Traveling Sonnet/NaPoWriMo Day 23

Along the roadway we shall quickly go,
but do we travel on little by-lanes
or straight interstates for much quicker gains?
Whichever is quicker to our Milo!
As we go, we see the peaks’ highest highs,
and then the lows with changes in terrain-
highest mountains, low valleys and flat plains.
Still our little green car goes without sighs.

Today was long and dark with wind and rain,
but tomorrow will be grand with Milo!

© Elaine Wood-Lane
4/23/16



Suggestion was a sonnet with 14 lines of 10 syllables each with an ABBAABBAAB rhyme scheme. The general idea is to write an essay in this poetic format. As I’m a day late and a dollar short because we were on the road, this isn’t the tightest I could write this poem. I’ll probably rewrite later, after we get to see sweet Milo, our 15 month old grandson. 😊

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As many of you know, I’ve traveled a lot this summer. My husband and I traveled to Ireland, Spain, England, and spent one day in France. Then last week I traveled to the Chicago area to spend time with my baby grandson, daughter-in-law and son.

I’ve said all my life that I truly believe there are more kind and good people in the world than there are mean and evil people, but kindness and goodness doesn’t get much press because it’s not as sensational. Frankly, I think kindness and goodness is so “common” that it’s not considered news.

I know I don’t have any scientific data to back up my claims that there are more kind and good people in the world than mean and evil people, but I do have my own experiences and I’m happy to report that everywhere I’ve been and of everyone I’ve met, kindness and goodness wins! I can honestly only think of two people this entire summer of traveling that were short-tempered, grumpy and a little scary. This is out of hundreds, if not thousands, of other people I was around or met. For those of you who like scientific data, let’s just say I made contact with 100 people directly over the course of the summer and only 2 of those 100 were jerks. That’s 2% of the population! I actually met or was surrounded by thousands of people and still only two people were not nice. Even those two people who weren’t nice weren’t being ugly to me, but to other people.

Let that sink in a minute. Only two people out of thousands in several countries in the world were unkind and rude. For all I know those two people might have been having exceptionally bad days or some sort of personal crisis going on that caused them to be that way on that day.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many people held doors for me, spoke pleasantly, cooperated and played well with others in group situations, and in general were just great people! For heavens sake, in Dublin, I took myself out of the Friday 5:00 PM crush of people on the street for a breather and a complete stranger walked over to make sure I was ok and not hurt or something! He was genuinely concerned about me!

In Spain when we thought we had lost our luggage, we had no less than three people help us by translating for us, looking up our information, and taking us through a back door, bypassing security, to pick up our luggage. The clerk was nice, a young woman who could speak three or four languages was nice and another guy was patient by letting us go ahead of him in line. I would even add that the language lady spent at least 20 minutes of her own personal time to assist us! She didn’t work for the airlines. She had nothing to gain by taking the time to help us. She just did it and we were most appreciative!

In London, the man at the flat management office went so far and above the call of common courtesy. He was wonderful and so helpful to the two fish out of water from Colorado. He was originally from eastern Europe and had worked hard to get to his position of management, but didn’t let it keep him from being patient and kind.

I felt like I made some real connections with complete strangers on the trip too and some of them have even become Facebook friends because we had a good time together and truly connected.

Do you know what most of these kind people spoke of when we visited together? Their families, friends, and other loved ones. Ok, there was the one taxi driver who regaled us with all the anecdotes about famous people he had met and ferried around, but in the end he spoke about his wife of many years whom he obviously loved more than anyone else.

So, what’s my point besides the fact that I believe there are more kind and nice people in the world than mean and evil people? Well, it’s like this. If we just listen to the news, read the internet, watch movies, or other media, it sounds like the world is going to hell in a handbasket and it’s just a matter of time until we all blow ourselves up. There’s this sense of “protect yourself because everyone else is out to get you.” From what I’ve seen in the world, that’s just not true. There are people out there who are mean and vengeful and terrorist in nature. I know that. I’m not totally naive regarding that fact. However, I believe there are so many more good people in the world who come together and help one another who save the day in the end. I find great hope and comfort in that. I hope you will too. Be kind. Be loving. Quit arguing over little things that don’t matter. Quit arguing and being hateful on social media over big things that do matter. You’re not going to change someone’s mind by being harsh. Be nice to someone, though, listen respectfully, and respond in kind, and maybe you’ll both change your minds a little bit. Remember, we’re all in this world together and if we work together, kindly and generously, we’ll all be much better off. I believe in the world’s overall kindness. Some may think I’m crazy, but just imagine the amazing possibilities if I’m right…

