Traveling to Ireland with my mother: Part 1

Somewhere in between making everyone do my bidding for my birthday and attacking asthma with the Force, I went to Ireland. And I brought my mom.

Here is a summary of the trip: It was perfect. End of summary.

But just in case you are planning to take a trip to Ireland with your mother and she is exactly like my mother, or you are my mother and have been waiting months for me to write about this, here is a slightly more detailed summary.

Part 1: Pre-Travel Panic, Food Hoarding, and Dublin

Our first stop in Ireland was Dublin – but first we had to get there. My mother and I are nervous flyers, so I chose to go to happy hour the night before. Mom chose to stay at my apartment – and text me this:

It was cleverly hidden in my fridge.

When we did make it onto the plane, it was a short jaunt to Chicago. I will never again transfer through O’Hare. The distance between terminals can be measured in human misery. From Chicago, we flew Aer Lingus (I would definitely fly with them again), and our plane was called the Saint Patrick, which is a pretty special thing for us.

There’s a saying in my family: “They mean for me to have these.” My grandmother used to say it right before she cleaned out a restaurant’s supply of Splenda, Half and Half, whatever. Ma and I were unable to leave any leftovers, starting with the plain bread rolls on the airplane. We then carried our “food bag” from city to city to city.

Food bag, deconstructed

Food bag, deconstructed

Here’s some advice for you: pay attention to your arrival time. If, for instance, you arrive in Dublin at 5:00 a.m. and you can’t drop off your bags at the B&B until 8 and even then can’t actually check-in until 12, maybe hang out at the airport for a while. It’s warm there, they have coffee, and – is that a MN Twins game on TV? (It was!) If you choose to ignore this advice, your mother’s first view of Ireland is going to be dark streets, her first beverage will be a crappy coffee in a freezing train station, and her first activity will be surreptitiously thawing out her feet in a convenience store. This is not what you want.

But you will also get to watch the sunrise over the Liffey, if you are into beautiful things.

But you will also get to watch the sunrise over the Liffey, if you are into beautiful things.

We also tried to keep ourselves awake by visiting a library with a thousand-year-old Bible and shelves straight out of Beauty and the Beast. Mom was a good sport, but really only nerds like me or Lacy could possibly find this stimulating after being awake for 30 hours. And possibly Liz Lemon.

trinity college

This was my “So many different types of sparrows!” moment.

The rest of day one involved a nap, dinner, and a pint of Guinness at a pub populated only by cursing old Irish men betting on horse races. Guess which one of these things was my favorite.

Day two began with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. I wanted to do it right away, just so my mother would know how this trip was going to go. Bonus: She also didn’t really want to drink her free beer at 11 a.m., so bonus black stuff for me!

Guinness Storehouse

When I pour stouts and want to get fancy, I draw an "S." I did not pour this stout.

When I pour stouts and want to get fancy, I draw an “S.” I did not pour this stout.

After Guinness and lunch, we tried to go to Dublin Castle, but it was closed to the public…and had been for about six months. I probably could have researched this before. Instead, we went to Kilmainham Gaol, which was fascinating. I don’t know if any of my ancestors spent time there, but we did find our family name mysteriously carved into a cell’s doorway which was good enough for me. And it is featured in basically every Irish period drama featuring a jail, which is basically every Irish period drama, which is basically every Irish movie you’ve heard of aside from Waking Ned Devine.

Next time: Glendalough, Cobh, and Driving in Ireland Without Hurting Myself Or Others!

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Choose your own adventure, bring your own ginger

Hello, neglected blog!  The last time I wrote in you it was about something important.  This is the opposite of that, but my mother has been asking for an update on the past month.  I can’t remember that far back, though, so here’s what happened last weekend, when Favorite Guy: Ginger Division and I went on a little adventure to the east coast.

