Dublin, One Last Time

It was a monumental trip and it was almost over. A lot of emotion there, but all of it good. Sleep came easy for us that night – a good thing since we had a long day ahead of us.

The next morning Woney and I were up early. Neither of us wanted much for breakfast and so had made an agreement with our B&B hostess the night before – no traditional anything in the morning, please. Well, perhaps some toast would be nice but otherwise, no breakfast. Toast was had and off we took.

As we were packing the car one last time, we had some serious regrets about all of our shopping the last 12 days. Woney was having difficulty lifting her suitcase into the boot despite her extensive and effective workouts with Tony. I was having the same difficulties wrangling mine into the backseat. We were also suffering from some angst as we looked at the passenger side of the car. “Wonder how much we’ll get charged for all those scratches,” we mused. “Wonder how much of an overage fee we will pay to get our bags on the plane,” we fretted. “How many bottles of liquor did they say we could take” queried Woney, who had spent most of her money at Jameson.

And then for one last time, Woney and I traveled with Gwendolyn through the roundabouts, over the roads with no shoulders, next to sheep and after getting lost only once, we made it to the rental car facility. The shuttle driver grunted mightily as he transferred our bags from the car to the bus, and Woney and I held our breaths as the inspection was done on the car. That little guy had been out partying with his friends the night before and was seriously regretting his overindulgence in tasty beverages, he told us. Perhaps his hangover clouded his vision or perhaps he took pity on us or perhaps every car comes in with some damage on the side, but he swiped our ticket and sent us on our way, no damages assessed. Happy sigh.

We made it to the airport in short order and once there began the long process of getting our bags checked. It came as no surprise that our bags exceeded the weight limits. Rather, Woney’s did, and by so much that there was not a fee high enough to let the bag on the plane as it was. We did some creative maneuvering and unpacking and wearing of hoodies and eventually, Woney’s bag weight was decreased to a limit that still required an exorbitant fee to be allowed on the plane, but at least it was coming with us.

Next up was customs and after getting lost one last time in the airport, we made it to that queue. Having never been through customs before (or not remembering the last time, it had been so long), I was unprepared for my customs agent. “Is that a pillow,” she asked with some suspicion.

“Yes,” I explained. “I needed it. Can’t sleep without it.”

At this point, she took all of my documents, spread them over her desk and settled in for a good chin wag. As she kicked back in her chair, elbow hooked over the back, she asked, “Drink any Guinness? What did you think?”

Just like that, I was in a panic. I hated Guinness, and opened my mouth to say so but then noticed that no one else was having a meaningful conversation with their customs agent. Everyone else was zipping merrily through, and Woney was already done with hers and waiting for me at the exit. If I told the agent that I hated it would she find me guilty of something? Were they going to search me? I had a pillow and a melted chocolate bear on me but I felt so guilty! She was looking at me funny.

“You visit any farms? Touch any livestock?”

“How much liquor did you bring back?”

“Did anyone else touch your bag besides you?”

“Did you bring any organic material to the airport?”

She asked every question without looking me in the eye, like she was casually trying to find out something from me. I had nothing to tell her but my palms were sweating and it took me forever to answer every question. I had been pretty huffy about Air Canada days before and I was sure she knew that. I was also certain that I was going to be stuck in Ireland without Woney because I stole Dana’s Dr. Pepper jumbo lip gloss in the third grade. I don’t remember Dana’s last name or really what she looked like but every bad thing I’ve ever done was coming to mind. I kept wiping my hands on my pillow and answering everything the agent asked. I could feel my already pink cheeks becoming pinker and I just knew I was going to be arrested but for what I didn’t know when finally she scooped up all my stuff and handed it over. “Have a good flight,” she said and waved over her next victim.

With weak knees I made my way over to Woney who said, “Trust you to find the one person who wants to yap for half an hour.” I could barely breathe.

Eventually we boarded the plane to go home. As we flew, we made a few lists of things we wanted to remember and gifts we wanted to make sure got to the right person. We napped. We ate. We watched bad movies. We wiggled. And eventually we arrived at home. My bed never looked so delicious.

