Traveling Abroad (Four) — May, 2013

There’s something inherently sad about the demise of a dream, whether it blows up or just fizzles into nothingness.

We Americans tend to think we corner the market on dreams.

That anything is possible, if we’ll just buckle down, persevere, hang tough.

There are reams of quotes to that effect.

But sometimes, things happen that are unplanned. Unforeseen.

And dreams, once held so tightly, shatter.

Not necessarily becoming nightmares, but close.

Our trip abroad was like that for me.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but perhaps we should have done a better job pre-planning. Securing visitor brochures, booking hotels, familiarizing ourselves with transportation and food and the monetary system.

Perhaps Domer and I are too cheap to be world travelers. Or too solidly ingrained in home and routine.

Perhaps this was the wrong time for a trip. Too soon on the heels of commencement.

Perhaps we should have signed up for a group tour.

(Nah, we’re too independent for that!)

If it’d been me by myself, I’d have stuck it out. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

No way would I readily admit failure. Defeat.

But this was Domer’s trip, and he was miserable. So I did what any parent would have done — whatever it took to make him un-miserable.

That meant swallowing my pride, shelling out a small fortune in cancellations and penalties, and accepting responsibility for the mistake.

But I can’t think of it as a mistake.

After all, we did see some beautiful countryside, we passed interesting-looking museums, and — short though it was — I was actually on Irish soil!

Nor did it rain all the time; in fact, we only got the briefest of mists our first day.

I haven’t lost a deep kinship with Ireland, the country of some of my forbears, either. And one day I hope to return — wiser and more organized.

Domer looks at me like I sprouted a pineapple on my head when I say that. Fine, let him grumble that our trip sucked, big time.

I disagree.

We came back with a new appreciation for our homeland. For Wal Mart, green beans, fruit salads, hamburgers, ice in drinks.

We understood what Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz — “There’s no place like home.”

And we realized it’s a whole lot different being Irish-American than being Irish.

That, despite our our disparities, our aggravations and frustrations, the people of the USA — with their core beliefs in Freedom, Equality, Dignity, and Liberty — are strong and independent.

That our competitive spirit, free enterprise system, and a persistent belief in the goodness of mankind are valuable and honorable things.

That dreams — and the possibility of making one’s dreams come true — are worth holding onto.

And those are lessons every American needs to learn!

Traveling Abroad (Three) — May, 2013

When Saturday dawned, I was up before the wake-up call, eager to get back home.

Domer and I tightened our belts in lieu of breakfast and went to the hotel lobby to check out.

Now, we’d been told this taxi would charge a flat fee of 35 Euros, payable by swiping a credit card.

But the guy who showed up said he couldn’t do that. He wanted cash, so we had to stop at an ATM and withdraw enough for the trip.

Sorry, buddy, no tip for you!

When I fretted about how little time we had to get to the airport, he floored the accelerator, weaving in and out of traffic. On the left hand side of the road.

I held my breath the entire trip.

At last we reached Dublin Airport.

Mass confusion reigned. Queues were snaking everywhere.

Finally, we got “rid” of our heaviest suitcases — filled with clothes we hadn’t worn — only to find more lines.

For screening.

For customs.

For pre-boarding to the States.

That means taking off one’s shoes, unpacking the laptop, removing jackets and keys and coins.

Before this trip I hadn’t flown since Domer was in the womb (1990). So you can imagine how stunned I was to see a woman in front of me felt all over by a TSA screener.

I slipped through, then poor Domer got groped.

Despite having shaved off his scruffy beard. Despite looking like a clean-cut, decent young American.

And after he told me — on the plane, no less — I was ready to hop off like Mama Tigress and give that screener a piece of my mind for touching my kid!

We didn’t wait long to board, and more than once I looked at Domer and asked whether we were making the right decision.

“I’m going home,” Domer said. “I’ve had it with this place.”

The flight back was okay. We availed ourselves of everything that was offered — food, soda, tea, bathroom, free movies, you name it.

Other passengers were still irritating; we knew it was going to feel like midnight when we finally got home (because of the time change); and I couldn’t relax for the thoughts swirling in my brain, but Domer helped.

We’re going HOME, he kept reminding me. And it was sounding better and better.

Join me tomorrow as I complete our trip.

Traveling Abroad (Two) — May, 2013

Friday, May 24, found Domer and me up early, taking turns foraging for food and accommodations again.

Kind of like being on a deserted island.

We learned there were hotels, but they were way more expensive than we wanted to pay. And there were bed-and-breakfasts. But nothing mid-range with vacancies.

Somewhere along the line, the subject of bailing came up. I honestly don’t know whose idea it was, but we figured at this rate, it was going to cost almost as much to pay the cancellation fees and go home early as it would sticking it out for the week.


At last, we found what looked like a lovely hotel, and we booked the next four nights at a reasonable rate (thanks, Expedia!). Checking out of the guest house, we followed directions to the bus stop.

