It’s a Dog’s Life

We got a dog.

Suzy.

Suzy. (Note: you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it, and clicking again.)

We’d known we were going to get a dog (that is, rescue one, of course): Gerry’d had to leave his dog, Cleo, behind in Dublin, and, as he has been telling my felines Laddie, Spot, and Bean for the last fourteen years, he’s “a dog man.” So it was always a plan. Gerry and I both grew up with dogs (in my case, dogs and cats); it had only been since I was divorced that my pet roster narrowed to cats only.

The cats ignored Gerry’s “I’m a dog man” line and climbed into his lap all the same. Bean, in particular, is quite fond of him, and his lap is the only one Spot will sit in. The cats weren’t concerned about our dogged plans.

But Gerry began to follow a dog rescue group based in Cookeville, and that’s how we found our Suzy in the last week of March. She’d been abandoned by her male owner (a backyard breeder, apparently) just two weeks before we adopted her. We don’t know much about her past, other than he’d bred her very young, twice (she’s about three). We think he may have been mean to her. She was frightened when we picked her up at a meet-and-greet at Petco in Cookeville—timid, resigned, and anxious. Before we left the store we bought food and a bowl, a collar and leash, a crate and nice pad for it.

In those first days, she retreated to her crate a lot.

Suzy, first week, in her crate.

Suzy, first week, in her crate. It’s her safe place, of course … but she looks so sad.

She was (and is) very well-behaved, but so, so sad. I used to tell people if you looked up the definition of hangdog in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of Suzy. It was heartbreaking. She was OK … but so sorrowful. We’ll probably never know why.

Gerry started taking her on a long nice walk every day. And she got to know the cats. Spot was the first to come around, within hours. He could tell she wasn’t a threat. It took Laddie four or five days; he swatted her the first time she got too close, and after that she averted her face every time she saw him. Bean—our frail, sometimes cranky female—was a little harder nut to crack, but now even she is fine with Suzy.

The ongoing familiarization process with Suzy and Bean. Gerry is so patient.

The ongoing familiarization process with Suzy and Bean. Gerry is so patient.

Gerry spent plenty of time with Suzy, telling her how much we appreciated her. They watched a lot of TV in the man cave.

Well, one of them watched.

Well, one of them watched.

She fell into the routine of our household … feeding, walks, the cats’ habits, hanging out with Gerry, going for rides in the car (she loves that). We saw that she was comfortable with visitors—any friend of ours is a friend of Suzy’s—but she doesn’t jump up on anyone or otherwise invade a human’s personal space. She is a Lab, obviously, and we learned that she is a “yellow Dudley” Lab (that brown nose, her pale eyes). It was clear that she was getting comfortable, less worried.

Gerry spent a lot of time bonding with her.

Gerry spent a lot of time bonding with her.

He plays with her, talks with her.

He played with her, talked with her.

She hangs pretty close to him. She likes me OK—but Gerry she loves.

She hangs pretty close to him. She likes me OK—but Gerry she loves.

She even hung out in the office when we were working. (Actually, when Gerry was working there. My presence was immaterial.) 🙂

Suzy in the office with Laddie and Bean.

Suzy in the office with Laddie and Bean. 

But I kept hoping she was happy, that she would quit worrying the other shoe was about to drop and relax into a home that was all hers. I kept hoping for a “smile” from Suzy. And finally … she did.

Yeah, we think she’s happy.

Yeah, we think she’s happy.

We’ve learned Labs are always hungry. Suzy scours the floors every day for crumbs that might have fallen. She doesn’t miss a trick: I dropped a raw egg once and it was gone in a second. I didn’t even know she was close by, but there she was, slurping it up before I could tear off a paper towel. She ate a big hunk of dropped watermelon not too long ago. That said, she seems to be trustworthy around food. We don’t give her too much temptation but she hasn’t shown any inclination to put her paws on the counter or table. She is well-mannered, though I fear it may be that those manners come at a price paid to someone else who wasn’t very nice about it.

She’s a very quiet dog, doesn’t vocalize much. But she does bark when she sees a stranger on the front porch or a dog walking by on the street with one of our neighbors (there are windows by the front door, and she enjoys looking out). She doesn’t play—doesn’t chase balls or Frisbees, doesn’t play tug-o-war. We can only imagine that she doesn’t know how, or that play was discouraged. Gerry tries, every so often. The tennis ball just sits forlornly where it landed until one of us picks it up and stores it in the garage until the next moment we get hopeful.