Peace and love, always,

Elaine

I got off-track with my travel log. Good thing I journaled some each day or I would never be able to remember all the adventures we had or the wonderful things we saw each day of our trip to Europe in May. One of the primary reasons I’m blogging about this trip is I never want to forget a single bit of it! Alan, my husband, and I had so much fun, just being together and seeing parts of the world we’d never seen before and might not ever get a chance to see again. If I haven’t said this before, I’ll say it now, “If you get a chance to travel abroad, GO!” It will change your life in ways you can’t imagine.

Ok, now on to the rest of our fourth day in Ireland, May 20! After we left the Blarney Castle, we took a driving tour through the center of Cork City, which is actually on an island in the middle of River Lee which joins the bay of Cork. Amidst narrow streets and many pedestrians, there were views of lovely little homes and old schools. Cork City is a university town and so there is that feel of academia that always makes me remember my years working at Texas Tech University. Here are a few pictures typical of what we saw in Cork City. I was especially fascinated by that pink house! There are many things to see in Cork City, but, being in a bus, it was difficult to take pictures in the narrow lanes.

Cork City Houses

The Pink House in Cork City. I’m not sure if it was a home or a business, but I love it!

After leaving Cork City, we drove further east and then south to the tiny town of Cobh, which is famous for being the last departure point from Europe to the Americas. We went to St. Colman’s Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful. It has a huge tall spiral which reportedly was the last thing seen by most emigrants as they left the Bay of Cork and headed to the Americas. I loved this Cathedral as it had such a peaceful, quietness to it that was very conducive to prayer. So I did. Pray, I mean. I’m not Catholic, but I love their churches and cathedrals because of that peaceful quietness.

St. Colman’s Cathedral

The Cathedral is in a lovely little neighborhood with very colorful houses built down the hill.

Photo doesn’t do this area justice. The houses are painted in very bright and cheery colors.

Finally, we went to the Cobh Heritage Center which at one time was where the ships left for the American and all points west. Some especially famous ships that left from this port were the Titanic and the Lusitania. As everyone knows, the Titanic was sunk in the northern Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg. The Lusitania was the ship torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War I off the coast of Cork. 1,198 people died leaving 761 survivors who were mostly rescued by Cobh and Cork residents. The Cobh Heritage Center has some very good exhibits about the mass immigration of Irish people during the Potato Famine, life on the ocean liners that took the immigrants to the Americas, as well as a good exhibit on the Titanic and the Lusitania.

We stayed at the Heritage Center for about an hour and a half at which point we went back to the train station, boarded our train, and took off our shoes for our aching feet and headed to Dublin. It was a long day, but a very good day. We saw so much that it seems like a fantasy in some ways now, but it was very, very real.

More on our continuing adventures soon!

Elaine

Talk about a day of varied adventures and emotions! This day included everything from taking a train through the Irish countryside to the southeastern coast of Ireland to me kissing the Blarney stone to the shores of Cobh’ (pronounced Cove) where the Titantic and hundreds of other ships embarked for their trip to the new lands of the Americas. I will try to cover some of these grand adventures, but my pictures will probably tell the best story of all. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, right?

May 20, 2015: My oldest son’s birthday and he was thousands of miles away in Chicagoland. As Alan and I passed the world-famous Guinness Brewery on the way to the train station early in the morning, I raised an imaginary glass of Guinness to my son in love and tribute for all the joy and love he has brought into my life. I can’t believe I have a son who is 31 years old with a son of his own. The years moved too quickly! The Guinness Brewery is not just a building, it is like a town within a town. Passing by it is really not an accurate description of it. Really it is more like you pass through a town of buildings of the brewery. You can take tours and get a free glass of Guinness at the end of the tour, but we didn’t have time to go.

As we arrived at the train station, wondering exactly where we were to go to meet our tour, I was delighted to find a kiosk with good, strong coffee and pastries too! I was feeling pretty hollow and the cup of coffee and perfect croissant I enjoyed did the trick! Fairly soon a man in a bright yellow slicker appeared and he was our tour guide. He was about 80 years old and has been doing tours all around Ireland ever since he retired from his “real” job many years before. He was like a little yellow-dressed leprechaun, darting from here to there and making sure everyone knew what to expect. He was also very relaxed. It was obvious he has been at this a long time and knew exactly how to help us enjoy the tour, but also to have time to breathe. I loved that.

