Posts Tagged ‘Riga’

Travelling the World—A Lot Done, More to Do

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

How many countries have you been to? And how many cities? What is your favourite place in the world?

It’s very seldom these days that you meet somebody who doesn’t like travelling. We are remarkably blessed to live in an era where we can travel to the other side of the world in less than 24 hours. Once you have money and time at your disposal, the world really is your oyster.

Anybody who read my comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams, will know that I was already 22 before I went on my first foreign trip. However, I’ve made up for a bit of lost time in the 11 years since then. Although I’ve never taken a year out to go travelling (as seems almost obligatory these days) I do try to get away as much as possible.

I’m also a sucker for statistics and, in researching my travel habits for the work-in-progress Lord of the Rams travel memoir, I’ve realised that I’ve:

  • Been on 44 foreign trips (an average of 4 per year) since 2000
  • Visited 23 countries
  • Visited 57 cities (plus many towns, villages, etc.)
  • Spent more time in London than any other city (43 nights over 17 visits)
  • Spent more time in England than any other country (50 nights over 19 visits)
  • Spent 219 nights outside Ireland, of which I have spent:
    • 127 nights in Europe
    • 36 nights in Asia
    • 33 nights in North America
    • 19 nights in South America
    • 4 nights in the air between continents

But of course travelling isn’t about statistics. It’s about new experiences, people and places.

Over the years, I’ve walked the Great Wall of China, peered into the Grand Canyon, trekked to Macchu Picchu, and rambled around the excavated city of Pompeii.

I’ve bob-sleighed in Sigulda (Latvia), hang-glided over Rio De Janeiro, segwayed around the streets of Copenhagen, gone horse and camel riding in Terelj (Mongolia), sea-fished in Mar Del Plata (Argentina) and Helsingborg (Sweden), rode the Bullet Train in Japan, travelled across great swathes of Siberia by train and retraced the steps of Vlad the Impaler in Transylvania.

I’ve stood atop the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower, walked under the city of Edinburgh, explored caves in Postojna (Slovenia), gambled in Las Vegas, stormed around Graceland in Nashville and treaded silently around Anne Frank’s house (Amsterdam). Museums, palaces, an unhealthy amount of European castles, and an almost endless list of tourist attractions have all been conquered in London, Saarlouis, Saarbrücken, Metz, New York, Manchester, Boston, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Ljubljana, Postojna, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago, Riga, Cesis, Sigulda, Kaunas, Vilnius, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Eindhoven, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Ulan Bator, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Basle, Budapest, Brasov, Sighisoara, Rome, Assisi, Hamburg, Sorrento, Positano, Rio De Janeiro, Lima, Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Buenos Aires, Mar Del Plata, Swansea, Cardiff, Bath, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Helsingor, Helsingborg and Malmo.

But travelling isn’t always plain sailing. I’ve been defrauded of thousands of euros by Nigerians in Tokyo, witnessed sickening bouncer violence and police corruption in Cologne, slept outside in sub-zero temperatures in Basle, cracked several of my ribs in Copenhagen and—worst of all—been accused of being American or English on more than a few occasions J But you have to accept the rough with the smooth, or you might as well stay at home.

Right now I’m planning a trip to the east side of Canada this summer. And there’s still a tonne of other places I want to experience: Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam all come to mind; not to mention the unvisited continents of Africa and Australia! And there’s many places I would love to go back to: Rio, Cusco, New York, Texas, Mongolia, Beijing … the list goes on and on.

London, New York and Boston all featured in colourful detail in Lord of the Rams, and I’ve also posted stories from my time in Las Vegas and Latvia ( i.e. extracts from the work-in-progress follow-up) on this blog. I look forward to sharing more misadventures in the future.

In the meantime, it’s time to get back to planning Trip 45!

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

Feel free to share your travel stories in the comments section below.

FREE Lord of the Rams Story – Part 2

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

It’s fitting—given that Saint Patrick’s Day falls this week—that Part 2 of this exclusive Lord of the Rams story takes place on a 5-day Saint Paddy’s Day holiday to Latvia in 2006.

After celebrating the public holiday in Riga, partaking in some hair-raising bobsleighing in Sigulda, and ordering dinner from an unusual menu in a Cesis restaurant, our intrepid adventurers set off to find a good pub in what is a very small and quiet town.

Note: Please read Part 1 of this story prior to reading Part 2 below (which continues directly from the end of Part 1).


