Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ireland- Day 1 Dublin to Carrick-on-Shannon

My first full day in Ireland was interesting to say the least.

The flight over was mostly uneventful. I sat next to Colm Mac Con Iomaire who plays violin for the Frames. We talked pretty extensively for the first part of the trip. I learned that he has two children, his oldest, a 9-year old, has fragile x. Something I don’t know if I’d really known anything about prior to our conversation. He lives in Wexford and had just come off of three weeks of touring. I actually saw him perform at their Los Angeles show back in June (on a different leg of the tour). Before we got off the plane, he gave me a copy of his CD and wished me luck on my trip. I thought that was a fun way to start the trip!

I froze from Chicago to Dublin. The perks of being in a window aisle seat seemed like a great idea at the time I chose my seat. But it was freezing. At one point, a flight attendant came over, unprompted and offered to find some more blankets and suggested that I go onto aa.com and file a complaint about the temperature in our area of the plane. She went on to say that there was some sort of defect in the lining or sealing or something that made it colder than it should be. “Maybe they’ll give you additional miles for the inconvenience.” Thanks for the tip, Karen. I hope it works!
I had three blankets, including one over my face, so I could try and get some sleep. It was a restless flight to say the least and when I landed in Dublin, I was definitely feeling a little wrecked.

Life has been kicking my ass the past few weeks. Lots of emotional ups and downs. Lots of pain and sadness and real life bullshit inflicted on some of the people I love most in this world. Not enough sleep. Too much running around in my head. And way too much to do and try and process. All while trying to leave the country for three weeks. Another thing that seemed like a good idea when I was booking this trip, but was much more difficult when it actually came time to leave. Leaving two friends and my brother-in-law during a critical time of need and Steve, made getting on the plane much harder than it’s been before.

Despite all of that, touching down in Dublin felt good. It felt right. And having five days to myself, while initially felt wrong as well, has been the very best way for me to decompress and put some much needed attention on myself.

My time in Ireland always provides me with time for reflection and introspection. And when I get home, I’m looking forward to setting the reset button on a lot of bad patterns I’ve been keeping company with.

Taking a sharp left turn…

I got off the plane, made it through security, got my bag and then took advantage of the free wifi at the airport so I could let my mom and sisters and Steve know that I’d made it safely to our Motherland.

And then I went shopping for a rental car.

In years past, I book my car online and am always surprised at just how much it costs. Last year, when I swore I got ripped off by a few hundred dollars, I walked away from the car rental counter filled with shame but too exhausted to argue. I signed on the dotted line and was on my way to retrieve the rental car. As I walked past other rental car companies, one man tried to lure me over and said he could give me a better deal than “those other guys offered you.” I wished I’d had it in me to turn around and haggle on a better deal or take this other guy up on his offer.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I learned my lesson this year and didn’t book a car in advance. Knowing that in October I’d have no problem finding a rental car, I set out to find the best deal. I started (and ended) with Budget because there line was the shortest. And I got outta there with a car rental with full insurance coverage for only Î24./day Score!

After making one wrong turn, I set on my way for Carrick-on-Shannon where I had plans to stay at Gene’s new B&B. Last year he talked about adding onto his house with a few rooms for a B&B and somewhere for the musicians to sleep if they needed a place to crash. And on Facebook when I posted a countdown to the trip, Gorgeous George (one of the musicians who plays regularly on Wednesdays at The Thatch) told me that Gene had a B&B now. While I’ve loved staying at Evelyn’s B&B down the street from the Thatch, I LOVE the idea of sleeping next to the pub.

Unfortunately, connecting with Gene was more difficult than I had hoped after I landed. In fact, communicating via email before the trip was just as difficult. But with a fantastically brief exchange, it was confirmed: “stay at pub welcome there.”

Just as I had feared, when I pulled up to Gene’s house, there was no sign of his car. There was no point in knocking, I knew he wasn’t home. So I pulled around to the car park next to the Thatch and decided to wait there after I texted Gene that I’d arrived. Keeping my eyes open wasn’t an option. Driving wasn’t a smart option. Eating wasn’t even on my mind. I ended up sleeping for nearly two hours. And loved every second of it, despite the fact that I was in the rental car in a parking lot next to my favorite place on earth.

