After camping in the Highlands of Scotland with the rain and midges, one can only imagine the state in which we were arriving in Ireland. We had packed up our dew covered tent while battling the midges, and in the interest of time, threw all of our possessions into the back of the CRV as quickly as humanly possible. No bins, no organization, no sticky labels – I was a wreck! We had skipped the showers in favour of getting on the road and OUT of midge country, so I was a… stinky wreck! As luck would have it, this would be the first time we would find ourselves being hosted by another family. After travelling for close to two months on our own, we had gotten into a groove. We were used to our routines and each other’s company, and quite frankly, we were all feeling a little apprehensive about our next form of accommodation. We had just camped in the Highlands; certainly, there should be nothing to worry about…right? Breathe deeply and think positive thoughts! They won’t think we are hurricane blowing in, what would give them that idea? (Unless they read my earlier blog post with Mark in his “Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation” outfit on)
By now you have probably figured out I am a bit of worrywart and I like things a certain way. I don’t like to impose on anyone and I’ve been known to obsess a little over others opinions – OK obsess a lot! As we approached Belfast, I was becoming more and more uncomfortable at the prospects of landing in on these unsuspecting folk. Mark relieved my anxieties a little by reading out a text from our hosts. They were at a party in the neighbourhood, and we were to go on in and get ourselves settled. Oh my goodness, what luck! We were going to be able to get the truck unloaded and re-organized before they arrived home. We made trip after trip into the house schlepping everything from dish soap to piles of dirty laundry. To any passerby, it looked like we were moving in for good, not 3 days! I secretly hoped the party was further away than just around the corner. Then the thought occurred to me, what if they were across the street. Maybe they too were apprehensive about this world travelling family that would be landing in and planned to not be home! Maybe they were peering out the window assessing the situation at this very moment….and saying– oh Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into. We weren’t emptying the motor home holding tank into the sewer but it felt just as bad to me! (obsessing again) I nonchalantly looked back over my shoulder fully expecting to see shocked faces peering out from behind the curtains.
Well, thankfully our hosts were full of great ‘craic’. Craic is a word that even the Irish have difficulty explaining so I have resorted to the dictionary. (Craic \crăck\ Irish word for fun and enjoyment, usually mixed with alcohol and/or music. Fun doesn't really cut it though. General banter, good times had by all and a person who is good fun and great company) Within a few short hours our sopping wet tent was hanging in the garage, the contents of our cooler had found a home somewhere in the tiny fridge and our laundry was drying on every available drying rack, heating rad and warm surface available. There was even some on top of the cooker (stove/oven) in the kitchen. (One of the most ironic things I have found about the UK, is that nobody uses a tumble dryer, yet it rains almost everyday!) There is nothing like your boxers and panties hanging in the kitchen to make you feel… less anxious! OH MY GAAAAAWD!
I slowly warmed up to my trip therapy, and we had an absolutely lovely stay in Belfast. We ate and drank and laughed and realized we had much in common with our hosts. Not the uptight, control freak, anxious perfectionists parts J! Their son was living in St. Augustine, Florida, near our timeshare, and they were friends with the family whose cottage we would be staying at next, in Donegal – what a small world! We hadn’t actually realized how much we were missing the socializing and company of others until this part of our tour. The girls were thrilled about being catered to by someone other than their Mom and Dad, and soaked up the attention from our hosts. They were set up in the TV room with snacks, some cozy little slippers and an opportunity to watch a movie of their choosing. Life was good!
|Stephen and Pamela recommended we check out Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, so we did!|
|Besides the character flaws already mentioned, I also have a fear of heights. Look at me, I|
made it across the bridge, but I didn't look down - the first time that is!
We were all very appreciative, and to thank our hosts for our stay, we had planned to make them dinner. Why on earth Mark thought cooking a meal for people we hardly knew in their own kitchen was a good idea, is beyond me! (The thing is my response to therapy is somewhat spotty) Anyway, we headed out for some sightseeing and thought we would hit the market to plan our dinner. We searched up and down the rows, peering at each stall, hoping inspiration would hit us for a fabulous meal that would express our appreciation and gratitude, to our wonderful hosts. We met a lovely woman selling Indian curries and were treated to a taste of the different dishes. After a few moments of chatting, she had me convinced that Indian cooking was a cinch. All I would need was some chicken and a few veggies and I would have a magnificent dinner. We left with three different curries, a grocery list and visions of pulling off the best Indian dinner ever! Did I mention that I had never even cooked Indian before?
We still had loads of time before we had to be ‘home’ and cooking, so we decided to visit the Titanic Exhibit. Mark is notorious for packing in as much as he possibly can without causing us to be ‘too’ late. I hate being late, but…don’t worry, be happy, Mark whispers into my ear! Belfast was the home of the Titanic, and the Titanic Experience is an interactive museum, located on the docks where this famous ship was built. We travelled back in time, to when the Titanic was being built and took a journey through to its discovery, at the bottom of the Atlantic. We even taught the girls the Titanic song. You know how it goes, “Oh they built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue… “. The girls made us stop singing as we were embarrassing them. Mark then started to sing, don’t worry…be happy, in his best Jamaican voice! It was close to 5:00 pm and we thought we had better hit the Tesco, a 24-hour grocery store, and make our way home. Little did we know that in Ireland - a 24-hour grocery store means that it is only open 24 hours from Monday at 8:00 am to Sunday at 5:00 pm. Surely, there was another grocery store open where we could pick up our list of ingredients for the dinner, right?
|Us outside the Titanic Exhibition|
OK…Since when did Mac’s Milk start carrying fresh veggies and chicken breast for crying out loud? I couldn’t believe it! Spar had everything on my list, except for limes and a nice desert. Perfect! I imagined myself dicing and slicing in someone else’s kitchen, trying to deal with the raw chicken juice. I think I was reaching close to 10 on the anxiety metre. This trip therapy was definitely not working! Not to mention, that Digestive cookies, Jois Louis and Flakies were not what I had in mind for dessert. I racked my brain trying to come up with something spiffy that I could round up at Spar. Thanks to our dear friends, Barb and John from home, who introduced us to poached pears, I thought I might just be able to pull this dinner off after all. All I needed now was wine… at 6:00pm on a Sunday night. Karma was working in our favour, as there was a wine store right beside the Spar - which was still open! Go figure, the 24 hour grocery store is closed on a Sunday night, but not the wine store. It goes without saying that Mark loves Ireland… They even had limes! At this point I was thinking I should probably buy a lottery ticket!
We headed home to make dinner and hoped that our hosts liked Indian food – oh no…what if they didn’t like spice, what if they were allergic to chicken, what if I didn’t clean up the cutting board to their likeness. (Lisa, just stop thinking already!) Turns out they loved Indian - yippy! - and Stephen had just taken several Indian cooking courses – oh no! I was doomed! The rice was like porridge on the first attempt and we had to make another pot. It remained in the garden as a great white monument of my failure, for the rest of our time there, and is probably still decomposing two weeks later. The curry was not that spicy at all, but the poached pears and ice cream made up for what the main course lacked! The company and craic was great, and we sure did appreciate the hospitality we received in Belfast. Thank you Pamela and Stephen, you refuelled us for the next leg of our journey and the girls have worn their slippers everyday since!
I also learned that in Ireland, I am about the only anxious, uptight, control freak around! Of course, I don’t want to stand out in a crowd, so to Mark’s credit – the trip therapy is working…. Hakuna Matata!