The final portion of our three-week trip would be spent in Dublin. We left Rathdrum midday Tuesday after saying a quick goodbye to Daphne. Unfortunately, Daphne’s elderly uncle was in the hospital and she had to rush off to see him. If you are ever in Rathdrum, you should stay at Stirabout Lane. Daphne alone is worth it.
There was much debate between Tim and I about how all of us would get to Dublin. The car didn’t have room for a third adult. For one thing, the trunk would be full of luggage, so we couldn’t put her back there. I planned on taking the train with Becky but that would have us miss some of the fun planned on the drive to the city. As were preparing to leave, Tim asked both Becky and I to join him at the car. Was he thinking what I was thinking? Yes! We experimented with how two non-Chinese-contortionists could physically fit in the backseat between the two car seats. Normally, it is a tight fit with just me. We found that if Becky sat on the spot between my knees, facing the left of the car, with her legs under Vanessa’s feet and my legs under Zara’s car seat, we could fit. It took careful choreography and packing skills but we managed to get everyone and everything inside the car. Poor Barbara. She’s used to a more sophisticated style of traveling.
Given that there were two adults literally stuffed inside the backseat, you’d think we’d take the most direct route to Dublin. But you’d be wrong. Instead, we took a long slow drive through The Sally Gap, considered one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. It took us through peat bogs in the Wicklow Mountains, above and along a lake called Lough Tay (otherwise known as Guinness Lake because the peat colors the water a rich brown) and down past beautiful old buildings and happy Irish sheep. Some of the shooting locations for the film Braveheart were up here. The elevation was high enough for there to be a scattering of snow, too. Thankfully, Tim and Barbara took some photographs because from my spot under Becky in the back seat, I could hardly see a thing.
Finally, we stopped at Powerscourt House and Gardens. My left hip and leg alternated between muscle cramps and numbness. I am pretty sure Becky was in a similar position, physically.
Powerscourt is a country estate in County Wicklow known for its beautiful “house” (more like an opulent mansion) and landscaped gardens. We left Barbara to shop, whose legs ached from our previous walks. Tim, Becky, Zara, Vanessa, and I walked around the gardens. Actually, Zara didn’t technically walk anywhere. And Vanessa was carried 95 percent of the walk, which has been the typical way we’ve explored Europe and Ireland. Carrying our heavy kids where ever we go! The walk was cool, though. The sun was out but it was snowing. I looked for a snowbow, you know, instead of a rainbow? I guess snowflakes don’t refract light like water droplets do. (Tim is probably embarrassed to read that sentence. Hey, I’m no physicist!) We climbed a stone tower, saw Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance, wandered through lovely forests and explored the Japanese Gardens before swinging by Titon Lake. And then climbing thousands of steps to get back to the house. This trip needs to end just to give my poor back a break.
Barbara ended up exploring the walled gardens on her own. I wish we had more time because that would have been fun to see.
Eventually we had to stuff ourselves back into the rental car. The good news was that Dublin wasn’t too far away. As we approached the suburbs of Dublin it began snowing again and actually stuck to the ground. Which would have been way cooler if we weren’t taking the risk of Becky not having a seat belt.
We stayed at the Jurys Inn Christ Church, which had a spectacular view of the Christ Church Cathedral from our window. Poor Becky had to set out as soon as we arrived in Dublin to meet someone for the key to the apartment she was renting with Felicity and James. The apartment was very near our hotel but the key was a half an hour away. One thing I’ve enjoyed about staying in Ireland is the tea service set up in your room. The hotel was no exception, with a hot water kettle, cups and saucers, nice black tea, and whole milk in little containers, along with gingery little cookies (biscuits).
While we rested, Becky got the key and made some friends, and when she returned, we headed for a nearby pub for dinner.
The pub had live music and Vanessa was once again in heaven. That girl can dance!
I should say that at this point most of the time in Dublin was a whirlwind blur of pubs, beer, aching back, that cold virus that wouldn’t go away, and a desire for it all to last a little longer.
My sister Felicity and her husband James arrived around 10 PM after flying over from Birmingham, England. Felicity has been living in England for many years and we don’t get to see her very often. Now that she’s married an Englishman, the chances of her returning to live in the States are low. I haven’t seen her since summer of 2013 when Vanessa was Zara’s age. James is a lovely, thoughtful man and a nice addition to our family. They were excited to meet Zara for the first time.