Day 1: In which we are awake for 22 hours

The flight was at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, which meant nervous-flyer Rachel was awake at 4.  We got to the airport too late for my usual pre-flight Necessary Calming Beverage, and the Ginger decided to regale me mid-air with tales of bad flights he’s been on in the past.  Luckily this was the only point during our trip when I thought about destroying him.  We got off the plane and a few train rides later we parked it at our first destination: a margarita!

Brooklyneer bar sign

Sesame Street: Influencing my decisions for over 20 years.

Also, the margarita was in New York City.

During the course of the first day of the vacation, it went bar/food, five-minute nap, shopping, bar/food, shopping, walking the High Line, food, five-minute nap, bar/food.  We stayed with some friends in the Upper East Side and had a pretty excellent time; there wasn’t a lot of sight-seeing what with all the sitting and eating, but we did manage to see  a whole lot of the subway and stay awake for 22 solid hours.

supergrover

Some of the details of this evening are best kept between me and Super Grover.

Day 2: Crazy in Connecticut

We woke up, showered, brunched, and bused to Hartford to visit the wanderluster herself, Sabrina!  The Ginger has a thing for suburbs, so Sabrina took us by one of the oldest in the country before showing us a good time in West Hartford.  And really, it was a good time.  There are in fact things to do in Connecticut.  Who knew?

Day 3: Bean Town

Our planes, trains and automobiles adventure continued with a drive to Boston.  The three of us stopped at the Onyx Hotel (highly recommended, and not just for their animal-print bathrobes and faux-fur bedspreads) before hitting Quincy Market and the Harbor and catching a bit of the Freedom Trail.

Nice donkey

No, I don't know why there's a statue of a donkey on the Freedom Trail, but I do know it's important for every tourist to sit on it, preferably while a stranger stands just off-camera and says "nice ass."

A little bit of shopping and eating and we were on to the Haunted Boston tour!  This was a highlight of the trip for the two ghost-loving non-redheads among us.

Later, out to the Oldest Tavern In America (or so the sign says) – The Bell in Hand – for a bit of live music and dancing.  Sabrina and I each picked out our “boyfriends,” and it took all night for us to realize our boyfriends were actually each others’ boyfriends.  Yep; in a room full of burly Bruins fans, we gravitated towards the two waif-y hipsterish guys with excellent floppy hair.  I have been in the Twin Cities too long.

Day 4: Family, Fenway, and Farewell

A few of my Massachusetts family members met the gang and I for brunch at the Eastern Standard.  It was great, but too short for a once-in-a-decade visit.  They took us around the corner to a little place called Fenway for a photo op.

Fenway

Then it was goodbye family and Sabrina, hello Old Ironsides/excuse to make Anchorman references!

Old Ironsides

It really is an old, old wooden ship!

She’s 214 years old and she’s still afloat and still commissioned – it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Next up: Tavern on the Water for a nice view of the city and a little interaction with some real Massachusetts folks, who told us Happy Hours are illegal in Massachusetts but that they had danced on the bar we were sitting at before.  I should note these were two 60-ish couples.  I liked them.

Last stop before taking off: Giacomo’s, or as The Ginger keeps calling it, “Giergamo’s? Guillermo’s? Gargamel’s?”  We waited in line for about forty minutes outside, during which time I realized I needed to find a bathroom (bear with me, this story goes somewhere).  So I went to a pharmacy across the street and asked the employee if there was a bathroom.

“Not here, but at the fire station down the street.”

Naturally I left, assumed I heard her wrong, and went a few doors down to another store.

“Try the fire station next door.”

Sure enough, there was an actual fire station next door.  Full of not-unattractive firemen.  Who I had to ask to lead me to the bathroom (“It’s right back theah, sweetheaaaaht”).  My only regret is that I did not buy a t-shirt to commemorate my time at this fine establishment.  Or, you know, one of those calendars.  You know the ones I mean.

Firemen Calendar
You knew what I meant but I wanted to put this here anyway.

Anyway, back to the restaurant!  Or actually the line out in front, where we met another awesome local couple (the guy talked about his twenty years of working for Phil Collins and building a stage for Steven Tyler at Fenway) who pointed out when a local hero walked past us: Zdeno Chara, captain of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins and tallest dude in the NHL.  Yes, I googled all of that.  I had no idea who he was.