As a recap, I’ve prepared a little list of notable tidbits in case you got lost along the way or didn’t want to read everything I wrote. This was my trip.

How many cities were my Number One Absolute Favorite Cities of All Time? Kilkenny, Westport, Galway, Trim, Blarney, Doolin. So, six. Six Number One Absolute All Time Favorites.

What was my net hoodie purchase number? Only two as Woney is fierce when she tells me no.

How many Best Lunches Ever did I have? Three

What was my net weight loss over the course of the trip? .5 (you cannot be more shocked than I was)

How many boys offered kisses? Two

How many boys did I actually kiss? One (I do have standards)

What was the best chocolate shop? Yes

How many times did you get lost? Ask Gwendolyn. Bitch.

How many pieces of toast have I had since I’ve been home? Three, all of them strangely disappointing.

And finally, how many good memories did I bring home? Oh, thousands!

Y’all, there is not a thing I would have changed about our trip, even the weather. It was glorious. I Highly Recommend Ireland. It is far cheaper to go than you think, and I’m telling you, please make a plan for it. Or if not there, please make a plan for something. There’s so much in this beautiful world to see. Go see it! Take your Woney and go see it! Then you can be one of those annoying people like Woney and me who say in every conversation, “Yes, when I was in Ireland I did that, too.” Really, that never gets old.

Woney and Jimmie

Woney and Jimmie

Next Stop: Our Regularly Scheduled Programming!

Advertisements

Trim

We were settling in and just as we were drifting off to sleep in this very cushy, very plush, very large B&B, very much opposite the one in Doolin where we were terrified we’d hear someone having echo-y sex, we heard the couple in the bedroom above ours begin an amorous, rhythmic, thumping party that we could not ignore. “Go on with your bad selves,” I thought. And then sighed. Every silver lining has a cloud, I guess.

The Great Sex Fest: Ireland, 2013 ended shortly and very soon after that Woney and I were jolted awake by thunder and the smell of rain. We leapt out of bed and immediately beat a hasty path to the driveway. We stood there like turkeys, staring up at the sky for endless minutes, just waiting for it to rain. It did – six whole drops. That, friends, was the extent of the relentless Irish rain we’d heard so much about. Six drops in eight days.

The next morning brought another traditional Irish breakfast. Yay. Woney and I shoved our food all around our plates and opted for a piece of toast with a token bite taken out of other offerings just to make nice. The toast was fabulous, though! Really, very good.

We loaded our car with our ridiculous suitcases and my ridiculous pillow, and then thought to check on all of our purchases we had been lugging around since day one. Remember Lulu and Wilhelmina? They had been cruising around in the boot (Irish word! I’m so cultured!) for eight days and I was worried that the heat had done them in. Lulu was fine. Looked just like she did the moment Woney finished painting on her coconut bra. Wilhelmina, on the other hand, suffered facial damage. The sun had melted her little teddy bear face into itself and so she looked a lot like she had Bell’s Palsy. Poor baby. I was planning on breaking her up into bite-sized pieces to share at work but I was bitterly disappointed that she didn’t last longer so I could have first shown her off intact.

We headed into Trim for our last day and night in Ireland. It was a solemn drive. We were both a little sad and a little quiet, feeling thrilled at the prospect of home but also somewhat melancholy that the trip was nearing its end. The B&B we were scheduled for that night was perfect in that the husband-half of the proprietor couple, Mike, was such a talker! He gave us loads of things to do for the day, none of which involved scenic drives or castles.

Trim, on the way to Newgrange

Trim, on the way to Newgrange

Traditonal Irish Countryside

Traditonal Irish Countryside

Our first stop after delivering our heavy bags was Newgrange in County Meath. We had seen pictures of it, sort of, and knew that it was a really old monument, sort of. We were intrigued to say the least and hopped in the car to seek it out. We found it eventually and discovered that it was a religious monument, sort of, and that it was built in 3200 BC, sort of. Really, not a lot of information is known about it, but scholars agree that it most likely was created as a passage tomb and had something to do with the Winter Solstice. An entire demonstration was done to show how light enters into the structure during Winter Solstice which lasted all of seventeen minutes from start to finish. I personally feel that the decades it took for Newgrangians to build that mound seems like a lot of time and effort for a seventeen minute light show once a year. Honestly, because so little was known about it I was slightly uncomfortable being there so all pictures you see here are Woney’s handiwork or taken off the internet. It was a neat thing to see but if you want more information on it, I recommend Google.

