A Travellerspoint blog

Prague Dreaming

From New Mexico to Metro Medieval

sunny 23 °C

Evidently myself and my wife Megan are insane. At least that's what I expected people to think after our third international relocation in less than 18 months. As it turned out, our friends and family were as excited and unfazed by the whole thing as we were - I suppose they are used to us by now!

Prague is amazing for many different reasons. Firstly, it's got the charming, unspoilt historic architecture at every turn that I much appreciated during my five days here in 2001 at the end of an Inter-railing trip around Europe. But if you take a closer look around, there’s much more to be found.

The first thing that comes to mind is books and beer! I never saw a pub with more than a small stack of books in a corner until I came to Prague, and found an entire bar filled with books from floor to ceiling. Located just at the turn of a cobblestoned street, you see patrons relaxing over pints and prints out of the corner of your eye – it’s quite an irresistible sight!

It’s not just about beer of course. Riding the metro to work every morning is damn cool as well. Of course I’ve been on metros on three continents before, but there’s something extra special about being a regular, paid-up user of them – in fact, I’d say it was probably a feat I wanted to achieve before I turned 30, so just in time too!

A surprising aspect of living in the Czech Republic is how familiar it all feels. People ask how I’m finding the place, and I struggle to explain the pleasantly exotic/un-exotic feel I get from being back in a different part of Europe. Aspects remind me both of Ireland and of living in Toulouse, where I studied abroad for six months. The former comes from a mirthfully amusing mix of blundering politicians, leafy suburbs and abundant Tescos, while the latter just goes to show that continental Europe does have a common character despite its many languages and cultures – think paninis, small strong coffees and street trams.

My favorite part of Prague is its intelligence and artistry. When darkness falls on the city, a certain enchanting melancholy hangs in the air. Untouched graffiti is left to line the walls of New Town like a legitimate art form, while tram shelter posters advertise classical concerts instead of ringtones and McDs. As my wife said recently, Prague feels like Radiohead.

If you don’t see all that as a great reason to put the clocks forward seven hours on your life, I think you’ve stumbled into the wrong blog! Until next time, dear readers, consider that moving country is getting easier and easier in this mad, ever-globalizing world – you could be the next to pack up everything and just go!

Posted by BillLehane 02:21 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

The Way to Amarillo

Colorful Cadillacs and the open road

sunny 25 °C
View The Way to Amarillo on BillLehane's travel map.

Road Trip

Participants: Bill, Megan and Tag


Destination: Amarillo, Texas

Secondary Destination: Four states in one day

Timescale: 36 hours

Last-minute travel plans are often the best. As a trio, we had discussed the idea of a road trip for weeks, but in the end it all came together at about two days' notice.

The Cadillac Ranch, just outside Amarillo, Texas, is a unique colorful speck on the wide plains of West Texas. Essentially, it consists of ten classic junked-out cars that have been wedged into the ground. Covered in graffiti, the cars offer a fantastically fun canvas for any savvy traveller who shows up with spray paint.

And so we did. As the photos below attest, we had a great time spraying our names and anything else we could think of all over the cars. Think of it as an artistic pacifist's equivalent of a paintballing session. Well worth the four hours' drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We stayed at Amarillo's La Kiva hotel, mostly for pure comedy value and the fact that the vacation spot of much faded glory was offering a two-room suite for the same price as a double room in a chain hotel. The greasy complimentary breakfast was hot and nasty, while the hotel bar apparently only served Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors Light. A rogue's gallery for sure!

To explain the title for a moment, there was a very cheesy song released in the 1970s called "Is This The Way To Amarillo?". Written by Neil Sedaka but made famous by Tony Christie (and again much later by a fat disgusting British comedian named Peter Kay), the song apparently only used the name of the Texas town because it rhymed with willow and pillow. As evidenced by our little visit, the place has not much else to offer!

