Humprey Goes to Europe Once More


Well we did it again. Not having learned all our lessons from Amelia’s previous trip to the other side of the pond, we thought it’d be a good idea to take the kids over to Europe . This time around it was truly a family excursion. Beth’s cousin David got married in Ireland so the entire family packed up and did our best impression of the Griswalds.

Getting There

Thanks to the incredible generosity of American Airlines who “let us” “earn back” the frequent flier miles they took away without notice, we were able to secure 4 highly prized free coach tickets. That was all well and good, save for the fact that it required a 5 hour layover in Chicago. I don’t worry about much, but I have to admit that the thought of trying to entertain two toddlers through a 5 hour layover before a 7 hour flight had me a bit on edge.  We came well prepared for the challenge…two bags stuffed full of toys, books and games. Plus two fully charged DVD players and two video iPods (…don’t ask how many bags we checked this time around!). Fortunately the girls were awesome during the layover and on the plane rides. Chicago is a great airport to entertain kids in. They have a little play area next to a carpeted area with comfy chairs that we were able to hunker down in for a while. After the play area, some lunch and a movie, it only took Amelia 74 round-trips on the people-mover to pass the time. Amelia collected bookmarks from each of out stops (to help with her new love of chapter books). In Chicago, we couldn’t find a touristy bookmark, so we got one that said “nothing but trouble”, with the intention of writing “anything but” in front. Fortunately once we got on the plane things remained calm, tiredness prevailed and sleep eventually came to all. Not enough sleep mind you, but at least it was some sleep.

First Stop Paris

Our ultimate destination was the wedding in Ireland, but Beth’s family has always wanted to visit Normandy together so we spent a few days in France at the start of the trip. It was important to us though that we do things that the kids would enjoy. It’s only fair to them that if we’re going to drag them to churches and museums that we do a few things they would be interested in as well. Amelia has really been into the Madeline book and movie so we had a “great” idea that we would stop in Paris before driving to Normandy and show her some of the familiar sights there.

If you get to pick one Paris landmark, you really don’t have much choice, it’s gotta be the Eiffel tower (or it “aiffel tower” as Amelia calls it, or just “tower” as Siena knows it). So we hyped the Tower for weeks. We got the girls to a fever pitch about seeing this thing. There is nothing better in the world than seeing the Eiffel Tower in person. Why not start the trip off with a bang, right?

So we arrive at the Paris airport dreading the fact that we have yet another 3 hours to kill waiting for Jeff’s flight to arrive and hoping that somehow we’ll be able to rendezvous with Nette Netta and Papa (their fancy schmancy American miles got them a measly 1 hour layover in Miami, wimps, no sense of adventure). We got our bags, got through customs and made the rendezvous without a hitch. Figuring we’d be efficient, Skip and I left the girls (and half a semi-truck’s worth of luggage) just inside of “door 8″ and headed out to get the rental car. So far so good. The rental lady was quite nice, she gave us good directions to get to the tower and we even had a GPS (nicknamed “Sally”) to help us out. Piece of cake.

But, (you knew there was a but coming, right?), but, how do we get back to “door 8″? We figure we’ll manage, so we hop into the 9 passenger van and start driving. Through a couple twists and turns, we make it back to door 8 feeling rather proud of ourselves. Skip hops out and goes in to fetch the girls while I do some stretches to limber up before loading the luggage. Just as I get loose enough to come within 6 inches of touching my toes, he comes back with a worried look on his face. The girls aren’t there. “Oh sugarnaps!!” (yes, the girls now repeat everything so my life is becoming more censored).

Well, maybe we got the door wrong. We didn’t look all that closely after all. We remember it being near the end, so let’s go look on the opposite side at door 2. Not there. Door 3. Nope. Door 4, nope,. Don’t worry, it’s easy to parallel park a 9 passenger van at a crowded airport. Door 5, nope, 6, 7, 8 (again), door 1..nope, nada, zip, zero, zilch. They’re gone.  They couldn’t have gone far. Surely we would have felt the gravitational pull of the luggage shift if they had tried to move it.

