Family ties lured us to international travel
What was I thinking?
The short ride from the airport in Cork to our daughter’s home in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland was breathtakingly beautiful. It was cold and overcast yet the green fields stood out like sparkling emerald gemstones. In contrast, the white sheep with long curly wool accented the landscapes only interrupted by the dark blue streams flowing seamlessly.
Taking in the view, I instantly started regretting the thoughts I had before the trip became a reality to our family. Other than our new granddaughter, there really was no need to travel all that way around the world just to see old ruins of ancient castles. After all, they are just a pile of stones, dark, damp and gray. Most of our family enjoyed travel by watching the television, the History or Travel Channel. We needed to focus on opening our auto transport business to make money. What was all the fuss about international travel anyway?
When I caught the first glimpse of one of the ruins, I felt the pangs of instant regret for those feelings. Traveling to a foreign country is a big deal. Each country has something another country does not offer. Each population holds a unique history and their story adds to the excitement in life. Then I started thinking what if we did not make this trip. Imagine what we would have missed.
Out of our comfort zone, the adventure
Arriving at Jeanette’s home, the winds were still biting at our uncovered cheeks. We could not wait to get inside and warm our tired and cold bones. This would be surprise number one; construction of homes in Ireland is different from the United States. Although the home looked the same, the floor had no sub floor. With just single planks, covering the raised foundation the trade winds swept under the home encircling us with frigid temperatures.
Due to limited monthly income, the kids could not afford the electric heater and used a traditional coal fireplace. Watching our son-in-law build a fire while our teeth were chattering made me want to jump in and do it myself. Have you ever used coal to heat your home? It is not a quick burning fuel; it reminds me of starting the briquettes for a bar-b-que.
With double entry doors in the living room, we had to close them both to keep the little heat the coal produced in the room. It did not take long and this new grandma retreated to the bed with a heavy duvet to warm up.
The next surprise came in the kitchen. Refrigerators are quite small and foods needing cold storage usually end up spoiled if not used quickly.
There was no coffee pot, only a coffee press. This kitchen tool is tempered glass. First, the water boiled on the stove top. Next, pour the hot water into the press with the coffee grounds in the bottom. There is a flat circular press inserted that then presses the coffee grounds to the bottom and the coffee is strained ready to be poured into a cup. Sure seemed like a lot of work just for a cup of Joe.
Grocery shopping in Ireland is a very different experience, too. Since it is an island, everyone is aware of the amount of trash generated. There are NO plastic grocery bags; you must bring your own purchased shopping bag. Purchase of food is for one to three days only, making the recycled bag just big enough to hold your purchase that day.
Speaking of trash, they must pay by the pound. We did not really understand this concept as we pay by the month and cubit foot (size of trashcan). We did not use paper napkins or paper towels, instead we used cloth everything. The purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats made it simple to avoid extra packaging, which in turn made less trash. I wonder if maybe the whole world should adopt such a rule.
Made to feel at home
The people of Bandon were very hospitable. Friendly is an understatement. Healthy is a term I would use lightly because although they walk everywhere, eat healthy compared to Americans…they drink and smoke very heavily. The drink of choice is either Guinness dark beer or Irish whiskey.
Red and brunette hair, fair skin and big smiles adorned most faces we met. It was as if we were in another world, literally. Laid back, easy going the people took life one moment at a time. They are hard workers and love their family. We look forward to our next trip back. We want to spend more time with the local people, get to know them and the culture and traditions.
Our little granddaughter grew to recognize our voices and touch even though she was three months premature. Her head would turn when she heard her Uncle Dan enter the room.
Being my first grandchild it was easy to just sit, hold her and talk with her, of course in her language of gurgles and coos. Grandpa fell in love right away and to this day she is his little princess who has him wrapped around her little finger.
One week is not enough for international travel
It was hard trying to experience everything on our five-day visit. The travel to and from took up two days of our vacation making it tough to bond with the baby, visit with our daughter and her husband then squeeze in a tour of southern Ireland.
If we had to do it over again, we would have done whatever we could to have extended the trip to two weeks. What I realized later about my negative thoughts about those dank, dark castles was I was angry that I was not in a financial position to visit our most precious gift…our granddaughter.
The thoughts and opinions of my parents, in-laws and extended family had permeated my life. I thought that because they could not or did not travel afar it was not okay for me to desire to do so. Thankfully, I came to my senses and appreciated every single moment we had to spend in that gorgeous country and with our loving family.
We would learn when we returned home to our auto transport business that being mobile is important when your family lives far away. Opening our minds to serve a customer when they want to ship a car helped us to expand our thinking when it came to international travel, too.
Next week we will take a tour of our trip to the castles, manors and quaint townships of the local area. There is so much to tell and so little space to tell it. Stay tuned for the whirlwind tour of a lifetime and a peek into the past times of kings, knights and fair maidens of Ireland.
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Carla J Gardiner