Saturday, February 28, 2015

Connemara: Kylemore Abbey and Belleek Castle

Kylemore Abbey
Even though we left Clifden in daylight this morning, any views we might have had of the sea and the mountains were limited by heavy clouds and mist. We had hoped to do some hiking in the hills of Connemara National Park, but having had to keep the windshield wipers on all the way there, we decided that we might as well skip the hike and go on to Kylemore Abbey.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Galway and Clifden

Galway Cathedral
This morning Michael got up, went swimming, ate breakfast, and went to work as usual, leaving Nancy to get up and eat breakfast at her leisure. However, she couldn’t dawdle too long. Because we would be leaving Galway this evening to spend the weekend driving around Connemara and County Mayo, Nancy had to repack and check all our luggage with the hotel porter before going out to explore the city.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Galway: Nancy arrives

After a couple of weeks pretty much alone in the house with Puck, spending much of her time alternating between shoveling snow outside and vacuuming cat hair inside, Nancy was excited to get on her way to Ireland this morning.

Lough Atalia, as seen from our hotel window
Temperatures in Cincinnati—and all across the eastern U.S.—were still way below freezing when she left home, but fortunately for her, the day’s snow and ice storms stayed farther south and did not cause her any transportation delays. On her flight from CVG to JFK, she enjoyed talking with her seatmate, who was beginning a journey to India to visit her ailing father. They found many points of common interest, from the anxieties of caring long-distance for aging parents, to the joys and woes of raising teenagers, to the differences between planning an Indian wedding and planning an American-Mormon one. About halfway through their two-hour conversation, they discovered an unexpected intersection in their lives: the Indian woman had attended California State University at Fullerton—the school Nancy and her high school friends used to refer to as “ATS” (Across the Street).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Galway: The working man's routine

I am settling into a routine: the routine of a working man in Galway. It is amazing how quickly I have begun to feel like I belong, or at least like I am part of the daily life of the citythough I must admit that living in a hotel and eating in restaurants is really not part of the daily life of the city. But working here has become a routine for me.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Limerick and Galway: Food for the soul

Trad musicians at Taaffes
Having visited a small LDS congregation last Sunday in Mullingar, I decided to try another one this weekend, this time in Limerick. I suspected that Limerick would be larger, but when Google Maps told me that I had arrived at my destination, I was surprised to see that it was a real LDS chapel. The congregation for sacrament meeting was more than double the size of Mullingar, and there were more than twenty people in the Sunday School class I attended. Because it was larger and because it was Limerick, where I am sure many more visitors show up than in Mullingar, I was greeted warmly but not treated as a special guest. That was fine with me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

County Clare: The Burren and Ennis

I realized that this would be the last chance I had to explore the Galway open-air market that takes place every Saturday morning. So despite the rain, I bundled up and headed in the general direction. I knew by now that when the Irish say, “starts at 8:00,” what they really mean is that people start thinking about it at 8:00, maybe leave their house and then get there when they get there and set up. Because I still had a fairly full day ahead of me, I left the hotel about 8:00.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Galway: Restaurant dining

Now that the newness of the first week has passed and the reality of being a working man in Galway rather than a tourist has settled in, the only thing that changes from day to day is where I have dinner. The pool has become a habit, the bus has become a habit, the hotel elevators have become a habit, and the hotel breakfast buffet has become a habit. The one good thing about the breakfast buffet having become a habit is that I no longer feel compelled to eat a full breakfast, i.e. eggs, bacon, hash browns, and some sort of bread. I am perfectly content to have a bowl of bran flakes. My one weakness, though, is the chocolate croissants. I have one every day. Just one. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Galway: In which the laundry gets done, and Michael saves a party of Frenchmen from disaster

Wash day.  I cannot think of anything that I would rather do less than sit in a laundromat in Galway. Now mind you, I don’t mind doing laundry—I do it all the time at home. But I’d rather not have to do it while I’m in Ireland, thank you. I am avoiding most other quotidian tasks, like grocery shopping, shoveling snow, vacuuming, dusting, and doing the dishes. I’m not sure when I would fit all that in right now, anyway. Basically, each day I get up and do physical therapy exercises for my sciatic pain, go to the pool, eat breakfast, ride the bus to work, work, ride the bus back from work, go to dinner, catch up on email and videochat with Nancy, then go to bed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mullingar and the road back to Galway