Did we get the right terminal? Let’s go try another terminal (there’s only 4 of them, 3 of which look identical). But how do we get over there? No, that’s the highway. No, that goes back to where we came from. Remember the Griswalds (Big Ben, Parliament), Skip and I got off to a fantastic start. Finally we found them about an hour and a half later, right inside door 8 of…Terminal 2. On the positive side, we no longer had to worry about filling the 3 hours before Jeff arrived and we even had mastered the airport sufficiently to drive right to him when he called just after we found the girls. (Beth and Jeanette might have a slightly different opinion on whether or not that development was “positive”.)

So we’re all together, we’ve got all our luggage, good directions, a GPS, who could ask for anything more. Eiffel Tower, here we come!

Tip #1: Sally (our friendly GPS) is a conniving little twit.

Yes, she did “technically” tell me to “turn right”, but she failed to mention that there were 4 “rights” to choose from. She forgot the line “choose wisely, for as the true right will bring you Eiffel, the false right will take it from you“. And, yes, I choose poorly.

Tip #2: The twit can get you out of a jam

Sally forgave my indiscretions and “re-calculated” a new, more scenic route for us to take trough Paris (instead of around Paris). We got to see many parts of Paris that the tourists never get to. And, serendipitously many parts that tourists often do want to so. We drove past the Louvre, some famous churches and all kinds of things that I would have researched and remembered the name of had I known we were going to make time for a little Paris sightseeing.

Alas, at about T+18 hours we could see the tower in the distance. Amelia went flippin nuts (Siena took it all in stride). This was totally worth the last 18 hours of travel purgatory. Amelia is just over the moon. Life is grand. Sally guided us right up to the base of the tower and we somehow managed to find a parking spot on the street that I could finagle the van into. As we approach the tower, crankiness sets into Amelia. Uh oh, meltdown approaching. This shouldn’t be happening. Perhaps some 5 Euro popcorn from the souvenir stand will reign things in while we wait in line to go up. Partially right. But the ultimate solution was for Amelia to simply fall asleep in line. Yes, that’s right, she slept through the Eiffel tower (except when we forced her to wake up for a picture). Oh well, you can only expect so much of the girl. Siena had fun though and at least we got some good pictures to prove to the kids that we really did take them there.

Crepon / Normandy

Well as we approached the town of Crepon, Sally tried to make up for the overly-urban Paris excursion by taking us through the most deserted parts of the French countryside. Only it wasn’t just Sally being Sally, Crepon is simply best accessed by traversing one lane roads through canola fields that connect a series of miniature towns. It’s a beautiful drive, but not something you expect/hope to see as you try to end a marathon day of travel.

We finally arrived at the Ferme de la Ranconniere at some unremembered hour which felt a lot like way past my bedtime…my 6 faithful companions snoozed along the 3 hour drive from Paris, but thankfully our trusty driver had the exuberance of canola fields to keep his eyes partially open. Ferme de la Ranconniere is a really cool little hotel in an old 13th century estate. It’s an amazing place with a truly gourmet French restaurant on site, but by the time we arrived, all we wanted was a shower and a bed (and of course we relished the opportunity to unload the semi and carry the cargo up 3 flights of old stone steps).

Fortunately they had the bed part nailed. Beth and I had a comfy king size bed. Amelia had her own little bed tucked away in a nook and Siena even had a little crib next to Amelia. The shower on the other had took a little bit of mastering. If anybody who reads this grew up in Europe, can you please explain to me why there are no shower curtains in Europe? And how in the heck are you supposed to shower without completely soaking the bathroom and everything around it? Please, somebody tell me, because this skill is one neither Beth nor I have even come close to mastering. Perhaps you could post an instructional video on YouTube, no wait, never mind.

The next morning was all about catching up on some sleep. After breakfast, we strolled around the estate grounds admiring the gardens and ancient building. It was such a quiet and peaceful day (we couldn’t have asked for more comfortable weather that day or for the rest of the trip). The girls had fun racing around, smelling/picking the flowers and listening to Papa’s shouts echo off the old stone walls.