While Barbara and Vanessa slept, Becky, Tim, Zara and I went with Felicity and James on a quest for traditional Irish music in Temple Bar. Yes, it was past Zara’s bedtime but we only had one night with Felicity and James. She usually can sleep in the carrier anyway. The pub we had in mind ended up being crowded with people and had especially loud music so we went on until we found a place that had a quieter atmosphere. The musical duo played fairly traditional Irish music but they didn’t have a fiddle so Becky felt like it wasn’t really the real thing. We stayed anyway and had some beer and cider. Zara had fallen asleep on the walk and would have stayed asleep if it weren’t for that song with the clapping. To make up for it, the band played her a lullaby, which was sweet but didn’t put her back to sleep.
Christ Church Cathedral
The next day, Wednesday, was supposed to be our last full day of the trip. Little did we know we’d be staying in Ireland longer than planned. Fliss, Becky and James met us at the hotel and we went for breakfast at a place called the Queen of Tarts. Then we explored the crypt in the Christ Church Cathedral. It ended up being a great place for Vanessa. It was indoors, so not too cold, but there was space to run around and play. There was also a mummified cat and rat that she was enthralled with. Upstairs, in the church proper, Vanessa found other ways to have fun. The priest invited her up to his podium to help blow out candles. How did he know that’s one of her favorite things to do? An employee gave her a present, which contained colored blocks. She also found the aisle between pews to be a perfect place to run. Are you allowed to run in churches? I hope so. The priest invited us to stay for the midday sermon which was only seven minutes long. Zara decided she wanted to give her own sermon, so I spent that seven minutes back in the crypt with my loudmouth baby. Silly goose.
Grafton Street, Other Sites
Barbara went back to the hotel for a nap and the rest of us walked to Grafton Street with Becky as our guide. Becky lived in Ireland for a little while after college, so she knew Dublin better than anyone else in our group. When we stopped for beer and coffee it became apparent that Vanessa was ready for her nap. Apparent by a full meltdown. Tim took her back to the hotel to stay with Barbara and we made plans to meet him in Temple Bar in an hour. Because we hadn’t walked enough, Becky, James, Felicity, Zara and I walked to other Dublin sights. We visited the River Liffey, some big statue (Jim Larkin?), and the Irish Famine Memorial.
I dragged Zara and my aching self, along with my perky sisters and James, to Temple Bar, where we found Tim just dipping into a pint of Guinness. Inspired, we joined him and shared a plate of surprisingly good nachos. Later everyone had dinner at the Elephant and the Castle, a restaurant chosen based on our two year old’s taste in names. The food was good and more Californian than we’d had in a while. Becky spent the meal with Zara sleeping on her in the carrier, which meant I had one of the more relaxing meals I’ve had in a long time.
Another trip to a nearby pub–with wind and rain gusting along the narrow street– for more beer and then it was a bittersweet goodbye to Felicity, James and Becky, who were catching a flight that night back to England. Our visit was way too short and it was hard to say goodbye.
(Right after they left I had to change Vanessa in a tiny bathroom stall, highlighting one of the joys of travel: the unpredictability of changing stations. But wait, maybe I could have predicted a pub in Temple Bar wouldn’t be set up for infants and small children?)
Later I would hear from them that the flight from Dublin to Birmingham was extremely turbulent and scary. While I felt bad for them, I didn’t think it would affect me.
After saying goodbye to half our crew, we decided to do one last thing in Dublin: Irish dancing! Barbara was well rested and her granddaughter Lorelei does Irish dance, so how could we not check it out? We went to yet another pub. Vanessa ran around the tables until the music and dancing started. She immediately went up near the stage and began dancing wildly/beautifully. She was invited onto the stage with the musicians and dancers and, true to form, she gave her first public dance performance in a Dublin pub without any hint of self-consciousness. Is she a born performer? Maybe. And who is this child, anyway? Barbara was thrilled, as we all were. Zara clapped wildly along with the rest of the crowd when Vanessa finished.
The next morning it was time to go home. We dropped off the rental car and went through about three hours of lines at the airport. It was such a relief to check our bags. We wouldn’t have to deal with them until San Francisco, and then it’d just be putting them into our car. Ha! How wrong I was.