Suzy does chase squirrels, though, and patrols the backyard constantly on the lookout for them. She sees them from inside and goes right to the back door, on high alert.

Squirrels, beware! Suzy is determined!

Squirrels, beware! Suzy is determined!

Earlier this year—and early in her tenure with us—she got out of the house, loose without a leash … the gate left open once, slipped out the front door once. In both cases, she was easily corralled; she only was running around with glee, playing chase with us in the yard next door. I don’t think she wants to get too far away; she just likes to run, to blow it out. She runs every morning in the backyard too. She does her business, and then she just revs up her motor and runs back and forth across the yard a few times.

Suzy also loves riding in the car. Window open.

Car selfie with Suzy.

Car selfie with Suzy.

When the weather was cooler we took her with us all the time, because she could hang out in the car. Now it’s too hot for that but we do take her for a ride every Friday morning, before 7am, to the farmers market, which is on a nice piece of land with a pond. This started simply as a leashed walk in a different place, but then we wondered … could we let her off the leash?

Why, yes, yes, we can let her off the leash. She runs, yes, but she stays in our orbit. She has no interest in being separated from us.

Why, yes, yes, we can let her off the leash. She runs, yes, but she stays in our orbit. She has no interest in being separated from us.

She found the pond in no time, and when we took her back the next Friday, it was like she couldn’t believe her good fortune. What? The pond again? Her joy was palpable; she ran back and forth along the wet edge, getting faster and faster.

This is not a great photo but you can see her speed: those are splashes behind her, where she has just been.

This is not a great photo but you can see her speed: those are splashes behind her, where she has just been.

It was only later that she took a dip.

It was only later that she took a dip.

Now we travel with towels.

Getting dried off.

Getting dried off.

This dog. She delights us. And perhaps the sweetest thing is her friendship with Spot the cat. Spot was a feral rescue (yes, truly feral, not stray: there is a difference), and though he has tried, he has never truly integrated with our other two cats. His body language is all wrong; he doesn’t “speak” cat, at least not the dialect of cat that Laddie and Bean speak. But with Suzy—who we suspect may have never had an animal friend, either—he can just be himself. Remember, he accepted her the very first day.

Now they have each other, these outsiders. They are friends. They play. They walk around the yard together. Spot has figured out the time and duration of Gerry and Suzy’s morning walk, and when they return to the house, he is waiting (having been fed and allowed out about sixty minutes earlier) on the porch to greet them.

Sometimes he comes out to greet her, sometimes he waits for her to come to him.

Sometimes Spot comes out to greet her, sometimes he waits for her to come to him. Here she pulls Gerry in her haste to see her buddy.

They bump noses.

They bump noses.

It’s very sweet, this friendship. They often find each other in the backyard. Sometimes they play (Suzy on her elbows with her butt in the air).

This is the beginning of play action. It may not look like much, but …

This is the beginning of play action. It may not look like much, but …

… maybe this photo tells a little more of the story. :)

… maybe this photo tells a little more of the story. 🙂

More often, though, it’s just a quiet stroll around the yard. Spotty usually leads the way, with Suzy following alongside.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she says, her tail wagging.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she says, her tail wagging.

This was the last photo in a series in which they started under the tree and walk all the way around the yard.

This was the last photo in a series in which they started under the tree and walked all the way around the yard. Side by side.

We got Suzy on March 27th, so we haven’t quite had her four months. But you can see in the later photos how her facial expressions and demeanor have changed. She is more doglike, alert. Alive. We pray that she has forgotten her horrible beginning, that the peace and pleasure of her life now is all she thinks of, though we’ll never know for sure. We’re so glad she is ours. Our good dog.

Suzy watching television with Gerry. (You think she’s sleeping but look again at the tail.)

Suzy watching television with Gerry. (You think she’s sleeping but look again at the tail.)

 

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Fledgling Failsafe

The sound of birds screaming—yes, screaming—in the backyard means only one thing: There is a baby on the ground!

It is early morning and I am using the screen door for that hour or two we can enjoy fresh air before the heat takes over. I’ve lived in this house long enough to be familiar with the backyard sounds. There’s always lots of ambient bird noise (we have lots of bushes and trees), and I can tell the difference between normal and screaming. Something is up.

