Brandon O'Brien

Travel and Adventure Journal

I wanted a place to journal all my travels and adventures around the world. I always enjoy going back and reflecting on my past travels and getting to relive them through my words and photos.

You're reading posts I wrote in April 2013. Return home.

5 Nights at the College Street Times Hostel in Dublin are Booked!

Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 9:49 AM in 2013 Europe

I reserved a bed in a 6 bed suite at the Times Hostel - College Street in Dublin for my first 5 nights in Europe. I'll be staying there the night of June 27 through July 2nd. After reading reviews and looking at all the sights I want to see in Dublin, it looks like it's in a pretty prime location. It's next to Trinity College and is within easy walking distance to several big sights.

The hostel is also on a main bus line from the Dublin airport and will only cost a little over 3 USD to hop on board. After spending 5 days in Dublin I'll probably head west toward Galway, but who knows at this point!

Posted from: United States

Grand Canyon & Flagstaff, AZ - Pre-Europe Travels

Grand Canyon & Flagstaff, AZ - Pre-Europe Travels

Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 7:59 AM in General Travel

I've been living in Albuquerque, NM for seven and a half years and hadn't been out to see the Grand Canyon yet. Two of my friends, Luiz and Orville, tried to go last year but ended up being in Flagstaff during the local college's homecoming festivities and ended up partying instead of seeing the canyon.

We decided that before I took off for Europe I should at least see some of the sights closer to home so we planned a trip to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. We packed up my car on Friday afternoon with plenty of beer and some lunch food and started the drive. With the time change, we made it to Flagstaff around 9:30pm, checked into Hotel Monte Vista, had a beer in the room and then went out to get some beers at the local places.

The first bars we hit were the ones in the hotel. They were a little crowded so we had our beers and moved on. We ended up making it to Flagstaff Brewing Company to have our final beer of the night. It seemed that on Friday night, FBC was a little more geared toward a different type of crowd than we were expecting for a local brewery. We went back to the room around midnight and went to sleep.

Tyler ended up waking up at about 5:30am so he got the rest of us up at 6. We had a morning beer in the room and decided we might as well get breakfast and head out to the Grand Canyon to get an early start for the day. We ate breakfast at a place called Mix. The food was all really tasty and a great way to get the day started.

The drive up to the Grand Canyon is pretty scenic and goes by quickly. When we got to the Grand Canyon we got stuck in the slow line to pay our $25 entry fee, but once we got past that we headed to the Mather Point Rim Trail to get our first glimpses of the canyon. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It wasn't too windy, there were no clouds, it wasn't overly hot or cold and the haze was at a minimum. We walked the rim trail and took a bunch of photos and then decided we'd drive East a little bit and find a more secluded spot to have some beers and eat lunch.

After a 10 minute drive along the rim we came to a really nice and empty overlook area that had some unofficial trails along the side. We grabbed our cooler and found an absolutely spectacular area to chill and have our Grand Canyon beer. The beer we decided on was the Oskar Blues Dale's Deviant Ale. It was a really good beer and tasted even better with the awesome views we had. The wind started to pick up a little bit so we enjoyed the view and finished our beer then headed back to the car to eat lunch.

Tyler packed about 5 different kinds of lunch meats and a few different kinds of cheese. We had some delicious sandwiches and opened a bomber of Laughing Dog's Rocket Dog Rye IPA. I had higher hopes for it but none of us were really digging the flavor. It could have been that the strong Dale's was messing with our taste buds though.

After eating we got back in the car and headed back to Flagstaff. Once we got back into town we started hunting for some Coconut water to help re-balance our systems a bit before starting the real drinking activities. We finally found a Safeway and got to use the restrooms (we all had to go really really bad) and got our coconut water and then went back to the hotel.

After another couple of beers in the room we started our adventures around Flagstaff. The first place we hit was the Madrid Tapas y Sangria bar where we each got a beer and split some tapas. Next we went over to Mother Road Brewing Company for another round when we decided we needed a pick-me-up. The bike shop next to Mother Road was selling espressos and coffee. We ended up trying some of the cold-drip coffee and it definitely did the trick. After that we headed over to Lumberyard Brewery where we had another round and something resembling poutine to snack on.

It was starting to cool down a bit so at this point we went back to the hotel to get our jackets. We got there and finished off the last of the four bombers we brought (a nice oatmeal stout) and then headed over to Uptown Billiards where we played some pool and had two more rounds. We were all in the snacking mood again so we took off and ended up coming across a sign for $9.99 one-pound buckets of shrimp at San Felipe's Cantina so we stopped and got a couple of those and another beer.

We were all feeling pretty good so we asked the waitress where we should go and she mentioned Hops on Birch being a chill place, so that's where we set off to. They had a pretty good beer selection so we got another round there and hung out for a bit. By now we were starting to fade a little bit so we thought we needed some more food before another rally. We tried to get into a Thai place but they were closed so we found another one and ordered some appetizers and waters.

That helped a bit so we went to the hotel bar for another round. Luiz and I ended up hitting our walls and couldn't even finish our beers so we headed up to the room to pass out. Orville and Tyler stayed down for another 15 minutes or so before heading back up. It was a long day but we did and saw a lot.

On Sunday morning we woke up, started packing everything up and then got some breakfast at Criollo Latin Kitchen. I had a really good breakfast burrito and everyone else liked their food. After having some food in our stomachs we got in the car and headed home. We were hoping to hit a liquor store on the way out of town to pick up some Dogfish head beers but we couldn't find one that had it. The drive home was pretty uneventful. When we got back, Luiz and I swung by a new Vietnamese place and got some Pho to go.

It was a really quick weekend but everyone had a lot of fun. Flagstaff is definitely a cool place to go if you want to see some cool sights and hang out in a really chill town.

Teaser photos:

Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon South Rim
Luiz, Tyler, me and Orville
Luiz, Tyler, me and Orville
Enjoying a Dale's Deviant Ale
Enjoying a Dale's Deviant Ale

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Posted from: United States

Andrews FCU GlobeTrek Visa card

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 @ 4:43 PM in 2013 Europe

After doing a little bit more research and hearing some horror stories, I decided I needed to get a Chip and PIN card for my time in Europe. Unfortunately the pickings are pretty slim right now in the US for a true Chip and PIN card, but I came across the Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa card.

This card has a true Chip and PIN (AND a Chip and Signature) capabilities. I just applied for the card today so hopefully I'll be getting it in the mail within a few weeks. The card has no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees which make it the best choice in available Chip and PIN cards in the US.

Some of the horror stories I read about people that only had their magnetic swipe credit cards (like pretty much every card in the US) included not being able to get tickets in train stations, not being able to pay for gas, not being able to pay for groceries and more. Rather than deal with that frustration I decided to do the smart thing and get the Chip and PIN card.

Once I'm over in Europe I'll keep everyone posted about how it works.

Posted from: United States