It's been quite a while, hasn't it, blog followers?! I'm back for the next few days to document my travels with my mom to Ireland! We planned this trip a while back to spend some time with the women in my mom's side of the family, but my Nana ended up not being able to come. So, it's just me and mommy on the trip! So, here we go into another adventure...
I spent all weekend preparing for our departure. Most of this was admittedly beauty-related: highlights, brow wax, manicure, etc. I planned to take approximately 3,000 photos, so I figured I would do my best to look good! I spent a busy Saturday running errands (much to Romeo's annoyance), then on Sunday I finished up everything and started my drive to Dallas,
Since we were flying out of DFW on Monday afternoon, my mom and I decided to meet on Sunday in Dallas so that we could wake up refreshed for our transatlantic journey, I intended to be at the hotel by around 4:30pm, but things happened and I ended up pulling in around 8pm, After dinner we hit the sack early to be well rested for a long day ahead.
Monday morning we headed to the airport early. My dad had driven my mom to Dallas and needed to get back, so he dropped us off earlier than we needed to be there. Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to depart at 2:40pm... we were at the gate by 11am. Thank goodness for iPads and the food court. Finally we boarded the plane and were given Economy Premium seats (an upgrade) for free. Woohoo!
That flight was pretty unremarkable. We chatted and iPad'ed the whole way. We got into Chicago and navigated the maze of terminals thanks to GateGuru (only the best airport travel app imaginable). After finding our terminal, riding the inter-terminal train, and going thru security, we hit our first "roadblock".
While DFW security had not noticed or worried about my hand lotion in my purse, apparently when we went thru security in Chicago, they did their jobs a bit more thoroughly, Some of my fancy pants hand lotion was "noticed" and they told me I had to toss it. Loathe to get rid of it, I chose to go back out of security and check another bag we had originally intended to carry on, so that I could pack the hand lotion. In my defense, my mom was the one who really wanted to be sure we had the lotion since she had forgotten hers. And, it was her bag that we checked.
After going to the airline agent and checking the extra bag (thankfully not being charged for a second bag), I headed back through security. I was so grateful that the lines were pretty short and we got thru fairly quickly. After that hoopla, we wove our way through the barrage of unavoidable duty free shopping areas and to our designated gate. I attempted to flutter my eyes and convince the crew to bump us up to Business class, but with no such luck.
Side note - how do people get these upgrades?! I have literally never been able to sweet talk my way into that coveted front section of seats and free alcohol. What am I doing wrong?!
Anyway, we boarded the plane and found our seats. The flight wasn't full and we were able to spread out. My mom went and got a seat that had a charger port so that we could keep our iPads and iPhones juiced up. The flight was scheduled to be about 8 hours, or a bit less. However, a strong tailwind estimated us to land over an hour early!
We waited for beverage service and our meals, then I attempted to get some sleep. Thanks to my neck pillow and the open seat next to me allowing me to put my feet up, I think I got around an hour and a half of rest before the lights came up and the flight attendents were serving a small breakfast.
Not too long after that, at around 1:45am my body time, we made our decent into Dublin airport. At a full hour and a half early, I was just keeping my fingers crossed for an early check in at the hotel! But, before that, we had border control, baggage claim, car hire, and travel to do.
In line for immigration, we noticed that everyone had landing cards...except us. I was sure that they hadn't handed them out on the flight or I would have gotten one. I looked around the big hall and saw literally nothing that could have served as a desk or stand for the cards. I shrugged my shoulders and resolved to keep our place in the ever-growing line. We were shuffled into another line, which subsequently stopped moving. Some guy in a wheel chair was taking forever and we couldn't get anyone through in the mean time. That, plus a loud know-it-all behind us in line made for a very irritating wait in the queue. Finally the line began filtering through another agent and we were able to move quicker.
When we got to the gentleman in the booth, we handed over our passports and apologized for not having our landing cards. He said it wasn't a big deal and waved us on after a quick stamp in the passport.
With that over with, we collected our bags (none missing thankfully!) and headed to car hire. On the way, a guy called over to us. Warry of being sold something or played for fools, we attempted to keep walking. But the guy was persistent and we were nice. So we ended up chatting with this young guy who worked for the Red Cross. He literally just wanted to talk to Americans. He was hilarious and extremely charismatic. After a great introduction to how awesome Irish people can be, we finally hit the car hire line.