…………………Draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents…………………

‘Do you know any good bars around here?’ Rams asked the fresh-faced brunette waitress.

‘There is a bar about 100 metres from here,’ she replied. ‘It is called “Boomerangs”.’ She wrote some basic directions on a piece of paper and, as she handed it to Rams, he produced a crumpled parchment of his own.

‘And do you know where this nightclub is?’ he asked, pointing at his almost illegible scrawl.

‘Ah, Vidzemnieks,’ said the waitress excitedly. ‘I am going there later with my friends. It’s a very good place.’

Rams, delighted that his little bit of research on C?sis was beginning to pay off, decided to turn the Irish charm up a notch.

‘That’s fantastic. Sure we’ll have to have a drink and a dance later so. A bit of Riverdance.’

The waitress blushed, smiled and told the lads she would see them later. With Winston and Tom still waiting for their food, the four refreshed farmers decided to head to Boomerangs for a few drinks.

‘Sure we’ll see yas there within the hour,’ said Rams to the Tipperary pair before departing Cafe Popular. Following some good-humoured banter with the friendly blonde receptionist, the lads finally made their way up the town in search of Boomerangs.

‘That’s funny,’ said the Rams, looking at the waitress’s directions. ‘She pronounced the bar as “Boomerangs” but she spelled it as “Bumerangs”.’

‘So long as it’s not The George we’re going to,’ said Eugene, referring to Dublin’s infamous gay club.

‘I’d say we’re alright, Eugene,’ reassured the Rams. ‘She wouldn’t do that to us.’

Only half a dozen customers were enjoying a frosty March pint when the four Irish lads walked into Bumerangs like they owned the place. Four of the six existing customers were propping up the bar, all of them eyeing the strangers with suspicion.

Eugene ordered four beers from the barwoman as Rams jested once again with a still hungry Terry and Bowers about their sumptuous evening meal. Although Rams had his back turned to the four locals, he noticed they were beginning to raise their voices somewhat aggressively.

‘I hope these lads aren’t going to start anything,’ Rams whispered to Terry.

Suddenly the barwoman asked the lads where they were from, and she translated Bowers’s reply to the locals.

‘I’m just going to the jacks,’ said Rams to his friends. ‘We might want to drink up and blow this joint when I get back.’

Moments later Rams returned from the toilet just in time to see the ‘leader’ of the group purchasing a large bottle of vodka and presenting it to Eugene. By now Terry and Bowers were looking a bit nervous, perhaps wondering what motives lay behind their new friend’s most generous gesture. Eugene, for his part, tried in vain to give the vodka back to the Latvian man who was now sitting on the stool next to him.

‘You’re not going to drink that, are ya?’ Rams asked as Eugene grabbed a few shot glasses from the bar counter.

‘Sure what choice do I have? He won’t take “no” for an answer.’

So Eugene opened the bottle of vodka and poured generous shots for himself, Terry and Bowers. Rams, along with all four of the locals, declined the offer of a drink. Instead he supped on the remnants of his warm beer, waiting to see what would happen next.

It turned out that Eugene’s benefactor had a basic understanding of English, and his gift to the lads now presented him with the perfect opening to start a conversation with them—particularly Eugene.

‘Where are you from?’ he asked, as if the barwoman’s earlier translation had fallen on deaf ears.

‘Ireland,’ replied Eugene, smiling and somewhat bemused by the friendliness of the man.

‘And what is your sexual orientation?’

Terry nearly choked on his vodka, and Bowers looked like he was about to shit himself as he observed all four large Latvian men staring at Eugene in anticipation of a favourable reply.

Like most Munterconnaught men, Eugene needed but a fraction of a second to reply.

‘Women, women. I’m married,’ he stuttered before following up with, ‘Anything split down the front,’ and a nervous laugh.

One could probably have heard a mouse fart at that moment in Bumerangs—Eugene sitting sheepishly on his stool, four angry but horny Latvians salivating beside him, Terry and Bowers gulping down their vodkas, and Rams making sure he had his arse against a wall in case things turned nasty in a Deliverance sort of way.

‘What time did ya say the flight is going at, Rams?’ said Eugene, his shifting eyes indicating to his friend that a convincing tarradiddle was urgently required.

‘I think it’s leaving at three o’clock tonight. We’d want to be making tracks soon if we’re going to make that flight.’

‘Do you know how long it takes to get from here to Riga?’ Eugene asked his Latvian friend in an attempt to change the conversation and justify his imminent departure. ‘We are flying back to Ireland tonight, so we need to get a taxi to Riga.’

