Thursday, March 19, 2015

Return Home

By 6:30 a.m. we had checked out of the hotel. Once we had lugged our bags down the full flight of stairs from the lobby to the street, it took only a few minutes to reach the bus stop across from the Ballsbridge Hotel a little farther down Pembroke Road. During the next fifteen minutes while we waited for the bus to arrive, we were joined by at least twenty other people carrying duffel bags and trailing luggage, all headed for the airport.

Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge
(photo from
En route, we drove through a district known as the Docklands, which seems to be Dublin’s equivalent of the Banks development in Cincinnati: an area once blighted by deteriorating piers and seedy warehouses, but now home to splashy new office buildings and entertainment venues. Even through the morning’s heavy fog, we could see many striking examples of contemporary architecture. We crossed the River Liffey by way of a particularly beautiful bridge, which caught our eye because the suspension cables stretched diagonally from a single, asymmetrical support. A second look revealed that the bridge was constructed in the shape of an Irish harp—what a simply elegant and eminently apt solution to a prosaic engineering problem! From a Google search, we learned that the bridge was completed in 2009 and is named for playwright Samuel Beckett. How can you not love a country that so honors its literary and musical heritage?

By 7:30 we were at the airport and by 8:00 we had checked in. Had the two young couples just ahead of us in line been as mindful of Delta’s weight limitations as we had been, we could have been on our way to the gate much sooner, but when the four of them were told that some of their bags were overweight, they opened all their luggage right there on the floor in front of the check-in counter and started redistributing everything. We wished they had noticed the weight-check and repacking station ten meters away before they had gotten in line.

At the Dublin airport, passengers on U.S.-bound flights go through the entire immigration and customs process in Ireland, before boarding the plane. Then when it lands in the U.S., the flight is considered a domestic one, so passengers can immediately go on to any connecting flights—which almost everyone has. It seems a very efficient system, and certainly made the trip easier for us. We must also say that the entire Delta staff were extremely friendly and helpful from the moment we arrived, making sure we knew where to go and what to expect all along the way.

Once through security and customs, we stopped to get some cups of yogurt with granola and fruit, and then went to find our gate. Yesterday, Michael had estimated the cost of our final bus fare and breakfast to make sure we had enough euros left in cash to pay for both. Now he had €2.50 left in his pocket. As Nancy settled down at the gate and opened her laptop to catch up on email and Facebook, Michael took off to find something to buy with the last of his European pocket change. He returned a while later with a chocolate croissant, which had cost exactly €2.50. Feeling very happy, he just knew the rest of the day would go well.
The last chocolate croissant

While he was gone, Nancy moved to the other side of the waiting area, looking for an unused electrical outlet for her laptop. A young black woman who had been sitting nearby came over and offered to let her take over the outlet she had been using to recharge her iPod. Nancy thanked her, plugged in, and then turned her attention back to her screen—but as she recalled the young woman’s face, she had the feeling that she had seen her before. A few minutes later, when Michael returned, the young woman looked at him, then back at Nancy, and then at Michael again.

“President Harward?!” she asked.

Nancy’s déjà vu impression had been correct, and we suddenly recognized Jedidah, who had attended the Cincinnati Young Single Adult Branch for a few months a year or two ago. She, too, was on her way back to the U.S. after a few weeks in Europe.

The heavy fog led to a lengthy delay for Jedidah because the plane her flight was supposed to take couldn’t land, but since the plane our flight was scheduled to board was already on the ground, our delay was a short one. When they called our zone number, we said goodbye to Jedidah and wished her a safe and not-too-late journey.

Our seven-hour flight to New York seemed to pass very quickly, as both of us spent most of the time bent over our keyboards, trying to catch up on this blog. We were hungry when we arrived at JFK and, not having had any pizza since leaving the States weeks ago, we decided that a California Veggie pie from Pizza & Vino would be the perfect thing—and it was.

When Nancy had come through JFK back in February, Nat had sent her a text recommending a “Fly Me to the Shack Concrete” from the Shake Shack, which is something like a Dairy Queen Blizzard, but infinitely superior: dense chocolate custard mixed with fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough, and Mast Brothers Shake Shack dark chocolate chunks, all topped with chocolate sprinkles. At the time she had demurred, citing the Concrete’s size and calorie content as inappropriate for a single individual to consume. But now there was another individual to share one with—and since that individual happens to like chocolate even more than Nancy--how could she resist?

The ninety-minute flight from JFK to Cincinnati seemed to fly by (sorry), although Michael’s legs did get somewhat restless during the last twenty minutes. A little rain was falling but it was still light as we waited at the curb for our friends Nan and Keith to pick us up. Incredibly thoughtful as always, they handed us a grocery bag containing bread, milk, orange juice, and bananas so we could eat breakfast in the morning without having to go to the store first. Ryan, the young man who had looked after Puck and the house during our absence, wasn’t here when we arrived, but he had left us a nice note and everything was as clean and semi-orderly as Nancy had left it. Thank heaven for good friends!

Only one day in Dublin left us with many sights unseen and places to explore. Indeed, our few weeks in Ireland did not provide sufficient time to go everywhere we would have liked to have gone, but
we had a wonderful trip and feel blessed to have had so many great experiences. We look forward to our next visit. Right now, however, it feels really good to be back home!

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