or not when referring to us.
We had planned this Irish vacation for over 2 years. It was supposed to happen last July but I was pregnant and could not make the trip then. So, after a years delay The Keatings and Vicky were finally looking forward to their trip to Ireland.
I guess our bad fortune started two weeks before we were due to fly. Jarlath had been working hard to prime, paint and lay a floor in our newly finished room in the basement - it is going to be a gym. All finished and looking good on the Sunday night. However, the water hose on our washing machine decides to burst on the Monday evening, not only flooding the laundry room but pouring through the ceiling into the gym. The ceiling, walls and floors were ruined. We were slightly lucky in that we were both in the house at the time and managed to lessen the damage somewhat in the basement. If we had not been in then we would have been looking at a completely flooded basement rather than just one area - so lets take that as a positive in this tale!
The Insurance company were phoned as it was happening and the same night they sent out a recovery company to start work immediately to minimise the damage. The funny thing is a year ago we would have not thought of phoning them right away but a friend, Mike Garrett, had a basement flood recently and it was his experience of the recovery team helping that we learned from. So, thank you Mike, your own disaster helped to minimise ours.
The clear up took about 5 days and then Jarlath replaced the hose on the washing machine to allow me to get the laundry done for our upcoming holiday.
By that weekend all laundry was done and I had even laid out all the clothes for myself and Hannah to pack. On the Sunday I had an ache in my lower back but just put it down to all the running around we had been doing to clean up that week and from lugging a 23lbs baby everywhere. I knew that I would be on holiday in less than a week so should have been able to get some rest for it then, so I just ignored the ache!
Monday came and I took Mrs Miggins to her little gym class in the morning. It was a busy one and all her friends were there. We were having a great time and started to do some bounces, luckily I was on my knees at the time just lifting Hannah up and down as 2 seconds later I was lying on the floor in complete agony. I had "put my back out" and it was now pinching the sciatic nerve and contracting with sharp pain. When I moved it was complete agony - I would compare it to the stage of childbirth that I was asking for an epidural at and I don't mean that in jest.
Luckily all our pals and the class teacher were there to look after Hannah as I struggled to stand and phone Jarlath to come and get me and take me to a Doctor.
To cut a long story short I seemed to have a muscle injury which was in spasm and was prescribed valium to relax the muscle, some strong painkillers and bed rest for 5 days. The first two were easy but how would I get bed rest with Jarlath working and a baby to look after?
This is when you realise what good friends you have made when they all rally round and help you out without question and without thought of putting themselves out. Vicky came straight over on the Monday to help out Jarlath, Thu took Hannah on Tuesday and Wednesday morning and Mala came over with Sef to watch Hannah on the Tuesday afternoon. I hope I can repay this help to them in the future as it allowed me to concentrate on getting well enough to travel on the Friday.
The sad part of this is that due to the drugs I had to take I could no longer breast feed Hannah so she was very quickly weaned overnight. I was a tad tearful over this as I did not like being forced into this decision. I would probably have started weaning at a year anyway but that would have been our own decision and I just hate being forced into it but needs must at the time.
Friday comes and I am still in some pain but determined to make the trip to Ireland as I thought it would be a break for me and I would get lots more help with Hannah.
Now, anyone travelling with a baby knows that the flight times are very important to work around their nap times and feeding times. So, we had booked a flight to Charlotte in North Carolina to coincide with the afternoon nap (surprisingly their are no direct flights from Washington to Ireland) a few hours layover to get ourselves sorted and then an evening flight to Dublin so that Hannah would get her bedtime bottle and then sleep the whole flight over. The best laid plans of Mice and Men! Our first flight was so delayed that US Airways had to re-route us to Boston via United and then to Dublin via Aer Lingus to get us to Ireland that day. To their credit they arranged all this so we happily flew off to Boston knowing it would be a tight layover but just happy that we were going at all. We had also been told by US Airways that our bags would also be re-routed with us and we would get them in Dublin.