First we made it to Cork and we transferred to a tour bus at that point. We took a ride through Cork with our guide sharing many important parts of history from that town and then we were at the Blarney Castle grounds. The emphasis is always on the Blarney Stone when you hear of Blarney Castle, but the entire compound is unbelievably beautiful and as you enter into the gardens, you feel like you’ve entered an enchanted garden. It is that magical. I felt like a little girl who had just been dropped into her favorite Disney movie as the princess heroine who was dazzled by all she saw. These are the first photos I made of the gardens. These flowers are show stoppers! I was so entranced by them, that I turned down coffee and food so I’d have time to drink in the pure beauty of these flowers.


I had never seen flowers so rich and pretty. I wish I could remember the name of them! I spoke with two ladies from Canada about these flowers at length and now…the name is gone!

As we continued on the path to Blarney Castle, we encountered this young man playing the old-fashioned lyric harp of Irish legend. You find the Irish lyre everywhere, even on their Euros! It has become the symbol of Ireland. This young man was very, very good playing this old instrument. It all added to the mysterious, almost magical experience of the castle.


We continued walking and would stop every once in a while just to gaze upon the beauty of the Blarney Castle grounds. You know how there are places in the world where you suddenly think that somehow you’ve entered onto holy ground, amidst a sacred place. Blarney Castle gives you that feeling in spades!

  

I mean, come on! Does that not look like a place where a leprechaun or fairy could pop up at any moment? As we neared the castle I suddenly heard an orchestra playing, of all thing, “Night on Bald Mountain,” which is a piece my orchestra played in high school. I confirmed with Alan that there was indeed music coming from somewhere so I knew I hadn’t made up the exciting, highly-skilled orchestra music.

As we reached the castle, the first thing we saw after crossing the algae covered moat was this, the dungeon of the castle and let me tell you; you never want to be in a true medieval dungeon! They’re tiny, dark, dank and slippery with water.


  

As we passed beyond the dungeon and the beautiful lone tower, we saw the orchestra that was playing. They finished playing their pieces and were putting away their instruments. We proceeded to the entrance of the actual castle, bought our tickets to see the Blarney stone and then started up, up deep to the inside of the castle. Two observations on the interior of the castle: 1) Those people were tiny in that day and age or there is no way they could have fit into some of those rooms! 2) The walls were of such thick stone that the temperature inside the castle was at least 5-10 degrees cooler than it was outside!

  
 This was a bed chamber for one of the daughters who lived in this castle.

The way up to the Blarney Stone is a very narrow, stone spiral staircase. The steps are small and shallow, the passageway narrow and without modern lighting, would be very dark indeed. Occasionally one came upon an opening, however, and you could see this bucolic scene below.


I’ve always wanted to say I gazed upon a bucolic scene, but let’s be honest. You don’t see things like this in the United States. At least the parts that I have seen and traveled through. We made friends on the narrow journey to the top of the castle. They were from Minnesota and Canada and had obviously known each other for decades. The gentleman directly in front of me was hilarious! He kept cracking jokes and I kept laughing, my laughter echoing eerily through the castle tower staircase.

  
 The Blarney Stone is actually a bit of a misleading. It isn’t what I imagined at all and the acrobats required to kiss it are quite the challenge! You have to lie down, tilt your head back over a narrow ridge and then kiss the stone within the wall of Blarney Castle. It looks terrifying, but is really quite safe as they have someone there to hold onto you as you kiss the stone. I, of course, had to kiss the famous stone that is supposed to confer upon the kisser magical eloquence or as stated in a poem seen along the wall, “which to the tongue imparts that softening tone.” I thought softening of my tone would definitely be a bonus so I went for it!

It lasted but a moment, but WOW!! A dizzying moment indeed!