The sun came out this morning and gave me hope that it would be a glorious day. Breakfast in the appropriately named sun room was good—not great, but good. When I struck up a conversation with the one other couple in the room, I discovered that they were from Salt Lake City; they had been living in Germany for the past seven years and now were getting in a trip to Ireland before they returned home. And yes, they were Mormon, too. They wondered if I knew whether there was an LDS church in the area. Since I had planned to attend and had done my homework, I could tell them where and when, so after breakfast they followed me on the forty-minute drive to Mullingar.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Midlands and Slieve Bloom

My Nissan Micra parked in the city of Birr
I have been preparing for this day since I first landed in Ireland:  today I am going to take to the road. More specifically, to the wrong side of the road.

For last year’s trip to New Zealand, I had planned our itinerary carefully so that Nancy and I would not have do any driving, hoping to avoid any unnecessary personal tension as well as conflicts with others—or between ourselves.  That was the right decision for that trip: we were able to travel around New Zealand’s North Island with the much-appreciated service of our personal chauffeur, my sister DeEtte, and all over the South Island on buses and planes.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Galway: Jeans Friday

I finally started to feel like I was leading and contributing at work today. Being a gap filler, I have a good sense now of what they need me to do. No one thought to tell me that the Galway office has jeans Fridays—but I won’t forget next week. And every Friday, the team has a “time out” mid-morning at the canteen with biscuits and cakes. It was a nice way to build comradery.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Galway: A few observations

Only a few short observations about today.

Parents—often both mother and father—walk their children to school. And generally the children stay with them and do not run ahead to be with their friends or classmates. It’s cute to see a dad sporting a pink backpack for his daughter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Galway: The swim of things

Radisson Pool
With a better night’s rest under my belt, I decided to see if I could get back into a morning-swim-before-work routine. The Galway Radisson has an 18-meter pool and it is clean, so my only excuse for not using it would be non-commitment.

When I was checking the pool specs online before coming, I noticed that the hotel had a mandatory policy that all swimmers must wear caps—which I thought a little strange, but not a demand that I couldn’t comply with. Even though I have been swimming for years, though, I have never used a cap, so I stopped at Dick’s the day before I left Cincinnati and bought one. [Editor’s note: Anyone who saw the haircut Michael had given himself just before he left home would seriously doubt that anything falling off that head could even get trapped in a pool filter, let alone clog it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Galway: Getting to work

Today was my first day “on the job,” so to speak.

I decided that in order to have the full Irish experience, I needed to take public transportation, as I always did when I traveled to Boston. I think traveling like the locals helps me have a better connection with the city.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Aer Lingus to Dublin and Bus Eireann to Galway

KLM flight 662 landed in Amsterdam about 1:00 pm Dutch time. The airport looked and felt like it had been built in the sixties:  pretty stark, with no aesthetically pleasing elements that I could ascertain. I knew I was definitely in modern Europe when, within a short time span, I heard announcements for flights to Bucharest, Warsaw, Zagreb, and Kiev.

I found myself paying pretty close attention to the people boarding my Air Lingus flight to Dublin—not because of security concerns, but because I realized that I was going to be living among and working with these people, not just visiting their country as a tourist.  Even though I would be there for only a short time, the distinction seemed an important one to me. The most striking thing I noticed about my traveling companions was that they looked Irish. It wasn’t their hair color or height. It wasn’t their accent, because I really couldn’t hear many people talking. But though indefinable, there was something definitely Irish-looking about them—most of them, anyway.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On the way to Ireland

So Michael and Nancy have started another adventure.

But first, a little background.

During his last five years at Fidelity, Michael’s Boston-based team worked with a group based in Galway, Ireland. He always enjoyed the working relationships he had with the Ireland team, and he thinks that they liked him because he wasn’t as uptight as the Boston folks.

Last fall, one of the Galway-based Fidelity VPs contacted him and asked if she could arrange a call to discuss a possible consulting project. Sure, he thought, thinking she meant that he would be consulting remotely, since that was mostly how he had worked with them in the past. But during the conference call, when they said they would like Michael to come to Galway, he had to ask if they were serious. After they assured him that they were, he asked how long they had in mind.  Two months, they replied. After taking several deep breaths to slow down his racing heart, he said that he would have to think about it—which he did for 2.5 seconds—and told them it sounded fine.