Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 18 - Bound for Ireland

The beginning of the week flew by, with more progress made every day – frig cleaned out and produce brought to Lori for chickens, cookies brought to knitting, made cole slaw for food day, check, check, check. I was also busy packing for the trip and what was left in my bedroom went into boxes for storage. I had a small fiasco Tuesday morning trying to find dress clothes for a meeting at Central Administration, only to find out the meeting was cancelled when I got to work. But all in all, I was ready to go and monthly reports only took a single day so I was good to take all day Thursday off. That took the pressure off and I spent the day doing last minute stuff without feeling frazzled. My bags were packed and the house was ready for the floor redo. Nice.

Donna picked me up at 4:30 so Andrea and I were at the airport nearly 2 hours early for our flight. I always feel better once I’m at the airport so I sat there happily knitting waiting for the flight. But when I looked up after an hour or so and saw that it was delayed, I started to get nervous. I talked to the rep at the gate and she said it was going to be close and that since I couldn’t run, I should request a wheel chair to meet me at the gate. As much as I hated doing that, I agreed. Well, the flight was WAY late and the delay ate up our entire layover. If we could make it at all, it would be by the skin of our teeth. American Airlines screw up #1 – delayed flight.

Screw up #2 – No wheel chair. I heard the captain say that there was no wheel chair as I got off the plane so I didn’t wait and just started towards the other terminal as fast as I could go while Andrea bolted at Olympic sprinter speed. Despite our best efforts, the flight was gone. And what do you have to do to rebook? Pick up a courtesy phone and talk to a ticketing agent who is not at the airport. Their plan was to get us on the next night’s flight, which would not get us to Ireland until 5:00 Saturday, thereby missing the first day of the tour. I declined that and told them to check the direct flight from Boston to Shannon on Aer Lingus, figuring they could get us to Boston before Friday night. So, picture this. I’m sweating bullets sitting in a wheel chair (there were a dozen or so right next to the courtesy phone) talking to the agent and Andrea is across the terminal at the gate for a fully booked Boston flight and I’m yelling questions across the terminal for her to ask the gate agent. After a few screamed questions, I gave the agent on the phone the gate number for the flight and she called them directly. Despite being overbooked, they got us on the flight and booked us on the Boston to Shannon flight for the next night. We’d have time to kill in Boston on Friday but at least we’d get there.

Screw up #3 – In the last minute effort to get us on the flight to Boston, our luggage was never rerouted so we got to Boston at 2:00 a.m. but our luggage was still in Chicago. We talked to the baggage agent at Logan and convinced him that rather than send it to Shannon on American, which would guarantee they would have to drive it across Ireland on Sunday, they should get it to Boston on a Friday flight and we’d pick it up and check it ourselves on the Aer Lingus flight. He messed around on the computer a bit and told us it would be on the first flight Friday morning and that we should pick it up then. We got into a taxi for the 30 minute ride to the hotel American was putting us up in for the night, happy that we’d resolved the luggage situation. Well, fast forward to Friday morning where after only a few hours of sleep, we headed back to Logan. No luggage. The woman at the baggage counter said it was still scheduled to go to Shannon on Saturday via Heathrow. So after making the same argument to get our luggage to Boston Friday afternoon and having her punch at her computer and tell us it’d be on the next flight, we headed downtown for a bus tour since Andrea had never been to Boston. We got back to the airport only to find that they’d not put it on the afternoon flight so it would be arriving only 20 minutes before our flight left for Ireland. We had little hope of it making our flight but there was nothing else we could do.

Screw up #4 – We went to Aer Lingus to get our boarding passes for our flight to Ireland and American had hosed up our tickets so badly that they took us out of line and it took half an hour and the agent had to call American to get the ticketing straightened out. He also put an OK to Board on our luggage, just in case it could be transferred in time to make our flight. Aer Lingus was wonderful to deal with and was everything American was not. We found a restaurant to use our food vouchers for an early dinner and got on our flight. It was uneventful and we arrived at 6:00 a.m. in Shannon having gotten almost no sleep. So much for arriving a day early to adjust. And guess what? No luggage. Go figure. We filled all the forms out with Aer Lingus and headed upstairs to wait for Philip and Jean. We met up with Peggy and Jackie in the café and enjoyed a latte until pick up time. It was great to be there, even with the luggage worries. And it was wonderful to see all my friends (love my Canadians!) when the bus picked us up.

As usual, the first day of a Jean Moss knitting trip is chock full. Our first stop was the cliffs of Moher on the west coast. We walked in the bracing wind (that woke us up!) and checked out the scenery before heading into the visitors center for lunch, where we got to meet some of the other people on the tour. Then it was back on the bus for the trip to Galway, stopping to see the Burren (rocky land that’s full of cool plants, even orchids, that grow in the bits of soil between the rocks) and Kinvara for tea in a cute shop. We checked in at the hotel in Galway and I took a quick shower, changing into my only other outfit before heading down for the traditional first night slide show (Behind the Scenes from Jean) and dinner. Needless to say, we all fell into bed exhausted that night.

After a yummy breakfast on Sunday, we headed to Ann O’Maille’s (pronounced O’Malley for the non-Gaelic speakers) shop for our first yarn shopping of the trip. Then we walked down to a restaurant on the river for our first class – Classic Irish Cables, taught by Ann. After a few hours of knitting new stitches, we had the afternoon free. We grabbed lunch at the café of the museum across the street then Andrea and I did some clothes shopping. We’d heard nothing on our luggage and so weren’t taking any chances. The problem for me was, there are NO fat people in Ireland! The largest shirt in Marks & Spencer’s was too small for me. I bought it anyway and then found a garish tie dyed t-shirt at TKMaxx (that’s not a typo – it’s K instead of J in the UK and Ireland) that would fit and some socks. Andrea bought undies and a shirt too. I’d clearly be washing my spare undies in the sink that night. We were back at Ard Bia, the restaurant where we’d had class, that night for dinner and it was delicious. I was happy to see that Irish food was as good as English. Or maybe it’s just the restaurants Philip and Jean choose.

So, I ended the week in Ireland, happy despite the fiasco of getting there and still having no luggage nor definitive word of when it would arrive. At least I had a change of clothes and my nightie in my carry on. I could go on for a few days before getting cranky. I couldn’t fathom being unhappy when I was in another country, surrounded by friends and being entertained and fed amazing food at every turn. Having new clothes would be nice but I wasn’t going to let American win and ruin my trip. There was always hope that the next day would bring my luggage.

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