After we descended down a backstair even more narrow and dark than the first, we were out in the bright sunshine and walked around the grounds to the market square that surrounds the castle. We found a very quiet pub to eat a quick bite and then went shopping at the famous Old Wool Factory. They’ve turned the old factory into a mall of sorts. Inside the first part are some of the finest and most beautiful woolen items I’ve ever seen, made from Irish wool taken from all the sheep we saw in the countryside along the way. Every item I saw, I wanted to buy and take home to wear forever, but the cost was a bit prohibitive for that! Finely woven and knitted capes, coats, scarves, shawls and jumpers (sweaters) come at a very high penny! Alan and I went our separate ways inside the mall and when we met outside he reverently handed me a little gift. I unwrapped it and it was nothing but a little jar with a clamp sealable top. I was mystified as to why he bought such a simple thing when there was a Waterford crystal outlet inside the mall. Well! Alan knew that one of the things I wanted to do while in Ireland was to get a wee bit of Irish soil to take home and cherish forever. (I have an eccentric habit of taking a bit of soil or stones from places we visit that are very meaningful and soulful to me.) He suggested we get some soil from right there, on the Blarney Castle grounds! I was worried we might be caught and arrested for such a heinous crime, but we made our way to the interior area of the grounds and Alan actually dug up some of the dark, loamy soil and put it in the jar for me. It is now gracing my display shelf of special soils at home. After that, Alan bought me a beautiful pink crystal heart at the Waterford Crystal outlet and I have to admit. It is hard to know which is more beautiful and appreciated; the dark loamy soil inside a simple jar or the crystal heart. Both are evidence, to me at least, that my husband not only understands me, but loves me to distraction.

My soil shelf at home. On the left is my arrangement of red sand from Zion National Park taken on my and Alan’s 15th wedding anniversary, topped by white sand from White Sands National Park collected by my father for me when I was 8 years old. On the right is the dark loamy soil from Ireland. On the far right is an example of the pink marble found all over Colorado.

Alan’s crystal heart, which to me represents his beautiful heart, given to me. (I’m such a mushy romantic, aren’t I?)

I took pictures of beautiful trees while Alan stole some soil for me. 🙂

This is a yew tree and is seen all over Ireland. I had never seen one before.

Well, I’ve covered enough ground for today I think, so I will stop here for now. In my next chapter, I will tell the story of Cobh, where millions of our Irish ancestors embarked for America!

May you have a beautiful day of your own adventures today!

Elaine

Middle Aged World Travelers-Chapter Two Continued

When Alan and left our hotel to go to Trinity College and visit the downtown area, we were both a little apprehensive about such things as getting lost in the big old city, pickpockets, thieves, and also knowing where we were to go the next morning to meet our bus tour group for the Cliffs of Moher tour.  Ok, those are the things was worried about.  Alan was worried that I would get too cold and get sick on our first day out.  So I was constantly flittering about and mothering him to do this, not do that, did he still have his passport, his phone, his ticket, his butt?  He was fathering me with put your hat on, do you need my coat, are you warm, are you cold, don’t push yourself too far.  To put it bluntly, we ended up having our one and only little spat at Trinity College before the tour.  A few minutes later, we both admitted to being a little anxious and decided to loosen up.  We were on vacation for crying out loud!  So what if any of those things happened?  It wouldn’t be the end of the world after all!  We made up with apologies, a vow to quit being such pains in the arse, as they say in Ireland and England, and to have a great time!  It was amazing how much more fun things were after we relaxed.  Imagine that! Ha! If I’m offering advice in these stories of our adventures, the first thing I would advise is to r-e-l-a-x. You’re going to be fine and have a lot more fun if you do!

There are several things I forgot to mention about Trinity College yesterday. First of all, it is a beautiful campus and as old as the hills. Ok, not old as the actual hills, but it was established in 1592 by decree of Queen Elizabeth and was patterned after Oxford and Cambridge, although no further branches were ever added or built. For centuries, it was strictly Protestant. Catholics were not allowed to attend. Neither were women allowed to attend until 1904. Until more recent years, the Provost (head) of the College had to be a Trinity College graduate. The college’s buildings originally followed no true design pattern, but then an attempt was made to design buildings that did follow a neoclassical design in the early 1800’s. Additional buildings have been added in the 1900’s and are more modern in design. Some scenes from the famous Harry Potter movies were filmed at Trinity College in the Old Library.