That afternoon, Nette Nette stayed at the hotel as the girls took a nice long nap. The rest of us headed out for a tour of the Normandy beaches. (A side note, Skip and Jeanette have been to Normandy before…and they’ve been to many of the same parts of Ireland we went to. Much of the trip was Deja Vu for them, but they were troopers in the name of some good family bonding time!). There’s really no way to describe the beeches at Normandy. What the Allied troops accomplished there is just mind boggling. I had just read D-Day by Stephen Ambrose so I had a great background of everything that happened (I highly recommend doing the same if you ever go, or even if you don’t). When you read about it, you think “wow, that’s something pretty phenomenal”. When you then actually see the terrain, the vastness of the beaches, the height of the cliffs and the depth of the German fortification it just boggles the mind. I’ll never forget standing on the beach, looking up at the cliffs and thinking “could I make it from here to there with machine guns firing all around”? I don’t know that I could.

That night we had our first meal to look forward to at the widely acclaimed restaurant at Ferme de la Ranconniere. It was a true gourmet French dining experience…you know the 2-3 hour kind that kids love to sit through.

Tip #3: When dining in France the kids menu doesn’t have “el mac et fromage”

They were really quite accommodating, I have no complaints, but by the time we got through we were seriously ready for a McDonalds!

The next day we regrouped as a family and headed out to the Normandy museum and the American cemetery. Again, both were sites to behold. We were a little concerned about bringing the kids to the museum, but it turns out they have a nursery there onsite where you can leave the kids to play while you go tour the museum. Of the whole trip, the thing that struck me the most was a letter inconspicuously on display in the basement of the museum. It was a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt. In the letter, Einstein very plainly and factually urges Roosevelt to consider funding further study of how atomic energy could be used to create a powerful bomb. The letter is full of both promise and uncertainty (he didn’t even know if it would be possible to deliver such heavy cargo). It really struck me that everything starts somewhere, often humbly, with a  long row to hoe, an uncertain path to follow and no certainty of success. As Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Tip #4: When you see the word “hamburger”, remember to check the context

When it came time for lunch, we were all in the mood for something familiar, simple and casual. We had our selection of 3-4 restaurants and in gazing at the menu in front of one, I saw a word I recognized. A golden beacon amidst a sea of fru-fru and non-sense. “H-A-M-B-U-R-G-E-R”. “Guys, we’re eating here!” I called out. Sometimes you just need to take charge, especially when you’ve found something so grand. I don’t remember much from high school French class, but I most definitively recognized “tomate, laitue, de pomme de terre”…tomatoe, lettuce, potatoes (assumedly French-fried)….yum. Nobody spoke English in the place, but no matter, we saw what we wanted, let’s eat! We anxiously ordered, but wait a minute. Nobody around us is eating sandwiches, they all seem to be eating some fru-fru variety of crepes. Not the good kind that Mom makes with sugar and jelly in the middle mind you, but the honest to goodness French version will all kinds of nasty crap in the middle. Yes, our “hamburgers” arrived with all kinds of mixed up nasty goodness sandwiched between two crepes. Yes, I think there was some beef in there, as well as some tomato…and there were most definitely potatoes in there as well.

It didn’t take long before the girls were done for the day and ready to go down for the count. I went back to the room with them, while Skip got behind the wheel and took the gang into town to see an old church (when in Europe…). Apparently Sally’s path to the church crossed over several curbs and brushed against a few stationary objects…but hey, everybody deserves to be cut some slack, right?

That night it was back to “Gourmandin of foie gras terrine with smoked eel and apples” (I don’t know what that is either, but every toddler loves the stuff). And then we got to haul the cargo back down the stone steps to load up the van ahead of our 6 am departure to the lovely Paris airport.

5:58am. Somehow we’re all downstairs and ready to go. Later, sometime around when our tummies started growling for breakfast, we passed through a toll booth (yes, it costs about 20 Euros in tolls to travel from Paris to Crepon, including one 7 Euro toll, yikes). Of course, anybody who’s traveled with a toddler knows that this is the most opportune time for a potty break. We pull over at the little toll station that has a sign for something that looks like we could go in and use the potty. Nope, locked.

“Amelia, lets just go in the grass”…”No, I want to use a potty”…”Honey, there might not be a potty for a while, lets just go over here in the grass”…”No, I can’t go in the grass, I NEEEEEED a potty.”…”Amelia, are you sure you can hold it, it might be a long time”…”Yes Mommy, I can hold it, let’s just go find a potty.”….”Ok, here we go.”

