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Homeward Bound!

IMG_5950All was quiet at the Shannon airport. In the morning we’d leave Ireland for the United States.

IMG_5975IMG_5985Morning has risen! Time to go.

IMG_5986IMG_5989IMG_5990IMG_5994The Shannon airport isn’t exactly a happenin’ place! The State-side airports would be teaming with noise, people, courtesy cars blitzing by, neon lights, fast food restaurants, and even vendors hawking their samples and frequent flyer offers. Yes, it would soon be a carnival of travel madness. But this morning’s airport was nearly desolate.

IMG_5995Nicholas, Savannah and Cassie (seated) – me standing, messing with my jacket

IMG_5997IMG_6001Cassie watching all of our bags at the Shannon, Ireland airport

IMG_6004Brent, getting antsy for the international flight

IMG_6024Wow! Where IS everybody?

IMG_6034IMG_6036They told us we could move around to any seat we wanted! Our family spread out so that we each had a row to ourselves. WOOT!!!! Oh how I hate, hate, hate to fly… I didn’t expect THIS! I squealed and said, “This never happens to us!” YIPPEEEEEE! The long flight that I dreaded and never wanted to face again was made infinitely easier by having all of this space!

I don’t fear flying. I hate being TRAPPED! I’m easily claustrophobic and I hate sitting in one place for too long. Because I had a whole row to myself I was able to change seats as often as I wanted to.

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IMG_6053I see Aer Lingus over there… that’s the airline we flew in on from London to Cork. It’s a pretty plane, they have that going for them. Notice that we didn’t choose to fly that airline again. I’ll leave it at that.

Seeing that plane reminded me of our horrible experience flying from Minneapolis to Chicago, then from Chicago to London, and then finally on to our windy and turbulent (WE’RE GONNA DIE!) landing in Cork, Ireland. At this point I’m sitting in my comfy seat on American Airlines, happy that I’ve made a different choice this time around. We eliminated the third flight altogether. We’re avoiding London and going straight home to the United States, where we are CITIZENS, free to move around without passports! From our first airport we’ll move on to a second, and that’s where we’ll stop. We’ll stay in a hotel and DRIVE the rest of the way to our final destination. Two flights, not three. It should help with the jet lag, it should cut down on the security/customs/etc. stress, it’s somewhat less expensive, it should shorten travel time so that we can manage sleep better…. That was my thinking…¬† And I was right! ūüôā

IMG_6040I guess it’s time to go… he’s giving the signal!

IMG_6059I sat in the window seat when I wanted to look out or try to sleep. I put my stuff in the middle. I sat in the aisle seat when I wanted to watch the in-flight movies. The first movie was really interesting, about a self made millionairess named Joy (which is my late mom’s name so I felt that was a sign I was being watched over on the flight… I also hoped that it was lucky, meaning that I’d soon have greater success in my own entrepreneurial ventures). Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.

They also showed us new TV shows that NBC was promoting. I’d like to see more of Superstore – hilarious! It stars actors from Drop Dead Diva and Ugly Betty. Funny stuff, pretty clean. I see that the episodes are available for streaming online. We’ll watch it for family TV nights (we have teen and young adult kids though, so don’t go by me if you are looking for shows for younger audiences — also, I tend to be fairly liberal with entertainment).

They also showed the modern Karate Kid movie, starring Will Smith’s son. Hmm, well, I watched bits of it, but I decided to try to sleep during that one. My daughter Savannah was jazzed by this selection though. I’m glad that this movie was shown.

American Airlines kept feeding us! I have NEVER had that happen on a flight before – they actually gave us so much food that I was getting too full to eat! And… the food was GOOD!!! Our whole family liked it. AA had great entertainment, comfortable (compared to other coach seats that are much worse) seats, fast and efficient service, and overall just a pleasant experience for our very long flight back to the United States. I wish we’d flown American the first time around. If we have to fly in the future, I’ll choose American Airlines again! This is high praise because I truly hate to fly. Of course, the flight had a lot of empty seats which helped greatly, so keep that in mind.

Well, we’re off – AIR BORNE! Nicholas took all of these amazing photos. He actually took many, many more – I had to choose from hundreds of from-the-plane photos to share!

IMG_6086IMG_6087Leaving Ireland…

IMG_6088IMG_6089IMG_6090IMG_6091IMG_6092Ireland is already far away.

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Nicholas must have taken these at a different time from when the light was hitting the wall on the right. Near the ceiling, in the aisle, the light cast on the wall in such a way as to make a gorgeous cross. I mean, it was so vivid, it looked like something you’d see in a church. It wasn’t real – it was an illusion brought on by how the light hit the wall, but it sure looked like I could reach out and touch it. It stayed on the wall for about two hours. I found it comforting. We’d be ok, one way or another… I figured we were going to Heaven or we were going home. Nothing to fear either way, right? And aren’t those kind of the same thing, Home and Heaven…? Ah, well, I was jet lagged already and I hate to fly. What kinds of thoughts do you think I’d be having? Fortunately I was kept distracted by the in-flight entertainment and the food they kept giving us!

