Tag Archives: foreign travel

Adventures in Ireland, Part One: There and Back Again

No. This wasn’t us. Not hardly.

Our recent trip to Ireland was a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. Ireland is a marvelous country and our time there was sublime. But getting there and back was ridiculous.

It all started (or didn’t, actually) when we got to the airport in the evening to discover no one was behind the airline counter. A few phone calls later, we discovered that the airline had changed the flight time – back in December – and we never got so much as an email from them about it. So we missed the flight to Ireland by approximately four hours.

There were no other flights out that evening, though they had one the next day. Unfortunately, since we were officially no-shows, we had to rebook and pay more money. I spent considerable time on the phone with our bank and credit card company too, trying to shift money around so we could still go.

We had already stowed our car in the non-airport long-term parking and didn’t feel inclined to retrieve it and go back home. So we had to get a hotel room and spend the night. Even that was a trial. None of the hotels that had vacancies had shuttle service to the airport and one of them didn’t even have hot water. So it was Uber for us both that evening and in the morning. At last we got on our way, but we had missed one day of our vacation, spent it in a Best Western instead of an Irish bed-and-breakfast, and already cut into our less-than-extravagant budget.

When we finally arrived in Dublin, we rented a car and set off to our first hotel. The vacation company had booked us into swanky hotels for the first and last stops, presumably on the theory that we’d be exhausted at those points. We didn’t stay in Dublin, because I was dubious about driving on the left in a big city the first day we got there. Instead, we went to the Dunboyne Castle Hotel, which is a little bit away from the city and just as impressive as it sounds.

Our first real b-n-b was in Donegal, and it was in many ways my favorite of the places we stayed. Brook Lodge was a regular house with a comfy bedroom (and en suite bathroom, which all our accommodations had) and a lovely woman who cooked us breakfasts while we watched and Dan chatted with her about gardening.

Our first real stop was a ditch on the way to Brook Lodge. It was 11:00 p.m., we were spent, and we ended up on a one-lane road that stopped at a cattle gate. We managed to get turned around, but went off the side of the road. Fortunately, we had a small flashlight with us (Girl Scout training came in handy there) and Dan took off down the road to find some help. I waited with the car.

Within half an hour, Dan was back with a great couple who drove us and our luggage to Brook Lodge, then came back the next day to pull the Toyota out of the ditch and magically remove the dent so that Hertz wouldn’t make us buy a whole new car when we turned it in.

(The Tom-Tom GPS that came with our rental car was useless and for most of the trip we used Google Maps on my phone. Dan did the driving as I was too nervous to do it, and I did the navigating as he wasn’t able to do both at once. But I digress.)

It was another ridiculous story when it was time to return to Ohio. When we went to catch our plane (after far too long driving around the airport trying to figure out where to leave our rental car), we arrived at the counter only to find that we couldn’t board the plane. Naively, we had thought that our COVID triple-vax cards would be sufficient for travel to the US as they had been going to Ireland. But no. We needed an antigen test. Since the testing site was in another part of the airport and our plane boarded in 30 minutes, there was no way we could get the test in time. There were no other flights that weren’t booked solid for four more days.

I got on the phone with the airline and spent a good hour and a half with them trying to figure out a solution. Eventually, we achieved one. There would be a plane that we could take – from Dublin to Newark and Newark to Chicago and thence to Ohio. And it wouldn’t take a four-day wait. Only two.

Again, we had no choice but to find a hotel room. And just as the flights were booked, so were most of the hotel rooms. We found one that had two rooms left and quickly snagged one. (It was an accessible room, with all kinds of extra equipment in the bathroom. We didn’t need the pull cord for the nurse, but some of the other accommodations proved handy because my husband and I are somewhat mobility-challenged. But I digress again.)

So we spent two days in a Dublin airport hotel, except for taking the hotel shuttle to the COVID testing site at the airport. (Need I say that we both tested negative?) I suppose we could have taken buses to explore the city, but by that time we were both beyond fatigued and demoralized, not to mention out of money. We spent the time playing Mille Bornes, which we had for some reason brought with us, and reading and playing solitaire on our Nook e-readers. And trying to get a charging cable for my phone in case I needed another marathon session with the airline. The hotel provided one. They kept the cables people had left behind for six months, then handed them out to anyone who needed them.

