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Saturday, September 19, 1998

Our last day in Ireland. Tonight I would be 4000 miles away sleeping in my own bed. Breakfast was unusual. The man of the house served breakfast. This was the only time this happened and only one of the few times that we met the husband. He also wanted us to pay 8 pounds extra for the en suite room. I insisted that since we were giving him two B&B vouchers for one room he was being more than reimbursed. He accepted this arrangement.

We had travelled using the B&B voucher system. While this was convient I don't think I would do it again. I think we could have saved a substantial amount if we had booked the rooms on our own. There are thousands of B&Bs in Ireland so finding a place to stay is not a problem. The vouchers actually limit you to those B&Bs which accept vouchers. Also, if you are paying cash, several of our Hostesses told me that you can usually get a second (or third) night at a discounted rate.

We left the Halfacre B&B, which was very nice, and headed for the coast. I found out how turned around I was the previous day. The coast was in the opposite direction from what I thought. We first stopped at a castle. However, it did not open until 11 a.m.! So we continued south till we reached Skerries. We stopped here to do some last minute souvenir shopping.

We then drove to Swords. We stopped here to shop in several stores. We saw but did not tour Swords Castle, which is a massive structure. Swords was the first place we had stopped upon arriving in Ireland. It was here that we had stopped for directions to Malahide Castle. What goes around comes around. And we had been all the way around Ireland.

From Swords we headed for the airport. The Dan Dooley Car Lot was located away from the airport. By amazing luck I drove right to it. We turned the car in with both fingers crossed. Yes, we had knicked both mirrors but how much would this cost us? Nothing. They didn't even mention it (and neither did we). The lady working there told me they get a lot of cars back with damage to the left side (from rock walls, sheep, pedestrians, etc.).

We hopped in the van and soon found ourselves back at the airport around 12 noon. Arriving early is a good idea. It took just minutes to check our luggage. We then exchanged money back to good ole greenbacks. This was especially nice as we received more back. In other words, for 100 we got about $150 USD. I then used the remaining credits on my phone card to call my sister and grandmother in the states. I looked over at the Aer Lingus counter and there were several hundred people in line a this point.

We went through security check point and found a place to sit. It was now time to do some duty free shopping. Mom and I each bought several last minute gifts. At 1:30 we were able to go through customs. The USA actually has custom officials in Ireland allowing you to clear customs ahead of time. This was very nice.

Our plane was suppose to leave at 2:55 p.m. but a mechanical problem prevented us from leaving until 3:30 p.m.. Once again the plane was packed and there were no empty seats. And once again Mom and I were crammed into those very small seats. The flight back wasn't as bad as we weren't completely worn out. I spent a good amount of time reading and watched one of the inflight movies. As we passed over the coastline of Ireland you could see hundreds of miles down the coast. I was on the south side of the plane and could see the towns of Donegal and Sligo. The pilot announced this was extremely rare to have such a cloudless view of the coastline.

Flying back I watched the ocean for sometime. I was amazed at how static it appeared to be and filled with unchanging ripples. I watched some of the ripples for several minutes thinking they would disappear as waves moved but they never did.

After flying seven hours we found ourselves over Chicago. We had left Ireland at 3:30 p.m. and it was now 5:00 p.m.. Not bad!!! We had to wait another thirty minutes to finally claim our luggage. We loaded everything onto a cart and started towards the doors. I asked a cop where the Van Galder Bus stopped. Just as he told me I saw the bus driving by. Not wanting to wait another two hours for the next bus I rushed outside to try to flag this one down.

Fortunately the bus stopped at the end of the terminal. I ran over to get my tickets and ask if he could wait as I went back to get my luggage. He said, "No Problem" (sounding very Irish for an African-American) and offered to help me with my luggage. At this time Sallie and Jody arrived with my luggage. We quickly said goodbye. They left to guard the rest of the luggage and mom came over and we said another quick goodbye.

This was a rather abrupt ending to my trip but I was glad I was able to get right on the bus without waiting. There was a couple behind me that had also returned from Ireland on the same flight. We talked for thirty minutes or so. Finally, I leaned against the window and fell asleep. The bus got to Madison around 9:30 and I was soon home.

It had been a wonderful trip.

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