I immediately hustle out there and bring Laddie the cat—who does not have a nestling in his mouth, but was simply strolling through the yard doing his unintentional impression of a Large Black Monster—inside.

… an unintentional impression of a Big Black Monster: Laddie.

… an unintentional impression of a Large Black Monster: Laddie.

When Gerry and Suzy the dog get back from their walk, I caution them to keep an eye out and naturally Suzy finds the baby pretty quickly. “Suzy!” we shout, and run over.

The baby is on its back, wings spread, eyes closed, neck bent. Oh no. Such a beautiful little thing, gone. A precious life. I bend over to scoop it up; a last gentle touch is all I can give it.

And I would have, except just as I touch its little head, it opens one eye, squawks, leaps to its feet, and takes off running across the yard. Who knew baby robins had a play-dead failsafe instinct?

We bring Suzy inside, keep the cats in all day. The backyard is, at the moment, safe for baby birds. All is calm.

Baby robin on our backyard bird table with Mrs. R.

Baby robin on our backyard bird table with Mrs. R.

 

A Personal Manifesto?

Ah, I love this guy James Altucher. I’ve followed his blog for a few years and while I don’t generally get in to the whole business / finance / hedge fund / entrepreneurship thing—maybe I should, though, since editing isn’t exactly a moneymaker—there’s just something special about James. He’s the real deal.

So James says* you need a personal manifesto. And his is a good manifesto. You should read it. I did. So far today, reading down James’s list, I’ve …

  • been out of my comfort zone
  • laughed
  • listened
  • kept my word (more like follow-through—but still)
  • read (always)
  • and I have been very, very grateful.

Not such a bad start. I think I would add, of course, build as much travel—even if it’s just back and forth to Nashville for a special event—as you can into every year of your life. Because, I’ve noted above, I believe travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. And for the times in between? Get a pet. You’ll live longer.

Still life with Spot.

Still life with Spot.

The Christmas Headache

Thursday, 18 December 2014 / Day 1
Oh, that last month before my December trip to Phoenix to visit my son and his girlfriend was a stressful one! I had lots of work deadlines, primarily. But … Thanksgiving. And I had to do something about my health insurance. And it was the run-up to Christmas, for heavens’ sake! Presents to wrap, a housesitter (OK, really a catsitter) to break in, plans to make for after the holidays … and on and on. I was a little crazy/frantic.

And the big question: Would I take work with me? I needed to. I had a couple of hot deadlines. But I also was really worn out. Not thinking about work for ten days would be nice. In the end, I left it open. I always travel with my laptop, and it has work on it. So I could open a manuscript if I wanted to.

Somehow, the penultimate day arrived. Everything, astonishingly, was done—although by the time I headed downstairs to finish packing, it was 9:15 and I’d been nursing the Christmas headache for a couple hours. (So called because I’d been getting the headache almost daily for a couple weeks. What else could I attribute it to but holiday stress?)

I’d shipped the Christmas presents ahead, but I was bringing country ham and bacon for all the people I would visit and stay with, which I’d frozen and now packed in a thermal bag.

I’m always a little keyed up the night before a trip. I’m a bit of a worrier. This particular night my housesitter, the delightful Alex, was out later than he intended to be, and I couldn’t rest comfortably until he was in, which means, in the end, I had 2 hours of dozing until he arrived, and then another 2.5 hours of sleep until the alarm clock went off. Man, was I tired.

Friday, 19 December 2014 / Day 2
My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:10am, and we’re forty minutes away from the airport, so yes, I was up much earlier than I normally like to be. But Alex drove me in, which made departure easy.

Love that Early-Bird boarding pass with Southwest. I liked to be near the front and in this case I was on the aisle with someone who’d been preboarded—a beautiful, fashionably dressed (and slightly hard of hearing) ninety-two-year-old woman who split her time between family in Nashville and family in Phoenix. She was accompanied by her daughter, who was about my age, and we enjoyed a nice chat. Across the aisle were five separate unescorted minors traveling to see their noncustodial parents. They were so well-behaved, and gave me an insight I’d never had: my son, too, was an unescorted minor traveler twenty years ago.