Back in the car. “Mommy, I need to go potty”. Nope, that doesn’t create any sense of urgency. Calm as can be as we drive the sporty 9-passenger at 1300 hectometers per hour. Hark, an exit….wait, what is that I see. Oh snap, can it be? Yes, the Golden Arches!!! Helalujia!!! We are going to kill two birds with one stone. My daughter can relieve herself in a nice clean potty while I sink my teeth into a luscious Egg McMuffin (topped with a little foie gras of course). Life is good….until we pull into the parking lot. Why are there bars blocking the entrance to the drive through? Why are there no cars here? Did we hear something about it being a bank holiday today? Damn lazy French. Why the frig is a McDonald’s closed on a holiday…precisely when everybody is taking a road trip and actually craving a pot of grease to stain the side of the driver’s seat? Grrr…back on the road. Only 2000 dekameters to the next pull off gas station.

Yes, Amelia made it to the potty splendidly. I wish we could say the same for the rest of us who suffered through gas station cuisine in lieu of Micy D’s.

Having previously mastered the intricacies of terminals 1 & 2, Skip and I uneventfully dropped off the girls and decided to explore terminal 3 a bit so we could drop Jeff off for his separate flight (somehow…surely accidentally…the grandparents and uncle all managed to avoid flying with their lovely grandchildren). Terminal 3 had an exciting new layout that was completely different and much more intricate than the other two terminals. Our 5 laps around it were such a nice (and appropriate) way to top off our visit to this wonderful airport.

We said goodbye to Sally and somehow escaped without the rental car folks noticing the big dent on the side of the car that we were convinced an arrogant French woman made with her door while I sat in the car watching. Ireland here we come!

France To Ireland

Our trips to Europe wouldn’t be complete without at least one case of airline agent confusion. It took us about an hour to check in to our flight from Paris to London. Apparently traveling with a full ticket for an infant for one leg of a flight and a lap ticket for the other leg is not one of the pre-programmed speed dial options on the agent’s computers. We made it to our plane though and I think we even got away with checking some heavy luggage because the agent felt sorry for us. As well she should, not only did it take an hour, but they also made us check our stroller at the front ticket desk.

Definition: “stroller” an essential device for immobilizing children in crowded spaces and bearing the weight of excessive amount of luggage (think of it like a nanny and a sherpa).

The flights to Dublin were largely uneventful. As usual, the girls were great. Well, I take that back, the trip through the London airport could be considered an event. Somewhat akin to a 5K race. It was most certainly an endurance event. It took the entirety of our 1.5 hour layover to cross through the airport including no fewer that 4 security points.

Tip #5 – Count your bags…then add one

Landed in Dublin. Got the bags. Cleared customs. Met up with the entire crew. Let’s go get the rental car. Oh, sugarsnaps! Where’s the stroller? I’ll just go back to baggage claim and grab it. Nope, not so fast. Apparently they frown on people going the wrong way through the customs line. BUT, I can go call the airline and see what they can do for me. I’m thinking, “oh brother, this is going to be painful”.  I couldn’t have been more wrong Aer Lingus was amazing. They sent somebody right out to meet me and escort me through the employees’ security entrance. And from the on he owned the problem and went above and beyond to solve it.  Turns out the stroller didn’t even make it on to our plane. So Aer Lingus let us borrow a stroller from their pile of unclaimed luggage, then the made arrangements to have our stroller sent to our hotel via courrier as soon as it arrived. Did I mention that our hotel was over 3 hours away? Huge fan of Aer Lingus now, they couldn’t have handled the situation better….although I do kind of wish they had just let us keep the loner stroller, it was actually nicer than ours!

That problem’s solved. Time to move on to the rental car. We’re going to be in Ireland a while and plan on doing a lot of driving. Skip, Jeff and I all go up to the rental counter to register as drivers and share the load. But no. Life is not that easy. The automatic transmission 9 passenger van that we reserved hasn’t been returned yet. Skip doens’t do manual transmission, neither does Jeff. Dilemma, do you:

a) Take the automatic 7 passenger van that is in now available (remember the luggage)
b) Wait for the 9 passenger to come back since it’s technically due within the hour (remember the kids have been traveling since 6 am and it’s now around dinner time)
c) Suck it up, volunteer to drive for the rest of the trip and negotiate with the agent for a free GPS to replace our automatic transmission.