I have forgotten to mention that Vicky is not flying with us at this point as she was travelling with American Airlines on points so the plan was that she would fly to Chicago and then onto Dublin getting into Dublin an hour behind us by which time we would have picked up the hire car and be waiting for her. Well little did we know that she was also going through her own flight drama. There was a delay on American to Chicago so she would also miss her Dublin connection and might not arrive until a day later than planned! She also managed to get them to re-route her and you will never believe where she ended up? Yes, going to Boston to be put on the same flight as us on Aer Lingus! It was touch and go if she would make it as she had only a 20 minute connection time and had to rebook her own bags but American met her at the gate and fast tracked her through. So as we were sitting on the plane waiting to take off almost the last person to make it on board was indeed Vicky. We all had a good laugh at this point as it was working out well for us as we would all land together, no matter what further delays occurred, so we could start to relax and look forward to our holiday.
The flight was fine. Hannah and I slept through the whole thing and it went really quickly - valium helped me and a good big bottle of milk helped Hannah. We arrived in Dublin and managed to clear through security nice and quickly and waited for our luggage, and waited and waited. We were not surprised really given our tight connections so went off and reported to Aer Lingus customer services fully expecting all our cases to be on the next flight from Boston that day and to be driven out to us by that evening.
So off to get the hire car. Our credit card gives us rental car insurance for, what we thought, the rest of the world. The lady on the hire car desk would not accept this and asked to speak to our credit card company. On doing so we find out that their are three countries in the world that are not covered by our credit card car insurance - Israel, Jamaica and guess where, yes, the Republic of Ireland. This meant that we had to take out the rental companies car insurance before they would allow us a car and at 30 euros a day for a two week trip this did not come cheap.
Off we went to collect the hire car and make the 4 hour drive right across Ireland to the beautiful village of Dugort on Achill Island, County Mayo where Nana, Grandpa, Uncle Mike, Aunty Alison and the cousins were all waiting to see or meet Hannah. We were tired but happy to be there.
Of course that evening we went into the local pub for a couple of pints to start our holiday. As we were sitting in the pub a stranger walks in and asks if we knew the name on his form. It was Vicky's name and meant her luggage had arrived, hurray, ours could not be far behind!! When our three cases had not arrived by the Sunday morning Jarlath put in a phone call to just check when we would expect to receive them. We were not expecting the reply that they had no idea where our cases actually were and would try and locate them on the system.
At this point I have to point out how useless and unhelpful Aer Lingus "customer services" were throughout the whole process. Each day for 10 days they were called and gave a different story each time. Each time they were questioned to do more they could only reply that they could only communicate to the other airports and airlines through the electronic system and, no, there was no phone number they could call or give us to call to try and resolve this issue in person. We were told every day that they thought our case was in Boston and would put a request in for it to be sent on the next flight but then the next day they would have no cases and no reason why and they would do it all over again. Eventually on day 10, Jarlath got to speak to someone who actually gave a shit about their customers plights and managed to get a phone number from them and a promise that they would call Boston. Of course, they never did call Boston but Jarlath did and managed to get American customer services to do some further work on getting our cases to us. I won't bore you with the details of each and every phone call but in the end we did eventually get our cases delivered to us, to the pub again (as they could not find any other address!) at 11.30p.m. on the Thursday night exactly 13 days after we had arrived in Ireland and just in time for us to load them back in the car to take them back to the airport to fly home! I never even bothered unpacking my case. Another issue was that the cases had been searched through and they had managed to completely burst one of the zips so we would need to buy a new case before we would be allowed to fly home with it. Where had they been all this time, well they had arrived in Boston via United from US Airways who had not then transferred them onto Dublin. The United people at Boston had no idea where they were supposed to go (remember we had been transferred to them by US airways at the last minute) so they shipped them to Chicago to their holding facility where they were eventually linked to our missing luggage request on the system.
