The start of this trip was extremely difficult for me as I had to say goodbye to my eight-month-old daughter Áine as well as my wife Annie. While Áine is too young to understand, I know that there will be many changes taking place in her life during the short time I am away. As Kate, Brian's sister-in-law from Australia said to me, "it's hard to leave someone when you know that part of your heart beats within her."
We met our crowd at O'Hare airport, minus the Harrison's whose plane was canceled up in Duluth, Minnesota. (Luckily, our travel agent, Susan Sheehan, was able to work with them to make speedy arrangements and they're already on their way over). After distributing the hoodies and getting to know some new faces and reconnecting with old friends, we boarded the plane. The captain cheerfully told us that we had a very strong tailwind which was going to bring us to Dublin in approximately six and a half hours.
So after a dinner of braised beef, peas, potatoes and salad, I noted it was approximately five hours left until we reached Dublin, so I tried to get some sleep. Brian, sitting next to me, had all but his seat dismantled by a lady sitting behind him. She was trying to get the movie screen on the back of his chair to work. She swatted it like a bear trying to rip open a beehive. It looked as if Brian inserted a quarter and was getting the chair massage of his life. A passenger across the aisle came to the rescue and showed her how to work the screen properly. We thought that would be the end of it. However, she and her friend decided to have a conversation with earphones in their ears, talking extremely loudly about where they were going, what they were going to do, and who they were going to see. Everybody within three rows of them on either side knew their whole itinerary. In spite of that I managed to doze off and awaken with the dawn.
A big storm was here the night before and we rode above the remaining clouds in the half-light. Lightning arced through the tops of the clouds and lit them up like phosphorescent mushroom caps. It was quite a beautiful sight to witness.
As we circled over Dublin Bay and proceeded in toward the landing, a rainbow appeared out the window. It was a good omen to the start of our tour.
Mick, our driver, met us once we cleared customs and we all got on the coach and proceeded toward County Mayo and the beautiful town of Westport. It is always great for the newcomers to be introduced to Ireland by Mick. He has a special way of showing the country in all its complexities. The archaeology, the current economy, the "brain drain" of young talent leaving here for better prospects overseas, and the traditions that survive in spite of 21st-century homogenous commercialism. All this while driving a coach down narrow country roads!
And the day did not disappoint our group as well, the sun was out with the exception of a brief 10 minute shower, and we were treated to blue skies and rolling green pastures.
We arrived in Westport in good time and proceeded to get settled in our hotel. Brian and I, as well as several of his cousins, decided to take a walk. We found the most delightful Greenway created from bed of the old Great Western Railway. It took us past a meandering stream and ancient bridge. The smell of peat burning in the fireplaces wafted in the air and it felt good to be back.
After a great dinner of local salmon, mashed potatoes, and fresh steamed vegetables, I walked over with some of our crowd to take in the "seisun" at Matt Molloy's pub. Our good friend Takeshi Horiuchi flew in several days ago, touring Ireland and playing the bodhran with traditional players. I enjoyed the wild sounds coming from the musicians and Takeshi's expert playing. Soon fatigue swept over me and I headed back to my room to rest up and continue the adventure.
~ Marty McCormack
Click here to read Day 2