I choose C….which in the end turned out to be wise. You see, it turns out that it takes about a full 7 days to learn how to drive a manual 9 passenger van on the wrong side of the road. Had we split the duties 3 ways, we would have certainly damaged the van if not a pedestrian.

Now, I swear that the van we got pulled to the left. But my companions might try to tell you that it was the driver’s fault that we came within inches of every object on the left side of us from Dublin to Kilkenny. Either way, I think that I may have sent poor Skip (riding front left) for a visit to the cardiologist after some of the close encounters we had and I swear I’ve seen a grey hair or two  on lovely bride (riding front middle) since the trip. I wish I had a recording of the sounds of that leg of the trip. We had our new Sally, re-calculating every quarter mile because she thought we were riding through sheep pastures. We had Amelia in the way back yelling “round-about” at every intersection.

Then Siena echoing “ound-a-bout”.

Beth “Gasp”!

Skip “Yikes”!

Beth “Seriously Mike, that was close”!

Skip “Jeez”!

Beth “Oh oh oh oh, phew”!

Skip “Oh my gosh”!

Jeff, “Can I just give you my third of the damage deposit now?”.

Beth, “Why don’t you try staying to the right?”

Mike “Do you think I’m trying to drive on the left?”

Skip “Baby aspirin, where’ the baby aspirin?”

Beth “Watch out”.

Skip “Oh no, not the people. Don’t hit the people!”

Somehow we made it through the entire trip with no damage to the van and no injured pedestrian (that we’re aware of). About half way through the drive we stopped at an honest to goodness good wholesome restaurant. They had hamburgers, and they even had kids meals! I don’t know if my driving threw her for a loop or if she was just sooo excited to have a hamburger, but when Jeanette walked in she was speaking kind of slowly to the owner of the restaurant, trying to tell him that we wanted a table for 7. When he politely responded, she exclaimed “Oh thank God, you speak English!”. Yes, Jeanette, they tend to do that in Ireland. We were all ready for a good meal and a good night’s sleep. So we chowed on some burgers, topped it off with “Jelly and ice cream” (jell-o and ice cream…not half bad) and went on our way.

In the end, it took us a full day to travel a distance that the crow would fly in about 375 miles. But at least a warm welcome awaited.

Kilkenny

Let me just say that the Lyrath Estate rocks. It’s a swanky contemporary hotel, set on 170 park like acres but with the warm feel of a bed and breakfast. I have to admit that when we first decided to stay there I was a bit skeptical. Swanky and contemporary is usually the last place you want to bring kids; nothing could have been farther from the truth here. I’ve never stayed in such a nice place that was so truly warm and welcoming. The staff was exceptional and could not not have been more accommodating.

For example, on the first morning we were there, the girls were exhausted and slept in to the point where they weren’t going to be able to make it down for breakfast. Beth was going to just load up an extra plate and bring it to the room for them, but when a staffer learned of her plans and the reason behind them, she would have nothing of the sort. Instead she sent a complimentary hot breakfast up to the room via room service just for the girls. Add that to the nightly milk and cookies turn down service, the toddler size bathrobes, the onsite playground, and you get a pretty remarkable hotel for families.

Oh, and did I mention that they have glass doors on the showers?

Tip #6 – When receiving complementary milk and cookies for the kids, spread your kids out across multiple rooms and take advantage of the excess baked goods.

We spent the first day in Kilkenny bumming around and trying to let the girls just have fun before we got tied up with wedding festivities. In the morning we strolled around the estate grounds and took some leftovers from breakfast down to the duck pond. Along the way, we were joined by Ringo, one of the three golden retrievers that live on the grounds. Amelia and Siena had a blast feeding the ducks, running around with Ringo and just getting a chance to be kids.

Later on, we headed off to a park and playground a few towns over. We were slightly delayed by a heard of cattle being rustled up the road, but we were in no rush…and I dared not drive the van anywhere close to the 100 km/hour speed limit. The playground had an awesome zip line the girls got a kick out of picking dandelions with Jeff and watching them careen down the waterfall after throwing them in upstream.