Our secondary mission on day two of this lightning road trip was to hit four states in one day, including two - Kansas and Oklahoma - that two of us had never been to before. Even just to pass over the state lines, this necessitated a lot of driving! Mile after mile of plain farm fields, punctured by agri-industrial provincial eyesores, were the order of the day. In the end, the route offered up far more po-dunk towns than pretty sights, but was no less of a unique Southwest road trip experience.

Ultimately, I think the principal lesson of our little trip was that while visiting other states is an interesting diversion, New Mexico is the prettiest state in the union, hands down. Even though I had already done most of the drive from northeast NM down to Albuquerque before, it unquestionably provided the most beautiful scenery on the whole drive, which totaled almost a thousand miles. Until next time, dear readers, enjoy the colorful photos and consider the Land of Enchantment for your next holiday!

Posted by BillLehane 09:40 Archived in USA Tagged automotive Comments (2)

How Is Your Name Pronounced Abroad?

The many ways to say Lehane

sunny 35 °C

As everyone quickly discovers when they go abroad for the first time, the pronunciation of names is a minefield completely separate from language skills. Even if your hotel receptionist speaks perfect English, chances are he or she will get your name completely wrong. Depending on how many times this has happened to you before, the usual reactions include smiling, grimacing or groaning.

What's interesting about this phenomenon is that it varies depending on the culture that you find yourself in. This quick rundown shows the different ways people have said my name, at least in places I've been around in long enough to commit the pronunciations to memory.

1. USA
Pronunciation: Le-hane, as in window pane.

Embracing this very literal interpretation of the spelling of my last name has made things much quicker when interfacing with strangers, especially over the phone. Although I have had much more trouble with my bilingual birth certificate than with my name: a clerk at the motor vehicle division asked more than once if it was translated - the English letters are twice as large as the Irish ones, incidentally. People that know me well do know the right pronunciation!

2. France
Pronunciation: Luh-Ann, with my first name as 'Beel' for good measure.

Probably the only nation in the world that insists on mispronouncing my first name as well, the French do things their own way in all ways at all times, both good and bad! The 'le' opening (the masculine form of 'the' in French) definitely doesn't help in this regard. As an aside, my Dad once signed a whole series of salary checks in Belgium made out to a 'Brian Le Hane'. Better than not getting paid!

3. Cork, Ireland
Pronunciation: Lee-Hann, with lots of emphasis on the 'e's and 'n's

The spiritual home of all Lehanes, Cork has more of this clan in its phone book than any other place in the world. I suppose this pronunciation is the most official one, but that doesn't mean you'll ever catch me using it! Incidentally, the anglicized name Lehane derives from the Irish Gaelic surname Ó Liatháin, pronounced somewhat differently as oh-lee-aah-hawn.

4. China
Pronunciation: No data

In the course of six full months in China, no Chinese person ever even attempted to say my last name, not once. I unsuccessfully experimented with the Chinese equivalent of my first name, pronounced 'bee-arr'. There was no need for this though because they seemed to have Bill more or less down, except they said it twice as slowly as normal, and with added intensity!

4. Dublin, Ireland
Pronunciation: Le-hann, a bit like the French one but more 'le' than 'luh'

Evidently, this is what I consider to be the actual pronunciation of my name. Where the disparity between it and its southern Irish counterpart came from I have no idea, but it's too late to change now haha! The few non-related Lehanes I have come across in Dublin also use the above pronunciation, so it does have some legitimacy to it.

Ultimately, dear readers, I suppose you could say that an unusual last name can cause as many problems in your home country as it does abroad, where at least the locals sometimes have a language barrier as an excuse. Feel free to add your own comments or funny experiences with your last name below.

Until next time, consider that the worst ever pronunciation of my name was right in Dublin. A local security company employee was perhaps the victim of a very bad telephone line when he repeated my name back to me as 'Phil Mahon' :-)

Posted by BillLehane 09:05 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad Comments (10)

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