Hello, Dublin! I’m So Excited to Be Here!

30 September 2015, Wednesday
I think the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen from the window of an airplane is this: as we were taxiing in to the Dublin terminal, I saw a large rabbit running alongside the runway.

It’s a long walk from the gates in to where you claim your luggage, and I swear I nearly had a heart attack from sheer excitement and anticipation. You wouldn’t think we chubby middle-aged gals get the butterflies and suchlike, but we do. (Also, I was just ready for the traveling to be over, and to have someone else carry the luggage for a bit!)

It was hard not to blurt out my story to the customs agent: “Just here for a little holiday, are ya, Missus Chavez?” “Oh, yes, and I’m throwing a party and then I’m going on my honeymoon, and after that I’m taking my husband home with me!” is what I was thinking, but “Yes, thank you!” is what I said. 🙂

John Lambert had landed at 5:25am and I knew he’d be waiting for me. (Although we left Chicago late, they made it up in the air; it was just a little after 7am when I walked through those doors, and this after a long slow taxi and unloading and customs.) But Gerry was there with him, and that was so nice.

One always comes away from travel with at least one good story (mine was Ginger, the American with a slight Irish accent*), and John had a doozie: he’d splurged on a business class ticket out of New York (in order to have the sleeper chair), and the man sitting next to him on the trip was Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, which means he is head of state. (This is different from the taoiseach, who functions as head of government. The taoiseach is appointed by the president.) Michael D., as he is known, had been in New York for Pope Francis’s visit. John and Michael D. had had a lovely conversation, I’m told (as one would; here he reads Yeats). Naturally, the first words out of my mouth were, “Well, I hope you invited him to our party!” 🙂

We picked up our rental car (a manual transmission Skoda), and headed to Gerry’s house for breakfast.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

I also pulled out some gifts I’d brought, and my mattress pad, transferred clothing to one suitcase, and just generally got situated. Gerry had a dental appointment (one of the quick kind), so the three of us drove into Dublin City. Gerry had a crazy idea that John and I could sightsee (again, just some little thing) while he was with the dentist, but traffic was insane, we couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, and very quickly we were lost. 🙂 So then we had to figure out how to call Gerry to get the address of where he was—he was already finished, which was a good thing, because I was already frazzled!

As it turns out, there’s a lot of construction going on in Dublin—a new Luas (light rail) route and station—and traffic is more harrowing than normal. The trip from Gerry’s house to the city centre used to take about twenty minutes, but over the course of our trip, it routinely took double that, and sometimes as much as an hour. Just think of all the shifting, and clutching on my bad hip. Yeesh. And streets are changed to one-ways, or closed entirely; the locals are as confused as we tourists.

So we’re driving through the Dublin city centre at noon on an overcast day, just headed back to Gerry’s place, and we come to one of the construction sites. There’s a Garda there, allowing trucks to pass thru as normal and directing cars to detour to the right—several cars in front of us and he’s just motioning them past, but he halts me and motions to roll down the window. He leans in and says, and I quote, “You have your headlights on and you’re blinding everyone. Turn your lights off.” Oh, my gosh, his tone of voice—it was angry.

Now … I knew my lights were on, but I just assumed this was the sort of car that the lights came on automatically, because I hadn’t touched them. Regardless, it was broad daylight, and my lights weren’t blinding anyone, and there were plenty of cars behind me with lights on approaching this Garda that were not stopped. What in the world? I won’t repeat what Gerry said, but I stewed about that for days. Were my brights on? No, I checked. Had he known I’d been up for twenty-four hours and was driving on the wrong side of the road in a strange car and an unfamiliar city, he might well have yelled at me a little more. But picking me out of a crowd to vent … that was just rude. I still have half a mind to complain to someone.

Finally, it was late enough for us to decamp to the Portmarnock. Oh, friends, I do love this hotel. It’s … just right. Just the right amount of luxury and comfort, with great staff and service. We stayed in a few very nice hotels on this trip—and I’m working on a comparison chart to grade them, which I’ll post later—but from a gut-reaction, emotional standpoint, I’ll just tell you right now, I love this hotel. It’s about a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, in a small village (Portmarnock) that is close to a larger village (Malahide), right on the sea. Great beaches and a DART station too. Convenient!