Here are some more pictures of the Trinity College campus I thought you might enjoy seeing. I’m writing about our Cliffs of Moher trip now so hopefully I will get that post up tomorrow morning! Peace and love, Elaine

Middle-Aged World Travelers, Dublin Exploring, Chapter 2

On Monday, May 18, we woke up much more energetic than we had been the day before.  Our internal clocks had reset themselves from our one day of rest and we weren’t stumbling around tired as we had been when we arrived. We were staying at the Airport Hilton, which is misleading because we really weren’t very close to the airport at all. The hotel itself was spotlessly clean, offered a lovely breakfast bar, and had a very helpful staff. There was only one problem at the hotel and that was what seemed to be gremlins causing problems with anything mechanical or technological. We couldn’t alter the temperature via the thermostat no matter what we did and how well we followed the instructions. It was going to be 21C degrees, come hell or high water.  The wifi was a bit temperamental and the in-room safe was quite safe in that, if you put something in it, only staff could unlock the thing and get it out! 

Nonetheless, on a slightly overcast Monday morning, after finishing a light breakfast, Alan asked the front desk about the best way to get downtown without a taxi. They were quite helpful in telling us the bus route we needed to take, the exact amount of change needed to get on the bus, and even where we might buy a weekly bus pass. I was excited to begin our adventures!

 

Ready to explore!

We were told there was a little shop immediately down the street where we could find a bus map and bus pass for the week.  We stepped outside the hotel and were immediately nearly blown away by the cold winds sweeping around the building. By the time we got to the little shop, we both felt like our heads were frozen and that perhaps we had not prepared adequately for the Irish cold front making its way through Dublin and our spring season clothing. The little store offered no bus maps and no bus cards, but were very nice in giving us change for the bus. I also bought a Coca-Cola, my vice from home, and away we hustled to the bus stop. There are several issues with those simple occurrences. First of all, Coca-Cola anywhere in Western Europe is not the Coca-Cola we all know and love in the U.S. It tastes just a bit “off” for lack of a better explanation. They don’t use corn syrup (yay?), but sugar, and included in the soda are “vegetable additives” which could have been anything. I also discovered that whatever the soda had in it gave me a headache. I finished my first Coca-Cola and threw it in the trash. The second thing with hustling to the bus stop was that it was catty-cornered to our hotel which meant we had to cross two major thoroughfares to get to the stop. This was daunting because everyone drives backwards in Ireland. You know, on the wrong side of the street from the American view. Fortunately, at any crosswalk, there is the button to push to allow access to the crosswalk. Second of all, they have signs painte don the street stating “look right” before crossing or “look left” before crossing so we didn’t get flattened like a pancake by any of the high speed vehicles passing us seemingly randomly. We made it across the big streets! I felt five years old again after I had successfully, alone, crossed Salem Avenue by my home. We waited at the bus stop and as number 13 approached we used my Google Map to see whether we would end up close to Trinity College, which was first on our agenda to see.

The bus came, we gave change (incorrect and they can’t give change so they give you a ticket for a refund if you want to go to all that trouble for basically  35 cents). We stumbled our way to first level seats and felt quite accomplished. It doesn’t take much in a foreign city for two middle-aged Americans to feel accomplished!  Ha! We watched as various passengers got on and off the bus along the way, passed neighborhoods with colorful Irish doors, some prosperous, others not so prosperous, and tried to accustom ourselves to the lovely Irish accent. We became quite familiar with this route over the week. One thing we noticed were signs on nearly every lamppost or electric pole for an upcoming general election on Friday, May 22, whether to legalize gay marriage in Ireland. We were both surprised that in this predominately Catholic country, such an election was taking place.

Finally we reached the stop where everyone had told us we needed to get off the bus. We jumped off and wondered where Trinity College was from where we were.  We were mere footsteps from it! The wind was still blowing bitterly cold and Alan stated, “We need to get some warm hats or we’re never going to survive this and we’ll get sick. I don’t want you sick from day one!” Immediately across the street were two buildings with “Tourist Center and Information” signs on them so we hied across the street to get maps, ask questions and orient ourselves. The next order of business was hats! We found a little Irish souvenir shop right down the street and they had everything you could ever want in the way of hats, wraps, gloves, and other typical touristy things. While Alan looked at hats, I was enchanted by the baby section of the shop where you could buy cute little baby outfits with Irish sayings and things on them. Of course, I picked up two items for my new grandson Milo before I looked at a single hat! One has to have one’s priorities straight after all!

Alan found a hat for himself that I was not super-enthused about. It is a cross between an Elmer Fudd style, a Peruvian style, and an Irish style, knitted in the Irish Aran Isle pattern, lined with fur, and having two yarn braids hanging down the front. Alan loved it! 