IMG_6117IMG_6118It’s about a seven hour flight – a bit shorter than the route we took on the way to Ireland… we’re appreciative of the faster flight time – AND the pilot was ahead of schedule! We’d arrive early… Meanwhile, there were fabulous views. Reminder: you can click on pictures you want to see bigger.

IMG_6126We were flying lower sometimes and could see glorious landscapes, mostly coastal.

IMG_6132IMG_6133IMG_6135IMG_6140Notice that plane in the distance? Nicholas managed to capture a shot of ANOTHER plane flying alongside us!

IMG_6145Don’t worry, it wasn’t close… but it’s not something we’d expected to see.

IMG_6154Looks like we’re in outer space here… or time traveling, like in my fictional detective series!

IMG_6158Someone said this is Cape Cod, I think…

IMG_6159IMG_6160IMG_6162IMG_6164IMG_6165IMG_6168IMG_6170IMG_6183IMG_6194IMG_6199Look at that, he captured a SHIP on the ocean from the plane!

IMG_6200Oh, going back up… well, that was a teaser! When I saw all of the landscape I thought our flight was ending already.¬† No, not yet, but we were getting closer.

IMG_6202IMG_6231Ooh, AMERICA! There we are…! Soon we’ll be landing in the United States!

IMG_6232IMG_6233IMG_6234IMG_6235Are you looking for clues? Anyone know where this is yet?

IMG_6236IMG_6237IMG_6238IMG_6239IMG_6240IMG_6241IMG_6242IMG_6243Don’t have it yet? Keep looking, soon it will be obvious…

IMG_6244IMG_6245IMG_6246IMG_6247IMG_6248IMG_6249IMG_6250IMG_6251IMG_6252IMG_6253IMG_6254IMG_6255The girls said that they knew it was America when they saw baseball diamonds!

IMG_6256Know this city yet?

IMG_6257IMG_6258IMG_6259IMG_6260IMG_6261IMG_6263IMG_6264IMG_6266IMG_6267IMG_6268IMG_6269IMG_6270IMG_6271IMG_6272IMG_6273IMG_6274OK, this next one will give it away

IMG_6275IMG_6276IMG_6277IMG_6278IMG_6279Uh, I don’t know what this is about… perhaps they didn’t expect someone to take photos of it via an air plane… probably nothing to see here folks, right? National Guard station maybe?

IMG_6280IMG_6281IMG_6282IMG_6283Ah, we’re landing now. WHEW! The long international flight is over!!! We’re back in the United States!

IMG_6284IMG_6285IMG_6286IMG_6287IMG_6288IMG_6296Hmm, I hope our luggage makes it to the next flight and all arrives OK… [This is what’s known in the literary biz as “foreshadowing“]

IMG_6298IMG_6299IMG_6300We’ve landed! That’s me in the front (red blur) and Cassie behind me in the green trench coat, coming off the plane. Just one more flight to go!

NEXT POST: Driving Home!

 