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

Also, of course … this was “The Beginning.” The run-up to our party that we’d been planning for literally two years. At last. So it was exciting.

We had a very nice room: third floor, golf-course view. The sea view rooms are very nice, too, but they are in the old wing of the hotel, in the original Jameson estate. The golf-view rooms all have air conditioning, and tiny balconies. Perfect for Yanks.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

John was staying right across the hall from us; his room (“garden view”) overlooked the courtyard.

So we checked in, checked with our party-planner and made an appointment for the next day, and started to unpack. I’d scheduled a massage with a licensed therapist in town to alleviate the edema I get lately from air travel. I’d spent a lot of time shopping around online, but ultimately settled on Sunshine Massage Therapy in Portmarnock Village. The appointment was at three o’clock. Marta is a delightful young woman and she gave me a fabulous, one-hour full body massage. No, really. I’d been upfront with her: I’m an American, just passing through. She could have given me a crap massage, she could have just “phoned it in”—but she didn’t. I’ve been getting regular massage for twenty-five years; I know a good massage when I get one. And it was only €35 (just a little over $38 at today’s exchange rates).

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

Back at the hotel, we took a little walk outside, and after we were collapsed back in the room (OK, I was collapsed), I got a text from my niece, Alli. You remember Al. She and her mom, my sis, traveled around Ireland with Margaret and I back in September of 2012.

A lot has happened since then. To wit: Sabas. He’s the lovely man who fell in love with the beautiful Al, and married her at her parents’ home in California about two weeks before today. (Oh, you should see those photos!) They’d been saving for and planning their honeymoon trip to Greece and Spain … and Dublin, for our party.

They’d arrived in Dublin a few hours earlier. Could we get together? she texted. I really want to see you. I want you to meet Sabas. I wanted to meet Sabas, too, but not enough to drive back into Dublin; at this point I was well past twenty-four hours with no sleep. So I was honest: I’m too tired to go anywhere. But: We’ll come to you, Alli replied. A light supper in the Seaview Lounge? That sounded perfect. They’d be here in about an hour.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

We had soup and brown bread and talked and laughed and watched the sun go down outside. It was perfect. And when it got dark, they went back to one of the Hampson cousins’ house, and Gerry and I went to bed.

* I know another American (Marilyn Cullen) who’s lived in Ireland for twenty years, and she still sounds as American as the day she left. I can’t even imitate an Irish accent!

Slogging to Dublin

29 September 2015, Tuesday
So this is how my journey began: screaming in my kitchen. From the taxi on his ride home, Gerry texted “OK” and I danced around the room, laughing, clutching my phone. He’d passed the interview for his visa. The only time I’ve appreciated the six-hour time difference is that text from the cab while I was still at home. It was a great way to start the trip, looking forward to the life to come.

I also spent some quality time with my new phone, configuring apps. Dowloaded Verizon Wifi Connect International, and WhatsApp. (What else do I need?) Checked my email for the last time before shutting down the computer,* and had one from Margaret and John’s daughter, Marina:

T. took Dad to the airport early early this morning, and his plane is on schedule. He’ll be in NY in 3hrs and 55min and then on to Dublin! I asked him if he was a little excited last evening, and he said he was very excited. 🙂

I myself would be connecting through Chicago—but first Kaci got me to Nashville International with my two large suitcases. One was mostly filled with the mattress pad that I’d purchased to help alleviate the hard-mattress problem I always encounter in Ireland; it would stay behind with Gerry’s mother, but we’d need the luggage space bringing Gerry back to Tennessee. I also had three items to carry on: purse, laptop, and CPAP, which is a medical device and exempt from the two-bag limit. Still, they’re all three small enough to easily fit in one of those rolling overnight bags you see in the overhead bins.

Yes, this is why traveling’s a slog for me, the five-foot tall, chubby, middle-aged woman.

I do enjoy the international concourse with the skylight and all the flags from the countries you can reach flying out of O’Hare. And there’s lots of places to linger and get some decent food and drink (if you have the time).