Little did we know one has to HAIL a bus, the way you hail a taxi.

After several buses went by, we noticed people signaling for the one they wanted, so we did, too. Only we were at the wrong bus stop!

Another thing — Irish buses have no signage, meaning you really don’t know where you are, when you should get off (and whether the neighborhood you’re waiting in is sketchy or not). Oh, and the drivers don’t make change. If you’re told the fare is 2.35 in Euros and you drop 2.50 in the slot, tough luck!

An hour’s ride later — at least we were able to see some of the scenic countryside — we arrived at the hotel and checked in.

Relieved to be “settled” for the next few days, we decided to eat lunch. Surprise, our hotel offered a meal on site — woo hoo! — and we enjoyed club sandwiches with tortilla chips. Still eager to look around, we returned to our room to research travel options.

Uh-oh, the news wasn’t good. It was going to take an hour each way on the bus, or mucho Euros in taxi fares, to get back to civilization.

No wonder the staff seemed so accommodating. They were stuck in the middle of nowhere and knew it.

The idea of cutting our losses grew. Feeling frustrated at not having toured the first thing, not having taken a single picture, and afraid Ireland had seen us coming with a money tree in tow, we looked seriously into the possibility of catching an early flight home.

There was one on Saturday, and we grabbed it.

We cancelled our hotel stay after that one night, booked a taxi (Cha-ching) for the ride to the airport, and dined on pizza for dinner.

Lingering doubts over our decision evaporated during our noisy night. A group of teens staying there on break from school raced up and down the hotel’s hallways, banging on doors and phoning random rooms to find their friends much of the night.

Can it get any worse, I wondered.

Join me tomorrow to see.

Traveling Abroad (One) — May, 2013

Bet you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past few days.

Would you believe Ireland??

You should. I might be part-Irish, but I wouldn’t lie about a trip to the Motherland!

It’s long been a dream of mine. Last summer, my friend Katybeth and her son went and had a blast.

Then in August, Notre Dame played Navy in the Shamrock Bowl in Dublin (and Domer and the Band got to go!). But they didn’t see much of anything, so I promised — if Domer wanted to — that I’d take him back as a graduation gift. He agreed.

I applied for, and received my passport, made travel arrangements, and was so excited about our adventure that I barely slept. I had all sorts of plans — kissing the Blarney Stone, touring the Guinness factory, seeing Trinity College and the Book of Kells and the Waterford factory, looking over Kilmainham Gaol, and taking a bazillion pictures.

To share on my blog, naturally!

We departed Wednesday, May 22, from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, intending to sleep the entire flight because we were to land at 9 a.m. the next day and hit the ground running toward the sights.

No such luck.

  • The flight attendants kept the overhead lights blaring and ran up and down the aisles feeding people every couple of hours.
  • Passengers tromped back and forth to the restrooms.
  • The girl in front of me leaned her seat way back (when I couldn’t move mine), squashing my space.
  • The man next to Domer coughed and snored — mouth wide open — for hours.
  • Somebody’s infant was most unhappy and let us all know about it.

The “fun” really started after we landed on Irish soil.

Domer and I snared a few Euros from an airport ATM and hailed a taxi into Dublin and our hotel. The plan was to drop off our luggage and sight-see.

Neither of us can be sure, but we strongly suspect that the cabbie — nice though he was — took a roundabout route, pointing out all the “bee-u-tee-ful” sights to see while we were in town. We grew more suspicious when he told us how “the missus” likes money and how hard it is to make a living driving a cab.

Thirty-six Euros later, we arrived in front of the hotel — the one Domer had found online before we left, the one I booked and in turn, received confirmation on.

The attendant said he had no record of our booking; however, he’d sell us a room. Figuring I was going to get charged twice, and not feeling comfortable with the seedy-looking place anyway, we high-tailed it back onto the streets.

Schlepping our luggage across crowded Dublin, we made our way to a Burger King. Twelve Euros for two burgers, one small fry, and two sodas.

(One Euro equals $1.30, approximately. You do the math!)

Feeling cheated but no longer hungry, we went to the Discover Ireland office. They found us a “guest house” and gave us directions on which bus to take and how to get there.

The inn’s rate was reasonable that night, but it nearly doubled for the following nights — apparently due to a football (soccer) match in town that weekend, along with some big concert and lots of tourists — so one night was all we booked.

It was a quaint little inn. Tiny, but clean. There were no amenities like in the States — no toiletries, no soap, no washcloths, no clock, no mini-fridge, no microwave. But they did have wireless Internet, which we used to search for our next night’s accommodation.

Frustrated and weary from jet lag, we toppled into our beds for a few hours (killing any hope of Thursday sight-seeing).

When dinnertime arrived, we prevailed upon the desk clerk for directions to a restaurant, and were led to a delightful spot for beer-battered haddock and fries.

Good, but expensive. Cha-ching.

Upon our return, we did more research, questioned the sanity of this trip, then crashed for the night.

Join me tomorrow for more!