Alan’s Irish Hat

I found a hat a little more traditional. As weird as I am, when it comes to hats, I’m rather picky. I want a hat that displays my lovely double chin!

Elaine’s Irish Hat

We went to Trinity College and learned their next tour of the college including a tour of the old library and the Book of Kells Exhibit was in about half an hour so we decided to find something to eat and come back.  We headed down Grafton Street, which is the local street mall in Dublin,  found a McDonald’s of all things, and sat on the second floor by the windows so we could watch the street scenes below. It was the perfect place! If you want a snapshot of modern Dublin life, this window was perfect!

   

Grafton Street

After completing our lunch off to Trinity College we went!  The weather was fickle. One moment you’d be freezing your buns off and the next moment, the sun would peek from behind the clouds and you’d immediately defrost and feel foolish in your woolen hat.

The tour guide at Trinity College was incredible! He had received his undergraduate degree at Trinity College in English and was pursuing a Master’s Degree in historical book and document restoration and translation.  He was in the perfect place to pursue this degree because Trinity College contains a huge collection of ancient books, including the  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells. 
We learned a lot about the history of Trinity College and it’s buildings and then, just as it started to rain pretty hard, we were able to enter Trinity College’s Old Library, which I had wanted to see forever. It was as wonderful as I had imagined. If there had been less people, I could have stayed in there forever. I love the smell of libraries, especially old one. The architecture of this library is incredibly beautiful.

 

Trinity College Old Library
  
  

        

We sat down on the center benches a few times to both rest and sit in awe of the beauty of this library.  We did see the Book of Kells, but only briefly.  There were so many people crowded around its display case that we mostly got a glimpse of the beautiful colors and artwork and moved on to the library itself.

After our trip to the college and the old library, we went in search of food. There is nothing like wandering around in a damp, windy, rainy, sunny day to whet one’s appetite and we found the perfect place!  It was an Irish pub (imagine that!) called O’Briens and featured great Irish grub and suds. Neither Alan nor I are big on beer or ales (I know, shoot us now, because we never had a Guinness while there), but we are big on Irish food. It is wonderful and I think that is so because it is much like the food we grew up eating all the way back in Texas. When I found Irish Stew served on a bed of mashed potatoes, I knew I was home and life was good! We were warm and cozy, eating well, and had met some really nice people at the pub too! You never have to worry about people being unwelcoming or unfriendly in Ireland! 

After eating more than we should have, we realized the day was nearly past and we were exhausted. We hurried over to the bus stop, tried to figure out which route to take back to the hotel, became hopelessly confused, and decided the Star Bucks on the corner was perfect for trying to figure out our way back to our temporary home. What it helped us see most clearly is that right outside its doors was the downtown taxi rank. Hooray! I’d like to say we rode the bus back home that day, but I would be lying. We were too tired to figure it out so we hopped in a taxi and he drove us home as he discussed Irish history, gave us a mini Dublin tour, and even discussed the upcoming election.  

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were done for the day. This middle-aged couple laid down on the bed, turned on the TV, and promptly fell to sleep. After a couple of hours of napping, we got up, Alan went for snacks from the little store down the street and we feasted like kings on fruits and snacks. Then to bed I went, so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open. 

The next day we were taking a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the area around it. We needed all the strength we could work up for that!  Tomorrow I’ll take you there with us.  ☺️  

Peace and love, always, Elaine

© Elaine Wood-Lane

Middle-Aged World Travelers, Chapter 1, Packing and the First Day of Travel

When you’re of a certain age and decide to take on the world through travel, there are many things you don’t know in advance.  You know you’re too old to backpack through Europe and stay at hostels.  You imagine their beds are lumpy and at this point in life, you need a full support mattress.  Also, at this age, you don’t want to share a bathroom down the hall with a lot of young college-age strangers.  Heck, you don’t want a bathroom too far down the hall at all because you get up at least twice during the night and that journey would be too long! 

