Saturday, September 21, 2013

Back to North Ireland!

9.19/20  Thursday and Friday

Apparently it stormed in the night, I didn’t hear it. Gerald and Pam arrived at 9 am and we loaded my stuff and were off! It was a rainy dreary day but no incidents so that was good. I queued at the long American Airlines desk. After a bit of a wait, I learned that several flights had been cancelled because of the fog/rain and people were trying to reschedule. I was directed to the self check kiosk which I had by-passed as I thought I needed to see a clerk for international travel. Everything can be done at the computer now! When it didn’t read my passport immediately, I put in my debit card and yes, it’s all in the network. I keyed in my passport data manually and two boarding passes dropped out. The baggage strap was at the end of the kiosk and I was on my way to Concourse B.

We had a departure of 1:10 but no plane in sight. Finally it arrived at 1:40 and we were on our way to NYC by 2:30. It was a pleasant enough ride in the Eagle…a bit small. I spent most of the short flight reading on the Kindle…then the battery was exhausted. Of course, I brought a charger and of course, it is in the checked bag so no more reading for me unless I buy a book at the airport. So much for loading up the Kindle! The flight attendant mentioned the connecting gates for us. This was a diverse little group with final destinations of Barcelona, Milan, Dublin and UK.  It would be fun to know all the stories!!
We passed over New York City and then circled back to land. The ocean looked like a gray green sheet of weathered leather, not a body of water! I haven’t flown into JFK much. I looked for landmarks but didn’t see many….the Empire State Building in the distance and the canopy of green over what is probably Central Park.

While enjoying a late lunch of a Thai Peanut Wrap, I noticed a woman who looked lost. We made eye contact and she came to ask me if she was in the right place. I checked the screens and determined that she was not. Before I sent her on her way to find an airport clerk, I asked where she is from….”Africa” “yes, but where in Africa?” “Nairobi, Kenya” “Ahh..I’ve been there many times.”  It is a small world! She blessed me and went on to find the right gate.

I had another hour or so before the flight to Dublin. About 30 minutes before departure time, a group of folks arrived with 4 children under 5. The adults that accompanied them were loud. Of course they were all on our flight! Three or four of them cried, screamed and squalled for the first 2 hours! There was relative quiet and then tired wailing for the last two hours of the flight. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of the mums kept shouting, “be quiet!” But I still managed to sleep about three hours.

Arrival in Dublin was on time. I collected my bags, exchanged some dollars for Euros and headed for the bus to Newry. I purchased my ticket from a machine and then had a 45 minute wait for the bus. I hadn’t seen a payphone in the airport so I asked a local if I could borrow their cell to call Deirdre. The call didn’t go through. In that 45 minutes my perception of the weather had gone from “refreshing” to “brisk” to “cold”! The 50 degrees felt good after being in the plane but standing outside made me add a shawl, then a coat! I arrived in Newry at about 10. I tried the payphone and couldn’t get it to work. I asked a local who also couldn’t get it to work. The gal at the coffee bar was friendly so I just asked her to make the call. Success!! Deirdre will be here in 40 minutes!!
A view of the canal in Newry from the bus station

While waiting, I had a snack that I had saved from breakfast on the plane….Margaret Fraser…it was dried berries from Traverse City! It was the Traverse Bay Fruit Company!
Andrew, manager of the castle/conference centre, brought Deirdre to pick me up. We were back at the castle by 1 pm. Deirdre showed me my room which she had outfitted with a purple blanket, purple pillow, purple pens, purple face cloths and purple body wash!! The bath even has a purple toilet seat but she said that was left by someone! She and some others on staff have put some lovely cross stitch scriptures on the wall and there were fresh flowers (pink roses, white mums, hot pink gerber daisies and a purple daisy type flower) on the hearth! Very welcoming!

Lovely flowers!!

We had lunch of fish & chips. Sitting at the table in the turret area, I can look out and see the lake in front of the castle and the Mourne Mountains! After a short visit, I took a nap (I had lost 5 hours over the Atlantic!) but was up in a couple of hours. Deirdre and I were off to Jen’s to babysit the girls! Sweet little Charlie and Addy. They were very good and went to bed early, Deirdre and I chatted and chatted…enjoying the view of Newcastle at night and the nearby Mournes. 
This is the turret where "my" dining nook is! You'll see the view later!

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