So yeah, I’m cycling to Sligo

Me (left) heading off on first cycle

That’ll be me on the left in the Sky jersey, heading off on first cycle yesterday

SLIGO. I’ve driven there countless times. I’ve taken the bus there. I’ve taken the train there. But I’ve never cycled there. Actually, the farthest I ever cycled in one swoop was about 10 miles on an exercise bike, a run around town is enough for me and at that, only if the weather is good. To correct that, I’m cycling to Sligo. Last week I didn’t have a bike, now I do. Last week I had never cycled beyond ten miles, now I have.

The route we’re taking (when I say we, I’ll be joined on this trip by my father, brother and cousin, the latter pair also pretty much in the same position as myself) runs about 150 miles and the plan is to do this over two days in October. 2010. I bought the bike on Friday gone, had the first cycle yesterday (and managed 22.17 miles at first time of asking, ticking along around 16.5 mph average) and I’ve got six weeks to get myself into some kind of shape to make the cycle to Sligo. This coming from someone who sits at a desk most of the day, hasn’t maintained any serious level of fitness or exercise in years and who has developed a serious taste for dining out and ordering in over the last few months, much to the detrement of both my wallet and health.

There are plenty of reasons for doing this. Festival season has been good to us folk in Kilkenny and I’ve just come off ten days and nights of the Kilkenny Arts Festival, which were rather good to me in terms of food and the late night pint. Throw in a comedy festival, Roots festival, and more besides and it turns out I haven’t been completely looking after myself food and fitness-wise, so I figure it’s a good way to get in shape. Then there’s the challenge part of it. There’s nothing like overcoming a massive obstacle when you put your mind to it. In my case, the obstacle is a 238 km trip from my home in Kilkenny to the family home in Sligo. It’ll save on diesel anyway.

Cube Agree SL 10

I’ve tried the C25K running programme, made it half-way once, almost finished it another time but found that I was able to carry the pace of 5km a lot sooner than 9 weeks so got bored. I don’t get to see my kayak all that often (it resides in Sligo at the moment) so figure cycling is a good a way as any to get fit and give yourself a challenge. I get a call one day last week from my cousin (also pictured above) that went something along the lines of “come on, we’ll go look at bikes in Dublin”. After all, if one is to cycle anywhere, one must have a bike and unfortunately I don’t think the mountain bike picked up last summer would cut such a trek.

So, Friday meant a trip to Cycle Superstore in Dublin to collect the bike above, a Cube Agree SL 10. I should thank Justin for his assistance in the shop there, he looked after us well for the afternoon both with the bikes, the service and the pricing (we walked in looking for three bikes, pedals, new gear for me and more besides).

Next thing you know I’m up on the bike, first cycle out of the way (yesterday) and on my way to getting in some kind of “show shape” as I like to call it, for October. We’ve earmarked the weekend of October 8/9/10, take a chunk of one day to cycle Kilkeny to Athlone, then do Athlone to Sligo the following morning. If things go really well and there’s nice weather the previous weekend, sure we might try that one. Either way, I’ve got six weeks before hitting the road and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Note that this isn’t a charity cycle or fundraising cycle, this is four of us (two at complete beginner status, one with a few years experience, and one who gets notions to travel the world by bike every now and again) taking off for the fun element, and hopefully with a pint at the finish line. It’s all healthy eating until then! If you’re interested, I’ll be writing about the experience over here for a few weeks. May as well be blogging about the whole thing. Whether or not I stay cycling afterwards remains to be seen but it’s a nice goal to have in sight for a start!

Where’s A Net Cafe When You Need One?

Vilamoura
Creative Commons License photo credit: girolame

So, I’m in Portugal, and have been for the past few days to celebrate John getting hitched. Vilamoura is the current location, then it’s on to destination Faro and Dublin tomorrow morning.

They’ve got the sun. They’ve got the sea. They’ve got great food and cheap alcohol. But internet access leaves a lot to be desired.

I’m sitting in Sete (a bar part-owned by Figo) where you can grab wifi access for the price of a dinner (ten euro for 5 hours access). The hotel I’m in (the sign above the door says it’s a four star) is charging 9 euro an hour for shit quality access through a very restricted Vista-based kiosk in the lobby. If you need anything that requires javascript access (Hotmail, Gmail etc.), forget it.

While I’m away, I rely on internet access. Dubai was easy as there was great access in the apartment and I was never far away. I was mad enough this trip to pay 50 euro for 50mb data access on my office mobile to pull headers via the Gmail app (S60). Two sessions on the laptop in the bar makes it a total of 70 euro, plus another tenner in the hotel brings it to 80 euro. For 80 euro, I happily get FOUR months of mobile broadband access at home.

For 80 euro here I could also get in the region of 20 bottles of wine. And for all our going out, I know I haven’t spent 80 euro on alcohol.

There an internet cafe / kiosk type place up the road from the hotel that’s very much chained up, broken down and left with wires hanging out of the walls.

Yet while they’ve got everything else here, the one thing I’m not seeing is an internet cafe, of any description. Plenty of bars, plenty of TVs to watch Barcelona whip Man U around the place last night, but no internet cafe. The resort seems extremely popular with Irish and English tourists who I’m sure wouldn’t say no to getting online to check things out, or their kids hanging around Bebo and MySpace for the day (give them the option and they’d likely take it).

The description of the hotel touted laptop connections in the room. I must have mistaken power points for ethernet points.

That said, who am I to complain. It’s 33 degrees, possibly in the shade too and the wedding was the business.

Maybe I’m one of those people who just can’t unplug.

Anyone in the market for opening up a chain of cheap internet cafés in heavily populated Irish and English tourist resorts in the south of Portugal?

Amsterdam In March

Amsterdam

I was away in Amsterdam for the weekend – great city. Heavily overrun by Scottish football fans for the World Cup qualifier on Saturday, but it’s a great city. I was last in Amsterdam around two years ago, some things have changed, a lot of things stayed the same which was a plus and a minus in itself. While we got to spend yesterday playing the complete tourist, including roaring my head off on a short rollercoaster spin through a dungeon, the weekend was good to disconnect, indulge in too much food, revisit a few restaurants I’d been to before, take in the sun and walk around Amsterdam until my legs ached.

Fair play to Aer Lingus too… between a combination of putting the foot down and having the wind at their backs, we had two great flights out of Cork airport. Major kudos too to the Cork International Airport Hotel (blog awards hotel) who lay on a help-yourself continental breakfast from 3am onwards. Chocolate croissants at 4:30am never tasted so good.

For those looking for the photos, there’ll be a bunch live on Flickr likely by this afternoon.