Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 22, 2013

Don’t Forget the Wash Cloth or You’ll Have to Go to Confession When You Get Home (Part Two)

Preparations Underway

I think it was sometime in May when I pulled out the suitcases from their storage in the crowded basement, took them into the open, the “finished ” part, and looked at them.  How should we pack?  Where should we put the things we were going to need?  What, indeed, would that be?

We had already called Carolyn, several months ago, before the New Year, and asked her if she’d like to go to Ireland on our dime.  I don’t think she even stopped to breathe before her “Yes” came down the wire to my ear.  She would need a new passport she said, and I somewhat nervously left that part up to her.  You see, I know teenagers.  They have the attention/retention span of folks my age and can forget a decision to do something before they have left the room as often and as quickly as can anyone I know in their dotage.  Then I devoted my time…when I remembered to do that…to figuring out what to do when we got her over there.

Our place in Killarney is ideally situated for spending time in the town, traveling around the Iveragh Peninsula along the very popular and scenic Ring of Kerry, scooting over to Dingle, where Irish is still spoken and the “bradan feasa” the catch of the day; or going up to the attractions north of there along the coast, like the Cliffs of Moher.  I also wanted Carolyn to see Cobh and St. Colman’s Cathedral where her great-grandmother had spent her last days before coming to America in 1929, to see Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone, and taste a little bit of luxury in a place like Adare Manor, now a hotel.  These were my vague plans.

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The View From the Killarney Country Club, Faha, Killarney

Then there were her cousins, the Leahys in Limerick, in New Castle West and Athea, one of the towns nearby.  They must be contacted to let them know we were on our way.  I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous about that.  We had not been in contact with them for a few years, and I hoped that they would still remember us with warmth, and welcome Carolyn as openly as they had everyone else.  There were others, too, in the clan, but if we spent time calling on them all, we wouldn’t have any time to do anything else.  The Leahys were Sheila’s cousins.  So were all the others in the south and west of Ireland.  My few relatives were to be found in and around Dublin, and I had not seen them for about 8 or 9 years.  They could wait for the next trip over I decided…if they still remembered me.

In the meantime, Mariellen, who should go into the travel business, was busy scoping out how to get there and how to get around once we were there.  We had several discussions, the two of us, about flights into Ireland from Boston, what to do first when we got there and where to go after that.  Both of us were pretty well settled on the major stops, Cork and Blarney and things like that.  It was the first day and the last day of Carolyn’s week that were hurdles.

You see, though a teenager might like to know every thing was being done for her, we had other reasons, other destinations, in mind; selfish objectives and purposes.  We had been to Ireland any number of times together.  Last year we did something different and took a river cruise up the Rhine.  (Aside to the four persons who will read this:  Do it.)  It was a lovely excursion.  Aside from losing my camera and the 1100 pictures I had on it, the trip was perfect.  Now, we wanted to reprise a part of the trip with a week in Cologne and Strasbourg.  There were cathedrals to revisit at some length.  There was beer to drink; especially the Kolsch beer at Peter’s Brauhaus in Cologne, and there were the delicious pastries in Strasbourg.  Well, we might content ourselves with simply looking at those things.  But we would stalk the storks in Strasbourg which has built quite a reputation as a home for the birds; and I do not mean the European Parliament.

How would we do that?

Mariellen, God love her, is gifted with the mind of a planner.  She’s a strategic thinker.  Here is the difference between us.  Were I in charge of the D-Day invasion of Europe I would simply get as many guys together and put them in as many boats as I could find and row over from England to France…or something.  Then I’d pound around here and there until things were done.  Mariellen, God love her even more, would have been able to organize the thing even better than it was, and move everyone along to victory twice as fast as it happened.  She could organize dust.

The only thing that scares me is when she comes to me and asks, “What do you think we ought to do, Honey?”  There are two things involved in that question which freeze me every time:  The thinking part, and the decision to do something part.  “What” and “Honey” I can live with, as in “What time would you like to eat, Honey.”  Beyond that I begin to panic.

Anyway, we were faced with two decisions.  The first one had to do with whether it was better to make the trip to Germany and France before or after our trip to Ireland with Carolyn.  The second had to do with getting around in those two places after we left the airport.  We batted those balls around for a couple of weeks.  As usual Mariellen had the perfect solution to the Order of Travel problem.  I had thought it would be to our advantage to fly to the furthest point and sort of work out way back.  She reasoned that the Irish leg of the journey would be where we needed to be fresh for Carolyn’s first time there, and coming off a week somewhere else might not be conducive to showing her around as well as we ought to.

I went for it.  That left the matter of getting around in Germany and France.  I remembered watching the trains zipping up and down the Rhine while we sailed along, and had been thinking it might be the way to go for us.  I didn’t fancy getting in and out…or around…either place in a rental car in a place where I couldn’t read a match cover let alone a road map.  And I had thoughts of zipping across Europe in trains Superman couldn’t outrun, and how much fun it might be.  Space prevents me from detailing the process, but we eventually decided to do that, too, and eschew driving around in circles , or into the Rhine, while in Germany.

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This Ain’t Your Father’s Lionel

Mariellen set to work trying to put things together while we waited news from Carolyn about her new passport.  Spring was approaching and we’d not made much progress in travel plans, and Carolyn hadn’t called with a number for us.  I considered checking into a sanatorium until she did.  But, I steeled myself.  Jameson’s helps.  And, though things weren’t disintegrating, I felt time passing, windows closing.  We needed help with “A” and she needed a bit of a push with “B”.  I called her and told her we needed a passport number so we could make reservations for her.  That got her moving on that problem.  For the complicated moves we had to make in travel: flying from Boston to Ireland to Germany and return, and getting all of our in country plans worked out we need to consult with one of America’s greatest travel agents; who just happened to sing with us every Sunday morning.

It took Frieda a millisecond it seemed, to let us know what to do and when to do it.  Armed with the start she made, and the information she gave us, Mariellen completed the German and French part of the trip in a day or so on the Internet, down to hotel reservations in both places and in Frankfort for the last night before going back to Ireland.  My hair started growing back.

The trip would take Carolyn with us to Dublin.  A week later we’d put Carolyn on the plane home from Shannon.  Then we’d drive to Dublin and leave for Frankfort the next morning, catch a high speed train from the airport to Cologne and begin our week in Germany.  A week later after a midweek train to Strasbourg, we’d go to Frankfort, fly to Dublin, change flights and fly home.

A Piece of Cake!

Mariellen handled all the ground reservations, and shortly after she’d done that, Carolyn called to say that her passport had arrived.  In a few hours, everything was locked down.  We were going.  That’s when I went downstairs to the basement and started measuring suitcases, and upstairs to my chest of drawers to start counting underwear and socks.

We were really going.  We did really go.  Read on, MacAudience.  All four of you.

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