We were enormously relieved to get home and retrieve the kitties from the vet where we had boarded them. We immediately started saving to go back to Ireland, though with a few lessons learned.

There’s lots more to tell and show, but I’ll leave the more sublime parts of the story – and the photos – for next week’s blog, when I’ll no doubt digress again and again. More sublimity and more ridiculosity to come…

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The World of Cats

Once I was reading Julie and Julia (or maybe it was Julia Child’s memoirs) when I came across the statement that because she was living in France, she needed a pousiquette. I had studied French since junior high through college, and though my French is so rusty it has holes in it, I couldn’t place the word. Was it some piece of French cooking equipment? An herbaceous plant?

I began to sound out the word: poo-see-kett. Then it hit me: Julia needed a pussycat! Despite the fact that the French word for cat is chat and for pussycat is minou (I looked it up), Julia, with her inimitable flair, had made up her own word. I’ve been using it ever since and the cats don’t seem to mind (or notice).

Then recently, I learned through Facebook that the French equivalent for “purr” is ronron, which seemed a lovely approximation of the sound of a purr. I began looking up other languages’ words for “purr.” I was somewhat disappointed to learn that many other languages simply use the word “purr.” Spanish, being a Romance language like French, used ronroneo.

Other countries were more inventive. “Purr” in Vietnamese is gugu. In Croatian, it’s presti. In Japan, a cat expresses contentment by going gorogoro. German and Dutch pretty much agree on schneurren and snorren (which bring to mind “snore” rather than “purr.” This is okay with me, as we have a cat that snores. Daintily, but she snores.)

I even looked up Italian (fusa, for some reason, despite its being another Romance language), Korean (puleuleu), Hindi (myaoon), Romanian (tors), Hungarian (dorombolas), Swedish (spinna), Polish (mruczec), and Russian (murlykat).

While I was at it, I also looked up the word for “pussycat.” Spanish: minino. Dutch: poesje. Polish: kisia. Korean: goyang-i. Japanese: neko neko. Italian: micia. Hungarian: punci. Swedish: kisse (which I think is adorbz).

I restrained myself (ran out of time, really) before I could look up different versions of “meow.” Another time, I will. (But Julia’s pousiquette would have said “miaou.” With a French accent, no doubt.)

My husband and I have traveled a bit, and we love meeting cats around the world, no matter how they purr. I was in Mexico, staying at a small resort, where cats had the run of the place. The cats’ main duties seemed to be to take up lounge chairs and hope guests would drop ice cream. Each resort cat that had been neutered had a slight clip on the ear to indicate its nonreproductive status. (I understand this is also a practice in the US, a procedure known as TNR, for Trap-Neuter-Release. The clipped ear indicates the cat does not need to be trapped again. But I digress.)

In the Slovenian Alps, we met another cat with a much more strenuous job. As tourists went single file exploring the Plitvice Lakes, at the head of the column trotted a black-and-white cat who seemed to have appointed itself the tour guide. It was easy to follow even in the falling snow.

In Dubrovnik, we met a small black kitten, who proved that cat games are universal. We had dropped a brown paper bag on the ground and the kitten immediately crawled into it. We thought it was playing the bag-mice game, in which a cat makes a rattling sound in a bag and then tries to catch the imaginary mouse. But when we tried to extract the cat, we quickly learned that it would not leave the bag and wanted to go home with us. We were tempted.

Soon, we hope to go to Ireland, where, disappointingly, the pussycats will purr, just as they do in the US. Maybe we’ll find out whether Irish pussycats play the bag-mice game too. I’m betting yes.

Travels With Mom

“Oh, I could never travel with my mother!” I’ve heard this from many people when I tell them about the trips my Mom and I took together.

We traveled to Myrtle Beach.

We traveled to Wisconsin.

We traveled to Indianapolis.

We traveled to Ireland.

We traveled to Rio de Janeiro.

jan1 001
I think this is Rio because I have cankles. Long flights give me cankles. Could be Ireland, though. I had cankles there too.