‘It’s about two hours from here,’ came the frosty reply.

Eugene necked the remainder of his vodka and turned to his friends.

‘Right, we’d better head for the airport.’

But the lads were already half-way out of the pub. Eugene once again attempted in vain to return the bottle of vodka to the Latvian, and then he too made haste for the exit.

‘You need to be truthful about your sexuality,’ called the Latvian after Eugene.

‘What sort of a place was that?’ asked Eugene as the lads walked briskly away from Bumerangs.

‘I don’t know but we won’t be making it the local,’ replied Rams.

—END—

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

FREE Lord of the Rams Story – Part 1

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Happy New Year. Although I’m working away on my first fiction novel, Dirtbirds, I haven’t totally forgotten about Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents, the sequel to Munterconnaught’s biggest selling book of 2008. Whilst the book is on hold for the time being, I hope to share the odd (rough) extract here from time to time.

The story below takes place in Latvia in 2006—I was actually recounting it to a group of people over the weekend, and I thought it would be no harm to post the written version online. Like the Vegas story I posted last year, Part 1 of this tale involves ordering food in a restaurant. Part 2 will be published to this blog in March. Feel free to comment below or share this link with your friends.

…………………Draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents…………………
A taxi from Sigulda took the lads to Cesis in an hour. Regarded by many Latvians as an enduring example of pre-war, small-town Latvia, Cesis was characterised by some seductive narrow streets, castle ruins and—on this occasion—ankle-deep snow. It was a far cry from the busy city of Riga, and Rams was delighted with the opportunity to visit the ‘real Latvia’.

After checking into Hotel Cesis—a charming, recently modernised inter-war hotel overlooking the main square—the lads decided to freshen up before meeting for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Rams and Eugene were the first to show their faces in Cafe Popular. Both men were ravenous and decided to order dinner and let the others play catch-up when they arrived. The menu was a little strange in that it contained a number of weirdly-named dishes with no accompanying text to describe what the ingredients might be. Fortunately, Rams managed to find a fillet steak amongst the unconventional list, and he and Eugene ordered one each.

Terry arrived at the table just as the waitress finished taking the lads’ orders.

‘Jaysis, I’m starving,’ he announced. Quickly flicking through the menu, he turned impatiently to the Rams.

‘What did you order?’ he asked.

Winking surreptitiously at Eugene, Rams replied, ‘the “Farmer’s Refreshment”.’

‘And what’s that, now?’ asked Terry.

‘It’s a sort of a mixed grill,’ interjected Eugene. ‘Everything fucked in on it.’

‘Perfect,’ said Terry, calling over the waitress and ordering the mysterious dish.

Ten minutes later Bowers walked into the restaurant only to find Rams and Eugene tucking into prime slabs of fillet.

‘That looks the job,’ he said, eyeing the steaks hungrily. ‘What is it?’

‘It’s a Farmer’s Refreshment,’ said Rams mischievously. ‘It’s a savage feed. Ya may order one.’

Bowers, like everyone else at the table, had never eaten a Farmer’s Refreshment before, and his suspicious nature directed him towards Terry for reassurance.

‘What are you going for?’ he asked.

‘The same as the boys,’ said Terry, an unwitting accomplice to Rams’s prank.

Bowers, still not convinced, decided to order the only fish item on the menu.

‘I’m sorry, we have no fish today,’ said the waitress.

‘Alright, I’ll have the Farmer’s Refreshment,’ said Bowers.

Moments later Terry’s dinner was served and, much to the delight of Rams and Eugene, it was nothing but an omelette with a small side salad.

‘A fine refreshing feed for a farmer,’ laughed Rams while polishing off the remainder of his slab of beef.

‘You’re a fuckin’ bollocks, Rams. And you too, Tighe,’ howled Terry, but he couldn’t help but crack a smile at the childish antics of the Munterconnaught pair. More laughter ensued when Bowers’s fine steak-free dinner arrived.

‘Don’t go for the Farmer’s Refreshment whatever you do,’ Bowers warned Winston and Tom when they showed up moments later and began examining the menu. As the two Tipperary men scanned the menu for something that didn’t equate to rabbit food, Rams ordered more drinks for the table. But he was already thinking about where the lads might go after dinner.

To be continued …

—END—

Want to read more? Perhaps you might enjoy my original comedy memoir set in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s. Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (Now only €10 with free worldwide postage and packaging).


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