Welcome to Ireland
Today I begin the second half of my annual May sojourn – I’m flying to Ireland. After a nice breakfast with my Italian family, I get a ride from Nicola to the bus stop where I can catch the cheaper city bus to the airport instead of taking the more expensive airport shuttle from the train station. I’m at Milan Linate airport a bit early; the AerLingus counter won’t be open for check-in for 45 minutes, so I have time for some fresh squeezed orange juice.
I get in line and start chatting with a couple from the US heading home after a two week Italian vacation. They tell me a story of some people they met while renting a car. While these folks were making the endless decisions at the car rental counter (insurance? prepaid gas? upgrade for a fee?) someone had stolen their luggage and valuables right from the rental car office. They spent most of their stay filing police reports, canceling credit cards, and buying clothes and toiletries. (Lesson: you really have to watch your luggage all the time.)
AerLingus is a major airline and the plane is a large plane, so I am expecting to carry on my luggage. However, when I get to the counter, they will have none of that. My luggage must be checked, even though I know for a fact it will fit in the overhead compartment. There’s no arguing, though, and to add insult to injury, I have to pay about $35 for the privilege. I have to go to another counter in another part of the airport, wait for the guy behind the counter to finish his personal phone call, pay there and bring the receipt to show the check-in agent before I can head to the gate. Oh well, the ticket was cheap enough, less than $100 to travel from Milan to Dublin. Through security, on the plane, pulling my favorite blow-up travel pillow, and I’m out til Ireland.
I collect my bag and text my Irish host, Dara, that I’m on my way. I catch the airport bus and follow his excellent directions until I find him in the street in front of his house, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood behind the hospital and just a few blocks from the Guinness factory. He leads me up the narrow stairs to my room and gives me a tour of the house. He’s an English teacher and definitely has the gift of gab. I haven’t gabbed all day, so I’m eager to keep up the conversation, but unfortunately, his mum is sick and he needs to spend time in the hospital. Since I slept through lunch on the plane, I’m starving and he sends me to the local pub, Arthur’s down the street. He gives me the key to the front door, then he’s gone, and soon so am I.
On the way, I pass one of the many churches in Dublin, but the Camino Shell on the sign catches my eye. The sign says you can get your Pilgrim Passport here with a stamp! I’m too hungry to go in right now and check it out… maybe on my way back. Then I walk by the Guinness Factory, another place of pilgrimage. Supposedly there is a tour and it’s not cheap, but you do get samples…
Cod and chips and Guinness (the best ever, it’s sooo much better when it’s fresh!!) and wi-fi. I’m in heaven. I’m catching up on email, doing some writing, and watching as the place fills up, mostly with groups of men coming off the day shift for a pint. Some break into groups of song. It’s quite a show. I move from my spacious table to the bar and have a nice chat with the waitress and the bartender. Here’s what I’m learning: the bars in Ireland are not for drinking, or even eating. No, they are for talking. Everyone is talking to everybody else. The work crowd dissipates and the bar starts to fill with a more well-dressed crowd. A man is trying to chat up a couple of cute girls right next to me. He’s not doing as well as he thinks he is.
I tell the waitress about my plans to go skydiving in Galway in a couple of days. She says that she tried it when she was working in Ocean City, Maryland. She’s doing it again for some kind of charity event in a couple of weeks. She encourages me to go for it and I feel less nervous and a quite excited at the prospect. The bartender used to work in New York City and told tales of a drunk John Belushi and other 1970’s SNL cast members who he used to wait on. I’m having a ball with my new friends. There’s supposed to be music later on, but now I’m tired and want to save my energy for the kids’ arrival tomorrow. So I walk back to Dara’s sweet house. (Mary, it reminds me so much of your 63rd St house! It even smells like it – that’s good, by the way!)
I don’t know if it was going when I got there, but there’s an electric candle on the dresser that keeps changing colors. I must be really tired, because I can’t stop staring at it. It’s still a little early to go to bed, so I fire up the wi-fi on my iPad and catch up on my missed episode of Game of Thrones, so I’ll be able to share impressions with Morgan when he comes tomorrow with Jon and Anna. Goodnight, Ireland, glad to meet ‘ya.