And people-watch. I’m not advocating taking a chance on missing your flight but wouldn’t it be fun to go flying through the international terminal on one of those golf carts with the driver beeping the horn in a steady rhythm? I’m thinkin’ yeah. 🙂

I get a little excited once I’m away from Nashville. The trip becomes “real.” And boarding the big plane was very nice, easy, low-stress loading; nobody anxious or pushy. I had an aisle seat on the right and, it turns out, an empty seat beside me. American Airlines was playing some great slow-jam music, which added to the calm ambience.

And even just three months after my earlier trip (and, more importantly, my continued weight loss), it wasn’t hard to fasten my seatbelt, and in fact I had belt to spare. Wow. Sometimes it’s easier to see/feel your progress in things like this than on the scale, you know? Getting in and out of the seat was a breeze compared to June.

So we got loaded, and then we sat on the runway for thirty-five minutes in the gathering dusk, waiting for other planes to land.

Interesting in its own way, the wait. Each plane began as a tiny twinkle, then quickly became this. One after the other, every two minutes.

Interesting in its own way, the wait. Each plane began as a tiny twinkle, then quickly became this (on the left, close to the horizon). One after the other, every two minutes.

Finally we were in the air. I chatted for quite a while with a young woman seated across the aisle from me, Ginger—an American gal who had married an Irishman. They were traveling “home” with their two little girls to attend a wedding. They’d met in Ireland and lived there for nine years—Ginger had a light lilt on certain words—but now his job has taken them to the States.

Absence of a seatmate made it possible for me to doze for two or three hours, but most of the time I read. I was reading Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and truly laughing out loud. The scene where Grady persuades Crabtree to go rescue James Leer is just classic stuff. I love the movie they made from this book, but you should really read the book. I’m still chortling.

* I very rarely use my phone to check email. I’m either working—or I’m not.

An International Party … Soon!

28 September 2015, Monday
Oh, I’m just a little information hub here! John (Margaret’s husband) called me last night about his preparations … Pris just texted me that she and Emmet are at the airport … Rebecca’s already on the other side of the Pond, for work … Alli is, too—on her honeymoon with Sabas—and she messaged me this morning. I’ve also emailed with Tiffany about her final details …

Look out, Dublin! The Yankees are a-comin’!

It’s been two years in the making. Planning an international party has been exciting and exasperating. Riding herd on the guest list and RSVPs has been exhausting. But I’m looking forward to seeing old and dear friends—some I’ve seen very recently and others I haven’t seen in years.

After our party on Saturday, Gerry and I are taking a long-delayed honeymoon to County Donegal. When we started the planning process, my dear friend Margaret was still alive; she and John were planning to travel with us. So the Donegal destination, actually, was chosen because when I’d asked Margaret where she’d like to go, she said, “Somewhere I’ve never been.” But then she got sick, and sicker, and we lost her in April. In June, John called me; before she died, Margaret had made him promise he’d go to Ireland for the party. (You have to understand: she was a force of nature, this woman.)

And so he kept the promise. He will travel with Gerry and I (though not for the entire trip). We are both looking forward to it.

Now all I have to do is get through the slog of crossing the Atlantic. I bought a new smartphone so I could use it internationally, and added to my data plan to cover that usage. I’m already packed and have begun my personal slow-down so that I am rested up for a twelve-hour journey.

In other news, Gerry’s visa interview at the U.S. Embassy is tomorrow … I didn’t sleep well last night and probably won’t tonight either, even though our attorney assures us that it’s all a foregone conclusion. All over but the shoutin’. Nonetheless, I am thinking good thoughts. I should hear from him before I leave.

I will be leaving the house around lunchtime on Tuesday, landing in Dublin in time for breakfast on Wednesday, and will be home in time for supper on October twentieth.

The cats know something’s up (sigh).

Penny and Spot (foreground).

Penny and Spot (foreground).

This begins my series of posts for that trip. Margaret would have loved it.

Start Here …

I’ve recently finished publishing all the episodes from my most recent trip (to Dublin, for a wedding, in June).

People in Dublin aren’t afraid of a little color!

People in Dublin aren’t afraid of a little color!