The trip to Rio was actually our first. I came over to my mom’s house one day and she said, “Guess where I’m going? Rio!”

“Rio, Brazil?” I asked.

“I guess so,” she said.

She wanted to take one of us girls with her and thought that, since my sister was older, she should get the first chance. My sister, Lucy, was unwilling to go through what she saw as the incredible hassle of acquiring a passport. I already had a passport, which was not that much trouble to get, so my sister ceded me the first opportunity. She took the next one.

After that we took turns traveling with our mother. Lucy accompanied her on domestic trips (including a cruise to Hawaii), and I went on the international ones, along with a few here in the States. Occasionally, mom would take both of us on a short trip to a nearby state, but these were not nearly as much fun.

I understand why some people would not enjoy traveling with their mothers, but I have no such problem. I once had an awful trip to and from San Francisco with my mother-in-law, but that was because of cancelled flights, rerouting, and lightning visible outside the plane window. It was the trip from hell. To hell. Changing in hell. With a layover in hell. None of that was due to my mother-in-law, however.

There were certain aspects of traveling with my mother that I found especially engaging. One was her willingness to try new things. New foods, new beverages, new means of travel, new destinations – new experiences in general. She didn’t always like them, but by God she tried them. She took a sip of her caipirinha, made a face, and handed it to me. (So did several other ladies on the trip. I got soused, but not so much that I couldn’t translate their money for them.)

Another was her sheer delight in whatever was happening. One time in Rio we had to get up early for a tour and didn’t have time to go to the buffet, so we ordered in breakfast. When it came my mother started exclaiming over the tiny pots of jam and the carafe of hot chocolate – how cute and convenient they were.

“Mom, haven’t you ever had room service before?” I asked. She had not. I had traveled on business and was quite used to the service, but it was all new to her.

She also didn’t mind that I arranged things, and took over planning for some of our free time. Of course I factored in her likes and dislikes and made sure to work in the scenic tours or landmarks she particularly wanted to see. But if I wanted to start a shopping expedition in the local gem shops, or thought spending a few hours on the beach would be nice, that was fine with her.

We also had similar tastes in scheduling. Neither of us was able to fit in with the Brazilian custom of having dinner after 9 o’clock p.m. By that time we were both ready to settle in for the evening and get ready for bed after a long day of running around and sightseeing. And if my activities proved too strenuous or lengthy for her, I would find a cafe where we could stop and have a cold drink, rest our feet, and relax until we were both ready to carry on.

I liked the guided tours she booked through AAA. While they did allow some free time for individually chosen activities, for the most part they provided a bus, a driver, a tour guide, scenic and historic destinations, and times and places to eat. I know this is considered a drawback by many people. But it was much easier on both of us to have these details already arranged. I was not ready to handle the details of renting a car, driving a car in an unfamiliar country, planning an itinerary, dealing with the luggage, making hotel or bed and breakfast reservations, and all the other details that the tour company took such good care of. Mom was adventuresome, but not a seasoned traveler, and I was more than willing to let someone else do the heavy lifting – literally and figuratively. It left more time and attention for enjoying ourselves.

Sometimes Mom’s innocence was touching. In Ireland we stayed a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast. Mom never quite got the idea that, although we were staying in someone’s home, it was a business arrangement. When we left, she gave the proprietors the world’s ugliest hand-crocheted pillow, waved at them, and promised, “I’ll write!” But then, she was used to having international crocheting penpals, and once one of them came to stay with us for a visit. She probably thought that was how it always worked.

Even the domestic trips were fun. In Wisconsin we bought assorted local cheeses and the bus driver had a cooler to pack them so the whole bus didn’t smell like garlic cheddar. In Myrtle Beach, Mom wanted to fish off the pier. She caught one fish, at most five inches long, but her smile was wide and her eyes were bright. She let another fisher on the pier have her prize catch – after I took a picture of her with it.

Eventually, Mom’s health declined and she wasn’t able to travel anymore. She told me once that when she was a little girl, she used to watch the planes fly over and think that she would never get to go on one to some exotic place.

I’m so glad I was with her when she finally did.