And it was LONG. We waited for about 15 minutes, the queue growing steadily behind us. Finally we got to speak to a person and they helped us out. Up to this point, literally everyone we had met from the flight attendants to Mr. Red Cross to the car hire worker were all so NICE. We decided not to fork over an extra 50 euros per day in order to allow me to drive (10 for the extra driver, 40 for insurance on an under-24-yr-old) and headed to get the car. The shuttle driver gave us a recommendation on where to look for a SIM for my iPhone and gave some vague directions.
Once we had the car, we attempted to follow his directions, but mapless in a new country, driving a manual on the LEFT side of the road, did not a good combination make! My stomach was in knots as my mom navigated roundabouts and got (to my eyes) dangerously close to the left shoulder (or wall in some cases). We were driving aimlessly for 15 minutes until I spied a convenience store and directed her to pull off.
I popped inside to ask if they could give me some advice on where to get a SIM and directions to get there. Three workers collaborated to decided where to send me and the best directions. A fourth contributed by phoning the other store to make sure they had the nano SIM for my iPhone. After about 15 minutes I left with handwritten directions to a Tesco Mobile store. Finally we had some direction (literally and figuratively) and made our way there.
When we arrived, once again the man working was incredibly nice and helpful. For 15 euros, I got 5GB of data and unlimited calls within Ireland and credit towards texts and international calling. It made me so happy on so many levels: finally we had access to MAPS; it was a great deal; I had the ability to communicate with the outside world! At the same time, I reflected on how terrible the American wireless services are. We have so few options, especially for those of us who own our phones (rather than have them subsidized by our carriers). 15 euros, about $24, for a month of unlimited calling and 5GB of data. That would easily be $80 in America!
Anyway, after happily being able to check Facebook and confirm our route to the hotel, we stocked up on snacks and cider and headed off to our first real destination: Dunboyne Castle Hotel!
Before we could head to our hotel, though, we had to back out of our parking spot. Somehow, the car hire man forgot to tell us how to put the car in reverse. The gear stick had a "map" of where R was, but it was proving impossible to find in practice. So, my mom kept the car in Neutral and I jumped out to physically push the car backwards. I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea, or that I would be capable of doing such a thing. As it turns out, I can't push a car by myself against the wind when it's parked still. Thankfully, however, from my vantage point I could tell that the car would fit through the pillars dividing the parking spots and we were able to pull forward to leave instead.
Finally, we were on our way! The insane tension in my stomach subsided with the ability to give my mom clear and correct directions via Google Maps, and even though she was still struggling a bit with the lefthand side driving, I felt myself finally relaxing a bit.
We arrived to the hotel about 11:45am and were pleasantly surprised that they allowed us to check in. We got to the room and just about collapsed on the bed. With only an hour or so of sleep, our bodies feeling every minute of 6am, we lapsed into a much-needed NAP!
Four and a half hours later, we awoke much refreshed but starving. We showered (another much needed activity) then headed out to find some food. Via Yelp, I found a chipper (fish and chips place) nearby and we headed off. (I called the car hire place and finally figured out how to go into reverse!) We found some places to park near the pubs, but there was one problem: parallel parking. My mom is actually great at this, but when doing so on the left when you can barely drive on the left, it was pretty amusing. After one failed attempt and a trip around the block to get back into position, I jumped out and helped her by directing her into the spot. I won't say how many "points" it was, but I can say my mom successfully parallel parked on the left in Ireland!
We got out and headed in search of food. The chipper didn't have any seating, and smelled weird, so we ventured on. We hunted a bit, then we found a place with a take away special - 12" pizza and soda for 6 euros. Compared to all the other places, that was dirt cheap. We ordered and then took our pizza back to the hotel. While watching The Voice: Ireland, we finished every single crumb of that pizza. (For the record, Ireland doesn't seem to have a huge pool of talent when it comes to singing...)
By then we decided that, while relaxing, we weren't in Ireland to sit in our hotel room! So we ventured down to the bar. We each had one drink, and walked away 20 euros poorer. I don't think we will be doing that again! I'll stick to the cans of cider from Tesco, thank you very much!
After a quick chat with Romeo via Skype, my mom and I planned out the next day. Then she convinced me to take the time to write a blog. So, here we are. :) Photos will come when we get back to America!