If you’re a subscriber, you know this—but if you’re the sort who just likes to check in, I thought I’d let you know. Some folks like to wait and read all the chapters at once, and if that’s the case—you’re on!

The first episode starts here.

And since we talking about that, I wanted to draw your attention to the menu above. Specifically to START HERE. This is a list of all the trips I’ve posted thus far (and some I haven’t). In between adventures, I post other items of interest … but the trip diaries are a series complete in themselves, and it’s always nice to know where to start.

The START HERE page can help with that. 🙂

Thank you for visiting! I’m getting ready to leave for another trip. See you when I get back!

What the Poet Can Say

I love the Internet. All that information! All kinds of things I didn’t know, questions (idle and otherwise) I can answer without a trip to the library. Searchable text! OMG.

Some weeks ago, I came across the name of a writer—Michael Blumental—and though I can’t remember the context (I think it had something to do with his essays, but that I can’t remember is driving me crazy), I was sufficiently intrigued to “look him up.”

And discovered he’s a poet.

Well. 🙂

I’ll leave you to do your own discovery, but I was delighted when I read this in his bio:

In the poem “Over Ohio,” for example, he writes of the joys of flying: “You can say what you like about the evils / of technology / and the mimicry of birds; I love it, I love the / sheer, / unexpurgated hubris of it, I love the beaten / egg whites / of clouds hovering beneath me.”

Me too. 🙂

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last view of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last view of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

I’ll be flying again in less than a week. So there will be a little hiatus here at the blog until I get back. Stay tuned!

(You can see the whole poem here.)

I Used to Get Sick When I Flew

Now I don’t. I worked on this problem for a long time, but people frequently ask me how I conquered air travel. All I can tell you is what seems to work for me, with the added disclaimer that I am not a doctor, and none of this is to be construed as advice, medical, health, or otherwise.

My father, as I’ve mentioned more than once, was an air force pilot. So I grew up around planes—big ones and little ones. A flight suit was standard issue in our house, and we went to flight shows whenever they occurred. I’m sure I was the first little girl on my block to set foot in a B-52 (among many others). Daddy was big into radio-controlled model airplanes, too, and built them from scratch. So we learned all about the physics of flying. We took family vacations in small aircraft, with my dad at the wheel and me riding shotgun. I’ve always been at ease with flying.

But Daddy was also a chain smoker—he started smoking at age eight—in the era when they had no idea what cigarettes did to a body. Nor did they know what secondhand smoke did to the body’s loved ones. My sister and I have both had numerous respiratory issues in our lives, and we’re pretty sure they stem from all those cigarettes we inhaled without ever smoking a one. When I catch a cold, it immediately settles down in my lungs.

And when I fly, I’m exposed to a boatload of OPG … which is to say, Other People’s Germs. I’d never been a germophobe, but between 2006 and 2012 I took eighteen round-trip flights and ended up sick—bad sick—after every one of ’em. The first one—to Ireland in February 2006—landed me in a walk-in clinic with a miserable case of bronchitis and a course of antibiotics. As time went on, the bronchitis got more severe, the treatment more strenuous, the recovery period longer. My last three trips ended in pneumonia, and I don’t mind saying it scared me.

I even tried wearing a surgical face mask on one trip, but the fact is these masks are intended to keep germs in, not out. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacteria or viruses (respirators are, but just try wearing one of those on a plane), they are designed to keep the wearer’s germs from spreading outward. In other words, folks who are sick should wear masks.

Fact is, folks who are sick—even with “just” a cold—shouldn’t fly. They should wait until they’re better. (Or wear a face mask!) However, there’s a financial penalty for that—the airlines don’t like us changing flights at the last minute, for one thing (and I don’t blame them). We might also lose deposits on hotel rooms and other vacation activities.

So until the airlines start filtering the air inside the plane (an expensive proposition) rather than just recycling it, we passengers take our chances, and mine had proven to be not so good. What’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you: research. As you know, I’ve been slowly evolving to a holistic, naturopathic lifestyle. I’ve written about the three health events that changed my life (and the follow-up). Even prior to that, I’d grown away from pharmaceutical solutions. For example—and at the risk of TMI—though I had easy access to birth control pills in my late teens (the early 1970s), I quit taking them after a couple years, when I began to actually read the fine print on the box and came to the conclusion all by myself that the pills would not be good for my health. I switched to the diaphram, which I used for the rest of my child-bearing years. Not as easy, maybe, but not polluting my body, either.

