Our family trip to Ireland back in 2004 held the title of “Best Vacation of My Life” until our Honeymoon in 2013. I was SO incredibly excited to return this year, not just because it’s one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see, and you’ll meet some of the nicest people on the planet there (and honestly…I could just listen to those brogues for days), but because I got to meet the rest of Brian’s family!
We left on Holy Thursday, and it worked out well as I had Good Friday off work, so I only (“only”!) had to take six unpaid days of vacation. Our flight was supposed to leave at 10:30 a.m., but storms in Indy and Chicago (where we were flying first) delayed us until about noon.
We were lucky to have our family friend, Garry, pick us up and take us to the airport. As Brian and I pulled in the driveway, we busted out laughing as we saw his Irish gear. The O’Neals had been to Ireland with my parents in 2013, and obviously with that last name, Garry is Irish, too! We got into the van and he went through his “Safety talk” like they do on planes. “Ground Lingus”. 🙂 He even had bottles of water for all of us and cookies to go! What a great way to start our trip.
When we arrived at the airport, we had about 3 hours before our plane took off. As we sat in our seats at the gate, the sky kept getting darker and the rain pounded down…so I was more than okay with the delay!
We made it to Chicago around 1 p.m. our time. With it being Kate’s first flight, I was pretty nervous…especially because she had been up for 5 hours at that point without a real nap. Thankfully she slept almost the whole flight after she fell asleep as I was nursing her. Success!
I was nervous to have such a long layover (about 3-4 hours) once we got to Chicago, but with our delay, going through security, and taking the tram to the International Concourse, it actually worked out pretty well. Thankfully we set up my mom’s stroller and Kate got to ride in that for a bit. We got a bite to eat at an Italian place while Brian called AT&T about his phone. Oh yeah….as we were getting our shoes back on after going through security, Brian said, “SHIT – I left my phone on the plane in the seat.” Funny how I had put MY phone in the seat ahead of me, but then took it out thinking, “surely I’ll forget it if I put it there.” Well, long story short…God was on our side that day. It took Brian about an hour to call AT&T and deactivate his phone temporarily. Wouldn’t you know, in that time someone had found his phone and called Brian’s mom (their home number is “Home” in his phone) and they’d arranged to mail the phone to his mom. I mean…how lucky is that, right? Brian would be without his phone during the trip, but he really could only use it when we had WiFi, anyway.
Our next flight took off around 4 p.m., and the flight was to be just about 7 hours long. To say I was nervous was an understatement! There were other kids on the flight, but Kate was the only baby. Talk about pressure! If she screamed or cried, we’d be incriminated immediately. 😉
Luckily we had the “baby bassinet row” which made things MUCH easier. It was the first row in coach so we had a lot more leg room. Plus we were right next to the bathroom, which we used about 4 times going over to change her diaper (she was pretty constipated…poor girl!). They had a big tray that folds down from the wall in front of you, and they’ll bring you what is essentially a box for the baby (equipped with pillows and blankets). We only used it a little on the flight over, but on the flight back we LOVED it–she sat in there for at least an hour or two total, just playing with the straps (her favorite–forget toys!) and other things.
She finally fell asleep about 1.5 hours before we landed. I tried and tried to get her to fall asleep on the flight, but finally I stopped trying. I told Brian that since she was in a good mood, why fight it? And eventually she did sleep while I nursed her. As we landed in Ireland at 5 a.m. their time, she woke up and continued to be in a good mood. You could tell she was sleepy, but she was a good sport!
We got off the plane, went through customs, and just came out to get our bags…and what to our surprise we see Anne and Liam at the door waiting for us! I had told them (after Anne had offered) not to worry about picking us up because we were renting a car. Well, they got up at 3 a.m. and met us, anyway, to make sure we could get the rental and drive out of Dublin okay. How sweet are they?!
We finally got in the car at maybe 8 a.m. their time. I was EXHAUSTED! I hadn’t slept on the plane at all, so I’d been up for about 20 hours at that point. I nodded off in the car (that Liam graciously drove for us) and Kate fell asleep, too. The drive to Dublin was just under 1.5 hours, and when we got to their house, we were ready to conk out!
Anne made us our first (of many) full Irish breakfast. Umm….DELICIOUS! Despite the massive amount of food I ate and beer I drank, I was SHOCKED to see I only gained 1 pound on the trip. Brian said it’s been like that every trip here; he’d eat and eat and eat, and never gain a thing. I remember that from my last trip, too – is it that their food is so much better for you? Or that you’re so full you don’t ever snack? Or more walking than usual? I’m not sure…but I’ll take it.
After breakfast we laid Kate down, and we all slept for a few hours. When we woke up, all I wanted was a shower! I took another nap and Anne made a delicious dinner for us. Afterwards we stopped over at Mary Kelly’s, where we met Mary, Rosaleen and her husband, Jim, and their two sweet girls, Heather and Juliette. Eamon has 7 siblings, and Mary Kelly is one of his two sisters. The siblings, in order, are Paddy, Bridey, Michael, Jonny, Willy, Tommy, Mary, and the Baby (aka Eamon) :). Mary has five children herself, and we were able to meet Rosaleen, Maureen, and Tommy on our trip. We had already met Michael who attended our wedding, so it was wonderful to see him again and meet his sweet wife, Lucy!
To say everyone was lovely is an UNDERSTATEMENT. Each person we met was so incredibly kind and thoughtful! We came back and finally fell asleep around midnight.
The next morning we woke up around 8:30, had breakfast, and promptly took a nap while Kate napped. There were a few naps the first couple of days! When we woke up, we showered and then went to pick up my parents at their hotel in Athlone. We’d rented a car during our visit, and I felt badly that my parents were “stranded” for a few days (the rental car had Kate’s car seat that we’d rented, so they let us keep it at Anne and Liam’s.) Thankfully their hotel in town was very close to some shops, restaurants, and most importantly for my dad–the Catholic church. 😉
We stopped to check out the Cam Cemetery where many of Brian’s relatives are buried, including Eamon’s parents. On the cemetery grounds was an old, dilapidated church (pictured below). I think that is one of my favorite things about Ireland–seeing old, abandoned churches (and castles! oh the castles) and knowing they blow OUR “old” out of the water. “Old” here in Indiana means 100-150 years old. In Ireland it is SEVERAL hundred – even a thousand years old.
We met Michael, Lucy, Chris, and Eamon at Mary’s house. Michael wanted to take us all out to dinner–so thoughtful of him! We went to the most adorable little town about 20 minutes from Brideswell, and we all ate such a delicious dinner. I could NOT get enough brown bread on our trip over! We all laughed and just had the best time stuffing our bellies full.
The next day was Easter, and we were very excited to celebrate with the family!