Steve Slon attends a conference of travel writers in Ireland and does a little sightseeing, as well. See the entire series.
Day 1. Getting There
Arrive Dublin airport around 8:30 AM. Very little sleep. Disturbingly mammoth line to go through customs. But it’s no more than a formality of stamping passports, so it moves quickly.
Board bus with a group of travel writers and ride to Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny. The hotel is grand, built in the 17th century on the site of a ruined castle from Medieval times. Nothing left of that original castle unfortunately, but the 17th century wing of the hotel is ivy covered and charming.
Three humongous golden retrievers greet us. Or, rather, I should say, allow us to step carefully over them as they lie immobile in the doorway.
The traveling part of traveling is not much fun. The getting there is the fun part. And, as I’ve learned, you quickly forget about the jet lag and the hassle of airplane travel, customs and the like. You simply need to spend the first day abroad getting organized or catching up on sleep, or both. In this case, I’d forgotten to bring adapters for the Irish wall sockets.
Oops, helpless without a way to charge batteries for computer, smart phone, camera. (How has all this equipment become so essential in such a few short years?)
Figured I’d just call down to the lobby for a spare, but the hotel didn’t have any. So I spent a good deal of time calling around and finally found a store in Kilkenny that carried them.
Taxi to the store, where it turned out the only product they had is a very fancy, multipurpose adapter for just about any kind of socket you can find, UK, US, Italy and several other places. It cost about $40. Okay, this is the price of traveling. Paid the bill and got back in the cab.
End of story? Not exactly. The affable cabbie is horrified to learn how much I’ve spent on the adapter. He takes me to the Irish equivalent of a dollar store where I purchase three adapters for about five bucks. I plan to return the expensive version tomorrow.
Major feeling of accomplishment for solving this conundrum.
That evening, lovely dinner at the hotel with speeches and general good cheer. Among the attendees, travel writers, editors of travel magazines and other publications (like the Post) that include articles about traveling. Wonderful talk by our keynote speaker, George Stone, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine, in which he talks about the value of travel in connecting us to different cultures and revealing the similarities of the human experience across the artificial divide of borderlines.
Ruth Moran, who represents Irish tourism, reads a poem consisting of a compilation, one line from each person, who were asked on facebook to answer the question… ‘Ireland is…..’?
She warns before reading it that we won’t understand all, and we don’t, but we get the warm feeling just the same. (I’ll just share some of the best bits here. )
Ireland is mammy shouting
Close the door, you’ll leave the heat out
A Daddy who can’t say how much he misses you
Where it rains in the front garden
And it’s a rainbow out the back
The official home of the rainbow marriage
Where warm hearts send blood to warm toes
While we listen to the death notices on the radio
And give single finger waves on country roads
midnight mass at 9 O’clock
Where the wit is dry but the weather is wet
Where loving yourself is seen as being too big for your boots
A soggy little rock onto which our dreams cling like limpets
Where “Pennies” is an acceptable response to a compliment on your outfit
Ireland is a tayto sandwich
Ireland puts clothes on the line in November
Because using the tumble dryer would be a fierce extravagance altogether
It’s a damp eyed tune with a wooden spoon
And worrying about the person you gave directions to
A mammy offering you a sandwich even though she’s not your mammy
Ireland is my home, my heart and my blood
Ireland is not using the good room
Where a potato in a suit is a national treasure
It’s the squint on the lough against the cold autumn sun
And the fog of glorious stories condensing on the pub’s window pane
easy to leave but impossible to escape
It’s thanking the bus driver for getting us there safe
Ireland is a box of fancy biscuits you are not allowed to eat, just in case
Ireland is green fields and laughter
Where you’re mammy says, “we’re not made of money” as an answer to almost everything
Even though the answer is usually sudocream
cutting the grass because the neighbors did theirs
Solving the entire world’s problems, one cup of tea at a time
Ireland is not being able to say goodbye
Ok, bye, bye, bye now, good luck, bye, bye, bye
—Steve Slon is the Editorial Director for The Saturday Evening Post. See the entire series.