So you know you’re not going to be backpacking through Europe, but you want to see as much as you can in the two weeks you have free to travel.  If you’ve never traveled for that long or out of the States at all, it’s quite the conundrum as to what to pack.  So, you read books and websites about traveling light and what to take.  Nearly all the books and websites I researched said that if you’re a woman, all you need to pack are a pair of black dress slacks, a pair of good khaki shorts, two or three tee shirts that can be washed and dried easily, and maybe one dress if you think you might go someplace dressier.  Hmmm, a problem already.  I don’t have or wear black dress slacks or khaki shorts.  I rarely wear tee shirts any longer.  I’m 53.  I dress like a woman.  I wear and prefer to wear colorful wraparound skirts and comfortable, colorful maxi dresses.  Sometimes I wear jeans and tee shirts, but mostly when I’m going to be doing some heavy housecleaning or gardening.  I’m not a snob, princesss-sort woman.  I’ve just learned to love and appreciate dresses.  They’re more comfortable, easy because there is no matching to do, and come in all kinds of colors.  Whoever convinced women that jeans were a more comfortable alternative to dresses was a good salesman!  Some jeans are comfortable, but generally they’re not the ones you wear out in public.  (Ok, I admit I have a problem with jeans that most people don’t have. As my fibromyalgia has worsened, jeans cause me great pain because of severe chafing where the heavy seams are.  It doesn’t matter if the jeans are tight or loose. The Princess can’t handle jeans any more. Are you happy now?)

I’m trying to travel light and am delighted when I figure out how to get everything I’ll need for 15 days into a carry-on size suitcase.  I pack carefully and am quite proud of myself by the time I’m packed!  I am ready!  4 dresses, 4 skirts, 5 or 6 shirts, a lightweight sweater, a white infinity scarf with a little wool in it for warmth, all my undies, and a nightgown.  Oh, and medicines and toiletry items.  Oh, and some yarn so I can continue to work on my crochet and knitting projects.  And my iPad and iPhone and journal so I can write or stay in touch with my family and friends back home.  I can also read books on either i-things and have a good map resource.  I am ready now!  Sunscreen.  Dang, I’ll have to take that too!  And a raincoat and umbrella because in Ireland it rains frequently and unexpectedly.  Ok, that ought to be it!  I’m zipping up my luggage now!  Oh, forgot my swimsuit for Spain! If I’m going to be staying by the Mediterranean Sea, by golly, I’m going into it!  I wonder if my swimsuit still fits? No matter. It is all I have. One black tank swimsuit tucked into the edge. Ok, now I’m zipping up my suitcase and if I forget something important, so be it!

My carry-on bag that’s so well packed is heavy, at least for me it is.  My husband has elected to take the boat-sized suitcase of our set and I’m looking at it with disdain.  Aren’t men supposed to be able to travel light with the bare necessities?  His suitcase weighs a ton because he has brought 6 or 7 pairs of jeans. 

We arrive at the Denver airport so early it is nearly empty, but there are always people at the Denver airport.  We show our passports at least three times, go through security, and boom!  We’re ready for our United flight to Boston and then our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.  We will arrive in Dublin at 5:00 tomorrow morning, just in time to celebrate our twentieth anniversary with a series of recovery naps.  When you’re middle-aged and one of you has fibromyalgia, it is very important to schedule in rest and recovery days so you don’t have problems with pain or extreme fatigue while gone.  Our United flight is so cram-packed with people we can hardly breathe, much less move!  United has become the official cattle car of public, commercial air travel in my mind.  If you’re taller than six feet and weigh more than 190 pounds, you won’t be comfortable. At. All.  (Ok, you won’t be comfortable if you’re 5’3″ and weigh 131 pounds either.) By the time we reached Boston, I was almost suffering a panic attack from the sheer numbers of people crammed in that plane.  We’re told which way to go to make our connecting flight on Aer Lingus.  Of course, the Aer Lingus gate is on the other side of the airport and is being remodeled so making it for our connecting flight was challenging to say the least!  We hot-footed it as fast as our middle-aged knees would let us! I’m having a hot flash by the time we get to our gate.

In Contrast, the flight on Aer Lingus was like a first class adventure.  Bigger seats, entertainment centers at each seat, open aisles, smiling flight attendants.  This was going to be easy!  We flew through the darkness above the North Atlantic and the temperature gauge on the entertainment center in front of us showed the temperature dropping like a rock.  By the time we reached the area in which the Titanic sank, it is -75C!  I can’t imagine having to escape from a sinking ship into that cold North Atlantic sea. We finally reach Dublin, but it could be Dallas for all we care at that point. We take a cab to our hotel, speak briefly about what a nice room it is, kiss each other goodnight (at 8:00 AM) and promptly fall asleep.  I can hear the sounds of Dublin awakening as I drift off to sleep. What new adventures will tomorrow bring?  I can hardly wait to find out!  Dublin town, here we come!