Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 20 - Ireland and Home

The week started with Jean’s class on Pleats and Peplums, which was conveniently held in Powerscourt Centre, home of Dublin’s other yarn shop. After the class, which was fun, I did some damage buying yarn. All to support small, local businesses, of course. Then we had another free afternoon in the city. Some of us had talked about taking a taxi to the Kilmainham Gaol but that fell apart so Andrea and I took a city bus to the National Botanic Garden and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with flowers. I love the glass houses and it conveniently waited to run until we were inside the orchid house, where I took tons of pics because we were reading The Orchid Thief for book club. It was a nice end to our time in Dublin.

Since I could call American with a local number from the hotel, I spent a bit of time before dinner on the phone with American trying to guilt them into changing our tickets without charging us a fee. We had tickets to go back on Saturday, the day after the tour was over, that we’d bought because they were $600 cheaper than flying Friday. Each. Well, I got an agent in Indian with such a thick accent that I had to constantly ask her to repeat herself. I couldn’t even understand when she asked if she could put me on hold. And I’m not bad with accents. I asked her to book us on the Aer Lingus flight leaving Shannon on Friday around noon. She started out by telling me there were no flights from Shannon to Omaha. Duh! I told her we’d have to connect through Chicago. Then she booked me the Aer Lingus flight to Boston and another flight from Chicago to Omaha. She could not seem to get that I needed a flight from Boston to Chicago. After insisting 3 times, she looked it up and said. “It’s 953 miles.” My response – “THAT’S WHY I NEED TO FLY!” After she booked that flight she said it would cost $600 more. She clearly had completely missed my point about waiving the fee. I demanded to speak to her supervisor. Well, she transferred me to someone who called me Mrs. Jenson and said she could waive the $225 change fee but not the fare difference. I hung up, frustrated and red in the face. I calmed down over dinner at Fallon & Byrne.

Tuesday was a wasted day. I guess they’d thought the previous version of this tour was too rushed so we took an entire day to drive from Dublin to Killarney. The bus lost its turbo power before our first stop so we had extra time to kill in the little town of Nenagh while we waited for a replacement bus. I took advantage of the time to hit a grocery store for the cereal I like (Kellogg’s Country Store) and cookies and tea. I also found a thrift shop and scored some cheap, good quality yarn. We stopped in Adare for lunch and then hit Kerry Woollen Mills outside of Killarney. That was the first thing that was worthwhile that day. We checked in at our hotel (huge room!) and had dinner there. At least I got a lot of knitting done on the bus, finishing the socks I’d been working on for the entire trip.

We had our last class the next morning – a sweater class. Since I have no intention of ever knitting a sweater for myself, I opted out of the measuring and math instead starting a new pair of socks. The class was pretty intense and she lost most of the class by half way through so I certainly didn’t miss anything. We had a couple of free hours to grab lunch and we walked clear to the other side of town to check out the yarn shop, which was a total bust. At 2:30, we took taxis to Muckross House and Gardens for a tour. We didn’t get there until 3:00 so we didn’t have any extra time beyond the farm and house tours so I didn’t even get to see the gardens. Too bad we couldn’t have used some of Tuesday’s extra time. We had dinner at Bricin, which specialized in boxties, which are kind of a hash brown-ish pancake wrapped around yummy filling. It was another luscious meal.

Thursday was our last day and we were all on our last once of energy on the way to Dingle. We had the morning to shop and I was able to fill in a few gaps in my stocking stuffers. We had Irish music in a pub at lunchtime but the fish & chips shop next door where we were supposed to get lunch was closed so I ended up with a sandwich and chips from the market down the street, which worked for me and went great with another Guiness. We took the scenic route along the coast on the way back, which entailed driving on the edge of a cliff and at one point the bus was inches from the rock on a hairpin turn. We stopped at Gallarus Oratory – a dry mortar building that’s supposed to be the oldest church in Ireland. I was one of the first up the hill and so missed the fun when Andrea went through the window feet first, egged on by the group because Philip said it would bring her good luck for life. Something like that. After that we headed back to Killarney for our farewell dinner at the hotel.

It was hard to believe the trip was over! I was going full steam until the very last day, which was surprising based on other trips when I’ve been ready to go home well before the last day. I’d made some great new friends, bought a ton of yarn, eaten amazing food and had a blast. I couldn’t have asked for more from the trip.

We were on the bus to Shannon before 8:00, which was bittersweet. Andrea and I were going to try again to change our tickets in person at the airport. Well, that didn’t work. Aer Lingus hadn’t issued our tickets so they couldn’t change them. I was fine with checking in at the airport hotel and relaxing for the day with Freddie and Carolyn, who were also leaving Saturday. Andrea wanted to try again with American so was at the Aer Lingus desk getting phone numbers when everyone started streaming back from security. Apparently knitting needles weren’t allowed on airplanes and since their bags were already checked, I took needles from the Canadians to put into my checked luggage. I’d be mailing them back from home. Andrea and I headed across to the hotel, where I sat in the lobby and knitted while she struggled with American. It all became useless when they took so long that we couldn’t make the flight. We checked in and went back to the lobby to hang out, which is where Freddie and Carolyn found us.

We headed into the hotel’s pub at noon for some lunch. By then Philip and Jean, whose flight wasn’t leaving until 7:00 p.m., had joined us. We sat knitting and chatting for so long after lunch that it was time for tea. Then we lingered after that and it was time for dinner. We ended up staying for more than 8 hours. We had an early flight so said our goodbyes and went to bed. I stayed up madly trying to finish my sock so I could sneak my 9” circular needle onto the plane. In doing that, I made the sock too short so it was all for nothing.

Saturday came bright and early. We went to the Aer Lingus counter to check in and they asked me if I had a print out of my itinerary. Apparently the idiot agent in India had cancelled my return flights! Aer Lingus came to the rescue again and rebooked me but we were now seated in row 41 instead of up front. Figures. Chalk another screw up for American. We grabbed a quick breakfast then spent the rest of our euros on candy before boarding the plane. When I got to our seats, I couldn’t believe it. We were in the first row where the middle seats go from 5 to 4 across so we had bulkhead seats – the miserable stand alone seats where your tray and video come out of your arm. I was crammed into my seat and would be for the next 8.5 hours and with a full flight, there were no other seats to switch to. It was the last straw and I lost it, crying in my seat for the first hour of the flight. Yet another miserable American experience. I bucked up though and settled in for the long haul.

The flight was otherwise uneventful but since we had to wait for hundreds of people to get off the plane before we could leave, we were going to be pushing it again. We had to go through passport control, get our luggage, go through customs, recheck our luggage and take a tram to another terminal. Well, my luggage came out first so it was on me to run as fast as I could to the flight and make sure they held it. We’d met two other people who’d be on the same flight. So I race walked through O’Hare, arriving at the gate dripping with sweat on to find they weren’t even boarding. At least we’d make the flight but sheesh! It was uneventful and Lori picked us up and got us home in record time.

My floors were gorgeous! I had to make my bed and shower before I could get in it and at that point I’d been up for 20 hours. It felt great to sleep in my own bed, which I was in by 10:00. Too bad I woke up at 3:30 and after failing to fall back asleep, I got up and unpacked. I was comatose on Sunday, watching the clock and waiting for bedtime. I had a scratchy throat before the day was over too so I must have picked up a germ, which wasn’t surprising since I’d been in the 2 busiest airports on the planet in the same day. But at least I was home before that happened and my knee had held up too. And I was in my home loving on my kitties after a wonderful trip so all was well. Life is good!
P.S. If you want to see all the pics I took (hundreds), click here.

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