We landed in Phoenix a little early. Jesse had been in school (he’s a teacher) all morning, but this was the last day before the holiday break, and he was able to get away in time to pick me up.

 I think I love the Phoenix scenery because it’s so different from what I’m used to. Those mountains!

I think I love the Phoenix scenery because it’s so different from what I’m used to. Those desert mountains!

Windows in this building are shuttered electronically—and programmed, I’m told, to spell out various messages.

Windows in this building are shuttered electronically—and programmed, I’m told, to spell out various messages.

We went first to Tempe to see our friend Pris. This is a great story, the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen in this day and time. When Jesse was about to move to Phoenix for grad school some years ago, he was having trouble finding an affordable place to live. Finally Kevin, the young man who’d been his campus guide—and was in the tuba studio of Sam Pilafian, where Jesse would also be studying—said, “Oh, just move in with me and my parents. My older brothers moved out and the house is kind of empty.”

Well, I’d been the mother of a boy for twenty-two years at that point, so naturally my reaction was … well, skeptical. “I think I need to talk to the mom first,” I said. And the next day, my phone rang, and it was Pris, and we talked for two hours at least and at the end of that time we’d bonded and Jesse was moving in and that was that. Pris is Jesse’s Arizona mom, and these lovely people are his Arizona family.

Nine years have passed, and we’ve remained close. When Pris heard I was coming to Phoenix, she called to offer me the use of her car and her second son’s condo (he and his wife were out of town for the holidays). This was a huge blessing; the financial life of a freelance editor can be, occasionally, rocky.

A threesome selfie: Jesse, Pris, me. So happy to be here!

A threesome selfie: Jesse, Pris, me. So happy to be here!

Kaci was just about to get out of school (she’s also a teacher), so Jesse and I headed back to their house in central Phoenix. We were all anxious for lunch—I’d had nothing but a Quest bar and a couple cups of coffee all day—and ended up at Gadzooks on Seventh Street, a place Jesse and Kaci enjoy. (As they should: the restaurant is owned and operated by and targeted at the millennial generation, as discussed in this article from AZCentral: “Phoenix eatery Gadzooks embodies how Millennials dine.” It’s very interesting, actually.)

It was a beautiful day—nice enough to sit outside. Gadzooks allows you to customize basic meals with fresh, interesting additions.

It was a beautiful day—nice enough to sit outside. Gadzooks allows you to customize basic meals with fresh, interesting additions.

We did a little Christmas shopping …

The First Draft Book Bar! Housed with a used bookstore—what a fabulous idea!

The First Draft Book Bar! Housed with a used bookstore—what a fabulous idea!

… and then went back to the house to relax. (It had been a long day for all of us.) We enjoyed all the teacher Christmas swag—lots of homemade edibles like chocolate-covered pretzels—and I met the two house cats, Penny and Max.

Kaci, Max, and Jesse

Kaci, Max, and Jesse. Don’t forget, you can click on any photo to enlarge it. The better to see you, Maxie!

I’ve never met a cat that didn’t love a suitcase. This is Penny.

I’ve never met a cat that didn’t love a suitcase. This is Penny.

And that was enough for one day.

Happy Birthday! And Welcome to America!

30 May 2013, Thursday

We’ve learned it is much easier to turn in the car the day before—it is always likely there will be others turning in cars as the same time; the line can get long. If you are also trying to catch a plane, you could get nervous.

Or at least I could. 🙂 And I don’t like to be nervous or rushed. So when we turned the car in yesterday, we had nowhere to be but dinner and to bed.

This morning we were at the dining room when they opened for breakfast at 6:30, and by 7:00 we were getting on the shuttle bus to airport. For some reason the Dublin Airport has a shuttle bus lot; passengers are dumped here—nowhere near the actual departure gates—and must hump their luggage over to a terminal. In Nashville the shuttle buses pull up in front of departures (or arrivals) and let folks off right there. These are shuttle buses from hotels, shuttle buses from off-site parking lots, shuttle buses from car rental places (which are on-site). Doesn’t that make sense? They even do it that way in New York, for heaven’s sake. But … I guess it doesn’t have to make sense.

We had to go all the way over to Terminal 2 (fortunately there were trolleys). But by the time we checked the luggage, went through security and then through U.S. pre-customs (very handy, honestly), it was 9:00am. Good thing we didn’t want anything from the duty-free shops.