We went into downtown Kilkenny for dinner at a true Irish pub that night. Did you know that real fish and chips comes with “mushy peas”? Neither did I, but I was careful to avoid them after that. (And, for what it’s worth, in all of Ireland I didn’t find and fish and chips better than what they serve at McCreary’s Irish Pub in downtown Franklin, TN). Turns out we were in a pub on the night of the semifinals of a big rugby tournament. It made for an electric atmosphere and the girls even got into watching the game.

As we left the pub, we chanced upon a fellow Tennessean who was in town performing for the music festival they were having. While Jeanette chatted him up, we also chanced upon her family, the rest of our traveling companions. I never envisioned cousins meeting for the first time on a sidewalk outside a pub in Ireland. Amelia and Siena immediately took to their cousins Austin and Ashley. Austin, 7, was of course the natural leader and for the rest of the trip our girls would follow him wherever he led.

The Wedding

Wedding festivities are a time for a joy and celebration and also a time to run your kids ragged. After our relaxing day around the hotel, we spent the next two days on the move, out of routine and far removed from long naps!

The wedding was all you would expect from a traditional Irish ceremony. A pre-rehearsal dinner party at a true Irish pub started off the festivities. Followed shortly thereafter by a rehearsal dinner that stretched well into the night. Of course, the next day was the wedding, followed by cocktails, then appetizers, then dinner, then toasts (lots of Irish toasts), then dessert, then dancing, then more food…and well, the party kept on going until 4am. Or so I’m told. I made it until after midnight and felt proud of myself. The girls were of course great. Amelia was fascinated by “the bride”. They both had a blast dancing the night away with Dad making a fool of himself.

The wedding and surrounding ceremonies were quite nice. Aileen’s family was warm and welcoming and we had a great time getting to know everybody there. David and Aileen are truly citizens of the world and the other guests hailed from at least 3 separate continents (and I forget how many different countries). It was also nice to have some time to hang out with Beth’s extended family and especially to let the kids get to know one another.

My favorite moment of the whole trip, and one of the top ten moments in my life, came the day after the wedding as we were getting ready to leave. Beth was packing up our suitcases and it was just going to be easier if I took the girls somewhere else. We decided to head outside and see if we could find Ringo. I was one of those days where the the weather is absolutely perfect and it is a joy just to be outside. We found Ringo and one of his pals then Amelia, Siena and I spent the next hour just running around and goofing off in a big grassy field. We played with the dogs, ran through the grass, explored a big shade tree, and headed down to the little pond in search of more ducks. Thinking back, my earliest childhood memories are from around the time when I was Amelia’s age. I hope that this day is one of her first memories. The smiles on the girls faces were just priceless. We had no agenda, nothing to do, just a lot of fun. It felt like a scene from a movie and it is one that I hope to never forget.

7 Becomes 14

Since we were getting the hang of managing the chaos of traveling with 7 people, including 2 todders, we figured we’d add in a little challenge and double those numbers. Shortly after my perfect moment, we packed up in two nine-passenger vans and headed out for Killarney. In most social group settings, my general philisophy on group dynamics is that the fewer cooks there are in the kitchen, the smoother things will run. Typically I will just sit back and go with the flow, leaving others to make decisions unless I’m asked to lead. On this leg of the trip, I took a slightly different tactic and decided that there’s no way in heck I’m going to try to corral this crew…driving was enough stress. Fortunately Scott rose to the occasion and somehow found a way to get everybody moving in similar directions.

After only a couple minor detours through the back streets of Cork (Sally’s friend also seemed to have a sense of humor), we made it in to the Crystal Springs Bed and Breakfast at a surprisingly reasonable hour.  The next day we set out to drive the Ring of Kerry. The Ring is a scenic drive along Ireland’s southwest coast.

