Steven tries to get home to Ireland every couple of years to see his family, but I haven't been since 1999. With three little kids at home, it was easier for his family to come see us in the States. Still, it had been a while since I had seen them, so it was time to plan a trip for both of us.
At the beginning stages of planning our trip to Ireland we threw in a side trip to Norway. We figured, hey, we're close enough, we might as well, right? Then we starting re-thinking that because it would require clothes and outerwear for very cold weather. And what's the one thing RVers avoid like the plague? Yeah, winter. Scratch Norway.
So then we decided the north of Ireland would be better. Steven's brother and sister-in-law, Philip and Jackie, own a vacay home there. But then, just a few weeks before our trip we started re-thinking that, too. Cold, dreary, windy. Yeah. Scratch the north of Ireland.
Now what? Our plane tickets were long ago purchased, so we already knew we'd be in Europe for a month, all we had to do was fill in the travel gaps and figure out where we wanted to go while we were there. After a few discussions, we finally decided that in addition to a couple of weeks in Dublin, we would also plan a five-day trip to London and a week-long stay in Paris.
For the first time since we started traveling, we prepared Scoopy for a month-long winter storage. It sure was sad to leave her behind, but we knew she would be well-cared for at the ranch.
We flew out of Abilene to Dallas, then on to Philadelphia and finally into Dublin. No matter how you slice it, this is an 18-to-22 hour ordeal and, to be honest, something I wasn't looking forward to. Jetlag can be really difficult to overcome traveling east. Neither one of us slept on the plane, which turned out to be a good thing. We arrived in Dublin early on January 26th and after visiting with Steven's parents for a few hours, we napped for just a couple of hours in the early afternoon. By evening we were very tired and managed to sleep through the night and wake well-rested. From then on, we had no problems with jetlag. I was surprised we adjusted so easily, but happy for it!
Our first week in Dublin was jam-packed with goings-on. Nightly dinners with Steven's parents are always a treat. His dad is a fabulous cook and we were completely spoiled with wonderful dishes. The family gathering at Deidre and Maurice's home was great fun, but it probably would have been wise to build in a recovery day afterward.
Rather than waste a day recovering, we booked an early train trip to Northern Ireland to visit Belfast Titanic, a permanent exhibit built on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built. On the trip north I commented to Steven that I don't think I've ever seen a day as grey as this one. Everything was the same color, the sky, the ground, the buildings. The only thing that popped were the green fields, a welcomed sight for my tired eyeballs.
The Titanic exhibit was wonderful. It is self-guided, so you get out of it what you put into it. If you blow through it, you won't learn much, but we took our time and read the stories and the history and felt it was well worth a visit. Other than Titanic, what really surprised us was Belfast itself. For years, during the Northern Ireland conflict (or, The Troubles, as this time is known locally) Belfast was at the center of a violent 30-year political struggle. Because of this, in all my travels in Europe during the 70s and 80s, Belfast was never on my radar, nor Steven's. So it was kind of amazing to us to go there and see a bustling and vibrant city. Belfast turned out to be one of those Bucket List items you add and check off on the same day. :)
We spent a week with Steven's parents before heading to Gorey in north County Wexford to visit his best friend and former bandmate Kieran and his beautiful family, wife Aileen and young daughter Layla. Kieran was Steven's best man at our wedding years ago, as he was at theirs in 2011. Both Kieran and Aileen are musicians, and we spent one afternoon shooting music videos and the evening at a jam session in a local pub. They are both incredibly talented and it was loads of fun to hang out with them.
After another night in Dublin, we took a bus to Philip and Jackie's home in Navan. There we spent a couple of days with them and their amazing daughters Sophie and Lauren. On a rare warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, we drove to the small town of Trim, home to the famous Trim Castle. The local hotel is also home to a yummy carvery lunch, which is where we started before touring the castle. I love a good carvery and like to joke about the carrots and potatoes prepared six ways. And it's not like you get a choice, you get them all. The Irish take their root and tuber veggies very seriously.
I know some of you who have met Steven recognize his Irish accent, but in Ireland he might as well be American. Yet, once around family, he falls back into it quite easily. I do the same with my family in Texas and between the two of us, I have always had the more prominent accent.
We had a great stay in Dublin, but there is more to come!
Next Up: London!