Ireland at Christmas

I worked some long hours Wednesday, then was up way too late Wednesday packing, but managed to get to work early on Thursday. Unfortunately there were some issues and I left an hour later than planned, but I still got home, took a shower, and we made it to the airport by 4:30. 3 hours early and we were glad for it, as the line for United’s international counter was long. Security was pretty easy, and we were at the gate with over an hour to spare, but we boarded early. The flight was long (8 hours), and we entertained ourselves. We both watched “Little Miss Sunshine”, then I watched “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” while Jill read, then I read Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things” and Robert Rankin’s “Armageddon the Musical” while she slept (I slept for a little over an hour towards the end). We had an hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany, but we were late getting in and they were already calling for our flight, so we went over to get in line for our gate (the gates were grouped in areas that all had their own security, unlike most airports which have one security screening per terminal). We got on the shuttle bus to our plane with time to spare, then traveled to the plane and got on, both sleeping some.

We landed in Dublin about 11:30 Friday morning, and went to the baggage area. An hour later, we were still there, with one of our four bags. Apparently our short layover was too short for our bags, and they were still in Frankfurt. So we left our information with the place that handled baggage and met up with Melissa, Jill’s sister. She took us to her car, and we drove to her home in County Cavan (with a brief stop at McDonald’s for some lunch for her and some soda and water for us). We got in around 2 and were greeted by Jill’s niece Madelyn and nephews Jake and Tiernan, as well as Melissa’s husband Dominic. We played with the kids for a bit, then Dominic went out to an Italian place and brought back fish and chips and pizza. As you might expect of a place that served both, it wasn’t that great (especially since I was in Ireland I was thinking of the best fish and chips I’ve had), but it was good enough. And I was glad we had malt vinegar available – it’s the only way I really enjoy fries these days. We all went to bed pretty early, as we were exhausted.

Saturday we got up somewhat early, around 9, to Melissa making pancakes and bacon for everyone. And she had maple syrup! After breakfast, we hopped in Melissa’s car and took the short drive up to Northern Ireland (my first time) to the town of Enniskillen. We had brought our passports if we needed them, but when we asked, she told us we’d crossed the border 20 minutes ago – you can’t tell by the land. One way you can – they only use British currency, so the euros I had sat in my pocket while I used my credit card. A lot. We mostly were buying things to replace what was in our still missing bags (and we were unable to get a straight answer out of Lufthansa as to when they might arrive). The one bag that had arrived was full of gifts for the kids, so we had what clothes we were wearing and no toiletries. We were also missing a My Little Pony toy for Madelyn that Santa had assured her would come, so we needed to get that too (yes, we had two bags full of gifts). Our first stop was a toy store and we didn’t find what we were looking for. Next we went to a Semi-Chem, a chemist (or drugstore), to restock our toiletries, then a toy store where we found the My Little Pony toy. I did most of my shopping at Heatons, a department store. I picked up all my clothes there, as well as the last two Snow Patrol CDs (both had UK only extra tracks). Next Jill and Melissa shopped for clothes at Evans (their version of Lane Bryant), while I wandered the streets and read rss feeds on my phone, then we ate lunch at a pub, Linen Hall. I had a chicken and bacon melt panini while Jill had a mashed potato, and we both had an Abbot Ale. We still had a bit more shopping as Jill wanted some accessories and shoes, then we helped Melissa with the grocery shopping at ASDA.

The one store I didn’t go in.

When we got back to the house the kids were happy to see us, and we played and watched TV for a while. On the way back, Melissa had called the house and it turned out they’d located our bags and they’d be delivered at 6, and they were, everything intact. Melissa had wanted to go out to dinner and had hired a babysitter, but Dominic had already eaten. So he went off to the pub, and after we got the kids settled down and the babysitter arrived, we went into Cavan Town to Little Sicily, an Italian restaurant. Jill had a half bottle of a red Tuscan wine and I had a a half bottle of the house white, then Melissa and I ordered side salads and Jill ordered the garlic bread. The appetizers were the unhappy part of the meal, as instead of two side salads we got one salad that had giant slices of mozzarella in it (and I’m a cheese hound), while Jill got a flat bread shaped like a pizza instead of the normal crusty loaf she was expecting. Melissa wasn’t interested in the salad, so I ate it. Not bad, but it wouldn’t been my first (or third) choice. When we got the entrees, we understood the (possible) confusion, as Jill’s chicken parmigiana and my lamb chops both came with a side salad on the plate (Melissa’s pizza had no extras), so we guessed that the waitress had not wanted to give me double the salad, and had assumed that Melissa had ordered the only salad on the appetizer list. Anyway, the rest of the meal was excellent, finished off with tiramisu for Melissa and profiteroles for Jill. After dinner, we swung by the Dunn Lane pub in Milltown to join Dominic for a couple of rounds of pints of Guinness before heading back.

