ of funding earlier this year, so half of the stonework has been restored whilst the other half looks like shit and is completely run down.
Overall I have to say I enjoyed the weekend there, but mostly because of what I learned from a historical perspective. The city itself does nothing for me, particularly because it’s so disjointed. Still, I’m glad we went there and it was a great way to close off the wonderful, amazing and well worth every cent Year Of Debauchery. Let’s hope 2007 is just as interesting (but not quite as expensive!!)
December 5, 2006 (No Responses)
I THINK IT WISE to declare my position on Prague at this point, having just returned from my first visit to the “City Of Spires“; I’m in love with it, pure and simple.
IÂ could have expectedÂ drunken hoardes of stag and hen parties roaming the streets, stripclubs andÂ hookers in the alleyways and even some close quarters combat with pickpockets in sub zero temperatures if I had believed all that had been written and said about the place in advance, but the truth is far from this fiction, and much much better than I could ever have hoped for. At least it was for SusiQ and I when we spent the last 4 days and nights there on a quick weekend break as part of our ongoing Year Of Debauchery.
For me, Prague is a beautiful,Â romantic, serene and fantastically realised haven of gothic architecture blended with art deco styling and contemporary designs, it’s a maze ofÂ cobblestoned alleys and streets which seem to snake in and around wonderfully unexpected courtyards and squares, it’s an endless selection of international cuisines and of course it’s also a culture vultures paradise. Every corner seems to yield another insanely attractive cathedral, building or archway. Just when you think you’re getting lost you spy a familiar spire or church roof which enables some quick navigation back to central paths and tourist areas. Even the non-tourist areas are beautiful. I dont’ think I’ve ever taken as many photos of bloody buildings before in my life, but you just can’t resist the urge to do so; they really are that breathtaking.
There seems to be a limitless supply of locations for some serious culture options – string quartets, opera, ballet, guitar recitals, modern dance, jazz, blues, funk… the list goes on and on. In our few days there we managed to catch a classical spanish guitar recital, booked a christmasÂ themed recitalÂ of mozart, Vivaldi et al (but managed to get diverted just enough to miss it!) and even found time to work in a brilliant visit to Red Hot & Blues for some serious Kansas City Blues knocked out by Cleanhead Phil. You really are spoiled for choice in the entertainment department in this crazy city. There was even an open air concert in Old Town Square (see inset picture) and a Christmas fair which was great fun to visit and snoop around.
Whatever expectations I had for Prague were exceeded by a mile, and then some. It’s a brilliant place to just wander about, fliting from one location to another without purpose, because every 5 to 10 minutes you will almost certainly come across something stunning to grab your attention. The local cuisine is a learned experience (maybe the beers help) but there are plenty of other choices. We ended up hitting Italian, Japanese, Mexican and fusion variations while we were there, as well as sampling the local options and cellars. Jaysus the hot chocolate here can be as thick and lethal as the stuff I tried in Barcelona a few years ago. It’s like someone jump starting your heart every time you swallow a mouthful! Failing that there is always the mulled wine or grog to get you through those cold winter afternoons.
Also the beers deserve special mention. European beers in general have what I like to refer to as character. They kind of sneak up on you and surprise you if you’re not careful,Â like a clever diamond thief who adjusts the pictures on your wall before leaving with yourÂ valuables.Â Czech beers are more like artful thugs; they sneak around your taste buds deftly teasing you with various flavours, lulling you into a false sense of familiarity and then the lump hammer comes out and they smack you on the back of the head with itÂ - it’s an experience to be sure! Personally I ended up majoring on the Pilsner Urquall and of course the Staropramen beers while I was there. Mmmm lovely stuff.
What else is there to say at this point? The locals were friendly and very helpful; the hotel was perfection personified (if you ever want four poster bedÂ elegance with an apartment/suite tagged on for good measure, make sure you check out the Pachtuv Palace – it’s really that good. Public transport? Didn’t need it, we walked everywhere. We squeezed a lot into a few days away, and wouldn’t have it any other way. This city is going onto my list of ‘must return’ places.
Oh I could literally write for hours on how good this city is to visit but nothing will suffice except to go there yourself and make your own mind up. Seriously – don’t think about it, just do it. If you are Europe based then it’s only a couple of hours flying time to a magical destination which will reboot your imagination and recharge your batteries. If you’re planning a trip to Europe from further afield, then include this spot on your list of places to see. It’s really that good.