Wait, did I say pre-customs was handy? Maybe so, but it’s not pleasant. The customs agents are not friendly. Not nice. I mean, I’m a friendly, smiley, chubby middle-aged woman holding a United States passport; the customs agent was American. We were both Americans, not to put too fine a point on it, and I felt, at the very least, unwelcome and definitely under suspicion. Not a happy transaction.

To Gerry, a non–U.S. passport holder, they were even ruder. When the agent asked him how long he was staying and he said, “Returning on June 27,” this person gasped and said, “Four weeks!” (Why all the drama?) And then she asked him if he was employed and asked him to prove it. This sort of thing, frankly, pisses me off, as an American. Is this how we treat every humble person seeking to visit our country? No wonder others have a bad opinion of Yanks.

WELCOME TO AMERICA! (And you are, actually, considered to be in American territory once you’ve run that nasty little gauntlet.)

We had to show our passport five times from the time we entered the terminal to the time we got to the gate. And by the time we got there (again, 9:00), there was barely time for Gerry to buy us a couple water bottles and go to the loo, and then they were boarding us. I guess that’s a plus.

It’s so nice to travel home with someone. It’s particularly nice to travel home with the one you love—it makes an arduous journey merely long. And you can people-watch together.

I got quite a kick out of this young guy sitting across the aisle and one row up, already asleep, or trying to be. If I’d had to guess, I’d have placed him at nineteen or twenty, but you can see he has a bottle of wine (at 11:00am, which makes me tired just thinking about it), so he had to be at least twenty-one. He was traveling alone (we watched him come in, get settled) … with a bear. Yes, that is a very well-worn Winne-the-Pooh tucked under his arm. Gerry said, “Oh, he’s taking it back as a gift for someone,” but I say he’d have packed a gift. Or at the very least put it in the overhead bin or his carryon. But he held on to it for seven hours across the ocean. I’m just sayin’.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

We lost him in Chicago, of course. And what was supposed to be a little one-hour layover turned out to be a two-hour layover, because, as it happened, President Obama was visiting the Windy City. It just about shuts down the entire city when a U.S. president comes to town.

However, we ended up having a fun conversation with a young Irishman sitting near us. (Anyone reading a book is fair game for me, you know!) He was twenty-four and a physical therapist. He’d been working as a freelancer in Ireland (you know: two weeks here, two weeks there) and had an opportunity for a two-year contract in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was very, very excited about it. Even more interesting, his girlfriend was following him. She is a schoolteacher, so she was trying to get all her paperwork in order to teach in North Carolina. Charlotte’s a lovely town (in spite of the fact North Carolina’s slowly becoming a red state), so I hope they have a good experience there.

I said, “Oh, your mother’s going to miss you.” My son is thirty and lives a four-hour plane ride away from me; an ocean of separation would be hard to take. But! He set his mom up with an iPad so she can Skype him. Good boy! He was truly delightful. From County Meath.

They finally loaded us but then the runways were backed up. Obama was long gone but O’Hare was still recovering from all the flights that had been held back. We had four flights in front of us, and we looked out the window and saw several behind us, so we were even later getting off the ground. However, they made it up in the air and we arrived in Nashville on time. A birthday miracle!

If you’ve been keeping score, you may have relized that Gerry hadn’t been to his Tennessee home in a year—since April 2012—and I’d had to leave my foxgloves before they were in full bloom, because spring was so late. So as soon as we got home, we had a walk around the yard.

The roses were in full swing.

The roses were in full swing.

The cats were a little bewildered at first, but they warmed up fast. The Feeders! The Feeders were back!

And since we’d put up the fence in March, we’d planned an ambitious landscaping overhaul, which involved killing some grass. We were anxious to see how it was all going.

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

My foxgloves had bloomed and were a bit blowsy, now, but still beautiful to me.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

We unloaded the car, had a cup of tea, ate a little supper, and fell into bed, exhausted. And that, my friends, is how I spent my (mumble mumbleth) birthday. 🙂

NOTE: If you’re just joining me and would like to read about this trip from the beginning, you can start here. If you would like to read about other trips in chronological order 🙂 just click on “Where to Start” above.