Melissa at Little Sicily during a phone picture war

Sunday we slept in a bit, and awoke to Melissa making pancakes again. We ate our fill, then played with the kids for a while. The big outing today was to pick up the “Jesus birthday cake” (not an Irish tradition, Melissa’s father’s family’s, and she’s the American in the family). We packed all the kids in the car, and went to Cavan Town to pick it up from the bakery before it closed. As a treat for the kids, we went to a nearby park and played on the equipment there, then stopped for an early dinner at KFC (the last time I’d been to a KFC was with Jill’s other sister during our Rehoboth trip last summer). We stopped at the grocery store for some last minute items and I hit the liquor area and picked up McCormick’s Irish Cream (wanted to try something other than Bailey’s) and a bottle of Jameson’s. We went back to the car but Melissa had forgotten batteries, so she went back for them while we helped Jake look for Santa’s sleigh (we decided we were looking for a bright red light), but didn’t see it. Back at the house, the kids were allowed to open one gift and did, then asked to open the others – we politely refused. After they went to bed, Melissa made us a selection of appetizers, much like we do at our holiday party, while we watched “Love Actually“, Melissa’s favourite movie (and we enjoyed it too). We stayed up and watching TV and drinking irish cream concoctions before heading to bed (as oppoed to our last visit in 2003, they now had satellite tv with a way different channel line up then we get in the US). Jill started the day with a scratchy throat, and I ended it with one – sure signs of the colds we were about to get.

Monday was Christmas, and the kids tried to hold it in, finally coming down at 7. We were up by 7:30 to watch them tear into gifts, which included a Nintendo DS Lite for Madelyn (and her mom), a police Lego playset for Jake and a firefighter Lego playset for Tiernan. Most worriesome: the guitar and mike for Madelyn, drumset for Jake and a keyboard for Tiernan, coutresy of Melissa’s dad. I became the assembler, putting together all the toys, starting with Tiernan’s kitchen set. Much playing went on throuout the day, but eventually we settled down and had dinner. Melissa had prepared a delicious meal: beef roast with boiled, mashed, and roasted potatoes, broccoli and my favorite, yorkshire pudding (just like my mom makes). For dessert, Dominic’s mom and dad came over and we had the cake (along with singing “Happy Birthday”) and Melissa’s homemade apple pie – very tasty. After the kids were in bed, Dominic sacrificed watching his sports team, Arsenal, on the downstairs TV so I could watch Dr. Who on the Beeb with Jill (she’s not obsessed, just would rather watch that than soccer).

Tuesday we slept in ’til nearly 11. Jake tried to wake us up with a drum solo at 7:30 but we weren’t having it (it’s only a play set, but makes a heck of a lot of noise). It was still fun to play with the toys, including some new scooters for Madelyn and Jake we played with outside. In the afternoon, two of Dominic’s sisters came over with their kids, as well as his mom and dad and we had lasagna Melissa made. More gifts were exchanged, and the kids had a good time playing with each other. We hung out after the kids went to bed watching TV and playing the new version of Monopoly (but the Irish edition) while we finished off the irish cream (I think I liked it better than Bailey’s).

Wednesday was our big travel day – up at 6:30 to hit the road at 7. We didn’t hit the road until 7:20, and that was my fault. While trying to figure out why the Nintendo DS Lite wouldn’t recharge (because it had an US charger because Melissa bought it online in the US and had us bring it, and it needed an Irish one), I’d removed the Super Mario cartridge. The things are the size of an SD card, and in the normal chaos of the next couple days, had gotten misplaced. We’d borrowed a charger from Madelyn’s cousin, but now couldn’t find the game and spent a fruitless twenty minutes looking. We still made it to the airport by 9, which was our goal. What we didn’t know was Lufthansa’s ticket counter didn’t open until 9:30, so we cooled our heels in front of it. It still took a while to get our boarding passes as there was a printing error and the agent had to beg the IT gods for a reprint, which took about 10 minutes). We went through security fairly quickly and were in the terminal with an hour to spare, so we checked out the shops and Jill had a coffee and bagel while I had a smoothie (my stomach was queasy).

The flight got into Frankfurt on time, and we had a two hour layover, so we poked around the shops, and were looking for a table in the cafe area to have a beer and a snack when they called our flight over the PA. We wondered why, with an hour and a half left, they’d have us go to the gate, until we got to the security line. It took us over an hour to get through, mostly becauase they had no metal detectors and the guards had to wand by hand everyone in line. We still made the plane in time, and were soon in the air. This flight Jill watched more movies – we both watched “Talladega Nights” (funny – Molly Shannon needs her own movie) and “Lady In The Water” (Jill had never seen an M. Night Shyamalan film and quite liked, I always like his work), then she watched “The Night Listener” and “Scoop” (she liked it, but I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film all the way through, and would have a hard time because of my ick factor with him personally). I read Neil Peart’s “Roadshow”, about the last Rush tour, and slept a tiny bit. We got in a little after 8, and were home a little after 9, and in bed by 10:30. A very long day made worse by the colds that were well into the tissue phase, but a fun time overall.