Trip to the Emerald Isle

welcomelisact

Two weeks ago, I set off on a journey to Ireland, both the trip and my time paid for! What great good fortune transpired to get me here? I’ll tell you.

Let’s back up to May of this year. I was between jobs, having just finished a temp job scoring high school English essays. It was the weekend and I decided to relax for a while and watch P.S. I Love You,  in which Hillary Swank meets her future husband Gerard Butler (a Scotsman cast as an Irishman), while backpacking through Ireland and then after his death by brain tumor goes back and meets an equally handsome Irish guy (this one played by an American) and after a brief agony of realizing the two men were friends, falls in love again. Or something like that. “I want to go to Ireland!,” I declared at the movie’s end. I did not add, “to meet a handsome man with a charming accent!” A half hour later, upon checking new postings to the Indeed.com, I found a job for Reservation Agent at a company called Celtic Tours. Hmmm, sounded intriguing!  Perhaps it was a sign! Indeed, just a few days later, I sat in the conference room of Celtic Tours and was told that, if hired, I’d have the opportunity to travel to Ireland in November or February. Exciting! Two days later, the job was mine.

The first weeks, even months, of the job were very challenging. I felt as if I had arrived in a country whose culture and language was entirely foreign to me. Gradually, as happens even in a strange land, things began to make more sense and I felt slightly more competent and confident. I heard news that there was a FAM (familiarization trip for agents to get “familiar” with a place so they can better inform their clients) coming up in November. “This might be my chance!,” I mused. But then I heard that several sales reps were going, not me. I was rather downcast about this for a day and into the next, until a voice in my head told me, “Just because you haven’t heard you’re on this tour, doesn’t mean an opportunity might not arise soon!” And not a half an hour lapsed, when a colleague came up behind me: “Lisa, Alaine, you are both going to Ireland!” Yes!!! I swear switching to positive thought made it all happen!

Just two and a half weeks later, I was waiting to board a flight from Albany, NY to Newark, NJ. My carry on was the satchel my company gifts participants of our Escorted Coach Tours. I was going on our most popular trip, the Heart of Ireland.

celtictourbag

The blue tag was affixed also to my checked bag, so that our guide/driver would be able to recognize us when we came through Arrivals at Dublin Airport. The Albany Airport was nearly empty, which was unusual for a Saturday, according to the clerk at the Hudson News shop. I entertained myself with the airport WiFi, posting a few photos on FaceBook. I noted announcements about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 being banned from all flights and googled to see that there were at least 30 cases where the devices had spontaneously combusted. I certainly hoped no one was sneaking one of those on board!

The flight to Newark was quick (32 minutes) and uneventful except for the surprising number of refreshments – one beverage and TWO snacks – one savory and one sweet!

snacks

Once at Newark, I was told I needed to take a shuttle to Terminal C where my flight to Dublin would depart. I strolled around Terminal C awhile, taking in the intriguing eateries in the middle of the thoroughfare, each seat had a tablet where you could play a game, check up on your emails, and possibly pay for your meal. I didn’t get close enough to confirm though.

newarkeat

After buying a travel toothbrush to replace my old one, and a small sample of coconut oil to polish my boots I brought along, I headed up to the United Club. I had gotten a free pass from a colleague, which I presented at the reception desk along with my boarding pass. With a nod from the receptionist, I was permitted to roam around the area, collect magazines to read, hot and cold foods and beverages, including alcoholic, and relax in big leather arm chairs. I spoke with several businessmen, one who worked with plastics for hearing aid devices and was headed to Germany and Switzerland – two beloved destinations of mine – and one who worked for Homeland Security, Fraud Division who was taking a week off to the Highlands of Scotland. I also met a daughter and father headed on a tour to Portugal. The father asked me to guess how old he was. I said 60, thinking in my head, 65. The man turned about to be 91!

soup

Seven hours passed quickly in such fashion and then it was time to board. I was in Section 2, so I was able to board in advance of the masses and get settled before my row mate arrived, with an empty seat between us.

gate

I loved watching the guy with the red cones guiding the airplane away from the gate. Night was falling and I relaxed as we sped down the runway and soared into the air.

We traveled up the coast for some time and I could see city lights and the coastline below. Then darkness fell. Dinner was served – healthy quinoa salad with a chicken dish and raspberry gelato for dessert! After squeezing past the friendly guy on the aisle and using the tiny bathroom, I settled in for a night of movie watching. I was too excited to sleep!

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