First there was the four hour flight to Chicago. Then, a 7+ hour flight to Dublin. After that a two and half hour bus ride to Belfast, which was followed by an hour’s car ride to Ballycastle. And it was all worth it.
I managed to eek out couple hours of sleep on the plane between Chicago and Dublin, arriving at about 9 in the morning, which was a little later than scheduled. It wasn’t a big delay, but enough to miss the first bus that I had planned on connecting to Belfast where my father would be waiting for me. Fortunately, the coach service runs every hour, so I was able to catch the next one, but it would have been nice to catch that earlier bus, especially since he was already waiting.
Sleeping on the ride up to Belfast wasn’t an option. I was too excited for my first trip to Ireland, plus, as I had a couple hours sleep on the plane, and it was morning id Ireland, it made more sense for me to stay awake and get adjusted to the dime difference.
Getting the coach to Belfast was easy enough, and I didn’t have to wait too long before the next one came through. I’m traveling along the countryside of Ireland, and I think it’s brilliant. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, but I always get excited about going to a different country, whether for the first time or not. I know it’s cliche, but as I’m on the coach travelling through Ireland, I had to listen to The Pogues. After listening to a couple of albums from that band, I switched over to Devotchka, which provedto be a great audio accompanyment to the scenery.
I get off the coach in Belfast, and there’s dad. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen him, and he looked good. My cousin Terry works in Belfast, but comes back home to Ballycastle on the weekends where his mother, dad’s sister Dierde, lives. He was there as well, and after getting some (much needed on my part) coffee, we were in the car speeding on to the final destination.
Well, not quite final.
Since we arrived in Ballycastle about 2 in the afternoon, the day had yet to fully get underway. Dad and I chatted, I got a shower, then about 4 we went down to the pub.
What was special about this day, other than it being Saturday, Ireland was playing against France in a 6 Nations rugby match. For those that don’t follow the sport, and I count myself as one, this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. It’s an annual competition between France, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy.
I wish I could remember the names of the places we visited. The idea was to give me a taste of what Ireland’s pub culture was like. Every television was tuned to the match, as it’s a matter of national pride. Families, yes with small children, were in the pub watching the match. Sure, they could have stayed home to watch the game, but pubs are very much a social gathering place. In America, if you’re not 21, you can’t enter the bar, but that’s not the case here. It makes for a much better and friendlier atmosphere.
The first pub we went to was small and had a couple of rooms. The “front room” (very much like the living room of a house) had a few tables and chairs, a fireplace, and a banquette along the wall. We sat, had a pint, and watched as Ireland played horribly against France.
Because it was getting a bit late, at least by my standards, I was needing some food. After the first half of the match, we shifted over to another pub that had decent food. This place was much more crowded. So much so that we couldn’t find a seat. A couple more pints, the second half of the game, and as the crowd thins a little, we find a set at the bar. The decision was then made by dad and Terry to move on to a different pub which serves better food., where we could sit down for a meal instead of getting a quick bite.
By this point, the jet lag was beginning to kick in something fierce, as well as the effect of not eating anything all day and having pint after pint of Guinness. Don’t get me wrong, I drink Guinness regularly, as it’s my preferred drink, but the combination of all these different factors was beginning to weigh on me.
So we get to the third pub of the night. After ordering a round, Terry takes off for home. Dad and I order some food, and it takes forever to arrive. We wound up ordering some Indian food, which was part of the regular pub menu. For those that know me, thn you understand just how heavenly that is, as I love Indian food.
Allow me to paint the picture. I’m in Ireland for the first time in my life, with my dad whom I haven’t seen in quite while, in a pub having Guinness and Indian food. That may not mean much to you, but I hope to remember that moment for a long time.