I knew I’d been blessed with reasonably good health, so why chance it? Unlike many children born in the 1950s, we kids were not bottle-fed. (Family legend has it that I asked one of our neighbors what a baby bottle was when I saw them on the drainboard in their house—I was about six or seven years old—because I’d never seen such things in my own house.) That alone gave us a head start that many kids of our generation didn’t have, as the 1950s and ’60s were a time when “the predominant attitude to breastfeeding was that it was something practiced by the uneducated and those of lower classes,” according to Wikipedia. Also during this time, there was a surge in modern conveniences and processed food, and a lot of kids got a lot of meals out of cans, but our mother, who’d grown up with a huge vegetable garden in the backyard, cooked with a lot of fresh foods. We had to beg to be given SpaghettiOs. 🙂 (Later she got sick, and was sick for the next 24 years, and convenience products crept into the house; but as the oldest, I got a very good beginning.)

So I’ve always been cautious with pharmaceuticals. I am apparently one of the few Americans of my generation who takes no maintenance drugs. I’m very fortunate.

But I had this pesky cold-bronchitis-pneumonia problem, and it sounded to me like I needed to work on my immune system. But there is no magic pill for that either. 🙂 The best I could come up with is this: a good immune system starts in the gut—healthy eating, healthy digestion.

And about the same time, I was exposed to essential oils. I started researching the use of essential oils in building the immune system as a step toward personal health. (I’d tried herbal concoctions already, but they hadn’t done the trick.) Over time, I developed a little regimen of oils (I put them in a capsule for convenience) that I take in the run-up to a trip: lemon, frankincense, lemongrass, oregano, and Thieves, a blend of 5 oils. By 2013, I had it dialed in, and I haven’t gotten “airplane sick” since then. (Again, this is my personal story. I make no claims to efficacy; your experience may differ. I am not a doctor or health-care advisor, nor am I in the business of selling essential oils; I purchase and use them only for my own benefit.)

When I have a trip coming, I make up enough capsules to take one per day for 30 days prior to the trip, and one per day for the duration of the trip. I only take them for this period; I do not take them day in and day out.

Although I don’t believe in using germicides in daily life, I take packets of them with me when I travel. When I get on the plane, I wipe down the seatbelt, the armrests, and the tray table. I carry a bottle of Thieves with me, and every two or three hours I rub a few drops over my fingers and hands and around my nostrils. (Here’s a little article about the Thieves blend’s ability to kill household germs.)

I use Thieves this way during the cold and flu season too: as I approach the grocery store, where I’ll be touching a cart that others have touched, I rub Thieves over my hands and nostrils.

It’s worked well for me. And, yes, I have started my regimen, because I fly in one week. Can’t wait. 🙂

Ready to fly!

Ready to fly!

Artist’s Way / Wild Atlantic Way

About a decade ago I participated in a facilitated Artist’s Way group. (This is not it, but it gives you an idea.) We met at the home of the group facilitator and worked our way, one chapter a week, through the book. And it did get all of us feeling quite creative.

I’d been to Ireland about a year before, and this poem just popped out one day. (Disclaimer: I’m not a real, practiced poet. I just play with words and feelings.)

High on a windy cliff in the northwest,
peering into the afternoon sun lying on the sea below
like golden rose petals
floating on the perfect azure-blue.
And I am moved, without a word,
to tears. Sun and salt and spray and sea
call to ancient blood
that stirs in me. Older than me.
Older than time.
I am standing on the edge of the world,
the very edge of the world.
Ahead, the road curves away from the cliffs,
heading inland, and I turn to go,
leaving behind my heart’s cry
and the wild, wild western sea.


Sun shining on the North Atlantic.

Sun shining on the North Atlantic.

It amuses me now that the Irish tourism industry has developed a route they call the Wild Atlantic Way. And guess what? I’m planning to drive it when I return to western Ireland in a couple weeks.