Credit: Station House Hotel Newgrange Monument

Credit: Station House Hotel
Newgrange Monument

Credit: Woney Monument Entrance

Credit: Woney
Monument Entrance

What really got me jazzed, though, was the sheep/wool/spinning farm we stopped by on our way out of Newgrange. We saw a sign that said “Souvenirs” and you know Woney and I took that turn! Turns out it was one of the best memories I have of Ireland. We visited the sheep on the farm, and then watched a woman comb the wool, card the wool and then spin yarn from the wool. Smelled terrible in there but I loved it and bought all kinda presents for people in her shop. That is the part of Ireland I am going to miss, the interaction with the people.

Woney and I also got really jazzed about something else that day. I’m embarrassed to even tell you this. I can’t believe I’m still typing it. But we had seen some McDonald’s signs here and there and also signs for something called Supermac’s. It wasn’t until the last day that we realized Supermac’s was Ireland’s version of McDonald’s. It took a sign reading “Supermac’s: More Irish than Ronald” for us to get it, and since we were feeling very cultured and classy, we decided Supermac’s was our lunchtime choice. For the first time in eight days we had the opportunity to get a fountain Coke. Do you know how good fountain Cokes are? Do you have any idea how much you will miss them when you can’t get one anymore? I think lunch was pretty good, I cannot recall, but that Coke? Man, it was delicious!

Westport 3

Later that night, Woney and I had a quiet dinner at a local club house recommended by Mike. We talked about everything we had done over the last eight days. We continued to plan our move to Ireland. We still talk about that, actually. We made lists of all our purchases for customs and we packed our bags for the last time. As we were reading that night one of us would sniffle a little and then the other of us would sigh. It was a monumental trip and it was almost over. A lot of emotion there, but all of it good. Sleep came easy for us that night – a good thing since we had a long day ahead of us.

Next stop: Dublin, for one last go round!

Westport

Doolin was assuredly my favorite place. The people. The views. The chocolate. The Cliffs. Oh, those Cliffs. I’m not sure I will ever get over them.

Woney and I had gone to bed the night before, exhausted and spent but full of the experience of the Cliffs. The fire on my face made me crabby and tired, though, so I was ready for some rest. Anyone having truly experienced a proper sunburn knows of what I speak. The next morning as the sun came up, Woney and I awoke, and as we sat up in our respective beds to greet the day, Woney said, “Oh, Jimmie, your poor face.”

As she said it, I realized that the fire had not gone away overnight. Not only was my skin tight and a violent shade of red, it was also puffy from sleep. An excellent look for a woman in her forties. After we showered and I attempted to cover my lobster face with makeup, Woney and I headed down the stairs for our traditional Irish breakfast. I have to say, if I never see another egg again it will be too soon. A few days prior I had started picking my way through the breakfast, indulging in the tomato, the bacon and of course, the toast. Toast! I’ll never get over toast. But the egg and the sausage were grossing me out anymore. Blergh.

The proprietors at our B&B were lovely people, and as we were leaving, the husband, doing his B&B duty, began pointing out the authentic castle and gorgeous coastlines we should visit on our way to Galway. “No!” Woney and I both yelped, much to his dismay and surprise. We explained that authentic castles and scenic drives were no longer of interest to us. We were full. We could take no more eggs, no more castles and no more coastlines. I thought longingly of my umbrella that had been packed away in my suitcase since the beginning of the trip, just waiting to be opened for the first time. I was yearning for a cool breeze and soft rain and any kind of break from the heat. My face was on fire and I just wanted to experience some gloom, some damp. So no, gorgeous sunny coastlines were no longer on my list of things to see. Try explaining this to an Irishman who has lived his entire life in a state of gloom and rain and for once, has experienced a sunny break in his traditional gray life. Just try. It will not go over well, I assure you.

I think it was safe to say that Woney and I were tired. Woney had been doing a lot of driving and I had been doing a lot of passenger seat braking and reading of maps (wrongly, of course). This trip was thrilling, no doubt, but we were wearing out a little. We drove into Galway with this fatigue. We parked our car and schlepped out of it and trudged our way onto the brick streets that pave the city center of Galway.

Let me segue for just a bit. Once, when I was 19, I visited Sienna, Italy with Auntie Anne, Madre, and Martie. What a gorgeous place that was! The streets of Sienna were paved with bricks which gave it an old world feel – accurate as Sienna is old world. Sienna, at the time I was 19, was also full of military men, much to the delight of Martie and also me. We found ourselves some Italian boyfriends, Martie and I, and spent a happy two days in Sienna speaking the language of like on the brick-paved streets with two gorgeous military men, Luigi and Alessandro.

It think it is safe to say that brick-paved streets evoke fond memories in me and I’m telling you, the moment I put my foot on that brick street in Galway, I was shifted back to my time in Sienna. The excitement I felt there rushed back into me and suddenly, I was no longer fatigued. With a spring in my step, I trotted around Galway with Woney for the better part of the morning. She was pretty springy, too. We found Galway to be marvelous and truly, I was happy to experience it in the sunshine. Had it been raining we would have missed the man who made the most astonishing balloon figures, I conceded. It was fascinating to watch him create an Elmo with googly eyes and a Superman with a six-pack set of abs out of long skinny strips of rubber. We would have missed the street performers and the street fair where we spent exorbitant amounts of money on gifts for our friends and family. I had my first Irish tea at a sidewalk café. We had lunch at McDonough’s, a place we’d been hearing about since we left New York City. Go there for fish and chips. Don’t even waste your time having this dish anywhere else. McDonough’s. Make note of it.

Galway 2

Galway 3

Galway 4

With some regret Woney and I drove out of Galway that afternoon and headed for Westport. Days before we had begun to make pipe-dream plans to move to Ireland. Every city on our path was evaluated based on our pipe-dream criteria (are the people nice, how are the pubs, is there a dentist office). It didn’t take us long to realize that Galway would fit the bill nicely. So yes, we had regrets about leaving. Until we got to Westport.

True to form, our B&B in Westport was gorgeous! The proprietor was a sweet, shy woman and the city was just as friendly as every place we had visited thus far. Woney and I were thrilled with our first floor room as our ridiculous suitcases were becoming increasingly heavier the more we shopped.

Westport 14

Westport 15

We were even more thrilled when we learned from the sweet proprietor that there was a spa nearby that offered the fish pedicures we didn’t even know we wanted. Fish pedicures! Do you even know what that is? (Martie and Daisy – I am cautioning you to stop reading right now. Really, stop. This will turn your stomach.) Tiny little piranha-like fish in a tank rush to the dead skin on your feet and chew it off. We’d heard about it but being as how it’s not legal in the States, Woney and I had never dreamed we would get to experience it.

Westport 18

Y’all, experience it we did. With some trepidation we booked our appointment, made our way into the city, cleaned our feet, and then stared with wide eyes into the fish tanks. The fish were so . . . . tiny. They looked harmless. They just kind of flittered around in the tank, being lazy, being fish. Woney and I perched on our respective benches and on the count of three, plunged our feet into the tanks. Oh. Oh! OHOHOH! Those tiny harmless fish did turn into little mini-piranhas. In a frenzy they swarmed to our feet, like little leeches, and attached themselves to the dead skin on our feet for 25 minutes. It was such a strange sensation, like a tickling, buzzing, leech-y feeling. We loved it. Absolutely loved it! Highly Recommend Fish Pedicures.

Westport 2

Later that night, Woney and collapsed into our beds, totally happy with our experiences that day. We were settling in and just as we were drifting off to sleep in this very cushy, very plush, very large B&B, very much opposite the one in Doolin where we were terrified we’d hear someone having echo-y sex, we heard the couple in the bedroom above ours begin an amorous, rhythmic, thumping party that we could not ignore. “Go on with your bad selves,” I thought. And then sighed. Every silver lining has a cloud, I guess.

Next Stop: Trim!