West to East, a Quiet Sunday

26 May 2013, Sunday

We got up early to hustle east and get to the kennel, since they would close at noon. Ursula cooked us another wonderful breakfast. And at last I got to commune with her little cat that I’d seen across the road in the field.

Bridie—she’s a dog-gal, as Gerry is a dog-man—still had a kind word for this little girl (whose name I can’t remember). She was very soft.

Bridie—she’s a dog-gal, as Gerry is a dog-man—still had a kind word for this little girl (whose name I can’t remember). She was very soft.

It was very quiet in Mountshannon on this Sunday morning (very early!). So we stopped in the middle of town so I could take some photos, coming and going.

Coming … the lane that runs between the stone building and the orange building goes to the lake. That magnificent pine tree is just behind the orange hotel.

Coming … the lane that runs between the stone building and the orange building goes to the lake. That magnificent pine tree is just behind the orange hotel on the right.

… and going. We’re headed this way, west on the R352. Along the lake.

… and going. We’re headed this way, west on the R352. Along the lake.

Because we’d come in to Mountshannon on the M6, the less desirable route, we hadn’t seen much of Lough Derg then. On Saturday we went down to Mountshannon’s small harbor for a few minutes and learned about the sea eagles. Later when we drove from the church to the hotel, we didn’t have time to stop to admire the view. I wanted to be sure we took a moment to do so before we left. After all, Derg is the second-largest lake in the Republic, and the last of the three largest lakes along the River Shannon. Check it out:

I know, I know: ever since I figured out how to embed the map, I can’t resist using it. (It’s not like it’s new technology, either.) But I can spend some serious time poring over a map (what is my obsession with knowing exactly where I am?), so you get to share the joy. 🙂

Lough Derg from the R352. It’s lovely.

Lough Derg from the R352. It’s lovely. And remember, you can click on the photo to zoom in.

Lough Derg. It was a beautiful day.

Lough Derg. It was a beautiful day.

This time we took the M7 all the way back to Dublin. And we saw lots of interesting brown signs which have been duly noted for “next time.” (Brown signs indicate points of interest. Honestly, you could go with no itinerary at all and just let the brown signs lead you around.) One thing that caught my eye on this drive was a billboard out in a field, which was unusual because you just don’t see those. The Irish countryside is really unspoiled in that respect. And then we got close. It was an advert for the pub in Moneygall where President Obama had a pint last year. Monegall: “Obama’s ancestral home”! Oh my.

So we got to the kennel just before closing, to rescue Cleo (she had a grand time, really). And at Gerry’s place we got Bridie unpacked and settled and had a nice cup of tea. Remember that apple tart we bought yesterday? Mmmmm.

Apple tart—gorgeous!

Apple tart—gorgeous!

And then I commenced the second half of my vacation; this time I’d be staying in Dublin City proper. And I’d be driving in Dublin City. Ms. Emily GpS took us right where we needed to go, and after a little bit of “Here? Or there?” we figured out the parking situation. (With these things just tucked into every little nook and cranny, they’re just not always obvious to my American eyes.) Most fortuitously, I got parked without annoying the desk clerk (as I had at Bewley’s) too.

We were staying at the Camden Court Hotel, and already there was a difference: we were greeted with a cheerful smile and parking is free (highly unusual). I fully recognize these hotels each have a different trade; Bewley’s, near the airport, sees folks maybe for one night, businessmen who just want a room now because they have to catch a plane early. (The room here at the Camden Court was ten euro more per night, but we’d paid eight euro per night to park at Bewley’s; I’d call that a wash.)

Situated in downtown Dublin near the Grand Canal, the Camden Court has a different trade altogether, and we would learn about that soon enough—it caters to tour groups. So there were moments when the lobby was packed, but most of the time it was quite nice.

The quiet lobby at the Camden Court.

The quiet lobby at the Camden Court.

We will definitely stay here again. We got settled and then went out for a walk around the neighborhood to get oriented. Have a look:

Everything you might want was close by—pubs, fantastic restaurants, shops of all sorts (none of them touristy). The neighborhood (called Portobello) seemed to be quite multicultural, too, which I always enjoy. We stopped in an upscale grocer and bought fruit and cheese for snacking, and chocolate bars to bring home. (I also bought a packet of these. OMG. Seriously, the best mass-produced cookies I’ve ever had.)