Along the way we came across the ruins of a cool old castle. It was just sitting in the middle of a field and you could go climb around it it. It wasn’t exactly what you would call safe or handicap accessible, but that’s what made it fun. It’s the type of thing that you could never do in the US. The farmer on whose property it sat would have been forced to fence it off or tear it down just to afford his property insurance. A bit later on, we came across an old fort that was the same way. It was a large circle, probably about 100 ft in diameter, with stone walls that were 15-20 feet high and 6-8 feet thick. You could go climb around on it, take the ancient stairs up to the top and walk around the circle (which is a bit death-defying with toddlers who are trying to keep up with a 7 year old boy). In the US, you’d never be allowed to even get close to such a thing, never mind climb up on top of it.

The next day had nothing on the agenda. We decided to bum around Killarney. We took in Ross Castle, and headed out to see a spectacular waterfall. I took the girls back to the hotel for a nap, while the rest of the crew went their separate ways. Some went sightseeing, some went shopping. I don’t know how it happened, but confusion eventually resulted in Beth and her parents sitting in the cold rain for about 2 hours waiting to rendezvous with the rest of the crew. How did we ever survive in a world before cell phones?

One highlight of Killarney was the night the “kids” (well, we’re not kids anymore, the “middle generation”) headed out for a night on the town while the grandparents watch the kids. Don’t let me give you the wrong impression, we didn’t win any awards for being the craziest partiers that night…but we did get a blue ribbon for having a beer after 10pm and not falling asleep. It was worth the lost sleep though to see some actual Irish folk dancing.

Irish Dancing from Mike Rustici on Vimeo.

Some honest to goodness Irish folk dancing in Killarney.

The next day it was time to pack up the semi again and head back to Dublin. The plan was to get in early afternoon and then spend the evening with David and Aileen touring Dublin. Well somehow the plan actually got us to Dublin on time, with only the tinest of detours near the very end. Unfortunately though things broke down from there. We had to finagle some logistics of returning rental cars and shuttling people to our various hotels. The Dublin native Aileen finally had us squared away with a solid plan…but Dublin traffic had other plans for us. What Google Maps says is a 20 minute drive, actually takes well over an hour in rush hour. And when you turn it into a round trip with an overly-long rental car drop off, the chances of meeting up with your family vanish pretty quickly. So it was that we had yet another day devoted entirely to travel.

Alone

The way it worked out with our frequent flier miles, it was actually cheaper for us to stay in Dublin a couple extra days after everybody else flew home. We wished everybody else safe travels and checked into a little apartment for the weekend. After so much chaos and movement, it was nice to have a little home for a while. We really didn’t do all that much in Dublin. We spent a lot of time just hanging around the apartment, watching movies, eating-in and just relaxing. It was quite nice. The girls loved having their own bedroom and more than once we caught them goofing around in lieu of napping. Amelia would crawl into the crib with Siena. Or, Siena would crawl out of the crib and we’d find them both hiding behind the curtains on the window sill.

We took a double-decker bus tour around town on our first day. The kids got a kick out of the bus, and we didn’t have anything in particular we wanted to see so it was just a lazy ride around town. We finished the day off with some Chinese delivery and a couple pints of Ben and Jerry’s in the apartment and I for one was quite happy with that. The next day we walked up to Phoenix Park and the Dublin Zoo. Again we had no real agenda, nothing much to do…we just had a good time hanging out as a family.

And that’s the end of the trip. The flight home was blissfully uneventful (besides the fact that I forgot to return the keys to the apartment and frantically tried to find a place to mail them from the airport to avoid the advertised 200 euro fine for loosing them). We wore out the batteries in all of our video delivery devices this time as the girls stayed awake for most of the daytime flight. The girls were again great on the plane, the only meltdown coming in Chicago when we had to curtail their exhuberence in order to make our connecting flight.

So we’re back. We had a great time, although I wish we’d spent a little less time moving around and a little more time just visiting (evidenced by the fact that once Siena was getting sleepy and asked to go to the car rather than the readily available crip). The girls have a few stamps in their passports and the still go nuts when they see the Eiffel tower. So who’s getting married next in a far off land?

  1. #1 by Aunt Jo at July 26th, 2009

    Hello Mike & Beth, Hope all is well with you and girls, give them a hug for us. Finally got around to checking your site, great pictures and “story”. Mike you should be a columist. It was great being with you all in Ireland, hope you get to Houston for 10/3, it should be a good Texas party. I have a few pictures for you, hopefully I’ll get them in the mail soon. Love, Aunt Jo

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