November 29, 2006 (No Responses)
PRAGUE AWAITS and our Year Of Debauchery is almost at an end, unfortunately. SusiQ is hitting the big 40 in the coming weeks so as a treat I decided to swish her off to Prague for a long weekend. Thankfully I just about managed to drag my ass out of work in time and I’m looking forward to a few days R&R in Prague.
I’ve done the usual thing of booking some luxurious establishment with all the trimmings so I’m really looking forward to some late nights and long morings. Everyone tells me Prague is a great spot, although I’m apparently as likely to be handed a leaflet for a string quartet recital as I am for a strip club… should make things interesting indeed.
I haven’t planned anything other than the accommodation, so as usual it will be a case of wandering into and out of all kinds of trouble along the way. The only downside is the early flight and the unbearable airport queueing and security shite we now consider ‘normal’ these days.
Still – with a bed like this one waiting for me at the far end, who cares right? No idea what the local dishes or drinks are and I don’t even have any currency sorted out; all that can wait until we get there. One way or another this weekend is going to be a blast. So – as a resultÂ of myÂ impending R&RÂ updates at the site here are going to be low and slow over the next few days.
Try to behave yourselves, while I’m away, misbehaving
September 30, 2006 (4 Responses)
REGULAR READERS will know all about my ongoing Year Of Debauchery which kicked off with a fantastic surprise back in January where SusiQ basically constructued a comlpete web of lies and deceit in order to get me to Venice for New Year Eve and it was always my intention to do the same to her.
The debauching has continued pretty much as planned – the latest event being a fantastic break over in Lisbon – and next up on the list was to be a retaliatory surprise, carefully constructed by yours truely, to be sprung upon SusiQ days before departure.
At least that was the plan. Up to last night anyway.
I’ve been watching a cool show on TV called NCIS (that’s Navy Criminal Investigative Service for anyone interested). One of the characters has ‘rules’ for everything (e.g. rule number 9: never forget your knife). So – based on recent events I’ve decided to create just one rule for myself from this point forward:
NEVER TELL YOUR IN-LAWS ANYTHING!
The trip was all booked. The time off from her work organised behind her back. The careful planning that goes into actually surprising SusiQ was well in motion (believe me – it’s not easy). My travel agent was onboard and ready with the appropriate lies for the inevitable queries SusiQ would throw her way. The In-laws were primed so that they could mind our dogs while we were gone and I was just about 3 weeks away from putting the coup-de-grace on it when SusiQ tells me she had lunch with her folks during the week and knows I’m taking her away for her birthday.
So much for the surprise!!!
Oh well – cat’s out of the bag well and truely at this point, so the next item in our Year of Debauchery will be a trip to Prague in November. Last time I ever tell my in-laws anything though, it’s just not worth the damn risk. It’s hard enough to surprise my wife but when her family are involved, it’s bloody impossible.
Still – she never did find out what my intended coup-de-grace was… I guess I’ll just have to keep that on a shelf for now, until a suitable occasion arises
September 10, 2006 (One Response)
WOW! WHAT A GREAT few days it’s been. Sorry about the lack of updates for the past few days. I’d been working pretty hard up to the departure point and then suddenly I was in Lisbon before I knew it.
SusiQ and I needed a break and as part of the ongoing Year of Debauchery I’d booked some time in Lisbon for a long weekend of rest and relaxation. The past few days have been excellent, including some amazing food, local “Fado” traditional dishes and entertainment, some “Steak On A Stone” (hot stone; cook your own… mad fun), a fantastic Sweedish massage from a dusky blonde maiden called “Theresa” at the superb hotel we stayed in, getting lost (and found again) at the largest shopping centre on the Iberian peninsula, some excellent Japanese food at some place I can’t pronounce in the back streets of Lisbon which we would never have found on our own and even a great bottle of wine named after a donkey (“Burro”). There’s plenty more but it’s all a bit of a blur at the mo.
All in all – a break well earned and enjoyed by us both. If anyone out there is thinking of a European location for a nice break, Lisbon has it all. Once you get past the suicide taxi drivers and overcome your shock at the value (everything is amazingly cheap, approximately 50% of Dublin prices anyway!) to be had, you just relax into the pace of life and get busy with great food, wine and entertainment.
Unfortunately it’s back to reality now so expect the updates to resume from tomorrow as I re-connect with the world news and views.