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Leaving Ireland

Taking pictures was the last thing on my mind on May 11, the day we left our home in Ireland for the hotel at the Shannon airport.¬†I only managed to take a few pictures here and there. But my son Nicholas put his photography class to good use and chronicled the whole journey. Thank you, Nicholas,¬†for taking¬†so many ¬†fantastic shots! *Remember you can click on any photos that you’d like to see bigger
IMG_5773Goodbye, Rivendell House in Grenagh, Co. Cork, Ireland
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It¬†took two trips to get our family of five and our large pieces of luggage to Shannon, which was an hour and forty-five minute drive each way (passing through Limerick, where Brent had threatened to tell limericks). On the first trip, Brent and I brought the luggage to the hotel.¬†Next, Brent¬†dropped me off in Charleville for a goodbye visit with Marie O’Halloran and sweet baby Lorcan (he returned to Grenagh to pick up the rest of our family; he picked me up¬†when¬†he¬†drove through Charleville on the way back¬†to Shannon).
My visit with Marie was bittersweet. I gave her some of my personal belongings that I wanted her to have. Of special interest are two pretty stepping stones that were the last gifts my mother gave me. She said they were for my flowers, as I loved my gardens. But we were moving from our hobby farm and the next eight years were in transition. Even so, I kept the stones. Both have beautiful sentiments and designs on them. They have picture hanging brackets on the backs, so they can be used indoors or out. I meant to at least hang them up, but something always kept me from following through. Instead, I kept them in new condition, boxed up.
I brought them from house to house, and even shipped them to Ireland, where I felt certain they were meant to stay. Once settled in the house in Grenagh, I finally took them out of their boxes and displayed them under a glass table in my art studio space. There they sat, untouched. When it was time to pack up for the United States, I hesitated when I saw the stepping stones. It struck me that the reason why these stones were kept new all these years is because I was saving them for someone else.
These stones¬†belong in¬†Marie’s butterfly garden, in memorial and celebration of the life of her beloved baby Cathal, Lorcan’s brother and twin. One of the stones even has a butterfly on it, which means something significant (personal and spiritual) to Marie and her husband Johnny. My mom would have liked this, as she probably would have thought of it herself and would have prompted me to give Marie the stones — even if they were already in my own garden! If these stepping stones help Marie follow through on her butterfly garden plans, I’m honored to have been a part of it. I know the garden will be healing for the whole family.
Marie had meaningful gifts waiting¬†for me as well.¬†She gave me a¬†beautiful bookmark that has a real clover embedded in¬†the charm¬†and the word “Ireland” etched into the base. Marie didn’t realize this when she gave it to me, but the bookmark matches Savannah’s special necklace that she bought in Dingle, on the day that we saw the dolphin. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this – I wondered if she had done it on purpose — how did this happen? Of all the gifts she could have selected, Marie was drawn to the exact same company/brand and jewelry line as Savannah’s necklace! The thing is, I’d admired Savannah’s necklace but there was only one left in the store, so we couldn’t have matching ones. This bookmark is perfectly right. I will treasure it! I already do!
IMG_4082IMG_4083IMG_4084It’s hard to read the Ireland inscription… also, the handle is shiny and bright but it looks sort of splotchy in the photo. I think you can imagine how pretty this looks in person.
Marie also gave me a special candle from her son Cathal’s table. I’m no stranger to grief, but I’ve never lost a child. I cannot imagine the depths of her loss. I’m privileged to be allowed into her¬†precious private world, in which the boundaries of the spiritual realm and the earthly realm blur. It is her private space where pain meets joy, where she sees her¬†beautiful baby in her heart and dreams.
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¬†I’m impatient to receive our shipment from Ireland. I intend to place Cathal’s candle in my mom’s hutch. I believe that there is power in the belongings left behind by people we love, there is a special hold over things that we give symbolic meaning to, and there is a protection granted to those who believe. On that note, I believe in all sorts of mysterious phenomena – some of which I’ve experienced personally. I believe that God hasn’t limited our knowledge to only what religious scholars preach; there’s so much more to discover. I believe in science and that which transcends it. We’ll never comprehend it all; logic and love co-exist¬†beyond our¬†understanding. But we don’t need to understand it.¬†Peace, healing, and power beyond our imagination is ours, when we are free¬†to let go.
The day we left our home in Ireland was emotional, but there were plenty of distractions to keep our minds occupied. You’ll see for yourself from the pictures that we encountered a lot of construction on the route. I have to say, I don’t know how the Irish handle their workflow. During the nearly five months that we lived in Ireland, the road from Mallow to Charleville was under perpetual construction. It began before we arrived, and apparently it will continue long after we left. I’m reminded of the endless tea party that the Mad Hatter hosted.
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We were also kept occupied by random sightings of historic buildings, ruins, and even a castle. There were sheep and lambs along the way, bizarre road signs (is it really necessary to forbid horse and buggies on the highway? I haven’t seen a single one during our entire stay here!), and a tunnel.
IMG_5810IMG_5811IMG_5812IMG_5814IMG_5815IMG_5817IMG_5821IMG_5822IMG_5827IMG_5828This is the downtown Charleville library – an old church that was converted into a public library. My books are in this library. ūüôā
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Also, see that bus sign? When we sold our car back to the dealer we went to Lucey Motors on Limerick Road in Charleville. Our wonderful salesperson Joey Shire gave us a lift to the bus stop here in front of the library (he was a big help to us when we bought the car and then again when we sold it – he had great patience waiting for our wire transfer from the States to get sorted out – highly recommend Lucey Motors in Charleville, Ireland!). We took the bus to the Shannon airport where we hired a car. We then returned the car when we settled into the airport hotel the following week.