Zdeno Chara

Although if he had been dressed like this even I might have recognized him.

Dinner, Necessary Calming Beverage and flight: our whirlwind tour of the East was over.   Now I’m back and it’s taken me the better part of a week to get this blog post together.  My goal is to have my next vacation planned before I completely unpack from this one; at the rate I’m going that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Best Things of the Week, Vacation Edition

This week’s Best Things has just one topic: vacation!  Which means this is going to be one of those “and then I…and then I…and then I” posts, so for anyone who doesn’t find that interesting, sorry.  Here is a picture of a cute dog to make it up to you:

Gypsy dog

Happy Gypsy!

Background: a few months ago, my friend Al moved to the east coast and I began promising to visit her.  A few weeks ago, I finally followed through and bought plane tickets.  And a few days ago, after extensive preparations (got a pedicure and watched Deadliest Warrior: George Washington vs Napoleon Bonaparte), I set out for Washington, DC!

Day One: I am not where I think I am

And shortly after I landed, I left DC! It turns out Al actually lives in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.  That should tell you how much research I put into this vacation.  Having followed the heat wave from Minnesota, I landed in 95 degree weather at ten p.m.  Logically Al and I went out for mac and cheese, played with the cute dog (above), and crashed.

Day Two: Ice cream, superheroes, and America

I cannot overstate the heat.  Record-breaking, heat-advisories, grossness.  Once again using our own brand of logic, Al and I wandered around Old Town for two hours.  We saw the outsides of some beautiful historical buildings and the inside of any open building with air conditioning and/or ice cream.

Friday evening, we went to Captain America: The First Avenger.  My official review is that it was awesome. But I’m a superhero nerd who cannot wait for The Avengers in 2012 (Whedon!), and I have friends who named their cat Captain America, so…go somewhere else for an unbiased review.

Day Three: Please do not photograph the General’s dentures

Weather update: it’s still hot beyond reason.  Let’s go wander around Mount Vernon!

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon experience starts with a 20-minute video on the life of George Washington (logical) with an explanation of the museum’s highlights from Pat Sajak in colonial wear (wait, what now?).  Everything is beautiful and interesting and in every picture I took I look like I’m dying of heat stroke.  Pat Sajak suggested we try Martha Washington’s famous soup, but all we could find were pre-made sandwiches and chips.  Do not trust colonial Pat Sajak.

We made a quick dash through the museum portion and found George Washington’s dentures, and here’s proof!

Do not photograph the general's dentures

Do not even try it.

Here’s more proof!

Me with teeth

George must have had a lovely smile

After some more indoor regrouping, we went on a colonial ghost tour around Old Town.  I had a great time and Al was also there.  I love ghost tours — not because I believe in ghosts or want to be scared, but because I like the weird bits of history they present — but apparently not everyone does.  I made it up to Al by going to an Irish pub and then a karaoke bar.

Gypsy dog

I will not be documenting that portion of the evening in a blog occasionally read by my professor, bosses, mother, and some nuns, so here's that dog again!

 Day Four: Church Space Nine and the National Harbor, wait we’re in Maryland now?

On Sunday morning, Al and I got up and attended the church service at the historic Christ Church in Alexandria, the home church of both George Washington and Henry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee.  One of the priests at our service played Kelly Taylor’s mother on Beverly Hills, 90210, and I’m not even kidding.

Nurse Jabara

She also played Nurse Jabara on "Deep Space Nine."

We fit one more tourist destination into my trip with a quick visit to the National Harbor, which it turns out is in Maryland.  So in my entire trip — billed in discussions with friends as my “D.C. vacation” — this is about all I saw of D.C.

mini DC

On the way back to the airport.

No matter where I was, the trip was fantastic.  Al and I giggled like we’ve done since college, I didn’t die of heatstroke, and did I mention the dog? Vacations and time with friends — those are the best things.