We kept thinking we’d have time for coffee and breakfast but the lines took longer than we thought. This was partly because we had to go through US Customs at the Dublin Airport. It was the regular security line, the US security line and the US Customs line…by the time we got through it all, it was time to board the plane. OK, we can get something to eat on the plane, right?
Big Change of Plan
Vanessa surprised us by getting strapped into her car seat without fuss. We all settled in, waiting for the plane to take off. But it didn’t. After about an hour of waiting, the captain announced that the delay was caused by high cross winds on the runway. He said it was just above the safety cutoff of 29 knots. We would wait and see if they got better. Hmmm. As we waited, the plane started to feel like it was moving. I’d check the windows but no, we were still at the gate. The captain would periodically check in, saying the same thing, the winds were worse, we’d keep waiting. Then the plane began to feel like we were in the air, in turbulence. But we were still at the gate. This wasn’t a good sign.
Another bad sign was airport employees in their yellow vests boarding the plane with cartons of water. We were given a water and a single cookie at about hour three of waiting. Tim graciously gave his cookie to Vanessa. I ate mine.
The cross winds had ominously increased to 53 knots (about 60 mph). It had been about nine hours since we started our day. Vanessa was a total champ throughout all of this time. Maybe she’s finally getting used to this travel thing?
Finally, after four hours of sitting on the plane at the gate, the captain announced that the flight was cancelled and we would try flying out the next day.
Fancy that: our trip was extended another day.
Tim would miss the first day back at work.
The airline arranged buses to transport everyone on the flight to a nearby hotel and promised to cover our meals and transportation back to the airport in the morning. The problem with this is that we’d still have to wait a couple of hours before we could eat. The hotel turned out to be pretty far away, the fact that 38 flights were cancelled due to what was now being called Storm Rachel, may have had something to do with that.
Carlton Hotel, Blanchardstown
Once we arrived at the hotel, we realized we were pretty much that last people on the last bus. With our kids and all the luggage, there was no point in fighting the crowds to get on earlier. There was a huge line out the door of the hotel. I was almost delirious with fatigue and hunger and struggled to keep the girls warm as we waited in the bitterly cold wind. Tim and Barbara were dealing with all our luggage.
Someone inside the hotel finally realized that there were babies stuck outside and we were ushered in the building as the crowd parted for us. Tim selflessly waited in line to secure our room while I waited in the bar with the girls, where we had hot tea and peanuts.
Eventually we got our rooms and went down for dinner. Most people had already eaten. The dinner was set up oddly, kind of like a buffet, but it wasn’t clear how it worked. Would we have to pay? I was having trouble thinking straight. I waited for Tim, holding heavy Zara and keeping an eye on poor Vanessa. When Tim showed up, I kind of lost it. I found myself trying to get Vanessa to sit at a table, struggling with Zara in my arms, and I just couldn’t take making Vanessa sit and behave any longer. She’d been so good ALL day, it didn’t seem fair to make her do the “restaurant thing” again. Plus Zara was hungry and tired, too. Embarrassingly, I swore something like, “I just can’t fucking do this!” in front of Barbara before leaving them in front of the buffet in near tears. I went to our room and nursed Zara, shamefully re-emerging in the restaurant after a bit. I finally ate a meal, which helped a great deal.
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy Jig
The rest of our trip was fairly uneventful. The news told us Storm Rachel was a big deal all across Ireland. There were school closures, flooding, and even a death associated with the storm. At the airport, we had to go through all those hours of lines again but we were prepared with food. The ticketing agent failed to give Zara a boarding pass so I had to go back and get one before we were allowed through security. Our flight was delayed an hour and a half due to a mechanical issue with a door but it was fairly comfortable waiting in the airport were we could let Vanessa run around. And the flight was so empty each person luxuriously got a whole row of seats to themselves.
Barbara came home with us from San Francisco and left the next day for LA. It was probably one of the more exhausting birthdays she’s ever had. She insists she had a great time, bless her.
Once at home, we dealt with jet lag. 1:30 AM wake ups. “Mommy, I want pancakes.” 4:30 AM wake ups. “Mommy, I want pancakes.” Nausea. Grumpiness. Everyone asleep by 8:00 PM, even Tim, a well established night owl. At least we are in our own home. And no one had to put on winter coats!
Sweden. Estonia. Spring Break. Yes, we are officially nuts.