This could really have ruined a families holidays but we are lucky in that we had the means and the credit cards to go out a buy an outfit each and some basic essentials to tide us over. We were also lucky that the rental house had a washing machine and tumble dryer to allow us to wash our outfits each night to wear the next day. Hannah managed to borrow some outfits from her cousin who is the same age and Jarlath borrowed items from his Dad and Brother. I could not find any 6 foot one, 150 lbs women on the Island to lend me anything so I made do with two pairs of jeans, one pair of trainers, one pair of flat pumps, three tops and 4 pairs of knickers for the entire holiday. We will be claiming what we spent back from the Aer Lingus and/or our travel insurance but we can not get back the time spent having to drive one hour to the nearest town to get the clothes or the time Jarlath spent each day trying to track down our bags or, indeed, the time spent doing laundry.
So holiday over off we set early on the Saturday morning to head to Dublin where we going to spend the afternoon and evening before flying back home early on Sunday morning. We had planned a quick stop in Castlebar to pick up a case from Dunnes stores before going on our way. Did I mention that the hire car was a crock of shit as well, no, well perhaps I should have as this is now where it comes into its element. We were barely on the road 30 minutes when we had a flat tyre and on further inspection the tyre should not have been allowed on the road as it was shredded on the inside. With the help of a lovely man, whose house we had stopped outside in the middle of nowhere, we managed to get the tyre changed and it was not easy given that there was no handbook to show us how to release the spare tyre and the wrench was not a very good one either so we used the better one the man had. Ok we are on our way, no, the engine light and oil light are now on in the car so we stop again to put a quart of oil in and offer up a prayer to whoever we each believe in that we will now make it to Dublin in one piece.
Hurrah, we have reached Dublin, Boo, we are stuck going round and round in the one way loop and cannot seem to get to our hotel. A stop at Tourist information and some mapreading skills later we make it to our lovely hotel. It is, obviously, now evening and too late to actually do any siteseeing but the sun is shining so we go to our rooms to get ready to enjoy the evening and agree to meet up in half an hour to go for a walk. Of course, it starts to pour with rain so we just have a drink and go to dinner before an early night.
The journey home loomed and as it was a day flight we were unsure how Hannah would be on the flight. Surely nothing else could go wrong for us on this trip. Guess what the answer to that question is?!?! Yes, you guessed it we had another delay on our flight from Dublin to Charlotte which meant we would miss our connection in Charlotte. Nothing much we could do except get on the flight and hope that there was a later flight home or we would be spending the night in a hotel somewhere. Luck, finally, was on our side and when we landed in Charlotte we had been booked on a later flight which took off in two hours. Time for a cup of tea and some leg stretching for Hannah. She was very good on the TransAtlantic flight taking a couple of naps as normal for daytime and just smiling and playing the rest of the time. I don't know how people cope though when they don't have a separate seat for their baby and have to have them on their laps the whole flight. Having the separate seat for her meant that when she was napping I could pop her in her car seat and enjoy my dinner or a nap myself.
Finally we arrived home to Washington (as did our luggage) and a taxi ride later I can honestly say I have never been so glad to walk through my front door. But no rest for the wicked. I knew we had no groceries in the house so immediately jumped in the car to get some basics for breakfast and the next couple of days. It was very strange getting into the car on the left hand side and driving on the different side of the road so soon after spending 2 weeks doing exactly the opposite. I had to really concentrate on what I was doing because I was so tired my mind kept wandering off.
Poor Vicky had an equally challenging time getting home and with delays she arrived home at 11.00p.m. at night exactly 24 hours after getting up that morning to start her journey.
So what lessons can I take from these events; You really don't need to take half the stuff you pack for holidays as you can happily cope with a lot less when needed. Good friends are priceless in times of need. Not wearing a drop of makeup for 2 weeks lets your skin breath and makes it glow.
The positives from the vacation are that Hannah is now walking on her own at just under 11 months. She has also started "dancing" in time to music. It was lovely to see family and for a lot of them to meet Hannah for the first time.
We have agreed that we are not going on vacation for a couple of years and certainly no TransAtlantic trips for a long time.
What did we actually get up to on vacation, well I will save that for the next blog.
ps anyone want to buy some lucky white heather or a rabbits foot from me?!