IMG_5830IMG_5831IMG_5833IMG_5860IMG_5879IMG_5880IMG_5881There’s the “no horse and buggy” sign I was telling you about
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¬†This wasn’t the route we’d taken¬†to the coast – if it was, I would’ve tried to capture the memorable road sign that warned of a dangerous bend… although it was too dangerous to stop there for a picture. What makes that bend so startling is that immediately after the “dangerous bend” warning, there is a¬†second sign with a life-sized picture of Jesus on it – just Jesus’s face, with no explanation. The Jesus¬†sign¬†flashes before your eyes because the speed and angle on that sharp turn allows only a glimpse of anything other than the spiraling barely-one-lane road spinning ahead. Egads! Is Jesus the destination for¬†drivers who don’t¬†heed the dangerous bend warning?
IMG_5801This familiar sticker is a feature in Enterprise’s rental cars.
Brent doesn’t get easily rattled by driving, even when he was learning to drive on the left, but that hairpin turn on the steep narrow coastal road gave him white knuckles at the wheel.
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¬†Finally we were in Shannon, where we first stopped at Lidl (a German owned grocery store similar to Aldi) to buy our supper. We found¬†packaged salads, lunch meat, bread, and single servings of juice that come with tiny plastic straws that are meant to puncture an impossibly slippery pouch. I’m sure you too are familiar with the torture of trying to get the straw into the pouch when someone is¬†tired, crabby, and thirsty. The crabby ones used to be my young children, but that day the crabby one was me. My daughter Cassie opened my juice for me. Funny how it all goes full circle…
My family was¬†disappointed that we’d forgotten the pie that Marie had boxed up for us to take back with us to the hotel. There was a bit of a blame-game about who was supposed to put it into the car. I’d already had my pie while visiting with Marie, so I kept my mouth shut.¬† The important thing is that we were at the airport – our hotel was just a few yards away from the departure gates.
IMG_5925IMG_5927IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5935IMG_5937IMG_5940Isn’t this a snazzy rental car? Nicholas was impressed by this one. But we’d arrived and it was time to return it.
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We didn’t have time to settle into the hotel. We were on to the next task: weighing our luggage to see if any of us had gone overweight. Bags weighing more than 50 pounds incur an overweight fee of $100. On the way to Ireland ALL of our luggage was overweight, all. And Nicholas’ bag was so heavy that it went into the NEXT weight tier, costing $200! We bailed out of one suitcase before checking the bags, which is how my small cast iron skillet got thrown away in the Minneapolis airport. But we just couldn’t reduce the rest. This was everything we’d have on us until our household shipment would arrive, including Nicholas’ entire desktop computer (albeit in pieces) and our laptops – mine didn’t make it. ūüôĀ
Anyway, on the journey to Ireland, we swallowed the cost of our overweight luggage. On the way back, we couldn’t do that! These bags HAD to be under 50 pounds – ALL of them!
We spent a few Euros weighing our bags on the coin operated scale in the hotel lobby. We quickly ran out of coins. Since our bags were still overweight, we had to keep trying. We chucked a few things out, but most of our overflow landed in Savannah’s suitcase. Savannah is the heroine of this story. She had put all of her heaviest belongings in her personal bag that she bravely carried on her back! We didn’t know that she had weighed herself down with such a heavy burden until after one of the straps on her bag broke and she was struggling. Well, anyway, back to the luggage fiasco. Without the means to put more and more Euros into the hotel scale (which was listed as a service for this hotel so we thought it was complimentary, grr, as with many things in Europe -such as most parking- it was not free), we decided to haul our luggage across the parking lot to the airport. The airport was practically deserted and they didn’t mind us weighing our luggage at the counter, on our own.
Getting the luggage to the airport was a bit of an adventure. The parking lot was uneven. On the slopes it was hard not to lose control of the luggage cart (Brent and Nicholas had full luggage carts to push) or the luggage itself (we girls rolled luggage separately). We had to avoid hitting parked cars and other obstacles. But when we finally made it to the airport we could weigh our bags and re-pack them as many times as necessary to get the bags to fall under the 50 pound weight limit. We finally did it! And when we did, it felt like we should have won a trophy.
The airport was surreal, so quiet and empty. Few employees were there. The last flight out of Ireland had long gone, even though it was still fairly early in the evening. We anticipated a rather uneventful check-in experience in the morning. And we were right. It was subdued until we hit the TSA. We had to go through security twice, as this airport as a pre-flight customs arrangement with the United States.
The Irish part of it was simple. We didn’t have to remove our shoes. I misunderstood about taking my laptop out of my bag, but no one jumped down my throat.¬†An employee simply asked me to remove it for a scan. The security line moved smoothly and quietly. And then we had to do the whole thing all over again in an isolated area on the top floor (the second story in a two-floor airport). This time it was for the Americans.
And no, they weren’t friendly. The treatment wasn’t as severe as what we went through in Minneapolis – that still makes my blood boil when I think about it! – but it wasn’t pleasant. Cassie got patted down again. WTH??? We had to remove our shoes of course. Everything had to come out. It was tedious, stressful, and oppressive. Welcome back to the United States… and we hadn’t even left Ireland yet. All of the old anger and resentment was starting to emerge (our lost medical insurance, Brent’s job of almost 20 years gone to Canada, and more), but I was homesick too.
Mixed feelings, bittersweet emotions, hotel-room sleeping, and a day of international travel is a cocktail destined for a nasty hangover. But it was time to get this over with. The sooner we were on the first flight, the sooner we’d be on the second one, and then the long car ride the next day headed to our new home.