On September 8th, when Kim and I were waiting for our flight to Scotland at the Raleigh-Durham Airport, news came of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. The next days, as we walked through the historic cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, preparations had started for the arrival of her procession from Balmoral. What pageantry followed as Great Britain’s Royalty came forth to honor their matriarch who’d led the monarchy for seventy years.
A week later, on the afternoon of Saturday September 17th, we arrived in Dublin for the second leg of our trip. Riding from the airport to our hotel, the cab driver told us the traffic was especially heavy.
“It’s because Garth Brooks is having his fifth concert tonight,” he said, and turned toward us in the back seat. “The people here really love him. Has a sold-out stadium every night. He even shows up and plays in pubs.”
Our American Royalty had arrived in Ireland!
Riding through the streets, and later in the Italian restaurant, we saw people in Western hats and boots. All appeared to be in a great mood before going to the concert at Croke Park. With the stands full, over the five nights he would play to a total of four-hundred-thousand people.
Later, I read an interview done by Buzz.ie., that noted Brooks’s love of Ireland.
Brooks said, ” Ireland is ahead of all of us. Some countries are ahead in technology, some countries are ahead in industry, some countries are ahead in their laws defending freedom and the military.
Ireland is ahead of all of us in loving one another. They just are. They treat each other really, really good.”
I found that to be true throughout my time in the Emerald Isle. In every situation, whether catching a bus or remembering to count out Euros instead of Pounds, no matter how scattered or confused I was in a new location, the Irish people were friendly and helpful. I truly felt like I was with what Mama would refer to as “some of our people.”
That entry into Dublin set the tone for our visit. We settled into our lodging– The Harding in Copper Alley in the Temple Bar district. It was a lively area of the city with many pubs and live music.
Kim and I were scheduled to take a day trip to the Cliff’s of Moher on the following morning. While I knew that I’d be in that area on my solo journey, I’d wanted Kim to get to see them before heading back to the States on Tuesday. We’d pre-paid for our tickets. She checked the arrival time so we wouldn’t miss the bus.
When Kim saw that we’d have to be up and at the pick-up site by seven o’clock, she looked skeptical.
“I just don’t know if I can take getting up that early– again.”
We were both still feeling tired from our 6-day tour of the Hebrides–returning to Edinburgh the night before at seven o’clock. We’d had to leave our hotel that morning at nine o’clock for our flight on Air Lingus to Ireland. When she looked closely at what the tour of the Cliff’s would entail, we wouldn’t return for eleven hours to Dublin.
“I’m okay with not going–just having an easier day tomorrow,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful time and it’ll feel complete without going.”
It was one of those travel situations where it had seemed fine on paper, but when you were there, in person, you realized you’d over-scheduled. Her three days in Dublin would be her Ireland experience–and if she was fine with that, so was I.
What a relief it was Sunday morning to have a leisurely breakfast, then to independently explore the neighborhood. I had time to write my blog post while listening to the church bells from Christ’s Cathedral across from our hotel. How we had needed a day that wasn’t so scheduled.
Underneath our hotel was a pub with traditional Irish music. I’d go to the doorway and listen but didn’t feel drawn into the noisy crowd. We’d wait and go there on our last night for a dinner of Beef and Guinness Stew–a pub staple. Down the street was the Hard Rock Hotel of Dublin.
With the hotel was Zampas restaurant and bar. The music at the Hard Rock on Sunday night would start at 5:30 with a group named Mo’ Better Blues. Great! We could start with an early dinner at the restaurant and move over to the bar area in time to snag a seat close to the band. If I were at home, I’d go to the Elk’s Lodge on Sunday night to swing dance. How excited I was that I’d be hearing live music in Dublin–especially Blues, which was one of my favorite genres.
The dinner at Zappo’s didn’t disappoint– the pork belly with seared scallops over pear puree with a glass of Pinot Grigio. There were few diners at that time and the wait staff were very attentive.
After dinner, we moved over to the bar area and watched the band set up. We were in a crowd of those who followed the band and tourists– a convivial mix. The vocals and instrumentation were fabulous as they played blues and favorite Rock-N-Roll numbers including the Beatles and Springsteen. They even played my favorite Irish Blues Man— Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” If I were back at the Elk’s Lodge, Wesley–the DJ, would likely have a Morrison song qued up–knowing I would be requesting one of his numbers.
It was totally relaxing to listen to the band–especially hearing the saxophone, my favorite instrument. The saxophonist was incredible and featured on most songs. How I felt the accumulated travel tensions release as he played his riffs.
I couldn’t believe I was in Dublin on a Sunday night. I talked to the band leader after the first set and told him how much we were enjoying their performance. He was very friendly and looked a lot like one of my dance friends back home.
“The only thing that could make this any better is if we were dancing,” I told him.
He smiled and said, “Well some nights we have people that dance. Sorry none of them are here tonight.”
Guess I’ll have to get back to Raleigh to my dancing partners.
We stayed through the last number. I hated for the evening to end– but knew my memory of that special time would never end.
Walking back to the hotel, I was grateful that Kim had been willing to change plans, to forego the tour to the Cliff’s in order to have a more relaxing day.
Sometimes you have to let go of your plans, whether it’s on a trip or in everyday life.
We had lost money in order to make a better plan that suited our needs. Later, Kim did that again when she switched her return flight to have a simpler trip home. Kim lost money, but she gained peace of mind knowing her new flight would make it a lot easier on her when she went home on Tuesday.
Later in the week, I would use Kim’s playbook when I realized there was a problem in my plan for my solo journey. I was scheduled to stay at the B & B in Doolin through Friday night and catch the bus to the Shannon airport on Saturday. Once I was there, I realized the distance and the difficulty of relying on local transportation would make it impossible to get to the airport on time.
I forfeited the final night that was pre-paid at the B & B and traveled to Shannon on Friday. The hotel was much more costly, but it was the most reasonable plan. I’d forgotten that it’s best to be near the airport the evening before the flight. The tension of waiting would take away the enjoyment of trying to hang on to more minutes in Doolin. Instead, my last evening was a good time to start transitioning home, binging on BBC shows and having a final great meal in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.
I will always remember the fun of that Sunday night in Dublin. In my mind’s eye, will be scenes of Ireland to the sound of Mo’ Better Blues, reminding me of the lively, lyrical Irish people and the way they welcomed me.