When I woke and still heard nothing from Gene, I set off for Lough Key. I had read about it when I decided to start planning this trip about two weeks ago, and knew it was relatively close by. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day with sun and blue sky and I wanted to get some time on my feet outside, explore a bit and take some pictures. I didn’t want the entire day to be a wash.

Lough Key was a great place to wander around and kill some time. I parked in a lot that came with a warning that you needed €4 (exact change) in order to get out. If you didn’t have that on you, you needed to get it from the visitor’s centre or gift shop or something. Believing that I’d be fine even though I had no change on me, and was fairly certain there wouldn’t be a gift shop open this time of year, I pulled into the car park and explored a bit.

I wished I had more energy to really explore, and less anxiety over what I was going to do if Gene still wasn’t home by the time I returned, so that I could properly enjoy the property. It was gorgeous and so I wandered just a little bit and took some pictures. The lake was still and there were geese and ducks hanging out and feeling threatened and excited by my presence.

When it came time to leave I pulled up to the gate hoping that there’d be an option to insert my debit/credit card (there wasn’t) or that I could just press  a button to talk to someone (I couldn’t) or that the arm of the gate would magically lift from my sheer determination to will it to do just that (it didn’t).

I was completely fucked.

I had no change.
The visitor’s centre wasn’t open.
The number on the side of the gate wasn’t for anyone who could actually help me: “I’m sorry I can’t help you but we just install the machine. We don’t have anything to do with it beyond that.”

I had visions of having to wait until the park closed at 6pm for someone to make sure everyone was cleared out of the car park. Even that was looking iffy. And that was nearly three hours away at that point and I really didn’t want to wait because I was dreaming of getting into a bed and taking a nap (even though I knew there was a very good chance that Gene still wasn’t going to be home). I was left with one choice- ask someone for Î4. I was prepared to give someone my 20 in exchange for 4, thinking “What an expensive lesson to learn, Molly.” Luckily it didn’t come to that.

Thanks to the kindness of two strangers from Northern Ireland, I was gifted 4 and sprung from the parking lot. I took off for Gene’s hoping that he’d be there, but was met with an empty house and driveway. I finally called him and found him on the golf course in Sligo, “Molly my girl. Is that you? I’ll be home in an hour, hour and a half tops.”


I spent another hour and a half in the car reading and trying to sleep before Gene rescued me and brought me into his house. Gene was tired. I was tired. He fixed me some tea (why don’t I drink more tea at home?) and we both went to take naps. Gene said, “I’ll set the alarm for 10pm and we’ll go over and have a pint.”

Jesus. I forgot how late everything gets going at the Thatch.

I did some yoga. Took an all to brief nap in a very comfortable twin size bed. Finally took a shower after a very long day and a half of traveling. And then set off for the pub just shy of 10pm, while Gene was still napping.

Walking through the door of the Thatch really is like coming home. I know there will be familiar faces. I know I’ll have a good time. And I know that I’ll leave with memories that will always put a smile on my face.

There were four familiar faces- Aileen (Evelyn’s daughter who comes up regulary from Limerick), Pat (a man I don’t really know but recognize from years past), Allo (a local farmer who had a crush on Amy during our trip in 2010) and of course Percy.

We watched an interview with Mary McAleese, the former presisdent of Ireland and then once that was over, a little after 11pm, we talked and talked and talked. I love that about the pub. You really never know where conversation is going to take you. A lively and friendly man, Vincent, talked a lot about heaven and that he knows for sure because of two spiritual experiences (which he gave no details about) that there’s an afterlife. At one point Gene turned to me and said, “You’ve got a calming effect on this place.” Which of course made me smile.

There was a lot of discussion about religion and what Mary McAleese had said during her interview. I got behind the bar and pulled my first pint after I already had three of them and it felt right to be standing back there. Gene and I stayed and talked and talked and talked. My head is a little fuzzy on the specifics of our conversation, but I know that it was fun. And by the time we closed the pub and walked 10 steps to Gene’s house at 230am, I was more than ready to go to bed. And more than happy for where I was at this moment in my life.

I’m ready for what the rest of this trip has to offer me. But more importantly, I’m ready to chill the f out and recalibrate myself to a life I’m more comfortable and happy of living. This trip is coming at a great time for me to put my focus and energy on doing just that and I plan on getting a big head start on that here in Ireland. 


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