We've always wanted to get to Ireland. It was on both of our "Top 9" places to visit during retirement and we had twice tried to travel there with Lois, only to be stopped by unexpected events. Giving it a final whirl last fall, we carefully consulted Lois's busy schedule of future activities and found a 2-week gap in April that looked like it might work. Having her pencil us in for those weeks, we got busy searching out the lowest possible airfares and car rental rates on the web. Fiddling around with different days, we finally found that leaving on a Tuesday and coming back on a Thursday resulted in fares of slightly under $400 US apiece, so we booked those and also a Budget car rental that seemed to be a good deal. Of course, cheap tickets often have some quirks. In this case we were departing from National Airport in the center of the District of Columbia but coming back at Dulles International Airport out to the west. That was not a problem for us since we weren't going to leave our car at the airport, but no wonder those tickets were cheap!
Once our flights were scheduled, Lois booked her flights from O'Hare airport to arrive and depart on the same day, and we all kept our fingers crossed that everything would work as planned. We were able to discuss our plans with Lois when we saw her in January during Wanderung 8, and again in March when we visited her for Easter Sunday, so we had at least a modicum of joint planning, just enough really to settle on a basic automobile tour of the western and southern coasts of Ireland. We didn't want to fall into the trap of trying to see everything and ending up enjoying nothing, so we deliberately put a lid on our ambitions for the trip, staying out in the western boondocks and skipping Dublin and Northern Ireland all together.
The cherry trees blossomed in all their glory the weekend before we left, so we took some time out from our preparations to see the spectacle. The profusion of delicate white blossoms along the rim of the tidal basin in downtown D.C. is a site that many folks, particularly Japanese tourists, come a very long distance to see. The Jefferson Memorial is situated directly on one shore of the tidal basin and the spire of the Washington Monument is so tall that it can be clearly seen, so you have a rather unique combination of natural beauty with man-made architectural grandeur.
We also, of course, toured the other nearby memorials that abound in that area of D.C. The pure white of the Lincoln Memorial gleamed brilliantly in the sunlight, and the long reflecting pool in front of it reflected the deep blue sky magnificently.
We also circled past War Memorials for World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and they were a study in contrasts. The Vietnam memorial is a simple black granite wall with the names of all the soldiers lost carved in it, the Korean memorial is a gritty slice-of-life tableau consisting of set of statues representing an infantry unit on patrol, and the World War II memorial is a triumphant array of tall monoliths surrounding a large central fountain, with each one representing one of the states participating in the war.
Seeing the cherry blossoms was a nice break, but on Monday we had to finish our packing for the trip. We each packed a small piece of luggage and had a carry-on in addition. My backpack contained Baby, my very small computer, plus the necessary cords and accessories and some miscellaneous clothes, while Monika's bag contained knitting supplies, books, the camera, water, pills, and pretty much everything else we could cram into it. Once our packing was completed, we made good-bye calls to some of our relatives and checked in with Lois. We were relieved to find out that she was also on track to meet us at Shannon airport as we had planned. Our chores done, we worked on one of the big Washington Post Sunday crossword puzzles before turning in for the night.Copyright 2005 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt