Monday, August 21, 2017

Charlie and Joanna's Excellent Adventure...

Well my friends, we did it!  We made it to Ireland and Tess did not get sick and the plane stayed up in the air and I lost most, but not all, of my fear of flying with nary a Bridesmaids movie moment of, "There's a woman churning butter on the wing of the plane, there's something they're not telling us!", to be had!


That being said, we wouldn't be us without a few, well, we'll just call them "life lessons", to be had. This is going to be a long one. You've been warned.

Here we go.

We decided to leave for the airport early in order to assure plenty of time to find a place to park the car, find our terminal, get our tickets and get thru security. I still say this was a good idea although perhaps, in our, okay, my, OH MY GOD WE HAVEN'T FLOWN SINCE BEFORE 9-11 AND WHAT IF SECURITY DECIDES TO PULL ME ASIDE! frenzy, we may have left a tad too early. Also, as we were cruising down Rt 1 in Boston we saw a sign that said "Logan Express" and both remarked that it seemed odd that google maps wasn't trying to direct us that way which would clearly be a faster route. I mean for crying out loud, the word "Express" was used and so, totally disgusted with how far behind the times google maps clearly was, we went rogue and veered off down that exit marveling at our astuteness. It took about sixty seconds for us to realize that our "exit" was a side street that could let you off at any number of businesses before joining back up with Rt 1 again. Sort of like a detour that you only needed if you needed to access something along that road. "What a stupid sign! This isn't faster, in fact it takes even longer because now we need to try to get back into the regular flow of traffic on Rt1!", I said in total disgust at Boston's obviously dumb sign making skills. Then Charlie saw it. Logan Express. It was a business where you can pay to park your car and they will shuttle you to the airport and back. Alrighty then. I guess the sign makers of Boston were perhaps not so dumb after all and that, just maybe, I was. Maybe. At any rate, Charlie and I had a quick pro/con debate about just using their services rather than trying to find our way around Logan and decided, literally at the last second, that having someone drop us off right where we'd need to be sounded pretty dang good so we flew in there as cars honked at our last minute decision to go careening off the road without warning. Sheesh! What's their problem anyway? If you're not driving like a lunatic in Boston, then you're not driving in Boston. But I digress. I went inside to inquire and found out that parking there was relatively cheap and so wasn't the bus ticket to take us to Logan so after realizing the bus left only once an hour and was taking off in three minutes, Charlie parked the car and grabbed our luggage while I bought the tickets and we made a mad dash for the bus. See? So much more relaxing than driving into Logan ourselves. *snort*

When we got to the Aer Lingus area I saw a kiosk that Ellie had forewarned me about. I was ready. I strode confidently up to it and got my booking number and proceeded to enter in all the information for both Charlie and myself. Next it asked to see our passports. Ooookkaaayyyy?? So we looked for what would seem like and obvious place to put your passport face down on, placed my passport on it and waited. Nothing happened. I moved the passport around and jiggled and wiggled it to try to get the red light to pick up on it. Still Nothing. I nonchalantly peered over at the guy at the kiosk next to me to see how he was doing it but missed my chance as he was just finishing up. This was starting to take an embarrassing amount of time. Other people were waiting to use the kiosk and even the machine seemed judgy with it's constant, "Do you need more time?" question that kept popping up. So I went back to the wiggle/jiggle method that was clearly never going to work because I wanted to look like I totally knew what I was doing. No problem here, folks. It finally dawned on me that there was another place that perhaps the passport could go. I was sticking mine in the place where the tickets would come out. Yup, I sure was. But in my defense, you need to remember, the last time I flew was in 2001 and a travel agent mailed us our tickets. None of this crazy, new fangled kiosk business. So I finally got thru the whole thing and we were officially checked into our flight. But hold on, not so fast. The dumb kiosk wouldn't print out our tickets. WTF?!?! So it was all for nought and we ended up having to check in at the desk anyway.  I should have known right then that we may need to be a little more on our game.

We got our tickets, went thru security without a hitch and realized we still had three and a half hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. This left an awful lot of time for me to imagine every possible scenario that ended with us going down in a fiery crash. Not good for nerves that were already strung pretty tightly. Thankfully, as soon as I actually got on the plane and in my seat, my nerves all but disappeared. And when the Pilot came on right before take off and said (in a sexy Irish accent no less) a prayer for a safe flight, that just sealed the deal for me and I relaxed. The flight was pretty smooth and before we knew it, we were looking down at the Cliffs of Moher as we were descending into the Shannon Airport.

We got off the plane, grabbed our luggage and made our way to customs. Our customs agent was a chatty fellow with a thick Irish,aka, sexy, accent. He looked at our passports and asked us how many times had we been to Ireland before? When we answered never he exclaimed, "With a name like Reidy this can't be your first time here?!". This would be something we would hear several times. He then told us about driving and gave us a friendly, yet stern, warning, "Stay on the left. Turns are left, exits are left. You go right, there's only two things that will happen; you'll get totaled or arrested. STAY LEFT." Got it.

left you say?

Our first stop was to our hotel, which was only about fifteen minutes from the airport which was a good way to ease into driving on the "wrong" side of the car and road. We knew it would be way to early to check in but we needed a place to plan out our day. Our girls had warned us not to give in to the jet lag but oh. my. god. We'd been up for over twenty four hours by that point and I'm a girl who loves to nap on her best day. God Bless the lady who checked us in because she said that if we came back in a couple of hours, our room would be ready (six hours before check in). So we went to find breakfast and walk around.  Our hotel was an easy walk to shops, a pub, and Bunratty Castle so it was perfect. We toured the Castle then went back to the hotel and napped for a couple of hours. That night we went to a traditional Irish folk dinner and it was a blast! There was Irish dancing, songs, a skit, and a super funny host that kept everything moving along as we were served a three course meal. It was family style seating so our table had seven other places and wouldn't you know it, the other seven people who sat with us were traveling together and were from Massachusetts. I joked that we'd all traveled to Ireland only to meet people that lived two states away. They were a really fun group of people though and, when they heard our next day would include the Cliffs of Moher, kept quoting from The Princess Bride. Loved it.

Traditional Irish Dancing

The final course of the evening was bread and each table had one piece of bread that had a gold ring hidden in it and that, as the story goes, the ring would be found by the most deserving person. Because of my stupid Paleo diet, I couldn't eat the bread but by god I wanted that ring. Charlie and I were on the far inside of the table so it was passed down to us almost last. Now, I saw that ring in the  bread almost as soon as it hit the table and I watched with bated breath as each person got their bread and didn't realize that the ring was in a different slice. Then it was Charlie's turn and he didn't see it either and almost took a different piece of bread. Well, no way was I going to let that happen! "No, get the other piece!" I whispered in his ear frantically. He looked at me like he does when he's confused by me and I whispered "RING!" I want that ring and it's in the other piece of bread!".  So he grabbed the other piece, gave me the ring, and I sat back and basked in my victory. Then the discussion turned to "who got the ring? Did anybody?". So I proudly held it up and said that I had found it. Which was the truth. Mostly. And I do feel like I deserved it the most but only because nobody else even really cared about it and I did. Not sure what that says about me and I don't really care because I got the ring. And that's what counts here.

As we all got up to leave at the end of the evening the last thing we heard from our new friends was, "Have fun storming the castle!".  Ah, one last Princess Bride quote. Just the perfect way to end the night.

So day two began with Charlie telling me it was my turn to drive. My response was swift and unequivocal. "Trip's over then." I informed him that there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to drive in a country where the speed limit was one thousand miles an hour on roads that were clearly built for a horse and buggy. Also, my eyes were just refusing to send the proper signals to my brain about the whole "wrong side of the road thing." I just couldn't adjust visually to it.

Since we really didn't want to end our trip on the second morning, Charlie hopped into the driver's seat and we made our way to the Cliffs of Moher. What can I say about that except they're all you would imagine them to be and then some. Absolutely gorgeous. And we met this sweet older couple who were from Ireland but traveled all over the world. We chatted with them for a bit, sat and enjoyed the view for a while and then headed back to, what I will now always think of, as as the death mobile also known as our car.

Cliffs of Moher

Friends, I'm here to tell you, driving in Ireland is no joke. And driving on the Wild Atlantic Highway, especially from the Cliffs of Moher, is a ride from hell that will forever leave me with a cold shiver when talking about. The size of the  roads are what I would imagine the roads in a Barbie dream world would be like. Tiny. There is barely enough room for two cars to pass each other and there are tour buses that come out of nowhere that careen toward you at death defying speeds and angles. Also, there were constant warning signs about slowing down for bends in the roads and the visual aid on these signs to show you the bends were, in many case, an N or a Z. And they were accurate. Those "bends" were angles that seem like they'd make really good problems in geometry books but not for cars (and don't forget about those tour buses) to navigate. And you need to stay left! As we came out of one road that joined up with another one along our long and winding path down from the Cliffs, I totally and completely lost my shizzle. Like white coats, straight jackets and padded room lost it.

Charlie pulled out and I screamed in a voice I didn't even recognize, "LEFT! GET LEFT! CHARLIE!!!! LEFT!!!". You know when someone has lost it so incredibly badly that you think that you absolutely must be doing something wrong? Well that was Charlie. He swerved to the other side of the road only to realize that he ALREADY WAS IN THE LEFT LANE which meant he was now in the wrong lane, and a tour bus was hurtling right towards us at breakneck speed. I sucked in my breath as Charlie quickly swung back over to our side of the road. Then he totally lost it. On me. And while he was completely justified in doing so, I mean, I had almost gotten us killed in my weird panic moment, I decided that he was being mean so I got offended and proceeded to act like a sulky teenager.  Also because I felt stupid, and rather than feel stupid and mad at myself, much better to feel mad at him.  Because I'm a grown up. It took a few hours but we were finally able to laugh about it. Somewhat hysterically but laugh nevertheless. And I will say that my "moment" had officially ended Charlie trying to get me to drive in Ireland considering I couldn't even really make it as a passenger.

Seriously, look at this. Does anything about this seem safe to you?

From the Cliffs of Moher we made our way to Galway which is a pretty little town. We ate dinner in an Irish pub with live traditional Irish music. We toured the Galway Cathedral and strolled Shop Street and Quay Street and saw the Spanish Arch. Then it was back to out hotel for the night. This hotel was such a Griswold hotel. We could barely find it on the street (never a good sign). Flights of crappy stairs up to reception and another flight up to our room. The door opens and there is literally just a bed, tv that didn't work, and bathroom. That's it. No place to sit. No closet or mirror. No place for luggage. You literally couldn't open your luggage and walk by the bed at the same time. Also, the head of the bed slanted down at a weird angle. In the morning I opened the bathroom door only to hit Charlie with it, because in order to not be hit by it, you had to be on the bed and he was getting dressed at the foot of it. Then I plugged my blowdryer that I had brought from home (I hadn't needed to use it up until this point because the other hotels provided them)  into the outlet converter that we had brought with us. I turned it to high and was a few seconds into the drying process when I heard a super loud whine coming from the motor. I turned it so where the air comes out was facing me and it gave one last extra loud whine, the coils turned a dangerous red, smoke snaked out and it just quit. Poor thing never stood a chance. It was so hot that as we were leaving the room we decided the only safe place to put it was in the sink just in case it actually started to burn. Besides, I'm not sure there was even a trash can it could have gone in. We were pretty happy to say good bye to that place.

On to our next days adventure! The Aran Islands. We made it safely to the ferry that would take us out to Inis Meain only to discover that the ferry ran two times a day and we had just missed the ten thirty one and the next one wasn't scheduled to leave until six thirty. How's that for irony? Two people whose whole lives revolve around a ferry schedule, never gave it a second thought that, oh, I don't know, other ferries might also have schedules. I'm telling you, the Griswolds really have nothing on us.  So we needed to kill about seven hours and didn't have a clue what to do. One of the ferry parking attendants took pity on us and gave us a map and routed out the Ring of Kerry drive for us and told us we had time and it would be worth it. Off we went. Well, sort of. We made it to part of the Ring of Kerry. At least we're pretty sure we did. But we ended up going down some side road and drove thru what we think was a National Park. Because of course. Only we would veer off one of the most famous driving routes in the world only to get lost ramming around some mountainside park and in the end, never actually see the whole Ring of Kerry and not even be sure of what is was we did see. #Griswoldsstrikeagain

After finding our way back to the main road and stopping for lunch and some souvenir shopping (my most favorite thing ever!), we made it back to the ferry and got ready to board. It was a relatively small boat that took only passengers, no cars. I was expecting a quaint little ten minute ride and what I got instead was one of the rougher ferry rides I've ever had. Forty-five minutes of pure torture. And anyone who knows me knows that this girls doesn't do rough ferry rides. So, yay! Go me! We made it to the island and got a shared taxi to our B&B where we had dinner and then walked around for a while. Again, seriously beautiful scenery.

By the next morning the wind was blowing even harder (awesome), and the ferry was late (never a good sign) so I was a tad nervous when we boarded for our ride back to the mainland. And I should have been. Rough? Oh yeah. But here's the kicker, I'm used to captains (hi Bub!) who try to make passenger comfort a priority. Not here, baby. It was full freakin' steam ahead and waves be damned! There was one wave where the captain decided he'd better slack back on the throttle but, unlike here where you take the wave and wait a beat before throttling ahead, he slacked back for about five seconds and was like, let's go boys! Full throttle and yee haw!  And the best part? They were so casual about it all that people were actually allowed to smoke out on the deck and they were selling beer, coffee and snacks! It was like being in some weird parallel universe! So the boat is rocking and rolling and shuddering on the bigger wave hits and people are like, "Seems like a good time for a beer and a smoke.", while I'm staring wild eyed out of the window literally praying that God makes the next wave smaller pretty please! And what's Charlie doing you ask? He's just sitting there laughing at it all. My near hysteria and frantic grabbing on to him while sucking in my breath from fear, the smoke wafting in, the waves beating against the boat. Oh yeah, he thinks it's all just a regular comedy fest.  Good times. Good times.

All the no's to this ferry ride

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful by comparison. We saw the Blarney Castle and Gardens and Charlie kissed the Blarney Stone. We went to Killarney and had a carriage ride thru the park there. By our last night we were beat and went to bed early for an early morning drive to the airport. We very happily handed back the keys to the death mobile, went thru security and customs and once again realized we were about three hours early. What can we say? You just can't teach old dogs new tricks. But you can make them realize that there's time to hit the duty free shop for some last minute souvenir shopping.

Charlie kissing the Blarney Stone

The flight home was long but uneventful and we finally made it to Sheila's house to get Tess late Sunday afternoon. I made a beeline for Tess and she very firmly let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she was pissed with me. She refused to look at me or even acknowledge me for that matter. Whenever I spoke she would roll her eyes and then look away. She kept this up for nearly two hours. I finally put her movie on the ipad and crawled into bed with her at the hotel and she gave in and smiled for me and seemed happy to see me and willing to forgive and forget.

She smiled at her father right away. Punk.

And so ends the very long tale of Charlie and Joanna's Excellent Irish Adventure.