The vagabond suitcase had been severely damaged during its time away. The back wheels did not want to cooperate, due to the new cracks in the hard plastic between the back two roller mounts and the hard shell. We tried to make it work for as long as we could, but the poor thing gave up the ghost in the wild chase to the airport. One wheel came off. The cab driver was as careful as he could be, but we knew that before boarding the tour bus tomorrow, we’d have to get a new one. Since we didn’t have to meet up with the tour guide until 2pm, we felt there would still be plenty of time.
We reached the Clayton Hotel at 10pm, and after checking in, we tried to organize as much as possible. Around 1am, we passed out.
We should have set an alarm. If we had, we may not have slept until 11. I guess “pass out” until 11 would be more appropriate.
The hotel clerk gave us quick instructions as to where the closest place to find a suitcase might be, then she started to give me bus instructions.
I thanked her, then told her we’d prefer a cab. She agreed that’d be quicker.
The cab driver heard a small portion of our sob story and laughed/sympathized as a real Irishman can do. It was cathartic.
He waited for us to run in, buy a case, and run back out to his cab. It took us ten minutes. We didn’t even stop to try the zipper.
By the time we got back, swapped bags, and woofed down a semblance of a meal, it was 1:30. I showered, dressed, and ran to the lobby as my husband rushed to do the same.
The tour guide, Patrick, was a gem. He said no problem about the time crunch. He told me to take my time. So long as my time was 2pm.
Somehow, we did it.
From that moment on, this trip has taken a complete turnaround. Patrick drove the tour group totaling twenty-three wonderful souls around Dublin. He spoke as only a true native who knows and loves his country could. We were immersed in the history, culture, and highlights of this city. Back to the hotel for a quick change, and we were taken to the ultimate tourist stop of Dublin, The Merry Ploughboy Pub. Complete with an Irish band and Irish River Dancers, it was a rollicking, joy-filled evening. Even as two tourists from tourist town, we were impressed. And drunk.
I should mention that one of the main reasons we chose to come to Ireland is due to a friend who was a native born Irish man. Jerry was a man among men, God rest his soul. While he was with us, he said we should come to Ireland and sample the real life. He wanted to show us what the real Ireland was. To take us to the places he knew and loved. We did not have the opportunity to take him up on his offer before he passed unexpectedly, and far too soon. The joy that the man possessed was a testament to the spirit of Ireland. His family and friends, all those who had the honor of knowing the man, still reels at his loss. We have the privilege and honor of knowing his sister, who still lives here in this enchanting place.
We told her that we were coming for a tour bus-type visit, and she insisted on seeing us. If you’ve taken a tour bus before, you know that schedules are tight, and tough to work around. But this woman would not be deterred. I wanted to let her know that she didn’t have to worry about seeing us this round. That we would do our level best to return. She still wanted to know where we were going to be, and when. I caught her up on our itinerary, which was Blarney at noon, then on to Killarney at 3:15.
On Sunday (my good lord, is it only Sunday?) Pat drove us to Blarney, the home of the famous Blarney Stone.
We trudged up the incredible spiral staircase to reach the top of the battlements, and took pictures of the two men who would hold the tourists feet as they climbed into the small crevice to kiss the stone. I took pictures of the men, and the caged stone, because there was not a snowball’s chance in hell either one of us were going to kiss that rock. But, we were allowed up on the ledge to get a better angle of the view. I’m telling you true, there really should be parachutes issued before leaning over that wall.
After we got back to solid ground (a harrowing experience, to be sure), we wandered the grounds admiring the gardens, the waterfalls, and the witches caves. Tired and hungry, we headed back to the parking area for the restaurants. I stopped at the bus to see if I could get wifi on my phone, and while staring intently at the screen I heard a woman call out “Jeanie!”
Jerry’s sister Sara had come to Blarney to find us. She’d been wandering the tour groups, asking if their bus was Killarney bound. She and her husband had grilled each tour bus driver if they had customers from America, Florida specifically.
Can I stop for a moment and tell you how emotional this moment was for me?
Oh. Wait. I just did.
They joined us at the lunch table, and we talked excitedly like old friends. I watched her talk, and my heart swelled with honor to be there, at that moment, watching not only her lips speak in the rapid, heavy dialect of her native cadence, but to see the smile reach her eyes. To see the joy of the spirit of this fabulous, strong Irish woman.
I don’t know my personal heritage. That’s the curse of being a bastard American mutt. But at that moment, I decided I will be Irish. Someday I might do that whole DNA test thing, but probably not. My spirit connected with this person. With this place. With this time. I felt home.
But wait. There’s more…
Our tour stopped for the night in Killarney. A small town, yes, but a bustling tourist destination just the same. I’m told it would take only fifteen minutes to walk end to end of the entire town.
We had a grand dinner, then left the comfort of the room to see the area on our own. We had a Jameson in a pub, and then bought some souvenirs. Soon, it was dark, and we were tired and tipsy, so decided to return to our hotel and get ready for the 6am wake up call.
You may not believe this, but on our way back, we ran into a parade. Cars led a fire truck, merrily sounding its horn and blaring its siren. Loaded with the team members who’d won a major tournament just that day, and they were brandishing an incredible winning cup. The entire town must have turned out to follow it through the street. My husband and I stood on the sidewalk, cheering and recording the festivity on my phone.
Toward the tail end of the pageant, a man walking in the procession saw me. He said, and I quote, “Put down the phone and join the parade!”
And so I did. We walked with them, cheering the team and learning about the father of one of the boys on the team who walked nearby. He was nearly bursting with pride, as any eye could see. And we had the honor of sharing his moment.
I have video of the original man’s invitation. It will be saved for as long as I have video to save. It will be saved in my heart far longer.
We’ll be traveling from here to Shannon in the next two days. I cannot imagine how this last twenty-four hours might be topped.
Go ahead, Ireland. I dare you.