Arrival on the Auld Sod, Ireland

Trip Start Mar 10, 2009
Trip End Mar 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Geraldine's House

Flag of Ireland  ,
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The trip from Chicago to Dublin was uneventful and had the usual pattern of events take place that happen on an overnight flight to Europe. Take-off, climb to cruising altitude, drink service, entertainment begins, meal service, quiet time, breakfast and then it was time to land.
We arrived at Dublin Airport on the American Airlines flight from Chicago early because of a tail-wind which is very common when airliners fly from West to East. We got off the plane in the capital of Ireland and began walking toward immigration where authorities check passports. Unfortunately it seems all the planes from the U.S. arrive at the same time so there was a huge line of people attempting to enter Ireland at the same time. The line for other than European Union citizens to get to the immigration authorities snaked to and fro though the sanitized area of Dublin Airport occasionally crossing paths with workers headed to their jobs and even EU residents trying to reach their immigration windows. Needless to say the mostly American travelers were very grouchy and short-tempered about having to stand in what looked like a three hour line to enter the country. Fortunately the morning tea kicked in and the immigration officers began moving quickly and within a half an hour we were collecting our luggage and headed toward the street where we would catch a bus to Banbridge where we would meet Wifey's sister Geraldine.
The streets outside of Dublin Airport look pretty much like the outside of any large international airport. We found our way to our bus stop where it appeared a bus was waiting to leave for our destination. I loaded the luggage into the vehicles storage area while Wifey found Euro to pay our fares. The bus began to pull away with us still on the sidewalk so I knock on the door. Wifey inquired as to the buses destination and found out it was the wrong bus so I pulled the luggage out of the storage area. Whew that was a close call. The bus to Banbridge arrived a few minutes later and we boarded without incident and were transport North into Ulster.
We arrived at our meeting point on schedule and hugs and greetings were exchanged. Geraldine then pointed her VW towards Coalisland which is located a couple hours North of Dublin in County Tyrone.
Coalisland is a compact village where Wifey grew up and went to school. She left the town in the late 1970's and moved to Dublin, then later to Paris and Frankfurt, Germany. Her sister Geraldine and brother Sean live in the village.
The village has a very nice walking path along the old canal where locals and visitors can take a stroll and get fresh air.
Coalisland has many pubs as most Irish towns do, a few restaurants and takeaway shops. We always head to the takeaway for fish and chips as Wifey cannot find the same quality of food in Arizona. We have not tried most of the restaurants because Wifey's sister Geraldine is an excellent cook and spoils us with her hospitality.
The first day on the Auld Sod went well as we arrived at Geraldine's house just a bit before noon. Where we were greeted by brother-in-law Tommy who the last time we had seen him in February of 2006 appeared to be on his death bed. Tommy is fairly young and strong and with the help of Geraldine managed to pull through and he later received a liver transplant. After putting our suitcases in the sitting room we sat down for a cup of tea and a chat. Geraldine then made what is call and Ulster Fry which consists of helpings of eggs, soda bread, bacon, toast white pudding, black pudding which is a feast. Since we had been awake for more than 24 hours Wifey and I became rather tired trying digest such a large meal. We grabbed our bags and went upstairs to catch a couple hour snooze.
A couple hours of sack time did us a world of good and we woke up refreshed at 5 p.m. We then walked around the corner to the Kaily House for a pint and a game of darts. The Guinness in Ireland really does taste a lot mellower than pints served in other parts of the world which seem to have a much more bitter flavor. The beer went down nicely and Celt once again topped Wifey in a game of 501 so it was time to leave and walk up Main Street to O'Neill's Pub for a another round. Fiona O'Neill is part of a large family that own several businesses in town. She is very friendly and pours a good pint. We seemed to have developed a habit of always making O'Neills our final stop for a bag of crisps and a pint before we walk up the road to Geraldine for dinner when we are visiting Coalisland.
After a large meal, good conversation and a couple of hot whiskey's compliment of brother-in-law Tommy we retire to our bed exhausted.
We sleep soundly but only for a short time as our bodies have not adjusted to European time. We head downstairs where the kettle is on. Geraldine once again outdoes
herself with her hospitality and cooking.
The time then comes for the four of us to get into Geraldine's VW and we set off for the coast of County Down where we visit Paula and Nicky. The drive is uneventful as we make our way down the M1 motorway to Belfast. One we enter the greater Belfast area the traffic on the motorway looks the same as pretty much any Western major city.
Belfast seems to be doing very well since the end of the "troubles". We even pass the large cranes of Harland and Wolff the builders of the HMS Titanic.
Nick is the son of Geraldine and Tommy. The couple have plans to get married in May 2009. Paula and Nicky live in a gorgeous two-story house near the coast. Greeting are exchanged and tea and biscuits are served. It's then decided that it's time for lunch so we pile into two cars and travel to a fish shop on the coast for and excellent meal of fish and chips. The weather in March can be dodgy in Ireland and of course along the coast there is wind and rain showers.
It's decided that a trip to the "high street" (main business street) in Bangor is in order so we pile into the car for the short ride to the town where many people who live in Northern Ireland spend their vacation time or as the local refer to "their holiday's".
Geraldine and Paula break off from the group to do some shopping while Wifey, Nick, Tommy and Celts wander about the town looking in the shop windows. We also walk down to the pier where pleasure boats are docked during the warmer weather. The time arrives to find our two shoppers and Wifey spots an automated teller machine and tests our debit card to ensure we are able to draw money from our accounts in the U.S. in the local currency. The ATM works as advertised. I've been told this is one of the least expensive ways of turning dollars into a local currency as you avoid many fees that are added when changing money. The transactions did not seem to be expensive but I never did see a breakdown of the charges that were added to the transaction so it is only a guess that this is the best way to exchange money.
With everyone rounded up we walk back to the parking lot and drive back to Paula and Nicky's house. Ireland building more and more expressway's or freeway's but for the most part the roads are two lane and narrow with very little shoulder and room for error. Myself, I'm not sure I'd want to drive on these roads if I didn't have someone sitting in the passenger seat who would remind me periodically which side of the road to stay on. Fortunately I won't have to drive this trip as Geraldine is doing all the heavy lifting.
Once we arrive at Paula and Nicky's house the bride and the mother of the groom leave for a shop to make some wedding arrangements. The remainder of the crew chat and a go at one of Nicky's computer games.
With the wedding arrangements made and night falling it's time to get back on the motorway and head back to Coalisland. Truthfully I don't remember much of the trip back because jet lag knock me out and I slept like a baby during the ride.
Once we arrived back at the house we decide it's time for a visit with Wifey's brother Sean who lives in the family home that was purchased by his parents Ilene and Jeremiah McVeigh which is just up Anagher Hill.
We are in luck and Sean is home along with his daughters Sharon, Ilene and granddaughter Grace. All the McVeigh relatives are looking well. Tea and biscuits are served and everyone catches up on the events that are happening in each others lives.
After an hour long chat it's time to head down the hill into the center of town for a couple of pints and a bag of crisps (potato chips.) Geraldine is planned on serving dinner at 9 p.m. so we say our good-byes at the pub and head up the hill to Wifey's sister's home for a meal and and bed. Tomorrow we are going to get up early and drive to Belfast where we will catch a ferry to Scotland.
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Karen McKenna (Goldbeck) on

Sean, I enjoyed watching that i suppose you do not remember me ?

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