We had a casual meal in the hotel’s pub, then we were in for the night. Gerry was working on the wedding video and I was editing (because, yes, I’d brought work with me).

Stick around, though: I’ve got a big day planned for tomorrow—and lots of photos!

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

Day 24, Thursday, 4 October 12

We were up early so we could do the last of the packing and get all settled. Neither Margaret or I like to be rushed. 🙂

The Radisson has a nice breakfast buffet you can add to the cost of the room for ten euro, and we knew we needed to have a good breakfast to get us through this day, especially since we’d be going back through that nightmare airport (Dulles). The Radisson’s shuttle drivers are very nice, too—ours loaded all our luggage and then waited for us to check out, then unloaded it for us at the airport. So Radisson gets the gold star.

Remember, once you get to the airport there are two things you’ll need to do:

1. Take care of your VAT situation (see #11 in Jamie’s Travel Tips)

2. Shop in the duty-free … maybe.

Currently in Ireland there are three entities that handle VAT refunds—two with old-school paper forms and one electronically (Fexco). Perhaps eventually it will all be electronic; certainly most of my VAT refunds were applied to the card I got from one of the first merchants I visited. In the electronic situation, you are never charged the VAT tax; however, if you leave the country without visiting the Fexco machine, your credit card will be charged the VAT later. So care of it.

There are two companies that handle VAT refunds with paper; it just depends which refund company is used by the merchant you visited. More than likely, you’ll have to visit both. You must remember to ask for the form when you make your purchases, keep your receipt with the form, and then the night before you leave, fill out each and every form. It’s not fun, but you can end up with enough dollars to get out of the parking lot back home (or euros to save for your next trip). So you should make the effort—and then visit the VAT kiosks as soon as you get your luggage checked in.

Then you’ve got time to wander the duty free shops! There are a lot of them in the Dublin Airport—it’s a regular ol’ mall. I’ve become cautious, though, because I’m not convinced I’m always getting a deal. I like to take Irish chocolate home to hand out as thank-yous, but I’ve begun buying it ahead of time in the Butler’s shop, so I can pack it rather than carry it. On this trip I found the Orla Keilly bag I’d fallen in love with at a shop in Dingle, but it was thirty-five euro more in the duty-free shop than in Dingle! Same bag. The best bargains are in perfumes and cosmetics and alcohol, so if you’re looking for a deal, that’s where to go. Just make sure you’ve got room in your carry-on for that big bottle of twelve-year-old whiskey.

We were pretty shopped out, though. As noted, I’d done all my Christmas shopping on this trip, and it was all packed; for myself, I’d bought two paperback books, the Moulton Brown shampoo and conditioner, the scarf I was wearing, and a pretty necklace at the Kilkenny Design Center. Oh, and a rain hat. 🙂

There was a new procedure to follow on this trip: we were assigned a time by which we were supposed to pass the security checkpoint. Naturally we missed it 🙂 but not by much. I can see why they do this, though: you really have to run quite a gauntlet to get out to the gate. We had to show our passports at least half a dozen times once we passed the initial security checkpoint—no joke. Once we arrived at our gate I left my carry-on with Margaret and went to buy a bottle of water—and had to show my passport again. To buy water!

I was much less stressed on this flight, though. I read, watched a movie, and before you know it, we were on the ground in Dulles. A quick check of the departures signage and Margaret and I realized we had to go in opposite directions! We weren’t ready for such an abrupt good-bye after our three-week vacation, but there we were, with a quick hug outside the ladies’ lounge before we each hustled off to catch the next flight.

Naturally, once I got to my gate my connecting flight had been delayed, so I called my friends in Tennessee to let them know I’d be late. And then … I was home. And the felines were glad to see me.

The next morning, I settled down with a cup of tea and the cookies Eoin and Tracy had given us the day before … and began writing this travelogue.

I made those cookies last a long time. :)

I made those cookies last a long time. 🙂

What’s Next?

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this trip as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about it. I’ve got another trip planned in May (about two and a half months from now) so I hope you’ll stick around for that. In the meantime, I’ll be posting some other interesting travel-related pieces, and I’ll be continuing to add material from trips I’ve taken in previous years. You may have noticed that there are already a few entries posted from a Christmas trip to England and my first trip to Ireland. There will be lots more; I’ll let you know when the trips are completely chronicled. Thank you so much for visiting with me!